Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Whistleblowers Claim that Trump Transferring Nuclear Secrets to Saudi Arabia

February 21, 2019

If this is true, then it’s frightening. It’s another step closer to midnight for the nuclear clock.

In this video from the David Pakman Show, posted yesterday, 20th February 2019, Pakman and his producer, Patrick, report that whistleblowers have gone to the House Oversight Committee, which oversees the ethical conduct of the American government, with evidence that Trump has been transferring nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia. This has been going on as recently as last week. And it’s not simply hearsay either. They have named the corporations allegedly involved, one of which is IP3. If true, Trump’s actions are possibly illegal. Under the Atomic Act, the president must have the consent of Congress before passing on information which could lead to the construction of a nuclear weapon to a foreign power.

Pakman states that this might make sense of some of the other contacts the Trump administration has had with the Saudis. For example, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had made numerous trips there, which may also be connected. Also Michael Flynn, Trump’s former security adviser, now convicted, also made frequent trips there, some of which were not declared, and some of them were in connection with IP3, one of the companies involved in the deal.

Pakman and Patrick also discuss the hypocrisy of the Trump administration in this. Trump accused Hillary Clinton of similarly doing a deal with a foreign power passing on uranium in a quid-pro-quo deal, which was utterly unfounded. They also point out that Trump withdrew from the nuclear treaty with Iran because the Iranian government was a viciously repressive Islamic monarchy which despised its own people. But this is also true of Saudi Arabia.

Trump is already suspected of doing some kind of secret deal with Putin and the Russians. But the House Democrats are trying to expand this to cover other countries as well. Pakman speculates that they may soon need yet another special investigator to look into these allegations.

You have to wonder how corrupt Trump can actually get. At the last count, there were 17 separate legal investigations into him. In terms of sheer corruption he makes Richard Nixon look clean, although so far he hasn’t been personally responsible for as much death and suffering across the globe.

Pakman and his producer aren’t quite right when they describe Iran as a monarchy. It isn’t. It’s a theocracy. The absolute head of state is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. However, it does have a democratic component in an elected presidency, even if the law severely restricts the choice of candidate largely to observant Muslims, if not actual members of the ulema, the Islamic clergy.

However, Iran is in some respects more liberal than the Saudis. In Saudi Arabia, any religion other than Wahhabi Islam is illegal. In Iran, the Dhimmis, meaning those monotheist faiths tolerated by Islam since the Prophet Muhammed – Judaism, Christianity and the ancient religion of Iran, Zoroastrianism – are tolerated. Six seats are reserved for them in the majlis, the Iranian parliament. There has been another crackdown and mass arrests of political dissidents recently, and the regime is extremely repressive. Trade unions are banned, and the conditions in the workers’ camps in the oil industry have been compared to concentration camps. But nevertheless, I got the impression that Iran has a greater degree of personal freedom than Saudi Arabia.

There was justifiable alarm at the possibility that Iran may acquire nuclear weapons a few years ago because their last president, Ahmedinejad, was a millennialist. He believed that the end of the world was nigh, and that the Muslim equivalent of the final war between good and evil, similar to Christian End Times belief, was imminent. Just as others have been similarly alarmed at the Christian millennialism of past Republican American presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George ‘Dubya’ Bush, who also believed that the end of the world was coming, and they had to arm America for final battle with the Antichrist.

I haven’t heard any suggestion that the Saudis are also millennialists waiting for the final battle with the as-Salihi al-Dajjal, the figure in Islam corresponding to the Antichrist in Christianity. But5 they are a brutal, genocidal regime. We’ve seen how the Saudis are deliberately targeting and slaughtering civilians in Yemen, including women and children, simply for being Shi’a. And Shi’a Muslims in Saudi Arabia living in villages without running water or electricity, and are forbidden to practice their religion or possess their holy books. And a few years ago, one of the chief Saudi religious authorities – I don’t know whether it was the Sharif of Mecca or the Grand Mufti – declared that the Shi’a were heretics, who were ‘worthy of death’.

There is considerable evidence that the Saudis were behind 9/11, and that the responsibility for the atrocity reached right up to the highest levels. And the current king’s intelligence chief also supported, armed and funded al-Qaeda terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Syria, not to mention Daesh before they turned on the Saudis themselves, and urged the faithful there to rise up and overthrow the monarchy.

I am as concerned about the acquisition of nuclear technology by Saudi Arabia as I am about its development by Iran. In fact more so, as I think the Iranians were genuine when they said they wanted to develop nuclear power, rather than nuclear weaponry. And if they were to develop nuclear weapons, then it might be simply to protect themselves from American and Saudi attack and invasion.

I am also reminded here of another country that illegally developed nuclear weapons in the Middle East: Israel. They weren’t, and still aren’t, supposed to have them. But the world has turned a blind eye, and the whistleblower there, Mordechai Vanunu, was arrested and has spent something like 17 years in jail. Presumably you’re a horrible anti-Semite if you raise concerns about the Israelis’ possession of a nuclear capability.

Trump should not be passing on nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia. If this is true, then this threatens further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and increases the possibility of an atomic conflict. A horrendous possibility, that could lead to the absolute destruction of all life on our already imperiled, beautiful world.

Get this madman and the other Republican maniacs out of the White House!

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Rees-Mogg Would Like to Be the Pope, But Would Left-Wing Catholics Want Him?

February 21, 2019

One of the most ridiculous things Jacob Rees-Mogg said this week was during an interview on Points West with host David Garmston. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area. Mogg is the local MP for Bath in Somerset, and now one of the leading personalities in the Tory party. Garmston went to visit him at his palatial home in the Georgian city.

The Beeb interviewer asked him if he’d like to be Prime Minister. It’s a good question, as it’s clear that Mogg is very ambitious, and there are those in the party that would desperately like him to be in charge and in No. 10. But Mogg denied that he had any plans in that direction. Instead, he declared, he’d rather be Pope. Garmston then asked him the natural question: how could he be, when he’s married with six children? Oh no, Mogg declared, any Roman Catholic man could be.

Now this is news to me, and to just about everyone else, I should imagine. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and so should already be a member of the clergy of a sufficiently high rank. Like a cardinal. Or so it seems to me, as an Anglican, looking at the history of the Roman Catholic church. If laymen have been made pope, I can only assume that this occurred sometime during the Middle Ages as part of the political maneuvering surrounding the papacy. For example, after the collapse of the Roman Empire the only form of government left in many towns in Gaul and elsewhere were the bishops. Hence there were instances where, after the death of the previous incumbent, local townspeople chose laymen, including pagans, to become their bishop. Those laymen, who accepted the demand, then had themselves baptized and converted to Christianity. There are accounts of such conversions and the election of lay people in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks. Or so I believe. I did medieval history at school, and these are the only instances I can remember, in which a layman entered the episcopacy directly, let alone the papacy.

Of course, Rees-Mogg is saying all this just to present himself as a good Roman Catholic. But I wonder how many Roman Catholics would actually want someone as right-wing as him as a member of the clergy, let alone sovereign pontiff. There’s a range of political views amongst Roman Catholics, just as there is in any religion or metaphysical ideology. And there’s also a strong tradition of genuinely social, left-wing activism. For all that elements within the Roman Catholic church during the War and after have supported Fascist regimes, I got the distinct impression that most Roman Catholics in Britain and the British colonies were actually left-wing. Certainly in Australia Irish Catholics formed the backbone of the Ozzie Labor party, and the Roman Catholic members of my own family were very staunch Labour. Radical organisations for Roman Catholics have included Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, and I have the impression that, as well as Quakers, there were many Roman Catholics involved in CND and other peace movements. One of my Catholic aunts was a member, and I can remember her telling us that when she was on a march, she found herself next to a group of Franciscan friars.

A little while ago I bought a book on Roman Catholic social thought, which is broadly left-wing, although outside formal party politics. This includes activism and work on behalf of the poor, for peace and on behalf of women. This latter obviously doesn’t include supporting contraception or abortion, which feminists obviously see as central women’s rights. And there have been Roman Catholic prelates, who have been martyred because of their advocacy of the poor. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a Fascist death squad in one of the central American countries, who brutal dictator Reagan was supporting. He was assassinated outside his church. After his murder, the assassins scrawled on the wall, ‘Be a patriot – Kill a priest’.

The present Pope, Francis, seems to have moved the papacy closer to supporting the poor, defending the environment and even stating that it is not his place to judge gays. Some of that may reflect the wider changes in social attitudes, at least in the developed West. For example, right-wing Roman Catholic traditionalists, like Peter Hitchens, who are against same-sex marriage, have said that they feel the battle against it, is lost. It may also reflect a genuine horror on Francis’ part against the vicious homophobia that exists in some parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. But also the centre of Christianity, and Roman Catholicism, is moving towards the global south as the developed West becomes more secular. Thus the Church has to speak out on issues that directly effect the peoples of the developing world. Like poverty, hunger, exploitation, the rape of the environment. Issues that also concern other Christians around the globe.

I can’t see Rees-Mogg being interested in any of that. Indeed, his voting record shows he’s strongly against it, although I’ve no doubt that, like Margaret Thatcher, he is probably personally very generous. It seems to me that Mogg’s comments may partly have been to appeal to the religious right within the Tories. Like Ian Duncan Smith also stressed what a good Catholic he was, and how he was very concerned at poverty in Britain. Their appeal goes beyond Roman Catholics, of course. Under aIDS the DWP seemed to be stuffed with right-wing Christians of various denominations. Mogg may have made his comments partly with an eye to inheriting the Gentleman Ranker’s grubby mantle.

But no matter how pious he appears, I can’t imagine any left-wing Roman Catholic wanting to see him anywhere near an official position in the Church, just as an increasing number of Christians of all denominations are turning away from the religious right and their vile policies.

Now Tories Troubled by Split

February 21, 2019

Yesterday, a group of three MPs, Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, defected from the Tory party to join the Independent corporation, that had split from Labour.

At their press conference they gave three reasons why they had left. Heidi Allen said she was disgusted with the suffering the party had inflicted and its lack of benevolence. For Sarah Wollaston, it was the harm the Tories had done to the manufacturing industry. And for Anna Soubry it was the way her former party had wrecked the country with their massively inept handling of Brexit. Or it might have been Wollaston, who was most concerned about Brexit, and Soubry about the destruction of Britain’s manufacturing sector under the Tories. This is how the reasons for their departure was presented on one of the short videos on YouTube, although I got the impression from listening to Heidi Allen speaking on the 45 minute long video of their press conference put out by Channel 4 News that she was also concerned about Brexit and the attack on manufacturing, as she also ran her own manufacturing firm.

The Tories, who had previously been gleefully exploiting Chuka Umunna and company’s split from the Labour party, were left outraged in their turn. Hunt gave a speech saying how much he regretted the departure of such valued colleagues. Other Tory functionaries demanded that the Splitters should now call a bye-election. Just like the real supporters and activists in the Labour party have been demanding Umunna and his coteries of bitter Blairites do.

I don’t know how sincere Allen and her two colleagues are about the suffering caused by the Tory party. She made a number of speeches saying how upset she was by the suffering caused by her former party’s wretched welfare reforms, but voted for them all the same. So in her case it was, as Mike pointed out, a case of crocodile tears. She may be genuine, and that after years of dutifully following the party line her conscience has won at last. Or it may simply be that, like some other Tories, she’s just worried that the electorate will punish the Tories for the misery they’ve inflicted at the next election.

I think the three’s statement that they’re concerned about British manufacturing and the devastating effects of Brexit are rather more genuine. Margaret Thatcher and Blair in his turn ignored the manufacturing sector. One members of Thatcher’s cabinet, who was the only member in it from that sector of the economy, described how he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound would harm British manufacturing by making our products more expensive. She also uncritically accepted as an article of her neoliberal, free market dogma, that failing firms and industries should be allowed to go under, and should not be given government assistance. Which contrasted with Labour’s promotion of the National Enterprise Boards and state assistance for British industry, where the government would help firms acquire plant and equipment.

And as a good Thatcherite, Blair also adopted her destructive attitude to British industry. He was also quite happy to see British manufacturing collapse. Instead, its place at the heart of the British economy would be taken by the financial sector and the service industries. Deanne Julius, a leading official at the Bank of England, recruited from America, actually said that Britain should give up its manufacturing industry, and simply concentrate on the service industries.

The result has been that vast swathes of traditional British industry have been destroyed by Thatcherism, including mining. Which was done simply to destroy the miners’ union, so they could never overthrow a Tory government as they had Heath’s. However, as Ha Joon-Chang has shown in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, manufacturing is still an extremely important part of the British economy. It looks weak simply because it hasn’t expanded as much as the other sectors of the British economy. But if it went, the British economy would collapse completely.

As for Brexit, the past few weeks have seen company after company leave the UK because of the Tory party’s incompetence. They’re leaving because we haven’t reached a trade agreement with EU, and so the tariff barriers that will be erected after Britain leaves will make it difficult for them to sell their products after our departure. The latest firm to announce it was closing down its British plant has been Honda in Swindon. When this goes, so do 3,500 jobs.

But I doubt that this will concern those in the Tory party demanding a hard Brexit, like the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg. The financial sector has also been hit, with various banks and international financial regulators announcing that they will leave Britain for Dublin, Paris and the Netherlands. But this doesn’t seem to dismay Mogg and his comrades. They seem to be all financiers, who make their money through investing in companies around the world. And so the destruction of the British manufacturing sector simply doesn’t affect them. They’ll get their money anyway.

The Tory party is seriously split over Brexit. It was to call the Eurosceptics’ bluff that Cameron called the referendum in the first place. He was so confident that people would vote ‘remain’ that he didn’t do any proper campaigning. The result was that he was astonished when the ‘Leave’ vote prevailed. But I gather that the Tories were on the edge of splitting years before, when Tony Blair was in power. Blair stole their policies, and indeed moved further right than the Tories had dared. The party was also split between the Tory paternalists and Thatcherites, and the rural sector, which believed that British agriculture and country communities were being ignored. I’ve heard it said that if Brown had won the 2010 election, the Tories would have collapsed completely, and would have tried to rebrand themselves instead as the English Nationalists. This has the ring of truth, as I do remember one opinion piece in the Heil actually recommending that the party thus rename itself.

I hope that the departure of Allen, Wollaston and Soubry will spark a series of other defections from the Tories and bring about the party’s much-need demise. It’s brought nothing but misery and poverty to Britain’s working people since Thatcher came to power in 1979. And even if the party doesn’t collapse completely, I want there to be so many defections that at the least it causes the collapse of May’s vile, malignant, destructive government.

Tories Bringing Back 1920s-30s Era Levels of Poverty and Degradation

February 20, 2019

A few days ago Mike put up a story about a couple, who had been arrested and tried for stealing food to feed their family. They were on Universal Credit, but this hadn’t been paid, and they had used up all the four visits to the foodbank that starving people are allowed. So simply to feed themselves and their children, they stole food from one of the supermarkets.

How absolutely horrific that this is happening now, in Britain, the sixth richest society in the world! And how absolutely, shamefully disgusting!

But this incident reminds me of one of the stories Gran told me about the poverty her relatives had personally seen during a trip to Scotland in the first few decades of the last century. Our gran was born c. 1907. At some time before the outbreak of World War II, she told me that some of her cousins had taken a holiday to Scotland, which included a trip to Glasgow. Wandering through the town, they found themselves in a back street, where a gang of men were eating pigswill. The men noticed them and started to chase them, but mercifully the girls were able to get away.

I realise that this this story is just anecdotal. And I also want to make it very clearly that I’m not writing about this incident to sneer at people from Glasgow, and make them appear to be somehow subhuman or animalistic. Glasgow’s got a reputation as a very rough town, but my gran told me this story to show the desperate poverty that existed up there at the time. Just as I’m very sure there was the same desperate poverty in other parts of the United Kingdom at the same time. Remember, the striking miners that Churchill had shot down in Wales were starving and in rags.

I wonder if this is what the Tories are trying to bring back today. Years ago I put up a piece which gave a late Victorian description of children waiting in a queue for charity food, and the news that the starving today were having to go to food banks. Since they’ve we’ve heard that working parents, who are unable to feed their children on their pay, are starving themselves. And that people are stealing food in order to survive. I also recall reading news stories about people taking uneaten food or leftovers from rubbish bins.

This level of poverty is happening today. We really do seem to be going back to the grinding desperation of the ’20s-’30s. How long before we read stories about the poor and starving eating pigswill, as in gran’s story? At this rate, it won’t be long. Perhaps it’s already happening.

Meanwhile, the Tory toffs and their propaganda machine in the Beeb and the right-wing papers will be telling us all how prosperous is, thanks to their free market reforms, and lying about how they aren’t destroying the welfare state, but making it more targeted and less wasteful, to tackle poverty where it’s needed. And how under them, average pay has increased. And all the vicious, murderous lies they tell whenever they get into power. While all the while the poor, the unemployed and the disabled and long term sick are further forced into greater poverty and misery.

The Tories – and especially people like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson – are making millions, while at the same time a quarter of a million people are forced to use food banks, and 14 million people are officially below the poverty line. It’s time to ignore their propaganda about Corbyn and Labour, and get them out, and Corbyn into No. 10.

Video for My Book against the Privatisation of the NHS

February 19, 2019

This is the video I’ve just put up on my channel on YouTube for my book Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which I’ve published with Lulu. Here’s the blurb I’ve put up for it:

In this book, also published with Lulu, I talk about the programme of stealth privatisation of the National Health Service that has been going on since Margaret Thatcher first proposed its sell off in the 1980s. This was followed by John Major’s Private Finance Initiative, then Blair’s health reforms, all of which opened up the NHS to private health care companies. Blair was followed by David Cameron and then by Theresa May, who have continued and expanded this process.

The intention is to create a system like America’s, where healthcare is through private companies, financed through private health insurance, although the state also pays for medical treatment for the poorest through Medicare and Medicaid. The book explains how private medicine is less effective than state medicine, and how these reforms threaten to return us to the dreadful period before the foundation of the NHS, when a similar situation to the American prevailed in Britain.

The book is 42 pages long, and costs £5.25.

Here’s the Lulu page for it:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-sivier/privatisation-killing-the-nhs/paperback/product-22828232.html

John McDonnell Outrages Tories with Comments about Churchill’s Villainy

February 16, 2019

John McDonnell kicked up a storm of controversy this week when, in an interview with the Politico website on Wednesday, he described Winston Churchill as a villain. McDonnell was answering a series of quick-fire questions, and the one about Churchill was ‘Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?’ McDonnell replied ‘Tonypandy – villain’. This referred to the Tonypandy riots of 1910, when striking miners were shot down by the army after clashing with the police. According to the I’s article on the controversy on page 23 of Wednesday’s edition, Churchill initially refused requests to send in the troops, instead sending a squad of metropolitan police. Troops were also sent in to stand in reserve in Cardiff and Swindon. Following further rioting, Churchill sent in the 18th Hussars. He later denied it, but it was widely believed that he had given orders to use live rounds. There’s still very strong bitterness amongst Welsh working people about the massacre. The I quoted Louise Miskell, a historian at Swansea University, who said that ‘He is seen as an enemy of the miners’.

Boris Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, was naturally outraged, declaring ‘Winston Churchill saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable’. He also said that McDonnell should be ashamed of his remarks and withdraw them forthwith.

McDonnell, speaking on ITV news, said that although he didn’t want to upset people, he’d give the same answer again to that question if he was honest, and said that he welcomed it if it has prompted a more rounded debate about Churchill’s role. He said that Churchill was undoubtedly a hero during the Second World War, but that this was not necessarily the case in other areas of his life. He said ‘Tonypandy was a disgrace.: sending the troops in, killing a miner, tryinig to break a strike and other incidents in his history as well.’

The I then gave a brief list of various heroic and villainous incidents. These were

* Saving Britain from the Nazis during and helping to lead the Allies to victory during the Second World War.

* Introducing the Trade Boards Bill of 1909, which established the first minimum wages system for various trades across the UK.

* Making the famous speech about an Iron Curtain coming down across Europe in 1946.

* According to his biographer, John Charmley, Churchill believed in a racial hierarchy and eugenics, and that at the top of this were White Protestant Christians.

* Saying that it was ‘alarming and nauseating’ seeing Gandhi ‘striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.’ He also said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’.

* Three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943, in which Churchill refused to deploy food supplies.

It’s in the context of the Bengal famine that Churchill made his vile remarks about Indians. The Bengalis starved because their grain had been sequestered as back up supplies to fee British troops. In the end they weren’t needed, according to one video I’ve seen on YouTube. Churchill also said that the famine was their fault for having too many children.

He also supported the brief British invasion of Russia to overthrow the Communist Revolution, and the use of gas on Russian troops. Just as he also wanted to use gas to knock out, but not kill, Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia when they revolted in the 1920s against British rule.

He also said that ‘Keep Britain White’ was a good slogan for the Tories to go into the 1951 general election.

It’s clearly true that Churchill’s determined opposition to the Nazis did help lead to a free Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. But according to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, he did not do so out of opposition to Fascism per se. He was afraid that Nazi Germany posed a threat to British interests in the North Sea. The Conservative journo, Peter Hitchens, is very critical of Churchill and Britain’s entry into the Second World War. He rightly points out that Churchill wasn’t interested in saving the Jews, but that we went in because of the treaties we had signed with Poland and France. As for defeating Nazism, historians have for a long time credited the Soviet Red Army with breaking the back of the Wehrmacht. In one of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, he jokes that if Churchill hadn’t sent the troops in, then the Iron Curtain would begin about Bexhill in Kent. Churchill also went on a diplomatic visit to Mussolini’s Italy after the Duce seized power, though privately he remarked that the man was ‘a perfect swine’ after the Italian dictator declared that his Blackshirts were ‘the equivalent of your Black and Tans’. For many people, that’s an accurate comparison, given how brutal and barbaric the Black and Tans were. And as an authoritarian, Churchill also got on very well and liked General Franco. And George Orwell also didn’t take Churchill seriously as the defender of democracy. In the run-up to the outbreak of war, he remarked that strange things were occurring, one of which was ‘Winston Churchill running around pretending to be a democrat’.

Now I don’t share Hitchen’s view that we shouldn’t have gone into the Second World War. The Nazis were determined to exterminate not just Jews, Gypsies and the disabled, but also a large part of the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe. One Roman Catholic site I found had an article on Roman Catholic and Christian martyrs under the Nazis. This began with the Nazis’ attempts to destroy the Polish people, and particularly its intellectuals, including the Polish Roman Catholic Church. It quoted Hitler as saying that war with Poland would a be a war of extermination. Hitler in his Table Talk as also talks about exterminating the Czechs, saying that ‘It’s them or us.’ Churchill may have gone into the War entirely for reasons of British imperial security, but his action nevertheless saved millions of lives right across Europe. It overthrew a regime that, in Churchill’s words, threatened to send the continent back into a new Dark Age, lit only by the fire of perverted science’.

Having said that does not mean he was not a monster in other areas. The General Strike was a terrible defeat for the British working class, but if Churchill had been involved it would almost certainly have been met with further butchery on his part. Again, according to Pugh, Churchill was all set to send the army in, saying that they were ready to do their duty if called on by the civil authority. The Tory prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was all too aware of what would happen, and when another minister of civil servant suggested finding him a position in the Post Office or the department looking after the radio, he enthusiastically agreed, because it would keep Churchill out of trouble.

As for the Bengal famine, I think that still haunts Indian nationalists today. I was looking at the comments on Al-Jazeera’s video on YouTube about the UN finding severe poverty in Britain a few months ago. There was a comment left by someone with an Indian name, who was entirely unsympathetic and said he looked forward to our country being decimated by starvation. My guess is that this vicious racist was partly inspired in his hatred of Britain by the famine, as well as other aspects of our rule of his country.

I think McDonnell’s remarks, taken as a whole, are quite right. McDonnell credited him with his inspiring leadership during the War, but justifiably called him a villain because of the Tonypandy massacre. And eyewitnesses to the rioting said that the miners really were desperate. They were starving and in rags. And Churchill should not be above criticism and his other crimes and vile statements and attitudes disregarded in order to create a sanitized idol of Tory perfection, as Johnson and the other Tories would like.

‘I’ Newspaper on Labour’s Plans to Liberate University Regulator from Market Forces

February 16, 2019

Today’s I for Saturday, 16th February 2019 has an article by Florence Snead on page 4 reporting Labour’s plans to overhaul the universities regulator, and remove the free market ideology currently underpinning its approach to higher education in the UK. The piece, entitled ‘Universities ‘should not be left to the mercy of market forces’ runs

Labour has unveiled how it would overhaul the higher education system as it claimed the system’s new regulator was “not fit for purpose”.

The shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will criticize the Office for Students – established by the Government in 2018 – in a speech today at the annual University and Colleges Union conference.

She will say the regulator represents a system “where market logic is imposed on public goods” and where “forces of competition run rampant at the expense of students, staff and communities.”

Labour said it wants the regulator to report on diversity in university staff and student bodies and to take action to make universities “genuinely representative of the communities they serve”.

Staff should also be represented on the regulator’s board to ensure their views are heard, it added.

The party said it would also ban vice chancellors sitting on their own remuneration committees.

Ms Rayner is also expected to address the issue of universities being on the brink of bankruptcy, as previously revealed by I.

“Students would be left with immense uncertainty about their futures and entire communities would lose one of their major academic, economic and social institutions.”

Universities minister Chris Skidmore responded: “Universities know they can’t trust Corbyn as his plans would crash the economy, mean less investment in our higher education, compromising its world class quality”.

Actually, if anything’s trashed our world class education system, it’s been the Thatcherite programme of privatization and free market ideology. Scientific research at UK universities has been hampered ever since Thatcher decided that university science departments should go into partnership with business. Which has meant that universities can no longer engage in blue sky research, or not so much as they could previously, and are shackled to producing products for private firms, rather than expanding the boundaries of knowledge for its own sake. Plus some of the other problems that occur when scientific discoveries become the property of private, profit driven industries.

Then there’s the whole problem of the introduction of tuition fees. This should not have been done. I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol when Mandelson and Blair decided to do this, and it’s immediate result was the scaling down of certain departments and shedding of teaching staff. Those hardest hit were the departments that required more funding because of the use of special equipment. This included my own department, Archaeology, where students necessarily go on digs, surveys and field expeditions. This means that the department had to have transport to take its staff and students to wherever they were excavating, provide digging equipment, although many students had their own trowels. They also needed and trained students in the use of specialist equipment like the geophysical magnetometers used to detect structures beneath the soil through the measurement of tiny changes in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as labs to clean up and analyse the finds, from the type of soil in which they were found, the material out of which the finds were made, chemical composition of various substances, like food residue in pots, so you can tell what people were eating and drinking, and the forensic examination of human and animal remains.

I’ve no doubt that this situation was made worse when Cameron and Clegg decided to raise tuition fees to their present exorbitant level. Which has meant that students are now saddled with massive debt, which may make it difficult for some ever to afford to buy their own homes. Student debt was already an issue just after I left college, when the Tories decided to end student grants. After the introduction of tuition fees it has become an even more critical issue.

Then there’s the whole issue of proper pay and conditions for university lecturers. This is nowhere near as high as it should be. A friend of mine in the ’90s was one of the Student Union officers at our old college/uni. He told me one day just what some of the highly skilled and educated lecturers were earning. And it was low. Many of them were on part-time work, and I think the pay for some of them was at average wage level or below. And that was then. I’ve no idea what it’s like now. I’ve come across reports of a similar crisis at American universities and colleges, where the pay for the managers has skyrocketed while that of teaching staff has fallen catastrophically. And this is all part of the general pattern throughout industry as a whole, where senior management has enjoyed massively bloated pay rises and bonuses, while staff have been laid off and forced on to short term or zero hours contracts and low pay.

All this has been done in the name of ‘market forces’ and the logic of privatization.

I am not remotely surprised that British higher education is in crisis, and that an increasing number of colleges and universities are facing bankruptcy. This was always on the cards, especially as the population surge that inspired many colleges and polytechnics to seek university status on the belief that there would be enough student numbers to support them, is now over. Market logic would now dictate that, as the universities are failing, they should be allowed to collapse. Which would deprive students and their communities of their services.

The structure of British higher education needs to be reformed. The entire Thatcherite ethic of privatization, free markets, and tuition fees needs to be scrapped. Like everything else Thatcher and her ideological children ever created, it is a bloated, expensive and exploitative failure. My only criticism about Corbyn’s and Rayner’s plans for the unis isn’t that they’re too radical, but that they’re too timid.

‘I’ Newspaper on Rowling and Riley Planning to Launch Blairite Party

February 12, 2019

Today’s I for 12th February 2019 also carried the news that J.K. Rowling, Rachel Riley and Tracey-Ann Oberman were in a meeting with former members of Blair’s staff to launch this new, Centrist party that has periodically been mooted for the past year or so.

The article by Jane Clinton, ‘Rowling and Riley ‘plotting Blairite party’, on page 26 of the paper, runs

Countdown’s Rachel Riley and former EastEnders actress Tracy Ann Oberman have joined forces with advisers from Tony Blair’s government and JK Rowling’s agent to create a centrist breakaway Labour party.

Riley and Oberman, who are both Jewish, have been attacked by Labour supporters for criticizing Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism row that has engulfed the party. Riley revealed last month that Channel 4 bosses ordered extra protection following her comments.

They met Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, and his former speechwriter, Philip Collins, last Tuesday at the London offices of Ms Rowling’s agent, Neil Blair. There were 50 supporters present.

Details of the event, confirmed by I, include the creation of a pro-European centrist party which would appeal to the left of the Conservative party and the right of Labour.

Observers believe its creation would be the death knell for the Liberal Democrats.

At the meeting, during discussions as to who should be leader of the new party, Rowling’s name was shouted out to applause.

The Harry Potter author has been critical of Mr Corbyn, but leadership is not believed to be her ambition. Instead, it is thought shemay offer financial backing or fund a think-tank.

The good peeps over at Zelo Street have already critiqued this piece of Blairite aspiration, and pronounced the new party DOA. They note that such a party has been mooted several times, the names of various right-wing Labour MPs have been suggested in connection with it. And each time take-off has been aborted or not even attempted.

They point out that people have been proclaiming the death of the Lib Dems since the 1950s, but each time such predictions have been greatly exaggerated. The article goes on to mention the serious matter of Riley’s and Oberman’s conduct, which makes them totally unsuitable as leaders for any new party. Oberman threatened to sue blogger Shaun Lawson because he mentioned her in one of his tweets and in an article. Why? Because Riley, Oberman and their followers had viciously attacked and smeared a 16-year old schoolgirl and her father with false claims of anti-Semitism. The girl, who suffers from anxiety anyway, was threatened and harassed. Zelo Street concludes

Well-documented and cringe-inducing harassment, to boot. If that is the depth of the political talent pool available to the new Centrist party, it’s going to look more like a puddle.

Right now, it looks as though this new venture is DOA. No surprise there, then.

See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/new-centrist-party-looks-doa.html

Mike was also on the receiving end of the wrath of Riley and her army of fanboys for a piece he did reporting Lawson’s article and Riley’s and Oberman’s bullying of the teenager. And yes, they tried smearing him as an anti-Semite. Rowling’s also tried attacking Mike over social media, and got her rear end handed to her as a result. If I remember correctly, Rowling, Riley and Oberman are part of a little circle with Z-list actress Frances Barber, Al Murray and David Baddiel, who believe that they are genuinely tackling racism. They’ve been quoted as joking with each other about whether this is 1936 or not. Of course it isn’t. If this really was anything like 1936 there’d be no question of it. Real anti-Semitic mobs wearing Fascist uniforms, like Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts would be goose-stepping into Jewish and working class areas trying to provoke fights and intimidate the people there. You would hear speech from bigots and Nazis telling everyone that Jews were an unassimilable threat, and that further Jewish immigration should be curbed. And the same Nazis would also talk openly about Jews being ‘the money power’ behind capitalism and communism and plotting to destroy the White race. And as for Germany, Jews would be progressively banned from getting jobs or entering the universities, their businesses closed, and themselves publicly beaten and humiliated. while trade unionists, socialists, communists, anarchists, recidivist criminals, neurotics, the long-term jobless, sex workers and other dissidents and individuals the Nazi state decided were undesirable and ‘dysgenic’ would be rounded up to be worked to death in the concentration camps. The Alternative Fuer Deutschland are a bunch of Nazi goons, and there is the spectre of read Fascism and Nazism in eastern Europe – in Poland, Hungary, the Baltic States and Ukraine. But here in Britain is very much not like 1936. Not yet.

Tony Greenstein has repeatedly pointed out that while there has been an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, Jews in Britain as a group are very comfortably middle class and most definitely do not suffer the real persecution of other ethnic minorities. For example, they are not being forcibly and unjustly deported, like the Windrush migrants. Other groups, such as Blacks, Asians and Muslims suffer far higher levels of violence and abuse. I haven’t heard any mainstream politician attacking the Jews or demanding that Jewish immigration be stopped. But there have been any number of Conservative and Kipper MPs making racist comments about Muslims and suggesting that they are incompatible with the British way of life.

As Riley’s and Rowling’s friends, Frances Barber also weighed in to accuse Mike and Owen Jones of being anti-Semites, while David Baddiel seems to have swallowed the Integrity Initiative black propaganda about Corbyn. I found a video on YouTube commenting on him declaring that Corbyn was an agent of Putin.

They’re spouting dangerous nonsense. The vast majority of the people accused of anti-Semitism in the Labour party were smeared because they were Corbyn’s supporters, members of the party’s left-wing, or critics of Israel. It was part of the campaign by the Blairites to hang on by attacking ordinary Labour party members. The Jewish establishment and the Zionists in the Labour party got involved because they support the Israeli state’s policy of ethnic cleansing and the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That was clearly shown in the Al-Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, when Joan Ryan attempted to get an ordinary Labour party member thrown out as an anti-Semite because she had the temerity to ask Ryan a question she couldn’t answer. She wondered what the Jewish Labour Movement was doing to promote the two-state solution, and what would be done about the illegal settlements in Palestine if the solution was successfully put into operation. As for this country’s Jewish establishment, the Board of Deputies declares itself in its constitution to be a Zionist organization, and the other year former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs led a party of British Jews to the March of the Flags. This is an annual event where the Israeli equivalent of skinhead boot-boys march through the Muslim quarter vandalizing homes and property and threatening its people. Liberal Jewish organisations urged Sachs not to go, but he ignored them. They were ‘the wrong kind’ of Jews, you see.

As for the rise of Fascism in eastern Europe, this is being assisted and defended by Israel, whose supporters, like Stephen Pollard, the far right editor of the Jewish Chronicle, declare them to be ‘good friends of Israel’ because they buy Israel arms. And so are the remaining Jews of eastern Europe put in danger through lack of support from Israel. All while Israel proclaims itself to be the protector of Jews worldwide.

As for this supposed Centrist party, I can remember it being touted last year, when it was supposed to have millions of pounds in funding ready for, along with legions of corporate donors. At one point Blair’s son, Euan, was discussed as a founding member and possible leader. Then it all collapsed again. It had no members, no policies, and one of the founders walked out after a disagreement with the others.

All this Centrist party represents is continuity Blairism. Which means more privatization, more NHS privatization, more attacks on the welfare state, meaning more homelessness and starvation, and more corporatism. Which means that in exchange for funding, private industry can have their chairmen and senior management appointed to positions in government and the civil service.

Rowling, Riley, Oberman and Barber are a disgrace. The Centrist party Rowling and her friends Riley and Oberman are expected to lead represents nothing but further corporate exploitation and misery. It has collapsed several times before, and will do so again. No matter how much it is puffed by the papers.

Christopher Chope Blocks Bill to Outlaw FGM

February 11, 2019

What can decent people do about Christopher Chope, the Tory MP for Christchurch? Apart from either waiting for him to be voted out at the next general election, or having him committed to Broadmoor as a dangerous lunatic whose twisted view of democracy is a threat to the safety of vulnerable women and girls?

Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Chope talked out a bill on Friday intended to safeguard girls and women against Female Genital Mutilation. His decision to do so was in direct opposition to his government’s own stance against this repulsive practice. Mike’s article quotes a tweet from Tweezer herself, who said

Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent practice and we will not accept it. We’ve strengthened the law on FGM, leading to the first UK conviction last week, and we’re helping communities around the world to end this appalling crime.#EndFGM

Chope declared that the reason he did so wasn’t because he was in favour of FGM, but because he hated Private Members’ Bills. But in the instance, as Mike pointed out, his professed principles amounted to pure egotism as he placed them before the wishes of his government, party, nation and parliament. Mike asked in his article whether Chope would have been quite so keen to block the bill if he knew someone, who had suffered from FGM, or if it was a form of mutilation and torture he might also have suffered if he had been born into a culture that practiced such barbarity.

Mike also goes on to say that he first learned about it at school, and it turned his stomach. I was about the same age when I first heard about it, and Mike’s right – it’s horrific and revolting. I think it can very in terms of severity, and has been described by feminists as ‘female castration’. There are absolutely no medical benefits to it, and, apart from the horrific nature of the operation itself, it can also be a positive danger to women’s health. It isn’t just the national government that is worried about it. Local authorities are too. A few years ago there was an article on the local news for the West Country on the Beeb, Points West, about concerns by activists and medical professionals about girls in Bristol being taken out of the country to their families homelands to have it done.

As for Chope himself, last year he also talked out a Private Members Bill to prevent upskirting, which Mike suggests means that he seems to have an unpleasant attitude to stop women protecting their private parts. And public opinion was very definitely against Chope. Mike quotes two Tweets from Dangerous Hero Rachel Swindon, who said

Following on from his upskirting disgrace, Tory MP Christopher Chope MP has just shouted to object to the Female Genital Mutilation Bill.

There is seriously something wrong with this guy. Abhorrent individual.

And also pointed out that he was one who believes in denying government aid to the many, while being very glad to avail himself of it.

Tory Christopher Chope doesn’t just derail upskirting & FGM bills. He voted –
•12 X for the Bedroom Tax
•44 X to cut benefits
​•9 X against bankers bonus tax
•19 X to reduce Corporation tax

He used £10,000 expenses to fix his roof, a £2,600 bathroom & £881 to repair a sofa

Mike stated that, thank to his principles, the provisions of this bill will now have to be included in a formal government bill. Which means more time putting more women and girls at risk. He asks

Will Mr Chope accept responsibility for their pain and humiliation? If not, perhaps any such victims should take out a private prosecution against him.

Mike also concludes

So perhaps we should simply accept that he blocked the Bill against FGM because this principled man believes in the principle behind FGM: That those with power are entitled to do anything they like with those who have none – and do all we can to remove this dinosaur, and his prehensile principles, from Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/10/childish-chope-blocks-anti-fgm-bill-because-he-doesnt-know-any-better/

Chopes’ decision to block the bill seems to be part of the same attitude of a certain group of far-right Tories and Kippers. There was a scandal a few years ago, I seem to recall, when some UKIP MEPs tried to block or voted against a similar bill intended to protect women from either sexual assault or FGM, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten which. And in some cases their actions have been extremely hypocritical.

I don’t know what Chope’s attitude towards Islam is. I’m not aware that he’s a bigot. But there is a very strong element of pernicious, systemic islamophobia in the Tory party. And one of the issues islamophobes have seized upon to try to show that Islam is incompatible with British culture and should be heavily legislated against and discouraged is Female Genital Mutilation. Yes, it goes on in Islam, but it is not commanded in Qu’ran. I think it’s one of the practices that entered Islam from outside, and is most widespread outside the Middle East in sub-Saharan Africa. Certainly the women’s rights activists, who spoke about it on the Points West piece cited cases were girls were being taken there. There is an Islamic feminist movement, and I’m absolutely sure that there are campaigners against it in the Dar al-Islam. But many of the same Kipper MEPs, who voted against the European parliament’s attempts to outlaw it were also bitterly islamophobic, which made them both religiously bigoted and misogynist. Islamophobe or not, by blocking this legislation Chope has also undermined the efforts of Islamic and BAME feminists to protect women. But then, as Dangerous Hero Rachel Swindon and Mike have pointed out, Chope doesn’t believe in supporting the health and welfare of the poor and underprivileged, only in giving even more to extremely rich White men like himself.

As for his precious principles, they’re clearly undemocratic. Private Members’ Bills always have been part of parliamentary democracy. He can hate them all he likes in principle, but it should not be his right to obstruct parliamentary democracy. Especially when it puts women and girls at risk of horrific mutilation.

You hope it won’t be too long before there’s a general election and he, and the rest of his party of thugs and bigots, are thrown out and a proper Labour government installed instead.

Radio Programmes Next Week on Homelessness, Conspiracy Theories and Aliens

February 6, 2019

Looking through next week’s Radio Times for 9th-15th February 2019 I found a number of programmes which might be of interest to some people following this blog.

On Monday, 11th February at 8.00 pm on Radio 4 there’s Beyond Tara and George, about rough sleepers. The blurb for this programme reads

Last year there were nearly 600 deaths on the streets of the UK. In this follow-up to last summer’s Radio 4 series on east London rough sleepers Tara and George, presenter Audrey Gilan catches up with the pair to ask what it would take to prevent the unnecessary deaths of homeless people. (p. 137).

Then a half hour later at 8.30 on the same channel, Analysis covers conspiracy theories. The Radio Times says of this

Professor James Tilley explores the current spate of political conspiracy theories, and examines what belief in them tells us about voters and politicians.

The next day, Tuesday 12th February, at 1.30 pm on the Beeb’s World Service there’s Documentary: So Where Are the Aliens?, which the Radio Times describes thus

Space, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, is mindboggling big. So huge, in fact, that the probability of there being civilized life elsewhere in the universe is almost a mathematical certainty. This begs an obvious question, to which Seth Shostak – chief astronomer of the Seti institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has devoted his career. He speaks with fellow scientists Frank Drake and Jill Tarter about their pioneering work chasing extraterrestrial radio signals as well as the new listening and light-based techniques designed to open up the sky like never before. Last year’s tantalizing fly-by of the mysterious cigar-shaped Oumuamua has revived interest in this topic, although in 2019 ET could be forgiven for giving Earth a wide berth. (p. 138).

Regarding the programme on preventing the homeless dying, one way to stop it would be to fix the welfare state so that poor and vulnerable people didn’t become homeless in the first place. Giving more funding and expanding the number of homeless shelters so that they were safe and able to provide accommodation for rough sleepers would also be very good. As would support schemes for those with drug, alcohol or mental health problems. And as Mike’s pointed out in his reports on attacks on the homeless, it would also be very good idea for the right-wing media to stop portraying the homeless, as well as the disabled, the unemployed and those on benefits generally all as scroungers committing welfare fraud and generally demonizing them. But as the Tory party, the Scum, Express and Fail all depend on this for votes and sales, it isn’t going to happen.

The prgramme on conspiracy theories could be interesting, but I doubt it will actually face up to the fact that some conspiracies are real. Not the malign and bogus myths about a Jewish plot to destroy the White race, or that the business and political elite are really evil Reptoid aliens, a la David Icke, or have made a demonic pact with grey aliens from Zeti Reticuli to allow them to abduct us for experimentation while giving them the benefits of alien technology. Or similar myths about the Illuminati, Freemasons or Satanists.

The real conspiracies that exist are about the manipulation of politics by the world’s secret services, and secret big business think tanks and right-wing pressure groups. Such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War, the smears concocted by MI5 during the 1970s presenting Harold Wilson as a KGB agent, and the contemporary smears by the Integrity Initiative, funded by the Tory government, claiming that Corbyn and other left-wing figures across Europe and America were agents of Putin. And, of course, the real conspiracy by Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy to have Tory cabinet ministers, who didn’t support Israel, removed from government. As well as the embassy’s role in making fake accusations of anti-Semitism against entirely decent people in the Labour party.

But I’ve no doubt that the Beeb will shy well away from these real conspiracies, not least because of Britain’s sordid role in the West’s history of regime change in Developing nations that dared to defy the Americans and ourselves. The Beeb has put on similar programmes before, and the person being interviewed or presenting the argument was former Independent journo David Aaronovitch. And his line has always been to ignore these real conspiracies, and concentrate on all the mythical rubbish, which he presents as typical of the conspiracy milieu as a whole. Which you’d expect from an establishment broadcaster, that now seems to see itself very much as the propaganda arm of the Conservative British state.

Moving on to the programme on SETI, Shostak, Tarter and Drake are veterans not only of the search for intelligent alien life, but also of programmes and documentaries on the search. Drake was the creator of the now famous equation which bears his name, which is supposed to tell you how many alien civilisations we can expect to exist in the galaxy. He was one of the brains behind Project Ozma, alias ‘Project Little Green Men’ in the 1960s to listen for alien signals from two nearby, roughly sun-like stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Which found zilch, unfortunately. Shostak and Tarter were two of the leaders of the new wave of SETI researchers in the 1990s, and Shostak wrote a book about the possibility of alien life and what they would possibly be like. This concluded that they wouldn’t be anything like us, ruling out aliens like Mr Spock in Star Trek. In size they would probably be the same as Labradors.

It’s been known now that the Galaxy is old enough and big enough, with the right kind of stars and an increasing multitude of known planets, some of them possibly suitable for life, for alien civilisations to have emerged several times. And if they only advanced at the speed of light, they should be here by now. But they’re not. So far we’ve detected no sign of them. Or no absolutely indisputable signs. So where are they? This problem is called the Fermi paradox after the Italian-American physicist, Enrico Fermi. Suggested answers are that life, or perhaps just intelligent life, is extremely rare in the universe. Space travel may be extremely difficult. Aliens may exist, but they may be completely uninterested in talking to us. In this respect, we may even be a ‘protected species’ considered too fragile at our current level of civilization for contact with the rest of the Galaxy. Or perhaps there really are predatory alien intelligences and civilisations out there, who automatically attack any culture naïve and trusting enough to announce their presence. In which case, all the alien civilisations out there are paranoid and keeping their heads well down. One of SF writer even wrote a collection of short stories, each of which gave one solution to the Paradox.