Archive for the ‘Medicine’ Category

The Young Turks on the Republicans’ Hatred of College Education

August 20, 2017

‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Came in about four years ago.’

-Bill Hicks, American comic, speaking four years after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Earlier today I posted a piece commenting on clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, about Rush Limbaugh’s mindlessly stupid ridiculing of NASA’s announcement that they may have discovered flowing water on Mars. Limbaugh’s a right-wing radio host, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his views about liberals, socialists, communists, gays, feminists, anti-racism activists and so on since the 1980s. He sneered at NASA’s announcement because – wait for it – the agency was part of a ‘leftist’ plot to promote global warming!

Not only does he not understand the science, nor the reality of global warming, I don’t think he knows anything about NASA. I know quite a few people, who are fans of space exploration and research from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. None of them have ever considered that the space agency was ‘left-wing’, although some of its leading scientists and advocates, like Carl Sagan, were. And the accusation that the agency’s data on global warming is faked for political purposes is risible.

But this shows the contempt Limbaugh has for science, and for education generally.

Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, has a background in microbiology and has been very interested in the question of life in space. She has posted a long comment to my piece. I recommend that you read all of it. But the end is particularly important, as she wonders how we got to this point where science is so despised.

And of course, back to NASA. I was fairly sure the alt-idiocy had already “proven” it was part of the deep state and the heart of black ops and skunk works and a branch of the CIA. These latest revelations only serve, as you say, to illustrate the total lack of education to an acceptable level in this day and age, more worryingly the lack of scientists in government in the USA and across the world. The charge against the scientific community lead by Trump and his “business men” ilk, with the violent and thuggish self styled fascist enforcers and militias coming out the woodwork in the last year, make the premise of the Handmaids Tale seem worryingly prophetic. How did this happen?

I think it’s part of a general distrust of intellectuals in American culture, which has increased massively amongst Republicans in recent years. In the piece below, The Young Turks discuss the finding that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning people distrust college education. They also note that they don’t just look down on higher education. They also hate and distrust the media and science. 58 per cent of Republicans and Republican supporters state that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, compared to 45 per cent a year ago, in 2016.

Cenk Uygur suggests that part of this is the use of propaganda by the party’s leaders. Part of the problem is that Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian than left-wingers. Thus, they’re more likely to follow the opinions of their leaders, and in the case of the Republican party, these leaders despise higher education.

Ana Kasparian, his co-host, who I believe teaches political science herself, argues that it’s because the Republicans want to keep you stupid. They’re trying to privatize education, and get children instead to attend private schools through voucher schemes, where the normal educational standards do not apply. There’s more than an element of hypocrisy in this. Those public figures trying to destroy the American educational system and minimize the benefits of higher education are themselves highly educated. Many of them have gone to Ivy League universities. Anne Coulter is one example. In her book, which Kasparian laments she has had to read, ’cause she’s got to debate her, Coulter states that the only purpose of college education is to produce ‘social justice warriors’. Yet this woman went to Cornel. Yet education is one of the great indicators of how well an individual will do in the future. And as she points out, it also protects you from scams.

Yet the Republicans themselves are also slightly divided on the issue of the benefits of higher education. 46 per cent of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year say that college has a beneficial effect on how well you do. This declines for those earning over $30,000 all the way down to 32 per cent.

Uygur and Kasparian admit that there are caveats and qualifications to this issue. Higher education has a down side, in that students are saddled with an immense amount of debt. This needs to be reformed. But Republicans don’t see college as a negative because they feel sorry for the students burdened with this debt. No, they want to keep people stupid and misinformed, so they don’t climb the economic ladder and they can’t fill them with some of the nonsense they believe.

Uygur concludes ‘So don’t go to university, because if you go to a real university, you might not go to a Trump university, and that would be bad for Trump.’

Once again, this is an American issue that applies almost in toto to Britain. Continental visitors and emigrants to Britain have commented on how anti-intellectual British society is. And this anti-intellectualism is again part of British Conservatism as well. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed a book on Conservative by the right-wing British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton declared that Conservativism wasn’t an intellectual force, but was largely unspoken, and based on the power of tradition. For which the reviewer thanked Scruton for being honest about how anti-intellectual it was. Intellectuals and science are distrusted, because many of their findings contradict or cast doubt on traditional attitudes. For example, feminism attacks traditional notions of gender roles. Black and Asian intellectuals and activist have also undermined commonly held racial assumptions about White superiority and the subordinate role of their ethnic groups. Left-wing historians and political scientists have also challenged the class basis of western, including American and British society, as well as the supposed beneficial nature of western imperialism.

Some of the Republican distrust of science comes from Biblical literalism. The findings of geology and cosmology contradict a literal reading of the creation of the world in Genesis. That said, one study found that the people, who had the greatest faith in science were actually Creationists.

The Republicans and some of their British counterparts, like Nigel Lawson, also deny the reality of global warming. Hence Trump’s decision to close down that part of the federal government that researches and publishes studies of climate change and the pollution and decline of America’s epic natural beauty. It’s why Theresa May and Dave Cameron get annoyed whenever anyone shows how terrible fracking is for local people and the environment.

Science can be particularly difficult for the layperson to understand. It can involve very careful statistical analysis of complex data. And some of the raw phenomena are extremely weird. Quantum physics is a case in point. The world of subatomic particles is contradictory and very different from the macroscopic, everyday world. Subatomic particles dart into and out of existence in the quantum foam at the very lowest layer of matter. Light can be simultaneously a wave and a particle. Particles may be in two places at once, under their position is recorded by an observer. They can also move between one place in the atom to another without physically crossing the space in between. And two entangled atoms can behave as one, even though they may be separated by light years. It’s so bizarre that the scientists studying it have said that ‘you don’t understand it. You just get used to it.’

Also, some of the pronouncements made by intellectuals themselves have given critics ample ammunition. Like the statement by one professor a few years ago that snowmen were racist and sexist. Or the £20,000 in grant one scientist received for researching the terribly important issue of why cornflakes get soggy when you pour milk on them.

There’s also the problem that scientific opinion also keeps changing on medical matters. Every so often researchers discover that certain foods are harmful for you. On the other hand, certain others are beneficial. Only for these opinions to be revised a few years later.

But the nature of science is that it is a process, not a set body of knowledge, and that it’s conclusions and statements may be revised as and when later discoveries are made. It’s why no-one now believes that an immaterial fluid – the ether – permeates the universe, with atoms only whirlpools in it, as they did over a century or so ago.

And so the right-wing press, like the Scum all the way up to the Torygraph, and particularly the Daily Heil, will publish endless numbers of articles attacking ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. Paul Johnson, the Conservative pundit, who used to write for the Daily Mail and Spectator, amongst other rags, wrote a book on them. Entitled Intellectuals, Johnson used it to explore what right intellectuals had to tell us what was right and how to order our lives. Private Eye also reviewed this as well. You will not be surprised to read that most of the intellectuals Johnson wrote about were left-wing, and many of them had shabby personal lives. Karl Marx is one example. Others were gay, or otherwise had colourful sexual tastes, like Kenneth Tynan, who apparently was into S&M.

But none of this actually refutes the value of their work, which has to be judged on other terms. Marx’s own bad behavior as a man doesn’t contradict his philosophical and economic theories any more than Alan Turing’s homosexuality refutes his work on mathematics and computers. But this doesn’t stop Johnson trying to tell you that their own bad behavior disqualifies intellectuals from having the right to explore how society may be improved. An attitude that, incidentally, is apparently shared by that other Johnson, Boris. This should rule Boris out as well as a serious politician, if true.

In the meantime, don’t let the Tories and Republicans run down public education. And stick up for proper intellectuals and intellectual discourse. As someone once said, ‘Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’

RT’s Lee Camp on Facebook Prioritization of Corporate Media

August 14, 2017

Mike’s already blogged about this issue on his website, including posting this snippet from RT America’s Lee Camp, one of the satirical hosts of Redacted Tonight.

Facebook have decided that they are going to prioritize material from corporate media. Mike’s been hit by this policy, along with numerous other left-wing bloggers trying to bring you the truth that the Beeb and the mainstream media don’t want you to hear.

Camp calls this what it is: censorship. 44 per cent of Americans get their news from Facebook. And Zuckerberg, Facebook’s head, for his protests to the contrary, does look he’s thinking of running for president. He’s hired a former Clinton aide, and went the other week to a small town in Iowa, where he talked about politics. As Camp says, if he isn’t planning on running for president, then he really needs to get some friends.

This policy is also running with a campaign to cut out ‘fake news’. Camp admits that there is fake news out there, but when the corporate media talk about fake news, they mean the small, independent network of bloggers, activists and small broadcasters, like The David Pakman Show, The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Minority Report and Secular Talk, who stand outside the corporate big boys like TimeWarner, Comcast, Fox, MSNBC and so on. The algorithm designed to recognize fake news is being created with the assistance of the New York Times. The Times has published some excellent pieces, but it’s also just signed a $600 million contract with the CIA.

He then reads out Facebook’s guidelines for contributors, where they state they do not want clickbait. He also points out that they’re also not interested in showing how America’s bombing Yemen into the ground, and causing a massive famine in one of the Middle East’s poorest nations. Because that doesn’t fit corporate America’s agenda.

He also reads out a few Tweets from ordinary Americans, who are massively unimpressed with this censorship. And he also advises his audience that if they want to continue to hear genuinely independent voices, they need to support those bloggers and vloggers, use independent platforms, and occasionally throw the creators the odd dollar or five.

Absolutely. And this has come as part of a general corporate attack on independent news creators. Google are demonetizing various videos over on YouTube. These seem to be mostly those created by the independent, left-wing news programmes and shows that I mentioned above. It’s affecting David Pakman, and The Young Turks, as well as Sam Seder, amongst others.

Mike’s pointed out that Facebook stands to lose money by this policy. Well, they do, but they’re monopoly capitalists, so they’re confident about retaining overall control of the medium, or at least their massive share of it. What they don’t want is a load of progressives and Socialists coming through, telling people that another world is possible: that the poor aren’t all idle scroungers, that tax cuts for the rich aren’t going to make those at the bottom of the pile richer, that racism is a tool to exploit the White man as well as marginalize and persecute Blacks, Mexicans and Asians, and that single-payer actually makes far more sense than insurance-based health care.

As for the New York Times, Counterpunch have had the Grey Lady in their sights for a very long time for the way it acted as a media cheerleader for the Iraq War, censoring and sanitizing the horrors that American and western forces were committing in the name of ‘spreading democracy’.

These corporate policies, however, show that the mainstream media are on the back foot on this. Their monopoly is being challenged, and despite the bullsh*t and spin they’ve put out about representing quality journalism against independent ‘fake news’, their hold on the media is being challenged and weakening. Last week Mike wrote a piece tearing an article in the Groaniad to pieces when they tried this line.

And their even more terrified now that very many people have liked and republished Ismahil Blagrove’s diatribe about the way corporate television don’t understand and have no interest in representing the views and hopes of ordinary people.

So, instead of supporting corporate media, go and check out independent blogs and vlogs like Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, Kitty S. Jones, Guy Debord’s Cat, RT, the Canary, Chunky Mark, Aye Up, Let’s Talk, Tony Greenstein, Stilloaks, and many, many others. These are the people worth listening to, the people, who really talk about the harsh realities of Conservative Britain beyond the confines of corporate news.

RT Report: 90 People a Month Dying After Being Found Fit for Work

August 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political blogged about this issue last week. In this piece from RT, the presenter interviews journalist Steve Topple over the official figures that 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work under the Work Capability Test. In one instance, a man, Lawrence Bond, collapsed and died of a heart attack right outside the jobcentre. He had been found fit for work, despite having an underlying heart problem. Topple also goes further, and cites other, highly disturbing figures that show the immense harm the tests are doing to disabled people. Oxford University found that 590 people had taken their own lives due to them. The tests are also linked to 270,000 cases of mental illness, and the prescription of 800,000 drugs for people suffering from the stress of these tests.

Topple and the present also discuss how the tests were introduced by New Labour back in 2008 as a way of redefining disability. Topple states that we do need to cut the welfare bill, but the tests are a blunt instrument that harms the disabled.

Topple also makes the point that the tests themselves are uneconomical. They’re more expensive to administer than whatever savings are produced from them. Mike and the other disability bloggers and activists have pointed out that this isn’t about saving money. It’s about penalizing and harassing the poor and disabled, simply for being poor and disabled. It is part of the principle of less eligibility, the ideology behind the workhouse, which Maggie Thatcher so enthusiastically embraced as one of her vile ‘Victorian values’.

They also make short work of another scandal – the DWP’s refusal to hand over the precise figures on the pretext that this would damage ‘commercial confidentiality’. The document being requested is Maximus’ – the company that has been administering the tests since 2015 – own internal report into the results of their tests across regions. Topple states that in refusing to publish the report, the DWP is acting directly against the orders of the Information Commissioner, who has demanded that the figures be published.

The claim of commercial confidentiality is a nonsense anyway. If a company is performing the work of a government department, then it should be open to public scrutiny in the same way a government department is. If you want to argue philology here, the Latin phrase for ‘state’ was ‘res publica’, the ‘public thing’, which became our word, ‘republic’. By implication, if a company is therefore working as part of the res publica, it should be open to inspection by the public, as free citizens.

Of course, this is all deeply abhorrent to the DWP and its heads, Iain Duncan Smith and now Damian Green. These two and their underlings and fellow ministers have been determined to cull as many of the disabled as possible in what Mike has called ‘chequebook euthanasia’, while hiding the figures from the general public. Mike has said many times on his book about the immense struggle he has had getting the true figures from the DWP, who refused, stonewalled, and challenged his requests for them. Just as they did to other disability bloggers and activists.

To see the names and biographies of some of the people, who have been killed by this vile policy, go to Mike’s blog, as well Stilloaks, Johnny Void and Another Angry Voice, and see DPAC’s website for their criticisms and campaigns against the DWP.

As for the Department itself, I fully concur with Mike: it should be broken up, and the worst offenders in it, those determined to make the lives of claimants as miserable as possible, should be sacked with no chance of a golden handshake. Frankly, if there was an real justice, Smith, Green and the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, Esther McVie, should be behind bars on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

Antisocial Media on the Ugly Story of Katie Hopkins

August 13, 2017

Antisocial Media is a vlogger, who makes videos laying into the far right and its various denizens. In this long video – it’s an hour and four minutes long – he presents the unlovely story of Katie Hopkins. Hopkins is the professional troll and Sun writer, who in 2015 wrote that she didn’t care about the thousands of dead migrants killed attempting to cross the Med into Europe, but wanted them deterred with gunboats. She then compared them to ‘cockroaches’. She has also applauded Trump’s avowed policy of banning Muslim emigration to the US. She has also made other statements aimed at working up hate and vilifying Muslims, such as blaming them as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Islamists and complaining that Muslims don’t do enough to distance themselves from the terrorists. She has also sneered at the Scots, fat people and written a long piece defended the footballer Adam Johnson after he was convicted of grooming and having underage sex with a 15 year old girl. Oh yes, and she also sneers at her own sex, women, for being too weak and pathetic. Because she didn’t like the Pussy Marchers at the Women’s March in Washington against Trump. And then she has appeared talking to Dave ‘Alt Right’ Rubin, of the Rubin Report, who tells her that he hasn’t seen anything racist or anti-Semitic in her material.

The clip begins with The Apprentice, the show that launched her on her path to infamy. Antisocial Media has a particular animus against the show, because not only has it launched her, but it also has Karen Brady as one of Alan Sugar’s little helpers. Yes, Karen Brady, who was elevated to the House of Lords, where she voted for tax cuts, which hurt the poor the most. Plus, The Apprentice is presented in the US by Trump. He also thinks that Alan Sugar looks like an angry testicle. Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose.
Hopkins was not a winner, but fell on her sword as she couldn’t guarantee to Sugar that she would take up the post with him if it was offered.

There then follows a clip with Sugar amazing everyone, when he appears on Breakfast TV to say he felt sorry for her. For all of five minutes. This was because there was an aftershow rap party, but she had made no friends on the programme and so no-one was talking to her.

Then there’s a clip of her appearing on Philip Schofield’s show, where she talks about how she doesn’t like very working class names like Charmaine or Bradley, because they show the child comes from a certain type of background characterized by bad behavior. Basically, she’s afraid they’re too chavvy. Opposing her is a woman, Anna-May Mangan, the daughter of an Irish immigrant, and a working-class mother. She makes the point that she was also isolated at school, because some parents didn’t want their children playing with an Irish girl. However, her daughter and working class friends have gone on to university, and despite having names like Kylie that Hopkins sneers at, have qualified as doctors and lawyers. Schofield then reads out a list of high achieving Americans, including doctors, sports people and musicians, who have the names Hopkins detests.

Antisocial Media then points out that you can see the direction of Hopkins’ future career there, as she deliberately takes up a position that she knows will be inflammatory and unpopular. However, despite the fact that the show is only watched by the elderly, housewives and the unemployed, the segment was immediately picked up and circulated on social media.

That led to Hopkins getting a job at the Sun, and, in 2015, making those vile comments about migrants. This part of the film includes a clip from Russell Brand taking her apart for this. Brand rightly points out that when she called them ‘cockroaches’, she was using exactly the same language as Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS, when he described Jews as ‘rats’ and ‘vermin’.

Also not impressed by this terminology was Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. He interviewed Hopkins, who tried lying her way out of it. No, she wasn’t being malicious when she described them as ‘cockroaches’. She was admiring their fortitude and endurance, as we were all told that in the event of a nuclear war only cockroaches would survive. This is plainly bullsh*t of the highest order, and Hislop rightly calls her out on it. He simply goes on to read out the other hateful stuff she wrote about them.

She also gets short shrift from the comedian Josie Long, who also makes the point that describing these people as ‘cockroaches’ and saying ‘we need a final solution’ is very much the same language that the Nazis used of the Jews, and is very definitely not a joke.

Russell Brand also argues that there’s no point in hating Hopkins herself, as she’s just the product of the hatred and racism in a section of British and society and media. Or in his graphic phrase, ‘the pus oozing from the pimple’. Quite so. Antisocial Media then discusses how her comments led to a petition calling on her to be banned. He makes the point that this has allowed her to position herself as someone standing up for free speech, saying what can’t be said because of political and media bias. He argues instead that pressure should have been placed on the Sun’s editor and publishers, so that they should have to think very carefully before they give a job to someone like her, or publish their comments. And Josie Long points out that it isn’t enough to ignore her. She’s tried to that long enough already, and Hopkins is still here, along with Nigel Farage and other creatures of the extreme right.

Hopkins also tried defending her comments about Trump’s Muslim ban on Andrew Neil’s politics programme. She got shredded there too. Neil pointed out several times that she was accusing him of saying things he never had. When she then talked about how we had lost control of our cities to aggressive migrants, particularly Muslims, Neil pointed out that while insulting behavior was unpleasant, they hadn’t lost control as she said. He asked her to name one city where this had occurred. Hopkins couldn’t, and so started challenging him to join her in going round such a city to show what would happen. Neil said he’d quite like to, but they couldn’t if she wouldn’t tell them which area it would be. She then very obviously changed the subject to her joy that her child’s school still has a Nativity play, which Neil also pointed out. As for the Muslim community not condemning the acts of terror committed in their name, Neil rightly points out that they’ve done so. There have been marches by them against the terrorists.

Too right. There have any number of Muslim clerics, who have condemned the Islamists and terrorism across the Middle East. In India something like 200 of them signed a document condemning them. But this is too few of them, according to Hopkins.

One of Hopkins’ supporters is Paul Joseph Watson, of Infowars fame. Watson, pontificating about Muslim terrorism, declared that there were no cases of terrorists shouting ‘Katie Hopkins’ instead of ‘Allahu Akbar!’. Except there were. A group of White racists had daubed on a mosque somewhere the message ‘***** Leave’ and ‘We need a final solution’.

And her bigoted racist comments have garnered her support from the real Nazis. One of those who supported one of her statements on Twitter signed himself ‘Antijuden SS’. ‘Juden’ is the German word for ‘Jews’. Hopkins took the comment down, but it was up there for a year before she did so.

Then there’s the clip of her going on America television to attack fat people. She claimed fat people were unhappy, and so put on and then lost 50 pounds in order to shame them, make the point that they shouldn’t make excuses for themselves, and could lose weight without having a chef or personal trainer. Antisocial Media says he sort-of agrees with her, in a way, but still thinks she’s wrong because she’s obviously not going to encourage anyone to lose weight when she so obviously hates them.

As for Adam Johnson, Antisocial Media rips into her long screed in support of the footballer by stating that he was indeed grooming the girl, and that by blaming her, and claiming she seduced him, she was blaming the victim. And yes, legally you can make a judgement concerning what is the proper age of consent.

Antisocial media also states that, thanks to the Scots dying before the age of sixty, because they’re too lazy to work till the age of retirement, Hopkins has now gained the same notoriety as Alt-Right troll Milo Yiannopolis over in the US. Hopkins made the comment on the same day, but just before, a terrible helicopter crash, which made her comments appear even more offensive than they were. Now, like Yiannopolis, she’s guaranteed to produce a crowd of protesters whenever or wherever she appears.

As for her appearance with Dave Rubin, when he states that Hopkins has, in his opinion, never said anything racist or anti-Semitic, the video shows this to be completely untrue by putting up a selection of some of the disgusting things she’s said about Blacks and Muslims. She also talks about how Britain is succumbing to Islam, because of the rise of Muslim mayor in many British cities, such as the mayor of London. She also talks about the global schemes of George Soros.

You can here something like a wolf howling at this point. I think it’s been put in because it’s ‘dog whistle’ politics. It’s a racist statement, that’s coded so that only people aware of this type of racist language recognize it. Soros is very much a bete noir of the Far Right. He’s also a Hungarian Jew. This is why the Fascists running Hungary are putting up posters attacking him on bus stops all over their country and in the media. Soros funds various democracy and open society groups and institutes in Hungary, which is clearly a threat to the anti-Semites now goose-stepping around the corridors of power.

This also shows how selective the accusations of anti-Semitism may be the Zionists are. Soros is very anti-Zionist. He despises them because of the way Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, betrayed his people to the Nazis. He allowed the Nazis to deport them in the hope that the Nazis would allow some of the survivors to go to Israel. So Soros doesn’t support Israel, and won’t give money to Zionist organisations.

This has sent Netanyahu and the Israeli government berserk, and they have been only too glad to give their support to the Hungarian stormtroopers in their demonization of Soros. For further information on this, see the article on Tony Greenstein’s blog at http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/israel-supports-viktor-orban-and.html.

As for Katie Hopkin’s appearance with Dave Rubin, it’s telling that amongst some of the stars of the Alt Right he gives prominence too is Millennial Woes. Millennial Woes is someone, who can only be described as a racist and a Nazi. He hates coloured immigrants, has said that they should be gunned down by warships, and also recommends the reintroduction of slavery. He is definitely not someone any decent person would want to share their views, or be associated with politically.

I dare say Katie Hopkins will be around for years to come. Because she is a troll, who gets off on being hated, she’s an unperson on Mike’s blog. He won’t mention her unless he really has to, and then he uses a suitable pseudonym or circumlocution.

On the other hand, Josie Long is right. She isn’t going away. I signed a petition on Change.org to get rid of her after her vile comments about a ‘final solution’. But I think Antisocial Media has a point when he says that the people, who really need to feel the heat are the editor and publishers of the Sun. But frankly, considering the Scum’s long history of appearing before organisations like the Press Complaints’ Commission for racism, and the apparently cavalier way Murdoch regards libel, I don’t think there’s much chance of them heeding the opinions of the British public on this issue.

Forthcoming Programme on the Destructive Consequence of IT

August 1, 2017

Next Sunday, the 6th August, BBC 2 is showing a documentary at 8.00 pm on the negative aspects of automation and information technology. Entitled Secrets of Silicon Valley, it’s the first part of a two-part series. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Tech Gods – who run the biggest technology companies – say they’re creating a better world. Their utopian visions sound persuasive: Uber say the app reduces car pollution and could transform how cities are designed; Airbnb believes its website empowers ordinary people. some hope to reverser climate change or replace doctors with software.

In this doc, social media expert Jamie Bartlett investigates the consequences of “disruption” – replacing old industries with new ones. The Gods are optimistic about our automated future but one former Facebook exec is living off-grid because he fears the fallout from the tech revolution. (p. 54).

A bit more information is given on the listings page for the programmes on that evening. This gives the title of the episode – ‘The Disruptors’, and states

Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. He visits Uber’s offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But Hyderabad, India, Jamie sees for himself the apparent human consequences of Uber’s utopian vision and asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley’s global disruption – the automation of millions of jobs – will mean for us. He gets a stark warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software. Jamie’s journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former social media executive who fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism. (p. 56).

I find the critical tone of this documentary refreshing after the relentless optimism of last Wednesday’s first instalment of another two-part documentary on robotics, Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots. This was broadcast at 9 O’clock on BBC 4, with second part shown tomorrow – the second of August – at the same time slot.

This programme featured two scientists, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. Ben Garrod, and the electronics engineer Professor Danielle George, looking over the last century or so of robot development. Garrod stated that he was worried by how rapidly robots had evolved, and saw them as a possible threat to humanity. George, on the other hand, was massively enthusiastic. On visiting a car factory, where the vehicles were being assembled by robots, she said it was slightly scary to be around these huge machines, moving like dinosaurs, but declared proudly, ‘I love it’. At the end of the programme she concluded that whatever view we had of robotic development, we should embrace it as that way we would have control over it. Which prompts the opposing response that you could also control the technology, or its development, by rejecting it outright, minimizing it or limiting its application.

At first I wondered if Garrod was there simply because Richard Dawkins was unavailable. Dawko was voted the nation’s favourite public intellectual by the readers of one of the technology or current affairs magazines a few years ago, and to many people’s he’s the face of scientific rationality, in the same way as the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. However, there was a solid scientific reason he was involved through the way robotics engineers had solved certain problems by copying animal and human physiology. For example, Japanese cyberneticists had studied the structure of the human body to create the first robots shown in the programme. These were two androids that looked and sounded extremely lifelike. One of them, the earlier model, was modelled on its creator to the point where it was at one time an identical likeness. When the man was asked how he felt about getting older and less like his creation, he replied that he was having plastic surgery so that he continued to look as youthful and like his robot as was possible.

Japanese engineers had also studied the human hand, in order to create a robot pianist that, when it was unveiled over a decade ago, could play faster than a human performer. They had also solved the problem of getting machines to walk as bipeds like humans by giving them a pelvis, modeled on the human bone structure. But now the machines were going their own way. Instead of confining themselves to copying the human form, they were taking new shapes in order to fulfil specific functions. The programme makers wanted to leave you in new doubt that, although artificial, these machines were nevertheless living creatures. They were described as ‘a new species’. Actually, they aren’t, if you want to pursue the biological analogy. They aren’t a new species for the simple reason that there isn’t simply one variety of them. Instead, they take a plethora of shapes according to their different functions. They’re far more like a phylum, or even a kingdom, like the plant and animal kingdoms. The metal kingdom, perhaps?

It’s also highly problematic comparing them to biological creatures in another way. So far, none of the robots created have been able to reproduce themselves, in the same way biological organisms from the most primitive bacteria through to far more complex organisms, not least ourselves, do. Robots are manufactured by humans in laboratories, and heavily dependent on their creators both for their existence and continued functioning. This may well change, but we haven’t yet got to that stage.

The programme raced through the development of robots from Eric, the robot that greeted Americans at the World’s Fair, talking to one of the engineers, who’d built it and a similar metal man created by the Beeb in 1929. It also looked at the creation of walking robots, the robot pianist and other humanoid machines by the Japanese from the 1980s to today. It then hopped over the Atlantic to talk to one of the leading engineers at DARPA, the robotics technology firm for the American defence establishment. Visiting the labs, George was thrilled, as the company receives thousands of media requests, to she was exceptionally privileged. She was shown the latest humanoid robots, as well as ‘Big Dog’, the quadruped robot carrier, that does indeed look and act eerily like a large dog.

George was upbeat and enthusiastic. Any doubts you might have about robots taking people’s jobs were answered when she met a spokesman for the automated car factory. He stated that the human workers had been replaced by machines because, while machines weren’t better, they were more reliable. But the factory also employed 650 humans running around here and there to make sure that everything was running properly. So people were still being employed. And by using robots they’d cut the price on the cars, which was good for the consumer, so everyone benefits.

This was very different from some of the news reports I remember from my childhood, when computers and industrial robots were just coming in. There was shock by news reports of factories, where the human workers had been laid off, except for a crew of six. These men spent all day playing cards. They weren’t employed because they were experts, but simply because it would have been more expensive to sack them than to keep them on with nothing to do.

Despite the answers given by the car plant’s spokesman, you’re still quite justified in questioning how beneficial the replacement of human workers with robots actually is. For example, before the staff were replaced with robots, how many people were employed at the factory? Clearly, financial savings had to be made by replacing skilled workers with machines in order to make it economic. At the same time, what skill level were the 650 or so people now running around behind the machines? It’s possible that they are less skilled than the former car assembly workers. If that’s the case, they’d be paid less.

As for the fear of robots, the documentary traced this from Karel Capek’s 1920’s play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robot, which gave the word ‘robot’ to the English language. The word ‘robot’ means ‘serf, slave’ or ‘forced feudal labour’ in Czech. This was the first play to deal with a robot uprising. In Japan, however, the attitude was different. Workers were being taught to accept robots as one of themselves. This was because of the animist nature of traditional Japanese religion. Shinto, the indigenous religion besides Buddhism, considers that there are kami, roughly spirits or gods, throughout nature, even inanimate objects. When asked what he thought the difference was between humans and robots, one of the engineers said there was none.

Geoff Simons also deals with the western fear of robots compared to the Japanese acceptance of them in his book, Robots: The Quest for Living Machines. He felt that it came from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. This is suspicious of robots, as it allows humans to usurp the Lord as the creator of living beings. See, for example, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein – ‘the Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus was the tAstritan, who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity. Victor Frankenstein was similarly stealing a divine secret through the manufacture of his creature.

I think the situation is rather more complex than this, however. Firstly, I don’t think the Japanese are as comfortable with robots as the programme tried to make out. One Japanese scientist, for example, has recommended that robots should not be made too humanlike, as too close a resemblance is deeply unsettling to the humans, who have to work with it. Presumably the scientist was basing this on the experience of Japanese as well as Europeans and Americans.

Much Japanese SF also pretty much like its western counterpart, including robot heroes. One of the long-time comic favourites in Japan is Astroboy, a robot boy with awesome abilities, gadgets and weapons. But over here, I can remember reading the Robot Archie strip in Valiant in the 1970s, along with the later Robusters and A.B.C. Warriors strips in 2000 AD. R2D2 and C3PO are two of the central characters in Star Wars, while Doctor Who had K9 as his faithful robot dog.

And the idea of robot creatures goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire, was a smith. Lame, he forged three metal girls to help him walk. Pioneering inventors like Hero of Alexandria created miniature theatres and other automata. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this technology was taken up by the Muslim Arabs. The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century AD created a whole series of machines, which they simply called ‘ingenious devices’, and Baghdad had a water clock which included various automatic figures, like the sun and moon, and the movement of the stars. This technology then passed to medieval Europe, so that by the end of the Middle Ages, lords and ladies filled their pleasure gardens with mechanical animals. The 18th century saw the fascinating clockwork machines of Vaucanson, Droz and other European inventors. With the development of steam power, and then electricity in the 19th century came stories about mechanical humans. One of the earliest was the ‘Steam Man’, about a steam-powered robot, which ran in one of the American magazines. This carried on into the early 20th century. One of the very earliest Italian films was about a ‘uomo machina’, or ‘man machine’. A seductive but evil female robot also appears in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis. Both films appeared before R.U.R., and so don’t use the term robot. Lang just calls his robot a ‘maschinemensch’ – machine person.

It’s also very problematic whether robots will ever really take human’s jobs, or even develop genuine consciousness and artificial intelligence. I’m going to have to deal with this topic in more detail later, but the questions posed by the programme prompted me to buy a copy of Hubert L. Dreyfus’ What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Initially published in the 1970s, and then updated in the 1990s, this describes the repeated problems computer scientists and engineers have faced trying to develop Artificial Intelligence. Again and again, these scientists predicted that ‘next year’ ,’in five years’ time’, ‘in the next ten years’ or ‘soon’, robots would achieve human level intelligence, and would make all of us unemployed. The last such prediction I recall reading was way back in 1999 – 2000, when we were all told that by 2025 robots would be as intelligent as cats. All these forecasts have proven wrong. But they’re still being made.

In tomorrow’s edition of Hyperevolution, the programme asks the question of whether robots will ever achieve consciousness. My guess is that they’ll conclude that they will. I think we need to be a little more skeptical.

American Historian Nancy Maclean on James McGill Buchanan and the Libertarian Attack on Democracy

July 27, 2017

This is another very interesting clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report. He talks by phone to Nancy Maclean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, who explains the origins of Libertarianism in the thought of James McGill Buchanan and the threat this now poses to American democracy through the Koch brothers. Buchanan was one of the founders of Public Choice Economics. This exists in both left- and right-wing versions, and in Buchanan’s case, it’s extremely right-wing. Buchanan took an attitude towards the American constitution similar to Calhoun, one of the figures in early American political history, who was strongly opposed by Madison. Calhoun divided society into ‘makers’ and ‘takers’. The ‘makers’ were the rich, while the ‘takers’ were the poor. Buchanan expanded on this distinction to found the Virginia School of Political Economy. This considered that no constitution in the world, including the American, adequately protected property rights. As Maclean herself points out, this is a ridiculous statement when applied to America, whose constitution protects private property to a higher degree than those of other nations. Buchanan then became political active trying to change this.

Central to the Virginia’s school’s thinking was the doctrine that it was immoral to tax the rich to benefit the poor. Buchanan, and the other Libertarians around him, were firmly opposed to progressive taxation and the embryonic American welfare state. It is this opposition to progressive economic and social policies that has strongly influenced the Republican party’s current attempts to destroy Obamacare.

This led to the foundation of the Montpellerin Group, a think tank which was one of the founding organizations of Libertarianism in the 1970s. Its members included von Hayek, von Mises, and the founder of Monetarism, Milton Friedman, as well as Charles Koch. They also realized that they would be a minority, and so looked for ways to assist non-democratic regimes so seize power, like General Pinochet in Chile.

The Kochs are oil billionaires, who have been major figures in the Libertarian party, and have given lavishly to a number of extreme right-wing organisations in America working to destroy the American welfare state and undermine the Constitution. Two of these are the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, but Maclean states that there 15 of these in all. Maclean states that the Libertarians present themselves as Madisonians, determined to return the Constitution to its original form and protect it against the progressives and liberals they feel have hijacked and corrupted it. She points out instead that their views are those of Calhoun, rather than Madison. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were extremely Conservative themselves, and determined to protect private property as much as possible. She acknowledges that the Constitution as it is, with its four veto clauses, is a Conservative document. But Madison was a determined opponent of Calhoun, and stated that if Calhoun was successful, it would be the end of freedom in America.

I’ve put up several pieces from Reichwing Watch over the past few days, showing that Libertarianism, far from being a form of Anarchism, as its supporters claim, is actually a form of extreme right-wing politics similar to, and increasingly declaring itself to be, at least according to spokesmen like That Guy T a form of Fascism. This adds a little information to show that it has always been Fascistic. Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that Pinochet and his regime was Monetarist, strongly influenced by von Mises, and that Milton Friedman frequently visited the country to see how the thug was implementing his economic policies. This shows that the connections between Pinochet and the Chicago school weren’t coincidental. Friedman and his cohorts didn’t visit Chile, because Pinochet just happened to be a Monetarist and wanted their assistance. They visited Chile because they had rejected democratic government and were actively assisting Pinochet to achieve power in order to help the rich exploit and brutalise the poor.

And this isn’t an issue that’s just confined to America. Libertarianism has also been a very strong influence on the Tory party since the days of Maggie Thatcher. She was deeply impressed by von Hayek, and turned up at a political meeting in the ’70s with his book, The Road to Serfdom. A young man had been speaking before her, recommending a more middle of the road policy in line with the post-War consensus. Instead Thatcher slapped von Hayek’s wretched screed on the table and announced, ‘This is what we all believe now.’ There was always a section of the Tory party that despised the welfare state, and they have become the dominant section of the party since Thatcher. It was Thatcher, who talked explicitly of dismantling the welfare state, including the NHS, which she wished to privatize. It is these policies, that are still being carried through nearly forty years later.

And these ideological links and the threat they pose to the NHS are likely to become fixed through the free trade agreements that the Tories are desperate to conclude with Donald Trump. The break up of the welfare state and the gradual privatization of the NHS is being done partly for the benefit of American private healthcare and state outsourcing companies. Private Eye revealed that the work capability tests were introduced by Peter Lilley and the Tories through the influence of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, an influence that continued when Tony Blair and New Labour came into power in 1997. The magazine also revealed that Blair was being lobbied by a number of American firms, including Wackenhut, which, amongst other things, runs private prisons. Any deal the Tories make with Trump’s administration is likely to cement the privatization of the remains of the NHS and the wider state sector into international law.

If we wish to defend the NHS and what’s left of the welfare state, and create a better, fairer society, we need to make sure such privatization does not become enshrined in any trade treaties, either with America or the European Union, and combat Libertarianism and its attack on the poor and weak as the underlying ideological cause.

Alex Jones Cries and Rants about British Mutant Gill Babies

July 26, 2017

More sheer, howling madness from Alex Jones of Infowars, the man for whom the term ‘fake news’ could have been coined. As I’ve mentioned before, Jones is a notorious conspiracy theorist, who hosts his own internet TV show where he claims that the people of America and the world are under attack from their own governments, determined to impoverish and enslave them. Those responsible for this nefarious project are the ‘globalists’, by which he means the elite 1 per cent, the major industrialists, politicians and world leaders. According to him, they are determined to create something very much like the one-world Satanic superstate of Christian Fundamentalist end-times demonology. The leaders of this conspiracy are involved in every kind of depravity imaginable, including child sacrifice and paedophilia. He appeared on Jon Ronson’s Channel 4 documentary Them: Adventures with Extremists, where he and Ronson sneaked into the annual meeting of America’s political and business elites at Bohemian Grove in California. Witnessing a bizarre playlet in which the participants burn an effigy of ‘Dull Care’, Jones and his followers immediately decided that the figure was a child being ritually sacrificed to Satan.

Jone’s has said a number of times that he doesn’t know if the ultimate forces behind the conspiracy to enslave humanity are demons or malign, extradimensional aliens. But he believes they really exist, whatever they are. Thus he accused Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton of being demonically possessed, and that Clinton was a participant in Satanic rituals involving eating human blood and other body fluids. He also had to make an apology and a very public retraction on air after he claimed that there was a paedophile ring supplying children to Democratic party politicos operating out of a pizza parlour in Boston. Of course there wasn’t. But that didn’t stop someone with a gun going into the place looking for the underground basement where they kept the kids prisoner. Fortunately, the owners were able to show him that no such dungeon existed, and no-one was shot. But it could very easily have gone the other way.

He also had to retract similar allegations made against the Turkish owner of a yoghurt factory. This company had a policy of hiring immigrants, including those from the Middle East. So Jones alleged that the firm’s boss was another paedophile, and that workers from his company were responsible for a spate of rapes in the area. No, the boss wasn’t, and his workers weren’t either. And after the factory boss consulted m’learned friends, as Private Eye calls them, Jones had to appear on air to state that, once again, he’d made a mistake.

As a member of the American Right, he’s firmly against gun control. He’s also against fluoride in the water, and seems to believe that there is some kind of UN plan to have their doctors castrate the male population. Quite apart from putting chemicals in the water to turn the frogs gay.

As well as enslaving us in refugee camps for the victims of natural disasters, Jones also believes, or claims to believe, that the globalists are trying to deprive us of our basic humanity. He denounced the gay rights movement as a ‘transhumanist space cult’ intending to create a genderless human being. Which really isn’t how the vast majority of gays and their supporters in their movement for equality see it at all. Away from sexual politics, Jones has frequently ranted about how the globalists plan to turn everyone into some kind of genetically engineered cyborg.

In this short clip, under a minute, Jones cries about how, when he was in Britain, he saw tanks full of babies and small children, who’ve been genetically engineered into fish people. They all had gills, and were swimming around, breathing under water.

I’ve put this up partly because it involves my home country, obviously. Jones has been to England. He appeared briefly on the Daily Politics with Andrew Neil, where he started yelling about the evils of gun control and how we would never crush good Americans and take their guns away. Or something like that. It ended with the camera pulling away from Jones to focus instead on Neil making the circular ‘nutter’ gesture by the side of his head.

I don’t know whether Jones has been to Blighty again or not. I’m absolutely sure, however, that he has not seen gilled, gene-engineered sprogs in tanks. I think there was a project to develop artificial gills in the 1907s – Duncan Lunan mentions it in his book, Man and the Planets – but that seems to have died the death of all scientific dead-ends. And a few years ago the BBC science documentary programme, Horizon, did cover experiments where animals were shown breathing in liquid. It wasn’t water, however. It was a special, oxygenated liquid, and the creatures didn’t have gills.

It also seems to me that he’s watched too much X-Files on DVD. The show’s central story arc was that there was a secret project to create human-alien hybrids in preparation for a final, alien invasion in which the normal human majority would be completely exterminated. The aliens and the hybrids were, of course, green blooded. As well as being extremely difficult to kill, the human-alien hybrids could also breathe under water. There’s a scene in one episode where Mulder and Scully look around a secret lab in an old warehouse, full of humans sleeping underwater in their tanks.

It’s a good question whether Jones actually believes any of the stuff he spouts. A few months ago his ex-wife sued for custody of their children. They were then living with Jones, who also his studio in his home. His former wife claimed that Jones was insane, and that watching their father rant about these bizarre and terrifying conspiracies, which existed only in his head, was damaging to their children’s mental health. Jones’ lawyer responded that he didn’t believe any of this nonsense, and that it was an act, or performance art. Which is sort of a confession that he’s a fraud.

My guess is that a fair number of Jones’ viewers don’t believe any of the stuff he comes out with, and watch Infowars in the same way people used to read the Weekly World News and its daft stories. Such as, ”Dad Was Bigfoot’, Says Beastie Man’, and a headline news story about a Grey alien giving his vote to Bill Clinton. Jones also probably realizes this, and doesn’t care. If you look on YouTube, there are number of videos explicitly labelled ‘Alex Jones Rants’, which seem to come from Jones or Infowars themselves.

And at least one British tabloid has run bogus stories on the same theme of secret genetic experimentation. Two decades ago, a couple of British newspapers also tried to go for the same market as the Weekly World News in the states. There was the Sunday Sport, now The Sport, and its story about a B-52 bomber being found on the Moon. The Daily Star also tried to plumb those depths. At the time, the Science Fiction chiller, Chimaera, was running on British television. This was a series about a journalist and female genetics engineer, who had uncovered a terrible secret plot to breed a human-chimpanzee hybrid to act as a new slave class. Although SF, the series is not as incredible as it seems. At one point Stalin was interested in creating such a ‘Humanzee’ hybrid to serve as soldiers in the Soviet Union.

While the series was running, the Star, if I remember correctly, carried a story, which claimed that similar genetic experiments were being carried out by the British government, and that their journalists had found laboratories containing elephants the size of rabbits. Well, they clearly hadn’t, although there certainly had been genetic experiments of a sort. This was the time of Dolly, the cloned sheep, and attempts to create a sheep-goat hybrid, experiments which made Chimaera and its plot all too plausible. However, the Star’s attempts to become even more stupid and bonkers than the Sport failed, according to Private Eye, and the wretched rag lost rapidly lost readers. They then had to make a complete volte-face, and go back to something resembling normal journalism. Jones’ tale of secret human experiments in British labs also hark back, consciously or not, to Chimaera and the daft story in the Star which it inspired.

While some people do see Jones as a joke, there is a very serious aspect to him and Infowars. Many people do take it seriously, as was shown by the incident at the Boston pizza parlour. And Jones was one of those backing Trump’s campaign for the presidency. He had the orange buffoon on his show several times, lauding him as the man, who would finally lead the revolt against the globalists. Which is quite ironic, if we’re talking about human-animal hybrids. Trump got very annoyed last year when the American comedian, Bill Maher, declared on his show that Trump was so orange, he must be half orangutan. Trump took the joke so seriously, he began waving his birth certificate around to show that both his parents were human, and threatened to sue for libel. Of course, in practice Trump has shown himself every bit as globalist as all the other politicians and businessmen, moving factories and parts of his business empire abroad to where he can exploit the cheap labour of workers in the Developing World.

As with the Star’s bogus stories about genetically engineered dwarf animals, I doubt anyone has been taken in by Jones’ nonsense about genetically engineered fish babies. But that doesn’t mean people don’t believe some of his nonsense, and he is having a destabilizing effect on American democracy through his promotion of the extreme right. However risible his stories are, Jones and his power to influence part of the American electorate have gone far beyond a joke.

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

More Hypocrisy from the Tories and the Daily Mail as They Accuse Labour of Bigotry and Intolerance

July 8, 2017

The Conservatives and Daily Heil are back to the old tricks of accusing the Labour party and its supporters, particularly those in Momentum for Jeremy Corbyn, of intolerance, vandalism and intimidation. Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, whined in an article in the Fail about her treatment by Labour supporters. She claimed that

“I’ve had swastikas carved into posters, social media posts like ‘burn the witch’ and ‘stab the C’, people putting Labour Party posters on my home, photographing them and pushing them through my letterbox. Someone even urinated on my office door.”

Dominic Sandbrook, one of the rag’s journos, then went on to opine that “The fact is the overwhelming majority of the abuse, bullying and intimidation comes from the Left.”

Tory MP Nadine ‘Mad Nad’ Dorries put up a photograph of one of these vandalised posters with the accusation that it was done by Momentum supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, along with her judgement that Britain was heading back to the 1930s.

As Mike has pointed out on his blog about the article, citing Tom Clarke, the Angry Yorkshireman, neither Murray, Dorries nor Sandbrook has absolutely any evidence that this was done by Labour supporters. It’s just another unfounded accusation to smear the Labour party.

And Murray herself also has form when it comes to intolerance. At one of her rallies, she stated that she’s glad there are food banks in Cornwall. When a section of the crowd, not unreasonably, shows its anger, she first tries to wave it off by saying, ‘Let’s ignore these, shall we?’ As Mike also asks rhetorically, what does she mean when she refers to the protesters as ‘these’? When they continue, she threatens to call the police.

Mike concludes

This Writer reckons the Tories are on the back foot, and this is a desperate attempt to regain credibility with the public.

It must not succeed.

So, if you see a Tory trying to defame the Left in this manner, don’t let it pass; challenge it.

We’ll see how long their feigned indignance lasts when they’re made to produce evidence – or shut up.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/06/tories-accuse-the-left-of-intolerance-and-bigotry-without-evidence-pot-kettle-black/

There are a number of issues underlying the petulant shrieks of intolerance by the Tories, some going back to patrician attitudes to the working classes that predate democratic politics.

Firstly, as Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman point out, there’s absolutely no evidence linking any of this to the Labour party. Indeed, some of it is just as likely to come from the Lib Dems or indeed just from people of no fixed political opinions, who are fed with the Tories. In rural areas like parts of the south west, the main rivals to the Conservatives aren’t Labour but the Liberal Democrats, and I’ve heard from former Conservative local politicians that the real hatred isn’t between Labour and the Conservatives, between the Tories and Lib Dems.

Secondly, the Tories’ attitudes in many ways is simply a display of the old, upper class suspicion of the working class. Way back in the early 19th century the upper classes hated and feared the Labouring poor as prone to rioting, and potentially subversive and disloyal. The only way to keep the unwashed masses in line was through outright repression and stern policing. This attitude vanished, or at least was seriously weakened when the great unwashed turned up at the Great Exhibition. And instead of wanting to burn the place down, showed themselves orderly, responsible and interested. But this latest accusation from the Fail with its petit bourgeois readership shows that the old hatred and fear of the working class as a seething mass of social disorder, yobbishness and violence, still remains.

Thirdly, it shows just out of touch ‘Nads’ Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook are. If people are lashing out at Tory MPs and their propaganda, it’s because they’ve been driven to it by grinding poverty and an administration that ignores everyone except the richest quarter of the population. Many areas of rural Britain, including Cornwall, have high unemployment. There’s also a problem of getting housing, which is often well out of the price range of locals thanks to wealthy people from outside the area buying it as second homes. I’ve a friend from Cornwall, who was particularly angry about this nearly a decade ago. I can remember him getting up to tackle a group of ‘upcountry’ people about it in a pub, when he overheard them talking about how cheap property was down there.

Then there are the national problems of acute poverty, caused by stagnating wages and cuts to basic welfare support. People want and deserve proper unemployment and disability benefits, and very definitely not to be forced to support themselves through charity and food banks.

And then there’s the whole issue of the privatisation of the NHS. A few months ago I wrote another pamphlet about that, in addition to the one, whose contents I put up here a week or so ago. While writing this, and documenting the way a long line of right-wing governments have been aiming to privatise the NHS since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, I felt so furious that I really couldn’t face any kind of Tory propaganda. I felt so bitterly angry at the way the health service is being run down, in order to soften it up for privatisation and purchase by largely American private healthcare companies.

Given all this, the British public has an absolutely right to be angry, and while I don’t approve of people urinating in anyone’s letter box, I honestly can’t blame them for vandalising the posters. In Bristol popular anger against the Tories could be seen just before the general election in a piece of graffiti scrawled outside the Eye Hospital near the BRI. It read: Donate Tory Blood – It’s Worth More!

Nads’, Murray’s and Sandbrook’s sneering about ‘left-wing intolerance’ shows the complacency and complete indifference to suffering of the Tory middle and upper classes. They’re very comfortably off, thank you very much, and the Tories are serving them very well. So they have no idea, and indeed react with absolute horror at the very idea that part of the masses hates them with a passion, because they have no understanding, or sympathy, with the real poverty and deprivation many people are struggling with. We’re back indeed in the territory of Matthew Freud’s comments about how the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they have less to lose.

There’s also an element of the old Tory landlord class, who expect their workers to put up and tug their forelock to the master, no matter how badly they were treated. A few years ago one of the BBC history programmes covered the Highland Clearances, the period in the late 18th and 19th centuries when the Scots aristocracy enclosed and forced their tenant farmers off their land so they could devote it to sheep rearing. The image of the wild, romantic Scots countryside actually post-dates this process. Before then the countryside north of the border was filled with rural communities – townships – and their people. It only became a wilderness when these people were forcibly evicted and their crofts and other homes pulled down.

And to add insult to injury, those workers, who managed to keep their jobs were expected to tug their forelocks and sing the praises of their masters. The programme mentioned how one ‘improving’ landlord, who was actually English, or half-English, got very upset when he decided to have a statue put up of himself. He expected his workers to pay for it, and was furious when many of them were less than enthusiastic.

It’s the same attitude here. The Tories still expect absolute feudal loyalty and subservience. When this is not forthcoming, and anger is shown instead, their own selfish indifference to the plight of the lower orders comes out, and they start screaming about how it’s all so unreasonable, intolerant, and, by implication, disobedient.

And lastly, it’s also massively hypocritical. The Tories have absolutely no business accusing anyone of intolerance, and especially not the Daily Heil. Not when sections of the party is still bitterly racist, with Mail and the Tory party championing even more stringent state censorship and surveillance of what we may read and post online, or say on the phone or other forms of social media. Not when they’ve created the legal infrastructure for secret courts, where you can be tried without trial, with having your lawyer see vital evidence against you, or even know who your accuser is, if the government decides this would all be against ‘national security’. Just like Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy!

And the Tories certainly have no problem with violence and intolerance when it directed against the left. I remember how the Scum put up an approving story during the Miner’s Strike, about how an old lady struck the then head of the NUM, Arthur Scargill, with a tin of tomatoes she’d thrown. This old dear was praised for her pluck and daring at the evil Commie, who was destroying the mining industry and forcing all good, right-thinking Thatcherite miners out of the pits. Yet when the reverse occurs, and someone throws eggs at the Tories, they start frothing and screaming at their intolerance.

And if we’re talking about the Right’s intolerance during the Miner’s Strike, then how about the way Thatcher used military-style policing, including unprovoked charges, against the miners. This was done officially, and covered up by a complicit media, including the Beeb. Violence, and the savage beating of protesters, ain’t intolerance when it’s done by the Tory forces of law and order.

Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook show themselves with this article, to be intolerant hypocrites themselves. They’re all too happy to see people ground into the most extremes of poverty and misery, but panic when some few show their dissent by tearing down their propaganda.

Aide Who Walked Out on May Wants British Public to Stop Trolling Her

July 5, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Katie Perrior, who was one of the two aides, who walked out of May’s cabinet a week or so ago, appeared on Paul Ross’ show on Talk Radio to tell the country that we should all stop sending the PM nasty messages on Twitter.

She said: “We need to stop with the abuse, we need to stop trolling our politicians on Twitter”, and followed this with the comments that there is no money, people need to realise that” and “She [May] would be devastated right now.” She also said that “people need to get real” and allow Mrs May to do her job.”

Mike points out that there are perfectly good reasons why May is receiving abuse: she’s been the worst excuse for a Prime Minister we’ve ever suffered. He points out that she called a snap election, which she lost, and is now spending £1 billion of our money to keep herself in power through an alliance with the terrorist-linked bigots of the DUP. Mike also points out that her remark that there is no more money also undermines her credibility, but concurs that May should be left to do one job: clear out.

He concludes

The only way we can have any kind of “strong and stable” government – as Mrs May herself described it – is by holding another general election and electing a Labour government.

I really don’t have any sympathy with Perrior or her former mistress in No. 10. Despite May’s repeated statements that there is no ‘magic money tree’, there clearly is if it means securing an alliance that will shore up her tottering minority government.

It’s also a flat-out lie. The budget for the NHS has been cut disastrously, to the point where tens of NHS healthcare trusts are millions in debt, and just about ready for privatisation by a Tory government intent on destroying this most precious of British institutions. But in 1979 a report concluded that, contrary to Maggie Thatcher’s ideas about privatising the Health Service, the NHS provided excellent value for money and would easily be funded by expected changes in taxation.

The Tories have gone back to lying about ‘high spending Labour’ to justify their brutal, swingeing cuts, but the Labour party never overspent on the NHS, which was in budget when they left office. Unlike now, after Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt, and their masters David Cameron and Theresa May. Furthermore, Labour actually spent less than previous Tory administrations.

Perrior and the rest of them are, of course, terrified of the spectre of Jeremy Corbyn getting into No. 10, and undoing the forty years of harm successive Thatcherite regimes have done to this country. Hence all the bleating about there being no money. But there is money available. Corbyn and Labour costed all their proposals, unlike May and the Tories. And the La Chat Francaise Philosophique over at Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that it actually costs money to cut taxes. All that needs to be done to fund the renationalisation of the NHS, stop benefit sanctions and renationalise part of the energy industry and the other proposals, is to start taxing the upper five per cent of the population again.

But this gives the Tories a fit of the vapours, as it means taxing the rich to support the poor, while everything the Tories do is the reverse: to impoverish the poor in order to give greater power and wealth to those, who already have more than enough of it.

I also don’t have any sympathy for the supposed personal distress this is causing to May herself. In fact I find this highly hypocritical.

Thatcherite welfare policy, since the days of Thatcher herself, is modelled very much on the principle of Less Eligibility, which was at the heart of the Liberal’s New Poor Law of 1833. Conditions on welfare are to be made so harsh, that it will deter everyone except the very needy from going on it. Hence if you sign on at the jobcentre, the clerk will belittle you and put immense amounts of pressure on you to get a job, even if it is unsuitable. And it works. I personally know people, who are unemployed and who have not signed on, because of the insulting, demeaning way jobcentre staff have treated them.

That’s if you are sufficiently lucky to qualify for benefit in the first place. The government, like the Thatcherite administrations before it, is committed to dismantling the welfare state. And this means making qualification for jobseeker’s allowance and disability benefit as difficult as possible. This means that Maximus, like Atos, regularly and fraudulently decides that severely disabled, and even terminally ill people, are capable of holding down a job. And unemployed people have been sanctioned for the flimsiest of reasons.

The result of this is misery, mass poverty and starvation.

I’ve mentioned enough times the number of deaths this has caused, the numbers forced to use food banks, and the millions who don’t know if they’ll be able to eat tomorrow. But psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have warned several times about the rise in mental illness caused by the distress those with such problems suffer in filling out the forms and going through the assessment process.

One very graphic illustration of the distress this has caused ordinary Brits is the case Mike put up on his blog a few years ago. This described how members of the public came to comfort a young man, who was left crying outside the jobcentre, when they turned his application for benefit down.

Where the cries of Perrior’s and her colleagues then about distress? There weren’t any. Indeed, the whole attitude of the Conservative party, and its vile organs like the Daily Heil is that those on welfare are scroungers and malingers, who should be demeaned and vilified at every turn.

So I have absolutely no sympathy with Perrior’s wails about how upsetting it is for her former employer to get such horrible Tweets. May is presiding over a malign political system, which sees humiliation and distress as legitimate tools for managing the hoi polloi.

The best thing May can do is to end the distress she’s causing the rest of us, and resign to make way for a Labour government.