Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’

Care UK in Bristol Offer Private Operations for those Wanting to Jump NHS Queues

December 5, 2017

This piece of news was reported in the Bristol Post yesterday. Care UK, the private healthcare provider, which runs some services on behalf of the NHS in Emerson’s Green in Bristol, was sending out material to GPs, including price lists of operations up to £9,000. The company was hoping to encourage them to get people to go private for a number of simple operations, so that they could jump NHS waiting lists. The paper noted that there was a long waiting time at Emerson’s Green for operations.

This naturally outraged GPs and organisations dedicated to preserving our embattled NHS, and much of the article was comments from them attacking this latest attempt by private enterprise to run down the Health Service. Those defending the NHS and protesting against Care UK’s actions made the point that this was very much part of the general ‘direction of travel’ that the government has been following in its policy of privatising the NHS.

Mike put up an article a few days ago reporting on the latest Tory wheeze to privatise GP services, using much the same trick. This involves a special line you can use, where, for £40, you can jump the queue to be seen by a GP. Mike stated, very clearly and entirely accurately, that this was against the principles of the NHS, and was about setting up a two-tier health service.

Of course it is. All these private services violate the founding principles of the NHS that healthcare should be universal and free at the point of service. Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS completely, but was prevented by a cabinet rebellion. She did, however, have the goal of making 25 per cent of the British population take out private health insurance. Peter Lilley and John Major introduced the Private Finance Initiative, because they wanted to open up the NHS to private investment. Meaning they wanted private enterprise to run hospitals, clinics and so on.

As did Tony Blair and New Labour – the right-wingers in the Labour party, who are now telling you that Jeremy Corbyn is too left-wing and unelectable. And David Cameron and Theresa May have been just as determined to privatise the NHS. Under the terms of Andrew Lansley’s 2012 healthcare act, the secretary of state for health is no longer responsible for making sure that everyone has access to state healthcare. And the Tories have deliberately arranged the reforms to allow healthcare providers to charge for services. Again, this is a violation of the fundamental principles of the NHS.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Tories were thrown out of government, and parasites and profiteers like Care UK out of the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn has promised to renationalise the NHS. If there was only one reason why Britain needs him and Labour in government, this is it.

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James Dyson: Not a Hero of Science, Just a Greedy Exploiter

November 29, 2017

James Dyson, the inventor of that vacuum cleaner, was ono the news again the other day. At least, he was in the Bristol region. Because of his invention’s success, he’s celebrated in the local news here in this part of the West Country as some kind of great scientific hero, leading Britain forward in technological innovation and business acumen. The local news was all over him when he opened a plant to make his vacuums near Bath. They were all over him again when a special site or facility opened down in the old part of the railway station at Temple Meads in Bristol, which was supposed to help bring businessmen together so that they could make deals. He was one of the businessmen, who was called upon to say how wonderful and good for the city it all was.

And then last night, or the night before, he was on the news again. He has decided to open his own, private university specialising in engineering. Boris Johnson’s brother, who’s as blond as Boris is, but slimmer and possibly not as thick, appeared to tell the world how wonderful this was going to be also.

I’m not impressed. Not by Dyson, and certainly not by his grotty political beliefs and sordid profiteering.

Dyson is not someone I feel anyone should look up to. His support for his home country, and the Bristol-Bath region, merely seems to be one of convenience. After he had set up the factory near Bath, he closed it down and moved it to Indonesia. He then declared that he did so because there wasn’t enough space at the existing site to expand, and the council was deliberately blocking him from doing so.

I find that unconvincing. It might be that the council were stopping him from expanding on that site, but that should not stop him going elsewhere in the region or the country. There are other suitable sites, if not around Bath, then certainly in the rest of England and Britain. There are places in the north of England, for example, which are crying out for entrepreneurs to come there and set up plants.

But Dyson didn’t want that. The simple truth is, he moved his plant to Indonesia because he could pay the workers there much less than those in Britain.

And he doesn’t even bother hiding his contempt for Britain’s workers. Mike put up a piece a little while ago commenting on a speech Dyson made, in which he looked forward to British workers having more of their rights in the workplace stripped away after Brexit. This would be good for British firms, and make us more competitive.

On it’s own, it most certainly won’t. Despite destroying workers’ rights and reducing the mass of employees in Britain to poverty, productivity has very definitely not risen under the Tories, and we’ve just been knocked out of the five richest countries in the world. But Dyson, and the rest of the extremely rich, are going to love those policies anyway, because it gives them more power to intimidate, bully and exploit their workforce.

As for him setting up his wretched engineering university, I fail to see the need. Both Bristol Uni and the University of the West of England have excellent engineering departments. In fact, UWE is a world leader in robotics. One of their great inventions, which was on the news a little while ago, was a new type of artificial hand for use by children. It was superb engineering, which, unlike the driverless car, will actually improve people’s lives.

As for business acumen and entrepreneurial ability, I got the distinct impression that Bath was trying very hard to cover that. Walking through Temple Meads station you go past a number of adverts for the MBA at one of Bath’s unis.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these institutions. It’s just that, like the various businessmen, who decide they’d quite like to run an academy school, Dyson has decided that they’re not running things quite how he thinks they should be run. Hence he’s decided to set up this wretched engineering university.

Not only is it a vanity project on his behalf, it’s also another attack on state education. Ever since Maggie Thatcher, the Tories and then Blair’s New Labour have been privatising education, including the universities. This isn’t the first private centre of higher education. That came a few years ago with a new College of the Humanities, or some such, set up with the aid of the philosopher A.C. Grayling.

I’m also profoundly unimpressed by the underlying attitude to the state held by businessmen like Dyson. They usually appear launching some grand new commercial venture, loudly declaring how very much better private enterprise is over the state. Then, when everything goes wrong, they come crying and whining back to the taxpayer demanding a bail-out. And when they get that, they still don’t shut up, but continue moaning that their great, new business vision failed because the government was insufficiently pro-business. They also hate the welfare state, because it actually helps the poor. Not only do businessmen like Dyson moan that current labour laws and wages make business in Britain uneconomical, they also tend to believe that things should be made harder for the poor, in order to encourage them to find a job and ‘do well’. You used to hear a lot about this from the Tories under Thatcher. It’s still the policy in the DWP. It’s why benefit claimants, who are actually in work, are harassed by the ‘job coaches’ in the Job Centres. This is to motivate them to get another, better paying job. Even though there aren’t any around, and aren’t likely to be, given the government’s policies of freezing pay.

In short, James Dyson is certainly not my idea of a hero, either of science or industry. He’s a bog-standard, exploitative businessman, of the same stripe that gets in the news for paying his workers less than the minimum wage while he makes a colossal profit. And I’m heartily sick and tired of the news in my part of the West Country fawning over him.

I’ve never bought one of his vacuum cleaners, and really don’t intend to. Because I don’t think Britain, including my little bit of it, can afford the cost.

From C. 1989: Pravda International on Launch of Greenpeace Rock Album in Soviet Union

October 18, 2017

Pravda International, with pic of Yeltsyn before he became president. This seems to have been before the drunkenness took hold. It also doesn’t show his uncritical adulation of capitalism, which destroyed the Soviet economy and caused massive unemployment and poverty.

Way back in the 1980s when I was at College, I used to buy Pravda International occasionally. It was, very roughly, an English language version of the Russian Communist party newspaper, but with articles also drawn from the other Russian newspapers and magazines Izvestia, Argumenty I Fakty, Moscow News, as well as by the English editions own staff. Like many magazines over the years, it seems to have folded due to lack of interest. I tried to buy it from my local newsagent, but found out that it was unavailable. The two big magazine distributors had divided Bristol up between them, and one of them wouldn’t carry it. So guess which half of Bristol I was in.

I nevertheless kept hold of some of them, as they were records of an exciting, historic time. This was when Glaznost and Perestroika were in full swing, the Soviet Union was being democratised according to Gorbachev’s belief that democracy and Communism could be combined to produce a new, vigorous, prosperous Soviet Union. The Soviets were opening their borders and allowing western media into the country. The Cold War was thawing rapidly, and right across the Communist bloc censorship was being lifted. The Soviet people were making their voices heard, and books, plays, poetry and art that had previously been banned were now being published and publicly discussed. Stalin and his minions stood, thanks to dissident Marxist historians like Roy and Zhores Medvedev, openly condemned as monstrous mass murderers. And the families, friends and loved ones of his victims organised to demand memorials to the millions he had murdered. And instead of hatred, distrust and the looming threat of nuclear holocaust, for a few years it looked like the peoples of the West and East would live as friends and co-workers. The missiles were being decommissioned, the silos filled in. Across the world it seemed that our peoples would never again have to fear the threat of nuclear attack, or invasion from across the other side of the Iron Curtain.

And I also dug out the old copy of Pravda International out of a sense of mischief. RT UK and America have been under attack recently, accused of spreading Russian propaganda and interfering with our politics. What this means is that the Russian-owned news agency has actually done some good journalism, and uncovered the poverty, misery and despair caused by corporatist late capitalism and the gutting of the British and American welfare state and working class organisations. It’s what our own, domestic news networks should be reporting on, but instead they’ve been turned into part of the same corporate system, publishing nothing but mainstream propaganda for the corporatist elite and their puppets and shills in the political parties. I wanted to dig it out to show that the Russians have always had a media presence in the West, and there was a time when it also really frightened some capitalist interests. Although flicking through that issue of the magazine, many of the stories were about western businesses, including British firms, securing contracts to work with Soviet enterprises, as the economy opened up.

Russia, like everywhere else, is also suffering from environmental damage and climate change. Simon Reeve, in his recent TV journey across Russia from the Far East to St. Petersburg, stopped in Siberia to show the terrifying changes that are occurring in the Russian north. The permafrost is melting causing the remaining rock and soil to subside. This has created vast craters in the tundra. One Russian environmental scientist took Reeve to see one of these. It was staggering, the size of the vast Arizona meterorite crater in the US. It was as if a piece of land the size of a city had been scooped out of the Arctic.

These climatic changes are threatening the stability of many of the cities the Russians built up in the north. They’re also a further threat to all humanity, as they release methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. About 25 times more powerful. This threatens to create runaway global warming beyond the tipping point, to the point where the survival or human civilisation, if not the human species itself, is very much under threat.

Looking through this old issue of Pravda International, it was therefore particularly interesting to find an article by their staffer, Jennie Walsh, reporting the launch of a rock album by Greenpeace, released by the Soviet recording company Melodiya, to raise awareness of environmental issues.
The article, ‘Breakthrough for the Environment’, reads

The ecological pressure group Greenpeace has long highlighted the international potential of the environmental movement. The recent release of their rock compilation album, Breakthrough marks an important step forward for the campaign, and for Western music.

Two years ago Greenpeace chairman David McTaggart approached Ian Flookes of the Wasted Talent Artists Agency with a view to putting on a concert of Western bands in the Soviet Union in order to generate roubles for a Soviet-based Greenpeace campaign. Political problems prevented this at the time, but in the changing climate of perestroika the plans were restarted last year, though a compilation record was considered more appropriate.

‘After what happened at Chernobyl, I think the Soviet authorities have become extremely environment-conscious and their approach to Greenpeace and to the project has been one of great support’, Flookes told Pravda International.

With the full cooperation of the Soviet state record company Melodiya, who were granted independent status last year, Breakthrough is the first major release of contemporary Western rock music in the USSR.

It is the first time that Melodiya has been able to do a ‘normal’ promotion campaign, with many of the artists (who all gave their services free of charge) present at the Moscow launch in March. There was an incredible reception. One record store queue was over 7,000 people, which is quite phenomenal – even by Soviet standards!

The purpose behind Breakthrough, however, must not be forgotten amid such hysteria. Kate Karam of Greenpeace emphasised that in releasing the album, they wanted to educate as much as to entertain. Despite perestroika, it is still difficult to put out independent information in the USSR, and the album provided a vehicle for the distribution of a booklet highlighting the work of Greenpeace and the environmental problems of the USSR.

The profits from the record sales will be shared between Greenpeace and the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, one of the first independent, non-governmental organisations to be founded in the Soviet Union.

The money will be spent only on projects within the USSR. This is a major indication of the political changes that have taken place. Greenpeace is quite a radical organisation by any standards, and to have some of the top soviet scientists and public servants (including Velikov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) support them through the Foundation, has been vital to the project. It is also an important challenge – a challenge to get programmes started in the USSR while maintaining the traditional Greenpeace principle of direct action.

Several environmental projects have now been formally agreed. Greenpeace will use some of the funds from the record to organise an East-West exchange programme in cooperation with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, for children to study environmental problems. Projects in the pipeline include work with the International Foundation to establish a central clearing house for information on atmospheric pollution problems and trying to involve the Soviet Union in the campaign to stop the industrial pollution of the Baltic Sea.

‘We don’t want to impose our Western standards about the environment on the Soviet Union,’ explains Karam. ‘I think that’s a danger with many of the Western organisations taking advantage of the new political climate there. Greenpeace is going to Russia to learn about their specific problems, because it is wrong to develop homogeneous attitudes about the environment. We need to study and talk to people before we launch into setting up offices and membership drives. Getting educational materials out in Russia is a big enough challenge right now without going straight into direct action projects.’

The popularisation of ‘green politics’ in the West may be little more than rhetoric on the part of its leaders, but it has encouraged the critical eye to fall on eastern Europe with regard to its environmental record. The socialist system may have failed the environment as much as the capitalist, but the big difference is the West has had 10 years lead time with environmentalists pushing legislation through. ‘I think the question is now how bad the USSR’s record is, but what is going to happen over the next 10 years – not in the past 50. I don’t think its fair to criticise.’

Now that the Soviet authorities have made active moves to encourage environmental concern, particularly by creating a Ministry for the Environment, Greenpeace are keen to see whether other east European countries follow suit.

Breakthrough is to be released in all the east European countries as well as in the UK, USA, India, Australia and Japan, emphasising the international aspect of the green movement.

The release of the album worldwide, under the title Rainbow Warriors, will probably be slightly more of a gamble than it has been in the Soviet Union. Compassion fatigue in the West, however, might be overcome by the quality of the record.

There probably hasn’t been an album released yet, which features so many top musicians – U2, Simple Minds, The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel and Sting to name a few. There are 26 tracks, all of which have recently been hits. For many, the album will probably have an intrinsic value just for this reason. The fact that it supports Greenpeace will be a bonus.

In the three weeks since the album was released in the USSR over 10,000 copies have been received on the forms that were enclosed in the information booklets.

The worldwide launch is on May 22nd and if it sells for reasons other than its musical content, its educational and mobilising potential could be as effective as the fundraising.

Now, unfortunately, we have had Russian hackers releasing scientific data in an attempt to discredit climate change and global warming, while Trump is also trying to stifle climate science, including the virtual closure of America’s Environmental protection Agency. He and the rest of the Republican party are determined that only the paid propagandists for the Koch brothers will be heard.

TeleSur English: Scotland Bans Fracking

October 4, 2017

This is another little video from the Latin American broadcaster, TeleSur. It reports that after a two year investigation, the Scots parliament has banned fracking forever. During its examination of the issue, the Scottish assembly took the views of 60,000 Scots, 99 per cent of whom were against. The video notes that Scotland joins the growing number of opponents of fracking, which damages the environment through pollution and global warming, contaminates water as well as an increased demand for it, and damages peoples’ health.

I’m really glad the people of Scotland have made such a decision to preserve their country and its beautiful environment, as well as their health, from fracking. I wish this country would also follow them and ban it. I blogged about local concerns about how it would affect the environment around Keynsham, a small town near me just south of Bristol, between this city and Bath. I think there are also concerns about it on the Somerset levels, as well as elsewhere in Britain. Unfortunately, it has the full support of the Tories, who don’t care how much pollution and contamination goes to kill of the environment and damage people’s health, so long as the oil companies, who fund their campaign and on whose boards so many of them probably sit or otherwise have connections, turn a profit.

Thousands Protest Tory Conference in Manchester

October 2, 2017

This is another really great clip from RT. It shows the mass protests that have taken place outside the Tory conference in one of the great, historic centres of British working class radicalism. One building flies a red banner proclaiming, ‘Ohhh, Jeremy Corbyn’. A speaker declares ‘They say Labour is a government in waiting. I agree with that, except for one thing. I am not waiting’. Another speaker states that ‘they have slayed men, women and children as they slept in their beds’, presumably referring to Cameron and May’s escalation of the illegal wars in the Middle East. One elderly lady states that we’ve had eight years of austerity, pay caps and poverty, and we’re not taking it any more. A crowd from Unison march with a banner, ‘Taxi for Theresa’. A group of girls march past, smiling for the camera, while at the end there’s a couple pushing a skeleton in a wheelchair underneath the banner ‘Found Fit for Work’, in protest at the government’s murderous Work Capability Tests. The crowd seem good natured, and drawn from across Britain. I noticed one banner, which seemed to be a group from my hometown, Bristol.

This shows some of the extent of the deep dissatisfaction with the Tories, their lies and the deaths they’re causing in Britain and particularly in the Middle East through policies designed to drive the poor at home to starvation and suicide, and murder innocents abroad under the guise of combating terrorism, when the intent is simply to seize their oil reserves and state industries. Same as it was in the imperialism of the 19th century.

I’m left with only one question after watching this: has any of it been broadcast by the Beeb? Somehow, given the Beeb’s flagrant right-wing bias, I doubt it was. Or if it was, much time was spent on it.

Fascism and the Murder of the Homeless

September 26, 2017

Last week or so Mike put up a story reporting how a gang of thugs had decided it was amusing to set alight a homeless man and his sleeping bag. The man’s injuries were so severe he had to be taken to hospital. Mike made it clear that while those responsible were just thugs acting independently, nevertheless their actions were result of Tory propaganda, spread through the right-wing press, demonizing the very poorest in our society as scroungers and a threat to the good, righteous and thrifty Thatcherite respectable classes. He felt that such crimes were on the rise.

I’ve read and seen enough on the plight of the homeless over the years to get the impression that such attacks are very common. A few years ago the Evening Post in Bristol interviewed a young homeless woman, who described her mistreatment by members of the public. She said that one man had even tried to get into her sleeping bag with her.

Way back in the 1990s during the war in the former Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Serbs and the other participants in that war, the Croats and the Muslims, was copied across the Atlantic by the Fascists in South America. There was a report on the news one evening about attacks on the poor and destitute by the supporters of the right-wing government in Colombia. These thugs had set upon and killed a homeless man, in what they boasted was ‘social cleansing’.

Now in Trump’s America we see real Fascists coming out the woodwork again, marching in support of forced repatriation, racial segregation and chanting anti-Semitic slogans, such as ‘The Jews shall not replace us.’ Meanwhile the neoliberal policies pursued by the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats are forcing working Americans into grinding poverty, including homelessness.

Violence against the homeless, along with other poor and marginalized groups has always existed. But it’s being encouraged by the rhetoric of the mainstream right-wing parties and the vilification spewed out by the right-wing press. And these parties are moving closer towards real Fascism, as shown by Trump’s vocal supporters in the Alt Right. I wonder how long it will be before we see real Fascists making similar boasts about ‘social cleansing’ over here.

Richard Coughlan Talks about His Video Debunking Holocaust Denial

September 22, 2017

Yesterday I put up a 25 minute video by the stand-up comedian, Richard Coughlan, debunking Holocaust denial. It’s a grim video, complete with images of the emaciated victims of the Shoah and the bodies packed into mass graves. It is, however, necessary with the Alt Right and the other Nazis trying to claw their way into power, and Coughlan did a very good job of it.

This video’s somewhat longer at half an hour. In it, Coughlan talks about how glad he is that his first video was so well received, and describes the immense amount of research he did to make it. He compares learning about the Holocaust to tugging at a loose piece of thread in your jumper – it looks tiny, but once you pull much more comes away. He says he spent many months preparing the video, to the point where it felt that he spent his whole life making it. He read extensively, the first couple of books were The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz. The latter book was the true memoirs of a British soldier, who escaped from a P.O.W. camp. The escapee heard about the death camps, and in order to investigate the truth of what he’d heard actually broke out into the most notorious – Auschwitz. His book was covered on British breakfast television about a year or so ago when it was first published. Not only did he break into Auschwitz, exchanging clothes with a Jewish prisoner, but he did it twice.

Coughlan also goes on to talk about how he got the transcripts of the trial between Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving. Irving’s an extreme right-wing historian, who wrote at least one book minimizing the scale of the atrocity. Lipstadt’s an American academic, who called Irving what he was: a Holocaust denier. So he sued her, and lost. Coughlan says that by that point, Irving was losing popularity and credibility. Even so, I can remember the immense controversy that was caused when the Oxford Union invited him to speak. I can also remember talking to a co-worker at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, who had been in the public gallery watching the proceedings of the trial. He states that during the proceedings Irving himself was extremely confident and ebullient compared to some of the witnesses testifying against him. Not that it did Irving any good whatsoever. The trial exposed just how sloppy and fraudulent his own work on the Holocaust was. There were vital facts he didn’t mention, and he mistranslated some texts from the German. The trial resulted in Lipstadt being acquitted, and Irving’s reputation as an historian in tatters. I don’t think he’s ever recovered, and the last thing I heard the Austrians had sent him down in their country for Holocaust denial, which is a crime there and in Germany.

He also talks about one text he also read online. This was an encyclopedia of the death camps, also 45,000 or so of them. The book is divided into two volumes, each volume further divided into two parts. Each part is about 900 pages. And that’s just only some of the books he read.

He also talks about the monstrous horrors the Nazis perpetrated, such as the amount of ash generated by the cremation of the victims’ bodies, and the rooms full of the victims’ belongings and clothes. One room was full of children’s shoes. The victims’ were shaved, and their hair collected. In one camp, it was found stuffed into packs, so that there was a roomful of it, the total weighing many kilos. He wonders at the mindset of the guards, who could walk past these rooms full of their victims’ remains with complete indifference.

He also talks about how the people, who perpetrated this atrocity weren’t any different from us, citing once again the Stanford prison experiment. This was a psychological experiment, in which people were asked to play at being cops. After three days it was called off because these ordinary Americans were actually too brutal. Coughlan says that there have been three movies made of it. There was also a documentary about it shown on British television, which repeated the experiment. However, the documentary also added a few facts that I had never heard of. Such as when the experiment began, the volunteers playing the cops actually were too lenient, and those playing at the prisoners were more or less running amuck. So the experiment was stopped, and they were more or less encouraged by the experimenters to adopt a tougher approach.

And the psychology of some of high level officers responsible for implementing the Final Solution is bizarre. Joachim C. Fest in his book, The Face of the Third Reich, which is a collection of potted biographies of the leading Nazis, includes Hoess, the commandant at Auschwitz. Hoess is a vile character, who oversaw the mass murder of millions of innocents without any scruple. But he claimed he was no sadist. He said he was always at the back of the crowd, or tried to be away from it in his office, when the guards were beating or setting the dogs on the inmates. The Italian writer and chemist, Primo Levi, who had been imprisoned in the death camps, states that the guards ‘had our faces’. In other words, they were no different than we are. Coughlan says that Stamford Prison Experiment and the Holocaust shows how easy it is to turn ordinary people into monsters. And they do it gradually, drawing you into it little by little, until it all seems completely natural.

Coughlan highly recommends that his viewers take an interest in the subject, and do their own reading and research, ”cause it’s good to know stuff.’ Especially if you’re confronted by someone – and here he goes into a lengthy piece of invective to describe that kind of person- who tries to tell you that it didn’t happen, or that six million didn’t really die. At one point he mocks those, who try to argue for a lower number of deaths, such as two million, asking rhetorically what makes them think this will impress anyone. It’s still an horrific number.

He also says that studying the Holocaust teaches you so much, about politics, the media, how hate can be generated and used, and so on. He jokes about the old anti-Semitic remark about the media being full of Jews, who control it. Well, if that were to happen to him or people like him, he would definitely make sure his people would go into the media to stop it ever happening again. He also rebuts the objection to studying the Holocaust because there have been so many others. ‘No, not like the Holocaust’.

Actually, the unique nature of the Holocaust is a problem for historians and scholars of international law and politics. There are a number of different definitions of genocide. These can differ significantly, so that some cover certain forms of persecution to the exclusion of the others. The only thing they have in common is that they all cover the Holocaust. This means that some scholars advocate abandoning the quest to produce exact definitions of genocide in order to try to prevent the violent persecution of different groups at the societal level and prosecute those responsible as they really are and occur, unencumbered by too much ideological baggage.

What also comes out of this video is the sheer brazenness of the Holocaust deniers in seeking to refute what has been so extensively documented and witnessed. I’ve already mentioned how one judge in California ruled against one of the Nazi rags in his state that there was just so much supporting evidence for the Holocaust that it could not be reasonably regarded as anything other than a fact. Way back in the 1990s, when there were concerns about racist attacks in Bristol and the BNP nationally was trying to revive itself, one of the Black groups in the city held an evening, where the speaker was a Holocaust survivor, to hear his testimony about the reality of Nazism. They’re about, but obviously there are few of them because of old age, and the sheer, horrific efficiency with which the Nazis set about their extermination.

Coughlan describes how Holocaust deniers and Nazi apologists try to discredit descriptions and accounts of the death camps, by focusing on small discrepancies between them. Like in one account, it says there were 12 steps down to the gas chambers, but others say there are only eleven. They then move from this to the conclusion that this shows that people were making it all up. As if it followed from what had just been said. He also at one point describes how long it took for the victims to die when they were gassed with Zyklon B: 20 minutes. It’s another horrifying detail, and Coughlan appears quite naturally deeply moved by the fact.

This is a great video adding more information to his original piece. He also encourages others to learn as much about it as possible, so that they have all the information available to them to refute the lies of those who deny it ever happened, when they meet them, information which he couldn’t really put into the video here.

Richard Coughlan Debunks Holocaust Denial

September 21, 2017

More on the Nazis, I’m afraid, and one of their favourite tactics: trying to get everyone to believe that the Holocaust was faked and didn’t occur.

Richard ‘the Dick’ Coughlin is a professional stand-up comedian, who regularly posts on YouTube attacking the weird and twisted denizens of the far right and men’s rights activists. In this video he takes on the necessary task of refuting Holocaust denial, and does a very good job of it. The video begins with a warning that it contains material some people may find disturbing. These are black and white footage from the concentration and death camps themselves, showing the emaciated inmates, and the heaps of bodies thrown into mass graves. These are shown with appropriate Jewish music and hymns commemorating and lamenting those murdered by the Nazis.

Coughlan explains that modern anti-Semites and Nazis have moved on from denying the Holocaust outright, as there is simply too much proof that it did occur, although there are a few that will still try to do this. Instead, they try to minimize the numbers of people murdered. Instead of millions, they will claim that it was only a few tens of thousands. In some cases, they will try to claim that only 10,000 were murdered, rather than the real figure of 5,700,000+, which is rounded up to six million.

Nazis will then claim that there was no programme to exterminate the Jews, that they were not gassed with Zyklon B in death camps such as Auschwitz, and that the large halls in which the victims were butchered were instead morgues, or chambers where the bodies were deloused before burial. Coughlan cites the textual evidence from the Nazis themselves that the areas claimed to be morgues were where they poor souls were forced to strip before they were gassed, and the contradictions in the neo-Nazis’ attempts to explain away the other chambers. For example, the story that the gas chambers were only used for delousing the bodies is clearly contradicted by the fact that the bodies of the dead were burned. Why would you bother killing parasites on a body that was going to be burned anyway? Surely you’d just burn the body, lice and all.

He also points out that the Nazis deny that the Jews were deliberately exterminated, but merely died from overwork and malnutrition. This is completely false. He makes the point that Holocaust deniers are trying to stop people believing in the Holocaust, not by refuting it completely, but by placing tiny seeds of doubt in people’s minds, which they hope they can develop and encourage further. He also analyses the psychology behind the tactic of minimizing the scale of the Holocaust, comparing it to a naughty child, who has stolen from his parents, who then tries to excuse himself and cast the blame elsewhere by admitting that he stole a lesser amount of money some time ago, but has not stolen the full amount, thus casting doubt on his sibling’s protestations of innocence.

Coughlan also debunks the claim made by Holocaust deniers like David Irving that there is no textual evidence linking Hitler to the Holocaust. There is. There are reports from the Nazi einsatzgruppen tasked with carrying out the murder of the Jews stating that they have informed Hitler of their progress, along with other documents from the Nazi leadership. These can be read in a book of collected reports and documents from these death squads, which Coughlan shows to the camera.

As for the arguments that the infrastructure for the gas chambers don’t exist, Coughlan says that this is based largely on the example of Auschwitz. But Auschwitz is only one of the immense number of these murder factories. He emphasizes their colossal number by stating that most people would probably think there were only about seven or so death camps. Not so. There were 43,000.

He could have added here that the chimneys and other structures used for delivering and venting the Zyklon B at Auschwitz don’t exist, because they were demolished shortly after the war by the Polish government. The bricks were used to build the houses on a nearby estate. Channel 4 made this point a few years ago in a documentary in which they followed an engineer, who designed gas chambers to Auschwitz to examine the remaining structures at the invitation of the American/Canadian Nazi, Ernst Zundel. Unfortunately, he was taken in by the Nazis’ lies and the apparent lack of evidence. The programme also featured a Jewish expert on the Holocaust, who provided the proper evidence that showed where the engineer was severely mistaken in his conclusions. He cited not only the history of the site itself, but also Nazi documents and the deliberately evasive language they used to hide what they were doing. They almost never talked openly about the murder of the Jews. Instead, their mass atrocity was referred to as ‘deportations’ or ‘special operations in the east’.

The video also includes clips from the film dramatization of the court case between Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving. Lipstadt is an American academic who called Irving what he was – a Holocaust denier. Irving sued for libel and lost. There’s also a clip of the real David Irving speaking, stating that he doesn’t believe in the scale of the Holocaust as normally claimed.

As Coughlan is a stand-up comedian, he occasionally uses humour to make his points. He begins the video by joking that it is financed by ‘Jew gold’. This is a dig at the claim by Nazis that anyone arguing against them must be in the pay of the international Jewish conspiracy. The number that then follows is Coughlan’s patreon account, showing that he most certainly isn’t. At one point in the video, he also tries to get his viewers to understand what the Nazis are doing when they minimize the Holocaust by asking them to imagine for a moment that they in the Nazis place. What would they do?

This is clearly a rhetorical technique, and if you watch the video, obviously so. I am mentioning it here because of the danger that someone may try to twist this into an entirely spurious proof that this is article is promoting Holocaust denial. Mike over at Vox Political is a firm anti-racist and certainly not an anti-Semite. Yet because he defended those in the Labour party that were smeared as anti-Semites simply because they criticized the equation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, or even Israel itself for its occupation of Palestinian territory and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arab population, he was accused by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism as an anti-Semite. I am afraid that the loathsome people, who smeared him, may also try to smear me by taking some of the ironic rhetoric in this strongly and most definitely anti-Nazi video out of context in order to smear me.

Lastly, Coughlan is an atheist and was a part of the atheist movement on the Net. Hence his anti-theist farewell against God at the end. I don’t share or approve of his atheism. However, his videos against the assorted Fascists and maniacs on the far right are well informed, and do a very necessary job of debunking them and sending them up. He’s done an excellent job. He states at the end of the video just how many books he’s read about the Holocaust, including one 4,000 pages long, and encourages others to do the same.

This is a great video, and it’s of an appropriate length – 25 or so minutes. That’s long enough to cover the main points without becoming too drawn out. However, it does mean that it obviously can’t cover everything that the Nazis and Holocaust deniers try to do. But it’s an excellent start, entertainingly done.

Of course this video shouldn’t be necessary. In the 1980s an American judge ruled against one of the Californian Nazi magazines that the evidence supporting the Holocaust was so plentiful that it couldn’t be denied. But that hasn’t stopped them trying. The Alt Right is on the rise, and the Holocaust deniers will try to criticize any attempts to present the facts or commemorate this horrific mass murder. The M Shed in Bristol, one of the city’s museums, put on a display about the Holocaust a few years ago. They then had two Holocaust deniers turn up, who tried to argue with the museum staff.

In many European countries Holocaust denial is a crime. There are problems with such legislation, as many people fear it’s an infringement of the right to free speech, however odious that speech is in the case of the Nazis. They also criticize such tactics has being too heavy-handed, and allowing the Nazis to position themselves as the oppressed party suffering official state persecution. They argue instead that a better tactic is to be informed, and refute their specious arguments using confirmed facts and evidence. This video helps to do this job.

Book on Working People’s Environmentalism in the US

September 16, 2017

Chad Montrie, A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States (London: Continuum 2011)

I found this yesterday in the £3 bookshop on Bristol’s Park Street. It’s clearly inspired by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which told the story of the US as it affected ordinary working, blue-collar Americans and other marginalized groups, like Blacks and the indigenous peoples. It challenged the dominant, right-wing narrative of how America was founded by rich, White, and immensely wise Founding Fathers as a uniquely just society. Zinn has since passed away, but his book inspired Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s collection of radical British historical texts, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport. Contemporary scholarship has superseded some of Zinn’s work, paradoxically showing that in some areas such as ethnic minorities, his opinions were too moderate. But the Republicans still utterly despise him and his book. Looking at one right-wing website I found a list of books its readers hated and considered harmful to America. Zinn’s was one of them.

This book on working Americans and the environmental movement is particularly urgent now that Trump is set on trying to complete the destruction of both. I haven’t done more than glance at the book, but there’s a summary of the book’s contents by Kathryn Morse of Middlebury College on the back cover. This states that it’s

An engaging, critical synthesis of 20 years of new scholarship in environmental and labour history, this book tells a new story of the emergence and power of environmentalism as a movement forged by common people in defence of their lives and livelihoods. Countering previous arguments that environmentalism began in post-World War II middle-class suburbs, Montrie redefines environmentalism as a grass-roots, working class response to industrialization and urbanization dating from the early 19th century.

From the start, this movement included workers’ resistance to elite attempts to control nature both for profit and for upper-class leisure. Montrie narrates the growth of working-class environmentalism and its successes and failures from the textile mills of New England, to the Chicago streets around Hull House, to automobile plants of New England, to the coal mines of Appalachia, and to the agricultural fields of California, with other stops along the way. This detailed by accessible book offers a forceful new interpretation of American environmentalism and rewrite the narrative of the modern environmental movement.

The Republicans and the corporate backers fear and despise the Green movement, denouncing it as a strategy for introducing redistributive taxation and Socialism by the back door. They hate the way Greens recommend that rich, polluting industries should be taxed, and clean, non-polluting energy sources – like solar, wind and wave energy – should be developed to replace fossil fuels. These have got to go, as the Republicans and Libertarians are funded and bought by the Koch brothers and other oil and fossil fuel magnates.

And when the Republicans and the corporate paymasters aren’t foaming at the mouth about environmentalist ‘socialism’, they’re claiming that it’s another form of Nazism, because the Nazis were very keen on protecting the German environment. Well, they were, and this had been a major part of the German racist, volkisch movement since the 19th century. But this doesn’t mean that environmental per se is simply Nazism under another form. Where it appeared in Britain and America, it was an attempt by working people and the authorities to protect the environment and allow ordinary people to live clean, healthier lives and enjoy the beauty of the countryside in which their ancestors had lived and worked.

Hitler would have liked the Nazis to have been a party of the working class, but he hated organized labour. The first thing the Nazis did when they seized power was smash the German trade unions. But as this book shows, after the War American trade unions played a major part in the Green movement in the US. Which also explains why the Republicans go bug-eyed about the Greens and Socialism. The environmental movement and its connections to organized labour and the American working people marked a challenge to capitalism and the power of big corporations, not just to exploit the environment, but also to exploit the blue-collar, working women and men, who claimed their rights at work and to enjoy America’s great scenic beauty.

Another strand of their ideological attack on the environmental movement is to claim that it’s pagan, and so Christians should have nothing to do with it. It is true that much modern, Neopaganism is centred on the worship of the earth mother, and that pagans have been particularly environmentally conscious since the emergence of Green movement in the 1960s. But Christian writers were describing the beauty of the natural worlds and the wonders of its creatures as evidence of God’s providential handiwork from at least the Middle Ages onwards, and I’ve seen absolutely nothing to suggest that caring for the environment in itself is at all antichristian. Indeed, some theologians have pointed to Jean Calvin’s belief that as God has given human stewardship of the Earth, they have a duty and responsibility to protect the environment.

I haven’t really had time to read the book properly yet, but I will have to. Trump and the big corporations which control him are a real, present threat to the environment, working people, and indeed the future of the Earth and humanity, just as the Tories and their paymasters are over this side of the Pond. We have to protect both in order to create a better future and preserve the planet.

Crisis and Closures in the Academy Schools

September 13, 2017

One of the major issues is the Tories’ continuing attempts to destroy whatever remains of value in the British education system, all for the profit of big business. Last week, one of the academies closed only a week after it had opened. I did wonder what would happen to its pupils. Would they be thrown out and denied an education, as they had enrolled in the wrong school and there may not be places available in the other local schools.

Fortunately, that’s not going to happen. From what I understand the school will be kept open until someone else is found to take it over.

But it is still absolutely scandalous that British schools are now run by private companies, who can announce at any time that they are no longer interested in running them. Especially as tens of millions of taxpayers’ money is given to individual academies, far beyond the budget for the local LEA. In some cases, the amount spent on an academy can reach £40 million, while the budget for the LEA is under a million.

As for replacing LEA’s, from what I understand from talking to friends about them, the authorities dictate that schools can only join certain academy chains. This makes a mockery of the claim that they are outside LEAs, as these chains in effect act as them. But I suppose as the academy chains are all privately run, the government thinks this is just as well then.

I also understand that one of the academies in Radstock in Somerset doesn’t even belong to a chain based in the UK. The chain’s based in Eire, and all its directors live across the Irish Sea. I can’t say I’m surprised. Eire attempted to encourage investment by massively cutting corporate taxes, in the same way that the Tories are doing for Britain. Thus you find many businesses, that actually do their work in Britain, have their headquarters over there, using the country as a tax haven. And the ordinary people of Ireland have paid for this, just as we Brits are paying for the Tories’ self-same policy over here. One of the books I found rooting through one of the bargain bookshops in Park Street was by an Irish writer describing the way his country’s corporate elite had looted the country and caused its recession. Like the banksters in Britain and America.

The academies are a massive scam. They were launched under Maggie Thatcher, and then quietly wound up as they didn’t work. Blair and New Labour took over the idea, as they did so much else of the Tories’ squalid free market economics, and relaunched them as ‘city academies’. And then, under Dave Cameron, they became just ‘academies’.

They were never about improving education. They were about handing over a lucrative part of the state sector to private industry. They aren’t any better at educating children than state schools. Indeed, many can only maintain in the league tables by excluding poorer students, and those with special needs or learning difficulties. And if state schools had the same amount spent on them as those few, which are more successful than those left in the LEAs, they too would see improved standards.

In fact, academies offer worse teaching, because as private firms in order to make a profit they have to cut wages and conditions for the workforce to a minimum. And with the Tories freezing public sector workers’ wages, it’s no wonder that tens of thousands of teachers are leaving the profession.

And those companies interested in getting a piece of this cool, educational action are hardly those, whose reputation inspires confidence. One of them, apparently, belongs to Rupert Murdoch, at least according to Private Eye again. Yes, the man, who has almost single-handedly aimed at the lowest common denominator in print journalism, lowering the tone and content of whatever newspaper he touches and whose main newspaper, the Sun, is a byword for monosyllabic stupidity and racism, now wants to run schools. Or at least, publish the textbooks for those who do.

Academy schools are a massive failure. They’re another corporate scam in which the public pays well over the odds for a massively inferior service from the private sector, all so that Blair and May’s mates in the private sector could reap the profits.

It’s time they were wound up. Get the Tories out, and private industry out of state education.