Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

BLM Activist Calls for Dictionary to Redefine Racism

January 13, 2021

Here’s something far more controversial after some of the posts I’ve put up recently. A few days ago, the writer and Youtuber Simon Webb put up on his channel, History Debunked, a piece about a worrying attempt by a young Black American woman, Kennedy Mitchum to change the definition of racism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Webb states that most people would say that racism means racial prejudice, or that there are more profound differences between racial groups than their skin colour and physical appearance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary currently defines racism as

  1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
  2. A doctrine or political programme based on racism and designed to execute its policies.
  3. Racial prejudice or discrimination.

This wasn’t good enough for Mitchum. Three days after the death of George Floyd, with riots breaking out across America, she emailed the publisher calling for the definition to be changed in accordance with Critical Race Theory. This holds that racism is due to the imbalance of power in society, and implemented by the dominant racial group. Instead of telling Mitchum where to stick her suggestion, as Webb himself would have done, the publishers responded to her, telling her that this issue needed to be addressed sooner rather than later and that a revision would be made. Peter Sokolofsky, one of the dictionary’s editors, stated that the second definition would be expanded to be even more explicit in its next edition, and would include systemic oppression as well as sample sentence, and would be formulated in consultation with academics in Black Studies.

Webb points out that if this is done, then it would redefine racism as something that only Whites do, and absolve people of colour of any responsibility for it on their part, or indeed see them as being racist at all, because Whites are the dominant race in Britain and America. This is, he claims, the attitude of many liberals and leftists, who believe that all White people are racist. It would also mean that Blacks, who hated Jews or Indians, would not be viewed as racist. He has personally seen such racism in the Caribbean street robbers of Hackney. They hated Orthodox Jews and used to go to Stamford Bridge to prey on the Jewish community there. He ends the video by stating that such a redefinition of racism would mean that all Whites in Britain and America are defined as racist but no other ethnic groups.

Changing the dictionary definition of racism – YouTube

There certainly is an attitude amongst some anti-racist activists that only White people can be racist and are never the victims. Way back in October 2019 Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, put up a post commenting on a report in the Guardian about complaints about an EHRC investigation into racism at Britain’s universities by a group of Black and Asian academics and students. The group, which included Heidi Mirza, the visiting professor of race, faith and culture and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Fope Olaleye, the NUS’ Black students’ officer, Gargi Bhattacharyya, professor of sociology at the University of East London, and Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the racial equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, were outraged at the Commission because it dared to include anti-White, anti-English racism. This, they seemed to believe, detracted from the Commission’s true purpose, which was to combat White racism against Blacks and Asians.

Students of Colour Furious that Anti-White Prejudice is Considered to be Racism – YouTube

I’ve posted a number of pieces criticising the lack of attention and action against anti-White racism. At the moment the attitude that racism is something that only Whites are guilty of racism seems extremely prevalent. In fact, the situation regarding racial prejudice, abuse and violence is far more complex. About 20 years ago, before 9/11 and the subsequent massive rise in Islamophobia, Whites briefly formed the largest number of victims of racial abuse and violence. There are also tensions and conflict between different non-White minorities. In the 1980s or ’90s there was a riot in Birmingham, not between Blacks and Whites, but between Blacks and Asians. I’ve also heard that in one of the schools in Bristol in one of the very racially mixed areas, most of the playground fights were between different groups of Asians. Some people were aware that different ethnic groups also had their racial prejudices. Boy George mentioned it when he appeared on Max Headroom’s chat show on British TV in the 1980s, for which he was praised for his brave outspokenness by the world’s first computer generated video jockey.

There is, however, a real reluctance to tackle ethnic minority racism. A couple of years ago an Asian man told Diane Abbott that there should be more action on the racism members of ethnic minorities experienced at the hands of other non-Whites. Abbott told him she wasn’t going to do anything about it, because the Tories would use it to divide and rule. Like Kennedy Mitchum and the Critical Race Theorists, as well as the critics of the EHRC, she was solely focussed on tackling White racism.

That focus, in my opinion, explains why the Black comedian and anti-racist activist, Sophie Duker, felt she could get away with a joke about killing Whitey on Frankie Boyle’s podcast. Boyle had assembled a panel of mainly Black and Asian activists, to discuss the topic of how ethnic minorities were coming together to kill Whitey. Duker had made comments about racism being the product of an ideology of Whiteness, which was harming Blacks and Whites. She then said that they didn’t want to kill Whitey, before adding ‘we do really’. She was clearly joking, but her comment resulted in the corporation receiving 200 complaints. According to right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber, Alex Belfield, the Beeb is now being investigated by the Greater Manchester Police for what is described as a ‘hate incident’. His attitude is that while Duker’s comment was a joke, it should be unacceptable, just as making jokes about killing Blacks is unacceptable. See, for example, his piece ‘Reply BBC ‘Whitey’ Joker STAGGERING From Unapologetic Hate Lady Comedian’, which he put up on Youtube on the 8th January 2021. No, I’m not going to link to it. Even I have standards! I think one of the reasons she felt she could make the joke is because she and the other activists concentrate exclusively on White racism. Anti-White racism simply isn’t an issue with them. But anti-White racism, abuse and violence does occur, hence the angry complaints.

We really do need a study of anti-White racism and racism amongst ethnic minorities. Sir Alan Burns, a British colonial civil servant and former governor of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, discusses Black prejudice against Whites and other racial groups in his book, Colour Prejudice, published in 1948. Nigel Barley also discusses the blind spot Cameroonians had towards their own racism, as well as that of a Black American ethnologist in his The Innocent Anthropologist. The Black American was very racially aware. An idealist, he was inspired by notions of Black brotherhood and wished to live and be treated by the local people the same as one of them. He was shocked when they continued to regard him as they would White westerners, and failed to see how the Fulani traders rigged the local markets to exclude those from other tribes. As for the Camerounians generally, they commonly believed that only Whites were racist. Barley describes how they excused the massacre of French nuns in the Congo by the claim that the nuns were themselves racists. But they refused to recognise that their own hatred and contempt of the people he was studying, the Dowayo, was also racist.

Some Asian nations also have a reputation for racism. Back in the 1990s I found a book on Chinese xenophobia on sale in Waterstones in Bath. I’ve also read various books on Japan, which have also described how racist Japanese society is. I don’t know if it is still true, but one could only qualify as a Japanese citizen if both parents were Japanese. This meant that there was a sizable Korean community, who had lived in the country for generations, which had no civil rights under the law. In schools there was a strong suspicion of outsiders, so it has been claimed, which resulted in foreign students being segregated in separate classes. This is on the grounds that their Japanese language skills may not be good enough for inclusion with the rest of the pupils, but it is applied even to children who are fluent in the language. Outside Japan, expatriate or visiting Japanese will stick almost exclusively to themselves. Back in the 1990s there was a controversy in Australia, I believe, over the construction of a luxury resort there by the Japanese, because it was exclusively for Japanese and no-one else. I don’t mean by this to claim that all Japanese are racist. I’ve met people, who lived in Japan, who admire them and who told me that in their experience they were a very kind people. The travel writer and historian William Dalrymple also describes the anti-Black racism he encountered in India in his book, In Xanadu. Arriving at a railway station with a friend, a Black American soldier, he approached a group of Indian porters, only to see them turn away, sneering at the Black American simply for being Black. Again, I don’t wish to imply that all Indians are racist either.

Racism and racial prejudice exists amongst all peoples and ethnic groups to a greater or lesser degree, even in this country. It is about time that there were proper academic studies of it amongst non-White ethnic groups and anti-White racism in this country. At the moment there is a feeling amongst Whites that only White on Black racism is taken seriously, and that prejudice against Whites is not only acceptable, but being fostered by supposed anti-racist activists.

If the authorities are serious about tackling racism, and all forms of it, that needs to change.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

December 4, 2020

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.

‘I’ Report of Successful Test of Virgin Hyperloop Maglev Train

November 13, 2020

Here’s an interesting piece of science/technology news. Tuesday’s I, for 10th November 2020, carried a piece by Rhiannon Williams, ‘New tube: Hyperloop carries first passengers in 100 mph test run’, which reported that Virgin Hyperloop had successfully tested their proposed maglev transport system. This is a type of magnetically levitated train running in a sealed tunnel from which the air has been removed so that there is no atmospheric resistance. The article ran

Two passengers have become the first to use Hyperloop, a technology which claims to be the future of ultra-fast ground transport.

The demonstration took place on a 500-metre test track in the Nevada desert outside Las Vegas on Sunday.

Josh Giegel, Virgin Hyperloop’s chief technology officer and co-founder, and Sara Luchlan, the company’s head of passenger experience, climbed into a Virgin Hyperloop pod before it entered an airlock inside an enclosed vacuum tube.

Footage showed the pod taking about 15 seconds to complete the journey as the air inside the tube was removed, accelerating the pod to 100 mph before it slowed to a halt.

The futuristic system is intended eventually to allow journeys of up to 670 mph using electric propulsion, and magnetic levitation in a tube, which is in near-vacuum conditions.

The Shanghai Maglev, the fastest commercial bullet train, which also uses magnetic levitation, is capable of top speeds of 3000 mph, meaning it could end up being considered slow by the Hyperloop’s theoretical future standards. The fastest speed achieved by a maglev train was 375 mph on a test run in Japan.

Virgin Hyperloop was founded in 2014 and builds on a proposal by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

The technology could allow passengers to travel between Heathrow and Gatwick airports, which are 45 miles apart, in just four minutes, the company’s previous chief executive, Rob Lloyd, told the BBC in 2018.

Ms Luchlan described the experience as “exhilarating”. It had, she added, been smooth, and “not at all like a rollercoaster”.

The business hopes to seat up to 23 passengers in a pod and make its technology “a reality in years, not decades”. Jay Walder, the current chief executive, said: “I can’t tell you how often I get asked, ‘is hyperloop safe?’ With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety.”

The article was accompanied by this handy explanatory diagram.

The text’s blurry, but should read:

How it works

Hyperloop is a new mode of long-distance transportation that uses electromagnetic levitation and propulsion to glide a vehicle at airline speeds through a low-pressure tube.

Electromagnetic coils along the tube are supplied with an alternating current, causing them to rapidly switch polarity. Permanent magnets beneath the pod are attracted then repelled, creating forward motion and magnetic levitation.

It then shows a diagram of various other high speed vehicles with the proposed Hyperloop system for comparison. These are

Virgin Hyperloop …. 670 mph.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner …. 593 mph.

Maglev (Japan) …. 375 mph.

Javelin (UK) … 140 mph.

Well, colour me sceptical about all this. The ‘Virgin’ part of the company’s name makes me wonder if it’s part of Beardie Branson’s empire of tat. In which case, we’re justified in wondering if it this will ever, ever actually be put into operation. After all, Branson has been telling the good peeps, who’ve bought tickets for his Virgin Galactic journeys into space that everything’s nearly complete, and they’ll be going into space next year, for the past 25 years or so. I don’t believe that his proposed Spaceship 1 or whatever it’s called will ever fly, and that the whole business is being run as a loss so he can avoid paying tax legally. I don’t know how much it would cost to set up a full scale Hyperloop line running between two real towns between several stops within a single city like a subway, but I’d imagine it’d cost tens, if not hundreds of millions. I think it’s too expensive for any government, whether national or local authority, to afford, at least in the present economic situation.

And on a more humorous level, it also reminds me of the rapid transit system in the 2000 AD ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip. This was set in a far future in which humanity cowered underground, ruled over by the Terminators. They were a kind of futuristic medieval crusading order, dedicated to the extermination of all intelligent alien life, led by their ruthless leader, Torquemada. Earth was now called Termight, and humanity lived in vast underground cities linked by rapid transit tunnels. A system similar to the Hyperloop, the Overground, ran across Termight’s devastated surface. Termight’s surface had been devastated, not by aliens, but by strange creatures from Earth’s future, which had appeared during the construction of a system of artificial Black and White Holes linking Earth to the rest of the galaxy. These creatures included the Gooney Bird, a giant predatory bird that looked like it had evolved from the Concorde plane, which swept down from its nest in an abandoned city to attack the Overground trains and feed them to its young.

From: Nemesis the Warlock: Volume One, by Pat Mills, Kevin O’Neill and Jesus Redondo (Hachette Partworks Ltd: 2017)

The Hyperloop’s too close to the fictional Overground system for comfort. Will the company’s insurance cover attacks by giant rampaging carnivorous mechanical birds? The comparison’s particularly close as Termight’s surface is a desert waste, and the system was tested out in the Nevada desert.

I realise that ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ is Science Fiction, and that even with its successful test run on Tuesday, it’ll be years before the hyperloop system ever becomes a reality, but I think it might be wise to avoid it if it ever does. After all, you wouldn’t want to be on it when the metal claws and beak start tearing through the tunnel.

RT America’s Lee Camp Raises Questions about Starmer’s Connection to British Deep State

October 18, 2020

Mike’s put up a number of pieces discussing and criticising Starmer’s demand that Labour MPs abstain on the wretched ‘Spycops’ bill. If passed, this would allow members of the police and security services to commit serious offences while undercover. Twenty Labour MPs initially defied him and voted against it, with several resigning in protest from the shadow cabinet. The Labour whips’ office has also broken party protocol to issue written reprimands to the rebels. If they defy party discipline, they will face a reprimand period of six months, which will be extended to twelve if they continue to break the whip. These letters have also been shared with the parliamentary committee, a group of backbench MPs elected by the parliamentary Labour party and currently dominated by the right. This committee will decide whether or not to inform the rebel MPs’ constituency parties and the NEC. The information could then be considered if an MP seeks reselection in preparation for a general election. As one MP has said, it’s intimidation, pure and simple. And a number of those MPs, who received the letters, are talking to union officials.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/17/starmers-tory-supporting-crackdown-on-his-own-party-makes-him-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities/

Starmer’s conduct shouldn’t really be a surprise. He’s a Blairite, and Blair’s tenure of the Labour leadership was marked by control freakery as he centralised power around himself and his faction away from the party’s ordinary members and grassroots. But Starmer is also very much an establishment figure. He was, after all, the director of public prosecutions. In this video below, comedian and presenter Lee Camp raises important and very provocative questions about Starmer’s connections to the British establishment and the deep state. Camp’s the presenter of a number of shows on RT America, which are deeply critical of the corporate establishment, and American militarism and imperialism. The video’s from their programme, Moment of Clarity. The questions asked about Starmer are those posed by Mac Kennard in an article in The Gray Zone. RT is owned by the Russian state, as it points out on the blurbs for its videos on YouTube. Putin is an authoritarian thug and kleptocrat, who has opposition journalists, politicos, activists and businessmen beaten and killed. But that doesn’t mean that RT’s programmes exposing and criticising western capitalism and imperialism and the corrupt activities and policies of our governments aren’t accurate and justified.

Camp begins the video by explaining how there was a comparable battle in the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as there was in the American Democrat party over Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the presidency. Just as Sanders was opposed by the Democrats’ corporate leadership and smeared as a Communist in a neo-McCarthyite witch hunt, so Jeremy Corbyn – a real progressive – was opposed by the corporatists in the Labour party. He was subjected to the same smears, as well as accusations of anti-Semitism because he supported Palestine. Camp states that there are leaked texts showing that leading figures in the Labour party were actively working to undermine him. Jeremy Corbyn has now gone and been replaced by Keir Starmer, about whom Kennard asks the following questions:

1. why did he meet the head of MI5 for drinks a year after his decision not to prosecute the intelligence agency for its role in torture?

Camp uses the term ‘deep state’ for the secret services, and realises that some of his viewers may be uncomfortable with the term because of its use by Trump. He tries to reassure them that the deep state, and the term itself, existed long before Trump. It’s just something the Orange Generalissimo has latched onto. Camp’s not wrong – the term was used for the network of covert intelligence and state law enforcement and security services long before Trump was elected. Lobster has been using the term for years in its articles exposing their grubby activities. More controversially, Camp believes that the deep state was responsible for the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. JFK was supposedly assassinated because he was about to divulge publicly the deep state’s nefarious activities. This is obviously controversial because the JFK assassination is one of the classic conspiracy theories, and one that many critics of the British and American secret states don’t believe in. It may actually be that JFK really was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone gunman. But Camp’s belief in this conspiracy theory doesn’t on its own disqualify his other allegations and criticisms about the secret state.

2. When and why did Starmer join the Trilateral Commission?

The Trilateral Commission was set up in 1973 by elite banker David Rockefeller as a discussion group to foster greater cooperation between Japan, the US and western Europe. According to Camp, it was really founded to roll back the advances of the hippy era as the corporate elite were horrified that ordinary people were being heard by governments instead of big businessmen. They looked back to the days when President Truman could listen to a couple of businessmen and no-one else. The Commission published a paper, ‘The Crisis of Democracy’, which claimed that democracy was in crisis because too many people were being heard. Ordinary people were making demands and getting them acted upon. This, the Commission decided, was anti-business. They made a series of recommendations themselves, which have since been implemented. These included the demand that the media should be aligned with business interests. Camp states that this doesn’t mean that there is uniformity of opinion amongst the mainstream media. The various media outlets do disagree with each other over policies and politicians. But it does mean that if the media decides that a story doesn’t fit with business interests, it doesn’t get published. The Commission also wanted the universities purged of left-wing progressives. The Commission’s members including such shining examples of humanity and decency as Henry Kissinger and the former director general of US National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

3. What did Starmer discuss with US attorney general Eric Holder when he met him on November 9th, 2011 in Washington D.C.?

Starmer was the director of public prosecutions at the time, and met not just Holder, but also five others from the Department of Justice. This was at the same time the Swedes were trying to extradite Julian Assange of Wikileaks infamy. Except that further leaked documents have shown that the Swedes were prepared to drop the case. But Britain wanted him extradited and tried, and successfully put pressure on the Swedes to do just that.

4. Why did Starmer develop such a close relationship with the Times newspaper?

Starmer held social gatherings with the Times’ staff, which is remarkable, as Camp points out, because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch like Fox News in America.

Camp goes on to conclude that, at the very least, this all shows that Starmer is very much a member of the corporate establishment, and that the deep state has been working to assure that same corporate elite that he’s safe, just as they worked to reassure Wall Street about Obama. At the time Obama had only been senator for a couple of years, but nevertheless he succeeded in getting a meeting with a former treasury secretary. But now the corporate establishment in the Democrats and the Labour party has won. Jeremy Corbyn has been ousted and replaced with Starmer, while Sanders can’t even get a platform with the Democrats. This is because the Democrats have surrendered the platform to the Republicans because Trump contradicts himself so much they just can’t follow him.

While these are just questions and speculation, they do strongly indicate that Starmer is very much part of the establishment and has their interests at heart, not those of the traditional Labour party. His closeness to the Times shows just why he was willing to write articles for the Tory press behind paywalls. His role in the British state’s attempt to extradite Julian Assange and meetings with Holder also show why Starmer’s so determined not to oppose the ‘spycops’ bill. He is very much part of the British state establishment, and sees it has his role and duty to protect it and its secrets, and not the British public from the secret state.

As for the Trilateral Commission, they’re at the heart of any number of dodgy conspiracy theories, including those claiming that the American government has made covert pacts with evil aliens from Zeta Reticuli. However, as Camp says, his membership of the Commission does indeed show that he is very much a member of the global corporate elite. An elite that wanted to reduce democracy in order to promote the interests of big business.

As a corporate, establishment figure, Starmer very definitely should not be the head of a party founded to represent and defend ordinary people against exploitation and deprivation by business and the state. Dissatisfaction with his leadership inside the Labour party is growing. Hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s ousted in his turn, and the leadership taken by someone who genuinely represents the party, its history and its real mission to work for Britain’s working people.

Marxism, Black Nationalism and Fascism

September 21, 2020

Last week or so Sasha Johnson was thrown off twitter for stating that the White man would not be the equals of Blacks, but their slave. Johnson is supposedly one of the leading lights in the Oxford Black Lives Matter movement. She was filmed holding a bizarre paramilitary-style rally in Brixton. Standing in front of a uniformed squad of Black people, she compared the police to the Klu Klux Klan and declared that what was needed was a Black militia. Like the one that was standing behind her, no doubt. She also screamed ‘Black Power!’ and ‘Revolution!’ She then followed that by announcing that, as Black and Asian politicians like Priti Patel and David Lammy were all sell-outs, she was going to found a a new political party solely for Blacks.

Johnson has been called a ‘Black Panther’, though I don’t know whether it was by her admirers in the Black power movement, or by herself. It certainly seems that she’s trying to copy the Black Panthers, who were set up to defend American Blacks against shooting and murder by the police, and set up their own party. But to British eyes it also looks very much like other violent paramilitary movements, like the terrorist organisations in Ulster and White Fascist organisations, such the British Union of Fascists and the National Front.

Black Lives Matter as an organisation, I gather, is Marxist, and the Black Panthers are usually seen as radical left rather than Fascist right. But this passage from Noel Sullivan’s Fascism (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd 1983) may explain how Johnson was able to move from a Marxist position to racial supremacy, albeit one that privileged Blacks against Whites.

Sullivan’s a Conservative historian, who take the view that the origins of Fascism are to be found in the activist style of politics that emerged with the French Revolution. This demanded that the public take an active part in politics as against the older, feudal system in which politics was confined to the king and the aristocracy. This new activism also set up the nation or the people against an outgroup, identified as their enemy. For the French Revolutionaries, the people were the French middle class, and their enemies were the monarchy, aristocracy and clergy. Later in the 19th century, Karl Marx identified the people with the working class. However, that didn’t end the process. This was followed in the 20th century by Asian revolutionary socialists, beginning with Sultan Galiev, identifying their peoples as the oppressed working class and urging revolution against their White colonial oppressors. Sullivan writes

In spite of Marx’s belief that his redefinition of the ‘true people’ as the proletariat represented a scientific and therefore final stage in activist strategy, the subsequent course of twentieth-century intellectual history revealed that his own position was a unstable as the one which he had attacked. Consider, for example, the doctrine advocated by Sultan Galiev in 1919, in an article entitled ‘Social Revolution and the East’. Galiev was a Marxist, in the sense that he followed Marx in identifying the true people with the proletariat. He differed from Marx, however, in his definition of the proletariat itself. The trouble with western socialism, Galiev wrote, is that ‘the East, with its population of a milliard and a half human beings, oppressed by the West European bourgeoisie, was almost entirely forgotten. The current of the international class war bypassed the East and the problem of revolution in the East existed only in the minds of a few scattered individuals. For Galiev, the true proletariat now became the Muslim, Hindu and Chinese masses of the East, and the Marxist class struggle was accordingly transformed into one between the white and coloured races. Other non-European socialists rapidly took up this theme. For example, in 1920 Li Ta-chao, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, defined as class-struggle as racial conflict ‘between the lower-class coloured races and the upper-class white race’. In this struggle, ‘China really stands in the position of the world proletariat.’ In Japan, Ikki Kita also pursued the racial method of defining the true people as the populace of the third world, maintaining in his Outline for the Reconstruction of the Japanese State, 1919) that ‘There are self-contrictions in the fundamental thought of those European and American socialists who approve of proletarian class-struggle within a country but who consider international proletarian war as chauvinism and militarism.’ In recent decades, Frantz Fanon has been the best-known exponent of this particular variant of the new activist style of politics. (pp. 51-2).

Sasha Johnson seems to have made a similar transition, identifying the true people with Britain’s depressed Black population. In so doing, she’s moved from a socialistic Black radicalism to Fascism. She’s become Black Britain’s version of the White Fascists Nesta Webster and Rotha Orne Linton.

I also wonder how long she’ll be a figure on the public stage. She was determined to make herself notorious and a figure of public outrage and terror, like any number of angry young people before her trying to epater le bourgeois. I don’t think Black Lives Matter have done anything to censure her or reel her in, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. At the moment she’s a liability. They and the media have made a point of showing that Blacks and Whites, especially young people, are united in their support of the movement. BLM also released statements on placards stating that they were trying to start a race war. They were trying to end one. But that is precisely what Sasha Johnson wants to do.

My guess is that Black Lives Matter will now try and rein her in, if only for the sake of publicity. As for Johnson herself, she and her supporters come across as young, idealistic and stupid. 19th and 20th century history is full of similar young men and women, angry and radical, trying to threaten the establish order. Hopefully with time she’ll settle down and grow up.

Have Astronomers Found Traces of Life on Venus?

September 19, 2020

The big story on Tuesday was that astronomers had discovered traces of a gas, phosphine, in the atmosphere of Venus. The gas is produced by living organisms, and so it’s discovery naturally leads to the possibility that the second planet from the Sun may be the abode of life.

The I’s edition for 15th September 2020 reported the discovery in an article by David Woods entitled, ‘Forget Mars, a startling discovery may mean there’s life on Venus’. This ran

Alien life could be thriving in the clouds above Venus: a team of astronomers detected a rare gas in its atmosphere, according to a study involving British researchers.

Venus, the second planet from the Sun, has a surface temperature of 500o C, and 96 per cent of its atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide. But the discovery of phosphine, around 31 miles (50Km) from the planet’s surface, has indicated that life could prosper in a less hostile environment.

On Earth phosphine – a molecule of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms – is associated with life. It is found in places that have little oxygen, such as swamps, or with microbes living in the guts of animals.

A group of British, American and Japanese scientists – led by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University – first identified Venus’s phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The presence of the gas was confirmed at an astronomical observatory of 45 telescopes in Chile. The discovery was published yesterday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Professor Greaves said: “This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity. I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’s spectrum, it was a shock.” Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder, a Royal Greenwich Observatory astronomer, who was part of the research team, added: “This was an incredibly difficult observation to make. We still have a long way to go before we can confirm how this gas is being produced but it is definitely an exciting time for science.”

The team is now awaiting more telescope time to establish whether the phosphine is in a particular part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. While the clouds above Venus have temperatures of around 30oC, they are made from 90 per cent sulphuric acid – a major issue for the survival of microbes.

Professor Emma Bunce, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, has called for a new mission to Venus to investigate the findings.

This reminds me somewhat of the excitement in the 1990s when scientists announced that they may have discovered microfossils of Martian bacteria in a meteorite from the Red Planet found in Antarctica. The above article was accompanied by another piece by Woods, ‘Nothing found since claims awed Clinton’, which described how former president Clinton had made an official announcement about the possibility of life on Mars when the putative microfossils were found. The article states that confirmation that these are indeed fossils is lacking. It also notes that 4,000 exoplanets have also now been found, and that some of them may have life, but this has also not been confirmed. Astronomers have also been searching the skies for radio messages from alien civilisations, but these haven’t been found either.

Dr Colin Pillinger, the head of the ill-fated Beagle Project, a British probe to the Red Planet, also argued that there was life there as traces of methane had been found. This looked like it had been produced by biological processes. In a talk he gave at the Cheltenham Festival of Science one year, he said that if a Martian farted, they’d find it.

A few years ago I also submitted a piece to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society suggesting that there might be life in Venus’ clouds. It was based on the presence of organic chemicals there, rather similar, I felt, to those on Saturn’s moon, Titan, which at one time was also considered a possible home of alien life. I got a letter stating that the Journal was going to run it, but in the end they didn’t. I think it may have been because another, professional astronomer published an article about it just prior to the proposed publication of my piece. I think I threw out the Journal’s letter years ago while clearing out the house, and so I don’t have any proof of my claim. Which is obviously disappointing, and you’ll have to take what I say on trust.

The possibility that there’s life on Venus is interesting, and undoubtedly important in its implications for the existence of life elsewhere in the cosmos if true. But I think that, like the Martian microfossils, there isn’t going to be any confirmation for a very long time.

History Debunked Refutes Ethnomathematics/Rehumanizing Mathematics

September 8, 2020

This is another video from History Debunked. In it, youtuber and author Simon Webb attacks Ethnomatics, sometimes also called Rehumanizing Mathematics. This is a piece of modern pseudo-scholarship designed to help Black children tackle Maths. The idea is that Blacks perform poorly compared at Maths compared to other ethnic groups. This is held to be because Maths is the creation of White men, and this puts Blacks off studying and mastering it.

The solution has been to scrutinise African societies for their indigenous Maths, especially the Dogon of Mali. They have been chosen as the chief model for all this, as they possessed extremely advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge. In the 1970s there was a book, The Sirius Mystery by Robert K.G. Temple, which claimed that they owed this advance knowledge to contact with space aliens. Apparently this claim was subsequently dropped 10 – 15 years later, and the claim made instead that they were just superlative astronomers and mathematicians themselves. But Dogon Maths is held to be different from White, western Maths because it’s spiritual. History Debunked then goes on to demonstrate the type of pseudo-scientific nonsense this has lead to by providing a link to an Ethnomathematics paper and reading out its conclusion. It’s the kind of pretentious verbiage the late, great Jazzman, Duke Ellington, said stunk up the place. It’s the kind of postmodern twaddle that Sokal and Bricmont exposed in their Intellectual Impostures. It’s deliberately designed to sound impressive without actually meaning anything. There’s a lot of talk about expanding cognitive horizons and possibilities, but History Debunked himself says he doesn’t understand a word of it. And neither, I guess, will most people. Because it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just there to sound impressive and bamboozle the reader into thinking that somehow they’re thick because they don’t, while the fault is entirely the writers.

I think History Debunked is a man of the right, and certainly his commenters are Conservatives, some with extremely right-wing views. He’s produced a series of videos attacking the pseudo-history being pushed as Black History, and apparently Seattle in America is particularly involved in promoting this nonsense. But he expects it to come over here in a few years. Given the way Black History month has jumped the Atlantic, I think he’s right.

There’s been a particular emphasis on find ancient Black maths and science for some time I know. For a brief while I got on well with a Black studies group when I was a volunteer at the slavery archives in the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. That was before I read their magazine and got so annoyed with it and its attitude to Whites that I sent them a whole load of material arguing to the contrary, and pointing out that in places like the Sudan, Blacks were being enslaved and oppressed not by White Europeans, but by the Arabs. I also sent them material about the poor Whites of South Africa, who also lived in grinding poverty thanks to Apartheid. This was stuff they really didn’t want to hear, and I was told that if I wanted to talk to them further, I should do so through someone else. They were also interested in finding examples of Black maths and science. I sent them photocopies and notes I’d made of various medieval Muslim mathematicians. These were Arabs and Persians, like al-Khwarizmi, who gave his name to the word algorithm, Omar Khayyam, best known in the west for his Rubayyat, but who was also a brilliant mathematician, al-Haytham, who invented the camera obscura in the 12th century and others, rather than Black. But they were grateful for what I sent them nonetheless, and I thanked me. This was before I blotted my copybook with them.

I’m reposting this piece because, although it comes from the political, it is correct. And you don’t have to be right-wing to recognise and attack this kind of postmodern rubbish. Sokal and Bricmont, the authors of the book I mentioned early attacking postmodernism, were both men of the left. Sokal was a physicist, who taught maths in Nicaragua under the left-wing Sandinista government. They wrote the book because they took seriously George Orwell’s dictum that writing about politics means writing clearly in language everyone can understand. And even if you believe that Black people do need particular help with maths because of issues of race and ethnicity, Ethnomathematics as it stands really doesn’t appear to be it. It just seems to be filling children’s heads with voguish nonsense, rather than real knowledge.

I also remember the wild claims made about the Dogon and their supposed contact with space aliens. Part of it came from the Dogon possessing astronomical knowledge well beyond their level of technology. They knew, for example, that Sirius has a companion star, invisible to the naked eye, Sirius B. They also knew that our solar system had nine planets, although that’s now been subsequently altered. According to the International Astronomical Association or Union or whatever, the solar system has eight planets. Pluto, previously a planet, has been downgraded to dwarf planet, because it’s the same size as some of the planetoids in the Kuiper Belt. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince discuss this in one their books,The Stargate Conspiracy (London: Little, Brown & Company 1999), which claimed that the American intelligence agencies were secretly preparing a fake UFO landing in order to convince everyone that the space gods really had arrived, and set up a one-world dictatorship. This hasn’t happened, and I’ve seen the Fortean Times and other weird magazines trying to explain their book as a high-level hoax which people took too seriously. I don’t believe this, as they seemed very serious at the time. The Dogon believe that the first human ancestors, and some of their gods, came from the sky. Hence Temple’s claim that they were contacted by space aliens. Picknett and Prince, however, sided with sceptics like Carl Sagan. They argued instead ithat the Dogon owed it to a French priest, anthropologist or colonial administrator, I’ve forgotten which, who visited them in the 1920s and who was extremely interested in astronomy. This seems to me to be far more likely than that they either got it from space aliens or that they far better mathematicians and astronomers than they could have been at their level of development.

The Dogon are fascinating as their homes and villages are laid out to be microcosms of the male and female human body and the universe. The book African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder, London: Hamlyn 1967, describes the layout of a Dogon house thus:

The shape of the Dogon house is symbolical. The floor is like the earth and the flat roof like heaven. The vestibule is a man and the central room woman, with store rooms at her sides as arms. The hear at the end is her head. The four posts are the man and woman entwined in union. So the family house represents the unity of man and woman and God and the Earth. This is accompanied by the elevation and ground plan of a typical Dogon house. (p. 49).

There’s also this diagram of an idealised Dogon village:

The caption for the diagrame reads:

Like the house, the Dogon village represents human beings. The smithy is at the head like a hearth in a house. The family houses in the centre and millstones and village represent the sexes. Other altars are the feet. (p. 51).

Truly, a fascinating people and I have no problem anybody wanting to study them. But it should be in anthropology, ethnography or comparative religion, not maths.

But it struck me that if teachers and educators want to enthuse and inspire young minds with what maths Africans were studying, they could start with ancient Egypt and the great Muslim civilisations of the Sahara and north Africa, like Mali. Aminatta Forna in one of her programmes on these civilisations was shown an ancient astronomical text from the medieval library of one of these towns, which she was told showed that Muslims knew the Earth orbited the sun before Copernicus and Galileo. I doubt that very much. It looks like a form of a combined helio-and geocentric system, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and then taken up by some medieval astronomers not just in Islam, but also in Christian Europe. In this system, all the other planets when round the Sun, which orbited the Earth. Close to the modern system, but not quite. But it showed that the Black citizens of that civilisation were in contact with the great currents of Muslim science, and that they would have had learnt and taught the same kind of Maths that was being investigated and researcher right across the Muslim world, from India to Morocco and further south to Mali. One of the Black educationalists would like to translate one of these books from Arabic, the learned language of Muslim civilisation, and use it as an example of the kind of maths that was also taught in Black Africa.

Or you could go right back to ancient Egypt. Mathematical texts from the Land of the Nile have also survived in the Moscow and Rhind mathematical papyri. These have various maths problems and their solution. For example, problem No. 7 of the Moscow papyrus is about various calculations for a triangle. This runs

Example of calculating a triangle.

If you are told: A triangle of 2 thousands-of-land, the bank of 2 of 2 1/2;

You are to double the area: result 40 (arurae). Take (it) 2 1/2 times; result [100. Take its square root, namely] 10. Evoke 1 from 2 1/2; what results is 2/5. Apply this to 10; result 4. It is 10 (khet) in length by 4 (khet) in breadth. From Henrietta Midonick, The Treasury of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Pelican 1965) p. 71.

It’s amazing to think that the boys at the scribal school were being taught all this millennia ago. It gives you a real sense of connection with the ancient schoolkids reading it. You can imagine them, hunched over with their pen and ink, busily cudgeling their brains while the teacher prowls about them. The Babylonians were also renowned as the pioneers of early mathematics. They even uncovered a school when they excavated Ur of the Chaldees in the 1920s, complete with the maths and other texts the schoolboys – female education didn’t exist back then, but I’m willing to be corrected – were required to learn. As a schoolboy character in the Fast Show used to say: ‘Brilliant!’ You don’t need to burden modern African societies like the Dogon with spurious pseudo-history and pseudo-science, when the real historic achievements of ancient Egypt and medieval Africa are so impressive.

It struck me that even if you don’t use the original Egyptian maths texts to teach maths – which would be difficult, as their maths was slightly different. Their method of calculating the area of a field of four unequal sides yields far too high a figure, for example – you could nevertheless inspire children with similar problems. Perhaps you could do it with assistance of a child or two from the class. You could bring them out in front of everyone, give them and ancient Egyptian headdress, and then arranged the lesson so that they helped the teacher, acting as pharaoh, to solve it. Or else pharaoh showed them, his scribes, and thus the class. This is certainly the kind of thing that was done when I was a kid by the awesome Johnny Ball on the children’s maths and science programme, Think of a Number. And every week, as well as showing you a bit of maths and science, he also showed you a trick, which you could find out how to do by dropping him a line. It was the kind of children’s programme that the Beeb did very, very well. It’s a real pity that there no longer is an audience for children’s programmes and their funding has subsequently been cut.

Here’s History Debunked’s video attacking Ethnomathematics. He also attacks a piece of ancient baboon bone carved with notches, which he states has been claimed is an ancient prehistoric African calendar. He provides no evidence in this video to show that it wasn’t, and says its the subject of a later video. If this is the one I’m thinking of, then that is a claim that has been accepted by mainstream archaeologists and historians. See Ivor Grattan-Guinness, The Fontana History of the Mathematical Sciences (London: Fontana Press 1998) p. 24.

If you want to know more about ancient and medieval maths, and that of the world’s many indigenous cultures, see the book Astronomy before the Telescope, edited by Christopher Walker with an introduction by the man of the crumpled suit and monocle himself, Patrick Moore (London: British Museum Press 1998).

This has chapters on astronomy in Europe from prehistory to the Renaissance, but also on astronomy in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, Islam, China, Korea and Japan, North and South America, traditional astronomical knowledge in Africa and among Aboriginal Australians, Polynesia and the Maori. It can be a difficult read, as it explores some very technical aspects, but it is a brilliant work by experts in their respective fields.

The Overlord on Rumours that Mark Hamill Has Sold Image for Hollywood CGI Clone of Luke Skywalker

August 8, 2020

‘The Overlord’ is another YouTube channel devoted to news and views about genre cinema and television. It’s hosted by Dictor von Doomcock, a masked alien supervillain supposedly living at the centre of the Earth. And who is definitely not impressed at all at the state of contemporary popular culture, and particularly the way beloved film classics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who and so on are now being trashed by producers who have no respect for these series and their fans. And in this video he talks about the bizarre next step in this process: the recreation of favourite film characters like Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker through CGI, completely removing the need for human actors.

A website, WDW Pro, has claimed that Disney are looking for ways they can break the pause in filming imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. They are therefore looking at ways to do without human actors. They have therefore been looking at a technological solution to this problem, using the same computer techniques used to create the films The Lion King of 2019 and the 2016 film version of The Jungle Book, as well as the facial recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Rogue 1. Frustrated at the hold-up filming the third Guardians of the Galaxy flick, Disney will use the technology, Cosmic Rewind, to create a completely computer generated movie, but one that would be presented as using human characters. This is going to be an experiment to test the possibility of creating films without human actors and the need for their salaries. According to a rumour, which WDW Pro has not been able to confirm, the projected film is about Young Indy, and its effectiveness will be tested when a rollercoaster based on the film comes on as part of Disneyworld.

Lucasfilm has also apparently made a deal with Mark Hamill within the last 18 months in which he has signed over his image to them so that they can use it to create a CGI Luke Skywalker. This Virtual Skywalker may also be used in the projected Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars theme park. However, due to the project’s severe financial problems, this may not happen anytime soon. Disney are slowly moving towards using this technology to dispense with human actors so that they won’t have to suffer a similar pause in filming ever again, although they won’t move away from human actors altogether immediately.

Doomcock himself laments this development, and feels that it is inevitable in a world where Deep Fake technology has advanced so far that we don’t know if the people we see or the news we watch are real, or that the characters we see on the screen are brought to life by real actors using the skills and craft they have learned. He wonders what will happen to our civilisation – what we will lose – if everything we see on the screen is synthetic, and we are removed another step again from reality and anything that has ‘heart’. It might all be all right, but it seems to him that the more we remove the human element from art and culture and make it the creation of AIs, the more removed we are from our culture.

He also vents his spleen about the choice of subject for this putative movie, pointing out that there was a TV series about Young Indiana Jones years ago, and nobody wanted it. He recommends instead that if this grave-robbing technology is to be used, it should be used to recreate the mature Indy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom. He also criticises Hamill for what he sees as his poor judgement in making the deal with Disney. Hamill should know personally how a poor director can ruin a beloved legacy character, the actor’s own contribution and a favourite film franchise through his experience playing Skywalker in The Last Jedi. He famously wept on set during that movie and bitterly criticised the director’s decisions. He’s sarcastic about the respect Disney shows such legacy characters. It’s rumoured that George Lucas is returning to helm the Star Wars films, in which everything will be fine and we can look forward to a bright, new golden age. But considering the potential for abuse, Doomcock states that he is dismayed, flabbergasted and disgusted by Hamill’s decision and fearful for humanity’s future. As human culture becomes made by machines, hasn’t Skynet won? Who needs to launch nukes, when we have a CGI Skywalker dancing like a monkey in a bikini?

Here’s the video, but as Doomcock himself warns you, it isn’t for children. It has adult humour. Blatantly adult humour.

As you can see, there’s more than a little hyperbole in Doomcock’s argument, and some people will take issue at what he views as the humiliation of Luke Skywalker to push a feminist or anti-racist message, like Black Lives Matter. But his fears of the abuse of such technology aren’t unfounded, and have been around for quite some time. The possibility that actors would sell their images to film companies to recreate them Virtually, while making the flesh and blood person redundant, was explored a few years ago in the SF film The Congress by Ari Folman. This was loosely based on the Stanislaw Lem novel, The Futurological Congress, but is very different, and, in my opinion, inferior. For one thing, the Lem novel is hilariously funny, while the movie is grim and depressing. The movie is about a Hollywood actress, Robin Wright, playing herself, who makes precisely the deal Hamill is rumoured to have made. She then stars in a series of action movies, including one sequence that is definitely a tip to Kubrick’s Cold War masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. But this is all computer animation. The Wright herself isn’t remotely involved in their filming. Indeed, it is a condition of her contract that she not act at all, and live the rest of her life in a very comfortable retirement. These developments are followed by the discovery of a drug that allows people to enter a vast, consensual Virtual Reality, in which they can be and do anyone and anything they want. The world’s masses abandon reality, so that civilisation decays into a very grim, dystopia of ruin, poverty and misery. At one point Wright takes the drug, which will return her to reality, only to find herself in a food queue in a burned out, abandoned building. Unable to come with this, she returns to the Virtual world to search for the son she lost while in a coma as a result of a terrorist attack on the Las Vegas congress she was attending at which the hallucinogenic drug was launched. As I said, it’s a depressing film in which such illusions really are bringing about the destruction of humanity. And there is no escape, except into the Virtual world that has caused it.

The film follows a number of other SF works that have also predicted similar dystopias brought about by the hyperreality of mass entertainment. This includes John D. MacDonald’s short story, Spectator Sport, in which a time traveller appears in a future in which all human achievement has ceased as the public live out their lives as characters in VR plays. Another, similar tale is Good Night, Sophie, by the Italian writer Lino Aldani, about an actress in a similar world in which people live harsh, austere lives in order to escape into a far brighter, more vivid fantasy world of entertainment. Rather less pessimistic was the appearance of the SF film, Final Fantasy, all those years ago. This was supposed to be the first film in which all the characters were CGI, and who were supposedly indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood reality. The fact that further films like it haven’t been made suggests that, reassuringly, people want real humans in their movies, not computer simulations.

We’ve also seen the appearance of a number of computer generated celebrities. The first of these was the vid jockey, Max Headroom on Channel 4 in the 1980s. He was supposed to  be entirely computer-generated, but in reality was played by Canadian actor Matt Frewer under a lot of makeup. Then in the 1990s William Gibson, one of the creators of Cyberpunk SF, published Idoru. This was a novel about a man, who begins an affair with a Virtual celebrity. Soon after it came out, a Japanese company announced that it had created its own Virtual celeb, a female pop star. Gibson’s books are intelligent, near-future SF which contain more than an element of the ‘literature as warning’. The worlds of his Cyberspace books are dystopias, warnings of the kind of society that may emerge if the technology gets out of hand or corporations are given too much power. The creation of the Virtual pop star looked instead as though the corporation had uncritically read Gibson, and thought what he was describing was a good idea.

But going further back, I seem to recall that there was a programme on late at night, presented by Robert Powell, on the impact the new information technology would have on society. It was on well after my bedtime, and children didn’t have their own TVs in those days. Or at least, not so much. I therefore didn’t see it, only read about it in the Radio Times. But one of its predictions was that there would be widespread unemployment caused by automation. This would include actors, who would instead by replaced by computer simulations.

Computer technology has also been used to create fresh performances by deceased stars, sometimes duetting with contemporary performers. This worried one of my aunts when it appeared in the 1980s/90s. Dead performers have also been recreated as holograms, to make the stage or television appearances they never made in life. The late, great comedian Les Dawson was revived as one such image, giving post-mortem Audience With… on ITV. It was convincing, and based very much on Dawson’s own live performances and work. It was good to see him again, even if only as Virtual ghost, and a reminder of how good he was when alive.

I don’t know how reliable the rumours Doomcock reports and on which he comments are. This could all be baseless, and come to nothing. But I share his fears about the damage to our culture, if we allow our films and television to be generated by technicians and algorithms rather than flesh and blood thesps. Especially as the rising cost of movies mean that the film companies are unwilling to take risks and seem determined to rake over and exploit past classics rather than experiment with creating fresh material.

CGI’s a great tool. It’s used to create vividly real worlds and creatures. But I don’t want it replacing humans. Even if that means waiting a few years for new flicks to come out.

 

‘Mr H Reviews’ on the Casting of Robot Lead in SF Film

August 8, 2020

‘Mr H Reviews’ is a YouTube channel specialising in news and opinions on genre films – SF, Fantasy and Horror. In the video below he comments on a piece in the Hollywood Reporter about the production of a new SF movie, which will for the first time star a genuine AI. The movie is simply titled b. Financed by Bondit Capital, which also funded the film Loving Vincent, with the Belgium-based Happy Moon Productions and New York’s Top Ten Media, the film is based on a story by the special effects director Eric Pham with Tarek Zohdy and Sam Khoze. It is about a scientist, who becomes unhappy with a programme to perfect human DNA and helps the AI woman he has created to escape. 

The robot star, Erica, was created by the Japanese scientists/ engineers Hiroshi Ishigura and Hohei Ogawa for another film. The two, according to the Reporter, taught her to act. That film, which was to be directed by Tony Kaye, who made American History X, fell through. Some scenes for the present movie were already shot in Japan in 2019, and the rest will be shot in Europe next year, 2021.

The decision to make a movie starring a robot looks like an attempt to get round the problems of filming caused by the Coronavirus. However, it also raises a number of other issues. One of these, which evidently puzzle the eponymous Mr H, is how a robot can possibly act. Are they going to use takes and give it direction, as they would a human, or will it instead simply be done perfectly first time, thanks to someone on a keyboard somewhere programming it? He is quite enthusiastic about the project with some reservations. He supports the idea of a real robot playing a robot, but like most of us rejects the idea that robots should replace human actors. He also agrees with the project being written by a special effects supervisor, because such a director would obviously be aware of how such a project should be shot.

But it also ties in with an earlier video he has made about the possible replacement of humans by their Virtual simulacra. According to another rumour going round, Mark Hamill has signed away his image to Lucas Film, so that Luke Skywalker can be digitally recreated using CGI on future Star Wars films. Mr H ponders if this is the future of film now, and that humans are now going to be replaced by their computer generated doubles.

In some ways, this is just the culmination of processes that have been going on in SF films for some time. Animatronics – robot puppets – have been used in Science Fiction films since the 1990s, though admittedly the technology has been incorporated into costumes worn by actors. But not all the time. Several of the creatures in the American/Australian SF series Farscape were such animatronic robots, such as the character Rygel. Some of the robots features in a number of SF movies were entirely mechanical. The ABC Warrior which appears in the 1990s Judge Dredd film with Sylvester Stallone was deliberately entirely mechanical. The producers wished to show that it definitely wasn’t a man in a suit. C-3PO very definitely was played by a man in a metal costume, Anthony Daniels, but I noticed in the first of the prequels, The Phantom Menace, that a real robot version of the character appears in several scenes. Again, this is probably to add realism to the character. I also think that in the original movie, Episode 4: A New Hope, there were two versions of R2D2 used. One was the metal suit operated by Kenny Baker, and I think the other was entirely mechanical, operated by radio. Dr. Who during Peter Davison’s era as the Doctor also briefly had a robot companion. This was Kameleon, a shape-changing android, who made his first appearance in The King’s Demons. He was another radio-operated robot, though voiced by a human actor. However the character was never used, and his next appearance was when he died in the story Planet of Fire.

And then going further back, there’s Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mad plan to create a robotic Salvador Dali for his aborted 1970s version of Dune. Dali was hired as one of the concept artists, along with H.R. Giger and the legendary Chris Foss. Jodorowsky also wanted him to play the Galactic Emperor. Dali agreed, in return for a payment of $1 million. But he stipulated that he was only going to act for half an hour. So in order to make sure they got enough footage of the great Surrealist and egomaniac, Jodorowsky was going to build a robot double. The film would also have starred Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha, as well as Jodorowsky’s own son, Brontes, as Paul Atreides. The film was never made, as the producers pulled the plug at the last minute wondering what was happening to it. I think part of the problem may have been that it was going well over budget. Jodorowsky has said that all the effort that went into it wasn’t wasted, however, as he and the artist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud used the ideas developed for the film for their comic series, The Incal. I think that Jodorowsky’s version of Dune would have been awesome, but would have been far different to the book on which it was based.

I also like the idea of robots performing as robots in an SF movie. A few years ago an alternative theatre company specialising in exploring issues of technology and robotics staged a performance in Prague of the classic Karel Capek play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, using toy robots. I can see the Italian Futurists, rabid Italian avant-garde artists who praised youth, speed, violence and the new machine world around the time of the First World War, being wildly enthusiastic about this. Especially as, in the words of their leader and founder, Tommasso Marinetti, they looked ‘for the union of man and machine’. But I really don’t want to see robots nor CGI recreations replace human actors.

Many films have been put on hold because of the Coronavirus, and it looks like the movie industry is trying to explore all its options for getting back into production. However, the other roles for this movie haven’t been filled and so I do wonder if it will actually be made.

It could be one worth watching, as much for the issues it raises as its story and acting.

19 Years Ago Private Eye Revealed New Labour Plans to Privatise NHS and Education

July 24, 2020

One of the good aspects of Private Eye that has kept me reading it – just about – is the way it has covered the deep and pernicious connections between the political parties and big business. And in their issue for 15th-28 June 2001, right at the beginning of Blair’s second term in government, the Eye revealed his plans to privatise the NHS and the education system in the article ‘How the New Government Will Work’. This ran

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are in two minds: should they privatise the entire delivery of public services or just some of it? To help them decide they are consulting the best minds money can buy.

For a start, Downing Street has a report from the Blairite Institute for Public Policy Research. It recommends that private firms deliver health and education on the widest possible scale. The report, a final paper from IPPR’s “Commission on Public Private Partnerships”, claims that “the crucial ingredient that the private sector possesses and the public sector needs is management.”

The report was paid for by the Serco “institute”, a front for the firm which privately runs a slew of Britain’s prisons and immigration detention centres, including the grim “Doncatraz” Doncaster gaol. Serco failed to win the air traffic control privatisation precisely because of worries about its management.

The report was also supported by Nomura, Japanese bank with a big interest in private finance initiative-style (PFI) deals: Nomura’s management of army housing under PFI has been lamentable. KPMG chipped in to support the report as well. It is not a disinterested party either. KPMG advised on 29 hospital PFI schemes, and many other deals outside health.

The giant accountant’s role in these hospital sell-offs has only come under indepdent scrutiny once: at Dartford and Gravesham hospital. The national audit office (NAO) found that, despite KPMG’s “healthcare” advice, the new hospital probably made no financial saving but did cut beds drastically. KPMG’s own fees were originally tendered at £152,000. It finally billed the NHS for £960,000. For good measure, the Norwich Union, which also put millions in PFI, invested in the IPPR report too.

Martin Taylor, chancellor Brown’s friend who used to run Barclays Bank, acted as “commissioner” in drawing up the IPPR’s advice. He is perfectly suited to the job: as an adviser to Goldman Sachs he is in the pay of a multinational bank which wants to make a profit out of Britain’s poor. Goldman Sachs is involved in PFI: it originally funded the PFI buy-out of all Britain’s dole offices.

As the “honorary secretary” of the Bilderberg group, Taylor is also involved in the secretive corporate schmoozing of big name politicians (he signed up for Bilderberg originally alongside Peter Mandelson). And when he ran Barclays, he showed his “secret ingredient” was disastrous management. Under his stewardship the bank lost £250m gambling in Russian financial markets, and had to stump up £300m to bail out the absurd American “hedge fund”, Long Term Capital Markets.

Eventually Taylor was ousted by a boardroom battle in November 1998 before he could cause more damage. Now he’s decided to help the public sector.

The treasury meanwhile wants to take a second look at IPPR’s prediction about the efficiency of privatisation. In particular chancellor Brown wants to test the idea that the private sector gets greater productivity out of employers through “reskilling”, “efficient shift systems and better motivation” – rather than low pay, poor conditions, long hours and casualisation.

To test the theory he will commission a study by the Office of Government Commerce. This office in turn also has a private manager: Peter Gershon, Britain’s highest paid civil servant on £180,000 a year, plus performance benefits and a three-year contract.

He was formerly chief operating officer at British Aerospace. But far from being expert in efficiency, BAe is best at massive cost overruns, project failures and non-competitive tendering. The managers in charge of the Tornado, Bowman Radio and Type 45 destroyer programmes – all plagued with late delivery and technical problems – reported directly to Gershon.

Since then, Serco have become notorious for their massive inefficiency and the inhuman conditions at the prisons and detention centres they run. One of the most notorious of the latter was Yarl’s Wood, which was so atrocious the asylum seekers rioted. And I don’t think that was only one either. I also remember the outrage that the government’s sale of the army barracks to Nomura caused.

Goldman Sachs and Lehmann’s Bank caused the 2008 world banking crash, ushering over two decades of cuts and austerity, which has made conditions for the poor even more worse. For those who are managing to survive the low pay, monstrous levels of debt, and the almost non-existent welfare state. This has forced millions of people onto food banks to keep body and soul together, and hundreds of thousands are suffering from starvation, or ‘food poverty’ as the media now delicately put it. And I forget what the death toll from this is, it’s so high.

As for low pay, poor conditions and job insecurity – that all increased under Gordon Brown, and has increased even more so under the Tories, as it all keeps the working woman and man down, cowed and fearful, in her and his place.

And the Bilderbergers will be familiar to anyone interested in conspiracy theories. They were some of the ‘Secret Rulers of the World’ covered by Jon Ronson in his documentary series on Channel 4 of the same name.

I dare say some of the names involved in the privatisation agenda has changed, but you can bet it’s all going to come in with Starmer, despite his retention of Corbyn’s election manifesto. ‘Cause that was popular. Now it looks like he’ll undermine it by starting to ignore it.

And we’re back to Blairite misery, despair, poverty and starvation again. Except for the multinationals and their utterly talentless managers. It all looks pretty good for them.