Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

American Muslim Civil Rights Group Attacks Anti-BDS Legislation

January 12, 2019

Yesterday’s issue of the I for Friday, 11the January 2019, reported that CAIR, an American civil rights organization defending Muslims, has challenged the local legislation in Maryland banning the state authorities from dealing with firms boycotting Israel. The article, entitled ‘Rights Group Sues State Over Israel Boycott Law’, by Michael Kunzelman, ran

A Muslim civil rights group says that an order in Maryland barring state agencies from signing contracts with businesses that boycott Israel is a violation of First Amendment.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) has launched a lawsuit that seeks to block the state from enforcing an executive order that Governor Larry Hogan signed in 2017 forbidding contractors from boycotting Israel.

The US Muslim group claims the order amounts to an un-constitutional attack on the First Amendment rights of groups supporting the Palestinians. Cair’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, says 25 other states have enacted measures similar to Maryland’s, through legislation or executive orders.

The group has sued Mr Hogan and state attorney general Brian Frosh on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state legislator, who claims that the order bars him from government contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organisations that “contribute to the oppression of Palestinians”.

“Speech and advocacy related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is core political speech… entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection,” the lawsuit says.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hogan’s office said: “We are confident our executive order is completely consistent with the First Amendment and will be upheld in court”. (p.25).

It’s about time laws banning local government from working with firms boycotting Israel were challenged and overturned. They are a clear infringement of civil rights. These laws, and an attempt to pass similar legislation in Congress are an attempt to outlaw criticism and protest against Israel under the spurious guise of tackling anti-Semitism. This is despite the fact, as Harry Tuttle amply showed on his Twitter stream the other day taking Rachael Riley’s specious wails of anti-Semitism apart, many of the leaders and supporters of the BDS and other movements critical of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, are decent, self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews. This includes people who either survived the Holocaust themselves, or had parents who did, and who lost relatives in the horror. People, who have suffered real anti-Semitism, instead of using it to try to discredit even the mildest criticism of the state of Israel and its military.

The anti-BDS legislation has already resulted in more than one terrible injustice against firms and employees. Last week or the week before an Arab woman in a Texas school was sacked because she refused to sign an agreement behind her and other staff from criticizing Israel or supporting the Palestinians. The woman was speech therapist, whose skills are obviously needed by the school. She also wasn’t a Palestinian. None of the reports of her sacking suggested that she was any sort of genuine anti-Semite. She was sacked simply because she insisted on her right to criticize Israel for its savage maltreatment of people of the same ethnicity and religion as herself.

The attempt to stifle criticism of Israel by libeling those who do as anti-Semitism is increasingly being attacked and rebutted in its turn. Tony Greenstein on his blog today put up a piece about how the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham Holocaust Education Council have been seriously embarrassed by their attempts to refuse the veteran Black civil rights activist Angela Davis the Fred Shuttlesworth Award for her human rights work. This is, I assume, Birmingham, Alabama, the centre of civil rights activism in America, rather than our Birmingham over here. Davis is a civil rights activist and a former Black Panther. She was first recommended for the award, but the BCRI then withdrew it following a letter of complaint from the B.H.E.C., who said they were concerned about her support for the Palestinians and the BDS campaign. The result was public protests by civil rights groups against the decision. The city council immediately published a resolution supporting her. Civic, religious, educational, legal and business leaders also announced their support, and that they were going to hold a special day to honour her, culminating with an event in the evening, ‘A Conversation with Angela Davis’. The chairman, vice-chairman and secretary of BCRI resigned, and the Holocaust Education Centre has backpedaled from their letter, claiming that they didn’t intend it to be taken as it was. The whole affair has spectacularly backfired.

Greenstein in his comments about this affair concludes

The Zionist attempts to humiliate and ban Angela Davies and the reaction to them are a sign of the increasing weakness of political Zionism in the USA. Following on from their inability to promote a Bill in the Senate making support for BDS akin to a crime and the recent election of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a supporter of BDS, the Zionist hold is beginning to weaken in the USA as the Jewish community itself becomes more divided. For this we can thank, at least in part, Donald Trump. Indeed according to Netanyahu, Evangelical Christians are Israel’s best friends. For American Jews that isn’t true.

See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/01/zionist-attack-on-angela-davies-symbol.html

I’ve seen it reported elsewhere that the number of Jewish Americans going on the Israeli state-sponsored heritage tours of Israel has fallen by 50 per cent. Coupled with the fact that one third of the Israel firms operating in the Occupied Territories have closed, this shows an increasingly large section of the American Jewish community is not supporting Israel because it, like many non-Jews, is sick and tired of the Israeli state and military’s persecution of the Palestinians. Which also has a downside. We can expect the Zionists in America, Britain and elsewhere to increase their efforts to criminalise or discredit reasoned opposition and criticism of Israel by screaming that it’s all anti-Semitic.

Undoubtedly Davis was able to confound her libelers and abusers because she is such a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement. Just as the British Labour party was embarrassed, and had to reverse its decision to expel the very well respected Israeli mathematicians and pro-Palestinian activists, Moshe Machover, after he was smeared as an anti-Semite. Unfortunately, there are thousands of lesser people, who aren’t so lucky. People like Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and so many, many others.

But hopefully this, and CAIR’s challenge to the odious Maryland anti-BDS legislation, will be the beginning of the collapse of the Zionists’ efforts to smear and defame decent people.

Advertisements

Dr. Who Meets Rosa Parks and the Beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement

October 21, 2018

In this evening’s edition of Dr. Who, ‘Rosa’ The Timelady and her friends travel back to 1950’s America and meet Rosa Parks. Parks was the woman of colour, whose refusal to move from her seat for a White person on America’s segregated buses started the famous bus boycott and mobilized Black America. It was the spark that launched the mass Civil Rights movement.

The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Doctor and her friends travel to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. There they meet someone trying to rewrite the history of the black civil rights movements. (p. 64).

There’s another piece about it on page 62, which adds some more details about the episode.

The Doctor and her friends land in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 hours before seamstress Rosa Parks lights a fire under the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white person.

It is, of course, one of the great turning points in history, where the actions of just one person triggered a convulsive change for good. But someone wants to stop it, someone wants to alter time to keep things, bad things, just as they are. So the gang must paly their part to ensure events remain exactly as they should be to allow Rosa (Vinette Robinson) her defining moment.

It’s an odd episode, co-written by Majorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, that’s preachy and teachy, giving itself the had task of explaining segregation, racism and the Montgomery bus boycott to a young audience. So it loses its way as a bit of teatime fun and becomes more of a lecture.

The reactionary Right has been out in force and in full cry against this series of Dr. Who from before it was even aired. The decision to have the Doctor regenerate as a woman resulted in Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian broadcaster, posting a video on the internight declaring that ‘Feminism Has Ruined Dr. Who’. This was by Jack Buckby, a self-declared activist for traditional British values, who used to be a member of the BNP. Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization have published articles about him, including a pic of Buckby grinning with his Fuehrer, Nick Griffin. There’s absolutely no reason for any decent person to take anything he says remotely seriously.

Despite the denunciations of the racists, there isn’t anything particularly radical going on here. Star Trek explicitly tackled racism from the very beginning. The kiss between Kirk and Uhura in the episode ‘Plato’s Stephchildren’, was the first interracial smooch on American TV. It was so radical, that I think that part of the episode may even have been removed when it was broadcast in the Deep South in case it caused a massive outrage. In one episode of Deep Space Nine in the 1990s, Sisko and his family found themselves in a holographic recreation of Las Vegas. This caused him problems with his conscience, as in the period recreated – the 1960s – Blacks weren’t allowed in the casinos except as entertainers. The conflict is resolved by his wife pointing out to him that this isn’t really Vegas, but Vegas as it should have been. Back to the Classic series, there was also an episode where the crew of the Enterprise discovered a planet, where a rogue federation anthropologist had remodeled its culture on Nazi Germany. The planet was a fully-fledged Nazi dictatorship, with a bitter, racial hatred of a neighbouring world and its people. Kirk, Spock and the others then try to defeat the planet and its leader before they launch a devastating missile at the peaceful, unaggressive other world. The episode was an explicitly anti-Nazi statement, but naturally some viewers were still shocked by Kirk donning Nazi uniform as he disguises himself as one of them in his efforts to bring it down.

Dr. Who also started out partly as a programme to teach children about history, and so the Doctor travelled back in time with his companions to particular periods to meet some of the great figures of the past, in stories like ‘The Crusades’ and ‘The Aztecs’. In the Peter Davison story in the 1980s, ‘The King’s Demons’, the Doctor and his companions travelled back to the 13th century to meet King John on the eve of Magna Carta. He finds that the Master is trying to interfere in history so that the Great Charter is never passed. He describes it as minor mischief-making by the renegade Time Lord, who is trying to destabilize the galaxy’s major civilisations.

It also reminds me somewhat of Ward Moore’s SF classic, Bring the Jubilee, in which a group of modern Confederate nationalists travel back to the 19th century to try and help the South win the American Civil War.

I think, however, this will be the first time that Dr. Who has devoted an entire episode to the issue of anti-Black racism. In some ways, this is really just the series going back to do something like ‘The King’s Demons’ and the earlier historical episodes, but this time taking an episode from Black history as a natural result of Britain’s population having become far more diverse since the early 60s when the series was launched. Majorie Blackman is Black, and a prize-winning children’s author, so I’m not surprised that she was asked to write for the series. I’ve also no doubt that this episode was created because October is Black History month.

It’ll be interesting to see how this episode turns out. It sounds terribly worthy and not as much fun as the other shows. Which was one of the points one of the right-wing detractors of the new series raised in one of his videos attacking it. He quoted Blackman herself as saying that the programme would be ‘educative’ as well as fun. My experience of some of the anti-racist children’s literature recommended for schools during the 1980s is that they were unrelievedly grim, and were also racist in their own way. They seemed to see Whites as being essentially racist, and teach that Blacks could only expect racism and maltreatment from them. I’m sure this episode of Dr. Who will be far different in that respect, as society has become more tolerant.

Radio 3 Programme Tomorrow on Harlem Poet Langston Hughes at the Beeb

June 9, 2018

At 6.45 pm tomorrow, Sunday 10th June 2018, Radio 3’s Sunday Feature is on Langston Hughes at the BBC, brought there through his friendship with producer Geoffrey Bridson. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

A look at how an unlikely friendship led to the epic 1964 Third Programme series The Negro in America, which was presented by the great Harlem poet Langston Hughes. The series brought to the airwaves sounds and voices of the civil rights struggle of Jazz music and of black literature – sounds and voices that had rarely been heard in Britain. Media historian Professor David Hendy pieces together the story of Hughes and his friendship with British co-producer Geoffrey Bridson. the programme includes highlights from the original series; remarkable on-location recording of riots in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963; writers James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), Jazz musicians Cannonball Adderley and Cecil Taylor. (p. 120).

Sam Seder Sacked from MSNBC due to Mike Cernovich’s Smears

December 6, 2017

This is disgusting, but the person causing the outrage and nausea isn’t, or shouldn’t be, Sam Seder.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report is one of the American alternative news shows, whose clips I watch regularly. He’s a genuine liberal, supporting single-payer healthcare and a very trenchant critic of American Conservatism and Fascism. He’s also very critical of Israel and its abuse and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And like others, who have spoken out about this issue, he’s also suffered the smears and accusations of being ‘anti-Semitic’. Despite the fact that Seder is, by his own admission, very Jewish ‘the most Jewish person you know’. This is almost par for the course. In my posts about the Israel lobby and the anti-Semitism smears, I’ve pointed out again and again how those accused of anti-Semitism because of their principled stance against the massacre and brutalisation of the Palestinians are very frequently self-respecting Jews, both secular and Torah-observant. Indeed, Tony Greenstein and other Jewish activists have stated that the Israel lobby particularly attacks Jews. It wouldn’t surprise me the least if this were true. It’s because Netanyahu and the Likudniks and other racists in the ruling coalition claim to speak for the Jewish people as a whole. And so independent Jews critical of Israel are a threat, because they show this to be a lie.

Apart from his own show, Seder was also a contributor to MSNBC. He has now lost that job, thanks to a Tweet he made back in 2009 sarcastically commenting on others’ defence of Roman Polanski. Polanski has been in exile in Europe ever since he raped a 13 year old girl at a party sometime in the late 1960s. Back in 2009 there were moves to have him extradited and tried for his crime in the US. Seder was annoyed by the attitude of other liberals, who tried to defend Polanski on the grounds of his stature as a great film director. So he sent out a Tweet with the sarcastic comment that he hoped that if his daughter got raped, it would be by someone with a great mise-en-scene. Seder has made it very clear that this was sarcasm, and has previously read out a statement on his show, complete with the other Tweets he posted in that sequence, that make it very clear that he certainly does not approve of rape or the sexual abuse of children.

However, this has not stopped Mike Cernovich, a right-wing troll, claiming that this Tweet shows that Seder does, and so he’s been sacked from MSNBC. There are a number of posts about this from other members of the American alternative news media, like The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, and so on. In this clip, Seder describes just who Cernovich is. He states that the only person, who agrees with Cernovich’s view is David Duke, and that isn’t an accident. Of course not. Duke was the leader of the Klan in Louisiana, and those who’ve interviewed him, like Cenk Uygur, have described him as the most anti-Semitic person you could meet. Cernovich himself also seems to be very well-disposed to the Nazi right, retweeting all the nonsense about how diversity equals White genocide and so on.

In this clip below, Seder states that Cernovich may actually have done him a favour, as before he got the job with MSNBC he was more angry in his presentation, and rather more entertaining. He also states that he intends to make a documentary about Cernovich, so that the next time Cernovich goes after someone, they can put it up to show what kind of a person he is.

Here’s an earlier video put up by Seder, which explains the Tweet and the circumstances around it, placing it in its proper context.

I’m disgusted by this, as it shows how the right is using the public’s horror of child sexual abuse to smear and close down their critics. Looking at the second video, in which Seder responds to the smear by Cernovich and Sebastian Gorka, it seems to me that this is an attempt by the Republicans to divert attention away from Roy Moore. Moore’s the Republican Senator for Alabama, who has been very credibly accused of a series of sexual assaults, tantamount to attempted rape, on underage girls. So has Cernovich. As Seder points out in the first video, Cernovich was accused of attempting to rape a girl, but managed to bargain it down to battery. So Cernovich has got absolutely no business accusing anyone of sexual abuse.

It also appears that Sebastian Gorka is also involved in this sordid campaign. Gorka was briefly a member of Trump’s cabinet, and likes to style himself as an expert on terrorism. He’s also another individual with extreme right-wing views. He wears the medal of the Vitezi Rend, a right-wing chivalric order founded by the Hungarian dictator, Admiral Horthy, who was responsible for the country’s collusion with the Nazis during World War II and the deportation of its Jewish citizens. Gorka himself has been very active in extreme right-wing Hungarian politics, and was one of the founders of various Fascist, ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic groups and networks. Not that this has stopped him from being welcomed by Netanyahu. He turned up the other year at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, the annual jamboree for the country’s military. As Tony Greenstein pointed out, this was another example of the way Zionists will ally themselves very easily with genuine racists and anti-Semites, when its convenient.

Seder and his co-host, Michael Brooks, who is also Jewish, have had a great time spoofing Gorka and his pretensions. Much of this has been very silly imitations of Gorka’s accent. Gorka spent several years in Britain, and so has a weird accent that’s a mixture of upper-class educated American, BBC British and Hungarian. All mixed in with his own weird diction. This smear by Cernovich and Gorka shows that Seder has drawn blood with his satire and commentary on Conservative political and moral corruption. Especially with those two clowns.

And I hope that this smear won’t deter him or his supporters around the world, and he’ll continue skewering the Republicans, Corporatist Democrats and the neoliberal elites, who are plunging the working people of America and the rest of the world into poverty for a long, long time to come.

The fact that Cernovich and Gorka have gone this low shows that the alternative news media is having an effect. So support them. And make the mainstream media and the racist right afraid. Very afraid.

Secular Talk: California Moves to Introduce Single-Payer Healthcare

March 2, 2017

In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski comments on a move by politicos in California to introduce single-payer healthcare. He states that it’s been a great week for such initiatives. His show had already covered the way a crowd of Republicans at a town hall meeting in the American south had cheered when a Christian lady stated that, as a Christian, she believed her country should introduce ‘Medicare for all’. Later in the clip, Kulinski reports how poll research has shown that support for the government ensuring that all Americans have healthcare has now grown to 60 per cent. This is something of a recovery, as 64 per cent of Americans had supported this statement, but this had then dropped much lower. Kulinski says that he used to believe that single-payer healthcare should be introduced at the federal level. However, Conservatives object to this on the grounds of states’ rights, feeling that the power here should be kept to the local state authorities. Kulinski feels that we should now meet them halfway on this. It will, however, be extremely difficult to do it this way, as the healthcare companies, big pharma and the other corporate interests realise they will lose some of their profits if single-payer is introduced. So they will do everything they can to prevent it, just as they have done with the other states that have tried to introduce it.

Kylinski is still optimistic, as he feels that if anyone can do it, California can simply because of the state’s size. And he looks forward to other states following it, so that there are separate single-payer healthcare systems in place in Kentucky, Alabama and so on, until eventually single-payer is introduced for all Americans at a federal level.

Amen to that.

Hubert Humphrey on Civil Rights

November 18, 2016

I found this 1948 speech by Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, who was then a candidate for the senate and later became vice-president under Lyndon Johnson, defending Black Civil rights in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, ed. by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1998).

We are here as Democrats. But more important, as Americans – and I firmly believe that as men concerned with our country’s future, we must specify in our platform the guarantees which I have mentioned.

Yes, this is far more than a party matter. Every citizen has a stake in the emergence of the United States as the leader of the free world. That world is being challenged by the world of slavery. For us to play our part effectively, we must be in a morally sound position.

We cannot use a double standard for measuring our own and other people’s policies. Our demands for democratic practices in other lands will be no more effective than the guarantees of those practiced in our own country.

We are God-fearing men and women. We place our faith in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

I do not believe that there can be any compromise of the guarantees of civil rights which I have mentioned.

In spite of my desire for unanimous agreement on the platform, there are some matters which I think must be stated without qualification. There can be no hedging – no watering down.

There are those who say to you we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.

There are those who say this issue of civil rights is an infringement on states’ rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.

People – human beings – this is the issue of the twentieth century. People – all kinds and all sorts of people – look to America for leadership, for help, for guidance.

My friends, my fellow Democrats, I ask you for a calm consideration of our historic opportunity. Let us forget the evil passions, the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political and spiritual, above all, spiritual-crisis, we cannot, we must not, turn from the path so plainly before us.

That path has already led us through many valleys of the shadow of death. Now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.

For all of us her, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole 2 billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever, the last best hope on earth. I know that we can – I now that we shall – begin here the fuller and richer realization of that hope, that promise of a land where all men are free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well. (pp. 205-6).

I thought Humphrey’s speech need restating after Donald Trump’s election victory and the very real danger he now poses to freedom and equality in America. Trump’s surrounded and supported by Fascists. He’s promoted a racist and anti-Semite, Steven Bannon, as his chief strategist in the White House and is now preparing to initiate legislation require Muslims to be registered, as if they were enemy aliens. All of them, even if they are innocent of anything even remotely anti- or un-American.

And where Trump leads, I fear Europe will follow. He has an ally in Nigel Farage, many members of whose party, UKIP, are venomously xenophobic and bitterly anti-Muslim. Then there’s the threat of Marine Le Pen and the Front National in France, and the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. Not to mention the waves of Fascist intolerance now spreading throughout eastern Europe, most notably in Hungary with Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party.

The civil rights struggle in America was a profound inspiration and influence on Black people’s struggle for civil rights here in the UK. There is, or was, even a civil rights museum in Birmingham. That’s the Birmingham over here, not Birmingham, Alabama. Decent Europeans and Americans need to stand together against this new Fascist threat against freedom, equality, toleration, human dignity and everything liberals have campaigned for since the French Revolution.

Secular Talk on the Alabama Textbook Defending Slavery

August 18, 2016

This is another fascinating video from the atheist/secularist news programme, Secular Talk, commenting on an Alabama school history book that taught students in the state for a generation that slavery was beneficial to the enslaved Black population. Clyde Smith was a high school student in 1971, and he posted online pictures of the textbook used in the state schools. It was called History for Schools by Charles Grayson Somersell, and was taught from 1955 to well into the ’70s. The book told its young readers that slaves were given good quality clothes, and were better off than contemporary free labourers, White or Black. They were given the best medical care that the times could offer by their masters. The book didn’t mention the regular whippings, nor the frequent rape of enslaved women by their masters, who then did not take care of the children – a fact that is notorious to Black Americans. Kulinski makes the point that slaves weren’t viewed as people, quite literally, and were forced to work long hours. The textbook also explicitly stated that ‘Slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States’, and states that it was illegal for a master to emancipate a slave after he was too old to work. Kulinski points out that this meant that elderly slaves remained in chains, and slaves were worked until they died.

Kulinski makes the very good point that this shows the basic, unspoken beliefs of Whites in the Southern US, the kind of ideas they express only among themselves in private. It also explains why so many of them were shocked and outraged by demands to remove the Confederate flag. To them, rather than the symbol of evil and oppression, it represented a good and beneficial order, which looked after its enslaved workers and gave them excellent healthcare, in contrast to the poverty of free workers in the North.

Finally, Kulinski explains why he’s talking about this now: because the battle is never over. You have to explain and keep explaining certain basic points about human dignity and freedom, because to people raised on this propaganda, they were the good guys and slavery was not necessarily an evil system.

I put this video up because it boggled my mind how anyone could approve of slavery, or present it as essentially beneficial as late as the 1970s. it explains some of the racism in the Deep South, as well as some of the other weird and bizarre attitudes held by the American Right. I did wonder how far the equation of social security and healthcare with slavery explained the bizarre attitude of the Libertarians that the welfare state is also a form of slavery. There was a prize exchange on American television from Congress when Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were talking about universal state healthcare for Americans. Rand Paul, a Libertarian Republican, started spouting nonsense that state healthcare reduced doctors and other employees to slaves, and that they would be woken up in the middle of the night by people breaking down their front door to get them to treat patients. This was done when the two were taking the testimony of doctors involved in the state medicare programme. Sanders, who wants a universal healthcare like the NHS, dispatched that piece of stupidity by simply asking one of the doctors if she’d ever had this happen to her. Obviously, she hadn’t. In Britain doctors, surgeons, nurses and other employees are paid employees with all the rights of free people. They do have to treat patients, but no-one’s going to break down their doors except in emergencies, and they are perfectly free to leave the profession. Unfortunately, their status, pay and working conditions is declining, thanks to Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, who wish to destroy the state system and replace it with private enterprise.

As for the conditions slaves endured, the Alabama text books is right on some points. Defenders of slavery in both America and Britain pointed out that slaves were frequently treated better, and enjoyed better working conditions, than the ‘factory slaves’, the free workers employed in the factories of the northern US and in Britain. They’re probably right. Factory workers worked long hours in appalling conditions for miserable pay, and in some ways their condition did tremble on the edge of true slavery. Tony Robinson in an episode of Time Team devoted to industrial archaeology pointed out – with justifiable anger – how factory masters purchased children from orphanages to use as young workers. Also, when the British were seeking to improve the conditions of slaves in the Caribbean in the 1820s, they were also forced to pass legislation forbidding masters from freeing slaves who were too old to work as a way of avoid the expense of maintaining them. This was a period when the British government was passing legislation demanding that slaves were properly fed and clad.

This does not, however, make slavery any better. Slaves were worked to death. There was a debate in the 17th and 18th centuries over whether it was more profitable to work a slave to death quickly, and so make a massive profit quickly, but then have to go to the expense of buying a new slave; or whether it was better to give them moderate amounts of work and keep them working steadily so that they lived longer.

They were not given good quality clothing. The slave laws provided that the men should receive yearly a pair of drawers – that is, underpants – and the women a petticoat or shift. But that’s it. Now much did depend on the attitude of the slave masters. Archaeologists examining the material of the slaves on Ben Franklin’s estate found that the slaves there had a very high standard of living. They were well-fed, had fine crockery, and played instruments like the violin. But there were no doubt many more cases where the slaves were given very little. Visitors to the Caribbean remarked on the enslaved workers labouring naked in the fields. And Kulinski is right to talk about the flogging and sexual exploitation, though he passes over some of the other, more extreme and vile forms of punishment that existed, such as mutilation.

It’s a fascinating, grim insight into the mindset that was instilled in a generation of southern US schoolchildren, and which is still being regurgitated by Republicans across the US today.

Secular Talk: Alabama Republican Won’t Support Trump Because He’s a ‘Serial Adulterer’

March 2, 2016

In this piece from Secular Talk, Kulinski discusses the Alabama Representative, Mo Brooks, and the reason he gave why he would not be supporting Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the presidency. Brooks stated that he would not give his backing to the Coiffured Caudillo, as Trump was a ‘serial adulterer’ and that was not an honourable stance. Now Kulinski states that the accepts the wider point – that Trump is dishonest and untrustworthy. But he also shows how it’s a weird attitude, considering the horrendous policies Trump is actually advocating. These are:

* A ban on Muslims entering America. He’s tried to soften this a bit, and make it sound less terrible than it actually is by saying that it’s only going to be temporary ‘until we find out what’s going on.’

* The deportation of 11-12 million illegal immigrants, many of whom are productive and have jobs.

* To use torture, ‘even if it doesn’t work’, thus violating the Eighth Amendment against ‘cruel and unusual punishments’, and violating international law and human rights legislation.

* To target the families and relatives of terrorists, not just terrorists themselves. People, who have not been convicted of a crime, and who are just being targeted because of who they’re related to. Again, this is a war crime that violates international law.

* To overturn free speech and the First Amendment by strengthening the libel law so he can sue his critics.

* Keeping wages low, and thus American workers poor.

Instead of not supporting Trump, because of the substance of his polices, Brooks and by implication the other Republicans, who think similarly, because the substance of Trump’s policies are terrible and oppressive, Brooks instead is upset because of Trump’s serial marital infidelities.

Now I can’t say I’m thrilled at somebody boasting of their multiple marriages and adultery becoming president, although in Britain, so many MPs have been caught in sex scandals that by now I’m just about used to it. At one point under John Major there seemed to be yet another scandal every other week, when a politician’s career spectacularly imploded because he either had a mistress or was secretly gay and paying rent boys. But The real danger here, and the true reasons Trump should not get the support he wants, is because of the reasons Kulinski described: he’s a threat to Americans’ lives and freedom. He should not be let near the White House.

Secular Talk: Oklahomas Bans History Course; Fox News Wants to Ban State Schools

January 27, 2016

This video from Secular Talk, the atheist news show, dates from February 2015. I’m not an atheist or secularist, and this is an American issue. Nevertheless, Murdoch is over here too, and he would just love to buy up the Beeb and replace it with his own grotty channel. And likewise, his stooges and collaborators in the Tory party want to privatise state education, just as Dirty Rupe would like to take over part of the school system. So, this needs to be put up, and discussed over here.

Kyle Kulinski, the show’s host, talks about a clip on Fox News, where one of the hosts simply says, flat out, ‘There shouldn’t be any state schools’. Why? Well, the school board in Oklahoma has taken the step of getting rid of a history course on the grounds that it contradicted the doctrine of American exceptionalism. This is the idea that America is simply far and away better than anybody else, full stop, and has never, ever done anything wrong. The course taught students about slavery, Jim Crow and Segregation, and the genocide of the Indians. This all happened, and were part of American history. As Kulinski points out, this needs to be taught along with all the good America has done for the world, like the Marshal Plan and so on. But it didn’t satisfy the Right, who have totally abolished the course and replaced it with Reagan’s speeches.

I’m surprised they got away with that, as it is political indoctrination. There’s no two ways about it. My guess is that there’s some arcane clause in the Constitution connected to states’ rights which allow them to do so. Which is probably why Kulinski recommends making state education a federal, not a state responsibility. And naturally, as an atheist he’s concerned about what would happen if the schools in Alabama and the Conservative southern states were privatised, with the introduction of religion and the probably removal of evolution. I don’t share his concerns here, having attended an Anglican Church school which did teach evolution, and actively preached against sectarianism and racial hatred. I’m more concerned about the privatisation of education and its replacement with fee-paying schools. But on a wider issue, Gove and the Tories want to do much the same over here as Oklahoma has done. Gove wanted the school curriculum here in Britain to be reformed to celebrate Britain more. He was particularly incensed at teachers for informing their students about the horrors of the First World War, rather than celebrating it. You may remember Mike over at Vox Political attacked Gove for whining about how the history taught about the War resembled Blackadder Goes Forth. Presumably, this is what Gove and Thickie Nikki Morgan would like to replace proper history with. Only instead of Reagan’s speeches, it’d be Thatcher’s.

We need proper state education, and the impartial teaching of history, which tell its students about both the good and the negative parts of their countries’ past. And we definitely need to stop propagandists like those on the Oklahoma School board, Murdoch, Gove, Morgan and the rest of the Right trying to indoctrinate young minds with their own skewed views.