Archive for the ‘Gas’ Category

Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 2

November 18, 2017

This is the second part of my article on the interview with Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show. Martin is the presenter of the Empire Files on TeleSur English, and a former presenter at RT. She is impassioned, incisive and tells the story of the victims of American and western imperialism both abroad in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the mass of severely normal Americans at home burdened with the tax bill and the sheer rapacious greed of the neoliberal, corporate elite.

She states that Boeing and the other big corporations fund the adverts in the media simply to show the journos, who’s paying their wages, and so keep in line. The media is now all about advertising, not news.

They then talk about the rampant Russia-phobia, which Martin says is causing her to lose her mind. At first she just thought it was the product of Trump and his brown shirts. Dore rips this to shreds by pointing out that it’s not Russia that preventing Americans from getting what they want on a range of issues. 90 per cent of Americans want some form of gun control. But they ain’t getting, and it’s not because of Russia. 80 per cent of the US wanted a public option for Obamacare. Didn’t get it. Not because of Russia either. Americans also want Medicare For All and free college education. Denied that too – but not by the Russians. And everybody in America wants the wars to end. And it ain’t the Russians that are preventing that from happening. The people really screwing America is Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, big pharma, and the fossil fuel industry.

Back to Boeing and its adverts, the company’s funding Meet the Press to shut the press up. Half of America doesn’t believe in climate change, because it’s just presented by the media as just another point of view. And this is because the networks are funded by the fossil fuel industry. And the networks bring on general after endless general to talk about how the US should go to war with North Korea. All they talk about is how the war should be fought, but they are never challenged on the reason why. They never bring on Medea Benjamin, the head of the anti-war opposition group, Code Pink, except to mock her. Similarly, you never see union leaders on TV, nor are there any anti-war voices. As for Brian Williams, who was sacked for telling porkies about how he took fire, his real crime was that he didn’t tell his audience that the ‘objective’ news he was broadcasting was paid for by the generals who appeared on his show.

They then talk about the revolving door between the generals and the defence contractors. After the generals retire, they go to work for some company like General Electric. Martin talks about the $500 million in one bill sponsored by John McCain, to train the Ukrainians against Russian aggression. She caustically and accurately remarks that ‘we’re now funding neo-Nazis’, after setting up the coup that overthrew their last president. America is also giving $750 million to Israel for defence.

The Russia scare was hatched by Ralph Mook and John Podesta in the Democrat party, and it’s grown into a huge conspiracy. Martin describes how she saw it all developing three years ago when she was working for RT. They first attacked Al-Jazeera, demonising it as the propaganda wing of Saddam Hussein. Then they turned against RT as a network and her personally. She states that the report on which the accusations are based is rubbish. It looks like it was half written by some unpaid intern. There’s that contempt for any truth or real fact in this document. She noticed when one of RT’s presenters publicly resigned over Putin’s annexation of the Crimea. That was a psy-ops operation launched by William Kristol, one of the founders of the Neocons and the head of the Project for the New American Century. There was absolute no proof that Russia was meddling in American democracy. And half of the document attacked Martin personally. It was fomenting radical discontent, and the elite hated the way they covered third parties, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street. so talking about how half of America has less than $1,000 in savings is now Russian propaganda. It’s at this point that Martin states she never said anything in praise in Putin. She states that there are plenty of leftists and socialists working at the network, not because they like Putin, but because there is nowhere else to go.

They then talk about how the Democrat party is full of people, who voted for Bush twice. And particularly the way Keith Olberman, whom Martin had previously admired, came out and publicly apologised to George Dubya. She states that Bush is a war criminal. He set up a gulag (Guantanamo) killed and tortured people wholesale, but when he appeared on Oprah she held his hand as if he was Buddha! Martin said she realised Obama was a fake when he refused to prosecute the war criminals. So now they have Trump, who’s hated because he’s a narcissist, but knows he will have people applauding every time he bombs people. They ask rhetorically whether the media will apologise to Nixon if Trump wins a second term.

They then go on to discuss how Trump is actually less dangerous, and more of a threat to the establishment, then Mike Pence, the Vice-President. Martin describes Pence, with good reason, as a ‘Christian ISIS who wants to kill gays’. He’s psychotic, but you wouldn’t have the cult of personality you have with Trump. She states that the Christian Evangelicals love him, as without him they wouldn’t have got in. And so Pence and DeVos are quite happy to use him as the fall guy, taking the rap for the policies they’re pushing through Congress. Trump represents the worst elements in society – the cult of celebrity, of reality TV shows, the adulation given to millionaires. She states that Joyce Behar, another personality, was paradoxically the voice of reason when she said on one interview that things wouldn’t be better if they only got rid of Trump. No, not if that meant Mike Pence becoming president. They talk about how, when Bush was in power, everyone talked about Bush Derangement Disorder. Then it was Obama Derangement Disorder, and now its Trump Derangement Disorder. But Dore also points out that progressives dodged a bullet with Trump. Voting for the lesser of two evils meant that they got Trump, who is too incompetent to get his policies through.

To be continued in Part 3.

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Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia: Part 1

November 7, 2017

I’ve put up several pieces about workers’ control and industrial democracy, the system in which the workers in a particular firm or industry have their representatives elected on to the board of management. It was particularly highly developed in Communist Yugoslavia, following the ideas of Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj, and formed an integral part of that country’s independent Communist system following the break with Stalin and the Soviet-dominated Comintern in 1948.

In 1963 the Fabian Society published the above pamphlet by Frederick Singleton, a lecturer on Geography and International Affairs in the Department of Industrial Administration at the Bradford Institute of Technology, and Anthony Topham, a staff tutor in Social Studies in the Adult Education department of Hull University.

The pamphlet had the following contents.

Chapter 1 was on Political Structure, and contained sections on the Communist Assumption of Power, the 1946 Constitution, the 1953 Constitution, and the Policy of the League of Communists.

Chapter 2: Economic Planning, had sections on the Legacy of the Past, From Administration to Fiscal Planning, Autonomy for the Enterprise, the Investment System, and Recent Developments.

Chapter: The Working Collective, has sections on the Workers’ Council, the Managing Board, the Director, Departmental Councils, Economic Units, the Disposal of Funds by Economic Units, Allocation of Personal Income, Structure and Role of the Trade Unions, the Right to Strike, Education for Workers’ Self-Management, Workers’ Universities, Worker’s Management in Action: Decision Making, Structure of a Multi-Plant Enterprise, and Incentives or Democracy: the Problem of Motive.

The final chapter, was the Conclusion, which considered the lessons the system had for Britain. It ran:

In considering the lessons which British socialists may draw from the Yugoslav experience, we must not lose sight of the different nature of our two societies and the disparity in levels of industrial development. But it is also relevant to ask how far the ideas of workers’ control could, with the stimulus of the Yugoslav experience, become a truly popular element of British Labour policy. It is true that, with the Yugoslav exception, past experience of this form of Socialism has been inconclusive and fragmentary. Usually, it has been associated with periods of revolutionary fervour such as the Paris Commune of 1871, the Catalan movement during the Spanish Civil War, and the factory Soviets of Russia in 1917-18. The experience of Owenite Utopian communities in this and other countries is misleading, in that they existed as small and vulnerable enclaves in a basically hostile society. On the other hand, there is an authentic tradition within the British Labour movement, represented by the early shop stewards’ movement, the Guild Socialists and Industrial Unionists, upon which we can draw. The Fabian tradition too, is not exclusively centralist or bureaucratic. In the 1888 volume of Fabian essays, Annie Besant raised the question of decentralisation. She did not believe that ‘the direct election of the manager and foreman by the employees would be found to work well’, but she advocated control of industry ‘through communal councils, which will appoint committees to superintend the various branches of industry. These committees will engage the necessary managers and foremen for each shop and factory.’ The importance attached to municipal ownership and control in early Fabian writings is related to the idea of the Commune, in the government of which the workers have a dual representation as consumer-citizens and as producers. This affinity to Yugoslav Commune government is even more marked in the constitutions evolved in Guild Socialist writings.

The history of the progressive abandonment of these aims, and the adoption of the non-representative Public Corporation as the standard form for British Socialised undertakings, is well known. Joint consultation, which was made compulsory in all nationalised industries, became the only instrument of workers’ participation. Yet the problem of democracy in industry is one which should be of great concern to the British socialist. It must surely be apparent that the nationalised industries have failed to create amongst the mass of their workers a feeling of personal and group responsibility. Even in the most ‘trouble-free’ gas and electricity industries, there is little real enthusiasm for the present system of worker-management relations. Nationalisation may have appeared to the Labour government to have solved the problems of the industries concerned. But the experience of the workers in these industries has not confirmed this. They found that joint consultation between managers and unions leaders plus vaguely defined parliamentary control did not create anything resembling industrial democracy. Had it done so, there would have been much stronger popular resistance to the anti-nationalisation propaganda which was so successful in the years preceding the 1959 election.

We therefore feel that the basic aim of the Yugoslavs is one which has validity for our own situation, and we conclude with some observations on the British situation suggested by an acquaintance with the Yugoslav system.

The Problem of Scale

The forms of economic organisation and management which have been evolved by the Yugoslavs are unique, and a study of them provides a valuable stimulus to those who seek ‘a real understanding of a scheme of workers’ control that is sufficiently comprehensive to operate over an entire industry, from top to bottom, and through the whole range of activities’. However, as the scale of production grows, the problem of ensuring that democratic control extends beyond primary groups such as Economic Units through the intermediate levels to the central management of the firm and the industry, becomes more and more difficult. There is a strong body of opinion which believes that schemes of workers’ control must ultimately founder in the context of modern large-scale production. The small, multi-firm industries of the Yugoslav economy make democratic control less difficult than in a highly developed industrial society such as our own.

But questions, which should be asked in relation to our own economy are: how far could the nationalised industries be broken down into the smaller, competing units, without serious loss of efficiency? How far is the growth in the average size of firm (as opposed to scale of production units) the outcome of purely commercial and power considerations, rather than concern for increased efficiency through economies of scale? How far have we been misled by the mystique of managerial skill into accepting the necessity of autocratic control by the managers in both private and public industries? After all, the principle of lay control over salaried experts is the normal and accepted principle in national and local government, and within the Co-operative movement. The decisions in these fields are no less complex and ‘technical’ than in industry. Where lay control in local Councils and Co-operative Management Boards is more apparent than real, how far is this due to the prevailing faith in technology, which makes us reluctant to transform the contribution of the elected representatives by a thorough and enthusiastic education programme of the kind found in the Yugoslav Workers’ Universities?

In the conditions of modern industry, decisions taken by line managers and directors are frequently a matter of choosing between alternative course the consequences of which have been calculated by technical staffs. Such decisions are of a social and political, rather than a technical nature, i.e. they are precisely the sort of decisions which should be undertaken by democratic bodies. These factors should be borne in mind when examining the conclusions of some writers that, whilst the Yugoslav experience is interesting, and may have relevance for countries at a similar stage of industrialisation, it has little bearing on the problems of advanced industries societies.

Continued in Part 2.

Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control In Yugoslavia: Part 3 – My Conclusion

November 7, 2017

Continued from Part 2.

In parts 1 and 2 of this post I described the contents of the above Fabian pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia, by Frederick Singleton and Anthony Topham, published in 1963.

The authors attempted to show how, despite a very lukewarm attitude to the idea at the time, workers’ control could be a viable possibility for British industry. The authors’ noted that the very limited gesture towards worker participation in the nationalised industries had not gained the enthusiasm of the workforce, and in the previous decade the Tories had had some success in attacking the nationalised industries and nationalisation itself.

They argued that there was a tradition within the British Labour movement for workers’ control in the shape of the Guild Socialists and Industrial Unionism. The Fabians, who had largely advocated central planning at the expense of industrial democracy, had nevertheless put forward their own ideas for it. Annie Besant, the Theosophist and feminist, had argued that the workers in an industry should elect a council, which would appoint the management and foreman. This is quite close to the Yugoslav model, in which enterprises were governed through a series of factory boards elected by the workers, which also exercised a degree of control over the director and management staff.

The pamphlet was clearly written at a time when the unions were assuming a role of partnership in the nationalised industries, and had agreed to pay pauses. These were a temporary break in the round of annual pay rises negotiated by the government and management as a means of curbing inflation. This actually runs against Tory rhetoric that Britain was exceptionally beset by strikes – which has been challenged and rebutted before by British historians of the working class – and the unions were irresponsible.

The role of the factory or enterprise council in taking management decisions, rather than the trade unions in Yugoslav worker’s control also means that the trade unions could still preserve their independence and oppositional role, working to defend the rights of the workforce as a whole and present the grievances of individual workers.

The two authors acknowledge that there are problems of scale involved, in that the Yugoslav system was obviously developed to suit conditions in that nation, where there was a multiplicity of small enterprises, rather than the much larger industrial concerns of the more developed British economy. But even there they suggest that these problems may not be insuperable. Management now consists of selecting for one out of a range of options, that have already been suggested by technical staff and planners, and the experience of the co-operative movement has shown that firms can be run by elected boards. Much of the idea that management can only be effectively performed by autocratic directors or management boards may actually be just a myth that has developed to justify the concentration of power in their hands, rather than allow it to be also held by the workers.

They also note that the Yugoslav model also shows that the participation of workers in industrial management can lead to greater productivity. Indeed, the South Korean economist and lecturer, Ha-Joon Chang, in his books has shown that those industries which are wholly or partly owned by the state, or where the workers participate in management, are more stable and long-lasting than those that are run purely for the benefit of the shareholders. This is because the state and the workforce have a vested commitment to them, which shareholders don’t have. They will abandon one firm to invest in another, which offers larger dividends. And this has meant that some firms have gone bust selling off valuable assets and downsizing simply to keep the shares and, correspondingly, the managers’ salaries, artificially high.

They also present a good argument for showing that if workers’ control was implemented, the other parties would also have to take it up and preserve it. At the time they were writing, the Liberals were talking about ‘syndicalism’ while the Tories promised an Industrial Charter. This never materialised, just as Theresa May’s promise to put workers on the boards of industry was no more than hot air.

But some indication of how popular genuine worker participation in management might be is also shown, paradoxically, by Thatcher’s privatisations in the 1980s. Thatcher presented herself falsely as some kind of heroine of the working class, despite the fact that she was very solidly middle, and personally had nothing but contempt for the working class and working class organisations. Some of that image came from her talking about her background as the daughter of a shopkeeper. Another aspect was that in her privatisation of the utilities, she tried to persuade people that at last they too could be shareholders in industry. This was not only to the general public, but also to workers in those industries, who were offered shares in the newly privatised companies.

This experiment in popular capitalism, just like the rest of Thatcherism, is a total colossal failure. Newspaper reports have shown that the shares have largely passed out of the hands of working class shareholders, and are now back in the hands of the middle classes. As you could almost predict.

But the process does show how what popularity it initially had depended on Thatcher stealing some of the ideological guise for privatisation from Socialism. She had to make it seem that they would have a vested interest in their industries, albeit through holding shares rather than direct participation in management. She had no wish to empower the workers, as is amply shown by her determination to break the unions and destroy employees’ rights in the workplace. But her programme of popular capitalism depended on making it appear they would gain some position of power as individual shareholders.

The performance of the utilities following privatisation has shown that they are not better off under private management, regardless of the bilge spewed by the Tories and the Blairites in the Labour party. Under private management, these vital industries have been starved of investment, while the managers’ salaries and share price have been kept high again through cuts and increased prices. It is high time they were renationalised. And the nation knows this, hence the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.

And it’s possible that, if it was done properly, the incorporation of a system of worker participation in the management of these industries could create a real popular enthusiasm for them that would prevent further privatisation in the future, or make it more difficult. Who knows, if it had been done properly in the past, perhaps we would now have a proper functioning steel and coal industry, as well as the other vital services like rail, electricity, gas and water.

Code Pink Urges US Institutions to Boycott Arms Industry

October 25, 2017

This is another important piece by RT America on attempts by American peace activists to stop the war machine that is currently killing and making homeless millions of innocents in the Middle East, as well as the courageous American and allied squaddies sent to fight in it, and which has also resulted in massive cuts to public programmes in order to fund it.

The left-wing peace group, Code Pink, has launched a conference to encourage universities and financial institutions to boycott and divest from the arms industry. The group’s leader, Medea Benjamin, states that the reason these wars have dragged on so long is because they are incredibly profitable to the arms manufacturers. Every time Trump goes to Saudi Arabia, for example, to announce a multi-million dollar sale of armaments, the share price of companies like Lockheed Martin goes up. So, she says, they are simply following the money and trying to get institutions to stop funding and supporting these ‘merchants of misery’.

Vijay Prashad, the director of International Studies at Trinity College, states that even though millions are being killed in these wars, there is no accountability, no outrage, no pity for the victims and no sense that anybody should be dragged before an international tribunal. Instead, the victims of these wars themselves are blamed, as is happening now in Syria, while the reality is that these wars are destroying country after country.

The Black American activist, Ajamu Baraka, who was the Green Party’s presidential nominee, also makes the point that in order to fund this war machine, the American state is cutting vital welfare services and programmes. These include those for the homeless, support for education, such aid for the poor to go to college, environmental protection policies will be cut, energy assistance for the poor and elderly will also be cut, all in order to find the money to provide the £696 billion granted to the US military. It’s money that has been supplied at the expense of poor people’s basic needs.

The clip ends with Medea Benjamin stating that the conference is designed to get people together to say ‘enough is enough’ and that institutions no longer want to make profits from the military and their wars.

All of this is correct. People in America, as well as those over here, are seeing welfare budgets slashed partly to provide funding for the continued wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. These are not being fought for democracy, or the defence of the West and its allies against evil dictators. They are being fought to provide profits for American arms contractors, who provide millions of dollars in funding for American politicos. Iraq wasn’t invaded because it had weapons of mass destruction. That was a lie. It was invaded because the Saudi-US oil industry wanted the Iraqi oil reserves and its industry. American multinationals also coveted Iraqi state enterprises, and Israel hated the aid Saddam Hussein was giving to the Palestinians.

And the same is true of Syria. The neocons want to destroy it, because its an ally of Iran and Russia and a potential threat to Israel. They and a group of Arab states, including Qatar and Jordan, also want to oust Assad because he’s blocking the construction of a massive gas pipeline, which will stretch from Qatar to Turkey. In fact, these nations even told the Americans they’d pay for the war if America attacked Syria.

And the neocons have already destroyed Libya, they’d like to destroy Somalia, Sudan and Iran. Hence Trump’s step in decertifying the Iranian nuclear deal with Obama.

General Smedley Butler described all this back in the 1930s in his book, War Is A Racket, detailing the way American big business had profited from the First World War. As for the poor suffering because of the need to cut services to fund the military, I think it was president Truman, who described it has taking food from the mouths of the poor, and denying the construction of schools and hospitals.

I’ve already said in my last article about the revelation that the CIA was staging fake academic conferences as part of its campaign against the Iranian nuclear programme, that Lobster had published an article expressing similar concerns about the way some of Britain’s universities were also supporting the British war machine. Millions are being plunged into poverty and death, including American and British squaddies, all for the profits of the merchants of death and big business like Haliburton. It’s time for this obscenity to end, and universities and investment houses to pull out of supporting the war machine.

RT: McDonnell States Labour Will Take Back Rail, Water, Energy and Royal Mail

September 25, 2017

I’m giving this clip from RT’s coverage of the Labour party conference a massive thumbs-up. It’s a short clip of McDonnell stating that they intend to back rail, water, energy and the Royal Mail to give them to the people, who actually use and work in them. They aim to save the country and industry from the Tories’ mixture of belligerence and incompetence. And their commitment to a fairer society does not end at Dover. Just as they want a Britain for the many, and not the few, so they want a Europe for the many and not the few. This means, while respecting the results of the Brexit referendum, they will be working with our European partners during the transition period. And they will stop the Tories’ brutal treatment of immigrants.

Now we’re going to hear the screams and angry wailing from the neoliberals – the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Blairites. They’ll all start ranting now about how this is just discredited ‘Trotskyism’, that will wreck the wonderful, strong economy nearly four decades of Thatcherism has created. And, of course, the Tories, whose cabinet is stuffed with toffs and millionaires, will immediately start claiming that it will make working people poorer.

It’s none of these things. It’s good, solid, traditional Labour policy. The type of policies that gave this country decades of economic growth and higher standards for working people after the war. This was a Labour party that ensured that there was a real welfare state to look after the poor, that unions did represent the working man and woman against exploitation by their employer, and that an increasing number of young people could go on to uni without worrying about acquiring tens of thousands of pounds of debt at the end of it.

And if Labour does, as I fervently hope, renationalize those industries, I would very much like a form of workers’ control implemented in them. One reason why the Tories were able to privatize these industries was because, when Labour nationalized them after the Second World War, the party was too timid in the form nationalization took. The state took over the ownership of these industries, but otherwise left the existing management structures intact. This disappointed many trade unionists and socialists, who hoped that nationalization would mean that the people, who actually worked in these industries would also play a part in their management.

I’ve no doubt that if such plans were drawn up, all you’d hear from the Tories and the other parties would be yells about surrendering to the union barons, along with Thatcherite ravings about the Winter of Discontent and all the other trite bilge. But as May herself promised that she would put workers in the boardroom – a policy, which she had absolutely no intention of honouring – the Tories can’t complain without being hypocritical.

As for the power of the trade unions, as Russell Brand points out in his piece attacking Rees-Mogg, most of the people now relying on food banks are the working poor, whose wages aren’t enough to stave off starvation. And one of the reasons why this is so is that the Tories and then the Blairites have done everything they can to break and destroy the unions, so that the owners of industry can pay the workers a pittance and sack them at will.

And the Tories are treating immigrants brutally. We’ve send them send the vans around and put up posters telling immigrants to hand themselves in. And there have been outbreak of violence at the detention centres for asylum seekers again and again because of racist violence and bullying by the outsourcing companies running, like Serco, or G4S or whoever. And this is quite apart from the sheer racist venom spouted by the Tory press – the Heil, Scum, Express and so on.

This is a fine speech with excellent policies. Policies that hopefully put an end to four decades of Thatcherite misery, poverty and exploitation.

Jimmy Dore: Taliban Have Surrendered Several Times, Each Time Refused by America

August 26, 2017

Here’s another very important clip from the Jimmy Dore Show. It’s one that should be viewed by everyone interested in what the various wars we’re fighting around the world are really about. Dore and his co-host, Ron Placone, discuss a review of Anand Gopal’s book No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War through Afghan Eyes by Ryan Grimm in The Intercept. And its more of what the mainstream media aren’t telling us about these wars.

Dore starts the show by making the point that mainstream media never reveals the truth about the reasons behind America’s various wars in the Middle East and the Maghreb. They don’t mention the petrodollar, Libya, or the reason why Iran’s now a theocratic state under the ayatollahs. It’s because America – and Britain – over threw its democratically elected prime minister, Mossadeq.

And this is just as devastating. Gopal’s book reveals that the Taliban surrendered several times to America and its allies, only to be rebuffed. It was traditional in Afghan civil wars for the losing side to surrender to the victors. They would, in turn, incorporate them into the new government. Dore makes the point that this is a sensible system for governing a country, where people still have to live together as neighbours after the fighting. The Taliban tried to do this with the Allies, and were rebuffed. Several times. He also points out that the Taliban itself withered away, as its members put down their guns, either going back and vanishing into the rest of the population, or heading over the border into Pakistan.

However, America and the Allies offered rewards for those informing on the Taliban. With the real Taliban having vanished, and al-Qaeda down to a mere handful of people, the venal and unscrupulous amongst the Afghan population used the system to settle personal feuds. They smeared their neighbours as Taliban, for them to be killed or arrested by the US forces, and get the reward money. This naturally has created massively hostility against Allied forces. When America and the Allies first defeated the Taliban, the Afghans were glad to see them go. Now, having had their peace overtures repulsed, and the country reduced to more chaos and warfare, the Taliban have returned with popular backing.

But Dore states, you are not going to hear it from the mainstream news, such as MSNBC and Rached Maddow, because the media automatically backs the American war machine. And that war machine must be kept fed. He notes that Congress, with the backing of the Democrats, has just voted another $100 billion for the defence budget, in addition to what had already been voted for it last year. America already spends more on defence than the next 13 countries on the list combined. And the country and her allies have been in Afghanistan for 16 years. In other four years, the war will get a gold watch and be able to retire.

That’s it. There are absolutely no good reasons anymore for us to be anywhere in the Middle East. I backed the invasion of Afghanistan because I believed that it was a justified response to an act of war by al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies. I heard a few years ago from a friend that the Taliban tried to stop the invasion by offering to surrender Osama bin Laden, claiming that they didn’t know that he had been planning the attack. I wasn’t sure whether to believe it or not. But after this, it looks much more credible.

We’re not helping anyone in Afghanistan by staying there, except perhaps an already corrupt government, propped up by us, western mercenaries, and the opium trade, which has flourished more than it ever did previously. Dore states that the only areas in Afghanistan, which weren’t troubled by fighting, were those where there wasn’t a western military presence.

Of course, there are other, corporate reasons why we’re still there. Trump announced that America would stay in the country to exploit its valuable mineral resources, in order to defray the costs of the invasion. As well as the gas pipeline that was supposed to be built, but wasn’t, as Dore also mentions.

But the humanitarian reasons touted as justification for the invasion have vanished. We’ve long outstayed our welcome. As Grimm’s review concludes, we’re losing to an enemy who’s already surrendered. A hard thing to do. We’re just killing and maiming people for the benefit of the military-industrial complex. And our boys and girls are also being killed and maimed.

They’re coming back traumatized and with terrible injuries, not for defending their country and its allies, as they and we have been told. They’re being mutilated and killed purely for the profit of the big arms manufacturers.

Disgusting.

Dore encourages everyone watching this to pass it on. I agree. We are not going to hear about this from mainstream media, which includes the Beeb.

General Smedley Butler was right. War is a racket. We need to get out, bring our troops back home, and close all the wars and interventions in which we’re currently involved down.

Until then, there will never be peace across the world.

Open University Course Book on Climate Change

July 23, 2017

Looking through one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday, I found a copy of a course book for the Open University’s series on climate change. I didn’t buy it, because I’ve got enough books I’m reading already. And I’m afraid I can’t remember who wrote it, except that the first name of one of the authors was ‘Kiki’.

However, I think it’s worth mentioning just to let people know that this literature is out there. Donald Trump and his fellow anti-science fanatics in the White House are trying to suppress all the evidence relating to climate change, and gag and sack the federal scientists researching it. Within months of his election he had inserted clauses in their contracts, which forbid them to publish academic papers supporting climate change. Now, according to one of the left-wing American news sites I follow, he’s decimated the number of employees and researchers within the American civil service dealing with climate change to the point where the federal office is basically empty.

All this is for the benefit of the Republican party’s corporate donors, particularly in big oil, led by the Koch Brothers. The gruesome twosome have tried to suppress investigation and research in climate change and environmental damage by campaigning for the closure of federal and university laboratories. Once these have been closed, the Koch brothers then donate money to the universities to relaunch the labs, but with a different focus which avoids these issues.

The last thing the fossil fuel industries want is Americans getting clean, green, renewable energy, which is why they’re also trying to pass legislation outlawing it and penalizing those Americans who use it. And they really, really don’t want ordinary Americans realizing just how much the planet is being trashed, thanks to industrialists like the Kochs.

Apollo Astronaut Michael Collins on Sexism, the Fragile Earth and Banning Guns in Space Colonies

July 13, 2017

Last week I put up a post about a clip of Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, pulling faces at a rambling, incoherent speech made by Donald Trump. Trump was signing into law an act affirming America’s commitment to the space programme. His speech about it was less than inspiring however, and Aldrin, who not only went to the Moon himself, but has also been a staunch supporter of opening the High Frontier up to ordinary women and men, was very definitely less than impressed.

One of the books I’ve been reading recently was Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story, written by the third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael Collins. Collins was the pilot, who flew the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon, and then waited in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin made their historic landing, before flying back with them on the return journey to Earth. The book is Collin’s account of how he came to be astronaut. Determined to be a pilot after being allowed to hold the joystick of a passenger aircraft on which he and his family were travelling as a child, he joined the USAF and became a test pilot. He then moved on to join NASA’s space programme. He describes the rigorous training required, and his first flight into space with John Young in Gemini 10 in July 1966. He also explains how he came, reluctantly, to leave the astronaut programme for a variety of reasons, not least was the way it was stopping him from spending time with his family. And in his final chapter he, like Aldrin, looks forward to the future spread of humanity throughout the Solar system and beyond, with humans going to Mars and then Titan, a moon of Saturn, which may hold the key to the origin of life.

This isn’t an explicitly political book. Nevertheless, Collins does comment on specific issues as they affect the racial and gender composition of the astronaut programme, his perspective on the importance of the environment and why he believes guns would be banned by the inhabitants of a space colony. These are all issues which Trump, his supporters and donors in the gun manufacturers and lobbyists would strongly oppose.

In the passage where he discusses how he and the other astronauts became part of a panel, whose job was to select a fresh batch of astronauts, makes a point of explaining why only white men were selected. He then goes on to comment that although this was what was done at the time, he believes and hope that this will change, and that Blacks and women are just as capable of flying air- and spacecraft equally well. He points out that the highly technological nature of modern aircraft means that there is absolutely no biological obstacle to women piloting such high performance machines. He writes

Note that I have said “he”, because there were no women in the group, nor where there any blacks. In thinking about that, it seems to me that there were plenty of women and blacks who could get the highest marks in categories 1 and 4 [their intelligence and how badly they wanted to be astronauts], but in 1966 categories 2 and 3 [education and experience] tended to rule them out. There simply did not seem to be aeronautical engineers and experienced test pilots, who were black or women. I think, and hope, that will change in the future. Flying a modern jet aircraft does not require a great deal of strength, for one thing. Hydraulic flight controls, like power steering in a car, prefer a light touch, and women should do as good a job as men. Obviously, an airplane has now way of telling the skin colour of the person flying it. (pp. 72-3. My comments in brackets).

He describes how looking at the Earth from space made him aware how fragile it was, and of the importance of preserving the environment.

I will never forget how beautiful the earth appears from a great distance, floating silently and serenely like a blue and white marble against the pure black of space. For some reason, the tiny earth also appears very fragile, as if a giant hand could suddenly reach out and crush it. Of course, there is no one giant hand, but there are billions of smaller hands on earth, working furiously to change their home. Some of the changes being made are good, and others bad. For example, we are learning more efficient ways of catching fish, and that is good because it means more people can be fed from the oceans. If, on the other hand, these new methods result in the disappearance of species, such as whales, then that is bad. The automobile gives us great mobility, but pollutes our atmosphere. We cook cleanly and efficiently with natural gas, but we are running short of it. Newspapers and books spread knowledge, but require that trees be chopped down. It seems that nearly every advance in our civilisation has some undesirable side effects, Today’s young people are going to have to acquire the wisdom to see that future changes help our planet, not hurt it, so that it truly becomes the beautiful, clean, blue and white pea it seems to be when viewed from the moon. The earth truly is fragile, in the sense that its surface can easily shift from blue and white to black and brown. Is the riverbank a delightful spot to watch diving ducks, or is it lifeless greasy muck littered with bottles and tires? More people should be privileged to fly in space and get the chance to see the fragile earth as it appears from afar.
(p. 146).

Further on in the book, he states that future orbiting settlements would get their power from solar energy, as this would not only be abundant and free, but also clean, unlike coal. (pp. 150-1).

He also remarks on the way the Apollo missions differed from previous historic expeditions in that the explorers were unarmed, and suggests that the future inhabitants of a space colony at one of the libration points where the gravity of the Earth and Moon cancel each other out, and so named ‘Libra’, would similarly see no need for carrying weapons.

Apollo set a precedent for the future in another interesting way. It was probably the only major human expedition in which no weapons were carried. In similar fashion, no weapons would be permitted on Libra and Librans simply would not be able to understand why earth people continued to shoot one another. On Libra, if people felt hostile, they would be urged to put their energies into athletic contests or other competitive events, or simply to let off steam by going flying.

He then describes how the lower or zero gravity in the colony would allow people to fly aircraft power by their own muscles. (pp. 154-5).

Most of this is, or at least should be, non-controversial. Scientists have been warning us about the immense danger to our ecosystem, and the horrific decline in its natural wildlife as more and more habitats are destroyed, and an increasing number of species threatened with extinction, since the early ’70s. Among those warning of the ecological perils to the planet was the inspirational astronomer and NASA scientist, Carl Sagan. And indeed, one of the most powerful images that stimulated ecological awareness and the burgeoning Green movement was that picture of the Earth as a fragile, blue orb hanging in the blackness of space taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. Way back in the mid-1990s the Beeb’s popular science programme, Horizon, devoted an edition, ‘Icon Earth’, to how this photo had influenced politics and culture.

The picture hasn’t just made more people aware of the urgent need to protect the environment. Some of the astronauts have spoken about how it brought home to them how artificial racial and national divisions are. They point out that there are now boundaries visible from space. Helen Sharman, the British astronaut who flew with the Russians to Mir in the 1980s, states in her book about her voyage that space helps to foster international understanding and cooperation. She observes that astronauts are the least nationalistic people.

As for guns, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that shooting in the enclosed environment of space habitat could have truly disastrous consequences through the damage it could do to the machinery and fabric of the colony itself, and their ability to preserve human life in the harsh environment of space. A bullet through the outer skin of a spacecraft could lead the escape of its air, causing those within to die of suffocation and decompression.

Trump, however, is supported by the racist and misogynist Alt Right, who would like to roll back Black Civil Rights and women’s social and political gains since the 1960s, while the Republican party as a whole is generously funded by the NRA and the gun lobby, and the Koch brothers and other industrial magnates. The Koch brothers own much of the American petrochemical industry, and so, like many of the other multimillionaire businessmen, are very strongly opposed to any kind of environmental protection. The Kochs in particular are responsible for closing down awkward parts of the American meteorology and environmental science laboratories when they dare to issue warnings about the damage industry is causing to the country’s natural beauty and wildlife. They are then replaced with other institutions, also funded by the Kochs and those like them, which then conveniently deny the reality of climate change. The Republicans and their supporters in industry have also set up fake ‘astroturf’ Green movements, like Wise Use, which seek to undermine the genuine environmental movement.

Given the way the experience of looking back at our beautiful planet from space has transformed political, social and cultural perspectives all across the world, you can understand why some astronauts just might feel they have excellent reasons for pulling faces at their president.

Cartoon: Cameron, Clegg and the Tories as David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’

June 26, 2017

There isn’t much to say about this cartoon, except that it was based on the film poster for David Lynch’s disturbing flick, Eraserhead. This is about a man with one of the weirdest hairstyles in cinema attempting to look after a weird, mutant baby, whose head resembles an eraser, hence the film’s title. It’s set in a crumbling, dystopian world, whose audio backdrop is in industrial noise. It’s been described as a horror movie, although it’s not quite that, as well as surreal, which it certainly is.

I thought it was a suitable metaphor for the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, as they’ve certainly done their best to make Britain as decadent and dystopian as possible. This is a Britain in which austerity killed 30,000 people in 2015 alone, according to researchers at Oxford University. Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks to stop themselves from starving, where 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where the family members don’t know if they’ll eat tomorrow. Families where the mothers are starving themselves in order to feed and clothe their children.

And all the while more people are forced into poverty through wage freezes, and cuts to welfare benefits. A country in which the poor, the unemployed and the disabled are vilified simply for being poor.

It’s a Britain where the NHS and the schools and universities are being privatised for the profit of private healthcare companies and school management companies, and in which uni students will graduate owing something like £40,000 worth of student debt.

This is a Britain in which homelessness is on the rise. Except you won’t see it, because local councils are passing laws to clear the homeless off their streets, so the site of them begging doesn’t annoy or upset the richer residents.

It’s a country where public services, like the trains, are being starved of investment so that their share value remains artificially high, and the bosses can award themselves big bonuses.

It’s a country where the private energy companies also keep prices high for the same reason.

It’s a country, whose natural beauty is in danger of being plundered and despoiled, as the government despises clean, renewable energy sources, and removes environmental protection legislation for the benefit of fracking companies.

It’s a country that’s heading rapidly towards dictatorship and authoritarianism, as New Labour, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers passed legislation setting up secret courts, in which the defendant may be tried behind closed doors, with vital evidence and the identity of his accuser also kept secret, if the government decides this is required for reasons of ‘national security’. Just like the judicial system in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Stalin’s Russia.

But to make sure you don’t realise that this country is becoming a crumbling dystopia, the media do nothing but lie about how evil the left is, and how wonderful everything is under the Tories, including the BBC. A media dominated by a very few newspaper magnates – Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Twins, Richard Desmond, Vere Harmsworth and a pair of Russian oligarchs.

So I drew David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith all in black and white with the same weird hairstyle as the film’s hero, played by Jack Nance, like the film’s poster.

This is the face of the Tory-Lib Dem government as it was a few years ago. But things haven’t changed since under Theresa May, who’s gone full steam ahead with all the old, wretch Tory policies.

Don’t have nightmares! Just vote for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour poverty, to end austerity and the predatory capitalism that sustains it.

Thoughts and Prayers for the Victims of the Finsbury Park Terrorist Attack

June 23, 2017

I know I’ve been late getting round to this, so apologies. This is just to give my thoughts and prayers for the 11 people, who were attacked outside Finsbury Park mosque on Friday by Darren Osborne. One man was killed and another nine were injured.

Finsbury Park mosque was at the centre of a storm of outrage nearly a decade and a half ago, as it was one of the centres of Salafist hate preaching in Britain, under an imam whose sermons advocated terrorism and violence against non-Muslims. The I newspaper reported that there have been four previous terrorist attacks against it. Its history is undoubtedly the reason it was targeted now.

However, the newspaper also reported that a new management had taken over the running of the mosque in 2005, and had cleared out the jihadis and their bug-eyed supporters. The people Osborne attempted to kill were not Islamist terrorists, but ordinary Muslims seeking to practice their faith in peace.

Mike over at Vox Political has noted the strong role the Tory press has played in whipping up hatred against Islam, with a selection of headlines from papers like the Scum, Star and Heil. He also shows a headline from the Times, which shows the double-standard for this type of attack. When a Muslim commits an atrocity, they’re a terrorist. When it’s a White, non-Muslim, he’s a lone wolf. This hypocrisy was picked out and attacked by some of the commenters on social media.

People condemning this attack, and giving their best wishes and solidarity to British Muslims included Gary Lineker and Susanna Reid. It was heartening and inspiring to see members of the local community coming together to support each other after the attack and against further bigotry and hate.

My guess is that Osborne was probably motivated by outrage at the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. The article in the I also noted that other islamophobic incidents had risen sharply. This needs to end.

It’s firstly an attack on the innocent. Despite what the EDL and similar organisations are trying to tell everyone, British Islam is very diverse. It’s a mosaic of different sects and ethnicities. Some of them are very devout and traditional, others much more westernised and secular. They aren’t a uniform mass, and the jihadis really are only a minority. One of the complaints of ordinary, peaceable Muslims long before this was that their demonstrations against the bigots and preachers of hate were ignored by the media. This incident unfortunately shows what happens when the counter-demonstrations to the preachers of hate are ignored.

Secondly, Osborne’s attack and those like it are playing into the jihadis’ hands. They’re exactly what they want to happen. The last thing they want is for Muslim and non-Muslim to live in peace in this country. They want people to fear, hate and persecute Muslims, so that the Muslim community will be alienated from the rest of the British people. They want people to hate Muslims, to radicalise the Muslim community so that they can pose as its defenders.

The jihadis are, of course, massive hypocrites. Those captured by Salafist terror groups, like ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria have said that far from being devout, God-fearing servants of Allah, these creatures didn’t even have a Qu’ran. And as they believe that only their, bitterly intolerant version of Islam is correct, they’ve also murdered other Muslims as well as Christians and Yezidis. More Muslims have been butchered in total around the world by these grotty bigots than people of other faiths. And Muslims in this country have tried to warn the authorities of the dangers from Islamist terrorists, and been ignored.

There’s been a reason for that. As we’ve seen from the example of Salman Abedi, many of these terrorists were jihadis, who had been given asylum in Britain by successive British governments from Maggie Thatcher to Tony Blair for their assistance attacking and overthrowing secular Middle Eastern rulers. Several of them were Mujahideen from Afghanistan, who were allowed to settle in Britain to preach hate by Thatcher for their part in the proxy war against the Soviet Unions. Abedi and his family were members of an Islamist group dedicated to overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi, for which purpose they were allowed to travel to Libya. The wider Libyan community in Britain, by contrast, is well integrated into British society.

The commenters on social media is also remarked on Theresa May’s immense hypocrisy in condemning racism and bigotry, while it was her, as home secretary, who sent round vans urging illegal immigrants to hand themselves over to the authorities for deportation.

If we’re serious about tackling racism and terrorism, there can be no double standards. White racists and Fascists have to be condemned as much as Islamist militants. No one should have to live in fear simply because of their race or religion. The news reports after the attack covered how many Muslim women are now learning self-defence, fearing that they will be the next victims. Other Muslims told how their mothers were afraid to go out. This is disgusting.

And we should absolutely stop giving any aid and support to the Salafists in the Middle East. At the moment, Britain has followed American in supporting the Islamist groups in Syria seeking to overthrow Assad. We’re doing this, not because Assad is a dictator-he is, but that’s not the reason. We’re doing it simply from Cold War geopolitics. Assad’s an ally of the Russians and Iran. His is a secular, Arab socialist regime, which to Cold War America was synonymous with Communism. He’s blocking a natural gas pipeline, which the Gulf Arab states, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, want to run into Europe. And so corporate America and the Wahhabi theocrats in Saudi Arabia want him overthrown.

And if that happens, it’ll lead to more violence and butchery against the Syrian people, and become another hotbed for Islamist terrorism.

The war on terrorism has failed. Let’s stop creating new terrorists, and giving aid and sanctuary to those that already exist. Let’s not confuse their ideology of hate and violence with that of the peaceful Muslim majority.

And stop further attacks on decent, ordinary people, whether they’re White, Black, Muslim, non-Muslim or whatever.

The last response on Mike’s piece about it is a reply to Susanna Reid by Yasmin A. Chaudhury, who wrote

Hate never ever wins. Only love does – it is deadliest, silent weapon and costs nothing.

Or as the Romans said ‘Amor vincet omnia’ – love conquers all.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/20/how-can-we-say-we-dont-support-hate-when-it-is-all-our-government-and-newspapers-preach/