Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

Donald Trump Predicted in Stephen Baxter’s 1995 Novel ‘Titan’

July 16, 2017

I’ve been making my way through Stephen Baxter’s SF novel, Titan, these last few weeks. Baxter’s a British SF writer, with degrees in maths and engineering. He applied to be an astronaut on the Anglo-Soviet mission to Mir in the 1980s, which went to Helen Sharman. He’s probably best known for his Xelee-sequence books. These are set in a universe dominated by the extremely advanced, but mysterious Xelee, who are engaged in a war across the entire universe with the Photino Birds, dark matter creatures determined to age and extinguish the universe of ordinary matter. He has also written other novels about a variety of parthenogenic humans, descended from a lost troop of Romans, a catastrophic flood in the Bronze Age, and the books The Long Earth and The Long War, about parallel worlds, with the late, great Terry Pratchett. His novel, Voyage, an alternative history in which NASA launches a final manned expedition to Mars, was adapted for Radio 4 by Audio Movies in the 1990s. He was also the scientific advisor for the 1990s BBC SF series, Invasion Earth, about aliens from the higher physical dimensions invading the planet.

Titan is also about a last, crewed NASA mission. This time its put together by a team of astronauts, space scientists and ground control crew as the Agency’s last, great space expedition before it is closed down following a shuttle disaster. It’s set in what was then the near future – 2004 onwards – in America increasingly falling into right-wing extremism, irrationalism and Christian fundamentalism. The leading politician and subsequent president, is Xavier Maclachlan, a Texan with standing on an aggressively anti-science platform. Here’s the description of the man and his policies on pages 284-5.

Hadamard was in Washington during the inauguration of Xavier Maclachlan, after his wafer-thin win in the 2008 election.

Maclachlan called it a ‘liberation of the capital’.

Armed militia bands came in from Idaho and Arizona and Oklahoma and Montana, to fire off black-powder salutes to the nationalist-populist who promised to repeal all gun control laws. In the crowd, Hadamard saw a couple of Ku Klux Klan constumes, a sight he though had gone into an unholy past. Come to that, there was a rumour that a former Klan leader was being made ready to become a future White House chief of staff. And in his speech Maclachlan appealed to the people to end what he called the ‘Israeli occupation of Congress’…

And so on.

As soon as Maclachlan lifted his hand from the Bible, US peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and Africa started to board their planes to leave. Foreign aid stopped. The UN was being thrown out of New York, and there was a rumour that Maclachlan was planning some military adventure to take back the canal from Panama.

Army engineers – set in place during the handover from the last Administration – started to build a wall, two thousand miles of it, along the Mexican border, to exclude illegal immigrants. White it was being built, troops brought home from peacekeeping abroad were operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

There was chaos in the financial markets. Machlachlan had withdrawn the US from the North American Free Trade Treaty, from the World Trade Organisation, from GATT. Reviews of the country’s membership of the World Bank and the IMF had started – arms of an incipient world government, Maclachlan said, designed to let in the Russians. He had raised tariffs – ten per cent against Japan, fifty per cent against the Chinese – and world trade collapsed.

The Chinese, particularly, screamed. And so Maclachlan sent the Seventh Fleet to a new station just off the coast of Taiwan.

Meanwhile all the strategic arms treaties with Russia were torn up, as Maclachlan orderd his technicians to dig out the blueprints for Reagan’s old dream of SDI. In fact, Maclachlan wanted to go further. He was inviting ideas for what he called his ‘da Vinci brains trust’. The press was full of schemes for fantastic new weapons: smart remote sensors; dream mines that could shoot at passing traffic; smart armour that would use explosive tiles to deflect incoming projectiles; maybe even an electrical battlefield in which electricity-propelled shells would be zapped in by low-flying aircraft.

And back home, Machlachlan had cut off any remaining programs which benefited blacks and other minorities, and any funding that appeared to support abortion, which had been made illegal in any form.

Xavier Maclachlan was a busy man, and he was fulfilling his campaign promises.

Clearly, much of this is an extrapolation from the policies and attitudes of the Republican party and the American extreme Right in the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan had brought right-wing Christian fundamentalists into the Republican party, who had previously stood aloof from politics as part of a corrupt, fallen secular order. He had also begun to wind up government welfare programmes, particularly those aimed at benefiting minorities, such as Black Americans. Fears of an imminent apocalypse, social breakdown and Russian invasion, even after the collapse of Communism, had resulted in the emergence of the survivalist and then Militia movements, armed right-wing paramilitary groups. These had a bitter resentment of the federal government, which culminated in McViegh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. They also tended to be bitterly racist and anti-Semitic. They believed and still believe in stupid Nazi conspiracy theories that claim that the Jews are trying to destroy the White race through racial intermixing and that America is covertly controlled by the Jews through the ‘Zionist Occupation Government’, or ZOG. These groups and right-wing American fundamentalist organisations also believed that there was a secret, Illuminati conspiracy to create a one world Satanic superstate centred on the UN. Phyllis Schlafly, who was actually a Democrat, regularly denounced the UN as well as women’s rights. And one leading figure in the militias – I think it may have been Bo Gritz, who supposedly served as the model for ‘Rambo’ – stated that the way they would clear America’s international debt would be by minting a single coin with the legend ‘1 Trillion Dollars’. As for the Klan, there were a series of scandals in which senior Republican politicos were revealed as having links to or membership in the White racist terrorist group. The most notorious of these was David Duke in Louisiana, who is unfortunately still around and blaming the Jews for everything even today.

And political scientists and economists were predicting the rise of China and the other ‘tiger economies’, which would dominate the ‘Pacific Century’ even then.

Of course, there are things Baxter failed to predict, like 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also takes the conventional view that the various free trade agreements and UN organisations, like the IMF and the World Bank, are nice, liberal, benefificial institutions, rather than the way corporate America imposes its own neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, particularly the developing nations.

Not that the Democrats have been much different. Counterpunch has reported that Obama was considering removing the ‘No first strike’ policy towards a nuclear confrontation, and Killary has been every bit as aggressive in her stance towards Russia and China as the Republicans, perhaps even more so.

As for the White extremist and racist groups supporting the new president, all that’s different is that the Klan has been largely replaced, or subsumed, into the internet-based Alt Right. But the hysterical fear of gun legislation, promoted and lavishly funded by the gun manufacturers and the NRA, against the desires of the majority of Americans, and even the NRA’s own rank and file membership, remains strong.

It shows how long the attitudes held by the American right, and which led to the election of Donald Trump, have been around. Since his election, left-wing news sites such as The Young Turks, Secular Talk and the David Pakman Show have reported that Americans have become increasingly dissatisfied with Trump. Sixty per cent of the American public want him impeached. This dissatisfaction even extends to Republican voters.

Trump, however, in his racism, his isolationism, aggressive nationalism and hatred of the welfare state and women’s rights, is very much in line with the general political stance of post-Reaganite right-wing American politicians. Indeed, he’s so much a part of this political trend that, with caveats, his election – or rather, the election of someone like him – was predicted by Baxter over two decades ago.

No wonder an increasing number of young Americans are looking to progressive politicos like Bernie Sanders for leadership and the redemption of their country against a corrupt political elite and the military-industrial complex. And I fervently hope they win, and that humanity will continue to reach out to the cosmos in a spirit of genuine exploration and wonder, and not as another arena for warfare.

Ancient Christian Apologist Tertullian on Human Damage to the Environment

July 15, 2017

Some of the most vocal opponents of environmentalism and climate change in the US are politically Conservative Christians. They object to it, not just on the grounds that they believe it to be wrong scientifically, but also because they are highly suspicious of it on political and religious grounds. It is argued that the Green movement is really a pagan movement, or else a way of sneaking Socialism in through the back door through stressing the need for legislation and the regulation of industry to protect the environment. It’s also denounced as a form of Nazism, because the Nazis were also eager to protect the German environment.

It’s true that Green politics has strongly influenced some contemporary neo-Pagan religious movements, particularly Wicca, whose deities consist of an Earth mother and horned god. However, the scientific evidence on which the Green movement is based is separate and independent from any one particular religious or political group. And modern Green politics began with books such as Silent Spring in the 1960s and the Club of Rome, a gathering of concerned scientists, in the early ’70s, and not with Hitler and the Nazis.

Furthermore, writers and philosophers long before the Nazis were also acutely concerned with the threat of overpopulation and the damage humans were doing to the environment. One of them was the early Christian apologist, Tertullian, who wrote

‘Most convincing as evidence of populousness, we have become a burden to the Earth. The fruits of nature hardly suffice to sustain us, and there is a general pressure of scarcity giving rise to complaints. Need we be astonished that plague and famine, warfare and earthquake, come to be regarded as remedies, serving to prune the superfluity of population?’

This quotation was dug up by Adrian Berry, a fellow of the Interplanetary Society, Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Geographical Society. Berry is very much a man of the right, who used to write for the Torygraph. He used it to argue that people have always had exaggerated fears about the threat to society. Or alternatively, they could also be extremely complacent, such as the 2nd century AD Roman writer Pliny. Pliny wrote of the enduring splendor of the Roman Empire just before it began to collapse. Jonathan Margolis also cites in his chapter on predictions of environmental catastrophe, ‘Global Warning’, in his A Brief History of Tomorrow: The Future, Past and Present (London: Bloomsbury 2000) 89, where he also discusses the possibility that predictions of environmental collapse may be wrong.

At the moment, the majority of the world’s scientists are convinced that climate change and environmental damage caused by humanity are real, and a genuine threat to the planet, its flora and fauna, and ultimately humanity itself. Furthermore, archaeologists become increasingly aware how global changes to the environment have caused civilizations to collapse. The early Viking colonies in Greenland were destroyed in the 14th century, when the environment in the northern hemisphere became colder, making it impossible to practice European-style agriculture so far north.

Similarly, the highly developed Pueblo Indian cultures in the Chaco canyon in what is now the southwestern US collapsed and were abandoned when the climate became hostile in the 13th century. The cultures existed in an arid region of the US, using extensive irrigation canals to water their crops. The area suffered an intense drought, and unable to support themselves, the inhabitants moved away.

As for ancient Rome, one of the causes for the barbarian invasions may well have been climate change. The environment became colder from the 3rd century onwards. Central Asian tribes, such as the Huns, moved west, crossing the steppes into Europe and moving south to attack China. This displaced other tribes, such as Goths, who were settled around the Black Sea. The sea levels began to rise, so that the Frisians and other Germanic tribes settled in what is now the Netherlands, were forced to abandon low-lying farms and villages on the coasts. This may have been one of the causes of the Anglo-Saxon migrations to Britain.

In the Greek-speaking eastern Roman Empire, towns shrank, while in the west there was a movement away from the cities, partly through economic grounds. Historians have argued whether the Roman population was decimated by disease. Certainly in Rome itself, located amidst swampland, malaria was endemic, and the sheer size of the population meant that it was periodically subject to outbreaks of other diseases. And the city depended on a steady influx of new immigrants to replenish its population. And there was a constant threat of starvation. The free Roman masses depended on shipments of grain from Egypt and north Africa, and one of the elected officials in the city was responsible for securing the grain supply. Amongst the graffiti found scrawled on walls in Pompeii are election slogans urging men to vote for a particular candidate because ‘he gets good bread’.

Tertullian may well have been absolutely right about the dangers of overpopulation. And regardless of whether he was or wasn’t, the fact that he, one of the great defenders of Christian faith and doctrine in the Roman Empire, was prepared to accept and argue that overpopulation and environmental damage were a danger, shows that there is nothing inherently anti-Christian in the Green movement. This was shown a few weeks ago when the current pope, Pope Francis, criticized Trump’s government for ignoring science and failing to tackle climate change. There’s an irony here in a religious figure attacking the elected leader of a supposedly secular state for having an anti-scientific attitude. And it remains true that there is nothing fundamentally contrary to Christianity about Green politics regardless of the support for Green politics amongst peoples of other religions or none.

Antique Technology in the Science Museum: Samuel Moreland’s Calculator

July 15, 2017

Looking through one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a copy of the Souvenir Guide to the Science Museum. This was a photographic guide to some of the Museum’s exhibits, which include Islamic alchemical apparatus, an iron lung, the wright flier, and a BBC television receiver from the 1920s among many, many others.

One of the early pieces of scientific equipment is a mechanical calculator constructed by the English inventor, Samuel Morland in 1666.

The guide explains

French mathematician Blaise Pascal made the first working mechanical calculator in 1642, and several mathematicians and inventors attempted to emulate or improve on his design. Morland’s device, shown here, could add, multiply and divide; the wheels were operated by a steel pin that was stored in the slot in the machine’s lid. Morland also invented a megaphone – or, as he called it, the ‘Tuba Stentorphonica’ and a water pump for spraying water to put out fires. (p. 40).

The Science Museum is, of course, also the home of the most famous of the historic calculating machines, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, which has been hailed as the world’s first programmable computer. It was also the central theme of Bruce Sterling’s and William Gibson’s Steampunk SF novel, The Difference Engine, which imagined an alternative 19th century, in which the Difference Engine had been built and ushered in a steam-powered information age in a Britain governed by a scientific elite under the premiership of Lord Byron.

It seems to me that Babbage’s machine was the culmination of a long process of invention, where mathematicians, scientists and engineers designed and constructed mechanical calculating machines. Pascal’s was the first of these. But I think the ultimate idea actually goes back to the 14th century Spanish poet and mystic, Ramon Llul. Alan Chapman, the astronomer and Christian apologist, says in his book, Slaying the Dragons, that Llul attempted to show that God’s existence was encoded in the structure of mathematics itself, and that this inspired a number of later writers to design calculating machines.

Counterpunch: The More Young Jewish Americans Find Out About Israel, the More They Despise It

July 2, 2017

On Wednesday Counterpunch published a very interesting article by Jonathan Cook about the way Israel’s attempts to promote its image to Jewish American youngsters, and encourage them to settle there, is backfiring spectacularly. He discusses the various books that have been written to deny the very existence in history of the Palestinians and their connection with the land. These included the book, From Time Immemorial, which claimed that the Palestinians were recent immigrants from the Ottoman Empire. Norman Finkelstein, one of the great Jewish American critics of Zionism and Israel, tore that one to shreds when he was a doctoral student.

Now Brand Israel, an Israeli PR group, has found that many young people taking up the heritage tours offered by Israel to American Jews have taken the opportunity to make their own, unscheduled and decidedly unapproved tours of the occupied West Bank. And they are very definitely not impressed with what they’ve seen of the Israeli treatment of the indigenous population.

Cook writes

One can understand why making the Palestinians invisible is the tactic of choice for Israel’s supporters. But a new report suggests that it would be wise for them to keep Israel in the shadows too.

The Brand Israel Group found that the more US college students knew about Israel, the less they liked it. In the six years to 2016, support for Israel among the next generation of Jewish leaders dropped precipitously, by 27 percentage points.

Traditionally, Israel has nurtured bonds to overseas Jews. Over the past 20 years the Birthright programme has brought half a million young American Jews on free summer trips to Israel for an intensive course of indoctrination.

The students are supposed to leave fervent ambassadors for Israel – or better still, devotees who will immigrate to help in a demographic war against the Palestinians.

But organisers are aware that a growing number sneak off afterwards into the occupied territories to discover first-hand a history their elders have kept from them. It can have a profound effect. Many get involved in protests in the occupied territories or become leaders of boycott activism against Israel on campuses back home.

He also notes that when Israel passed a resolution saying that those who supported the Boycott movement against Israel wouldn’t be allowed in, hundreds of youngsters due to go on an upcoming Birthright tour signed a petition asking if that included them.

Cook also discusses the Sumud Freedom Camp, a joint project in the West Bank between anti-racist Israelis, foreign Jews and the Palestinians, to protest nonviolently against Israel’s maltreatment of the Palestinians. The camp has been repeatedly torn down by the Israeli armed forces, and this has further reinforced the negative opinion the Jews working at the camp have of the Israeli military. One American Jewish woman wrote a piece in the Israeli media about how her experience with the armed forces had shown her that they weren’t superheroes who’d protect her from harm.

Cook concludes

Increasingly, American Jewry is becoming polarised, between an older generation whose ignorance allows them to advocate unthinkingly for Israel and a young generation whose greater knowledge has brought with it a sense of responsibility. In an ever-more globalised world, this trend is going to intensify.

Young American Jews will have to choose. Will they conspire, if only through their silence, in the erasure of the Palestinians carried out by Israel in their name? Or will they stand and fight, in the occupied territories, on campus, in their communities and, soon enough, in the corridors of power in Washington?

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/28/israels-efforts-to-hide-palestinians-from-view-no-longer-fools-young-american-jews/

Norman Finkelstein has also predicted that the links between American Jews and Israel will gradually wither away. He and other Jewish critics of Zionism have pointed out that Israel only became important to American Jews, and was only supported by American Conservatives, after it successfully fought of the Arabs during the Six Day War. Before then, Israel was very much peripheral to American Jewish concerns.

Tony Greenstein, whose blog regularly tears into racists, Zionists, Fascists and Conservatives, also covered this issue. He wrote

It’s an ill wind that blows no good. Despite the adoption of the new fake definition of anti-Semitism and the attempt to depict anti-Zionism as anti-Semitic, the truth has a way of getting through. The American Jewish community is the most valuable to Israel, since it does its diplomatic bidding as well as helping to fund the pariah state.

What a surprise it must therefore be to Israel’s veteran propagandists, the Hasbarists who cry ‘anti-Semitism’ at the drop of a hat, that young American Jews no longer feel an affinity with Zionism and Israel’s racial nationalism. Settling other people’s land, seeing the vast disparity between poor Palestinian peasants and the rich and lush settlements isn’t a winner amongst progressive young Jews.

The far-Right messianism that believes in a racially pure Israel and building a 3rd temple as the way to encourage the return of the Messiah doesn’t hold too much attraction to secular Jewish kids.

The alliance with the anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalists like Pastor John Hagee of Christian United for Israel isn’t a vote winner either.

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2017-06-24T03:16:00%2B01:00&max-results=7&start=3&by-date=false

As for the Israeli armed forces not being the gallant heroes ready to defend Jews the world over against oppression and genocide, Mr Greenstein has published very many articles on his blog showing that Zionists have many times shown themselves to be completely indifferent to Jewish suffering, unless the Jews being victimised are prepared to immigrate to Israel. In one essay on the heroic resistance against the Nazis of the Warsaw Uprising, he stated that most of the real resistance was done by the Jewish Socialist party and groups, who wished to defend the right of ordinary, working class, Yiddish-speaking Jews to live in what they saw as their historic homeland, Poland. This pieces is particularly interesting, as he quotes one of the heroes of the Uprising, Marek Edelman, who took over its leadership. Edelman’s part in the resistance against the Nazis has been downplayed, because he wasn’t impressed with the way Israel treats the Palestinians and said so. A few years ago he stated that the Palestinian Intifada showed the same spirit as the fighters in the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

It’s not hard to see how that might upset patriotic Zionists like Netanyahu’s crew.

Moreover, the early European Jewish colonists in Palestine were quite prepared to use deadly force against other Jews, if it would serve their ends. In one of his other posts, he describes the destruction of a British transport ship carrying Jewish refugees to Israel by the Zionist authorities during the War. The ship was due to arrive in Israel, but the British authorities in the Mandate decided that they should be taken to Mauritius instead. So the Zionists deliberately targeted and sank the boat, killing its passengers, to show their anger at being denied fresh colonists.

It struck me reading that, and other accounts of the brutality inflicted by the Zionists on non-Zionist Jews, that there is an entire book to be written there. The Israeli lobby has worked hard to make sure that their bogus definition of anti-Semitism, which includes criticism of the state of Israel, is the only one accepted. But as they have vilified and attacked other Jews, who do not share their support for Israel to the point, where many Jews feel that they particularly attack Jewish critics, it could be argued that they are also guilty of what they so frequently accuse genuinely anti-racist critics of Israel.

As for Brand Israel, I suspect that many young people, Jews, gentiles or whatever, would become even more sceptical towards Israel if they found out how the authorities were trying to use PR to raise its image. A certain section of the left, and the public generally, has always been against spin and PR. Way back in the 1990s the American comedian, Bill Hicks, joked about the way the PR industry really couldn’t understand him or people like him. Instead of realising that he was genuinely against the right-wing politics of Reagan’s America, and the power of big corporations, he joked that they really believed that he was trying to tap into some demographic as a sales strategy. That was nearly 30 years ago.

And if anything, people have become more cynical since. One of the reasons why the British public became increasingly hostile to New Labour was because the very high profile it gave to spin and PR, at the expense of actually listening to what the public really wanted. Everything had to be carefully scripted and micro-managed to make sure that people were ‘on message’.

And I dare say something similar has happened in America. It’s why many Americans voted for Trump over Killary, as Trump appeared to be more authentic, and more sympathetic to the needs and fears of ordinary Americans. They were wrong. He wasn’t, and isn’t. And the results are disastrous for the American working and middle classes. But for a moment he appeared different from the crafted spin of an increasingly distant political class, whether Democrat or Republican.

The mass surge in support for Bernie Sanders in America and Jeremy Corbyn here in Britain is partly due to the fact that they are genuine in their desire to improve conditions for ordinary working people. They aren’t the smooth-talking products of spin merchants, desperate to appear to be doing something for the public, but who are really deeply opposed to doing anything that will threaten the neoliberal status quo and alienate their parties’ corporate donors.

I suspect that if more people, who are currently pro-, or just indifferent to Israel, were to find out that the country is deliberately using PR to mould the public’s impressions of the country, and counter negative publicity, like the footage of the Israeli armed forces killing innocent civilians in Gaza, they’d also become sceptical of the country. If only in the sense that they wouldn’t automatically take anything its politicians and spokespeople said for granted.

French Academic Olivier Roy on the Nihilistic Psychology of Suicide Bombers

June 15, 2017

Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism website put up a very interesting interview last week with Olivier Roy, a French academic and expert in terrorism at the European University Institute in Florence, by Safya Khan-Ruf. Roy has published a book, Jihad and Death, about the motivations of Islamist terrorists, based on his own research. He states he first became interested in the topic while working in Afghanistan, and from his own experience growing up in Dreaux, a French town where immigrants constitute 30 per cent of the population.

Olivier states that from his sample of youths, who had belonged to a terrorist network, 65 per cent were second generation immigrants, 25 per cent converts. 50 per cent were juvenile delinquents, and none of them had been religious, belonged to a mosque or tried to spread Islam through preaching.

He also makes the point that ISIS’ terrorist methods differ strongly from those of Islamic terrorist groups in the 1970s and ’80s. These groups did not intend to die during their atrocities, and made every effort to escape.

Now the situation is reversed. The suicide bombers actively intend to die. He also argues that it isn’t racism or marginalisation that motivates the bombers either, and points to the fact that British Libyans are actually well integrated.

He argues instead that they have a powerful need for very rigorous, extreme forms of religion, coupled with a violent nihilism that is ultimately drawn from western individualism and the idea of the solitary hero. They use selected teachings from Islam to justify their atrocities like the KKK and other extremist groups in the west used Christianity as the justification for their attacks and terrorisation of others, such as Blacks in America. He states

Despite what many people say, these youth are not the products of unemployment, of racism, or a lack of integration. It’s just not true. For Abedi for example, Libyans are pretty well integrated and while he had a chaotic past, it wasn’t because of his family life.

And then people are ‘stuck’.

My thesis is that these are youth in revolt: nihilists that are suicidal and will ascribe their revolt into the narrative provided by IS. For those that have a Muslim background, it’s easy to adopt the narrative because the keys are already there.

But we also see hundreds of converts that adopt this. IS placed a very sophisticated narrative in play that combines references from Islam at the time of the Prophet with a modern type of extreme individualism – the image of the solitary hero – and a modern aesthetic of violence and death. That is what is working.

So we first need to attack the narrative of IS and the fascination it causes.

In these youths there is a demand for spirituality and mysticism. We’ve known since the anarchists and Dostoyevsky that there is a spiritual dimension to terrorists. The problem is, we fight this demand of spirituality by secularising and using our rational thought. I think our society has a problem with the religious – it doesn’t understand the religious anymore.

He then goes on to argue that people of faith should be allowed to express their religious beliefs freely, without being forced to adapt them to the demands of the secular state. For example, secular society should not demand that religious people alter their traditional hostile view of homosexuality.

He also states that we should be very careful not to overreact to these atrocities. He makes the point that similar killings occur regularly, such as the German pilot who committed suicide, killing all his passengers with him when he crashed the plane. These murders don’t have the same effect as Islamist or White Fascist killings.

http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/05/nihilist-youths-turn-islamic-state-terrorists/

It’s an interesting viewpoint into the murderous, self-destructive psychology of suicide bombers. He’s right in that there is a similarity between their attitudes and the figure of the great, destructive, supremely individual hero that emerged in European Romanticism.

While I don’t dismiss the idea that the ‘great, bad man’ of Romantic literature hasn’t exerted some influence on their psychology, I also think it’s a mistake to downplay their links to organised Middle Eastern terrorism in favour of ascribing their motives to their own, individual psychology. A week or so ago Counterpunch published an article making the point that many Islamist terrorists were imported by Western secret services, who wished to use them for their own neocolonial schemes against secular leaders and regimes in the Middle East. Salman Abedi’s family was part of one such militant Islamist group, set up to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi.

The Counterpunch article further argues that ignoring these connections in favour of pursuing policies based on supposed radicalisation through the internet or in the Muslim community generally are misguided and ultimately harmful. Very few terrorists are recruited through online propaganda, and the ‘Prevent’ strategy of scrutinising all Muslims to check against radicalisation risks alienating British Muslims further. Far from being deterred from joining terrorist networks, they may feel that they are being unfairly suspected of being a terrorist or terrorist sympathiser, simply because of their faith.

And the emphasis on looking for indications of terrorist sympathies in the particular psychology of individual Muslims can lead instead to the mistaken condemnation or suspicion of the victims of violence from the Middle East. The article cites the case of a young boy, whose family had sought asylum in Britain from one of the war-torn countries in the Middle East. In his drawings in class, the lad depicted the planes and violence he had witnessed in his country of origin. Unfortunately, his teachers became alarmed as they thought this showed he had terrorist sympathies, and the poor lad was packed off to be investigated by the authorities and psychologists.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/12/britain-refuses-to-accept-how-terrorists-really-work/

Radio Programme Tonight on Bishop Grosseteste’s Medieval Big Bang Theory

June 14, 2017

Science Stories on Radio 4 tonight, `14th June 2017, at 9.00 pm is on ‘The Medieval Bishop’s Big Bang Theory’. According to the short description about it in the Radio Times, the programme’s presenter, ‘Philip Ball tells the tale of a medieval Big Bang Theory forged by Bishop Robert Grosseteste in the 12th century’.

Grosseteste was the 12th century bishop of Lincoln, and was one of the leading figures of the 12th century renaissance. As well as leading English churchman, Grosseteste was a pioneering natural philosopher. In his Hexaemeron, a theological and philosophical meditation on the first six days of creation, according to the story in Genesis, he worked out a theory that is surprisingly close to that of the modern ‘Big Bang’. In Genesis, the creation of the world begins when God separates the light from the darkness. Grosseteste believed that God had created the world beginning with a tiny point of light, which exploded outwards. Its expansion created ‘extension’, or space, and the material from which God subsequently created the material universe over the next five days.

A.C. Crombie, in his Science in the Middle Ages, Vol. 1: Augustine to Galileo (London: Mercury Books 1952) writes

The first important medieval writer to take up the study of optics was Grosseteste, and he set the direction for future developments. Grossetest gave particular importance to the study of optics because of his belief that light was the first ‘corporeal form’ of material things and was not only responsible for their dimensions in space but also was the first principle of motion and efficient causation. According to Grosseteste, all changes in the universe could be attributed ultimately to the activity of this fundamental corporeal form, and the action at a distance of one thing on another was brought about by the propagation of rays of force or, as he called it, the ‘multiplication of species’ or ‘virtue’. By this he meant the transmission of any form of efficient causality through a medium, the influence emanating from the source of the causality corresponding to a quality of the source, as, for instance, light emanated from a luminous body as a ‘species’ which multiplied itself from point to point through the medium in a movement that went in straight lines. All forms of efficient causality, as for instance, heat, astrological influence and mechanical action, Grosseteste held to be due to this propagation of ‘species’, though the most convenient form in which to study it5 was through visible light. (99-100).

This makes it sound very close to the modern theory that all the forces – gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces – were united at the Big Bang, and subsequently separated out from this primal Superforce.

Grosseteste was also one of the medieval writers, who first posited the Moon as the causes of the tides. The association between the Moon and the tides had first been made by the Stoic philosopher, Posidonius, who was born c. 135 BC. Crombie writes

Grossetest in the next century [following Giraldus Cambrensus in the 12th] attributed the tides to attraction by the moon’s ‘virtue’, which went in straight lines with its light. He said that the ebb and flow of the tides was caused by the moon drawing up from the sea floor mist, which pushed up the water when the moon was rising and was not yet strong enough to pull the mist through the water. When the moon had reached its highest point the mist was pulled through and the tide fell. The second, smaller monthly tide he attributed to lunar rays reflected from the crystalline sphere back to the opposite side of the earth, these being weaker than the direct rays. (126-7). It’s not quite right. The tides are simply caused by the Moon’s gravity acting on the oceans as a whole. Mist isn’t involved. Nevertheless, he was right in pointing to the Moon as the cause of the tides.

Which is more than can be said of Bill O’Reilly. Until recently, O’Reilly was the lead anchor on Fox News, Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing news network over in America. The host of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’, he specialised in right-wing harangues which occasionally ended with him insulting and screaming at his guests if they dared to disagree with him. He did this to the son of one of the firefighters, who lost his life in 9/11. The lad committed the unpardonable offence of saying that his father would not have blamed all Muslims for the attack, and would not have wanted America to go to war over it. This was too much for the veteran newsman, who screamed at the lad that he was a disgrace to his father, and then had him thrown off the show.

He also showed himself massively ignorant scientifically in an interview with the head of American Atheists, the atheist movement, which I think was set up and headed for years by Madalain Murray O’Hair. Trying to refute whatever point the man was making, O’Reilly seized on the notion of the tides as something that was scientifically inexplicable. There are clips on Kyle Kulinski’s Secular Talk and other left-wing news programmes of O’Reilly repeating, ‘Tides go in, tides go out, you can’t explain it’. All the while the lad looks at O’Reilly with a bemused expression on his face, and simply comments, ‘Perhaps its the mighty Thor’. O’Reilly, however, didn’t get the hint that he was being justifiably mocked, and so simply carried on with his daft refrain.

O’Reilly’s comments and use of the tides shows that O’Reilly knew precious little science, and that Grosseteste had a better idea of what caused it 900 or so years ago, in an age when books had to be copied out by hand and western science was beginning the recovery of ancient Greek and Latin scientific and mathematical texts and learning from the great natural scientists and mathematicians of the Muslim world.

Given O’Reilly’s massive ignorance on something I can remember being discussed in some of the text books we had at school, it’s no wonder that American scientists, educationalists and the general public are seriously worried by Trump’s attack on science education in America, and particular in his attempts to cover up climate change.

As for O’Reilly, he was sacked from Fox News a few months ago after his sordid and vile attitude towards women finally caught up with him. Like the head of the network, Roger Ailes, O’Reilly used his position to try to exploit women sexually. In the early part of this century he was forced to settle a case brought against him by a female colleague to whom O’Reilly had made an uninvited and very unwelcome sexually explicit phone call. This was followed by a series of allegations by other female journalists at Fox News of sexual harassment. This got to the point where the advertisers on the network got fed up, and started taking their custom elsewhere, at which point the veteran reporter lost his job.

Bishop Grosseteste, however, remains one of great figures in the history of western science. While many scientists would not share his religious beliefs, and would question the grounding of his scientific views in them, he is nevertheless important as one of the leading medieval scientists, who contributed to the foundation of modern science through his study of optics, mathematics and the natural world.

Report into Funders of Terrorism in UK May Be Suppressed by Tories

June 4, 2017

This is disturbing, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if the Home Office really did refuse to publish a report into the foreign sources of terrorism here in the UK.

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece from the Guardian, which explains how the Home Office’s extremism analysis unit was instructed by David Cameron to investigate the financing of extremist groups in the UK from abroad one and a half years ago, and to report their findings back to the PM and Theresa May.

The Home Office has now stated that the report has not been completed, and may never be published, as its contents are ‘extremely sensitive’.

The Lib Dem spokesman for foreign affairs, Tom Brake, has written to May asking her to confirm that the report will not be shelved, and commenting on the link between Islamic extremism in Britain and the Saudis’ funding for mosques. Mr Brake writes

“It is no secret that Saudi Arabia in particular provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the UK, espousing a very hardline Wahhabist interpretation of Islam. It is often in these institutions that British extremism takes root.”

The Guardian itself states

The contents of the report may prove politically as well as legally sensitive. Saudi Arabia, which has been a funding source for fundamentalist Islamist preachers and mosques, was visited by May earlier this year.

Mike states in his piece that by ‘very sensitive’ the report

seems to mean they concern the UK’s own relationship with Saudi Arabia under the Conservative governments of David Cameron and Theresa May.

Mike makes the point that we should not be selling arms to the Saudis, as we don’t know what they’re doing with them. He also cites Tweets from Tom London, who states that we need to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the funding of mosques by them.

Tom London also attacks May’s Tweet that the Tories will increase the powers of the police and security services, and inflict longer sentences for terrorism-related offences.

Mr London rightly asks how this is going to deter jihadis, who commit their atrocities with the intention of committing suicide.

While Rachael, another Tweeter, put up a photo of May receiving a medal from one of the Saudi princes, ironically commenting that ‘we are too tolerant of extremism in Britain.’

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/04/report-that-could-link-uk-to-terror-funders-may-never-be-published/

It’s been known for a very, very long time that ISIS and its predecessor, al-Qaeda, was receiving funding from very high levels in the Saudi government. This includes the current regent, Salman bin Salman, and the head of Saudi intelligence. I can remember reading a paper in one book on contemporary sources of Islamist terrorism how the Saudis financed al-Qaeda insurgents attacks and incursions into Syria and Iraq.

Twenty-four pages of the official report into 9/11, compiled by the American government, were suppressed until the families of the victims forced Obama to publish it. Again, despite security around the report, it was widely understood that these pages had been suppressed because they pointed to the Saudis as the nation behind the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Despite the massive evidence to the contrary, the Republicans are continuing to ignore the roots of global terrorism in Saudi Arabia, and are instead blaming Iran as the major source of terrorism around the world.

You don’t need to guess very hard why this is: oil, and anti-Russian geopolitics dating from the days of the Cold War. Since the 1920s America has backed the Saudis militarily in return for the right to exploit the country’s vast oil reserves.

The Americans are also careful not to alienate the Saudis because of the massive damage the Saudi’s oil embargo inflicted on the West during the oil crisis of the 1970s. That convinced the Saudis that they had the economic power to manipulate global affairs. All they have to do is lower the price of oil, and it wipes the domestic American oil industry off the map.

The West has also cultivated the Saudis, along with Israel, as a valuable ally in the Middle East in the long, imperialist campaign to eradicate secular Arab nationalism. Secular nationalist regimes, such as Nasser’s in Egypt, were considered by the Americans to be either Communist, or linked to Communism. This is one of the reasons why the Americans are so determined to overthrow Assad in Syria. The Ba’ath regime there is secular, and an ally of the Russians. Syria is a nation of diverse sects and faiths, with a population that includes Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, and also Christians. The dominant sect politically are the Alawis, who are Shi’a. As such, the regime also has important links with Iran.

While the Ba’athist government has massacred and oppressed its Sunni opponents, and has been a police state, it is much more tolerant than Saudi Arabia. Christians enjoyed greater freedom and were able to serve in the administration, because one of the founders of the party in the 1920s had been a Christian.

Iran has funded terrorism in Europe and further abroad. However, while it is a very repressive society, it is still more tolerant than many other nations. Counterpunch and The Young Turks have produced articles and reports showing that, despite the Iranian regime’s rhetoric calling for the destruction of Israel, Jews in Iran are actually well treated. I’ve also heard scholars researching religious syncretism in the Middle East state that the regime has also been keen to show how it does not oppress the Zoroastrians, the country’s indigenous monotheistic religion.

It is very different in Saudi Arabia. The only religion tolerated in that country is Wahhabi Islam. Non-Muslim religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on are banned, as is Shi’a Islam. There are Shi’a Muslims in Saudi Arabia, but they live in villages without running water or electricity and with higher rates of poverty and unemployment. They are forbidden to build mosques and their religious literature is also banned. Chillingly, one of the major Saudi religious figures I can’t remember whether it was the Supreme Mufti or the Sharif of Mecca even went so far the other year as to denounce the Shi’a as enemies of the faith and ‘worthy of death’.

The Saudis have been backing very hardline, very intolerant interpretations of Islam across the world, from Muslim communities in Bosnia and the Balkans, to Chechnya and Pakistan and beyond.

And foreign funding of mosques and the influence of extremist foreign imams has been an issue since the 1990s and the demands for the execution of the novelist Salman Rushdie for blasphemy for his book, The Satanic Verses. I can remember reading in the Encyclopedia of Islam at College that foreign countries tended to finance mosques over here in blighty as a way of influencing their congregations. And the imam, who received Rushdie back into the faith when the novelist briefly tried to make his peace with the religion, also wrote in the Financial Times that there was a pressing need to train and supply more imams, who had been born and grew up over here. The lack of native British Muslim clergy meant that the immigration authorities were allowing into this country mullahs from places like Pakistan, who held extreme and intolerant views. This is why the British government has a programme to support and fund British Muslims studying for the clergy, and to promote a more liberal interpretation of the faith.

But the British government has also done its share of importing Muslims terrorists from around the world. Thatcher gave asylum to members of the Mujahideen, who had fought the Russians in Afghanistan, even though these were violent religious extremists. But they were acceptable, because they were anti-Communist. The family of Salman Abedi, who blew himself up killing 22 and injuring another 60 innocents in Manchester last Monday, were members of a Libyan Islamist terrorist group. They had been given sanctuary over here, and the warnings about them, including by members of the city’s Muslim community, were ignored, because the British government had used them in the NATO campaign to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

If we really want to stop terrorism, we should stop selling arms to the Saudis and block their funding of extremist mosques and groups. We should ourselves also stop supporting Islamist terror groups around the world. At the moment the American government is supplying arms and training to the rebels in Syria, despite the fact that they are all hardline terrorist groups, or connected to the hardliners, and the arms will inevitably find their way into the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda militants.

Of all the politicians, it is Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, who have stated that they will stop arms sales to the Saudis.

May definitely will not. She and Cameron have both been to the Middle East to try and sell them more British weapons, just like Blair and then the Tory governments before him.

And Corbyn has set up a shadow minister for peace and disarmament, and promised to turn this into an official department if he gets into power.

Much of the radicalisation of the Muslim world has occurred because of the carnage inflicted on the Middle East through the western invasion of Iraq. That doesn’t excuse atrocities like that committed against the great people of Manchester and our capital. Just as it doesn’t excuse the other murders the Jihadists have committed without number against ordinary, peaceful Muslims across the Middle East – in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and in places like Pakistan. But it is a contributing cause, which Corbyn has said he wants to stop.

As the great man has said, ‘Tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism’.

Don’t believe liars like May and Boris Johnson, who will take away more of our liberties in the campaign against terrorism, while doing nothing but give more money to the Saudis and other backers of these thugs and other like them.

Vote for Corbyn and the Labour party on June 8th.

Vox Political on the Vile Views of Tory MPs

June 3, 2017

Mike’s put up a series of post these last few days about various Tory MPs, whose views on certain issues are controversial. Or actually, abhorrent. One of these was Philip Cuthbertson, the Tory MP defending the marginal seat of Darlington. Cuthbertson wrote a series of blog posts in the 2000s defending a Swedish priest, who had been jailed for preaching against homosexuality, and attacking the presentation of evidence in rape trials.

Cuthbertson was against men accused of rape having to prove that the woman consented to sex. He also wanted the ban on discussion of the sexual history of women making such accusations removed.

As Mike points out, it shouldn’t matter if the victim was promiscuous or not, if she didn’t give her consent, it’s rape.

There’s also the further danger in that Cuthbertson’s attitude leaves women, who have had multiple sexual partners, vulnerable to the attitude that they are worth less than other women, and that somehow, as they’re promiscuous anyway, their consent isn’t really needed.

It’s a very, very dangerous attitude.

May defended Cuthbertson, claiming he had changed his views. Mike states that there’s no evidence of this, and no blog posts have been adduced to support it.

Which leaves it very much open to doubt whether he has, and whether May is lying again.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/01/is-this-tory-candidates-opinion-on-rape-held-by-his-entire-party/

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/01/theresa-may-defends-rape-comment-candidate-cuthbertson/

And then, after a fake Twitter account purporting to be from the Tories accused poor people of spending all their money on drugs, alcohol and gambling, a Tory MP was forced to leave a hustings meeting after he showed he held much the same attitude.

Mark Pritchard, the Tory MP for Wrekin in Shropshire, went off a rant at the audience, saying that some of them ‘had let themselves down’, and accused people using food banks of having 58″ TVs and smoking £10 packets of cigarettes.

The audience, understandably, weren’t impressed, and gave him the slow handclap until he left.

Lucy Allan, the Tory MP for Telford, who also holds disgusting views, wasn’t at the hustings either. She claimed she hadn’t been invited. This was another lie. It seems that the lying and cowardice that afflicts May is spreading. As the Russians say, ‘A fish rots from the neck down’.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/02/life-imitates-fake-as-more-tory-candidates-go-into-meltdown-and-accuse-the-poor/

Best Hopes and Prayers for the Victims of Daesh Attack in Manchester

May 23, 2017

Like everyone else, I’ve been stunned and horrified by the suicide bombing last night of a concert by Arianna Grande in Manchester. From what I gather from the news, it’s left 22 people dead and 59 injured.

Jo, one of the great commenters here, posted this on one of my other posts earlier today, which expresses my own feelings and, I’m sure, those of all the other people who read and comment on this blog. She said

I would like to offer my condolences, Hopes and Prayers to all those touched by this tragic and cowardly attack! My heart goes out to all who are suffering!

Mike over at Vox Political has also expressed his disgust at this atrocity in a piece supporting a post by the Angry Yorkshireman. Both Mike and Tom Clarke are afraid that the extreme Right will start using this attack to spread racist and Islamophic bile. From reading the great people, who have commented on Mike’s blog, it appears that the Scum’s resident troll, Katie Hopkins, and Stephen Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League and Pegida UK, have already done so. As has Alt-Right ideologue and hate monger, Stefan Molyneux. Mike also mentions a Twitter thread in which one bigot recommends setting up concentration camps.

Mike states

This Site – This Writer – is horrified by the incident in Manchester and my thoughts and sympathies are with the families and friends of those who have died or who have been injured.

But the way to answer it is to share important messages that provide support, like this one:

[Here he includes a Home Office message and link to a page that will provide help for people who have been affected by this attack.]

Nobody should answer hate with hate. That is what terrorists want.

And we should not shut down our political discourse either – they want that too.

Defy them. Drown their hate-filled messages. Offer hope instead.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/23/terror-attack-in-manchester-lays-political-debate-open-to-extremists/

Terrorists commit their atrocities not just to spread fear amongst their enemies, but also to provoke the government and authorities into retaliating harshly. They hope that the government and people of Britain will attack and persecute other Muslims, as they believe that this will radicalise Britain’s Muslims in turn in a vicious cycle of hate and violence.

The best way to respond to this attack is not to let them lure or provoke any of us, whatever our religious beliefs or lack of them, into hatred. Their actions and beliefs are not supported or representative of the majority of Muslims, both in Britain and throughout the world. One of the contributors to Counterpunch, an Arab, pointed out in an article there that cleric after cleric in Muslim nations and communities across the world have issued fatwas condemning ISIS. A few years ago the biggest Muslim organisation in India issued a denunciation, supported by something like 200 members of the Islamic clergy.

As well as killing non-Muslims, Daesh have also murdered ordinary Muslims. They constitute the majority of their victims. Daesh has also done its level best to destroy Muslim shrines and erase centuries of Muslim scholarship, culture and learning, when they decide it’s not ‘Muslim’ enough for them. So we’ve seen mosques and shrines desecrated and destroyed along with Christian churches in Iraq. And a few years ago Islamist militants tried to burn down the medieval library of the west African city of Timbuktu. As well as being a fabled centre of the west African gold trade, Timbuktu was also a site of Islamic learning, and its library contained a wealth of ancient texts, including scientific books.

And it would not surprise me even remotely if many of the victims of last night’s attack were also Muslims, just gone, like the other people there, to have a good time.

I also have the deepest sympathy for Grande herself. She has stated that she feels deeply sorry for what happened. This must be a very hard blow for her, as every entertainer or performer goes out on stage hoping to give people a good time. The last thing they want is for the people who appreciate and support their music to be murdered by some fanatic.

I also have the utmost respect and praise for the doctors, nurses and emergency services, who responded so quickly and promptly to this emergency. According to the news, many people came back from their leave or days off in order to help, to the point where one hospital was turning them away.

We are so lucky to have such dedicated professionals in Britain, and it is a scandal that May and the Tories are treating them with such derision, that there are now nurses forced to use food banks.

Hope Not Hate are also compiling a message of hope, peace and tolerance on their site, which they hope people will sign. If you wish to do so, and add your own personal message to it, you can find it at

http://hopenothate.org.uk/?source=170420_welcome&subsource=HOPEnothate_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=HOPEnothate&utm_campaign=170420_welcome&utm_content=1+-+the+new+HOPE+not+hate+website

Go there and then follow the link.

Manchester’s a great city with a great people. I wish them the very best, and have every confidence that they won’t give in to the bigots and preachers of hate, whether from the British xenophobic Right or the Islamists.

We will never be divided!