Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

The Influence of French Science Fiction Comics on Star Wars

April 24, 2017

This is another fascinating video about French SF comics and the influence they may have had on George Lucas’ Star Wars. In his description for the video, the post, Abstract Loop, writes

Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, French comics artists revolutionized their medium and created groundbreaking works of science fiction. Artists like Jean-Claude Mézières, Philippe Druillet, and Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, had a significant, if rarely recognized, influence on many Hollywood films. Star Wars is one of the most prominent examples.

“There are quite a few illustrators in the science-fiction and science-fantasy modes I like very much. I like them because their designs and imaginations are so vivid […] Druillet and Moebius are quite sophisticated in their style.”
– George Lucas, 1979

Unless noted otherwise, all art in this video is taken from the following comics and comics series:
Jean-Claude Mézières & Pierre Christin: „Valérian and Laureline“ („Valérian et Laureline“)
Jean-Claude Mézières: „Les baroudeurs de l’espace“
Moebius & Dan O‘Bannon: „The Long Tomorrow“
Moebius & Alejandro Jodorowsky: „The Incal“ („L’Incal“)
Moebius: „Le Bandard fou“
Moebius: „The Airtight Garage“ („Le Garage hermétique“)
Philippe Druillet & Jacques Lob: „Delirius“
Philippe Druillet: „The 6 Voyages of Lone Sloane“ („Les 6 Voyages de Lone Sloane“)
Philippe Druillet: „Salammbô“
Philippe Druillet: „La Nuit“

Film stills: „The Empire Strikes Back“, „The Return of the Jedi“ & „Star Wars: Droids“
Concept art and storyboard panel by Joe Johnston

Music: Tycho „Awake“

For further reading:
“Valérian and Laureline”
: http://kitbashed.com/blog/valerian-an…
“The Moebius Probe”: http://kitbashed.com/blog/moebius
“Als die Zukunft wieder cool wurde” (in German): http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/com…

Certainly the artists mentioned have had an impact on Science Fiction cinema. Scott used Philippe Druillet’s depictions of soaring futuristic sky-scraper cities as the basis for the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, and Moebius certainly was a profound influence on the style of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. From this video I’m not sure how much influence French comics had on Star Wars. Some of the pieces shown are very similar, others less so, and some of the similarity between Star Wars and the comics could simply be due to coincidence between two similar scenes that were produced entirely independently. Nevertheless, the video does how the power and individuality of the vision of the future produced by the great French SF artists in their comics.

Chris Foss on Working with Giger and Moebius on ‘Dune’

April 24, 2017

Chris Foss is one of the great masters of British SF art. Apart from painting numerous book covers, he also worked as the concept artist for Alien, Superman, and the version of Dune that was being made by the Franco-Chilean surrealist, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Sadly, his work for Alien and Dune was never seen. Ridley Scott rejected his depictions of the ‘Nostromo’ for alien, as he thought it was far too interesting and would distract the audience from the main action. And despite extensive preparation, Jodorowsky’s Dune was never made. The studio pulled the plug at the last minute. It wasn’t a wasted effort, however, as the work Jodorowsky and the French comic artist, Moebius, had put into Dune was used by them as the basis for the comic book series, the Metabarons.

A documentary came out a few years ago about the making of Jodorowsky’s Dune. Jodorowsky states that he wanted it to blow the audience’s mind. It was to have the effect of taking LSD, but without actually using the drug. Certainly the concept art looks truly awesome. Apart from Foss and Moebius, Jodorowsky also employed as concept artist H.R. Giger, the creator of the ‘Alien’. Giger produced various designs for Vladimir Harkonnen’s cast, and for a train, very much in his distinctively nightmarish style. Among the actors lined up for the film were Orson Welles as Vladimir Harkonnen and Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha. Jodorowsky’s son, Brontes, was to play Paul Atreides. And the Emperor of the Galaxy would be played by the great surrealist egotist himself, Salvador Dali. But only for half an hour. So Jodorowsky and his team intended to fill in the rest of the time, that have been occupied by Dali, by using a robotic version of him. It’s a pity that the film was not made, as with those artists and performers, it truly would have been a genuinely mind-blowing experience.

In this clip, Foss talks about how wonderful it was working with Moebius and Giger, but says that he enjoyed it because what he was doing did not interfere with them, and their work did not interfere with his own. Looking on YouTube a few years ago, I found that Foss had put up a series of short videos about himself and his work, so if you’re interested, try looking to see if they’re still there.

The Fantastic Space Art of David A. Hardy

April 22, 2017

This is another couple of videos from the redoubtable Martin Kennedy showcasing the amazing work of yet another space and Science Fiction artist, David A. Hardy. Hardy is one of the longest running space and SF artist working. The entry on him in Stuart Holland’s Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History, runs:

David Hardy’s introduction to astronomical illustration was a somewhat rushed affair. In 1954, as a mere 18-year-old, he was commissioned to produce eight black and white illustrations for a book by legendary UK astronomer Patrick Moore: Suns, Myths, and Men. He had just five days to create them before British national service-conscription-required him to join the Royal Air Force. The commission was all the more remarkable as Hardy had only painted his first piece of astronomical art four years previously, inspired by the work of Chesley Bonestell.

Since those early days, Hardy (1936-) has garnered numerous awards for artwork that spans the science fiction/hard science divide. Born in Bourneville, Birmingham, in the UK, he honed his talents painting chocolate boxes for Cadbury’s. By 1965 he had become a freelance illustrator, beginning a career that resulted in covers for dozens of books and magazines, both factual, such as New Scientist, Focus, and various astronomical publications, for which he also writes; and SF, including Analog and Fantasy & Science Fiction. 1972 saw the publication of Challenge of the Stars, which Hardy not only illustrated but co-wrote with Patrick Moore (the book was updated in 1978 as New Challenge of the Stars). A bestseller, it joined the select pantheon of book that influenced a new generation of up-and-coming astronomical artists.

By now, Hardy’s work was receiving international recognition, and in 1979 he was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Tow years later, another book followed, Galactic Tours, which as the name suggests is a “factitious” guidebook for the interstellar tourist. As a result of the book, travel company Thomas Cook approached Hardy about becoming a consultant on the future of tourism in space-long before Richard Branson had planned Virgin’s conquest of the stars.

Hardy has written an SF novel, Aurora: A Child of Two Worlds; worked on the movie The Neverending Story, and on TV (Cosmos, Horizon, The Sky at Night, Blake’s Seven), and produced record covers for – unsurprisingly – Holst’s The Planets and for bands such as Hawkwind, the Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd.

In 2004, Hardy’s long-standing partnership with Patrick Moore culminated in the award-winning Futures, in which the two explored the changing perceptions of space exploration since they first collaborated in the ’50s, the ’70s (the era of Challenge of the Stars) and into the 21st century. Artistically, Hardy has also embraced the growing digital trend that started in the approach to the new millennium. While still painting in acrylic and oil, he now uses Photoshop as a matter of course.

In March 2003, Hardy was paid perhaps the ultimate accolade an astronomical artist can receive: he had an asteroid [13329] named after him. Discovered ini September, 1998, it was christened Davidhardy=1998 SB32-high praise indeed!
(P. 130).

Several of the paintings in the video come from the Challenge of the Stars and its updated version.

The videos also include his cover illustration for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Snows of Olympus: A Garden on Mars – the History of Man’s Colonisation of Mars, which is another ‘future history’, this time of the terraforming of the Red Planet.

I have to say that I’m really impressed he also worked on Blake’s 7. This was low-budget British SF, but it had some create scripts and a really beautiful spaceship in The Liberator. And I would far rather go into space on something designed by Hardy, and operated by Thomas Cook, than by Branson.

Hope Not Hate Relaunches Home Page

April 22, 2017

Thursday evening I hate an email from Nick Lowles, the head of the anti-racist, anti-religious extremist organisation Hope Not Hate, announcing the relaunch of the organisation’s website. They’ve gone for a new, younger look. The new-look site has a two-minute introductory video, showing people of all races, Black, White, Asian, mixed race, in our proud country coming together to write ‘Hope’ in order to overcome the forces of ‘Hate’. Among those producing the video were the actor John Simm and the band Coldplay. Dr. Who fans will particularly remember Simm as the Master, before he became a she, and reappeared again as ‘Missy’.

The email said

Today, we’ve launched the new HOPE not hate website – and with it, a revamped feel for our brand.

You’ll see our famous ‘sun’ and the HOPE not hate yellow still present, but we’re embracing a slightly younger look. We have a long and proud tradition of anti-fascism and anti-racism. But, like everyone, we must move with the times.

Now more than ever, we feel the message of HOPE – not hate – is needed.

To coincide with the launch, we’re unveiling a new video that tells our story with the help of actor John Simm (you may recognise the song too!)

***

This site will enhance our ability to produce unparalleled research on far-right movements, build national, impactful campaigns, spread the word about our community work, and offer our supporters ways to get involved with and support our work.

Our mission remains steadfast – we will fight alongside the weakest in society, for the common good of all, and strive to oppose and expose those who would foster hatred and division.

Amongst the news on their front page is the fact that a man, who carried out an attack with bus in Dortmund in Germany actually wasn’t an Islamist, but had rather more secular motives – financial problems – behind his actions. They also have a report on a far right thug, who was stalking Jeremy Corbyn.

The organisation is also appealing for people to help with its campaign against the various far right candidates that are being fielded in the coming council and national elections. Lowles also states in his ‘welcome’ article that they are worried about the rise in racial incidents and crime since Brexit.

I think these are very probably the reasons why they’ve decided on a new look for their website. I don’t think they have to be worried about the younger generation. Various social studies have shown that, in general, they tend to be less racist and more tolerant of gays than their elders. Which, of course, does not mean that everyone over 30 or whatever is a racist bigot by any means, especially as it was the older generation, who fought so hard from the 1950s onwards to challenge racism and bigotry in this country. As for the NF, BNP and the other storm troopers running around the country trying to drag us all back to the days of ‘No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’, the actual numbers of people in them is trivial, and getting smaller all the time. Way back in the 1990s Larry O’Hara, in one of his pieces on the NF and far right in Lobster, estimated that the National Front had a permanent core of only 200 members. This was when it had, in theory, 2000 members. O’Hara believed that the organisation had a very high membership turnover, and that most of those would leave and be replaced by another bunch within two years.

It seems to me that the rise in racism is not due to it becoming more popular, but simply through existing racists becoming emboldened thanks to Brexit. It’s still a problem, as these people are desperate to spread their message of hate, and they do have the power to do immense harm. As Neoliberal ideology promises nothing but more job losses, privatisation and the contraction of the welfare state, some people, particularly in deprived areas, may well be swayed to turn against people of different races or religions, and immigrants, as the scapegoat for the poverty that Thatcherism has and is creating. As for the far right parties, as their membership has contracted, they’ve become increasingly, nakedly vicious. The banned Nazi youth group, National Action, didn’t bother to hide their anti-Semitism. Hope Not Hate had footage, if I remember correctly, of them holding aloft their Nazi-inspired regalia, to spout horrific conspiracist bilge about the ‘Jews’ plotting to destroy the White race, that could have come straight from Hitler. Or the send-up of the Nazis in the classic film, The Blues Brothers. These groups are extremely violent, ever since one of their leaders said they were looking for ‘robust young men’ to ‘defend the country against Communism’. They may only be small in number, but they – and people, who share their hatred, but aren’t a part of them – still have the capacity to seriously hurt people.

I’m confident that the majority of decent people in this country will defeat the bigots and thugs, but it might take a lot of effort to make sure of this.

In the meantime, if you want to have a look at the new site, it’s at:
http://hopenothate.org.uk/?source=170420_welcome&subsource=HOPEnothate_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=HOPEnothate&utm_campaign=170420_welcome&utm_content=4+-+Visit+the+new+wwwhopenothateorguk

Soviet SF Synthesiser Music: Monolith 14

April 19, 2017

This is another piece of Russian space culture I found over on YouTube. The YouTube channel it’s on simply describes it as ‘Monolith 14’ with the addition of ‘CCCP 1974’, which presumably means it was made in the Soviet Union in 1974. And it’s very, very strange. I don’t know if the accompanying video was a promotional film specially made for the music, or is simply bits of an old Russian SF flick, which the band has recycled. It shows Soviet cosmonauts travelling to an alien planet, and getting shot at, bald android people, who are dead white, with bit sparse fur growing on their bonces and goggles walking around menacingly; a woman with eight eyes, four in each eye socket, examining a human couple, who are placed in man- and woman-shaped receptacles above which is some strange machinery ready to do, well, something or other to them; and a human bald bloke in a black tracksuit being pulled by invisible forces down a long corridor to be seized by the white android baldies. All while standing in a trough filled with dry ice. it looks a bit – but only a bit – as though the makers were influenced by THX 1138. I have no idea what’s going on, and I can’t find a film with the title in John Clute’s Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Dorling Kindersley 1995).

If the video is from a genuine Soviet SF film, then I’d like to see it. It looks fun and more than a little mind-blowing. It’s another window into the alternative universe that was Soviet SF. The best known Soviet SF films are Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker, adapted from the novels by Stanislaw Lem and the Strugatsky Brothers respectively. This shows there’s much more out there, which needs to be rediscovered.

Alex Jone’s Lawyer Claims Jones Doesn’t Believe Own Conspiracy Theories

April 18, 2017

There have been a number of pieces put up on the alternative American news programmes on YouTube about the latest bizarre claim by Alex Jones. Or in this case, Jones’ lawyer. Jones is a notorious conspiracy theorist with his own YouTube show, Infowars, where he repeats all kinds of extreme rightwing nonsense about ‘the globalists’, the elite – who are, of course, evil shape-changing Reptoid aliens, the United Nations and politicians, mostly leftwing. It’s real tin-foil hat stuff. Amongst the codswallop he’s inflicted on his viewers over the years are rants about juice boxes containing chemicals that turn frogs gay; Hillary Clinton is demonically possessed, as is Barack Obama, and that they are both part of a Satanic paedophile ring operating out of a pizza parlour. Clinton is also a cyborg and the Sandy Hook massacre was staged. This was another terrible school shooting. Odiously, it was seized on by Jones and other members of the same conspiracist right, as a piece of government psychological warfare, designed to make Americans willing to surrender their guns. And despite clear evidence to the contrary, he boosted Donald Trump during the election and after, claiming that he was successfully tackling ‘the globalists’. All when every piece of evidence shows the complete opposite. He also believes that those same globalists sacrifice small children when the American corporate elite meets at Bohemian Grove.

It’s crazy stuff, combining the long-term rightwing fears of the imminent arrival of a Satanic one-world global superstate, with a bitter hatred of the Democrats, particularly Barack Obama and Killary, mixed with David Icke’s bonkers theories about Reptoid aliens.

But now it seems, Jones, or at least his lawyers, are trying to tell everyone that he’s not mad enough to believe all this.

Jones is currently in the middle of a custody battle with Kelly Jones, his ex-wife. She doesn’t want him to have custody of their children, a boy and two girls, between 10 and 14, because Jones’ studio is in their home, and they see him ranting like a maniac. She particularly cites his statements that he’d like to break Alec Baldwin’s neck and would like to see J-Lo raped. She is afraid he’s urging people to take ‘felonious’ action. Which includes threats to a member of congress.

Jones has struck back. His lawyers have released a statement that Jones does not believe any of this, and that it’s just a piece of performance art. His fitness as a father should not be judged on the content of his show for the same reason that Jack Nicholson’s parental worth shouldn’t be judged on the basis of his character as the Joker in the 1990s Batman film.

In this clip from The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola point out that this makes him a fraud, and a joke. But unfortunately, the joke’s on his viewers, who took him seriously. They also point out that even if he isn’t genuine, he’s still having a damaging effect on American politics and society, like Andrew Breitbart. After Breitbart died, people celebrated him as ‘a real player’. But as Uygur points out, this isn’t a game. Jones’ and Breitbart’s actions had terrible, real-world consequences. In Jones’ case, someone took his claims of a paedophile conspiracy in the pizza parlour seriously, and walked in with a sub-machine gun with the intention of freeing the children Jones had claimed were imprisoned in the basement. The grieving parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook were pestered by Jones’ viewers, trying to get them to admit that it was all false and that no-one had been staged.

And as distressing as those specific incidents go, there are worse in his support for Trump. Jones supported Trump’s expansion of Obama’s military actions in the Middle East, and these have had terrible consequences with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Against Jones’ present statements is another he made in 2015, that he was training his son to be ‘a good little knight’, who was going to carry on his struggle. And he has made another statement from a little while ago, which contradicts his lawyers. He once claimed that he believed in all of it.

Uygur and Iadarola state that this gets into the complex issue of whether he is a good father. They accept that he genuinely loves his children, but then, so do murderous religious fanatics and neo-Nazis, but this does not stop them objecting to the way they bring up their children either. Uygur believes that side of it – whether Jones is a fit father or not – should be left private between Jones and his ex-wife. Uygur’s wife is a divorce lawyer, and he’s seen how ugly and nasty divorces and custody battles can be.

Uygur and Iadarola also make the point that if you wanted to discredit belief in genuine conspiracies, then one of the ways you could do it is by creating Alex Jones or someone like him. That way, when evidence of real false-flag operations appeared, you could mock those, trying to alert the public to them by saying that they were just like Alex Jones, and his theories about juice boxes turning frogs gay.

They conclude with the statement that the irony now is that Alex Jones, who has been shouting about fake news for years, has now admitted to having been ‘fake news’.

Incidentally, Jones actually does have a point about chemicals in the water turning frogs gay. Scientists and environmentalists are concerned about certain pollutants, especially in plastics, that do harm the sexual development of amphibians. Frogs and amphibians are more sensitive to these chemicals than other creatures, and so the effects are more pronounced. Frogs are being increasingly found with genital abnormalities, such as male frogs with female characteristics.

This is not quite like the frogs turning gay, and it isn’t being put into the water to make humans homosexual either, no matter what homophobic conspiracy theory Jones or people like him have dreamed up about this. One of Jones’ rants is about how gay rights are a transhumanist space cult to make humans all asexual. Which actually sounds like Jones saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Riker falls in love with a female throwback on a planet, whose inhabitants have no gender. However, the presence of such chemicals is causing birth defects in animals and possibly harming humans. And they are entering the water through industrial activity. So Jones’ is right about the presence of such chemicals, but completely wrong about why they’re there.

TYT: Bernie TV Exploding, But You Won’t See This on Mainstream News

April 4, 2017

Except when they decide that this radical upstart needs to be given a metaphorical good kicking, of course.

In this clip from The Young Turks, anchor Cenk Uygur talks about the massive growth in popularity of Bernie Sanders on the internet. The progressive senator from Vermont uses Twitter and has his own Facebook page, where he posts videos of himself discussing issues with other leading academics, writers, people of faith, scientists and broadcasters.

The figures of the number of people following him and viewing his page are impressive. He has 4.7 million followers on Twitter, and his Facebook page has so far garnered 7 million likes. This is more than double his nearest Congressional rivals Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. His Facebook page has also had 164 million video views since the beginning of the year. Last week, 1.8 million people were talking about his Facebook page. This was more than the New York Times, MTV, Vice and some network news outlets. Even a 40 second video of Sanders standing next to a ficus plant talking into a phone got 14 million views. This is beyond the figures for anyone on cable news, including Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

So who does he get on his show as guests? They’ve included Rev. William Binder, the leader of the ‘Moral Monday’ movement, Josh Fox, the anti-fracking film-maker, and Bill Nye, the former ‘Science Guy’. Sanders’ discussion with Nye about climate change got 25,000 shares.

Uygur points out that this is part of Sanders’ concern to get his message out to as many people as possible. When he was in Vermont, he started his own PBS show. Since then, he’s also started his own TV and radio shows.

However, no matter how good these viewing figures are, you won’t have heard about it from the mainstream media. Uygur states that he only found out about Bernie TV last week through reading a hostile article about it from a right-wing journo. He contrasts this with the massive amount of publicity Trump was given by the mainstream media, who were falling over themselves to tell everyone how this orange atavistic disaster was going to set up ‘Trump TV’ if he didn’t win the presidency. Trump tried, and failed. It’s gone the way of so many of the great entrepreneurs other massive flops. Like Trump steaks and vodka, which he tried selling to the Russians. If there’s one thing the Russian Federation does not need, it’s more booze.

Uygur also comments on the excuses a mainstream media company would give for not showing any of his programmes. For example, in one segment, shown in the clip, Bernie talks about the role of various right-wing think tanks in setting up a fear about ‘voter fraud’, thus enabling the Republicans to pass legislation preventing the poor, people of colour, the young and the elderly from voting. These parts of the American populace tend to favour the Democrats, so the Republicans definitely want to exclude them from the ballot box.

Watching the video, a mainstream executive would complain that it was too boring to get people to watch. It’s just Bernie in a room talking to an academic, who has researched this. That’s it. No frills, just 25 minutes of conversation in a businesslike studio. But those 25 minutes have got millions of people watching and listening, against the received wisdom of the mainstream media.

Uygur states that the real reason why the mainstream networks don’t want to give Bernie any coverage whatsoever, is because they themselves are heavily influenced by the same right-wing groups, like the outfit that produced that steaming pile of effluent about the danger of voter fraud. They want something nicely prepared by a thinktank that they can present on their programme and so give a false impression of neutrality. The Democrats say one thing, but the Republicans say another. All done without mentioning where the information comes from or how trustworthy it is.

Uygur also remarks on how the article questions how ‘competitive’ Sanders’ TV show is. One of those the hack asked was one of the workers on The Young Turks. He replied that this question simply didn’t apply. They weren’t concerned about how ‘competitive’ it was, because unlike the mainstream network, Bernie and his co-workers believed in their message.

Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Medicare For All Bill

April 3, 2017

In his book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, which I reviewed yesterday, Bernie Sanders devotes an entire chapter to the problem of healthcare. He states very clearly and in great detail why America a system of free healthcare, which he calls Medicare For All. He shows that 48 million Americans cannot afford health insurance, and those that can, still may not be able to afford to go to the doctor because of the complex system of deductions that are part of private health insurance policies. The costs of prescription drugs is artificially high thanks to the pharmaceutical companies, so that poor Americans may not be able to afford them. Despite the Republicans sounding off, like the Tories over here, about the importance of access to mental health care, this is all beyond the reach of many Americans. As is proper dentistry. I’m English. Orwell joked as long ago as the 1940s in his book The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English, how my people have bad teeth, and it’s a gibe that’s been made regularly by Americans ever since. But despite the shining whiteness of the toothy-pegs of Hollywood celebrities, even this is beyond many Americans. Sanders describes how dentists and dental nurses in one county in Virginia once a month treat patients free for a day. So desperate are people for this treatment, that they actually sleep over night in their cars.

America needs Medicare For All. Bernie included it as one of the planks of his presidential campaign. He gives the text of it in his book. Here it is.

Medicare For All:
Leaving No One Behind

Coverage

A federally administered single-payer health care p0rogram means comprehensive coverage for all Americans. This plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics, and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.

What It Means for Patients

As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card. A single-payer plan means no more co-pays, no more deductibles, and more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.

Getting Health Care Spending Under Control

We outspend all other countries on our health, and our medical spending continues to grow faster than the rate of the inflation. Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way toward getting health care spending under control. The United States has thousands of different health insurance plans, all of which set different reimbursement rates across different networks for providers and procedures. This results in an enormous amount of paperwork and high administration costs. Two patients with the same condition may get very different care depending on where they live, the health insurance they have, and what their insurance covers. A patient may pay different amounts for the same prescription drug depending solely on where the prescription is filled. Health care providers and patients must navigate this complex and bewildering system, wasting precious time and resources.

By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively. The government will also be able to track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure that communities have the providers they need.

Major Savings for Families and Businesses

The United States currently spends $3.2 trillion on health care each year – about $10,000 per person. Reforming our system, simplifying our payment structure, and incentivising new ways to make sure patients are actually getting better care will generate massive savings. This plan has been estimated to save the American people and businesses more than $6 trillion over the next decade.

The Typical Middle Class Family Would Save Over $5,000 Under This Plan

Last year, the average working family paid $4,955 in premiums and $1,318 in deductibles to private health insurance companies. Under this plan, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay just $466 per year to the single-payer programme, amounting to a saving of over $5,800 for that family each year.

Business Would Save Over $9,400 a Year
in Health Care Costs for the
Average Employee

The average annual cost to the employer for a worker with a family who makes $50,000 a year would go from $12,591 to just $3,100.

How Much Will It Cost?

This plan has been estimated to cost $1.38 trillion per year.

How Would It Be Paid For?

* A 6.2 per cent income-based health care premium paid by employers. Revenue raised: $630 billion per year.

* A 2.2 per cent income-based premium paid by households. Revenue raised: $210 billion per year. A family of four taking the standard deduction can have income up to $28,800 and not pay this tax.

Progressive Income Tax Rates

* Revenue raised: $110 billion a year. Under this plan the marginal income tax rate would be:

* 37 per cent on income between $250,000 and $500,000.

* $43 per cent on income between $500,000 and $2 million.

* 48 per cent on income between $2 million and $10 million. (In 2013, only 113,000 households, the top 0.08 per cent of taxpayers, had income between $2 million and $10 million).

*52 per cent on income above $10 million. (In 2013, only 13,000 households, just 0.01 per cent of taxpayers, had income exceeding $10 million).

* Taxing capital gains and dividends the same as income from work. Revenue raised: $92 billion per year. Warren Buffett, the second-wealthiest person in the country, has said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. The reason is that he receives most of his income from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at a much lower rate than income from work. This plan will end the special tax break for capital gains and dividends on household income above $250,000.

* Limit tax deductions for the rich. Revenue raised: $15 billion per year. Under this plan, households making over $250,000 would no longer be able to save more than 28 cents in taxes from every dollar in tax deductions. This limit would replace more complicated and less effective limits on tax breaks for the rich, including the alternative minimum tax, the personal exemption phaseout, and the limit on itemised deductions.

* The Responsible Estate Tax. Revenue raised: $21 billion per year. This provision would tax the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 per cent (three-tenths of 1 per cent) of Americans who inherit over $3.5 million at progressive rates and would close loopholes in the estate tax.

* Savings from health tax expenditures. Revenue raised: $310 billion per year. Several tax breaks that subsidise health care (health-related “tax expenditures”) would become obsolete and disappear under a single-payer health care system, saving $310 billion per year.

Most important, health care provided by employers is compensation that is not subject to payroll tax or income taxes under current law. This is a significant tax break that would effectively disappear under this plan, because all Americans would receive health care through the new single-payer, rather than employer-based program.

(pp. 334-8).

Secular Talk: One-Third of All Jobs Will Be Lost Due to Automation by 2030s

March 30, 2017

In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski comments on a recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the firm of accountants, that by the 2030s one third of all jobs in Britain will be lost to automation. This process will also affect America, Germany and Japan. In America, 38 per cent of all jobs will go; 35 per cent in Germany, and 21 per cent in Japan. As Kulinski points out, the 2030s aren’t very far away, and this is frightening.

He goes on to discuss an article he read by Stephen Hawking about this problem some time ago, in which the cosmologist said that there are two ways this could go. It could lead to a dystopia, in which the benefits of automation were monopolised by the rich. The result would be massive unemployment, social unrest and war. Or a way could be found to spread the benefits to everyone in society. One way this could be done is if we accept that this is inevitable, and that all jobs will go eventually. Instead of throwing people onto welfare, people could instead be assigned a machine at birth, and given an income derived from the work this machine does, so that not everyone has the same income.

He also notes that the same report suggests that some job losses could be offset by gains in areas that have not yet been automated. He is sceptical of this claim, however.

Kulinski states that this issue needs to be tackled urgently, and that so far only a very few have dared to take it seriously, and then only in a limited area.

Welcome to Megacity 1 and the world of Judge Dredd. The writers of the long-running comic strip acknowledge that Dredd’s home city – a vast, sprawling supercity of over 1 billion people spread along the east coast of America – is a monumental dystopia. John Wagner described it as ‘a gigantic black comedy’. The City suffers from 98 per cent unemployment due to robots. As a result of this and massive overcrowding, crime is rampant. And any sign that there might be a paid job going can easily result in a riot.

The massive psychological harm inflicted through such conditions has been portrayed again and again, particularly in the class Dredd strip, ‘UnAmerican Graffiti’. This was about the contest between two graffiti artists, ‘Chopper’, an unknown lad, and ‘the Shadow’, a robot. Chopper, like many others, had been driven to street art as a reaction to the boredom and despair created by the terrible unemployment rate. This was a society, where the problem was so great that schoolchildren were told that getting a job was unlikely, and therefore they needed a hobby to stave off boredom.

The solution Kulinski discusses for solving the problem of high unemployment due to automation – by assigning each individual at birth an income from a particular machine – in similar to a social programme in Mick Farren’s 1980s SF book, Exit Funtopia. This is a piece of ‘Future Noir’ set in a dying future Britain. Environmental and economic collapse has resulted in a society, where many citizens have been forced to become impoverished migrants – Joads, after the family in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, forced onto the road in search of work. The ‘Funtopia’ of the title is a giant amusement park, where members of different subcultures can live out their fantasies away from mainstream society. Each member of the park is given an income based on the work a robot performed by robot doing their job. As befitting a piece of Noir, the hero is a ’40s’, a man who recreates the styles in dress and culture of the 1940s, called Marlowe. After the private eye, of course. There are also references to Godard’s Alphaville.

I’m very sceptical about this scheme. I don’t think it would work on the grounds that there isn’t a straight equivalence between one person equalling one machine. The jobs lost through automation may well be those in which the job lost may only constitute one function in a series of processes carried on by a machine, or a number of machines.

The great Polish SF writer, Stanislav Lem, also discussed this problem in one of his short stories. In this tale, a space pilot from Earth touches down on a planet covered in little black discs. There is only a single inhabitant left. When the pilot questions him, the man tells him that the black discs are the result of the decision by the planets’ leaders to solve their unemployment problem through automation. Nearly everyone was thrown out of work, except for the planets leaders and those who possessed the automated factories. There was massive unrest. It could have been avoided if the factories had been nationalised, and the profits shared amongst the citizens. But this wasn’t done. With the population growing restless, the leaders held a competition to decide how the problem could be solved. The winner was an inventor, who had developed a device for turning everyone into one of the black discs. It was selected through an extremely literal and legalistic reading of the conditions of the competition. The whole unemployed population was rounded up to be killed in this way, and eventually the unrest spread to the ruling class, who also found themselves fed to the murderous machine. Only the inventor was left, alone on his world, surrounded by the glassy remains of his victims.

Lem was an intellectual, who used SF to explore philosophical problems and concepts. He could create very serious works like Solaris, filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky and Stephen Soderbergh, or hilarious fables, often with a strongly satirical edge, like The Futurological Congress and the Cyberiad. I think that short story was written in the 1970s. But it’s coming true, very quickly, and needs to be tackled.

But what’s the odds we’re going to get the dystopian option, ’cause the elites running society, the economy and the media, simply won’t want to create a more egalitarian society as the price of solving the problem. Get ready for Megacity 1. Assuming, of course, that they don’t try turning us into the equivalent of the little black glass discs.

The Empire File’s Abby Martin on Trump’s Advisor, Steve Bannon

March 22, 2017

In this video from Telesur’s The Empire Files, Abby Martin discusses the repugnant rise on Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart and pillar of the Alt Right now serving as the chief advisor in Trump’s cabinet. She describes how Bannon began his career as an officer in the US navy. An ardent militarist with a love for war and staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan, Bannon was nevertheless disappointed at not seeing active combat as the conflict he was hoping for with Iran did not materialise. He left the navy to work in the US financial industry for Goldman Sachs, before leaving them to form his own investment house. He got the job with Goldman Sachs after personally meeting the first head. After selling his investment company two years later, he began making right-wing documentary films. These are apocalyptic dystopias of a collapsing America under assault from armies of criminals. But they weren’t successful beyond the restricted circles of the Tea Party. So in 2004 he moved to working for an internet company, IGE, or Internet Gaming Entertainment. This made its money from paying people to mine the Virtual resources in internet game such as World of Warcraft to sell to the games’ players. Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plough $60 million into this fantasy world. However, IGE was run by some ‘highly problematic’ people. Its founder, Marc Collins-Rector, was wanted for child rape, and eventually all three of the company heads were sued for the abuse of underage boys. Eventually IGE itself collapsed, sued in a class action by games.

A new company, Affinity Media, rose from the remains of IGE. Bannon overthrew the head of this company and replaced him with himself. He then left it a few years later to work for Breitbart.

The film also discusses his abusive second marriage to Mary Louise Bacard, whom he married after she became pregnant. Bannon postponed marrying her until only three days before she gave birth, stating that he wasn’t going to marry her unless the children were normal. Fortunately, amniocentesis scans showed they were. He did not pay much attention to his two newborn daughters and refused to pay child maintenance. Less than a year into the marriage, a domestic argument broke out between Bannon and Bacard, which ended with Bannon becoming violent and trying to strangle her. The police had to be called, and Bannon was charged with domestic misdemeanour, battery and witness intimidation. The trial broke down, however, as Bacard did not appear in court. Bacard divorced him, and later revealed that Bannon and his lawyers had threatened to ruin her life if she pursued the charges against him. After the divorce, Bacard also had the terms of Bannon’s visitation rights to their children changed after she caught him hitting one of the 17 month old babies. She also said that he argued with her in front of them and that she did not feel safe.

It is not just his wife he has abused. He has also been charged with the coarse verbal abuse of female employees.

Martin also goes into Bannon’s opportunist support for Conservative and reactionary political movements, which he thought he could promote as vehicles for his own views, such as the Tea Party and then Sarah Palin, about whom he made a documentary. Curiously, this does not include an interview with Palin herself.

Bannon became friends with Andrew Breitbart, the news agency’s founder, because of their shared love of reactionary media. Breitbart even admiringly referred to Bannon as ‘the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party’, referring to the Nazi propagandist who directed Triumph of the Will, about the Nuremberg rally and an equally celebratory account of the Munich Olympics. Breitbart was a protégé of Matt Drudge, the creator of the Drudge Report, who converted the style and approach of Conservative talk radio, in which subjects were discussed in a manner unsuitable for television, to the internet. Drudge took other media stories, but manipulated their headlines and contents to fit its bias against the progressive Left, women, the working class and ethnic minorities. Along with Bannon, Drudge also picked up and promoted the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. She notes that while Jones is viewed as an internet ‘sideshow’, he has an audience of millions that hang on his every word. Bannon was brought into Breitbart to encourage outside investment into it. But the company was itself experiencing severe problems. These stems from it being blacklisted after it manipulated footage of a female government employee to make it appear that she was advocating violence against Whites. After Breitbart’s death, Bannon took over the leadership of that company too. He then set up the Government Accountability Institute, which issues spurious reports alleging government conspiracies. These include the allegation that protest movements are secretly funded by the government. Among the millionaires supporting Breitbart is Robert Mercer, the investment banker who ran anti-Muslim ads attacking the Ground Zero Mosque and advocating the death penalty, and who has one of the largest private collections of machine guns. Other donors included the billionaire Koch brothers. Martin notes how the Institute acted to allow these millionaires to launder money, which could be invested in Breitbart. The money donated to the IGA was then used to pay the wages of Breitbart employees, which is illegal.

Ex-employees have stated that Bannon has a tight, dictatorial control of the company and expects both journalists and guests to follow his editorial line. Among those, who have been published in his organisation are the anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller, Michael O’Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, and the bigot and paedophile enabler, Milo Yiannopolis. She shows how the site manipulates and aggregates news stories to attack Blacks and Muslims. Following the rise of massive anti-Muslim feeling in Europe, Breitbart has focused on promoting and playing on this fear. Breitbart’s audience is mainly angry White men, and the organisation’s audience figures shot up from 8 million to 18 million after the election of Donald Trump.

Martin discusses how Bannon has also attacked traditional Conservativism, stating that he wants to destroy the traditional Republican party as well as everything left of it. He is a populist, but only defends and promotes the White working class. He rejects ‘globalism’ in favour of economic nationalism. She states how this has been used by extreme right-wing regimes since Nazi Germany to divert attention away from capitalism as the cause of systemic economic crises. Bannon is happy to describe himself as an economic nationalist, but vigorously rejects the accusation that he is a White Nationalist, despite his attacks on non-White immigrants as a threat to Judeo-Christian civilisation, particularly Muslims. His views on Islamic immigration are even more extreme than Trump’s. If he was in charge of government, then not a single Muslim would be allowed into America. He has made documentaries showing American border towns as under siege from immigrants. Unlike Trump, he also does not want legal, well-educated and productive immigrants to stay in the country. There exists a tape, which shows him arguing against Trump on this point, when Trump protested about an Indian man, who was deported back to his homeland, where he set up a successful company employing thousands of people. Breitbart also runs stories portraying Black Americans as violent criminals and welfare scroungers. Bannon also claims that the Alt Right’s appeal to racism is entirely coincidental. He looks back to the 1950s as a golden age, whose stability and prosperity has been destroyed by the decline of Judeo-Christian civilisation. She notes that he does identify correctly some of the current problems, such as the increasing lack of upward mobility and the poverty caused by neoliberalism, and also points out that the 1950s were definitely not an era of prosperity for Black Americans and others, who were exploited and brutalised. In his view, the civil rights and other protest movements of 50s and 60s destroyed the working class and small businesses, and allowed big business and big government to collude against working Americans. She states that in his hatred of the civil rights and other movements, he attacks the very people, who have been hurt the most by globalisation. The video includes a clip from one of his wretched documentaries in which he criticises ‘White guilt’ for encouraging the belief that ‘everyone should have a house’. She then moves on to discuss another of his tawdry epics, in which he attacks the Occupy Wall Street movement. He tries to portray organic popular protest movements as vehicles for Communists, Democrats or George Soros, and attacks millennials for supposedly undermining American culture and values with the vapidity and materialism of popular culture. He even goes as far as to blame this for the rise of ISIS.

Martin makes the point that Bannon’s message was extremely effective during the 2016 election campaign, because it addressed issues that the Democrats did not want to confront. She credits Bannon with formulating the most extreme elements of Trump’s Muslim ban and his harsh hostility to the media, as well as showing how Trump’s proposal to publish a list of crimes committed by immigrants is also strongly similar to Breitbart’s strategy. She also points out that Bannon’s militarism may, as a Chinese army officer observed, make Bannon’s prediction that in five to ten years America and the Chinese will be at war a reality. Bannon has said several times that Islam and China are expanding because they believe the Judeo-Christian West is in retreat. And Trump has also appointed more generals to his cabinet than previous administrations.

Martin concludes the piece by stating that Bannon’s rise shows how corrupt and illegitimate the system is, and that the Democrats, who wish to fight the same wars and are in debt and the pockets of their own corporate donors, are unable to fight him. He can only be fought by a united, multicultural progressive movement on the streets.