Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Good News! Daily Mail Panicking about Drop in Tory Support

December 11, 2019

Hooray! Great news from the front page headline of the Heil. Britain’s most infamous Mosley-supporting paper is desperately worried about the sudden decline of Tory popularity in the polls. The rag’s leading headline today urges its readers not to ‘Sleepwalk into Catastrophe’. The Tory lead apparently has dropped so low, that’s urging them to go and vote to stop ‘the biggest crisis facing this country since the War’.

Well, I’m glad some people are seeing sense and turning away from the Tories. Hopefully Mike is right on his blog, that Boris’ cavalier dismissal of the picture of the little boy forced to lie on blankets in the corridor at Leeds hospital has turned the tide against the Nasty Party, in the same way that Gordon Brown’s contemptuous sneer of a female voter in Scotland as ‘some bigot’ lost him the 2010 election.

As for the election of a Labour government being the greatest crisis since the War, all Jeremy Corbyn’s doing is actually restoring the old social democratic consensus. You know, nationalised industries, a welfare state, the NHS, strong trade unions and employment legislation that protected employees. You know, the policies that the public actually voted for after the end of the War when Labour won a landslide election under Clement Attlee.

But Corbyn and his government are threatening to undo forty years of triumphalist, predatory and disastrous Thatcherism. The Thatcherism that has destroyed our manufacturing industries, impoverished working people, the unemployed and the disabled. Policies that are killing the NHS, and have killed 130,000 people through austerity. But that’s not a catastrophe, because the rich are profiting massively, even though living standards are being pushed down for the rest of us.

But while it’s great to see the Heil and Tories panicking, there is no cause for complacency. We aren’t assured of victory, and the Tories are trying to muster their troops to win the election. We can’t afford to let them.

Please everyone, get out and vote. And vote to get them out!

Tory Candidate Recommends Paying Mentally Handicapped Less than Ordinary People

December 9, 2019

There really couldn’t be a clearer statement of the Tories’ contempt for society’s weaker, less privileged and disabled members. Mike put up a piece today reporting that the Tory candidate for Amber Rudd’s old constituency of Hastings & Rye, Sally Ann Hart, managed to outrage people at a local husting with her recommendation on how much people with learning difficulties should be paid. She said that they should earn less than people of normal intelligence, because ‘they don’t understand money’ (!) This lead to shouts of ‘Shameful!’ and one person in the audience shouting that they were autistic, and they wanted to get paid for the work they do. As they should.

Amber Rudd, when she held that constituency, only had a majority of 346 votes over Labour. After this, Mike reckons that the Labour candidate, Peter Chowney, might just take it. And Mike also makes it clear what Hart’s comment means:

I think it means it is Conservative policy to rip off and shortchange people whenever and wherever they think it is possible.

Never mind whether they do a good job or not, if someone has a learning disability, the Tories are saying not only that you can – but that you should – pay them less money.

He goes on to describe what the Tories’ re-election would mean for other disabled people across Britain.

But we can see what kind of nation the Tories would create if they are elected into government again on December 12: one in which the hostile environment they have already built for disabled people would spill over into open contempt, with more pushed into poverty, and possibly even more deaths than we’ve seen in the last nine years of Tory misrule.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/08/will-labour-take-hastings-rye-after-conservative-candidates-disablist-remark/

The Tories really do amaze me. Just when you think they couldn’t get lower or scummier, they do. Their morals are so low they’re subterranean. And I also wonder if Hart herself isn’t a bit defective in the old grey matter. Years ago I read a piece in New Scientist about some of the problems suffered by people with injuries or other impairments to specific parts of their brain. One region of the brain apparently regulates morality. According to the neurologist interview by the magazine, those of his patients who’ve suffered damage to that area will do things like start eating the food off other peoples’ plates in restaurants. They do so simply because, with that part of their brain not working correctly, they no longer understand that’s not the right thing to do.

It’s tempting to speculate that Sally Ann Hart may have a similar mental impairment. But sadly, I doubt it. She doesn’t appear to have suffered any damage to her brain. She just has a nasty attitude to the disabled.

As for disabled people not understanding money, while that’s no doubt true of some, it most certainly isn’t true of others. Some autistic people, for example, are superb mathematicians, but find it difficult to cope in social situations. And there are too many people of normal intelligence, who are unable to deal properly with money. I’ve heard stories of people falling on severe financial difficulties because the money they should have used to pay the rent or the mortgage they’ve instead spent on an expensive car or luxury holiday to somewhere exotic. They’ve made a stupid choice, but they aren’t mentally handicapped and shouldn’t be paid less for their work either.

But Hart’s comments about the disabled also reveals much about the wider Tory viewpoint, at least for some members of the party. One writer on American Neoconservativism believed that they had an essentially Hobbesian worldview. That is, they followed the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes in considering people purely as isolated units in society, engaged in a ‘war of each against all’. This also seems to be Hart’s thinking, in which those physically, mentally or socially inferior are to be taken advantage of and exploited. Because they are unable to cope for themselves, and so ultimately it’s for their benefit. Hence the punitive benefit sanctions and the Work Capability Test. These may strike everyone with an ounce of compassion and objectivity as grossly unfair and cruel to the point of murder, but to the Tories it’s all for the good of those at the receiving end of it. They have to be kept in line, even by exploitation, as they cannot cope and function as proper, self-reliant, responsible members of society otherwise.

It’s a disgusting attitude. Stop this Tory exploitation of the disabled and, indeed, anyone else on Thursday. Get them out, and Corbyn in!

Boris Johnson’s Speech Promoting NHS Privatisation

December 8, 2019

Last Wednesday Mike wrote a piece demolishing the Tories’ claim that more people trusted them with the NHS than Jeremy Corbyn. It showed how the Tories are privatising the Health Service, and included a video from Red Roar of a 2002 speech by the boorish profiteer masquerading as our Prime Minister. In it, Johnson talks about the number of people taking out private health insurance, and demanded an end to the ‘monolithic, monopolistic’ NHS. The post containing the video is at https://www.theredroar.com/2019/12/exclusive-clip-boris-johnson-called-for-break-up-of-monolithic-monopolistic-nhs/

And see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/04/who-do-you-trust-with-the-nhs-boris-privatisation-johnson-or-jeremy-investment-corbyn/

Johnson was annoyed because Gordon Brown, the-then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had closed a tax loophole for people with private health insurance. As a result, 200,000 people had closed their policies. He then waffled on about how he supported the inclusion of private healthcare into public healthcare policy because he’d seen how much better those nations that included it were than the NHS, and not just because they were generally better funded.

Now let’s deal with this tripe. The NHS has always been underfunded ever since its inception. When it was set up the Labour government did not build any new hospitals. That had to wait. Nevertheless, the NHS was an immediate improvement of what came before it. Previously millions of Brits had only been able to afford healthcare through private insurance. There was state health insurance, but only a for a limited number of workers. There also were charity hospitals, but these varied immensely in quality. The very poorest could expect to be treated at municipal infirmaries, but the treatment there could also be extremely poor. Millions of Brits therefore had no proper health coverage, and so suffered from poor health and inadequate treatment.

Britain has since lagged behind many other countries in the Developed World in the amount of state funding given to its health service, and in provision of hospitals and other services. These aren’t necessarily improved through private enterprise. The Private Finance Initiative, which was supposed to increase funding for the construction of hospitals through opening them up to private investment, hasn’t worked. Private enterprise does not like shouldering the costs of construction and operation, and expects the state to bail them out when things go wrong. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis point out in their book NHS – SOS that private hospitals are generally smaller than those built and run by the state. The PFI has been marked by massive cost overruns, and the closure of existing hospitals as part of cost-cutting measures. The new hospitals built to replace them have often been smaller, despite being more expensive. And private healthcare does not wish to treat the old, the poor, or people with pre-existing conditions, as there is little or no profit in them. They make their profit treating relatively fit, healthy people. Hence the Tory conference one year, according to Private Eye, had a talk sponsored by one of the private healthcare companies about how the Health Service could do something for the ‘worried well’. It’s also why the American healthcare companies, as well as our own, like BUPA, Circle Health, and Virgin Healthcare, are so desperate to get NHS contracts.

Johnson seems to be supporting something like the Swiss healthcare system. This is a mixture of state and private health insurance. For the poorest, their health insurance is paid entirely by the state. The richest also have purely private health insurance. Most people have a mixture. Now the Swiss woman, who told me this believed that her country had better hospitals than ours, but she felt that her country would still face a similar decline in medical provision through cuts in state funding. I am also unsure what the cost of private medical insurance for most people would be if such a system was introduced in Britain. But whatever it would be, most people would still end up having to pay for some medical services, and these would not be cheap.

The NHS should not privatised, but that is exactly what Boris Johnson wishes to do. And people’s health will suffer. Don’t let him and the Tories do it. Vote Labour, and keep the NHS properly nationalised and funded.

 

Jeremy Corbyn Denounces Universal Credit at Bangor University in Wales

December 8, 2019

Please hold your noses for this, as it’s a video from the Torygraph. It’s of part of speech Corbyn made at Bangor University in Wales in which the Labour leader denounces Universal Credit, pledges not to sell off the NHS, make Social Care universally available, bring the utilities back into public ownership, give remote communities broadband internet, and compensate WASPI women. And the pride with which he describes his announcement that the Labour party would end Universal Credit in Iain Duncan Smith’s own constituency is a direct challenge to the wretched policy’s architect. The Labour leader begins

In 2010 a political choice was made. They could have invested for the future. Instead, they decided to cut for the present and damage the life chances of a whole generation of people all across the UK. And that austerity started off with Universal Credit being rolled out. Universal Credit, which is cruel in the way it operates, brutal in the way it does PIP assessments, Work Assessments, the way in which it does not give support to children in larger families…

I was very proud to go to Chingford and Woodford Green in the northeast of London, a constituency represented by Iain Duncan Smith and announce a Labour government will end Universal Credit. This is greeted with applause.

You can’t cut your way to prosperity! You invest your way to prosperity! And there’s no more important investment than investing in young people, children and the next generation. And that is what – applause – and that is what I want our Labour government to do. More applause.

Under Labour our NHS is not for sale to anybody… I want Social Care available for everybody all across the UK and I’ll save this today(?) to make that available. Applause.

Our manifesto here, this wonderful red book, I’ve got two red books, one in which I write my memoirs, notes and speeches,  and this one is the manifesto – they’re actually much the same thing really….

We, the Labour government, will compensate the WASPI women. Applause.

I’ll give you an example. Less than 18 hours after he’d become Prime Minister he came to parliament to make a statement and announced there were going to be 40 new hospitals. I was very impolite and asked him where they were going to be. Corbyn then imitates Johnson’s blustering manner, saying there’s no answer to that, old boy, it’s not possible, how can I possibly know…

A Labour government will be one that will empower people but will also ensure that public ownership comes back for rail, mail and water, the national grid,  and that we will – applause – we will invigorate poor and remote communities by broadband to every part of the UK within 10 years. 

These are great policies which will make this country a better, more prosperous and more equal place. A place were it’s people will get the health and social care they need and deserve, women the pensions they should have had, if it weren’t for the Tories, and an end to the austerity that has killed 130,000 people at minimum.

And against that the Tories are offering just more poverty, privatisation, starvation and misery, but are trying to deny this with smears and lies.

Get them out, and Corbyn in!

It’s Hammer Time! Cassetteboy’s Latest Video Against Boris Johnson

December 8, 2019

Mike put this up on his blog a few days ago, but it’s well worth repeating and publicising. Cassetteboy is another group of fun-filled pranksters like JOE, who produce satirical videos by carefully editing the speeches and actions of the great and not-so-good so that they appear stupid and nonsensical. They’ve done this yet again to our unfunny, murderous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to reveal how stupid, cruel and massively unjust his government and its policies are. They’ve edited it so that he’s reciting a description of his failings and injustices to the tune of MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’. Which, due to Johnson’s own massive deceitfulness and mendacity, has been changed to the chorus ‘Can’t trust me’.

The video begins with Johnson repeatedly stammering out ‘My, my, my’ and then

‘My Brexit is so hard

Makes you say

“Oh my word.

What about my job security?

Sick pay, healthcare and the economy?”

These are the things

You need to discuss

When I say

“Brexit won’t hurt you much!”

Remember the lies on the side of a bus,

I am a guy who you can’t trust.’

There then appears the caption ‘Sacked by the Times for lying’.

He goes on, singing

‘Can’t trust me.

Then another caption ‘Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for lying’.

Can’t trust me.

I promised thousands more police

But that’s less than we already cut.

If you trust me you must be off your nut.

I lied to the Queen to get Parliament shut.

I say the Tory party ‘Is the party of prosperity

But not for the 130,000 people killed by our austerity.

Nor for disabled people robbed of money and their dignity.

Or the millions of children our policies

Have left in child poverty.

Are those kids mine? probably not

But I won’t admit how many I’ve got’

Another caption here, ‘Wont admit how many kids he has’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

Then another caption: ‘Lied to the Queen to illegally shut down Parliament’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

‘The planet now is burning at a terrifying rate

And I don’t even turn up to the climate change debate.

And now let me say this, two of my biggest disgraces

Are of course that I’m homophobic and a racist.

Stop. Stammer time.’

The video then moves into footage of Johnson stuttering and stammering away, under which appears another caption, (Affected waffle, disguising genuine lack of preparation, competence and decency).

‘Stop. Stammer time.’

One more thing before this ends,

You don’t judge a man’, and the next voice is that of Donald Trump, completing the sentence, ‘by his friends’.

‘Our standards will fall with a bump as I align us all with Trump,

Allow the NHS to fail and off it to Trump for sale.

It will no longer belong to you though I say

That’s not what we’ll do.

Is that true? Here’s one way of proving if I’m lying

if my lips are moving.

Another caption: ‘Won’t apologist for racist and homophobic comments.’

‘Can’t trust me.’

And then the screen is filled with text showing his various failed and harmful policies.

‘Can’t trust me’.

The richest have tax loopholes

While schools can’t afford loo rolls.

We’ve failed the NHS and left the country in a mess and

To the best to fix it are myself and Rees-Mogg

Is like expecting dog shit to be cleaned up by the dog.’

The video ends with a black screen on which the slogan ‘Vote Boris Out’ is written in white text. There’s then the Cassetteboy jingle, the sound of someone sighing or snoozing, and a final scene of Johnson making a throat-cutting gesture at LBC.

The dialogue’s invented, but everything it says is true.

Vote him out!

Here’s the video.

 

 

 

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

December 4, 2019

I love the smell of Tory fear in the morning! You can tell how desperate the party of Thatcher and Johnson are when they’re reduced to lies and smears. Not that they were above them anyway, but now they seem to be rapidly abandoning any attempt at fair play. Mike reports that an article in today’s Groaniad reveals that the Tory party is equipping its doorstep campaigners with special dossiers they are to use against their opponents. There’s a 17 page one for Labour, and a 19 page one for the Liberal Democrats. These manuals contain such fictional statements that Labour’s immigration policy would open the door to 840,000 migrants a year, and that the Lib Dems are trying to push sex work as an appropriate career for schoolchildren and policies that are pro-pimp.

Mike comments that people seem to believe some of this nonsense, but that it isn’t putting them off voting Labour. Someone had tweeted him personally that in spite of Labour’s ‘open door policy on immigration’, they were still going to vote for the party. As this person was doing the right thing, Mike didn’t correct them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/03/not-sporting-not-working-tories-are-using-manuals-to-smear-rivals-but-they-arent-changing-minds/

Okay, the accusation that Labour is in favour of open door immigration and this country being swamped with non-White immigrants has been a staple of the right and the far right since forever and a day. It’s one of the constant lines – or lies – repeated by newspapers like the Heil, for example. The other stereotypical smear against Labour, and one which Private Eye has parodied mercilessly in the past, is that a Labour government will bring mortgage prices down. I haven’t seen jokes about that line recently in the magazine, perhaps because if the Heil actually did run, the exorbitant house prices at the moment would mean that Labour’s vote would actually go up.

But the accusation that the Lib Dems are promoting pimping and prostitution is a new one. I think it comes from a conference the Lib Dems held a year or so ago, which was about improve conditions for sex workers. One of the talks was about taking the stigma out of it. But the Lib Dems don’t seem to pushing pro-pimp policies or encouraging schoolgirls to get jobs as prostitutes.

But it does seem more than a tad hypocritical on the part of the Tories as they are and have been.

Way back in the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher that was unchaining the power of private industry, one industry that a certain section of her minions definitely wanted unchained from state prohibition was prostitution. There was a certain section within the Tory party, as I recall, that wanted it legalised. I think they used the same arguments for it that have been around ever since the late 17th century-early 18th century economist Bernard Mandeville put them forward. Mandeville was an early advocate of free trade against the prevailing mercantilism, in which the state rigidly regulated trade between nations and colonies. Mandeville wanted publicly funded brothels. These, he argued, would allow the men, who used prostitutes to satisfy their lusts legally, while protecting decent women from their attentions. I think the Lib Dems, who set up the conference also had a feminist angle. They seem to have felt that if prostitution was legalised, it could be properly regulated to keep the prostitutes themselves safe. I think the models for such legislation are the continent and Australia. I’m sceptical that these arguments actually work in practice. But the main point here is that the Lib Dems haven’t necessarily promoted anything that the Tories weren’t debating nearly forty years ago.

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

It is by and large the last refuge of the poor and desperate, women and men who can’t make ends meet any other way. Under Thatcher there was a series of scandals in which Tory politicos were caught using rent boys. So much so that there was a sketch on Spitting Image in which a Tory politician, explaining what his government has done to the nation, declares that it has opened lots of work for young men to a lad. When the lad asks what work it is, the Tory replies that it is as a rent boy, and he’ll see him later.

More recently, there were reports a few years ago about female students turning to prostitution in order to pay the tuition fees that New Labour introduced, but the Tories and Lib Dems increased.

And let’s not forget another incident, in which a Jobcentre had to apologise for suggesting that work in sex shops was a suitable occupation for women wishing to get off the dole.

I don’t know, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there had been an increase in prostitution in general as women were forced to turn to it simply to keep body and soul together through the poverty Tory welfare cuts, wage freezes and zero hours contracts have caused.

The Lib Dems may not have been actively promoting prostitution with their conference, but the Tories have also openly advocated it and their policies are pushing vulnerable women into it through the poverty they’re creating.

Astronomer Vladimir Firsoff’s Argument for Space Exploration as a Positive Alternative to War

December 2, 2019

Vladimir Firsoff was a British astronomer and the author of a series of books, not just on space and spaceflight, but also on skiing and travel. He was a staunch advocate of space exploration. At the end of his 1964 book, Exploring the Planets (London: Sidgwick & Jackson) he presents a rather unusual argument for it. He criticises the scepticism of leading astronomers of his time towards space exploration. This was after the Astronomer Royal of the time had declared that the possibility of building a vehicle that could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter space was ‘utter bilge’. He points out that the technology involved presented few problems, but that ordinary people had been influenced by the astronomers’ scepticism, and that there are more pressing problems on Earth. Against this he argued that humanity needed danger, excitement and sacrifice, the emotional stimulation that came from war. Space exploration could provide this and so serve as a positive alternative, a beneficial channel for these deep psychological needs. Firsoff wrote

The traditional planetary astronomy has exhausted its resources. No significant advance is possible without escape beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The orbital observatories to come will reveal much that is now hidden about the other planets. Space travel is a short historical step ahead. The basic technical problems have been solved, and the consummation of this ancient dream is only a matter of a little effort, experiment and technical refinement. When Bleriot flew the Channel the Atlantic had already been spanned by air lines. And so today we have already landed on Mars – even Triton and Pluto have been reached.

But do we really like to have our dreams come true?

Possibly that happy extrovert the technologist has no misgivings. He sees the Solar System as an enlargement of his scope of action, and has even suggested preceding a descent on Mars by dropping a few bombs, “to study the surface” (this suggestion was widely reported in the press). Yet the astronomer does not relish the prospect of leaving his ivory tower to become a man of action. He is troubled by this unfamiliar part, and a small voice at the back of his mind whispers insidiously that his cherished theories and predictions may, after all, be false. The dislike of space travel is psychologically complex, but there is no mistaking its intensity among the profession.

The general public shares these enthusiasms  and apprehensions, more often than not without any clear reasons why. The Press (with a very capital P) feeds them with predigested mental pulp about what those ‘wonderful people’ the scientists have said or done (and not all scientists are 12 feet tall). At the same time the scientist is a ‘clever man’, and the ‘clever man’ is traditionally either a crank or a scoundrel, and why not both? Whatever we do not understand we must hate.

Of such promptings the fabric of public opinion is woven into varied patterns.

“Space flight is too expensive. We can’t afford it”… “What is the point of putting a man on the Moon? It is only a lifeless desert.”… “We must feed the backward nations, finance cancer research” (= in practice “buy a new TV set and a new care”)…

Wars are even more expensive and hugely destructive, and cars kill more people than cancer and famine put together.

And yet before 1939 Britain ruled half the world, her coffers were stuffed with gold, she also had 5 million on the dole, slums, an inadequate system of education, poverty and dejection. Came a long and terrible war, a fearful squandering of resources, the Empire was lost, and in the end of it it all the people “had never had it so good”, which for all the facility of such catch-phrases is basically true. Not in Britain alone either-look at West Germany, look at the U.S.S.R.! One half of the country devastated, cities razed to the ground, 30 million dead. BHut in Russia, too, the “people had never had it so good”.

In terms of ‘sound economics’ this does not make any sense. 

The reason is simply: ‘sound economics’ is a fraud, because Man is not an economic animal, or is so only to an extent. He needs danger, struggle, sacrifice, fear, loss, even death, to release his dormant energies, to find true companionship, and-oddly-to attain the transient condition of happiness … among or after the storm.

That German soldier who had scribbled on the wall of his hut: “Nie wieder Krieg heisst nie wieder Sieg, heisst nie wieder frei, heisst Sklaverie” (No more war means no more victory, means never free, means slavery) was a simple soul and he may have survived long enough to regret his enthusiasms among the horrors that followed. Yet the idea, distorted as it was, contained a germ of truth. For heroic endeavour, which the past enshrined as martial valour, is as much a necessity as food and drink. We must have something great to live for.

Hitler’s ‘endeavour’ was diabolical in conception and in final count idiotic, but it cannot be denied that it released prodigious energies both in Germany and among her opponents, and we are still living on the proceeds of this psychological capital.

What we need is a noble uplifting endeavour, and even if we cannot all take direct part in it, we can yet share in it through the newspapers, radio and television, as we did, say, in the epic rescue operation during the Langede mining disaster. It became a presence, everybody’s business-and I doubt if it paid in terms of £ s.d…

You will have guessed what I am going to say.

Mankind needs space flight. Let us have space ships instead of bombers, orbital stations instead of ‘nuclear devices’. The glory of this great venture could do away with war, juvenile delinquency and bank raids. It could be cheap at the price.

It is a fallacy to imagine that money spend on developing spaceflight is lost to the nation; it is only redistributed within it, and it is much better to redistribute it in the form of real wages than in unemployment relief. Besides, real wealth is not in a ledger; it is the work and the willingness to do it.

Yet if we go into space, let us do so humbly, in the spirit of cosmic piety. We know very little. We are face to face with the great unknown and gave no right to assume that we are alone in the Solar System.

No bombs on Mars, please.

For all that they are well meant and were probably true at the time, his arguments are now very dated. I think now that the majority of astronomers are probably enthusiasts for space flight and space exploration, although not all of them by any means are advocates for crewed space exploration. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have opened up vast and exciting new vistas and new discoveries on the universe. But astronomers are still using and building conventional observatories on Earth. Despite the vast sums given to the space programme during the ‘Space Race’, it did not solve the problems of crime or juvenile delinquency. And it was resented because of the exclusion of women and people of colour. Martin Luther King led a march of his Poor Peoples’ Party to the NASA launch site to protest against the way money was being wasted, as he saw it, on sending White men to the Moon instead of lifting the poor – mainly Black, but certainly including Whites – out of poverty. And as well as being enthused and inspired by the Moon landings, people also grew bored. Hence the early cancellation of the programme.

And people also have a right to better healthcare, an end to famine and a cure for cancer. Just as it’s also not wrong for them to want better TVs and cars.

But this isn’t an either/or situation. Some of the technology used in the development of space travel and research has also led to breakthroughs in other areas of science and medicine. Satellites, for example, are now used so much in weather forecasting that they’re simply accepted as part of the meteorologists’ tools.

But I agree with Firsoff in that space is an arena for positive adventure, struggle and heroism, and that it should be humanity’s proper outlet for these urges, rather than war and aggression. I think the problem is that space travel has yet to take off really, and involve the larger numbers of people in the exploration and colonisation space needed to make it have an obvious, conspicuous impact on everyone’s lives. There is massive public interest in space and space exploration, as shown by Prof. Brian Cox’s TV series and touring show, but I think that to have the impact Virsoff wanted people would have to feel that space was being opened up to ordinary people, or at least a wider section of the population than the elite scientists and engineers that now enjoy the privilege of ascending into Low Earth Orbit. And that means bases on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and the industrialisation of space.

But I think with the interest shown in the commercial exploitation of space by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that might be coming. And I certainly hope, with Firsoff, that this does provide a proper avenue for the human need for danger and adventure, rather than more war and violence.

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

December 1, 2019

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.

 

The Three Photographs That Reveal the Real Reason for the Anti-Semitism Smears Against Labour

November 28, 2019

Mike and the great Jewish anti-racist, anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein have both extensively covered and refuted the anti-Semitism smears and witch-hunts against the Labour party. And as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis published his latest attempt to revive them, they have both put on their blogs a series of posts which very effectively demolish the smears and the Chief Rabbi’s pretence that he’s motivated by a genuine fear for the safety of Britain’s Jews.

Here’s a photo Mike put up on his blog, from a tweet by Mirvis congratulating him on gaining 10 Downing Street.

 

And this image, of Mirvis gurning next to Netanyahu, or, as I’ve heard him described by one Jewish academic, ‘that bastard Netanyahu’, was tweeted by Zoe Zeero.

Her caption reads

With predictable timing, the same week that Labour announces they would no longer continue to sell weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia, out pops the Tory-donating, Netanyahu-supporting Rabbi to denounce Labour.

In 2015, not that long after the bombardment of Gaza which led to the loss of 2000 Palestinian lives including 500 children, Rabbi Mirvis wrote that ‘Israel would not survive without its weapons.

The rabbi, who used to live in Israel and is personal friend of both Boris Johnson as well as Netanyahu, has frequently defended Israel’s right to bomb Palestinians.

It is then followed by a series of internet addresses supporting her statement.

Here’s the real reason Chief Rabbi Mirvis attacked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour: he’s a TORY (and a racist, it seems)

And Tony Greenstein put up this photo of Marie van der Zyl, the current president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, personally protesting against Chris Williamson speaking in Brighton.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-hypocrisy-of-ephraim-mirviss.html

Hold on! Wasn’t she down there protesting because the former Labour MP is a vicious anti-Semite? Well, ostensibly yes. Even though he isn’t a Jew-hater, as Greenstein, Mike, and Williamson’s many supporters, gentile and Jewish, have pointed out. Zyl, and the rest of the Board of Deputies, are Tories to a man and woman. They’re also arch-Zionists. It’s written into the Board’s constitution, so that anti-Zionist or simply Israel-critical Jews aren’t represented.

Mirvis and his predecessor as Chief Rabbi, R. Jonathan Sacks, and the Board and rest of the anti-Semitism smear merchants are Conservatives and ultra-Zionists. They hate and fear Corbyn and his supporters, left-wing, traditional Labour members and supporters like Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Mike, Martin Odoni and all the others, because they want to overturn four decades of Thatcherism. Four decades of our state industries, including the NHS, being sold off. Four decades of the unions being smashed, the poor, the unemployed and the disabled being demonised and denied proper state support. Four decades of racism against Blacks, Asians and now, most particularly, Muslims. Four decades of workers’ rights being eroded, and exploitative contracts introduced, all in the name of creating a fluid labour market. Four decades of poverty, misery, starvation, despair and death.

All for the profit of the very rich, the corporate giants donors giving money to Tory and New Labour coffers.

And let’s make it very clear: they certainly do not represent all of Britain’s Jews by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve blogged before about how unrepresentative the Chief Rabbinate and the Board are. They only represent the United Synagogue. They don’t represent secular Jews, who don’t attend worship, nor the Orthodox. And they really don’t represent the Haredi Jewish community, who have repeated written letters in support of Corbyn because Corbyn has always been a friend to Jews and defended their interests. In the case of the Haredi community, this was particularly demonstrated when he prevented a historic burial ground from being redeveloped.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has particularly pointed out that they don’t represent the Jewish poor, Jewish single mothers and other Jewish peeps facing the same issues of poverty, marginalisation and disenfranchisement as the wider British public. They don’t represent the Jews, who work in and support our NHS and public services, or who depend on them for their healthcare and supplies of electricity and water. The ordinary people, who use buses and trains to get to and from work, the shops or school.

Mirvis, van der Zyl and the rest only represent their community’s rich elite. As Tony Greenstein has pointed out, they risk encouraging the very anti-Semitism they claim to condemn by appearing to show that the Jewish community is composed of nothing but rich capitalists determined to stamp out any movement that wishes to empower working people.

Their actions and attitudes conform to the anti-Semitic stereotype the real Jew-haters and Fascists have used to stir up resentment and hatred against the Jewish people.

And as ultra-Zionists, Chief Rabbis Sacks and Mirvis, and van der Zyl and the Board, have followed Israel’s lead in using spurious claims of anti-Semitism as a weapon against legitimate criticism of Israel for its barbarous maltreatment of the Palestinians. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement were explicitly set up to counter criticism of Israel following its bombardment of Gaza. Corbyn has been attacked and vilified, not because he is a genuine anti-Semite, but because he wants a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

As do many Jews and Israelis, who have also been viciously smeared as anti-Semitic and self-hating, by people like Sacks, Mirvis and van der Zyl. 

Don’t be taken in by the Tory lies and ultra-Zionist propaganda. These three pictures show the real motivations behind the anti-Semitism accusations. They also show that the Tories have nothing really left to use against Corbyn and Labour except these fake accusations.

Vote them out, and Corbyn and Labour in! Because Corbyn, unlike the Tories, will make a better Britain and, as the Labour pledges on race and faith shows, he is serious about tackling racism.

And that has always included defending Jews, fighting anti-Semitism and fighting for all the British people’s poor.

Boris Johnson Declared Islamophobia ‘Natural Reaction’ to Islam

November 28, 2019

Mike also put up another excellent piece, pointing out that while the Tories are misdirecting people to look for massively over-exaggerated anti-Semitism in the Labour party, they have been actively promoting hatred against Muslims. According to the magazine Business Insider, in 2005 our comedy prime minister wrote in the Spectator that

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers.

This was in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings, and Johnson questioned the loyalty of British Muslims and said that the country must realise that ‘Islam is the problem’.

Mike concludes ‘He’s not my prime minister. He is racist filth.’

Boris Johnson believes Islamophobia is a ‘natural reaction’ to Muslims. Let’s vote this racist OUT

No argument there from me, especially after Mates Jacobs has released a dossier of rabidly islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments from the supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and our buffoonish Prime Minister. Not after Sayeeda Warsi has repeatedly demanding investigations into islamophobia in her party, and been condescendingly told that there’s little to worry about. Not when an inquiry into it has been pushed back after the General Election – presumably so that it won’t embarrass Johnson when it uncovers massive prejudice and hatred.

Now let’s put Johnson’s comments into their context. Many Brits understandably were worried about the possible danger from Islam after the 7/7 bombings on the London Underground and on buses. This was also a period when alienated Muslim youths marched through the street waving placards against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, proclaiming that Islam would dominate the West and promising more violence and terrorism. But it is a mistake to claim that this alienation and rage represents true Islam, or comes from the pages of the Qu’ran.

In fact Islamism is the product of a distinct set of social and political circumstances. This includes the economic and political stagnation of Islamic societies, rising poverty and the bewilderment and dislocation felt by many Muslims to rapid modernisation. Some of the problems are due to the adoption of neoliberal economic programmes by secular Arab and Middle Eastern states, like Algeria, which have massively increased poverty. Some of it is a reaction to western colonialism and cultural and economic hegemony. And some of it is a response to real oppression by non-Muslim states around the world. Like there is massive discrimination and organised violence against Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Christians, by Hindu ultra-nationalists in India.

I studied Islam as part of my religious studies minor degree at College. Yes, Islam has expanded through violence and conquest, just as Christianity has. But it has also spread through peaceful contact and conversion. And the problems Islam is experiencing as it modernises aren’t unique to it. Christianity and the West experienced the same process in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were reactionaries in the Anglican Church in the 19th century, who were frightened of the extension of the franchise and political rights to Protestant Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and other religions. In the middle of the century the Papacy placed on its index of forbidden doctrines the idea that Roman Catholic countries should allow freedom of religion and conscience to non-Catholics. But now the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as a whole very definitely are not anti-democratic, despite the attempts of General Franco and Roman Catholic clerico-Fascists during the Second World War. And aggressively atheist states like the Soviet Union have their own bloody history of intolerance. Religion was viciously persecuted in the USSR, and millions of people of faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or shamanist, were killed or imprisoned in the gulags for simply holding their beliefs. Nathan Johnson, surveying the vicious intolerance across secular, atheist as well as religious societies in his books on the mythology of New Atheism, has suggested that such intolerance may be part of human nature, rather than just unique to religion or a specific religion.

Islam also has a tolerant side. Christianity survived in the Balkans after the Turkish conquest because, when the Ottoman emperor wanted to force the Christian peoples to convert to Islam, the majlis, the assembly of Muslims scholars and jurists, told him it was specifically forbidden, for example. And even after the conquest, there were many areas in which Christian and Muslim lived side by side in peace. When Mike visited Bosnia after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, he saw areas where churches and mosques had been built next to each other. Not the mark of an intolerant society, at least, not at that time.

Boris Johnson is, as Mike and so many others have repeatedly pointed out, a vicious racist. This is in sharp contrast to the Labour leader, who is a determined opponent of all forms of racism. Don’t believe him when he smears Labour as anti-Semitic.

And don’t let him get away with smearing Muslims. This is what the Tories are doing and have always done: manufacture hate against an out-group in order to gain power. They are doing it against the poor. They are doing it to the unemployed, to the disabled, to anybody, even working people, who claim benefits. And in the early part of the 20th century they did it to Jews. Now they’re doing it to Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims.

A better world is possible. Reject the Tories and their prejudice and bigory, and vote for Corbyn and his anti-racism instead.