Archive for the ‘Evolutionary Theory’ Category

Karl Wilhelm Nageli and Purposeful Mutation

November 11, 2018

I found this very interesting piece on the 19th century biologist, Karl Wilhelm Nageli, and August Weismann in Richard L. Gregory’s Mind In Science (London: Penguin 1981). The modern theory of evolution, NeoDarwinism, is essentially a mixture of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection mixed with Mendelian genetics. Roughly speaking, it views evolution as proceeding through random mutations. These supply the variations in species on which natural selection works, weeding out those varieties that don’t help the species to survive. Those that do, or at least don’t stop it surviving, are preserved and retained. Thus the little alterations in the characteristics of different species are created, which gradually accumulate over millennia and millions of years to produce new species of creature.

Darwin, however, didn’t know about heredity, which was introduced into his evolutionary theory by Weismann. He had developed the germ plasm theory, which was the precursor to the modern theory of DNA, famously discovered by Crick and Watson. Darwin also didn’t know about mutations either. He believed that heredity was a blending of the characteristics of the parents. I’ve got a feeling this was one of the arguments his opponents may have used against his theory, and that Darwin probably recognized the weakness of his theory there. At the time Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, I don’t think he was properly able to account for the emergence of novel characteristics in living creatures, on which natural selection acted.

It was Karl Wilhelm Nageli, who did this by introducing mutations into evolutionary theory, while rejecting Darwin’s idea of Natural Selection. Unlike evolutionary biologists after him, however, Nageli believed that these mutations had a purpose. It was the Dutch biologist Hugo de Vries, who introduced Mendelian genetics and the variation of characteristics into Darwinian evolutionary theory. Gregory explains it thus:

Neo-Darwinism adds to Darwinian Natural Selection a theory of heredity, which is itself derived from the, at the time (and perhaps still), controversial writings of the German biologist August Weismann (1834-1914). His papers (1868-76), translated into English as Studies in the Theory of Descent, (1882) proposed properties of a germ plasm which are similar to the fundamental doctrine of molecular biology, that information can only genetically pass from coded DNA to messenger RNA, and not the other way round. This genetic ‘diode’ rejects Lamarckian inheritance of individually acquired knowledge, or adaptive behavior. But we jump ahead, for Darwin had no knowledge of genes or mutations of genes.

The concept of evolution by mutational jumps is due to a Swiss botanist, Karl Wilhelm Nageli (1817). Nageli however rejected Darwin’s theory, for he supposed that there is a purpose in the direction of the jumps. He is heavily criticized for failing to appreciate the significance of Mendel’s work. He was shown the manuscript of Mendel’s paper describing his experiments on the breeding of giant and dwarf peas; his lack of interest is supposed to have prevented the work becoming known so that genetics was held up by some fifty years. Nageli’s concept of mutational jumps, but without built-in directional purpose, was developed by De Vries early in the present century.

Gregor Johan Mendel (1822-84) was an Augustinian monk. At the Abbey of St Thomas in Brunn, [Brno] he carried out his plant-breeding experiments, which depended on counting the proportions of tall and dwarf peas obtained by self-pollination. He found that the varieties did not converge to a medium-height pea plant, but that the tall and dwarf characteristics were maintained, and potentially present, in each variety. This was immensely important for Darwin’s theory, but unfortunately Darwin never came to hear of it.

The mutation theory was developed by the Dutch botanist Hugo De Vreis (1848-1935) who approached Mendel’s discovery by seeing that something like it was needed to give the variataion necessary for Natural Selection. He proposed that different characteristics might vary independently, and recombine in different ways. So was born the atomic-characteristic theory of inheritance, which later was embodied in gene and chromosome code structures – from which in turn developed modern molecular biology with the discovery by Francis Crick (b. 1916) and James Watson (b. 1928) of the structure of the long helical molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This, by replication, gives the physical basis of inheritance. Random change of the DNA structure give the variation necessary for Natural Selection. The drama of this discovery is superbly presented by Watson in The Double Helix (1968). (pp. 170-1).

Back in the 1980s, the astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe attacked Darwinian evolutionary theory in their book, Evolution from Space. In their previous book, Life Cloud, they had argued that life on Earth was seeded on Earth from space. While it’s an unorthodox theory, many scientists do believe that such panspermia, as it’s called, is a possibility. And the amino acids which form the basic building blocks of organic life has been found in meteorites, on Saturn’s moon, Titan, and in the nebulae, the clouds of dust and gas in space. What is far more controversial, and has been rejected by nearly all scientists, is their theory in Evolution from Space that the chance of organic life arising on Earth, and developing through Darwinian evolution, is so minute that evolution has to be directed by alien civilisations seeding space with the necessary genetic material.

In one passage in Evolution from Space, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe take the incidence of mutations in every generation, only a minority of which could be beneficial, and the combined length of time from the split, early in our evolutionary history, between the hominid lineage and the common ancestor of chimpanzees and gorillas 9 million years to argue that even this amount of time is insufficient to produce modern Homo Sapiens Sapiens, modern humanity. I’ve no doubt that this was immensely controversial and has been widely criticized and dismissed. It’s been taken up again more recently by the Intelligent Design people. And it wasn’t the weirdest of Hoyle’s and Wickramasinghe’s ideas. I think they also believed that the civilisations seeding this genetic material were computers in parallel universes. But if they are right after all, and random mutation can’t account for the development of the vast variety of living creatures we see around us, then it may be that it proceeds through purposeful mutations after all.

Going back to Nageli, even if his own theory of evolution has been discarded except for the idea of mutational jumps, I would far, far rather believe that evolution and the mutations necessary for it were shaped and guided by a loving creator, than are simply the result of blind chance as describes by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Blind Watchmaker.

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JudeoNazism: Jewish Scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s Term for Israeli Fascism

October 23, 2018

In an article attacking the decision of the Green members of Brighton and Hove’s council to adopt the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, Tony Greenstein quoted a number of senior Israeli figures – Naftali Bennett, the minister for education, Avigdor Liberman, Netanyahu’s wretched defence minister, to show how they matched Nazi pronouncements against the Jews. In so doing, they conformed to what the Israeli Orthodox religious scholar, Yeshayahu Leibowitz termed ‘Judeonazism’. Greenstein wrote

In an interview with The Times of Israel it was reported that Israel’s Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, had stated that ‘he would instruct the IDF to shoot and kill any Palestinians who cross into the country from Gaza’. When questioned as to whether or not that would also apply to children Bennett responded ‘“They are not children — they are terrorists. We are fooling ourselves. I see the photos.” Bennett says IDF should shoot to kill Gazans who cross border [8.10.18]

The statement of Bennett, who is the leader of HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home), a religious settlers’ party, is that of a Nazi. It is reminiscent of Himmler’s speech to Nazi leaders in the Polish city of Posnan on October 6th 1943 when he explained why the killings had to include Jewish children: “I did not assume to have the right to exterminate the men… and have the avengers personified in the children to become adults for our children and grandchildren.”[Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, p.259]

Palestinian children to Bennett are no different from Jewish children to Himmler. To both they represent the devil in child form. That was why Israeli polymath and orthodox religious scholar, Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz described the settlers as Judeo-Nazis. Naftali Bennett is a prime example of a Judeo-Nazi. He subscribes to a racial philosophy of Jewish supremacism no different from Nazi ideology.

But under the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ can be anti-Semitic even though Israelis regularly make such comparisons themselves. For example even Deputy Chief of Staff General Yair Golan at a Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration two years ago caused a storm when he stated that

‘If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016. IDF Deputy Chief Likens ‘Revolting Trends’ in Israeli Society to pre-Holocaust Germany.

Another member of Netanyahu’s Cabinet, Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman remarked that he would like nothing more than to see the drowning of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea. Again the label Judeo Nazi would be apt. His Deputy as Defence Minister, Rabbi Eli Dahan is also no slouch. In a radio interview he explained that to him Palestinians ‘“are like animals, they aren’t human.” and that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile [non-Jew] , even if he is a homosexual,”

To understand the full import of the above it is important to recognize that for Orthodox Jews being gay is an abomination which merits the death penalty, but even a gay Jew has a ‘much higher soul’ than a non-Jew. These are just some of the people who inhabit the present Israeli cabinet. Yet to call them what they are, Judeo-Nazis is anti-Semitic under the shabby, incoherent and contradictory collection of words that goes under the title of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/10/brighton-and-hoves-green-councillors.html

Greenstein’s article contains links to a piece in the liberal Israeli paper, Haaretz, describing just how Netanyahu’s administration and the Israel it has created conforms to Professor Leibowitz’s concept, and to the Wikipedia entry on him.

Leibowitz was professor of biochemistry, organic chemistry and neurophysiology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, as well as a prolific writer on Jewish and Western philosophy. He also passionately believed in the separation of religion from state. In a 1968 essay, ‘The Territories’, he predicted a chilling future for Israel as a totalitarian, colonialist surveillance state. According to Wikipedia, he wrote

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Forces, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeshayahu_Leibowitz

While the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism forbids comparing Jews to Nazis as anti-Semitic, the comparisons are there, as Greenstein has pointed out many times. And Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu’s domestic opponents, have regularly accused each other and the Israeli premier of being Nazis.

The I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism also forbids holding Israel to higher standards than other countries. This again is intended to prevent or stifle criticism of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. But as far back as 1905 H.G. Wells attacked Jewish racism alongside that of the English, the Germans and the Italians in his book, A Modern Utopia. The book is a quasi-science fictional description of Wells’ ideas about what would constitute the ideal state. Wells himself believed passionately in a global, world government, in which all the races of humanity would share a common language and culture, and would live, work, study and move around the globe freely in peace and harmony. The chapter ‘Race in a Modern Utopia’ is one long diatribe against racism and racial prejudice which still remains acutely relevant. It is marred only by the fact that Wells was a eugenicist, who did believe that the undeserving poor and ‘inferior’ races should be prevented from breeding. In practice, however, he felt that even those races considered inferior at the time, Australian Aborigines and the Khoisan peoples of South Africa, would still contain skilled individuals, who would be allowed to have children and contribute to this new, global civilization.

About the growing European racism in his time, he wrote

And just now, the world is in a sort of delirium about race and the racial struggle. The Briton forgetting his Defoe, the Jew forgetting the very word proselyte, the German forgetting his anthropometric variations and the Italian forgetting everything, are obsessed by the singular purity of their blood, and the danger of contamination the mere continuance of other races involves. True to the law that all human aggregation involves the spirit of opposition to whatever is external to the aggregation, extraordinary intensifications of racial definition are going on; the vileness, the inhumanity, the incompatibility of alien races is being steadily exaggerated. The natural tendency of every human being towards a stupid conceit in himself and his kind, a stupid depreciation of all unlikeness, is traded upon by this bastard science. With the weakening of national references, and with the pause before reconstruction in religious belief, these new arbitrary and unsubstantial race prejudices become daily more formidable. They are shaping policies and modifying laws, and they will certainly be responsible for a larger proportion of the wars, hardships and cruelties the immediate future holds in store for our earth. (pp. 118-9, my emphasis).

Wells’ predictions have horrifically been born out. In Africa, just a few years after Wells wrote this, the Germans embarked on a deliberate campaign to exterminate the Herrero in Africa. Then there were the Armenian massacres by the Turks, which convinced Hitler that he could murder the Jews without consequence from the other nations. And even after the War, Mosley was drawing on respected scientists to show that certain races were inferior, and therefore Blacks and other peoples should not be allowed to mix and intermarry with White Britons.

And across the world, including Israel, Fascism is rising again. Including Israel, which is quite prepared to support the Fascistic regimes in Poland and Hungary with their venomous hatred of Jews, Muslims, immigrants and Roma. Dr. Who last Sunday remined us of the courage and achievement of Rosa Parks in challenging racial oppression. And H.G. Wells, one of the ancestors of the series through his The Time Machine, still remains acutely relevant in his denunciation of racism today.

And as Wells, Prof. Leibowitz and Tony Greenstein, amongst others, have shown, Jewish Fascism exists alongside its gentile forms, and all have to be fought and combated.

Shaun Bailey: Not Only Islamophobic, but also Misogynist

October 12, 2018

On Wednesday, Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on a story by Business Insider about the rather unpleasant attitude Shaun Bailey, the Tory candidate for mayor of London, has for girls from poor backgrounds. He has made a series of comments in an article he wrote for the Torygraph, at the Tory party conference in 2008 and in 2005, when he was a social worker, claiming that young women deliberately became pregnant to get a flat or benefits. He also said that poor people need rules to stop them from turning to crime, and that girls were more likely to start smoking than boys because they had the ‘smoker’s attitude’.

Labour’s Rosina Allin-Khan told Buzzfeed, the site that uncovered some of these comments, that it was appalling sexism and misogyny.

Mike in his article points out that Bailey’s campaign team tried to excuse him by saying they were the “blunt words” of someone “who hasn’t figured it all out” but wanted to make a contribution to society by offering his experiences, “however raw they might seem now”.

Mike advises his readers to go to the Business Insider and Buzzfeed articles, look at them, and decide for themselves. But he doubt their decisions will be favourable to Bailey. He recognizes that people’s attitudes change over time, and that we might hear from Bailey a statement disowning his comments. But Mike won’t be holding his breath.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/10/shaun-bailey-tory-london-mayoral-candidate-is-sexist-as-well-as-racist-it-seems/

This isn’t the first time Bailey’s shown an unpleasant, bigoted attitude. At the end of last month, Mike put up a piece reporting that Bailey had retweeted an image of Sadiq Khan, the present London mayor, as the Mad Mullah of Londonistan. The Tory party tried to excuse this by saying that he didn’t really look at the image before he retweeted it. Or something like that.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/29/tories-appoint-racist-as-their-new-london-mayoral-candidate/

‘Londonistan’ is the name ‘Mad’ Melanie Phillips, a writer for the Heil, has given to Muslim London in her book of the same name, because she claims the capital’s Islamic community is full of Islamist terrorists. And Mike’s article also shows that people on Twitter, including Jeremy Corbyn, were also quick to connect Bailey’s sneer with Zac Goldsmith’s Islamophobic campaign against Sadiq Khan, in which he claimed that his rival was indeed a supporter of Islamist terrorism.

Now we see Bailey repeating the old Tory lie that young women just get pregnant in order to sponge off the state. It’s a lie that’s been repeated endlessly in the Tory press, particularly the Heil. Now I dare say that in the case of some women, who are poor and desperate, this might be the case. I can remember a female friend telling me years ago that if she was homeless, she would try and get pregnant to be rehoused. Incidentally, that young woman was a very hardworking and responsible citizen. It was an expression of the desperate measures she would take, if she was in that position.

I don’t know if the young women Bailey encountered deliberately did get pregnant to get housing and benefits, as he said. For all the ranting about benefit fraud and unmarried mothers in Tory rags like Geordie Grieg’s esteemed organ, the rates of schoolgirl pregnancy and people fraudulently claiming benefits are absolutely miniscule, a fraction of a percent. But thanks to the vile Tory press, a poll of the British public found that they thought 25 per cent of all benefit claims were fraudulent, and the country was drowning in waves of schoolgirl mothers.

And unmarried mothers were on Peter Lilly’s foul little list of the people he hated, which he paraded at a Tory conference back in the 1990s in a weird parody of the Mikado. They’re also a threat to ‘our stock’, according to Maggie’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph, showing his own eugenicist, Social Darwinist attitude to poverty.

I also wonder if there isn’t a little bit of racism in their as well. Bailey didn’t mention what colour these girls were, but it reminded me very much of the fear Reagan and his supporters whipped up over in America about Black ‘welfare queens’. These are young girls in the ghettos, who supposedly get pregnant by any number of different men in order to claim benefits. A little while ago I came across an article – I think it was in Counterpunch, the American radical magazine and news site – which argued that the Republicans used Blacks and ethnic minorities to hate on other people of colour. They supported the argument with numerous examples of BAME Republicans attacking Muslims as an invasive culture, incompatible with American culture and values, and the Black community for its supposed criminality and contentment to rely on state support. In actual fact, American sociologists have found that while there are real problems of poverty in Black America, they’re the same kind that afflicts White society. The only reason they’re more acute is because Blacks in general are much poorer than Whites.

But perhaps I’m wrong about Bailey. Perhaps he isn’t racist towards other, poorer Blacks. He is, however, retailing the same story the Tories use to justify benefit cuts. And these cuts are pushing people into grinding poverty, and claiming lives.

Racist or not, Bailey, and the party that has adopted and supported him, is a disgrace. He’s a bigot who has no business being mayor of world city like London. Just as Tweezer and the Tories have no business being Prime Minister and the government.

Vox Political on the Insulting Appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price as ‘Suicide Prevention Minister’

October 11, 2018

Yesterday, Wednesday 10th October 2018, was World Mental Health Awareness Day. Mental health has become a major issue, with this country in particular seeing increasing rates of depression, particularly amongst school and university students, not to mention the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. According to yesterday’s I newspaper, 4,500 people take their lives every year, and a total of 6,213 people killed themselves last year in the UK and Eire. It’s the leading cause of death in blokes under 45. Guys in the UK are three times more likely to end it all than women, and in Eire the rate is four times.

With this such an issue, Tweezer decided to make a world first by appointing Jackie Doyle-Price as the world’s first Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention. The I yesterday published this pic of Doyle-Price grinning into a camera.

According to the paper, her responsibilities will include ensuring that every local area has a plan to prevent unnecessary deaths. She is also going to be investigating how technology can be used to identify those most at risk.

It also quoted her as saying

“I understand how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities. In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time.

“It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them as well as experts, to oversee a cross-Government suicide prevention plan, making their sure their views are always heard.” (p.3).

Which are fine words, but from her voting record and previous attitude to the poor and desperate, it’s a pack of lies.

Mike posted an article today pointing out the critical role Tory policies towards the poor, such as cutting benefits, had contributed immensely to rise the suicide. He notes that the inquest into the death of Stephanie Bottrill, who was worried about the bedroom tax, found that the stress caused by the Tory government of the day resulted in her taking her own life.

His article then goes on to quote a piece about it from Nursing Notes, who stated that

“Statistics show that those with long-term physical or mental health issues are significantly more likely to be dependent on the state for assistance with housing and living costs.

“Social isolation, financial and health struggles are thought to be some of the leading risk factors for preventable suicide in the UK.”

It also quoted Vicki Nash, the head of policy and campaigns at the mental health charity, MIND, who said

“MIND found that half of people with mental health problems have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of social issues such as housing issues, finances, benefit support, and employment. We need a benefits system that is supportive – not one that drives people into poverty.”

Which is precisely what the Tory attitude to the welfare state and their wretched reforms don’t do. Thatcher wanted to destroy the welfare state completely, including the NHS. She was prevented from doing so, but she was determined to make getting benefits as hard, cruel and degrading as possible to deter people from going on it. It was one of the wretched ‘Victorian values’ she took over, the principle of ‘less eligibility’ underlying the poverty and degradation of the workhouse. And the Tories have gone on with the same attitude ever since, followed by Blair’s equally revolting New Labour.

Mike has, in his articles, argued strongly that there is a deliberate policy of ‘chequebook euthansia’ behind the Tories’ welfare reforms. It seems as though they’re consciously and deliberately planned to drive the most vulnerable to suicide, so Cameron, Tweezer, IDS, Esther McDeath and the whole sordid lot can save more money, and give more tax cuts to the filthy, pointlessly rich. There’s a nasty strain of Social Darwinism in the Republican Party on the other side of the Atlantic, and it’s in the Tories over here as well. In the survival of the economic fittest, these parties see the rich and business leaders as the biologically superior. And the poor have only themselves to blame – it’s all due to their inferior constitutions. In the Social Darwinism of the 19th century, such people would always be with humanity. The only solution was to stop them breeding by denying them welfare support and sterilizing them. Or simply murdering them, as the Nazis did with their notorious Aktion T4.

And there can be little doubt that Tory policies are driving the poor and vulnerable to take their own lives. Despite repeated whines by the Conservatives that ‘correlation doesn’t indicate causation’, some of those, who have killed themselves left notes, which stated plainly that there were doing so because of the stress of benefit cuts and sanctions. Mike’s article states that 1/2 of all women claiming benefits have thought about killing themselves.

So how does Doyle-Price herself measure up in this? Well, abysmally, as it happens. She voted for raising the bedroom tax, voted against increasing benefits in line with inflation, voted against increasing benefits for the long-term sick and disabled, and voted 46 times in favour of cutting benefits. This was also in Mike’s article from Nursing Notes, who took it from They Work For You.

Worse. She added insult to grievous wounding by laughing about the subject. Yep, she’s also joked about suicide.

I’m not surprised about that either. The Tories have absolutely no sympathy for the suffering of the poor. They really do think it’s a jolly joke. Like when Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith were caught on TV laughing in parliament when one woman’s account of the troubles she’d had claiming benefit were read out. They had a good guffaw, like some Nazi version of the Chuckle Brothers.

Nor is the DWP sympathetic to those with suicidal thoughts. When one claimant said that they were depressed and thinking of suicide, one DWP clerk asked them why they hadn’t done it already.

Mike in his article quotes the reactions of a number of people to the news that Doyle-Price has been appointed to this post. Keith Ordinary Guy said it was like curing malaria with the plague. Matt Turner said it was a grotesque slap in the face to those struggling on. And Samuel Miller, a friend of Mike’s blog, who’s been campaigning for disabled students since attending McGill University in the 1970s, said that nothing angered him more than the government’s maltreatment of the sick and disabled.

He also posted this tweet:

“Was her appointment merely a sop to counter alarming headlines about the soaring rate of suicides and attempted suicides among sick and disabled claimants, mostly triggered by loss of benefits.”

Mike concludes his article with this:

Was it? I don’t think so.

I think it was a signal; they appointed the least appropriate person for the job because they think the deaths and attempted deaths of hundreds of thousands of people are nothing but a big joke. They really are that repulsive.

I don’t think there’s any contradiction between these two positions. Yes, it is a sop to counter the headlines about the soaring suicide rate. And yes, the Tories do find it all a joke, and so deliberately appointed the least appropriate person.

She’s there not because she has any real sympathy with the mentally ill, the depressed, the disabled and suicidal. She’s there purely to make sure the system carries on, while limiting any damage to the party that appointed her. She’s just a mouthpiece, who’s simply there to spout reassuring platitudes and assure the public that the Tories are taking this issue seriously. And all the while she’s going to laugh about it behind her back.

Get her out, get Tweezer out and the whole wretched lot of them OUT! Before they drive any more people to their deaths.

Percival Lowell: Martians Would Have Global Government to Fight Environmental Decline

October 6, 2018

Percival Lowell was the astronomer most responsible for popularizing the idea of Martian canals.

It was the Italian astronomer, Schiaparelli, who first claimed to have observed watercourses he called ‘canali’. The Italian word was translated ‘canals’, but it also means simply ‘channels’. And many astronomers regarded them simply as that, natural features. However, at the end of the 19th century many confidently believed that Mars was the home of intelligent life, though astronomers were increasingly aware that Mars was not as hospitable as Earth. They believed it was a planet of vast deserts. Lovell, an American astronomer with an observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona, was convinced that not only was there intelligent life on Mars, but that the Martians had a highly advanced civilization. They had constructed the canals he drew and mapped to bring water from their dying planet’s polar regions down to the equator to sustain life and civilization. He realized that the canals themselves would have been too small to observe from the Earth, but believed that the lines he saw were the surrounding tracts of lush, green vegetation, flourishing amid the encroaching Martian desert.

And he had a highly optimistic view of the moral progress of their civilization.

I found this brief passage quoting Lowell, and commenting on his view of the people of the Red Planet in The New Challenge of the Stars, by Patrick Moore and David A. Hardy, with a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke, (London: Michael Beazley Publishers Ltd 1977). Moore writes

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 best 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 practicing heroism and other 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 base upon the red deserts of Mars. (p. 18).

The passage is shocking in its espousal of Social Darwinism, and the ‘survival of the fittest’. Moore himself had extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant views. But he was also firmly anti-War, no doubt strongly inspired by the death of his girlfriend during an air raid in World War II.

And would that humanity had outlawed war! We too also need, if not global government, at least global far-reaching global co-operation to fight the environmental decline of our own planet through climate change and mass extinction. Hardly a day goes by without another report in the papers about the immense seriousness of the environmental catastrophe. This last week two documentaries in particular on British TV warned us further about its extent. One was Drowning in Plastic, presented by Liz Bonnin, and the other was the final edition of Andrew Marr’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea on BBC. This last programme appeared to trace the origin of the science of ecology to Darwin, and claimed that humanity’s destruction of the world’s ecosystem was partly due to ignorance of this aspect of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

It’s a contentious claim, as I suspect that the awareness of the interconnectness of living creatures actually predates Darwin, and that other scientists and naturalists, like the German explorer Humboldt, also made their own important contributions to development of ecological awareness.

But regardless of Marr’s claim about Darwin, we do need to be more like Lowell’s Martians to develop the global political, economic and social systems we need to fight our species’ destruction of the environment and its myriads of living creatures. And sadly, this is still being fought by vested corporate interests, such as the oil industry in America, led by the Koch Brothers, and right-wing Conservative parties. Such as the Republicans and Donald Trump, as well as the Tories and Tweezer over this side of the Atlantic. Lowell’s Martians don’t exist, but Lowell idealistic vision of them still has lessons for us in our own world, beset by environmental degradation and corporate, imperialist warfare.

RT: 160,000+ Sign Petition Calling for Abolition of the House of Lords

May 22, 2018

This is a very short video from RT, reporting that 165,000+ people have signed an internet petition calling for a referendum on the House of Lords. The petition states that the House of Lords should be abolished because peers have too much power over elected representatives. The number of signatories means that it has passed the number required for it to be debated in parliament. However, a spokesman for May’s government declared that they are committed to keeping the Lords as a revising and examining chamber.

I’ve put this up as it shows once again that an unelected House of Lords is a real issue for some people. I can remember back in the 1980s when one of the policies being suggested by the Labour party was that the House of Lords should be abolished. There was some discussion of it being turned into an elected chamber, like the American senate, under Blair. But he just satisfied himself with packing it full of ‘the people’s peers’. The Tories, meanwhile, carried out about how this was a terrible assault on tradition. One right-wing journo declared that the peers were the best people for the job through breeding and upbringing to sit in the House, examining legislation. This was before Rees-Mogg, who began his political career at about the same time campaigning on the same platform. The arguments are, of course, eugenic, and show how the aristocracy really does believe it’s biologically superior to the rest of us. Of course, the argument against that is Boris Johnson. I rest my case.

The Tories have recently been moaning about the House of Lords after they told Tweezer that her legislation for Brexit was not acceptable, and that it should involve parliament, rather than just her own cabinet. So now she’s thrown a strop and threatened to pack the Lords with her own cronies in order to get her way. So what the Tories condemned and screamed about when Blair did it, is perfectly all right when it comes to them. Which shows once again the party’s hypocrisy.

We do need an independent chamber to examine and revise legislation as a constitutional check. And the Lords has done that. I can remember how they used to annoy Thatcher back in the 1980s by throwing her reforms back at her. But there is a problem with the chamber. It has far too many members – almost 8-900. Seats there have become rewards for services to the government of the day. This really does need to end.

Regarding the possibility of it’s transformation into an elected senate, Private Eye considered that there was no real enthusiasm for this idea, and it would only result in second-rate politicians campaigning for seats there. I also remember an old workmate stating that the House of Lords was a complete anachronism, but it had the advantage of being cheap.

At the moment, the size of the House of Lords and the cynical way it has been used by successive prime ministers is calling it into disrepute. But it needs genuine reform, not more peers packed in as political favours, rather than abolition.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Wants Poor and Disabled Euthanised

May 18, 2018

Here’s another report from the American left-wing news site, The Young Turks. And it tells you everything you’ve always suspected about right-wingers both in the USA and over here: they really do want to kill the poor.

The offensive posts turned up on the Facebook page of Chris Barnett, who is running to be governor of Oklahoma. After a poll on the requirements to get food stamps, Barnett then apparently stated that euthanasia would be a solution to the ‘issue’ of the poor and disabled. This really did not go down too well with large sections of the general public. One person posted that most people on food stamps were actually in work, and those that weren’t also included the elderly and disabled. This met with the reply asking why ‘we’ are required to keep them? He went on to say that ‘euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make you a slave to the government’.

Barnett then met with such a barrage of criticism, that he’s issued a statement blaming the posts on that old excuse: his Facebook page was hacked into. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur, the two anchors reporting the story, make the point that this is unconvincing. A random member of the public wouldn’t know the codes to get into his account. He could have blamed one of his staff instead, but this would have meant throwing the staffer ‘under the bus’. Unless it was the staffer, who really did it. He then made a further statement that what he meant was the poor and disabled shouldn’t be killed, but should simply be left to starve.

They also find his excuse unconvincing, because if you look at Republican webs sites and pages, so many of them are saying exactly the same thing. It therefore looks very much like Barnett did post those comments, unbelievable as they are.

This will also corroborate what Mike, Geoffrey Davis, one of the commenters on my Blog, and so many other disabled people, carers, and disability rights activists, that the Tories over here are also engaged in a policy Mike has termed ‘chequebook euthanasia’. The Tories are throwing extremely vulnerable people with no other sources of income off benefit, through sanctions and the wretched work capability tests, in the hope that they will starve to death. A thousand or so have. Mike, Johnny Void, and Stilloaks, as well as the Angry One from Yorkshire, Another Angry Voice, have posted up the lives and biographies of those who have, or worse, committed suicide in despair. Stilloaks compiled a list of these victims, which was reblogged by the others. The last time I looked it was around the 750 mark. And that was some time ago. I expect it to be approaching a thousand now.

And Tweezer and the rest of her foul crew are still saying that these deaths have nothing to do with the benefits system, even though many of the suicides left notes declaring that it was precisely because of the benefits system that they were taking their lives.

No, no, move on, you ignorant proles! Nothing to see here. We’re totally blameless, and in the right, because we’re helping you find work with our return to the less eligibility policy of the workhouse.

The Tories and the Republicans have very strong contacts with each other, and the Tories have been taking over Republican and Libertarian policies. Like the privatised police force. That was one of Rothbard’s brilliant idea, the founder of the Libertarian party in the America. The same Libertarian party, whose members include one of the billionaire Koch brother, and which in the 1970s ran a special issue in its magazine denying the Holocaust. Ctesias, who is, like Geoffrey Davis, one of the great commenters on this blog, also pointed out that the Tories also seem to have taken over the ideas of one Canadian right-wing philosopher, Gauthier. This piece of work wrote that the poor woman starving at the gates of a rich man feasting, has no call on his wealth, especially as it would deprive him of the pleasure of feeding the crumbs to the birds. It’s a complete inversion of Our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus, in which the rich man, who ignore the poor man at his gate, goes to hell after death while the poor man enters heavenly bliss with Abraham. So much for the Christian Right’s concern for true Christian values!

A little while ago Tweezer’s choice for a universities’ watchdog, to make sure democracy wasn’t being stifled by all those nasty left-wingers on campus, Toby Young, was revealed by Private Eye as having gone to a eugenics conference at University College London. Yup, Tobe’s big on eugenics. And some of the others were far more extreme than he was, connecting it to race and IQ.

I’ve commented before that the Republicans and Conservatives are Social Darwinists, just like the Nazis. They see poverty and wealthy purely in terms of biological and economic fitness. The rich are there because they’re biologically superior. And the poor should be prevented from breeding, because they’re biologically unfit and so will only spread poverty. It was one of the ideologies in the 19th and early 20th century that was used to oppose health and safety legislation for working people, and the establishment of any welfare benefits. It led to the sterilisation of the poor, disabled and mentally challenged. And these policies were taken over by the Nazis, who claimed that they had made absolutely no innovations when adopting them.

And the endpoint of that was the murder of the disabled by the SS and Nazi doctors under the infamous Aktion T4. This was abandoned after a massive public outcry, especially by Roman Catholics led by Count Galen. But the murders didn’t stop, and the programme led eventually to the wholesale gassing of the Jews in the extermination camps.

Barnett may not have posted those vile comments, but they do speak for the Republican and British Conservative mindset. A mindset that is killing the poor and disabled by starvation, all while claiming just to be reforming and making the welfare state more efficient.

They’re lying. The true attitude to the poor is shown by the number of deaths they’ve caused, and the quarter of a million more people, who’ve been thrown on to private charity in the food banks.

Get them out before more people die.

Vox Political: London Tories Considering Breaking Away and Forming New Party

April 6, 2018

If this is true, then it shows that the Tory party is in a very dire situation, no matter what their cheerleaders in the media are trying to get us all to swallow. Mike has put up on his blog a piece reporting an article stating that the Conservative party in London is so afraid of being absolutely wiped out at the council elections in May, that they’re considering breaking away to form a separate party with its own name and programme.

I’m not entirely convinced, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. A decade or so ago, at the height of Blair’s administration, one of the Tory journos wrote a piece in the Daily Mail about a similar eventuality. He also believed that the Tory party was in danger of dying out completely, and so recommended that they should become ‘the English Nationalists’. This was obviously when the SNP were riding high north of the border as support grew in Scotland for devolution, and the Welsh were also gaining their own, rather more limited measure of autonomy. It was about the same time that there were demands for an all-English assembly to debate matters affecting only England. It was an anti-Labour measure, as the Tories had rather more MPs than Labour in England, and hoped to gain a great measure of power by stopping Labour MPs from elsewhere in Britain voting on English matters. The Tories were clearly trying to whip up English nationalism in order to gain votes. Just like they’ve always whipped up xenophobia and hate against those they consider outsiders, like Blacks, Asians, Jews, immigrants, the poor and disabled. I never really took the suggestion that the Tories would reform themselves as a differently party seriously, but I’ve been told by others that it was seriously considered. It’s supposed to be described in the book, True Blue, which talks about how under Cameron they fought back from near collapse.

London’s a world city, with a large Black and Asian, and immigrant population. Brexit, and the return of racism under the Tories, threatens these people. And the Grenfell fire tragedy and the Tories’ refusal to honour the promises they made about fire-proofing buildings and putting those left homeless into proper accommodation, shows the absolute contempt they have for some of the poorest members of our society. Who happen to be Black, Asian or immigrants.

And this is apart from the growing inequalities of wealth in Britain generally, which is becoming particularly acute in the nation’s capital. Ordinary people are being priced out of London as more and more property is bought up by the rich upper and middle classes. It’s either gentrified, or else ‘landbanked’. Which means that it’s kept purely as a property investment by rich, often foreign investors, who make sure that it remains unoccupied. And I’ve no doubt people do still remember the ‘poor doors’ in one apartment block. These were a separate entrance put in so that the rich people living there wouldn’t have to rub shoulders entering the building with the hoi polloi. This, readers of H.G. Wells’ science fiction, will be aware is like the origin of the split between the eloi and the subterranean, cannibal morlocks in The Time Machine. Wells based it on how the upper classes in his time wanted to force the working class underground, to tend the machines safely away from their sight. Trained as a biologist, Wells projected the split far into humanity’s evolutionary future. And the result was not only an SF classic, but a criticism of the class attitudes and contempt for the working class in Victorian society.

Whether the Tories in London are planning to form a new party or not, I hope they are wiped out in the May elections. For forty years they have done nothing but try to privatise the health service piecemeal, deliberately running it down for the benefit of private healthcare companies. They’ve privatised the utilities to foreign investors, who have not given customers the service that they were promised. All again for corporate profit. And they’ve carried on New Labour’s project of benefit sanctions and the work capability test, all to make it increasingly difficult for the poor and disabled to get the state aid they need. This was in line with Tory policy under Thatcher, and followed the advice of the private health care insurers, like Unum, who were advising Peter Lilley and the Tories. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people now have a choice between eating and paying the bills, and tens of thousands of disabled folk have died after being found ‘fit for work’.

The sooner the Tories suffer a devastating electoral defeat, the better. And I hope it’s truly catastrophic.

The Anti-Semitism Allegations Show its the BDJ and Jewish Leadership Council Who Are Desperate, Not Corbyn

April 6, 2018

On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn attended a Passover seder with Jewdas, an organisation of religious, politically left-wing Jews. News of this was then leaked by Guido Fawkes, and the Jewish establishment of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council went berserk, as did the Blairites in the Labour party.

One of the right-winger, John Woodcock, tweeted about how this showed that Corbyn was still being anti-Semitic. Woodcock’s a gentile, and so annoyed very many Jews by telling them what their religion was. Michael Rosen, the poet and, I believe, children’s poet laureate, put his feelings into verse challenging Woodcock to tell him what kind of Jew he should be. I can remember reading some of Mr. Rosen’s poetry when I was a kid, in the verse collection Rabbiting On. From what I can remember, it was largely light, entertaining stuff, which I think children need considering the immense pressure now being placed on them by the school and educational system. Other Jews also shared his opinions, and tweeted their views on Woodcock’s presumption. I can appreciate how they feel. When I was arguing apologetics with atheists, I wasn’t impressed when some of them were amazed that I believed in evolution and told me that I shouldn’t.

Then the Board of Deputies of British Jews decided to wade in, with their partners the Jewish Leadership Council. One of the Board’s leaders appeared on the BBC six O’clock news on Tuesday loftily declaring that Corbyn’s meeting with Jewdas showed how he was ignoring the concerns of mainstream Jews and did not take the allegations of anti-Semitism seriously. A spokesman for the Jewish Leadership Council also denounced Corbyn for attending the seder, and said it was a ‘two-fingered salute’ to mainstream Jews.

Jewdas, however, were very appreciative and praised the Labour leader for taking an interest in the Jewish community and seeking their views on the issues that mattered to it.

As the BDJ and Jewish Leadership Council know, Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite, and whatever they say, the Labour party takes the allegations very seriously. That’s why tens of thousands of people were purged from the party, often just on the unsubstantiated allegations of them or related groups, like the woefullly misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Arbush, the president of the the Board of Deputies is a true-blue Conservative, who hailed the election of Donald Trump and his Alt Right lackey, Steve Bannon. He’s in no position to moan about anti-Semitism to anybody, given Trump’s support for these Nazis. But the Jewish establishment likes him, because Trump is pro-Israel.

This is the real issue here. Corbyn isn’t anti-Israel, but he is pro-Palestinian, which to the pro-Israel lobby is the same thing. If he becomes prime minister, it will mean an end to the automatic deference given to Israel and complete lack of criticism for its continuing persecution and ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab population. The Board and Jewish Leadership Council know this. Hence their smears against Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites, even though they are no such thing. Indeed, many of them are decent self-respecting Jews and anti-racist gentiles, who have been abused and assaulted by racists and Fascists. These smears show just how desperate the Israel lobby is.

It seems to me that the Board and the Jewish Leadership Council represent the politically Conservative, neoliberal elite in the Jewish community. The same Conservative, neoliberal business elite which in the wider British community has done so much to wreck the economy and reduce ordinary working people, whether Jews, gentiles or whatever, to even greater extremes of poverty, all for corporate profit.

Corbyn is a left-winger, and it is natural that he should seek the views and company of those, who support him and his plans to undo nearly four decades of Thatcherism. They naturally include Jews, and as the messages of support for him show there are a large number of Jewish organisations and individuals, who do.

This is what worries the Board and the Jewish Leadership Council. They are becoming increasingly unable to present themselves as automatically representing British Jewry. And so they and the Blairites are trying to destabilise Corbyn’s leadership by making false, libellous accusations of anti-Semitism under the pretence that they do.

And even with these, they’re sounding increasing desperate. The Israel lobby has said that such smears are not being taken as seriously as they once were. In other words, ordinary people are waking up to the fact that these scoundrels aren’t concerned with anti-Semitism, only with using it as a weapon to defend Israel. And in America at least, Jewish young people are increasingly either indifferent to Israel, or actively hostile because of its maltreatment of the Palestinians.

Corbyn enjoys the support of a wide cross section of British society for his determination to bring the Thatcherite regime of benefit cuts, outsourcing and privatisation to an end. He is respected because of his decades-long stance against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. He’s a real threat to the Thatcherites, both in the Tories and the Blairites in Labour, as well as the Israel lobby.

But their shrill cries of outrage and smears show that it is they, who are desperate, aware that it is their power and influence that’s waning. And there’s absolutely no reason why Corbyn should listen to them. They’re Tories and Thatcherites to a man and woman, who have tried to unseat him and used the accusation of anti-Semitism to libel his supporters. He has every right to ignore them, no matter how they may try to pose as the representatives of mainstream Jews in this country.

The Anti-Semitism Smears and the Tories’ Long History of Racism

March 29, 2018

On Monday, the Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council and the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, wrote a letter complaining that Corbyn had done nothing to tackle what they claimed was the rampant anti-Semitism in the Labour party, and that Corbyn had consistently sided with anti-Semites against Jews. This was accompanied of a mass demonstration outside parliament organised by the two organisations.

Arkush and Goldstein’s claims are frankly lies. Jeremy Corbyn has consistently opposed all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. He is the only MP, for example, who has been arrested for protesting against apartheid in South Africa. He also has the support of very many Jews, and Jewish organisations, who rallied to support him on social media.

The real issue here, which Arkush and Goldstein’s smears of anti-Semitism are meant to cover up, is Corbyn’s attitude towards Israel. They claim he’s anti-Israel and anti-Zionist. He isn’t, but he is pro-Palestinian. But this is too much for the Israel lobby, who smear anyone, who wants justice and dignity for the Palestinians as anti-Semite. Even if they are proud, self-respecting Jews, who have suffered real anti-Semitic assault and abuse. Or decent, anti-racist gentiles, who have also been the subject of vilification and assault by Nazis.

Arkush is a true-blue Tory, as well as a massive hypocrite. He himself has been very keen to meet racists and anti-Semites, when it suits his agenda. Tony Greenstein on his site has a picture of him enthusiastically greeting Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, one of the anti-Semitic fixtures of the White Supremacist Alt Right. As for the Board of Deputies of British Jews fighting anti-Semitism, Greenstein also points out that when Oswald Mosley was goose stepping about the East End of London with his Blackshirts, the Zionists were telling Jews to keep out of the way and stay indoors. I don’t blame them for it, as Fascism has always been violent and brutal, and they would no doubt have attacked and beaten Jews they found on the street. But Fascists won’t go away if you hide from them. They’ll simply carry on. Fortunately, a number of Jews, trade unionists, and Communists weren’t prepared to leave the streets to them, and fought them head on. The result was the ‘battle of Cable Street’, which ended with Mosley and his squadristi routed from the East End. I am not recommending violence. I don’t approve of it. But sometimes, it’s inevitable. And for all the claim that Mosley wasn’t originally anti-Semitic and was genuinely perplexed at Jewish opposition, he and his wretched party were. And if the Nazis had invaded, or the BUF somehow gained power, it’s very highly likely that he would have aided the Holocaust and the extermination of Jewish Brits.

The Tories have, of course, taken all this as an opportunity to claim that Labour is riddle with anti-Semitism, unlike them. This covers up the fact that the Tory party has a very long history of racism and anti-Semitism going right back to the Die-Hards of the First World War. One of the other left-wing bloggers put up a very extensive list of Tory racist and anti-Semitic organisations, or racist organisations, whose membership was drawn from the Tories.

Like the British Fascists. They were a bunch of right-wingers, founded by a middle-class lady, who’d been emancipated by the Women’s Suffrage Act but had a hatred of organised labour. They modus operandi was to supply blackleg labour during strikes, disrupt socialist meetings and attack left-wingers and trade unionists. They once attacked a van belonging to the Daily Herald. They weren’t really Fascists, but Conservatives, and Mosley called them what they were. He declared they were ‘Conservatives with knobs on’. He asked their leaderene what she thought of the corporate state. Faced with the notion of an industrial parliament which included trade unionists as well as management and capital, she vehemently rejected it as ‘socialism’. Which confirms how little she knew about either Fascism or socialism.

The there’s the various Tory pro-Nazi groups founded in the 1930s – the Anglo-German Fellowship, the Link and a number of others, and on and on. One of the nutters involved in these groups wanted to found a group to purge the Tories of Jews. The Monday Club was riddled with anti-Semites until there was purge in 1970. But as the blogger showed, the anti-Semites were still there, still active.

And while we’re on the subject of racism, why didn’t Arkush and his fellows on the Board protest against the appointment of Toby Young to May’s universities watchdog. I am not accusing Young of anti-Semitism. But he is a eugenics fanatic, and attended a eugenics conference at University College London, which certainly did include real racists and White Supremacists. Eugenics was an integral part of Nazi ideology. Quite often when Nazis and other racists talked about the ‘biologically unfit’ as well as the poor and disabled in general, they also meant non-whites and Jews. But I don’t recall Arkush and the Board making any letters of complaint or raising any natural concerns about Young’s appointment.

And then there’s this election poster from 1902.

Okay, so the foreign master sacking his British worker to make way for his fellow foreigner isn’t explicitly described as a Jew. But the anti-Semitism is very definitely there. It was put up at a time when the Conservatives were worried about the mass immigration of eastern European Jews. They spoke Yiddish, a language descended from the medieval German middle Franconian dialect. Hence the foreign master speaks with a very middle-European accent. And while the term ‘alien’ simply means ‘foreigner’, in the language of the 19th and early 20th centuries it was very often used to mean Jews. The anti-Semitic nature of the poster is very blatant.

As you’d probably expect it to be. This was the era of the British Brothers’ League and other Conservative anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic organisations.

But the Tories want people to forget all this, and just see Labour as a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Despite many Jews in the party having said and written that they have personally never experienced it in the Labour party.

But it’s a good smear against Labour, and Corbyn, and everything he has done for Jewish Brits as well as his desire for a just treatment of the Palestinians. And that’s what Arkush, Goldstein and their friends in the Tories are really afraid of.