Archive for the ‘Finland’ Category

BBC 2 Programme Next Week on British Forces in Ukraine and Estonia

October 20, 2017

On Wednesday, BBC 2 launched a new documentary series looking at the British army as it’s stationed around the world, Army: Behind the New Frontlines. In next weeks edition, subtitled ‘The New Cold War’, to be shown at 9.00 O’clock pm on 25th October 2017, the programme will look at British forces stationed in Estonia and Ukraine. The blurb for the programme on page 94 of the Radio Times runs

Tensions between the West and Russia have been heightened since 2014, when Russia seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea and also began secretly arming pro-Russian separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine. But as Ukraine is not part of Nato, no western troops have been deployed to fight. Instead, British soldiers from the Mercia regiment are sent to train Ukrainian soldiers to defend their country, helping Nato and Britain avoid direct involvement while offering a cost-effective way to learn how the Russians fight. Meanwhile, the Baltic states, which are members of Nato, fear that an attack from Russia is a very real threat, so soldiers from 5 Rifles battalion travel to Estonia as part of a major operation to deter invasion.

There’s a further couple of paragraphs about the programme on page 93 by Jack Seale. These state

Just as the British Army is undergoing an existential crisis due to a slowdown in active operations, so this documentary about soldiers not firing their guns struggles to find an impetus. Not that you’d wish for war as a remedy, of course.

The liveliest threat is in eastern Europe, where Russia has encroached in Ukraine and massed troops on Estonia’s border. This week we follow Brits quietly training Ukrainians and openly allying with Estonians, since the latter is in Nato. The memorable stories are of the awfully young local fighters who hope the wolf next door won’t come in, but say they’re ready to die if it does.

I don’t know, but reading those pieces about the programme makes me strongly suspect that it won’t tell you the whole truth about what’s really going on in those countries, and why we’re really there. And we’ve certainly been fed a pack of lies about the Ukraine already.

If you believe the lamestream media, the present government in Ukraine is an entirely democratic regime, which gained power through a power revolution in Kyiv’s Maidan Square. Tired of the misrule of their government present and his pro-Russian policies, the people of Ukraine spontaneously rose up and toppled him. The ousted president then ran off to Putin for aid to get back into power. Putin then responded by sending Russian troops into the east of the country, where there is a sizable ethnic Russian, and Russian-speaking Ukrainian population.

Comparisons have been made with Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia shortly before World War II. These are completely wrong.

Firstly, Putin is corrupt, is a dictatorial thug, and his regime is acute nationalistic, xenophobic and militaristic. This week his government proposed legislation that would penalise parents and educators taking part in political protests if they took their children with them. And as Simon Reeve showed in his programme about European Russia last week, when he covered the case of a woman campaigning to keep her Khrushchev era flat in Moscow against a Putin-backed development scheme, Russian law means that protests of more than one person have to be registered first with the police. And if there’s only you there, you will be still be carted off to chokey by the stern minions of Putin’s police force. Putin’s party has a youth wing, Nashi, a Russian word which means ‘Ours’, which is ultra-patriotic, picketing and threatening those it regards as insufficiently patriotic. It also serves to encourage young men to do their National Service. This is despite the fact that the Russian army is even more brutal, and bullying more rife and horrific under the ‘rule of the grandfathers’ than in the British army. New squaddies, and especially Pentecostal Christians, are beaten up, sometimes to the point where they need hospital treatment. Comparisons have been made with the Nazis’ Hitler Youth.

As for Putin himself, recent documentaries have shown how he’s supposedly funnel hundreds of thousands of roubles to his own personal account. And his former chums in the judo clubs in which he trained have similarly done very well indeed. They’ve all risen to become heads of companies. A friend of mine told me once that the pop band, Clean Bandit, took their name from a Russian idiom which means a criminal, who doesn’t pretend to be anything other than he is. And it’s very commonly applied to Putin. So you could fairly describe him as an ‘arkhiplut’, a Russian word meaning arch-criminal or scoundrel.

But the impression I have is that Putin is justified in his intervention in Ukraine. The Crimea historically belonged to Russia. It was only given to Ukraine in the 1950s by Khrushchev, who was Ukrainian. As for the Maidan Revolution, it was categorically not a popular revolution. It was a very cleverly crafted piece of American-sponsored regime change by the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as George Soros’ pro-democracy foundation. It was organised by Ukrainian oligarchs with the aid of the US state department, Victoria Nuland and Hillary Clinton.

The composition of the new, entirely democratic government, honest guv’, is deeply suspect. I’ve blogged before about how it contains thugs from the Fascist Pravy Sektor. These are real, unreconstructed Nazis. They dress in the uniform and regalia of the auxiliary SS regiments that invaded the country during Operation Barbarossa in World War II. They are anti-democratic, anti-Semitic and extremely violent. During the Maidan Revolution, they chased a group of trade unionists into one of the buildings, caught and savagely beat them. And just as Putin’s regime has cracked down on journalists, who have published material against the Russian president, so the Ukrainian regime is persecuting and intimidating opposition journalists. I’ve got a feeling several have been murdered, just like they have in Putin’s Russia. The various characters in Trump’s government backing and urging support for the Ukrainian regime all have connections to Ukrainian Fascists, who were recruited after the War to provide anti-Communist propaganda to their homeland. And no surprise there, as Reagan gave expatriate Ukrainian nationalists considerable support under their leader, Vladimir Stetso, during the new Cold War of the 1980s.

I’ve seen Russian programmes on YouTube, which claimed very strongly that Russia intervened and invaded because the Russian and Russian-speaking minority in the east of the country was being persecuted and was being prevented from voting. I know this is all dubious considering that Putin does make sure that the media broadcasts his propaganda, but I think that this is very likely to be true. A government that has seized power through secret deals with the Americans and which contains outright Nazis, is not going to have any qualms about persecuting an ethnic group some of them probably see as their invaders and oppressors.

I know much less about Estonia, but it seems to me that we’re probably not being told the whole truth about what’s going on there. The Baltic states were, at various times, part of the Swedish empires and Germany, before they were conquered by Russia. They had a brief, 20 year period of autonomy from the end of the First World War to the 1930s, when Stalin invaded to reclaim them under the deal made with Nazi Germany in Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact. One third of the population are ethnic Russians. During the Communist era, the Baltic States were determined to gain their independence. This may have been partly because they were the some of the most industrially developed parts of the Soviet Union, and were afraid that Russian immigration would swamp them, so that they would become minorities in their own countries.

Since they gained their independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians have claimed that the Russian minority in those states have been persecuted. I don’t know how much truth there is to this, but even under Communism Russians performed the lowest-paid, dirtiest and most menial jobs. And there are real Nazis goose-stepping about there as well. Colin Thubron in his 1980s travel book, Among the Russians, describes a nationalist demonstration in Lithuania, whose participants screamed ‘Lithuania for the Lithuanians! Russians to Russia! Poles to Poland! And Jews to the cemetery!’ Veterans from the SS auxiliary regiments that fought – and butchered the Jewish population – in the Baltic States have been allowed to take part in the independence day parades in Lithuania or Latvia. Or perhaps both. Possibly the governments of these countries also include their own, very real Nazis, like that of Ukraine. I don’t know.

As for the British army facing an existential threat because of a lack of operations abroad, I thought it faced an existential threat because of serious underfunding by the previous governments, and a crisis in recruitment with young men and women deciding that they want to do something better with their lives than be killed or mutilated just to let the big oil companies plunder nations like Iraq in the Middle East.

When Communism fell, we signed a deal with Russia promising that Nato would not expand up to their borders. The Russians have been paranoid about Western encirclement since before the Communist seizure of power. This was broken when the Baltic States joined NATO. I supported that move, as I thought that there was a real possibility that the Russians would invade, based on Stalin’s invasion shortly before the Nazis invaded Russia.

Now I think that perhaps the better option would have been to let the Baltic states remain neutral. Both NATO and Russia could have been signatories guaranteeing the countries’ neutrality. They could have been given the ‘Finnish option’. Meaning that, like Finland, they were neutral and enjoyed certain privileges, like relatively unrestricted access to Russia. It could have preserved peace and their independence, while not provoking the Russians.

Now we have had an increase in tensions on these countries’ borders. Tensions which Killary seems determined to stoke, not least by claiming that Trump is somehow being blackmailed by Putin. She, the Democrats and the Republicans in America are creating a new Cold War, part of the purpose of which is, in Killary’s case, to distract everyone from her own corruption and very dubious dealings with Russian capital.

We are not being told the truth about the nature of the regimes in Ukraine or the Baltic. And it seems to me very much that our brave women and men are not there to defend their freedom, but simply as part of America’s campaign of global imperialism for its multinational corporations.

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Torygraph Journo’s Book on Interstellar Travel Through Artificial Black Holes

August 10, 2017

The Iron Sun: Crossing the Universe through Black Holes, Adrian Berry (London: Jonathan Cape 1977).

No, not the Iron Sky, which was a Finnish Science Fiction film that came out a few years ago, in which the Nazis secretly colonized the Moon, and fight an interplanetary war with an America governed by a female president, who bears a certain similarity to Sarah Palin. This is the Iron Sun, a book in which Telegraph journalist Adrian Berry explains his theory that it should be possible to explore space using artificial Black Holes to travel faster than light. Berry was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Senior Member of the British Interplanetary Society, and a member of the National Space Institute of America. According to the potted biography on the back flap of the dust jacket, he also covered two of the Moon Landings from Cape Kennedy and Houston. Along with this book, he also wrote The Next Ten Thousand Years and The Great Leap.

The latter book was published in the 1990s, and is also about interstellar travel and exploration. It’s a good book, though marred by Berry’s Libertarian politics. Towards the end of the book, he devotes an entire chapter to argue for Von Hayek’s daft and destructive economic ideas. So did a number of other space and extreme technology groups at the time. The transhumanists, the crazy people, who want to transform themselves into cyborgs, explore the Galaxy, and ultimately achieve immortality by uploading themselves into computers, were also very much into Von Hayek and Libertarianism. I have a feeling that this has gone by the way now. A friend of mine, who was also into it, told me a year or so ago that the Austrian economist is rather passe now. One of the leaders of the movement has said that Hayekian economics was just something they were into at the time, and they’re now distancing themselves from him, so that his ideas aren’t synonymous with the movement as a whole.

In this book, after taking the reader through Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and explaining what Black Holes are, Berry then advances his book’s central idea. This is that humanity will be able to use a fleet of automated Buzzard ramjets as cosmic bulldozers to create an artificial Black Hole of a particular size one light year from Earth. The Buzzard ramjet was a type of spaceship devised in the 1970s. Instead of taking its fuel with it into space, like conventional rockets and spacecraft, the ramjet would scoop up the necessary hydrogen for its nuclear fusion engines from the surrounding interstellar medium, in the same way that a high-performance ram jet sucks in the air it needs to reach supersonic velocities from the Earth’s atmosphere. It was an immensely popular idea amongst space scientists, SF fans and advocates of the human colonization of space, as it appeared a practical way of creating a spacecraft that could reach the very high speeds approaching that of light needed to cross space to the nearest stars within a few years, or tens of years, rather than centuries and millennia.

Berry believed that strong electromagnetic fields could be used to collect and push the necessary hydrogen atom ahead of the spacecraft. Once in place, the hydrogen and other gaseous material would be forced together into a single mass, until it was so large that it collapsed under its own gravity, forming a Black Hole.

It was Carl Sagan, who first suggested the possibility of using Black Holes as cosmic subways to travel across the universe faster than the speed of light. Einstein, Rosen and other scientists hypothesized that the gravity inside Black Holes was so massive, that not only did it crush matter out of existence, but it also created a wormhole through space and time to, well, elsewhere. An object, including a spaceship, could enter a Black Hole to travel through the wormhole, to exit from a White Hole somewhere else in the universe, or even in a different universe altogether.

The Black Hole would be built a light year away, as this would be a safe but accessible distance. The construction ships would be automated as they would not be able to pull back once construction of the Black Hole was underway, and would be allowed to fall into it.

Berry admits there is one problem with his scheme: no-one knows how far away, nor in what direction, the resulting wormhole would extend. He therefore argues that the first astronauts to use the new wormhole would also have their own fleet of construction vessels, in order to build another Black Hole at their destination, which would create the White Hole needed for them to return to the Solar System. The process would take about forty years.

He explains the details of his proposal in a fictitious interview. There’s also an epilogue, and three appendices, in which he gives further information on Black Holes, including the navigable apertures created by Black Holes of varying sizes.

It says something for the optimism about the future of spaceflight in the 1970s that Berry considers that we should have the capability to do all this sometime around 2050. The 1970s were the decade when it seemed almost anything was possible after the Moon Landings, and astronomers and writers like Sir Patrick Moore seriously predicted that by now we’d have bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars, holidays in space, orbital habitats at the L5 points, as suggested by Gerald O’Neill, and would be gradually expanding into the rest of the Solar System.

If only that had happened!

Despite the formation of public groups, like the Mars Society and the Space Frontier Foundation, for the colonization of space, humans so far seem stuck in Low Earth Orbit. There have been plans over the past few years for crewed missions to return to the Moon, and to Mars, but these haven’t materialized. NASA is planning an expedition to the Red Planet in the 2030s, but I’m really not confident about that every happening. And if it’s a struggle for us to get to Mars, sixty or seventy years after the Moon Landings, it’s going to be impossible for us to build a Black Hole.

Part of the problem is the difficulty of building a viable Buzzard ramjet. After the idea was proposed, someone worked out that the interstellar medium was so rarified that the vehicle would need a ramscoop 3,000 miles long to collect all the gas it would need. I’m not sure if this makes it completely impossible – after all, firms like the Hanson Trust back in the 1980s tried selling themselves to the general public with commercials telling the world that they made enough plastic chairs to go round the Earth so many times. And it might be possible to develop superlight materials for the scoop so that it would not be impossibly heavy. Such a material would similar to the mylar suggested for the solar sails for the Starwisp mission. This is a suggested mission to send a 50 kilo instrument package to Alpha Centauri in a journey lasting thirty years or so. And the construction of a space elevator, which would have to be of a light material strong enough to take the weight of cable cars and carry them tens of thousands of mile into space out of the Earth’s gravity well seems to me to present even greater problems. But even if a ramscoop of that size isn’t impossible, it would be very, very difficult and extremely expensive.

Not all scientists are convinced that it should be possible to use wormholes in this manner anyway. Philip’s Astronomy Encyclopedia state that one particular type of Black Hole, rotating Kerr Black Holes, which don’t have the singularity that eventually destroys all the matter passing through it, ‘have fascinating implications for hypothetical space travel to other universes’. (‘Black Holes, p. 57). However, the entry for ‘Wormholes’ states that, although they’re predicted by Einstein, ‘such wormholes cannot exist in reality, since the occurrence of white holes is forbidden by the second law of thermodynamics.’ (p. 440). On the other hand, Russian physicists have shown that it’s possible to create a wormhole a few light years in extent, though this would take more energy than is currently available in the universe.

I hope that it may one day be possible to construct such wormhole subway routes through the cosmos, as suggested by Sagan. I also wonder if the book may also have influenced comic writer Pat Mills in the creation of the Black Hole and White Hole bypasses for Termight – Earth thousands of years in the future – in the Nemesis the Warlock Strip in 2000 AD. This was an artificial Black Hole and its White Hole counterpart, constructed by Earth’s engineers to provide instantaneous access to space. ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ appeared about 1979, and while it’s definitely Science Fantasy, Mills actually did some reading in science as research for the comic. He said in an interview nearly four decades ago that he shocked the comic’s management because he bought a whole stack of books on science and then invoiced the comic company for them as research. He was annoyed that the attitude to comics at the time was so low, that the idea of doing basic research for them was looked upon with horror. Ah, how things changed after Frank Bellamy and ‘Dan Dare’. Bellamy’s studio for Britain’s greatest space hero, with the exception of Judge Dredd, included a model maker and researchers. Unfortunately, this was all cut away as an unnecessary expense when the Eagle changed hands. Sales had fallen, and the comic was then making a loss. Hence the decision to cut down the number of staff in the studio. But it does show the initial commitment to quality of strip’s creators, and Dare and Bellamy’s superb artwork are still admired as one of the greatest pieces of British comic art and literature.

Hope Not Hate: Far Right Activists Obtain Ship to Prevent Rescue of Migrants from Mediterranean

July 1, 2017

More hate and persecution of immigrants and asylum seekers from the racist right. Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism magazine and website, reported on Wednesday that a group of Identitarians, Defend Europe, had secured a ship with which it intended to patrol the Mediterranean, harassing the Italian naval and coastguard vessels charged with rescuing migrants from Africa and the Middle East crossing the Med. Early in May, activists from Germany, Austria, France and Italy, and the Canadian and US social media journalists, Lauren Southern and Luke Rudkowski, travelled to the Italian towns of Catania, where they blocked a rescue ship from leaving port. Over the course of the month and then into June, they travelled to Olbia, Modena, Brescia, Bolzano and other towns to explain their mission to the locals.

They were also crowdfunding on social media to raise sufficient money to obtain a ship to stop rescue boats at sea. They have also been collecting information on the international organisations dedicated to rescuing immigrants, and their individual members.

See: http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/27/far-right-secure-ship-disrupt-mediterranean-ngos/

According to a later report, the ship

is actually a Finnish-made research ship named ‘Suunta’. It is nearly 40m long and has a gross tonnage of 422 tonnes. According to Defend Europe the ship has “a range of 3000 nautical miles”, a “place for a crew of 25”, and a “crane for RIBs [small inflatable boats]”

We have tracked down the Suunta to the port of Djibouti off the east coast of Africa, which fits in with the Identitarians own claims that their “biggest problem now is, that our ship is not on the Mediterranean sea. It needs to be transferred from a different ocean.”

Hope Not Hate believe that the ship is due to leave Djibouti to reach Port Suez on the 13th of this month, in order to travel up through the Suez canal.

http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/29/details-far-right-mission-hinder-ngo-rescue-missions-med/

This is quite horrific. Conditions on these boats are appalling, with the human cargo frequently packed against and on top of each other, with little sanitation. Many of them are forcibly drugged to prevent them causing problems during the voyage. These people are some of the world’s most desperate, fleeing countries torn apart by war or an oppressive, persecutory government. Many of these ships sink during the crossing. The Identitarians aim of stopping migrants from being rescued from these ships means, quite simply, that they will die from drowning.

Not that such carnage would cause many pangs of conscience amongst the Far Right. ‘Millennial Woes’, a Scots member of the Alt Right, who has since left for America, stated on one of his wretched videos that preventing further non-White immigration would mean shooting down the migrant ships. He considered this a dreadful necessity. And Sun rentagob Katie Hopkins had to apologise a little while ago, after she ranted about destroying migrant boats.

Yesterday I got the following email from the magazine, which it asked me to share.

An important update regarding the “Defend Europe” ship, the boat that has been chartered by the European far right to try to stop refugees from North Africa reaching Europe.

We have been able to track down the ship to a port in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa, and we have eyes on its movements. We know that the boat is due to set sail next week and will reach the Mediterranean, via the Suez Canal, in two weeks’ time.

This is a very real threat. Defend Europe has two main aims: to block aid agency ships from making life-saving rescue missions, and to patrol the sea and prevent crossings from taking place.

A number of the NGOs working in the area have already recounted stories of being threatened by far right activists and fear a hostile and intimidating environment in which to carry out their essential work.

Thank you to the thousands of supporters who have shared their thoughts on how we should oppose this action. Right now, the most important thing to do is to create as much attention around this as possible.

These people really are low, to deny life-saving aid to desperately poor people fleeing from terror at home aboard such dangerous craft. They have to be stopped before their actions lead to someone dying.

Counterpunch on the Hinkley C Power Station: Last Gasp of a Dying Nuclear Era

September 18, 2016

Counterpunch this week also put up a very pertinent piece about the proposed construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station by the French nuclear energy company, EDF, and the Chinese. The power station was the go-ahead this week by Theresa May, after she had first stated she was opposed to the deal. The piece, by Oliver Tickell, the editor of The Ecologist magazine, argues that not only is the station uncompetitive, massively expensive, and a threat to the environment, but it is also very much a last gamble by EDF and its partner, Areva, to prove the viability of the proposed reactor type, and indeed nuclear energy as a whole. Tickell states that four EPR reactors are under construction in France, Finland and China, and they are massively over budget to the tune of billions of Euros, and very late. Indeed, the reactor at Flamanville in France may never be finished. EDF and Areva are owned and controlled by the French state, and are also massively in debt.

The reasons behind May’s giving in to the French and Chinese are political and economic. She wants good relations with the French, in order to have them on the British side when it comes to negotiating the new relationship with the European Union post-Brexit. China needs the deal to go ahead, because it wants to keep the contract for the construction of the power station at Bradwell in Suffolk. This has the proposed ‘Hualong’ reactor, which has yet to be tried. The government wishes to win over the Chinese and get access without the imposition of tariffs to their market for British manufacturing and financial services industries.

There are also major doubts whether the Hinkley C reactor will ever be built, despite May’s official deal. The subsidy package given to the project as part of the deal appears to contravene EU legislation on how much state aid may be given. EDF and the Chinese company, CGN, have invested so much in the project, that it’s unlikely they’ll be prepared to invest any more until the problems and Flamanville are resolved and the reactor type has demonstrated its viability. That may also be years away. If the power station fails, or fails to work reliably, it will bankrupt EDF, and the company has yet to find the billions it is obliged to spend on the project. There is also much opposition to the power station in France. It is disliked by both the French trade unions and some of the candidates for the French presidency. The type of steel used in the reactor is also being examined for flaws in a power station in France by the French regulator. The Chinese reactor in Bradwell also hasn’t got a safety licence yet. This can take four years, so it will be built, if at all, by the next government.

By which time, the director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, Richard Black, points out, power from other sources may be far less expensive than today.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/16/a-nuclear-plant-for-a-dying-era-why-the-uk-approved-the-dangerous-hinkley-point-reactor/

Black Civil Rights Organisation Wants Moratorium on Academy Schools in America

August 18, 2016

The Black civil rights organisation, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) has attacked charter schools and demanded a moratorium on them. In this video from the Real News, the anchor, Jaisal Noor, talks to Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, a teacher, educationalist and blogger, who’s the head of the leadership in education programme at one of the American universities about the NAACP’s call for a ban. The charter schools are the American equivalent of our academy schools. They were introduced in 2001, and began to expand massively after Obama’s election in 2008 as part of his ‘Race to the Top’ education programme. The NAACP object to these schools on the grounds that they remove public control, enforce segregation and have punitive educational regimes. They also draw a comparison between the proliferation of these schools and the predatory sub-prime mortgage market which was partly responsible for the near collapse of the banking system in 2008.

This isn’t the first time the NAACP has criticised charter schools. In 2010 they made a statement that rather than promoting the expansion of these schools, more money should be given to improving existing public (state) schools in urban America serving Black communities. In 2014 the NAACP further condemned charter schools as part of the privatisation of education of education, and the wider privatisation movement. The demand for the moratorium on these schools was passed this year by a meeting of more than 2200 of the organisation’s delegates. Heilig states that this is a very reasonable position as when they were first introduced, charter schools promised more freedom and more accountability. They have instead gained more freedom and less accountability.

Noor responds by stating that for many Black parents in cities like New York and Baltimore, charter schools represent some hope of improving their children’s education over the dire state schools in their areas, but there are long queues of people trying to get in. He quotes a Black Democrat politician, Shivar Jefferies of Democrats for Education Reform as stating that they should be concentrating on fixing what is broken, and expanding what works. Heilig states that he has offered to debate Jefferies about charter schools in California or New York. Jefferies first accepted, and then declined. Heilig states that when you examine the statistics, the supposed advantages of charter schools melt away. He does agree with Jefferies, however, on the wider point that society has failed Black, Latino, Native American and other poor students deliberately. He states that American society has decided that ‘inequality is OK’. Where Heilig and Jefferies differ is in the way this is to be tackled. He points out that there are big corporations, like Wall Street, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation and many more behind the private control of education. Heilig says that this is where he differs with Jefferies. He and the others in NAACP would like community schools, and community-based charters, district charters and intergovernmental charters. He points out that people are upset with the creation of charter schools, because the free market system they are trying to use to improve schools – he gives the example of the ‘better house you buy, the better the school’, is the very system that has damaged the educational system in the first place.

He states that the key to change and improvement is offering more democratic control for parents in their local schools through community-based programmes. Heilig makes the point that if you look at the polls of what people want, they want less testing, higher quality teachers, and better courses. Those require resources. But the Supreme Court in Texas, however, decided that the $25,000 differences between classes for rich and poor is acceptable at school. This means millions of dollars in difference at the district level.

Noor also asks him about the statistics showing that children at charter schools perform extremely well, and so therefore charter schools are an educational improvement that should be further implemented. Heilig points out that there are some state schools that are also doing a great job. He also makes the point that the 2009 Credo study showed that 89 per cent of students at public schools performed exactly the same as those in state schools. Shivar Jefferies and the others in favour of charters schools don’t like that study, and prefer to quote another Credo study from 2015. This study, however, showed that in charter schools Latinos do 0.008 per cent better in reading, and Black 0.05 per cent. He states that the difference in performance is almost negligible. Furthermore, there are other methods in improving performance that are far more effective. These methods, which include reducing class size, can improve educational performance by between 1000 to 4000 per cent. He states that there’s no secret to what works, and you don’t need to go to countries with high standards in education, like Finland and Singapore to see that. You only have to go ‘across the tracks’ to rich neighbourhoods to see what resources are given to their schools, to see the kind of improvements that have to be made to the schools in poor neighbourhoods.

I’ve reblogged this because this debate is clearly very relevant to what’s happening over here with the academies Blair set up and which Thicky Nicky Morgan wanted to make universal. The system’s critics over here have pointed out that they are a part privatisation of education. The backers in Britain, however, tend to be second-rate businessmen. The leading businesses don’t want to touch them because they’re divisive. They are also very highly selective. A much larger proportion of students are expelled, or effectively expelled, from these schools, often for very trivial reasons. These frequently tend to be the poorer, or less intelligent students, the children the school would have problems with getting them through the exams. So they try to get rid of them by expelling them for supposed infractions of school rules. And discipline is also extremely strict. A few years ago a television documentary on the Vardy schools, set up by an evangelical Christian businessman, had humiliated pupils by refusing them to go to the toilet, even when they were in desperate need, and not allowing the girls to leave to change their sanitary towels. And there are also concerns that they’re socially divisive, especially as many of them are now under the control of the church or religious organisations.

Britain tends to look across the Atlantic to try to see what the Americans are doing in certain issues. This demand by the NAACP for a moratorium on charters/ academies, so that society can take stock of their impact, might have an effect in encouraging Black educationalists over here to follow and further demand a halt to their expansion in Britain. This would not only improve conditions for Blacks, but also for the poor White students that are also falling behind.

Rupert Murdoch and the Privatisation of the BBC

June 9, 2016

One of the major forces behind the Tory’s demands for the privatisation of the BBC is Rupert Murdoch. It is well-known that Murdoch owns the Sky satellite TV network, and so bitterly resents the state broadcaster as an obstacle preventing his own continuing expansion into broadcasting. Murdoch isn’t the only media mogul to demand the break-up of the Beeb in favour of their own interests as private broadcasters. Until recent, Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond, the proprietor of Express newspapers and various grubby mags found on the top shelves on newsagents also owned Channel 5, along with his Fantasy X porn channel. The situation was much the same in the 1980s, when one of the other newspaper magnates, the late, unlamented Robert Maxwell, owned Rediffusion, which was also looking to expand, and so attacked the Beeb. But because of his domination of the market, Murdoch is perhaps the leading voice demanding the Beeb’s privatisation.

Mark Hollingworth discusses Murdoch’s self-interested attacks on the BBC in his book, The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship. While this section isn’t particularly surprising in itself, as the Dirty Digger has been doing it for decades, what is shocking is how viciously and single-mindedly the old brute prosecuted his attacks on the Beeb in the 1980s. He writes:

The attacks on the BBC began in January 1985, during the corporation’s negotiations for an increased licence fee, and were sustained through the year. On 14 January 1985, the Times published the first of three successive leading articles extolling the virtues of advertising the need for deregulation of the BBC: ‘The BBC is today accused of inefficiency, unaccountability, self-aggrandisement and feather-bedding its employees…Are the critics justified? In their main principles, yes.’ The next day Labour MP Joe Ashton launched his private member’s bill calling for advertising on the BBC. That morning the Times’ editorial was headlined-‘Wither the BBC’- and called for the break-up of the corporation: ‘Advertisers can clearly pay some part in generating the revenue to pay for many programmes…We need a more open, less monolithic system of broadcasting in which customers can choose what qualities they want from their TV screens.’ The next day the Times thundered again at its 1,300,000 readers: ‘Lord Annan’s Committee recommended a break-up of the BBC into its radio, TV and local radio components. The government should now prepare to go further than this. It should consider quickly the establishment of a new broadcasting commission to auction franchises that are currently operated by the BBC.

Now, what the Times fails to tell its readers is who will directly benefit if these franchises are auctioned. At the front of the queue will be a certain R. Murdoch, proprietor of the Times, who will benefit commercially if the BBC is broken up. Murdoch’s company, News International, owns Sky Channel-a cable and satellite operation which transmits 73 hours a week of alternative television and has three million subscribers in 11 countries. In 1983 Murdoch also took control of Satellite TV, Sky’s parent company, at a cost of £5 million and has a 75.5 per cent shareholding. Satellite began transmitting in 1982, beaming English language programmes to Norway and Finland for two hours a night. In 1985 the Times’ owner acquired the biggest stake in 20th Century Fox to provide films for his satellite Sky Channel to beam across Europe. Clearly, if even parts of the BBC are privatised, these Murdoch-owned companies will make a lot of money.

Murdoch’s views on the BBC are quite clear. ‘I would like to see it privatized,’ he said in November 1985. But this was not just his private opinion. According to the Mirror’s Paul Foot, Murdoch ‘has personally ordered a sustained attack on the BBC and all its people.’ Alastair Hetherington, former editor of the Guardian, added weight to this assertion when he accused the Times of conducting ‘a vendetta against the BBC in its leaders, news stories and features’. This is certainly borne out by the evidence. The Times published at least eight anti-BBC editorials throughout 1985. The paper also published a series of news reports, often based on the thinnest material, which suggested extravagance and incompetence among BBC management. ‘BBC Condemned As Licence Fee Monster’ was the headline for one story which was merely a report of an article by an obscure ex-BBC employee in a trade journal.

Moreover, when angry readers have written to complain about the coverage or offer and alternative point of view, the Times has refused to publish their letters. this was revealed by Paul Fox, Managing Director of Yorkshire Television. On 2 November 1985, the Times published another leader attacking the BBC, the IBA and ITV companies and misquoted comments that Fox had made about public service broadcasting. Fox wrote to the paper to set the record straight about his misrepresented remarks, but his letter was not published. Three days later, on 5 November 1985, David Plowright, the Managing Director of Granada TV and Chairman of the ITV Companies Association, also wrote to the Times to complain about front-page news report of a MORI opinion poll on advertising on the BBC. In his letter, Plowright pointed out that the Times opinion poll showed that more people were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the quality of TV in Britain than those who took the opposite view. How curious, wrote Plowright, that the paper’s news story had failed to include these facts. The letter was not published and the issue was not corrected.

The Times was not the only Murdoch paper to attack the BBC. His tabloids have joined in the fun. Here’s the Sun on 23 January 1985: ‘Oh, what superior people they are at the BBC. Here is the Director-General, Alastair Milne, raising his hands in horror at the idea of accepting adverts…Just where is the BBC superior to the commercial channels… There is only one area where the Beeb shines. No-one could possibly match its overbearing, totally unjustified smugness. And again on 2 September 1985: ‘The BBC should compete in the market so it ceases to be such a burden on the public.’ The Sun’s sister paper, the News of the World, began its campaign a trifle later than most but soon made up for lost ground. Every week throughout April 1985 there was a news story about the expenses of BBC staff which were reaching ‘scandal’ proportions. The next month News of the World journalists were instructed to file detailed reports of the eating and drinking habits of fellow reporters on the BBC during a royal tour. One brave woman journalist refused, because she said this was not her job. A News of the World executive then telephoned from London to accuse her of being disloyal. However, halfway through his lecture, the editorial executive was much dismayed to find that he had been put through by mistake to Kate Adey-a BBC television news reporter. (pp.12-14).

The News of the World executive probably left the phone with his ears ringing. ‘Kats Adie’ is the formidable woman, who was thrown out of Libya after she put the fear of the Almighty into Colonel Gaddafy. She is most certainly not afraid to ask awkward questions of the powerful.

The Beeb does have its faults. Its biased news coverage enrages me, and has been criticised many times for its bias against Labour and to the Conservatives. On the other hand, at its best it does provide good, solid public service broadcasting that few of its commercial rivals are able or even willing to provide. And advertising increasingly cannot provide the needed funding for some TV programmes today. A few years ago there were plans to bring back Spitting Image, the much-loved satirical puppet show screened on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings. This was eventually dropped because it was simply too expensive.

And no matter how biased the Beeb is, Murdoch’s worse. The more he goes on, the more he resembles the Bond villain, a media-mogul, who planned to start a war between America and China simply for its news value. That particular piece of Bondage ended with Commander Bond and his mates killing the villain, who was then reported as sinking in the South China Sea along with his stealth yacht. An end very similar to the drowning of Robert Maxwell. After something like five decades of lowering media standards across the globe, you feel it’s about time someone from the world’s covert intelligence agencies made him put a sock in it.

In the meantime, here’s Spitting Image on the Dirty Digger and his nearly subterranean journalistic standards.

The Young Turks on Fox News Attacking Obama’s Plan for Free Community College Tuition

February 24, 2016

This is another example of a policy by the Democrats that should be taken up over here. And of the right-wing rage that would accompany it if it ever was. The clip comes from a year ago (2015) and shows Steve Doocy and the rest of Fox and Friends getting very annoyed with Obama. That in itself is no surprise. What is interesting is the reason this time round. Obama had the sheer audacity to state that he was going to make federal funds available to pay for two years’ tuition at community colleges. The federal authorities would pay for three-quarters’ of the tuition fees for those two years, and the individual state would be required to pay the rest. This would mean, according to one of the pundits on the TYT panel, that Americans would save on $15,000 tuition fees each year for those two years.

Doocy on Fox and Friends can’t stand it. He states that he’s only just finished paying off his college fees, and doesn’t see why anyone else should get the chance of a free higher education. The Fox panel also shout that if you’ve just got a baby now, you’re not just going to pay for their education, but someone else’s as well. Students shouldn’t have the right to a free education, because nothing is free.

The Turks’ panel of John Iadarola, Dave Rubin, Jimmy Dore and R.J. Eskow give that attitude very short-shrift. They point out that the estimated $60 billion it’s supposedly going to cost is actually the total amount the American state spends on education. They also point out that investing in education is the way Finland actually boosted its economy by educating its people. They also make the point that the money is better spent on education, which will also ultimately benefit everyone in the areas the students in which the students are studying, than just simply giving it to millionaires in the form of tax cuts.

As for the line that present-day students shouldn’t have it, because it didn’t exist way back when, Iadarola states that this is a profoundly un-American attitude. He states that when American introduced Social Security, nobody argued against it’s introduction because, hey, their aunt had to scrimp and save and go without, so why should others have it easy. Or they came to America as indentured servants or slaves, so why should indentured servitude or slavery be ended. People generally want things to be better for the next generation than they are now, not the same or worse. And in the case of education, they certainly don’t agree that something that important, where primary and secondary education are free, should also be made more expensive to stop people taking it up.

As for Steve Doocy, they point out that he’s 58 years old, and attended one of the better American universities. He’d therefore still have to pay his tuition fees if this came in, because he did not go to Community College. Their producer also makes the point that Doocy was at College in the 1970s, so there’s no way he has only just paid off his student debt. And they also argue that the average student debt is so large, $20-30,000, that the only way students can afford to pay it off is for the luck 0.1% to become Fox News presenters.

I’ve reblogged this because British students are now in the same position since Bliar’s government introduced tuition fees, and the Lib-Dem-Tory Coalition hiked them up massively. In the case of Bliar, he was a member of the British-American Project, a Reaganite initiative for schooling the next generation of British politicians. He and the other leaders of New Labour were impressed with Reaganite American attitudes and policies. In the case of Cameron and Clegg, they’re Thatcherite toffs, who resent the working classes getting above themselves and having opportunities which they feel should rightly belong solely to the well-heeled. And it is a Thatcherite policy. I can remember it being discussed when the Iron Lady was doing her best to destroy everything decent in British political culture. Mind you, there were certain figures in the Labour party even then, who supported it, like David Cox, the Labour MP for Hartcliffe in Bristol.

It’s slightly ironic that as British politics has moved to the right with New Labour, so parts of the Democrats have moved to the Left. This particular policy is rather more left-wing, for example, than the current policy in Britain.

I’ve also reblogged this because I’ve also heard the refrain directed against certain policies over this side of the Atlantic, that people shouldn’t have particular benefits, ’cause ‘we never had it in our day.’ And the reply should be the same: it’s not an argument, as people should want to make things better, as The Young Turks have said about education above.

Joshua Bonehill: Hollywood Nazi Troll?

April 30, 2015

I found this interesting little statement by the comedy fuehrer, Joshua Bonehill, on the entry for him on the Rationalwiki site through the link to it on the SlatUKIP page. I’ve posted a number of pieces on Bonehill commenting on his ludicrous attempts to set himself up as some kind of Far Right generalissimo. He is notorious for hacking into other people’s blogs and twitter accounts in order to malign or threaten them. One of his favourite tactics is to claim falsely that they are paedophiles, a particularly vile and dangerous smear. He was also found guilty of making false claims against pub, whose staff were threatened following another of his lies. He claimed that they wouldn’t serve British servicemen in order not to upset Muslims.

Bonehill as Britain’s prospective Fascist dictator, Bonehill posts racist and anti-Semitic material on his blog. He was appealing for people to join his neo-Nazi organisation as members of an elite bodyguard for him, now styling himself the Founder. He was one of the leading names behind a Far Right march against the ‘jewification’ of Stamford Hill, a predominantly Jewish community in London.

The National British Resistance

A few weeks ago he also got in his local paper for launching his latest Fascist party, National British Resistance, in one of the parks in Yeovil. Despite claiming later on his blog that his party’s founding was attended in secret by fifty Fascists, some of whom had flown in from Northern Ireland, the only member of his massive Fascist legion to appear was, er, him.

He pretty much resembles Spode and his Blackshorts , P.G. Wodehouse’s spoof of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists in Jeeves and Wooster, though ‘Founder’ Bonehill’s antics include stunts that Spode would definitely consider well below acceptable behaviour. Like being thrown out of Tesco for trying to defecate in their frozen food section, or prosecution for trying to break into a police station to steal uniforms and equipment.

Bonehill and Trolling

According to a statement by Bonehill himself, preserved on the Rationalwiki, all this Fascist posturing may be just that: a pose. Bonehill has said that this is an attempt to create a false persona in order to troll the Far Right and anti-Fascists alike, based on David Bowie’s adoption of the Ziggy Stardust persona in the 1970s. The full statements says

“It was after listening to David Bowie’s iconic album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” on repeat for the best part of a day, I realised that I too could potentially create a “Persona” and play a character but instead of basing my character in the musical world, I’d place him in the political world – Leader Bonehill, the Founder was born.

Firstly I created my fictional and satire news website – this was the Daily Bale – and set about generating headlines which quickly went viral throughout 2013. I was responsible for creating myths such as the campaign to ban black pudding and various other oddities that were quickly picked up upon right-wing groups such as the EDL and Britain First to which went viral.

Very quickly I found myself at the head of a large news network and found that I had the power to make many hundreds of thousands of people believe utterly insane and crazy things under the guise of Daily Bale News. To this day, people still share Daily Bale articles and I believe it will withstand the test of time.

[…]

After the Daily Bale I took upon elevating my persona the Leader and Founder to another level which became the “National British Resistance”. The NBR was a Far-Right Nationalist movement led by the fierce and no-nonsense dictator, Leader Bonehill.

Through the NBR I made many outlandish claims for instance one of them was that I could “heal” the Left-Wing through a rebirth process and I also claimed to be a “Right-Wing messiah”. I stood in astonishment as people were eating this bait and taking me VERY seriously to the point where I became the obsession of many social media users.

It wasn’t until the press and media caught onto my activity and started reporting on me as a real person that the ego started to be transferred into the real world. I was invited to speak at meetings and felt almost forced to display this persona in public and this I couldn’t keep on doing because it fundamentally went against everything I believe in as a person.

Yes – I make no bones about it, for the past 16 months I have been trolling relentlessly at the expense of both the Left and the Right – it has been through this trolling that I am now appearing back in court over Daily Bale articles but this was a price I was prepared to pay and knew that my actions would of course have very real world consequences.

Leader Bonehill came alive and consumed me at times, the ego almost controlled me and took upon a very powerful and possessive role in my normal everyday life. I found myself almost believing that I was a “Right-Wing messiah” and had been sent from another planet to free the people and bring about a new great nationalist age – though this of course in reality was absolute bollocks and would never happen.

[…]

Everything I have said and done, right from posing for photographs or the videos I have made are the result of this “Persona”. These do not represent my real views and can instead be seen as a comical ‘act'”.

According to the RationalWiki site, Bonehill has since taken this down, but it’s been archived elsewhere. The piece can be read at http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Joshua_Bonehill-Paine.

From this, it would seem that Founder Bonehill is a ‘Hollywood Nazi’, the term the Far Right give to those play acting at being Fascists, but who aren’t the real Nazi thing. And there have been any number of them.

The grotesque theatricality of Fascism, with its bonkers leaders spouting their vitriolic nonsense to crowds at from government palaces and the Nuremberg stadium, the whole weird, twisted spectacle of marches, rallies and parades, and the sinister fascination with its regalia – the uniforms, flags, badges, propaganda posters – has attracted a number of characters over the years, who have adopted it not from any sympathy with Fascism, but from a simple desire to shock and upset. To epater les bourgeois.

Hippies and Punk Fascist Styles

In the 1960s there was a Hippy Nazi party in Florida, which probably had no purpose other than to wind up the straights. One section of the Punks in the 1970s deliberately courted controversy by dressing up in Nazi uniform as part of their general assault on staid, conventional society. Sid Vicious apparently wandered around a Jewish area of Paris in Nazi uniform, but surprisingly wasn’t beaten up.

David Bowie

Bonehill claims he was inspired by Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. In fact, the Thin White Duke did was at the centre of controversy in the 1970s because of his apparent Nazi inclinations. He was arrested by West Berlin’s finest for getting drunk and making the Fascist salute outside the remains of Hitler’s bunker on the anniversary of the Fuehrer’s birthday. Or death – I can’t remember which.

Bowie also directly prompted the formation of Rock Against Racism, after he announced on British television that in the elections that year there was only ‘one choice’ to run the country, and so was offering himself as the Fascist candidate.

Bowie obviously isn’t, and never was, a true Fascist of any kind. For all the homosexuality amongst certain sections of the Nazi party, the Nazis themselves hated gay men and sent them to the concentration camps. They also had very strict and traditional ideas on gender roles. A woman’s place was ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche’ – children, kitchen, church. As for masculinity, this was belligerent and aggressive. One Italian Fascist slogan proclaimed ‘Fighting is to man, what motherhood is to woman’. Bowie’s bisexual, androgynous persona in Ziggy Stardust would have been bitterly hated and denounced by the Nazis, just as it was by more traditional, staid members of the older generation.

And there are two other reasons why the Nazis also wouldn’t have adopted Bowie. Pop music has its roots in the mixture of White American country music, and Black barrelhouse jazz. The Nazis, as racists, hated Jazz because of its origins in Black culture, and what they saw as its permissiveness and sexual decadence. Quite apart from the fact that Bowie wasn’t racist, as shown by his later marriage to Iman, a woman whose name is the Arabic for ‘Faith’.

The impression I had was that Bowie in the 1970s was less a Fascist, than a very confused mam, driven nearly to the edge of sanity by the adulation of his fans.

Laibach and the NSK

Then there’s NSK and the Industrial rock band, Laibach. They were from the former Yugoslavia, and were part of a wider art collective, Neue Slowenische Kunst, or ‘New Slovenian Art’ in English. Way back in the 1980s they produced a very Wagnerian cover version of ‘Live is Life’, by the Austrian pop band, Opus. The video was shot very much in the style of the kind of Nazi propaganda films celebrating the countryside, hiking and healthy peasant values. The whole album, Opus Dei, could be seen as an exercise in the kind of music that would have been produced, had the Nazis decided to cover the Beatles, Rod Stewart and Queen.

According to one, very scurrilous and entirely unreliable website, the group deliberately set out to portray themselves as genuine neo-Nazis, dressing in Nazi uniforms. They did so, not because they really were members of the hordes of European stormtroopers, but simply to frighten and annoy the Yugoslav government. The band themselves were anti-Nazi, some of the images they used in their art was designed by anti-Nazi artists. Matters finally came to head when the band spectacularly announced that they were ending the whole charade at a concert. They apparently declared ‘We are as much Fascists as Hitler was an artist’. The Aryan warriors of the Far Right immediately went into meltdown. I’ve heard tales of British Nazis angrily destroying their records when they heard about how they’d been deceived.

When the civil war erupted in the former Yugoslavia, and real Fascism raised its ugly head in the chaos of violence, terror and brutal ethnic cleansing, NSK fled to western Europe. They’ve still continued to make music. One of their most recent projects was on the score for the Finnish SF film, The Iron Sky. This was about a war between an America led by a female president, not too far removed from Sarah Palin, and a Nazi colony on the Moon founded after the fall of the Third Reich.

Laibach’s imagery and artistic style draws partly on Wagnerian opera and the imagery and non-racial motifs of the Third Reich, but this is very much artistic pastiche. Their album Opus Dei can be seen as a comment on the Fascist cult of the leader, and the Second World War as trans-European international conflict, but there’s no racist or anti-Semitic content in the music or covered songs themselves.

The Imperial league of British Fascists

At a much lower level, there also have been a number of small groups here in Britain that have attempted to pose as Nazis in order to cause panic and outrage. Way back in the 1990s or early part of this century, the sceptical Ufolks at Magonia reported the furore surrounding the appearance of another bunch of neo-Nazis in the greater London area. This group styled themselves the Imperial League of British Fascists, and were photographed in the local press in Nazi regalia. Further investigation, however, revealed that there was no such Imperial League, and the assembled stormtroopers were merely the supposed informant, who revealed the story to the press, and his mates having a tasteless laugh.

The Fake Nazis of German TV News

Something similar happened in Germany at about the same time. The Fortean Times reported a case, where a group neo-Nazis supposedly filmed in secret goose-stepping about and generally lowering the standards of the Bundesrepublik, were also found to be the film-maker’s own mates in fancy dress. The film-maker had started a scam in which he produced bogus footage of fringe groups performing weird rituals, and then sent them in to the local news programmes on German television as supposedly real events. For which he was paid. He started with the KKK, then moved to the Odinists and Germanic Neo-Pagans before finally being caught with the Nazis. A particularly eagle-eyed viewer noticed that some of the stormtroopers were the same people as the Klansmen and pagans in his other films.

It’s a funny incident, but underneath the comedy is the sobering, horrific reality of the Third Reich and its murder of tens of millions purely because of their race and political beliefs. Contemporary Germany is still coming to terms with the Hitlerdiktatur and its horrors, which means that stunts like this go beyond a joke.

Bonehill – Not Artist, Just Bully

So, if Bonehill is only posing as Nazi as part of some twisted idea of trolling the public and the Far Right, then he’s not the first by any means. Others have done it long before, and no doubt there’ll be similar idiots doing the same in the future as long as the Nazis and their shock value retain some kind of perceived comedic potential.

Possibly the best thing that can be said of many of these individuals, like the German Nazis in the spoof footage, and the Imperial League of British Fascists, is that they stopped when they were finally caught out. Laibach, by far the best of them, knew when to pack it all in and just carry on as rock musicians. Although their music was partly a pastiche of Nazi forms, they had a following, which recognised this as an artistic statement, rather than a genuine political stance , which allowed them to go on long after they had given up the joke.

Bonehill, by contrast, seems to be just a genuinely malign and unpleasant character, who seems to get some kind of perverse pleasure through being personally insulting and persecuting his victims. He is responsible, after all, for posting grotesquely libellous smears against others, including manufacturing a fake image of a Labour election poster for a particularly controversial Black female politico, claiming that she hates Whites.

There’s no artistic value in these antics. Bonehill doesn’t have the musical talents of Bowie, Sid Vicious, Siouxie Sioux or Laibach, and, unlike some of the provocations of the extreme Left, he can’t and doesn’t justify these as Situationist happenings, as Malcolm McLaren did with the excesses of the Punks. It just seems to be personal abuse and victimisation, simply from a bizarre, malicious delight in tormenting others. It’s bullying, pure and simple, no better than the weird personal abuse meted out online by other, normal trolls, who at least don’t try to justify their actions through appeals to David Bowie’s stage antics four decades ago.

This is, of course, assuming that Bonehill is a ‘Hollywood Nazi’. He may well be, but if he is, it appears that there’s also something inside him that enjoys the feelings of malign power he gets by posing as a wannabe dictator.
Whatever the reality is, he’s unpleasant, and it’s long past time the trolling and vilification stopped.

UKIP’s Alliance with the Extreme Right in the European Parliament

May 17, 2014

NigelFarage

I reblogged earlier today Mike’s piece on Farage’s grilling by LBC radio’s James O’Brien, in which he was asked some uncomfortable questions about racism and homophobia within the party, and Farage’s own comments about feeling uncomfortable in a railway carriage in which the was the person speaking English. He was also asked another awkward question about the party’s association with the parties of extreme Right, despite UKIP itself boasting of being a non-racist, non-sectarian party, which refuses to admit members of the BNP. Mike wrote

There was an implication that Farage, who has banned former members of the BNP from joining UKIP in an effort to protect the party from adverse publicity, has himself associated with the far-right organisation; and a question over the far-right parties with which UKIP sits in the European Parliament. Farage said UKIP would not sit with people who didn’t have a reasonable point of view but O’Brien flagged up a member of the group who had said the ideas of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, Islamophobe, Anti-Semite and anti-feminist, were “in defence of Western civilisation”.

Farage’s paper-thin defence was that the European political discourse was very different to the UK, (again) an admission that his party had encountered problems with “one or two members”, and a reference to problems in other parties (the Conservatives, on this occasion)

O’Brien leapt on this: “Your defence so far is that you’re no different from any other political party and yet your unique selling point … is that you are different.”

One of Mike’s commenters, HStorm, pointed out the hypocrisy in Farage’s attitude:

‘Farage’s paper-thin defence was that the European political discourse was very different to the UK, (again) an admission that his party had encountered problems with “one or two members”, and a reference to problems in other parties (the Conservatives, on this occasion)’

I find it amusing that an anti-European separatist, who is uncomfortable sitting on a train on which people dare to speak in other languages, should pontificate in the name of how political discourse is carried out in other parts of Europe. Surely if he prefers the notion that freedom-of-speech-equals-no-consequences-for-irresponsible-speech then he should live in precisely those countries that, he says, practise that manner of discourse. And yet he wants the UK to distance itself from them?

Why do so few people spot this enormous paradox in his position?

Farage’s comments about political discourse being different in other parts of Europe, thus allowing his party to join the same bloc as extreme Nationalist parties like the Danish People’s Party and the True Finns is also wrong and weak. It’s true to say that many of the other European countries don’t have the same culture of political correctness that there is in Britain. A Danish friend of mine told me that in Scandinavia non-Whites are regarded with a suspicion and hostility that he felt didn’t exist to the same extent in Britain. The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ten years ago described in her column the personal hostility she encountered as an Asian when she and her family went on holiday in France. I’ve also heard from others how the shops in some areas, like the south of France, will refuse to serve Arabs. Having said that, Alibhai-Brown has also written about how she and her family were treated well with no hint of racism when they went on another holiday across La Manche. And in the 1980s there was a national anti-racist movement amongst the young, when White youths showed solidarity with the Arab compatriots under a slogan, which translated as ‘Don’t Touch My Buddy’. This was initially directed against nightclubs, which refused to admit Arabs.

Yet even in those countries, where it has been alleged that racism is more widespread than in Britain, the extreme Right is still very definitely not respectable. The Financial Times also described in one of its columns how the Germans also don’t share the Anglo-American culture of political correctness. Nevertheless, there are naturally very strong laws in Germany against Nazism. At least one Neo-Nazi party, the NPD, was banned for a time in the 1970s under the Basic Law as an anti-democratic force for an article it published in its newspaper celebrating Hitler’s birthday. One of the more amusing ways Germans have taken to express their very strong hatred of the new, extreme Right is through mass demonstrations taking the mick out of them. Paul Merton covered one of these in his travel programme a few years ago journeying through the land of Kant, Goethe, and Wagner.

This is the anti-apple movement, the members of which were shown gathering outside one of the Neo-Nazi parties’ HQs in Berlin. There the protestors held up placards showing apples with the ‘banned’ symbol stamped across them, and shouted slogans about deporting apples, like ‘Sudfruchte Raus!’ – ‘Southern Fruits Out!’. The protest was organised by the politics professor at the University, who was very definitely no kind of Nazi. I found out later that the head of one of the Neo-Nazi organisations named had the element, ‘Apfel’, ‘apple’, and I have the impression that foreign immigrants of African ancestry are referred to as ‘southerners’. Hence the slogans about southern fruit. It’s a way of parodying the Neo-Nazis own racism and xenophobia, while turning into a very pointed attack on their Fuhrer.

Put simply, the growing popularity on the continent of parties like the True Finns, the Danish People’s Party, or the Front National in France doesn’t make them any more respectable in their countries, let alone over here. As an ostensibly anti-racist party, UKIP certainly is under no obligation to sit with them or form blocs with them in the European parliament.

Immigration, ID Cards and the Erosion of British Freedom: Part 1

October 12, 2013

‘The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts’.

– Edmund Burke.

Edmund Burke is regarded as the founder of modern Conservatism, the defender of tradition, freedom, and gradual change against revolutionary innovation based solely on abstract principle. He was also the 18th century MP, who successfully campaigned for the Canadian provinces to be given self-government on the grounds that, as they paid their taxes, so they had earned their right to government. His defence of tradition came from his observation of the horror of the French Revolution and his ideas regarding their political and social causes, as reflected in his great work, Reflections on the Revolution in France. While his Conservatism may justly be attacked by those on the Left, the statement on the gradual, incremental danger to liberty is still very much true, and should be taken seriously by citizens on both the Left and Right sides of the political spectrum. This should not be a party political issue.

In my last post, I reblogged Mike’s article commenting on recent legislation attempting to cut down on illegal immigration. This essentially devolved the responsibility for checking on the status of immigrants to private individuals and organisations, such as banks and landlords. As with much of what the government does, or claims to do, it essentially consists of the state putting its duties and responsibilities into the private sphere. Among the groups protesting at the proposed new legislation were the BMA, immgrants’ rights groups and the Residential Landlords’ Association. The last were particularly concerned about the possible introduction of identification documents, modelled on the 404 European papers, in order to combat illegal immigration. Such fears are neither new nor unfounded. I remember in the early 1980s Mrs Thatcher’s administration considered introduction ID cards. The plan was dropped as civil liberties groups were afraid that this would create a surveillance society similar to that of Nazi Germany or the Communist states. The schemes were mooted again in the 1990s first by John Major’s administration, and then by Blair’s Labour party, following pressure from the European Union, which apparently considers such documents a great idea. The Conservative papers then, rightly but hypocritically, ran articles attacking the scheme.

There are now a couple of books discussing and criticising the massive expansion of state surveillance in modern Britain and our gradual descent into just such a totalitarian surveillance state portrayed in Moore’s V for Vendetta. One of these is Big Brother: Britain’s Web of Surveillance and the New Technological Order, by Simon Davies, published by Pan in 1996. Davies was the founder of Privacy International, a body set up in 1990 to defend individual liberties from encroachment by the state and private corporations. He was the Visiting Law Fellow at the University of Essex and Chicago’s John Marshall Law School. Davies was suspicious of INSPASS – the Immigration and Naturalisation Service Passenger Accelerated Service System, an automatic system for checking and verifying immigration status using palm-prints and smart cards. It was part of the Blue Lane information exchange system in which information on passengers was transmitted to different countries ahead of the journey. The countries using the system were the US, Canada, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Davies considered the scheme a danger to liberty through the state’s increasing use of technology to monitor and control the population.

At the time Davies was writing, 90 countries used ID cards including Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. They also included such sterling examples of democracy as Thailand and Singapore. In the latter, the ID card was used as an internal passport and was necessary for every transaction. The Singaporean government under Lee Kwan Yew has regularly harassed and imprisoned political opponents. The longest serving prisoner of conscience isn’t in one of the Arab despotisms or absolute monarchies, nor in Putin’s Russia. They’re in Singapore. A few years ago the country opened its first free speech corner, modelled on Hyde Park’s own Speaker’s Corner. You were free to use it, provided you gave due notice about what you were planning to talk about to the police first for their approval. There weren’t many takers. As for Thailand, each citizen was issued a plastic identity card. The chip in each contained their thumbprint and photograph, as well as details of their ancestry, education, occupation, nationality, religion, and police records and tax details. It also contains their Population Number, which gives access to all their documents, whether public or private. It was the world’s second largest relational database, exceeded in size only by that of the Mormon Church at their headquarters in Salt Lake City. Thailand also has a ‘village information system’, which collates and monitors information at the village level. This is also linked to information on the person’s electoral preferences, public opinion data and information on candidates in local elections. The Bangkok post warned that the system would strengthen the interior ministry and the police. If you needed to be reminded, Thailand has regularly appeared in the pages of the ‘Letter from…’ column in Private Eye as it is a barely disguised military dictatorship.

In 1981 France’s President Mitterand declared that ‘the creation of computerised identity cards contains are real danger for the liberty of individuals’. This did not stop France and the Netherlands passing legislation requiring foreigners to carry identity cards. The European umbrella police organisation, Europol, also wanted all the nations in Europe to force their citizens to carry identity cards. At the global level, the International Monetary Fund routinely included the introduction of ID cards into the criteria of economic, social and political performance for nations in the developing world.

Davies’ own organisation, Privacy International, founded in 1990, reported than in their survey of 50 countries using ID cards, the police in virtually all of them abused the system. The abuses uncovered by the organisation included detention after failure to produce the card, and the beating of juveniles and members of minorities, as well as massive discrimination based on the information the card contained.

In Australia, the financial sector voiced similar concerns about the scheme to those expressed recently by the landlords and immigrants’ rights and welfare organisations. Under the Australian scheme, employees in the financial sector were required by law to report suspicious information or abuse of ID cards to the government. The penalty for neglecting or refusing to do so was gaol. The former chairman of the Pacific nation’s largest bank, Westpar, Sir Noel Foley, attacked the scheme. It was ‘a serious threat to the privacy, liberty and safety of every citizen’. The Australian Financial Review stated in an editorial on the cards that ‘It is simply obscene to use revenue arguments (‘We can make more money out of the Australia Card’) as support for authoritarian impositions rather than take the road of broadening national freedoms’. Dr Bruce Shepherd, the president of the Australian Medical Association stated of the scheme that ‘It’s going to turn Australian against Australian. But given the horrific impact the card will have on Australia, its defeat would almost be worth fighting a civil war for’. To show how bitterly the country that produced folk heroes like Ned Kelly thought of this scheme, cartoons appeared in the Ozzie papers showing the country’s president, Bob Hawke, in Nazi uniform.

For those without ID cards, the penalties were harsh. They could not be legally employed, or, if in work, paid. Farmers, who didn’t have them, could not collect payments from marketing boards. If you didn’t have a card, you also couldn’t access your bank account, cash in any investments, give or receive money from a solicitor, or receive money from unity, property or cash management trusts. You also couldn’t rent or buy a home, receive unemployment benefit, or the benefits for widows, supporting parents, or for old age, sickness and invalidity. There was a A$5,000 fine for deliberate destruction of the card, a A$500 fine if you lost the card but didn’t report it. The penalty for failing to attend a compulsory conference at the ID agency was A$1,000 or six months gaol. The penalty for refusing to produce it to the Inland Revenue when they demanded was A$20,000. About 5 per cent of the cards were estimated to be lost, stolen or deliberately destroyed each year.

The ID Card was too much for the great Australian public to stomach, and the scheme eventually had to be scrapped. It’s a pity that we Poms haven’t learned from our Ozzie cousins and that such ID schemes are still being seriously contemplated over here. It is definitely worth not only whingeing about, but protesting very loudly and strongly indeed.

In Part 2 of this article, I will describe precisely what the scheme does not and cannot do, despite all the inflated claims made by its proponents.