Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Liddle and Phillips Hold ‘Freedom to Offend’ Event – But No-One Seems Interested

March 8, 2019

More fun at the expense of right-wing hacks and hate-mongers Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips from Private Eye. According to this fortnight’s edition, for 8th-21st March 2019, Liddle and Phillips held an event supporting the ‘freedom to offend’. But no-one was interested. The article on page 8 runs

FORGET the Rumble in the Jungle; consign Frost v Nixon to the history books. As the Eye went to press this Monday evening, London was preparing itself for the event that would eclipse them all: “Spectator and Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle makes the case for the freedom to offend. Rod will be in conversation with Melanie Phillips”.

For just £32.50, organisers at the How to Academy were offering tickets to a “no-holes-barred (sic) approach to what it is and is not acceptable to say in the 21st century”.

Alas, despite the Spectator’s boast last year that Liddle’s pulling power was enough to sell out the 2,300-seat London Palladium,m his popularity seems to have wanted. A full fortnight before the Rod/Mel smackdown, self-described audience-booster website Central Tickets was trying to convince its “community of seat fillers” to make up the numbers at the event, paying just a “nominal booking fee” of £4. Any gluttons for punishment taking up the offer were given strict instructions: “Don’t mention complimentary tickets in or around the venue. Do not make social media posts referencing free tickets.

The Tory press has been pushing the ‘freedom to offend’ stance for some time. It’s part of the usual torrent of complaints about ‘political correctness’ stifling free speech. And they are also ostensibly firmly against racist hate crimes being investigated as such only on the perception of the person offended. Over two decades ago I remember the Heil publishing a long rant against Labour’s introduction of this legislation, complaining that perfectly decent people would now be accused of racism simply on the subjective judgment of the offended person.

Er, no. That’s not what the legislation says. As Mike’s pointed out time and again, the legislation states that a possible hate crime is to be recorded as a hate crime if the victim believes that it is, but is to be investigated in the same way as any other crime. And this includes ascertaining whether it is, in fact, a hate crime.

And it’s cant and hypocrisy anyway. The right really isn’t interested in the ‘right to offend’ as such. Both Liddle and Phillips are venomous islamophobes. Liddle is notorious for saying that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party, while Phillips is constantly talking about the threat Islam poses to Judaeo-Christian western and British society. She published the book, Londonistan, about how the country’s capital is now the largest centre of Muslim terrorists in Europe. When these two talk about the right to offend, like the Mail and the rest of the right-wing press they mean the freedom to demonise and vilify Blacks and other ethnic minorities. And particularly Muslims.

But this doesn’t apply to Zionists and Zionist Jews, as the press is fully against anyone offending them. And this is what many of the anti-Semitism accusations come down to: not that Jews were really being vilified or demonised, as they notoriously were by the Nazis in the pages of Der Sturmer. Or that the information in the material which forms the basis of their complaints is incorrect. That’s irrelevant. Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy was certainly conspiring with British officials to have Alan Duncan removed from the government, but simply describing it as a conspiracy is anti-Semitic. Because of the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, you see. No, they’re quite happy to accuse innocent, decent people of anti-Semitism due to personal offence. Marc Wadsworth was accused of anti-Semitism partly because, according to the Heil, he had made Ruth Smeeth cry. He hadn’t, but fact has never been of particular concern to the Heil in these matters. And Mike was accused of anti-Semitism because someone had been ‘upset’ by one of his pieces. And then there’s the matter of libel. Because it was the Sunset Times, along with other rags like the Jewish Chronicle, which published the libels against Mike that he’s an anti-Semite and holocaust-denier.

In fact, I fully support the ‘right to offend’. George Orwell wrote about the political writer’s job being to tell people things that they don’t want to hear. It’s a quotation often used by news journalists, including hacks like Liddle. But Liddle and Phillips aren’t really interested in the right to tell uncomfortable truths. That’s why the right has given its full, malign support to the anti-Semitism smears and witchhunt in the Labour party. They’re only interested in the right to smear, and create racial hatred and division. Because it’s through racism and hatred, including that of the poor, the unemployed, and ethnic minorities, that the Tories thrive and their vile press sells their papers.

But possibly not for much longer. By and large the younger generation is much less racist than the older generation of readers and bigots, who seem to be the core of the internet groups demanding that Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson should lead the Tory party. And the Spectator and Sunset Times were clearly promoting Liddle and Phillips as a pair of journalistic big hitter, who could be expected to draw crowds in. But they didn’t. And I hope this will continue, until there’s no-one left reading these genteel, up-market hate-sheets.

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Comedian Alexei Sayle on the Forces Ranged Against Jeremy Corbyn

March 3, 2019

This is another video from Labour Against the Witchhunt, the group formed to defend the victims of the mass smear campaign against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. The video was posted on YouTube on 2nd June 2018, and as Sayle says that he is there to support Marc Wadworth, my guess is that it was recorded as part of the tour Marc Wadsworth did of various cities up and down the country exposing the injustice of his own smearing and expulsion from Labour. Ruth Smeeth accused him of anti-Semitism, because he embarrassed her passing information on to a Torygraph journalist at a press conference. As Wadworth is a veteran campaigner against racism and anti-Semitism, who got Stephen Lawrence’s parents to meet Nelson Mandela and worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the ’90s when the BNP were beating up Jews once again in the east end of London, the charge is risible and obnoxious. But this didn’t stop the press, media and Blairites baying it at every opportunity.

Some of us of a certain vintage remember Sayle as the bald, sweary bloke, who was one of the leaders of Alternative Comedy that came out of the Comedy Store in the 1980s, along with Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, French and Saunders, and Ben Elton. They were an iconoclastic attack on the old style of comedy – anarchic and ‘politically correct’. They firmly rejected the racism and sexism that was part of the ’70s comedy scene. Sayle appeared in the groundbreaking sitcom, The Young Ones, as the heroes’ landlord, and later had his own show on BBC 2. He also did a car advert in which he sang ‘Ello, John, got a new motor?’ until you were heartily sick of it, but the less said about that the better.

He starts by talking about the forces ranged against Corbyn – Capita, neo-liberalism, and fanatical supporters of the state of Israel, for whom it is a fight to the death, and will do anything, to stop the prospect of someone, who prioritises the plight of the Palestinians, of the oppressed than the oppressor, leading a western nation. He says they will lie, cheat and do anything to stop that, and one of the people, who has been sacrificed, who he wanted to speak up for, was Marc Wadsworth.

He then says that perhaps the audience knows the Labour party better than he does, perhaps there’s a plan there. But if it was him, he’d just tell the Board of Deputies to f**k themselves. ‘Not a sophisticated response, but I dunno’. He speculates whether there is a plan to appease them, and wonders if it will work. He then talks about how he was busy with work a couple of weeks previously. It was the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. (Sayle’s parents where Jewish Romanian Communists, who settled in Liverpool, and much of Sayle’s comedy is about Marxism and the Russian Revolution. He once did a radio series about a football team, which was fable about the Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik revolution). However, the previous October was the centenary of the Russian Revolution. He expected to be busy with work then, and told his agent to block out all of October. However, nothing happened. But he was able to get a gig speaking at the British Library. He goes on to explain that the history of the Soviet Union has a bit of a blemish when you’re talking about Marxism. Some people would disagree. His own mother would never admit there was anything wrong with the Soviet project. The most she would says was, Mistakes were made’. Or as she would say, ‘You can’t make an omelette without murdering 40 million people’.

He goes on to say that the spirit – the purity of spirit – of the Russian Revolution was crushed when the Kronstadt uprising was put down, the sailors, who were asking for a return to the basic principles of Bolshevism, of the Revolution. He goes on

‘It seems to me a tremendous danger that if you concede, if you start to mess with the basic principles of who you are, if you start to make concessions to people like Ruth Smeeth and Wes Streeting, and these people. And if you start to self-harm in the hope of future gain, you are fundamentally undermining what you are about.’

Wise words indeed, as we have seen this week when the party has decided to suspend Chris Williamson for daring to defend the smeared innocent against their accusers.

Musical Satire: Tweezer Sings about Arlene Foster and the DUP to the Tune ‘Jolene’

November 21, 2018

This is a bit of Cassetteboi-type fun from the YouTube channel Joe.com. Cassetteboi cuts and edits footage of politicians and celebrities to make them appear to be saying stupid and ridiculous things. One of their greatest hits was at the 2012 London Olympics, when they made Boris Johnson look even more of a pratt than he already is.

The people of Joe.com have done the same to Tweezer, mocking her reliance on Arlene Foster and the Loyalists of Northern Ireland’s DUP. It’s a relationship which is increasingly looking very rocky since Foster’s withdrawal from their Confidence and Supply agreement over the issue of Brexit and a hard border with Eire. Yesterday, as Mike explained in his blog post, the government’s position was so precarious that they had to swallow their pride and accept all of Labour’s amendments to their wretched budget, otherwise the result could have been that it was voted out completely, followed by a ‘No Confidence’ vote on Tweezer and a general election.

So the channel has put up this video of Tweezer singing about their dubious relationship to Foster, which has the lyrics

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
I’m begging of you
Please don’t break my plan.

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
Please don’t break it
Just because you can.

I gave you one billion pounds
So that you would not vote me down
So please don’t turn your
Back on me, Arlene.

When you’re not denying dinosaurs,
You insist on having UK laws
Except abortion and Gay rights,
Arlene.

You only have 10 MPs
But it’s you that I need to appease
My time is up
Without your help, Arlene.

If you vote this budget down,
You end up with that Boris clown,
Be careful what you wish for,
Arlene.

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
I’m begging of you
Please don’t break my plan.

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene,
Arleeeeene,
Please don’t break it
Just because you can.

Visual highlights include May pulling back the bedcovers in front of Foster to reveal masses of pound notes, Boris Johnson in clown make up, and copies of Foster’s head appearing from clouds to surround Tweezer.

Bonfire Night Fun as Effigy of Boris Goes Up in Flames

November 6, 2018

I hope everyone had a great Bonfire Night yesterday or at the weekend. And that if you have pets, I hope they were safe and well, and not frightened too much by the noises.

This weekend, the famous Edenbridge Bonfire Society chose Boris Johnson as the subject of their celebrity guy to be burnt on the bonfire. This is a short video posted by RT UK on YouTube yesterday, November 5th 2018 of the event with a few comments from some of the organisers.

One woman explains that they have a celebrity effigy who appears on their field every year, the celebrity effigy gets voted by the public and what happens is all the votes, all the nominations get put forward get discussed in a committee meeting and a decision is made. And this year they have Boris Johnson who perhaps made one gaffe too many and that’s why he has ended up in their effigy hall of fame.

Another woman wearing an enormous pink hat and a dress adorned with poppies, which are also painted on the side of her face, also explains that Boris is a sort of caricature person, by which she means that its really easy to caricature him, because he gives us all these ideas when you google him. As she’s explaining this, there’s a clip of Boris diving for the ball during a football match and coming a cropper. She goes to say that his messy hair is the biggest thing, isn’t it, she asks, before continuing that he’s a keen cyclist so they had to put the helmet in and his funny shorts, and they wanted to put a little bit of Brexit in with the cake and the buses.

Mark Kermode’s Review of Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

November 4, 2018

Michael Moore is the ‘capped crusader’, the left-wing American film-maker responsible for a string of powerful documentaries, from his first film, Michael and Me, to Fahrenheit 9/11 about the War on Terror, Bowling for Columbine about the Columbine High School massacre, Sicko, on the pitfalls of America’s private healthcare system and Capitalism: A Love Story, which is very definitely not a celebration of American private enterprise. His latest film, which was released a few weeks ago, is Fahrenheit 11/9 about the rise of Donald Trump. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo are the film critics on BBC Radio 5. Here Kermode gives his view on Moore’s movie.

He begins by explaining that the title refers to the date on which Trump won the presidential and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, conceded defeat. It’s also a reference to his earlier film, Fahrenheit 9/11, and to Ray Bradbury’s SF classic, Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which paper burns. Fahrenheit 9/11 became the highest grossing documentary film and won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Kermode has his own reservations about Moore, in particular the grandstanding and stunts he plays in his movies. The film examines how the fruitcake, to use Kermode’s substitute term, we got to this point. Trump announced his intention to run for the Whitehouse because he was sick of Gwen Stefani earning more than him. Then his candidacy was taken seriously, and he got elected. In addition to talking about Trump himself, Moore also discusses his own peculiar relationship with Trump and his aides. He was given assistance with his earlier films by Bannon and Kushner, and met Trump himself on the Tonight Show. Trump said that he liked Michael and Me, but hoped Moore wouldn’t make a film about him. Moore actually went easy on him during that interview, because he’d been told to.

Moore also uses the film to criticize what he sees are the failings in the Democrats. They didn’t take Trump seriously. He talks specifically about the disgusting state of the water supply in Flint, Michigan, and how Obama, as he sees it, did nothing about it. This has led to the current crisis, where people are alienated from politics because they see everyone as part of the elite.

He does, however, see change coming from young people, who are refusing to put up with this. Kermode plays a clip from the film in which he talks to Michael Hepburn, a young Black Democratic candidate for Florida. Hepburn explains that the problem is the lack of will and backbone from the Democrats, and the fact that they’re taking money from the same sources as the Republicans. He states that the Democratic party should be recruiting extraordinary ordinary Americans, who get on the same bus as their constituents. Who have kids in the same public schools, and so know what it’s like when the teachers don’t get paid a real salary or lack resources.

A young woman explains that the definition of electoral insanity is electing the same guys over and over again and expecting things to be any different.

This is followed by a clip of a news programme explaining that for the first time, the Democrats in Michigan will have an all-female ticket. He talks to Rashida Talib, who is poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. She says ‘We are not ready to give up on the party, just ready to take it over and put some people in there that get it.’
‘Take it over?’ Moore asks.
‘Take it over, Michael. Take it over,’ she replies.

Kermode also says that the strongest voices are those of schoolchildren, including one piece where they talk about the revolution that is going on through social media. He finds it refreshing that someone is talking about social media in a positive way. He still finds Moore a problematic figure, and that the film doesn’t really ‘wrestle the problem to the ground’. However, it does offer a glimmer of hope through young people. This is what happens when people feel disenfranchised, and a younger generation who are fed up with not being represented. He goes on to say that there is a certain repetition of themes, because they’re close to Moore’s heart. He also says that he feels that Moore is sincere about this film. He says it’s impossible to say what impact the film will have. It’s nothing like the scale of Fahrenheit 9/11. He also believes the best film about Trump was You’ve Been Trumped, made long before the Orange Buffoon came to power and which was about him and the golf courses in Scotland. But it’s a sincere work, with less of the ‘stunty stuff’ which Kermode doesn’t like.

Jeffrey Archer Demands Ban on Gambling Advertising in Radio Times

October 30, 2018

Heavens, and what is the world coming to! I’ve just read something by Jeffrey Archer that actually made sense, and with which I agreed. The scribe of Weston-Super-Mud is in the ‘Viewpoint’ column of the Radio Times today, for the week 3-9 November 2018. His piece is titled ‘We have a gambling epidemic’ and has the subheading ‘Cigarette advertising is banned – so why not ads for betting?’

Archer begins by talking about how the Beeb has lost much of its sport coverage to the commercial channels, and so he has his enjoyment of the footie, rugger, golf and cricket ruined by advertising for gambling. He describes how these try to tempt you into having a flutter, even though the odds are stacked against you. You may win occasionally, but in the long term you’ll lose. He then goes to compare this with tobacco advertising, which also took many years to ban because powerful commercial interests were involved, which also heavily sponsored sport. He also claims that the NHS wouldn’t be in crisis if no-one smoked, because the money thus saved would vastly outweigh the tax revenue tobacco brings in. He then writes

Fast forward: we now have a gambling epidemic. More than 400,000 punters have become addicts, 26,000 of them aged 16 or younger. So how long will it take the Government to ban gambling advertising on television? Far too long, I suspect. A good start was made at the Labour party conference in September by deputy leader Tom Watson, who promised immediate legislation to dealwith the problem if a Labour government were elected. Watson pointed out that several experts had shown that unfettered gambling causes impoverishment for the least fortunate in our society, and this often results in abusive behavior towards young children and partners,, and all too often ends in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicide.

Rewind: successive governments took years to acknowledge that “Smoking damages your health”, and even longer to admit that “Smoking kills” should be printed on every cigarette packet; and it took even more time before they finally stamped out all forms of smoking advertising. Please don’t let’s take another 20 years before the Government bans gambling advertising, and wastes a generation of young people simply because of the tax revenue.

He then recommends that Tweezer’s new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, should steal Watson’s clothes and bring in tough legislation dealing with gambling addiction before the next election, because ‘No one ever remembers whose idea it was, only the party person who passed the law.’

His piece ends ‘The slogan ‘When the fun stops stop’ is pathetic, and will reman so until it’s stopped.’ (p. 15).

Archer and Watson are absolutely right about the damage tobacco advertising has done, and which gambling and the advertising for it is continuing to do. And obviously a disagree with his recommendation that the Tories should appropriate Labour’s policy. If they did, it would only be token gesture of actually doing something for ordinary people, like Hammond’s wretched budget. A cosmetic improvement designed to get them re-elected so they can continue wrecking people’s lives in other ways, through destroying what remains of the welfare state and privatizing the health service.

But I’ve absolutely no fear whatsoever that the Tories will ban gambling advertising, for the same reason that they’ve never banned advertising for alcohol. There are heavy restrictions on the way booze is advertised, but not an outright ban. Which the European Union wished to bring in, according to Private Eye a few years ago.

The contemporary Tory party is a creature of its corporate donors. Always has been, to a certain extent. The Tories have always boasted that they represent business, and their MPs, like MPs generally in a political culture dominated by corporate cash, include the heads and managing directors of companies. Indeed, this is one of the reasons the Tories are dying at grassroots level. Ordinary party members in the constituencies are annoyed at the way they’re being ignored in favour of the donors from big business.

Going back 30 years to Major’s government, there was a demand in the early 1990s for an end to alcohol advertising. Major’s government was firmly against it. And one of the reasons was that very many Tory MPs had links to the drinks industry. Which Private Eye exposed, giving a list of those MPs and their links to particular companies.

I’m very confident that the Tory party now has very strong connections to the gambling industry, and so will very definitely not want to risk losing their cash. Just as it wouldn’t surprise me that if Labour did try to ban gambling advertising, the Thatcherite entryists in the party would turn against it. One of Tony Blair’s grotty schemes was the establishment of megacasinos in this country, modelled on America, of course. One of the ideas being kicked around was to turn Blackpool into a British Las Vegas. It’s a very good thing it failed.

Archer’s absolutely right to want gambling advertising to be banned. But the Tories are the last party that’s going to do it. If any party will, it will be Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Artists Saying ‘Nope’ to the Arms Industry

October 19, 2018

This is another great little video from Novara media, posted on YouTube on the 17th October 2018, about a group of artists, who withdrew their work from the Design Museum and exhibited elsewhere. This is the Nopetoarms collective, a group of radical artists protesting against the arms industry.

They made the decision to withdraw their works following the announcement that the museum would be hosting a reception for Leonardo, the 9th largest arms company in the world. Novara’s Ash Sarkar tweeted that it was a case of the British art establishment coopting radical artists to stay relevant, and ‘facilitating the social calendar of slaughterers to stay wealthy’. They also told her it was a private event, and she had to use other entrances and exits. One of the artists, Glen Orton, states that the movement contained work by Syrian artists, the Hong Kong movement, and other protest groups, who’d been teargassed, beaten, bombed. He was ‘gobsmacked’ that they even considered hosting the company. The Museum stated that they could not immediately commit to refusing money from the arms, oil and tobacco industries.

Another artist, Jess Worth, states that when the time came to move their works, there were forty people in the collective, which now comprised a third of the exhibition. The artists then decided to exhibit their work themselves, on their own terms. Charlie Waterhouse, another artist with the group, states that once the decision was made to remove their work, the Museum’s PR machine attacked them by claiming they were trying to shut down free speech and stop people seeing the exhibition. This made them think that putting the show back on would be a good thing. The exhibition is now being held in the basement of a leisure centre in Brixton, where it is curated and controlled by the artists themselves.

Worth explains that they wanted their exhibition to be free, unlike the Design Museum, which charged 12 pounds, the artists would write the labels themselves, so that it would present the work in the way they wanted. They wanted it grounded in community. They also wanted to make it accessible to people, who wouldn’t normally go to an art gallery.

Waterhouse also explains why the art is hung on clothes pegs from fences. It’s so that people say, ‘Oh, I can do that. Then, ‘I can do that’, and go and do it.

The video explains that oil and arms funding in the arts industry is a massive problem. Worth explains that being in a museum space conveys the impression that a company’s work is legitimate, because otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to be there. This is immensely valuable to the companies involved.

Waterhouse goes on to say that this has got to stop. On the one hand, they’re taking money from the arms industry. On the other, they’re levering cachet from the artists’ work without paying them. It’s a scam, he concludes.

The video also explains that the collective would like to do more. Worth says that what they’d really like to see is museums and other cultural bodies having a code of fundraising ethics, determining who they will and won’t take money from, that’s really clear on their website that everyone can see.

Waterhouse says that it’s time for artists to mobilise, to realise that their ethics, morals and feelings are valid, and they don’t just have to kowtow to the money.

Orton ends the video by saying that the Design Museum doesn’t know what it’s done.

The video shows the works of art as they’re displayed in the leisure. They not only comment explicitly on the arms industry, corruption and other issues, but also on the exploitation of the poor and working class through zero hours contracts. And among the iconic figures used in the works there’s David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

I think it’s really great that these artists have stood up for their beliefs against the arms industry, and that they’re encouraging their public to get involved and create their own pieces as well. I wish them all the best for their exhibition.

My JBIS Paper on Passenger-Rated Hobby Rockets

October 16, 2018

After the flight a few months ago of the American eccentric in his steam-powered rocket to see if the Earth really was flat, and Richard Branson’s announcement last week that he was only weeks away from sending his first tourists into space aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceplane, I thought it was time I put up a piece about a paper I had published in the Journal of British Interplanetary Society about other, passenger-carrying rockets. The paper, ‘Backyard Spaceships: Passenger-Rated Microlights for Hobby Rocketry’, argued that just as hang-gliders and microlight aircraft allowed people to enjoy the experience of flight simply for pure pleasure, so short-range passenger-carrying rockets could be developed to give people some of the experience of spaceflight. It’s quite a long and technical article, so I’ll simply quote the abstract. This runs

The FINDS and CATS prizes have introduced to contemporary astronautics the competitive spirit, which led to such spectacular advances in the fledgling aviation industry. This pioneering spirit is also shared by present day microlight aircraft enthusiasts. If the expected expansion of commercial passenger spaceflight with mass space tourism occurs, then it may create a demand for extreme short-range crewed rockets as a new form of leisure craft, Just as microlight aircraft recreate the experience of large aircraft flight on a smaller scale. If the technologies, materials and procedures used in microlight and balloon aviation are applied to those of high power solid propellant rocketry, then similar ‘microlight’ rockets able to reach altitudes of c.3,200 m, may be a possibility. Apart from the leisure and sporting opportunities offered by such craft, which would also encourage technological experimentation and progress, they would also great benefit astronautical education by adding the practical human experience of rocket flight to ground studies’ curricula. (p. 45).

The FINDS and CATS prizes were set up to encourage private organisations to develop rockets that could successfully fly into space and land again. They were deliberately established in emulation of the prizes that drove the early research into aviation and aircraft flight. These prizes were awarded in competitions for aircraft flying particular long distances, for example, and so encouraged and rewarded designers, engineers and pilots working on the designs of the planes and their engines.

A Danish organization, Copenhagen Sub-Orbitals, was also working on developing a human-carrying rocket, and have posted a few videos showing their vehicles’ test flights on YouTube. However, the last thing I read from them was that they were having difficulty making their rocket safe for humans, as the crash test dummy was always broken on landing. I don’t know whether anyone will actually go ahead and make such microlight hobby spacecraft, but the flight of the guy in his steam-powered spacecraft showed that such short-range, passenger hobby flights are possible.

Self-Taught Engineer Successfully Flies aboard Steam Rocket

September 21, 2018

And now, before the serious stuff, something completely different, as Monty Python used to say. This is a short video I found on YouTube from the Inside Edition channel. It’s their report on the successful flight of a steam-powered rocket, built and crewed by ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes. Hughes is a limousine driver and a self-taught engineer. His reason for building the vehicle is, er, eccentric: he wanted to see if the Earth was flat.

The video was posted on 18th March 2018, and shows Hughes and his rocket taking off in the Mojave desert in the south-western US. It climbed to an altitude of 1,850 feet before finally returning to Earth, its descent slowed by two parachutes. Hughes had spent ten years building it, and the video shows stills of early versions of the rocket.

Hughes’ landing was rough, however. The video describes it as a crash. A rescue team got him out of the cockpit, but he complained that his back was broken. When the news crew caught him with him to talk, ironically just outside a courthouse where he’d been giving a ticket for speeding, Hughes’ claimed that he might have a compressed vertebra.

The video ends by reassuring its viewers that, yes, the Earth is indeed flat.

I’m actually saluting this bloke, because he’s obviously really clever and has done something I’d love to do myself: build a low power rocket that could hold a man or woman and send them up to a reasonable height. Way back in the 1990s I had a paper printed in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society arguing for the construction and flight of such vehicles as a new leisure industry. I based this on the use of hang-gliders, paragliding and microlight aircraft as hobby aviation. People fly them because they want to enjoy the experience of powered flight, not because they actually want to go from A to B. In the same way, I feel, human-carrying rockets could be built and flown to give ordinary people something of the experience of astronauts going into space aboard real rockets, like the Space Shuttle or the Russian Soyuz craft. But obviously without having to spend millions on a ticket to space.

Steam, or hot water rockets, have been around since the 19th century. The first modern hot water rocket was patented in Britain in 1824 by the American inventor, Jacob Perkins (1766-1849). The American Rocket Research Institute, based in California, and founded in 1943, established a special centre for the research and construction of hot water rockets, the Perkins Centre, named after him. The Institute runs a number of training programmes for students and aspiring rocket engineers. The rockets developed could carry payloads up to 5,000 feet.

After the War, the German rocket scientist, Eugen Sanger, and his wife Irene Sanger-Bredt, carried out research into hot water rockets to see whether they could work assisting heavily loaded aircraft into the air. The main US researcher in the area was Bob Truax.

The rocket engines developed by the RRI ranged from senior student college engineering projects with a thrust of 700 lbs per second to the Thunderbolt II constructed by Truax Engineering, which had a thrust of 16,000 lbs per second.
The photo below shows the STEAM-HI III hot water rocket being installed at the Perkins Safety Test Centre in 1963.

This photo shows Truax Engineering’s Thunderbolt rocket and its static test firing in 1973.

See ‘The Rocket Research Institute, 1943-1993: 50 Years of Rocket Safety, Engineering and Space Education Programs’, George S. James and Charles J. Piper, in Jung, Philippe, ed., History of Rocketry and Astronautics, AAS History Series, Vol. 22; IAA History Symposia, vol. 14 (American Astronautical Society: San Diego 1998), pp. 343-400.

And the Earth is very, very definitely round. As it has been known to be by educated European since the 9th century, and by the Greek astronomers long before that. All that stuff about how people in the Middle Ages believed the world was flat and that if you sailed far enough west you’d fall off was basically invented in the 19th century by Washington Irving. The Church Fathers knew and accepted that it was round. St. Augustine said so in one of his works, and argued that when the Bible spoke of the world as flat, it was an instance of God using the beliefs of the time to make His moral message intelligible to the people then alive.

I’ve no idea where the modern delusion that the world’s flat comes from. Well, actually, I do – it seems to have started a year ago in 2017 with the comments of a rapper on American radio. But before then I thought the idea was very definitely dead and buried. In Britain, the Flat Earth Society had dwindled to a single member. This was actually a physicist, who believed that the Earth was round. He used the Society to argue against dogmatism in science. And I thought he had packed finally packed it in, leaving the number of Flat Earthers in Britain at zero.

Now it seems that there are any number of eccentrics, who believe the world is really flat. They’re completely wrong about that, including Hughes.

But Hughes did something superb in building his own, human-carrying rocket

Dimbleby Resigns as BBC Propagandist on Question Time

June 18, 2018

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the resignation of former Bullingdon boy David Dimbleby as the host of Question Time. The man Private Eye dubbed ‘Dimblebore’ has been presenting the show for 25 years, and now considers it the right moment to leave. Dimbleby is another BBC presenter, who is very biased towards the Conservatives. Mike’s photograph of him accompanying his piece shows him raising two fingers, with the comment that it’s probably to a Socialist. Mike also cautions against feeling too good about Dimblebore’s resignation, as we don’t know what monster’s going to replace. He wonders whether the secret of human cloning has been found, and whether the next biased presenter of the programme will be Josef Goebbels.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/17/if-david-dimbleby-is-leaving-the-bbcs-question-time-what-horror-will-replace-him/

Last week Dimblebore was off in Russia, presenting a documentary about the country under Putin ahead of the footie there. He wasn’t the only, or even the first person to go. The comedian Frankie Boyle got there over a week earlier, presenting a two-part show about the country, it’s people and football on Sunday evening. Dimblebore was rather more serious in tone, presenting Russia as a country in the grip of a repressive autocrat, and mired in corruption which was strangling the economy.

Dimbleby first explained that Putin was most popular with young people, the generation that everywhere else is rebelling against autocrats, dictators and tyrants. He puts this down to Russians’ experience of economic collapse under Yeltsin. Yeltsin ended communism and dismembered the economy of the Soviet Union, privatising whatever he could. The result was chaos, and massive employment. At one point it got so bad that some factories were paying their workers in the goods they produced. Putin has restored order and economic stability to the country, and so has the support of the younger generation.

He spoke to a great of young professionals, an advertising branding team who were supporters of Putin, working to promote him through images and slogans. He stated that most of the media was controlled by the Russian president, with a few exceptions. He then went to speak to someone from RT’s Moscow branch. Dimbleby explained that some of the staff were British, and asked one of the Brits there whether he was presenting propaganda. The man denied it, said that there was no one watching over him, telling him what to do, and that his conscience was clear. Dimblebore then gave a knowing smirk into the camera.

He then talked to a female presenter on one of the few dissident broadcasters Putin had allowed to remain open. She said that she had not received any threats, but she knew that she could be killed for what she did. But she was still determined to carry on.

He then talked about how those, who criticised the government were arrested and jailed, interviewing a human rights lawyer, who defended them. When asked what people could be arrested and jailed for, the lawyer explained that it could be criticism of the government, or a non-traditional understanding of the Second World War. The other year Putin passed a law criminalising the view that Stalin was partly responsible for the Nazi invasion of eastern Europe and Russia through the Nazi-Soviet pact. From what I remember, I think you can also be arrested for promoting gay rights.

He then spoke to a woman, who was protesting her treatment by the state. She had already been jailed for criticising Putin, but was determined to do so again. She had not been able to get a permit to organise a protest, and so held her own, one-woman demonstration outside the court. This is permitted under Russian law. If you can’t get a permit for a demonstration, you can still protest, so long as there is only one person involved. As she stood with her placard, she was joined by an increasing number of counter-protesters determined to disrupt her protest, and possibly send her to jail. They moved closer to her, and she moved away, telling them to keep their distance. They kept coming, and their numbers kept increasing. Then the cops turned up, and started filming things as they’d been told foreigners were involved. And someone else from one of the TV companies materialised to film the protest as well. Eventually it all ended, and the police and counter-protesters disappeared.

Dimbleby then did a piece about the police’s brutal suppression of dissent, complete with footage of the cops beating what looked like a feminist protester from Pussy Riot.

He also touched on gender roles. He talked to a hairdresser, while having his haircut, who told him that Russia still had very traditional gender roles, in which women wanted a strong man to provide for them.

Putin has also succeeded in reversing the declining Russian birthrate. Instead of falling, it is now rising, with medals and benefits given to couples who have large families. He showed one woman and her husband, who were being presented a medal by Putin for having ten children.

He also went off to talk to a youth organisation, that was set up to get children, including boys of junior school age, interested in the army. The group’s name translates as ‘Net’, and is run by army officers. The children there wear combat uniforms and learn to shoot using air rifles, which they are also taught how to strip down. They were shown blazing away at targets, and competing with each other over who could reassemble a gun while blindfolded the quickest, with Dimblebore cheering the winner. And it wasn’t all boys. One of the youngster there looked like a girl. Dimblebore asked them if they wanted to join the army, to which they gave a very enthusiastic ‘Yes’.

He then went off to speak to a prelate from the Russian Orthodox Church about its support for Putin, where he described Putin as an autocrat attacking human rights and threatening peace in Europe. The prelate responded by saying that there were those, who did not agree with his view. And that was that.

He then went off to discuss the massive corruption in Russia, and how this was undermining the economy as more and more investors and companies left the country because of it. Russia has 144 million people, but it’s economy is 2/3s that of Britain, or about the size of Italy’s, and is declining.

Now all of this is factually true. John Kampfner, in his book Freedom For Sale discusses Russia as another state, where the population has made a deal with its leader. They have absolute power, in return for which they give their people prosperity. Except that, according to Dimbleby, living standards and wages are declining. Putin has passed laws against the promotion of homosexuality, there are massive human rights violations, including the jailing of the type of people, who would have been called dissidents under Communism. Journalists, who haven’t toed the Archiplut’s line have been beaten and killed.

Other aspects of the Russian state, as revealed by this programme, would have been immediately recognisable to the generation raised by Communism. Like the corruption. It was rife under Communism. The Bulgarian journalist, Arkady Vaksberg, wrote a book about it, The Soviet Mafia. And Gogol took a shot at official corruption under the Tsars back in the 19th century in his play, The Government Inspector. So no change there.

As for the Russian Orthodox Church supporting Putin, it was always the state church under the tsars, to which it gave absolute support. The watchword of the tsarist regime was ‘Autocracy, Orthodoxy and the People’. And its support of autocratic leadership didn’t begin under Putin. After the restrictions on religion were lifted in the 1990s, the BBC journalists interviewed some of its clergy on their shows. And the clergy had the same preference for absolute state power and total obedience from the people. Putin made the relationship between the Church and his government closer by granting them a sizable share of Russia’s oil.

The youth groups designed to get children interested in joining the army are also little different from what already went on under the Soviet system. Secondary schoolchildren did ‘military-patriotic training’ to prepare them for national service as part of the school curriculum. It was led by retired army officers, who were often the butt of schoolboy jokes. They were taught to handle weapons, complete with competitions for throwing grenades the furthest.

And let’s face it, it also isn’t much different from what used to go on over here. I’ve known young people, who were in the army and naval cadets. And the public schools used to have the CCF – the Combined Cadet Force – which the Tories would dearly love to bring back. And boys, and some girls, do like playing at ‘War’, so I’ve no doubt that if something like the Russian group was set up in this country, there would be many lads and girls wanting to join it.

Russia has also too been a very masculine society with very traditional ideas about gender and masculinity, despite the fact that most engineers were women, who also worked as construction workers and many other, traditionally masculine areas. One of the complaints of Russian women was that the men didn’t do their fair share of standing in queues waiting to get whatever groceries were in store.

And the medals and rewards to the women, who gave birth to the largest number of children is just another form of the Heroic Mother Awards under the Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia continues many of the same aspects of the country’s society from the age of the tsars and Communism, although Dimblebore said the country was going backward.

I’ve no doubt it is, but the programme annoyed me.

What irritated me was Dimblebore’s knowing smirk to camera when the guy from RT denied that he broadcast propaganda. Now I’m sure that RT does. There’s videos I’ve seen on YouTube from RTUK, which could fairly be described as pro-Russian propaganda.

But what annoyed me was Dimblebore’s hypocrisy about it.

The Beeb and Dimbleby himself has also broadcast it share of propaganda supporting western foreign policy interests, including imperialism. Newsnight has finally got round, after several years, to covering the Fascists running around the Ukraine under the present government. But the Beeb has emphatically not informed the British public how the pro-western regime which was put in power with the Orange Revolution, was created by the US State Department under Obama, and run by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. Far from being a grassroots movement, the revolution was orchestrated by the National Endowment for Democracy, which has been handling the US state’s foreign coups since they were taken away from the CIA, and one of George Soros’ pro-democracy outfits.

Putin is also presented as the villainous aggressor in the current war in the Ukraine, and some have compared his annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine to the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland. But Crimea had been a part of Russia before 1951, when Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, gave it to that state. And Putin is not looking to take over the country either. The population of Russia is 144 million. Ukraine’s is a little over a third of that, at 52 million. If Putin really had wanted to annex it, he would have done so by now. And under international law, as I understand it, nations are allowed to intervene in foreign countries militarily to defend members of their ethnic group that are being persecuted. That was the pretext for the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland, and it’s also the reason why Putin’s invaded eastern Ukraine. But it’s legal under international law. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that Russians, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, were being persecuted by the new, pro-Western government.

In his documentary, Dimbleby met a very angry, patriotic Russian, who told him that the British had tried to invade Russia three times in the past three centuries. Once in the 19th century during the Crimean War; then in 1922 during the Russian Civil War. And now we were preparing to do the same. He angrily told us to ‘get out!’. Dimbleby looked shocked, and said to him that he couldn’t really believe we were ready to invade.

This was another continuation of the Soviet paranoia and hostility towards the West dating from the Communist period and before. Russia has always felt itself encircled by its enemies since the tsars. But the man has a point. We did invade Russia in 1922 in an effort to overthrow the Communist regime. Pat Mills has talked about this in his presentation on comics he gave to the SWP a few years ago. He tried to get a story about it in Charlie’s War, the anti-war strip he wrote for Battle. This is another piece of history that we aren’t told about.

And when Gorbachev made the treaty with Clinton pledging the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism, Clinton in turn agreed that these state would not become members of NATO. He broke his promise. They now all are, and NATO’s borders now extend to Russia. At the same time, western generals and NATO leaders have been predicting a war between Russia and NATO. One even wrote a book about it, 2017: War with Russia. Thankfully, 2017 has been and gone and there has, so far, been no war. But with this in view, I can’t say I blame any Russian, who is afraid that the West might invade at any moment, because it does look to me like a possibility.

And there are other matters that the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream news aren’t telling us about. They’re still repeating the lie that the invasion of Iraq was done for humanitarian reasons, whereas the reality was that western corporations and the neocons wanted to get their hands on Iraqi state industries and privatise the economy. And the American and Saudi oil industry wanted to get their mitts on the country’s oil reserves.

The civil war in Syria is also presented in simplistic terms: Assad as evil tyrant, who must be overthrown, and Putin as his bloodthirsty foreign ally. Assad is a tyrant, and one of the causes of the civil war was his oppression of the Sunni majority. But we are constantly being told that the rebels are ‘moderates’, while the fact is that they still have links to Islamists like the al-Nusra Front, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Nor have I seen the Beeb tell anyone how the Syrian rebels have also staged false flag chemical weapons attacks against civilians in order to draw the west into the war.

And objective reporting on Israel is hindered by the pro-Israel lobby. Any news item or documentary, which shows Israel’s horrific crimes against Palestinian civilians is immediately greeted with accusations of anti-Semitism from the Israeli state and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. I’ll be fair to the Beeb. Some of their presenters have tried to give an objective reporting of events, like Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. But they’ve been accused of anti-Semitism, as was Dimblebore himself when he tried to defend them. In this instance, the bias isn’t just the fault of the Beeb. But it is there, and newsroom staff have said that they were under pressure from senior management to present a pro-Israel slant.

Domestically, the Beeb is very biased. I’ve discussed before how Nick Robinson in his report on a speech by Alex Salmond about Scots devolution carefully edited the SNP’s answer, so it falsely appeared that he had been evasive. In fact, Salmond had given a full, straight answer. Salmond’s reply was whittled down further as the day went on, until finally Robinson claimed on the evening news that he hadn’t answered the question.

And numerous left-wing bloggers and commenters, including myself, have complained about the horrendous bias against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in the Beeb’s reporting. Dimblebore himself has shown he has a very right-wing bias on Question Time, allowing right-wing guests and audience members to speak, while silencing those on the left. Not that he’s alone here. Andrew Marr has done exactly the same on his programme on Sundays.

Dimblebore is, quite simply, another right-wing propagandist, with the Beeb backing current western imperialism. His smirk at the RT journalist’s denials of doing the same is just gross hypocrisy.