Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Wishing All My Readers a Merry Christmas

December 25, 2021

I hope everyone reading my blog has a Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Unfortunately with a second lockdown looming, this is going to be a time when the toast ‘absent friends’ is particularly relevant and poignant.

I particularly wish my Jewish readers ‘Shalom’, Muslim and Arab readers ‘Salaam’, and the Russian people ‘Mir’. These are all words for ‘peace’. May our leaders step back from war, hatred and violence next year, and work instead to benefit our common humanity and combat climate change and the environmental destruction that is threatening our beautiful, fragile Earth.

Very best wishes to you all and everyone your pray and/or care for.

Spinlaunch Plans on Throwing Satellites into Orbit

December 6, 2021

This video from the YouTube channel Interesting Engineering describes the plans for a very remarkable satellite launch system developed by Spinlaunch, a company I really don’t know anything about. It seems from this video that they’ve built a 157 metre vertically inclined centrifuge as a precursor for one they hope to build, which will be three times larger and used as a satellite launch system. Instead of sending satellites conventionally into space with rockets, the Spinlaunch system will throw them into space instead. The full size system will also use rockets, although they will only fire at an altitude of 61 km above the Earth to place 200 kilo satellites in orbit. The video looks forward to the new system being more sustainable and ecologically friendly than conventional launch systems.

It’s an interesting concept, and the idea of throwing vessels into space I think goes right back to Robert Goddard, the founder of American rocketry. From childhood Goddard wanted to send people to Mars, hence his determination to develop the technology to get people into space. Before settling on rockets, Goddard apparently thought about devices to throw ships into space. And there are indeed a number of problems with using rockets as launch systems. Space and Futurism YouTuber Isaac Arthur, in his video about spaceports, points out that currently launch sites have to be sited well away from any cities because of the sheer noise and power of the rockets. It’s possible that the Spinlaunch system may be able to solve this problem if such centrifuges are quieter than rocket engines. Glancing down the internet entries for similar videos, it seems that not everyone is impressed with the company’s claims. Atheist science vlogger and anti-feminist Thunderfoot has put up a video which suggests that he’s busted their claims. Other space vloggers, like Scott Manley, seem much more impressed with them, and the blurb for the video states that it’s been successfully tested. I honestly don’t know if the idea will work in practice, but it’ll be interesting to see if it ever takes off (pun intended).

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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Quinn Discusses Possible Screen Adaption of ‘Hyperion’

November 9, 2021

This interesting little snippet comes from the ‘Quinn’s Ideas’ YouTube channel. Quinn’s a Black American fantasy/ SF writer and graphic novelist with a taste for galaxy-spanning SF that tackles the big metaphysical ideas, like power, responsibility, suffering, the nature of humanity and the possibility of alien life and truly sentient AI. He’s a big fan of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune, which has now been filmed by Denis Villeneuve and has been playing in cinemas around the country. Quinn’s put up a series of videos about Dune, which are well worth watching, as well as other great SF works like Asimov’s Foundation. In this video he talks about the news that there are plans to adapt Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, but it’s not known yet whether this would be for the cinema or TV. He hopes it’s TV.

Hyperion is another of his favourite books, and he’s also posted videos about it. It, too, is another SF classic. It set in a future in which humanity has expanded throughout the galaxy, united into a type of interstellar UN called the Hegemony. Outside the Hegemony are the Oustlers, a society of nomadic humans, who have adapted themselves to space, who attack and raid vulnerable Hegemony worlds. Also outside the Hegemony is the Technocore, a society of intelligent AIs, who rebelled against their human creators centuries ago and fled into space. Their whereabouts is unknown, but they have established apparently friendly relations with humanity offering advice and technology. Earth was destroyed hundreds of years ago by accident in an attempt to create an artificial Black Hole. Although the humans have FTL spaceships, these are still quite slow compared to the cosmic spaces they traverse, so that it can take months or years to travel from one planet to another. These transit times are offset for the crew and passengers of such ships through a form of relativistic time dilation, so that the subjective time they experience in flight is shorter than that in the outside universe. A more immediate form of travel are the Farcasters, technological portals that allow the user to pass instantaneously across space from one world to another.

Hyperion itself is a sparsely populated agricultural world, threatened with attack from Oustlers. It is home to the mysterious Time Tombs, strange monuments that have appeared to have travelled backwards in time. Haunting them is the Shrike, a gigantic humanoid killing machine, whose body is a mass of cruel spikes and blades. In this future, Christianity has declined to the point where it’s a minor sect that survives on only a few worlds. Among the new religions that have replaced it is the Church of the Final Atonement, centred around the Shrike. Six pilgrims are periodically selected to go to Hyperion, journey to the Tombs and meet the Shrike. It is believed that although the creature will kill five of them, it will grant the wish of the survivor. The novel follows six pilgrims, who entertain each other by telling their stories on their way to meet the creature.

The pilgrims include a former Roman Catholic priest, sent to investigate the disappearance of a fellow former cleric while conducting an anthropological study of the Bikura, a mysterious human tribe; a female gumshoe from a heavy gravity world, investigating the murder of the biological and cybernetic reconstruction of the poet Keats; a Jewish academic from a farming world, desperately seeking a cure for his daughter’s condition. An archaeologist investigating the Time Tombs, she has started to age backwards after a mysterious event until she reaches infancy. There is also a noted galactic poet and writer of trash historical fantasies about the last days of Earth, a Palestinian Martian colonel and a Templar master. The Templars are another new religion, which worships trees, and the Templars have converted some of the vast trees on their homeworld into spacecraft.

The book’s influenced not just by Keat’s poem ‘Hyperion’, but also by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I therefore think Quinn’s right in that it would be better as a TV adaptation, as each tale could constitute an individual episode within the overarching story. At the heart of the book is the problem of evil, how the universe can contain such immense pain and suffering. It’s an issue that has challenged philosophers and theologians down the centuries. Hyperion is a Science Fictional attempt to examine the problem, as exemplified by the Shrike.

Hyperion was the first in a series of novels completing the story: The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and the Rise of Endymion, all of which I found similarly worth reading. It would be great if Hyperion was adapted for screen, but I’m afraid that, like some of the Dune adaptations, some of the central ideas which make the book an SF classic might be lost. If, that is, the book’s ever adapted at all. Things seem rather tenuous and it may all come to nothing. We shall have to wait and see.

Have Scientists Recovered Fragments of Dinosaur DNA?

November 4, 2021

I found this fascinating little video on Russian science vlogger Anton Petrov’s YouTube channel. Petrov, who characteristically greets his viewers with the phrase, ‘Hello, wonderful person’ usually covers astronomy and space, but frequently branches out into other areas like biology. In this video, he discusses a scientific paper that claims that fragments of DNA have been recovered from a small dinosaur, Caudipteryx. This was a creature about the size and shape of a chicken, and it’s one of the dinosaur fossils found in the Jehol beds of China.

The possibility that dinosaur genetic material may have survived clearly brings us into Jurassic Park territory, and Petrov says that he was so amazed and excited by the movie that it was one of the things that caused him to become a scientist. He originally wanted to be a palaeontologist, and studied a bit of geology and went on digs. He makes a joke about how the viewers will now have to imagine the Jurassic Park music playing in the background. Why can’t they have it for real? Copyright, he sighs, it’s always copyright.

It’s a controversial claim, and one he says will have scientists arguing for some time to come. DNA begins to break down soon after death. It has a half-life of 521 years, meaning that after that period of time, half the DNA in a creature’s remains will have vanished. And all of it will be gone after about 6 million years. However, DNA from Greenland plants has been recovered from 800,000 years ago, showing that the country was warmer and greener than it is now. Fragments of DNA from Neanderthal people have been recovered from 100,000 years ago, showing that DNA can survive quite long periods. In the case of the Caudipteryx dinosaur, some of the DNA may have turned into silicates, which may have preserved the rest. The scientists were able to discover the DNA through using the same process of chemical staining that is used to find it elsewhere. It does seem likely that they have discovered individual cells in the animal’s fossil, which is itself a major advance.

It’s an interesting possibility, but I don’t think we have to be afraid of scientists recreating the dinosaurs to create a new theme park just yet. I think the DNA is far too fragmentary for that. I can remember there being similar controversies about the recovery of Neanderthal DNA, which is far more recent. That said, there are people, who’d like to bring back the mammoths by combining ancient mammoth DNA with modern elephants, and there are considerable ethical and environmental issues about this. Not to mention the scientific problems of finding enough surviving mammoth DNA and being able to combine this successfully with its modern, surviving relative.

Johnson Squirms and Blusters When Questioned About Not Wearing Mask at COP26

November 4, 2021

The world’s great, if not good, have gathered in Scotland to discuss the climate crisis and so far the conduct of our shambolic excuse for a prime minister has been of his usual standard: abysmal. As Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out, Bozo fell asleep at one of the talks, while sat between David Attenborough and the UN Secretary General. Our free and fearless broadcasters, both Beeb and ITN, did not show the footage. This suggests that they’re becoming the British equivalents of the official news services in dictatorships like Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Fascist Italy, where nothing that would possibly show the dictator in an unflattering light could ever be published. This even extended to the Gorbachev era. Although Gorbachev opened up a new era of democracy, openness, ‘glaznost’, and friendship with the West, the state media still acted to preserve the great man’s vanity. Gorby was born with a birthmark on his forehead, but this was carefully airbrushed out in the official pictures. Mussolini literally used to stand on a soapbox when he delivered his rants to the unfortunate Italian public, but this too was carefully airbrushed out of the photos. And then there’s that notoriously doctored photograph showing Stalin sat cosily next to Lenin on a bench. Now we have British television showing it’s quite prepared to do the same in order to spare Bozo’s blushes.

Bozo also didn’t wear the required facemask to protect everyone else from Covid as he was slumbering next to Attenborough. David Attenborough is 95, and therefore particularly vulnerable to the disease. Unlike Bozo, he was also wide-awake and alert, or at least he appeared to be. Nobody could blame him at his age if he had dozed off. But Attenborough generally appears far more intelligent than Boris generally, and much more popular. Also more accomplished in cross-species communication. After all, Attenborough found himself accepted into a family of gorillas in Africa during his blockbusting wildlife series, Life on Earth way back in 1979. It was one of the truly great pieces of natural history broadcasting. For all his background as a journalist, Boris has done nothing remotely similar, nor behaved with the grace, dignity and gravitas one would expect of someone who aspires to be a grand statesman. Boris is colossally graceless and inept, and when faced with difficult or not so difficult questions, his only recourse is to bluster incoherently.

And he did exactly this when questioned on CNN about why he didn’t wear the facemask and so risked Attenborough coming down with the potentially lethal disease. Alex Belfield posted this video yesterday, which shows the buffoon squirming in embarrassment. Of course, the mad right-wing internet radio host has his own reasons for posting the video. He vehemently opposes the lockdown, viewing it as doing more harm than good. It’s an attitude shared by much of the right. He early posted a video showing what he considered to be the hypocrisy of the world leaders in Scotland over the issue of facemasks. This showed them all posing for a photoshoot wearing them. As soon as the photographers had taken their pics, off the masks came. I don’t agree with Belfield about facemasks. I do think they are helping to protect the vulnerable. But I’ve got no problem sharing this video about Bozo’s hypocrisy and stupidity.

Novara Media Discuss Mike Graham Telling Listeners Concrete Grows

November 1, 2021

Last week LBC’s right-wing mouthpiece, Mike Graham, provided the British public with some unintentional hilarity when he solemnly informed the world that concrete grows. Graham was interviewing a young man from Insulate Britain. He started off with a barbed comment, asking the chap what he was glued to. The man calmly replied that it was just his screen at the moment. Graham then asked him what he did for a living. As Zelo Street has already commented, Graham was clearly hoping the man was unemployed so he could give him a rant about getting off his backside and getting a job. This failed, because the chap did have a job: he was a carpenter, which uses wood, a sustainable material. Graham claimed that it wasn’t, because the trees were cut down. The carpenter replied that people planted more trees, which grew. Unlike other materials like concrete. It was at this point that common sense finally abandoned Graham’s skull, and he declared that concrete did, indeed, grow. This ended the interview, as the Insulate Britain man remained silent except for a tiny, almost imperceptible shake of the head. Graham then abruptly ended the interview, saying goodbye to him.

I realise that this bizarre incident has been covered several times elsewhere, such as on Zelo Street, but I thought my esteemed readers would want to see it for themselves. Here it is being discussed by Novara Media’s Michael Walker and Dalia Gebreal, whose minds are well and truly boggled by Graham’s ignorance. So boggled, in fact, that they play the clip of the short interview twice. Even more astonishing, LBC put the clip up on their Twitter page as an example of an Insulate Britain fail. Graham and LBC made monumental fools of themselves, and didn’t realise it! In fact, Zelo Street reported that Graham had gone on to another show to make the same stupid claim about concrete growing.

Now I’ve read SF stories in which buildings are grown using self-replicating nanomachines, but that’s far beyond our abilities at the moment. Not that I think Graham reads much SF. And concrete doesn’t grow at all.

But I think the main take-away lesson from this is what it shows about the level of knowledge of the people telling you that climate change isn’t happening.

Tories Pumping Sewage in Rivers: We Were Warned

October 26, 2021

One of the major stories this week has been that the Conservatives have voted to allow the water companies to dump raw sewage into our rivers and seas. This is, as Mike has pointed out, threatening to bring back cholera, and no doubt many other lethal Victorian diseases. Mike and the good peeps on Twitter have put up a list of the various Tory thugs, who passed this noxious motion, and the excuses have started already. Mike’s local MP, Fay Jones, was telling everyone that the amendment would cost the taxpayer £600 billion or so to replace the Victorian sewage infrastructure. But it wouldn’t. It would cost the government that, who might have to raise taxes as a result. But it shouldn’t be raised from them. The cost would have to be borne by the privatised water companies. I remember when the water companies were privatised under Thatcher the head of the local company down here in Bristol, Hooper, was all in favour and declared that it would allow them to raise more money for investment. So if any expense is involved, it should come from their profits, shareholder dividends and customers, not the British taxpayer. Jones also complained that people attacking the government’s actions over sewage obscured the brilliant work they were already doing reducing discharge from storm overflows. But there’s precious little evidence of this, either. So once again, the Tories are lying.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/10/25/get-your-cholera-jab-booked-mps-wont-stop-pumping-raw-sewage-into-our-waters/

This was after David Davies started crying that he was being abused and subjected to online hate, because Catrin Maby had asked him an awkward question about allowing untreated effluent into our watercourses. It’s deeply distasteful coming after the murder of David Amess, a murder that seems to be an act of premeditated Islamist terror rather than caused by online hate. So once again, we have the Tories wrecking peoples’ health but claiming they are somehow the innocent victims, while presenting precisely no evidence to support their assertion.

But as nasty as all this is, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

When Brexit was first being mooted critics warned that once Britain was out of the EU and their environmental regulations no longer applied, the Tories would allow this and other abuses to happen. It was even shown in a short-lived cartoon strip in Private Eye. This was ‘The Ukippers’, and featured a fiercely patriotic couple who believed that everything would be absolutely brilliant once we have left the EU. One edition showed the two celebrating the new, higher environmental standards we were promised after Brexit by running into the sea for a swim. The two were undeterred by the fact that the water was foul and brown, and filled with what Billy Connolly used to describe as ‘jobbies’. Despite the foul state of the water around them, the pair were still convinced that it was much cleaner than it had been under the EU. It’s an attitude I’m afraid will probably come true at some point, as Tory voters repeat the lie that somehow it’s all cleaner, which I’m sure that Boris and his cronies will tell at some point.

In fact the Tories have a history of allowing pollution into the water. It started in the 1980s the moment Thatcher – or was John Major? – decided to privatise it. I can remember reading articles in Private Eye, once again, about how the Tories were passing legislation to strip the National Rivers Authority of its powers to prosecute the newly privatised water companies for pollution. I’ve got a feeling similar legislation to reduce its powers even further has also been passed. And there have also been a series of scandals, also covered by Private Eye, in which various water companies were caught violating environmental regulations with the dumping of sewage or chemicals into rivers.

This latest attack on the British environment was predicted, because the Tories have been doing it for decades.

My Email to South Bristol Labour Party Complaining about Conference Delegates Support for Starmer

October 22, 2021

Last week my local Labour party held its monthly meeting, online because of the continuing Covid lockdown. There was a monthly report from our local MP, Karin Smyth,along with reports from the two conference delegates. This was followed by a speech from the Unison liaison – I’m afraid I’ve mistakenly said that she’s Unite in the letter, for which I apologise to Unite – and that’s when I got sick and tired of it all and quietly left.

Smyth’s talk was highly informative and chilling in her description of the government’s continuing campaign to privatise the NHS and replace it with a system financed by private health insurance as in America. She supports Starmer, but is very committed to protecting the NHS for which I respect her.

I was less impressed with the two delegates, who supported Starmer and David Evans’ measures destroying party democracy and purging the left. It’s blatant factionalism and the reasons they gave were spurious. They claimed that as Starmer only had 200 MPs, he needed to shore up his support so that he has 40 to form a cabinet. But he has no shortage of supporters in the parliamentary party, and so the rationale makes no sense. They did, however, vote for the Green New Deal, but didn’t vote for the measure supporting the Palestinians. They claimed they didn’t understand it. I think it’s far more likely they shared Starmer’s aggressive Zionism and support for the current far-right Israeli government’s colonisation of Palestine through the construction of illegal settlements and the consequent suffocating restrictions on those of the indigenous Palestinians.

But I was most annoyed by the Unison liaison’s speech talking about how she’d been indifferent to the problem of Labour anti-Semitism, but had just attended a ‘powerful’ presentation about the terrible abuse our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Labour party were suffering from the Left. What was this abuse? Why, it was all tropes, as you’d expect. This is just Zionist propaganda. Tropes are invoked to smear reasonable criticisms of Israel by decent people through contrived parallels to real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and myths. As I have said ad nauseam, the people targeted for these smears are mostly genuine anti-racists and opponents of anti-Semitism, many of whom – indeed the majority – are self-respecting Jews. These are people, who frequently lost relatives in the Holocaust and have suffered genuine abuse and violence from real anti-Semites and Nazis.

I have therefore sent off this email of complaint. It criticises the delegates’ Starmerite factionalism, and the leadership itself for calling for a return to Blairism. I attack Blair’s further privatisation of the Health Service, the introduction of the Work Capability Tests and the bullying tactics used by the DWP on claimants. I also attack Blair for his illegal invasion of Iraq and Libya, and the consequent destabilisation of the Middle East. A destabilisation that prepared the way for the rise of ISIS. I also make it plain that I oppose Blair’s corporatism and his grant of government positions to the captains of industry and his support for big business over the wishes of communities and their small businessmen and women. I make it very clear that I feel Blair and his policies are not to be supported or revived, and that Starmer has shown that he is completely treacherous and untrustworthy. He will, I feel, turn on his own supporters the moment it suits him, and his support for the NHS at this moment is merely tactical.

I also attack the Unison lady’s talk, pointing out that this has probably been given by JLM, a Zionist organisation, who aren’t interested in Jews but protecting Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. I denounce the mass purges from the party of Starmer’s critics and critics of Israel, and briefly describe my own experience of being so accused. I end by asking to present my case at a future meeting of the party.

I may well have set myself up for expulsion as another evil lefty troublemaker, but I can’t let these evil policies and falsehoods go unchallenged. Here is my email below:

“Dear Sir/ Madam,

Thank you for sending me this month’s reports. However, I must express here my very strong disapproval and dismay of some of the views expressed by the speakers at this month’s meeting and particularly the actions of the conference delegates. This does not extend to the great work of our local MP, Karin Smyth. I very much appreciate all the very hard work she does for her constituents and defending the NHS against Tory privatisation.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the Labour leadership. Keir Starmer’s return to Blairism is a source of severe concern. Tony Blair in office continued and extended further the Thatcherite policies of the previous Tory governments. Indeed, they have complained that he went further in his privatisation of the NHS than they would have dared if Labour had stuck to its traditional defence of the Health Service. For example, when the Community Care Groups were set up they were given powers not only to purchase services from private medical companies, but also to raise funds privately. The polyclinics were supposed to be privately run, and he continued handing over doctor’s surgeries to private health companies as well as the management of hospitals to private healthcare chains.. Please see books like Raymond Tallis’ and Jacky Davis’ NHS – SOS for further details.

I am also disgusted by the bullying attitude towards welfare claimants and the Work Capability Tests that Blair also introduced. This has seen genuinely poor and disabled people thrown off benefits for the most trivial reasons, leading to great hardship, deprivation and death. This should be ended now. The unemployed and disabled should not be supported by food banks but by a properly funded and functioning welfare state, and damn whatever Rupert Murdoch and Geordie Greig say in their wretched propaganda sheets. But I see precious little evidence of this from Starmer. Indeed, he seems to favour extreme right-wing members, who believe that conditions should be made even harsher for the unemployed!

We also suffered from massive corporate corruption by Blair giving places in government to the private companies that the same departments were supposed to be regulating. The result was a colossal increase in the expense of public works and the favouring of these companies over the wishes of local communities and their businesses. See Bremner, Bird and Fortunes’ You Are Here and George Monbiot’s Captive State, for example. Blair also showed his absolute contempt for international law and the British people with his illegal invasion of Iraq. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a monster, but the invasion of Iraq left the country in chaos and destroyed what had been one of the most secular societies in the middle east with something like a welfare state where women could pursue careers outside the home. This is all gone. 200,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, contributing to the refugee crisis we see now. Moreover it gave a space for the emergence of the monstrous ISIS. It has also, in my opinion, further contributed to the alienation of Muslims in Britain and abroad, as has Blair’s similar participation in the overthrow of another tyrant, Colonel Gadaffy.

I am utterly disgusted that Kier Starmer should believe Tony Blair is a leader worth emulating and to whom the Labour party should return and refer for its policies. I do not trust him to continue defending the NHS once is power, and I am afraid MPs like Karin will be faced with the difficult choice of supporting the leader or supporting the NHS. The purges and long list of broken promises to members show that Starmer is, in my opinion, utterly without principle and treacherous and I am afraid that valued MPs like Karin will also be purged if they dare to show any independence against him.

I am deeply disgusted by the conference delegates’ support for the leadership’s motions affecting party democracy. These are entirely partisan, and go against both the democratic traditions of the party and the views of many of the ordinary members. Starmer seems determined to purge the party of the left and make Labour into another, perhaps not even paler, version of the Conservatives. At the same time, he seems to have done precious little to oppose them in parliament, to the point that he has been easily ridiculed and mocked by Johnson, to the applause of the media.

I was also disappointed by the delegates’ refusal to support the motion in favour of the Palestinians. The motion is not difficult to understand. The Israeli state is colonising Palestinian territory with the construction of illegal settlements in defiance of international law. At the same time there is a system of apartheid in Israel that persecutes Palestinians as second class systems. This has to stop if Labour really believes in peace and equality in the Middle East. I fear the delegates’ refusal to support the motion has less to do with a failure to understand the situation than Keir Starmer’s support for the hard-right government in Israel.

This brings me on to the comments by the Unite liaison officer and her praise for the ‘powerful’ training she had received showing the ‘terrible abuse’ Jewish members of the party had received from the left through tropes. She comes across as a thoroughly decent woman, though naive and uninformed, and I fear that she has been terribly mislead by people I can only describe as liars, propagandists and smear merchants. People who, in my certain experience, have smeared thoroughly decent, genuinely anti-racist people, including staunch opponents of anti-Semitism, as Jew-haters. Starmer handed over anti-Semitic training to the Jewish Labour Movement, an extremely partisan and biased organisation. According to the organisation’s Jewish critics, they used to be Paole Zion, ‘Workers of Zion’, a Zionist organisation which describes itself as the sister party to the Israeli Labor Party. This organisation was moribund until it suddenly received an injection of funds from persons or persons unknown a few years ago.Its Jewish critics have pointed out that its members do not have to be either Jewish or members of the Labour party, as is the case with their ideological opponents in Labour, Jewish Voice for Labour. Yet the Jewish Labour Movement is somehow privileged as speaking for Labour’s Jewish members and Jewish Voice for Labour demonised as anti-Semitic ‘commies’ by right-wing Labour MPs like Neil Coyle.  

In my experience organisations like the JLM are not interested in tackling anti-Semitism. They are there to counter criticism of Israel and Zionism, and the use of literary tropes is the only method they can use to do so. And their targets have been overwhelmingly Jews. Jewish Voice for Labour have complained that Jews are 300 times more likely to be accused of anti-Semitism than non-Jews. Those accused have included self-respecting men and women, who frequently lost relatives and friends in the Shoah, and who, along with their gentile friends and supporters, have suffered real anti-Semitic abuse, harassment and assault from genuine Nazis and anti-Semites. I cannot express sufficiently my absolute disgust at this deplorable persecution. Miri Hillel, a Jewish journalist, has said that many Jews are afraid of speaking out against this campaign of official harassment because of the effect it has on their families. Those accused of anti-Semitism are subjected to horrendous, foul abuse because of these lies and smears.  . 

As for terrible anti-Semitic tropes, this is being done to silence criticism of Israel by finding spurious literary and historical parallels with real anti-Semitism. Thus, any mention of Israeli embassy official Shai Masot’s covert negotiations with British civil servants to exclude Alan Duncan, a critic of Israel, from the cabinet, as a plot or conspiracy is loudly denounced as an example of the old myth of Jewish conspiracies like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But Masot was plotting and engaged in a conspiracy in the true sense of the word. Describing it as such does not connect it to real, poisonous anti-Semitic myths like the infamous Protocols or the more recent myth of the Great Replacement. Such literary criticism, and that’s all it is, is done not to protect Jews, but as a cynical campaign to deflect criticism from Israel by misrepresenting its critics as anti-Semites.

I myself haver personal experience of the witch hunt against critics of Israel. A few weeks ago I was told I was under investigation following complaints of anti-Semitism about an article on my blog. What the complainants objected to was almost wholly statements I had made criticising Zionism. They objected to my statement that all states and ideologies, including Zionism and Israel, should be open to examination and criticism, even though the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism says that criticism of Israel is perfectly acceptable provided the country is not held to a higher standard than others. They also didn’t like my statement that many gentiles initially did not support Zionism because it was too closely linked to real anti-Semitism, even though this is historically documented fact. They also considered that I was being anti-Semitic simply for stating another historical fact, which is that Zionism was, up to the Second World War, a minority position among European Jews. Most of them wished to remain in their homes, fighting for equality and to be accepted as fellow Brits, Frenchmen, Germans, Poles and so on rather than move to a country to which they felt no connection. Again, documented historical fact. I am further disgusted by the deplorable way Starmer is trying to silence reasonable opposition to Israeli’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians through mass expulsions and the proscription of organisations defending those unfairly purged, such as Labour Against the Witch Hunt and the Labour In Exile Network.

I was so outraged at the Unite lady’s speech defending the JLM training that I left the meeting. I feel that the meeting has been very one-sided in the views presented. I would therefore very much like to talk about my experiences of what I can only describe as a factionalist with hunt the demonises and expels decent people and exposing them to real anti-Semitic abuse and violence at a forthcoming meeting.

Yours faithfully,”

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.