Posts Tagged ‘Football’

Andre Vltchek’s Pictures and Plea for Understanding for Syria

April 13, 2017

On Wednesday, Counterpunch contributor Andre Vltchek published some of the pictures and comments about Syria from Yayoi Segi, a foreigner, who has been living and working there for three years, and is passionate about the country and its people. Segi states

“Syria is not what the mainstream media wants us to believe it is. One has to see it, to understand. Seeing is believing! It is an extraordinarily exceptional country. All that we have been told about Syria and its people is a lie.”

She talks about how the Syrian people are decent, warm people trying to get on with their lives despite the horrors and inconveniences of the war. She is also impressed by their manners and respect for education and culture.

“Syrians are the most hospitable, gentle people. When we meet, we never talk about the war, the conflict. It is a tremendous civilization… They always talk about their life, the future. They discuss their poets and their thinkers. People in Syria are very well educated. They know what is going on, on our Planet. Despite what some parts of the world have done to them, they are extremely respectful and polite to everybody. I never heard them speaking ill of others. They appreciate that you come and work with them, and they are confident.”

She also remarks that all of the international conferences and debates about the situation in Syria have carried on without reference to the wishes or ideas of the Syrians themselves.

“There have been so many seminars, conferences and meetings on Syria, yet the Syrian people are very rarely invited. All these events are ‘about them’ but without even inviting them, and without listening to them.”

Segi works for the national education system, and describes the system’s resilience and high quality compared to other nations.

“On the education front, the system was one of the best in the region, before the crisis began. Now, despite more than 6 years of horrendous war, the system is still standing and strong. Syrians know exactly what they want, and they have the capacity to implement their aspirations. Like in Aleppo; after the victory, the government immediately moved in and began opening schools.”

Her photographs show the devastation caused by war. But they also show people enjoying themselves in cafes and restaurants, as well as one of the great medieval fortresses and a sculpture, which looks like it may well come from the ancient past. Several of the photos are of schoolchildren. These show a mixed class of little boys and girls, smiling and dressed in western style clothing. There’s also what looks like a crowd of sports fans – football? – heading towards a match, and a sign with spells out in coloured letters ‘I heart Damascus’.

There is much that Vltchek writes with which I disagree. He’s of Czech-Russian ancestry, and is a film maker specialising in the Developing World. His fierce attacks on western exploitation of the undeveloped world is well meant, but sometimes he goes too far in attacking the Developed World and the needs and desires of its ordinary citizens. It’s also struck me several times that he has a far too optimistic view of the Soviet past. Russia and the eastern bloc did make some truly vast, impressive achievements under Communism, but this was at the cost of a vicious political repression which under Stalin resulted in deportations, massacres and a system of forced labour, which claimed tens of millions of lives. The Soviet Union also dominated and exploited the satellite countries conquered by Stalin from the Nazis during World War II.

But Vltchek’s article is in this case exactly right, necessary and welcome. Syria is a repressive state. Even in the 1980s it had something like eight different secret police agencies. But under the Ba’ath party it is a modern, secular state, where Christians and Muslims live in peace. As for its education system, a few years ago the BBC screened a documentary about the Syrian school system, following the pupils in one particular school through a school day. At the end of the documentary the Beeb informed viewers how they could join a scheme that would link schools in this country with those in Syria.

As for the high regard for its poets and intellectuals, several of the books I’ve read on Islam and the Arabs have said that poetry has a very high status in the Arab world, to the point where newspapers may be written in a distinct, half-poetic style. As for its antiquities, you can still walk down the Street called Straight, mentioned in St. Paul’s Epistles in the Bible. The country has monuments from a succession of ancient civilisations, such as Palmyra, going all the way back to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The tombs of some of the kings mentioned in the Bible have even been found.

It’s people are not monsters, and while Assad is a dictator, his government is surely better than the Islamist regime, which the rebels – al-Qaeda and ISIS – hope to impose. This would mean the destruction of ancient monuments, as has happened in Iraq and those parts of Syria, which fell under ISIS’ rule. Women’s rights would be attacked and withdrawn, the secular education system and rule of law swiftly dismantled. The country isn’t quite as tolerant in the religious sphere as it could be. From what I’ve heard on programmes about the country and its history on the Beeb, the Sunni Muslim majority is oppressed. But the Ba’ath party in Syria was founded as a secular, Arab nationalist party, which included both Christians and Muslims. If it is overthrown, the country’s tolerance of peoples of different sects and religions will also go, to be replaced by the type of vicious, genocidal persecution ISIS carried out in Iraq. Dan Snow’s programme on the country, broadcast by the Beeb, featured chilling footage of a foaming rant by an Islamist mullah calling for the genocide of the Alawis, the ruling Muslim sect. And as we’ve seen in Iraq, the Islamists not only persecute non-Muslims, they also viciously terrorise and butcher other Muslims for their religious beliefs. Historic mosques as well as Christian churches were destroyed and desecrated by ISIS in Iraq, and ordinary Muslims, whose only desire was to live in peace with their fellow Iraqis, were also murdered for not being what the Islamists considered proper Muslims.

I and many other bloggers have said repeatedly that the American regime and its western allies and lackeys aren’t interested in punishing Assad for his war crimes. This is all about geopolitics. It’s about making sure a Qatari oil pipeline goes through Syria, not one built by the Russians, and about removing a key ally of Russia and Iran. The American military-industrial complex has done its level best to overthrow secular Arab nationalist governments in the Middle East from the 1950s, as they were seen as being too close to Communism. Quite apart from the challenge they posed to western imperialism and its attempts to dominate and exploit the Middle East and its oil.

I therefore urge anyone, who has doubts about the justice of Trump’s attack on Syria, and the sabre-rattling of the western political class demanding regime change, to go and read Vltchek’s article and look at the pictures of Syria and its people. And look at the faces of the people, who will suffer if the oil lobby and the military-industrial complex have their way, and send American troops in. These are ordinary, decent people, who will be massacred by the hundreds of thousands, just like the people of Iraq.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/12/reflecting-on-syria/

Gaza: Jon Snow Calls Mark Regev What He Is – a Liar

October 9, 2016

Earlier today, Mike put up a piece over on Vox Political reporting that the members of Pink Floyd – David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters – had a issued a statement supporting the women’s boat to Gaza, and deploring its interception by the Israeli military. The boat had sailed from Barcelona last month. It was sponsored by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which condemns the Israeli’s siege of that part of Palestine.

Mike’s article notes that Waters had previously been attacked as an anti-Semite by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach for previous comments he had made about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But, almost needless to say, Boteach couldn’t offer any reasons to back up his slur against Waters. The great muso responded “If Rabbi Boteach can make a case for the Israel government’s policies, I look forward to hearing it.

“It is difficult to make arguments to defend the Israeli government’s policies, so would-be defenders often use a diversionary tactic, they routinely drag the critic into a public arena and accuse them of being an antisemite.”

Mike’s article briefly discusses the previous Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which was stopped in International Waters and boarded by the Israeli military. The result was a confrontation which left nine passengers killed and dozens injured, with nine Israeli servicemen also wounded.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/08/pink-floyds-support-for-womens-boat-to-gaza-puts-pressure-on-israel/

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is a disgusting abuse of human rights. It’s been estimated that in four years time – 2020 – conditions in that part of Palestine will be so atrocious that the region will be uninhabitable. Israel was widely condemned for its shelling of the area several years ago, which it claimed was in response to rocket attacks. This was another lie. The Israelis had deliberately broken the ceasefire by firing their own rockets into the district to kill a Palestinian terrorist leader. Lobster also described the vast difference in the quality of weapons used. The rockets used by the Palestinians were largely home-made. Crude, and deadly, but not sophisticated killing machines like those the Israelis were launching into Gaza, which included phosphor weapons. This is extremely nasty material. It’s like medieval Greek fire in that it burns on contact, and keeps on burning it way through the human body. So it could be argued that the retaliation by the Israeli military was far out of proportion to the actual threat or provocation from the Palestinians themselves.

And then, like now, the Israelis tried to cover up any coverage of their shelling’s civilian victims. A CNN journalist was sacked from his post because he described playing football with four boys minutes before the youngsters were all killed in the shelling. Thankfully, CNN reinstated him after massive public outcry.

When Israel intercepted the first Freedom Flotilla six years ago, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, turned up on the news to present his country’s case. One of those, who was very unimpressed with him was Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow. Regev claimed that the Flotilla was intercepted to stop them smuggling weapons into Gaza. He then went on to claim that if people genuinely wanted to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, then the ships should be sent to two Israeli ports, one of which was Ashdod, and reassured viewers that it would get through. Snow lost patience with that last statement, and called it, and Regev, what they were. Snow stated it was a lie, as only 18 per cent of the aid for Gaza going through Israel actually reached its intended destination. He then asked Regev what his government was going to do if the Turks did what they said they were considering, and sent a gunboat to protect the next ship. Would the Israelis attack this, a vessel from their ally, and so start a war? Regev tried to laugh this off with a incredulous ‘Are you serious?’ To which Snow responded that it wasn’t him making the statement, but the Turks, and he should check with them. Here’s the clip:

I found it thanks to one of Guy Debord’s Cat’s excellent pieces on Israel and its crimes.

As for Shmuely Boteach, I got the distinct impression he was one of the various ‘spiritual mentors’ who like to hand around celebrities, doling out platitudes to help the rich feel comfortable and justified in their possession of such massive wealth. If memory serves me correctly, he was hanging round Michael Jackson at one point. I don’t know the precise reason why the journalist so described him, but he was so obnoxious at one point that I remember one newspaper article about a decade or so ago referring to him as ‘odious’.

So I join with Mike in saluting Gilmour, Mason and Waters – ‘Shine on, you not-so-crazy diamonds!’

BBC Reluctantly Admits Lying about Anti-War Protest

September 12, 2016

Mike also put up today a piece from EvolvePolitics, which reports that the BBC on its Feedback page on its website, has admitted misleading the public about the anti-war demonstration it claimed in December last year had been staged outside Labour MP Stella Creasy’s home. The protests were aimed against MPs supporting further airstrikes against Syria. The Beeb’s report claimed that the protesters were ‘far left’, and the demonstration was bullying and intimidatory. Neither of these details were true. The protest was a peaceful vigil. It was not held outside the Walthamstow MP’s home, but her constituency office at a time when no-one was there. The Beeb’s retraction of the distorted report states that it ultimately came from a single Facebook post, that was picked up by a number of other social media commenters and reputable news sources, including the Independent and the Guardian. A few days later, the Beeb issued a partial correction, which changed the location of the story, but still retained the falsehood about the mood of the protesters.

Mike states

So the BBC had decided to run with the inaccuracy because other “reputable” news outlets had done so – and even misled the shadow chancellor into believing the lie.

It had allowed listeners to go on believing the lie that the demonstration was violent and intimidating, even after broadcasting a correction that only revised the location of the event – and not the mood.

Most damning of all is the fact that the full correction appeared – on a little-visited feedback page – on July 8 this year, and has only just been picked up (by the EvolvePolitics site – I had no idea this BBC page even existed).

It seems clear the BBC is quite happy to mislead the public in order to help the Conservative Government. This is not the behaviour of a reputable news outlet.

My advice: Stick to social media sites like Vox Political. We may not always have the full facts but we don’t actively lie to you.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/11/post-truth-bbc-quietly-admits-lying-about-anti-war-demonstration-over-syria/

Mike’s statement that the BBC is quite willing to mislead the public to support the Tory government should no longer be a surprise to anyone. A few years ago Mike’s blog, along with, I think, Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman, reported that Scots academics at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities had found that there was a pronounced right-wing bias at the Beeb. They found that the Corporation was something like three times more likely to interview Conservative politicians and businessmen than Labour MPs and trade unionists. My feeling is that the Beeb sees itself as part of the establishment, and interprets its duty as the state broadcaster to produce programming, or at least news reporting, that broadly supports the status quo. Its managers and senior staff come from the same social class as those in industry and the civil service, and many of its journalists and programme makers are part of the same social circle as the Conservative leadership. At least they were during David Cameron’s tenure at No. 10 with the Chipping Norton set. I don’t believe things have changed since Theresa May took over.

I also found it interesting that the Beeb should partly try to excuse itself by stating that it came from other reputable news sources, explicitly naming the Independent and the Guardian. This looks like the Beeb is trying to head off any claims of Conservative bias by citing two supposedly liberal papers. Except when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn, they’re not. Both papers, like the rest of the press, are strongly biased against him. Moreover, there have been reviews of books in Lobster, which have shown that the so-called left-wing press in Britain actually isn’t terribly left-wing at all. In the 1990s, the Guardian regularly used to appear in Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for the way it promoted various brutal dictatorships, from Nigeria to Indonesia, praising them as excellent places to do business while ignoring these nation’s appalling human rights records. Some of the articles written in praise of these countries were straightforward PR pieces written by companies specially set up to promote them abroad.

And the excuse that others were following the same line really doesn’t excuse the BBC. Newspapers and the news media are supposed to check their stories. There are even specialist media organisation in America which do so. The Beeb, as the state broadcaster, surely should have had the sense and the resources to check that story as well. But it didn’t. This shows that either the Beeb was simply being lazy, or that the repeated purges of its journalism and newsgathering staff in favour of cutting costs, and boosting the salaries and expanding the jobs available in senior management, has had a detrimental effect on the Corporation’s ability to provide reliable news. Which is exactly what Private Eye has been saying every time more redundancies have been announced at the Beeb of the people, who actually make programmes and produce the news.

The BBC isn’t the sole culprit in this regard. The newspapers have also been shedding large numbers of journalists in order to remain afloat, and give their senior executives, proprietors and shareholders the bloated salaries and dividends they’re accustomed to expect. And several times their journos have been similarly caught out using entirely spurious reports on Wikipedia, posted as pranks, as their sources. For example, when Ronnie Hazlehurst, the composer of a number of well-remembered signature tunes for the BBC, such as that for 80 comedy series To the Manor Born, passed away a few years ago, someone altered his Wikipedia page so that it read that he had composed one of the Spice Girls’ hits. He hadn’t, as presumably any one of the Girls’ fans could have told them. But that didn’t stop the journo, and others in the rest of the press, repeating the story. They were also caught out during the World Cup one year, when someone altered the entry for one of the football teams from the Greek islands. This claimed that its supporters had a special name for themselves, wore discarded shoes on their heads, and had a song about a potato. All rubbish, but the journos decided it had to be true, ’cause it was on Wikipedia. Now it seems that Facebook is being used in the same way for journalists too stressed or too lazy to check their facts.

Of course, the other possibility is that they didn’t bother checking the details, and dragged their heels about correcting the statement that the protesters were out to threaten and intimidate, because the Facebook story told them exactly what they wanted to hear. All the prejudice about peace protesters and ‘hard left’ trade unionists – like the miners at Orgreave colliery, presumably – being violent thugs came flooding back, just like they had from Fleet Street during the 1980s. One of the daftest stories to come out about the peace movement then was a report that the Greenham Common women had managed to knock ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine to the ground, when he visited the base. Heseltine’s a big fellow – 6’3″, and so not easy to deck. He did fall over, but even he admitted that it was an accident. I think he fell over a guy rope or something. But whatever was the cause, he wasn’t pushed, shoved, punched, knocked or anything else. But Fleet Street published the story, ’cause as radical protesters, clearly the Greenham women had to be pathologically violent. Even when they said they weren’t, and gave interviews saying that they didn’t want men at the camp because they were afraid that any men present would start a violent confrontation.

As for hiding the correction on an obscure webpage, this seems to be part of common journalistic practice. Whenever a newspaper or magazine is forced to make a correction, it’s always tucked away in an obscure corner of the publication. The Beeb in this instance is no different. But their does seem to be a change of policy involved. I recall several previous instances, where the regulatory authorities had ruled that one of the Beeb’s programmes had misled the public. The ruling was announced on television or the radio itself. I can remember hearing such rulings on the 7.15 pm slot, or thereabouts, just after The Archers on the radio. For television, they used to issue the notifications of such rulings on Sunday evening just after Points of View and before Songs of Praise. This is a time slot when there would be relatively few people watching, but it’s still not as obscure as a very obscure webpage. Perhaps this is the new way the Beeb hopes to bury the news when its caught bending the facts.

Anti-Feminist Pamphlets from Tory Free Market Thinktank

July 23, 2016

feminism pamphlets

The pamphlets in question. Picture courtesy CJ.

This will annoy nearly every woman and also a very large number of men. Looking round one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday with a friend, I found a whole load of pamphlets from the Institute of Economic Affairs. They’re a right-wing, free market thinktank connected with the Tory party. I think they were also trying to promote themselves as non-party political when Tony Blair was in power, as I think he was also very sympathetic to their message. Put simply, their pro-privatisation, anti-welfare, anti-poor – one of the pamphlet’s was Alexis de Tocqueville’s Pauperism, anti-Socialist – another was Von Hayek’s Socialism and the Intellectuals. And anti-feminist. Two of the pamphlets were anti-feminist screeds, intended to encourage women to forget any notions of equality, independence and a career, and return to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

The two pamphlets were entitled Liberating Modern Women…From Feminism and Equal Opportunities – A Feminist Fallacy. They were collections of essays on individual subjects within the overall theme of rebutting feminism. The contributors seemed to be an equal number of men and women. Among the policies they recommended were measures to preserve the family from break up and end ‘no fault’ divorces. They claimed that men and women pursue different goals because of innate biological differences. And rather than being a patriarchal institution, the family was actually a matriarchy. They also attacked women working, because it meant that the household economy was now based on two people having an income, whereas before it was only the husband’s wage that was important. And, almost inevitably, there was an attack on single mothers. Left-wing welfare policies were attacked for taking them out of the jobs market and placing them into ‘welfare dependency’.

My friend decided to buy them to see how extreme, shocking and bonkers they actually were. Though he insisted that I tell the woman on the desk when paying for them that we we’re buying them because we agreed with them, which raised a smile from her. While walking round town afterwards he said he would have felt less embarrassed holding these pamphlets if he’d had something less offensive to put them in, to disguise the fact that he had them. Like one of the porno mags. I didn’t recognise most of the contributors to the pamphlets, but one name stood out: Mary Kenny. She had been a journalist for the Guardian or Observer, but moved to the Torygraph. My friend was also shocked, as the Institute of Economic Affairs has been on Channel 4 News several times. It’s one of the organisations they’ve gone to for ‘balance’ discussing particular issues. My friend’s point is that they’re policies are so extreme, they really aren’t providing any kind of reasoned balance at all, just more far-right opinion.

There’s an attitude amongst some Republicans in America that feminism really is a terrible Marxist plot to destroy Western civilisation, despite the fact that it existed before Marxism, and its campaigns for votes for women and equal opportunities cross party-political boundaries. Despite the institute’s arguments, there really isn’t one of their views that isn’t vulnerable to disproof. For example, it’s true that men and women tend to perform different jobs, and have different personal goals and attitudes. But it’s very debatable how far this is due to biological differences. A few years ago, back in the 1990s there was a lot of interest and noise about supposed sex differences in the organisation of the brain. Men’s and women’s brains were made differently, and this was why men were better at maths and parking cars, and women were better at language and communication, but couldn’t read maps. Since then, the situation has reversed slightly. One female neuroscientist, Cordelia – , wrote a book a few years ago arguing that any psychological differences and intellectual aptitudes that differed between the sexes weren’t due to physical differences in the brain. With the exception of individuals at the extreme ends of the scale – very ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ brains, brains are just brains, and you can’t tell their former owner’s sex simply by looking at them.

As for feminism itself, it’s probably fair to say that many women do feel caught between their careers and their families, and would like more time to spend raising or attending to their children. But their entry into the workforce, and pursuing jobs, hobbies and interests previously reserved for men are the product of profound needs and desires on their behalf. It isn’t a case that they have been somehow brainwashed or indoctrinated by some kind of feminist ‘false consciousness’. For example, you can hear from older women how they felt when they were young, when they wanted to play with boy’s toys, like train or construction sets, like Meccano, but were forbidden by their parents. Or wanted to try their hand at ‘boy’s’ subjects at school, like woodwork. Or join in with boy’s games like footie or rugby. This doesn’t mean that all women wanted to do all of the above, only that a sizable number did want to do some of those, and felt frustrated at the social conventions that forbade them to. When the feminists in the 1960s argued that women had a right to do traditionally male jobs and pursuits, they were articulating the desires of very many women. They weren’t just abstract theorists speaking only for themselves.

As for the statement that the entry of women into the workforce has made family finances more difficult, because mortgages are now based on a double income, that’s also very open to query. It might be that the change to women working has had an effect, but I’ve also seen the argument that women had to go out to work, because the income from the husband’s wages alone wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

As for the family being a ‘matriarchal’ institution, the status of women has changed over time. But in the Middle Ages, women were basically their husband’s chattels. And in the West, women didn’t automatically have a right to hold their property independently of their husbands until the Married Women’s Property Act in the late 19th century. One of the early feminist tracts from 19th century Germany was a polemic attacking the way women’s property automatically became their husband’s on marriage.

I’m alarmed by the break down of the traditional family, rising divorces and absent fathers. I always have been, ever since we did ‘relationships’ as part of the RE course at school, when the news was full of it. But part of the problem isn’t the ease of divorce, although it became more difficult and expensive when Blair was in power. It’s the fact that many people do find themselves trapped in unhappy relationships. Some idea how much of a problem this was can be seen in some of the jokes about how awful marriage was and quarrelling spouses. At a far more serious level, you can also see it in accounts of men, who walked out on their families, and took up bigamous marriages elsewhere in the days when divorce was difficult and all but impossible unless you were very wealthy.

The two pamphlets were published a little time ago. One dated from 1992 – twenty-four years ago -, and the other from 2005, about eleven. But they represent an attitude that’s still very present in the Conservatives, and especially in right-wing newspapers like the Daily Heil. A week ago the Tories elected Theresa May as their leader, and will no doubt be presenting themselves as the ‘pro-woman’ party. This shows the other side to them, the one that’s beyond and underneath Cameron’s rhetoric of flexible-working hours, and the Tories’ embrace of female leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

The Young Turks on the Alt Reich and the Anti-Semitic App

June 9, 2016

After the false allegations of anti-Semitism against leading members of the Labour party, like Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walker, comes the real thing on the other side of the Pond. This time, it’s brought to you through the miracle of computer software. A few days ago, the I newspaper carried a very brief story that Google Chrome had taken off an app that was being used to track Jews on-line. This is discussed in this clip from The Young Turks, with the hosts Cenk Uygur, Bill Mankiewicz, Jimmy Dore and John Iadarola. The app was being used by a group of Conservative Trump fans styling themselves the Alt Right. There are about 2,400 of them. The device had a database of Jewish surnames, and was being used to flag up if someone had one of these monickers. The example they give is ‘Fleishman’. If someone had that surname, then the Fleishman would appear in double or triple brackets to indicate they were Jewish, thus (((Fleishman))). The members of the group posted comments about its use, saying that ‘a pattern is emerging’. To their credit, Google removed the app.

Uygur and the others try to be fair to Trump and say that he’s not responsible for their actions, and may not have been aware of what they were doing. But they make the point that he is broadly responsible for what they have done in that he has opened up the racist closet with his attacks on Muslims and Mexicans. When Trump launched his offensive against Muslims, it was rightly condemned by the ADL – the Anti-Defamation League. This is the major US body that protects Jews against anti-Semitic smears and attacks. They did so not just because it was right to condemn all forms of racism and discrimination, but also because once it became permissible to discriminate against one group, that licence would soon spread to attacks on Jews. And it has. Trump has attracted racists and White supremacists to his campaign. He’s tried to distance himself from them, but not very hard, merely stating that he doesn’t know anything about them or their support.

The Turks also have a good, well deserved laugh at the stupidity of these anti-Semites and conspiracy theorist. Bill Mankiewicz, who’s Jewish, jokes that if his people really were out to enslave the world, then why are they talking about it? If they had, there’d be no question about it. The Turks also make the wider point about the contradictions in all these daft conspiracy theories. If White gentiles are the master race, then why aren’t they in charge of everything, instead of the Jews? And also, if they’re so superior, why are their jobs being taken by supposedly racially inferior Mexicans?

Of course these accusations and conspiracies don’t make sense. Their contradictions have been pointed out hundreds of times in books and articles on the Nazis and the international Fascist right. The Turks also point out that it’s very clear when you go on White supremacist websites like Stormfront that most of the Nazi right aren’t as bright as they think they are either. That’s also true. If you look at some of the posts from the various British Nazi organisations Hope Not Hate have reproduced on their website, you’ll find that most of them are badly spelt, with an extremely poor vocabulary, most of which seems to consist of obscenity and curses. A left-wing friend of mine, who very definitely isn’t racist, also told me he once read a copy of Spearhead, the NF rag he found in the gutter outside his house after a football match, and couldn’t believe just how stupid and moronic it was. But the reality is that Trump, by advocating racist policies, has made genuine racism and Nazism just that little more acceptable in America. Here’s the video:

Dennis Skinner on Mike Ashley and Sports Direct

June 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published a piece about Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, finally agreeing to meet the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, who are investigating the employment practices in his firm. Among the issues they wish to inquire into are claims that working conditions at Sports Direct result in employees working for less than the minimum wage. Ashley was unwilling to meet them at their headquarters, and so invited them to come to talk to him at his headquarters, but this violates parliamentary transparency. So they threatened to apply sanctions. This finally worked, and Ashley has agreed to go to meet them.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/06/sports-direct-founder-to-appear-before-mps-after-committee-prepares-to-apply-sanctions/

Shirebrook, where Sports Direct’s headquarters is located, is in Dennis Skinner’s constituency, and the left-wing Labour MP has a few sharp criticisms at Ashley and his firm in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences. Especially as the site occupied by it is on former coal tips, which were levelled and the land reclaimed through funding obtained by Skinner as the local MP. Skinner writes

Mike Ashley, the billionaire operator of sports shops on many high streets and the Newcastle United football club in the premiership, owns a huge Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook in the Bolsover constituency. I secured £21 million from Gordon Brown when he was chancellor of the exchequer to flatten Shirebrook’s pit tips and Ashley’s buildings sit on the reclaimed site. So Ashley’s plant was subsidised out of the public purse.

Sadly, MPs such as myself have no control over planning matters and East Midlands regional development agency didn’t heed advice to demand that trade unions be recognised. As a result, if all the workers I’ve seen from the place are representative of the whole workforce there, the warehouse is filled with hundreds of workers on insecure zero-hours agency contracts at little more than the minimum wage. So taxpayers subsidise Ashley a second time by topping up the low pay with benefits to enable his workforce to survive.

No trade union is recognised at Sports Direct in Shirebrook and I know from conversations with countless nervous workers that they’re terrified of speaking out of turn because they fear they’ll be sacked. Almost everybody I’ve come across was recruited through an agency, on poor conditions, rather than through Jobcentres. I know of very few workers there who are on full-time permanent contracts paying a living wage. I wrote to Ashley asking why at Newcastle United, the football club he owns, a trade union is recognised for the players but he doesn’t recognise a trade union for the workers at Sports Direct. Ashley never replied. What’s more, I, as the local MP, have never, on principle, set foot in the warehouse.

Greedy bosses such as Ashley are why I shall be a socialist as long as I breathe. He’s rich beyond the dreams of avarice by exploiting workers. Worth an estimate £3.75 billion, his loot increased by £1.45 billion last year according to the latest Rich List. He’s amassed a fortune even bigger than that grinning tax dodger Richard Branson. The helicopter Ashley flies in, to and from that Shirebrook plant, is paid for by the sweat of men and women who struggle to afford a bus fare home.

The truth is the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) forced Ashley to recognise a union at Newcastle United. Footballers are a tightly knit small group with a transfer value on the market. At Sports Direct, Ashley holds all the cards – the company hiring and firing at will. He dips into a large pool of vulnerable unemployed. (pp. 101-2).

This shows the double standards between the very lucrative world of professional football, and the poor souls, who slave away in sweatshops all over the world to produce the merchandising sold by exploiters and slave drivers like Mike Ashley. Sports Directs’ head should have much explaining to do, but I dare say he’ll get away with it, or escape with a bare minimum punishment due to the fact that he’s one of the go-getting entrepreneurs the Tories and New Labour just love. And bad luck for the rest of us.

Tumblr Piccies for Paris

November 17, 2015

The world was shocked and outraged by the terrorist atrocities on Friday that have left 129 people dead. The massacres have not only been condemned by Western leaders, but also by Hamas and Iran. It’s fair to say that these last aren’t generally associated with a hostile attitude towards terrorism. Such is the repugnance that the world has felt at the butchery committed by these murderers.

Tonight at the England vs France footie the Marseillaise will be played to show Britain’s solidarity with our friends and partner across le Manche. The other day I found a couple of pictures from one of the sites on Tumblr which express my feeling about this. One of these comes from the Palestinians, which is extremely interesting given the tense and frequently violent relationship between them and Netanyahu’s Israeli government.

Peace for France

Palestinians For Paris

ISIS have shown themselves to be completely repugnant to both Western and Islamic governments. I really believe that, with wisdom and vision, the leaders on both sides can unite against terrorist thugs like ISIS, and with real determination lay the foundations for a better future in which no one need live in fear from such enormities.

Unfortunately, this may take real statesmanship.
And instead we’ve got Cameron.
Nevertheless, I live in hope.

Gary Lineker Tweets his View on Nigel Farage

April 3, 2015

This was also posted up on the SlatUKIP page. Gary Lineker tweeted it during the leader debate last night. Lineker was apparently the ‘Mr Clean’ of the Beautiful Game, who never fouled anyone during his long career. And despite the reputation of some of the fans for moronic racism and violence, the modern game is very multicultural and multinational. Also, I think Lineker at one time was playing for a Japanese club. So someone with his international background and reputation for fairness probably isn’t going to be impressed by Farage’s knee-jerk xenophobia.

Lineker on Farage

Italian Chambers of Labour – Needed in 21st Century Britain

May 11, 2014

One of the peculiar institutions of the Italian working class movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the Camera Del Lavoro, or ‘Chamber of Labour’. They were based on the French Borse du Travaille (Labour Exchange) set up in France in the late 1880s. They were introduced into Italy by Osvaldo Gnocchi-Viani, a Socialist Milanese lawyer, in his 1889 book, Le Borse del lavoro. This led the leaders of the Milanese printers’ union and the Partito Operaio Italiano – the Italian Worker’s Party to establish the first Chamber of Labour in the city two years later in 1891. By 1904 ninety Chambers of labour, representing the nearly 300,000 workers had been set up throughout Italy.

The Chambers varied in structure, but most consisted of an assembly of representatives from the labour organisations participating in it. These in turn elected a governing body, such as an executive committee or commission, which organised its practical management. The Chambers were theoretically bureaux for employment and labour information. In practice they often had a wide variety of functions. They provided a meeting place for workers, conference and reading rooms, recreational facilities and also education. They organised strikes, boycotts and demonstrations, as well as mediating in industrial disputes. As well as representing the workers in dispute with private industry, they also did so with the local authorities, although many were in fact funded by these. While the trade unions were federated at the national level, the Chambers were autonomous organisations that included and brought together the various workers’ organisations in their local areas, and defended the interests of the unskilled and semi-skilled workers not represented in the skilled labour unions.

The Chambers were intended as purely economic in purpose, but in practice most followed the various working class political parties and organisations – the Socialists, Republicans, Syndicalists and Anarchists. The majority were Socialist. They frequently took the lead in organising demonstrations, strikes and protests against the government at the local level. The Chambers of Labour joined the federated trade unions to form the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro – General Confederation of Labour in 1906. They received their greatest increase in membership after the First World War, but went into rapid decline afterwards due to attacks from the Fascists. They were finally suppressed by Mussolini’s dictatorship in 1926 along with other, autonomous labour organisations.

The Chambers of Labour attracted Fascist hatred and violence because of their role in creating a powerful, autonomous working class. Changes in society since then has made many of their functions obsolete. The massive expansion of state education, for example, has removed some of the necessity for providing specific education courses aimed at workers, and entertainment is far more freely available today than it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the development of cinema, radio and television and the gramophone. Furthermore, many towns in Britain do have employment agencies, thus lessening the need for another of the Chambers’ functions.

However, I think something like the French and Italian Chambers of Labour/ Borses du Travaille/ Camere del Lavoro are still needed. Owen Jones in Chavs describes the destruction of working class culture and its colonisation by the middle classes. Football, which was for a long time the sport of the working classes, has become increasingly middle class. A proportion of the tickets for matches are reserved for parties from corporations as part of corporate hospitality. Ticket prices have become so expensive that many fans feel – and are – priced out of attendance at matches. Despite the government’s urging after the Olympics that more people should become involved in sport, actual sports facilities have been cut, so that the few which survive are oversubscribed.

Similarly, that hub of traditional working class culture, the pub is also under attack. Many are being closed down and redeveloped as flats. This has an effect far beyond simply where people go to drink their beer or alcoholic poison of choice. As well as the place where people traditionally met and relaxed, pubs were also the venues where local bands got their first gigs. Furthermore, a variety of local clubs and groups also meet in pubs and bars. Pub closures also effect the continued existence of these groups by denying them a venue.

As for general cultural activities, Quentin Letts in his book, Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain, contrasts the loutishness and slovenly ignorance of much of today’s popular culture with the attitude of the miners portrayed in the film, The Pitman Painters. These were a real group of mineworkers, who taught themselves to paint over a century ago. They were not unique. One of the functions of the Mechanics’ Institutes, founded in the 19th century across Britain was to spread education and culture amongst the working class as part of the general Victorian attitude of improvement. The intentions behind them were paternalistic. The complaint was made at the time that they were founded by the middle classes, and patronised predominantly by the more skilled, affluent and presumably aspirational workers, while those less fortunate stayed away. They were also intended partly to bring employer and employees together and so create class peace. Nevertheless, they did contribute to improving the conditions and the educational and cultural opportunities available to the workers.

Owen Jones also points out in Chavs that some of the rise in racism and anti-immigrant feeling is a reaction to the way White working class culture has been attacked and discarded as worthless by the middle classes and the major political parties. Their celebration – rightly – of the cultures of Britain’s ethnic minorities and immigrant communities, in the absence of a corresponding celebration of traditional British working class culture has resulted in working class Whites feeling marginalised and resentful in their own country. The result is a rise in support for the BNP – now peaked – and UKIP. He suggests that one way of combatting this racism and xenophobia is simply to stress a common, working class identity stretching across ethnic groups.

Finally, trade unions were attacked and devastated by Thatcher’s onslaught, and the continued attacks by her successors, including those in the Labour party. Tony Blair remembers in the 1990s threatened to cut union ties, and Ed Milliband has also demanded further cuts to union power and states he wishes to reach out to the middle classes. We need new forms of industrial organisation to represent and protect the poorly paid workers in unskilled or semi-skilled work, like the hundreds of thousands now staffing call centres, a point Guy Standing makes in A Precariat Charter. And I believe that an employment bureau, controlled by the workers themselves, might just help to empower the workers and employees themselves against the employers in the jobs market.

The Chambers of Labour were peculiar features of the French and Italian working class movements, but something like them is still desperately needed in 21st century Britain as the Tories try to drag us back to the 19th century.

Minister Mike Penning’s Contempt for the Disabled, and Paula Peter’s Response

December 12, 2013

In the comments section to his post on the duplicitous comments of Mike Penning, the current minister for the disabled, which I’ve reblogged here, my brother has also posted Paula Peters description of her meeting with the Rt. Hon. gentleman in a lift during her recent visit to parliament. Penning has told the press that he intends to cut down the time it takes to process claims for DLA and other benefits to stop cancer patients dying before they have received their due benefits payments. On the other hand, he has also told the Labour Party and the disabled themselves that it’s all the disabled’s own fault their disabled, and that diabetes is a life-style choice(!). I can remember the storm of protest that bust out way back in the 1990s when the current England manager said something similar. He was into various New Age philosophies, and announced that the reason disabled people were so afflicted was because of the bad karma they had brought upon themselves for sins and misdeeds they had committed in a previous life. The disabled and the British public in general were massively unimpressed, and the aforementioned Ron Manager had to do some very quick talking. Penning should similarly be taken to account for this unpleasant and simply wrong comments.

Here is Paula Peter’s account of her meeting with Penning. It’s ultimately taken from her facebook page. I’m not on Facebook, however, so I’ve taken it from Mike’s comments column to his piece on Penning. My apologies if any of this is inaccurate.

‘Hi all, got home literally 10 minutes ago. I got to Portcullis House by 8.50 this morning, and someone had my back to me in the lift, it was the Mike Penning the minister for disabled people! He was grinning away, So, i asked for 5-10 minutes of his time, and I said this to him. Mr Penning, please do not say that we are all frauding the benefits system, because we are not. Benefit fraud is 0..5 per cent and fraud is very very low. I said you need to check the official error within your department at the dwp which was at 70 per cent in 2011 (source social security advisory meeting 07.12.11)

Said, please do not say that disability and illness is our fault, BECAUSE IT IS NOT no one deserves to be born with a disbability, be struck down with a terrible physical or mental illness, no one, and said to him, Mr Penning you too, could develop an illness or disability, no one is immune from having an illness.

Please do not say diabetes is a life style choice, if you do not know anything about it educate yourself on it as ignorance can cost people ignoring symptoms of diabetes and getting checked and ignorance with illness costs lives. I said Mr Penning Type 2 diabetes is hereditary in families if one member has type 2 the chances of another member getting the disease is higher, and then had a dig, by your waistline Mr Penning, you had better check your sugar levels, too many meals in the subsided restuarant there eh?

Then said two weeks ago on 25th November you said to the labour party during DWP questions when they raised the issues about the welfare death statistics and the W.C.A that they should stop scaremongering. Well I have lost 18 friends, thousands have died because the stress and fear has made thier health detoriate and many have died by their own hands I know poeple who have lost loved ones, care to comment to them about that as the goverenmental polices are devastating many lives?

My last comment was this. in april 2013, my six year old niece abigail with type 1 diabetes was denied DLA as they said she had no care needs at night, she is 6, has constant hypos and toilet accidents at night, and has a canular attached to a stomach pump and needs constant care day and night at school and at home. That she and the family were put through the ordeal of an appeall and were one week away from a tribunial when DM overturned decision and upgraded her care needs. I said my brother heard from me about your remarks about Diabetes being a life style choice. He has written to you a letter how diabetes affects his children of 6 and 9 his wife who is 37 and him who is 39 all type 1 diabetics. They would like a response from you about the ordeal they had with DLA over their daughter and the DWP and a response to the anger and upset you have caused by your remarks about diabetes. I placed my brother letter in his hands.

He stared at me I stared back, down the corridor the smile was wiped off his face. He looked at me, and the one finger salute was what he got from me. He was then surrounded by his staff 15 minutes before the meeting and he was clearly rattled. The armed cops came by and what happened on Monday happened again, three cops for me. Not nice to have a nosel of a gun pointed at you, with their hands resting on their guns, but then with security alerts as high as it is (i can be anyone) it was still frightening though especially as they could see i had my tri rollerator with me and in a great deal of pain.’

Paula’s comments are a very sobering corrective to the image of diabetes that can be inadvertently given by the news. The coverage of the ‘obesity epidemic’ naturally refers to the increase in diabetes as a consequence of modern excessive eating and the consumption of foods with an extremely high calory content. This seems to have given the impression that if people are diabetic, it’s because they are somehow ‘fat slobs’. Paula’s comments to Penning are a clear refutation of that. It is particularly heartbreaking to hear of children as young as six and nine with such severe disabilities. I hope that despite such horrific disability, they still manage to lead a full life, however. One of the chaps I met when I was a re-enactor was a young lad, who was similarly fitted with an intravenous tube. I think it was because he had severe kidney condition. Nevertheless, despite the danger to his health, he had a girlfriend, an active social life with many friends and fought on the battlefield with the best of them. I hope Paula’s relatives are similarly able to overcome their difficulties.

In the meantime, however, Penning deserves to be kicked up and down the Houses of Parliament for his ignorant and extremely insensitive comments.