Posts Tagged ‘Fracking’

Short Film on the Police Targeting Anti-Fracking Protesters, Particularly the Disabled

December 26, 2018

Yesterday, Christmas Day 2018, Mike also put up a piece and a short film, about ten minutes long, Targeting Protesters, produced by Gathering Place. The film-makers have been working on a long form documentary about fracking in the UK, during which time they have observed some features of this issue they found ‘surprising’.

They contacted Mike after he put up a piece last week about how the rozzers were reporting disabled people at anti-fracking protests in Lancashire to the DWP. The assumption seems to be that any disabled person out on protest is committing benefit fraud, as if their condition was genuine, they would be in no condition to attend. The DWP’s response to any allegation of fraud is to suspend benefits during the investigation, so that disabled people are automatically denied the money they need to live on before the Department has made a decision on whether or not they are guilty. Opponents of the police’s actions have called it ‘ableist’, and stated that it’s based on a very simplistic view of disability. Not all conditions, that mean someone is unable to work, are obvious, and the severity of many of them can vary from day to day. They have also argued very persuasively that the police seem to be doing this to intimidate disabled people as a deliberate strategy to prevent them going on these demonstrations.

Mike quotes the film’s publicity, which states

“The police have identified and targeted prominent anti-fracking campaigners, key protest organisers and invariably protesters with disabilities – in order to undermine or neutralise their effectiveness in challenging the interests of the shale oil and gas industry.”

The film has been posted on social media by Netpol, the Network for Police Monitoring, and features their coordinator, Kevin Blowe. Blowe explains that the police have a deliberate strategy of targeting particular individuals for arrest. These are people, who are respected by the other protesters. They are either in a position of leadership, or can make critical decisions and actions when the moment comes. They also stop people travelling to the protests. The film shows an example of this, in which a carload of people are stopped by the cops at the side of the road. A woman, one of the crew, asks why they have done this. The policeman states that they are stopping them because they have information that their car contains a tripod. It’s a trumped up charge, and the woman asks them if they really think a tripod can fit in her car. The cop doesn’t respond and simply walks away. Later in the video Raj Chada, a member of a firm of solicitors, states that the cops’ charge that a woman was using a car illegally was complete ridiculous. The police haven’t charged her, or applied to the courts about it. Their arrest is simply a way of stopping free speech, which is unacceptable. It’s against the culture the police should have, which should be about facilitating those, who want to protest. The video also shows Labour’s John McDonnell talking to a group of protesters about the way they’ve been harassed. The film shows another woman, who has been grabbed by the rozzers, just as they release her. She says that it’s the second time that day the police have grabbed her.

Blowe states that the police target particularly influential people. This may sometimes involve arresting them, and pushing that arrest right up to taking them to court, even though the accused person would normally get off in other circumstances. If the targeted individual is local, the cops may continually go round to their homes or disrupt their business, deliberately making it very clear to them that they are under scrutiny.

While many fracking protesters are local, some do come from outside the area. They are also deliberately targeted by the police, who will visit their camps and make it clear that they are being targeted for arrest. They will also claim that any public order offences are due to people from outside the area. One protester from elsewhere in the country states that not only do the police target them, they also target anyone who associates with them, and that they can’t go anywhere without having a police escort. McDonnell also states that he’s concerned about the level of physical force used by the police, and particularly the incident where the police tip a disabled man out of his wheelchair. The film shows this happening, and the man says that it has happened to him three times already. McDonnell explains that the people on these protests are locals concerned about fracking in their area, and that most of them have had no interaction with the police before. The cops’ actions have shocked them, just as they’ve shocked him. The video shows another disabled man, in an orange T-shirt, being seized by the police, who then appear to strap him down physically into his chair. Blowe explains that the police will target someone, who appears vulnerable, in order to show that they will do absolutely anything possible to stop this person being as effective as they could be. Another disabled man tells the camera how the police told him that they had informed Motability that he was using his car for illegal purposes. The same man appears a few minutes later telling John McDonnell that the police have tried to stop his benefits, and passed on to the DWP a years worth of footage of him and other protesters. McDonnel states that this is unacceptable, and that this person should take it up with their MP, so that it can be discussed in the House of Commons. It appears to be done to prevent disabled people protesting, when they should have the same rights and ability in society to protest as everyone else.

Blowe also explains how the police will try to create ‘a situation’ where they can start arresting people by picking on someone vulnerable, like someone in a wheelchair or an older person, so that the other protesters will react. This is done so that the fracking lorries can get through. Sometimes the police is reactive, such as when the police on the day arrest particularly influential people. But they will also target otherwise unlikely targets, like women. They also target the young in order to give them the message that they are vulnerable, and the police consider them to be at risk of getting sucked into extremism. But it’s also a way of letting that person know they’re on the cops’ radar, and they have identified them for harassment. Blowe’s comments are accompanied by footage of a tall, long-haired young man being seized by the police, and forced onto the ground with his head all but in the gutter, before being dragged off. The man then briefly explains in a piece clearly filmed later that he was frightened after this happened to him in the short term, but in the long term absolutely not. Blowe then continues, explaining that this is all about identifying the key people to disrupt and end the protests.

Keith Taylor, an MEP from the Green Party, appears, and makes the point that many people still remember Orgreave from the miner’s strike, and that when the police follow orders, heads get broken. This is not the future that either he nor the community groups want to see.

John McDonnell then appears in turn to say that some form of inquiry into the conduct of the police is needed, and the evidence he’s seen is deeply worrying, and he believes other people seeing it will feel the same. There’s a level of physical force that’s unacceptable, and that therefore needs to be addressed.

Blowe explains that it’s all done to reduce the level of protest in an area, to cut down their duration time of months or weeks, to cut the numbers of people on these protests down to numbers they can manage, and to stop the mass opposition to fracking.

The film ends with the young chap, who was arrested, stating that he knows it’s all done to put people off, and that knowledge itself completely overrides any fear they would try to put upon him or others.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/25/watch-this-short-film-about-the-way-the-police-target-disabled-people-at-protests/

Taylor’s right when he says that it will remind many people of the miner’s strike. It seems very similar to the way Thatcher used the police in the 1980s to break the miner’s union. This was very much a political strategy on the part of the Tories. They remembered and resented the way the miners had defeated Ted Heath’s government in the 1980s, and were determined not to let this happen again. I can remember going to a meeting of the Fabian Society in Bristol, where one of the speakers explained how the efforts of the police, the Tory government, and Tory local authorities were very carefully coordinated and planned, with the same Tory politicians and activists appearing again and again around the country to try to break the strikers and the picket lines.

As for targeting women, they tried doing it to one of the members of my family. One of my female relatives was amongst the people protesting against the poll tax in London, and the police tried to grab her and pull her away, but her friends managed to hold on to her and pull her back. And I can very well believe that this is done deliberately to provoke the crowd to violence, so that the police will have an excuse to crack heads and arrest people.

The police did very well under Margaret Thatcher. They were well paid and given a range of benefits, like cheap or subsidized housing. Since then many very senior police officers have made it plain that they regret how they were used, stating that they were used by Thatcher as her private army. Recently the police have been decimated under Cameron and May through cuts in funding, which have led to a drastic fall in the numbers of police officers. Because the Tories clearly don’t think ordinary people and their homes and property are worth protecting as much as the rich. And they still probably believe that twaddle about neighbourhoods funding their own policing through hiring private security guards.

It is clear, however, that the link between the Tory party, the police and private industry still remains strong, at least as regards the fracking industry. Such politicised policing is a threat to the environment and democracy. McDonnell is right. We need an inquiry. Now.

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RT: 3 Anti-Fracking Activists Jailed by Judge with Family Connections to Firm

October 12, 2018

This is a very short piece from RT, which suggests that British justice in this case has been much less than impartial. The video reports that the parents of judge Altham, who jailed three anti-fracking activists, are the directors of J.C. Altham & Sons, which is reportedly in the same supply chain as Centrica. Centrica has invested tens of millions of pounds in fracking. The Altham’s company also backed a letter lobbying Lancashire council to permit fracking. The report also states that the three men are supposed to be the first eco-protesters jailed as a public nuisance since 1932.

The report shows the men clambering on to the trucks during their protest, and a tweet from The Left Wing UK revealing the judge’s connections to the fracking industry.

This clearly casts grave doubts over the judge’s impartiality and the justice of his decision. I am surprised that the judge was allowed to preside over this case, as I would have thought the men’s defence lawyer would have raised an objection against him. Perhaps they did, but it was overruled by the judicial authorities. In which case, it raises wider questions about the entire impartiality of the system in this case.

Congress Revokes RT America’s Press Accreditation

December 1, 2017

The campaign to close down RT America continues. In this piece, the Russian funded network reports on the removal of their press accreditation by the Congressional committee responsible for the press gallery. They have been instructed to hand in their press accreditation and then leave the capitol.

Basically, they’re banned from Congress.

The speakers on the clip point out that this gives the lie to the assurance RT was given a week or so ago, when they were told they had to register as foreign agents, that this would not interfere with their business. They also briefly comment on the lack of support from the professional organisations, that are supposed to be defending press freedom and journalists in America. The presenters note that this came from the Democrats and the Clinton camp trying to divert attention from Killary’s corruption, but it has snowballed, so that now there isn’t anything too wild that can’t be said about RT. For example, the head of NBC declared that RT was like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

They also make the point that very many other countries also have state-funded broadcasters in America. Like the Beeb. Does this mean that the BBC will also have to register as a foreign agent, or have their accreditation revoked?

The presenter then talks about this latest attack on RT with Lionel, of Lionel Media. Lionel remarks on the sheer hysteria behind this move. He also points out that it’s having the opposite effect. Whereas a few years ago he had a hard time telling anyone, who RT was, now everyone knows about it, because it’s constantly being pushed in front of people as a kind of media ‘forbidden fruit’.

The radical journalist, Chris Hedges, once remarked that if you’re a journalist, and the people in power don’t hate you, then you’re not doing your job. Hedges himself certainly did do his job, and suffered from it. He lost his job at the New York Times because he opposed the Iraq War. It’s why he, and very many other journalists, are at RT.

Abby Martin, who presents the Empire Files on TeleSur English, was also at RT. She has said in an interview on the Jimmy Dore Show that she never said anything in praise of Putin, but was there simply because there was nowhere else to go. And that was true of very many of the broadcaster’s staff. RT had many leftists and Socialists working for it, not because they were fans of Putin, but because it was the only network that allowed them to express their opinions.

She also made the point that she saw the attack on RT coming way back in 2007 when the Conservative establishment and the news media began attacking Al-Jazeera as foreign propaganda.

This isn’t about foreign propaganda. This is about clamping down on free speech. The Republicans and Corporatist, Clintonite Democrats hate RT because it covers the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t, and shows the bitter reality of neoliberal policies in America: the rising mass poverty, the misery and deaths caused by lack of affordable healthcare, the massive political corruption caused by corporate political funding, the destruction of America’s beautiful natural environment through fracking and the oil industry; racism and Black Lives Matter, and the horrors and atrocities committed by American imperialism.

It’s because RT covers these issues, that Congress wants to close it down. And as Martin and Dore point out, once they’ve finished with RT, they’ll go after the other news media, even the mainstream networks.

Donald Trump has said several times that he’d like to suspend the broadcasting license of those networks that criticise him, like MSNBC. Congress’ removal of RT’s press accreditation just brought that highly illiberal, dystopian possibility just a bit closer.

Chris Hedges: RT Target Because Gives Platform to Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Capitalist Critics

November 15, 2017

Yesterday, RT America was forced to register as a foreign agent under FARA, the Foreign Agents’ Registration Act, a piece of legislation that dates from the 1930s, and which was set up to regulate foreign lobbyists and propaganda outlets.

The move has been condemned by Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North American co-ordinator of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Compelling RT to register under FARA is a bad idea. This is a shift in how the law has been applied in recent decades, so we have little information about how its reporting requirements might affect individual journalists. We’re uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda.

The presenter then interviews Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and dissident, Chris Hedges, the presenter of RT America’s On Contact. Hedges states that the head of American national intelligence said that RT was a threat, not because it broadcast Russian propaganda, but because it gave a platform to anti-imperial, anti-capitalist voices, and covered issues and movements that the country’s elites would rather not be covered, such as the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, and fracking.

As for the question whether Americans should have a choice in their media, Hedges states that it would be true, if America had a functioning media which actually did its job and covered dissent. But it doesn’t. The media has been taken over by corporate interests, including the most retrograde of those in the form of the Koch brothers.

He also points out that this move is a major threat to press and political freedom generally. The elites, which he describes as kleptocrats, are resorting to censorship because they now realise that they have no arguments to support neoliberalism. They are desperate to suppress the reporting of the growing inequality, which has produced such an uprising in both the Democrat and Republican parties. And so they are trying to suppress the reporting of the growing poverty in America as foreign propaganda, and claim that the increasing dissent and discontent is due to foreign interference.

This is going on at the same time that Google and other internet companies have developed algorithms to take searchers away from left-wing and dissenting news sites.

He notes that the organisations that are charged with protecting the freedom of the press have largely ignored this issue and have not objected to RT America’s registration under FARA. But he warns that this will only be the beginning of a greater assault on press and media freedom.

Once the elites have finished suppressing marginal, alternative media and journalists that they have pushed to the sidelines, such as himself, they will move on to the mainstream media.

This isn’t just about RT America. The British government and Theresa May has also started baying about how Russia is interfering in British politics. Here the main issue seems to be Brexit at the moment. May seems to be trying to use the Russians as a scapegoat for her own failure to secure any kind of deal with the EU.

Other alternative news programmes, that have nothing to do with Russia, are also being hit by Google’s algorithms. These are shows like The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and Democracy Now! And left-wing British bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political have also suffered problems with some of their material mysteriously vanishing from Facebook, or people finding it difficult to log on. One of the commenters to this site posted that she had had difficulty getting on to Mike’s page in response to an article I put up about how I found it impossible to get onto Mike’s site on Saturday, when he wrote a reply demolishing the claims of a Tory councillor that Journalists’ reporting of the immense harm done by the government’s policies to the disabled was ‘inflammatory nonsense’.

John Kampfner wrote a book about ten years or so ago, Freedom for Sale, about how governments all over the world, including Blair’s, were cracking down on freedom of speech. He considered it part of a deal they had made with their peoples. They would give them prosperity, but the other side of the bargain was that they would not tolerate any criticism. Now, ten or so years later, that bargain has gone. These governments are not bringing prosperity. Quite the opposite. Poverty has expanded massively under the Tories. But they are continuing to clamp down on freedom of speech and the press.

All in the name of protecting us from the Russians. Or terrorists like ISIS. Or anyone else they can use as a handy pretext for regulating and narrowing media freedom even more.

Consortium News: Why No Probe of ‘Israel-Gate’?

November 14, 2017

‘Michelle’, one of the great commenters to this blog, sent me a link to this article by Robert Parry last week. I hadn’t really had time to read it and post it up until now. But the question it raises is acutely relevant. Since Killary lost the election to Trump, the Western media and political-industrial class has been baying that it’s all the Russians’ fault. That Vladimir Putin and RT are spreading ‘fake news’ all over America and the rest of the western media. They’re interfering in our politics. Just this morning the British press reported that Theresa May had joined the attack, claiming that Russia was the biggest threat to western democracy. Or some similar rubbish that sounds like something from the Cold War.

There’s no evidence that the Russians have been trying to interfere in American politics any more than usual. And May has very good, personal reasons for trying to deflect attention away from her on to a perceived Russian threat. Her government is in meltdown, with 40 of her MPs having signed a ‘no confidence’ letter against her. If they find eight more Tories to add their signatures, then May has to give herself up for re-election as the head of her party.

Hence the fear, and the determination to seize on a spurious Russian threat to western democracy in order to distract people from how precarious her ‘strong and stable’ government is. Quite apart from its horrific policies that are privatising the NHS, education, destroying the welfare state and killing the unemployed and disabled through benefit sanctions.

In fact, it isn’t the Russians who have repeatedly and blatantly interfered in American politics. It’s the Israelis, as Robert Parry shows. Parry was the reporter, who revealed many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s. This was Reagan’s dirty little secret about how he was allowing the Contras in Nicaragua to support their war against the Sandinistas by exporting drugs to America’s ghettoes. And how, in order to secure the release of US squaddies taken hostage in Lebanon, he sent a shipment of armaments to Iran.

Parry’s article discusses the way that both the Democrats and the Republicans prostrate themselves before AIPAC, the big Israeli lobbying group in America, and solicits donations from millionaires and billionaires like Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the proprietor of a chain of casinos, and makes no secret of the fact that he is ‘Israel first’. And congress has repeatedly issued invitations for Netanyahu, whom I’ve heard described by at least one Jewish academic as ‘that b***ard Netanyahu’ to address them. They’ve invited him over three times, the same number as Winston Churchill.

Anyone who steps out of line and does not kowtow to the Israel lobby is duly punished. They’ll be vilified as ‘anti-Semites’, even if they are decent people, who are disgusted by anti-Semitism. Parry gives an example of two Republican politicos, Paul Findley and Charles Percy, both from Illinois, when they tried to open negotiations with the PLO in the early 1980s. The Israel lobby responded by donating handsomely to their opponents, so that both were defeated, Findley in 1982, Percy two years later. Findley later published a book about his experiences in 1985, entitled They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby. It was then comprehensively trashed in the pages of the New York Times by Adam Clymer, who denounced it as ‘one-sided’.

After that, American politicians were much less likely to confront the Israel lobby. Parry notes how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both visited Israel, Obama in 2008, Romney in 2012, in order to secure Netanyahu’s blessing.

Israel was also involved in the October Surprise. This was the deal Ronald Reagan made with the Iranians to stop Jimmy Carter being re-elected. At the time, the new Islamic revolutionary regime had Americans in Iran captive as hostages. Carter was negotiating for their release, but Reagan arranged for arms to be sent to the Ayatollahs to keep the hostages captive for longer. This was to present Carter as ineffectual and incompetent, and allow Reagan to win the election.

And it worked.

The Israelis were also in on Reagan’s dirty little deal. The Israeli president, Menachem Begin, and many other leading Israeli politicos and officials hated Carter, because he had brokered the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt. As part of the deal, Israel had been forced to hand back the Sinai to Egypt. Begin was afraid Carter would push for Israel to retreat back to its 1967 border, and would recognise a Palestinian state. So he connived with Reagan to scupper Carter’s chances at re-election.

Israel’s part in these manoeuvring was later revealed by Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli intelligence official, who had been part of the negotiations. So the Israelis then did their level best to discredit him in turn. And in the same decade, the Israelis also mounted internal spying missions in America. One of these involved Jonathan Pollard, who fed the Israeli spooks highly sensitive American documents.

Parry’s article also describes how the Americans themselves manipulate and interfere in other countries’ politics, often for regime change, using the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID – the US Agency for International Development. It was these agencies which were responsible for the ‘Maidan Revolution’ in the Ukraine, which ousted the pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukhovych.

He also describes how the Neocons collaborated with the Likudniks in 1996 to secure Netanyahu’s re-election in Israel, and how the same politicos and apparatchiks turned instead to the policy of regime change. Instead of negotiating with Arab governments, they were to be overthrown. By 1998 the Project for the New American Century, led by the neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan, were putting pressure on Bill Clinton to invade Iraq. Five years later, they got their wish, and a new president, George Dubya Bush, launched the invasion. He also states that it was due to Israel that Barack Obama decided to ally with the Sunni forces in the region, including those fighting Assad in Syria. Which makes America ally with al-Qaeda. Parry then brings the story up to last year’s election, when Clinton and Trump both presented themselves as pro-Israel. Both Clinton and Trump attacked Iran as the prime supporter of terrorism in the world, even though it’s actually the Sunni kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states.

He then goes on to discuss the lies spread by US intelligence and the Clintonite wing of the Democrats that it was the Russians, who hacked into the computers at the Democratic National Convention to leak the incriminating documents. In fact, WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied that they received the documents from the Russians.

The article concludes

The U.S. intelligence community also has accused the Russian government of raising doubts in the minds of Americans about their political system by having RT, the Russian-sponsored news network, hold debates for third-party candidates (who were excluded from the two-party Republican-Democratic debates) and by having RT report on protests such as Occupy Wall Street and issues such as “fracking.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making opening remarks at a joint White House press conference with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2017. (Screenshot from White House video)

The major U.S. news media and Congress seem to agree that the only remaining question is whether evidence can be adduced showing that the Trump campaign colluded in this Russian operation. For that purpose, a number of people associated with the Trump campaign are to be hauled before Congress and made to testify on whether or not they are Russian agents.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other establishment-approved outlets are working with major technology companies on how to marginalize independent news sources and to purge “Russian propaganda” (often conflated with “fake news”) from the Internet.

It seems that no extreme is too extreme to protect the American people from the insidious Russians and their Russia-gate schemes to sow doubt about the U.S. political process. But God forbid if anyone were to suggest an investigation of Israel-gate.

See: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/20/why-not-a-probe-of-israel-gate/

All of this is demonstrably true. And there’s probably more, if you want to look for it. The other year the Israel lobby brought down a Black, Green party politico by presenting her as an anti-Semite and funnelling money into her opponents when she dared to criticise the Israel lobby.

We’ve also seen it in this country, where Al-Jazeera caught various members of the Tory party conspiring with officials at the Israeli embassy to remove awkward members of the Tory party. And there is the continuing witch hunt and vilification as anti-Semites people in the Labour party, like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Mike from Vox Political, because they dared to criticise Israel for its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians.

These smears have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism. Those smeared in the Labour party have, by and large, been decent, anti-racist, men and women. Very many of them, like Walker and Greenstein, are self-respecting Jews. Those smeared included the secular as well as the Torah-observant and even devoutly Orthodox. Many of them have been victims themselves of anti-Semitic violence and abuse.

I’ve blogged before about how the British comedian, Alexei Sayle, who’s the son of Jewish Communists from Liverpool, has remarked on how most of those accused of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby are Jewish. Well, you can expect that. The last thing Israel and its cheerleaders want is for ordinary Brits and Americans, whether Jewish or not, to realise that Judaism does not equal Zionism, and that to many Jews Zionism is an abhorrent blasphemy.

So decent anti-racists are vilified in Britain and America, and Russia misrepresented as the new threat to democracy, by a corrupt and desperate corporate political class trying to find a scapegoat for its increasing popularity. While a complicit media looks the other way, preferring to join in the creation of a new Cold War, rather than reveal Israel’s very real interference in American and western politics.

TeleSur English: Scotland Bans Fracking

October 4, 2017

This is another little video from the Latin American broadcaster, TeleSur. It reports that after a two year investigation, the Scots parliament has banned fracking forever. During its examination of the issue, the Scottish assembly took the views of 60,000 Scots, 99 per cent of whom were against. The video notes that Scotland joins the growing number of opponents of fracking, which damages the environment through pollution and global warming, contaminates water as well as an increased demand for it, and damages peoples’ health.

I’m really glad the people of Scotland have made such a decision to preserve their country and its beautiful environment, as well as their health, from fracking. I wish this country would also follow them and ban it. I blogged about local concerns about how it would affect the environment around Keynsham, a small town near me just south of Bristol, between this city and Bath. I think there are also concerns about it on the Somerset levels, as well as elsewhere in Britain. Unfortunately, it has the full support of the Tories, who don’t care how much pollution and contamination goes to kill of the environment and damage people’s health, so long as the oil companies, who fund their campaign and on whose boards so many of them probably sit or otherwise have connections, turn a profit.

The Young Turks on the Republicans’ Hatred of College Education

August 20, 2017

‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Came in about four years ago.’

-Bill Hicks, American comic, speaking four years after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Earlier today I posted a piece commenting on clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, about Rush Limbaugh’s mindlessly stupid ridiculing of NASA’s announcement that they may have discovered flowing water on Mars. Limbaugh’s a right-wing radio host, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his views about liberals, socialists, communists, gays, feminists, anti-racism activists and so on since the 1980s. He sneered at NASA’s announcement because – wait for it – the agency was part of a ‘leftist’ plot to promote global warming!

Not only does he not understand the science, nor the reality of global warming, I don’t think he knows anything about NASA. I know quite a few people, who are fans of space exploration and research from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. None of them have ever considered that the space agency was ‘left-wing’, although some of its leading scientists and advocates, like Carl Sagan, were. And the accusation that the agency’s data on global warming is faked for political purposes is risible.

But this shows the contempt Limbaugh has for science, and for education generally.

Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, has a background in microbiology and has been very interested in the question of life in space. She has posted a long comment to my piece. I recommend that you read all of it. But the end is particularly important, as she wonders how we got to this point where science is so despised.

And of course, back to NASA. I was fairly sure the alt-idiocy had already “proven” it was part of the deep state and the heart of black ops and skunk works and a branch of the CIA. These latest revelations only serve, as you say, to illustrate the total lack of education to an acceptable level in this day and age, more worryingly the lack of scientists in government in the USA and across the world. The charge against the scientific community lead by Trump and his “business men” ilk, with the violent and thuggish self styled fascist enforcers and militias coming out the woodwork in the last year, make the premise of the Handmaids Tale seem worryingly prophetic. How did this happen?

I think it’s part of a general distrust of intellectuals in American culture, which has increased massively amongst Republicans in recent years. In the piece below, The Young Turks discuss the finding that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning people distrust college education. They also note that they don’t just look down on higher education. They also hate and distrust the media and science. 58 per cent of Republicans and Republican supporters state that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, compared to 45 per cent a year ago, in 2016.

Cenk Uygur suggests that part of this is the use of propaganda by the party’s leaders. Part of the problem is that Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian than left-wingers. Thus, they’re more likely to follow the opinions of their leaders, and in the case of the Republican party, these leaders despise higher education.

Ana Kasparian, his co-host, who I believe teaches political science herself, argues that it’s because the Republicans want to keep you stupid. They’re trying to privatize education, and get children instead to attend private schools through voucher schemes, where the normal educational standards do not apply. There’s more than an element of hypocrisy in this. Those public figures trying to destroy the American educational system and minimize the benefits of higher education are themselves highly educated. Many of them have gone to Ivy League universities. Anne Coulter is one example. In her book, which Kasparian laments she has had to read, ’cause she’s got to debate her, Coulter states that the only purpose of college education is to produce ‘social justice warriors’. Yet this woman went to Cornel. Yet education is one of the great indicators of how well an individual will do in the future. And as she points out, it also protects you from scams.

Yet the Republicans themselves are also slightly divided on the issue of the benefits of higher education. 46 per cent of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year say that college has a beneficial effect on how well you do. This declines for those earning over $30,000 all the way down to 32 per cent.

Uygur and Kasparian admit that there are caveats and qualifications to this issue. Higher education has a down side, in that students are saddled with an immense amount of debt. This needs to be reformed. But Republicans don’t see college as a negative because they feel sorry for the students burdened with this debt. No, they want to keep people stupid and misinformed, so they don’t climb the economic ladder and they can’t fill them with some of the nonsense they believe.

Uygur concludes ‘So don’t go to university, because if you go to a real university, you might not go to a Trump university, and that would be bad for Trump.’

Once again, this is an American issue that applies almost in toto to Britain. Continental visitors and emigrants to Britain have commented on how anti-intellectual British society is. And this anti-intellectualism is again part of British Conservatism as well. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed a book on Conservative by the right-wing British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton declared that Conservativism wasn’t an intellectual force, but was largely unspoken, and based on the power of tradition. For which the reviewer thanked Scruton for being honest about how anti-intellectual it was. Intellectuals and science are distrusted, because many of their findings contradict or cast doubt on traditional attitudes. For example, feminism attacks traditional notions of gender roles. Black and Asian intellectuals and activist have also undermined commonly held racial assumptions about White superiority and the subordinate role of their ethnic groups. Left-wing historians and political scientists have also challenged the class basis of western, including American and British society, as well as the supposed beneficial nature of western imperialism.

Some of the Republican distrust of science comes from Biblical literalism. The findings of geology and cosmology contradict a literal reading of the creation of the world in Genesis. That said, one study found that the people, who had the greatest faith in science were actually Creationists.

The Republicans and some of their British counterparts, like Nigel Lawson, also deny the reality of global warming. Hence Trump’s decision to close down that part of the federal government that researches and publishes studies of climate change and the pollution and decline of America’s epic natural beauty. It’s why Theresa May and Dave Cameron get annoyed whenever anyone shows how terrible fracking is for local people and the environment.

Science can be particularly difficult for the layperson to understand. It can involve very careful statistical analysis of complex data. And some of the raw phenomena are extremely weird. Quantum physics is a case in point. The world of subatomic particles is contradictory and very different from the macroscopic, everyday world. Subatomic particles dart into and out of existence in the quantum foam at the very lowest layer of matter. Light can be simultaneously a wave and a particle. Particles may be in two places at once, under their position is recorded by an observer. They can also move between one place in the atom to another without physically crossing the space in between. And two entangled atoms can behave as one, even though they may be separated by light years. It’s so bizarre that the scientists studying it have said that ‘you don’t understand it. You just get used to it.’

Also, some of the pronouncements made by intellectuals themselves have given critics ample ammunition. Like the statement by one professor a few years ago that snowmen were racist and sexist. Or the £20,000 in grant one scientist received for researching the terribly important issue of why cornflakes get soggy when you pour milk on them.

There’s also the problem that scientific opinion also keeps changing on medical matters. Every so often researchers discover that certain foods are harmful for you. On the other hand, certain others are beneficial. Only for these opinions to be revised a few years later.

But the nature of science is that it is a process, not a set body of knowledge, and that it’s conclusions and statements may be revised as and when later discoveries are made. It’s why no-one now believes that an immaterial fluid – the ether – permeates the universe, with atoms only whirlpools in it, as they did over a century or so ago.

And so the right-wing press, like the Scum all the way up to the Torygraph, and particularly the Daily Heil, will publish endless numbers of articles attacking ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. Paul Johnson, the Conservative pundit, who used to write for the Daily Mail and Spectator, amongst other rags, wrote a book on them. Entitled Intellectuals, Johnson used it to explore what right intellectuals had to tell us what was right and how to order our lives. Private Eye also reviewed this as well. You will not be surprised to read that most of the intellectuals Johnson wrote about were left-wing, and many of them had shabby personal lives. Karl Marx is one example. Others were gay, or otherwise had colourful sexual tastes, like Kenneth Tynan, who apparently was into S&M.

But none of this actually refutes the value of their work, which has to be judged on other terms. Marx’s own bad behavior as a man doesn’t contradict his philosophical and economic theories any more than Alan Turing’s homosexuality refutes his work on mathematics and computers. But this doesn’t stop Johnson trying to tell you that their own bad behavior disqualifies intellectuals from having the right to explore how society may be improved. An attitude that, incidentally, is apparently shared by that other Johnson, Boris. This should rule Boris out as well as a serious politician, if true.

In the meantime, don’t let the Tories and Republicans run down public education. And stick up for proper intellectuals and intellectual discourse. As someone once said, ‘Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’

Cartoon: Cameron, Clegg and the Tories as David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’

June 26, 2017

There isn’t much to say about this cartoon, except that it was based on the film poster for David Lynch’s disturbing flick, Eraserhead. This is about a man with one of the weirdest hairstyles in cinema attempting to look after a weird, mutant baby, whose head resembles an eraser, hence the film’s title. It’s set in a crumbling, dystopian world, whose audio backdrop is in industrial noise. It’s been described as a horror movie, although it’s not quite that, as well as surreal, which it certainly is.

I thought it was a suitable metaphor for the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, as they’ve certainly done their best to make Britain as decadent and dystopian as possible. This is a Britain in which austerity killed 30,000 people in 2015 alone, according to researchers at Oxford University. Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks to stop themselves from starving, where 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where the family members don’t know if they’ll eat tomorrow. Families where the mothers are starving themselves in order to feed and clothe their children.

And all the while more people are forced into poverty through wage freezes, and cuts to welfare benefits. A country in which the poor, the unemployed and the disabled are vilified simply for being poor.

It’s a Britain where the NHS and the schools and universities are being privatised for the profit of private healthcare companies and school management companies, and in which uni students will graduate owing something like £40,000 worth of student debt.

This is a Britain in which homelessness is on the rise. Except you won’t see it, because local councils are passing laws to clear the homeless off their streets, so the site of them begging doesn’t annoy or upset the richer residents.

It’s a country where public services, like the trains, are being starved of investment so that their share value remains artificially high, and the bosses can award themselves big bonuses.

It’s a country where the private energy companies also keep prices high for the same reason.

It’s a country, whose natural beauty is in danger of being plundered and despoiled, as the government despises clean, renewable energy sources, and removes environmental protection legislation for the benefit of fracking companies.

It’s a country that’s heading rapidly towards dictatorship and authoritarianism, as New Labour, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers passed legislation setting up secret courts, in which the defendant may be tried behind closed doors, with vital evidence and the identity of his accuser also kept secret, if the government decides this is required for reasons of ‘national security’. Just like the judicial system in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Stalin’s Russia.

But to make sure you don’t realise that this country is becoming a crumbling dystopia, the media do nothing but lie about how evil the left is, and how wonderful everything is under the Tories, including the BBC. A media dominated by a very few newspaper magnates – Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Twins, Richard Desmond, Vere Harmsworth and a pair of Russian oligarchs.

So I drew David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith all in black and white with the same weird hairstyle as the film’s hero, played by Jack Nance, like the film’s poster.

This is the face of the Tory-Lib Dem government as it was a few years ago. But things haven’t changed since under Theresa May, who’s gone full steam ahead with all the old, wretch Tory policies.

Don’t have nightmares! Just vote for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour poverty, to end austerity and the predatory capitalism that sustains it.

More Tory Lies as May Claims that ‘Austerity Is Dead’

June 15, 2017

On Tuesday Mike put up a post commenting on May’s claim that she was going to end the austerity foisted on the country by Cameron, Osborne and Nick Clegg. The trio had claimed that cutting services, privatising the NHS, and dismantling the welfare state even more ruthlessly, were what was needed to pay off the debt Labour had incurred trying to prevent the global economy collapsing due to the bankster’s recklessness. The result has been wages cuts and a massive increase in poverty as the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled were thrown off benefits for the flimsiest of reasons.

Instead of blaming the bankers for the economic crisis, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers went back to the using refrain of blaming ‘high spending’ Labour for ‘living beyond our means’.

As Mike points out in his post, cutting government investment is the one thing you don’t do during a recession. State investment stimulates the economy, which means that businesses start making money again, which generates more tax revenue.

This one of the arguments in support of welfare provision against unemployment. If unemployed workers have some kind of income during a recession, they can afford to spend some of it, thus generating more income for businesses and the state. It’s basic Keynsianism, and it works. Unlike the grotty free market economics embraced by the Tories. That has only succeeded in increasing the debt.

Now Theresa May has decided that austerity should be ended. Not because she has woken up at last to the fact that it isn’t working, and in fact is damaging the British economy. Or because she’s suddenly grown a conscience, and has realised the immense human cost of the Tories’ austerity policies in terms of tens of thousands of people, who have died in misery. Or the 7 million plus British people now living in ‘food-insecure’ households, who don’t know if they’re next meal is going to be their last.

No, it’s because the Tories lost their overall majority, thanks to a revived Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. Mike comments

And now, further cuts are being abandoned – not because austerity’s ends have been achieved, but because the Tories have realised they will forfeit votes if they continue.

Everybody in the UK, who isn’t filthy rich, should be furious. We should be marching on Tory MPs’ homes and offices with blazing torches and pitchforks, shouting “Burn the monsters!”

The last thing we should do is tolerate this latest cynical reaction to prevailing trends. Tories represent greed and power. The only reason they abandon their pursuit of greed is when it may harm their hold on power.

Mike isn’t the only one who’s furious at this cynical U-turn and the cavalier fashion in which the Tories have shrugged off their responsibility for destroying so many lives with a brutal, callous and entirely wrong economic and social policy. He concludes

Even now, on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Tories Michael Howard and Dominic Grieve are talking about the need to live within our means. The fact is that it is entirely possible, if Tories are stopped from siphoning off our money into their bank accounts.

The end of austerity is to be welcomed.

The end of the UK’s problems will only come when the Conservatives are banished from Parliament forever.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/13/austerity-is-dead-says-may-because-it-was-never-needed-we-should-be-enraged/

In fact, the I newspaper also reported on the same day that the Tories were revising their manifesto, and dropping the more unpopular policies, such as the ‘Dementia Tax’. This was accompanied with noises about how we lived in a democratic society, and the Tories were a democratic party, so they were responding to the demands of the electorate.

There were also statements designed to reassure Tory supporters that this time, May herself would be performing better in public. They claimed that she was now a more naturalistic speaker, and that ‘the Maybot is gone.’

I find all of this very difficult to believe. The Tories are inveterate liars, who lie constantly without compunction. You only have to look through Mike’s blog for the past week or so to find very long lists of May’s promises, which she has subsequently broken. Such as her promises to put workers on the boards of companies. The campaign of her predecessor, David Cameron, was one long series of lies. He and IDS, the minister for culling the disabled, claimed that they were going to ringfence spending on the NHS, campaigned against hospital closures by Blair’s New Labour, and tried to present the Tories as now being more left-wing and friendly to the poor. He also stuck a windmill on the roof of his house, and claimed that his would be ‘the greenest government ever’.

Once in power, the NHS was being cut and privatised, hospitals closed and given over to private management companies, conditionality for welfare benefits massively increased, and any semblance of environmentalism thrown out completely. The windmill went from his roof, and in came the privatisation of Britain’s forests, the repeal of various pieces of legislation protecting the environment, and the go-ahead given to fracking.

The fact that Howard and Grieve were talking about ‘living within our means’ – which is Tory-speak for not spending anything on the poor and state services, like the NHS and education, means that the Tories really don’t believe it.

And yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Sajid Javid are calling for May’s proposed cap on energy bills to be scrapped and the party should return to its ‘free market roots’.

Mike quoted Labour’s shadow energy minister, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and concluded:

“If correct, this is potentially another stunning U-turn from a weak and wobbly Prime Minister,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“One in ten households are living in fuel poverty and customers are being overcharged a whopping £2 billion every year. Theresa May unequivocally guaranteed a price cap before the general election but now it appears she is preparing to row back on that promise. It now looks like this price cap was simply an election gimmick and that the Conservatives were never serious about taking action to keep energy bills down.

“Britain needs a serious and long term approach in order to bring energy costs down, not cheap gimmicks that may simply be thrown into the bin just a week after the General Election.”

She’s right; Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid are wrong. What do YOU think the Tories will do?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/14/the-tory-energy-price-cap-pledge-was-a-lie-or-at-least-philip-hammond-wants-to-make-it-one/

I think it’s blatantly obvious what the Tories will do. They’re lying now about ending austerity, but perfectly serious about abandoning the energy bill cap. If they get in again, May will reintroduce all the policies she claimed she abandoned, and the Tories will once again chant the old Thatcherite chorus of TINA – There Is No Alternative.

There is. It’s Jeremy Corbyn. He’s this country’s hope to stop further NHS privatisation, welfare cuts, starvation and deaths.

Weak and Wobby May Does Massive U-Turn over ‘Dementia Tax’

May 22, 2017

This also shows how much pressure and desperate the Tories are feeling from a resurgent Labour. In her manifesto four days ago, ‘strong and stable’ May said that she intended taking the value of people’s houses into consideration when assessing the amount they would be charged for their social care. This would lead to people having to take out ‘equity release’, in which their houses would be sold and the money used to pay for their care, while allowing them to remain as tenants.

Florence, one of the great commenters to this blog, has pointed out just how nasty this policy is in a comment she posted to an earlier piece I did about it. She wrote

Equity release is not the same as insurance. Using equity release to pay for care is already available and has many times been shown to be the worse possible use of a house for the elderly. They are essentially unpaid mortgages where the interest accrues along with the original debt, so any capital increase in value is eaten up by interest and charges. The resident can be forced out of the house at any time. Instead of banning these deals the May cabal want to force us to use them.

Insurance will only be available to the young and fit or through workplace schemes. No one will insure a retired person.

Not surprisingly, large sections of the population did not welcome having the government force them to sell the homes they saved for throughout their lives. With the result that May has now made a U-Turn so fast, that she’s left skidmarks in the road, if not in her underwear.

It’s a very quick U-Turn indeed, as only this morning various Tory talking heads were appearing on breakfast TV defending it, saying that the Tories were showing resolve in coming to grips with Britain’s aging population. Now she’s telling everyone she’s going to put a cap on the amount they will be expected to pay. Even though her ministers, like Jeremy Hunt, have been saying all week. She’s also gone on the offensive – and to me, she’s always been very offensive – and accused Labour of scaremongering.

But, as various people on social media have noticed, it’s May herself who appears scared. Or ‘frit’, as the former Leaderene used to say in her native Grantham patois.

Mike’s posted up two videos of her speaking, stating that her own fear is evident from her body language and tone of voice.

One person has posted a picture of a backbone, with a note beside it saying ‘Wanted for Theresa May’. Marcus Chown also posted a photograph of a jelly, to show how weak and wobbly May is. Chown’s a scientist and science writer, who’s written for New Scientist, and published a book on the Cosmic Background Radiation, The Afterglow of Creation, far back in the 1990s. But you really don’t need the Hubble Space Telescope or Jodrell Bank to see how desperate May and her fellows now are.

She’s now telling everyone that she’s going to keep her new promise to cap charges for social care. And the Daily Mail, like the Tory lapdog it is, has issued an article hailing her as an ‘honest politician’.

No, no she isn’t. Not remotely.

Among the various promises and pledges she’s broken are her support for ‘Remain’, which has now definitely been ditched in favour of Brexit; her promise to raise National Insurance contributions from the self-employed; she claimed she wanted to put workers in the boardroom – that went very quickly; and her stated resolution not to hold a snap election. Along with a pledge to reduce the sugar content in children’s foods.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/22/dementia-tax-u-turn-theresa-may-is-a-weak-and-wobbly-conservative-in-chaos/

As Mike states in his article, it’s not a complete list.

In fact, May’s party lies frequently and shamelessly. Remember when David Cameron, May’s predecessor, was telling everyone that the Tories would ring-fence NHS spending against cuts? How he, IDS and the rest of the Tory faithful claimed they were trying to protect the NHS for New Labour’s closure of hospitals up and down the country? These policies were ditched almost as soon as Cameron got his foot in No. 10. As was his statement that his would be the ‘greenest’ government of all. That was ditched along with the little windmill outside his house, and replaced with a huge support for fracking and other environmentally destructive policies.

And May’s new pledge about capping the Dementia Tax is, in my opinion, another lie, from a party of liars.