Archive for the ‘Electricity’ Category

Starmer and Reeves Walk Up And Down on the Earth Making Promises – But Can You Trust Them?

January 21, 2022

Since the furore broke over Johnson and his flagrant disregard for the rules everyone else has to abide by with his scummy parties, the politicos have on TV to promote themselves. I think the Conservatives were on earlier in the week to try and present themselves as caring, efficient and concerned about the British public, rather than the gang of liars, profiteers and entitled scumbags. Then it was Labour’s turn the other night. I caught it, but fortunately it didn’t last long, and thanks to finding some great stuff on YouTube, I was soon over it. In the Book of Job in the Bible, Satan is described as walking up and down on the Earth, looking for people to torment and tempt. He wasn’t present in the film, at least not physically. Instead we had Rachel Reeves and Stalin walking about Britain, meeting and greeting ordinary people. Yes, those two. It shows what a state the Labour party is now in: Labour’s Thatcherite hard right. They were promising to raise people out of poverty and introduce reforms that would end VAT on electricity bills and so cut it by £200, and there would be help for people unable to pay.

It sounds good, but it’s far less than what Corbyn was offering. He wanted to have the electricity companies nationalised, or part of the industry nationalised, along with water and the railways. Because this is what these utilities need, and the majority of the British public want. It represents a chance to get real investment into them – privatisation hasn’t worked. And it would have allowed the government to cut people’s bills. But that, and Corbyn’s promises to restore the welfare state, union power, give the proles real rights at work and renationalise and properly fund the NHS upset the Blairites. So they went and joined the Israel lobby in smearing this profoundly anti-racist man of principle as an anti-Semite. Just as they did to his supporters, also very largely and vocally anti-racist themselves. And as I keep pointing out again and again, many of them were proud, secular and Torah observant Jews, who had suffered real anti-Semitic abuse and assault.

All Starmer has offered during his leadership of the Labour party is just one lie after another. He promised to keep Labour’s election policies, then ditched them as soon as he could. When the subject of nationalisation came up again, with a kind of endorsement from Ed Miliband, he declared that Labour wouldn’t. And every pledge he made to reform the welfare system so that the disabled, the long-term sick and the unemployed has either been scrapped, watered down or else he’s hummed and hahhed and told everyone they’d review. He has said that he will do anything to get his bum in No. 10. In my opinion, he has no morals, no principles except a powerful sense of his own entitlement. Psychologically, he’s kindred to Johnson and the former orange clown running the US down to the ground, Donald Trump.

In the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, the principle of evil, opposed to the benevolent God Ahura Mazda, is Ahriman. One of Ahriman’s demons is Druj, which means ‘Lie’, In the Persian medieval classic, the Shah Nameh, the world’s corruption begins when Druj, disguising himself, begins to corrupt one of the first Persian emperors, worming his way into his confidence as an advisor. This culminates in him kissing the emperor on his shoulders. Two serpents spring up where he kissed him, which then demand to be fed on human brains. Nothing so dramatic has happened to Boris or Keef, but I see no reason to trust anything whatsoever either Keef or Rachel Reeves say. Like Johnson, he lies through his teeth. This country will only ever have a real future for ordinary people when we get rid of him and the Tories.

And unfortunately, after the purges, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Iran Releases Mock Video of Drone Strike Against Donald Trump

January 14, 2022

This video comes from WION, which I think is an Indian news network. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has released a mock video on his website of Donald Trump being assassinated by a drone while playing golf. The video was produced as part of a competition to mark the American drone assassination of General Soleimani, and the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi has pledged to avenge his death. The Americans have responded with a statement that Iran will face dire reprisals for any attack on an American national.

This comes a few days after Iran issued a demand for Trump to be prosecuted and killed, while over the Christmas period the regime’s armed forces simulated an attack on an Israeli nuclear installation.

Readers of my blog will know what I think of Iran’s government: I despise them as ruthless, theocratic dictators. But I can’t condemn them for producing the video or calling for Trump’s prosecution. Trump was responsible for the killing of Soleimani by drone, and while I don’t think Soleimani was in any way an angel, the Americans don’t really have a counterargument if other countries use the same methods against them. As Kant said, ‘When you legislate for one, you legislate for all’. Which is why we have international law.

As for the simulated attack on an Israeli nuclear plant, again it’s immensely hypocritical for America or the Israelis to condemn it. Israeli has nuclear weapons, which is against international law but no-one seems to condemn them for it. They have launched attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, though I think they’ve so far been with viruses rather than drones. Even so one of these attacks left a number of Iranian nuclear scientists dead. Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest have been trying to tell the world that Iran’s trying to develop nuclear weapons and we should all be very worried. The Iranians have said that, on the contrary, they’re developing it for their power industry. This is actually quite likely. Iran’s economy depends on its oil exports, and if they want to increase that then one way to do it is cut down on domestic oil consumption. Nuclear power would be a way of doing so, with the oil saved sold for export.

But I also wouldn’t blame the Iranians for developing nuclear weapons either. They’re on the list of the seven countries, whose regimes the Neo-Cons want overthrown. The same people behind the Iraq invasion and their theft of its oil and state industries are no doubt also keen to do the same to Iran. The reason America had Mossadeq, the last democratically elected prime minister of Iran overthrown in a CIA sponsored coup, was because he had nationalised the Iranian oil industry. Previously it had been owned and controlled by foreigners, principally Britain. And there is a very good reason why Iran would want to acquire nuclear capability simply for domestic safety. Bush and Blair both claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but only invaded when Saddam Hussein assured them he didn’t have nuclear weapons. This teaches any country at the receiving end of western imperialism that the only way they can protect themselves is through acquiring nuclear weapons. The Iraq invasion has encouraged nuclear proliferation, not discouraged it, and has made the world less safe.

I don’t want Trump killed in a drone strike, nor do I want him executed, although I do accept that there is a case for prosecuting him for the drone strike that killed Soleimani. Not that I don’t think that Soleimani wasn’t a butcher himself. I also don’t believe that Iran has the capability to launch any kind of drone attack against anyone in America. If they had, they wouldn’t bother putting up fake videos about it.

My guess is that Trump is perfectly safe from Iranian drone strikes. I don’t want one to happen, but I don’t blame the Iranians for dreaming about it either.

Rolls-Royce on Their Record-Breaking Electric Aircraft

November 29, 2021

One of Bristol’s most important industries is aviation and space research. The city has a proud heritage of designing and manufacturing aircraft and space satellites. One of the greatest of these planes was the Anglo-French Concorde, partly built in Bristol at Filton. Rolls-Royce is one of the companies involved, which is why I was particularly interested in this little video from them. posted on their channel on YouTube. It’s a short film about their new plane, ‘Spirit of Innovation’. It’s a small, single person propeller plane, but differs from other, similar aircraft in that the engine’s electric rather than oil-driven. In the video, the pilot and various officials and technicians describe working on the aircraft, how it involved engineers from all over England and the huge advance in research into electric aviation the plane represents. It was designed to beat the speed record and has done so by a large margin. The team believe that the third age of aviation – electric planes – are here and will make a strong contribution to carbon-neutral travel.

It’s a fascinating plane and obviously a great achievement, but I wonder how much of a contribution such planes will make to making international travel greener. I think to have any significant impact on the production of greenhouse gases by aircraft, it will have to be installed on the large passenger aircraft. And while I have seen other videos about electric airplanes, I can’t recall seeing anything about replacing jet propulsion with electric propeller engines. One possible replacement for fossil fuel jets may be engines using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, like the large space rockets. If this was done, the result would be water and steam rather than anything harmful to the environment. I first read about the idea of planes using Lox and liquid hydrogen way back in the Usborne Book of the Future when I was 12. There has been the odd murmur about the idea since then, but I really haven’t heard anything about any research on it for a long time so I do wonder if that idea is dead.

In the meantime, I salute the Rolls-Royce engineers latest achievement, and hope it does help create the greener future our planet and society so desperately needs.

*****

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Black Earthling Boy Meets White Alien in New John Lewis Christmas Ad

November 4, 2021

John Lewis have just launched their Christmas. This follows their failed advert for insurance, in which a White boy in makeup dances around the family home wrecking it and spraying glitter and paint everywhere. That was widely criticised for promoting the trans ideology amongst children and for false advertising, as apparently the insurance policy being sold didn’t cover deliberate damage. In the new advert, a cute Black little boy sees an alien spacecraft fall out of the sky. He follows the contrail into the woods, where he sees a crashed alien spaceship and its humanoid pilot. The alien is White with white hair and rather feminine. The lad offers her some mince pies. The alien accepts them, and the two becomes friends. While fixing her craft the alien sets the electrics working so that the Christmas lights on a neighbour’s house suddenly come on, much to the neighbour’s annoyance. Having repaired her spacecraft, the alien gives the lad a peck on the cheek in farewell and flies off. The lad goes home to join his family for a festive meal, while looking into the sky. The sound track for the ad is a cover version of Phil Oakey’s ‘Electric Dreams’. I found this video of it put up on YouTube by the Guardian.

Alex Belfield has already posted a rant about it. He rightly points out that it doesn’t contain much in the way of Christmas imagery. There’s no Santa Claus, although it’s possibly a pine forest so there might be Christmas trees. There also isn’t much in the way of specifically Christian imagery either. I might be wrong, but there’s no nativity scene. It’s a very secular interpretation of Christmas. A decade ago there was controversy over what the Daily Mail and other right-wing papers and organisations described as a ‘war on Christmas’. They were angry because some local councils appeared to be deliberately omitting or playing down any mention of Christmas because they were somehow afraid it would offend non-Christian minorities. Birmingham council was particularly attacked for its reinterpretation of the festive season as ‘Winterval’. I’ve heard instead that, rather than replace Christmas, ‘Winterval’ was dreamed up as a marketing initiative by Brum’s council to create an inclusive festive season that would also cover the festivals of other faiths near Christmas, like Hanukka and Diwali. Also, from what I saw, most if not all of the calls for the removal of any public celebration of Christmas came not from the members of non-Christian religions, but from atheists and secularists like the National Humanist Society. The framed their arguments on behalf of religious minorities, while I think they were far more motivated by the rise of a much more militant atheism following the publication of Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I also think that the advert is secular simply from the sheer mechanism of capitalism, although John Lewis is organised as a partnership with its workers more like a cooperative. Capitalism and private industry exist to maximise profits. One way of doing this is seeking out new markets to you can sell your product to more people. About 15 per cent of the British population is Black and Asian, and many of the latter are non-Christians, like Hindus, Muslims and so on. Christians are now a minority in the general population. Hence John Lewis and many of the other firms advertising play down Christmas as a religious festival in order to appeal to a broader section of customers.

But Belfield also criticised the advert because he thinks that the alien in it is ‘ambivilacious’, his term for anything that is gay, non-binary, trans or generally sexually ambiguous. I can see what he means, though it seems to me that the alien is more like a pre-adolescent girl rather than anything more exotic and controversial. I might be reading it wrong, but it seems more like a tale of Earth boy meets alien girl in an innocent Christmastide romance.

Behind all this, I think the advert’s been strongly influenced by a number of pop songs and seasonal films. It reminds me more than a little of the Chris de Burgh song about a visiting spaceman at Christmas, which really is a Christian metaphor. ET with its friendship between a human child, Elliot, and a cute extraterrestrial, is another one, although it also has its differences. The most significant of which is, in my opinion, ET was definitely nonhuman and alien, while the alien in this very humanoid except for her suit and the colouring of her hair. It also reminds me of the seasonal children’s film, A Christmas Martian, a Canadian film that the Beeb screened one festive season over here when I was a sprog. Mercifully, the advert doesn’t seem to have been inspired by the truly dreadful Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which was screened over here one Christmas in the early ’80s as part of Michael Medved’s season of terrible movies, The Worst of Hollywood, on Channel 4. But if the alien is sexually ambiguous, I suspect it might be due more to the influence of David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust than the trans movement.

Or it might come from certain aspects of the UFO phenomenon itself. Among the various aliens supposedly visiting Earth and abducting people are the ‘Nordics’. These are tall, blonde aliens, like Nordic White Europeans, hence the name. They are also sometimes described as having long hair and a feminine appearance. One of the early UFO contactees, Frank E. Strange, provides a picture of one in his book A Stranger in the Pentagon. Strange claimed that the US government has made a treaty with aliens from Venus. These aliens could provide us with a method of producing cheap, clean energy, but had been prevented from doing so by ‘certain interests’. If nothing else, this shows that people were looking for alternative energy as long ago as the ’50s and ’60s, and the ‘certain interests’ sounds very much like a veiled reference to the oil industry. The ‘alien’ in the photo to me simply looks like a blonde, glamorous woman and not like anyone who arrived here from Venus, or anywhere else. The veteran Fortean, John Keel, author of the books The Mothman Prophecies, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse and Disneyland of the Gods, stated that the Nordics were so feminine in appearance he wondered if they were gay. You can certainly wonder what was going on in Buck Nelson’s encounter with the Nordics on his farm. He was going out to his barn one morning when a group of four of them, all with long hair, came out of his barn, stark naked. They told him they from Venus, and explained the nudity by saying that they wore no clothes in order to show him that they were as human as he was. Well, they might have been Venusians, but it seems to me they may also have been a group of ordinary men. They may have been gay, and looking for a quiet place for their activities because of the legal prohibition of homosexuality in America at the time. Or they may have been pranksters playing a joke.

It also reminds me of a supposedly true UFO encounter that happened in the 1970s at Christmas. A woman was in her kitchen baking cakes when a groups of small, winged aliens came in. They greeted her and asked for some of the cakes, which she gave to them. They made a few more remarks before finally departing. This is one of the stranger UFO cases which makes me definitely wonder if the UFO phenomenon isn’t a more modern version of the ancient fairy phenomenon rather than anything genuinely extraterrestrial. This does not, however, mean that it isn’t still paranormal, as Keel and Jacques Vallee have argued in their books.

Back to the advert, it looks innocuous enough. While I can’t say that I like it’s secularism, this seems to be a response to the changes in British society rather than an ideologically motivated attempt to foster such changes. And the values it embraces seem wholesome enough. Black and White people come together across the gulfs of space and the Black lad is shown at home enjoying a family meal. This is, in my view, definitely good, as the breakdown in the British and western family has done immense harm to both Whites and Blacks.

If I have a criticism, it’s about the background music. The original song ‘Electric Dreams’ is a jolly, upbeat piece. It was, I believe, used in the 1980s SF film, Weird Science, about two teenage boys who create their idea of the perfect woman on their computer, who then materialises before them. Sort of like Beavis and Butthead meet Tron. And the perfect woman, clad only in bra and panties, says to them ‘What would you little maniacs like to do next?’ The version used here turns it instead into a plaintive ballad until the final few bars, more an expression of sorrow and loss than joy. But it seems to follow a general trend of reinterpretations of classic tracks. At the Commonwealth Games held in Scotland a few years ago the opening ceremony included a version of the Proclaimers’ ‘I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles’. This song is another upbeat hit in something very much like classic march time. But instead it was performed as another plaintive, soulful wail. I’m probably showing my age here, but is contemporary youth so depressed that they can only listen to depressing versions of great old songs? Or is it that the middle aged producers of adverts like John Lewis’ are so depressed, that they can only listen to depressing versions of upbeat hits and so are unintentional contributing to the psychological and spiritual anguish of the rising generation. A generation that has enough problems of its own.

Anyway, even if the advert is intended to sell people stuff rather than anything deeper, it’s a fun piece of trash culture with a bit of kinship to some genuine Ufological high strangeness. And that’s always good for a festive tale of the paranormal.

And here’s the trailer for Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which I found on the DTFFmaryville channel on YouTube. In its way, truly a cinematic classic!

The First Science Fictional UFO Crash: Le Philosophe sans pretention

October 21, 2021

Ufology is full of stories of crashed alien spaceships. The best known is the Roswell UFO crash of 1947, in which the US air force under Hector Quintillana picked up the remains of a flying disc, complete with alien bodies, which came down on Mac Brazel’s ranch. The air force subsequently reversed their statement a day or so later, claiming that what had been recovered was merely a weather balloon, and released a photograph of Major Quintillana with something that certainly looked like the remains of one and not an alien spaceship. Many UFO investigators believe that a real alien spacecraft was recovered, though the late John Keel believed that it was probably a Mogul spy balloon used to gather information on Soviet nuclear tests. There are also stories that a secret autopsy was performed on the alien bodies. This was the basis for the notorious 1990s fake alien autopsy film released by Ray Santilli, and which in turn became the basis for the comedy Alien Autopsy starring Ant and Dec and Omid Djalili, amongst others. But long before the rise of the modern UFO phenomenon, earlier proto-Science Fiction writers were already penning tales of aliens travelling to Earth. One of these was Micromegalas, written by the French philosopher Voltaire. Another French writer, Louis Guillaume de La Follie wrote a similar tale about a scientist from Mercury who invents a spacecraft. This, however, is used by a colleague of the scientist to travel across space before finally crashing on Earth. I found this brief precis of the tale in Frederick I. Ordway’s and Randy Lieberman’s Blueprint for Space: Science Fiction to Science Fact (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press 1992). This is a collection of papers tracing the development of space travel from the ancient world, through the rise of Science Fiction, including the pulp magazines, space art to the development of the rocket and real space vehicles. The passage reads

Some of the characteristics of the modern science fiction novel appeared in a 1775 French workk by Louis Guillaume de La Follie, Le philosophe sans pretention. A strange tale unfolds of Mercurian who arrives on Earth and relates his adventures to one Nadir, an Oriental. It seems that on the planet Mercury an inventor named Scintilla had created a marvelous flying chariot powered by electricity. Amid scorn and ridicule, he proved that his invention would work in an amazing test flight witnessed by members of the Academy. This unleashes a series of events that leads to Mercury’s first spaceflight. Though doubting the practicality of the invention, a colleague named Ormisais nevertheless tries it out and, to his great surprise, the device functions after all. So he flies away to Earth in Scintilla’s electric chariot and, after a fairly standard trip, crash-lands on our world.

There’s also an illustration from the book of the flying chariot, and a caption giving its full title and its English translation: Le philosophe sans pretension ou l’homme rare – The Unpretentious Philosopher or the Unusual Man.

One of the aspects of the UFO phenomenon I find particularly intriguing is the way so much of its resembles Science Fiction and traditional fairy and other supernatural lore. I’m strongly inclined towards the psychosocial view of the phenomenon, which states that it’s an internal, psychological event which uses the imagery and narratives of the wider culture. Thus, while once encounters with the supernatural/ cosmic took the form of the fairies, angels or demons, as society has become more scientific and secular so the experience now has the imagery of aliens and spacecraft. However, John Keel believed that there was a real force outside of our perceptions behind both the fairy and UFO phenomena, which might be using them as a control system for us. See his UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse and Disneyland of the Gods.

Even if the book and its narrative have absolutely no connection to the development of the UFO phenomenon – I doubt outside of a few SF aficionados and literature experts many people have heard of the book, let alone the people who actually witness UFOs – it is a fascinating example of how surprisingly modern the writers of past centuries were in their speculations about space and the inhabitants of other worlds.

Arthur C. Clarke Helped to Bring the Benefits of Space and High Technology to the Developing World

October 18, 2021

Last week there was a bit of controversy between William Shatner and Prince William. As the man behind Captain Kirk went with a party of others to the High Frontier aboard Jeff Bezos’ SpaceX, the prince declared that such space tourism was a waste and a threat to the environment. I think here the prince was thinking about the extremely rich and their private jets, and the damage that the carbon emissions from mass aircraft travel are doing to the environment. I respect the prince’s commitment to the environment and the Earthshot prize he launched last night, but believe that on this issue he’s profoundly wrong.

If space tourism was only about letting extremely right people go into space aboard highly polluting spacecraft, as it seems the prince believes, then I’d certainly be inclined to agree with him. But it isn’t. Way back at the beginning of this century I gave a paper at a British Interplanetary Society symposium on the popular commercialisation of space. Many of the papers were about space tourism. The one that real down a real storm, far better than my own, was from a young chap who suggested that space was the ideal venue for sports that would be impossible on Earth. Because of the complete absence of gravity, you could play something like Harry Potter’s Quidditch for real.

The hope with space tourism is that it will help open up the High Frontier to further space commercialisation. This includes lowering launch costs so that eventually they’ll become affordable and people will be able to move into space to live and work, building true communities up there. And with that comes the hope that industry will move there as well, thus relieving some of the environmental pressures down here on Earth. Gerard O’Neill, who put forward concrete plans and designs for these colonies, believed that this would be one of the benefits of space colonisation and industrialisation. For one thing, the industrialisation of space may be able to provide clean, green energy instead of the carbon emitting fossil fuel power stations that we now use. Solar energy is abundant in space, and it has been suggested that this could be collected using vast solar arrays, which would then beam the power to Earth as microwaves.

The late, great SF writer Arthur C. Clarke was a very strong advocate of space colonisation and industrialisation. An optimist about humanity’s future in space and the benefits of high technology, Clarke not only argued for it but also tried to help make it a reality. Space and other forms of high technology offer considerable benefits to the Developing World, which is one of the reasons India has invested relatively large amounts in its space programme. And so has Clarke’s adopted country of Sri Lanka, with the assistance of the Space Prophet himself. I found this passage describing the work of such a centre, named after Clarke, in Sri Lanka in Brian Aldiss’ and David Wingrove’s history of Science Fiction, Trillion Year Spree.

“Clarke is, moreover, actively engaged in bringing about that better world of which he writes. From his base in Colombo, Sri Lanka, he has become directly (and financially) involved in a scheme to transfer modern high-technology to the developing countries of the Third World.

The Arthur C. Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies, sited at the University of Moratuwa, outside Colombo, embraces numerous high-tech disciplines, including computers and alternate energy sources, with plans to expand into the areas of robotics and space technologies. The main emphasis, however, is on developing a cheap communications system tailored to the agricultural needs of the Third World.

Such a project harnesses expensive space technologies in a way which answers those critics who have argued that it is immoral to waste funds on the romantic gesture of spaceflight when problems of poverty, illness and hunger remain in the world. That advanced technology would eventually benefit all of Mankind has always been Clarke’s belief-perhaps naive, but visionaries often function more effectively for a touch of naivety about them. One has to admire this benevolent, aspiring side of Clarke; it is the other side of the coin to L Ron Hubbard.” (P. 402, my emphasis).

It has never been a simple case of space exploration going ahead at the expense of human suffering here on Earth. Space tourism, at present confined to the extremely wealth like Shatner, is part of a wider campaign to open up the High Frontier so that humanity as a whole will benefit.

And the late comedian Bill Hicks also used to look forward to an optimistic future of world peace and the colonisation of space. He used to end his gigs with his own vision. If we spent used the money the world currently spends on arms for peace instead, we could end world hunger. Not one person would starve. And we could colonise the universe, in peace, forever.

It’s an inspiring vision. As another Star Trek captain would say:

Make it so!’

And here’s a bit of fun I found on YouTube. It’s a video of a man in Star Trek costume, playing the theme to the original series on the Theremin. Engage!

Foreign Countries Able to Threaten British Energy Supply Because of Thatcher’s Privatisation

October 11, 2021

The Beeb has caught the Tories lying again. Not that it’s anything remarkable. Mike’s shown in an article a few days ago that Johnson’s speech at the Tory conference was just one lie after another. It would be more remarkable if he actually told the truth for once. But this time it’s Kwesi Kwarteng, who for some reason I’m always tempted to call ‘Queasy’, who’s told the porkies. He said he’d been in talks about the coming massive price rises for energy with Rishi Sunak. The Beeb checked and no, he didn’t. Well, as Bill Hicks used to say, ‘colour me ‘surprised”. But in many ways the most important point in Mike’s piece was further down, when he states that the ability of foreign government to pull the plug on our energy goes back to Thatcher and her privatisations. Mike writes

This has been a long time coming – and some of us have been warning about it, every step of the way.

The Tories privatised the energy suppliers on the promise that prices would stay low and systems would improve, in order to stay competitive. Instead, prices quadrupled and control of the new companies was bought by foreign firms, many of them wholly-owned by the governments of EU nations.

And then the UK left the EU, annoying those governments.

And now we are facing the threat of being deprived of our power supply.

It would not be possible if the UK had retained control of its own energy supply. But that’s another truth you won’t hear from Kwasi Kwarteng.

This is presumably why the Americans don’t allow foreigners to control their utilities. And it is, obviously, a major argument in favour of keeping them nationalised. But as we’ve seen, national security means zero to the right if they can sell a vital part of Britain’s industry or public infrastructure to any foreign government or country that wants it.

They’re only interested in it if they can use it to smear the left as commies or Trotskyites, like Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn.

Loach’s Documentary Shows Why We Still Need the Attlee Government

October 4, 2021

The Spirit of ’45, director Ken Loach, Dogwoof, Sixteenfly Limited, British Film Institute & Channel 4.. Running time 92 minutes, with 420 minutes of extras, 2013 release.

This superb documentary provides great evidence for one of the real reasons Keef Stalin has purged Loach from the Labour party. Quite apart from being a staunch critic of Israeli barbarism, Loach is a socialist whose films show the misery, poverty and degradation inflicted by capitalism. This documentary shows not just the great achievements of Attlee’s reforming government of 1945, but why we still need these reforms today. Why, indeed, we do need to turn the clock back against the Thatcherites to 1945 again. And as an ardent Thatcherite, that’s something Keef and his cohorts really can’t tolerate.

The film consists of interviews with ordinary men and women, former workers in the affected industries, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as academics, along with interviews and footage from the period. These include tales of real struggle and hardship, often moving, and sometimes inspiring anger. It begins by describing the horrendous conditions people lived in before the foundation of the welfare state. One man describes how, as a child, he and his four siblings lived in a slum crawling with vermin. They had to sleep in the same bed, infested with lice and fleas. This is accompanied by footage showing a hand turning over blankets in a bed in which just about every inch was alive with such parasites. And the man recalls that after a night of this, he was beaten at school for having dirty knees.

The film states that the welfare state and its founders were determined not to repeat the situation following the First World War, where demobbed troops returned to unemployment, depression and poverty. The film is divided into sections for each part of the economy that was nationalised – coal, the Railways, the NHS, housing and electricity.

There had been demands for the nationalisation of the coal industry for decades. It was divided between various coal companies, some of which were extremely small. These companies were individually too poor to pay the miners a decent, living wage. Former miners describe how hard and dangerous conditions were. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they hewed. They weren’t paid for putting up the props that stopped the mine shafts collapsing. As a result, not enough props were put up and terrible accidents followed. One man recalled seeing one his workmates killed in just such a rock fall because not enough props were put up. Nationalisation resulted in much better conditions, but disappointed many of the miners. They were hoping for something like workers’ control. Instead the same people were left in charge, including one manager, who was appointed leader of the industry, who had written extensively against nationalisation. Naturally this left many miners angry and disappointed.

Medicine before the NHS for working people was poor and expensive. Some workers were covered by insurance schemes for their industries, allowing them to see panel doctors. This did not, however, according to the film, cover their families. I’m not sure about this, because my mother remembers cases in Bristol where family members were seen by the panel doctor, but this may have been the exception. You had to pay to see a doctor, and they weren’t cheap. Very low paid workers, like farm labourers, were paid six shillings a week, and seeing the doctor could cost one of those. Patients were very often in debt to their doctors, who employed debt collectors. Death from disease was common. One man angrily recalls how he became an atheist after the death of his mother, who died following complications in childbirth because she could not afford proper treatment or an abortion. One former GP tells how he went round to call on a family of his patients the very day after the foundation of the NHS. When he inquired after the boy he’d been treating, the mother informed him he was well. But the man could hear coughing, and so continued to ask. The mother replied that the coughing was his brother, who was recovering because they’d given him half of the bottle of cough medicine he’d given to the other boy. When the doctor said he could still hear coughing, the woman replied that it was her mother. When the doctor offered to treat her, she refused, saying they couldn’t afford him. The doctor replied that this morning they could. This part of the documentary includes comments from Jacky Davis, a great campaigner for the NHS and one of the editors, with Ray Tallis, of the excellent book, NHS – SOS.

The railways before nationalisation were in a comparable state as the mines. The rail network was divided between different companies, who also owned their own track. As a result, services by the different railway companies frequently interfered with each other. One old railways worker recalls how one train going to Exeter was held up for half an hour by a train from another company. And the system was incredibly bureaucratic. The first thing to go at nationalisation was the clearing house. This was a massive office of 50+ clerks just passing chits to each other as the various companies billed each other for the use of their services. I suspect something similar goes on in the privatised railways when you buy a ticket that involves more than one network.

The film also describes the massive improvement in housing that came with the government’s programme of building council houses. There were queues to get into these, with many workers amazed that they would live in such massively improved conditions.

The film also covers the nationalisation of the electricity network, with an historian stating that it was generally agreed that it made more sense to nationalise it and amalgamate it into one company than leave it in the hands of a multitude of competing small companies.

The film moves on to the destruction of the welfare state following the election of St. Margaret of Monetarism. All of these have been disastrous. The spit up of the railways led to a series of terrible train disasters, with the companies involved refusing to accept responsibility and blaming each other. It was so appalling that the track had to be renationalised in 2002.

As for the NHS, service is becoming worse as the government has privatised more of it. NHS workers and ordinary folk made it very clear how much they hate its privatisation. One gentleman says that those who want to see it sold off should be put in a bottomless boat, sent out in the North Sea, and told to swim back. I quite agree. Jacky Davis makes it clear that this isn’t making the service cheaper or more economical. Under the NHS, administration costs were 6 per cent. A little while ago they were 12 per cent. Now they’re heading up to American levels of 18-24 per cent.

The NHS has become less efficient because of four decades of Thatcherite privatisation, all for the profit of private healthcare companies.

The film is a superb piece of social history and documentation, directed by one of the masters of British cinema. And makes a very strong case for socialism. Attlee and his government weren’t without their faults, but they created the modern welfare state following the Beveridge Report. This shaped British society for more than three decades afterwards, and which still demands our support against the attacks of the likes of Blair, Starmer and Boris.

We Own It: Hacks Waking Up to Failure of Privatisation

September 30, 2021

I’ve said many times on this blog that Thatcher’s privatisation of the utilities and the railways has been an utter, complete, unmitigated failure and that these services should be renationalised. I am very pleased to say that a number of mainstream hacks are finally waking up to this. I got this email from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS group ‘We Own It’ reporting that journos on the Times, Torygraph, Herald and the Guardian have written pieces criticising privatisation. They also describe how various rail companies have had to be renationalised, and that nationalisation is part of Labour’s Green New Deal and Shadow Transport Secret Jim McMahon supports the renationalisation of the railways. It also castigates Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves for opposing nationalisation on ideological grounds, even when they claim the complete opposite.

“Dear David,

People are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed the UK for nearly 40 years.

In the Times, Jon Yeomans talks about Thatcher’s sell offs, saying “More than 30 years later, Britain lives with the consequences of that 1980s revolution. From buses to trains to energy, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off.”

In the Herald, Lesley Riddoch asks on behalf of frustrated Scots “Is there any way to escape privatised Britain other than independence?”

Scotland is bringing its railway into public ownership.

Wales is bringing its railway into public ownership.

The East Coast line was brought into public ownership in 2018 (it’s now run by the government’s operator of last resort).

The Northern franchise was brought into public ownership in 2020.

And this week Southeastern, after defrauding the government of £25 million, has also been brought into public hands.

As the Telegraph (yes, the Telegraph) says “the Southeastern debacle exposes the failure of Britain’s rail privatisation”.

It’s not just rail – with Covid, the bus ‘market’ (never much of a market) is collapsing.

The Guardian comments on the proposed merger of Stagecoach and National Express, saying “Passengers, who have seen rail fares rocket and local bus services wither, may also hope this signals the end of a chapter when a few could profit so enormously from an essential public service.”

Meanwhile Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has committed to re-regulating the buses there (a victory of our campaign!) comments about himself and Mayors Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis “Between us we are rolling back the 1980s, we are overturning the Thatcher legacy.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband talked about the Green New Deal, committing to “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon confirmed his support for public ownership of rail and buses.

And Labour delegates voted for a Green New Deal, including public ownership of transport and energy, with speech after inspiring speech explaining why this is needed.

Despite all of this, Keir Starmer (who hasn’t responded yet to our open letter) and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have said they don’t support nationalising the energy supply companies. They’ve said they don’t want to be “ideological” about it.

But the truth, as Cat writes in the Guardian today, is that privatisation is an extreme ideological experiment that has failed us all for decades, and people have had enough of it.

When the Times, the Telegraph, the Herald and the Guardian are questioning privatisation, when more and more of our railway is being brought into public ownership, when Mayors are re-regulating buses, and when the energy market is in crisis – there’s a shift happening.

On moral and on economic grounds, privatisation just isn’t making sense anymore.

Don’t tell Sid

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Who’s Sid? In 1986, when Thatcher sold off British Gas, the company was floated on the stock market, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign.

This shows precisely how out of touch, far right and ideological Starmer and Reeves are. They’re still pushing Thatcherism when it’s increasingly obvious that Thatcherism is dying. As for the Tory privatisation slogan in the 1980s, this was ‘If you see Sid, tell him’. It was a hidden gibe at Sidney Webb and the Fabians, who advocated the nationalisation of the utilities. Now it seems Sid is may just have the last laugh yet.

If you see Maggie, tell her: privatisation is disaster.

Tories Planning Possible Temporary Nationalisation of Energy and Railways

September 28, 2021

This is very, very interesting. After Conference voted yesterday for the nationalisation of the electricity companies, it seems that the Tories are considering a similar measure, if only as a temporary solution to the energy crisis. Johnson’s government is considering intervening to ensure that no customers are cut off as firms fail. According to the Independent, the business secretary, Kwesi Kwarteng, is not only holding talks with the energy companies and has spoken to Ofgem, the energy regulator, he has also indicated that he is prepared to appoint a temporary administrator for firms the government may take into public ownership as a temporary solution to the crisis.

And the government has also taken over Southeast Trains. Well, the government has been briefly taking over failing train companies for the past ten years or so, because John Major’s privatisation of British Rail is a far greater disaster than anything served up in the former company’s cafes. This latest nationalisation is also going to be temporary, but it shows how much of a failure privatisation has been. The only solution is to nationalisation the utilities permanently.

But Starmer’s Labour leadership really doesn’t want to do that. Mike’s article quotes a tweet by the mighty Aaron Bastani parodying a statement by the ghastly Rachel Reeves as saying that it’s not the right time for nationalisation and that the demand for it is ‘ideological’. As Bastani says, it’s precisely the moment. And as Mike says, it shows that Labour is now more right-wing than the Tories. He goes on to say:

‘Reeves made herself and her boss sound like idiots – which, of course, they are.

Their protestations – her yesterday (September 27), him on Sunday (September 26) – weren’t pragmatic, no matter how often they tried to shoehorn that word into their comments.

They were ideological – exactly what Reeves and Starmer were trying to deny.

But it’s a stupid ideology.

Starmer’s entire policy is: butter up the business bosses. He is convinced that if he sucks up to the fat cats, they’ll support him into government after the next election. He is wrong for a very obvious reason.

Business leaders really are pragmatic. They can see that Brexit has created serious issues for the energy firms, for fuel supply and in other areas due to knock-on effects, and they acknowledge that their firms would be better-off under government control for the duration of the problem.

In other words: by lurching leftwards towards privatisation, Boris Johnson has done the right thing.

And where does this leave Starmer (and Reeves)?

Absolutely nowhere. Not only are they out of touch with party members; they are out of touch with the entire United Kingdom.

Absolutely. I remember talking to a co-worker years ago when the Financial Times was still a Liberal paper. It had run an article which definitely supported a publicly-owned NHS. I found this odd considering that the FT is the paper of financial capitalism, and so I’d expected it to be in favour of privatisation. My co-worker explained to me that the firms supplying the NHS would not want the Health Service broken up, because dealing with a single, large company is much easier for them.

There was absolutely no opposition from the Tories when Labour nationalised electricity in 1945, or indeed any of the utilities, because they knew very well it made absolute, perfect sense. It was nonsense having Britain’s electricity produced by a number of separate, competing companies.

And Ken Loach’s magnificent documentary, The Spirit of 45, shows that the same problems existed when the railways were split up into different companies. The trains running from the different companies along their separately owned pieces of track frequently intersected with each other and caused delays. And the first thing that was got rid of after nationalisation was the massive clearing house which consisted of well over a hundred different clerks passing chits to each other. These were representatives of the different railway companies passing notes billing each other for the use of their different pieces of track and train services.

Privatisation is a mess. It doesn’t work, and has been repeatedly shown not to work.

But Starmer and the appalling Reeves don’t want to admit that. Part of this comes from the fear they’ll get from the right-wing press, with whom Starmer is desperate to ingratiate himself. And much of it is ideological. I can remember a piece by Brian Gould in one of the left-wing broadsheets back in the 1980s talking about how he tried to argue with the-then Labour leadership that free market economics was not the solution. But it was pointless. Their eyes were all aglow with the light of the religious convert. Starmer is the heir to Blair and Thatcher.

And Thatcher’s privatisations were also considered bonkers at the time. I’ve been told that the orthodox view taken by economists in the 1970s was that, while free trade and private industry worked perfectly well in many sectors, it could not be applied to the utilities. Thatcher’s privatisations were a shocking divergence from mainstream economics, whatever nonsense the Tory press and media talked boosting them. As for Monetarism, Robin Ramsay, the main man behind conspiracies ‘zine Lobster, has said that when he studied economics in the 1970s Monetarism was considered so ludicrous and stupid lecturers hardly considered it worth mentioning. Monetarism noisily died the death in the 1990s, with even the Daily Heil publishing articles arguing it was a failure.

Starmer and Reeves are well out of touch. Now is exactly the right time to demand nationalisation.

But they’re too blinded by Thatcherism to realise this. Or perhaps it would be better to use a phrase of the Iron Lady’s about her opponents: they’re ‘frit’.

Thatcherism is a failure. It’s pure Zombie economics. It should have died years ago, but it’s kept stumbling on by right-wing politicians like the Tories and Starmer out of a mixture of ideology and desire to benefit the rich rather than the working class.