Posts Tagged ‘Deaths’

Satirical Song: Ain’t No Party Like a Tory Party

April 26, 2022

Here’s another piece of musical satire against the Tories to go along with the biting ditties of PoliticsJoe’s and others. This time it’s from Mitch Benn’s channel on YouTube, and it’s a bitter attack on the way the Tories partied while the masses suffered. The song has the Tories saying ‘We f**king hate the poor’, and talk about partying with the super-rich, including gangsters and Russian oligarchs on their superyachts. Everyone else, meanwhile, had to obey the rules even though it meant that they couldn’t be with their dying mothers. The Tories are dancing the night away, fuelled by copious amounts of champagne until they puke in the vestibules, while the queues for food banks stretch around the block. They hate the poor, but pretend to like them until they disenfranchise them through boundary changes and voter ID laws. But no-one mention Brexit. And, of course, the song starts of with a call out to the Bullingdon Club, whose members shout back ‘rather rather’. As for the north, the song talks about how they destroyed the red wall, and in return have given northern voters ‘bugger all’. And Priti Patel is attacked for ‘pandering to racists’.

It’s a savage indictment of the Tory party set to music, made even more incisive by the images chosen to illustrate the lyrics. The picture of the queue for a food bank on its own should be enough to convict the Tories and show how much, in the words of the song, they ‘f**king hate the plebs.’ If there was any sense or justice in British society, the cost of living crisis should see Johnson thrown out of government. But I’m afraid the right-wing media – and the song gibes about how it kissed their behinds with a picture of Johnson and Laura Kuensberg – have such a grip on the country that, if an election was called tomorrow, they’d be re-elected.

Government Wastes £440 Million Trying to Overturn Disability Benefit Claims

April 5, 2022

This was the headline for one of the videos pasted up by GB News this morning, and it’s one where I felt I didn’t need to watch the item itself. Because Mike and the other great left-wing bloggers and YouTubers have covered this issue before, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, and Private Eye would say. The Tories and Blairites – ’caused it was Blair who introduced the vile Work Capability Tests – are convinced and would like you to believe that a large portion of claims for disability benefit are fraudulent. Thanks to right-wing rags like the Heil, the British public believes that 25% of all disability claims are fake. In fact the opposite is true: the overwhelming number of claims for disability benefits are genuine. Only a vanishingly small number, less than 1 per cent, are attempts to defraud the benefits system. But obviously, this detracts from the Tory desire to punish the poor for not working or being able to work, while they could be gainfully exploited by all the rich industrialists they want to give massive tax cuts to. And so we have suffered 40 odd years of Thatcherite cuts to the benefits system while Tory and Blairite mouthpieces have told us that such cuts are ‘self-help’, encouraging self-reliance, going to revive proper Christian charity and private initiative without the safety net of the state. I’ve put up a number of posts about how Thatcher viewed the principle of less eligibility – how the whole process of claiming state support was to be as unpleasant as possible in order to deter people from doing so – was one of her ‘Victorian Values’ that she wished to reintroduce into the welfare system. So did Blair, who created the Work Capability Tests because of pseudoscientific, discredited research on behalf of US insurance fraudster Unum. This assumed that most disability claims were fake, and that getting people back into work would do them good.

Complete, destructive bilge.

The assumption that a certain percentage of all disability claims were fake has led, according to whistleblowers, to the imposition of quotas inside the DHSS which demand that a set percentage of disability claims should be turned down. This has led to severely ill, even terminally so patients, being judged fit for work. It has led to moronic D.H.S.S. clerks asking amputees when their absent limbs are expected to grow back. And it has led to hundreds, if not thousands of genuinely sick and disabled people dying from poverty and hunger because they were denied an income. This included people with serious mental health problems and conditions like diabetes, who were found starved to death.

It’s been denounced by disability activists as a genocide. Harsh words, but this is mass murder by governments who know exactly what the consequences of these sanctions are. They just don’t want you to know.

And whatever money has been saved by overturning benefit claims, has been massively outweighed by the cost to the government of challenging them in the courts. And the courts have upheld British law to the point where the overwhelming number of disability claims have been upheld.

This is a government that wasted nigh on nearly half a billion on a vindictive persecution of those who genuinely cannot work. It shows the real sadism at the heart of Tory attitudes to the poor.

Scrap Thatcherism, ditch Johnson and get rid of Starmer, who I believe will also do absolutely nothing to overturn this vile, murderous policy.

A Black Conservative Call for Racial Uplift Based on Entrepreneurship not Political Power

March 3, 2022

Jason L. Riley, False Black Power (West Conshoshocken: Templeton Press 2017).

This is another book analysing the plight of Black America from a Black conservative perspective. According to the book, Riley’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes for the Wall Street Journal and contributes to Fox News. But the book does quote statistics and sources, which means it’s almost certainly more trustworthy than that news network. When academics from the American universities reviewed Fox’s content, they found that people who took no news at all were better informed about the world than the people who watched Fox. America is indeed being ‘dumbed’ and Murdoch’s part of it. But this book is absolutely fascinating and, if accurate, is a much needed refutation of some of the myths about Black American history.

The introduction starts with an attack on the idea that the decline of the Black American family was caused by slavery. It’s true that slavery did destroy Black family life, as slave families were frequently split up, with fathers separated from their wives and children, children separated from the parents and so on. This, so the argument goes, has made it difficult for Black men to develop the necessary feelings of attachment to form permanent, two-parent families. As a result, most Black American families are single-parent, headed by the mothers. But Riley cites Herbert Gutman’s 1976 book, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, examined a variety of sources to the show that the disruption of the slave family did not persist into emancipation. Looking at Confederate plantation records, the testimony of former slaves and the records of Black families in Buffalo and New York City, showed that from the second half of the 19th century to the 1920s, these communities were predominantly two-parent. In Buffalo between 1850 and 1920, the figure was 82 to 92 per cent. In New York in 1925 the figure was 85 per cent. (p. 5).

Riley’s argument is that the present poverty and misery experienced by many Black American communities cannot be blamed solely on racism and the legacy of enslavement. He and the authors he cites don’t deny that racism and discrimination exist, rather that the main cause of the present troubles of family breakdown, crime, unemployment and welfare dependency are due to the misplaced social programmes of the 1970s. Like Shelby Steele, he believes that Black Americans have taken the wrong road to uplift. Since the civil rights movement, they have concentrated on acquiring political power, resulting in the election across America of Black politicos, mayor and other officials. But these have not helped ordinary Blacks. He states at one point that Black politicians will ignore the underclass just to stay elected just as White politicos will, and cites a couple of scandals were Black politicians on their constituencies’ education boards were caught fiddling the exam results. He argues instead that Blacks should have followed the example of other impoverished communities, like the Chinese and Pennsylvania Germans, who eschewed acquiring political power in favour of economic uplift. He contrasts these groups with the 19th century Irish. These had political power, but nevertheless the Irish community itself remained poor and marginal.

Riley cites a number of other authors that show the explosion of Black entrepreneurialism after the end of slavery, as Blacks took over and entered a wide variety of professions. These scholars have argued that by the end of the 19th century Black communities also had their own business districts like White communities, as well as excellent schools. The 1913 Negro Almanac boasted of this achievement, comparing the capital accumulated by Blacks with that of the former Russian serfs. The former serfs had collectively $500 million in capital and a literacy rate of 30 per cent. Black Americans had $700 million and 70 per cent ‘had some education in books’. (74). In Chicago in 1885 there were 200 Black-owned businesses operating in 27 different fields. (75). And this trend continued, with the emergence in other areas of a small, but significant Black clerical class. At the same time, the number of Black Americans owning their own homes increased massively. Black prosperity increased during the years of the two World Wars,, when Blacks took on White jobs. They were still below that of Whites, but were catching up. As were Blacks in education. Blacks typically left school four years before Whites. But as the 20th century went on, this fell to two. Between 1950 and 1960 the number of Black doctors, lawyers and social workers expanded so that in 1953 a real estate journal called Blacks ‘the newest middle class’. (77). But this professional, educational and economic rise and expansion somehow came to an end in the 1970s.

At the same time, Riley cites the statistics to show that the American cops are not gun-happy racists bent on shooting Blacks. Rather, a study by Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, found that Blacks are 23.8 per cent less like than Whites to be shot by the police. (63). As for New York’s stop and frisk policy, that was shown to stop Blacks 20-30 per cent below the appearance of Blacks in the description of suspects.(64). As for police shootings, these fell massively in New York from 1971 to 2015. In the former year, the cops shot 314 people, killing 93. In 2015 they shot 23 people, of whom 8 were killed. (65). He also notes instances where there was still friction between the Black community and police even when the town’s leaders and senior police officers were Black.

On a less serious note, he talks about the Barbershop films and their unsparing, humorous look into the condition of Black America. Set in a Black barbershop and with a majority Black cast, these films showed Blacks making jokes at the expense of revered leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, decrying their kids’ fashion sense – trousers being worn low on the hips to expose the buttocks – and worrying about gangster culture and Black on Black violence. This upset Black activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but Riley maintains that they nevertheless accurately reflected the way Blacks talk when Whites aren’t around. The same concerns are held by many other Blacks, including one mayor, Nutter, who gave a similar speech at a Black church. He advised people not to dress in a threatening manner if they wanted anyone, of any race, respect them, and called for the kids to work hard at school and pull their trousers up. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, chanting ‘Buy a belt! But a belt!’ But his speech was angrily attacked by Black liberals because it didn’t reflect their priorities of blaming everything on racism. Riley also described the way Obama was often pilloried for his outspoken comments about poor standards in the Black community, while playing the race card himself. Riley also argues that the decline in Black educational standards also has its roots in dysfunctional attitudes among Black youth. If you’re too nerdy or bookish in these communities, you’re going to pilloried for ‘acting White’. This is a controversial position, but, Riley argues, the evidence for it is convincing and solid.

Despite being written from a conservative viewpoint, there are aspects of the book that can also be embraced by those on the left. Firstly, the expansion of Black businesses, jobs, and professions after slavery demonstrate that Black America is as talented as every other racial group in America. I found it a convincing refutation of the genetic argument that states that Black poverty and lack of achievement is somehow because Blacks are, on average, biologically intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians. And the argument that Blacks achieved more when they had stable, two-parent families, would have strongly appealed to a section of the British Labour party. British socialism was influenced, it has been said, more by Protestant, Methodist nonconformity than Karl Marx. Years ago the Spectator reviewed a book on the reading habits of the British working class. They found that the favourite reading matter of a solid working class Welsh community in the teens or twenties of the last century was the Bible.

Much more questionable is the apparent link between the affirmative action programmes of the 1970s and the persistence of Black poverty. Riley doesn’t anywhere show why or how they failed, and correlation is not causation. Just because their introduction was in a period of economic decay and impoverishment for Blacks doesn’t mean that they caused it. And I wondered how much of the decline was due to general, structural changes in the American economy that have also badly affected Whites. For example, Bristol used to have a flourishing print industry. There still are printers in the city, but the industry has declined considerably from what it was and many of those skilled jobs have been lost, along with those in other industries. Many Brits and Americans were hit hard by the oil crisis of the 1970s and the consequent recession and unrest. Thatcher, and then Blair, favoured the financial sector over manufacturing, which destroyed many working class jobs. And then there’s the whole nasty complex of welfare cuts, outsourcing, zero-hours contracts and wage freezes that have kept working people in Britain poor. And the same situation is true in America. This impoverishment and economic restructuring is going to hit Blacks especially hard as the Black community is poorer and less affluent. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that there are problems causes unique to the Black community, of which racism is going to be one.

But this is nevertheless a fascinating and important book, and I think it should have its place in schools if they’re teaching Critical Race Theory. That pernicious doctrine holds that Blacks are being held back solely by White privilege, in which all Whites benefit. The government recently stated that teachers must present controversial ideas impartially and was duly denounced by activist groups and the left for doing so. But I believe the truth in this issue lies somewhere between both sides, and that, if these ideas are being taught, children should be exposed to both sets or arguments. And then make their minds up.

And then, after hearing a variety of viewpoints, we might be more successful in creating a more equal society and truly enabling Black achievement.

GB News Running Down NHS Ready for Privatisation

February 21, 2022

One of my criticisms of mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield is that he’s a supporter of NHS privatisation. He seems to believe that selling it off will somehow make it cheaper and more efficient. He doesn’t recognise, nor at least he doesn’t admit to recognising, that it’s the piecemeal privatisation of the health service and its opening up to private healthcare providers that has, with over a decade of Tory cuts, made the health service less efficient and increased administration costs. Nor does he tell his viewers that if the health service is privatised, it will be funded instead the American way – through private health insurance. Which 20 per cent of Americans couldn’t afford until Obamacare lowered that percentage. Every year, 50,000 Americans die because they can’t afford their medical treatment. And medical fees are either the leading cause or the second leading cause of bankruptcy in the Land of the Free.

Well, Belfield got suspended for a fortnight and has now vanished behind a paywall over at Ustreme after being factchecked about Covid and one or two other complaints. But now it seems that GB News, the Murdoch alternative to the ‘wet and woke’ BBC is getting in on the act of pushing for the health service’s privatisation.

Yesterday their presenter Nana Akua posted a video with the darling title ‘The NHS Is A Total Rip-Off’, in which she started with the claim that the health service wasn’t free and that, per month, private healthcare was probably cheaper. She then went on to say that there were six NHS executive earning over £150,000. Her video was accompanied by a similar one in which Calvin Robinson declared that the NHS was full of ‘bloat and waste’. Of course it all comes from the time-worn Tory playbook. This maintains that the health service, like every other nationalised industry, is wasteful and needs to have its funding cut in order to make it lean and efficient. As part of this drive for increased efficiency, it must be opened up to private industry, who are automatically better than state run enterprises. Except they’re not, and this is all a pack of lies and half truths.

Britain actually spends less on its health service than many other countries, including Germany and America, which is why it’s in such a state. In fact the privatisation has increased administration costs so that they’re heading up to the level of private American companies at 24 per cent. Private healthcare isn’t better – it’s worse. It’s fine for those, who are in reasonably good health, but it is not set up to treat the disabled or those with long term conditions. They are not profitable patients. As a result, private hospitals are smaller than NHS. Blair believed that the system adopted by the American healthcare giant, Kaiser Permanente, was more efficient and tried to remodel the NHS on it. Kaiser Permanente weren’t, and rather than increasing patient choice, the need to send patients to the cheapest hospitals and clinics for treatment has resulted in less choice, contrary to Thatcherite dogma. But the privatisation of the NHS is backed by big donations given to the parties by the companies seeking a bit of NHS action. And it has the full backing of Rupert Murdoch. Hence Akua and Robinson now coming out in favour of it.

As for the salaries of senior NHS staff, there’s a double standard going on here. We are deliberately not being told the salaries of the executives and managers of the healthcare companies seeking to take over after the NHS is privatised. This is common Tory practice. They deliberately made it easy for the private companies to bid against the NHS by forcing the health service to publish its accounts and costs while keeping those of the private companies secret. Because it’s ‘commercially sensitive’ you see. How convenient.

If GB News and the Tories have their way, Brits will end up having to pay for their healthcare with all consequent poverty, ill health and hardship attendant with the American for-profit system. But it’ll make Murdoch and the chief executives of the private healthcare companies rich, along with venal politicians looking for their donations.

Don’t believe the lies. Back a nationalised NHS and get rid of GB News.

Two Fake Beatles’ Songs with the Title ‘Pink Litmus Paper Shirt’

February 19, 2022

I went to a brilliant Zoom meeting Thursday night. It was a talk about some of the weird myths surrounding the Beatles. This included the conspiracy theory that John Lennon was assassinated by the CIA, and that his killer had been brainwashed using MK-Ultra mind control techniques as a ‘Manchurian candidate’. Other myths are that Paul McCartney had died in 1966 and been replaced by a double. I can’t remember the double’s name, but he came third in a Beatles lookalike competition. There was a similar myth about George Harrison, which claimed that he had died in the early ’70s of cancer. The source from this was a mad American woman, who believed his spirit was still hanging around in the astral plane somewhere giving her telepathic messages. Like the Macca myths, there were also supposed to be clues in on the covers of his albums. One showed him as the only person in colour in a posed scene that strongly resembled Leonardo’s painting of the Last Supper. Another had him as some kind of ascended being in the sky looking down on Earth. The myth appears to have gained some verisimilitude because Harrison’s musical style changed radically after he left the Beatles to the extent that he lost many of his former fans. Hence the belief that he had been died and been replaced by an imposter.

The speaker also presented a very strong argument for Ringo Starr being greatly underappreciated. Rather than a mediocre drummer, he’s actually a very skilful performer. He was deliberately headhunted and lured away from another band by McCartney and Lennon, who were also in competition with King Size Taylor and the Dominoes for his talents. The film Hard Day’s Night, made on a shoestring by Richard Lester, showed that he had real acting chops that were greater than the other Beatles. The film was instrumental in achieving the Beatles’ popularity in America. Starr has continued to make a number of movies, although Caveman, where he was constantly drunk on set due to alcoholism, does not redound to his credit. As a musician, he’s been more prolific than Paul McCartney. And then there is the pernicious rumour that he’s really Jewish. I think this is because of his surname, ‘Starr’, which is actually assumed. His original surname was ‘Starkey’. Nevertheless a website, Jew Or Not, devoted to discussing which celebs are really Jewish, gave him 80 per cent on the grounds that, although he was a gentile, he ticked the right boxes. The rumour resulted in Ringo being given police protection during a 1966 concert in Montreal with a detective squatting next to his drums because he’d received an anti-Semitic death threat.

Then there’s all the stories about backmasking and backward messages. But the speaker considered the best example of this to be on one of the songs by the 90s band the Boo Radleys. They really do have a bit of backwards music. When you play it backwards, however, what you hear is them singing the advertising jingle ‘If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit, join our club’. This may also be a deliberate link, as Jane Asher, a former girlfriend of Macca’s, appeared in the advert and the Boo Radleys were very much into the Beatles and would have been aware of this.

Then there are all the rumours that the Beatles never really split up, and have continued releasing songs under the guise of other bands. Some of these have sounded so much like the Beatles, that they appear in bootleg Beatles recordings. This happened to such an extent with one track that Yoko Ono, unable to find out who really made it, copyrighted it. These tracks are based on the myth that there are several unreleased Beatles’ tracks with titles like ‘Deckchair’ and ‘Pink Litmus Paper Shirt’. In fact this is based on a spoof article written in the early 1970s by a journo at the music magazine Disc. He made the songs up, which really didn’t exist, and then reviewed them as if they did. ‘Deckchair’ was supposed to be Macca, and ‘Pink Litmus Paper Shirt’ was a piece of psychedelia by John Lennon. But this has led to bands releasing tracks with those titles, such as a weird piece by the very weird band Strange Turn,and he played a couple of them. I’ve found them on YouTube. Have a listen for yourself. They’re actually good songs and so much in the Beatles’ style that it’s totally understandable how some people have come to believe that the first, at least, really was by the Fab Four.

First the fake song:

Now Strange Turn’s take on the title. A comment to the song by Secrettimewarp adds the following information: ”Pink Litmus Paper Shirt’ was a fake song title devised by Beatle fan Martin Lewis (along with “Colliding Circles”). This is just that old favorite ‘Peace of Mind’, a demo by the Pretty Things.’

Now for Strange Turn’s piece with the same title:

I actually like Strange Turn’s track and think it’s really good. And this is only a couple of the songs released by various artists with that title.

Mad Right-Wing YouTube Alex Belfield Is Fact-Checked. But Is He Bovvered?

February 4, 2022

Actually, despite his denials, I think Belfield, the self-proclaimed ‘Voice Of Reason’ was extremely bothered. I know some of you are sick of me giving him and his YouTube channel publicity, but this is hilarious. But there’s also a very serious point to be made here as well.

A few days ago Belfield put up a video about how he was fact-checked by Google or another group concerned with what it is acceptable to say on YouTube. They challenged him on his estimate of the number of deaths from Covid. Belfield consistently and loudly opposes the lockdown, arguing that’s it’s unnecessary and harming industry, children’s schooling and people’s mental and physical health, among other issues. The stats he cited, which he claimed came from the Office of National Statistics, were part of this argument. He then declared that this showed the ‘lefties’ devouring each other.

He then stated, firmly and loudly, that he was not bothered about it while, like Catherine Tate’s petulant schoolgirl, sounding increasingly extremely bovvered. It was doing him good, because all the people that hate watch him were nevertheless making him rich by clicking on his channel. He then began yet another rant about Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping, oyster-eating ‘Naga Manchushi’ types. And to show how not bovvered he is, he put up another video for days ago on ‘the factchecking scam’. Well, he’s certainly shown he’s not bothered as so far he hasn’t joined Alex Jones in ranting about the globalists. But it’s a moot point how far Jones himself believed the rubbish he spouted.

Now I’ll get to the serious point. On the same day that he posted this, Belfield posted yet another video calling for the NHS to be privatised because of Boris giving PPE contracts to his chums. They supplied duff equipment at well over-the-odds prices. If they were able to fulfil the orders at all. Belfield wants you to believe that it’s the fault of having a nationalised National Health Service.

He’s talking nonsense, malign, dangerous nonsense. The poor performance of the NHS comes from decades of Tory cuts and the piecemeal privatisation that sees NHS contracts given to private healthcare companies, who are less efficient and provide a poorer service. But hey, it’s all done for the profit-motive, so it must be better. NHS Test Trace, and which has also performed spectacularly badly, was NHS in name only. It was completely private, though the Tories didn’t want you to know that. But Belfield doesn’t want you to know how badly NHS Privatisation is failing and how badly we need it renationalised.

Now Belfield is, as far as I can make out, a lone YouTuber broadcasting by himself or with a bare minimum of people helping him. He’s not Fox News, GB News or whatever. But he has 300,000 viewers, which is, as he points out, larger than some of the news broadcasters he tackles and sneers at. He is therefore not without influence, and therefore deserves to be criticised. Even if that runs the risk of being counterproductive.

Much of Belfield’s output could be called ‘tabloid TV’. It consists of a fair amount of celeb gossip, much of it directed at the antics of Katie Price and her continuing attempts to make money from her body and her disabled son, Harvey. There are loud denunciations of woke ideology, as he attacks the TV companies for throwing experienced, quality, but White broadcasters of more mature years off in favour of minority ‘box tickers’. He also strong criticises some of the mad results of the transgender ideology, as when a Scottish law student was accused of transphobia and investigated by her university simply for saying that women have vaginas. And then there are his rants against the channel migrants or the ‘dinghy divers’ as he calls them, who he claims are being treated better than Britain’s own poor and homeless. Well if they are, it’s because of the Tory policies Belfield so loudly supports.

His audience appear to be the same demographic as those attracted to UKIP: older, socially conservative White people who fear immigration and the new morality. This isn’t exclusively so – when he came down to visit Bristol, among the people he met was a woman of east Asian ancestry. I don'[t doubt that some Blacks also watch his channel. There are Black Conservatives and not all of them by any means are supporters of Black Lives Matter, as you can see from the videos by Black American right-wingers making some very acute criticisms of the movement. And it’s these, largely older people Belfield is catering and lying to.

He’s lying when he gives the impression that everything would be better off if the NHS was handed over to private industry. It won’t. It will be worse run and the British public will have to pay for it through private health insurance. That includes Belfield’s audience, the working class people he appeals to with all the guff about being a working-class boy from a pit estate, sneered at and passed over by the BBC Guardian-reading etc middle class people. These are the people, who will find it especially difficult to get healthcare if the NHS was privatised.

And this is why I call out Belfield on this issue.

And I’ve no qualms about admitting that when it comes to NHS privatisation, I am very bovvered.

Arise Festival Online Events against Blair and NHS Privatisation

February 4, 2022

I got an email today from the Arise Festival of Labour Left Ideas about a number of forthcoming online events. Two were about Latin America and Cuba, but the two that really interested me were against Blair’s knighthood and NHS Privatisation.

The brief notices about these events ran:

“1) FORUM: No to Blair’s Knighthood – No Return to Blairism

Thursday 10 February, 18:30. Register here // Share & invite here // Retweet here to spread the word.

With: Steve Howell (Deputy Director, Strategy & Communications for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017) , Rachel Garnham (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) & Sami Ramidani (Iraqi anti-war campaigner.)

Tony Blair’s knighthood has provoked a massive backlash – come & find out more about Blairism – & what it represents & means today. With plenty of time for questions & discussion.

Hosted by Labour Outlook. Kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) DIARY DATE: Ending NHS Privatisation – For a National Care Service.

Monday, 21 February 2022, 7pm  Register here 

The Second of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs online policy seminars being organised throughout 2022 – in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum – looking at the key policies we need to be raising and how we build the movements to win these policies.”

I haven’t registered for them yet, but I think I probably will as I strongly support both these causes. Blair took us to war against Iraq on a lie, a lie intended to justify the plundering of Iraq’s oil and state industries for the benefit of the American and Saudi oil conglomerates and American multinationals. There’s footage of Gorgeous George Galloway angrily telling one of the New Labour women who cheered and organised the Labour benches for this war that she’s responsible for the deaths of a million people in Iraq. I’ve got mixed feeling about the Glesgae bruiser. Sometimes he says things that are absolutely brilliant, at other times he acts like a self-centred publicity seeker. This time I think he was spot-on. Innocent people died, including our best and bravest in the armed forces, not to defend our great nation from a real threat to be get the already bloated rich even richer and more bloated. It destroyed what was, by middle eastern standards at least, a relatively secular welfare state. A society where women could safely pursue careers outside the home. It created a monstrous society instead where Sunni and Shia Muslims had to be separated in Baghdad by peace walls, as in Northern Ireland. There were sectarian deaths squads running amok with the connivance of the American proconsuls running country, and the mercenaries brought in as peacekeepers ran drugs and prostitution rings. Oh yes,, and they killed ordinary Iraqis for sport. The situation was so dire that one American diplomat went home and gave public interviews denouncing the occupation.

A million or two severely normal Brits marched against the invasion. I think it was the biggest mass protest ever. One of those was one of my parish priests at the time. The satirists Bremner, Bird and Fortune attacked the warmongering prior to the invasion. The Tories opposed it, which was a first. I suspect this was simple opportunism, but in some cases it was genuine. The right-wing journalist, Peter Hitchens, continued to attack Blair for wasting the lives of British servicemen and women. A friend of mine even read the Spectator for a time because of its anti-invasion stance.

And Blair ignored it all. The result was a wrecked country, which allowed the expansion of Iranian influence there and, with the rest of the Neo-Con policy in the Middle East, created the conditions for the emergence and expansion of Daesh and their campaign against civilisation.

Millions of people have either died or been forced to flee their homes, contributing to the migrant crisis. The economy was destroyed, people thrown out of work, women forced back into their traditional role and businesses destroyed. But Starmer wants to bring Blairism back, telling everyone that it’s going to be a vote winner.

It ain’t. Blair’s popularity at the time declined and its suffered even worse in the intervening years as more people have woken up to how harmful so many of his policies were. Not just in Iraq, but on the economy, industry and the NHS. Because Blair shared the Tory desire to privatise the health service.

If this country is ever to have a government that genuinely respects and cares for ordinary people, and which pursues a sane, just, humane policy in the Middle East, it’s only going to be through genuine socialist values and the vision of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories must go, and Blairism must be consigned to the dustbin.

Guardian Video of Anti-Lockdown Protesters in Boris Masks Partying Outside No. 10

January 15, 2022

I know many of the commenters on this blog are heartily sick of hearing about how Johnson broke the lockdown rules to hold his own parties. The number has gone up to 13 so far, which makes him a serial offender. But as Brian Burden and Trev have pointed out, this is a distraction. Johnson should really be on the ropes because of the way his policies have ruined the lives, health and wealth of the people of Britain. Like the way he held off bringing in the lockdown as long as possible, muttering eugenicist rubbish about herd immunity, so more people died unnecessarily. Like the way ten years and more of Tory cuts have left the NHS struggling and unable to cope, so that there’s a huge backlog of untreated patients. Six million so far! And the NHS’ piecemeal privatisation. Like the way he and they have cut benefits, so that even more people are struggling to pay their bills and feed their children at the same time. Like the ruthless expansion of benefit sanctions, the fitness of work tests against the disabled, the attacks on the right to protest, the demonisation of the channel migrants, Priti Patel’s wretched nationality bill. The expansion of job insecurity and gig economy. And the lies the Tories tell, just one lie after another, with no qualm or conscience.

Johnson should be massively unpopular and his party facing electoral wipe-out because of all of this. But he’s not. He’s unpopular because of his hypocrisy for this one issue. Thanks to it, Keir Starmer’s Labour is in a ten-point lead. But that’s nothing to do with Starmer, who has almost constantly been extremely weak, even supportive of Johnson’s leadership. It’s purely Johnson’s fault, and so could easily be reversed if the Tories get rid of him and replace him with someone far more competent.

But the attacks on Johnson are inventive and funny. The Groan posted this video on YouTube of people in Boris Johnson masks having an anti-lockdown party outside No. 10, bobbing away to a rave track with the lyric, ‘My name is Boris’. Other, similar videos have been put up by the Scum and the Heil, but I’m not reposting them. I got some standards, after all!

History Debunked Questions Johnson’s Britishness

January 12, 2022

Oh ho! This is very amusing. The Tory party has always positioned itself, at least since the 19th century, as the party of Britishness. If you listen to its supporters and propaganda, it’s the party of the British constitution and the union, protecting our ancient liberties and defending our great nation from plots and attacks by evil foreigners. Historically this largely meant the French, but today means the EU and Scots Nationalists. Under Maggie Thatcher this nationalism became particularly shrill. The 1987 Tory election broadcast showed Spitfires zooming about the sky while an excited voice told us that ‘We were born free. It’s our fundamental right’ and ended with ‘It’s great, to be great again!’ Political theorists who’ve read, or at least heard of Rousseau could correct the first statement. At the beginning of his book, The Social Contract, which became one of the founding texts of the French Revolution, Rousseau said: ‘Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ Which is probably not something Thatcher wanted said about her government. As for being ‘great again’, this was the period when Thatcher was selling our state industries off to foreign investors, destroying trade unions, cutting unemployment and other welfare benefits and trying to find ways to get people to take out private medical insurance instead of relying on the NHS. She would have liked to have privatised that, but was prevented by a massive cabinet rebellion. At the same time she was using her ‘strong state’ against striking miners and anyone else she thought was an evil Commie subversive while at the same time propping up truly evil Fascist dictators abroad. Like the brute General Pinochet, responsible for the murder and torture of 30,000 people in his native Chile. The country’s present grinding poverty and crumbling infrastructure are all a result of her policies. The identification of the Conservative party with Britishness was so loud and crass that, reviewing the election broadcast on Radio 4’s The News Quiz, the late, much-missed humourist Alan Coren referred to the planes as ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’. I also remember one of the Observer’s columnists referring to the Tories as ‘the patriotic party’.

But now aspersions have been cast on the Britishness of the Tories’ leader and current head of the country, Boris Johnson. Simon Webb of the History Debunked YouTube channel put up a piece yesterday asking ‘How British Is Boris Johnson?’ This speculated that Johnson carries on the way does because, quite simply, he isn’t really British. He was born in New York, and is of mixed Turkish and American ancestry. He is also part Jewish, which is one reason why I’m not going to put the video up here. One of the elements of the genuine anti-Semitic conspiracies is the allegation that Jews aren’t really patriotic citizens because of their international connections and foreign ancestry and relatives. They have frequently been accused of being ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ with no real connection or loyalty to the gentile peoples among which they settle. It’s a poisonous allegation that has resulted in the murder of countless innocents and encouraged the formation and growth of Fascist organisations and parties like the Nazis. The vast majority of British Jews are as British as everyone else. And before the Second World War, the vast majority of Jews wished to remain in the countries of their birth, to be accepted as patriotic fellow citizens by their gentile countrymen. It’s why the leaders of the British Jewish community during the First World War actually opposed the Balfour Declaration. They did not want the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine nor anywhere else, as it could lead to the accusation that their loyalties were divided. And they weren’t. They were, and wanted to be seen as, patriotic Brits.

But there is a kind of irony in Boris Johnson, a pukka old Etonian, and true-blue Tory being accused of not being British enough.

And I think Webb has a point, though not in the sense he means. At the heart of the right-wing ranting and suspicion about the ‘globalists’, supposedly plotting to create an evil, Satanic one-world Communist state, there’s an element of truth. Regardless of their nationality or ancestry, it appears to me that the global superrich really are forming a separate international class whose loyalty is primarily to themselves and not to the people below them, even if these people are of the same nationality. You can see that in the way the Tory grandees and those like them move their capital around the world, investing in countries on the other side of the world while making pay and conditions worse over here and cutting benefits. As far as I know, Jacob Rees-Mogg is thoroughly British in his ancestry. He also projects a caricatured, right-wing image of Britishness very much like his nickname of ‘Lord Snooty’. He also backed Brexit, which was supposed to be another patriotic gesture in which Britain took back her sovereignty.

In fact Brexit has wreaked massive harm to our economy, disastrously cutting British firms off from continental markets and suppliers. The deals we’ve made, or are trying to make, with the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are to our disadvantage, whatever the Tory mouthpieces say to the contrary. And the response of Rees-Mogg and the superrich like him amply demonstrate where their loyalties lie. Even before Brexit, Mogg had invested in companies in the far east. And when he was urging everyone to vote to leave the EU, he was moving his own financial interests to Eire. This was to pick up on all the EU business he would otherwise have lost if they’d remained centred in Britain. Which is, to me, another example of Tory hypocrisy.

Back in the 19th century Disraeli declared in his books Coningsby and Sybil that Britain was divided into two nations, the rich and poor, who had no knowledge or connection with each other, and demanded that this should be remedied. They’ve been talking about ‘One Nation’ Toryism every since. This is done by leaders like John Major, Michael Howard, David Cameron and so on, and is supposed to show that they are from that branch of the party that still has some paternalistic regard for those below them. The same people talk, or used to talk, about ‘caring Conservativism’. This is all the while doing what Tories always do – cut benefits, wages, and employment conditions and make it easier to sack people. All while manipulating the stats to persuade people that this is actually working and that they’re somehow better off.

Tony Benn in one of his books said something about the British ruling class regarding the lower orders as indeed like a foreign nation. Thinking about the Britannia Unchained mob, he had a point. This was the book written by a group of Tory MPs, including the smirking insult to decency, Priti Patel, that said that for Britain to compete in the global market, British workers must endure the same terrible conditions and wages as those elsewhere in the world, like India. A similar view was put forward by a former Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset. I’ve forgotten who he was, but I do remember his appearance on the local news. Introducing him, the interviewer stated that he came from a family of colonial administrators and governors. This strongly suggests to me that, deep down, he regarded British people of all colours in the same way his family had regarded the Africans and other indigenous peoples they governed.

And going back back to the 1920s, George Bernard Shaw attacked the Tory claim that they and the rich represented Britain and her interests in his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism by pointing out that the rich spent much of their time and money abroad, and preferred to invest in firms in the colonies using cheap indigenous labour. And this still remains absolutely true. One of the problems with Britain’s banking system is that its investment banks are geared to putting money into commonwealth rather than domestic industries.

At a fundamental level, Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tory elite really don’t have any connection to the Brits below them. It’s not because of their ancestry. In my view, they’re the same whether they’re completely British by descent. It’s because they are part, and see themselves as part of an international industrial and political class, who move their businesses and investments from one country to another without concern for how this affects their fellow countrymen. All the while trying to deceive the rest of us by yelling about their Britishness and British values.

Johnson and the Tories aren’t British patriots, except at the crude level of repeating nationalist slogan and anti-immigrant attitudes. Ordinary Brits are foreigners to them, like the low-waged workers in other countries they also seek to exploit.

90s Space War SF Programme’s Christmas Message of Peace

January 1, 2022

One of the things I’ve been doing over the Christmas season is watching videos of the old Science Fiction series Space: Above and Beyond on Guy With Beer’s channel on YouTube. Created by X-Files’ writers Glenn Morgan and James Wong, the show followed the adventures of a flight of American space marines fighting a future war between humanity and race of aliens known as the Chigs. Humanity was moving out into the Galaxy and was unaware of intelligent alien life, until the Chigs launched an unprovoked attack on two human colonies. The series heroes were the Wild Cards, whose members included an Asian-American, Paul Wang, a Black female engineer, Damphousse, whose father was the chief engineer in a nuclear power plant; Nathan West, an aspiring colonist for one of the attacked planets. West had been due to go there as a member of a colonising party with his girlfriend, but had lost his place due to an affirmative action programme that gave it instead to a group of in-vitros. These were artificially gestated humans developed to serve as slave labour and an unfree police force. Although now free, they were subject to massive prejudice and widespread discrimination. One of the other members of the Wild Cards, Cooper Hawkes, was one. He had escaped from the In Vitro facility after being told he was due to be killed because his natural born officers regarded him as a failure. He had been arrested by the cops simply for depending himself after a group of natural born humans tried to lynch him simply for getting a job on their building site. The judge at his trial sentenced him to join the marines. Leading the squadron was another woman, ‘Queen’ Vansen. The squadron was based on the space naval vessel, the Saratoga, commanded by Commodore Ross, a Black man, while their immediate commander, Colonel McQueen, was another in vitro. This followed the general pattern of Science Fiction of the time. Like Star Trek, it looked forward to men and women of different races working together in harmony and equality, where they were simply accepted without comment. The issues of racism, prejudice and discrimination was dealt with through the In-Vitros. Behind the scenes was the Aerotech Corporation, the space conglomerate leading the colonisation missions, which may have known far more about the Chigs than they let on. As does a blind American politico aspiring to be chief of the UN. She’s leading a peace initiative to the Chigs and their allies, the AIs, androids created as a police force, who rebelled after someone typed a virus into the computer system governing them with the message, ‘Take a chance’. When she is about to award West with a medal for protecting her against an assassination attempt, he asks if her if the rumours are true and that they knew the Chigs were out there. She says nothing more, but drops the medal on the floor and turns away from him.

The Chigs, a nickname because in their space armour they resemble Chiggers, burrowing tropical flees, remain a mystery until the very end of the series. They remain constantly hidden in their armour. Any attempt to remove it results in them dissolving into a green goo. There are hints of what they look like – the odd clawed, three fingered hand and arm is seen, but their faces are not revealed until the last two programmes when their envoy finally comes aboard the Saratoga to discuss peace terms and finally removes his mask to reveal his true alien features. They’re methane breathers, who come to a moon of their world to incubate their eggs in a special brood chamber. Allied to them are the AIs, who found sanctuary with them after escaping Earth following their defeat by the humans. These run the prisoner of war and forced labour camps, torturing their prisoners and attacking and stealing fuel and vital minerals from mining worldlets in the Oort Cloud. Both the Chigs and the AIs are utterly ruthless, killing without mercy, including the wounded.

The series only lasted for one season of 23 episodes, which seemed to be the lot of the vast majority of SF shows that weren’t Star Trek, although Farscape managed to go for four, plus the three part miniseries, The Peacekeeper Wars, and Babylon Five lasted five seasons. At the time I wondered if it was inspired by the success of the film Starship Troopers directed by Paul Verhoeven. Based on the book by Robert Heinlein, this was about a future war between a militarised humanity and the Bugs, a race of intelligent alien insects. In this future society, only those who had done their military service had the right to vote and enter politics, a view which Heinlein himself held. Verhoeven subverted this by satirically portraying them as Nazis, based on his experience of growing up in the occupied Netherlands. Heinlein also really did believe that war was ennobling experience. But I also wonder if it was partly inspired by Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, about a thousand-year war between humanity and another alien race, the Taureans, which sees one of the recruits, who hasn’t aged thanks to relativistic time dilation, returning to a vastly changed society in which he has no place. It was SF’s treatment of the alienation and maltreatment by the armed forces many squaddies experienced in Vietnam. Space: Above and Beyond, by contrast had no explicit message about war either pro or contra. Rather it was about about a people doing their best to defend their country and planet against a ruthless, genocidal enemy. During this they see their friends die. Paul Wang, initially very religious, loses his faith due to what he has seen and done. There is the constant danger of hospitalisation and permanent trauma from PTSD. And Wang is tortured into making a propaganda video by the AIs, a tactic used by America’s enemies.

The series’ Christmas show had a rather more positive storyline in keeping with the season. It was clearly inspired by the Christmas truce between Brits and Germans at the start of the First World War, as it showed in contemporary footage in a historical flashback. The Wild Cards are sent out on sortie in one of the space Armoured Personnel Carriers. They are discovered and attacked by a Chig squadron, which abandons them for dead. Their ship is disabled and left drifting in space. The radio is damaged so that they can hear the Saratoga looking for them, but not respond. And to cap it all there’s a comet headed right at them.

They are saved when messages in garbled English started coming in for them in Morse code. These messages tell them how to repair their spacecraft enough so that they can put themselves in orbit around the comet instead of getting smashed by it. They’ve been drifting further into Chig territory, but the comet will take them away from it and back to the human lines. It looks like the person sending these messages was not human, Which means he was a Chig.

The programme ended with a written message from the cast and crew of Space: Above and Beyond wishing everyone peace during the holiday season. I thought the series had a lot of potential and was disappointed when it ended. At the time it had the same figures the X-Files had when it started, and there were rumours that it was cancelled so the X-Files could get Morgan and Wong back, but this was denied. My favourite episode was ‘Who Monitors the Birds?’, telling the story of how Hawkes escaped from the in-vitro facility. He had been marked as a failure because he observed birds flying, and had asked the commanding officer training them to be killers, ‘Who monitors the birds?’ When the officer replies, ‘I( do’, he asks, ‘But who monitors you?’ Hawkes is sent on a highly secret mission to assassinate a senior chig general. This goes wrong and his partner is killed. he therefore has to roam the planet fighting to get to the extraction point. During his journey he runs into a Chig trooper, and is about to shoot him when he sees him watching a flying, bird or bat-like creature. Hawkes pauses long enough for the Chig squaddie to move on. He later runs into the same alien again running away from a Chig patrol. They’re about to shoot each other, but put down their guns momentarily to swap dog tags and go their separate ways. Hawkes nevertheless has to shoot him during their next encounter, which naturally upsets him. Punctuating his adventures is a strange woman, appearing as a corpse with grey skin and the marks of decay. She has designs on his body and tries to thrust her attentions on him. At other times she grabs his head to show him the Chig patrols coming for him. And after he pushes her away, she vanishes into thin air. She’s silent or inaudible throughout, except at her final appearance when she says ‘Till next time then’. She is never explained, and you’re left wondering if she’s an hallucination, another alien or what. At the end of the story, Hawkes rips up the contract he was offered, in which he would gain his freedom on killing the alien general. I think it works as a stand-alone story, and is in its way a classic of SF TV, like many episodes of Dr. Who and Star Trek.

Although it was made well over 20 years ago, the series’ seasonal message still remains relevant at this Christmas season. We need peace now as much as ever, with Iran and Israel seemingly gearing up to attack each others’ nuclear facilities, tensions rising with China and with Russia over Ukraine.

May we look forward to peace this year and an easing of tensions, as programmes like Space: Above and Beyond have wished at this season.