Posts Tagged ‘European Parliament’

On the Selection of a Female Dr. Who

August 6, 2017

The week before last, the BBC finally broke the tension and speculation surrounding the identity of the actor, who is going to play the next Doctor. They announced that the 13th Dr would be played by Jodie Whitaker, an actress, who has appeared in a number of crime dramas. Like many people, I was shocked by this radical departure from tradition, but not actually surprised. The Doctor has been male for the past fifty years, but thirty years ago the Beeb announced that it was considering making the next Doctor a woman as Tom Baker was leaving the role and preparing to hand it on to the next actor. In fact, the announcement was joke dreamed up by the Baker and one of the producers and writing team, and the role went to Peter Davison. The announcement of a possible female Doctor resulted in a few jokes, such as ‘the most painful regeneration of them all’. One of the British SF media magazines – I can’t remember whether it was Starburst or Dr. Who Magazine, then went on to make a serious point, that nothing was known about the Time Lord family, and so it was quite plausible that this alien race could change their genders during regeneration.

I can also remember Mike telling me at the time that there was also a feminist group in the European parliament, who wanted a female Doctor, who would have a male assistant, which she would patronise, in a reverse of the usual situation. The role of women in Dr. Who has been somewhat contentious down the years. Critics, like the Times journalist Caitlin Moran, the author of How To Be A Woman, have criticised the show’s portrayal of women in the Doctor’s companions. She claimed a few years ago on a TV segment about the show that they usually were there to say, ‘But Doctor, I don’t understand’. Others have also made the point that their role tended to be stereotypically passive and traditional. They were to scream when threatened by the monster, and be rescued by the Doctor. It’s quite a controversial statement, though I do remember seeing one of the team behind the Classic Dr. Who saying that there was some truth in it. They had tried to make the Doctor’s female companions less stereotypical, and stronger. So you had Zoe, one of Patrick Troughton’s companions, who was a computer scientist from the future. Romana was a Time Lady, who had majored in psychology at the Academy. In her first appearance in the Tom Baker serial, ‘The Ribos Operation’, it was made clear that she was actually more intelligent than the Doctor, who had scraped through his degree after he retook his exam. Sarah Jane Smith was a feisty female journalist, who was fully prepared to talk back to the Doctor, representing the new generation of independent young women that came in with ‘Women’s Lib’ in the ’70s. And the strongest female companion of them all has to be Leela, a female warrior of the Sevateem, a primitive tribe descended from a group of astronauts sent to investigate a jungle world. Leela mostly wore only a leather bikini, but she was skilled with the knife and the deadly Janus Thorn, a poisonous plant, whose venom killed within minutes. Leela was quite capable of defending herself and protecting the Doctor. In the serial ‘The Invisible Enemy’, for much of the story she is the active member of the team, after she proves immune to the sentient virus that infects and paralyses the Doctor. There were also attempts to introduce strong female villains, such as the Rani, a renegade Time Lady of the same stripe as the Master, but who specialised in genetic engineering and biological transformation rather than mechanical engineering. But the producer or writer conceded that as time went on, these strong female characters tended to become weaker and more stereotypical, so that they ended up screaming and waiting to be rescued by the Doctor.

The stereotypical role of the female companions has become more outdated as traditional gender roles in society have changed, and Science Fiction as a genre began exploring and challenging issues of gender and sexuality. There’s a tradition of feminist SF, which has been present from the emergence of the genre in the late 19th century, but which became more prominent with the rise of the modern feminist movement in the 1960s. A few years an anthology of female utopias, created by late 19th and early 20th century female writers, Herland, was published. It took its title from that of a female utopia described by an early American feminist and campaigner for women’s suffrage. Feminist SF writers include Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, best known for her ‘Earthsea’ fantasy novels, and Sheri S. Tepper. Russ is an American academic, and the author of The Female Man. She considers that the rise of the women’s movement is a far more revolutionary and profound social change than space travel and the other technological conventions of Science Fiction. And many of these SF authors, both female and male, have created worlds and species, in which the genders are fluid.

In Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest, conditions on the planet on which the book is set are so harsh, that little time is available for procreation. The people there are neuter for most of the time. However, they have a breeding season, during which they may become male or female. However, the adoption of a particular gender doesn’t necessarily recur, so that a person, who is female one season may be the male in the following season, and vice versa. Michael Moorcock also experimented with gender identity in some of his books. The Eternal Champion may be male or female, depending on incarnation. And at the end of the Jerry Cornelius book, The Final Programme, Cornelius is transformed into a beautiful hermaphrodite, which leads humanity to its destruction.

Other SF writers have envisoned futures, where humans are able to transform the bodies in a variety of ways, according to taste, including switching genders. In Gregory Benford’s ‘Galactic Centre’ novel, Across the Sea of Suns, the crew of an Earth ship sent to investigate the centre of the Galaxy following the attack of the Mechs, a hostile galaxy-spanning machine civilisation, devise special pods, which can remake and refresh the crew. This includes changing gender. And Ian M. Banks ‘Culture’ novels are also set in a future, where humans are able to use technology to switch genders easily. In Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City, the bored, immortal rich of the titular city on a world orbiting Epsilon Eridani, are able to use nanotechnology and genetic manipulation to change their appearance, often into outlandish forms. One character, a woman, is called ‘Zebra’, because she has covered her self in black and white stripes, and sculpted her hair into a mane that runs down her back. She tells the hero, Tanner Mirabel, that this is only her latest appearance, and that she will probably change it and move on to another in the future. She also states that she hasn’t always been female either.

In the 1990s there was a particularly strong demand for Science Fiction to challenge gender stereotypes. This was a reaction to the traditional image of the genre as dominated by White males, and focused on issues of surrounding technology and hard science. Thus one of the American SF societies launched the Arthur C. Clarke award for Science Fiction that challenged traditional stereotypes. There has also been a demand for a better representation of women amongst the genre’s writers. The anthology of ‘Dieselpunk’ stories therefore has roughly as many women writers as men.

The exploration of gender roles has also included explorations of sexuality, including same sex attraction. Gay fans of Star Trek in the 1980s hoped that the new series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, would include a gay character, a wish echoed by David Gerrold, one of the writers of the Classic Trek series. They were disappointed when the series did feature a story, where Riker becomes romantically involved with a member of the Jnai, an alien race, who have evolved beyond gender, but where it re-emerges occasionally amongst a persecuted culture of throwbacks. Riker becomes attracted to one of these throwbacks, a female, and attempts to rescue her after she is arrested. However, he arrives too late. The corrective treatment meted out to such people has worked, and she is now as sexless as the rest of them.

Gay fans of the series felt that they had been cheated. Instead of a forthright endorsement of homosexuality, they’d been given a kind of half-hearted nod. The issue of gay rights was there, but so heavily disguised that it may as well not have been there at all. They also objected to it on the grounds thta it seemed to reinforce the prejudiced view of opponents of gay rights, who declare that it is about removing gender altogether. This prejudiced was clearly expressed by the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, a couple of years ago on his show, Infowars. Jones ranted that gay rights was a ‘transhumanist space cult’ intent on creating a race of genderless, cyborg people.

Er, not quite.

Gay characters and the exploration of alternative sexuality have been part of Science Fiction since William S. Burroughs’ books The Naked Lunch, and Samuel R. Delaney, a Black American writer, who also uses his novels to explore racial issues. Gay characters and issues of gender and sexuality have also been a strong element in the modern Dr. Who series. Captain Jack Harkness, a time traveller from the future, who became the lead character in the spinoff series Torchwood, is bisexual, and Ianto in the second series of that show was gay. This is probably mainly due to the series having a strong gay following, and that the writer behind its revival, Russell T. Davis, is also gay. For those, who can remember that far back, he was the creator of the gay series, Queer As Folk on Channel 4 in the 1990s.

There’s a sort of inevitability to the news that the next Doctor would be female, as the new Dr. Who series has also experimented with issues of gender roles. In the episode, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, Matt Smith’s Doctor revealed that the Time Lords changed their gender, when explaining that another Time Lord he knew always retained the tattoo of a serpent on their arm throughout their regenerations, even when they were female. In the series before last, a Time Lord general shot by Peter Capaldi’s Doctor regenerates as female. And then, of course, there’s Missy, who is the female incarnation of the Master. My guess is that these changes were partly used to gauge how the audience would respond to a new Doctor. Once it was shown that most accepted the idea that Time Lords could regenerate as the opposite sex, then the way was clear for a female Doctor.

The show has also several times had strong female leads, while the Doctor has been more passive. Thus, in the last episode of the First Series, ‘Bad Wolf’, Rose Tiler becomes virtually a goddess, mistress of space and time, after peering into the heart of the TARDIS, saving Earth and Christopher Ecclestone’s Doctor from the Daleks. Catherine Tate’s character similarly rescued David Tennant’s Doctor from Davros and his Daleks after she gained all his knowledge as a Time Lord. And in one of the stories featuring the revived Zygons, it seemed to me that apart from the Doctor, all the characters in positions of authority – the heads of UNIT, scientists and so on, were all female.

The programme has also experimented with male gender roles. In one story about a year or so ago, one of the characters is a man, who has an alternative identity as a superhero following his childhood encounter with an alien device that can grant people’s deepest wishes. In his normal life, he’s a childminder.

It’s been said that there’s a division between TV and film SF, and literary Science Fiction, with the audience for TV and film uninterested in science fiction literature. I don’t believe that’s entirely the case, and the audiences for the various media clearly overlap. And literary SF has had an influence on Doctor Who. In the 1980s the BBC tried to recruit SF writers to give the series a great connection with SF literature. And several of the stories in recent Dr. Who series have shown the influence of literary SF. For example, in the last series, Earth suddenly became a forest planet, as the trees grew and spread everywhere. This, it was revealed, was to save humanity from some cosmic disaster. This looks quite similar to a book by Sheri S. Tepper, in which trees come to life to save people from danger and disaster. And to me, the name of space station in the last series’ story, ‘Breath’, Chasm Forge, sounds a bit too close to ‘Chasm City’ to be entirely coincidental, although the two stories are very different.

I also think that there have been social and political considerations that may have influenced the decision to make the next Doctor female. As well as the general demand within SF fandom for more women writers and female-centred stories, I got the impression that the audience for SF on TV may have slightly more women than men. This is not to say that the numbers of men watching SF is small – it isn’t – but that the fan organisations may have a very large female membership. I certainly got that impression from Star Trek. If that’s also the case with Dr. Who, then the series’ writers and producers would also want to cater for that audience.

I also think that there’s probably pressure too to create a female character, who would act as a role model and encourage more girls to enter science, particularly male-dominated subjects like Maths, physics and engineering. There have been initiatives to do this before, but they’ve had limited effect. You may remember the video one governmental organisation made a few years ago. Entitled Science: It’s a Girl Thing, this featured attractive young women in lab coats tapping away to a pop tune. Many women, including female scientists, felt it was patronising and demeaning. As the Doctor is very much the hero as scientist, who solves problems through his superior Time Lord scientific knowledge, I think those concerned to see greater representation of women in the sciences would welcome the Doctor’s transformation into a woman.

I have to say that, provided the transition is done well, I don’t think a female Doctor will harm the series. As I said, the rumour that there might be a female Doctor along the way has been around since the last Tom Baker series back in 1980s or thereabouts. If done badly, it could easily reduce the series to farce or pantomime by being just that little bit too incredible, or just plain weird. But the idea of gender-swapping Time Lords/Ladies hasn’t been so far, and from previous experience I think it will be done properly. The series might lose some viewers, but I think many of the real, hard-core Whovians, like Mike, won’t be bothered at all. I hope so in any case, will watch the new series with interest.

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Zionist Fearmongering and Israel’s Demographic Crisis

April 27, 2017

Tuesday evening I got the news from Mike, of Vox Political, that he’d been libelled as an anti-Semite by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, who wish to have him deselected as his local Labour candidate in the Powys council elections. As I blogged yesterday, Mike is actually one of the least prejudiced people I know. As his record shows, he is not remotely anti-Semitic, or prejudiced against anyone else based on their skin colour, religion or sexual preference. When he was at College, he was asked by one of his Jewish friends to be a reader in her commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. Mike was one of those reading out some of the names of the millions butchered by the Nazis. He was very proud of the fact that the girl was deeply moved by his performance.

Mike’s real crime is to oppose the attempts of the Israel lobby and the Blairites within the Labour party to silence Israel’s critics by smearing them as anti-Semites. It’s standard practise for the Zionist lobby in general. Decent people, who stand together with the Palestinians against their brutalisation, massacre and expulsion, are libelled as racists. The victims includes not only anti-racist gentiles, but also proud Jews, from the secular to the Torah-observant. Indeed, many of the Jewish victims of these smears believe that the Zionist lobby especially singles out Jews for particular vilification. Those so maligned by the Zionists also include Israelis, like Dr Ilan Pappe, who was forced out of his homeland because of his determination to present and publish the truth about Israel’s crimes against humanity. But Dr Pappe is no self-hating Jew, and has defended his people, the Israelis. In one video I put up a few months ago, he spoke about how Israelis were decent people, who just need the facts of their country’s terrorisation of the country’s indigenous people explained to them. Before he was forced out, he was very proud at opening his home, every Thursday evening, to his fellow Israelis so he could do just that. He states that these evenings were very well attended by decent, but confused Israelis, seeking the truth.

While I am certainly not complacent about the threat of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the West, I am very sceptical of some of the grosser claims about it made by apologists for the Israeli regime. These are a gross distortion of what is really happening and are made, not to protect British or European Jews, but to provide further colonists for Israel.

Over the past decade and a half, various individuals have come forward claiming that the situation facing Jews in Europe today is exactly like that which faced their parents and grandparents in the 1930s. This often reaches extremely grotesque and hysterical anticipations of a renewed Holocaust in the very near future. Round about 2004 the Conservative magazine the Spectator, published a review of an American book set in France in the next decade or the 2030s. The remnants of the Socialist parties in the European parliament had joined forces with the burgeoning Islamic parties to begin the process of exterminating the Jews. This farrago was given a glowing review, if memory serves me correctly, by Frederick Raphael, then back in the media eye after his work on the script for Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut. This was part of a standard narrative being sold to the European and American public by the Zionist right after 9/11. There were various books published in America, which claimed that the response of the Left after 9/11 and their attempts to defend innocent Muslims against victimisation, showed that liberals in America and Socialists in Europe where inherently anti-Semitic.

Many of those making these libels offered a simple solution for European Jews: they should emigrate to Israel. This was made by a rabbi in the south of France following attacks on Jews in his country a few years ago. One of the top level bureaucrats at the BBC, Danny Cohen, resigned and emigrated to Israel a few years ago, making the same claims.

As a Brit and a European, I don’t recognise these portrayals of my continent and my country, although I do realise that there is a terrible culture of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe. These claims aren’t made to combat genuine anti-Semitism. They’re made to encourage Jews to move to Israel, because of the profound demographic crisis the country is facing. That crisis is explained in the chapter on modern Israel in the history textbook, The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani.

In the 1990s there was a poll of Jewish young people, which asked them where they would rather live. Would they rather live in America, where their neighbours were Christians, who loved them, or Israel, where their neighbours were Muslims, who hated them? I’ve forgotten the exact figure, but about 75 per cent of the youngsters, who responded said ‘America’.

The country’s leaders are also faced with a demographic crisis caused by Arab immigration, lower Israeli fertility and pressure from the Likud party’s coalition partners, who want to colonise the West Bank. Jewish Israelis are less fertile, in the strict demographic sense of having fewer children, than Arabs. As a result, many Israelis fear that they will be outbred by the Arabs, thus undermining Israel’s character as the Jewish state. Moreover, diaspora Jews are becoming increasingly assimilated into the general population. On May 21, 1986, The New York Times carried this snippet under the headline ‘Concern in Israel over Immigration’.

… Prof. Robert Bacchi, head of the Hebrew University statistics department, told the Cabinet that today’s 9.5 million Jews living outside of Israel would shrink to about 8 million by the year 2000 if current demographic trends in assimilation, intermarriage and low birth rates continues.

Prime Minister Shimon Pere said the answer is that every Jewish family in Israel should have four children. On Sunday the Cabinet approved in principle the allocation of as much as $20 million to help 6,000 infertile Israeli couples have children.

Quoted in Adam Parfrey, ‘Eugenics: The Orphaned Science’, in Adam Parfrey, ed. Apocalypse Culture, expanded and revised edition (Feral House 1990) 227-8.

The Israeli state relies on Arab labour in many sectors of the economy, to perform menial or other low-waged work that Jewish Israelis do not with to perform, like fruit picking. In some areas, such as the Negev, the Jewish population is extremely thinly spread. But Likud’s coalition partners are keen to expand Jewish colonisation of the Occupied Palestinian territories on the West Bank, as part of their programme to create a greater Eretz Israel matching the boundaries of ancient Israel. However, to do so with Israel’s present population would mean withdrawing Jews from areas like the Negev to colonise these areas. As a result, they would become wholly, or almost wholly, Arab.

It seems very clear to me that Likud and their ethno-nationalist partners are trying to solve this problem by encouraging Jewish emigration by the diaspora in which fearmongering and anti-Semitic slurs are a major instrument. Israel’s critics are vilified and the all-too real threat of rising anti-Semitism grotesquely exaggerated and misrepresented, in order to make European and British fear and distrust their gentile compatriots, in the hope that they will move to Israel to bolster that country’s declining share of the population.

It’s a vile policy, that goes back to the 1930s. A little while ago I posted a piece about how some of the Zionist leaders made it quite clear that they were happy for the Nazis to butcher Jewish Europeans, if that encourage the survivors to move to Israel. They really hated those patriotic Jewish organisations, like the League of Jewish Servicemen, the Bund Judischer Frontsoldaten, in Germany, who fought for Jews to continue to live in peace in their historic European homelands.

Fears of a similar holocaust are being played up by the Zionists for exactly the same reasons today. It’s a vile, racist policy designed to make European Jews feel insecure and suspicious of wider, gentile society, in order to provide more colonists for what is a European settler state. Right up to the point of smearing and vilifying Jews and Israelis, who object to this policy, as anti-Semites themselves.

Hence the lies and smears, of which Mike, Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and so many, many others, have been victims. We need to stand together, Jews and gentiles alike, against these lies and attempts to divide us. Just as we need to stand together against the genuine anti-Semites now crawling out of the woodwork, the Islamophobes, and those who would stir up hatred against Blacks, Asians, gays or whoever.

EU Politicos Attack Possible Trump Ambassador as ‘Malevolent’

February 3, 2017

Mike today has posted up a piece reporting that the leaders of the various groupings in the European parliament have written a letter condemning the current favourite candidate for US ambassador to the EU. This is Ted Malloch, a businessman. Malloch said last month in an interview with the Beeb that “I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.” The EU’s leaders have said that Malloch supports the dissolution of the EU, and his views show his ‘outrageous malevolence’. They want him banned as persona non grata. Mike comments that it isn’t just Generalissimo Drumpf causing all the problems. It’s also his lieutenants, some of whom need to watch their tongue. Otherwise the union that will be tamed will be the US.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/03/trumps-tipped-eu-ambassador-is-malevolent-say-european-leaders/

I really don’t think there can be any doubt at all that the EU leaders here are correct. The Libertarians in the Republican party have a bitter hatred of the European Union as a quasi-socialist ‘superstate’ suppressing the individual sovereignty of the nations within it. It’s very much the same view as all the Tory eurosceptics and Kippers, who rant about the ‘EUSSR’. And it’s very much in line with this attitude that the Permatanned Dictator hailed Brexit as Britain taking back its freedom – causing massive offence to Scots, who voted against leaving – and wanting Britain to appoint the Fuhrage as our ambassador to the US.

Trump and the Republicans’ hostility to the EU is hardly disinterested, no matter how much it may be dressed up with rhetoric about national sovereignty. One of the goals of the Common Market, the ancestor of the EU, was to unite western Europe in a common trading bloc which would allow its countries to compete successfully with both America and the Communist bloc. Destroying the European Union would allow America to penetrate hitherto protected European markets and dominate the economies of the former member states. And then there’s the American and British Right’s bitter hostility to the welfare state and the European Social Charter, which gives European workers some basic constitutional protections.

Malloch’s appointment is just more economic imperialism from the American neoliberal elites, determined to destroy a rival trading bloc. The EU has very many problems. The single currency is a disaster, and the low inflation regime imposed by the German banking sector is responsible for massive poverty across the Continent. Quite apart from the Community’s extremely predatory and exploitative treatment of the Greeks. But in this instance, its leaders are absolutely right about Malloch and his master, Trump.

Hope Not Hate’s 10 Reasons to Oppose Paul Nuttall

November 28, 2016

After the Resistible Rise of Benjamin Netanyahu, here’s another Arturo Ui figure in this country, whose racial populism should be opposed. Paul Nuttall, who looks to me like Ade Edmondson as the stupid, vulgar and violent hooligan Eddie Hitler in his and Rik Mayall’s comedy series, Bottom, has just become head of UKIP. And Hope Not Hate have today put up ten good reasons why decent people should oppose him and his party. Here’s their list of 10 reasons, with a few of my comments underneath.

1. He has strongly supported Farage’s ‘Breaking Point’ billboard. That was the party’s advert that showed a line long of immigrants supposedly queuing up to get into Europe. It aroused strong criticism because it was almost identical to a Nazi poster, showing the lines of eastern European Jews, who they accused of threatening to overrun western civilisation.

2. He believes there is a secret coordinated Muslim plot to become a majority in Europe.
The Islamophobic right has been claiming that this is the case for years, despite demographic evidence to the contrary. It’s called ‘Eurabia’, and is based on the belief that Muslim birthrates are so far ahead of White European population growth that within one or two generations we’ll be a minority in our own countries. It’s a nasty, vicious lie, and one that has been exploited by the hatemongers in the Fascist right. There’s a propaganda movie on YouTube that shows pictures of street fighting and a Europe in flames, which claims that this is what will happen to Europe by the ’20s, when there will be a civil war between Muslims and their Leftist allies on one side, and ‘patriots’ – read: Nazis, on the other. There was a scandal in Wiltshire about a year or so ago, when one of the Kippers in that county made a speech, or series of speeches, claiming that this would happen. This was rightly greeted with so much outrage that the politico had to resign.

3. In a speech in the European Parliament, Nuttall labelled the response of the EU to the refugee crisis as “freedom of movement of Jihad”.
Which is the same argument Trump uses to support his ban on Muslim immigration: some of them might be terrorists. Despite the fact that, as they’re refugees, jihad is the reason they’re fleeing the Middle East.

4. He wants to ban the burqa.
One of the reasons this needs to be resisted is that it gives the state the power to dictate religious observances, which should be a matter of individual choice, contravening the human right to freedom of religion. And if it can be done to Muslims, it can be extended to other religious or philosophical groups.

5. Nuttall has called for the NHS to be privatised.
To support this, the article in Hope Not Hate has a link to this video below, by the National Health Action party, where Nuttall calls it a ‘monolithic hangover from days gone by’. This alone is an excellent reason for shunning Nuttall and his wretched party.

6. He wants a 31% flat rate of tax, meaning the rich pay far less.

7. He wants prison conditions to be made deliberately worse and the 1967 Criminal Justice Act to be abolished.
Despite the constant refrains of the likes of the Heil and Express, prisons are grim places. The Mirror this morning carried a report on the rising number of suicides in British prisons, which are far more than those outside. And Private Eye has regularly carried news stories in its ‘In The Back’ column about young offenders committing suicide, or being beaten to death by the other inmates, sometimes in adult jails. Does Nuttall really more useless and avoidable deaths in prison? It’s also unsurprising that he also wants the return of the death penalty, which Hope Not Hate points out would mean that Britain would share the same attitude towards crime as Belarus, a military dictatorship.

8. Nuttall believes climate change is a “hair-brained theory”.
It’s also not going to surprise anyone that he’s also another supporter of fracking.

9. Was one of only 14 MEPs to vote against a crackdown on the illegal ivory trade.
People have been concerned about the devastation of elephant populations in Africa, thanks to the illegal ivory trade since at least the 1990s. A few years ago I think one of the royals even suggested that objects made from ivory before the international ban date should be junked as a deterrent to the poachers by making ivory absolutely unsaleable. Clearly, this view is not shared by Nuttall, who obviously is no fan of conservation and protecting the environment.

10. Opposes same-sex marriage.
This seems to be the bog-standard, default position of the majority of Kippers. Or at least, those who open their mouths.

See: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/10-reasons-to-oppose-nuttall-5075

All of this just shows that, not only is Nuttall deeply bigoted, and his party opposed to many of the institutions, not least the NHS, which have made Britain a healthy, tolerant society, but it also bears out what Tom Pride and many other bloggers have also shown: that the Kippers aren’t offering anything new, or different, but are the extreme right of the Tory party.

The Kippers and their Swedish Nazi Friends in the EU

June 14, 2016

Despite Nigel Farage’s claim that anyone having any links with the far right would not be allowed into his party, and thrown out if they were there already, the numbers of Kippers with connections to the Storm Troopers just gets bigger by the day. Last Friday, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, published a photo of two UKIP organisers in the European parliament, Jamie Illingworth and Francesca Howard, having a pint with Carl Joel Ankar. Ankar was a member of the Sweden Democrats, another bunch of Neo-Nazis that finally issued a ban against their members turning up at meetings in Nazi uniforms twenty years ago in 1996. The European parliament has had Ankar investigated twice. The first time was because Ankar had made a number of anti-Semitic and misogynist comments on another racist website, Flashback. He had called one of his former teachers ‘Jewish swine’, supported apartheid, and said that the victims of domestic abuse deserved their maltreatment because of their inability to take verbal criticism. He’d also said that he wanted to train as a lawyer so he could prosecute leftist ‘muppets’ and ‘crooked’ Jews. The second investigation was launched in November last year, 2015, after he described Sarinder Joshua Duroch, UKIP’s spokesman on ethnic minorities, as ‘untermensch’, the Nazi term for ‘subhuman’. The bloc of far right parties in the European parliament, of which UKIP was a member, took the step of sacking him as the assistant to the MEP Kristina Winberg, after the Swedish press released details of his noxious comments.

Ankar has also appeared on the Facebook page of the UKIP press officer Alistair Earl Harrison next to Liam Porter, who is chief of staff to UKIP MEP James Carver. A former UKIP staffer in the European Parliament said that the party had been aware that a large number of its members were associating with the European far right, and that several of the younger members looked up to Ankar.

So despite Farage’s platitudes and reassurances, behind him UKIP continues to be as ugly and racist as ever. These are the people you definitely don’t want to vote for in an election, and don’t want leading the ‘Leave’ campaign. Forget the stupid and mendacious accusation of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This is the real thing.

Vox Political: Vote Leave Campaigners Claim EU Membership Causes Lack of NHS Funding

May 16, 2016

Another important piece Mike put up on his blog yesterday was about the attempt of the Brexit campaigners in the Tory party to claim that David Cameron’s support for the EU is diverting funds away from the NHS. According to a report in yesterday’s Guardian,

In an email… Vote Leave’s Cleo Watson tells clinicians that her group desperately needs doctors, nurses and pharmacists to warn that Britain’s health service is being damaged by the EU.

A draft version of the letter included by Watson says: “David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt must accept responsibility for this – they have starved the NHS of necessary funding for too long.”

Mike comments that the email, backed by Michael Gove, has managed to annoy everyone. He remarks

The implication that a ‘Leave’ vote will provide more money for the NHS has incensed anybody with a brain; there is no guarantee that any funds that may be released as a result of exiting the EU will be diverted into publicly-funded healthcare.

And, of course, the call for clinicians to support the claim that the European Union has caused the damage to the health service that we have seen over the last six years has incensed them, because they know it isn’t true.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/15/brexit-tories-pretend-eu-caused-underfunding-and-dismantling-of-the-nhs-and-not-their-own-laws/ for more information.

In fact the argument that EU membership has the potential to harm continued state ownership of vital public enterprises, like NHS, is a fair one, when it comes from old school Old Labour-type Socialists, like Robin Ramsay of Lobster. In the ‘View from the Bridge’ Section of issue 71, Ramsay quotes Danny Nicol, a Professor of public law at the University of Westminster, on how the EU’s constitution promotes and protects capitalism against state ownership:

‘….the EU Treaties not only contain procedural
protections for capitalism, as is the case in the US
Constitution: they also entrench substantive policies
which correspond to the basic tenets of neoliberalism….
Imagine that a national government sought to introduce
EU legislation to allow all Member States a free choice
over the public or private ownership of their energy,
postal, telecommunications and rail sectors. It would
have to rely on the Commission – the very architect of
EU liberalisation – putting forward a proposal to the
Council and Parliament….’

See the section ‘In or Out’ at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

This is the exact opposite of what the Brexit crowd – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, John Whittingdale and Priti Patel – are saying. In fact, the reason why the NHS is being starved of cash and privatised piecemeal is because of the Tories’ own policies. Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary, last year published a book recommending the dismantling of the NHS, and previous leading Tories have said that in five years – in other words, by 2020, the NHS would no longer exist. They then hastily altered that to some verbiage about cutting bureaucracy after it was leaked to the press. Denials that they had said any such thing swiftly followed. Nevertheless, at last year’s Tory party conference, Hunt spoke in an interview about possible opportunities for private enterprise in the NHS in an presentation sponsored by the private healthcare companies.

And to confirm all this further, looking around the politics section in Waterstone’s this afternoon, I found a book laying out the case from leaving Europe by the Tory MEP for Dorset, Daniel Hannan. Hannan, or as Guy Debord’s Cat has called him, ‘the Lyin’ King’ because of cavalier attitude to awkward things like facts and historical truth, is not only a fully paid up Eurosceptic, but another who hates the NHS and would like to privatise it. So really, as far depriving the NHS of money goes, there’s really no difference between the Tories in the Brexit and the ‘Remain’ camps. Both wish to privatise the NHS. So really, it’s another case of more lies from the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. But considering the sheer duplicity and mendacity of Cameron’s government, this really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

William Blum on EU Opposition to US Telecommunications Surveillance

February 22, 2016

I found this interesting little snippet about US electronic spying in issue 118 of William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report. In it, Blum discusses the Echelon system, that allows the US to spy on phone calls around the world. The systems works by tapping phones, listening for certain trigger words. When these get picked up, the call gets recorded and passed onto the NSA, the biggest of the US’ many intelligence agencies. It’s been known about for a very long time. The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, had an article about it way back in the 1990s. What is interesting is that the EU was opposed to the system, and tried to block American spying on European citizens. Blum writes

ECHELON is carried out without official acknowledgment of its existence, let alone any democratic oversight or public or legislative debate as to whether it serves a decent purpose. The extensiveness of the ECHELON global network is a product of decades of intense Cold War activity. Yet with the end of the Cold War, its budget – far from being greatly reduced – was increased, and the network has grown in both power and reach; yet another piece of evidence that the Cold War was not a battle against something called “the international communist conspiracy”.

The European Parliament in the late 1990s began to wake up to this intrusion into the continent’s affairs. The parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee commissioned a report, which appeared in 1998 and recommended a variety of measures for dealing with the increasing power of the technologies of surveillance. It bluntly advised: “The European Parliament should reject proposals from the United States for making private messages via the global communications network [Internet] accessible to US intelligence agencies.” The report denounced Britain’s role as a double-agent, spying on its own European partners.

He then goes onto describe how the system is used by the NSA and CIA for industrial espionage against European firms. Among the victims of the US’ commercial spying have been Enercon, a German manufacturer of wind generators, Thomson S.A. and Airbus Industrie in France. He also reveals that in 1995
Germany demanded that the United States recall three CIA operatives for their activities in Germany involving economic espionage. The news report stated that the Germans “have long been suspicious of the eavesdropping capabilities of the enormous U.S. radar and communications complex at Bad Aibling, near Munich”, which is in fact an NSA intercept station. “The Americans tell us it is used solely to monitor communications by potential enemies, but how can we be entirely sure that they are not picking up pieces of information that we think should remain completely secret?” asked a senior German official. Japanese officials most likely have been told a similar story by Washington about the more than a dozen signals intelligence bases which Japan has allowed to be located on its territory.

The article also discusses the way the American intelligence services have also been active persuading the manufacturers of encryption software to hand over the keys to the code, and inserting trapdoor programmes in computer software in order to have access to the private data stored on individual computers.

This adds another, very interesting dimension to the current debate about whether Britain should remain in Europe. I’ve blogged about the way membership of the European Union protects us under certain human rights legislation, while the Social Charter guarantees certain minimal rights to European workers. It’s also sobering to find that the EU was concerned about US snooping on its citizens. And this wasn’t done for security, but simply for sheer commercial advantage.

And American technology firms can be extremely predatory. The French found that out to their misfortune when they were busy working on a cure for the HIV virus. They made all their data available free of charge, as they felt it would be immoral to patent such important and potentially life-saving information. Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished. An American rival patented the information, and then sued them for infringing their copyright, even though they had not produced the data. This piece of information does not come from a fringe magazine like Lobster, but from New Scientist.

The antics of the American and British surveillance state, and its expansion under Bush, Bliar and Cameron, is a real threat to our liberty. We’re complacent about it at our peril. I doubt this issue will never be raised at the debate about membership of the European Union, but I feel that for sake of our liberty we need to remain inside the EU. The EU has voiced opposition to such increased electronic surveillance, and at the stage I think it’s only from the EU that further concerted opposition can come. It certainly isn’t going to come from our politicos, determined to deprive us of more of our hard-won traditional freedoms under the pretext of saving us from Islamist tyranny.

Hope Not Hate on the BNP’s History of Stupidity

January 9, 2016

This is further to my last on the collapse of the BNP as a political party, thanks to them not actually bothering to register with the Electoral Commission. Hope Not Hate has an interesting and, in places, funny piece about how the BNP has very effectively managed to destroy itself through its leaders’ factionalism, venality, stupidity and massive incompetence. It’s at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/the-bnp-a-history-of-believable-incompetence-4695.

It begins

At the end of 2014 we remarked that our highlight of the year was the “total collapse of the BNP.” Nick Griffin had been booted out of the European Parliament, forced out as Chairman and then, humiliatingly, expelled from the party he had built into a once serious electoral proposition.

Between 2001 and 2009, the British National Party had an unstoppable feel about them. The party was full to burst with nazis, cranks, conspiracy theorists and even rapists and murderers. But they persisted with pushing ahead with a rebranding of an old nazi party into something that would at least look like it did not smell quite as bad as it once did.

They were picking up the odd council seat here and there, quite incredibly got a member elected onto the London Assembly in 2008, and by 2009 the party held over sixty council seats and had two MEPs. Close to one million people voted for them in the European Elections.

The BNP wanted to be seen as a serious political party; but in becoming a serious political party, Griffin had to make enemies. In November 2008 the party’s membership list was leaked by a disgruntled official. A proper party they wanted to be, but few people actually seemed to want to be on the dreaded list. Still, despite the humiliation, they forged ahead from that disaster in time to win those near one million votes. It was clear that the BNP was often its own enemy and Nick Griffin perhaps both their greatest and their worst asset.

One of the most interesting internal documents I have ever seen from the BNP was a secret letter that Griffin wrote to BNP officials after his election to Brussels in 2009- begging them to not take advantage of the European Parliament’s generosity. So aware of the likelihood of this happening was Griffin, he only entrusted party employee timesheets and expense claims to his wife Jackie (a midwife). The party’s treasurer, by all accounts a “great bloke”, was addicted to internet pornography so they had removed his office computer and given him an old ledger to work on instead.

The far right, like the far left, has a history of factionalism and in-fighting, with groups continually splitting and reforming. It’s beset with wannabe Fuehrers, Duces and Caudillos, all jockeying for power in their ambition to be the next Hitler. And their character and general behaviour is less than inspiring. I can remember way back in the early 1970s, when one of the leaders of the National Front was banged up in jail for about two weeks for stealing women’s underwear from a department store. And when they began to make electoral inroads about a decade ago, they couldn’t hold back their deep instincts to make a mess of things. Private Eye in its pages ran a number of pieces chronicling their truly impressive displays of crass ignorance and sheer inability to organise anything, or behave in anything like a reasonable or competent manner. High lights of this long career of idiocy include:

The seven BNP councillors on Tower Hamlet’s borough council not bothering to vote for a motion that the rest of the council had accepted should be put to the vote, on the grounds that they didn’t know you had to do it. As a result, the proposal failed.

A press meeting, in which various BNP members in pig masks were supposed to leap out and start slobbering over a trough to symbolise the greed of the other, mainstream parties. This also went spectacularly wrong, and thing’s didn’t quite work out.

A fight between a Labour councillor and his BNP colleague in a pub, when Dagenham and Barking council adjourned there. The Labour local politician called the stormtrooper a ‘poof’, so the squadristi responded by calling him a ‘Fascist’. Then fisticuffs broke out.

There was also much schoolboy sniggering and speculation over the sexuality of the BNP’s spokesman for the arts. He styled himself a ‘conceptual film-maker’. He was mostly known for making a art film entitled ‘HMS Venus: A Voyage into Love’ or some such, which featured naked young men frolicking in a river. This is an unusual piece, considering how totalitarian movements, like Fascism, are generally hostile to experimental art, and the far right’s own bitter homophobia.

The leak of the party’s membership lists produced yet another Downfall parody. In this one, an exasperated Hitler rants about Griffin’s incompetence.

And satire and mockery is an effective weapon against the far right. The Eye also chortled when they got hold of documents from the BNP from former members explaining why they weren’t renewing their subscriptions. One ex-member forthrightly stated it was because he was tired of the paper being a joke in Private Eye.

Well, they’ve continued being a joke, but this time, hopefully, it’ll be the democrats and anti-Fascists who have the last laugh.

Pax Christi and Christian Anti-War Groups

December 27, 2015

Several of my relatives are Roman Catholics. I was at their parish church yesterday, as I’d been invited to join them for a special family service. Looking around one of the stalls in their church carrying the church’s religious and devotional literature, I found several newsletters from Pax Christi. They’re the official Roman Catholic peace movement, and are part of a broader Christian organisation, the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. The other Christian peace groups in the Network include the following:

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Baptist Peace Fellowship
Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Christian International Peace Service
Church and Peace
Community of Reconciliation
Congregational Peace Fellowship
Fellowship of Reconciliation England
Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation
Martin Luther King Peace Committee
Methodist Peace Fellowship
Northern Friends Peace Board
Pax Christi
Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Student Christian Movement
United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship.

Pax Christi in Britain publishes a monthly newsletter, Justpeace. The April 2015 edition gives a brief history of Pax Christi International and an overview of their activities across the world. According to the newsletter, it was

founded in France in March 1945 as Catholic movement for peace and reconciliation following World War II, Pax Christi International is now a network of 115 member organisations on five continents with over a hundred thousand members worldwide.

Recognised by Pope Pius XII as the official Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi has also always been autonomous, with members of the hierarchy, clergy and laypeople working together as equals for peace and reconciliation in situations of violence and war around the world. The presidency of Pax Christi International, for example, is shared by a bishop, Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa, and a lay woman, Marie Dennis from the United States, both of whom were elected by Pax Christi member organisations.

Pax Christi International has held consultative status at the United Nations since 1979 and is working at the UN in Geneva, New York, Vienna and Paris. It is also officially represented at the African Union and the Council of Europe and has regular access to the European Parliament, the European Commission and NATO.

Among its activities across the world, Pax Christi is involved in

* a multi-year strategy to address deep-seated racism in the United States

* dynamic ‘sports for peace’ programs in South Sudan and Haiti

* strategies to integrate former combatants back into their own communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

* courses in preventive reconciliation using the principles of haikido in the Philippines.

* efforts to address destructive mining practices in Colombia and Peru;

* advocacy and campaigning at a national and international level for the abolition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; for a meaningful arms trade treaty; for an end to the use of depleted uranium in weapons.

* ‘peace week’ initiatives, many of them annual, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, the African Great Lakes region, Kosovo, Russia, Croatia, the Philippines and Colombia.

* collaboration with local partners to support active nonviolence in southern Mexico.

* excellent grassroots peace education programs in Lebanon and Philippines.

* exchanges of experience between civil society from the Middle East and from Central Europe on their role in bringing about nonviolent social change

* work with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), our partner in Brazil, in response to growing conflict over land – and

* ongoing work with civil society groups in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations and Trident at the General Election

The NCPO also produced a General Election Briefing for this last year’s election in order to promote disarmament and specifically to tackle the government’s intention to introduce Trident. Their very short – four page! – pamphlet outlined the way Christians and church groups could work to promote peace, and had short sections on the issues of Military Spending and Human Security, Renewal of Trident, the UK Arms Trade , the UK Armed Drones Programme and Britain’s Role in the World. It included questions and requests that should be asked of politicians respecting these issues. The pamphlet also carried details of other organisations dealing with those specific issues and their websites.

Pax Christi and Atomic Weapons

Pax Christi also produced a little pamphlet outlining their opposition to nuclear weapons. This included statements by the Church, including papacy, condemning them. Pope Francis last year (2014) declared that ‘Nuclear deterrence cannot be the basis for an ethics of solidarity and peaceful coexistence among people and states’.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2007 was much stronger in his condemnation. He said, ‘What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries?… that nuclear weapons have any place in civilised society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims’.

The Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World in 1965 states in article 80 that

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities and or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

This is all enough to have Pat Robertson and the right-wing American evangelicals start screaming ‘Social gospel! Social gospel!’ at the top of their lungs, before launching into a long tirade about how ‘cultural Marxism’ is undermining society. And just to show you how ‘Christian’ some of these right-wingers are, a few of them flew into a rage this past year when Pope Francis said something rather left-wing. They like Christianity, but only when it appears to support their prejudices and policies.

I’m not a member of Pax Christi or any of the other organisations. But if you’re a Christian and would like to join their witness for peace, their address is:

NCPO, c/o Pax Christi,
St Joseph’s, Watford Way,
London NW4 4TY

and their website is http://www.ncpo.org.uk

Pax Christi is also on the web. Their address is http://www.paxchristi.net.

May God bless them and their work.

Mirror: Farage Wants to Wealthy to Abandon NHS

March 18, 2015

Yesterday’s Daily Mirror carried the story UKIP leader Nigel Farage wants wealthy to abandon NHS and advocates two-tier health system reporting that the Fuhrage had urged those who could afford to do so to opt for private healthcare. The Mirror also reported that on Pienaar’s Politics’ on Radio 5 Live, the Purple Duce claimed that private healthcare offered a better service than the NHS. He also supported foreign private healthcare firms entering the country, on the grounds that they brought a lot of money into the economy. The article states that this is just the latest attack on the NHS by Farage, and cited the video of Farage’s speech way back in 2012 in which he stated he’d rather see people pick up private health insurance than have £100 million in tax annually spent on the NHS.

The article also notes that Farage wasn’t the only one to attack the NHS. Bill Etheridge, one of Farage’s Euro MPs, had stated that certain elective operations should not be performed by the NHS. This would cover non-essential and cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment.

He also claimed that only 20 per cent of the country’s top youngster should go to University. These kids would then have their education totally financed by the state.

The Labour MP John Spellar attacked his recommendation, saying that it would mean that higher education was reserved solely for the elite from private schools. It would also wipe out some of the new university towns such as Wolverhampton and Birmingham City.

And he also made the point that if Etheridge and Fuhrage had their way, non-essential but nevertheless important operations like hip replacements would be very difficult to get.

The article began:

Mr Farage said: “If people can afford it, should people go private? Yes… private medicine brings a lot of money into this country and is no bad thing”

Wealthy Nigel Farage today called on people to abandon the NHS and use private health firms instead.

The UKIP leader said anyone who can afford private healthcare should pay for it.

Furious critics said it proved he supports a two-tier health system.

“If people can afford it, should people go private? Yes,” Mr Farage said.

Grahame Morris, a member of the Commons health select committee, said: “Nigel Farage has let the cat out of the bag.

“UKIP are proposing a break with the fundamental principles of the National Health Service.”

The article’s at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/amazon-review-nigel-farage-book-5352039

I blogged earlier in the week about the profound disadvantages of private medical insurance. Rather than being more efficient than the NHS, it is more expensive, more bureaucratic and specifically excludes certain, expensive conditions that are difficult or impossible to treat, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. Or at least it did when Robin Cook published his own pamphlet attacking the marketization of the NHS nearly thirty years ago. I really don’t think much has changed since. The people, who really benefit from private medical insurance are the wealthy and the well, the two sections of the population, who really don’t need it.