Archive for the ‘Mathematics’ Category

A Treasury of Ancient Mathematical Texts

February 4, 2017

Henrietta Midonick, The Treasure of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968)

ancient-mathematics-cover

I realise that the history of mathematics is an arcane subject, that few people will have much interest in, having struggled enough with the subject at school. But with Black History Month, there is immense interest amongst scholars of Black and Asian history about restoring Black and Asian scientists and mathematicians to their rightful place in history.

I picked up this book in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham about a year or so ago. It’s a collection of ancient and medieval mathematical texts from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Islam, the Jews and, of course, the ancient Greeks. The blurb for it runs

Mathematics is the only true international language. men can communicate more directly, precisely and logically in pure mathematics than in any other tongue. Moreover we have much to learn from the achievements of past civilizations in this field: even modern computers have not fathomed all the intricacies of Stonehenge. In this fascinating collection of original sources (many of them published in a popular edition for the first time) Henrietta Midonick shows individual mathematicians grappling with varied problems – some practical, such as architecture, money valuation, mechanics, astronomy and calendar calculation; others verging on philosophy, such as the existence of zero and the concept of infinity. Her arrangement also demonstrates the growth of key ideas in geometry, arithmetic, logic and calculus.

Volume 1 documents the growth of mathematical science in the civilizations of Babylon, Ancient Egypt, the Mayas, India and China, and assesses the revolutionary discoveries of Plato, Archimedes and Euclid in classical antiquity.

Among the various extracts are pieces on Babylonian mathematics; four geometrical problems from the Moscow Papyrus, which dates from Ancient Egypt, c. 1850 BC; the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, again from Egypt, c. 1650 BC; the Bakhshali Manuscript, from 4th century AD India; the Mayas – discussing their system of numbers, the calendar, arithmetic and chronology, and the Quipu, the method of keeping statistical records using knots, used by the ancient Incas in South America.

Chinese mathematicians include Wan Wang, from the 12th century BC, Chou Kung, c. 1100 BC; Chang Tsang, died 152; Liu Hui, 3rd century AD; Sun-Tsu, from the same century; Hsia-Hou Yang, 6th century AD; Wang Hs’iao-T’ung, 7th century AD, Li Yeh, c. AD 1178-1265; Ch’in Chiu-Shao, c. AD 1250; Yang Hui, c. AD 1275; Chu Chi-Chieh, c. AD 1300.

The Indian scholars collected include Aryabhata the Elder, c. AD. 476; Brahmagupta, AD 598; and Bhascara Acharya, AD 1114-c. 1185.

It also includes the Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarismi, who founded much of modern algebra, including giving it its modern name.

The two Jewish mathematicians collected include the Mishnat ha-Middot of Rabbi Nehemiah, from c. AD 150; and the Method of Division of Immanuel Ben Jacob Bonfils, c. AD 1350.

The ancient Greeks include Hippocrates of Chios, 5th century BC; an extract from Plato’s Dialogues; the Elements of Euclid of Alexandria, c. 300 BC; Apollonius of Perga’s Conic Sections, from the same period; Archimedes’ On Spirals, Mechanical Problems, and Quadrature of the Parabola, Pappus, c. AD 300, and Proclus, AD 410-485.

babylonian-multipilication-table

Ancient Babylonian Multiplication Table for X 10.

For the non-mathematician like myself these texts aren’t easy reading. There are diagrams to help, but many of them, as the pioneering works of their time, are trying to express difficult mathematical ideas without the modern language of Maths, and so it can be difficult understanding what they are trying to describe. Nevertheless, this is an important collection of some of the classic texts of ancient mathematics on which the structure of modern maths has been built.

‘In the Shadow of Mary Seacole’: Review

October 20, 2016

Tuesday evening, at 10.40 ITV broadcast a documentary, ‘In the Shadow of Mary Seacole’, in which the actor David Harewood went on a journey from Britain to Jamaica and the Crimea tracing the life of Mary Seacole. Seacole was one of the Victorian heroines that have been forgotten with the march of time. In her forties, she went to Crimea to open a hotel to serve the troops, as well as going on to the battlefield to try to heal them with traditional Jamaican herbal remedies. She was at one time as popular as Florence Nightingale, and her memory has been preserved by Black historians and activists. Amongst those Harewood spoke to about her, were a group of mainly Black, but with one or two White ladies, who had formed a society to commemorate her. These ladies had succeeded in their campaign for a monument to be erected to her. As Harewood traced Seacole’s physical journey around the globe, so he also followed the story of the her statue from the initial design as a maquette, or scale model, to the completion of the final, 3 metre tall statue and its installation outside one of London’s hospitals.

Apart from Harewood himself and the ladies of his commemoration society, the other speakers in the programme included Diane Abbott, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the comedian Jo Brand, a Black actress, a White woman, who had written a biography of Seacole, and a biographer of Florence Nightingale. The latter was very critical of Mary Seacole. He felt that, in contrast to Nightingale, Seacole’s achievements in nursing had been blown out of proportion. He declared that there was no evidence she had saved thousands of lives. He felt she was only being commemorated due to ‘political correctness’ – the need to find a Black counterpart to Nightingale. He stated he had no objection to a statue being put up to her, but did object to where it was to be sited: outside the very hospital associated with Nightingale. Harewood correctly commented that she continued to divide opinions today.

He began the programme at the side of the lakes in Birmingham, where he and his brother used to play as children. He said that at the time he was growing up in the 70s, there were no major figures of his skin colour, and no women. Mary Seacole had been a particular heroine of his. Seacole had been born in Jamaica in 1805, the illegitimate daughter of a free Black woman and a Scots soldier. Her mother ran a boarding house, and it was from her mother that she also learnt her knowledge of Jamaican herbal medicine. She later on married a White Englishman, Horatio Hamilton, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and Lady Hamilton. The marriage unfortunately only lasted nine years. Hamilton was sickly, and Seacole nursed him through his final years before his death. With the outbreak of the Crimean War, Seacole used her own money to journey to Crimea to construct a hotel. There she was known for serving good food, as well as dispensing ‘liquors’ to the troops. Her hotel was particularly patronised by the officer class.

Harewood explained that the purpose of the War had been to quell fears that the Russians were going to expand southward. The Crimea, then as now, was home to the Russian fleet. And so the British invaded and besieged the town of Sebastopol. After several years of fighting, the British managed to break the Russians, who retreated, sinking their own ships as they did so. The sequences showing the Crimean War were illustrated by clips from a Russian movie made in 1912.

Mary’s fortunes were not so successful, however. She came back to Britain in debt. A banquet was held in her honour, in order to raise money for her, supported by several of the soldiers. Although the banquet was a success, it did not raise any money for her, and she died penniless, eventually to be all but forgotten. She had, however, left an autobiography, a modern edition of which Harewood was shown reading.

The sculptor showed Harewood the model he had made. This would show Seacole as the strong, purposeful woman she was, striding forward with her clothes swirling around her. Behind would be a metal disc, which would bear the imprint of the ground from Crimea. It was designed to be lit up from below at night. To illustrate this, the sculptor showed Harewood the intended effect using the light from his mobile phone. His intention was not only to show Seacole herself, but that the shadows of the people admiring the statue would also be cast onto the disc behind her, so that for a brief moment they too would share her space.

The sculptor stated that there were a lot of photographs showing Seacole’s face from the front, but he wanted to know what she looked like from all sides. Thus he asked Harewood to go to the archives in Jamaica to see what material they had on her. The British archivist there produced a bust of the heroine, in reddish-brown clay, that was made by one of the army surgeons. It was, he said, one of the rarest of its type in the archives and easily the most valuable. Harewood duly photographed the bust from all angles.

Also in Jamaica, Harewood spoke to a former pharmacist, a doctor, who had given up her career in orthodox medicine for one in complementary healing. She explained that Seacole didn’t have any formal medical training, but would have been a ‘doctress’. This meant that she had a knowledge of herbal lore, which she used to treat and heal. It was this knowledge that she used to treat the wounded squaddies on the frozen battlefields of the Crimea.

This led to Harewood and the sculptor, back home in England, discussing Seacole’s features. There’s a debate and a little controversy over how ‘Black’ Seacole was. She was clearly a woman of African heritage, but the sculptor also felt that there would have been some elements in her appearance from her White heritage. Her features, he believed, would have been a little narrower from other Black Jamaicans as a result. He then sent Harewood on to the next stage of his journey of discovery, to the Crimea to find suitable ground from which to take the impressions for the statue’s metal disc.

At the Crimea, he met a local historian, a mature lady, who guided him to some of the battle sites. He looked over the ‘Valley of Death’ through which the Light Brigade charged to spike the Russian guns, celebrated in Tennyson’s poem, and illustrated in a painting from the period. Poring over maps, he traced the site of Seacole’s hotel, and was delighted to discover that there were still relics of her stay littering the ground. These included some of the wine and alcohol bottles she had stocked. Looking at the shards of glass, Harewood and the historian discussed how the British used to shoot the tops off the bottles. Harewood was accompanied on his journey by the technician, who was going to take the impression of the ground. While Harewood and the historian discussed Seacole’s hotel and its remains, he went off to find a suitable rock formation. This was scanned using a laser, which the technician held up to shoot its rays at the rock face, slowly building up a three dimensional computer model of its surface.

The Black actress commented on what a strong, modern woman Seacole would have been. She had travelled on her own across the world without a husband, something which was extremely rare at the time, and which few women did today.

Back in England, Harewood returned to see the immense metal armature the sculptor had constructed, which would serve as the three-dimensional framework for the clay from which the statue would be made. The sculptor trowelled a few pieces of clay into place before inviting Harewood to join in. Harewood did so, but not unsurprisingly found stirring and getting the great gobs of clay from the bucket onto his trowel, and then on to the frame hard work. It struck me that this part of the statue’s construction was not so much like the image of sculpture everyone has, with delicate fingers moulding pliant clay, so much as like a navvy laying down mortar on a brick wall.

Harewood then said that there were a few more things that needed to be done to the statue, with footage of it being covered with various other substances, one of which looked like rubber, before it was due to be taken to be cast into bronze. The programme showed the statue being driven to the foundry on the back of an open truck, securely fastened with tarpaulin and ropes. Once there, the programme showed the molten bronze being poured from a crucible into the mould formed from the clay statue. This was the moment of truth, and the sculptor described it as a form of alchemy.

The statue was being cast in pieces, and the sculptor took Harewood to see some of the pieces that had already been cast, which included her head. At this stage of the process, the bronze was a bright, coppery colour. The pieces would be assembled and welded together. The welding marks would then be removed, before the statue was finally put in place. There was a little footage of this being done. When completed, the statue was a much darker colour.

The programme showed the ceremony for the statue’s installation. Amongst those speaking were Diane Abbott, and the sculptor himself. He said in his speech that there were plenty of statues of White men, mostly monarchs and generals, but only 15 per cent of the statues in Britain were of women, and very few Black people. It had therefore been his privilege to try to redress this. Back in the studio, Jo Brand paid tribute to Seacole, saying that she was a woman of immense compassion. Her biographer answered the criticisms of Nightingale’s biographer by saying that the comments about her going to run a hotel there were meant to disparage her accomplishment by pointing out that there was also a commercial motive. But this did not detract from her achievements. She also answered the criticism that Seacole didn’t have formal medical training by pointing out that nursing as a distinct, respected profession didn’t exist at the time, and was only created by Nightingale after the War. Harewood himself also commented, stating that there were few, if any, statues of people of his colour. But it was important to have them, to show that people of colour had been a part of this country’s history for a very long time.

It was an interesting glimpse into the life of a determined woman, who was rightly celebrated in her day. I don’t think you could quite make her Nightingale’s equal – Nightingale herself was an expert mathematician, who added much to statistics, and whose achievements included the invention of the pie chart. And Nightingale is the genius behind the creation of modern nursing. Nevertheless, she played her bit providing comfort to the wounded in during the horrors of the Crimean War. Brand at one point said she must have been an immense comfort to some poor, teenage soldier dying far away from his mother. And the troops also doubtless appreciated the alcohol she brought on to the battlefield. So, while may be not as great a figure as Nightingale, she certainly deserved her statue.

One other thing also struck me about Seacole and her unofficial status as ‘doctress’. While this may strike people today, used to modern, professional scientific medicine, as something close to magic, it would have been immediately familiar to the ordinary troopers from working class or rural poor backgrounds. Before it was applied to African spiritual healers and practitioners, the term ‘witchdoctor’ originally meant the white witches and wizards of rural Britain, to whom the poor turned to heal their illnesses. Professional doctors before the establishment of the NHS and the welfare state were rare in rural areas, and expensive. Unofficial healers with a knowledge of herbalism were therefore the only people available to the poor, whether they were White British or Black Jamaicans. Professional doctors also had a reputation as rapacious quacks, whose treatments were more likely to kill you as cure you. The rank and file squaddies in the British army were thus probably more prepared to trust her as the type of healer they had grown up with at home, than the properly trained medical men. And clearly, the army surgeon, who had sculpted the bust respected her courage and professionalism, otherwise he would not have tried to preserve her image in clay.

And Harewood is right: Black people have been in Britain since the Romans. It is thus only right that Seacole should have a statue in her honour.

Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 1

May 28, 2016

I’ve put up several videos recently criticising Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and examining the growing disconnection – ‘distancing’, in the jargon of the sociologists who’ve studied it – of young American Jews with Israel. The speakers in these videos have included the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, and the American historians and activists Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer, both of whom are descended from Holocaust survivors. As I’ve made clear in previous posts, I’ve been prompted to do this because of the smears against leading members of the Labour party – Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walker, amongst others, of anti-Semitism. Those accused are not to my knowledge anti-Semites. The above three certainly aren’t. Leninspart in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, states quite clearly that all forms of racism, whether against Blacks, Jews or the Irish, is the worst form of reaction, and needs to be opposed. Naz Shah has the support of her local synagogue, which would be highly unusual if she were a Nazi. And the accusation is both risible and disgusting in the case of Jackie Walker. Walker’s mother was a Black woman, who was thrown out of America because of her participation in the civil rights movement. Her father was a Russian Jew, and her partner is also Jewish. These people haven’t been accused of anti-Semitism because they are Jew-haters. They’ve been accused of anti-Semitism simply because they’ve criticised Israel for its persecution of the Palestinians. Walker was accused because she compared Black slavery to the Holocaust in a conversation with two friends, one of whom was also Jewish, on Facebook. This comment was lifted and turned against her by a pro-Israel group.

One of the things than comes out very clearly from this talk by Prof Finkelstein is that in America such accusations are wearing very thin. They don’t impress large numbers of American Jews, who can see through all the BS when it’s applied to genuinely liberal, decent politicians. An example of this is Jimmy Carter. Carter was accused of being an anti-Semite because he wrote a book about Israel with ‘Apartheid’ in the title. So the leading members of the Israel lobby, like Alan Dershowitz, began to smear him in the vilest terms imaginable. He was an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, and a supporter of terrorism. It was the kind of invective Stalin’s prosecutor, Vyshinsky, used against the victims of the purges during the show trials. Carter, who organised the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt in the 1970s, then decided to take the battle to the Neo-Cons. He arranged a debate with Dershowitz at Brandeis University, the largest secular Jewish university in the US. Carter described it as ‘going into the lion’s den’. Even before he opened his mouth to speak, he received 3 or 4 standing ovations from the students. When it came to Dershowitz to talk, 2/3 of the students left the lecture hall before Israel’s most vocal defender in the US had even uttered a word.

And there’s more, much more. American Jews are, by and large, very liberal. American liberalism – the rule of law, the separation between church and state and so on, has allowed American Jews to prosper. As a result, the political affiliation of American Jews is almost the complete mirror image of that of Israelis. The majority of Israelis are now right-wing in the political leanings. American Jews are largely left. They also want a two-state solution to the problem of Palestine. And they are also largely opposed to the Iraq invasion. Finkelstein makes the point that American Jews were largely uninterested or opposed to the foundation of Israel, because they were afraid that it would lead to the accusation that they were more loyal to the new Jewish state than they were to their homeland of America. They seem fear of being seen as somehow treacherous, as less than patriotic, as well as other, liberal feelings and attitudes, has led them to reject both George Bush and the war in Iraq. The Israelis by and large love George Dubya. American Jews generally despise the Smirking Chimp. And 70 per cent of American Jews are opposed to the war in Iraq. This is partly out of a desire not to be seen as its authors, as the war was planned by the Republicans in America, and Israel’s Likud party.

Finkelstein also states that Americans, including American Jews, are becoming increasingly less impressed with evocations of the Holocaust. It’s been overused so much that it’s actually lost its proper emotional impact. Finkelstein discussed how rhetoric about the Holocaust was used by Netanyahu and the Israeli government to drum up support for a war with Iran over the country’s nuclear weapon’s development programme. Netanyahu repeatedly described Ahmedinijad as Hitler, and said that if the Iranians developed these weapons, it would lead to a new Holocaust in the Middle East with the destruction of Israel. Those trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Iranians were denounced as appeasers, and compared to Neville Chamberlain at Munich. And the attitude of American Jews to this was marked indifference. In a survey of Jewish Americans under 35, it was found that fifty per cent said it would not affect them if Israel was destroyed. Finkelstein himself says he is somewhat dismayed by this figure, as the destruction of any country or culture saddens him. And American Jews tend to share the rest of the world’s fears, as expressed in opinion polls, that Israel is the real threat to world peace.

Finkelstein begins his talk by discussing how American Jews were extremely uninterested in Israel in the period from 1948 – it’s foundation – to the 1967 War. He states that this was a period in which the barriers to Jewish advancement in America suddenly came down. Many institutions before 1948 would not employ Jewish scholars. He quotes Noam Chomsky as saying that the reason why MIT became such a centre of scientific excellence over Harvard, was because Harvard would not take Jewish scientists and mathematicians. So they all trooped down the road to take up positions there. As the barrier fells, Jews became far more involved in making successful lives, and living the America dream.

As a result of this, they had extremely little interest in Israel. Finkelstein quotes the great American sociologist, Glazer, whose 1957 study of the attitude of American Jews and Jewish life found that the impact of Israel on American Jewry was remarkable slight. He also discusses a survey of 30 leading American Jewish intellectuals at an academic symposium, who were asked about the situation of American Jews. Only three of them even mentioned Israel, and of those three, two only did so in order to dismiss it as of any importance. He also quotes an interview in Israel with the celebrated author, Elie Wiesel. At the time there was a fear that Jews were becoming too assimilated, and Wiesel was asked how Jews could be made to reconnect with their Jewishness. Wiesel talked about the Holocaust and the situation of the Jews in Russia. But he did not see Israel as having any use in this process.

Vox Political: ‘Sack Kuenssberg’ Removed due to Misogynist Trolls

May 10, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up several pieces about the controversy surrounding a 38 Degrees petition to have the Beeb’s politics editor, Laura Kuenssberg, sacked because of her overt Conservative bias. It seems that the fellow, who put up the petition has taken it down because it had in his view been hijacked by sexist trolls.

See the article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/sack-kuenssberg-petition-taken-down-due-to-sexist-trolls/

This follows a piece in the Guardian in which the former political editor of the Independent on Sunday, Jane Merrick, stated that Kuenssberg had faced a level of abuse not directed at male reporters, like Nick Robinson, which was explicitly misogynistic. She reported that Kuenssberg had been called a whore and a bitch on Twitter. She then made general comments about Corbyn’s supporters. They weren’t all sexist misogynists – far from it. But she said that there was a ‘core of hard-left misogyny’ that emerged when he was under pressure. This was the same kind of abuse that had been directed at Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. She then called on Corbyn, as the advocate of a kinder type of politics, to condemn this abuse of a respected journalist.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/sexism-accusation-against-anti-kuenssberg-campaigners-is-a-classic-diversion-tactic/

Mike points out in these articles just how overt Kuenssberg’s political bias is.

Mike writes:

This Writer considers the BBC’s political editor to be hopelessly prejudiced in favour of the Conservative Party. It is an issue that has nothing to do with her gender, skin colour, religion or any other such defining factor.

She simply can’t keep her own politics out of her work. For a reporter, that is a fatal error and This Writer cannot understand why anybody would want to support her in it – least of all a Labour MP like Ms Phillips.

If Kuenssberg wants to turn every report into a pro-Tory opinion piece, then let her become a pundit. Stick her on the Daily Politics or This Week with Andrew Neil and give the political editor’s job to somebody who can do it impartially.

He also posts a piece from one of his commenters, who has a nephew, who did some number crunching of his own, which flatly contradicts Kuenssberg’s assertions. Kuenssberg has claimed that these elections are ‘mid-term’, when they are not, and that Labour should be winning hundreds of seats, which they haven’t. Looking at the evidence, the commenter’s nephew says that actually Labour have done quite well, and it is the Tories who have taken the hardest blows. The commenter states:

“In fact this is the worse Tory performance in the local elections since 1996 when John Major only got 29% which was an improvement from 1995 when they only got 25% of the vote. But again this is not being reported.”

Mike also condemns the sexist abuse of Kuenssberg. Not only are such views vile in themselves, but they bring into disrepute everyone, who genuinely wants the Beeb to report fairly and accurately, and have allowed Kuenssberg to get away with her biased journalism.

Mike in his article also suggests that the sexist comments might be a deliberate strategy to torpedo the complaints about her bias. He states that all a political stooge has to do is get their supporters to sign the petition and leave offensive messages on it. Then all they have to do is make complaints about it. He makes clear that this may not have happened in Kuenssberg case, but it is a possibility, at least from now on.

In fact, this is exactly the tactics Hillary Clinton’s supporters have used against her rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders. She accused Sanders’ supporters of being sexist, especially after a group of them threw money at her in protest at her accepting funding from Wall Street. She also hired an internet company to go online to tackle Bernie’s supporters posing as her supporters. The Company was ironically called Correct the Record. And I’ve posted up a piece a week or so ago from Secular Talk, which reported how a string of pro-Bernie websites got taken down after complaints from Clinton to the host company about sexism and misogyny. The numbers of websites taken down – something like 12, or perhaps as high as 25, I can’t really remember, all in one evening, make it highly suspicious that this was really due to sexism by the sites’ members.

As for Corbyn and the ‘hard Left’ having a misogynist core, well, perhaps. It wouldn’t surprise me. Obnoxious trolls are, after all, found everywhere. But it’s not typical of the hard Left in my experience. In the 1980s the Left was reviled and abused for being PC. This was the decade when alternative comedians like Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, French and Saunders, the Young Ones, Alexei Sayle and Ben Elton burst onto our screens from the London comedy clubs. They refused to make the same sexist and racist jokes as the previous generation, reared in the working men’s clubs, like Bernard Manning. They were explicitly Left-wing, and actually made jokes about the chauvinistic treatment of women and at the expense of comedians like Manning.

They were part of a general trend in the Labour party of the time. Part of what had Ken Livingstone sneered at as ‘Red Ken’ was the fact that the-then leader of the GLC gave his support to a whole plethora of organisations for women and minorities. In his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, the bane of Margaret Thatcher talks about the evolution of human society from primordial matriarchy, and argues for a nationwide network of women’s support offices. This naturally drove Thatcher nuts. At one of the Tory conferences she delivered a foam-flecked rant about ‘Fabian champagne Socialist’ teachers corrupting the minds of their tiny charges with homosexual propaganda and ‘anti-racist mathematics’. Now, thirty or so years later, we have the Tories claiming to be okay with gay marriage. As for misogyny, one of the lads I knew at College, who was a very committed Labour party supporter, was very far from being either racist or misogynist. This was also characteristic of much of the Left outside the Labour party. I can remember reading a piece in the Express about one of the Marxist sects – possible either the Communist Party are the Socialist Workers, or perhaps just Militant in the Labour party, which explicitly noted how anti-sexist the men were, and their rejection of certain forms of traditional masculinity.

I’m not saying that there haven’t been sexist trolls spouting vile abuse at Kuenssberg, who are genuinely left-wing. But after the tactics used by Hillary Clinton to smear Sanders’ supporters, I’m more than a little suspicious.

Nazi Stormtrooper Publishes Book on Satanism, with Ideas Drawn from Horror Novels

April 17, 2016

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting things on here for over a week or so now. I’ve been doing other things, that have kept me busy. Thanks, however, to everyone who’s persevered with the blog in that time and kept reading, just in case. Your interest and support is appreciated.

I found this interesting little article by Matthew Collins over on the Hope Not Hate site. It seems Ryan Fleming, a member of the National Front has published a book, the Codex Aristarchus, on Satanism. Fleming is a member of the Nazi Satanist group, The Order of the Nine Angles. He also knows a thing or two about evil. In the book, he quotes extensively Ian Brady, the notorious Moors Murderer, and the book puffs itself as ‘coming from the blood-stained moors of England.’ He was also sent down by the beak for two years for forcing a vulnerable young man to perform a sex act on him.

So, this is a guy, who can be reasonably described as vile and sick.

See the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/nazi-sex-offender-releases-book-4836

What struck me is that the book promises to teach its readers how they can turn themselves into an astral vampire, so they can feed off the human herd. Interestingly, the term he uses for ‘astral vampire’ is ‘wamphyri’. This should be familiar to aficionados of the British horror writer, Brian Lumley. It comes from Lumley’s own vampire novels, the ‘Necroscope’ and ‘Blood Brother’s series.

Necroscope Wamphyri pic

Lumley’s vampire novels are a strange mixture of the supernatural and straightforward science fiction body horror. The vampires – wamphyri – are humans infected with a pernicious symbiont, a tape worm-like creature that warps their minds and bodies. Those infected not only feed on blood, but they also develop the ability to warp and mould their bodies into any shape, rather like the demonic members of the upper classes in the Brian Yuzhna 1980s horror flick, Society. Or the mutating Doctor Praetorius in Yuzhna’s From Beyond. Back in their home dimension, the vampires’ lairs, their eyries, are made out of the mutated body parts of their victims, which they sculpt into the required shapes using their arcane skills in creating monsters. This element of the novels ultimately derives from the various mad scientists, and their experiments in manufacturing monsters from the ghastly fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. Which is entirely natural, given that Lumley started out writing horror and fantasy fiction within Lovecraft’s own Cthulhu mythos.

As for astral, or psychic vampires, I think this comes either from Aleister Crowley, or from Anton LaVey, the late head of the Church of Satan. The connection between Lumley’s vampires and Satanism is that in his book, Shaitan is the first vampire. It is, however, only hinted that the character is the fallen angel of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Lumley’s Shaitan has no real memory of who or what he was before he fell and turned up on the vampire creatures’ extra-dimensional homeworld, and his powers, although supernatural, are derived entirely from his infection with one of the creatures.

Lumley’s books are, however, straightforward works of Science Fantasy/ Horror fiction. They’re not remotely Satanic, except in the sense that they are set in worlds where supernatural evil is real. If anything, they’re more strongly influenced by Spiritualism – the Necroscope of the title, Harry Keogh, can talk to the dead rather like Spiritualist mediums. The last book in the series also shows a slight Christian influence, in that Keogh finally wins the battle against the vampires after they crucify him. But that’s it. There’s no great mystical teachings there, and the whole thing is purely for entertainment. Christopher Lee in an interview on Pebble Mill once described the Hammer Horror movies he was in as morality plays. Dracula rose from the grave to prey on the living, but after causing carnage and mayhem, good eventually won. Usually in the form of Peter Cushing with a stake in one hand and a hammer in the other. Lumley’s book are the same.

So, if you’re looking for a good book on vampires, I recommend Lumley. I read them about twenty years ago. They’re fun pieces of body horror, good wins in the end, and they don’t pretend to teach you any great mystical secrets of the universe. Although multidimensional mathematics is discussed with the disembodied souls of leading German mathematicians in the first book, Necroscope.

Or you could go to the all-time classic itself, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As for wanting to be a vampire, you’re far better off watching the classic Hammer films and listening to Goth tracks like Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Undead, Undead). Those won’t teach you any great mystical secrets either, but then, neither will Ryan Fleming, or A.A. Morain as he styles himself as the book’s author. But unlike Fleming, Lumley, Stoker and Bauhaus don’t pretend to.

Vox Political on Yvette Cooper Condemning Renationalisation

February 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also has a piece from the Independent about Yvette Cooper. Apparently, she is set to make a speech attacking the nationalisation of industry as an old, discredited idea. It will not help modern workers, according to her, or those trying to ‘build an app’. Mike therefore asks if she’s deliberately trying to mislead people about the issue in defending ‘wasteful’ privatisation. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/23/is-yvette-cooper-deliberately-misleading-people-about-nationalisation/.

Now I agree with Mike that privatisation is wasteful. It also led, paradoxically, to a massive increase in bureaucracy. This expanded massively when the utility companies, including that for water, sewage and the environment, were sold off and separate regulatory bodies had to be set up. In order to try and keep to their promise that selling off Britain’s family silver would reduce bureaucracy, they had to cut down on the regulatory bodies so that they wouldn’t have so much power, and wouldn’t represent the interests of the consumers. And there was also the usual revolving doors between the civil service and the privatised utility companies, where the mandarins who were supposed to be watching them in the public interest did no such thing, and later got a job with them after they left Whitehall. I can remember reading report after report on this, fortnight after fortnight, in Private Eye in the ’90s. It was all part of the sleaze surrounding John Major’s administration.

I’ve also heard that, despite the impression given by privatisation that all aspects of energy generation, and its supply, and that of water and gas, the actual infrastructure remains the concern of the state. The private utility companies get to cream off the profits, but the actual maintenance of the national grid, pipes and so on remain the duty of the state, which bears the financial burden. Now I’ll have to check on this, but if it’s true, then privatisation really has been just a scam with minimal benefit to the consumers. Quite beyond the very obvious profiteering we’ve seen by the energy companies themselves.

Now let’s come to the example of the information technology industry she used. It won’t help workers developing an app, according to Cooper. Now, the free marketeers just love the computing and information technology. Look, they say, at the way a group of private individuals in the 1970s – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and others, built a whole industry from sheer private enterprise, all in the garages or spare time or whatever. The Financial Times had a go at this myth, as did Adam Curtis in his documentary, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. The Financial Times pointed out that the kids, who were able to create the modern computing industry, were able to do so not because of the free market, or because their part of California had excellent schools, or indeed any of that. They were able to get ahead and develop it because they were all already very wealthy, and could afford to develop their creations. And Adam Curtis in his documentary went and showed that the mathematical basis behind the suggestion that private enterprise gives better results through allowing people to co-operate independently and form a coherent strategy without a central planner was also baloney.

And if you want a real counter-example, then try France. The French computer industry was created in the 1970s through the efforts of the French state. And the French have been very successful in their efforts. So central planning, nationalisation and state investment can help create jobs in the high technology sector. Even in America, my guess is that much of the technology sector is supported by generous state subsidies, regardless of what Cooper believes or think she knows about the benefits of laissez faire industry.

Now I have to say, I think Cooper genuinely believes that private enterprise is superior to nationalised and state-owned industry. It’s a basic item of faith of the New Labour clique. And she also has a point about nationalisation not necessarily benefiting workers. Harry Gosling, the founder of the T&GWU with Ernest Bevin, made a speech in Bristol stating that nationalisation wouldn’t do so unless it involved a degree of worker’s control. And proper representation of the workforce in the workplace is what trade unions are for. It’s also what the Labour party was set up to do. Unfortunately, Blair, Broon and New Labour decided that they didn’t. Just before one of the two left office – I can’t remember which one – they passed a whole tranche of legislation actually weakening the unions. Moreover, on the government website telling you what rights you had under the law as a worker, there was also a secret section for employers that told them how they could circumvent all this. So there’s an element of hypocrisy there. Cooper’s against nationalisation, because it wouldn’t help the workers. But Blair wasn’t keen on organised Labour either. I can remember how he threatened to cut the ties between the unions and the Labour party.

And there’s more, much more to be said about this. I’ll blog about the foundation of the nationalised industries some other time. But for now, the opposite of what Cooper said is true: privatisation is discredited, and the privatisers of New Labour have also shown themselves unwilling to act for the poor or the working class either. It’s why UKIP took off so spectacularly. And while their leadership are privatisers on steroids, most of the grassroots members actually want the utilities nationalised. The Angry Yorkshireman wrote several pieces about this, all of which are worth reading.

The Disgusting State of Detroit Schools

January 23, 2016

Okay, I know this is another American story, but it mirrors the way our state schools in the UK are being run down by the Conservatives. I’ve got a particular interest in teaching, as my mother was a teacher, and I took my first degree at what was an Anglican teacher training college. The school, in which Mum taught was also part of an exchange programme with an American school. As part of this exchange, one of her teachers went to the Land of the Free, while one of theirs also crossed the Pond to Blighty.

Last Wednesday school staff in Detroit went on strike because of the disgusting conditions in the schools, in which they were expected to teach. The photos from the twitter site @Detroitteach, show a very grim story: mouldy bread given to pupils for breakfast, mushrooms growing on class room walls, and cockroaches and other insects infesting the floors. These are the conditions, which the authorities want the future citizens of American brought up and educated in. As you can see, they had the support of parents and pupils. As for the last pic, which shows the gentleman responsible for this mess, there’s now a massive scandal in Flint, Michigan, after the local water company poisoned the water supply with massive amounts of lead, including water at the local hospital. This guy was also responsible for that debacle.

Detroit School 1

Detroit School 2

Detroit School 3

Detroit School Protest 1

Detroit School Protest 2

This is also an issue that has its counterpart in British politics. The Tories do not like teachers and state education, and have been trying to run down both of them since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s. We’ve had denunciation after screamed denunciation, both in Britain and America, about left-wing teachers supposedly indoctrinating their students to be militant atheists/ Communists/ Trotskyites, and filling their heads with militant anti-racism or gay rights. Remember how Maggie sneered at one of the Tory conferences about ‘champagne Socialists’ and Fabians indoctrinating the dear kiddies with ‘anti-racist mathematics’, while the Sun claimed that schoolchildren in Brent were being made to recite ‘Ba, Ba, Green Sheep’, instead of ‘Black Sheep’ as part of a loony-left anti-racism drive? And the absolute frothing hysteria about protecting young minds from gay indoctrination? This has all provided the pre-text the Tories and Republicans have used to denigrate state education, and try to break the power of the teaching unions.

Most teachers, regardless of their personal political beliefs, aren’t motivated by a burning desire to radicalise the young and impressionable. They just want to stand in front of a class and teach, with the hopeful intent of getting the class to realise their potential. This has become increasingly difficult with the way education has become little more than a political football, and the profession has seen itself progressively starved of the support it needs from the authorities. Many teachers work in extremely challenging circumstances, including having to deal with threats of violence, including rape. And there is no support from the government, and especially not from Thickie Nikky Morgan, who can’t tell you what 7 X 8 is, or how many academies last year had to be returned to state control, but can prate about the need to privatise, or part-privatise even more.

Education on both sides of the Atlantic needs more funding, and a far more supportive attitude from the education authorities than just right-wing populist demagoguery from officially appointed morons, who have never put a foot in front of a class except as part of a very carefully scripted publicity campaign. Get the Right out of politics, and proper funding into the schools.

Vox Political: Real Wages Half the Official Average for Majority British Workers

January 23, 2016

Mike has this article over at Vox Political, reporting the calculations of the of the Equality and High Pay Centre critiquing the official figures for the average pay in the UK, http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/23/average-wages-for-90-per-cent-of-british-workers-are-less-than-half-what-youve-been-told/. Instead of being £26,500, once the distortion caused by the grotesquely inflated pay of the top 0.1 and 1 per cent are taken into account, the real amount for the rest of us is £12,969.

Mike and a number of other bloggers, like the Angry Yorkshireman, have covered issues like this before, where the official average wages loudly vaunted by the government actually don’t represent what people are actually earning, because of the inclusion of the extremely rich. It’s why you have to be extremely careful about official statistics, especially from a government like this, who will do everything they can to distort them. And if that’s not possible, they’ll simply refuse to release them and lie instead.

Florence on Government-Approved Pseudoscience In ME and the ‘Nudge Unit’

October 31, 2015

Yesterday I blogged on Mike’s article, criticising a highly dubious report by the Torygraph that scientists at Oxford had concluded that ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, was all in one’s mind and could be cured through a mixture of exercise and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I took the view that this was basically pseudoscience. I got two highly interesting comments from Florence confirming this and providing further information. She writes

Reports in the literature from the USA on ME / CFS, The NIH for example, cite fMRI, PET scan (imaging of brain) evidence for CFS/ MEe, along with immunologic and inflammatory pathologies, ie it is a physical disease, with measurable physical changes in the patient. There are ample published critiques of the Oxford authors’ results, analysis and conclusions, poor experimental design and methods, and fatal flaws in the execution of the studies. Not least some medical researchers have raised ethical concerns regarding the Oxford Authors earlier PACE study, which is the basis for CBT/GET therapy in the UK. Indeed the IOM proposed a new name for the disease – Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, embedding the key concept of post-exercise malaise (mental or physical). So much for GET IN fact many of the committees and editorial boards of post-conference publications have expressly bewilderment and concern with the “UK model” of psychological illness. The prominence of this report in the national press demonstrates that these are the preferred Establishment scientists, and they are being rewarded for their work in providing (quasi) scientific support for a political view of this illness. Worrying.

In a nutshell, science has proven that ME is a real disease, and this tripe peddled in Oxford is purely politically motivated pseudoscience.

She adds

It dovetails nicely with the fake, and ethically-damned nudge unit foray into forced psychological “testing” of JSA claimants which was revealed a couple of years ago, plus the new forced CBT for JSA and ESA claimants in the Job Centres, illustrating the govt ideology that worklessness, like disability, is a psychological deficit in every individual. Many years ago I was asked to read & deliver my opinions on a number of publications by those working under Stalin (it was hard going). I took away a couple of things that remain relevant today. The Corporatist control of research, especially since Thatcher, has been quasi-Stalinist, and has been damaging to scientific research generally, but medical research in particular. Second, the current govt is following a descent into Stalinist state use of psychiatry and psychology against those it wants to control.

In other words, it’s just part of a general pseudoscientific model of illness that claims that somehow it’s all imaginary because this fits with Tory and Blairite attitudes to unemployment and those off sick through disability, in the same way that Stalinist policies corrupted science in the Soviet Union.

There are a number of very good books on pseudoscience, and the promotion of spurious, fake, and in the case of eugenics, murderous doctrines in the history of science. The one I mentioned yesterday was Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science.

Another book worth reading is Walter Gratzer’s The Undergrowth of Science: Delusion, Self-deception and Human Frailty (Oxford: OUP 2000).

Undergrowth Science Cover

This has chapters on the following fake science:

1. Blondlot and the N-Rays

2. Paradigms Enow: Some Mirages of Biology
Gurvich and his mitogenic radiation
The curse of the death-ray
Abderhalden and the protective enzymes
The case of the amorous toad
Memory transfer, or eat your mathematics.

3. Aberrations of Physics: Irving Langmuir Investigates
Capturing electrons
Allison’s magneto-optical effect.
Langmuir’s rules.

4. Nor any Drop to Drink: The Tale of Polywater

5. The Wider shores of Credulity
-This includes a number of weird ideas, including the controversy over Uri Geller and his supposed mental powers.

6. Energy Unlimited
– This is about Cold Fusion.

7. What the Doctor Ordered.
This includes a number of examples of extremely bad medicine, such as
-Ptosis, the doctrine that disease was caused by sagging organs, and which resulted in a fad of entirely
useless operation on perfectly healthy people, including their kidneys.
– Intestinal lavage, or colonic irrigation
– Surgical removal of parts of the colon to prevent aging.
– Monkey glands, or the surgical implantation of part of monkey testicles in order to rejuvenate people.
– Homeopathy.
– Drinking radium for your health.
– Lobotomy.

8. Science, Chauvinism and Bigotry.
This is about the growth of the nationalist belief of different countries in their own superiority as
scientists.

9. The Climate of Fear:
The tragedy of Soviet genetics
The spread of the contagion
Soviet physics: idealism, pragmatism and the bomb
Is there a Marxist chemistry?

10. Science in the Third Reich: Bigotry, Racism and Extinction
The Roots of Fascist biology
The Ahnenerbe: Himmler the Intellectual
Die Deutsche Physik (German Physics): Its friends and enemies
A deutsche Chemie (German chemistry)
Anti-Semitism and mathematics
The consequences of the Nazi incursion into science.

11. Nature Nurtured: The Rise and Fall of Eugenics
The birth of eugenics
Eugenics and politics in Europe and America
Eugenics in the Third Reich
Eugenic nemesis in the Soviet Union
The rise and fall of eugenics: a pathological science.

Ever science Sir Francis Bacon and Descartes in the 17th century, science has been one of the most powerful forces in human society for extending human knowledge, and improving health, living conditions and industrial, technological and economic progress. But it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s made by humans, sometimes fallible human, who can make mistakes, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Some of this is caused when science is moulded by ideological, particular political forces, such as in the Third Reich and Stalin’s Russia. While these cases are notorious, the topic is still highly relevant today, when it seems that nearly every day the papers carry stories claiming that scientists have found the cure for this, or that a particular disease is in reality caused by such-and-such. In many cases scepticism is most certainly warranted. And in the cases of the model of disease now promoted by the DWP, these should be taken with a whole mountain of salt. It’s clear to me that Ian Duncan Smith’s and John Lo Cascio’s ideas on the origins of the disease in the unemployed should also be consigned to the dustbin of dodgy, politically motivated pseudoscience, to be included in future editions of book’s like Glatzer’s.

Dan Cruikshank on ISIS’ Attack on Ancient Monuments

June 24, 2015

Next Tuesday the Beeb is showing a programme by Dan Cruikshank on the threat posed to the great antiquities and priceless monuments of Middle East by ISIS. It’s entitled Dan Cruikshank’s Civilisation under Attack. The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

Islamic State have declared war on some of the planet’s most important architectural sites, with jihadi fighters seemingly set on destroying the wonders of the ancient world. Dan Cruikshank charts the likely course of the militant group’s advance, investigating why it is happening. (p. 86)

and

Watching the videos here of Islamic State fighters taking sledgehammers and drills to Assyrian reliefs in Nimrud – then blowing up the whole site – is hard. Similar attacks in Mosul, Nineveh and Hatra have brought global condemnation, and now the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra lies under IS control.

Dan Cruikshank talks to Islamic scholars about the claimed rationale behind the IS actions and what, if anything, can be done to challenge it. ‘Are we prepared to use armed force to protect the cultural heritage of all humanity?’ demands one expert. But it turns out to be not nearly that simple, in a programme that can offer few answers. (p. 83.)

The programme’s on BBC 4 at 9.00 pm, if you can bear to watch the footage of this gratuitous vandalism.

Cruikshank is an architectural historian with a deep appreciation of the glories of the world’s architectural heritage, not just that of Britain. A few years ago he presented a series, in which he toured the globe’s great buildings and monuments, including those of Iraq and Afghanistan. These included either Babylon or Nineveh, where he was horrified to find how botched and tawdry the ‘restoration’ performed by Saddam Hussein had been. The monument had been partly restored using modern brick stamped with the late dictator’s own name. I’ve got a feeling this was slightly before the West’s invasion of Iraq, as he stated his own, real fears about the threat a war in the country posed to the survival of these precious antiquities. He also talked to one of the leaders of the Christian community in Iraq about the deterioration in relationships between them and their Muslim compatriots. The interview was quite strained, with ominous pauses where the bishop appeared to be thinking very carefully indeed about how to explain his people’s embattled situation. He explained that relations between Christians and Muslims had previously been quite harmonious. Tensions had increased, with members of the Christian church physically assaulted, with the threat of invasion from the West.

Alas, Cruikshank’s fears have been borne out. Christian communities throughout Iraq and the Middle East have been attacked and expelled by ISIS as part of their radical Islamisation of the territories they capture. And it’s not just been Christians that have suffered. They’ve also attacked, brutalised and enslaved the Yezidis, and have killed Muslims, whose religious views differ from and are opposed to their own. I’ve blogged before about how many Islamic clergy have been murdered and mosques demolished by ISIS, simply because they dared to have a different conception of Islam.

And in addition to destroying churches, and ancient Assyrian monuments, they’ve also destroyed historic Islamic shrines, again because they are ‘un-Islamic’, according to their twisted ideology.

All this is a deliberate attack on an ancient heritage that belongs to the world and specifically to the peoples of the countries ISIS have conquered and brutalised. These monuments are a threat, as they show just how ancient the history and culture of these peoples are. Archaeologists and historians of the ancient Near East, such as Georges Roux in his Ancient Iraq have noted, for example, that the style of housing used by the ancient Babylonians is very much the same as that traditionally used in Iraq. The forensic scientist and Egyptologist, Dr Jo-Anne Fletcher, made the same point about the type of houses built and used by modern Egyptians. This is also very similar to those built by their ancient predecessors thousands of years previously.

In language, too, there is considerable similarity and some remarkable survivals from the ancient cultures. Akkadian, the language of the Assyrian Empire, was, like Arabic and Hebrew, a Semitic language. And there are still words in modern Arabic, which are clearly derived from, if not exactly the same, as those uttered by the Assyrians. Certain customs and cultural practices have also survived down the centuries from the ancient past. In the programme about Palmyra, Cruikshank pointed to a relief, which showed a group of veiled women riding camels or mules. This, he pointed out, showed how ancient the veiling of women was in the Middle East. It certainly does. Respectable married women were required by law in ancient Assyria to veil themselves in public.

ISIS’ destruction of these monuments is a deliberate attempt to erase the history and cultural identity of Iraq and Syria. It’s the same totalitarian strategy pursued by Hitler and Stalin, in their brutal campaigns to remodel Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union, so that no trace of their former cultures could survive to challenge the regime. And the cultural vandalism didn’t stop there, but was also imposed on the nations they conquered. Hitler, for example, had the Paris metro destroyed, as he had claimed that Berlin was the only city in the world that had such an underground railway system. This was clearly belied by the existence of the French system, and so it had to be destroyed. And as Orwell stated in 1984, that classic SF dystopia, if you want to control the future, you have to control the past. Hence the Ministry of Truth, which existed to rewrite history in order to satisfy the ideological and propaganda needs of Big Brother’s tyranny.

Orwell based his book on Stalin’s Russia. Since then, Communism has fallen, although Putin seems determined to revive some of Stalin’s reputation and his brutal methods. And ISIS have now succeeded the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as destroyers of culture and history in the pursuit of totalitarian power.

They haven’t always been able to get their own way, however. There has been the odd case where the local people have protested so strongly against their attempts to destroy one of their country’s monuments, that ISIS have been forced to retreat. One of these cases was when the locals gathered round to protect an historic minaret.

Their actions stand in stark contrast to far more enlightened approach of the early caliphs. What made medieval Islam such a powerful cultural and scientific force in global society, was its willingness to seek out, absorb, and assimilate the learning of the peoples they had conquered. This was then synthesized and built on, with the result that Muslim scholars made astonishing advances in astronomy, medicine, physics, mathematics, philosophy, chemistry, historiography – the philosophy of history – and even in areas ISIS utterly detest, such as musical theory.

ISIS, by contrast, are destroyers, and their deliberate and calculated attack on these ancient monuments has left the culture of the world and the Muslim and Arab peoples themselves badly impoverished.