Archive for the ‘Gas’ Category

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/

More Tory Lies as May Claims that ‘Austerity Is Dead’

June 15, 2017

On Tuesday Mike put up a post commenting on May’s claim that she was going to end the austerity foisted on the country by Cameron, Osborne and Nick Clegg. The trio had claimed that cutting services, privatising the NHS, and dismantling the welfare state even more ruthlessly, were what was needed to pay off the debt Labour had incurred trying to prevent the global economy collapsing due to the bankster’s recklessness. The result has been wages cuts and a massive increase in poverty as the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled were thrown off benefits for the flimsiest of reasons.

Instead of blaming the bankers for the economic crisis, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers went back to the using refrain of blaming ‘high spending’ Labour for ‘living beyond our means’.

As Mike points out in his post, cutting government investment is the one thing you don’t do during a recession. State investment stimulates the economy, which means that businesses start making money again, which generates more tax revenue.

This one of the arguments in support of welfare provision against unemployment. If unemployed workers have some kind of income during a recession, they can afford to spend some of it, thus generating more income for businesses and the state. It’s basic Keynsianism, and it works. Unlike the grotty free market economics embraced by the Tories. That has only succeeded in increasing the debt.

Now Theresa May has decided that austerity should be ended. Not because she has woken up at last to the fact that it isn’t working, and in fact is damaging the British economy. Or because she’s suddenly grown a conscience, and has realised the immense human cost of the Tories’ austerity policies in terms of tens of thousands of people, who have died in misery. Or the 7 million plus British people now living in ‘food-insecure’ households, who don’t know if they’re next meal is going to be their last.

No, it’s because the Tories lost their overall majority, thanks to a revived Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. Mike comments

And now, further cuts are being abandoned – not because austerity’s ends have been achieved, but because the Tories have realised they will forfeit votes if they continue.

Everybody in the UK, who isn’t filthy rich, should be furious. We should be marching on Tory MPs’ homes and offices with blazing torches and pitchforks, shouting “Burn the monsters!”

The last thing we should do is tolerate this latest cynical reaction to prevailing trends. Tories represent greed and power. The only reason they abandon their pursuit of greed is when it may harm their hold on power.

Mike isn’t the only one who’s furious at this cynical U-turn and the cavalier fashion in which the Tories have shrugged off their responsibility for destroying so many lives with a brutal, callous and entirely wrong economic and social policy. He concludes

Even now, on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Tories Michael Howard and Dominic Grieve are talking about the need to live within our means. The fact is that it is entirely possible, if Tories are stopped from siphoning off our money into their bank accounts.

The end of austerity is to be welcomed.

The end of the UK’s problems will only come when the Conservatives are banished from Parliament forever.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/13/austerity-is-dead-says-may-because-it-was-never-needed-we-should-be-enraged/

In fact, the I newspaper also reported on the same day that the Tories were revising their manifesto, and dropping the more unpopular policies, such as the ‘Dementia Tax’. This was accompanied with noises about how we lived in a democratic society, and the Tories were a democratic party, so they were responding to the demands of the electorate.

There were also statements designed to reassure Tory supporters that this time, May herself would be performing better in public. They claimed that she was now a more naturalistic speaker, and that ‘the Maybot is gone.’

I find all of this very difficult to believe. The Tories are inveterate liars, who lie constantly without compunction. You only have to look through Mike’s blog for the past week or so to find very long lists of May’s promises, which she has subsequently broken. Such as her promises to put workers on the boards of companies. The campaign of her predecessor, David Cameron, was one long series of lies. He and IDS, the minister for culling the disabled, claimed that they were going to ringfence spending on the NHS, campaigned against hospital closures by Blair’s New Labour, and tried to present the Tories as now being more left-wing and friendly to the poor. He also stuck a windmill on the roof of his house, and claimed that his would be ‘the greenest government ever’.

Once in power, the NHS was being cut and privatised, hospitals closed and given over to private management companies, conditionality for welfare benefits massively increased, and any semblance of environmentalism thrown out completely. The windmill went from his roof, and in came the privatisation of Britain’s forests, the repeal of various pieces of legislation protecting the environment, and the go-ahead given to fracking.

The fact that Howard and Grieve were talking about ‘living within our means’ – which is Tory-speak for not spending anything on the poor and state services, like the NHS and education, means that the Tories really don’t believe it.

And yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Sajid Javid are calling for May’s proposed cap on energy bills to be scrapped and the party should return to its ‘free market roots’.

Mike quoted Labour’s shadow energy minister, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and concluded:

“If correct, this is potentially another stunning U-turn from a weak and wobbly Prime Minister,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“One in ten households are living in fuel poverty and customers are being overcharged a whopping £2 billion every year. Theresa May unequivocally guaranteed a price cap before the general election but now it appears she is preparing to row back on that promise. It now looks like this price cap was simply an election gimmick and that the Conservatives were never serious about taking action to keep energy bills down.

“Britain needs a serious and long term approach in order to bring energy costs down, not cheap gimmicks that may simply be thrown into the bin just a week after the General Election.”

She’s right; Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid are wrong. What do YOU think the Tories will do?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/14/the-tory-energy-price-cap-pledge-was-a-lie-or-at-least-philip-hammond-wants-to-make-it-one/

I think it’s blatantly obvious what the Tories will do. They’re lying now about ending austerity, but perfectly serious about abandoning the energy bill cap. If they get in again, May will reintroduce all the policies she claimed she abandoned, and the Tories will once again chant the old Thatcherite chorus of TINA – There Is No Alternative.

There is. It’s Jeremy Corbyn. He’s this country’s hope to stop further NHS privatisation, welfare cuts, starvation and deaths.

Counterpunch on Washington’s Fear of a Russia-EU Superstate

March 23, 2017

There’s a very interesting article in today’s Counterpunch by Mike Whitney, which suggests that the current demonization of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin in the American media and the build up of troops and military installations on Russia’s borders – in Poland and Romania, for example – is to prevent Russia joining the EU. It begins with a speech by Putin, from February 2012, in which Putin declared that Russia was an inalienable part of greater Europe, its people think of themselves as Europeans, and that is why Russia is moving to create a greater economic space, a ‘union of Europe’, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The carefully orchestrated ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine, which saw the pro-Russian president ousted in favour of the current, pro-Western government, which includes unreconstructed Nazis, is part of Washington’s programme to prevent the emergence of this massive superstate.

The article revisits the Mackinder doctrine. This was the thesis, put forward by a geographer in the early 20th century, that the crux for global power is control of the Eurasian landmass. Mackinder believed that the powers that ruled it would become the dominant global power, while those on the Atlantic fringe of the landmass, such as Britain, would be doomed to decline. He notes that Russia is rich in supplies of oil and natural gas, which it can easily supply through the construction of projected pipelines, to Europe.

Whitney states that the Americans are also concerned at the way the Chinese are also increasing their economic connections across Eurasian through the construction of roads and railways allowing the rapid and efficient transhipment of their consumer goods. Hence the construction and reinforcement of American military bases in South Korea and in the Far East. The Americans hope to block China’s economic growth by dominating the sea lanes militarily.

Whitney also argues that the Russians and Chinese are emerging as the new, global economic powers against America because they are actually better at capitalism than the Americans are. They are building new infrastructure – roads, railways and pipelines, to allow them to exploit the markets in central Asia and Europe, while the Americans can only try to compete with them through threatening them with military force. Hence the continuation of the conflict in Syria with as a proxy war against Russia.

Whitney also makes the point that blocking the emergence of a single free trade block in Eurasia is vital for the survival of the American economy. The moment such a free trade zone stopped using the dollar it would knock one of the key financial supports out of the American economy, causing markets to collapse, the dollar to slump and the economy to fall into depression.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/23/will-washington-risk-ww3-to-block-an-emerging-eu-russia-superstate/

This is very interesting, as it shows just how far current international tensions with Putin’s Russia are caused by America’s fears of a resurgent Russia and China, and its own looming economic irrelevance. The use of the dollar as the international currency is absolutely critical in this. One of the reasons why Colonel Gadaffy was overthrown was because the ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ wanted to create an Arab economic bloc like the EU, which would use the dinar rather than the dollar as its international currency. America’s economy is propped up to a very large degree through the use of the dollar as the international currency of the petrochemical industry. Once that goes, the American economy, and its status as the world’s only superpower, goes up. Hence the Americans determination to have him overthrown, even if that meant the collapse of Libya as a functioning state and the replacement of its secular welfare state by a hardline theocratic regime.

There’s a considerable amount wrong with the EU, but it also has enormous economic, legal and political benefits. In the 19th century, British companies played a large part in Russia’s industrialisation. Before the Revolution, one of the main Russian cities was called Yusovska, a name derived from ‘Hughes’, the surname of the British industrialist, who had set up a company there. By voting to leave the EU, we may also have missed the opportunity to benefit from closer economic contacts with Russia and China. Or rather, England has. Scotland voted to remain, and this may well begin the break-up of the United Kingdom. In which case, Scotland may well be in an economically stronger position than England. We English may well have consigned ourselves to increasing irrelevance and decline on the global stage, just to satisfy the xenophobic wishes of the Tory right.

Financial Speculators, Not Cost, Are the Real Oil Prices Are Rising

February 10, 2017

This week it was reported that British Gas were considering raising their prices by 9 per cent. This is frightening, as it means that the other companies may also raise their prices as well. Many people are increasingly finding themselves faced with a choice due to austerity, benefit cuts and stagnating wages. They can eat, and freeze, or stay warm and starve.

I don’t know what the reason given for raising the price of gas is. I suspect, however, from the behaviour of the oil industry, that any justification presented is spurious. William Blum in the chapter on capitalism in his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, shows that the rise in oil prices aren’t due to rising costs. The cost of getting the stuff out of the ground has remained the same, despite all the guff about having reached peak oil. The real cause of the rise in fuel prices, including gas, is financial speculation, and quotes a US Senate report, The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices. This states

The traditional forces of supply and demand cannot fully account for these increases [in crude oil, gasoline, etc.]. While global demand for oil has been increasing… global oil supplies have increased by an even greater amount. As a result, global inventories have increased as well. Today, US oil inventories are at an 8-year high, and OECD [mainly European] oil inventories are at a 20 year high. Accordingly, factors other than basic supply and demand must be examined…

Over the past few years, large financial institutions, hedge funds, pension funds, and other investment funds have been pouring billions of dollars into the energy commodities markets … to try to take advantage of price changes or to hedge against them. Because much of this additional investment has come from financial institutions and investment funds that do not use the commodity as part of their business, it is defined as ‘speculation’ by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC). According to the CTFC, a speculator ‘does not produce or use the commodity, but risks his or her own capital trading futures in that commodity in hopes of making a profit on price changes.’ The large purchases of crude oil futures contracts by speculators have, in effect, created an additional demand for oil to be delivered in the future in the same manner that additional demand for the immediate delivery of a physical barrel of oil drives up the price on the spot market… Although it is difficult to quantify the effect of speculation on prices, there is substantial evidence that the large amount of speculation in the current market has significantly increased prices. (p. 248).

Blum goes on to make the point that the American financial regulators have been unable to combat these rises, because their ability to do so has been taken away from them by Congress. (pp. 249-50). As a result, although it still costs ExxonMobil $20 to get a barrel of oil out of the ground, the oil itself can trade at $40, $80 or $130 a barrel. (p. 251).

So if you’re worried about paying the gas or heating oil bill, the reason it’s gone up is due the financial sector. The very people that donate to political parties, especially the Tories and employ MPs when they leave.

American Scientists Plan March against Trump

January 28, 2017

After the massive numbers of people involved in the women’s marches against Trump held around the world last weekend, American scientists are also planning to organise their own demonstration against the Orange Caudillo in protest at his disastrous environmental and health policies.

In this video, TYT Nation’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a report in Forbes’ discussing the formation of the new group of scientists planning this march. The group has it’s own internet page, and in five days its members grew from 200 to 200,000 +. The group says it will include non-scientists as well as scientists, and is intended to advocate the greater involvement of science in government. It’s purpose is to defend climate science, evolution, and alternative energy. Waldorf states that he too believes strongly that science should be more involved in government. He also quibbles with the phrasing in the Forbes’ article, taking issue with the magazine’s description of the scientists as ‘believing’ in the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industries. Waldorf argues that scientists’ in these areas don’t believe, because they have proof that oil pipelines, such as DAPL, can rupture, creating massive oil spills and environmental destruction.

Waldorf also argues that, although he understands why people in America’s coal country wish to retain the industry for as long as possible for the sake of their jobs, renewables are now becoming cheaper than oil for the first time. It’s time to move from the horse and buggy to the automobile, is the metaphor he uses. He also notes that 75 per cent of Trumps’ own supporters are also in favour of solar and wind power, and natural gas. Waldorf himself is not in favour of natural gas, as it’s still a fossil fuel, with the environmental problems that poses. At the moment, the movement is still in the planning stage, but hopes to issue a mission statement soon. In the meantime, they state that a government that sacrifices science to ideology is a threat not just to America, but also the world.

I wish the scientists the best of luck in their campaigns against Trump’s attack on climate change and green energy. I think, however, Waldorf has a rather too optimistic view of science. There’s quite a debate in the philosophy of science over what constitutes ‘proof’. In one view, articulated by the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, science advances through falsification. You can’t prove a particular theory. What you do instead is show that other explanations are false. In many areas of science, the observable effects of experiments, may be tiny and ambiguous. This is why scientists have developed very sophisticated statistical methods for sorting through their observations in search of factual evidence that will support or disprove their theories. Thus, at the risk of nit-picking, it might be fairer to say that climate change and environmental damage by the fossil fuel industry is far better supported by the available evidence, than the minority view that no such change or damage is occurring.

I also think you have to be careful about relying too much on science to solve social problems. The British philosopher, Mary Midgeley, in one of her books pointed out that in some areas, what is needed is a social and industrial solution to a particularly issue, rather than scientific innovation. For example, it could be argued that in the struggle against world hunger, what is needed is not new, genetically engineered crops which produce vast yields, but better transportation methods and infrastructure to supply people with the food that has already been grown.

Despite these very minor quibbles, it is true that orthodox, respectable science in the above areas has been under attack for a long time to serve powerful interests in the fossil fuel industries. Trump this week imposed gagging orders preventing scientists and government workers in the Environmental Protection Agency from revealing their findings. Climate change is happening, and is a real danger to America and the globe. But this awareness frightens the Koch brothers and their wealth in the petrochemical industry. So they, and millionaires like them, are spending vast sums to keep the facts from ordinary peeps. America’s scientists are right to challenge this. Let’s hope their march in support of proper science goes ahead and is well-attended.

Canadian Journalist Exposes BBC Lies over Syria

December 18, 2016

It’s not just the BBC of course. It’s the whole corporate media. But the journalist explicitly mentions the Beeb and the New York Times as lying about the situation in the country.

In this video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the comedian and occasional guest on The Young Turks talks about the revelations about the war in Syria from an independent Canadian journalist, Eve Bartlett. Bartlett was speaking at the United Nations, and described how the situation in Syria is precisely the opposite of what we’re being told by the corporate media here in the West. She’s been to Syria, and particularly Aleppo several times. She states that the people of Syria are 100 per cent behind Assad, and want to be rid of the terrorist groups occupying their country. These are the same ‘moderate’ terrorist groups that the West is funding to overthrow Assad, some of which have connections to extremists like ISIS. Dore states that this is nothing to do with democracy. It is simply about overthrowing Assad to force a pipeline through his nation.

Bartlett states that she was personally at the Costello Road humanitarian centre when the Syrians and Russians opened up a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave the areas that they’re bombing. They’ve done this eight times before in different parts of the country. Contrary to western propaganda, the Syrians and Russians actually care about not killing civilians. However, the terrorist factions opposing Assad do not want them to leave. They are keeping them hostage. When civilians have tried to leave, several times they’ve been attacked by those same terrorists. There have also been times, when the Syrian army has stepped in to protect them, firing back at their kidnappers. She talks about one old man, who expressed his gratitude to the Syrian army for saving them from the terrorists, who were holding him and others hostage.

She states that the western media concentrates on the damage to buildings in the city. This is not what concerns the Russians and Syrians. They’re actually worried about the people in the city. The terrorists occupy bunkers deep underground – about three stories – and emerge to fire on Russian and Syrian planes before retreating back underground.

She also describes the truth behind the Syrian and Russian bombing of a school. It had been taken over by the terrorists, who were using it to manufacture bombs. She states that she was saw the bomb-making equipment. She also states that several of the terrorist factions, that are supposed not to exist, are still very much around, such as the Free Syrian Army amongst a number of others, evidence for which was shown to her.

Dore and his off-camera team make the point that the western news media is deeply compromised. Our governments do not want the Russian and Syrian side to be heard. He talks about the closure of the Syrian embassy by the Canadian government. He also describes how, when CNN sends journalists to cover these war zones, they’re embedded within army units. This was done when the veteran American newsman, Ted Koppel, went to Iraq. The result was, in Dore’s words, ‘a love letter’ to the US army. This is done deliberately so that the journalist only sees the country from the army’s point of view. Dore ends by repeating his point that the media is deeply corrupt, and that this war is all about big oil. As for MSNBC, the so-called ‘liberal’ US network, all it’s executives are millionaires, making more money in a day than most Americans make in a year. It’s a club to which we’re not invited. And so they’re lying to us, with news slanted to suit their corporate agenda. This is all about western corporate profit and imperialism.

Counterpunch ran an article years ago on the way the US army uses embedded journalists to present their side of international conflicts, specifically of the Iraq War. The article is in the Counterpunch book End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, which is about media bias. This, and other tactics, were formulated following the lessons of the Vietnam War. The US military and political establishment realised that the Vietnamese had very astutely used the American media’s coverage of the war to undermine public support. This was particularly true of the Tet offensive. Although this was beaten off within hours, coverage by the US media showed that the American army had been unprepared for the attack, which took place during the Vietnamese New Year. This persuaded many Americans that their armed forces were incompetent and could not fight their opponents effectively. Americans’ perception of the competence and moral integrity of their own side was also disastrously affected by the footage of continuing dead and maimed soldiers returning home, and war crimes against the Vietnamese people themselves. And so the US political and military authorities devised policies to structure media coverage so that it showed only what they wanted to be shown. Coverage of the repatriation of the dead and mutilated was to be minimised. Journalists were deliberately embedded in army units, so that they became dependent on their comrades in the army, and so presented sympathetic views of their performance. Hence Ted Koppel’s ‘love letter’.

Bartlett states that what she says about the terrorists holding civilians hostage, and that they have been liberated by the Syrian army instead of massacred and fired upon, has been documented, and that footage exists elsewhere, outside of the Beeb and New York Times. These news organisations, which pride themselves as institutions ‘of record’ are blatantly lying to us. In the case of the Beeb, you may remember the adverts for itself it ran a few years ago, in which various foreign correspondents were heard talking about how people in despotic foreign regimes around the world preferred to listen to the Beeb, as unlike their own state broadcasters, it was telling the truth. This is now a lie. The BBC is pushing corporate, state propaganda as the willing accomplice of western imperialism. But I’ve no doubt that, come the summer and the festival season, BBC spokesmen, broadcasters and journalists will be speaking at literary festivals up and down the country, along with other intellectual events, making speeches about the Corporation is internationally respected and an important British institution. I agree that it is an important institution. And I don’t want it sold off. But I don’t want it to be a state, corporate propaganda mouthpiece.

And so I don’t respect it, its news service nor its executives. They are lying to promote a war, which is destroying a country simply for the enrichment of western big business and Gulf oil despotisms, like the Saudis and Qatar. They are lying when they tell us that murderous jihadis are moderates and freedom fighters.

The Beeb cannot be trusted.

Take your news from other, better, alternative sources.

Deep State Lies about Terrorist Threat Produced Syria and Russia

December 10, 2016

Yesterday’s I newspaper carried a story, UK faces ‘a generation of terrorists created by Russia’, says new MI6 boss, reporting that the director-general of the spy agency had held a press conference at which he told journalists that Putin and Assad were increasing Islamist radicalisation in Syria. The piece by Kim Sengupta ran

The brutal military campaign by Russia and the Assad regime in Syria is creating a new generation of terrorists who will be a threat to the international community, including Britain, the head of MI6 warned.

In his first public speech as director-general, Alex Younger criticised the conduct of the forces of Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, saying their actions are leading to further radicalisation by Islamist extremist groups.

“As I speak, the highly organised external attack planning structures within Isis … are plotting ways to project violence against the UK and our allies without having to leave Syria,” said Mr Younger.

“I believe that Russian conduct in Syria, allied with that of Assad’s discredited regime, will, if they do not change course, provide a tragic example of the perils of forfeiting legitimacy. In defining as a terrorist anyone who opposes a brutal government they alienate precisely the group that has to be on side if the extremists are to be defeated. I cannot say with any certainty what the next year will bring. But I know this: we cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from the land unless the civil war is brought to an end.”

Mr Younger’s remarks, to a group of journalists in MI6’s headquarters in London, are at odds with the views of Donald Trump and his advisers, who have expressed admiration for Mr Putin’s actions in Syria and see Russia as a future ally against Isis and other Muslim terrorist groups.

Mr Younger also strongly criticised states that have been using cyber- and other forms of hybrid warfare to undermine Western democracies. Although he did not name Russia as one of the culprits, there was little doubt that he was pointing the finger at the Kremlin when he spoke about the “increasingly dangerous phenomenon of hybrid warfare.”

Now it may be true that the severity of Russia’s and Assad’s attacks on the rebels in Syria may radicalise them further, but this is basically just a piece of misdirection by the British secret state. Assad’s is the legitimate, recognised regime under international law and the UN. And before all this kicked off, Assad was beginning to liberalise. He was keen to share information on Islamist terrorists with the west as they were a common enemy.

Moreover, it is we, who are funding and supporting Islamist terrorism in Syria. This is what the rebels are, and we are funding and supporting them. And it’s a very moot point how ‘moderate’ those supported by America and its allies are. They include groups that have grown out of al-Qaeda, such as the al-Nusra Front. And the moderates have contacts with the more radical groups.

Ultimately, this isn’t about ending the civil war, or bringing democracy to the citizens of an authoritarian regime. Which isn’t remotely going to happen if the rebels supported by the US military and the rest of us get into power. This is simply about getting rid of an ally of Russia, thus isolating it from the Middle East. It is also about building a massive gas pipeline from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Jordan to Turkey and beyond. Ousting the current Ba’athist regime in Syria has been a goal of the Americans for decades, long before the ‘War on Terror’. This has just given the Americans the opportunity they wanted to initiate armed revolt and military action.

As for claiming that Russian cyberwarfare was responsible for undermining Western democracy, this is the purest rubbish from Hillary Clinton. She used this at the election to explain the leaked material showing her corrupt relationship with big business and Wall Street. When asked what evidence she had for this claim, she had none. Nevertheless, she’s been demanding military action in response for it ever since. Now Alex Young is repeating this moonshine.

I’m afraid that misdirection and lies like this are being used to prepare the British public for a western invasion of Syria. The American hawks have been demanding a ground offensive. And so it seems the British deep state wants more war, more carnage, more of our dead and maimed young women and men, for global American military supremacy and big oil’s profits.