Posts Tagged ‘Ana Kasparian’

Torygraph Cites Roseanne to Show Need for Tory Comedy As Show Is Cancelled Due to Racism

May 31, 2018

Mike put up a piece today commenting on the Torygraph’s praise of Roseanne Barr, just as she got her show cancelled for racist tweets about one of Barack Obama’s presidential staff. Barr had described Valerie Jarrett as ‘the Muslim Brotherhood + Planet of the Apes had a baby’. She later apologised for the tweet, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and her show was cancelled.

The Torygraph, however, had issued its own Tweet, stating that Roseanne’s huge ratings showed the bad need for a Tory sitcom in Britain. Mike drew the obvious comparison between the star’s own racism, and that of the Conservative party, shown in its ‘hostile environment’ policy, which has seen 60 + Windrush Brits deported unjustly, their inaction over the Grenfell Tower fire, which seems to many to have a racial aspect, and the suspension of a large number of Tory candidates for racism in the weeks leading up to the council elections.

Mike concluded his article with the words:

So the Telegraph was right to compare Roseanne with the Conservatives – just not in the way the writer had imagined. As for it being a sit-com…

Like Ms Barr’s behaviour, some of us don’t think racism is funny.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/the-telegraph-was-right-roseannes-racism-has-shown-us-the-shape-of-a-tory-sitcom/

In fact, there are several more things that need to be said about this incident, and not just further discussion of Barr’s own bizarre antics and insults to other celebrities and political figures. It also shows the Tory attitude towards television, and the responsibility of the British press for starting rumours about Jarrett in the first place. The Young Turks did a piece on the scandal, and reported that Barr’s comments about Jarrett linking her to the Muslim Brotherhood come from a right-wing conspiracy theory. These emerged on right-wing blogs during Obama’s presidency, and claim that she was secretly working to promote Islam in the US, and wanted it to become ‘a more Islamic country’.

And they’re completely untrue. Jarrett isn’t even a Muslim. And the ultimate source for these stupid rumours, according to Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, was ‘a British tabloid’. Well, I wonder which one that could be. Actually, at one time I would have guessed it was the Sun, but after all the right-wing newspapers libelled Mike as an anti-Semite, it could be anyone of them, including the Heil and Express.

Uygur and Kasparian go on to discuss some of the other insulting and false tweets Barr has made in the past, as well as her rapid changes of political orientation from one extreme to the other. She also made one Tweet, directed at Chelsea Clinton, which said that George Soros had sold out his fellow Jews to the Nazis and stolen their money. This is completely untrue. In fact, it’s the very opposite of Soros’ own attitude. The billionaire financier is of Hungarian ancestry, and he hates Zionism and Israel because Kasztner, the leader of the Zionists in wartime Hungary, did allow the Nazis to deport tens of thousands of Jews to the death camps because he hoped that the Nazis would allow others to emigrate to Israel. Barr also posted another tweet saying that another woman, Susan Rice, had ‘great swinging ape balls’.

Last year, Barr’s politics were extremely left-wing. At the elections she put herself up as a Green party candidate, and appeared on The Young Turks, saying that existing American politics weren’t nearly left-wing enough, and there was a need for a new left-wing party. Now she appears to have swung completely round through 180 degrees, and is a fan of Trump. At one time, she was a supporter of the Palestinians, before turning to support Israel. She’s also made some very anti-Semitic comments herself, despite also being Jewish. And she also once dressed up a Hitler to bake cakes showing people going into gas ovens. Uygur says that he doesn’t know whether that was right-wing, left-wing or what. I honestly don’t know either, except that it’s massively tasteless and offensive.

The two suggest that Barr’s weird behaviour can be explained by her having been in a severe car accident when she was 16, which so traumatised her that she spent several months in a mental hospital. If that is the cause of her strange rants and zigzagging across the political spectrum, then she’s mentally unbalanced and needs help.

But she’s been very strange for a long time. Way back in the 1990s, one of the Ab Fab team – Joanna Lumley or Jennifer Saunders, if I remember correctly – described working with her in America. According to whichever British star it was, Barr herself never acted in rehearsals. She was pushed around everywhere in a wheelchair, and watched while another actress went through her lines, until it was time for her to act on camera.

As for the Telegraph claiming that Britain needs a Tory sitcom, this seems to be linked to the Conservative press’ attitude that television is dominated by the Left. The Daily Mail in particular has published any number of articles claiming that this is the case. It’s all part of their tactic of working up rage over a non-existent issue in order to boost the Tory party and attack the Labour party and the broader Left. And I think they’ve been fans of Roseanne and other American comedy shows for some time, because of their Conservative, anti-welfare bias. I can remember when Bread, about a family where most of the characters were on the dole, was on British TV in the 1980s. It was very popular, and the Mail and Express hated it because it was about unemployed people content to be supported by the state. They praised instead American sitcoms, which saw unemployment and surviving on state benefit as a mark of shame.

I don’t think there is an anti-Tory bias in British television comedy. It either really does try to be impartial, or there’s actually a pro-Tory bias. One of the two responsible for Dad’s Army, Perry and Croft, for example, wrote a piece in the Radio Times attacking the miners during the Miners’ Strike for their hostile treatment of strike breakers. Which shows their personal political bias, even if it doesn’t say anything about that of the shows they wrote for.

The Torygraph seemed to believe that a Conservative sitcom would be popular, but that’s simply a matter of speculation. It’s not actually clear whether such a show would work in the slightly different political culture on this side of the Atlantic. And anyway, it doesn’t matter. The Torygraph isn’t interested in quality, popular programming so much as increasing the already considerable pro-Tory bias of the British media. And they haven’t yet understood that the reason why people are turning to alternative sources, is because people are increasingly fed up with that same Tory bias.

Roseanne Barr might have had a hit show on American TV, but she was clearly a deeply troubled woman with very unpleasant, racist opinions. Which don’t make her a model for anyone’s comedy, except for racists like those in the Tories.

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Aaron Schlossberg and the Anti-Semitism of the Anti-Palestinian Rights Movement

May 18, 2018

I’m aware that Jews naturally resent being told that they’re anti-Semitic, but I think I’m partially justified in this because the people in this video chanting ‘You are not a Jew!’ were attacking Palestinian rights protestors, who were themselves Orthodox Jews. And they were joined by Milo Yiannopoulos, who is half-Jewish, but has a very long and noxious history of anti-Semitism himself.

This is another report from The Young Turks, presented by Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur. It’s about Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer, who has managed to get himself trolled and his law firm thrown out of its building by his landlord after he made a racist rant against Hispanics. He was offended by hearing them speaking Spanish instead of English. Someone made a video about it, and he got trolled when a group paid a Mariachi band and a tacos van to pull up outside his home. The group explained that they weren’t trolling him. They were just trying to introduce him to the beauty of Mariachi music and the delights of tacos.

Schlossberg himself has a history of harassing people. Last year, he decided to get involved in shouting at a demonstration in favour of Palestinian rights by an Orthodox Jewish group. Kasparian and Uygur explain that this is an immensely controversial position. The video shows members of the group shouting at the Orthodox ‘You are not a Jew!’ They were then joined by Milo Yiannopoulos, who, as Uygur explains, has a very long history of anti-Semitism himself. When he was at Breitbart, he collaborated with real neo-Nazis in producing a presentation about Breitbart. This was so controversial that the far-right news organisation got a woman to finish it instead, and pretended Yiannopoulos was not part of their company.

The same could be said of the Israel lobby and its vilification of those criticising Israel and defending the Palestinians in this country. Many of those they’ve smeared as anti-Semites are self-respecting Jews. And many of those, are the children of Holocaust survivors, or have lost members of their family in the Shoah. Often the same people have been subject to anti-Semitic abuse and assault themselves. The same goes for the gentiles, who’ve been smeared. These people are anti-racist, and many of them would otherwise be counted as ‘righteous among the nations’ for their work defending and protecting Jews for real anti-Semitism. Like the recently expelled Black Civil Rights activist Marc Wadsworth. In the 1990s Wadsworth worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews to change the law on Racial Harassment after the victory of Derek Beacon and the BNP in the council elections in London. I think he was also involved with violent confrontations with the storm troopers in what has been described as ‘the Battle of Thanet’. I don’t endorse violence, but as the BNP are extremely violent themselves, they got what they deserved. Or at least, what they had handed all too often before. But he was expelled and smeared as an anti-Semite, because Ruth Smeeth, a Blairite he had criticised for handing information to the Torygraph at a press conference, said he was. Because she was Jewish. He didn’t know she was Jewish at the time, and his comment made no reference to Judaism. But it doesn’t matter, because if the Blairites and Israel lobby say you’re an anti-Semite, you are automatically one, especially by the Tories and their lapdogs in the press.

And Tony Greenstein, another Jew, who was smeared as an anti-Semite, has pointed out that some of the insults smeared at the Jewish defenders of the Palestinians would be considered anti-Semitic if it came from gentiles. Like the man, who sent him an email saying that he wished his family had been wiped in the Holocaust. He also asked whether he would have liked to have remained in the shtetl – Jewish town or village – under the heel of the gentiles. Absolutely disgusting comments. The time’s long past when the Israel lobby and its organs and satellites in this country, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism were called out for this abuse.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Wants Poor and Disabled Euthanised

May 18, 2018

Here’s another report from the American left-wing news site, The Young Turks. And it tells you everything you’ve always suspected about right-wingers both in the USA and over here: they really do want to kill the poor.

The offensive posts turned up on the Facebook page of Chris Barnett, who is running to be governor of Oklahoma. After a poll on the requirements to get food stamps, Barnett then apparently stated that euthanasia would be a solution to the ‘issue’ of the poor and disabled. This really did not go down too well with large sections of the general public. One person posted that most people on food stamps were actually in work, and those that weren’t also included the elderly and disabled. This met with the reply asking why ‘we’ are required to keep them? He went on to say that ‘euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make you a slave to the government’.

Barnett then met with such a barrage of criticism, that he’s issued a statement blaming the posts on that old excuse: his Facebook page was hacked into. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur, the two anchors reporting the story, make the point that this is unconvincing. A random member of the public wouldn’t know the codes to get into his account. He could have blamed one of his staff instead, but this would have meant throwing the staffer ‘under the bus’. Unless it was the staffer, who really did it. He then made a further statement that what he meant was the poor and disabled shouldn’t be killed, but should simply be left to starve.

They also find his excuse unconvincing, because if you look at Republican webs sites and pages, so many of them are saying exactly the same thing. It therefore looks very much like Barnett did post those comments, unbelievable as they are.

This will also corroborate what Mike, Geoffrey Davis, one of the commenters on my Blog, and so many other disabled people, carers, and disability rights activists, that the Tories over here are also engaged in a policy Mike has termed ‘chequebook euthanasia’. The Tories are throwing extremely vulnerable people with no other sources of income off benefit, through sanctions and the wretched work capability tests, in the hope that they will starve to death. A thousand or so have. Mike, Johnny Void, and Stilloaks, as well as the Angry One from Yorkshire, Another Angry Voice, have posted up the lives and biographies of those who have, or worse, committed suicide in despair. Stilloaks compiled a list of these victims, which was reblogged by the others. The last time I looked it was around the 750 mark. And that was some time ago. I expect it to be approaching a thousand now.

And Tweezer and the rest of her foul crew are still saying that these deaths have nothing to do with the benefits system, even though many of the suicides left notes declaring that it was precisely because of the benefits system that they were taking their lives.

No, no, move on, you ignorant proles! Nothing to see here. We’re totally blameless, and in the right, because we’re helping you find work with our return to the less eligibility policy of the workhouse.

The Tories and the Republicans have very strong contacts with each other, and the Tories have been taking over Republican and Libertarian policies. Like the privatised police force. That was one of Rothbard’s brilliant idea, the founder of the Libertarian party in the America. The same Libertarian party, whose members include one of the billionaire Koch brother, and which in the 1970s ran a special issue in its magazine denying the Holocaust. Ctesias, who is, like Geoffrey Davis, one of the great commenters on this blog, also pointed out that the Tories also seem to have taken over the ideas of one Canadian right-wing philosopher, Gauthier. This piece of work wrote that the poor woman starving at the gates of a rich man feasting, has no call on his wealth, especially as it would deprive him of the pleasure of feeding the crumbs to the birds. It’s a complete inversion of Our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus, in which the rich man, who ignore the poor man at his gate, goes to hell after death while the poor man enters heavenly bliss with Abraham. So much for the Christian Right’s concern for true Christian values!

A little while ago Tweezer’s choice for a universities’ watchdog, to make sure democracy wasn’t being stifled by all those nasty left-wingers on campus, Toby Young, was revealed by Private Eye as having gone to a eugenics conference at University College London. Yup, Tobe’s big on eugenics. And some of the others were far more extreme than he was, connecting it to race and IQ.

I’ve commented before that the Republicans and Conservatives are Social Darwinists, just like the Nazis. They see poverty and wealthy purely in terms of biological and economic fitness. The rich are there because they’re biologically superior. And the poor should be prevented from breeding, because they’re biologically unfit and so will only spread poverty. It was one of the ideologies in the 19th and early 20th century that was used to oppose health and safety legislation for working people, and the establishment of any welfare benefits. It led to the sterilisation of the poor, disabled and mentally challenged. And these policies were taken over by the Nazis, who claimed that they had made absolutely no innovations when adopting them.

And the endpoint of that was the murder of the disabled by the SS and Nazi doctors under the infamous Aktion T4. This was abandoned after a massive public outcry, especially by Roman Catholics led by Count Galen. But the murders didn’t stop, and the programme led eventually to the wholesale gassing of the Jews in the extermination camps.

Barnett may not have posted those vile comments, but they do speak for the Republican and British Conservative mindset. A mindset that is killing the poor and disabled by starvation, all while claiming just to be reforming and making the welfare state more efficient.

They’re lying. The true attitude to the poor is shown by the number of deaths they’ve caused, and the quarter of a million more people, who’ve been thrown on to private charity in the food banks.

Get them out before more people die.

Alt Right Star Milo Yiannopolis Gets Run Out Of New York Bar

April 25, 2018

Here’s another great video from the left-wing American news site, The Young Turks. It’s a video of Milo Yiannopolis, one of the stars of the Alt Right, being run out of a New York bar. Yiannopolis is gay, half-Jewish, and with a fondness for choosing Blacks as his romantic/ sexual partners. Despite this, Yiannopolis’ own comments and remarks are vehemently racist, as well as deeply anti-feminist and, bizarrely, anti-gay, quite apart from the real racism and misogyny at the core of the Alt Right movement itself. A few years ago he caused controversy when he went on a tour of colleges and universities all over America as part of his campaign to spread the ideas of the Alt Right. Or simply to wind up the left and anyone who takes anti-racism and women’s rights seriously. He styles himself a ‘virtuous troll’, you see, which is supposed to justify him performing stunts and making comments that have absolutely no point except to cause offence. In this case, he succeeded, and Yiannopolis was very happy to talk about how intolerant leftists were on campus. Never mind the real intolerance Yiannopolis himself spouts and represents with his very White supremacist and misogynist friends in the Alt Right.

He was all set to have a book published by Simon and Schuster, I believe, until the footage went viral of him on the Joe Rogan Show apparently condoning child abuse. He was talking about his own abuse by a Roman Catholic priest, which he claimed at the time was a very positive thing, and spoke equally positively about how young boys in such relationships weren’t being abused, but were in fact being psychologically helped.

It was rubbish; vile, dangerous, rubbish. Yiannopolis got dropped by the publisher, sacked from one of his jobs and there was considerable anger within the Republican party. So Yiannopolis appeared a little while later to make a tearful speech declaring that he most certainly does not condone child abuse, and that he recognises that he was himself a victim of it.

But he’s still a racist, and no matter how much he complains about the intolerance of the Left, progressive Americans aren’t standing for it.

The clip shows the welcome Yiannopolis got when he went into a bar in New York for a drink. Unknown to him, the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America were already in there for a meeting. And they let him know exactly what they thought of him by chanting ‘Racist scum get out!’ Yiannopolis took their advice and left.

He turned up on social media to complain that the Socialists wouldn’t let him go to his chair or get his bag. The video shows that he made all this up. The Socialists in the bar don’t stop him from doing anything. They just stand there and chant, until Yiannopolis and what looks like a couple of his friends make their way out.

The hosts for this video, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, state that the Socialists called him a racist because, when he was defining what the Alt Right stood for, he did canvas and take on board the views of White supremacists and the Klan. It’s therefore entirely accurate to describe him as a Nazi. They also make the point that this exactly what he deserves because of his racism and bigotry.

I’ve no doubt that even now various Republican hacks and shills are probably writing articles about how intolerant the Left is, and how they’re blocking free speech and democracy. Just like the Daily Mail and the rest of the right-wing press over here a little while ago was moaning that ‘political correctness’ on British university campuses, and the ‘no-platforming’ of speakers with extreme right-wing, racist, misogynist or other offensive beliefs were a threat to free speech and the democratic free exchange of ideas at university. It’s all nonsense. What they’re really afraid of is the free enquiry they claim to be defending. They resent the fact that students do have and discuss left-wing beliefs, and are active challenging Conservative dogma and policy. And as Tweezer’s despicable treatment of the Windrush generation has shown, all too many in the Tory party are racist and support the institutionally racist maltreatment of non-Whites. From this perspective, it very much looks like their denunciations of ‘left-wing intolerance’ are merely another piece of camouflage to disguise their intention to legitimise real intolerance in the form of racism and right-wing bigotry on campus. All in the name of protecting Conservative values and freedom of speech.

Man with Guns Arrested Hunting Lizard People

December 6, 2017

This is sort of a funny story, but as The Young Turks go on to point out, it has some very, very serious issues inside it. In this clip from their show, hosts Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian and Stephania Jimenez talk about the arrest in Washington State of a 55 year old man. The man was arrested with an AK-47, a pistol and 170-odd rounds of ammunition. He was hunting the Lizard people. Yep, the same Lizard People that David Icke and other conspiracy theorists believe are secretly running the world and plotting to enslave humanity. He also confessed to snorting methamphetamine to lose weight, and was on prescription morphine. But the meth didn’t make him crazy, he said. The Lizard People were real. He also then claimed that ‘the Alpha Dragon’ had taken his family hostage.

The Turks point out that there is a serious danger here. This shows up the chronic lack of mental health care in America, as well as the dangers in a system that allows anyone, no matter what the state of their mental health, to buy guns. They also take aim at that section of the media, which is full of fake journos pushing these daft ideas. There is also a sizable section of the American population that does follow Alex Jones and the others, who push these daft conspiracy theories. Jones himself has declared that there are people walking around who are 80 per cent pig, 80 per cent some other kind of animal, and 80 per cent human. Which shows that, whatever the content of Jones’ own genetic heritage is, he can’t do maths. It’s debatable how much Jones believes in the Lizard People, but he has had Trump on his show. Uygur states he doesn’t know if Trump believes in the Lizard People, but he has gone back to pushing stupid conspiracy theories about Barak Obama’s birth certificate, and accused Ted Cruz’s father of murdering JFK.

He then goes on to discuss the scale of the danger presented by unstable individuals like this guy, just on the sheer stats of the American population. If only 1/2 a per cent of the American population has mental health issues, or believes in the Lizard People, that’s still 1 1/2 million people.

The group also discuss what the typical features of a Lizard person are, according to the press. They are green or blue eyes, red hair, an interest and skill at science, and a connection to UFOs. There’s a lot of joshing about whether any of them fits the description. More seriously, the Lizard People are supposed to work for the government, which means that politicos, cops and firemen and women could have been targets for this maniac.

They also attack the hypocrisy of American Conservatives, who complain bitterly about a chant by a crowd somewhere against the police. But who are quite content to allow mentally ill people, with an irrational hatred of police officer, to buy guns.

The Young Turks on the Sexual Abuse of Boys in Hollywood

November 4, 2017

In this short piece from The Young Turks, hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian report and comment on a story in the Guardian about the rampant abuse of male actors in the film industry. Kasparian states that while there has been much said and written about the abuse of female actors, less has been said about the male victims of this predatory behaviour. She states that there is a great stigma among me about coming forward with their experiences, and wishes to pay her tributes to their courage as well.

After Aaron Rapp talked about how he was subjected to Kevin Spacey’s unwanted advances, other actors have also told about their experiences. One of these was the London-based actor and director, Alex Winter, who states that the subject is very taboo, but he does not know any boys in any pocket of the entertainment industry, who do not suffer some form of predatory behaviour.

Another gay actor, Wilson Cruz, who plays Rapp’s love interest in the new Star Trek series, has also spoken recently about his experience of sexual harassment at the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network awards event, stating that he has been approached by older ‘gentlemen’, and he was left wondering what he should have done about it, although he did not take them up. Uygur and Kasparian state that this is natural, as before the internet the gatekeepers in the industry were very powerful, and repulsing their advances could all too easily damage your career.

They make the point that while sexual abuse is occasionally carried out by women, it’s mostly done by men, including gay men. People’s sexual morals when it comes to exploiting those less powerful than themselves don’t improve or get worse depending on their sexuality, as the number of straight male sexual abusers like Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby show.

Czech President Threatens Journalists with Fake Kalashnikov

October 25, 2017

More from Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks on the rising threat to freedom of the press around the world. In this clip they report on and discuss the behaviour of the Czech President, Milos Zeman, who turned up at a press conference waving around a replica gun which had ‘For Journalists’ written on it. Zeman himself hates the press, and in the past has described them as ‘manure’ and ‘hyenas’. At a meeting with Putin in May, he joked about how some of them deserved to be ‘liquidated’. As Uygur points out, there is very strong evidence that Putin has had journalists murdered, so that joke really isn’t funny. Zeman, you will not be surprised to know, is also a colossal Islamophobe. He has said that Czechs need to arm themselves against a coming ‘superholocaust’ against them, which will be carried out by Muslims. Uygur comments drily, ‘Who knew there were so many Muslims in the Czech Republic, and they were so powerful?’

Zeman’s gun-waving comes after the death of a female journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in Malta. Galizia was dubbed a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ for her dogged pursuit of uncovering stories of corruption. She was killed a week after revealing that Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of the island nation, had been involved in offshore companies and the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the Azerbaijani government.

Clearly, Malta isn’t anywhere near the Czech Republic, but her death was reported there. And the president, Zeman, thinks so little of the murder of journalists that he ‘jokes’ about it by waving replica firearms around at the press. Uygur also states that the Czechs have just elected a new prime minister, who is the millionaire head of a populist party. He predicts that this won’t end well.

This is clearly a story from a small nation in the EU, but it shows the way journalistic freedoms are being eroded all over the world. The Young Turks point out that democracy isn’t just about voting – it’s also about the freedom of the press and conscience – and this is what has makes Western democracy so great. The Young Turks have also covered the prosecution of journalists and political opponents of President Erdogan in Turkey, and the persecution of another crusading journo in Azerbaijan itself. As well as the attempted assassination of another Russian journo, who was suspiciously stabbed a madman two weeks after the Putin media declared her and her radio station an agent of America.

About ten years ago, John Kampfner wrote a book, Freedom for Hire, in which he described how countries around the world, from France, Italy, Russia, Singapore and China, were becoming increasingly dictatorial. And we in Britain had no cause for complacency, as he described how Blair had also tried to muzzle the press, especially when it came to the Gulf War. The web of corruption Galizia uncovered was so widespread, and went right to the top, so that Malta was described by the Groaniad yesterday as ‘Mafia Island’.

As for the Czech Republic, after Vaclav Havel its post-Communist presidents have been extremely shady individuals. I can remember reading one travel book on eastern Europe, which discussed how his critics had disappeared or been murdered. And following the Fall of Communism, there has come a series of reports and scandals about rising racial intolerance there. The target of much of this is the Roma. It has been reported that the Czech medical service routinely forcibly sterilised Gypsy women in order to stop them having children, and members of various political parties have called for either their expulsion or their extermination. I am not surprised by the Islamophobia, as a little while ago Counterpunch carried a story about one of their contributor’s meeting with a Czech politician, who had very extreme, right-wing views, including a deep hatred of Muslims. There also appears to be an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the country as well. A few years ago, the BBC’s programme, Who Do You Think You Are, explored Stephen Fry’s ancestry. As Fry himself has said many times on QI, his grandfather was a Jewish Hungarian, who worked for a sugar merchants. It was through his work that he met Fry’s grandmother, who was a member of Fry’s, the Quaker chocolate manufacturer, and settled with her in England. Thus he fortunately survived the Holocaust. Fry travelled to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, tracing the movements of his ancestors in the course of their work through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fry was, understandably, visibly upset and shaken when he found out just how many of his grandfather’s kith and kind had been murdered at Auschwitz.

He was also very unimpressed by the attitude of some of the Czechs he spoke to in his quest. He quoted them as saying that ‘it is very curious. They knew the Holocaust was coming, but they stayed here anyway.’ He was justifiably outraged at the implication that somehow the millions of innocents butchered by the Nazis wanted to be killed.

It’s possible to suggest a number of causes for the rise in Islamophobia. You could probably trace it back to historic fears about the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of the Balkans by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. The Ottoman Empire still sought to expand in the 17th century, when its army was just outside the gates of Vienna. It was defeated by Jan Sobieski, the king of Poland, and his troops. The Ottoman Empire persisted until it finally collapsed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amidst a series of bloody massacres. The majority of these were blamed on the Turks, and specifically the irregular troops, the Bashi-Bazouks. It was their massacres that led to Gladstone calling for Turkey to be thrown ‘bag and baggage out of the Balkans’. But other journalists in the Balkans at the time also noted that the Christian nations, like the Serbs, were also guilty of horrific mass slaughter, but that this went unreported due prevailing Western prejudice.

Part of it might be due to the Czechs being a small nation – there are about four million of them – who have had to struggle to survive against domination by larger neighbours. Their medieval kings had invited ethnic Germans into the country to settle and develop their economy. This led to the creation of what became the Sudetenland, the areas occupied by ethnic Germans, and there was friction between them and the native Czechs. This friction eventually exploded into open conflict in the 15th century in the wars following the attempt of Jan Hus to reform the Roman Catholic church. Czech nationalism was suppressed, and Moravia and Bohemia, the two kingdoms, which became Czechoslovakia, were absorbed into the Austrian Empire. The Czechs and Slovaks achieved their independence after the First world War, but the country was conquered by the Nazis during World War II, and then ‘liberated’ by Stalin. It was then incorporated into the Communist bloc. When Anton Dubcek, the president, attempted to create ‘Communism with a human face’, introducing free elections and a form of market socialism, the-then Soviet president, Anton Dubcek, sent in the tanks to quell the ‘Prague Spring’.

Other factors also include the wave of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, that forced their way through the various international borders to come up through Greece and Serbia in their hope of finding sanctuary and jobs in the West. The Counterpunch article stated that there was a real fear that they would turn east, and swamp the small, former eastern bloc nations like the Czech Republic.

And these racial fears are being stoked throughout the former eastern bloc by the poverty and misery that has come with capitalism. The peoples of the former Communist nations were led to believe that the introduction of capitalism would create employment and prosperity. This has not occurred, and the result has been widespread disillusionment. Counterpunch also ran another article, which quoted the statistic that 51 per cent of the population of the former East Germany had responded positively to the statement that ‘things were better under Communism’ in a poll, and wanted Communism to come back. Similar statistics could be found right across the former Communist nations of eastern Europe.

Now, faced with rising poverty, unemployment and inequality, made worse by neoliberalism, the old fears of racial domination and extermination are rising again, and being exploited by ruthless, right-wing populists. So there are a series of extremely nationalistic, Fascistic governments and parties in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Just like in western Europe there’s Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Germany’s Alternative fuer Deutschland, and Donald Trump and the Alt Right in America.

And across the globe, ruthless, corrupt politicians are trying to curtail freedom of speech and the press, in order to preserve their power. Hence the rising racism, Fascism and violence towards ethnic minorities and the press. These freedoms are at the core of democracy, and have to be defended for democracy to work at all, and governments held accountable by their citizens.

TYT on Anti-Putin Journalist Stabbed in the Throat

October 25, 2017

This is another piece of news on the attack on free speech and a free press and media around the world. In this piece, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks comment on the stabbing of Tatiana Felgenhauer, an outspoken critic of Putin, by an apparent schizophrenic man, Boris Gritz. Felgenhauer was the deputy editor in chief and a presenter at an anti-Putin radio station, Ekho Moskvi, whose name translates as ‘Moscow Echo’. Gritz, who the pro-Putin media has claimed believed he was in telepathic contact with Felgenhauer, broke into the station’s headquarters, pepper-sprayed a guard, and then stabbed Felgenhauer in the throat. Gritz had previously emigrated to Israel, but shortly returned to Russia. Felgenhauer was rushed to hospital. She has survived, and is breathing through a tube.

Uygur and Kasparian find the claim that Gritz believed he was in mental contact with her far too convenient. They point to the immense number of journalists, who have been killed in highly suspicious circumstances, which suggests that they were murdered because of their criticism of the Arkhiplut. They were killed even when they were not actually opponents of Putin. Simply pointing out problems with Putin’s policies or other failures is enough. In Gritz’s case, the attack occurred two weeks after a pro-Putin news programme stated that Ekho Moskvi was an agent of America, and specifically named Felgenhauer.

And it’s not just journos that are being killed. After Trump was elected president, a whole slew of diplomats met with similar suspicious ends. One was simply walking down the street when a sofa, which was being lifted into position into an apartment above him, happened to fall and kill him. The poor fellow’s death made little impression with Trump, who seems to have shrugged it off. As for Gritz, Uygur speculates that, as the main suspect in what looks like an assassination will go the same way as Lee Harvey Oswald.

Kasparian also goes on to explain the reason she went off on a rant about the number of Americans a recent poll claimed believed that Donald Trump was right when he said he wanted to revoke the broadcasting licences of the news media that opposed him. She states its because all over the world journalists are hated by those in power, because they’re supposed to keep a check on the government and tell truth to power. She and Uygur make the point that freedom of speech is at the core of American constitutional freedoms, and is what makes America so great. But this freedom is under attack, both in Russia and in Trump’s America. They state that before he became president, it was okay for Trump to admire Putin. But now he’s in office, he needs to be told that the muzzling of the press and media is not how it’s done in America.

This is indeed another suspicious attack from a long line of very many similar attacks in Putin’s Russia. The Graoniad’s John Kampfner discusses the number of Russian journos, who have been beaten and murdered in his book on the way governments around the world are becoming increasingly autocratic, Freedom For Sale. And it really isn’t just journos, who are being assassinated. The victims also include leading dissenting politicians, like Aleksandra Politovskaya. She was a genuine pro-democracy activist and opponent of Putin, who was mysteriously shot dead in her apartment in Moscow. Her murderer has never been caught. And what made her death more suspicious was that her flat was in the same block as a cop bar on the ground floor.

Felgenhauer’s murder looks very much like a plot from Stuart Kaminsky’s Inspector Rostnikov novels, The Man Who Walked Like A Bear, A Fine Red Rain, Rostnikov’s Vacation and others. They’re crime thrillers, set in the last days of the Soviet Union. The hero, Rostnikov, is an honest cop, who’s been posted to a police department, whose own functions are largely ceremonial, because he has embarrassed the authorities by solving the kind of crimes they didn’t want solved. Rostnikov’s team includes a short pathologist and a man so humourless and inadvertently intimidating that he is nicknamed the ‘Vampire’. They go on to solve various murders, all of which appear to have a political dimension to them, as hidden factions within the Communist party try to settle their differences by setting up various pawns and patsies to assassinate their rivals. Or else stage incidents, which are carefully set up to lead Rostnikov and his team to those they want caught, but can’t be seen moving against themselves.

Kaminsky seems to have captured the politically fraught world of the Soviet police. The novels came out at about the same time as the thriller, Gorky Park, which was later filmed, about a soviet policeman investigating a serial killer in Moscow. And then there was the case of a real-life monster, arrested by another honest cop. The dedicated ‘tec this time was an Ingush, one of the small nations deported from their homes in the Caucasus to Siberia by Stalin. He caught a monster, who had raped, killed and eaten about 50-odd men and boys. The perp was able to get away with his crimes because he was a member of the Communist party.

But such crimes and assassinations aren’t confined to the Soviet past. There was a massive surge in gang violence in the days of chaos following Yeltsin’s privatisation of the Soviet economy. The mob moved out of the usual criminal activities – drugs, stolen goods and extortion – and tried to take over whole industries. Travelling through Siberia, Simon Reeve in his programme on contemporary Russia a few weeks ago commented on how the Russian mafia fought a series of battles with the authorities in one Siberian town in order to wrest control of the local, profit-making aluminium smelter. Reeve explained that Putin is genuinely immensely popular in Russia, despite his dictatorial nature, because he put a stop to the gang violence.

The price, however, is high. The oligarchs, who were given or bought their control of the great Russian monopoly industries, have done so at the cost of giving their complete support and loyalty to Putin. And Politovskaya herself said that so long as this system remains in place, there is no freedom, no democracy, ‘just the strong man in the Kremlin’.

A silovik (strong man), who is very much appeared by Donald Trump. Who would like to do to the press in America, what Putin has done in Russia.

The Young Turks on Pizza Delivery Drivers Being Replaced by Driverless Cars

September 3, 2017

This is probably going to be the reality behind the driverless cars the car industry and the media have been hyping. In this short clip from The Young Turks, the hosts Ana Kasparian and Brett Ehrlich report and comment on the story that Domino’s Pizzas are planning to replace their pizza delivery people with driverless cars.

It’s only a trial run at the moment. They intend to go through their customers at random, and ask them if they’re happy with their pizza delivered by a driverless car instead. The vehicle will take a maximum of four pizzas to them. To get their orders, the customers will have to punch in a code into a keypad on the car.

After a bit of silly banter about the number of pizzas people usually order, they get down to discussing what this really represents. Kasparian says that when they usually talk about American jobs being lost, they’re usually reporting on corporate outsourcing. But automation is the other way in which people are losing their jobs in America. Kasparian she states that she isn’t against technological innovation, but points out that not only are people going to lose their jobs as pizza delivery staff, but they’re also going to lose an opportunity to acquire useful skills to succeed in a very competitive jobs market. She also states that we also need to give young people proper, affordable college education as well.

Domino’s has released a statement saying that they have at the moment 100,000 pizza delivery people. They hope that when this comes in, they will be able to find other positions within the company. The Turks end by saying that they hope so too.

To be fair, the BBC has carried news and documentary programmes, which forecast that in the coming decades, 1/3 of all retail jobs will be lost to automation. Nevertheless, whenever you see driverless cars appear, the overwhelming message is one of boundless enthusiasm, with the presenters raving about the technology. Clarkson went on a driverless truck on Top Gear, and went almost berserk with excitement when it started to make its way without human guidance.

Driverless trucks are due to be trialed on roads in Britain, according to a report in the I newspaper. They’re going to be tested in groups of three. I talked about this technology and its threats to jobs with a friend a little while ago. He told me that there are about 40,000 truckers in Britain, so that’s 40,000 people, who stand to lose their jobs.

Counterpunch has run an article on this, stating that there’s no desire for the cars from ordinary people. They’re being hyped and pushed by the insurance companies, who hope that their appearance and promotion as being safer than human driving will allow them to put up their premiums for people, who won’t use them.

What also struck me was how cold, lonely and impersonal the future represented by this type of automation is. In much SF depictions of an automated future, the machines performing human jobs also have something like human cognitive abilities and personalities. Long term 2000 AD readers will remember Dredd’s little robotic companion, Walter the Wobot. The character had a lisp and was a gentle soul, providing a contrast with the brutal machismo of Mega City 1’s toughest lawman. Or the robots in the Robohunter strip. These were extremely strong characters with all the traits, foibles and psychological failings of the human creators, including stupidity, thuggishness and all-round criminality. Like the God-Droid, the automatated underworld boss, a machine version of Marlon Brando with a sign stamped across its stomach reading ‘Omerta’, or the incendiary temperament of Molotov, the automatic cocktail-shaker and head of the Amalgamated Androids’ Union, who lectures Spade on the evils of human exploitation. Or Ro-Jaws, a chirpy, bolshie, foul-mouthed sewer droid, and his more dignified mate, the war-robot Hammerstein, and the moronic and sadistic Mek-Quake, the main characters in the Robusters strip, and its spin-off, ABC Warriors.

These fictional machines all had real, authentic characters. They had minds and characters like human beings, even if their bodies and brains were of metal and plastic. And so the strips’ writers could use them to make serious satirical points amidst the cartoon violence and mayhem. From the first, the ABC Warriors strip included a bitter commentary on the horrors of war, and the way soldiers lives were sacrificed by an officer and political class insulated from the actual fighting. The fact that robots were machines, with no rights, also allowed 2000 AD to explore real issues like slavery, racism, and institutionalized discrimination with deliberate, and sometimes very obvious parallels to the experience of Black Americans before Civil Rights.

But the real machines taking our jobs won’t even have personalities, friendly or otherwise, with which we will interact. Admittedly, there isn’t much social interaction with the mail and other delivery people, who turn up at our doors. The conversation is naturally very limited. But with these machines, we won’t even have that. Just a car turning up, following by the customer trudging out to punch in a code to open the doors.

Silent, efficient, and coldly impersonal.

And this is going to make the atomization and despair of contemporary western, and particularly American society, much worse. I’ve also come across a series of videos Chris Hedges has also made, in which he talks about the new American Fascism, and specifically the Religious Right. I think Hedges is probably an atheist, from some of the things he has said about the religious right promoting magical thinking. But he has a divinity degree, his father was a politically radical Presbyterian clergyman, his mother was also a divinity student, and so Hedges doesn’t hate religion or regard the antics of the religious right and the frauds and bigots leading it as normal. Indeed, he is at pains to show that, for all that they scream that they represent traditional values, they don’t. He states in one video that they’re as far from traditional Christian religious doctrine and practice as the religious liberals they despise.

One of the points he makes in these videos is that these bigots have been assisted in their rise to power by the social atomization of modern American society. In places like LA there are no pavements, so people can’t walk down the street. You have to drive. And so people drive straight to work, and then straight home. They don’t really meet or interact with anyone else. And the religious right has exploited this atomization, this alienation, by offering people a community in the ideologically enclosed space of their megachurches. And the people they target are those who have suffered from the attacks of neoliberalism – people in the rustbelt, who have seen their jobs decline and their communities fall into poverty along with them.

Other observers of the American Right have said the same. One of the essays in the book attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservativism, states that these b*stards are able to get away with promoting bigotry and racism, because of the decline in genuine, working class communities. The jobs are going, and White flight has meant that Whites have moved out of racially mixed areas in the centres of town to the suburbs. Community centres have also closed, and the attack on trade unions has also destroyed this pillar of working class community. The result is that the individual is left isolated from both people of other ethnic groups, and similar people to him- or herself. He or she goes to work and comes home. This isolation leaves them vulnerable to the vile propaganda spewed at them by bigots like Jerry Falwell and the rest of the rightwing televangelists that were thrown up by the 1980s.

This atomization and alienation is one of the fundamental characteristics of totalitarian societies of the Left and Right. In the Soviet Union, society was arranged so that people were deliberately isolated from each other. The only way of keeping in contact and forming communities and relationships, at least officially, was through the party organisations. Ditto with the Third Reich. Hitler boasted that they would never leave the individual alone, not even in a poker club.

And the driverless cars also remind me of another dystopian vision of the future, that of Ray Bradbury’s The Pedestrian. This is a tale by one of the great masters of SF, in which a man walking late at night is stopped and picked up by a police car. The car’s not crewed. It’s entirely automatic. Bradbury describes the computer punchcards being processed as the machine thinks. The machine asks the man why he’s on the streets so late at night. He replies simply that he just wanted to take a walk.

Already there are places in some American cities, where you can’t walk. Mike found this out a few years ago when he visited friends in California. You had to drive everywhere, even down to the local stores. Which means that the cold future of The Pedestrian really ain’t that far away.

The Young Turks on the Republicans’ Hatred of College Education

August 20, 2017

‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Came in about four years ago.’

-Bill Hicks, American comic, speaking four years after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Earlier today I posted a piece commenting on clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, about Rush Limbaugh’s mindlessly stupid ridiculing of NASA’s announcement that they may have discovered flowing water on Mars. Limbaugh’s a right-wing radio host, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his views about liberals, socialists, communists, gays, feminists, anti-racism activists and so on since the 1980s. He sneered at NASA’s announcement because – wait for it – the agency was part of a ‘leftist’ plot to promote global warming!

Not only does he not understand the science, nor the reality of global warming, I don’t think he knows anything about NASA. I know quite a few people, who are fans of space exploration and research from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. None of them have ever considered that the space agency was ‘left-wing’, although some of its leading scientists and advocates, like Carl Sagan, were. And the accusation that the agency’s data on global warming is faked for political purposes is risible.

But this shows the contempt Limbaugh has for science, and for education generally.

Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, has a background in microbiology and has been very interested in the question of life in space. She has posted a long comment to my piece. I recommend that you read all of it. But the end is particularly important, as she wonders how we got to this point where science is so despised.

And of course, back to NASA. I was fairly sure the alt-idiocy had already “proven” it was part of the deep state and the heart of black ops and skunk works and a branch of the CIA. These latest revelations only serve, as you say, to illustrate the total lack of education to an acceptable level in this day and age, more worryingly the lack of scientists in government in the USA and across the world. The charge against the scientific community lead by Trump and his “business men” ilk, with the violent and thuggish self styled fascist enforcers and militias coming out the woodwork in the last year, make the premise of the Handmaids Tale seem worryingly prophetic. How did this happen?

I think it’s part of a general distrust of intellectuals in American culture, which has increased massively amongst Republicans in recent years. In the piece below, The Young Turks discuss the finding that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning people distrust college education. They also note that they don’t just look down on higher education. They also hate and distrust the media and science. 58 per cent of Republicans and Republican supporters state that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, compared to 45 per cent a year ago, in 2016.

Cenk Uygur suggests that part of this is the use of propaganda by the party’s leaders. Part of the problem is that Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian than left-wingers. Thus, they’re more likely to follow the opinions of their leaders, and in the case of the Republican party, these leaders despise higher education.

Ana Kasparian, his co-host, who I believe teaches political science herself, argues that it’s because the Republicans want to keep you stupid. They’re trying to privatize education, and get children instead to attend private schools through voucher schemes, where the normal educational standards do not apply. There’s more than an element of hypocrisy in this. Those public figures trying to destroy the American educational system and minimize the benefits of higher education are themselves highly educated. Many of them have gone to Ivy League universities. Anne Coulter is one example. In her book, which Kasparian laments she has had to read, ’cause she’s got to debate her, Coulter states that the only purpose of college education is to produce ‘social justice warriors’. Yet this woman went to Cornel. Yet education is one of the great indicators of how well an individual will do in the future. And as she points out, it also protects you from scams.

Yet the Republicans themselves are also slightly divided on the issue of the benefits of higher education. 46 per cent of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year say that college has a beneficial effect on how well you do. This declines for those earning over $30,000 all the way down to 32 per cent.

Uygur and Kasparian admit that there are caveats and qualifications to this issue. Higher education has a down side, in that students are saddled with an immense amount of debt. This needs to be reformed. But Republicans don’t see college as a negative because they feel sorry for the students burdened with this debt. No, they want to keep people stupid and misinformed, so they don’t climb the economic ladder and they can’t fill them with some of the nonsense they believe.

Uygur concludes ‘So don’t go to university, because if you go to a real university, you might not go to a Trump university, and that would be bad for Trump.’

Once again, this is an American issue that applies almost in toto to Britain. Continental visitors and emigrants to Britain have commented on how anti-intellectual British society is. And this anti-intellectualism is again part of British Conservatism as well. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed a book on Conservative by the right-wing British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton declared that Conservativism wasn’t an intellectual force, but was largely unspoken, and based on the power of tradition. For which the reviewer thanked Scruton for being honest about how anti-intellectual it was. Intellectuals and science are distrusted, because many of their findings contradict or cast doubt on traditional attitudes. For example, feminism attacks traditional notions of gender roles. Black and Asian intellectuals and activist have also undermined commonly held racial assumptions about White superiority and the subordinate role of their ethnic groups. Left-wing historians and political scientists have also challenged the class basis of western, including American and British society, as well as the supposed beneficial nature of western imperialism.

Some of the Republican distrust of science comes from Biblical literalism. The findings of geology and cosmology contradict a literal reading of the creation of the world in Genesis. That said, one study found that the people, who had the greatest faith in science were actually Creationists.

The Republicans and some of their British counterparts, like Nigel Lawson, also deny the reality of global warming. Hence Trump’s decision to close down that part of the federal government that researches and publishes studies of climate change and the pollution and decline of America’s epic natural beauty. It’s why Theresa May and Dave Cameron get annoyed whenever anyone shows how terrible fracking is for local people and the environment.

Science can be particularly difficult for the layperson to understand. It can involve very careful statistical analysis of complex data. And some of the raw phenomena are extremely weird. Quantum physics is a case in point. The world of subatomic particles is contradictory and very different from the macroscopic, everyday world. Subatomic particles dart into and out of existence in the quantum foam at the very lowest layer of matter. Light can be simultaneously a wave and a particle. Particles may be in two places at once, under their position is recorded by an observer. They can also move between one place in the atom to another without physically crossing the space in between. And two entangled atoms can behave as one, even though they may be separated by light years. It’s so bizarre that the scientists studying it have said that ‘you don’t understand it. You just get used to it.’

Also, some of the pronouncements made by intellectuals themselves have given critics ample ammunition. Like the statement by one professor a few years ago that snowmen were racist and sexist. Or the £20,000 in grant one scientist received for researching the terribly important issue of why cornflakes get soggy when you pour milk on them.

There’s also the problem that scientific opinion also keeps changing on medical matters. Every so often researchers discover that certain foods are harmful for you. On the other hand, certain others are beneficial. Only for these opinions to be revised a few years later.

But the nature of science is that it is a process, not a set body of knowledge, and that it’s conclusions and statements may be revised as and when later discoveries are made. It’s why no-one now believes that an immaterial fluid – the ether – permeates the universe, with atoms only whirlpools in it, as they did over a century or so ago.

And so the right-wing press, like the Scum all the way up to the Torygraph, and particularly the Daily Heil, will publish endless numbers of articles attacking ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. Paul Johnson, the Conservative pundit, who used to write for the Daily Mail and Spectator, amongst other rags, wrote a book on them. Entitled Intellectuals, Johnson used it to explore what right intellectuals had to tell us what was right and how to order our lives. Private Eye also reviewed this as well. You will not be surprised to read that most of the intellectuals Johnson wrote about were left-wing, and many of them had shabby personal lives. Karl Marx is one example. Others were gay, or otherwise had colourful sexual tastes, like Kenneth Tynan, who apparently was into S&M.

But none of this actually refutes the value of their work, which has to be judged on other terms. Marx’s own bad behavior as a man doesn’t contradict his philosophical and economic theories any more than Alan Turing’s homosexuality refutes his work on mathematics and computers. But this doesn’t stop Johnson trying to tell you that their own bad behavior disqualifies intellectuals from having the right to explore how society may be improved. An attitude that, incidentally, is apparently shared by that other Johnson, Boris. This should rule Boris out as well as a serious politician, if true.

In the meantime, don’t let the Tories and Republicans run down public education. And stick up for proper intellectuals and intellectual discourse. As someone once said, ‘Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’