Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Astronomer Percival Lowell’s View of a Peaceful Mars

October 20, 2021

Percival Lowell is the American astronomer most associated with the notorious and unfortunately entirely illusory Martian canals. The Italian astronomer Schiaparelli first saw what he called canali in the 19th century, but the Italian can mean both ‘canals’ and ‘channels’. Lowell also believed that they were canals dug by a global Martian civilisation, who used them to bring water from the poles to irrigate their desert planet. For them to achieve this, the highly advanced Martians had finally succeeded in banning war. I found this quotation from the great astronomer in Patrick Moore’s and David A. Hardy’s The New Challenge of the Stars (London: Mitchell Beazley in association with Sidgwick and Jackson Limited 1977), with the authors’ own comments looking forward to a similarly peaceful human colonisation of the Red Planet.

Perhaps we may look back to the words of Percival Lowell, written in 1906. He may have been wrong in his interpretation of the so-called Martian canals, but at least he put forward an idealistic view of the attitude of his ‘Martians’, whom, he believed, had outlawed warfare and had united in order to make the est of their arid world. There could be no conflict upon Mars. In Lowell’s words: ‘War is a survival among us from savage times, and affects now chiefly the boyish and unthinking element of the nation. The wisest realize that there are better ways of practising heroism and more certain ends of ensuring the survival of the fittest. It is something people outgrow.’ Let us hope that we, too, have outgrown it before we set up the first place on the red deserts of Mars.(P. 18).

Okay, the Social Darwinism is grotty, but of its time. And unfortunately humanity has not outgrown its capacity for violence and war, with the 20th century one of the worst periods. But it is an inspiring vision. The late, great comedian Bill Hicks used to end his gigs with a similar vision: If the world spent on peace all the money it now spends on arms, we could end hunger. Not one person would starve, and colonise space in peace forever.

That day can’t come too soon.

Email Campaign by We Own It Against Channel 4 Privatisation

October 20, 2021

I got this email yesterday from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It about the government’s latest sell-off. They’re planning to privatise Channel 4. Their email explains that this is disastrous because Channel 4 are one of the few media outlets holding them to account. At the same time they have been instrumental in producing quality television, which is funded through the channel’s advertising revenue. The government’s proposed privatisation is such a terrible idea that even many Tories are protesting against it. To counter it, the organisation is asking people to write to their MPs using a form letter they have devised. Here’s the email:

“Dear David,

There is absolutely no reason to privatise Channel 4, but the government is planning to do it anyway.

You can take a quick, easy action today to stop them in their tracks.

Take action now

Why is this so important?

Channel 4 News is one of the few news programmes that really holds this government to account, on issues from the NHS to the climate crisis. In fact, that’s probably a big part of why the government wants to privatise it. 

(Remember when Boris Johnson failed to attend the Channel 4 leaders’ debate on the climate crisis, and they replaced him with a melting ice sculpture?)

If you want decent news coverage at the next general election, please take 2 minutes to email your MP, ESPECIALLY if they’re a Conservative.

Email your MP now

Privatising Channel 4 would be an incredibly destructive act that would damage the UK film and TV industry. The creation of Channel 4 is the reason why the independent sector in film and TV exists today.

This matters 

  • For the quality of programmes and films that get produced
  • For young people trying to enter the creative industry
  • For the UK’s reputation in the world

There is no problem that privatising Channel 4 is the solution for.

Channel 4 has a unique business model, making a profit from advertising that it reinvests in good programming and nurturing talent. Channel 4 now has offices in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol, so it helps with the ‘levelling up’ agenda, boosting investment and jobs all around the country. They also support local production companies and outreach programmes in Cardiff, Belfast, Bournemouth, Norwich, Wolverhampton, Preston, Doncaster, Corby and Leicester.

That’s why wherever you are in the UK, Channel 4 is a good thing for your area.

Take 2 minutes to take action now

Lots of Conservatives have come out against the proposed sale of Channel 4. Many celebrities, including very right wing ones, have too. This means we have a chance of persuading the government that privatisation is a bad idea.

As Kirstie Allsopp has said, the plan to privatise Channel 4 is incredibly destructive. “I am a fiscal conservative and I’m naturally conservative-leaning and I find [the sale of C4] to be a betrayal of conservatism. It’s bonkers…I stood outside St Pauls when Margaret Thatcher’s coffin went by, and she would be spinning in her grave if she knew what this government was intending to do. Because C4 produces money, it produces jobs, it fosters talent, it brings out the best in people, and it’s very British.”

If you have a Conservative MP, it’s so important that you take this action! Your MP is EXACTLY who we need to shift. You will see that the template email is aimed at appealing to MPs like yours. Please send the text as it is, to maximise the chances of doing that! Thank you.

If you don’t have a Conservative MP, your MP can still really help to raise this issue up the agenda.

I want to stop the Channel 4 sell off

Last time the government tried to privatise Channel 4 they failed – partly because of the campaign we were part of to stop them. 

Let’s win again this time around and protect this much loved, publicly owned asset.

Thank you so much.

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

PS Thank you so much for the incredible response to our Halloween action to protect our NHS from the Health and Care Bill! If you’ve let us know that you’d like to take action locally, we’re getting your action packs ready at the moment and we’ll be in contact with you via email. Get in touch if you want to get involved – there’s still time!”

I’ve supported their campaign, and duly sent a message to my MP because of the reasons they’ve laid out in their email. It’s not just the government that Channel 4’s held to account. They also gave Mark Regev a hard time when during the bombardment of Gaza. Regev tried to tell the British public that if they sent aid to Gaza through Israel, it would still get there. John Snow knew he was lying and told him he was. Which shows that Channel 4 has more backbone when it comes to tackling Israeli lies and atrocities than the rest of our craven media, or at least, they did then.

Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be an alternative to BBC 2. News was to be a particularly important part of its programming, and this has been consistently extremely good, even to Tories like former Mail columnist, now scribbling for the Times, Quentin Letts. The broadcaster was also going to offer programmes to minorities and groups not served by mainstream broadcasters. Hence when it started off it broadcast an adaptation of the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, and a season of Indian films, All India Goldies. I also remember it having a news series of reports from Africa, fronted by Black reporters. It also helped launch a new generation of Black comedians with the series Desmond’s. And then there was the awesome Max Headroom. Unfortunately, the quality did decline in the 1990s as the programme chiefs made it more mainstream, though even then it did broadcast quality material like the American import, Fraser. And it does support the British film industry, or what remains of it. If you’ve seen a British film, or a British/Irish co-production in the past few years, chances are that it’s also been co-produced by Channel 4 films. Kirstie Allsopp is wrong about Margaret Thatcher not wanting it privatised. There were several times when the Conservative government tried to sell it off, or sold shares in it but it hasn’t been totally privatised.

Now it seems it will be. For the same reasons the government is trying to privatise the Beeb. Because both are obstacles to private TV stations that don’t have a public service commitment, and particularly because they’re obstacles to the grasping power of Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve supported this campaign and emailed my MP as requested because I don’t want the channel privatised. If you feel the same, please do so.

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!

Disgusted by Pro-Starmer Local Party Delegates to Conference

October 14, 2021

As I said earlier this evening, I was at an online meeting of my local constituency Labour party tonight. I was very impressed by Karin Smyth, our local MP, and her report on Sajid Javid’s health and social care bill, and what she and the Labour party are doing to prevent private healthcare firms sitting on the new commissioning boards the Tories wish to set up and the compulsory outside tendering. Smyth is a supporter of grotty, sectarian, squalid Starmer, but I believe she is sincere in her defence of the NHS and am impressed by how hard she works for her constituents.

But I don’t believe Starmer is, and if the choice comes between embracing the Tories’ privatisation and not getting his overprivileged, aristo, millionaire posterior in 10 Downing Street or winning the approval of the Tory press, the Stormfront Stalin will sacrifice the NHS to the private healthcare parasites and throw any Labour MP who attempts to defend it under the bus.

But I was less than impressed by what the local party’s delegate to conference had to say. They’d voted for nearly all of the motions put at conference. This included the Green New Deal. But it also included them voting for David Evans as General Secretary, the decision to raise the proportion of MPs required for a leadership candidate, and in fact nearly all of Starmer’s notions to knobble party democracy. They also voted for the implementation of the E.H.R.C. report into Labour anti-Semitism.

And then in the questions the local delegate or liaison from Unison, whose scab leadership endorsed all these scummy notions, announced that she also endorsed the implementation of the E.H.R.C. report. She had been indifferent of the anti-Semitism issue until she had attended a very powerful training session, which alerted her to the abuse our Jewish brothers and sisters got from the Left.

This was too much. I was sick of the sectarian anti-Semitism promoted at these workshops, and the way she had swallowed it hook like and sinker.

These training sessions are biased. Starmer has handed them to the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, the sister of the Israeli Labour party. The JLM was formerly Paole Zion and was dying on its anti-Arab tuckus before it suddenly got a massive influx of money from person or persons unknown. It does not represent Labour’s Jews. You don’t have to be Jewish or even a party member to join it, as you do for Jewish Voice for Labour. It conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and is one of the major organisations behind the witch hunt against putative anti-Semites. And an amazing, incredible number of these seem to be secular or Torah-observant Jews. I say ‘incredible’ because I don’t believe a damn word of it. Not after reading the blogs, testimony and comments on mine and Mike’s blogs from the great Jewish peeps who’ve been a victim of this utterly damnable witch hunt. And also the same from genuinely anti-racist gentiles, like Mike himself, who have always been staunch opponent of real anti-Semitism and Nazism. Some of these people, Jews and gentiles, have suffered real anti-Semitic hate crimes, including violence and assault, either because they were Jews or marched against them as friends and allies. Mike was smeared and purged simply for saying that Ken Livingstone was historically correct about Adolf Hitler’s wretched support for Zionism in the Ha’avara Agreement. This made him an anti-Semite despite the fact that when Mike was at College, he gladly took part in a performance organised by one of his Jewish friends commemorating the Holocaust. He was one of the readers reading out the names of just some of those murdered. I have on my bookshelf a book, in German, he sent me, about the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst and its role in the persecution of political prisoners and the Holocaust. It lists some of the names of those butchered, maps showing the locations of the various concentration camps and pogroms and the stats for the numbers of innocents murdered at these various locales. And in answer to the Holocaust Deniers, yes, 6 million did die.

But this comes to nothing. The JLM and related organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and Labour Friends of Israel, the GnasherJew troll farm and all the scummy rest specialise in going through peoples’ social media posts looking for whatever they can use to twist so that it sound anti-Semitic. That’s how they got self-respecting, anti-racist Jews like Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, as well as Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Graham Bash and many, many more. Men and women whose only crime has to criticise Israeli for its barbarous persecution of the Palestinians. Disgust which they also share with anti-racist Zionists – there are a few – and Israelis.

I am utterly disgusted by this and do intend to challenge this in my local party. Whatever Starrmer wants, his vicious, sectarian anti-Semitism is still an issue some of us intend to keep on fighting.

No pasaran to Blairite social Fascism and anti-Semitism!

Bastani, Srikasthan and Nunns On Starmer and How to Remove Him

October 4, 2021

Here’s another interesting video from the Labour left and those with similar views I found on YouTube. Staged as part of The World Transformed, it’s of a debate between the awesome Aaron Bastani, Gaya Srikasthan and Alex Nunns in front of an audience on whether Starmer should go, and if so, how. In actual fact, as they say from the start, there is no disagreement between them and their audience that Keef Stalin should get the push. What is up for debate is how this is to be achieved.

Bastani begins by a complete demolition of Stalin’s career as leader and his attempts to project an image of being a trustworthy politician. He isn’t, not remotely. Stalin has broken every pledge and promise he made. And it was always clear to members of his constituency that he was hard right by the awful company he kept. This is going to rebound on him with the public. Bastani makes the case that there are three kinds of people: those who tell the truth; those who lie, but don’t claim to be telling the truth; and then there are those who lie but claim to be honest. The self-acknowledged liars are Berlusconi and Boris. Those who claim to tell the truth include Stalin and Hillary Clinton. And the public dislikes these liars more than they do crooks like Berlusconi. It is possible that people will become so disillusioned that Stalin will be forced out. Unfortunately he could be replaced by somebody as bad, like Lisa Nandy, or worse, like Wes Streeting. Much of this debate concerns the way Starmer has rigged the constitution to make it extremely difficult for a left-winger to become leader ever again. But the overall message is not to be too disheartened. Even with the motions passed, things haven’t gone all Starmer’s way at conference. One of his gerrymandering motions was rejected. Another barely scraped through. It would have been rejected if some of the people, who have left the party, had remained and voted against it. Even after Stalin’s purges.

The message from the speakers is that left-wingers should remain in the party to fight from the inside. But they need to organise. People should join momentum and their unions, and especially get on the Unison link with Labour. Nor should they be too worried about the leadership. Jeremy Corbyn gave socialists hope, but Bastani states that Labour hasn’t been a socialist party since 1951, and hasn’t been social democrat since the 1970s. Corbyn himself offered less in the way of socialism than the 1970s state. Towards the end of his time as leader Corbyn was making concessions in his negotiations with industry, and Bastani feels that if he had got into power, socialists would have been disappointed. But he also points out how the leadership can change rapidly. Only a decade ago, it seemed that Ed Miliband was the best you could get as Labour leader, and the next one could be just slightly left of him. And then Corbyn’s election changed the situation completely.

When it came to questions from the audience, one woman rather loudly and in my view, angrily told them that in their dismissal of the candidates for the Labour leadership they were being misogynist in omitting various left-wing female MPs. She also ran an ‘activists’ corner’ in a pod cast, Not the Andrew Marr Show, and suggested the speakers and perhaps other Labour members should do the same, and invited Bastani to appear on hers sometime. Another member of the audience wondered what should be done to help Black and Asian members, who had been the most consistent voters and supporters of Labour. They and the panel pointed to great Black politicians, such as Dawn Butler, the importance of Black leadership programmes and said that they needed the support of White allies. On a similar issue, another audience member denounced Stalin’s purge not only of socialists, but socialist Jews.

When it came to supporting left Labour politicians in other constituencies, one man said it was useless sending donations through regional office, ‘because we know what’s done with them’. He suggests instead that people should become treasurers of their local constituency party, suggest that it pairs up with that of a left-wing MP, and then send the donations directly.

They also recommend that left-wing members should concentrate in building up their local constituencies, many of which are still left-wing despite Keef’s purges. They should also look outward to forge links with the public. And most of all, they are not to be too disheartened. Srikasthan states that instead of concentrating on one leader, she sees a roomful of leaders. She also makes the point that she has worked with indigenous people elsewhere in the world, who are suffering real repression and persecution. This isn’t like the situation in Jakarta, where people are being rounded up by the authorities.

The talk therefore gives hope for changing the current dire situation in the Labour leadership, though I would have liked more detailed suggestions on how to organise to overthrow Stalin and his corrupt, anti-democratic NEC. The attitude is that the Labour party isn’t completely lose yet, and the left can make gains by supporting the Green New Deal and particularly issues with the soft left. But I think this will be a very hard struggle and I am not entirely sure if it will be successful in rescuing Labour from the right. But Srikasthan makes a very serious point when she says that neoliberalism has failed, and in the coming decades with the climate and other crises there will only be two alternatives: socialism and extreme nationalism. We are very much back in the situation H.G. Wells confronted, that the world was in a race with catastrophe.

And the only choice is civilisation, proper socialism, or barbarism.

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.

George Monbiot on the Media’s Responsibility for the Disastrous War in Afghanistan

September 7, 2021

This is a really excellent video from Double Down News, which shows you why the left-wing, alternative news and comment channels and blogs on the Net give you a better idea of what’s going on than the mainstream news. Not least because, as author, Guardian writer and green campaigner George Monbiot shows here, the mainstream media are conscienceless propagandists.

He points out that while Biden and Raab are taking the blame for the west’s collapse and withdrawal in Afghanistan, they aren’t the politicos primarily responsible for it. Yes, Raab is useless and shouldn’t have been on holiday when it all happened, and as for Biden, well, there’s no good time to lose a war. But the real responsibility for this debacle lies with the men who started it: George Dubya Bush and Tony Blair. And the media was solidly behind them. This wasn’t just the right-wing media, like that owned by Rupert Murdoch, but also the left. People like him who spoke out against the war were reviled and denounced as somehow on the side of the Taliban in an atmosphere that resembled the war fever of the First World War. He discusses the reasons why this was so, as well as attempts to present the war as somehow a war of liberation on behalf of Afghan women. And it covered the war without really showing the effects and destruction it was wreaking on the country’s people. One reason the media went along with it was because of their links to the military-industrial complex. But much of it is because the media thrives on spectacle, and war, with its lights and explosions, is a powerful one. The media’s attention is also short-term. It promotes one cause for a short while or one issue before dropping it and moving on to the next one. Monbiot states very clearly that we were lied to about the invasion of Afghanistan and the media was instrumental in the promotion of these lies.

Stylistically this resembles some of the great documentaries produced by Adam Curtis in the 1990s and 2000s. It contains much archive footage, including film from the First World War, as well as of ordinary Afghans in their damaged and wreaked homes. It also has shots of Murdoch and some of the other TV journalists celebrating the war for all they were worth. Thus there’s that infamous piece of footage where Geraldo Rivero raves when a bomb is dropped on the Taliban, and another piece where CNN anchors watch a bomb explosion through plane gunsights, proclaiming it to be the sight of ‘freedom’. One former member of The Young Turks really tore into that journalist for his glorification of death and suffering.

And Monbiot is exactly right when he says that the left-wing media were also complicit in the warmongering. They were. The Groaniad backed the war, and one of its hacks wrote a book promoting the new, nation-building imperialism. But, as Monbiot points out, they are now strangely silent about the role in the creation of this tragedy.

Blair seems to be trying to make a comeback, giving his opinions on everything from Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn over the past few years. I caught a glimpse of a piece on the internet newsfeed today which suggested he’d been giving his informed views on the dangers of extremism and islamophobia. Islamophobia is on the rise, and a large part of it was the strains and tensions created by Blair’s war. Some parts of the Islamic community became radicalised as they believed it was a war against Islam, while many ordinary Muslims simply became disaffected because of the invasions of their homelands. And as Monbiot also points out in the video, Blair and Bush hardly understood the country they were invading and had no exit strategy. Indeed there were claims that it would all be over by Christmas, just like the First World War. No-one should take anything Blair says remotely seriously ever again. Blair lied, people died.

And with very few exceptions, he was helped by the mainstream media. The people who are not telling you that the responsibility is also anyone’s except theirs.

Ash Sarkar Destroys Sun Hack over Climate Change on Jeremy Vine

August 13, 2021

This week the UN issued a report stating that climate change was now ‘Code Red’ for humanity, and that irreversible damage had been done to the environment. So the right-wing press immediately got their best and brightest to dispute this. Thus Jeremy Vine had on his show Mike Parry, who I believe is one of Murdoch’s minions. He’s a former hack on the Scum, the Depress and now a host on TalkRadio. Which is owned by Dirty Rupe, that walking affront to responsible, civilised journalism. And it ain’t just me that says this. When he took over one of the leading Ozzie newspapers in the 1970s, its journos went on strike complaining that they didn’t want to see the paper they worked for and loved turned into a laughing stock. And when Murdoch took over an American paper later in the decade, the hacks did the same there. The subplot of Superman 4, in which the staff at the Daily Planet protest at being taken over by a right-wing publisher of yellow journalism, seems to have been inspired by these real events. Facing him was the awesome Ash Sarkar, the main woman in Novara Media. And she handed Parry his ample rear end.

Parry had tried to counter her by stating that as the majority’s of today’s carbon dioxide emissions come from China, who were also about to open several more coal power stations, it was absolutely useless Britain trying to do anything to stop greenhouse gas production. Sarkar responded by stating that we could pass laws banning British corporations from investing in fossil fuel and polluting industries in China. She also pointed out that historically, Britain was responsible for a vast amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Her co-host, Michael Walker, produces the stats to support her case. Historically, Britain is responsible for 22 per cent of the carbon dioxide produced. America and China both are responsible for 29 per cent, but India, despite its growing economy and vast population, only 3 per cent. Walker acknowledges that Parry is correct about the Chinese opening new fossil fuel power stations and that it’s a problem that needs to be tackled. But he also makes the excellent point that industrialising nations are right to be outraged at western demands to cut their carbon emissions, when the west has benefited so much from its own industrialisation that produced much of it.

Here’s the video. I’m afraid it’s a bit long, at over 21 minutes, and I haven’t watch more than a few minutes of it, but it is very informative and does expose the poverty of the right’s arguments.

Mind you, at least Parry was able to marshal some good, intelligent arguments, unlike Sky News Australia. I found a video from them which was so stupid I actually felt less intelligent after watching it. And I only watched it for a few minutes. The host, another right-wing blowhard, got their pet climate expert on to poor scorn on the left’s desire to cut carbon emissions. Because carbon dioxide is plant food, and if we cut carbon emissions, they’ll all die off. How stupid, they sneered.

Er, no. No-one is talking about totally removing carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere. What they are talking about is getting rid of the excess carbon dioxide, or halting its production, which is responsible for rising temperatures across the globe and the consequent damage to the environment. But Murdoch and the right doesn’t want people knowing about this. It’s why the Koch brothers, who own a vast amount of the American oil industry, spent much of their money buying up and closing down independent climate and environmental research laboratories, which were then replaced by their own pet scientists and astroturf organisations. It’s why Donald Trump passed a tranche of legislation preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing anything actually showing the damage being done to the environment. This is all being done for corporate profit, not for the benefit of ordinary folks, who will be left with the legacy of horrendously polluted countryside. Thanks to the oil industry, much of the Louisiana swamplands, for example, is seriously contaminated.

My guess is that the right will only start taking climate change seriously when their parts of the world, like the Cotswolds in Britain and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s part of BANES, becoming howling dustbowls and the dunes start advancing on Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea and Knightsbridge. Douglas Murphy in his book, Last Futures, a history of brutalist architecture, states that in the 1970s the scientists behind the report Limits to Growth ran computer models to predict the future. And with only two exception, they all predicted that if current trends continued, civilisation would collapse and humanity be all but extinct by the end of this century. The report’s been criticised for the simplicity of its models and the technology used, but its seems that much of it still stands up. He also states that when the environment eventually breaks down, the rich will retreat into specially engineered artificial biodomes, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves in the wilderness outside.

Great. The rest of the world becomes a Mad Max battleground while the rich retire inside something like the Eden Project, hoping that nobody like Sean Connery comes inside to wreck their utopia like the plot of Zardoz.

I’ve blogged about this before, but for those seeking genuine information on the climate crisis, books are available. I came across one in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. It covered the whole world, and I think it was one of the set texts by the Open University. For younger readers, last month’s Postscript catalogue contained one published by Dorling Kindersly, Dan Hooke’s Climate Emergency Atlas. The blurb for this stated that Hooke

offers a clear explanation of the science behind climate change, with concise text supported by numerous diagrams. World maps show the environmental impact of different countries, detailing issues such as their population growth, consumption and deforestation, as well as how they have been affected by the rise in global temperatures. A final section describes the actions being taken in response to the crisis, and the part individuals can play.

The catalogue says it’s suitable for ages 10+. It’s normal price was £12.99, but they were offering at £6.99. I don’t know if it’s still available.

Ignore Murdoch, the Koch brothers and right-wing politicians like Trump, Blair. and as it looks like now, Starmer. It’s people like Hooke, the Open University, Ash Sarkar and the other peeps at Novara Media and, indeed, just about every respectable climate and environmental scientist on the planet, who are actually an unashamedly telling the truth.

Murdoch is publishing disinformation and lies. It’s now more than ever important to listen to the Left and mainstream science, and stop the profiteering from trashing the planet.

Starmer Runs Away from Green New Deal Campaigners – Anyone Surprised?

August 13, 2021

Mike today posted a tweet containing a video from a young woman and man from the campaign group, Green New Deal Rising, On Wednesday, the pair had attempted to confront Starmer about his policies towards the Green New Deal and the climate crisis. According to them, Starmer ran away protesting that he was too busy to talk about it. So they tackled him today about his refusal to take an action and failure to back the Green New Deal. The video shows Starmer running away from them faster than Boris Johnson searching for a fridge to hide in. He does speak to the pair eventually from behind a line of railings, talking about tackling climate through international negotiations at the forthcoming conference. They’re not impressed with him, neither is Mike and frankly, I’m not either. The group end their tweet with “Words mean nothing Keir. We need urgent action. We need you to #BackTheBill” Mike notes that Starmer was right behind the bill when it was one of Corbyn’s policies, but now has utterly reversed his position. Noting that the Labour leader is actually avoiding campaigners against climate change, Mike asks ‘How does he think this is acceptable?’

I’m not remotely surprised by this. Starmer has broken every one of Corbyn’s policies, and has shown just how right-wing he is by writing his despicable piece in the Financial Times about how he wishes to return the party to the glory days, as he seems to see it, of Blair. This is the Tony Blair who accelerated and expanded the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS, the destruction of the welfare state, the wholesale implementation of the Private Finance Initiative as a general governmental principle and the further impoverishment of Britain’s great working people. And this is apart from his international crimes – the illegal invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the descent of those relatively secular societies with welfare states into sectarian violence and chaos. Half of Libya has been overrun by Islamist fanatics, who have opened slave markets selling Black migrants travelling through the country in the hope of reaching Europe. The western occupation of Iraq and the neo-Cons attempts to turn the country into a low-tax, free trade capitalist utopia has utterly wrecked their economy. But western multinationals have done extremely well for themselves, looting and taking over the country’s state-owned enterprises as the spoils of war. And Aramco, the American-Saudi oil company, has stolen Iraq’s oil industry and its reserves. Indeed, they’ve actually written into the country’s new constitution a clause stating that the Iraqis may not renationalise it.

This was the real aim of the invasion all along.

As was the invasion of Afghanistan. Like Iraq, it had nothing to do with liberating the country from the murderous rule of a brutal regime. Quite the contrary. George Dubya Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban about opening up an oil pipeline there. It was only when the Taliban started stalling and looked ready to turn down the proposal, that Bush’s bunch of bandits then drew up plans to invade the country if an opportunity presented itself. Which it did with 9/11.

For further information about this, read any of William Blum’s critiques of American imperialism and Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse.

Blair himself was a corporatist. He gave positions in government to senior figures from private industry, often on the very bodies that were supposed to regulate those industries, in return for their generous donations. This included the NHS, where he took in various advisors from private healthcare companies. See George Monbiot’s Captive State. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that Blair was ever worried about saving the planet. Not when he was determined to reward the same businesses that are wrecking it. One of the horrors left over from the Iraq invasion is the pollution from the armaments coated with depleted uranium, which have been responsible for a massive increase in birth defects among the Iraqi population.

I don’t see Starmer as being remotely different. He’s already shown his contempt for the Labour party’s rank and file, whom he’s ignoring in order to try to recruit prospective MPs and officials from outside the party. Just as Blair was far more welcoming to Tory politicos who had crossed the floor to join him, like Chris Patten, than his own party and particularly its left-wing. My guess Starmer is probably hoping for more corporate donations, including from the fracking companies wishing to start operating over here.

Right now, he looks exactly the same as David Cameron. Cameron boasted that his would be the greenest government ever. He even put a little windmill on his roof to show how serious he was. But when he finally slithered his way into No. 10, that windmill came down and it was full steam ahead for fracking and hang anyone worried about its damage to the environment and their drinking water.

Starmer’s going to be no different. Which is why he’s turned his back on the Green New Deal and run away from its campaigners. He doesn’t want to hear them, just as he doesn’t want to hear from ordinary working people and Labour supporters and members.

Bristol’s Labour Mayor Marvin Rees on What His Party Has Done for the City

August 3, 2021

As a member of the local Labour party, I got this general email from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, explaining what his administration has done to improve conditions in Bristol. I’ve mixed feelings about Rees. He can be stubborn and obstinate, insisting on what he wants against the wishes of local people. He did this in the case of the housing development now being built in Hengrove park. His plans for the development were opposed by local people, who wanted fewer houses and more amenities, like shops, to be built on the site. But despite the fact that Rees’ own plans for the area were also criticised by the planning authorities for exactly the same reasons, Rees overruled the suggestions of the locals and went ahead with his own plans. There has also been a similar controversy over his scheme for a new arena for the city. Common sense would say that it should be built nearer to the city’s centre, where communications are excellent and visitors from outside the city could easily get to it via the motorway. However, for some reason best known to himself, Mayor Marv has decided instead that he wants it built in Filton, a suburb some distance away from the centre in the north of the city. Which is far more difficult to get to.

On the other hand, I was very impressed by his handling of the pulling down of Colston’s statue by Black Lives Matter. There have been demands from Bristol’s Black community for the statue to be taken down for decades, and so the assault on it probably shouldn’t have been surprising. After all, it followed similar attacks on Confederate statues across the Pond in America. Despite loud criticism from people of the right, like Alex Belfield, I think Bristol’s police did exactly the right thing in not trying to defend it when it was attacked. It was the only monument affected. The other statues nearby, such as one to Bristol’s sailors, and of the 18th century politician, Edmund Burke, and Queen Victoria (Gawd bless ‘er) weren’t touched. Neither were the surrounding shops and offices. But I think there would have been a full scale riot if the cops had tried to defend it. And I think it’s extremely likely that some in the mob that attacked the statue were hoping for a chance to fight the police as symbols of racist authority. The police didn’t give them the opportunity, and saved the people and property in the area from harm. As for Marvin himself, while he has made it very plain that, as a man of colour, he personally loathes the statue, he has been extremely diplomatic and careful in his handling of the controversy.

Here’s what he says in his email:

“Dear member,

I am writing to you to thank you for your support in the recent elections and to let you know how your Labour administration is repaying your trust in us. 

I want to start by reiterating how grateful I am; for everyone that voted for me and for the activists who knocked on doors, called voters, and spread our message of hope on social media. It’s been an enormously difficult year – which makes me even more appreciative for the support – but we still managed to adapt to the circumstances and get Labour’s message out to the voters. Our activists are the cornerstone of our movement – we wouldn’t have won the mayoral elections if it weren’t for the strength of our members. 

However, despite winning the Mayoralty and gaining a Labour Metromayor in the West of England Combined Authority, we lost a number of excellent councillors and had hard-working, dedicated candidates miss out on their seats. I know how talented our candidates were and how much they cared about their communities, so these results were hard to take. 

Despite the disappointment, we’ve regrouped and have been working to put Labour values into action and to continue delivering on your priorities. I want the next three years to be defined by inclusivity, sustainability, and delivery – everything we do will be defined by those three principles. 

At the first Full Council since the election, we put forward a motion that forbids the Council or its partners from following Home Office guidance that uses rough sleeping as a reason to cancel someone’s leave to remain, resulting in their eventual deportation from the UK. It should go without saying that we found this guidance deplorable – it shows how out-of-step Priti Patel and the Home Office is with Bristol’s collective conscience. Read more on Cllr Tom Renhard’s Blog. 

This announcement follows a recent further £4m investment to help tackle rough sleeping and the setting up of Bristol Street Outreach, a new service to support rough sleepers. Since 2019, we’ve reduced the levels of people rough-sleeping by 80% – this new service will focus on on-street engagements, particularly with those who have been sleeping rough for a long time, to help enable them to move off the streets and live independently.

As well as this we’ve:

Won Gold Food Sustainable City Status – only the second city in the UK to do so – for excellence in tackling food waste, urban food growing, and action to address food inequality. Awarded by the independent, Sustainable Food Places Board, the accolade recognises the work of Bristol’s good food movement and the city’s work to tackle the impacts of food on public health, nature, and climate change. More information here. 

• Offered residency to a number of Afghan interpreters who worked with the British Army, as they were at risk of persecution by the Taliban. 

• Moved forward building a 17,000 seater arena and its surrounding district – which now includes a 15 acre public park, £3.1m for transport infrastructure, 2,600 news homes, employment space, up to three new schools, a health centre and retail and leisure facilities – with it now set to open by the end of 2023.

• Allocated £34m in funding to help businesses in the city centre upgrade to cleaner vehicles, so they can avoid fines when the Clean Air Zone is implemented.  Despite pushing back the implementation date for the Clean Air Zone, by giving people and businesses time to adapt we will still have cleaner air by 2023 – the same time as we would if it had been implemented this October. 

• Painted a trans-inclusive rainbow crossing on Wine Street to as part of our celebrations for Pride Month. As well as this, we passed a motion that will strengthen mental health provision for LGBT+ people within the Council, and to work with our partners to improve services across the city.

Built the largest water-source heat pump in the UK, bringing zero-carbon energy to 5,000 homes in central Bristol. This comes after we built the largest land wind turbine in the country in Avonmouth. We’re also pushing ahead with finding a partner for the City Leap Programme, which will see us invest £1bn in decarbonising Bristol’s energy systems. 

• Started work to transform the Bear Pit into a haven for bees and butterflies. We declared an ecological emergency last year and are working to turn make our built environment more ecology-friendly – We’re investing in green structures and bright native flowers in the bearpit to attract pollinators and make it a thoroughfare the city can be proud of. 

• Invested £4.7m to rejuvenate our high streets, including Bristol city centre, East Street, Church Road, Shirehampton, Filwood Broadway, Stapleton Road, Brislington Hill, Filton Avenue, Two Mile Hill and Stockwood. The funding will help develop a support programme for existing and new high street businesses, while funding improvements to the streets in a bid to boost footfall through them. Financial support will also be offered to new or expanding businesses, such as pop-up stores or galleries, to reduce the number of vacant premises on the streets.

This is just a small selection of the work we’ve been doing for you. As this next term is only three years rather than four, we wanted to hit the ground running, but we have much, much more in the pipeline that will be ready for announcement in the near future.

If you would like to find out more about the work we’ve been doing, have questions over specific policy, or just want a general chat, then please feel free to ask your constituency executive to invite myself or a Cabinet member to one of your party meetings. 

I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer – I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Best wishes, 

Marvin Rees”

The various green projects Labour has introduced shows the administration is taking ecological issues seriously and shows that the Labour party in the city would be behind the Green New Deal proposed by the left, which would not only help the planet, but also create jobs and new industries. I’m also particularly impressed by the investment in local high streets and their businesses, and the offer of residency to the Afghan interpreters who worked for the British army. With the Taliban now advancing in Afghanistan, these people’s lives would very much be at risk if they remained there, and they undoubtedly deserve to be given sanctuary here in the UK, no matter what Priti Patel may think.

Despite my strong criticisms of some of Rees’ policies, I think overall he has been good for the city, and hope his administration will continue to do its best for Bristol and its great people.