Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category

Pat Mills Going Underground on Class and Politics on Comics

September 19, 2017

This is another video to add to the two others I’ve posted in which Pat Mills, one of the great creators of modern British comics, talks about industry and the political dimension to his work. In this video, he talks to Afshin Rattansi of RTUK’s Going Underground.

Mills starts by talking about how, when he first got into comics, he was frustrated and it was only when he started to look back on it and analyze it that he realized he was annoyed by the lack of working class role models in comics. They were all members of the upper middle classes. It’s why in 2000 AD he wanted to include working class characters and heroes, and why he liked Jeeves in the Jeeves and Wooster books, because here was a working class character, who makes a complete mockery of his master. But what brought home to him how the system is so completely opposed to working class heroes was his attempt working on a story for Dr. Who. He wanted to include a working class spaceship captain. The spaceship itself was to be a kind of abattoir in space, and he based the captain’s character on a real person, the captain of dredger. This would have made it realistic, and the captain of such a vessel would not have been like Richard Todd. But he was told by the script editor that this was unacceptable, and he could not have a working class spaceship captain.

When Rattansi asks him whether this censorship is internal or imposed from outside, he remarks that it’s a good question, and he believes it to be a bit of both. In the case of anti-war stories, it’s imposed from outside. That was brought home to him when he was involved in an exhibition on anarchy and comics. He wanted to include Charley’s War, the anti-war strip from Battle, as there was nothing more anarchist than that. But this was refused, just as the centenary of the outbreak of the First World. It was why TV never showed any of the great anti-war programmes and films about it, like Blackadder Goes Forth or the Monocled Mutineer.

He also comments on the massive influence the American military exerts over the film and TV industry. The Pentagon and the armed forces, including the CIA, have acted as advisors on 500 films and 800 TV programmes, from Meet the Parents to the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. Mills has said that he has always disliked superheroes as he feels that they are corporate characters, standing for the values of the system. They are there to show people that you can’t be heroic unless you’re a tycoon or an arms manufacturer, who goes out at night to beat up members of the working class. He doesn’t think the military were involved in the last Judge Dredd film, as that was made by an independent, which is probably why it was so good. Rattansi replies that Dredd is still upper middle class, as he’s a member of the judiciary. Mills states in turn that he’s a footsoldier, and that part of the attraction of the character is that he’s also partly a villain. Villains are often more interesting to watch than heroes, who can be quite boring.

He also talks about an incident in which the Board of the Deputies of British Jews objected to one of the strips in Crisis. This was based on a real situation, which Mills had heard about from talking to a Palestinian. In the story, the IDF caught and beat up a Palestinian boy in protest, leaving lying on the ground with all his limbs broken. The Board complained because they thought the lad’s body had been deliberately arranged so that it resembled a swastika. Well, replied Mills, it wasn’t, as comics writers and artists aren’t that clever to sneak those kind of subliminal messages in. And what left him dismayed was the Board was not concerned about what was going on Israel, and which is still going on in Gaza. The incident was also somewhat ironic, in that the Board complained to the comic’s publishers, which at that time was Robert Maxwell, the corrupt thief of the Mirror pension fund. The Board’s complaint fell on deaf ears, and Cap’n Bob ‘told them to get knotted’.

Mills also observes in the interview that they were able to get away with much more in 2000AD as it wasn’t real, it was science fiction. Things are all right if they occur In A Galaxy Far, Far Away. But as soon as it’s real people, the censorship is imposed.

It’s always interesting hearing Mills’ views on comics and the subversion he put into his stories. He also told the story about the Beeb’s rejection of a working class spaceship captain for Dr. Who before, at the conference on Marxism organized by the Socialist Workers’ Party. The producers of Going Underground in the clip state that they contacted the Beeb to check the story, but the BBC had not replied by the time the programme was broadcast.

Mills is wrong in claiming at Jeeves is working class. He isn’t. He’s upper middle. Butlers are ‘a gentleman’s gentleman’, and Jeeves himself makes it very clear in one of the episodes of Jeeves and Wooster that he ‘and the working class are barely on speaking terms’. This is when the Fascist leader, Spode, tries to recruit him, saying that his wretched band need working class people like him. Nevertheless, the broad point remains true: Jeeves is an attractive character for the same reason another fictional butler is, Crichton, in the Admirable Crichton. He’s a servant, who is more knowledgible, intelligent and capable than his master.

I’ve commented in previous blog posts that I think the reason that the authorities don’t want to see any anti-War material broadcast during the centenary of the First World War, is because we still have ambitions of being an imperial power, backing the Americans in their wars around the world and particularly in the Middle East. The Beeb would also probably argue that to broadcast such material as Blackadder would be ‘disrespectful’, or some other spurious excuse.

I was aware that the American military was influencing Hollywood as advisors, but I had not idea how extensive it was. Back in the 1990s the American army advised the director Paul Verhoeven on his adaptation of Starship Troopers. This was an adaptation of the book by Robert Heinlein, who really did believe that only those, who had served in the armed forces should have the right to vote. It’s a notoriously militaristic book, and provoked a very anti-military response from a range of other SF writers, including Harry Harrison, who wrote Bill the Galactic Hero to send up Heinlein. Verhoeven wasn’t impressed with Heinlein’s militarism either. He’s Dutch, and grew up during the Nazi occupation. Thus, while the film can be enjoyed as a straightforward adventure, it also contains a very strong element of satire, such as modelling the uniforms on those of the Nazis.

I was disappointed to hear that the army had collaborated with the producers of The Hulk, as this comic was genuinely countercultural. In the comic, Banner becomes the Hulk after being exposed to the nuclear blast of an atomic bomb test saving Rick, a teenager, who has wandered into test zone. Rick is a classic disaffected teenager with more than a little similarity to the alienated kids played by James Dean. In the 1970s the comic was very firmly anti-military. The Hulk fought the army across America. Banner’s personal enemy was the general in charge of the forces sent to tackle the force, who was also the father of his girlfriend. And while the Hulk was a raging behemoth, what he really wanted was to be left alone. Some of the subversive character of the Hulk came across in Ang Lee’s film, which I actually like, even though no-one else does. But it’s still disappointing to read that the American armed forces were involved.

There’s a touch of irony to Mills speaking on the programme, as ‘Going Underground’ was the first of the two ‘Comic Rock’ strips to appear in 2000AD, the other being ‘Killerwatt’, which introduced Nemesis the Warlock and his struggle against Torquemada, the Fascist grand master of Termight, Earth in the far future. The story, set in the underground maze of rapid transit tunnels within Earth’s vast subterranean network of cities, took it’s title from the track by The Jam.

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Ancient Christian Apologist Tertullian on Human Damage to the Environment

July 15, 2017

Some of the most vocal opponents of environmentalism and climate change in the US are politically Conservative Christians. They object to it, not just on the grounds that they believe it to be wrong scientifically, but also because they are highly suspicious of it on political and religious grounds. It is argued that the Green movement is really a pagan movement, or else a way of sneaking Socialism in through the back door through stressing the need for legislation and the regulation of industry to protect the environment. It’s also denounced as a form of Nazism, because the Nazis were also eager to protect the German environment.

It’s true that Green politics has strongly influenced some contemporary neo-Pagan religious movements, particularly Wicca, whose deities consist of an Earth mother and horned god. However, the scientific evidence on which the Green movement is based is separate and independent from any one particular religious or political group. And modern Green politics began with books such as Silent Spring in the 1960s and the Club of Rome, a gathering of concerned scientists, in the early ’70s, and not with Hitler and the Nazis.

Furthermore, writers and philosophers long before the Nazis were also acutely concerned with the threat of overpopulation and the damage humans were doing to the environment. One of them was the early Christian apologist, Tertullian, who wrote

‘Most convincing as evidence of populousness, we have become a burden to the Earth. The fruits of nature hardly suffice to sustain us, and there is a general pressure of scarcity giving rise to complaints. Need we be astonished that plague and famine, warfare and earthquake, come to be regarded as remedies, serving to prune the superfluity of population?’

This quotation was dug up by Adrian Berry, a fellow of the Interplanetary Society, Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Geographical Society. Berry is very much a man of the right, who used to write for the Torygraph. He used it to argue that people have always had exaggerated fears about the threat to society. Or alternatively, they could also be extremely complacent, such as the 2nd century AD Roman writer Pliny. Pliny wrote of the enduring splendor of the Roman Empire just before it began to collapse. Jonathan Margolis also cites in his chapter on predictions of environmental catastrophe, ‘Global Warning’, in his A Brief History of Tomorrow: The Future, Past and Present (London: Bloomsbury 2000) 89, where he also discusses the possibility that predictions of environmental collapse may be wrong.

At the moment, the majority of the world’s scientists are convinced that climate change and environmental damage caused by humanity are real, and a genuine threat to the planet, its flora and fauna, and ultimately humanity itself. Furthermore, archaeologists become increasingly aware how global changes to the environment have caused civilizations to collapse. The early Viking colonies in Greenland were destroyed in the 14th century, when the environment in the northern hemisphere became colder, making it impossible to practice European-style agriculture so far north.

Similarly, the highly developed Pueblo Indian cultures in the Chaco canyon in what is now the southwestern US collapsed and were abandoned when the climate became hostile in the 13th century. The cultures existed in an arid region of the US, using extensive irrigation canals to water their crops. The area suffered an intense drought, and unable to support themselves, the inhabitants moved away.

As for ancient Rome, one of the causes for the barbarian invasions may well have been climate change. The environment became colder from the 3rd century onwards. Central Asian tribes, such as the Huns, moved west, crossing the steppes into Europe and moving south to attack China. This displaced other tribes, such as Goths, who were settled around the Black Sea. The sea levels began to rise, so that the Frisians and other Germanic tribes settled in what is now the Netherlands, were forced to abandon low-lying farms and villages on the coasts. This may have been one of the causes of the Anglo-Saxon migrations to Britain.

In the Greek-speaking eastern Roman Empire, towns shrank, while in the west there was a movement away from the cities, partly through economic grounds. Historians have argued whether the Roman population was decimated by disease. Certainly in Rome itself, located amidst swampland, malaria was endemic, and the sheer size of the population meant that it was periodically subject to outbreaks of other diseases. And the city depended on a steady influx of new immigrants to replenish its population. And there was a constant threat of starvation. The free Roman masses depended on shipments of grain from Egypt and north Africa, and one of the elected officials in the city was responsible for securing the grain supply. Amongst the graffiti found scrawled on walls in Pompeii are election slogans urging men to vote for a particular candidate because ‘he gets good bread’.

Tertullian may well have been absolutely right about the dangers of overpopulation. And regardless of whether he was or wasn’t, the fact that he, one of the great defenders of Christian faith and doctrine in the Roman Empire, was prepared to accept and argue that overpopulation and environmental damage were a danger, shows that there is nothing inherently anti-Christian in the Green movement. This was shown a few weeks ago when the current pope, Pope Francis, criticized Trump’s government for ignoring science and failing to tackle climate change. There’s an irony here in a religious figure attacking the elected leader of a supposedly secular state for having an anti-scientific attitude. And it remains true that there is nothing fundamentally contrary to Christianity about Green politics regardless of the support for Green politics amongst peoples of other religions or none.

Court Deciding Whether Blair Can Be Tried as War Criminal

July 6, 2017

It seems that Tony Blair may yet be hauled into court for his illegal and unprovoked invasion of Iraq. In this brief clip, RT reports that a British court is debating whether to overturn the ban on prosecuting Blair that was decided at a previous hearing last year. The court then decided that as Blair would have immunity from prosecution, it wasn’t worth continuing with any attempts to bring him to justice.

Now a court is debating whether this decision is valid, following a crowdfunding campaign last year by the families of fallen squaddies killed in the conflict. They raised money to have the Chilcott report, which found that Blair had no idea how to run the country afterwards, examined to see whether there is a case for lifting the immunity and leaving Blair open to prosecution. The intention is to prosecute Bush’s lapdog for aggression. The initial hearing is closed, but it will receive submissions for another week or so, after which its decision will go further up the chain of courts.

Nicholas Wood and Anabella Pellens have made a very strong case for Blair’s prosecution as a war criminal in their book War Crime or Just War? The Iraq War 2003-2005, published twelve years ago in 2005. As William Blum has discussed in his books on the barbarity of American imperialism, British, Canadian and Greek jurists did try to have Blair, along with Bush and the other leaders of the invasion, prosecuted. This failed due to the immense pressure placed on various members of the legal team at the International War Crimes tribunal not to go ahead.

If international law is to be anything more than simple victor’s justice and a fig leaf for the real, geopolitical reasons for the West’s invasions and bullying of other nations, then Blair and the others should face trial for his violation of the international conventions governing war and his crimes against humanity.

But I’ve got no confidence this will happen.

Nevertheless, I wish the people seeking his prosecution the very best, and hope that one day they will have their day in court with the former Prime Minister.

Hope Not Hate Launches New Report on Breitbart’s Aims in Britain

March 8, 2017

The anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation Hope Not Hate has published a new report on their website into Breitbart and its political aims here in Britain. The report shows how Breitbart isn’t a news organisation so much as a media campaigning group for the Far Right, and wants to promote the brand of White nationalism that has propelled Trump to the White House here in Britain. Thus, the wretched company has been meeting and supporting Nigel Farage and UKIP. The front page of the report states

When former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was snapped having dinner with President Trump and his family by a fellow diner in late February, it caused a flurry of interest from the British media. What was not reported, but of far more significance, was the meeting Farage had earlier that afternoon.

Farage gatecrashed dinner with Donald Trump because he was in the area. In fact, he had just spent three hours at the White House with the President’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

The pair had a lot to catch up on. They had a lot to discuss and plan.

As this report shows, Bannon and Farage have got to know each other well over the last few years.

UKIP had been identified by Bannon’s Breitbart operation several years ago. Bannon launched Breitbart London to help UKIP ahead of the 2015 General Election. Breitbart’s key funder Robert Mercer supplied Farage’s anti-EU campaign, Leave.EU, with the data tools that helped secure the Brexit vote and the UK’s departure from the European Union.

In turn, Farage’s Brexit success provided Bannon, and his political master Donald Trump, with the inspirational story of the underdog defying the political establishment.

This report shows that Breitbart is not a news website or a media outlet in any ordinary sense and its staff are not mainstream journalists. Breitbart is a political project, with a specific political agenda, staffed by willing propagandists.

It distorts and fabricates news to deliberately incite anger in its supporters and fear in others. It pollutes the political space and demonises and vilifies its opponents.

Breitbart is just one part – albeit a vital part – of a wider political project that set Britain on a path to leave the European Union and got Donald Trump elected to the most powerful job in the world.

Unfinished business

But even with Trump in the White House the project is not yet complete. Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer have far bigger plans which they will seek to execute over the next few years. Bannon will use his clearly strong influence over the President to carry out his aggressive nationalism and strong anti-Muslim views at home and abroad. Mercer will use his financial muscle and data analytics to sway elections and shift opinion.

Breitbart intends to expand its operations into more countries in the hope of assisting more far right leaders gain power and laying the ground for what they consider is an inevitable conflict with Islam.

And in Britain, this operation will be at the heart of a new political venture, likely to be launched in a matter of months, to create a new far right party and run by multi-millionaire Arron Banks and Nigel Farage.

Based on the social movement model of Italy’s Five Star Movement but with the nationalist and populist politics of Trump, this new party will sweep aside UKIP and hope to capitalise on the uncertainty and compromise that will undoubtedly accompany Brexit.

While Banks and Farage will lead this new party, it will be Breitbart that provides the engine power.

It was this that Farage was discussing with Bannon at the White House.

The report also details the organisations links with the far right in this country, including some deeply unpleasant people and organisations. It gives a timeline of the company’s history from its foundation in 2005 to today, and a section on its right-wing stance against multiculturalism, feminism, immigration, gay and trans rights and its demonization of Muslims as predatory rapists intent on the domination of the West. It also explains that, according to an article in the Observer, Breitbart is merely one of a number of extreme right-wing organisation owned and founded by Richard Mercer, a hedge-fund manager. One of these is Cambridge Analytica, and small data analysis company that specialises in psyops – that is, producing propaganda designed to play on the recipients’ emotions, rather than convince them through rational argument. Cambridge Analytica also has links to Andy Wigmore, the director of the Leave campaign.

According to the report, Breitbart see themselves as fighting a war on two fronts, based in Texas and London respectively. In Britain, Breitbart has supported the anti-Muslim organisation, Pegida UK, led by Stephen Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League. They also plan to move into Europe to support Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party in Austria. Wilders is also one of their columnists. They also want to start an edition in Italy. Another section takes apart their journalistic style, showing how it really is little more than ‘fake news’. This consists in running highly emotive and very misleading headlines, which aren’t really backed up or supported by the article beneath. This section in particular looks at articles by Anne-Marie Waters, Virginia Hale, Milo Yiannopolis, Donna Rachel Edmunds and Chris Tomlinson trying to drum up fear and hatred against Muslims through very biased and distorted reporting of rape and other attacks in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, which cite either unreferenced information, or official statistics while omitting other pieces of information from the same sources that disprove or severely qualify their arguments.

The article also argues that Raheem Kassam, one of Breitbart’s editors, had a major influence in making the Fuhrage much more Islamophobic and aggressive in his debating style. Kassam and another advisor were dropped from UKIP after Patrick O’Flynn complained that they had turned Farage into a ‘snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive man.’ It then goes on to examine the role Breitbart played in the civil war that erupted in the Kippers between Farage’s supporters and opponents. It also discusses Farage’s meetings and support for Trump, and warns that Kassam may be winding down his support of UKIP in order to launch a more extreme party. There are also individual sections on particular leading executives and writers at Breitbart, their careers and their very unpleasant connections to other parts of the far right. Raheem Kassam, for example, started out as a member of the Tory youth section, the Young Britons, before moving on to the Conservative Bow Group, setting up the short-lived British Tea Party, which was backed by the Libertarian thinktank, the Freedom Association. Hope Not Hate describes this last group as ‘anti-union’. They are, as well as extremely anti-Socialist and anti-working class in general. In the 1980s they earned notoriety when their links to Fascist Central American dictators and their death squads were revealed. He’s also been involved in the Neo-Con Henry Jackson Society, the Tax-Payer’s Alliance and Student Rights, a right-wing campus monitoring group which has no links to students or the trade unions, and which has been condemned by genuine students unions for its targeting of Muslims students and their events at London unis. He’s also worked for the neo-con The Commentator and is a fellow at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum. Pipes is a rightwing American professor specialising in the Middle East. He’s also appeared on Ezra Levant’s wretched anti-Islamic TV show on Rebel Media in Canada. In his campaign for leadership of UKIP, he gave a prominent place to Anne-Marie Waters of Sharia Watch and also former members of the EDL and the BNP on what the report describes as ‘case by case basis’.

Other senior staff at UKIP include James Delingpole, Simon Kent, Donna Rachel Edmunds, Oliver J.J. Lane, Chris Tomlinson, Virginia Hale, Nick Hallett, Liam Deacon and Jack Montgomery. Delingpole is a former Telegraph and Spectator columnist, who predictably rants on about ‘cultural Marxism’. He has a bitter hatred of environmentalism, which he thinks aims at establishing a Green dictatorship worse than Hitler’s. But then, he also believes that the White, middle-aged, public school and Oxford educated White male is the section of the population most discriminated against.

Simon Kent is an Ozzie journo, who’s also worked for the Sunday Telegraph over here as well as a range of right-wing newspapers in Australia and Canada, including the Sun News Network in Canada.

Donna Rachel Edmunds was a Conservative councillor in Lewes and worked for Roger Helmer, before she left the party for UKIP. She founded the UKIPDaily.com blog, has written for The Commentator and the Freedom Association. She’s also another wretched fan of Von Hayek and Ayn Rand. She’s also given sympathetic coverage to Stephen Lennon, Geert Wilders and the extreme right-wing Sweden Democrats as well as Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson.

Oliver JJ Lane is a former researcher for the military thinktank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a former Conservative candidate for Nuneaton and Bedworth, and is a former chairman of the British Monarchist League. The article also states that he has ‘liked’ a number of racist pages on the Net, including

the premier “alt-right”/new right publisher Arktos, the openly pro-fascist page “Rational Ethno-Nationalism” and the Nazi blood-and-soil page “Artaman: Hyperborean Garden”. Lane has also “liked” a page titled “European Traditional
Family” which posts Nazi propaganda of Aryan families, and the “strictly non muslim” group “The Beauty of European Girls and Women”, dedicated to white women of “pure european descent”.

The article also claims that he’s an associate of Gregory Lauder-Frost of the Traditional Britain group, which also has links to the Nazi right. I’ve also come across material from them which makes it clear that not only do they despise Islam, they also hate and would like to abolish the NHS.

Chris Tomlinson is a former mobile phone technician, who writes for the Canadian Conservative Party. He’s a fan of the French far-right Identitarian Movement, an activist in the Alt-Right, and a member of the Austrian Nationalist Party.

Virginia Hale is an east Asian studies graduate, who defines herself as a ‘palaeoconservative’. She’s also obsessed with White genocide, and has written a series of articles attack non-Whites and immigration, and corresponded with many of the leaders of the Nazi and Far-Right fringes.

Hallett’s another Tory, having been a member of the Young Britons’ Foundation, The Conservative Way Forward and has run the Margaret Thatcher Centre, a museum dedicated to the foul leaderene. His articles have also been promoted by CulturalMarxism.Net, Infowars and American Renaissance, which has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as specialising in academic racism.

Liam Deacon is a former, moderately left-wing journo, whose articles became very anti-immigrant and right-wing in tone after he joined Breitbart. Jack Montgomery is an activist with the Leave.EU campaign.

The reports also lays out how Breitbart also provides a platform for extremists such as Geert Wilders, Katie Hopkins, Anne-Marie Waters and the anti-Islam campaigner, Robert Spencer, the founder of Jihad Watch, his colleague, Pamela Geller, Stephen Lennon, Ingrid Carlqvist, one of the writers at the infamous Gates of Vienna Blog, Frank Gaffney, a former director of nuclear forces and weapons under Ronald Reagan. Needless to say, he’s also anti-Islam and anti-immigration, and Daniel Pipes, another anti-Islam activist.

The article also discusses the way Breitbart in its comments section has given a platform to the members of the European Fascist right. This doesn’t just include the Front National, AfD and Wilders’ PVV, but also Jobbik in Hungary, the Golden Dawn in Greece, and the BNP. It also examines its highly distorted coverage of recent violence by Muslims and immigrants in Sweden.

A final section by the report’s author, Nick Lowles, considers Breitbart an important far-rightwing threat, and details the magazine’s intentions to monitor, rebut and combat it.

The report can be read at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/breitbart/breitbart-report-2017-03.pdf

Trump’s Victory Welcomed by European Far-Right

November 20, 2016

This is another short piece on how Trump represents the American part of a wave of Fascism and militant xenophobia that is on the rise throughout the West. In it, Ishaan Tharoor of the New York Times describes how Trump’s victory has been welcomed and celebrated by the European extreme right, including the Golden Dawn in Greece, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine le Pen, and the Front National in France. The clip from the Golden Dawn is particularly chilling, as it hails Trump as someone fighting against globalism and for an ethnically clean state. He concludes that the mixture of militant populism and racism fronted by a strong man figure is one that has also been attractive to American voters.

I’ve put this up because I do believe that Trump is part of the more widespread movement of Fascist and racist parties across Europe and the West and that his election victory will further encourage and stimulate these groups and their activities. Wilders wants Islam banned in the Netherlands. The French Front National are Nazis, as are the Golden Dawn, whose thugs go round beating up immigrants and murdering their political opponents. Decent people in the West, whether in America, France, Britain, Germany or wherever need to stand together against Fascism, regardless of where it appears and who endorses it in our countries. This is a major threat to the hard won freedoms of liberty and tolerance Europeans have fought for since at least the 17th century, and particularly the genocidal hatred that arose in the Nazi and associated Fascist parties in the 1920s and ’30s. We have to act, before these monsters seize power in our countries, and the pogroms and murders begin again.

The Push for War with Russia: Another Reaganite Policy?

September 8, 2016

I’ve also put up several pieces recently commenting on the increasing military tensions with Russia, and how NATO seems to be preparing for some kind of war with Russia next year. A few months ago a retired NATO general published a book with the title 2017: War with Russia, which forecasts that Putin will invade Latvia next year. We will retaliate to defend our NATO ally, and by May we and the Russians will be at war. I’ve also put up a video of George Galloway talking to the Stop the War coalition, in which he describes how he was told by a NATO general (the same one?) that British mothers may soon have to prepare themselves for sending their sons and daughters to shed their blood on the alliance’s eastern frontier. He was rightly scathing about this prediction.

There have also been several pieces in Counterpunch, reporting that Obama has stepped up production of nuclear weapons. In addition, he seems to be keen to develop limited nuclear bombs. The website and magazine also reported that the Washington Post had run an article claiming that various European countries, including us and the French, were demanding that America change its current policy against being the first to strike in a nuclear war.

This is terrifying stuff. I don’t know where the Washington Post got its story about we Europeans being so mad to have America initiate nuclear conflict. It hasn’t been reported this side of the Atlantic. I don’t know whether this was put forward in secret talks, or whether it’s a fabrication by the American military-industrial complex to encourage Obama to scrap the policy. After all, if he did, it would be just him showing how eager he is to defend us Europeans… I also don’t know, who these ‘Europeans’ demanding this change in military policy are. No-one asked me nor anyone I know. I also doubt that anyone has canvassed the opinion of the average Frenchman and -woman, Spaniards, Italians, Germans or the peoples of Scandinavia, the Netherlands or Ireland, let alone those further east.

It also appears to be another case of one of Reagan’s squalid policies coming back. In issue 11 of his Anti-Empire Report, William Blum reported

In 1984, Reagan spoke to a group of American newspaper editors about possibly limiting a nuclear war to Europe, without a single one of them regarding it as newsworthy. The fuss about his remarks only came after a European reporter had read the transcript. This of course says as much about American newspaper editors as it does about Reagan.

See: https://williamblum.org/aer/read/11

I can remember watching a piece on one of the Sunday morning news programmes back then, reporting plans for a possible nuclear war in Europe using battlefield nukes, which only had a limited range, unlike the current bombs that level whole cities. This seems to be the same idea, now being considered by Obama and the Neocons, particularly Hillary Clinton, given her highly aggressive posture on Russia.

For we Europeans, this is madness. A limited nuclear war in Europe will still leave our continent a scorched, radiation-poisoned desert from the Atlantic to the Urals. If this really is being considered, it shows just how dangerous and irresponsible our political and military leaders have become.

The Teacher’s Strike and Questionable Superiority of Independent Schools

July 5, 2016

Today teachers in some schools were going on strike in protest against Thicky Nicky’s proposed academisation of the state school system. The woman with the mad, staring eyes had originally wanted to turn all of Britain’s schools into academies, run by private education companies outside the control of the Local Education Authorities. She’s been forced to go back on this, so that not all schools will be so transformed. Nevertheless, she still wishes more schools were handed over to private sector management.

It’s another massively daft idea, which Mike has debunked several times over at Vox Political. He’s reblogged statistic after statistic and diagram after diagram showing how schools managed by the LEAs perform better and recover quicker from poor performance than either free schools or academies. But this goes by the wayside, as it contradicts over three decades of Thatcherite orthodoxy, which insists that private industry, responding to the free market, automatically knows how to run institutions and concerns better than state managers or educational professionals. As shown by the fact that Howling Mad Morgan herself has never stood in front of a chalkboard trying to teach a group of youngsters, well, just about anything. Like pretty much just about the rest of the Tory party, with the exception of Rhodes Boyson, one of Maggie’s education ministers, who had actually been a teacher.

The Tories’ and New Labour’s entire approach to education is thoroughly wrong. Rather than bringing educational standards down, LEAs and similar state regulators and inspectors in the private sector have been responsible for raising them, including in independent schools. In the 19th century, these varied massively in quality, and it was only with the foundation of the LEAs circa 1902 that standards began to improve and the very worst were forced to close. In the 1960s the numbers of independent schools were expected to decline even further. They didn’t, because the supplied a niche market for ambitious parents wishing to get their children into the elite grammar schools. This is all stated very clearly in S.J. Curtis’ and M.E.A. Boultwood’s An Introductory History of English Education Since 1800, 4th Edition (Foxton: University Tutorial Press 1970). They write:

During the last century [the 19th] schools varied greatly in efficiency. the Newcastle Commission sharply criticised a large number of them. At that time there was no legal obstacle to prevent any individual from opening a school in his own house, even if he possessed no qualification nor experience in teaching. Some of the cases singled out by the Commissioners seem almost inconceivable to a modern reader. These schools were not open to inspection, unless they asked for it, and the inefficient ones were not likely to do this. The Report of the Newcastle Commission gives numerous instances of the terrible conditions which were encountered when the Commissioners visited the worst types of private school. They reported: “When other occupations fail for a time, a private school can be opened, with no capital beyond the cost of a ticket in the window. Any room, however small and close, serves for the purpose; the children sit on the floor, and bring what books they please; whilst the closeness of the room renders fuel superfluous, and even keeps the children quiet by its narcotic effects. If the fees do not pay the rent, the school is dispersed or taken by the next tenant”. The mistresses were described as “generally advanced in life, and their school is usually their kitchen, sitting and bedroom”. The room “was often so small that the children stand in a semicircle round the teacher. Indeed, I have seen the children as closely packed as birds in a nest, and tumbling over each other like puppies in a kennel”.

The mistresses and masters would not be tolerated for one moment at the present day “None are too old, too poor, too ignorant, too feeble, too sickly, too unqualified in one or every way, to regard themselves, and to be regarded by others, as unfit for school-keeping – domestic servants out of place, discharged barmaids, vendors of toys or lollipops, keepers of small eating-houses, of mangles, or of small lodging houses, needlewomen who take on plain or slop work, milliners, consumptive patients in an advanced stage, cripples almost bedridden, persons of at least doubtful temperance, outdoor paupers, men and women of seventy and even

Evan as late as 1869, one school was described as being held “in a small low room, in aback court. There were forty-four boys of ages varying from four to fourteen. In the middle sat the master, a kindly man, but a hopeless cripple, whose lower limbs appeared to be paralysed, and who was unable to stand up. The boys formed a dense mass around him, swaying irregularly backwards and forwards, while he was feebly protesting against the noise. In a corner the wife was sitting minding the six or eight youngest children”. One wonders what kind of education the pupils received…(pp. 301-2).

The Commissioners came straight to the point when they offered an explanation for the popularity of private schools. To send a child to one of these institutions was a mark of respectability: “the children were more respectable and the teachers more inclined to fall in with the wishes of the parents. The latter, in choosing such schools for their children, stand in an independent position, and are not accepting a favour from their social superiors”. In fact, the motives of the parents could be summed up in the one word “snobbery”. (p. 302)

This was when many other countries, such as the Netherlands, Prussia and Switzerland, had a good school systems and a much higher literacy rate than in England.

Nevertheless, a sequence of reforms began in which good schools began to receive state grants and qualifications were issued to those wishing to teach. Schools also began to be inspected and the worst closed. Further reforms began with the education act of 1944, which opened up independent schools to state inspection.

The Government did not contemplate the closing of efficient private schools. The Act of 1944 directed the Minister of Education to appoint a Registrar of Independent Schools who should keep a register of them. Certain schools which were already recognised as efficient secondary schools, and some preparatory and private schools which had previously been inspected, were exempt from registration. A school found to be inefficient because of inadequate buildings, or an unqualified staff, or for some other grave reason, could be removed from the register. The proprietor was given the right of appeal to an Independent Schools’ Tribunal consisting of a chairman appointed by the Lord Chancellor from the legal profession and two other members appointed by the Lord President of the Council from persons who possessed teaching or administrative experience. No officials, either of the Ministry or of a L.E.A. are eligible for appointment.

This section of the Act could not be brought into operation at once because of the shortage of H.M.I.s and difficulties as regards building materials and labour and the lack of teachers, which made it unreasonable that schools should be required to remedy their deficiencies within a fixed time. By March 1949 the situation had eased, and the inspection of independent schools began and continued at the rate of about 150 a month. By 1957, the Ministry had recognised 1,450 independent schools as efficient, and it was considered that this section of the Act could be put into force completely. In July of that year, proprietors were notified that they would be required to register their schools by 31 March 1958. The registration was provisional, and its continuance depended upon the kind of report rendered by the inspectors after their visit. During 1957, 145 schools were closed, of which 138 were of recent origin and which had become known to the Ministry for the first time. This is a comment on the strictness with which earlier regulations had been enforced.

It was expected that the number of private schools would rapidly decrease after 1944, but this did not happen. The reason was that many middle-class parents were faced with a difficult problem. Their children could not obtain entry to a grammar school unless they were qualified through the grammar school selection test at eleven plus. The only other way open to them was through a public or direct grant school, and these had a long waiting list. Competition was so keen that few children who failed to pass the grammar school entrance test would be considered. The result was that a number of private schools which offered an education similar to that given by the grammar school came into existence. The necessity of registration and inspection guaranteed their efficiency. Moreover, some primary schools, run by private teachers who were qualified, opened their doors to young children whose parents were anxious for them to pass the selection test. (p. 304).

I’ve also heard from talking to friends of mine that many of the smaller public schools in the 19th and early 20th century, such as those depicted in the Billy Bunter comic of a certain vintage, were in a very precarious economic position. They depended very much on fee-paying parents, and could not offer any more than a mere handful of free places to pupils or risk bankruptcy.

And instead of raising standards for schools, successive right-wing administrations from Thatcher’s onwards have actually lowered them. You don’t need a teaching qualification to teach at a private school. And the impression I’ve had that in order to make privately operated schools economically viable, the government has allowed them to make pay and conditions actually worse for the teaching and ancillary staff.

So the evidence, historical and based on contemporary statistics and conditions, points to academies actually being less efficient, and providing our children with a worse education than schools managed by the LEAs. But what’s this when measured against Thatcherite orthodoxy, and the need to provide a lucrative income stream to fat cat donors in the academy chains.

Empire Files: The Tyranny of Big Oil

January 19, 2016

This is another excellent video from the Empire Files. In this edition, the presenter, Abby Martin, discusses the power and corruption at the heart of the industry, from the emergence of the first oil monopoly under the Rockefellers, to the effect control of the market, the economy and US and global politics by a few firms, such as Standard Oil, Chevron, Mobil and, of course, BP. These firms have reaped massive profits, and are able to act with impunity to trash the environment, and destroy lives and livelihoods by buying the loyalty of politicians in both the Republican and Democrat parties. Through their influence in the media and in academia, they suppress or distort climate science to allow the continuing massive destruction of Earth’s fragile ecosystem through oil spills, global warming and the effects of fracking.

Martin begins by describing how oil wealth is at the very heart of US imperialism. Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Qatar have all been set up as ‘oil monarchies’ founded on its power. She describes how John D. Rockefeller climbed to his position as the world’s first oil billionaire through strong arm tactics used against the other oil firms. Rockefeller was the owner and founder of Standard Oil. He made a deal with the railway companies, which he used to force the other companies in the nascent oil companies to sell up to him. When this didn’t work, he bought their pipelines, and then used his power there to force them to give in. Eventually, Standard Oil owned 90% of all US refineries, and had a workforce of about 150,000 men. Rockefeller was, unsurprisingly, bitterly anti-union, and so they had no union representation. And since him the power of the oil tycoons subverts democracy in the US and imperils the Earth.

Martin then interviews Antonia Juhasz, the author of the book, The Tyranny of Oil, written during the final years of the Bush administration about the massive political, human rights’ and economic abuses of the oil industry. She states that Obama is not as tied to the oil industry as Bush was, but nevertheless he was not confronting the industry’s power. She then moved on to discuss the rise of deep drilling in oil rigs off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The age of easy oil, where all you had to do was stick a pipe into the ground and out it would come is over. Most of the world’s oil is already claimed, and that which isn’t, is difficult to get to. As a result, oil drilling went further out into the ocean and deeper. And the results were blow-outs and spills. Such as the BP blowout in 2012. This resulted in the deaths of a million birds. To disperse the oil, 2 million gallons of a chemical were used which made it 42% more toxic. It also caused the deaths of eleven men. During the investigation it became clear that BP actually had no plans what to do in the eventuality of a spill. They simply counted on learning it ‘on the fly’. And the result was the world’s largest offshore oil spill to date. Juhasz states that she herself saw some of the resulting ecological devastation from a submarine. All the local wildlife that could get out of the area, did. The animals and plants that couldn’t, in her words, ‘were nuked’. There’s nothing down there except a tarry blanket of oil that will be there forever.

Martin also has as another of her speakers the left-wing journalist, Greg Palast. He reveals that BP had a spill 17 months previously in the Caspian Sea. This was covered up by the company itself, the Azerbaijani government – which he terms the Islamic Republic of Azerbaijan, because it’s so completely owned by BP – and also the American government’s State Department under Condoleeza Rice. Why the American government? Because the spill was partly due to BP using an American quick-drying cement. Despite this, the US Defense Department doubled their contracts with BP.

The Gulf Coast blow-out cost BP $17 billion in fines. This is a staggering amount of money, but not nearly as much as the company should have been fined. The Bush administration passed a number of extremely strict environmental laws. If these had been properly applied, then BP would have been hit with a fine of $200 billion. This would have made it difficult for the company to continue operating. As it was, the company said that the fine they eventually got was ‘manageable’.

The programme also discusses the immense political power the oil industry has through the banking lobby, and the power of the big corporations over the Senate. In the early part of last century, pressure from the Progressive Party and mass protests and agitation caused the US government to pass the anti-trust laws and break up Standard Oil, not least because they also wanted to destroy the unions. This was fragmented into 34 separate companies. These, however, are beginning to coagulate and reform back into a single giant trust as they merge and buy each other out. BP was a prime example of this. The company only got into America because it bought a US company, Arco. By the time Standard Oil had been broken up in 1911, Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire. At that time the world’s oil industry was owned by only three dynasties – the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds and the Dutch royal family.

This dependence on oil and the power of the oil industry has shaped the structure of American cities. The oil industry has done everything it can to destroy public transport systems. In 1949 the system of streetcars in one US city was destroyed through illegal action taken jointly by General Motors and the oil industry. The legislation passed to protect the environment contains massive exemptions for the oil industry. The corruption goes deep into government. Three of every four lobbyist for dirty energy used to work for the US government. 430 + congressmen have ties to the oil industry. And the industry has already given $35 million to political candidates for 2016. Dick Cheney was part of the industry, duly drafting legislation in its favour. Condoleeza Rice sat on the board of Chevron. And under Obama America has become the world’s top producer of oil and gas.

The programme then moves on to fracking, and the disastrous effects this has had on North Dakota. This state has been overnight transformed into an oil-producing environment. It contrasts with the other areas, where the industry has been around longer and so people have had time to get used to it and organise resistance. The state’s beautiful countryside of rolling hillsides and buttes, including a Native American reservation, are now disrupted by flaring, in which natural gas is burnt off. In neighbouring Oklahoma there have been 600 earthquakes in a single year due to the dumping of the waste water produced by fracking.

As for politics and the oil industry, the programme states that the oil industry now is the American political process. It’s not as bad under Obama as it was under Bush. Then big oil was the American government. The power of the oil industry is still there, but it’s now more subtle. Palast describes how every Republican candidate in the US elections is frantically in favour of the Excel pipeline, to the point where one of them even said that ‘you have to love it.’ This is directly due to the Koch brothers. The Koch brother bought a big refinery on the coast. However, there are laws that prevent them from using Texan oil. So they have to import ‘heavy’ oil from elsewhere. This is either Venezuela, where they’ll have to try to remove opposite by ousting Chavez or Madura, or to import it from Canada. This is the Excel pipeline, from which the Koch brothers will each get an extra $1 billion a year. Just as the Republicans are connected to the oil companies, so the Democrats have their links to BP. Obama has approved drilling in the Arctic. Palast describes how he was at one of the communities that may be affect, Qoqtovik, where he was told by one of the local Inuit that if drilling started, ‘it was over for them as a people there’. And if there is a spill in the arctic, it’ll go under the ice cap all the way to Norway.

Martin and her guests also discuss why it is Americans are so ignorant about climate change. The problem is that the oil industry buys up America’s academics. Palast states that almost every biologist in America is on BP’s payroll through grants from the Lawrence Livermore laboratory, which were donated by BP. And what happened to biology has also happened to climate science. The oil industry will also exaggerate the importance and status of dissenting scientists through the press. One flagrant example of this was when NPR, which Palast calls National Petroleum Radio, stated that the oil spill in the Gulf would be eaten by ‘oil-eating’ bacteria. This piece of disinformation came courtesy of a $1/2 billion grant to Lawrence Livermore by BP. The press, however, never informed its readers that the release and the science was paid for by that company. America no longer has an investigative press. They simply state that some people say this, while other have an opposite opinion.

Another example of corporate control over academia was in the case of Von Heerden, a meteorologist at Louisiana’s Hurricane Center. One month before Hurricane Katrina hit, Von Heerden warned that New Orleans could be under water due to the oil industry’s destruction of the neighbouring mangrove swamps for 100 miles. And 30 days later, New Orleans was under water. Instead of celebrating this man for his warning and efforts to save the city, the state closed down the Hurricane Centre and replace it with a Wetlands Centre. This was due to the state receiving a massive cheque from the oil companies, who specified that they would also choose the staff to be employed in the new Centre.

And globally the environmental damage from the oil industry is devastating, to the point where the future of the planet is in grave danger. The UN in 2015 stated for the very worst effects of climate change to be avoided, three-quarters of the world’s fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Yet in the US alone there have been 20,000 oil spills a year. In the Niger Delta they have had to put up with the consequences of the devastation equivalent to an Exxon-Mobil spill every year for the past fifty years, due to untouchable oil corporations. In 2013, 1.15 million gallons of oil was spilled due to derailed trains. The preferred mode of transport for the oil industry nevertheless remains road. From 2008 to 2012 550 workers in the oil industry were killed in industrial accidents. This is a deathrate eight times higher than the other industries. And yet the world’s use of oil is completely unnecessary. Stanford University developed a plan to transfer America entirely to renewable energy, state by state, by 2050. The cost of the Iraq War alone could have financed the world’s transition to renewables. However, the power of the oil industry will only be destroyed when the power of the American Empire is also destroyed.

Forget Fracking – Space Solar Power is the Real Alternative to Middle East Oil

December 18, 2015

Solar Power Satellites

An Array of Space Solar Power Satellites from O’Neill The High Frontier.

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a number of articles about the threat fracking poses to our homes, our communities and our environment. The Greens and community groups are very concerned about environmental damage done by such shale oil extraction. In America, the dangers posed by fracking has been highlighted by the documentary, Gasland, which shows areas where the water table has been so heavily contaminated by the gases pumped in to free the oil, that there’s footage of people setting the drinking water from their taps alight. I’ve seen other claims from the right that dispute the authenticity of that footage, at least as it applies to fracked chemicals. But there is much other evidence that fracking is unsafe and poisonous. Much like the Tories and the Republicans, who are its biggest supporters.

In the West Country near where I live, the residents of Keynsham have been concerned about fracking on their doorstep. And this week Mike reblogged a report that the Tories had passed legislation permitting fracking under the National Parks, the most beautiful areas of our Sceptred Isle. One of the arguments the Repugs have trotted out in America to justify and promote fracking is that this will somehow make America independent of Middle Eastern oil. Good, patriotic Americans need never have to worry about their dollars getting into the hands of oppressive Middle Eastern regimes or Islamist terrorist groups.

In fact, there is already a scientific alternative to oil, that deserves serious consideration because of it potential to alleviate pollution and the industrial pressure on Earth’s fragile ecosystem: Space Solar Power. Gerard K. O’Neill, one of the major pioneers and advocates of space colonisation, was strongly in favour of developing power stations out in space that would turn the Sun’s rays into energy that could be safely beamed back to Earth. Such energy could then be used to power vehicles, homes and industry without the harmful environmental impact of fossil fuels. Margo R. Deckard, a member of the Space Frontier Foundation, also described its immense ecological potential in her paper ‘A Technology for A Better Future: Space Solar Power An Unlimited Energy Source’ in the third edition of O’Neill’s book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (Ontario: Space Studies Institute/Apogee Book 200). She wrote

A fundamental challenge in the next century is how to meet the world’s growing energy needs from an environmental perspective. We must meet this challenge to provide the opportunity for prosperity to all humans. Fortunately, the Sun supplies the Earth with an abundance of clean and natural energy. Space Solar Power or SSP, is a means of collecting that energy and beaming it down to the Earth wherever it is needed. SSP may be the key to meeting this challenge. SSP could be an environmentally friendly, economical energy producing technology that simultaneously promotes the human realization that the Earth is an open system while protecting the Earth’s fragile biosphere.

She is also very much aware of the power of the Green lobby and an increasing ecologically aware public, and the potential of these groups to support the development of such power systems as well as world governments.

The following chapter, ‘Space Solar Power stations for the 21st Century’ by Peter E. Glaser further outlines the advantages of this technology. He argues

The concept of SSPS has been validated by studies undertaken by the international technical community, and supported by academic institutions, industry and governments. The results of these studies are reported in the substantial literature on the associated technical, economic, ecological and societal issues.

There is a growing consensus that SSPS could deliver sufficient energy in the form of electricity for most conceivable future human needs thereby:

* Increasing the standard of living of all inhabitants on Earth,
* Stabilising population growth,
* Safeguarding the ecology of the Earth,
* Averting potential global instabilities caused by efforts to control increasingly scarcer terrestrial energy resources, and
* Enabling the development of a spacefaring civilisation.

Space Solar Power Stations have been studied for 45 years or more, since the first international meeting was convened in the Netherlands in 1970. Among the nations that have researched such power stations are the US, Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, Japan and China. Glaser also notes that all nations are legally entitled to benefit from such energy resources under the UN Treaty Principles governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies.

And the current crisis in the Middle East should show how solar power, and particularly Space Solar Power, is a reliable and viable alternative to oil. Science Fiction frequently provides a literary Gedankenexperiment for writers to explore the possibilities in science, technology and human society that could emerge in the future. Donald Kingsbury’s short story, The Moon Goddess and the Son, is about a romance between a teenage girl, who has run away from her violent father in the hope of settling on the Moon, and the son of one of Moon colony’s leading engineers, who heartily loathes the place. The story was first published in 1979. Despite their difficulties, all ends well for the star-crossed couple. The son learns to love the Moon, and settles down as one of the engineers there. He marries the girl, who makes her living running the local bar and restaurant. The story takes place against a backdrop of political instability in the Middle East. Funding for the lunar colony looks uncertain, until there is a Communist revolution in Saudi Arabia. At which point, funding suddenly increases as Congress decides they desperately need to find an alternative energy source to oil. Space Solar Power is one of these. Eventually the Communists are defeated and the Saudi royal family restored. The lesson has been learnt, and the colony continues to develop.

Okay, so there are significant differences to today. Fortunately, the Saudis haven’t been toppled, and the threat is Islamism rather than Communism. However, there is still a threat to global oil supplies, and the Islamists are hoping to use their oil wealth to finance their wretched regimes. It would seem the opportunity is right for the development of such space-based power industries.

As for the cost of setting up such stations, it would admittedly be extremely expensive. However, way back at the start of this century I went to a meeting of the British Interplanetary Society in London about the development of space tourism. One of the speakers, a specialist in construction, stated that the costs of developing a space hotel would be equivalent to building a high-rise building on Earth. As for space power, I think he argued that it would be comparable to setting up the national grid today. In other words, they’re very expensive, but no more so than conventional, terrestrial buildings and industries, whose construction is definitely not seen as excessive.

Of course, you don’t have to go into space to get power from the Sun. Hundreds of thousands across the country are probably doing it by having solar panels on the roof of their homes and businesses. And that’s clearly annoyed the Tories, as they’re cutting funding for solar power and other renewables, just as their Republican counterparts across the Pond are doing in the Land of the Free.

The real reasons for it have less to do with the supposed disadvantages of solar power, and far more to do with the massive subsidies the oil companies receive from the US taxpayer due to giving donations to finance the campaigns of their pet politicians. And I strongly suspect that the same applies over here, especially in the Tory party, which has always promoted itself as ‘the party of business’.

Don’t be fooled by Dave Cameron gazing rapt at the TV screen as Tim Peake heads off into space. He wants the elan of backing Britain in space, but he doesn’t want us to develop the High Frontier’s vast potential for clean power, or have to put government money into anything that isn’t strictly terrestrial and won’t benefit his corporate backers. And that means he is definitely not going to put his or anybody else’s money into solar power, whether in space or down here. Why develop clean, renewable energy when his paymasters will make billions trashing the environment?

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Republicans Blocking International Disabled Rights Legislation

March 30, 2015

This is another piece of news from America, which is also relevant over here. In it, the left-wing news anchor and political commentator Rachel Maddow discusses the Republicans’ refusal to ratify an international treaty promoted disabled rights and accessibility worldwide. The treaty is itself based on legislation, which George Bush SNR signed was back in 1990. Maddow describes it as making the American laws stipulating public access for disabled people the ‘gold standard’ around the world. It had large, bi-partisan support, and was being promoted by the both the leaders of the Democrats and Republicans. This included John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, who addressed the senate from his wheelchair.

It was, however, turned down and blocked by the Repugs for what Maddow describes as ‘tin-foil hat’ reasons, that she said she wouldn’t dignify by repeating. If it’s like other international legislation that has been voted against by the Republicans, then my guess is that it involved fears about loss of sovereignty. Almost a decade ago, when the American Right was loudly denouncing Islam for the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, they refused to support an international motion in the United Nations to ban it around the world. Why? The reason appears to me to be the same reason that America has never signed up to the Human Rights court to try war crimes in the Hague. There’s a deep, pernicious fear amongst Republicans of allowing foreign nations reciprocal rights over the US. It contravenes the deep feelings of American exceptionalism in the party. This demands that America should have the freedom and power to enforce its moral standards around the world, but should never have to submit to legal constraints or judgements from other countries. This piece of news shows how far this attitude seems to go, right up to the point where it actually contravenes an American initiative to promote their standards as that of the world’s on a social issue.

I also decided to put this up because of the brief background information it gives on the disability rights movement in the US. Or at least that part of it, which campaigned for mandatory access to public transport. It came from a group called ADAPT – Americans Disabled for Access to Public Transport, which was set up in Denver in 1983. They staged a series of campaigns where they tried to get on buses en masse, despite being turned away and arrested, as the video shows. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove include a piece by the Bristolian disability activist, Liz Crowe, ‘Catching Buses’, in their anthology of radical historical texts, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport. In it, Crowe describes her campaign to get disabled people access to public transport. The piece is from 1999, nine years after George Bush made it law in America.