Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Lem’s Robots and Marvin the Paranoid Android

February 15, 2017

lem-pic

Polish SF Maestro Stanislaw Lem

Remember Marvin, the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? He was the manically depressed robot with a brain the size of a planet, who also suffered from a terrible pain in the diodes all down his left side. I was reminded of him yesterday when reading one of the short stories in Stanislaw Lem’s Mortal Engines (Harmondsworth: Penguin 2016.

Lem’s a highbrow Polish SF writer, who uses his fiction to explore deep philosophical issues, sometimes stretching and challenging the conventions of the short story form itself. One of his volumes, A Perfect Vacuum, consists of reviews of non-existent books. Another one is blurbs, also for books that don’t exist. As you can see from this, he was strongly influenced by the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, after whom he’s been hailed as the ‘Borges of Science Fiction’. But he could also write straightforward stories, some of which could be hilariously funny.

Two of his works are collected short stories about robots, The Cyberiad and Mortal Engines. The stories in the Cyberiad, and several in Mortal Engines, are literally technological fairytales, in which electroknights sally forth to battle robotic dragons. Or mad robotic inventors compete with each other to create the most impressive machines, machines which usually go disastrously wrong. One of the stories in Mortal Engines, ‘The Sanatorium of Dr Vliperdius’, is about a journalist who goes to visit a mental hospital for robots. At the end of his visit, just as he is going out, the journo encounters yet another troubled cybernetic soul.

On my way back with the young assistant I met in the corridor a patient who was pulling behind him a heavily laden cart. This individual presented a singular sight, in that he was tied all around with bits of string.

‘You don’t by any chance have a hammer?’ he asked.
‘No’.
‘A shame. My head hurts.’

I engaged him in conversation. He was a robot-hypochondriac. On his squeaking cart he carried a complete set of spare parts. After ten minutes I learned that he got shooting pains in the back during storms, pins and needles all over while watching television, and spots before his eyes when anyone stroked a cat nearby. It grew monotonous, so I left him quickly and headed for the director’s office. (P. 131).

There’s a serious philosophical issue here, apart from Lem’s literary exploration of the kind of delusions mentally ill robots could suffer from, such as the robot earlier in the story, who believes that he’s really organic, but that somebody has stolen his human body and replaced it with the machine he inhabits. If humanity ever creates genuinely sentient machines, which are able to think and reason like humans – and that’s a big ‘if’, despite the assertions of some robotics engineers – then presumably there will come a point when these machines suffer psychological problems, just as humans do.

Mortal Engines was first published in America by Seabury Press in 1977, roughly at the same time Hitch-Hiker came out on radio over here. Hitch-Hiker is full of references to philosophical problems, such as the debate about the existence of God, so clearly both he and Lem saw the same potential for using robots to explore spiritual malaise, and the psychological implication of genuine Artificial Intelligence.

David Davis’ Sexual Assault of Diane Abbott, and the Hypocrisy of Harriet Harman

February 12, 2017

Mike and the Skwawkbox have this week posted a series of articles reporting and commenting on David Davis’ unwelcome attempt to foist his attentions on Diane Abbott, and the complete failure of Harriet Harman to stand by her alleged feminist and egalitarian beliefs and actually stand up for her.

Davis is the minister in charge of Brexit. On Wednesday, Abbott voted to support the Article 50 bill, so that evening Davis mockingly showed his appreciation by hugging her and allegedly trying to kiss her in the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons. For which Abbott rightly told him to ‘F*** off.’

Mike’s article quote Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin in Left Foot Forward, who commented on the lack of condemnation of Davis’ actions by the Tories shows how they believe sexual assault is still acceptable. She makes the point that if an MP like Abbott can be assaulted with impunity, then younger women in more junior positions are that much more vulnerable. She wrote

“His behaviour is offensive and disrespectful to Abbott — who has repeatedly been a target for sexism and racism — but it also raises serious questions about Davis’s attitude to women generally, and his treatment of younger, more vulnerable women he encounters.

“For those young women, who put up with sexism for fear of losing out professionally if they complain, the message this gives is that there’s no level of success that will shield them from the lecherous and powerful men of Westminster.

“One of parliament’s longest sitting members? Doesn’t matter. Shadowing on of the great offices of state? Doesn’t matter. There will always be someone who’s willing to humiliate you then ‘walk off laughing’.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/09/did-david-davis-sexually-harass-diane-abbott/

Yesterday, Mike reported that Young Labour Women and Labour Students Women have also condemned Davis’ actions and the way they have been treated. In their view, this has not only been misogynist, in that Davis’ harassment has been viewed by the media as a jolly jape, but is also racist. Abbott’s understandable outrage at his assault has been deliberately misrepresented to conform to the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’. They therefore called upon Theresa May to launch an investigation into the incident, and show that the government will not turn a blind eye to such abuse.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/11/where-is-the-tory-party-investigation-into-david-daviss-harassment-of-diane-abbott/

Davis denies trying to kiss her. But he did embrace her, and then sent offensive texts afterwards to one of his Tory colleagues in which he made jokes about not being blind. This has been reported in the Mail, so Mike advises us to make up our own minds whether it is true. This is part of their article quoted by Mike:

‘I whispered in her ear ‘Thanks for your vote’ hence the ‘F off’. I am not blind.’ Davis’ friend responded: ‘Ha! Ha! Thank god you aren’t blind. Great week for you and Brexit!’

Davis: ‘Actually it would make a good Optical Express advert… Yes, a reasonable success.’

His last text appears to be a reference not to Optical Express but another opticians, Specsavers, whose TV adverts feature hilarious mix-ups caused by bad eyesight, followed by the slogan: ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers.’

His line about not being blind seems to be a reference to Miss Abbott’s appearance.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/12/misogynist-david-davis-now-accused-of-sexist-texts-after-trying-to-embrace-diane-abbott/

The assault was part of a week of bullying of Abbott, including one incident in which a Tory councillor, Pearmain, called her ‘an ape’. However, the Skwawkbox noted that Harriet Harman, who has been touring promoting her new book, A Woman’s Work, and other female Labour MPs, who were ready to denounce the attacks on Angela Eagle for sexism, have said absolutely nothing about Davis’ assault on Abbott. The Skwawkbox wrote

The first ever minister for women and a former Secretary of State for women and equality, Ms Harman is considered a prominent campaigner on behalf of women’s rights and equality, so of course she would be quick to jump into the fray on Ms Abbott’s behalf, right?

Wrong. Ms Harman’s Twitter feed is active, for that of a busy politician. She found plenty of time for tweets to promote her new book. She found time to tweet in praise of Jess Phillips, a Labour MP and Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, who infamously bragged about telling Ms Abbott to ‘f*ck off’ and laughed as Abbott was mocked by a TV impressionist.

But a message of support and solidarity with a mistreated female colleague, or to condemn the racism of Councillor Pearmain or the misogyny of David Davis?

Nope.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/10/dianeabbott-called-ape-by-tory-assaulted-by-tory-wheres-outrage-from-harman-and-co-the-skwawkbox/

and follow the link to the original article.

This really shows the threadbare feminism and supposed anti-racism of Harman and her camp. Harman is fiercely ambitious – she’s been going around telling everyone what a great leader of the Labour party she’d make, and presents herself as a feminist firebrand. So much so that at least one Tory organ has called her ‘Harriet Harperson’.

Last week, Guy Debord’s Cat wrote a piece criticising the bizarre behaviour not just of Harman, but one of her supporters, Helen Lewis, one of the hacks on the New Statesman. Lewis sent a tweet declaring that Harman was a person, who had really stood up to the ‘establishment’.

Wrong. Like many of the anti-Corbyn lobby, Harman is the establishment. She supported the government’s anti-welfare bill, and ordered other Labour MPs to do the same. Then she told Southwark News a few weeks later that she’d oppose it.

Then both Harman and Lewis issued messages calling on Corbyn to quit. The reason for this is that Corbyn imposed a three-line whip on the Article 50 vote. This is the first stage in the process, but as the Cat has pointed out, it’s been misrepresented by the media as the last stage. So Harman and Lewis have been trying, once again, to oust Corbyn.

See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/the-crazy-upside-down-world-of-helen-lewis/

In the article, the Cat reminds us that both Lewis and Harman come from privileged backgrounds, and therefore represent the Establishment. They are certainly not against it. He writes

In the last few weeks, the media has paraded a series of Orwellian neologisms like “post truth politics” before us. Can we therefore regard Lewis’s Tweet as “post-reality”? Let’s remember that Lewis herself comes from a privileged background and is, for all intents and purposes, like Harman, a member of the establishment. So it’s unlikely that she possesses the ability to identify anti-establishmentarianism and is more likely to characterize it as something else.

Harman’s feminism and alleged anti-racism is all about getting nice, middle and upper class women into power, while keeping the proles down. It’s the same kind of faux feminism mouthed by Hillary Clinton. Her supporters also made much about the supposed misogyny of the ‘Bernie Bros’ – who didn’t exist – who criticised her campaign. But Clinton is an extremely rich woman from a privileged background, who has been responsible for some the actions of the US government which have harmed women both in America and the Developing World. It was Killary who voted with her husband, Bill, to continue destroying the American welfare system after Reagan. It was Killary, who passed the anti-drugs legislation which has resulted in so many Black men being slung into jail, even though the same proportion of Blacks and White use drugs. It was Killary who talked about ‘superpredators’, when this term referred almost exclusively to young Black men. And it was Killary who made sure that US support went to the military junta in Honduras when they overthrew the previous, liberal president.

Clinton has always supported corporate power, including taking massive payments from Wall Street. Over half of Americans now recognise the need for a single-payer healthcare system. They also want education to be free. But Clinton blocked this, telling Americans that it was ‘utopian’.

This has not stopped her supporters presenting her as some kind of feminist radical. Madeleine Albright, who has been responsible for extolling and promoting some of America’s worst foreign policy atrocities, declared that there was a ‘special place in hell for women, who do not support [her]’. It was a view that many American women rejected, on the reasonable grounds that Hillary’s election to the presidency, while a historic feminist victory, actually wouldn’t make any material difference to the worsening conditions they and their families find themselves in.

And Harman’s the same. A woman from a privileged background, who stands for the corporate control of the Labour party, which Blair introduced, who despises the working class, who appears to be entirely comfortable with the privatisation of the NHS. Which was again continued after Thatcher and Major by Tony Blair.

In considering her feminist credentials, I’m reminded of a line from the American comedy Frasier. There was one episode where Niles’ estranged wife, Meris, was accused of stealing a piece of art from the Vatican. Niles thought that it was most unfair that she should be so accused, and so exploded ‘Rich, white women just aren’t getting their fair whack!’ Or words to that effect.

As for the Tories, their feminism has always been cosmetic. Margaret Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist, and her cabinet was repeatedly attacked by feminists because it had no female members. The Tory press, particularly the Scum, the Express and the Mail, have always been extremely anti-feminist. Over the years the Mail has run endless articles arguing that women’s places is back at home in the kitchen, and certainly not at work. And all of them have attacked legislation promoting racial and sexual equality, and outlawing the kind of assault Abbott has suffered, as ‘political correctness gone mad’.

They also have a cavalier attitude to sexual assault, regardless of the gender and sexual orientation of the perp and the victim. Remember when one Tory politico was acquitted of trying to rape a male colleague? Even though that gentleman was found not guilty, he had still tried to force his attentions on the man, and the incident showed an atmosphere in parliament where aides, both female and male, were regularly groped by the politicians.

So no, Harman and her colleagues aren’t going to stand up for Abbott. She’s too left-wing and too Old Labour, which puts her well outside the circle of privileged women Harman wants to promote. And as well as being deeply sexist and racist, whatever Cameron claims to have done, the Tory party seem to think that sexual assault is just one of those things the proles and new bugs have to put up with from their superiors. No doubt it all comes from the culture of bullying, including sexual assault, that went on at Eton and the other public schools.

It’s disgusting, and it’s high time Harman put her act in order to back Abbott on this point, and for May to show that her party is genuinely committed to protecting people of all backgrounds from sexual harassment. But I’m not holding my breath.

Sam Seder on Bercow’s Propose Ban on Trump in Parliament

February 10, 2017

Sam Seder, the host of the American internet news show, Majority Report, yesterday covered John Bercow’s proposed ban on Trump speaking to the House of Commons. Seder and his colleagues discuss a report on one of the other news shows, that Trump was planning to meet the Queen on a visit to this Sceptred Isle. According to Seder, the show had a Brit on to talk about the visit. The Brit stated that Her Maj had met a wide variety of ‘really horrible people’ including ‘serial killers’, and so she would have no trouble in meeting Trump. Comparisons are then made with John Wayne Gacy, who killed nearly a twenty men and boys.

He then shows the clip of Bercow’s speech, in which Bercow makes the point that addressing the House is an earned honour, not a right; that there are plenty of precedents for a head of state not being allowed to address parliament on a state or diplomatic visit; that the three keyholders to parliament – the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the Lord Chamberlain, were usually united, but on this occasion he would break with the others. Bercow stated that even before Trump’s ban on Muslim travel to the US, he would have been opposed to Trump’s visit. He was even more opposed now.

Seder and his team then finish with impressions of Trump demanding to sit on the throne.

It’s very clear that Seder and the rest of his crew find British parliamentary attitudes to Trump, in lumping him in with mass murderers and Bercow’s proposal to ban him hugely amusing. But as I’ve said in my last post, Bercow is right about everything he’s said. He also made it clear that parliament should not allow Trump to speak, if it took seriously its aim of combatting racism, sexism and supporting equality.

Quite apart from the fact that, even if Trump himself is not, many of his close supporters, like Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon, are anti-Semites and White Supremacists. The prospect of Trump addressing parliament is very much like the home-grown British Fascist, Oswald Mosley, and his attempts to get elected in the 1930s. As well as his party’s thuggery and brutality to Jews and left-wingers.

Yes, comparing Trump to some of the mass murderers, who’ve met the Queen is funny. It’s less of a joke when you consider that the murderers the Brit was talking about were probably heads of state responsible for horrific crimes against their own people. And allowing Trump to address parliament in reality would be a very grim joke, with very few laughing.

Trump Puts Iran ‘On Notice’

February 4, 2017

It seems that Drumpf is gearing up to start another war, this time with Iran. Yesterday the Trumpists’ National Security advisor, Michael Flynn, stated that they were putting Iran ‘on notice’ following an attack by Houthi rebels on a Saudi warship and the Iranians’ testing of a ballistic missile. The Houthis are supported by Iran. Under UN resolution 2231, Iran is barred from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The missle launched by Iranians was not capable of carrying such a weapon. The rocket flew 500 miles before crashing. Iran has tested ballistic missiles before, and while they are observing the letter of the resolution, Obama’s administration condemned them for violating the convention’s spirit. This was because the results from these tests could be used to construct a missile that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The former Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, said that ‘this is not the first time an inexperienced person has threatened Iran … The American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless. Iran does not need permission from any country to defend itself.’ He also stated that the weapon was not covered by the nuclear accords, and that they would not use missiles produced in Iran to attack another country.

Trump also made a statement attacking Obama’s agreement with Iran, in which frozen assets were returned to the country in return for the regime abandoning any effort to development nuclear weapons. I think the monies returned to Iran was about $180 million. Trump declared that until Obama gave them the money, the country was on its last legs. There’s no evidence for that, and Drumpf misrepresents the payment as some kind of gift. And like his Republican predecessors, Drumpf also seems to want to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran. Despite the fact that it is preventing Iran from developing nuclear arms, and international monitoring agencies have confirmed that Iran is abiding by the agreement.

In the video, John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian also state why an invasion of Iran would be a bad idea. They make the point that the Iraq invasion and consequent occupation has been bad enough, but Iran would be much more difficult as it has a larger army and is better armed and equipped.

There are also a number of other points that could be made here. Firstly, any invasion of Iran would not only face difficulties presented by confronting a much better armed country, but would also cause the same ethnic blood bath that broke out in Iraq. 51 per cent of the Iranian population speak Farsi, but the country is also a mosaic of other tribes, including Arabs in Khuzestan, Kurds, Baluchis and various nomadic tribes speaking languages related to Turkish. Many of these have also waged war in the recent past for their independence. The Kurds have been fighting for their independence since the reign of the Shah, and several of the Turkish tribes rose up in revolt in the 1970s after the Iranian regime confiscated their tribal lands as part of a programme of land redistribution.

It’s hardly known in the west, but there is also a massive, growing underground Christian church in Iran similar to underground church in China. Apostasy from Islam is forbidden, and converts to Christianity imprisoned and persecuted. It has got to the point that the Iranian regime is posting armed soldiers around the ethnic Armenian churches, so that Iranians don’t sneak in to participate in their worship. If America invades Iran, this already persecuted minority will suffer even worse harassment and victimisation as they will be identified with the invaders. And the same will be true of the Bahai’is. They see themselves as a separate religion, which has grown out of Islam, in the same way that Christianity developed from Judaism. Mainstream Islam, at least in Iran, sees them as a heresy, and they have been savagely persecuted. Because Baha’ullah, one of the religion’s founders, was imprisoned in Haifa, which is now in Israel, there’s a conspiracy theory grown up about the Bahai’is, which accuses them of being spies and saboteurs working for Israel. It’s rubbish, but this hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of Bahai’is being killed in pogroms. Any American invasion of Iran will see these people suffer even worse persecution.

Iadarola and Kasparian also make the point that Trump’s belligerence also threatens to miss a golden opportunity to turn the country into an ally. They make the point that it’s a young country, with a burgeoning middle class, who want western consumer products. It should be possible to draw Iran into the international community, and neutralise any threat they may pose simply through friendly relations. But Trump is taking the much easier route, of turning it into another North Korea, isolated from the rest of the world.

The peoples of the Middle East have suffered too much. The last thing they, and indeed the rest of the world need, is another wretched, stupid war of aggression. And let’s forget the rhetoric about Iran being a ‘rogue state’ and part of the ‘Axis of evil’ as George Dubya put it. The Iranian theocracy is brutal. But it is still more liberal than many of the other countries around it, like Saudi Arabia. There is a democratic component to their constitution, which there is certainly isn’t in the Wahhabi kingdom. And I’ve also heard that if the Iranians were developing nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t be to use against Europe, but to defend themselves against the Saudis.

If America were to invade Iran, it wouldn’t be to spread democracy. That would be another lie, the same that has been used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The reality would be that it would be another attempt by the Neocon political and economic elite to loot another Middle Eastern country, and steal its oil and industries. While the Saudis would back it in their campaign to advance their kind of repressive Sunni Islam against Iranian Shi’a.

Scientists and Hackers Back Up Climate Data to Prevent Trump Deleting It

January 30, 2017

Here’s another act of resistance against the Trump regime. In this very short video, Farron Cousins from The Ring of Fire explains how, during Trump’s inauguration, a group of 60 climate scientists and hackers got together to go through the US government’s website to back up all the data on climate change. This information is now stored on servers in Europe. The scientists, technicians and hackers did so to prevent the information from being deliberately purged by Trump. The group intends to compare this with future releases of information on climate by Trump and his cronies in order to prevent him from falsifying evidence against climate change.

Cousins makes very short work of Kelly-Anne Conway’s statements that Trump believes in climate change. Conway is Trump’s spokeswoman, and she’s claimed that he believes in it, as he’s talked about it in the past. Well, no, he hasn’t actually. The only time the Permatanned Duce talked about it, he declared that it was ‘a Chinese hoax’.

Cousins shows how the Republicans not only do not believe in climate change, but they confuse it with weather. Conway apparently says that Trump’s aware that climate change is occurring, because the weather also changes. Cousins shows that while the weather does change from day to day, the climate is rather different. But as he says, the Republicans don’t believe climate change is real, because it still snows, so this obviously disproves global warming.

This is excellent news, as Trump has already shown his determination to expunge and falsify information on climate change through imposing gagging orders preventing officials working for the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing data that does not match the Trump-approved party line.

Other scientists are planning to organise a march on Washington as a protest against Trump’s and the Republicans’ attacks on climate science, evolution and renewable energy.

It’s great that so much is being done to defend climate science from attacks from Trump and the Republicans. And this is just one facet of a general movement by millions of people throughout the world against Trump and his policies.

Russian Hacking Allegations: Democrats Refused to Allow FBI Access to Servers

January 28, 2017

In this little video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian discusses a report in the American magazine, The Hill, that the Democratic National Convention, the party’s central party machine, refused to allow the FBI access to their servers following the accusations they made that they had been hacked by the Russians. FBI director James Comey stated he had no idea why they refused to let the Agency examine them. Instead, the examination of the computers was handed over to an agreed third party, CrowdStrike, which specialises in military investigations. It was CrowdStrike that provided the alleged proof showing that the Russians had supposedly hacked into the Democrats’ computers.

Dore here points out that the allegations of hacking by Putin’s minions were designed to divert attention from the Democrats’ own role in creating the massive poverty now afflicting millions of Americans. The Democrats as a party are funded by Wall Street and the corporations. These sources of highly lucrative funding would be cut off, if the Democrats actually started doing what parties are supposed to do, and worked for the electorate, not corporate interests. It’s because the Dems (and Republicans) do exactly the opposite that half of America is poor while Wall Street and the corporations are enjoying massive profits.

Dore pointedly asks why the Democrats’ weren’t keen to have the FBI examine their computers, and also mocks the article’s assertion that CrowdStrike proved that the Russians were responsible for the hacking. And he makes the point that even if the Russians were responsible, that does not falsify what was revealed by WikiLeaks: the massive corporate corruption of the Democrat party.

He states forcefully that these allegations, and the refusal to allow the FBI to examine the computers, were a deliberate strategy by the Democrats to divert attention away from the Democrats’ business connections. He concludes by stating that this whole scandal will be over by Valentine’s Day. And then the Dems will have won.

This is another piece of evidence showing just how flimsy the allegations of Russian hacking are. I’ve put up a number of pieces from news sources like The Young Turks and The Jimmy Dore Show, as well as Counterpunch, showing that the Russians weren’t responsible for the WikiLeaks material. It all came from disgruntled Democrat insiders, according to the British former diplomat who took custody of the information. The documents showing the Russians hacked the DNC do nothing of the sort. And now there’s this little piece of news, which shows that the Democrats were afraid of letting the FBI do its job and examine their machines.

It seems from this that Dore is exactly right. This is just a baseless assertion designed to divert attention from the Democrat’s own responsibility for their massive electoral wipe-out by the Republicans, and their impoverishment of millions of Americans. And in so doing the Dems have also raised tensions with the Russians to a dangerous level, just for their own political advantage.

American Scientists Plan March against Trump

January 28, 2017

After the massive numbers of people involved in the women’s marches against Trump held around the world last weekend, American scientists are also planning to organise their own demonstration against the Orange Caudillo in protest at his disastrous environmental and health policies.

In this video, TYT Nation’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a report in Forbes’ discussing the formation of the new group of scientists planning this march. The group has it’s own internet page, and in five days its members grew from 200 to 200,000 +. The group says it will include non-scientists as well as scientists, and is intended to advocate the greater involvement of science in government. It’s purpose is to defend climate science, evolution, and alternative energy. Waldorf states that he too believes strongly that science should be more involved in government. He also quibbles with the phrasing in the Forbes’ article, taking issue with the magazine’s description of the scientists as ‘believing’ in the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industries. Waldorf argues that scientists’ in these areas don’t believe, because they have proof that oil pipelines, such as DAPL, can rupture, creating massive oil spills and environmental destruction.

Waldorf also argues that, although he understands why people in America’s coal country wish to retain the industry for as long as possible for the sake of their jobs, renewables are now becoming cheaper than oil for the first time. It’s time to move from the horse and buggy to the automobile, is the metaphor he uses. He also notes that 75 per cent of Trumps’ own supporters are also in favour of solar and wind power, and natural gas. Waldorf himself is not in favour of natural gas, as it’s still a fossil fuel, with the environmental problems that poses. At the moment, the movement is still in the planning stage, but hopes to issue a mission statement soon. In the meantime, they state that a government that sacrifices science to ideology is a threat not just to America, but also the world.

I wish the scientists the best of luck in their campaigns against Trump’s attack on climate change and green energy. I think, however, Waldorf has a rather too optimistic view of science. There’s quite a debate in the philosophy of science over what constitutes ‘proof’. In one view, articulated by the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, science advances through falsification. You can’t prove a particular theory. What you do instead is show that other explanations are false. In many areas of science, the observable effects of experiments, may be tiny and ambiguous. This is why scientists have developed very sophisticated statistical methods for sorting through their observations in search of factual evidence that will support or disprove their theories. Thus, at the risk of nit-picking, it might be fairer to say that climate change and environmental damage by the fossil fuel industry is far better supported by the available evidence, than the minority view that no such change or damage is occurring.

I also think you have to be careful about relying too much on science to solve social problems. The British philosopher, Mary Midgeley, in one of her books pointed out that in some areas, what is needed is a social and industrial solution to a particularly issue, rather than scientific innovation. For example, it could be argued that in the struggle against world hunger, what is needed is not new, genetically engineered crops which produce vast yields, but better transportation methods and infrastructure to supply people with the food that has already been grown.

Despite these very minor quibbles, it is true that orthodox, respectable science in the above areas has been under attack for a long time to serve powerful interests in the fossil fuel industries. Trump this week imposed gagging orders preventing scientists and government workers in the Environmental Protection Agency from revealing their findings. Climate change is happening, and is a real danger to America and the globe. But this awareness frightens the Koch brothers and their wealth in the petrochemical industry. So they, and millionaires like them, are spending vast sums to keep the facts from ordinary peeps. America’s scientists are right to challenge this. Let’s hope their march in support of proper science goes ahead and is well-attended.

Trump Imposes Gag Order on Government Environmental Scientists

January 28, 2017

The Republican party since the 1980s, if not before, has a bitter hatred of environmentalism and loathes just about any and all laws, movements or protests to protect Earth’s precious natural resources, and the creatures with whom we share our beautiful world. Now Trump’s taken it to its latest development.

In this video, The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s imposition of a legal ban gagging members of the Environmental Protection Agency from releasing details of their work to the general public. Trump has also frozen official funding, so that the Agency may only publish its results and findings if these meet the official, ideological approval of his administration.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that this is intended to keep people ignorant, powerless and deprived of decent science education before Trump’s government. They also point out that this action by the Orange Dictator shows without question that the Republicans are anti-science. It doesn’t matter whether individual Republican voters support Trump’s policy, or they merely have to go along with it because they agree with his others reforms. The Republicans are anti-science, and they should now own it.

They also make the point that in any jobs that may actually be brought back to America through these bans, Americans will be fighting for scraps. The jobs in the petrochemical sectors drilling for oil, which the attacks on the EPA are designed to protect, will not be such to give Americans the standard of living they want. It would make far greater sense for the government to begin investigating in renewables – a whole new industry. At the moment, even the Chinese are beating America in investment and research into renewable energy, because, says Uygur, ‘the Chinese are smart’. But there’s no reasons why America shouldn’t be no. 1 in renewable energy. They’ve got enough sun in Arizona and wind in Chicago, the notorious ‘windy city’.

The Young Turks here are right. This is all about protecting the Republican party’s corporate backers in the petrochemical industry, like the Koch brothers. These two have financed a slew of fake astroturf ‘Green’ organisations and campaigned against genuine climate science produced by independent university laboratories. Koch money has been poured into Unis and state coffers instead to produce very politicised labs that have been set up to deny that climate change is occurring, and that drilling for oil is having a harmful effect on the local landscape of the US. This is despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, such as vast stretches of Louisiana wetland now made little more than one vast oil bog. Or the fact that there were over 300 spills from the oil pipelines crisscrossing America last year. The Kochs and their dollars try to keep facts like these well-hidden from the voters and the folks that have to live with the results of their environmental pillage.

And whatever the Republicans do, the Tories are nearly always bound to follow. The Republicans have heavily embraced fracking, and so have the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers. So you can bet that at this moment, Theresa May, members of her cabinet, or perhaps the members of some Tory think tank somewhere, is looking at these gagging laws, and wondering how something similar can be introduced over here.

The US Intelligence Agencies’ Plans for Mind-Control Implants for the Public

January 28, 2017

Magonia was a small, sceptical UFO magazine running from about the 1970s to the first years of the present century. It took the psychosocial view of UFOs- that they were, in the phrase of Carl G. Jung, ‘a modern myth of things scene in the sky’. They were misperceived objects, and the reported encounters with aliens were internal events produced by poorly understood psychological processes whose imagery was taken from the culture around them. It followed John Keel and Jacques Vallee in considering that in previous ages, the mechanism responsible for producing UFO sightings had used the imagery of gods and faeries. Now that society has become industrial and technological, and the supernatural at least ostensibly given way to scientific rationalism, the beings reported by those experiencing these sightings are spacecraft and aliens as the new, psychological symbol for the cosmic Other.

It has published some of the most interesting and intelligent articles on UFOs, and other visionary experiences in contemporary urban culture. Like many small mags, it’s been overtaken by the internet and is no longer published in hardcopy. There is, however, a Magonia blog, reviewing books on the weird and paranormal at http://pelicanist.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/the-nature-of-catastrophe.html. Also on-line are archives of the magazine and its predecessor, MUFOB, as well as notices of forthcoming books on the subjects it covers.

magonia-58-cover

Way back in issue 58 in January 1997, it published an article by Mark Pilkington, ‘What’s On Your Mind’, examining the belief reported by many schizophrenics that their minds are being controlled through tiny electronic implants. Similar delusions that others are controlling their minds and their thoughts through machinery have afflicted the mentally ill down the centuries. I have a feeling that there was a book reviewed by the Fortean Times about a decade or so ago about the first such recorded case. This was in the late 18th or early 19th century. The sufferers in this instance was a gentleman, who believed his mind was being controlled by a group of Jacobins determined to overthrow the government, using a machine he called ‘the air loom’.

Unfortunately, such devices have for many decades most certainly not been merely the fantasies of the psychologically ill, or of writers of spy and science fiction. Mark Pilkington’s article also briefly traced the notorious experiments carried out by the American intelligence agencies into mind control from the early 1950s under a series of covert projects such as Artichoke, Bluebird, Pandora, Mkdelta, Mksearch and Mkultra. The projects researched a variety of different methods, including drugs, hypnosis and electro-shock treatment in a variety of grossly unethical experiments. And one the avenues they explored was electronic manipulation of the brain. This resulted in the creation of the ‘stimoceiver’, a type of electrode which could be inserted into the brain to control or modify a creatures’ behaviour. Its inventor, Jose Delgado supposedly demonstrated the effectiveness of his invention by using it to stop a charging bull. Research into the electronic control of the brain was taken still further by Bryan Robinson, of the Yerkes Primate Research Laboratory, and Dr Robert Heath.

Mark Pilkington writes:

Dr Robert Heath, a neurosurgeon at Tulane University, claimed a world record after implanting 125 electrodes into a subject’s body and brain, and subsequently spent hours stimulating the man’s pleasure centres. Both scientists concluded that ESB [Electronic Stimulation of the Brain] could control memory, impulses, feelings, invoke hallucinations, fear and pleasure. Heath, and many of his colleagues, considered ESB a potential ‘cure’ for homosexuals and other ‘socially troublesome persons’; this could, of course, be you…Joseph A. Meyer, of the National Security Agency, America’s most secretive defence group, has proposed implanting electronic tags into all those arrested, for any crime, in order to monitor their behaviour at all times. He uses New York’s Harlem district as the model in his proposal. (p.4).

He then goes to discuss further refinements of the technology, and the possibility that the whole abduction phenomenon, or at least part of it, was a screen for the military testing of such technology for their possible use in warfare.

I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of the poor souls, who believe their minds are being controlled by electronic implants, whether put there by the terrestrial intelligence agencies, aliens or whoever, are simply mentally ill. Just as I similarly don’t believe that anyone has ever been physically abducted and taken aboard an alien spacecraft to be examined and abused.

But the technology to control people’s minds and brains artificially certainly does exist, and its use was promoted by senior members of the intelligence community, whose views represent a very clear and present danger to the personal freedom of just about everyone. Starting, of course, with the fringe and marginalised – like criminals, Blacks and gays, before getting to anyone else they consider socially deviant and needing necessary mental correction.

Unfortunately, the threat posed by this kind of technology is taken seriously largely by extreme right-wing paranoiacs like the infamous conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, on Infowars, with his bizarre fantasies about demonic entities, alien invasions and the coming one world superstate. And Jones is a Libertarian, who has given his vocal support to Donald Trump, who represents the very same, predatory, exploitative corporate elite Americans and the world’s citizens need protection from.

Which goes to bear out the old phrase: ‘Even paranoiacs have enemies. They just don’t know who they are.’

It also shows that organisations like the CIA and the NSA are also actively threats to human rights and personal freedoms, quite apart from the Agency’s role in overthrowing democratic regimes and installing subservient Fascist regimes across the world since the end of the Second World War.

Young Turks Promotional Video Calls Out Mainstream Media Propaganda

January 22, 2017

The American internet news show, The Young Turks, has been running ads and sequences asking for people to support them financially by becoming members. This is one of those, a three minute or so video in which they appeal for members to support them in their attack on the mainstream media. I’m putting it up here not because I intend to become a member, although I do watch many of their videos. I’m putting it up here because they call and show mainstream news for what it is: propaganda. They say so in the video’s title, and the video consists of speeches and pieces by Cenk Uygur and the other hosts, intercut with montages from Fox news and the other channels making extremely mistaken predictions, or simply blatant lies.

The Young Turks aren’t the only left-wing or progressive internet news show. There are a number on the other side of the pond – The Jimmy Dore Show, Secular Talk, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Thom Hartmann all of them are taking on and providing a corrective to the fake news pumped out by the mainstream media.

This is the kind of material that is getting the BBC and Rupert Murdoch very worried indeed, as it attacks their position as opinion leaders. I’ve blogged before about how one of the hacks writing in the Radio Times said they were worried about public opinion becoming increasingly polarised as people turned away from mainstream news and its ability to shape the consensus view on this side of the Pond. The same hack in the very same hack mooted the possibility that, in order to win back viewers, the BBC could abandon any pretense at balance or objectivity for opinion, following the example of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Which would mean, in the Beeb’s case, changing from subtly right-wing, with the occasional liberal exceptions, into very definite unsubtle, indeed screamingly blatant extreme right-wing coverage. But it would be what the corporate establishment – the business and political leaders with whom people like Laura Kuenssberg and the Beeb’s head of news, James Harding – live amongst and mix with. Hence the rage and angry retorts when the BBC is accused of Conservative bias. Its senior staff are drawn from the same social class and probably the same families as the industrialists and financiers they regularly interview, to the point where they can’t see that there is a class and political bias in their programming. And it’s because they’re afraid of losing their influence that the Beeb has decided to launch a ‘Reality Check’ team to take on fake news. But only on the internet. The material pumped out by the mainstream press, run by Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch and the Barclay Twins, isn’t going to be touched. Because some of the staff might want a job with these companies later. They also don’t want to annoy these media moguls any more than they have to so that they’ll go round to the Tories and start demanding the Corporation’s privatisation again. And besides, the mainstream media needs to stand together against these outsiders.

This shows how craven and biased the Beeb and the mainstream media is. And how much we need the alternative news source on the internet to check and correct the propaganda and sheer fake news of the mainstream media.