Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Human Rights Lawyer Maria LaHood on Israel’s Suppression of Criticism in the US

September 25, 2018

This is another video from the conference ‘Israel’s Influence: Good or Bad for America?’, organized by the American Educational Trust, which publishes the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs; and Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. The speaker in this piece is Maria LaHood, a deputy legal director at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, who works to defend the constitutional rights of Palestinian civil rights activists in the US. In this clip she describes some of the cases she’s worked on defending Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists from legal attack by the Israel lobby. These includes the case of the Olympia Co-op, Professor Stephen Salaita, and filing Freedom of Information Act Requests to obtain government documents about Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. The speaker also says she works on the Right to Heal Initiative, helping Iraqi civil society and veterans seeking accountability for the damage to Iraqis’ health from the last war. She’s also challenged the American government over the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and Caterpillar over its sale of the bulldozer used to kill Rachel Corey to Israel. Before joining the Centre, she also worked campaigning for affordable housing in the Bay area of San Francisco.

She begins by talking about attempts to harass, prosecute and suppress pro-Palestinian students and professors at US universities.

The first case she talks about is Professor Stephen Salaita, an esteemed Palestinian-American lecturer, who had a tenured position at Virginia Tech University. He was offered a position at the University of Illinois, Urban Champagne on its Native American Studies programme, which he accepted. He was due to begin his new job at the University of Illinois in the summer of 2014. During that summer he watched, horrified, Israel’s devastation of Gaza and tweeted about it. Two weeks before he was due to take up his post, he received an email from the Chancellor telling him not to bother because he would not be accepted by the Board of Trustees. The professor and his family were thus left without jobs, an income, health insurance and a home.

Salaita lost his job due to a self-declared Zionist, who’d been following his tweets. These were published on the right-wing blog, Legal Insurrection. Professor Salaita was also targeted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League. Also, wealthy donors to the uni threatened to withdraw their money. The Chancellor and the Board later stated that they withdrew his job offer based on those tweets, which they considered uncivil, and anti-Semitic. LaHood states that accusations of anti-Semitism is commonly used to silence criticism of Israel. Christopher Kennedy, who led the Board’s rejection of Salaita, was later given an award by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

CCR sued the university, the trustees and top administrators. The court found in his favour, and the Chancellor resigned a few hours later the next day, and the Provost resigned a few weeks later. LaHood states that last autumn (2015) Salaita became the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, and settled his case for $875,000 against the university. LaHood paid tribute to the immense grassroots support for Salaita, with thousands signing petitions, five thousand professors boycotted the university, and 16 U of I departments voted ‘no confidence’ in the administration. The American Association of Professors also censured the university. Salaita went on to talk about his experience to more than 50 unis, and his works on Israel and settler colonialism are more popular than ever.

The Olympia Food Co-op is a local food co-op in Olympia, Washington; a non-profit organization, it has been very involved in social work and political self-determination. It has adopted a number of boycotts, and in 2010 the board voted by consensus to boycott Israeli goods. Five of the co-op’s 22,000 members voted to prosecute the 16 board members, who’d passed the vote, over a year later. Six months before the lawsuit was filed, the Israeli consul general to the Pacific northwest, based in San Francisco, travelled to Olympia to meet the co-chairs of Stand With Us Northwest, the lawyer representing those suing, and some Olympia activists. Stand With Us is a non-profit organization supporting Israel around the world. It is one of the groups trying to suppress free speech on Israel in the US. It maintains dossiers on Palestinian rights activists. The five issued a letter to the board members telling them to rescind the boycott or else they would be sued and held personally accountable. They were accused of violating the co-op’s governing principles, and the board asked their accusers how they had done this, and invited them to put their proposal to a membership vote, according to the co-op’s bye-laws. The accusers refused to do so, and went ahead and filed the suit. After they did so, Stand With Us put it out on their website that they had brought the suit in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spearheaded by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Alon. Alon admitted that the Israelis were behind the lawsuit, and using it to amplify their power.

CCR then sued, using an anti-SLAPP motion. SLAPP stands for ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Half the states in America have legislation to deter the abuse of laws to chill free speech. The trial court dismissed the case as a SLAPP, held the Board had the authority to initiate the boycott, and awarded them each $10,000. The accusers launched an appeal, this was turned down, and they then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Washington Supreme Court turned down the anti-SLAPP motion, and referred the case back to the trial court. The CCR’s motion to dismiss the case again was denied. The case goes on, and the board members, most of whom are no longer in their post, have been subject to discovery and intimidation. The boycott of Israeli foods continues, however.

LaHood states that these are not isolated incidents, but only two of numerous cases where those, who speak out on Palestine are attacked. In September 2015 the CCR and their partner, Palestine Legal, issued a report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in US, documenting the increasing attempts in the US to silence and punish advocacy in favour of Palestine and speech on Israel, including BDS. The report details to the tactics and many cases studies, and is available on both of the organisations’ websites. In 2015 Palestine legal dealt with 240 cases of suppression, including false accusations of terrorism and anti-Semitism. 80% of those incidents were against students and professors at 75 campuses, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. She talks about some of these tactics and cases, such as that of the Irvine 11, who were criminally prosecuted for walking out of a speech by the-then Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren. Several schools have been given complaints by the Zionist Organisation of America, claiming that advocacy on campus for Palestinian rights creates a pro-anti-Semitism atmosphere on campus. Even though these complaints are unconstitutional, universities respond by investigating those accused and cracking down on speech.

These complaints are not only brought by the Z of A, but also the Brandeis Centre, the Ampline Centre, Sheriat Hedin, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Anti-Defamation League amongst others. Netanyahu has launched a full attack on BDS, which Israel has declared to be the biggest threat it faces. Movements to divest from Israel across America have been accused of being anti-Semitic. The American Studies Association was received death threats when they voted to endorse the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Sheriat Hedin, the Israeli law centre, threatened to sue them if they didn’t end the boycott. Sheriat Hedin admits that it takes advice on which cases to pursue from Mossad and Israel’s National Security Council. Also in response to the ASA’s decision, legislatures around the country voted on bills to withhold state funding from colleges that used any state aid to fund academic organisations advocating a boycott of Israel. Mobilisation of public opinion prevented these bills from being passed, but now 15 states have introduced anti-boycott legislation. Some states have also passed non-binding resolutions against the BDS, but those have no legal effect. Last year (2015) Illinois passed a law demanding a black list of foreign companies that boycott Israel and compelled the state pension fund to divest from those companies. Florida passed a similar bill in 2016, which also outlaws state contracts with such companies for amounts over a million dollars. New York has even worse legislation pending.

The US Congress has introduced legislation to protect these state laws from federal pre-emption challenges, but these cannot prevent challenges under the First Amendment. Anti-Boycott provisions were introduced into the Federal Trade Promotions Authority Law, making it a priority to discourage BDS from Israel and the Occupied Territories. More information can be found about anti-BDS legislation at righttoboycott.org. Anti-BDS isn’t confined to the US. Israel has anti-boycott damages legislation and France has criminalized BDS. And people have been arrested for wearing BDS T-shirts.

She states that these laws are an extension of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. They have no defence, so they attempt to stop the debate. Free speech and free inquiry is essential to the functioning of democracy, especially at universities, and open debate helps shape public attitudes. Campus opposition helped turn the tide against the Vietnam War, Apartheid in South Africa and will eventually do the same against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. The mounting opposition to people working against the occupation and other violations of international law shows how strong the pro-Palestinian movement is, and how it will eventually win.

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Tory Voter ID Scheme Is a Devise to Stop People Voting

May 9, 2018

The council elections last Thursday were also the occasion for the Tories to test their latest wheeze regarding people’s right to vote. This purports to stamp out electoral fraud by demanding that only people carrying proof of their ID should be allowed to cast a vote at the polling station. The scheme was trialled in Bromley, Woking, Gosport and Swindon. As a result, a total 3,981 people were prevented from voting in these constituencies. People were turned away from about one in five polling stations.

Mike reported this on his blog, making the point that their were only 28 cases of voter fraud amongst 45 million people in 2917. He commented that as a scheme to allow everyone to vote, who had a right to vote, it was a complete disaster. But he went to suggest that this wasn’t the real reason for the scheme. This was to cut down on the number of people able to vote for the competing parties.

He then quoted Labour’s Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, who stated that there was no point in introducing the scheme in the first place, and that the government had ignored the warning signs to set up a discriminatory scheme which denied people their right to vote.

She demanded that the government abandon the scheme, saying “We cannot allow the Conservative Party to undermine our democracy, which is why Labour is calling on the Government to scrap their voter ID plans as a matter of urgency.”

And Mike concluded his article with the comment

If the Conservatives go ahead with this, based on the evidence we’ve seen, we’ll know they are trying to nobble democracy.

Over to you, Tories.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/05/voter-id-pilot-turned-away-too-many-people-tories-are-bound-to-roll-it-out-across-the-uk/

Actually, there shouldn’t be any doubt about this. The Tories are trying to nobble democracy. A year or so ago I put up piece about a similar scheme introduced by the Republicans in America. This altered the rules for registering to vote, ostensibly with the same intention of preventing voter fraud. In fact, it was intended to deprive the Democrats of votes by making more difficult for students, the poor and Blacks, who form a large part of the Democrats’ electoral support, to vote. One Republican in one of the southern states actually admitted this. The issue was reported and heavily commented on by some of the American left-wing alternative news sites, like The Young Turks. I’d guess that there’s a similar situation in Britain, where support for the Labour party is strongest amongst the young, the poor and ethnic minorities. All of whom might find it more difficult to produce proof of their identities than older, richer Whites.

Not that the Democrats themselves haven’t been averse to using similar methods. Counterpunch in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate reported a similar scheme introduced by them in Florida, which resulted in thousands of Blacks and Latinos being turned away.

The Tories have taken very many of their ideas from the Republicans over the pond. These include the introduction of private police forces, which was dreamed up in the 1980s by Libertarians like Rothbard, E. Nozick and Gauthier in Canada, as part of their ideal ‘minarchist’ state. Rothbard wanted to privatise the courts, which is probably too loony even for the Tories and Republicans. But you never know. Fiddling the voting requirements to stop people voting for the opposing party, all under the pretense of fighting electoral fraud, seems to be another idea they’ve adopted from the Republicans.

Cat Smith and Mike are right. This is all about nobbling democracy and denying people their right to vote. And if the Tories think it has given them a better chance at the polls, they will introduce it nationally. It has to be stopped. Now.

Proud Haitians Defend Country as Free Black Republic after Trump’s ‘Sh*thole Countries’ Comments

January 14, 2018

Yesterday there were mass demonstrations in America, and expressions of outrage around the rest of the world at Trump’s grotesque comments about immigrants to America from ‘sh*thole countries’. As Mike put up on his blog, one of the countries that was most definitely not impressed was Botswana in Africa. This tiny African state, with a population of 2 million, has, as Mike pointed out, the highest growth rate in Africa, and a tradition of stable democratic government. It’s a developing nation, but definitely not a ‘sh*thole’. And the country’s authorities seemed determined to make that point when they called the American ambassador in to explain if their nation was one of the countries Trump was sneering at.

I was particularly impressed by a young Haitian woman, who appeared on the BBC news yesterday when the Corporation covered a demonstration against Trump and his racist comments in Florida. She stated that Haitians were a proud people, and that their country became the first Black republic, where the slaves overthrew their masters. She’s absolutely right. Modern Haiti was created by the ‘Black Jacobins’ under Toussaint Louverture, who organised a slave revolt inspired by the Revolution in France. Haiti had been a French colony, but they toppled colonial rule, and threw the French out. Louverture then renamed the country ‘Haiti’, rather than continue using the old French/ European colonial name, justifying the change by claiming that this was the indigenous name for it.

Lourverture’s revolution sent a shock wave throughout the Caribbean and America. It was an inspiration to Blacks struggling for their freedom, and alarmed the colonial authorities. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw a series of slave revolts break out in the Caribbean, by enslaved people impatient for their freedom. These were ruthlessly and brutally suppressed, as the colonial authorities feared the influence of Haiti upon their enslaved subjects, and that the slaves would be in contact with the Haitian revolutionaries. And some free Black Americans moved to Haiti after they obtained their freedom. Major Moody, a British army officer, who was sent to the Caribbean in the 1820s to produce a report on whether the enslaved people of the British colonies were ready for emancipation, includes in his report correspondence between a Black American, who had done this, and his former mistress in America, who had freed him.

Haiti is a desperately poor country, as has been shown by the suffering and destruction it has sustained in recent years through a series of disasters. But much of this poverty and deprivation comes from American imperial intervention. The Americans invaded in the 1920s as part of their campaign to assert their dominance over the Caribbean, and defend their economic interests. And they’ve done the same thing at various intervals throughout the 20th and now the 21st century. A little while ago I found a piece on YouTube – I think it might have been by Abby Martin of TeleSur English’s The Empire Files, or it could have been the Real News people, which made the point that when the Americans invaded again a few years ago to overthrow the latest dictator, it wasn’t because of his human rights record. Rather, it was because he was redistributing wealth, which threatened American corporate interests once again. And the dictator’s left-wing opponent was kept from standing and taking over office through armed soldiers posted outside his house. It was the same pattern of invasion and coup that has been repeated over and over again, around the world, whenever a smaller, weaker country elects anyone remotely left-wing, or otherwise threatens the dominance of the big American corporations in their country’s economy. Just like Hillary Clinton five years ago in 2012 gave her backing to the Fascist coup which overthrew the liberal regime in Honduras.

One peculiar consequence of the American invasion of Haiti has been the rise of the zombie movie. The first of these appeared shortly after the 1920s American invasion, and left-wing, anti-colonial critics have argued that the movies represent an attempt by the country’s new colonial masters to present a picture of it as a terrifying land, steeped in superstition and black magic. Since then the zombie movie has moved away from Haiti to America itself, and under George A. Romero also developed satirical overtones criticising contemporary American society and capitalism. Like in one of his movies, the survivors seeks refuge in a mall.

Trump’s comments were offensive, and they clearly stung the pride of migrants to America, who nevertheless still felt strong bonds with their countries of origin, as well as the other peoples in the Developing World. But the young Haitian woman speaking up for her mother country made a very good point about how important it was for Black history. And if many of these countries are poor, ruled over by brutal, corrupt governments responsible for human rights abuses, one of the reasons is because the Americans have assisted these thugs into power to stop any redistribution of wealth or growth of democracy. All under the guise of protecting the world from the threat of Communism, and upholding American corporate interests. People around the world have been demanding that Trump apologise for his comments. They’re right, but it’s not just his comments that need to be critically analysed and opposed. It’s American imperialism itself, and the underlying cynical contempt for the nations of the Developing World and their people, who are there to be abused and sneered at in the interests of American corporate capitalism.

Books on Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Archaeology

December 30, 2017

A few months ago I got through the post the 2017 archaeology catalogue for Eurospan University Presses. Amongst some of the fascinating books listed were several on the archaeology of Black communities in America and the Caribbean. As you’ll see, they’re at prices well beyond what ordinary readers can afford. They’re really available only to the rich and academic libraries. If you’ve got access to one near you, then I recommend you try to borrow it from there. Some universities do lend to members of the public in the summer holidays when most of the students have gone home. It might also be possible to get it on interlibrary loan, although this can also mean a long wait and isn’t cheap either. The last time I enquired about it at Bristol, I was told the price was £5 per book. Which means that if you want to borrow more than one, it can become very expensive very quickly. Dam’ Tories and their cuts! I don’t know, but it may also be that some of these books may be available in PDF form over the Net at a cheaper rate. This isn’t mentioned in the catalogue, but it might be so. Alternatively, you could see if there are secondhand copies on Amazon. On the other hand, it might be worth waiting to see if a paperback edition comes out, which may be cheaper.

Here are the books I found interesting, and the blurbs for them in the catalogue.

Archaeologies of African American Life in the Upper Mid-Atlantic, edited by Michael J. Gall & Richard F. Veit
9780817319656 Hardback £74.50

Provides insights into the archaeology and cultural history of African-American life from a collection of sites in the northeastern US. This volume explores the archaeology of African-American life and cultures in the Upper Mid-Atlantic region, suing sites dating from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

University of Alabama Press.

Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves and the Founding of Miami, Andre F. Krank, 9780813054513, hardback £18.50

Formed seemingly out of steel, glass, and concrete with millions of residents from around the globe, Miami has ancient roots that can be hard to imagine today. This work takes readers back through forgotten eras to the stories of the people who shaped the land along the Miami River long before most modern histories of the city begin.

University of Florida Press.

Honoring Ancestors in Sacred Space: The Archaeology of an Eighteenth Century African Bahamian Cemetery, Grace Turner, 9781683400202, hardback £79.50.

Throughout life, black Africans in the Bahamas possessed material items of various degrees of importance to them and within their culture. St. Matthews was a cemetery in Nassau at the water’s edge – or sometimes slightly below. This project emerged from archaeological excavations at this site to identify and recover materials associated with the interned before the area was completely redeveloped.

University Press of Florida.

The Rosewood Massacre: An archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence, Edward Gonzalez Tennant. 9780813056784, £84.95.

Investigates the 1923 massacre that devastated the predominantly African American community of Rosewood, Florida. The author draws on cutting edge GIS technology, census data, artefacts from excavations, and archaeological theory to explore the local circumstances and broader socio-political power structures that led to the massacre.

University Press of Florida.

Simplicity, Equality and Slavery: An Archaeology of Quakerism in the British Virgin Islands, 1740-1780, John M. Chenoweth, 9781683400110 hardback, £79.50.

Inspired by the Quaker ideals of simplicity, equality, and peace, a group of White planters formed a community in the British Virgin Islands during the eighteenth century. Here, the author examines how the community navigated the contradictions of Quakerism and plantation ownership.

University Press of Florida.

These books sound very interesting. There have been a lot of research into the homes and communities of Black Americans over the past couple of decades. They’ve been excavated in New York, and also the slave communities owned by the Founding Fathers, like Benjamin Franklin. In the case of excavating cemeteries, it’s obviously a particularly sensitive area, and the archaeologists involved have obviously had to be particularly careful in their negotiations of the host Black community and the surviving relatives of the deceased. As you should when excavating any human remains.

From what I gather from reading elsewhere, cemeteries and burial grounds are of particular importance in Afro-Caribbean culture, where it’s associated not only with personal heritage and family history and identity but also occupation of the land.

I remember correctly, the 1923 Rosewood massacre was White supremacist pogrom against the Black community in Rosewood, their politicians and their White supporters and allies. This was before McCarthyism, when the American Left was still very strong, and the Republican party the more left-wing of the two main political parties. The town’s mayor was Black, and the town council included Socialists. Even the Republicans issued a statement condemning the treatment of the poor, the corrupt corporate politics keeping them there, and declaring healthcare and education a right. Obviously the Conservatives and the Klan really couldn’t tolerate that, and stirred up resentment until it boiled over into organised violence.

As for the Quaker plantation in the British Virgin Islands, the Quakers very early denounced and condemned slavery as fundamentally opposed to their principles. John Fox, the sect’s founder, denounced and by their laws no member could own slaves. Nevertheless, the acceptance of slavery was so deeply ingrained in European society, that its rejection was not easy for many to accept. And although they were condemned from owning or dealing in slaves, some Quakers did make their cash through supplying the slave ships. If you want to know more about the Quakers, their ideals in this period, then I recommend you read David Dabydeen’s history of the Quakers in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sugar and Slaves.

From the JFK Files: CIA Planned False Flag Attack from USSR

November 27, 2017

This is another interesting little piece from Jason Unruhe at Maoist Rebel News. Unruhe, sporting a black and orange Mohican, reports that amongst the other recently declassified documents relating to JFK, there were details of a false flag operation planned by the CIA to start a war with Russia. The agency wanted to convert a couple of American planes so that they resembled, at least from a distance, Soviet MIG fighters. Or alternatively, they would use real MIGs purchased from countries outside the Warsaw Pact. The planes would be used to stage an attack on America, which would then be blamed on the Russians.

Fortunately, the plan was never put into action. The costs of converting the American planes was much too high, at over a million dollars for each plane. Technical experts stated that it would be impossible, and the results would not be convincing except from a distance.

Unruhe points out that this shows how far the American military was prepared to go – to start a war that would easily have ended up in a nuclear inferno – in order to attack a nation that had defied American imperialism.

In fairness, American imperialism wasn’t the only issue involved here. The Communist states established by the Soviet Union were dictatorships, and alternative, competing political parties and organisations had been suppressed by force. But it’s also fair to say that what also terrified the Americans, and other, western leaders, was that an aggressive alternative to capitalism had emerged. In the 1950s under Khrushchev standards of living in the USSR rose to such an extent, and the economy prospered, that the Americans were seriously afraid that the USSR would overtake America as the richer, more affluent society. Hence the determination to find any means of discrediting Communism and destroying the USSR.

And this appears to be just one of a number of false flag attacks that the CIA dreamed up to blame on America’s enemies elsewhere in the world. A little while ago I remember posting up a piece about how the CIA also planned a series of bomb attacks in Miami and other cities in Florida, which they hoped to blame on Castro’s Cuba. All in order to start a war there, and restore the brutal Bautista regime, which Castro had overthrown.

There is now a section of the American population which really, really doesn’t trust their government. At it’s most extreme, this milieu is represented by people like Alex Jones, who rants about how the globalist elites are somehow in a weird alliance with evil aliens, or demons, and planning to destroy the world and turn the survivors into genderless transhuman cyborgs. All through socialism and feminism and with the use of FEMA camps. Many others simply don’t believe that Islamist terrorists were responsible for 9/11, and instead think that it was a false flag attack conducted by their own government with the intention of starting a war.

In fact, the line that attempted to connect Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attack was a lie. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it, and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda hated Hussein’s secular Iraq as much as they hated America. The ultimate responsibility for 9/11 lies with the Saudis. 17 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, and the operation was planned and funded by people very high up in the Saudi political hierarchy. But this was far too inconvenient for Bush and later Obama to reveal to the American public, and so they suppressed those pages of the report into the attack.

Given the numerous false flag attacks that the American military has planned and carried out against its own people, including the Gulf of Tonkin incident which provided the pretext for the Vietnam War, it isn’t even remotely surprising that so many Americans are highly sceptical of the official stories about 9/11.

Yesterday’s Science Fiction as Today’s Reality: Bruce Sterling’s ‘Heavy Weather’

September 13, 2017

Bruce Sterling was, with William Gibson, one of the leading members of the ‘Mirrorshades’ group of SF writers, who launched cyberpunk in the 1980s. This is the SF genre set in dystopian, corporate futures, whose streetwise picaresque heroes entire a VR cyberspace through jacking into the Web. If you want an idea what the genre’s like, see the film Blade Runner, although the film actually came out while Gibson was writing his groundbreaking novel, Neuromancer.

This week the news has been dominated by hurricane Harvey and the other storms that are wreaking such havoc in Florida, Bermuda and other parts of the Caribbean. In a previous article I put up this evening about Trump’s appointment of Jim Bridenstine, a scientific illiterate, who doesn’t believe in climate change as head of NASA, I discussed how Jimmy Dore and his co-host Steffi Zamorano and Ron Placone had said that these storms bear out the continuing decline of the Earth’s climate. Way back in the early part of this century, after several heatwaves, climate scientists warned that climate change meant that the weather would become more extreme.

And Bruce Sterling wrote an entire book about the superstorms that would arise due to climate change in his 1994 SF novel, Heavy Weather (London: Millennium).

This was set in the devastated Texas of the early 21st century, where the aquifers have dried up. It’s a state wracked by violent storms, where thousands have been left homeless and forced into refugee camps by the unstable climate. The blurb for the book reads

2031 – the atmosphere’s wrecked. The Storm Troupers – media unit, scientists, techno-freaks – get their kicks from weather. Hooked up to drones through virtual-reality rigs, they can plunge like maddened darts into the eye of a storm and surf a ride from hell.

Their Holy Grail: the F6, a tornado so intense it’s off the scale. Dangerous in the extreme. Also dangerous: certain people’s sick dreams, full of tornado trails, shining insane paths of endless howling destruction.

The high-tech wonders of a decaying world … and a bunch of wild nomads longing to be blown away.

I think the book was a response by literary SF to the film Twister, about a group of meteorologists chasing tornadoes across the southern US, starring Piers Brosnan. I don’t think we’ve quite reached the level where masses of Americans are being left homeless in refugee camps, nor are their groups quite like the Storm Troupers. But these violent storms are becoming a reality, and will become ever worse as the climate deteriorates.

As Max Headroom used to say in his trailers for Channel 4: ‘The future…is now’.

And it’s disgusting that Trump’s trying to close down climate research, and put in charge of NASA someone who knows precious little about science, and doesn’t believe in climate change.

Jimmy Dore on Pensioner Attacking Hillary Clinton’s Opposition to Universal Healthcare

September 7, 2016

This is another video from Jimmy Dore, an American comedian and political commentators, whose been a regular guest on The Young Turks. In this video, he discusses an interview The Turks’ roving reporter, Jordan Cheriton, had with an elderly lady, who described her experience of being denied medical cover until she finally got Medicare. Medicare is the American system, in which the state pays for the healthcare of those too poor to have private medical insurance. This lady was denied private health insurance because she had a pre-existing condition: asthma. She only got medical cover through Medicare after thirty years or so without it.

Cheriton met her at a meeting of the supporters of Grayson, the progressive Democrat candidate for Florida, who’s one of those following in the footsteps of Bernie Sanders. Sanders was the self-described ‘Democratic Socialist’, who wanted to introduce universal healthcare in America, and whose bid for the presidency was blocked by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democrat party machine. This lady and Dore attack the opponents of state healthcare, who accuse its supporters amongst the younger generation of ‘having it too easy’ and not knowing anything about the real world. One of those is Shrillary. Dore has a clip of her from earlier this year, voicing her opinion that state medicine is impractical, and ranting that ‘it will never happen’. One of Dore’s producers points out that back in the 1990s, she was in favour of universal state-paid healthcare, until the cheques from private enterprise came in. Dore is also suitably scathing about the charge that universal single-payer healthcare is ‘utopian’ in Hillary’s words, when the rest of the world has it. The lady at the meeting, and in the later interview with Cheriton, states that she’s glad the young people support state healthcare, and wants the old politicians who oppose it to move aside so they can come through.

Here’s the video:

I’m putting this up because this is the reality of the American healthcare system. Robin Cook in his pamphlet on the NHS for the Fabian Society nearly thirty years ago pointed out that private medicine discriminates against people with long-standing illness, because of the greater expense of treating them. They concentrate on covering relatively healthy people, who they can make a profit from, as they don’t need to pay out so often. And, of course, private insurance only works if you can afford, which 20 per cent of Americans can’t due to escalating medical bills.

This is the system which Thatcher, Blair, Brown, Cameron and now Theresa May want to introduce in Britain. This is why Jeremy Hunt has described the NHS as ‘an abomination’, and the Tories are manufacturing a funding crisis in the NHS. They’re doing so because they’ve also got connections to private healthcare firms, and the American healthcare companies are seeking to expand because of growing dissatisfaction over that side of the Pond with private healthcare. Over half of Americans now want a state healthcare system, like Canada and the rest of the world.

Don’t have any illusions on this score about New Labour wishing to support the NHS. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown laid much of the foundations for the continuing Tory privatisation of the health service, but were determined not to let anyone know, as, like Thatcher before them, they realised that it would lose them the election. This is the healthcare system that New Labour – Progress, Tomorrow’s Labour, Saving Labour and the other Blairite shills support. It’s why the Conservative media have put so much into attacking Corbyn, as he threatens to undermine it and their corporate masters by renationalising the NHS.

Don’t give your vote to them or the Tories. Defend the NHS, and support Corbyn, while there’s still time.

On a different issue, I notice one of the guys listening to her speak is a young Asian bloke wearing an ‘Islamic Relief’ T-shirt. He’s obviously a religious Muslim, who takes serious the obligation under Islam to provide alms to the poor. Many British Muslims also do. My parents met one young Muslim lady doing the same when giving to the local food bank. I guess she and he must be the horrendous Muslims coming to destroy British society in advance of ISIS. (Sarcasm). It’s been pointed out again and again that immigrants are actually net contributors to society, as they actually pay more in taxes than they take out. But this gets forgotten in the racist hysteria.

The Nazi Murder of Jo Cox MP

June 18, 2016

It’s been a week for murder by extreme right-wing nutters. On Monday the world was shocked by the news that a gunman, Omar Mateen, had opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Before he was killed in turn by armed police, he had killed 49 people and wounded another 50.

Then on Thursday another maniac, Thomas Mair, shot to death Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen. Cox had just been holding a surgery, meeting her constituents in a library in Birstall, a village in Yorkshire. She was outside the library when Thomas Mair shot her twice, first in the face, and then on the ground, before stabbing her. Mair was tackled by a very brave local man. A witness, Hitham ben Abdullah, said the gun looked homemade. Before Mair attacked her, he was heard shouting ‘Britain First’, or ‘You don’t put Britain first’, either in reference to the Referendum – Cox was a supporter of the Remain team – or the British Nazi group of the same name.

Britain First’s initial reaction was to deny they had any connection to Mair and the murder. Others on the extreme right were all too eager to express their sympathies for the murderer’s actions. Daniel Hall, a member of the Notts Casuals Infidels, from Sutton in Ashfield, posted on their Facebook page that ‘We knew it was only a matter of time before we took it to the next level. We have been mugged off of for far too long.’ Hall is the brother of Jordan, a Kipper and an activist for Pegida. The Notts Casuals Infidels are a mixture of the EDL and the North West Infidels, another anti-Islam group. He also said that another politician, Rachel Maskell, the MP for York Central, needed to ‘disappear’. And the South East Infidels greeted the shocking news of Cox’s murder with a post on Facebook hoping that the murderer was a Muslim.

See the article in Hope Not Hate http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/in-an-hour-of-darkness-fascists-live-out-sick-their-fantasies-4918.

Nick Griffin, now sponging off eastern European Nazis after he was ousted from the BNP, attacked Cox as a warmonger for supporting the bombing of Syria. And the north east branch of the Nazi group, National Action put up a post urging its readers ‘Don’t let this man’s [Mair’s] sacrifice be in vain. Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!’

Mair himself had a long history of mental illness. However, it seems he was also a very committed member of the Nazi right. From the late 1990s to the early years of this century he purchased $600 worth of books from National Vanguard Books, the publishing arm of the National Alliance, America’s and the world’s biggest neo-Nazi organisation. The books he bought were manuals showing how guns and ammunition could be made from ordinary ingredients and parts bought in hardware stores. Mair appears to have been very much a peripheral figure in the extreme Far-Right. At one time he attended the meetings of the Springbok Club, a society for pro-Apartheid expatriate White South Africans, and may have gone to the meetings of the ultra-Conservative Swinton Circle/ London Swinton Circle.

As for Britain First, while they’ve disowned him, they did run camps instructing their members how to defend themselves in knife fights, and promised ‘militant action’ and ‘direct action’, against elected Muslim politicians, whom they regard as ‘occupiers’, leading the Islamification of Britain. One of these ‘occupiers’ is the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. On the night of her election, Cox was shown with a shawl round her head in the company of some of her Muslim constituents. This would have sent Britain First and similar Nazis into apoplexy, as they would have seen her as a collaborator and ‘race traitor’.
See the Hope Not Hate article: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/a-hater-at-heart-4919
This also makes sense of an comment a ‘John Gaines’ posted over on Mike’s blog at Vox Political, which ran ‘Here we go, what have you Political imbeciles done to our Country? you scum will not stop until we are completely another damn Middle East mess. Never mind ‘Remain’ run for your lives from all political idiots.’ Which shows what a political idiot Mr Gaines is.
See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/16/mp-critically-injured-after-shooting-and-stabbing-attack/#comments.

Despite the cruddy attitude from the Far Right, which you’d expect, MPs and the leaders of all the mainstream parties expressed their shock and sadness at Cox’s death. Referendum campaigning has been suspended, and the other parties will not contest Jo Cox’s seat.

Cox was a woman of deep integrity and compassion, by all accounts. She was dedicated not just to her constituents, but had also been an active member of Oxfam. She should have had a brilliant political career ahead of her. Instead she was murdered in cold blood in the street by a maniac. She leaves a husband and two children.

Trying to Make Sense of the Senseless in Orlando

June 14, 2016

Yesterday, the world was shocked by the news that Omar Mateen from Afghanistan had gone into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire with a gun. 50 people were killed and another 50 were injured before the thug was finally shot by the cops. Today, people have been lighting candles in remembrance, and sending their hopes, prayers and best wishes to friends, lovers and relatives of the victims and the people of Orlando. People around the world, whatever their sexuality, are standing with the gay community to show their hate and disgust at the crime.

Unfortunately, some morons over here have chosen to learn the wrong lesson. Mike put up two posts yesterday about the effect this would have on the Vote Leave campaign. In the first he expressed his fears that they would seize on it to promote more fears of immigrants. And in the second, he expressed his disgust at finding them realised. Some idiots in the ‘Leave’ campaign had stuck up a piece warning that if Britain didn’t leave the EU, something like it would happen here.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/13/will-misunderstanding-of-orlando-shootings-give-brexit-campaign-a-xenophobic-boost/

No, you numbskulls! The message of Orlando is that the US needs to ban guns, not that the UK should leave the EU!

This last piece has an eye-opening, and eye-watering list of the stupid reasons some people gave for shooting others. These include domestic arguments in which one spouse has grabbed the gun, so the other grabbed it and shot the other one.

In fact, Britain already has had something like the mass killing in Orlando. This was 7/7, when four suicide bombers killed and maimed hundreds on a bus and in the tube. Those four butchers weren’t immigrants, however. They’d been born here, and were 2nd or 3rd generation. They certainly weren’t recent arrivals off the boat or plane. And many of the idiots, who’ve gone off to join al-Qaeda or ISIS, and so dedicate their lives to ending those of others in the name of a crazed misinterpretation of Islam, have been exactly like them: the British-born children of immigrants.

As for the crime itself, unfortunately there have been more than enough White Americans fouling the airwaves over the other side of the Pond with demands and exhortations for their compatriots to do something similar. One of the videos Secular Talk put up a few days ago was about a right-wing radio host – or politico – who asked why they didn’t shoot trans people anymore. Well, I guess there are a variety of reasons, but I would think that the main one was that people had sympathy with those, who felt they were of the wrong biological gender, because they had medical condition that was causing them distress, rather than that they were wicked or perverted.

Secular Talk also put up a piece from another right-wing talk radio programme, in which a frothing nutter ranted about how people should be rioting in the streets about gay marriage and the rise of gay equality in America. He seemed to think it was a cause for bloody revolution. My guess there is that many people have come to realise that whatever their own views on homosexuality, it’s with a consenting adult and doesn’t affect a person’s moral worth. Being attracted to one’s own sex does not mean that they don’t pay their taxes, support their local sports teams, give to charity and otherwise behave exactly like the rest of the population. One Christian American woman expressed her absolute lack of support for banning gay marriage by stating that she was in ‘a Christ-centred marriage’ with her husband. Now gays had the right to marry. So she had to check her own. ‘No,’ she said, ‘still in a Christ-centred marriage with my husband’. Another man from one of the Southern states put up a video in which he went poking around looking for any gays that might suddenly have fallen out of the sky, to inundate America with gayness. Nope, despite the passage of gay marriage, he couldn’t find any more gays suddenly materialising around the place. It was an ironic attempt to show what a non-issue it all was.

I’ve also no doubt that this atrocity would have delighted Jerry Falwell. Falwell was a right-wing televangelist with the usual hatred of anything to the left of Ronald Reagan. He also hated feminists and gays. When Orlando started holding gay pride marches, Falwell started frothing out the mouth and declared that they couldn’t shake their fists at God like that. Instead, the Almighty would punish them with an asteroid, or earthquake or tsunami. Or something. The local newspaper asked the town’s Roman Catholic bishop what he thought of it. The reverend gentleman opined that he thought, overall, the people of his fair city were decent, god-fearing folk. ‘If God was going to send an asteroid,’ he thought, ‘you’d think He’d start with Las Vegas’. Good point.

You can also bet that over the next few days and weeks you’re going to hear mass whining from the NRA and the gun lobby about how liberals are unfairly using this to deprive decent, law-abiding Americans of their right to have high calibre, military-grade firearms. When massacres like these have occurred, including those at schools, they’ve immediately seized on them to go on the offensive. Often highly offensive. Instead of depriving people of guns, more people should have them, including school children. Then the little mites could shoot back the next time a maniac walked in, or one of their fellows went berserk, and opened fire. We’ll probably here something similar now, with gun-nuts asserting that at least all the men in the nightclub should have been packing, ready to defend themselves and the women.

Given what human nature is like, is should be obvious that the last thing that makes places like schools and nightclubs safer is idiots coming in tooled up. Bullying and gang fights tend to be a fact of school life, which parents and teachers and school staff have to deal with. Now imagine what would happen if all of the little darlings involved had guns, and started blazing away.

It’s the same with nightclubs. Fights break out in pubs and nightclubs, when people have drunk too much, spilled someone’s drink, tried to move in on their partner, or simply looked at them the wrong way. People can get seriously hurt, but most of the time, they ain’t fatal. Now imagine what would happen if a boozed-up lout suddenly started to wave a gun around in a roomful of other drunken, gun-toting louts. You don’t have to be a genius to see how that could easily end in mass carnage, rather than the weight of overwhelming firepower forcing the other dude to put his gun away.

Quite apart from the fact that schools should be for learnin’, and nightclubs for dancing away the evening and generally having fun. Guns should have no place in either.

The Young Turks on Trump’s Supporters Pledge of Allegiance

March 8, 2016

In this piece from The Young Turks, John Iadarola, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump making his supporters swear an oath with their raised right hands, to vote for him. For Uygur, this is a step too far, and Trump may well, in his mixed metaphor, ‘have jumped the shark in the dirty pool’.

John Iadarola begins by describing this weird ceremony, and the unease it has provoked amongst the journalists and media observers, who witnessed it. The clip includes footage of Trump getting the crowd to swear the oath to vote for him, ‘Come whatever’. He admits that he was inclined to dismiss the concerns as exaggerated, until you saw what it looked like from behind the crowd. Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish organisation which tackles anti-Semitism, and which has also spoken out against anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, pointedly described how disgusted he was as a holocaust survivor at seeing a supposedly mainstream politician, not a member of the far right or Neo-Nazi organisations, going through this ritual with its overtones of the Nazi salute.

Ana Kasparian, on the other hand, thought this was rather too harsh, and while it was strange, it didn’t have the Neo-Nazi connotations that the others considered it had. Trump’s organisation have also posted pictures of other political rallies where the crowd had also raised their right hands. The Turks joked that Sanders’ supporters did so, though in their case it wasn’t because they were swearing allegiance, but because they were also recording the event.

Uygur came to a compromise conclusion. He thought it may have started off as a kind of joke, and may not have originally had the Fascist connotations. But After the denunciation by Foxman and others, he was certainly now aware how it looked. And he had gone on to do the same at a rally in Concord, South Carolina. Uygur believed that the crowd was largely unaware how it looked, because to call Republican supporters ‘low information’ was an understatement. But Trump knew, and was deliberate using the gesture’s Nazi overtones to garner more media attention. It was like his flirtation with the far right in general. He courts it, to get voters from that direction, and then pulls back and denounces it. Then does it again. And it was disturbing to see this ritual at Orlando, with one of the people in the crowd wearing a suit decorated to resemble a wall and the slogan ‘Mexico will pay’. Trump was, Uygur said, dipping his toe in the dirty pool.

But he also felt that this time, Trump had gone too far, and ‘jumped the shark’. People were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the gesture, so much so that even Republicans were becoming concerned in case others thought that they were racist for supporting him. And there is indication that it is harming Trump. He was expected to win Maine. He didn’t. He lost. He managed to gain two other states, but won them with a much lower majority than was expected. Republicans were increasingly giving their vote to Ted Cruz instead.

Now I hope this is true, although in some areas there’s little difference between them. Both are right-wing Republicans with a very strong suspicion of Islam. And while Donald Trump has made noises about banning Muslims from the US, Cruz has actually been putting bills through Congress to cut down on Islamic immigration. So in some ways there isn’t much to choose between the two. But of the two, Cruz is probably the saner, safer alternative. He comes across at least as a little more restrained and rational than Trump, who has been denounced by Kyle Kulinski at Secular Talk as a ‘savage’ and a ‘demogogue’. I doubt very much that Trump would turn America into a full-blown Fascist state, but he’d certainly make it much more authoritarian and xenophobic. He should not be let anywhere near power, not least because of the precedent his antics are setting for the next right-wing demagogue.