Archive for the ‘Electricity’ Category

Hillary Clinton to Appear on Graham Norton Show Tonight – But Will He Ask Her About Corrupt Uranium Deal?

October 20, 2017

I’ve been posting various articles this week attacking Hillary Clinton and the lies she’s been spinning as she promotes her book, What Happened. This is her account of how she failed to be elected the first female president of the US in 2016, losing to the fake-tanned, bewigged maniac now determined to plunge us all into a new Cold War. Killary was in Australia one week, where one Ozzie journo caught her telling five whoppers when she was interviewed on ABC. She has since come to England, where she’s been speaking at the South Bank Centre and at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

She’s going to appear on the Graham Norton Show tonight, Friday 20th October 2017, at 10.35 pm. The blurb for the programme on page 114 of the Radio Times states

Hillary Clinton talks to Graham about the US presidential campaign, as detailed in her book What Happened. Jeff Goldblum, Gerard Butler and Jack Whitelaw join her on the sofa.

Another piece on the previous page, 113, adds rather more information.

This time last year Hillary Clinton had her heart set on the Oval Office and probably expected to spend her evenings on a White House sofa. How on earth has she ended up on Graham Norton’s couch instead? She’ll tell him “What Happened” while discussing her new book about her annus horribilis.

Here’s hoping Clinton doesn’t try to describe 2016 after a glass or two of Norton’s house reserve, though. He’s never one to resist a red, white and blue gag.

As with so much, you are not going to hear the unvarnished truth from Clinton because, to paraphrase the old Hollywood line, ‘she can’t handle the truth.’ The simple truth is that many ordinary, working Americans were sick and tired of the poverty and massive income inequality the Reaganite neoliberalism championed by her and Bill had created. They were sick and tired about public programmes being cut, while money was poured into the banks and big businesses that were already bloated from public money anyway, and which had profited massively from the economic mess they’d created. They were sick and tired of American imperialism, of seeing their finest young men and women sent off to kill and be killed in countries which, with the exception of Afghanistan, had not attacked America on the orders of a lying president, just as Brits are sick and tired of the same neoliberal policies and the same militarism heavily promoted by the Clinton’s fan and George Dubya’s poodle over here, Tony Blair. These wars are being fought not to defend America or promote democracy, but simply to despoil and loot these other nations for the benefit of western, chiefly American, multinationals.

She lost because Americans were sick of rising medical bills, which a growing number simply can’t afford, even after Obamacare. And far from being the traditional image of the welfare recipient as an unemployed scrounger, the majority of these poor around the developed world are working people, who are now paid so poorly thanks to Thatcherite doctrines of pay restraint, that they have to work two or three jobs simply to keep their heads above water, go on welfare, or, in Britain, subsist using food banks.

And the American public, Blacks and Whites, also remembered how she exaggerated the threat of crime by young Black men, in order to push through highly punitive legislation that now sees something half of the Black American male population go to the slammer. For the profit of the privatised prison system, of course.

American women saw through her faux-feminism, in which she tried to present herself as campaigning for all women, when in fact she was a bog-standard corporate insider, despite her repeated claims that she had to be an outsider, ’cause she was female. Killary represented nobody but herself and the other, rich, entitled women like her. She was perceived as massively corrupt, massively insincere, and profoundly unsympathetic to the plight of ordinary working people.

But Killary can’t handle any of this, and so has been running round blaming everyone but herself. She’s blamed Bernie Sanders, the genuinely left-wing Democrat she and the head of the Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stitched up and from whom she stole the nomination. She’s also blamed the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who was a stronger feminist figure. Both she and Bernie promised Americans Medicare for all. She’s blamed it on a culture of misogyny. While this does exist, her claim that she was being bullied because of her gender by Sanders’ supporters is another lie.

And she’s also ramped up international tension by blaming the Russians. Because WikiLeaks published internal Democrat party documents showing just how corrupt she was. She’s claimed that Russian hackers were responsible for this, when in fact the former British diplomat, who took custody of them for WikiLeaks, said that they came from a Democrat Party insider.

And Killary has absolutely no business screaming at others and accusing them of corrupt dealings with Putin’s Russia, when this is exactly what she and her husband and the chief himself, Barack Obama, did. A little while ago, the New York Times broke the story that before she signed off on a deal, which saw uranium mines in Kazakhstan and a fifth of the uranium processing industry in America itself taken over by a consortium of Russian companies, the Clinton Foundation received $145 million from individuals connected with these companies. And her husband, Bill, was given $500,000 for a speech he gave to a Russian bank.

One of her aides, Brodnitz, pointed out in an internal document for her campaign that this affair would damage her electoral chances, and put people off voting for her. Now the American paper, the Hill, has also published a piece reporting that the FBI was investigating her and Bill for two years for this, but the Department of Justice only decided to release the details to the public after the deal had gone through. Thus, Obama had actively connived at preventing her and Bill’s possible prosecution for it, until after the deal had been made. And very profitable it was too for her and Bill, though possibly not for the American taxpayer.

In the video below, the American comedian Jimmy Dore and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, discuss this latest revelation of Killary’s corruption and double-dealing.

This is just more evidence that Bernie should have got the nomination. If he had, he would have been the far stronger opponent to Trump. And we just could now have a genuinely progressive, Democratic government. This would, in turn, have been a filip to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party over here, as well as genuine left-wingers and Socialists elsewhere in the world.

But this would have been too much for the corporate hawks running Congress to stomach, so they gave it instead to Killary. Who then lost to an even worse candidate, Trump, but one who was better at articulating popular American hopes and fears than she was.

I like Graham Norton. He’s a genial host, although I’ve long stopped watching his show. I dare say he’ll get Killary to talk at length about her book, and she’ll spin and lie about the reasons she lost, just like she’s been lying to interviewers and the paying public all over America, Australia, Britain and the rest of the civilised world. I dare say that Norton will ask her some awkward-ish questions, but they won’t be so awkward that they’ll embarrass her or stop her making similar appearances in the future.

But I doubt very much he’ll ask her about her very real corruption scandals, like the above relationship with the Russians or the handsome payments she got from Wall Street in return for protecting them from further regulation.

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More Fearmongering from the Murdoch Press: Times Names British Politicians Appearing on RT as ‘Helpers of Putin’

October 12, 2017

You can really feel the fear coming off the mainstream press in waves now, and with this story Murdoch appears to be the most frightened and desperate. This short clip from RT reports and comments on two pieces in the Times today, which named the British politicians, who had appeared on RT. Most of these were from the Labour party, but there were also a select number of Conservatives. One of the pieces was entitled ‘Helping Putin’, and claimed that the politicos going on the Russian-owned station were guilty of helping the Russian president interfere in British politics. Not only did the Times name the individual politicians, it also gave details of how many times they had appeared on RT, and the amounts they’d been paid. Among those outed are the Shadow Energy Secretary, Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the Welsh MP David Davies, the MP Nigel Evans, and the Shadow Lord Chancellor Richard Burgon.

The RT’s own Polly Boiko remarks that traditionally in Britain, speaking to the media was seen one of our democratic freedoms. She then walks into the studio of RT’s ‘Going Underground’ to talk to the programme’s host, Afshin Rattansi. Rattansi remarks that the story’s ‘pretty shoddy stuff’, and the Times has not come to RT for their comment on this story. He also says that they’ve had not just Labour politicians on the programme, but also Tories as well as those from other parties. They come on the programme as they know they will be listened to. As for ‘helping Putin’, this is an attempt to scare people off the broadcaster by connecting them to Jeremy Corbyn. Boiko asks him if he believes that this will make it difficult for RT to get politicians on to his show. Rattansi states that it was initially difficult, but it has now become much easier as they’ve become established and known for listening to their speakers.

The Russian embassy have also given their response to the accusation, asking if that means that the Russian politicos, who have appeared on the BBC, have been helping the British government.

This looks to me like the Murdoch press doing what it has so often done in the past: kick up a ‘Red Scare’ in order to stop people voting Labour. The Times is copying the attacks on RT America over the other side of the Pond by the Republicans and Corporatist Democrats, who are terrified because increasingly more severely normal Americans are preferring to get their news from alternative media outlets, like RT, rather than believe anything from the biased and compromised mainstream broadcasters. Like Fox News, which is solidly Republican to the core, and whose main host, Bill O’Reilly, and one of its chief executives, Roger Ailes, were both sacked as serial sexual harassers. Obama’s election victory in 2008 was credited to a campaign for him on social media, and it has been social media that’s played a very large part in the massive growth in popularity for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, in opposition to a barrage of lies and smears from the mainstream press and broadcasters.

And Murdoch in particular is threatened by this. Fox News audience is very largely in their late 60s. I think the average age is 68, which means that it is signally failing to attract and influence the younger folks, who are turning instead to Bernie Sanders over in America and Corbyn in Britain. As for the Times, the paper is actually losing money hand over fist, to the point where Private Eye remarked that it would have been closed down long ago if it were not the British ‘paper of record’. Murdoch keeps it propped up so that he has a place at the table influencing our politicians.

Lobster and other commenters have observed that over the past decades, Murdoch has used his power in the British press to make deals with various governments. His papers support them and give them popularity as an a kind of unofficial official press, while in return they give in to Murdoch’s own agenda. This means that they grant him important business concessions, such as purchasing rival satellite and cable networks and generally expanding his squalid little empire. At the same time, they also listen very carefully to his wider political agenda, which has always consisted of smashing workers’ rights, and deregulating and privatising the economy. And that includes the NHS.

Clearly, with this story, Murdoch’s starting to become afraid that time’s running out for this scam. People are turning away from the mainstream media, including and particularly the Murdoch press, which has always had a reputation for sensationalist trash and gross rightwing political bias. And if nobody reads his papers, or watches Sky News, not only is Murdoch’s empire failing in itself, but so is his power to influence British and American politics.

He’s panicking, and it’s clear he’s panicking.

Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s attempted to smear respectable politicos as traitors and agents of Moscow. He’s done that many times before. Way back in the 1990s or early part of this century, the Times under its editor, David Leppard, printed a completely bogus story that Michael Foot, the former Labour leader, had been a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. This was a highly credible story, as shown by the way Private Eye sent it up on their front page. This showed Foot walking his dog, which was cocking its leg on a tree. The tree, in turn, was attempting to contact Foot in code. Not surprisingly, Foot sued for libel and won.

Then there was the Scum’s attempt to smear various Labour politicians as Commies in the 1987 general election. Among those targeted were Labour politicians, who had spoken to or written for the Marxist press. Shock! Horror! Except that the politicos they tried to smear in this way weren’t actually Communists, nor even necessarily Marxists. They were largely mainstream Labour politicians, who had just written for the Marxist press on a particular issue. They also smeared Red Ken as a Marxist, when those, who knew him, said he wasn’t, though he wasn’t averse to using them and sounding like them on occasion. They also claimed that Peter Tatchell was a member of the Trotskyite entryist group, Militant Tendency, when he was no such thing. As well as making other spurious claims based on his homosexuality.

This is all the kind of stuff the right-wing British press has been doing since the infamous ‘Zinoviev Letter’ of the 1920s. This was an attempt by one of the newspapers to scare people away from voting Labour by publishing a letter from the head of the Comintern, Zionviev, to the Labour party, which purported to show that they were going to collaborate with Russia and turn the country into a Communist dictatorship. Except that the letter was a fake, a forgery, probably cooked up by MI5.

I’ve reposted a number of stories from RT, simply because the broadcaster is doing an excellent job of covering stories that the mainstream British media, including the Beeb, aren’t. This doesn’t mean I support Putin. I don’t. He’s an extremely authoritarian thug, and I don’t doubt that the stories of his own massive corruption are true. But that doesn’t mean that the stories reported by RT are false, or that RT isn’t doing proper journalism when it reveals them. In fact, it seems to me that RT is very much doing this, and it is precisely this that has got Murdoch and the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats in America running scared.

The Russian word for newspaper is ‘Gazeta’. The Russian word for the type of journalism practised by the Murdoch empire is ‘govno’. Which is Russian for ‘Sh*t’.

Newspaper Review of Tony Greenstein’s ‘The Fight Against Fascism in Brighton’

October 3, 2017

Yesterday I came across a review from 2012 of Tony Greenstein’s The Fight Against Fascism in Brighton and the South Coast in the Brighton Argus. Greenstein’s a veteran socialist activist, and an opponent of all forms of racism. This includes the Zionists’ massacre and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, for which he has, like so very many others, both Jewish and gentile, been smeared as an ‘anti-Semite’.

Greenstein refers to the book to support his own, very evident commitment to fighting all forms of racism and racial injustice, including the bitter anti-Semitism of the British far right, in an open letter he published in his blog on Sunday to the leader of Brighton council, Councillor Warren Morgan. Morgan had smeared Greenstein as a Holocaust denier in a statement linking Greenstein to Miko Peled. Peled is the son of an Israeli general and fierce critic of Israeli barbarity to his country’s indigenous people. Peled spoke at a Labour party fringe meeting, organized by a Jewish Labour party organization committed to ending the Israeli state’s oppression of the Palestinians. Peled had stated in his speech that everything – ‘even the Holocaust’ should be up for debate. So Morgan insinuated that Greenstein was a Holocaust denier, and demanded his expulsion from the Labour party.

Greenstein replied in his letter with the following statements, noting that Peled was just defending complete academic freedom, and certainly did not deny the Holocaust, whose victims included members of his father’s family. He goes on to cite other incidents, when he was previously smeared with the same accusation, citing his book as evidence that he most certainly isn’t anti-Semitic, and explaining his opposition to Zionism.

All that Miko Peled was doing was to say discussion about the Holocaust is legitimate free speech. To twist this into support for Holocaust denial is a prime example of how anti-Semitism has been weaponised by supporters of Zionism and the Israeli state. It demonstrates your contempt for those who died at the hands of Hitler’s regime – Jewish and non-Jewish.

Unlike you I am Jewish. Unlike you half my father’s family was murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka. For you to use the Holocaust, of both Jews and non-Jews, up to 5 million of whom also died in the Nazi concentration camps, as a cheap political device in order to gain a political advantage over your opponents in the Labour Party is despicable. If anyone in Brighton Labour Party is anti-Semitic it is you and your followers.

It is noticeable that you and your political soul mates have nothing to say about racism against the Roma, yet proportionately just as many Roma died in the camps as Jews. Racism against the Roma today is far higher than that against Jews today but it isn’t so politically advantageous.

As you well know I have often been the recipient of this vile Holocaust denial propaganda, as evidenced by the Argus article of 16th October 1993 as well as physical attacks by fascist groups such as the National Front. A cursory search of the Argus archive would turn up numerous articles e.g. Adam Trimmingham’s review of my book ‘Fighting Fascism in Brighton’ I confess that in 40 years of opposing fascism and racism in Brighton and Hove your name has never once come up.

My reasons for opposing Zionism and the Israeli state are the same as my opposition to fascism and racism in Britain and Apartheid in South Africa. Your use of the Jewish Holocaust for transparently cheap political purposes is contemptible.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/open-letter-to-lying-leader-of-brighton.html

In the rest of the article he explains the background to the smear. Basically, it’s more of the same intriguing by Progress and the Zionists to cling on to power anyway they can. Morgan is a member of Progress, the Thatcherite entryist group in Labour. The fringe meeting addressed by Peled, at which Greenstein was present, not only condemned the maltreatment of the Palestinians, it also demanded the expulsion of the seriously misnamed Jewish Labour Movement. This was formerly Paole Zion, and is the sister party to the Israeli Labour Party, which has and remains one of the chief instigators of the Palestinian’s oppression. The meeting was organized by Jewish Voices for Peace, and nearly everyone, according to Greenstein, with the exception of Ken Loach, was Jewish. And Loach himself is not, by any stretch of the imagination, anti-Semitic. In the 1990s he directed a film, Perdition, about the Zionists’ collaboration with the Nazis in the deportation of the Jews to the death camps in Hungary.

Not that this stopped the Right making the habitual smears of anti-Semitism. Guido Fawkes repeated them on his blog. In fact, Fawkes has no business calling anyone a Fascist, or words to that effect. Way back in the ’80s or ’90s he was a member of a Libertarian organization on the fringes of the Tory party, which invited one of the leaders of the Fascist death squads then massacring the people of El Salvador, to come as their guest of honour.

Adam Trimingham’s review of Greenstein’s book is interesting for the perspective it gives on the very strong opposition to Mosley and his thugs in Brighton. Mosley and Lord Haw-Haw, the Anglo-Irish traitor William Joyce, both tried speaking there on several occasions, to be seen off by local Labour party supporters, Jews and other anti-Fascists. In one incident in 1934 when Mosley tried speaking at the Dome there, the electricians setting up the sound system wired it up to the office of the Labour councilor, Nick Cohen. When Mosley tried to launch into his rant, Councilor Cohen pressed a button, and the would-be British Mussolini was drowned out by the sound of the Marseillaise.

That didn’t stop Mosley and his stormtroopers from trying again. And each time they faced opposition, including violence, to the point where the town was a no-go area for them. The last time Mosley tried to speak there was just after the War, when he was trying to launch his Union Movement. This resulted in the Battle of the Level, when local people, included Jewish ex-servicemen, weighed in against them. This included many retired Jewish gents, who beat them up with their umbrellas and walking sticks. They were successful, and Mosley never returned. His own Fascist movement had been in decline before the War, and the battle against the Axis effectively finished it off. He emerged from the war disgraced and with whatever remained of his former popularity in ruins.

The formation of the National Front in the 1970s led to more battles, as they tried to demonstrate in Brighton. A committee was formed to combat them. This suffered from some division, with some members arguing for a more moderate line, with Israel another bone of contention. But they nevertheless succeeded in ensuring that any Fascist meeting or rally was met with determined opposition. And that includes the Fascist March for England the year the review was published in 2012.

The review can be read at: http://www.theargus.co.uk/magazine/nostalgia/pastpresent/9728304.Fighting_fascism/?ref=rss

Telesur English on the Similarities between Trump’s Action on Venezuela and the 1953 Coup in Iranian

September 30, 2017

This is another very ominous video from Telesur English. It’s short – about three minutes long – but it succeeds in showing the very clear parallels between the Anglo-American coup against Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and Trump’s campaign against Chavez and now Maduro. In 1953 Mossadegh nationalized the Iranian oil industry, which had previously been owned by British industrialists as Anglo-Persian Oil. He wanted to use the profits from the industry to fund a variety of social and welfare programmes. We and the Americans responded by slapping on sanctions. This resulted in massive public arrest. The video also mentions sponsored assassination attempts, but this could refer to the situation now in Venezuela. The Iranian people naturally blamed the ensuing poverty on Mossadegh, and there was widespread discontent and very public displays of dissatisfaction. Mossadegh responded by suspending the constitution. This seemed to confirm that he was a dictator, reinforced by British and American propaganda. Finally, a mob paid by us and the Americans in dollars overthrew him, and he was confined to house arrest, where he died. And so began the gradual process by which the Shah gradually took power as the country’s absolute ruler.

In Venezuela the country’s oil industry was nationalized in 1976. it does, however, still possess the world’s largest oil reserves. Under Hugo Chavez, the profits from the oil industry were, like Mossadegh intended in Iran, to be used to fund a series of social programmes. America responded by imposing economic sanctions. This has resulted in widespread discontent and rioting. So Maduro has attempted to rewrite the constitution. Just as Mossadegh suspended his. And so he’s been denounced as a dictator, and Trump is now stating that he has ‘not ruled out a military option’.

The programme therefore asks if the same tactics are being used on Venezuela as they were in Iran.

I think the answer’s an unqualified ‘Yes’. America has always responded aggressively to any vaguely left-wing popular politics in South America, overthrowing left-wing or politically liberal regimes when they threaten American political or corporate interests. The most notorious examples were the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile and the 1958 coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. But they also overthrew the prime minister with us in Guyana, because he also tried to enact liberal reforms for his people. And then there was Reagan in the 1980s supporting the Fascist death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

It ain’t just Trump, of course. Killary did the same, backing a Fascist military coup in Honduras, because the previous government was enacting a series of reforms giving free education and cheap electricity to the peasants and workers, and trying to protect the land and rights of the indigenous peoples.

In fact, it’s more or less been that way since the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century. America’s aggressive wars and seizure of territory from its Hispanic neighbours have naturally been bitterly resented, and resulted in the creation of the ideology of Arielismo. Taking its name from Shakespeare’s Tempest, this sees the people of Latin America as the indigenous victims of US colonialism. America has never been short of comprador elites willing to collaborate with them in the oppression and exploitation of their own peoples, but the resentment is still there.

As for us, Lobster in the 1990s published a scholarly article arguing that it was we British, not the Americans, who took the leading role in the Iranian coup. And it also reflects very badly on Winston Churchill. It was his government which sponsored it, just as we had seized the Iranian oil industry during the Second World War to prevent it falling into the hands of the Germans.

Which Reporter’s Name Should Be Used as the Scientific Unit of Media Bias?

September 29, 2017

Thinking about the Beeb, Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg and their spurious protestations of objectivity and impartiality the other night, I remember one of the jokes going round Nazi Germany about Goebbels, Hitler’s notorious ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’. There were a number of comments and nicknames about him. He was very promiscuous, so much so that he got the nickname ‘the Tadpole’. Like Hitler, he was also short, so that the Germans produced a saying ‘Luegen haben kurzen Beinen’ – ‘Lies have short legs’.

And one of the jokes played on the various scientific terms then being coined as research advanced. For example, in electronics there are the terms volt, amp and ohm, which all take their names from the physicists Volta, Ampere and Ohm, who did pioneering research into electricity.

Thus, German wags defined the Goeb – from Goebbel’s monicker – to be the minimum unit of power required to turn off 100,000 radio sets. The joke here being that every time the Nazi propagandist appeared on the radio to rant about how wonderful the Reich was, and how evil Jews, Communists, democracy, Socialism, trade unionism, ‘capitalism’ and the allies were, the Germany public reacted en masse by finding something much better to do. This might explain why family board games are still very popular in Germany. After all, if there’s a choice between listening to another foam-flecked rant from Adolf, or playing Cluedo, I think most people would probably opt for the latter.

Thinking about the joke made me wonder, however. Which modern broadcast journalist would we choose to have their name used as the minimum unit of right-wing political bias? At the moment, I’m undecided between Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg. I wonder who else people would nominate?

RT: McDonnell States Labour Will Take Back Rail, Water, Energy and Royal Mail

September 25, 2017

I’m giving this clip from RT’s coverage of the Labour party conference a massive thumbs-up. It’s a short clip of McDonnell stating that they intend to back rail, water, energy and the Royal Mail to give them to the people, who actually use and work in them. They aim to save the country and industry from the Tories’ mixture of belligerence and incompetence. And their commitment to a fairer society does not end at Dover. Just as they want a Britain for the many, and not the few, so they want a Europe for the many and not the few. This means, while respecting the results of the Brexit referendum, they will be working with our European partners during the transition period. And they will stop the Tories’ brutal treatment of immigrants.

Now we’re going to hear the screams and angry wailing from the neoliberals – the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Blairites. They’ll all start ranting now about how this is just discredited ‘Trotskyism’, that will wreck the wonderful, strong economy nearly four decades of Thatcherism has created. And, of course, the Tories, whose cabinet is stuffed with toffs and millionaires, will immediately start claiming that it will make working people poorer.

It’s none of these things. It’s good, solid, traditional Labour policy. The type of policies that gave this country decades of economic growth and higher standards for working people after the war. This was a Labour party that ensured that there was a real welfare state to look after the poor, that unions did represent the working man and woman against exploitation by their employer, and that an increasing number of young people could go on to uni without worrying about acquiring tens of thousands of pounds of debt at the end of it.

And if Labour does, as I fervently hope, renationalize those industries, I would very much like a form of workers’ control implemented in them. One reason why the Tories were able to privatize these industries was because, when Labour nationalized them after the Second World War, the party was too timid in the form nationalization took. The state took over the ownership of these industries, but otherwise left the existing management structures intact. This disappointed many trade unionists and socialists, who hoped that nationalization would mean that the people, who actually worked in these industries would also play a part in their management.

I’ve no doubt that if such plans were drawn up, all you’d hear from the Tories and the other parties would be yells about surrendering to the union barons, along with Thatcherite ravings about the Winter of Discontent and all the other trite bilge. But as May herself promised that she would put workers in the boardroom – a policy, which she had absolutely no intention of honouring – the Tories can’t complain without being hypocritical.

As for the power of the trade unions, as Russell Brand points out in his piece attacking Rees-Mogg, most of the people now relying on food banks are the working poor, whose wages aren’t enough to stave off starvation. And one of the reasons why this is so is that the Tories and then the Blairites have done everything they can to break and destroy the unions, so that the owners of industry can pay the workers a pittance and sack them at will.

And the Tories are treating immigrants brutally. We’ve send them send the vans around and put up posters telling immigrants to hand themselves in. And there have been outbreak of violence at the detention centres for asylum seekers again and again because of racist violence and bullying by the outsourcing companies running, like Serco, or G4S or whoever. And this is quite apart from the sheer racist venom spouted by the Tory press – the Heil, Scum, Express and so on.

This is a fine speech with excellent policies. Policies that hopefully put an end to four decades of Thatcherite misery, poverty and exploitation.

Redacted Tonight on How Trump Is Lying to Us about Iran and North Korea

September 9, 2017

This is a very short video from RT’s Redacted Tonight, presented by the left-wing comedian Lee Camp. Camp shows how Trump is lying to America and the world, in order to bring us closer to war with both of these countries. Trump has said this week that he could declare war with Iran over its failure to keep to the agreement regarding its nuclear programme. Except that, according to the Intercept, UN weapons inspectors have found that Iran has kept to the agreement.

Americans have also been told that North Korea is unwilling to negotiate over its nuclear weapons. Except that the North Koreans have said they’re unwilling to negotiate getting rid of theirs, unless America ends its hostile stance and military threat to them.

Which as Camp points out, means that they are willing to negotiate.

Others have pointed out that the real reason Trump wants a war with Iran is that, while the country certainly is abiding by the treaty limiting its nuclear capability, it is still supplying arms and other aid to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad in Syria and the Shi’a in Iraq. In other words, America’s geopolitical enemies. But they have not violated the international treaty regulating their development of nuclear power, so that shouldn’t be an issue Trump can use for pushing America into another devastating war in the Middle East.

As for the North Koreans, while I don’t trust them, and Kim Jong Un really is a murderous b*stard, with the same taste for killing his family as the most degenerate Roman emperors, past experience with other nations has taught him he can’t trust America if he gives up his nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein did, and the US invaded anyway.

This looks very much like the American military-industrial complex trying to start yet another series of wars, including one that could very easily set off nuclear Armageddon. In Iran’s case, Trump seems simply to be following the policy set by the Likudniks in Israel and the Neo-Cons in the US. They wanted to overthrow the governments of seven nations, including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran.

As for Israel itself, Tony Greenstein on his blog has posted a piece discussing how no-one wants to discuss the real elephant in the room: Israel’s own nuclear weapons. Israel isn’t supposed to have any, but they do. Nobody has held them to account for breaking the international treaty, and officially the Israel’s don’t have them. But in practice, everyone knows that they do.

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/israels-nuclear-weapons-consistency.html

I still remember the uproar back in the 1990s when Mordechai Vanunu leaked the information to the international press that Israel had broken the treaty and produced nuclear weapons. He was prosecuted and imprisoned for a very long time. And it seemed shortly thereafter that Robert Maxwell, the obese fraudster, who owned the Mirror, one of the British papers which I think broke the news, fell off his yacht. Of course, I might be wrong about all of this. Maxwell was probably up to his ears in international intrigue, but at the moment it seems that his death was just an accident.

Hmmm….

But back to Greenstein’s article, one of the very interesting things he says there is that a few decades ago one of the Middle Eastern countries did propose a plan for a nuclear-free Middle East. This would have made the world a much safer place.

And the country that put forward this proposal was Iran. Now unfairly accused of building nuclear weapons.

Which bears out in spades what Lee Camp has said about Iran and North Korea. We’re being lied to about them and their supposed nuclear ambitions. And in the case of Iran, they’ve been lying to us for a very long time.

Both of these countries are extremely repressive states, though Iran is more democratic and freer than North Korea. Indeed, according to the book on the country written by the veteran BBC correspondent, John Simpson, Iranians often said things to him about their government, which made him fear for their safety. When he asked them about it, they’d respond with ‘Why not? This isn’t Russia.’ But those countries’ lack of freedom isn’t why the Orange Generalissimo is spoiling for another war with them.

General Smedley Butler was right: war Is a racket. And the western military machine want to be the gangsters that run it.

Abby Martin Exposes Israeli Racism and Fascism on Joe Rogan Show

August 18, 2017

This is a video from an Islamic website, though this is immaterial to the content of the video, which goes beyond religious or doctrinal differences. It’s a long, 25-minute extract from the Joe Rogan Show in which Rogan talks to Abby Martin. Martin’s a left-wing broadcaster and journalist, who was formerly with RT and is now with TeleSur. She talks about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, their brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians, America’s support for Israel and the country’s deeply entrenched xenophobia and racist indoctrination as part of the compulsory military service.

It’s very strong, very disturbing material. She states very clearly that its a Jewish supremacist, White settler state. Palestinians in the occupied territories have no freedom whatsoever. They are subject to constant military checks and interference through a system of apartheid. They have no precious little in the way of provision of water and electricity. The water comes from large cisterns, in which Israeli soldiers will spray Skunk, which makes the water taste of excrement so that it becomes undrinkable for the next month. Even though the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, this is ignored. Israeli mobs will come and occupy Palestinian homes, forcing the true owners out. If a Palestinian blogs about it, he will be tried and sentenced according to the number of hits on his site.

At the same time, Israeli soldiers shoot to kill and maim with impunity. They have a policy of ‘shoot to wound’, which means shooting people in the crotch. A woman was hit in her vagina, and men have their penises targeted. She also describes how a man, who was just drunk, was casually shot dead by Israeli soldiers. As was an Arab woman, who was shot at an Israeli checkpoint, and bled to death in front of her son.

It isn’t just Arabs gentiles, who are seen as inferiors, who can be ill-treated at whim. Martin states that the Israelis also look down on Black African Jews as racially inferior as well.

And official support for these illegal settlements goes all the way to the White House. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is the entrepreneur behind the Kushner Fund, a scheme which supports the construction of homes for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. She also talks about support for Israel by Richard Spencer, who describes himself as a White Zionist, who admires Israel as a racial state.

She also contrasts the popular reaction to the shooting of unarmed civilians by the authorities in Israel and the US. In America when the cops shoot an unarmed Black person, there’ll be a popular protest against it. However, in Israel, when the squaddie Elor Azaria shot an unarmed Palestinian, and was tried for it because of public pressure, there were also public protests against his trial. Rogan and Martin show footage of one of these demonstrations, in which the massed crowd chants ‘Death to Arabs’. Realising how bad this looks, they then change the chants to cries of supports for the troops. They even have a band rapping in Hebrew.

Martin pays due tribute to the courage of the Israelis, who film and speak out against these atrocities. In Israel many people will talk about treating the Palestinians better, but the idea of opposing Zionism is simply unthinkable, as this is their country. It’s like Americans opposing America. And the term ‘Leftist’ is a form of abuse.

As for crowds like that she filmed, they’ll also shout ‘Death to videographers’, as they hate the people filming this. Her team with her weren’t treated too badly, as they were Israeli Jews, but she says that there were attacked by people, who did wear Fascist-style cloaks.

She also talks about the immense amount of aide given by the American government to Israel. It’s $30 billion. However, in many cases, this is America giving a present to itself. Before then, Israel was able to do its own arms dealing, and was purchasing weapons from India. The aide has been given on the condition that it should be used to purchase American armaments.

As for the reason for America backing Israel, Martin states she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t believe its due to the power of the Israel lobby in the US. She states it’s more of a partnership, in the same way that America supports Saudi Arabia. Although Rogan points out that the Saudis have oil. Martin states that it’s probably to do with America using Israel as a point of leverage in the Middle East.

She goes on to make the point that the foundations for the country were laid after the Middle East was divided up by the colonial powers – Britain and France – by the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Jewish immigration to Israel, and support for the country was minimal until the Holocaust, when fear provided an instrument to increase support. The country was then partitioned by the UN, although she asks the rhetorical question of who gave them that power. She also states that it should have never been put in the Middle East, but should have been established somewhere like Australia, because of the immense amount of trouble it’s caused.

She says that several times in making her video, she thought she’d die. In Jerusalem she was asked if she was Arab. She also points out that the Zionists were also responsible for terrorist atrocities against Jewish communities in surrounding countries. These were false flag operations, which were blamed on the gentile communities, in order to create a climate of fear, which would inspire those Jewish communities to emigrate to Israel. And Israel itself grew through a number of massacres.

Rogan and Martin also discuss the role that national service plays in creating this massively xenophobic mindset. Rogan states that he knows people, who have joined the army in America, and its created a very strong bond between the service personnel, and a sense of separation, an ‘us and them’ attitude. He can only imagine the intense indoctrination that Israelis must undergo during their national service so that the hatred of Arabs becomes unquestionable.

As for the Arab settlements, she states that they are not as we’ve been told. She saw openly gay people, and the first time she filmed there she said there was weed in the air.

The interview concludes with Rogan asking her where her films can be seen. She says they’re at The Empire Files, and if you click on them, the various films she’s made about Israel will also be displayed.

This is very powerful stuff. It’s precisely what the Beeb and the other mainstream British broadcasters will not report, nor what the racists in the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement do not want severely normal people, Jewish and gentile, knowing about. Martin states in this video that the Israeli state and its supporters want this covered up, and do their level best to make sure it isn’t filmed.

Martin has called Israel a Jewish supremacist state. This is exactly what it is, with Judaism defined in racial terms. It’s comparable to the Christian clerical Fascist states which emerged in Europe prior to the Second World War, such as parts of the Fascist movement in Italy, where Fascist sympathisers in the Vatican saw Mussolini’s regime as a bulwark against materialism and Communism. As was Franco’s Spain, and the Slovak dictatorship of Monsignor Tizo, as well as elements of the Nazi party. It’s also similar to the viciously intolerant Islamist regimes in the Middle East, and the Hindu nationalist extremism of Modi’s BJP, as well as the militant atheism of the USSR and China. Shintoism also briefly became an intolerant, expansionist force during the Second World War. Israel isn’t unique by any means in its possession of a militantly intolerant nationalist ideology, which combines race with religion, or an official policy of anti-theism. But that does not mean that Israeli Jewish supremacism and Fascism should be ignored or excused.

As for the role national service plays in creating an intensely nationalistic, racial consciousness, political scientists have pointed to this as a major element in the construction of Fascism. Fascist and proto-Fascist ideologues admired the armed forces, not just from militarism and an admiration for military glory, but also because it offered an alternative and a tool against the expansion of socialism and democracy. The military was an ideal model, in their eyes, for society because it was hierarchical. At the same time, the uniform and common military identity and service under fire created a strong bond between men. This was valued as a way of stopping the development of working class consciousness and power.

And the bond of men under fire is very, very strong. The veteran BBC broadcaster on foreign affairs, Kate Adie, has said that it’s far stronger and ferocious than anything in the movies. So strong that it can’t really be shown on camera.

And the fundamental position of military service in Israel is comparable to that of Prussia. It was said of the Hohenzollern’s kingdom that ‘Prussia is not a country with an army. It was an army with a country’. The kingdom was held together through its army, which was well-funded, had a very high status, and wide-ranging powers over the civilian population. For example, under Frederick the Great army officers could compel civilians to carry their baggage and equipment.

Martin states that she doesn’t know if Richard Spencer of the Alt Right would like to impose universal conscription like Israel. Well, he may not, but that has historically been the demand of British Fascists and those on the Tory right. And in the 2010 election one of the policies of the BNP was that every Brit should possess a gun as part of his volkisch identity.

As for Palestinian Arabs tolerating homosexuality, Islam has been traditionally far more tolerant of gays than western culture. The Qu’ran condemns sodomy as a sin against which the Prophet Lut – the Biblical Lot in the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament preached. But the laws against it were a dead letter in Egypt as early as the 12th century. One of the most admired Arab poets of the 9th century was gay, so that even today, Arab poets often use the masculine 3rd person pronoun – ‘he’ – for the beloved, even when they are talking about a woman.

This point is important, as supporters of Israel will try to defend it as one of the few places in the Middle East which is tolerant of gays. Pamela Geller, of the Atlas Shrugs blog, one of the leaders of the ‘counter-jihad’ movement, has made this claim on her site. As has Michael Koren, a Canadian anti-Muslim broadcaster with Rebel Media. This week, a documentary on BBC 1 followed a Scots gay man from a Roman Catholic background, who was considering converting to Judaism because of Israel’s tolerance for gays. The Beeb filmed him travelling to the country, and Tel Aviv, which has been described as ‘the gayest place on Earth’. But this tolerance for homosexuality was traditionally shared across the Middle East. It is only in recent decades that attitudes have changed for the worse.

Despite Netanyahu’s insistence that Jews everyone are automatically Israeli citizens, there are very many Jews, who are bitterly opposed to it both from secular and religious principles. many of the supporters of the BDS movement are Jews or of Jewish heritage, as are several of the Counterpunch writers, who are also opposed to Zionism and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. One of these writers stated in a recent article that he is against Israel because of the liberal Jewish values with which he was brought up. A recent study has found that an increasing number of young Jewish Americans are becoming indifferent or hostile to Israel, because of its maltreatment of the Palestinians. As the very Jewish Sam Seder and his Jewish co-host, Michael Brooks, pointed out on their programme, Majority Report, criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, and other Zionist organisations and pressure groups, would have the world believe the opposite. It isn’t. Don’t believe their lies and smears. Instead, look at the exposures of Israeli racism and institutional brutality from anti-racist broadcasters like Abbie Martin, respected academics like Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, Lobster’s John Newsinger, and bloggers like Tony Greenstein.

Hyper Evolution – The Rise of the Robots Part 2

August 5, 2017

Wednesday evening I sat down to watch the second part of the BBC 4 documentary, Hyperevolution: the Rise of the Robots, in which the evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod and the electronics engineer Prof. Danielle George trace the development of robots from the beginning of the 20th century to today. I blogged about the first part of the show on Tuesday in a post about another forthcoming programme on the negative consequences of IT and automation, Secrets of Silicon Valley. The tone of Hyperevolution is optimistic and enthusiastic, with one or two qualms from Garrod, who fears that robots may pose a threat to humanity. The programme states that robots are an evolving species, and that we are well on the way to developing true Artificial Intelligence.

Last week, Garrod went off to meet a Japanese robotics engineer, whose creation had been sent up to keep a Japanese astronaut company of the International Space Station. Rocket launches are notoriously expensive, and space is a very, very expensive premium. So it was no surprise that the robot was only about four inches tall. It’s been designed as a device to keep people company, which the programme explained was a growing problem in Japan. Japan has a falling birthrate and thus an aging population. The robot is programmed to ask and respond to questions, and to look at the person, who’s speaking to it. It doesn’t really understand what is being said, but simply gives an answer according to its programming. Nevertheless, it gives the impression of being able to follow and respond intelligently to conversation. It also has the very ‘cute’ look that characterizes much Japanese technology, and which I think comes from the conventions of Manga art. Garrod noted how it was like baby animals in having a large head and eyes, which made the parents love them.

It’s extremely clever, but it struck me as being a development of the Tamagotchi, the robotic ‘pet’ which was all over the place a few years ago. As for companionship, I could help thinking of a line from Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic Solaris, based on the novel by the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem. The film follow the cosmonaut, Kris, on his mission to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The planet’s vast ocean is alive, and has attempted to establish contact with the station’s crew by dredging their memories, and sending them replicas of people they know. The planet does this to Kris, creating a replica of a former girlfriend. At one point, pondering the human condition in a vast, incomprehensible cosmos, Kris states ‘There are only four billion of us…a mere handful. We don’t need spaceships, aliens…What man needs is man.’ Or words to that effect. I forget the exact quote. I dare say robots will have their uses caring for and providing mental stimulation for the elderly, but this can’t replace real, human contact.

George went to America to NASA, where the space agency is building Valkyrie to help with the future exploration of Mars in 2030. Valkyrie is certainly not small and cute. She’s six foot, and built very much like the police machines in Andrew Blomkamp’s Chappie. George stated that they were trying to teach the robot how to walk through a door using trial and error. But each time the machine stumbled. The computer scientists then went through the robot’s programming trying to find and correct the error. After they thought they had solved it, they tried again. And again the machine stumbled.

George, however, remained optimistic. She told ‘those of you, who think this experiment is a failure’, that this was precisely what the learning process entailed, as the machine was meant to learn from its mistakes, just like her own toddler now learning to walk. She’s right, and I don’t doubt that the robot will eventually learn to walk upright, like the humanoid robots devised by their competitors over at DARPA. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. People do learn from their mistakes, but if mistakes keep being made and can’t be correctly, then it’s fair to say that a person has failed to learn from them. And if a robot fails to learn from its mistakes, then it would also be fair to say that the experiment has failed.

Holy Joe Smith! I was also a reminded of another piece of classic SF in this segment. Not film, but 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. In its debut story, the aged robohunter, Sam Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ – his robometer, Kewtie and pilot, Kidd, are sent to Verdus to investigate what has happened to the human colonists. Verdus is so far away, that robots have been despatched to prepare it for human colonization, and a special hyperdrive has to be used to get Slade there. This rejuvenates him from an old man in his seventies to an energetic guy in his thirties. Kidd, his foul mouthed, obnoxious pilot, who is in his 30s, is transformed into a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, gun-toting baby.

The robot pioneers have indeed prepared Verdus for human habitation. They’ve built vast, sophisticated cities, with shops and apartments just waiting to be occupied, along with a plethora of entertainment channels, all of whose hosts and performers are robotic. However, their evolution has outpaced that of humanity, so that they are now superior, both physically and mentally. They continue to expect humans to be the superiors, and so when humans have come to Verdus, they’ve imprisoned, killed and experimented on them as ‘Sims’ – simulated humans, not realizing that these are the very beings they were created to serve. In which case, Martian colonists should beware. And carry a good blaster, just in case.

Garrod and George then went to another lab, where the robot unnerved Garrod by looking at him, and following him around with its eye. George really couldn’t understand why this should upset him. Talking about it afterwards, Garrod said that he was worried about the threat robots pose to humanity. George replied by stating her belief that they also promise to bring immense benefits, and that this was worth any possible danger. And that was the end of that conversation before they went on to the next adventure.

George’s reply isn’t entirely convincing. This is what opponents of nuclear power were told back in the ’50s and ’60s, however. Through nuclear energy we were going to have ships and planes that could span the globe in a couple of minutes, and electricity was going to be so plentiful and cheap that it would barely be metered. This failed, because the scientists and politicians advocating nuclear energy hadn’t really worked out what would need to be done to isolate and protect against the toxic waste products. Hence nearly six decades later, nuclear power and the real health and environmental problems it poses are still very much controversial issues. And there’s also that quote from Bertrand Russell. Russell was a very staunch member of CND. When he was asked why he opposed nuclear weapons, he stated that it was because they threatened to destroy humanity. ‘And some of us think that would be a very great pity’.

Back in America, George went to a bar to meet Alpha, a robot created by a British inventor/showman in 1932. Alpha was claimed to be an autonomous robot, answering questions by choosing appropriate answers from recordings on wax cylinders. George noted that this was extremely advanced for the time, if true. Finding the machine resting in a display case, filled with other bizarre items like bongo drums, she took an access plate off the machine to examine its innards. She was disappointed. Although there were wires to work the machine’s limbs, there were no wax cylinders or any other similar devices. She concluded that the robot was probably worked by a human operator hiding behind a curtain.

Then it was off to Japan again, to see another robot, which, like Valkyrie, was learning for itself. This was to be a robot shop assistant. In order to teach it to be shop assistant, its creators had built an entire replica camera shop, and employed real shop workers to play out their roles, surrounded by various cameras recording the proceedings. So Garrod also entered the scenario, where he pretended to be interested in buying a camera, asking questions about shutter speeds and such like. The robot duly answered his questions, and moved about the shop showing him various cameras at different prices. Like the robotic companion, the machine didn’t really know or understand what it was saying or doing. It was just following the motions it had learned from its human counterparts.

I was left wondering how realistic the role-playing had actually been. The way it was presented on camera, everything was very polite and straightforward, with the customer politely asking the price, thanking the assistant and moving on to ask to see the next of their wares. I wondered if they had ever played at being a difficult customer in front of it. Someone who came in and, when asked what they were looking for, sucked their teeth and said, ‘I dunno really,’ or who got angry at the prices being asked, or otherwise got irate at not being able to find something suitable.

Through the programme, Japanese society is held up as being admirably progressive and accepting of robots. Earlier in that edition, Garrod finished a piece on one Japanese robot by asking why it was that a car manufacturer was turning to robotics. The answer’s simple. The market for Japanese cars and motorcycles is more or less glutted, and they’re facing competition from other countries, like Indonesia and Tokyo. So the manufacturers are turning to electronics.

The positive attitude the Japanese have to computers and robots is also questionable. The Japanese are very interested in developing these machines, but actually don’t like using them themselves. The number of robots in Japan can easily be exaggerated, as they include any machine tool as a robot. And while many British shops and businesses will use a computer, the Japanese prefer to do things the old way by hand. For example, if you go to a post office in Japan, the assistant, rather than look something up on computer, will pull out a ledger. Way back in the 1990s someone worked out that if the Japanese were to mechanise their industry to the same extent as the West, they’d throw half their population out of work.

As for using robots, there’s a racist and sexist dimension to this. The Japanese birthrate it falling, and so there is real fear of a labour shortage. Robots are being developed to fill it. But Japanese society is also extremely nationalistic and xenophobic. Only people, whose parents are both Japanese, are properly Japanese citizens with full civil rights. There are third-generation Koreans, constituting an underclass, who, despite having lived there for three generations, are still a discriminated against underclass. The Japanese are developing robots, so they don’t have to import foreign workers, and so face the problems and strains of a multicultural society.

Japanese society also has some very conservative attitudes towards women. So much so, in fact, that the chapter on the subject in a book I read two decades ago on Japan, written by a Times journalist, was entitled ‘A Woman’s Place Is In the Wrong’. Married women are expected to stay at home to raise the kids, and the removal of a large number of women from the workplace was one cause of the low unemployment rate in Japan. There’s clearly a conflict between opening up the workplace to allow more married women to have a career, and employing more robots.

Garrod also went off to Bristol University, where he met the ‘turtles’ created by the neuroscientist, Grey Walter. Walter was interested in using robots to explore how the brain functioned. The turtles were simple robots, consisting of a light-detecting diode. The machine was constructed to follow and move towards light sources. As Garrod himself pointed out, this was like the very primitive organisms he’d studied, which also only had a light-sensitive spot.

However, the view that the human brain is really a form of computer have also been discredited by recent research. Hubert L. Dreyfus in his book, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Intelligence, describes how, after the failure of Good Old Fashioned A.I. (GOFAI), computer engineers then hoped to create it through exploring the connections between different computing elements, modelled on the way individual brain cells are connected to each by a complex web of neurons. Way back in 1966, Walter Rosenblith of MIT, one of the pioneers in the use of computers in neuropsychology, wrote

We no longer hold the earlier widespread belief that the so-called all-or-none law from nerve impulses makes it legitimate to think of relays as adequate models for neurons. In addition, we have become increasingly impressed with the interactions that take place among neurons: in some instances a sequence of nerve impulses may reflect the activities of literally thousands of neurons in a finely graded manner. In a system whose numerous elements interact so strongly with each other, the functioning of the system is not necessarily best understood by proceeding on a neuron-by-neuron basis as if each had an independent personality…Detailed comparisons of the organization of computer systems and brains would prove equally frustrating and inconclusive. (Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do, p. 162).

Put simply, brain’s don’t work like computers. This was written fifty years ago, but it’s fair to ask if the problem still exists today, despite some of the highly optimistic statements to the contrary.

Almost inevitably, driverless cars made their appearance. The Germans have been developing them, and Garrod went for a spin in one, surrounded by two or three engineers. He laughed with delight when the car told him he could take his hands off the wheel and let the vehicle continue on its own. However, the car only works in the comparatively simply environment of the autobahn. When it came off the junction, back into the normal road system, the machine told him to start driving himself. So, not quite the victory for A.I. it at first appears.

Garrod did raise the question of the legal issues. Who would be responsible if the car crashed while working automatically – the car, or the driver? The engineers told him it would be the car. Garrod nevertheless concluded that segment by noting that there were still knotty legal issues around it. But I don’t know anyone who wants one, or necessarily would trust one to operate on its own. A recent Counterpunch article I blogged about stated that driverless cars are largely being pushed by a car industry, trying to expand a market that is already saturated, and the insurance companies. The latter see it as a golden opportunity to charge people, who don’t want one, higher premiums on the grounds that driverless cars are safer.

Garrod also went to meet researchers in A.I. at Plymouth University, who were also developing a robot which as part of their research into the future creation of genuine consciousness in machines. Talking to one of the scientists afterwards, Garrod heard that there could indeed be a disruptive aspect to this research. Human society was based on conscious decision making. But if the creation of consciousness was comparatively easy, so that it could be done in an afternoon, it could have a ‘disruptive’ effect. It may indeed be the case that machines will one day arise which will be conscious, sentient entities, but this does not mean that the development of consciousness is easy. You think of the vast ages of geologic time it took evolution to go from simple, single-celled organisms to complex creatures like worms, fish, insects and so on, right up to the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens within the last 200,000 years.

Nevertheless, the programme ended with Garrod and George talking the matter over on the banks of the Thames in London. George concluded that the rise of robots would bring immense benefits and the development of A.I. was ‘inevitable’.

This is very optimistic, to the point where I think you could be justified by calling it hype. I’ve said in a previous article how Dreyfus’ book describes how robotics scientists and engineers have made endless predictions since Norbert Wiener and Alan Turing, predicting the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and each time they’ve been wrong. He’s also described the sheer rage with which many of those same researchers respond to criticism and doubt. In one passage he discusses a secret meeting of scientists at MIT to discuss A.I., in which a previous edition of his book came up. The scientists present howled at it with derision and abuse. He comments that why scientists should persist in responding so hostilely to criticism, and to persist in their optimistic belief that they will eventually solve the problem of A.I., is a question for psychology and the sociology of knowledge.

But there are also very strong issues about human rights, which would have to be confronted if genuine A.I. was ever created. Back in the 1970s or early ’80s, the British SF magazine, New Voyager, reviewed Roderick Random. Subtitled, ‘The Education of a Young Machine’, this is all about the creation of a robot child. The reviewer stated that the development of truly sentient machines would constitute the return of slavery. A similar point was made in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in an episode where another ship’s captain wished to take Data apart, so that he could be properly investigated and more like him built. Data refused, and so the captain sued to gain custody of him, arguing that he wasn’t really sentient, and so should be legally considered property. And in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that launched the Cyberpunk SF genre, the hero, Case, finds out that the vast computer for which he’s working, Wintermute, has Swiss citizenship, but its programming are the property of the company that built it. This, he considers, is like humans having their thoughts and memories made the property of a corporation.

Back to 2000 AD, the Robusters strip portrayed exactly what such slavery would mean for genuinely intelligent machines. Hammerstein, an old war droid, and his crude sidekick, the sewer droid Rojaws and their fellows live with the constant threat of outliving their usefulness, and taking a trip down to be torn apart by the thick and sadistic Mek-Quake. Such a situation should, if it ever became a reality, be utterly intolerable to anyone who believes in the dignity of sentient beings.

I think we’re a long way off that point just yet. And despite Prof. George’s statements to the contrary, I’m not sure we will ever get there. Hyperevolution is a fascinating programme, but like many of the depictions of cutting edge research, it’s probably wise to take some of its optimistic pronouncements with a pinch of salt.

Forthcoming Programme on the Destructive Consequence of IT

August 1, 2017

Next Sunday, the 6th August, BBC 2 is showing a documentary at 8.00 pm on the negative aspects of automation and information technology. Entitled Secrets of Silicon Valley, it’s the first part of a two-part series. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Tech Gods – who run the biggest technology companies – say they’re creating a better world. Their utopian visions sound persuasive: Uber say the app reduces car pollution and could transform how cities are designed; Airbnb believes its website empowers ordinary people. some hope to reverser climate change or replace doctors with software.

In this doc, social media expert Jamie Bartlett investigates the consequences of “disruption” – replacing old industries with new ones. The Gods are optimistic about our automated future but one former Facebook exec is living off-grid because he fears the fallout from the tech revolution. (p. 54).

A bit more information is given on the listings page for the programmes on that evening. This gives the title of the episode – ‘The Disruptors’, and states

Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. He visits Uber’s offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But Hyderabad, India, Jamie sees for himself the apparent human consequences of Uber’s utopian vision and asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley’s global disruption – the automation of millions of jobs – will mean for us. He gets a stark warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software. Jamie’s journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former social media executive who fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism. (p. 56).

I find the critical tone of this documentary refreshing after the relentless optimism of last Wednesday’s first instalment of another two-part documentary on robotics, Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots. This was broadcast at 9 O’clock on BBC 4, with second part shown tomorrow – the second of August – at the same time slot.

This programme featured two scientists, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. Ben Garrod, and the electronics engineer Professor Danielle George, looking over the last century or so of robot development. Garrod stated that he was worried by how rapidly robots had evolved, and saw them as a possible threat to humanity. George, on the other hand, was massively enthusiastic. On visiting a car factory, where the vehicles were being assembled by robots, she said it was slightly scary to be around these huge machines, moving like dinosaurs, but declared proudly, ‘I love it’. At the end of the programme she concluded that whatever view we had of robotic development, we should embrace it as that way we would have control over it. Which prompts the opposing response that you could also control the technology, or its development, by rejecting it outright, minimizing it or limiting its application.

At first I wondered if Garrod was there simply because Richard Dawkins was unavailable. Dawko was voted the nation’s favourite public intellectual by the readers of one of the technology or current affairs magazines a few years ago, and to many people’s he’s the face of scientific rationality, in the same way as the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. However, there was a solid scientific reason he was involved through the way robotics engineers had solved certain problems by copying animal and human physiology. For example, Japanese cyberneticists had studied the structure of the human body to create the first robots shown in the programme. These were two androids that looked and sounded extremely lifelike. One of them, the earlier model, was modelled on its creator to the point where it was at one time an identical likeness. When the man was asked how he felt about getting older and less like his creation, he replied that he was having plastic surgery so that he continued to look as youthful and like his robot as was possible.

Japanese engineers had also studied the human hand, in order to create a robot pianist that, when it was unveiled over a decade ago, could play faster than a human performer. They had also solved the problem of getting machines to walk as bipeds like humans by giving them a pelvis, modeled on the human bone structure. But now the machines were going their own way. Instead of confining themselves to copying the human form, they were taking new shapes in order to fulfil specific functions. The programme makers wanted to leave you in new doubt that, although artificial, these machines were nevertheless living creatures. They were described as ‘a new species’. Actually, they aren’t, if you want to pursue the biological analogy. They aren’t a new species for the simple reason that there isn’t simply one variety of them. Instead, they take a plethora of shapes according to their different functions. They’re far more like a phylum, or even a kingdom, like the plant and animal kingdoms. The metal kingdom, perhaps?

It’s also highly problematic comparing them to biological creatures in another way. So far, none of the robots created have been able to reproduce themselves, in the same way biological organisms from the most primitive bacteria through to far more complex organisms, not least ourselves, do. Robots are manufactured by humans in laboratories, and heavily dependent on their creators both for their existence and continued functioning. This may well change, but we haven’t yet got to that stage.

The programme raced through the development of robots from Eric, the robot that greeted Americans at the World’s Fair, talking to one of the engineers, who’d built it and a similar metal man created by the Beeb in 1929. It also looked at the creation of walking robots, the robot pianist and other humanoid machines by the Japanese from the 1980s to today. It then hopped over the Atlantic to talk to one of the leading engineers at DARPA, the robotics technology firm for the American defence establishment. Visiting the labs, George was thrilled, as the company receives thousands of media requests, to she was exceptionally privileged. She was shown the latest humanoid robots, as well as ‘Big Dog’, the quadruped robot carrier, that does indeed look and act eerily like a large dog.

George was upbeat and enthusiastic. Any doubts you might have about robots taking people’s jobs were answered when she met a spokesman for the automated car factory. He stated that the human workers had been replaced by machines because, while machines weren’t better, they were more reliable. But the factory also employed 650 humans running around here and there to make sure that everything was running properly. So people were still being employed. And by using robots they’d cut the price on the cars, which was good for the consumer, so everyone benefits.

This was very different from some of the news reports I remember from my childhood, when computers and industrial robots were just coming in. There was shock by news reports of factories, where the human workers had been laid off, except for a crew of six. These men spent all day playing cards. They weren’t employed because they were experts, but simply because it would have been more expensive to sack them than to keep them on with nothing to do.

Despite the answers given by the car plant’s spokesman, you’re still quite justified in questioning how beneficial the replacement of human workers with robots actually is. For example, before the staff were replaced with robots, how many people were employed at the factory? Clearly, financial savings had to be made by replacing skilled workers with machines in order to make it economic. At the same time, what skill level were the 650 or so people now running around behind the machines? It’s possible that they are less skilled than the former car assembly workers. If that’s the case, they’d be paid less.

As for the fear of robots, the documentary traced this from Karel Capek’s 1920’s play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robot, which gave the word ‘robot’ to the English language. The word ‘robot’ means ‘serf, slave’ or ‘forced feudal labour’ in Czech. This was the first play to deal with a robot uprising. In Japan, however, the attitude was different. Workers were being taught to accept robots as one of themselves. This was because of the animist nature of traditional Japanese religion. Shinto, the indigenous religion besides Buddhism, considers that there are kami, roughly spirits or gods, throughout nature, even inanimate objects. When asked what he thought the difference was between humans and robots, one of the engineers said there was none.

Geoff Simons also deals with the western fear of robots compared to the Japanese acceptance of them in his book, Robots: The Quest for Living Machines. He felt that it came from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. This is suspicious of robots, as it allows humans to usurp the Lord as the creator of living beings. See, for example, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein – ‘the Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus was the tAstritan, who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity. Victor Frankenstein was similarly stealing a divine secret through the manufacture of his creature.

I think the situation is rather more complex than this, however. Firstly, I don’t think the Japanese are as comfortable with robots as the programme tried to make out. One Japanese scientist, for example, has recommended that robots should not be made too humanlike, as too close a resemblance is deeply unsettling to the humans, who have to work with it. Presumably the scientist was basing this on the experience of Japanese as well as Europeans and Americans.

Much Japanese SF also pretty much like its western counterpart, including robot heroes. One of the long-time comic favourites in Japan is Astroboy, a robot boy with awesome abilities, gadgets and weapons. But over here, I can remember reading the Robot Archie strip in Valiant in the 1970s, along with the later Robusters and A.B.C. Warriors strips in 2000 AD. R2D2 and C3PO are two of the central characters in Star Wars, while Doctor Who had K9 as his faithful robot dog.

And the idea of robot creatures goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire, was a smith. Lame, he forged three metal girls to help him walk. Pioneering inventors like Hero of Alexandria created miniature theatres and other automata. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this technology was taken up by the Muslim Arabs. The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century AD created a whole series of machines, which they simply called ‘ingenious devices’, and Baghdad had a water clock which included various automatic figures, like the sun and moon, and the movement of the stars. This technology then passed to medieval Europe, so that by the end of the Middle Ages, lords and ladies filled their pleasure gardens with mechanical animals. The 18th century saw the fascinating clockwork machines of Vaucanson, Droz and other European inventors. With the development of steam power, and then electricity in the 19th century came stories about mechanical humans. One of the earliest was the ‘Steam Man’, about a steam-powered robot, which ran in one of the American magazines. This carried on into the early 20th century. One of the very earliest Italian films was about a ‘uomo machina’, or ‘man machine’. A seductive but evil female robot also appears in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis. Both films appeared before R.U.R., and so don’t use the term robot. Lang just calls his robot a ‘maschinemensch’ – machine person.

It’s also very problematic whether robots will ever really take human’s jobs, or even develop genuine consciousness and artificial intelligence. I’m going to have to deal with this topic in more detail later, but the questions posed by the programme prompted me to buy a copy of Hubert L. Dreyfus’ What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Initially published in the 1970s, and then updated in the 1990s, this describes the repeated problems computer scientists and engineers have faced trying to develop Artificial Intelligence. Again and again, these scientists predicted that ‘next year’ ,’in five years’ time’, ‘in the next ten years’ or ‘soon’, robots would achieve human level intelligence, and would make all of us unemployed. The last such prediction I recall reading was way back in 1999 – 2000, when we were all told that by 2025 robots would be as intelligent as cats. All these forecasts have proven wrong. But they’re still being made.

In tomorrow’s edition of Hyperevolution, the programme asks the question of whether robots will ever achieve consciousness. My guess is that they’ll conclude that they will. I think we need to be a little more skeptical.