Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Gaza: Jon Snow Calls Mark Regev What He Is – a Liar

October 9, 2016

Earlier today, Mike put up a piece over on Vox Political reporting that the members of Pink Floyd – David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters – had a issued a statement supporting the women’s boat to Gaza, and deploring its interception by the Israeli military. The boat had sailed from Barcelona last month. It was sponsored by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which condemns the Israeli’s siege of that part of Palestine.

Mike’s article notes that Waters had previously been attacked as an anti-Semite by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach for previous comments he had made about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But, almost needless to say, Boteach couldn’t offer any reasons to back up his slur against Waters. The great muso responded “If Rabbi Boteach can make a case for the Israel government’s policies, I look forward to hearing it.

“It is difficult to make arguments to defend the Israeli government’s policies, so would-be defenders often use a diversionary tactic, they routinely drag the critic into a public arena and accuse them of being an antisemite.”

Mike’s article briefly discusses the previous Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which was stopped in International Waters and boarded by the Israeli military. The result was a confrontation which left nine passengers killed and dozens injured, with nine Israeli servicemen also wounded.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/08/pink-floyds-support-for-womens-boat-to-gaza-puts-pressure-on-israel/

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is a disgusting abuse of human rights. It’s been estimated that in four years time – 2020 – conditions in that part of Palestine will be so atrocious that the region will be uninhabitable. Israel was widely condemned for its shelling of the area several years ago, which it claimed was in response to rocket attacks. This was another lie. The Israelis had deliberately broken the ceasefire by firing their own rockets into the district to kill a Palestinian terrorist leader. Lobster also described the vast difference in the quality of weapons used. The rockets used by the Palestinians were largely home-made. Crude, and deadly, but not sophisticated killing machines like those the Israelis were launching into Gaza, which included phosphor weapons. This is extremely nasty material. It’s like medieval Greek fire in that it burns on contact, and keeps on burning it way through the human body. So it could be argued that the retaliation by the Israeli military was far out of proportion to the actual threat or provocation from the Palestinians themselves.

And then, like now, the Israelis tried to cover up any coverage of their shelling’s civilian victims. A CNN journalist was sacked from his post because he described playing football with four boys minutes before the youngsters were all killed in the shelling. Thankfully, CNN reinstated him after massive public outcry.

When Israel intercepted the first Freedom Flotilla six years ago, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, turned up on the news to present his country’s case. One of those, who was very unimpressed with him was Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow. Regev claimed that the Flotilla was intercepted to stop them smuggling weapons into Gaza. He then went on to claim that if people genuinely wanted to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, then the ships should be sent to two Israeli ports, one of which was Ashdod, and reassured viewers that it would get through. Snow lost patience with that last statement, and called it, and Regev, what they were. Snow stated it was a lie, as only 18 per cent of the aid for Gaza going through Israel actually reached its intended destination. He then asked Regev what his government was going to do if the Turks did what they said they were considering, and sent a gunboat to protect the next ship. Would the Israelis attack this, a vessel from their ally, and so start a war? Regev tried to laugh this off with a incredulous ‘Are you serious?’ To which Snow responded that it wasn’t him making the statement, but the Turks, and he should check with them. Here’s the clip:

I found it thanks to one of Guy Debord’s Cat’s excellent pieces on Israel and its crimes.

As for Shmuely Boteach, I got the distinct impression he was one of the various ‘spiritual mentors’ who like to hand around celebrities, doling out platitudes to help the rich feel comfortable and justified in their possession of such massive wealth. If memory serves me correctly, he was hanging round Michael Jackson at one point. I don’t know the precise reason why the journalist so described him, but he was so obnoxious at one point that I remember one newspaper article about a decade or so ago referring to him as ‘odious’.

So I join with Mike in saluting Gilmour, Mason and Waters – ‘Shine on, you not-so-crazy diamonds!’

Vox Political Announces Arrival of Mo Stewart’s Book on Government’s Abolition of Welfare State

September 15, 2016

Last week, Mike published a piece by Mo Stewart on the privatisation of the Health Service by the Tories. He mentioned in the introduction that Mrs Stewart had a book shortly coming out on the destruction of the welfare state by the government. Mike has now posted a piece today reporting that it is now out. The book’s called Cash Not Care: The Planned Demolition of the Welfare State. It has an introduction by Professor Peter Beresford, and illustrated by Dave Lupton, of the Crippen cartoons. Mike’s article has links to the pages for the print and ebook versions, and states that it’s highly recommended for anyone who wants to get behind government spin. Mike also helped to proof read the book, and confirms that it is an excellent, if horrifying read.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/15/landmark-book-released-to-expose-government-welfare-policy/

This looks like another book I’m going to have to try to get my mitts on. The Tories have been aiming at the destruction of the British welfare state ever since Thatcher took power. Her rhetoric then was nakedly about dismantling it, and despite her later denials, she was considering privatising the NHS in the run-up to the 1987 election. She nearly had a Tory revolt on her hands, when she discussed this with them, as they knew they’d never be elected if she went ahead. She also decided against it after her secetary, Patrick Jenkin, went to America and found out how appalling the US insurance-based healthcare system was.

But that didn’t stop the Tories or New Labour for doing their best to chip away at it. Of course, this vandalism and planned destruction has all been done under the pretext of stopping fraud, concentrating resources on the people who really need them, and weeding out the people the Tories don’t like, such as, well, single mothers, the unemployed, the disabled, those on strike, the sick, and anyone else they can smear as shirkers, scroungers and so on. Peter Lilley even made a performance about it at a Tory conference way back when Major was in power, doing a bizarre skit based on the Mikado, in which he proclaimed he had a little list of, well, most of the above, actually, beginning with single mothers. What this reminds me of is less Gilbert and Sullivan, and more Philip Madoc’s Nazi U-boat commander with his list of people, who have insulted the Fuhrer in that episode of Dad’s Army. One of the sketch shows also portrayed Lilley as a creepy Nazi officer. Which, to be fair, is what he sounded like when he pranced around like that.

The book is going to be frightening, because Tory policy is deeply frightening in its hatred and contempt for the poor, the disabled and working class. There’s a growing number of books on the poverty caused by austerity and the destruction of the welfare state. This looks like another welcome addition to them.

Chumbawamba Sing the Chartists’ Anthem

September 13, 2016

I found this video on YouTube of the left-wing pop group, Chumbawamba, singing the ‘Chartists’ Anthem’. This was composed in the 1840s for the Chartist movement, the early 19th century campaign to get working men the vote.

It’s also struck me that this song is extremely relevant once again, with Tom Watson and the Blairites in the Labour party trying to throw out everyone, who wants to return the party to its roots as the party of the poor and the working class, battling poverty and unemployment on the one hand; and the Tories under Theresa May doing a bit of gerrymandering on the other with their constituency review. This is intended to cut the number of MPs in Westminster, and incidentally keep Labour locked out of power.

BBC Reluctantly Admits Lying about Anti-War Protest

September 12, 2016

Mike also put up today a piece from EvolvePolitics, which reports that the BBC on its Feedback page on its website, has admitted misleading the public about the anti-war demonstration it claimed in December last year had been staged outside Labour MP Stella Creasy’s home. The protests were aimed against MPs supporting further airstrikes against Syria. The Beeb’s report claimed that the protesters were ‘far left’, and the demonstration was bullying and intimidatory. Neither of these details were true. The protest was a peaceful vigil. It was not held outside the Walthamstow MP’s home, but her constituency office at a time when no-one was there. The Beeb’s retraction of the distorted report states that it ultimately came from a single Facebook post, that was picked up by a number of other social media commenters and reputable news sources, including the Independent and the Guardian. A few days later, the Beeb issued a partial correction, which changed the location of the story, but still retained the falsehood about the mood of the protesters.

Mike states

So the BBC had decided to run with the inaccuracy because other “reputable” news outlets had done so – and even misled the shadow chancellor into believing the lie.

It had allowed listeners to go on believing the lie that the demonstration was violent and intimidating, even after broadcasting a correction that only revised the location of the event – and not the mood.

Most damning of all is the fact that the full correction appeared – on a little-visited feedback page – on July 8 this year, and has only just been picked up (by the EvolvePolitics site – I had no idea this BBC page even existed).

It seems clear the BBC is quite happy to mislead the public in order to help the Conservative Government. This is not the behaviour of a reputable news outlet.

My advice: Stick to social media sites like Vox Political. We may not always have the full facts but we don’t actively lie to you.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/11/post-truth-bbc-quietly-admits-lying-about-anti-war-demonstration-over-syria/

Mike’s statement that the BBC is quite willing to mislead the public to support the Tory government should no longer be a surprise to anyone. A few years ago Mike’s blog, along with, I think, Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman, reported that Scots academics at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities had found that there was a pronounced right-wing bias at the Beeb. They found that the Corporation was something like three times more likely to interview Conservative politicians and businessmen than Labour MPs and trade unionists. My feeling is that the Beeb sees itself as part of the establishment, and interprets its duty as the state broadcaster to produce programming, or at least news reporting, that broadly supports the status quo. Its managers and senior staff come from the same social class as those in industry and the civil service, and many of its journalists and programme makers are part of the same social circle as the Conservative leadership. At least they were during David Cameron’s tenure at No. 10 with the Chipping Norton set. I don’t believe things have changed since Theresa May took over.

I also found it interesting that the Beeb should partly try to excuse itself by stating that it came from other reputable news sources, explicitly naming the Independent and the Guardian. This looks like the Beeb is trying to head off any claims of Conservative bias by citing two supposedly liberal papers. Except when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn, they’re not. Both papers, like the rest of the press, are strongly biased against him. Moreover, there have been reviews of books in Lobster, which have shown that the so-called left-wing press in Britain actually isn’t terribly left-wing at all. In the 1990s, the Guardian regularly used to appear in Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for the way it promoted various brutal dictatorships, from Nigeria to Indonesia, praising them as excellent places to do business while ignoring these nation’s appalling human rights records. Some of the articles written in praise of these countries were straightforward PR pieces written by companies specially set up to promote them abroad.

And the excuse that others were following the same line really doesn’t excuse the BBC. Newspapers and the news media are supposed to check their stories. There are even specialist media organisation in America which do so. The Beeb, as the state broadcaster, surely should have had the sense and the resources to check that story as well. But it didn’t. This shows that either the Beeb was simply being lazy, or that the repeated purges of its journalism and newsgathering staff in favour of cutting costs, and boosting the salaries and expanding the jobs available in senior management, has had a detrimental effect on the Corporation’s ability to provide reliable news. Which is exactly what Private Eye has been saying every time more redundancies have been announced at the Beeb of the people, who actually make programmes and produce the news.

The BBC isn’t the sole culprit in this regard. The newspapers have also been shedding large numbers of journalists in order to remain afloat, and give their senior executives, proprietors and shareholders the bloated salaries and dividends they’re accustomed to expect. And several times their journos have been similarly caught out using entirely spurious reports on Wikipedia, posted as pranks, as their sources. For example, when Ronnie Hazlehurst, the composer of a number of well-remembered signature tunes for the BBC, such as that for 80 comedy series To the Manor Born, passed away a few years ago, someone altered his Wikipedia page so that it read that he had composed one of the Spice Girls’ hits. He hadn’t, as presumably any one of the Girls’ fans could have told them. But that didn’t stop the journo, and others in the rest of the press, repeating the story. They were also caught out during the World Cup one year, when someone altered the entry for one of the football teams from the Greek islands. This claimed that its supporters had a special name for themselves, wore discarded shoes on their heads, and had a song about a potato. All rubbish, but the journos decided it had to be true, ’cause it was on Wikipedia. Now it seems that Facebook is being used in the same way for journalists too stressed or too lazy to check their facts.

Of course, the other possibility is that they didn’t bother checking the details, and dragged their heels about correcting the statement that the protesters were out to threaten and intimidate, because the Facebook story told them exactly what they wanted to hear. All the prejudice about peace protesters and ‘hard left’ trade unionists – like the miners at Orgreave colliery, presumably – being violent thugs came flooding back, just like they had from Fleet Street during the 1980s. One of the daftest stories to come out about the peace movement then was a report that the Greenham Common women had managed to knock ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine to the ground, when he visited the base. Heseltine’s a big fellow – 6’3″, and so not easy to deck. He did fall over, but even he admitted that it was an accident. I think he fell over a guy rope or something. But whatever was the cause, he wasn’t pushed, shoved, punched, knocked or anything else. But Fleet Street published the story, ’cause as radical protesters, clearly the Greenham women had to be pathologically violent. Even when they said they weren’t, and gave interviews saying that they didn’t want men at the camp because they were afraid that any men present would start a violent confrontation.

As for hiding the correction on an obscure webpage, this seems to be part of common journalistic practice. Whenever a newspaper or magazine is forced to make a correction, it’s always tucked away in an obscure corner of the publication. The Beeb in this instance is no different. But their does seem to be a change of policy involved. I recall several previous instances, where the regulatory authorities had ruled that one of the Beeb’s programmes had misled the public. The ruling was announced on television or the radio itself. I can remember hearing such rulings on the 7.15 pm slot, or thereabouts, just after The Archers on the radio. For television, they used to issue the notifications of such rulings on Sunday evening just after Points of View and before Songs of Praise. This is a time slot when there would be relatively few people watching, but it’s still not as obscure as a very obscure webpage. Perhaps this is the new way the Beeb hopes to bury the news when its caught bending the facts.

Secular Talk on the Alabama Textbook Defending Slavery

August 18, 2016

This is another fascinating video from the atheist/secularist news programme, Secular Talk, commenting on an Alabama school history book that taught students in the state for a generation that slavery was beneficial to the enslaved Black population. Clyde Smith was a high school student in 1971, and he posted online pictures of the textbook used in the state schools. It was called History for Schools by Charles Grayson Somersell, and was taught from 1955 to well into the ’70s. The book told its young readers that slaves were given good quality clothes, and were better off than contemporary free labourers, White or Black. They were given the best medical care that the times could offer by their masters. The book didn’t mention the regular whippings, nor the frequent rape of enslaved women by their masters, who then did not take care of the children – a fact that is notorious to Black Americans. Kulinski makes the point that slaves weren’t viewed as people, quite literally, and were forced to work long hours. The textbook also explicitly stated that ‘Slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States’, and states that it was illegal for a master to emancipate a slave after he was too old to work. Kulinski points out that this meant that elderly slaves remained in chains, and slaves were worked until they died.

Kulinski makes the very good point that this shows the basic, unspoken beliefs of Whites in the Southern US, the kind of ideas they express only among themselves in private. It also explains why so many of them were shocked and outraged by demands to remove the Confederate flag. To them, rather than the symbol of evil and oppression, it represented a good and beneficial order, which looked after its enslaved workers and gave them excellent healthcare, in contrast to the poverty of free workers in the North.

Finally, Kulinski explains why he’s talking about this now: because the battle is never over. You have to explain and keep explaining certain basic points about human dignity and freedom, because to people raised on this propaganda, they were the good guys and slavery was not necessarily an evil system.

I put this video up because it boggled my mind how anyone could approve of slavery, or present it as essentially beneficial as late as the 1970s. it explains some of the racism in the Deep South, as well as some of the other weird and bizarre attitudes held by the American Right. I did wonder how far the equation of social security and healthcare with slavery explained the bizarre attitude of the Libertarians that the welfare state is also a form of slavery. There was a prize exchange on American television from Congress when Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were talking about universal state healthcare for Americans. Rand Paul, a Libertarian Republican, started spouting nonsense that state healthcare reduced doctors and other employees to slaves, and that they would be woken up in the middle of the night by people breaking down their front door to get them to treat patients. This was done when the two were taking the testimony of doctors involved in the state medicare programme. Sanders, who wants a universal healthcare like the NHS, dispatched that piece of stupidity by simply asking one of the doctors if she’d ever had this happen to her. Obviously, she hadn’t. In Britain doctors, surgeons, nurses and other employees are paid employees with all the rights of free people. They do have to treat patients, but no-one’s going to break down their doors except in emergencies, and they are perfectly free to leave the profession. Unfortunately, their status, pay and working conditions is declining, thanks to Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, who wish to destroy the state system and replace it with private enterprise.

As for the conditions slaves endured, the Alabama text books is right on some points. Defenders of slavery in both America and Britain pointed out that slaves were frequently treated better, and enjoyed better working conditions, than the ‘factory slaves’, the free workers employed in the factories of the northern US and in Britain. They’re probably right. Factory workers worked long hours in appalling conditions for miserable pay, and in some ways their condition did tremble on the edge of true slavery. Tony Robinson in an episode of Time Team devoted to industrial archaeology pointed out – with justifiable anger – how factory masters purchased children from orphanages to use as young workers. Also, when the British were seeking to improve the conditions of slaves in the Caribbean in the 1820s, they were also forced to pass legislation forbidding masters from freeing slaves who were too old to work as a way of avoid the expense of maintaining them. This was a period when the British government was passing legislation demanding that slaves were properly fed and clad.

This does not, however, make slavery any better. Slaves were worked to death. There was a debate in the 17th and 18th centuries over whether it was more profitable to work a slave to death quickly, and so make a massive profit quickly, but then have to go to the expense of buying a new slave; or whether it was better to give them moderate amounts of work and keep them working steadily so that they lived longer.

They were not given good quality clothing. The slave laws provided that the men should receive yearly a pair of drawers – that is, underpants – and the women a petticoat or shift. But that’s it. Now much did depend on the attitude of the slave masters. Archaeologists examining the material of the slaves on Ben Franklin’s estate found that the slaves there had a very high standard of living. They were well-fed, had fine crockery, and played instruments like the violin. But there were no doubt many more cases where the slaves were given very little. Visitors to the Caribbean remarked on the enslaved workers labouring naked in the fields. And Kulinski is right to talk about the flogging and sexual exploitation, though he passes over some of the other, more extreme and vile forms of punishment that existed, such as mutilation.

It’s a fascinating, grim insight into the mindset that was instilled in a generation of southern US schoolchildren, and which is still being regurgitated by Republicans across the US today.

Vox Political on Blairite Entryism

August 17, 2016

Yesterday, Mike also put up a piece from Medium entitled ‘Blairite Entryism’. This was about an email from three councillors for Oval Ward in Lambeth, Jack Hopkins, Jane Edbrooke and Claire Holland, appealing for people to join the Labour party so they could vote out Jeremy Corbyn. They made the usual noises about Corbyn and his supporters being unsuitable for government, stated that as well as trying to tackle inequality and protecting the most vulnerable, they were also active running basic council services, and threatened that if Corbyn was elected, it would mean the disappearance of many present Labour councillors. The email was sent to everyone, including Lib Dems and Conservatives. It was specifically targeted at the members of other parties, who were not Labour voters, to join simply to get rid of Corbyn.

Mike asks the question why Tom Watson, if he is so frightened by Left-wing entryism into the Labour party, isn’t also denouncing this Right-wing entryism, and demanding that they be duly punished in the same way as all the Trotskyites he imagines are out there.

Of course Watson won’t. Part of Tony Blair’s strategy to appeal to the right was to recruit Conservatives into the Labour party and the government. Those who switched sides were parachuted into safe Labour seats, often at the expense of the popular, Labour candidate for those areas. When it came to government officials, Blair decided that his was a Government Of All the Talents, and included even present members of the Tory party. This included Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong. It was noted by Blair’s critics that he was far more comfortable with these Tories than he was with traditional Labour party members.

As for the long paranoia and fear about left-wing entryism into the Labour party, this has been around since the 1920s. Labour were concerned about possible Communist party infiltration, and so passed a resolution to remove members of the extreme left. The official stance of the Labour party is opposition to the class war, which is one of the major planks of Communist ideology. There is a problem in that under Stalin, the Comintern did have a policy of turning western Communist parties into carbon copies of the Soviet Communist party, and using them to further specific Russian foreign policy goals rather than those favouring their own nations. One of the reasons Communist Yugoslavia split from the Soviet bloc and aligned with NATO instead was because Stalin tried this effect takeover of their nation through the international Communist organisation. Milovan Djilas, the dissident Marxist writer and one of the architects of the system of worker’s control in the former Yugoslavia, described this process in his autobiography, Rise and Fall. For example, the official Communist international line demanded that the press in the satellite countries printed stories mainly about Russia, to the exclusions of articles about the satellite nations itself. And the way Stalin took over and the nations liberated by the Soviet Union during the Second World War into Communist states under the sway of the Soviet Union was by infiltrating, amalgamating and purging the local Socialist and opposition parties. For example, in East Germany the Social Democrats were, against their wishes, forcibly amalgamated with the Communist party. The leading Social Democrat politicians were then purged, and the majority Social Democrats then reformed as a Communist party, along the way turning their country into a Communist state. This didn’t just happen to Socialist parties. It also happened to non-Socialist parties, which occupied the leading left-wing position, such as the Peasant’s Party in Hungary.

There were also attempts to take over the trade unions through the Soviet trade union organisation. It’s why Ernest Bevin, the veteran trade unionist and Labour politician, hated Communism.

And it wasn’t just the Communists, who tried these antics. The Socialist Workers’ Party, which is the country’s main Trotskyite organisation, was notorious for trying to infiltrate other left-wing groups and campaigns in order to turn them into its front organisations. The ‘Rock Against Racism’ movement fell apart in the 1980s after they gained a majority on its leading committee. The campaign then declared it was working in concert with the Socialist Workers. The majority of its members, who weren’t interested in Trotskyism but simply wanted to listen to rockin’ bands while saving the country from the NF and the rest of the Fascists, voted with their feet and left.

Other extreme left-wing organisations adopt the same tactics. In the early 1990s a group of anarchist troublemakers tried to infiltrate a re-enactment group of which I was part. They left en masse after they were caught discussing their plans to take control of it.

Much of the fear of left-wing entryism into the Labour party and the trade unions was also stoked by the Americans as part of the Cold War. Robin Ramsay and Lobster have published a number of articles describing and criticising the process by which the American and British intelligence agencies sponsored various working class movement and organisations to combat possible Soviet influence. The Blairite hysteria here over Corbynite ‘Trotskyites’ is part of this pattern, as Blair and the other leading members of New Labour were sponsored by the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite project to influence the coming generation of politicians in favour of the Atlantic alliance and American interests.

All this hysteria ignores the fact that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a Trot, and neither are his followers. They’re traditional old Labour. But this is too much for the New Labour capitalists, who get the vapours every time somebody mentions traditional, old Labour values, like working for the working class, protecting the unemployed, nationalisation and a mixed economy. New labour’s based entirely on copying the Tories and trying to steal their ideas and voters. And hence this attempt by the three Lambeth councillors to pack the party with voters from the Right, all the while screaming about the threat of the extreme left. The Blairites themselves are entryists – capitalist entryist, spouting Thatcherite nonsense. This should have no more place in the Labour party than Communists or Trotskyites on the hard Left.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 2

August 8, 2016

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – an alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others.

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.

Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.

Radical 80s Anti-War Pop: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes

August 6, 2016

A week or so ago I put I blogged about Sting’s great anti-war song, Russians. Based on a tune by Prokofiev, and with the haunting refrain, ‘Do the Russians love their children too?’, this was Sting’s protest against the new Cold War between America and Russia in which both sides were condemned for their militarism. The video I used here was of a performance the great songster made a few years ago on Russian TV, which shows how far the world has come since I was a schoolboy in the 1980s. Then, Russia and the rest of the former eastern bloc were very much closed off to the West, although as the political climate thawed, the BBC did launch a fascinating series of films on the Soviet Union. This included an edition of antenna on Soviet TV. I was moved to put up the video as a reminder of great pop challenging the horrific spectre of nuclear war by the arms build up in the West and increasing tension between NATO and Russia. There’s been a series of manoeuvres in Estonia, Poland, Romania and the other Baltic states against the possibility of a Russian invasion, despite the fact that the Russians have said that they have no intention of doing any such thing. This follows a book by a NATO general predicting that by May next year, Russia will have invaded Latvia, and our nations will be at war. This should terrify everyone, who grew up in the 1980s and remembers the real threat of nuclear Armageddon then, along with the horrific spoutings of some generals about fighting a ‘limited nuclear war’ in Europe.

Unfortunately, that possibility has just come a step nearer after the statement on Morning Joe, an American news programme hosted by Joe Scarborough, that he had been told by a foreign policy expert that in discussing the subject with Donald Trump, the coiffured clown asked him three times why America hadn’t used nuclear weapons. As I said in my last post, this is a very good argument for keeping the pratt out of the White House, if not the society of decent humans. If you only needed one argument for not wanting to see Trump as president, regardless of the endorsement of violence, the misogyny, the racism and Islamophobia, this would be it. Trump shouldn’t be president, because he’s a threat to all life on Earth.

Sting wasn’t the only pop musician to release a piece in the 1980s against the militaristic posturing between East and West. So too did Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Frankie … were a band that managed to shock the British public with the release of their single, Relax, and the homoerotic imagery of both the song and the accompanying video. It was so shocking, that the Beeb was supposed to have banned. This, of course, had the usual effect of making it massively popular, and it shot to Number 1 in the charts. The band’s frontman, Holly Johnson was gay, as was I think, one of the other band members, but most of them were straight. Bands like Frankie…, and other gay pop stars like Marc Almond, Jimmy Summerville and Boy George helped to challenge the popular prejudice and real hatred there was for gays there still was then, over a decade after gay sex in private between consenting adults had been legalised.

Two Tribes continued their trend of edgy music by presenting the confrontation between East and West as a bare knuckle boxing match between someone, who looked very much like Ronald Reagan, and an opponent, who was clearly based on one of the Russian presidents of the time. I can’t work out quite who the Russia is based on, as he looks a bit like Brezhnev, but not quite, and I can’t remember who Andropov and Chernenko, the last two Soviet presidents before Mikhail Gorbachev, looked like. To my mind, he looks more like Boris Yeltsin, the former mayor of Moscow, who succeeded Gorby as president of Russia. Unlike Gorby, Yeltsin wasn’t a Communist, but a capitalist-in-waiting, who sold off just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. The result was that Russian economy went into meltdown, millions across the former USSR were thrown out of work without any of the welfare safety nets in place in Europe or America, while rampant inflation wiped out people’s savings. Despite his generally pro-Western, pro-capitalist stance, he could also be belligerent. Sometime in his presidency, a Norwegian sounding rocket went off course, and landed somewhere in Russia. Yeltsin appeared on TV pounding his desk and declaring that he had been quite prepared to respond with nukes, if such an event seemed to be an attack on Russia. He was also, like many of the Russia politicos, including Brezhnev, massively corrupt. A lot of the state enterprises he privatised mysteriously ended up in the hands of his cronies, and people, who were prepared to fork over a lot of roubles. He was also a figure of western media amusement, as he appeared to be permanently smashed, unlike his predecessor, who appeared far more temperate and had launched a strong anti-drink campaign. The mass privatisation of the Soviet Economy had a devastating effect on its citizens’ health, which Basu and Stuckler discuss in their book, the Body Economic, on how economic austerity harms people’s physical health. Putin, with his promise of economic stability and national pride, is very much a response to the chaos of the Yeltsin regime. I’ve got a feeling Yeltsin might be dead now, but if anyone needed a good drubbing, it was him, though by the Russian people, who had a better reason to hate him than Ronald Reagan.

Frankie’s Two Tribes shows the violence in the ring escalating, until the audience of other international dignitaries begin fighting amongst themselves, to the consternation of the ringside commentator. The video ends with the Earth itself being blown up, a graphic comment on the real danger of the conflict. The song’s title, Two Tribes, also gives a very cynical take on the conflict. This isn’t about politics, human rights or the effectiveness and justice of economic systems. This is just pure tribalism, the primitive, nationalistic aggression that has haunted humanity since the Stone Age. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and just about everyone I know is repulsed and disturbed by the Relax video. But Two Tribes is a classic piece of ’80s pop with a very relevant political message, and one that deserves to be given another hearing. Before Trump gets anywhere near the White house, and starts ranting and threatening like Reagan.

May, Smith, Trident and the Continuing Relevance of 80s Pop

July 23, 2016

In the debate over Trident the other day, both Theresa May and Owen Smith showed their utter willingness to incinerate hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in a nuclear war. Michelle, one of the great commenters on this blog, was particularly chilled by their readiness to do so without any apparent qualms or pangs of conscience. She wrote

It would seem there’s something dangerous in the water at Westminster! I couldn’t sleep after seeing the clip when May said “yes” without hesitation to the question of whether she would be willing to kill 100,000’s of INNOCENT men women and children! If anyone hasn’t seen this: https://youtu.be/zK4Z5ZF3jsshttps://youtu.be/zK4Z5ZF3jss

Then there is Owen willing to do so even if the count is in the millions and with a small smile on his face: https://youtu.be/o86kjk15j4E?t=22shttps://youtu.be/o86kjk15j4E?t=22s

It would seem the cackle of madness is drumming out most rational thought in the power house.

Absolutely. After he and Kennedy nearly destroyed the world in the Cuban missile crisis, the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev was very serious about the threat posed by nuclear Armageddon. On his goodwill visit to the West afterwards, someone made a joke about it. They were told by Khrushchev that the destruction of humanity was ‘no laughing matter’. The Soviet president also didn’t get on with Chairman Mao. Some of this was due to differences over geopolitical strategies, and attitudes to Communist doctrine. But Khrushchev was also appalled by Mao’s attitude to the nuclear stand-off. Mao really couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had pulled back, and felt that he should have nuked America when he had the chance. It’s an attitude to the extermination of the human race, or at least a sizable part of it, which shows what a genocidal maniac Mao was.

May’s and Smith’s comments are particularly frightening in the present climate, when prominent NATO generals are claiming that by May next year, Putin will have invaded Latvia and the Atlantic Alliance and Russia will be at war. I can remember the threat of nuclear incineration in the New Cold War of the early ’80s. That was terrifying, but it also called forth some of the greatest and most beautiful pop songs of that period, as our musicians added their voices to the call for peace and sanity.

One of them was Sting, and his piece ‘Russians’. Based on a piece by the great Russian composer Prokofiev, it has the lines ‘Do the Russians love their children too?’ and is a condemnation of the militaristic posturing by both America and the Soviet Union, and an eloquent plea for peace. The Soviet Union has passed, but unfortunately the song and its message still remain very relevant. I found this piece on YouTube of the great man singing it on Russian TV. The fact that the Fall of Communism has led to a thaw between the West and the former Soviet bloc is, to my mind, one of the greatest and most optimistic events of the post-War era. The fact that British bands were able to travel to Russia and perform, beginning with groups like the Clash and UB40, shows that military confrontation, sabre-rattling and posturing is far from the only foreign policy option. East and West can and do still meet in peace and friendship. Let’s hope our leaders don’t waste this situation, and annihilate humanity for the sake of military status. Here’s the video.

Vox Political on Those, Who Believed Blair’s Lies about Iraq

July 5, 2016

Yesterday Gloria de Piero, one of the Blairites, published a piece in the Scum calling on ‘moderate’ Labour supporters to join the party to vote out Jeremy Corbyn. Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece today quoting a piece by one of those, who has, and asking if the person, who wrote it is really as left-leaning as they seem, and do people want someone like that in the Labour party?

The author of the piece seems to have been taken in by all the vile Blairite spin and propaganda. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic, and have no interest in doing anything positive for the people of this country. They also state that they joined the party because they supported the invasion of Iraq and the consequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Curiously, they seem to believe that Iraq is now a genuinely functioning democracy. The invasion, they declare, is one of the UK’s finest achievements since World War II. And then they proudly announce that they’re deliberately rejoining the Labour party on the 4th July, stating that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, should also be our aspiration.

Blairite Atlanticism and the Worship of the American Constitution

Looking at the piece, it’s so over the top that I genuinely wonder if whoever wrote really is an ordinary member of the public. Blair and his cronies, including Broon, Ed Balls and so on, were fervent supporters of America. Blair himself was a product of the Reaganite British-American Project for the Successor Generation, or BAP. This was set up by the Gipper in the 1980s to train the next generation of British politicians to support the Atlantic Alliance. Its alumni went on courses in America to study the country’s political traditions. Before Blair went on one of these jaunts, he was a supporter of CND. After he came back, he was very definitely in favour of Britain keeping its nuclear deterrence. Broon and Balls also studied at American universities. And in government, Blair was so keen to emulate JFK or Roosevelt, I forget quite which, that he and Mandelson called each other by the names of those politicos.

There are many people, who would like Britain to have a written constitution, so that we can hold our rulers to account when they break it, or traduce reasonable standards of democracy. But the idealisation of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence tends to be far more characteristic of the American Right, who love the idea of limited government, the defence of private property and gun rights. Cameron’s statement that he wants to repeal European human rights legislation and replace it with a British Bill of Rights looks like an attempt to introduce that aspect of American political culture over here. Especially as very many of the Conservatives also have business and political connections in America, and admire the American tradition of laissez-faire capitalism and minimal worker’s rights and welfare state.

The Undemocratic Invasion of Iraq

Then there’s that rubbish about Blair’s invasion of Iraq being the greatest of this country’s achievements since the Second World War. This is quite preposterous. I can think of many better achievements: the setting up of the welfare state, decolonisation and the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth (with caveats), the abolition of the death penalty and the launch of the Black Knight British-Australian space rocket, which put a British-built satellite in orbit in 1975. Other greater British achievements I would argue include Jodrell Bank, Jocelyn Bell-Purnell’s discovery of Pulsars, Crick and Watson’s discovery of the structure of DNA and the Mini. Oh yes, and the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the sheer fact that Ozzie Osborne is still with us. In fact, just about everything peaceful Britain has done after World War II, which hasn’t involved us invading anyone or stealing their industries and resources.

Which is what happened in the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, there were and presumably still are people, who’ve been taken in by Blair’s lies. That he had weapons of mass destruction. Which he didn’t. That he was ready to invade at 45 minutes notice. He wasn’t. That he aided Osama bin Laden. A really grotesque lie – Hussein was a secular nationalist. Bin Laden hated his regime and everything it stood for.

And the greatest lie of all: that the war was fought for democracy. This one, the worst of them all, had some plausibility because Hussein was indeed a brutal dictator. He gassed the Kurds when they rose up, and massacred the Shi’a minority. He was a brutal thug. And he had started out as our thug. He was on the American’s payroll to assassinate leading Iraqi politicians in the 1950s, but was never able to carry it off, and escaped back into Syria. See the book A Brutal Friendship on how bloody the relationship between Britain and the comprador elites in the Arab nations really is. The invasion of Iraq also formed part of a narrative in which Britain unselfishly sends her troops all over the world to give evil foreign dictators a good kicking and liberate their grateful peoples. That was the way Gladstone sold the Empire to us in the 19th century, even when members of his cabinet were writing ‘a love of empire is a love of war’. It was the rationale behind Britain sending troops to Bosnia and Kosovo to fight the Serbs and protect the local Muslim populations. Many liberals no doubt supported the invasion because they genuinely believed it was, for all its faults, another humanitarian police action. There was even a book, reviewed in Lobster, which aimed to present a Socialist case for the Neocons’ foreign policy.

But it was never about democracy. It was simply about oil. And Israel, and pure economic imperialism.

The Republicans in America and Israel’s Likud party had put together joint plans for the invasion of Iraq way back in the 1990s. Hussein was arming and supporting the Palestinians. The oil barons wanted him out the way, as his erratic policy on oil exports was causing massive fluctuations in price. And both the Americans and the Saudis wanted to get their mitts on the Iraqi oil industry and its reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia itself. And the Neocons wanted to privatise the Iraqi economy so that American multinationals could loot all the profitable Iraqi state enterprises, and they could play at real politicians by creating their low tax, free trade state.

The result has been sheer, unmitigated chaos. The results of the American economic policy has been that the Iraqi unemployment rate shot up to 60%. Community relations between the various tribes and sects in Iraq has been destroyed. There are peace walls – barricades – between the Sunni and Shi’a quarters of Baghdad, which didn’t exist before. Members of the American armed forces, who are supposed to be paragons and democratic virtue, instead behave as Nazis. The real-life soldier, who formed the basis for the hero in Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, was a racist butcher. The mess he ate and drank in was festooned with Nazi insignia, and the army, to the shock of one of Obama’s diplomats, is permeated with a deep, visceral hatred and contempt for the Iraqi people. This goes far beyond hating the remnants of Hussein’s army, or the Islamist terrorists that have expanded into the power vacuum. It includes ordinary Iraqi civilians. The Sniper mentioned above claims to have shot ordinary Iraqis. One very senior American officer in charge of the occupying forces provided American aid to Sunni death squads, which murdered and terrorised the Shi’a. American squaddies and private military contractors – what in the old days we called ‘mercenaries’ – have been found running everything from prostitution rings. They’ve even gone on shooting sprees, committing drive-by killings of ordinary Iraqis just for fun.

And the country is less than a functioning democracy. It is effectively a US client state. Much of it has been taken over by the ISIS’ thugs, while the Iranians are also seeking to expand their influence with the country’s Shi’a. Some of this mess comes from the fact that George W. Bush, Blair’s Best Friend and the rest of the Neocons had no clue about Arab and Middle Eastern politics and culture, beyond their own crappy ideology. And they believed the lies spouted by one Ahmed Chalabi, who claimed that he led the Iraqi resistance, and they would be welcomed as liberators when they invaded.

The invasion has not created a stable democracy. It has instead produced little beyond misery and carnage. It also amply demonstrates something Jacob Bronowski said in his blockbusting popular science series, The Ascent of Man. Clausewitz famously coined the phrase, ‘War is politics by other means’. Bronowski was a Fabian Socialist as well as a scientist, and had a much bleaker, colder view of armed conflict: ‘War is theft by other means’. In Iraq’s case, he was right.

A Blairite PR Piece?

Looking at the piece, it seems less to me to be a genuine statement by an ordinary member of the public, and more like another piece of PR guff from the Blairites. New Labour was notorious for spin and lies. After all, they ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ with falsehoods in order to justify the invasion. And just because they’re out of power hasn’t stopped them carrying on. Jack Straw’s son’s PR outfit, Portland Communications, was behind the staged heckling of Jeremy Corbyn at a gay pride rally, and a T-shirt demanding the eradication of ‘Blairite vermin’ was the product of the fetid little mind of another Blairite, Anna Philips, and her pet ‘Creative Consultant and Media Guru’. One of Corbyn’s promises is that he intends to prosecute Blair for war crimes. Blair was on TV recently claiming he wasn’t worried, and trying to justify the debacle. But as this piece shows, clearly he and very many of his followers are worried.