Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Counterpunch Demolishes Some Churchillian Myths

December 8, 2017

There’s a very interesting piece by Louis Proyect over at this weekend’s Counterpunch, The Churchillian Myths of 1940, where he takes a well-observed aim at two of the recent films about the Second World War. One is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, the other is the forthcoming biopic about Winston Churchill’s battle against the appeasers in the British cabinet in 1940, The Darkest Hour. This hasn’t been released yet, and is set to come out on December 21st (2017). It stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, and is directed by Joe Wright.

Dunkirk’s already attracted much criticism because of its historical inaccuracies. I think it’s been accused of racism, because it ignores the large numbers of the British forces, who were Black and Asian. But Proyect also draws on a critique of the film by Max Hastings of the Telegraph to show how the film presents a very mythical view of Dunkirk. The film has it that the British troops are under constant shooting and bombardment by the Germans, and that they are saved by the flotilla of small vessels that went over there to rescue them. In fact, according to Hastings, the Germans largely left the retreating British alone. As for being saved by the small ships, 2/3 of the troops were rescued by the fleet of big ships that were sent by the navy. There were 37 of these, but six were sunk. Proyect also criticises a scene where the sailors aboard a sinking ship discuss how they are going to get to the surface without being mown down by the Germans. He compares this unfavourably to the Poseidon Adventure, producing the quotes by the critics to show that this is actually a far superior film.

More serious is the way the film deliberately omits atrocities committed on the civilian population by the retreating British. Proyect states that at the time the British squaddies were under immense physical and psychological stress. They responded by shooting anyone that moved, including old women and nuns. This is historical fact. Proyect cites and describes one of these incidents. The trooper had been told to take no prisoners, except for interrogation, and so blazed away accordingly.

As for the Darkest Hour, Proyect draws on an article by Clive Ponting on the Churchill Myth. Older readers of this blog will remember that Ponting was the civil servant Maggie tried to prosecute under the Official Secrets Act because he leaked two documents about the sinking of the Belgrano to the Labour MP Tam Dalyell. Ponting was acquitted, because the jury weren’t about to be told what to do by Maggie.

He points out that in fact the difference of opinion between Churchill and the appeasers, like Lord Halifax and Neville Chamberlain, was actually much smaller than most people realised. At the time, Churchill was in favour of making peace with Germany, and had sent feelers out to see what their terms were. Where he differed from Halifax and Chamberlain was that they were in favour of making an immediate peace, while he wanted to fight on for a few more months.

The film does show Churchill hesitating at one point, and Proyect states that this would have been unthinkable a few years ago, as the official archives were still closed and the only source material available were Churchill’s own self-aggrandising writings. In which he portrayed himself as the resolute warrior.

But this ignores just how pro-Nazi Churchill had been, as well as anti-Semitic. What! Churchill pro-Nazi? The very idea! But he was. In 1937 Churchill wrote of Hitler

Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms,” he said, “have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism.” Despite the arming of Germany and the hounding of the Jews, “we may yet live to see Hitler a gentler figure in a happier age,” Churchill wrote. He was doubtful, though.

As for Leon Trotsky, Churchill reviled him with all manner abuse, not just because he was a Bolshevik, but also because Trotsky was Jewish. He quotes Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, a revision history attacking the notion of World War II as ‘the good war’, from which he also took the above quote about Hitler from Churchill. Baker writes

Churchill also included a short piece on Leon Trotsky, king in exile of international bolshevism. Trotsky was a usurper and tyrant, Churchill said. He was a cancer bacillus, he was a “skin of malice,” washed up on the shores of Mexico. Trotsky possessed, said Churchill, “the organizing command of a Carnot, the cold detached intelligence of a Machiavelli, the mob oratory of a Cleon, the ferocity of Jack the Ripper, the toughness of Titus Oates.”

And in the end what was Trotsky? Who was he? “He was a Jew,” wrote Churchill with finality. “He was still a Jew. Nothing could get over that.” He called his article “Leon Trotsky, Alias Bronstein.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/08/the-churchillian-myths-of-1940/

I am not surprised by Proyect’s description of Churchill’s highly equivocal attitude to Nazi Germany. Churchill himself was very authoritarian. He had visited Mussolini’s Italy, though he had not been impressed when the Duce compared the Blackshirts to the Black and Tans, and privately remarked that Musso was ‘a swine’. But he did like General Franco. The historian Martin Pugh, in his book on British Fascism between the Wars, states that Churchill’s opposition to Nazi Germany did not come from any deep ideological view, but simply because he was bitterly suspicious of Germany and believed that it would block British interests in the North Sea. Pugh points out that he didn’t seem concerned that a bloc of Fascist states in southern Europe could do the same to British interests in the Mediterranean.

It would be interesting to know what Peter Hitchens thinks of all this. Hitchens is deeply Conservative, but he is a fierce critic of the Second World War as ‘the good war’, and has absolutely no love of Churchill. Indeed, in his book taking aim at New Atheism a few years ago, The Rage Against God, he attacked the cult of Churchill as a kind of ersatz religion, put in place of Christianity. It’s a bit of stretch, as it wasn’t quite an exercising in God-building that the Soviets tried. In the former USSR there was a brief movement after the Revolution to create a kind of atheistic religion, centred around great revolutionary heroes, to harness religious sentiments for the cause of Communism. The cult around Churchill isn’t quite like that. But nevertheless, to some Churchill is almost a sacrosanct figure, against whom you must not utter a single word. You can’t, after all, imagine Dan Snow on the One Show, striding around what remains of Churchill’s office and papers, telling the world how ‘Winnie’ at one time looked approvingly on Hitler and was very nearly ready to make peace. Or that, when it suited him, he was viciously anti-Semitic.

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Jimmy Dore and Abby Martin Discuss Whether Rachel Maddow Is A Danger to Journalism: Part 2

November 19, 2017

This is the second part of my article about the segment from the Jimmy Dore Show in which the comedian talks to Abby Martin, the uncompromising investigative reporter and presenter of The Empire Files, now on TeleSur English, but formerly on RT.

Dore and Martin talk about the accusations of misogyny that were thrown against anyone who dared not to vote for Killary. Martin jokes that she didn’t, and has been denounced as ‘treacherous’ because of this. She then describes how the Clinton camp tried to explain away the masses of women, who didn’t vote for Killary. Oh, they didn’t vote for her, because their boyfriends told them not to. She makes it clear that this explain also denigrates women because it denies them their own agency.

Martin and Dore talk about how someone can be right about the issues, but wrong on strategy. Bernie Sanders is one of these. He’s right politically, but wrong in continuing to support the Democrats. Martin points out that this happened a few years ago to Michael Moore with Ralph Nader, who ran as a third party candidate in a presidential election. Moore was originally a staunch supporter of Nader, attacking the corrupt Democrat establishment. Now he’s part of that establishment, and has been on his knees pleading with Nader not to run.

Martin then talks about the fear running through Black and Latino communities. Martin states that she doesn’t know about all of it, because she belongs to a more privileged group. But she has Mexican friends, who are now in hiding. Black people are being assaulted. She describes this as a mass psychosis. Undocumented immigrants are afraid of ICE and being deported. She states that this anti-immigrant hysteria has happened before, but it’s been ramped up by Trump. She doesn’t really believe very much in the view that the Deep State is deeply opposed to Trump. She just thinks that they hate him because he reveals the true reasons for the wars now being fought. As when he blandly stated that we should take their oil from those nations America is fighting. But she states that some wars are planned, and believes that if Gore had won, then Saddam Hussein would still have been overthrown. It’s questionable whether this would have been through a war, however.

She also goes on to make the point that many wars aren’t planned, and the current situation is very dangerous. For example, Iran never had a nuclear weapons programme, despite Trump putting them ‘on notice’ and imposing sanctions. She describes these sanctions – against Iran, against Maduro in Venezuela and against North Korea as an act of war. Dore reminds her that North Korea had actually stopped its nuclear weapons programme, in return for America not conducting war games on their borders. But Obama rejected this. And they resumed their nuclear programme when Bush declared they were part of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Martin then goes on to discuss her investigative work amongst the towns devastated by Hurricane Harvey. One of these was Houston. It’s a town dominated by Big Oil, with absolutely no zoning laws whatsoever so people are living right next to big, highly polluting industrial complexes. They even built a school next to a chemical plant. The plant exploded, but under the counterterrorism laws the company doesn’t have to reveal what chemicals were released into the environment. At the same time, the oil companies don’t have to pay fines during start-ups, shut-downs or disasters. So they can pollute as much as they want, as they won’t have to pay for it.

She also talks about another town she visited, Lakewood, where weeks after Harvey people were left living in their gutted homes. They didn’t see any volunteers, no FEMA officials or anyone from the government. She states that this was an act of pure class war, as these areas were Black and Latino. Back to Houston, she remarks on how, in the aftermath of the hurricane, it was only the business districts and the affluent areas that were up and running within a few hours of the disaster. Volunteers were told not to go into the rougher neighbourhoods, as they would get shot. She and Dore make the point that everyone calls looting was, in the circumstances, just survival.

And Big Oil hides the extent of the problems it causes in these communities, because it owns schools and hospital wings. Thus it’s impossible to study cancer properly, because everything’s compartmentalised. And the doctors and scientists studying it can’t call out who’s responsible, because they’ll then lose their funding. Everyone in those towns works for the industry.

This is clearly an American programme, discussing American issues, but it also reflects the situation over here in Britain to a considerable extent. Journalism in Britain has also been corrupted by the merger of the newspaper companies into big industrial conglomerates, whose proprietors then decide what line their papers should follow and suppress awkward content. And just as Bernie Sanders was reviled by the Clintonite camp of the Democrats, and cheated of his nomination, so the so-called left-wing media over here demonised Jeremy Corbyn. They also lionised, and are still praising Killary to the rafters, and accused anyone, who didn’t support her as a ‘misogynist’. Just like they accused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters.

The mainstream media over here is also corrupt. The BBC is overwhelmingly staffed at its management levels by very middle class, public school educated White men. It’s leading journalists, most notably ‘Goebbels’ Nick Robbinson and Laura ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg, are arch-Tories, who show their contempt for their audience by scarcely hiding their bias against Corbyn and the Labour party.

The establishment over here is also trying to destroy alternative media sources. We’ve seen the same lies about Russian propaganda levelled at RT by the Theresa May and the Tories. The same algorithms, that have been developed to lead people on the internet away from alternative news sites and the demonetisation campaigns against ‘controversial’ material on YouTube – all set up in the guise of protecting us from ‘fake news’ – are hitting alternative news blogs and vlogs over here.

And you can see the same kind of problems that America is experiencing through the acquisition of schools and hospitals by Big Oil happening over here. Academics have already complained about the way science departments have been shorn of their independence ever since Maggie Thatcher decided that they should work more closely with industry, to the point where many scientists feel that they are just working for their industrial sponsors and partners. So far the media over here has been free of some of the attempts of the media to pour scorn on climate change and discredit climate science, with the obvious exceptions of the Heil and some of the journos on the Telegraph or Times. But you can also see that coming too, especially if the government goes ahead with privatising the NHS and handing schools over to private academy chains, whose heads have their own bias towards promoting business.

Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 1

November 18, 2017

This is a longish segment – about half an hour – from the Jimmy Dore Show, in which the two discuss the horrors of US imperialism abroad, domestic oppression and exploitation at home, and the complicity of the mainstream media. Martin is the presenter of The Empire Files on TeleSur English, the South American alternative broadcaster. The show was formerly hosted by RT, for which Martin has been pilloried as a ‘Commie’ and ‘collaborator’. Despite the fact that she has never said anything in prize of the arkhiplut Putin, the latest Kremlin silovik kleptocrat.

With her intelligence and fierce determination to tell the story she wants, Martin comes across to me like a younger, far more politically motivated and impassioned version of Kate Adie, the Beeb journo, who once put the fear of the Almighty into Colonel Qaddafy. It shows the major failings of US mainstream media that, as talented and committed as she is, she does not have her own show on the national networks. I’m a great fan of The Young Turks, and was delighted when they sent Nomiki Kunst over here to talk to the peeps at the Labour party conference back in October. I wish she’d come over this side of the Pond to do something over here. Our politicos are also neoliberal, neocon puppets for the War on Terror. I heartily wish we had someone like her on British TV. Instead, all we’ve got are the corporate shills from Murdoch, the Barclay Twins and Paul Dacre, who turn up occasionally on Have I Got News For You. People like Julia Hartley-Brewer.

The show begins with Dore paying tribute to the how intelligent her work is, calling it ‘Talk smart’. The two then joke about how she’s accused of being a ‘Russia-bot’ to the point where even she’s wondering if she’s human or just an on-line AI. They then go on to discuss her show, The Empire Files. She states that she’s trying to do what Oliver Stone did in his history of the US – covering the untold history of America, and particularly US imperialism. She takes the view that history is written by the victor, but she wants to give the stories of the marginalised, the excluded. The victims of Empire, and counter the dominant story told by the corporate media. She states that she has been most proud of going on location to places like Palestine. Now that she isn’t in RT, she has complete journalistic freedom, and so could spend four weeks in Palestine simply listening to its people. She states that everything, every issue, needs to be examined through the lens of Empire. She admires Dore’s show, because he also talks about the warmongering and imperialism. She states that the First World has risen on the backs of the colonised.

Dore replies by saying that Judah Friedlander, another comedian he’s had on his show, said he learned from travelling around the world that different peoples have a different perspective. Like in Vietnam they don’t talk about the Vietnam War. They talk about the War with the Americans. They also discuss how America is the world’s biggest purveyor of terrorism, as shown by Iraq, and the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But when you talk about how horrendous that is, you just hear b*llshit from people about how the Japanese shouldn’t have bombed Pearl Harbour. Which by the same logic means that the Mexicans have every right to nuke the US for what the US has done to them.

They then dissect American exceptionalism. This is the belief that America can run rampant across the world, because America’s morally superior to every other country. They joke that it means that everyone else in the world gets healthcare, but not Americans. As for the reasons why Iran hates America, it’s because the US launched a coup against the last, democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq. And why are we friends with the Saudis? It’s because of the Petrodollar. Kerry even went and publicly admitted it.

They then talk about whether Americans really understand the crimes that are being committed in their nation’s name, or whether they do, but the mechanism does not exist for them to influence their lords and masters in Congress. Martin states that it’s the latter, though she doesn’t think that the great American public truly understand how horrendous the situation really is. But she points to Trump as one indicator that people know to a certain extent what’s going on. Trump was elected partly because his rhetoric was occasionally anti-interventionist. People do see through this façade, but the mechanism to change anything isn’t there.

Dore concurs. He states that he’s a night club comedian. He switched to doing this show, because there was no proper media, not even the press. The media was pro-war, and attacked the critics, who opposed the invasions. Phil Donahue had the show with the highest ratings on CNN, but they sacked him because he spoke out against it. Ed Schulz got sacked from the New York Times because he opposed the TPP. Martin states that she joined RT because it was the only network that would allow her to tell this story. She and Dore then discuss the self-censorship of journos like Piers Morgan. Martin states that she paid for editorial freedom that others choose not to do. They then talk about how the media carries adverts for Boeing, the big American aerospace manufacturer and military contractor. As if ordinary peeps could afford to buy a plane.

To be continued in Part 2.

Jimmy Dore: Americans Going to Mexico for Dentistry

October 8, 2017

Yesterday I put up a story from the I, which reported that over half of British dentists were planning to leave the NHS in the next few years. If that happens, courtesy of Jeremy Hunt and the Tories’ plan to privatize the NHS, British dentistry might end up looking very much like this.

In this video from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano comment on a story broadcast on NBC. The news team there visited the town of Los Almagadones in Mexico, which now styles itself the ‘dentistry capital of the world’. The town has a population of 5,000, but has more than its fair whack of dentists. It has 600 practicing dentists, working in more than 300 clinics. 114 million Americans lack dental insurance, and so can’t afford dental treatment. And so some make the journey south of the border to get their teeth fixed.

Dore states that this will explode the myth of American exceptionalism – the idea that America is innately superior to every other nation. Clearly it isn’t. Not if many of its citizens are reduced to going abroad for healthcare. Dore points out that the stories of Canadians coming to south to America for their medical treatment is largely a myth. But the story that Americans are going to Mexico are very real.

He and Placone and Zamora also use the story as an opportunity to lambast the continuing racism against Mexican and Hispanic migrants in the US. Americans are going south of the border for what is known as ‘dental tourism’, but the Mexicans aren’t organizing mass protests or trying to shame them.

The three joke about the idea of combining tourism with dentistry, including building a combined nightclub and dental surgery, before Dore rounds of the video with a well-aimed attack on Hillary and the corporate Democrats. These are the politicos, who rigged the Democratic nominations so they could steal it from Bernie Sanders and give it to Killary. And she and they care only for the immensely rich, and are entirely happy to deny ordinary, middle class working Americans with single-payer healthcare. Because free, universal healthcare is ‘utopian’, despite the fact that the Germans have had it ever since Bismarck in the 19th century.

Bernie Sanders in his book describes vividly the deplorable lack of affordable healthcare in America. Many counties lack doctors, let alone hospitals, because the area is too poor to support one according to the law of free market economics. He tells how one Sunday every month, one of the dental surgeries in Virginia provides free dental treatment. People are so desperate for it they actually sleep in their cars overnight.

This is what British healthcare is going to be like, if Theresa May and the Tories get back in.

Don’t let her. Get her and them out. Now.

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.

Donald Trump Predicted in Stephen Baxter’s 1995 Novel ‘Titan’

July 16, 2017

I’ve been making my way through Stephen Baxter’s SF novel, Titan, these last few weeks. Baxter’s a British SF writer, with degrees in maths and engineering. He applied to be an astronaut on the Anglo-Soviet mission to Mir in the 1980s, which went to Helen Sharman. He’s probably best known for his Xelee-sequence books. These are set in a universe dominated by the extremely advanced, but mysterious Xelee, who are engaged in a war across the entire universe with the Photino Birds, dark matter creatures determined to age and extinguish the universe of ordinary matter. He has also written other novels about a variety of parthenogenic humans, descended from a lost troop of Romans, a catastrophic flood in the Bronze Age, and the books The Long Earth and The Long War, about parallel worlds, with the late, great Terry Pratchett. His novel, Voyage, an alternative history in which NASA launches a final manned expedition to Mars, was adapted for Radio 4 by Audio Movies in the 1990s. He was also the scientific advisor for the 1990s BBC SF series, Invasion Earth, about aliens from the higher physical dimensions invading the planet.

Titan is also about a last, crewed NASA mission. This time its put together by a team of astronauts, space scientists and ground control crew as the Agency’s last, great space expedition before it is closed down following a shuttle disaster. It’s set in what was then the near future – 2004 onwards – in America increasingly falling into right-wing extremism, irrationalism and Christian fundamentalism. The leading politician and subsequent president, is Xavier Maclachlan, a Texan with standing on an aggressively anti-science platform. Here’s the description of the man and his policies on pages 284-5.

Hadamard was in Washington during the inauguration of Xavier Maclachlan, after his wafer-thin win in the 2008 election.

Maclachlan called it a ‘liberation of the capital’.

Armed militia bands came in from Idaho and Arizona and Oklahoma and Montana, to fire off black-powder salutes to the nationalist-populist who promised to repeal all gun control laws. In the crowd, Hadamard saw a couple of Ku Klux Klan constumes, a sight he though had gone into an unholy past. Come to that, there was a rumour that a former Klan leader was being made ready to become a future White House chief of staff. And in his speech Maclachlan appealed to the people to end what he called the ‘Israeli occupation of Congress’…

And so on.

As soon as Maclachlan lifted his hand from the Bible, US peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and Africa started to board their planes to leave. Foreign aid stopped. The UN was being thrown out of New York, and there was a rumour that Maclachlan was planning some military adventure to take back the canal from Panama.

Army engineers – set in place during the handover from the last Administration – started to build a wall, two thousand miles of it, along the Mexican border, to exclude illegal immigrants. White it was being built, troops brought home from peacekeeping abroad were operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

There was chaos in the financial markets. Machlachlan had withdrawn the US from the North American Free Trade Treaty, from the World Trade Organisation, from GATT. Reviews of the country’s membership of the World Bank and the IMF had started – arms of an incipient world government, Maclachlan said, designed to let in the Russians. He had raised tariffs – ten per cent against Japan, fifty per cent against the Chinese – and world trade collapsed.

The Chinese, particularly, screamed. And so Maclachlan sent the Seventh Fleet to a new station just off the coast of Taiwan.

Meanwhile all the strategic arms treaties with Russia were torn up, as Maclachlan orderd his technicians to dig out the blueprints for Reagan’s old dream of SDI. In fact, Maclachlan wanted to go further. He was inviting ideas for what he called his ‘da Vinci brains trust’. The press was full of schemes for fantastic new weapons: smart remote sensors; dream mines that could shoot at passing traffic; smart armour that would use explosive tiles to deflect incoming projectiles; maybe even an electrical battlefield in which electricity-propelled shells would be zapped in by low-flying aircraft.

And back home, Machlachlan had cut off any remaining programs which benefited blacks and other minorities, and any funding that appeared to support abortion, which had been made illegal in any form.

Xavier Maclachlan was a busy man, and he was fulfilling his campaign promises.

Clearly, much of this is an extrapolation from the policies and attitudes of the Republican party and the American extreme Right in the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan had brought right-wing Christian fundamentalists into the Republican party, who had previously stood aloof from politics as part of a corrupt, fallen secular order. He had also begun to wind up government welfare programmes, particularly those aimed at benefiting minorities, such as Black Americans. Fears of an imminent apocalypse, social breakdown and Russian invasion, even after the collapse of Communism, had resulted in the emergence of the survivalist and then Militia movements, armed right-wing paramilitary groups. These had a bitter resentment of the federal government, which culminated in McViegh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. They also tended to be bitterly racist and anti-Semitic. They believed and still believe in stupid Nazi conspiracy theories that claim that the Jews are trying to destroy the White race through racial intermixing and that America is covertly controlled by the Jews through the ‘Zionist Occupation Government’, or ZOG. These groups and right-wing American fundamentalist organisations also believed that there was a secret, Illuminati conspiracy to create a one world Satanic superstate centred on the UN. Phyllis Schlafly, who was actually a Democrat, regularly denounced the UN as well as women’s rights. And one leading figure in the militias – I think it may have been Bo Gritz, who supposedly served as the model for ‘Rambo’ – stated that the way they would clear America’s international debt would be by minting a single coin with the legend ‘1 Trillion Dollars’. As for the Klan, there were a series of scandals in which senior Republican politicos were revealed as having links to or membership in the White racist terrorist group. The most notorious of these was David Duke in Louisiana, who is unfortunately still around and blaming the Jews for everything even today.

And political scientists and economists were predicting the rise of China and the other ‘tiger economies’, which would dominate the ‘Pacific Century’ even then.

Of course, there are things Baxter failed to predict, like 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also takes the conventional view that the various free trade agreements and UN organisations, like the IMF and the World Bank, are nice, liberal, benefificial institutions, rather than the way corporate America imposes its own neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, particularly the developing nations.

Not that the Democrats have been much different. Counterpunch has reported that Obama was considering removing the ‘No first strike’ policy towards a nuclear confrontation, and Killary has been every bit as aggressive in her stance towards Russia and China as the Republicans, perhaps even more so.

As for the White extremist and racist groups supporting the new president, all that’s different is that the Klan has been largely replaced, or subsumed, into the internet-based Alt Right. But the hysterical fear of gun legislation, promoted and lavishly funded by the gun manufacturers and the NRA, against the desires of the majority of Americans, and even the NRA’s own rank and file membership, remains strong.

It shows how long the attitudes held by the American right, and which led to the election of Donald Trump, have been around. Since his election, left-wing news sites such as The Young Turks, Secular Talk and the David Pakman Show have reported that Americans have become increasingly dissatisfied with Trump. Sixty per cent of the American public want him impeached. This dissatisfaction even extends to Republican voters.

Trump, however, in his racism, his isolationism, aggressive nationalism and hatred of the welfare state and women’s rights, is very much in line with the general political stance of post-Reaganite right-wing American politicians. Indeed, he’s so much a part of this political trend that, with caveats, his election – or rather, the election of someone like him – was predicted by Baxter over two decades ago.

No wonder an increasing number of young Americans are looking to progressive politicos like Bernie Sanders for leadership and the redemption of their country against a corrupt political elite and the military-industrial complex. And I fervently hope they win, and that humanity will continue to reach out to the cosmos in a spirit of genuine exploration and wonder, and not as another arena for warfare.

Trump Insults Australian Prime Minister and Mexican President

February 4, 2017

Another day, another example of how absolutely, constitutionally unsuited for government, or even civilised company, Donald Trump is. Yesterday there was the news that Trump had managed to insult the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and threatened the president of Mexico with invasion.

Trump had been discussing an agreement signed last November between Obama and the Ozzies in which America promised to take a few of the refugees coming to Australia, who were temporarily settled in the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Dictator Drumpf really doesn’t like the idea of taking prospective immigrants to Oz, and made his opposition very plain. According to the Washington Post, the orange megalomaniac told Turnbull that it was ‘the worst deal ever’, accused the Ozzie PM of trying to send him the next Boston bombers and said he was worried that the deal would kill him politically. He also told Turnbull that he’d already spoken to four national leaders that morning, including Putin, and that this was the ‘worst call so far’. The phone call was expected to last an hour, but Drumpf rang off after only 25 minutes.

Here’s the Young Turks video in which John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s highly undiplomatic phone call.

Then there are reports that in his phone call to the Mexican president, Trump is supposed to have accused the Mexican army of cowardice in trying to sort out the drug cartels, and threatened to send US troops to do the job instead. He is claimed to have said

‘You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.’

There have been denials that this was ever said from the Mexican president’s office, but it appears to be true. John Iadarola, discussing the report in the video below, suggests that the denial might be an attempt by President Pena Nieta to save face. When he stood up to Drumpf last week, his approval ratings unsurprisingly shot up. Trump talking to him like this looks like a humiliation, and so he may have wanted to cover it up to prevent his approval ratings plummeting accordingly. It does, however, unfortunately seem to be true.

Iadarola and Kasparian make the point in the video about Trump’s insulting phone call to Premier Turnbull that Drumpf is perfectly happy to bomb the nations of the Middle East, but as soon as their citizens want to move out and seek refuge in America, he’s gets upset. In fact Australia’s immigration policy is itself highly controversial. I can remember Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer at one of the British universities, saying at the Cheltenham Festival of Science in the 1990s that their treatment of refugees made him ashamed to be an Ozzie.

As for the drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels are indeed ‘bad hombres’. Actually, I think that term gives a romantic gloss to gangs of utter scum, who are completely subhuman in their cruelty and barbarism. In one of the Mexican provinces where they’re particularly strong, the gangs were engaged in feminicido – feminicide – as a kind of very sick sport. They got their kicks raping and killing women. And far from being cowards, the Mexican cops, who take them on are as hard as nails. A few years ago the on-line humour magazine, Cracked, did a list of the toughest real life vigilantes. Top of the list was a secret organisation of Mexican coppers, dedicated to rubbing out the gangs and their members. The identities of their members were unknown, to prevent reprisals against their families. The overall impression given was that these men were like the Punisher, but even more ruthless and absolutely dedicated.

I’ve no doubt that the Mexican army isn’t as good, as well trained or as well equipped as the Americans. But considering that America and her allies are still in Iraq and Afghanistan after nearly a decade and a half, I really don’t see that the Americans would have any more success in dealing with the drug cartels than the Mexican authorities.

Quite apart from the fact that you don’t tell the head of a friendly neighbouring state that you’re going to invade his country if he doesn’t sort a domestic problem out. Trump really has no idea how that sounds, not just to other nations generally, but specifically to Latin Americans. There’s considerable resentment of America in Central and South America, particularly in Argentina. It dates from the 19th century. Before then, many Spanish American liberals were solidly in favour of the US as the kind of modern, progressive country they wished their nations to be.

Then the US invaded Mexico, and causing these intellectuals to reverse their previous positive attitudes. They became bitterly resentful of what they saw as the US’s contemptuous, colonialist treatment of Latin America. It was the start of what I think is called ‘Arielismo’, in which South America writers used the character of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the brutish servant of the wizard Prospero, as a metaphor for the imperialist contempt with which they perceived Americans treated their Spanish-speaking neighbours to the south and their culture.

The Young Turks in the video above also talk about how Trump’s brusque, insulting treatment of his Mexican opposite number may imperil the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico. This has resulted in a loss of jobs in America, as firms have shifted their locations south to take advantage of the cheaper labour there. But they argue that it has also benefited America.

Trump is clearly one of the most undiplomatic presidents in American history. You really do wonder how long it will be before this loudmouthed buffoon starts another bloody war, or a major international incident, simply because he can’t keep a civil tongue in his head.

He can’t even be counted on to behave decently with our head of state. Mike a few days ago carried a story on his site that Prince Charles had been told not to lecture Drumpf on global warming, if he meets him, as otherwise the Orange Supremacist will ‘explode’. Now I’m well aware that not everyone reading this site is a monarchist, and the exaggerated deference, with which they’re treated should definitely go. I’m referring to all those arcane rules of behaviour, which dictate that you must only talk to the queen if she speaks to you. Those rules should have no place in the 21st century. But that does not excuse another head of state from going on a rant at ours.

A Fitting SF Book For Trump’s Attitude to Mexicans?

January 22, 2017

fritz-leiber-pic

Fritz Leiber

Looking around one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday, I picked up a copy of the novel A Spectre Is Haunting Texas (London: Granada 1971) by the great Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror novelist, Fritz Leiber. Leiber’s probably best known for his series of Fantasy novels featuring Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. David Pringle, the former editor of the British SF/Fantasy magazine, Interzone, named Leiber’s You’re All Alone as one of the 100 greatest fantasy novels in his book of the same title way back in the 1990s. That novel is about a man, who gets caught up in parallel society of people, who live outside ordinary humans’ perceptions, very much like the denizens of London Below in Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel and TV series, Neverwhere.

spectre-texas-cover

I’ve wanted to get hold of a copy for some time, ever since the Scottish space scientist and science writer, Duncan Lunan, briefly mentioned it in his book on the colonisation of the Solar System, Man and the Planets. It was that night, after I’d gone to bed, that I realised how weirdly fitting the book is now that Donald Trump is president of the USA. Here’s the blurb:

El Esqueleto!

Christopher Corckett la Cruz (or ‘Scully’) is an actor, an extrovert and a ladies’ man. To most of the inhabitants of post-World War III he looks outlandish, even sinister. To their women he looks very comely. Earth looks equally odd to Scully. Hormone treatment has turned Texans into giants and their Mex slaves into unhappy dwarfs.

To the Mexes, Scully is a Sign, a Talisman, a Leader. To Scully the Mexes are a Cause. The time is ripe for revolution…

It wouldn’t surprise me if some Hispanic Americans didn’t find the book’s politics offensive or condescending. In fairness, the book was published in 1969, when attitudes to race were extremely different, and its heart is in the right place.

And the future the book describes could, terrifyingly, become all too real. The Washington military and intelligence establishment seems all too keen to start some kind of altercation with Russia, egged on by the Democrats, desperate to deflect attention away from the sleazy contents of the material published by WikiLeaks on the shady business dealings and corporate funding of their leaders. Trump wants to end immigration from Mexico by building the wall. He also wants to repatriate 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he’s not the most extreme of the Repugs. One of the most bizarre and reactionary suggestions for stopping immigration from Latin America I’ve come across from the party of Ronald Reagan and George ‘Dubya’ Bush was that illegal immigrants from Mexico should be forced into state servitude for a period of seven years. You know, like slavery.

There’s a nasty movement amongst the Republican extreme right, led by the Von Mises Institute and other corporate think tanks, to try to rewrite the American Civil War. Apparently, the issue wasn’t about slavery. It was about tariff reform. I’m not an expert on American history, but I very much doubt it. And so, I think, would just about every respectable history of the War between the States. Lincoln only reluctantly freed the slaves. There’s a quote from him, in which he said that if he could maintain the unity of the US by keeping slavery, he would. I think by that he meant that if keeping slavery would prevent the break up of the US, then he’d make that decision. And when you consider the horrific carnage that the war brought about, you can easily understand why. Nevertheless, he couldn’t avoid civil war, and freed America’s enslaved. And thus he rightly became one of America’s greatest politicians.

Now right-wing extremists in the Republicans are trying to reverse Lincoln’s achievements, and obscure the causes of the Civil War in an attempt to make a suitably inspiring, sanitised history for those raised on Reagan, von Hayek, and the Fascist enablers of the Chicago school, like Milton Friedman.

Leiber’s title seems to me to be taken from the Communist Manifesto. This opens with the line ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, before going to claim that it’s the spectre of revolution or Communism. It was rushed out in 1848, the year of revolutions, when all over Europe working people and occupied nations rose up against their class and imperial overlords.

We don’t need violent revolution, and the horror and mass death that comes with it. But we do need strong, left-wing movements to defend and protect ordinary people from increasingly predatory and exploitative political and industrial elites.

And perhaps the whole world now need an El Esqueleto to protect them from Trump.

Nazis Planned Armed March against Jews in Montana

January 8, 2017

The two videos below, from TYT Nation and the David Pakman Show discuss an armed march that the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, has announced will take place in the town of Whitefish, Montana against the Jewish community. The mother of the leader of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer, lives there, and the Nazis are claiming that they will be marching to protest against her business being cheated by Jews. The organiser has stated that the march will be perfectly legal, due to Montana’s liberal laws regarding bearing arms openly, and so they intend to carry high-power rifles. He also predicted that 200 people would attend and that the march would be against ‘Jews, Jewish businesses, and those who support them.’ A local Montana newspaper, the Mazumian, stated that the Nazis had offered to call off the march, provided that certain demands were met.

Discussing the news, the show’s hosts Jeff Waldorf and Ron Placone state that they don’t know what the Nazis’ demands were, but they were probably that the Jews should leave town. Waldorf makes the point that he’s in favour of people’s right to march and demonstrate, but he’s not in favour of the Nazis’ march, for the same reason he’s not in favour of people marching armed against Blacks or Hispanics, or indeed, armed marches. Placone states that such a march would not be protected by the First Amendment anyway. He states that it is not a free speech issue, as the legislation would view it as an incitement to violence. Waldorf notes that the ACLU has defended the Klan’s right to hold peacefully marches on occasion. Waldorf states that he would despise a peaceful march by the Klan, but would accept that they have the right to hold it. However, this is far more menacing. It would be a large number of men attempting to intimidate what is likely to be a very small community in a small town.

Waldorf also states that the situation is made worse by some of the media coverage of the Nazis. He cites one mainstream news programme that referred to the Alt-Right as ‘dapper’, because they looked like ordinary people now, instead of the usual Nazi thugs. The programme seemed to assume that because they looked normal, they should be treated as normal people, despite their abhorrent views. The Alt-Right is simply the same old Nazism, but with a friendlier face.

Waldorf makes the point that this is entirely predictable. Every time hatred towards one group is permitted, such as Hispanics or Blacks, eventually it reaches the Jews. He notes that a number of Jewish journalists have been attacked and threatened, along with non-Jews. He says that he’s been called a Jew by the Alt-Right, which he finds funny as a staunch atheist who has no time for any religion, and that he has an Austrian ancestry going back to the Middle Ages. And even if he were a Jew, he still cannot understand why this would make any difference. He mocks all the stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about how the Jews supposedly run everything, and control banking – which, he notes, is itself an anti-Semitic stereotype. He notes that their anger at this supposed conspiracy means that anti-Semites are nonsensically angry at success. They also can’t be the master race, if the Jews are in charge. He also points out that they miss the fact that there are plenty of White non-Jews running things, including the banks.

Waldorf then makes the distinction between real and fake anti-Semitism. He observes that you will be called an anti-Semite if you protest against the government of Israel, its construction of illegal settlements and that it is an apartheid state. That’s not anti-Semitic, as Jews are separate from the Israeli government. It is, however, genuinely anti-Semitic to claim that Jews are involved in a vast conspiracy against White people.

David Pakman in his segment notes that the march is planned for either this coming week or the week after. The publisher of the Daily Stormer website is Andrew Anglin, and it is his lawyer, who has advised him about the legality of carrying weapons, and that they intend to bus in skinheads from the bay area.

Pakman and his co-host, Pat, state that there’s something actually very funny about the Nazis having to bring in thugs from the Bay area. Pat makes the point that this may have a bright side, in that news of the planned march may result in more countermarches. He gives the example of a planned march by the Klan, which was called off after it was announced shortly after Trump’s election. People responded to the news by organising a massive wave of opposition marches to the racist organisation. Pakman states that the FBI is aware of it, but believes that if carrying arms on the march is legal, there may not actually be much that can be done about it. Pakman makes the point that anti-Jewish sentiment tends to be ignored as it is believed that Jews in America are doing well. However, Jews have been and are the largest group of victims of religious hate crime. In 2014 60 per cent of all crimes were committed against Jews, compared with 14 per cent against Muslims. He is concerned that anti-Semitic hate is becoming increasingly acceptable. He also states that it’s peculiar that the march is being held in Montana, which has very little ethnic diversity. In 2016 there were only 6,000 Jews living in the entire state, 0.77 per cent of the population, compared to the national average of 2.2 per cent.

Pakman doesn’t know what the solution is, as a counterdemonstration, may be equally heavily armed, seems a recipe for disaster. Pat makes the point that they’re probably marching in Montana because of the absence of diversity – there are far more people who look like them, and few Jews, whereas it would be different in somewhere like New York. But Pakman also says that even Andrew Anglin has stated that the march is a joke.

This is a problem, which could only happen in America, where the Second Amendment defends citizen’s rights to own firearms, and where there is a very vocal and aggressive minority defending this right. In Britain the NF have been allowed to march, but the government cracked down very hard in the 1960s when it was revealed that the stormtroopers were organising paramilitary-style training events and were suspected of making bombs to kill Jews. Part of the evidence was a can of weedkiller found in the organisers shed, which had the word ‘weed’ crossed out and replaced with ‘Jew’.

I’ve no doubt that the march, if it goes ahead, will be extremely threatening to Jews and pro- or non-racist gentiles. Racist skinheads in both Britain and America have a reputation for extreme violence. And some of the right-wing gun nuts in America have also shown themselves willing to behave in a threatening manner towards their opponents. A little while ago The Young Turks ran a story about how a group of women demonstrating against pro-gun legislation were harassed by a group of men from the NRA. They surrounded the women carrying high powered assault rifles, and shouted ‘lock and load’. Pat Buchanan, who was a member of Reagan’s team back in the 1980s, and who also had a reputation for anti-Semitism, became notorious for doing the same stunt. Buchanan was so racist and right-wing, that when he won an election in New Hampshire during one of the presidential contests in the 1990s, Joe Queenan opened an edition of Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham with a clip of a speech by Mussolini, which he joked was il Duce congratulating Buchanan on his electoral victory.

If this march is allowed to proceed, it will embolden Nazis in America and beyond, and we’ll see more armed marches by them and similar hate groups, like the Klan, until there is violence and bloodshed.

The Young Turks have said before about the rise in anti-Semitism following Trump’s attacks on Mexicans and Muslims, that as soon as that box is metaphorically opened, sooner or later it comes round to Jews. It’s probably because of this that the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish organisation that campaigns against anti-Semitism, has also defended Muslims against rising hatred. And Waldorf is exactly right when he distinguishes real anti-Semitism – like Spencer and his fellow goose-steppers – from perfectly legitimate criticism of Israel and its government’s murderous persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

But who knows – perhaps the Israel lobby will be delighted with such a march. They seem to have seized on similar attacks in Europe to try to encourage European Jews to leave their homelands and settle in Israel. And during the Third Reich Herzog and the other Zionist pioneers were all too glad to see German and European Jews persecuted and murdered, and hated the patriotic German Jewish organisations that stood up for their members’ rights to live in peace in Germany, their homeland. They cynically viewed the Nazis’ butchery of their people as simply another way of increasing emigration to Israel.

Secular Talk: Bernie Sanders Proposes ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’ to Make Trump Keep Election Promise

November 30, 2016

Here’s another great idea from Bernie Sanders, the self-declared ‘democratic Socialist’, who should definitely be the one to go to the White House next year, rather than Trump.

Remember how Trump was telling everyone at his rallies that if he got into power, he was going to stop the corporations outsourcing their jobs abroad to create more poverty and unemployment in America? Aside from the racism and the islamophobia, it was this promise which may have helped him gain the votes of middle class and blue collar workers, whose jobs are threatened by the neoliberal outsourcing policies championed by the establishment Republican and Hillary Clinton and her clique in the Democrats.

Now Bernie Sanders has come up with a proposal to try and keep Trump to his promise. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses the report in the Huffington Post that Sanders has put forward the outlines of an ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’. If this was passed, it would punish companies moving jobs out of America. Those corporations that did so would be banned from receiving federal tax breaks, grants or loans, and demand the repayment of any federal perks. The offending companies would also have to pay a tax equal to the amount they saved through the outsourcing, or 35 per cent of their profits, whichever is the greatest amount. The executives would also be banned from receiving bonuses, stock options or golden handshakes.

Kulinski makes it clear that Democrats and progressive should not be prepared to give an inch of cooperation to Trump when he trying to pass any of the massively unjust or racist measures he’s promised, such as deporting undocumented immigrants, registering Muslims and building that wall with Mexico. Kulinski recognises, however, that the latter is rapidly being played down, with Trump himself now claiming that it was mainly metaphorical. When Trump does propose something that will benefit all Americans, rather than just the corporate elite, or racist Whites, they should be prepared to work with him. This proposal is Bernie’s attempt to make sure Trump doesn’t go back on his promise, and actually does something positive for the American people.

We need something similar in this country. Executive pay has massively outstripped ordinary people’s wages and salaries, and companies are outsourcing jobs abroad, including elsewhere in the EU. It has been something of a local issue here in Bristol, where the local chocolate factory, Cadbury’s in Keynsham, a small town between Bath and Bristol, was closed down after it was taken over by Kraft foods. I’ve got a feeling the company then moved the jobs to a new factory in Poland.

I’m not sure how much chance Bernie’s proposal actually has of ever becoming reality. Trump is now very rapidly going back on all of his election promises, appointing Washington insiders and establishment bankers to important cabinet posts. These include some of the very people he personally attacked at his rallies. And even if it had his backing, neoliberal and corporate interests are now so entrenched in both sides of Congress that it would be bitterly attacked and voted down.

And you can imagine how the Conservatives and their paymasters in the CBI would scream and holler if Jeremy Corbyn promised anything similar in the Labour party. They’d almost certainly be joined by the Blairites. After all, Tony Blair said that his administration was ‘extremely relaxed’ about becoming rich, and did so much to promote businessmen to important and lucrative government posts. And vast numbers of MPs, possibility the majority, are managing directors or senior executives of companies, and therefore stand to benefit personally from government policies that boost business at the expense of domestic jobs.

We need to clean up parliament, and remove the corporate interests so that it starts to represent the British people as a whole, and not wealthy businessmen and women. And we do need to prevent further jobs being lost abroad, and punish the firms that make big profits from creating unemployment here in Britain.