Posts Tagged ‘Global Warming’

Jeremy Corbyn on Arms to Saudi Arabia, the Environment, the Living Wage and University Education

September 24, 2018

This is a short video from RT of just under two minutes, in which the Labour leader gives his views on Britain selling weapons to Saudia Arabia, Donald Trump’s disastrous attitude to the environment, the living wage, and that university education should be free.

Arms to Saudi Arabia

Addressing the Labour party conference, Corbyn states that whilst he obvious wants us to send all the aid necessary to deal with the consequences of the war and the bombing, the best thing to do is to stop the war altogether and to begin that by ending our supply of arms to the Saudi coalition that is undertaking that bombardment.

The Environment

Corbyn explains that Donald Trump is saying that he wants to walk away from the Paris climate accord and tear up all those decades of environmental campaigning that got us over that hurdle to that place, are totally wrong. Corbyn states that our movement has to be as strong on environmental protection and eco-protection as it is on social justice, because that is the way we protect the future for all of us.

The Living Wage

He declares that he does not think there is anything particularly extreme in saying a living wage should be for all workers at ten pounds an hour. You should have rights at work from the time you start your work.

On University Fees

He admits that Labour’s proposal is expensive, but he thinks it’s the right way to invest our money. It was to end college and university fees in order to make further and higher education free for everyone that wants to undertake it.

These are excellent policies and are certain to draw fire from the Tories and Blairites. There was a piece in the I this weekend about the massive growth in British arms exports. It’s supposed to have grown by 83 per cent last year.

And it was under Thatcher and Major that student grants were axed, and tuition fees introduced under Tony Blair, though they were raised massively by the Tory – Lib Dem Coalition.

As for Trump’s position on the environment, this is almost omnicidally dangerous. Some environmental scientists, according to the press, believe that we may actually only be ten years away from the tipping point where global warming is irreversible. We have to protect the environment, if we are not to bequeath our children a ruined, poisoned, dying world.

Now watch the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the right-wing press go absolutely berserk telling everyone that this’ll all be bad for the economy, that businesses won’t be able to afford it, that it’ll make our exports uneconomical, and repeat all the old tropes about ‘high spending Labour’ and that this will lead to more tax rises ad nauseam. Of course, none of this will be connected to the fact that very many Tory MPs have strong links to the arms and petrochemical industries, and that too many MPs across the House are millionaire managing directors. Quite apart from the fact that any tax rises Labour may make will be placed on the extreme rich, not the poor, who can’t afford it. It’ll be the complete reverse of what the Tories and New Labour have done.

Andrew Marr Praises Steven Pinker’s Book on Science, Rationality and Free Markets

February 28, 2018

Mike has posted a number of pieces on his blog commenting on the right-wing bias displayed by Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning show. One recent example of this was his comment to a Tory guest, who came on immediately after he had given a hard interview to someone from the Labour Party. His interview of the Tory was softer, and at the end of it he leaned over to tell her that she had done ‘very well’. Or something like it.

I’m not surprised by this bias. Marr is a fan of the free market, the sacred ideology at the heart of Thatcherism, against which no-one is allowed to blaspheme or question. He was in the I newspaper a few weeks ago praising Steven Pinker’s new book, which argues that the world has got immensely better due to science, reason and markets. Pinker’s a neuroscientist and atheist polemicist. The book’s a successor to his previous work, The Better Angels of Our Nature. This was written to refute the claim that the 20th century was the bloodiest period in human history. This argument has been made in defence of religion, as much atheist polemic is based on the violence and bloodshed that has been generated by religion. But the 20th century is a problem, as the massacres and genocides there took place within an increasingly secular world, and in the case of the horrors committed by Communist regimes, were perpetrated by aggressively atheist regimes. And in the case of the Fascist regimes, it’s questionable how religious they were. General Franco in Spain believed that he was defending Christianity from secularism and materialism when he launched his attack on the Republican government, and horrifically many Christians did support the Fascist regimes against the supposed threats of Communism and Socialism. I’m well aware that Hitler claimed that he was doing ‘the Lord’s work’ in persecuting the Jews in Mein Kampf, but in his Table Talk he has nothing but contempt for Christianity, and wants astronomical observatories set up near schools as part of a scientific campaign against the religion. Hitler’s own religious beliefs seem to have been a kind of monistic pantheism, possibly not that far removed from those of the Monist League, who also sported the swastika as their symbol. As for Mussolini, the Italian dictated signed the Lateran Accords with the papacy, in which the Pope finally recognised Italy’s existence as a state in return for Roman Catholic religious education in schools. But il Duce had started out as a radical socialist, and many members of the Fascist party still were vehemently atheist. Much depended on the religious opinions of the local Fascist ras whether Roman Catholic religious education was taught in the schools in his area. I don’t wish to go into this argument now, whether these regimes were really atheist or not, or if the 20th century really was the bloodiest period in human history. I just wish to make the point that this was the issue at the heart of Pinker’s previous book.

Pinker’s new book apparently tells us that everything’s getting better, including the environment, and Pinker marshals an impressive arrays of facts. But all this said to me was that people and governments have become more ecologically conscious. It does not mean that we aren’t facing the devastating loss of an extraordinary number of this planet’s animal and plant species, or that we face catastrophic global warming which may make the Middle East uninhabitable.

But even more questionable is Pinker’s and Marr’s assertion that modern, post-Enlightenment society has been immensely improved thanks to the science, reason and markets. In the case of science and reason, at one level the statement is obviously true. Human life has benefited immensely from scientific advance, particularly in medicine. But the view that science and reason didn’t exist before then is one that many Medieval scholars would strenuously reject. In contrast to the stereotypes, the Middle Ages actually wasn’t anti-science. There are poems from the 12th-13th centuries celebrating it, and the new knowledge that was flooding into Europe from the Islamic world. The 15th century English poem, The Court of Sapience, lists the various branches of knowledge known to the medieval world, and celebrates them as the area of ‘Dame Sapience’, an idealised personification of wisdom. As for superstition and the occult, historians have also pointed out that the Middle Ages were also an age of scepticism as well as faith. Medieval theologians wrote texts arguing that visions of demons were more likely caused by a full stomach interfering with the correct functioning of the nerves, and so causing bad dreams. Others doubted whether the seers, who claimed to be able to identify thieves through peering in bowls of water or other reflecting surfaces, had any such powers, and were simply using common knowledge to put the blame on notorious thieves. And in contrast to what Marr apparently thinks, free market capitalism did not suddenly emerge in the 18th century with the French Physiocrats and then Adam Smith. In fact, some Christian theologians were arguing for free trade as far back as the thirteenth century.

As for free market capitalism benefiting humanity, the evidence today is that it really doesn’t. The neoliberalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan has done nothing but make the lives of the poor much poorer across the world, and in so doing has increased international tension and political violence. The Korean economist, Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, shows how the strong economies of the world’s developed nations were all created, not by free trade, but by protectionism.

This is very clearly not something any true-blue Thatcherite wants to hear. But it also shows the strange, cult-like nature of the ideology of free trade capitalism. A number of writers have pointed out the apparently illogical, absolute belief its supporters have, even when they are shown the plentiful evidence to the contrary. They still go on believing and demanding free market solutions, even when it is abundantly clear to everyone else that not only do they not work, they are even causing immense harm. And Marr is clearly one of these true believers. He also seems to have uncritically accepted the view that science, reason and free market capitalism were all products of the Enlightenment, when academic historians have been pushing the origins of science and capitalism further back to the Middle Ages, and demonstrated that the Age of Faith was also one of Reason, however irrational it now seems to us.

Marr’s praise of the book and its promotion of the free market also gives more than an indication of his own political beliefs, and why he is much less sympathetic to left-wing guests on his show than those from the right. He’s another member of the cult of neoliberal market capitalism, and this has to be protected at all costs from unbelievers. Even when he and the Beeb swear impartiality.

Richard Coughlan Lays into Farage for Confusing Jews with Zionism

November 17, 2017

This is another, very well-informed rant by Richard ‘the Dick’ Coughlan. Coughlan’s a stand-up comic in his other job, and his videos on YouTube presumably are in the same style as his comedy shows. As you can tell by his signature farewell at the end ‘May God be less’, he’s also quite a militant atheist. I don’t support his atheism, but I am reblogging this because, like many of his other videos on race, it has some very important things to say about prejudice, and how things are really different from the way they’re presented by the Right.

In this video, he’s mostly concerned with attacking Nigel Farage for confusing American Jews with Zionism and the Israel lobby. Farage has his own show on LBC. The other day he took a call from ‘Ahmed’, who said that it was peculiar that everyone was talking about the way Russia interfered in the American elections, but no-one was talking about AIPAC’s and the Israeli’s interference. The man parodied in the Judge Dredd strip as ‘Bilious Barrage’, agreed, and said it was down to the fact that there were 6 million Jews in America. He then went on to talk a little more about how powerful and influential the Jewish lobby in America is.

Coughlan points out that this isn’t very much as a piece of racial prejudice, but it is nevertheless dangerous, as Farage has confused American Jews and the Zionist lobby. He’s afraid this will act as a kind of dog-whistle to promote anti-Semitism further amongst those with racist and far right-wing views. So Coughlan goes on to show how profoundly mistaken Farage is. Most Jews in America are profoundly liberal politically, and many are deeply critical about Israel’s religious and political constitution, and the treatment of the Palestinians. Israel’s biggest supporters aren’t Jewish Americans, but American Christians.

But before he gets on to this issue, he talks about some of the other news about the far right he finds amusing or irritating. Such as the fact that the blogger, Peter Sweden, has a YouTube channel, in which he devotes a nine minute video to discussing a kebab he bought in Norway. He also talks about Milo Yiannopolis briefly getting a job with the Daily Caller, presumably another right-wing media outlet. But he didn’t last there long. He was sacked, and the person, who hired him was also sacked. The Caller, Coughlan goes on to say, has some truly horrendous people working for it. But Yiannopolis was too much even for them.

I can’t say that I’m surprised Yiannopolis got sacked. But it probably has nothing to do with Milo’s own, very right-wing political views, where he’s attacked Blacks and non-Whites, feminism and ‘SJW’ – Social Justice Warriors – in general. No, it’s far more likely they got rid of Milo because of his comments defending paedophilia, comments which he later retracted. Sort of. Before recognising that he was also a victim through being abused by a Roman Catholic priest when he was 14.

Coughlan points out that Israel mostly attracts the support of very hardline, racist, anti-Islamic individuals and organisations like the English Defence League, Jihad Watch, Gert Wilders, Pamela Geller, and the hardline American Conservatives. The biggest organisation lobbying for Israel in the Land of the Free is the CUFI – Christians United For Israel. This was presided over by the Roman Catholic bigot, John Hagee, before his death, and had Jerry Falwell, the extreme right-wing Christian evangelist on its board. It has 2.5 million members. AIPAC – the largely Jewish Israeli lobbying group, is more influential, as it has more powerful and influential members. Here he runs through a list of American politicos. But its actual membership is much smaller -100,000. American Conservatives love Israel, because Israel’s a profoundly Conservative nation. In the 2012 elections, 65 per cent of Israelis favoured Mitt Romney. But extremely politically Conservative Jews, such as Pamela Geller and Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, aren’t representative of American Jewry as a whole.

Coughlan points out that about 22 per cent of Jewish Americans aren’t religious. This is so high a percentage, that the census has had to create another category specifically for them. There are now two entries for Jews – one for religious Jews, and another for non-religious. American Jews are also overwhelmingly liberal. 65 per cent of them vote Democrat. The majority also support a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, and 66 per cent believe that Israel and an independent Palestine could co-exist peacefully. It’s just that their leaders don’t want to. 44 per cent of American Jews are opposed to Israel building further settlements in Palestinian territory. As for the theological view that Israel was given to the Jews by the Almighty, only 40 per cent of American Jews believe this. Which contrasts with the 82 per cent of American Christian Evangelicals, who think this is the case. And 77 per cent of American Jews have an unfavourable view of the orange simian creature, now skulking in the White House.

Regarding Israel’s religious constitution, 43 per cent of American Jews want synagogue and state to be separated. A further 20+ per cent want there to be more separation between synagogue and state, but not a total separation. He also notes the rise in Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism. Last year, in 2016, only 21 per cent of American Jews felt anti-Semitism to be a problem. This year, 2017, it has risen to 41 per cent.

And on social issues American Jews are very liberal. 90 per cent of American Jews, whether religious or not, support gay marriage and LGBT rights, as opposed to 50 per cent of Americans in general. They are also for gun control, against global warming, and do not support the war in Iraq nor the War on Terror.

Coughlan then discusses the size of the various Jewish denominations in America, and the political stance of the largest, the United Reform Judaism Union. 35 per cent of American Jews belong to Reform Judaism. The next largest Jewish denomination in America are the Conservatives, with 18 per cent, and then the Orthodox, with 10 per cent. The president of the URJU is Rabbi Robert Eric Yoffre. Yoffre ran unopposed as leader between 1996 and 2012. He’s very much in favour of equality, social justice and tolerance and religious dialogue, having spoken at Christian and Islamic religious conferences. But most people probably haven’t heard of him. And despite the size and numerical importance of this gentleman’s denomination, when he goes to Israel he is not treated as a rabbi. Because Israeli law does not recognise Reform Judaism as a denomination.

Coughlan states before he begins his discussion of real political and religious views of American Jews that he doesn’t intend to say anything about Israel, either for or against. This is simply about the facts about American Jewish opinion, as gleaned by polling groups like Pew Research.

He then continues his attack on Farage by stating that his conflation of ‘Jews’ with the Israel lobby will act as a dog-whistle to anti-Semites with stupid conspiracy theories about Jewish power and influence. And while he’s at it, he also wonders why Farage is no longer talking about Brexit. He should, because he spent 20 years campaigning for it, as well as being massively in favour of Trump. But now it’s a complete failure, supported only by bitter, racist Little Englanders.

As for stupid conspiracy theories, Farage’s conflation of the Jews with the Israel lobby may only be a small piece of prejudice, but he wonders what’s next: Farage raving about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps? This is the notorious Tsarist forgery, which supposedly revealed that there was a massive Jewish conspiracy to enslave gentiles around the world. It was concocted by the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, or Department 4, to convince the Tsar to increase the persecution of the Jews further. It’s a deeply malign document that has inspired racists and Nazis since its publication, such as Oswald Mosley in Britain and Adolf Hitler in Germany. Coughlan then concludes that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are so important, that he’ll probably produce another video debunking them.

This is video is really good, as it gives the facts and figures to support some of the arguments I’ve put up before now, stating that Judaism and Zionism are entirely separate, and that many Jews are deeply critical of Israel. The veteran Jewish critique of Zionism and the Israeli lobby, Professor Norman Finkelstein, has made the point that historically support for Israel was very much a minority opinion amongst Jewish Americans. Many Jews in America and over here support the Palestinians and the campaign for their civil and political rights, joining groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign against Israel. And in Israel itself there are proud Jews, who also protest against the house seizures and demolitions, the construction of the illegal settlements, and the brutalisation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their ancestral lands.

This probably explains the sheer venom of the Israel lobby, and its organs in the Labour party, in persecuting them, as well as gentile critics of Israel. I’ve pointed out time and again how the majority of people suspended and expelled from the Labour for anti-Semitism were nothing of the sort. They were very largely decent, anti-racist men and women, who hated anti-Semitism as another form of the racism they detested. They opposed Israel, or at least the brutalisation of the Palestinians, because they saw Israel as a White, European settler state, based on the same racist, imperialist and colonialist attitudes towards indigenous peoples, that has led to the brutalisation of other indigenous peoples and the theft of their land by Europeans across the globe.

However, the Israeli lobby both here and in America has libelled and vilified these people as anti-Semites, even when its obvious to everyone else that they aren’t. Those so maligned have included self-respecting Jews, who have themselves been the victims of real, anti-Semitic abuse or assault. This does not matter. Zionist and pro-Israel organisations, like the horribly misnamed Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, have adopted a tortuous definition of anti-Semitism, which deliberately conflates it with opposition to Israel. And so it doesn’t matter how genuinely anti-racist a person is, whether they have a positive view of Jews, or simply have no strong opinion of them one way or another. Or if they’re Jewish, how observant they are, or otherwise self-respecting. Simply for denouncing Israel’s attack on Jews, they’re attacked as self-hating and anti-Semitic. And many people, including the British comedian Alexei Sayle, have noticed that the majority of the victims of the witch-hunt in the Labour party over this issue have been Jewish.

It looks very much like it’s because these organisations know how weak their position is, and how repugnant very many ordinary people, including Jews, find their persecution of the Palestinians. And so to keep up the image that Jew = Zionism/ Israel, as dictated by Likudnik doctrine, they have to try to marginalise and vilify those who deny it. And that means particularly persecuting Jews.

One of the books that was published a few years ago on the Israel Lobby noted that the lobby affected American elections through the funding of political candidates by organisations and Jewish businesses. AIPAC and similar groups give ample funds to pro-Israel candidates. And where an aspiring congressman or senator is critical of Israel, they will donate heavily to their opponent, thus ensuring that they will lose the election.

But as Coughlan has shown, not all American Jews support Israel, or at least not its maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Some American Jewish businessmen even donate to Palestinian charities and organisations, as well as Israeli. One of them is featured in the book Bushwhacked, published a few years ago, which exposes everything nasty and corrupt about George Dubya. This gentleman is included because he stands out against the bigotry and intolerance of the Bush administration.

Others have pointed out that Christian Zionism is much larger, and has a very theological agenda. It’s adherents believe that in order for Jesus to return to Earth in the Second Coming, the Jews must return to the Holy Land and Israel restored. This will culminate in a final battle between the forces of good and evil. Twenty years ago the forces of evil were the Communist bloc. Now it’s Islam. These people are a real, terrifying danger to world peace.

And the Israel lobby also has a profound connection to real anti-Semites going right back to the Nazis and the Ha’avara agreement. As anti-Zionists like Tony Greenstein and very many others have documented, the pioneers and leaders of the Zionist movement were all too willing to deal with anti-Semites, because they believed that increased anti-Semitism against diaspora Jews would benefit Zionism by encouraging more Jews to emigrate to Israel. Hence the Judischer Rundschau, the main Zionist newspaper in 1930s Germany, hailed the infamous Nuremberg laws, and urged its readers to wear their yellow star with pride. This was before the Holocaust, which the magazine did not foresee, but it’s still chilling nonetheless. And the head of the Zionist movement in Hungary during the War, Kasztner, allowed the Nazis to deport a greater number of Jews to the Death Camps than may otherwise have occurred, because he hoped that they would also spare some and send them to Israel instead.

But if you dare mention these historical facts, you’re an anti-Semite.

And more recently, the real Nazis and anti-Semites connected with Trump’s administration, like the Alt-Right ‘White Zionist’ Richard Spencer, have very strongly supported Israel. Spencer’s even been on Israeli TV. And Sebastian Gorka, a former member of Trump’s administration with extensive connections to the Hungarian Fascist right, has also been one of the guests at the Herzliya conference, the annual jamboree for the Israeli military. Many real Fascists and anti-Semites support Israel because they see it as another way of getting rid of their domestic Jews, by forcing them to emigrate there.

Judaism is certainly not synonymous with Zionism. And some Zionists and Zionist organisations will collaborate with Fascists and anti-Semites against diaspora Jews, in the hope of boosting their country’s population.

Political Dynamite! American Unions Vote to Form Labor Party

November 2, 2017

This is an absolute bombshell! In this piece from the Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his co-host, Ron Placone, discuss the sensational news that a meeting of union leaders that convened on October 24 have passed a resolution condemning the two-party system and pledging them to consider setting up a separate, independent labour party.

The resolution was introduced by the chair of the political committee of AFL-CIO, Lee Saunders, and Randi Weingarten, the head of the teacher’s union. This is particularly remarkable, as Weingarten was responsible for throwing the union’s weight behind Hillary Clinton regardless of the views of its members. Dore states that when they asked American teachers how they felt about their union supporting Killary, they said they weren’t consulted. Those are America’s two largest unions.

Weingarten said that the system had failed working people for decades, and that it had taken away the pillars supporting working people’s rights to good jobs and benefits on behalf of the rich and corporations. The resolution was passed at a meeting of about 50 delegates in an upstairs room where the convention was being held. The delegates contended that both the Republicans and the Democrats were under corporate domination.

Mark Dimondstein, who was the foremost promoter of the idea of a labour party, is the president of the postal workers’ union. He has been calling for it ever since NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – was set up in 1993, which he said showed that both the Republicans and Democrats were in the pockets of the capitalists. Dore and Placone chuckle over the fact that Dimondstein must be having the biggest ‘I told you so’ moment, and encourage him to gloat all he wants, as he’s earned it.

The meeting was split over whether they should first start up an organisation and start discussing issues, or get into political races and risk becoming the ‘spoilers’ in the current two-party system. Dore states in response to this that it’s the two-party system that’s rigged. That’s how Americans now have Trump: it was due to a rigged Democratic primary and electoral college. One delegate, Velasquez, stated that the new party should compete in politics, but start at the local and state levels. Dore asks rhetorically why they should, and argues instead that they should compete at all levels. All the delegates agreed, however, that the Democrats have not done them any favours. They never have, and they never will. Dore believes that the reason why Velasquez wanted them to limit themselves to local and state level politics, was so that they don’t get called ‘Ralph Nader’, after the left-wing American politician, who attempted to run as a third party candidate.

Saunders and Weingarten are also members of the Democratic National Committee. The main resolution, however, said that they would set a pro-worker agenda, that would stand regardless of party. Dore states that this is similar to what they had in mind when they went to Canada for Peter Alard. That all the progressives would get together and produce a litmus test. They will thus endorse any political candidate in any party, provided that they support their pro-worker objectives.

Dimondstein said that they couldn’t take half a loaf, a quart of a loaf, an eighth of a loaf, or even crumbs any more. Dore states that they weren’t even being offered that under the present system. And he was applauded when he said that even when the Democrats got control of both the presidency and Congress in the 2008 election, they did not follow through with reform of labour legislation and other priorities for working people, but instead passed the Transpacific Partnership – TPP – the free trade deal. Dore and Placone states this was done by Barack Obama. They also make the point that it wasn’t done by Russian secret agents amongst the DAPL and Black Lives Matter activists. Dore states that it wasn’t the Russians, who threw the election but Barack Obama, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Haliburton, Exxon, the Koch brothers, the people in New York, who had 200,000 people thrown of the voting rolls, and the Electoral College. He stated that the Democratic Party hadn’t done anything for them despite having the presidency, the Congress and the Senate. Dore states that this is what he and other progressives had been saying, but they were told they were stupid, petulant, children. Now the labour unions agree with them, and its those who called them stupid and so on, who now have no political sense. The people in the Democratic Party, who called them that and gave America Hillary Clinton are the people that are ultimately responsible for Trump. They are everything that’s broken in the Democrat Party.

Dimondstein stated that the Republicans entrenched union-busting, Bill Clinton deregulated Wall Street, and Jimmy Carter deregulated trucking. Dore reminds his viewers that, thanks to Carter, we now have truckers working 18 hours or so and taking methamphetamines to get to their destinations on time. Dimondstein made it clear that constructing a labour party would be a long-term plan and require both community and labour support, but it would be wrong to confine the movement for a labour party to the current two-party system. Dore goes on to say that if everyone, who felt this way had actually voted for the Green Party at the last election, it would have radically changed the political landscape. They might still have had Trump, but the Democrats would have been wiped out and the opposition instead would have been the Green Party with a genuinely radical agenda. Instead, half or eighty per cent of all progressives are trying to reform the Democrats, which he thinks is a fool’s errand.

Dore and Placone are amazed that this story has received so little press attention. It should receive more, as the 2016 election showed how little footing the Democrat Party now has with the working class. Placone states that it’s now time for progressives and working class organisations to stop endorsing the lesser of two evils, because that can result in the more evil getting into power, and the lesser evil becoming worse. He states that we have now reached the crisis point with that, and if we haven’t, he doesn’t know what will wake people up. But whatever it is, it’ll be too little, too late. Dore suggests that it might be when the ice caps finally melt so that the coastline is now in Minnesota. Obama would probably come back to open the arctic for drilling just one more time. He has been responsible for opening it up to drilling twice. Dore also points out that there are a lot of people interested in forming a third party – progressives, Greens and others – and it’ll eventually happen.

This is absolutely stunning. If it goes ahead – and I sincerely hope it does – then America will be transformed into a country, whose political system is far more like that of Europe. Especially if Bernie and the progressives manage to get single-payer healthcare passed.

What the American unions are discussing is precisely what the British Labour party went through a century and more ago. The Labour party has its roots in the Lib-Labs, the trade unionists elected to parliament as working class members of the Liberal Party. Then after the passage of the Taft Vale judgement, which ruled that trade unions could be sued for damages and losses caused by strikes, they then decided to form an independent party to press for working class policies. This was the Independent Labour Party. The Labour Party as it is now was founded in 1901 as a party formed from the unions and various socialist organisations and societies.

As for pressing for all political parties to put forward pro-worker policies, that was the goal of the Fabian Society when it was founded. There’s a lot of sheer rubbish spouted by the American right-wing conspiracy nuts about how it was some kind of secret society. It wasn’t. And it’s still around. It became part of the Labour party. I should know. I was a member briefly in the 1980s. I’ve blogged about some of their pamphlets I bought and read, even citing them. Unfortunately, they’ve now been heavily infiltrated by the Blairites, and are one of the chief sites of anti-Corbyn activism in the party.

And something similar appears to have happened in Canada in the 1960s and ’70s, when hippy radicals formed the New Democrat Party up there.

If this does go through, it should encourage similar left-wing movements around the world, and strengthen the genuine socialists in the British Labour party and the European socialist parties.

And I’ve no doubt that the capitalists and big corporations will now try and throw everything they can at it to stifle this vital new change. I’m not surprised that very few newspapers carried the story, because the newspapers generally represent the interests of big business. And big business and the capitalist class is absolutely terrified of the unions and genuinely working class organisations. That’s why the British press, including the pro-Labour Mirror, has been so consistently against Jeremy Corbyn.

However, it has also been pointed out that before the First World War, America did indeed have a very strong left-wing movement. There were the Communists, the Wobblies and Eugene Debs and his attempt to form a labour party for America. What set this back was the Cold War, which allowed the forces of the right to smear and vilify them as part of the global Communist threat. Now that Communism has fallen, fewer Americans are being taken in by this ruse, and the spirit of Eugene Debs lives on.

I hope this all goes through, and that it’s successful. If that happens, then the world will be a fair bit better for working people.

God bless it, and American working women and men!

From C. 1989: Pravda International on Launch of Greenpeace Rock Album in Soviet Union

October 18, 2017

Pravda International, with pic of Yeltsyn before he became president. This seems to have been before the drunkenness took hold. It also doesn’t show his uncritical adulation of capitalism, which destroyed the Soviet economy and caused massive unemployment and poverty.

Way back in the 1980s when I was at College, I used to buy Pravda International occasionally. It was, very roughly, an English language version of the Russian Communist party newspaper, but with articles also drawn from the other Russian newspapers and magazines Izvestia, Argumenty I Fakty, Moscow News, as well as by the English editions own staff. Like many magazines over the years, it seems to have folded due to lack of interest. I tried to buy it from my local newsagent, but found out that it was unavailable. The two big magazine distributors had divided Bristol up between them, and one of them wouldn’t carry it. So guess which half of Bristol I was in.

I nevertheless kept hold of some of them, as they were records of an exciting, historic time. This was when Glaznost and Perestroika were in full swing, the Soviet Union was being democratised according to Gorbachev’s belief that democracy and Communism could be combined to produce a new, vigorous, prosperous Soviet Union. The Soviets were opening their borders and allowing western media into the country. The Cold War was thawing rapidly, and right across the Communist bloc censorship was being lifted. The Soviet people were making their voices heard, and books, plays, poetry and art that had previously been banned were now being published and publicly discussed. Stalin and his minions stood, thanks to dissident Marxist historians like Roy and Zhores Medvedev, openly condemned as monstrous mass murderers. And the families, friends and loved ones of his victims organised to demand memorials to the millions he had murdered. And instead of hatred, distrust and the looming threat of nuclear holocaust, for a few years it looked like the peoples of the West and East would live as friends and co-workers. The missiles were being decommissioned, the silos filled in. Across the world it seemed that our peoples would never again have to fear the threat of nuclear attack, or invasion from across the other side of the Iron Curtain.

And I also dug out the old copy of Pravda International out of a sense of mischief. RT UK and America have been under attack recently, accused of spreading Russian propaganda and interfering with our politics. What this means is that the Russian-owned news agency has actually done some good journalism, and uncovered the poverty, misery and despair caused by corporatist late capitalism and the gutting of the British and American welfare state and working class organisations. It’s what our own, domestic news networks should be reporting on, but instead they’ve been turned into part of the same corporate system, publishing nothing but mainstream propaganda for the corporatist elite and their puppets and shills in the political parties. I wanted to dig it out to show that the Russians have always had a media presence in the West, and there was a time when it also really frightened some capitalist interests. Although flicking through that issue of the magazine, many of the stories were about western businesses, including British firms, securing contracts to work with Soviet enterprises, as the economy opened up.

Russia, like everywhere else, is also suffering from environmental damage and climate change. Simon Reeve, in his recent TV journey across Russia from the Far East to St. Petersburg, stopped in Siberia to show the terrifying changes that are occurring in the Russian north. The permafrost is melting causing the remaining rock and soil to subside. This has created vast craters in the tundra. One Russian environmental scientist took Reeve to see one of these. It was staggering, the size of the vast Arizona meterorite crater in the US. It was as if a piece of land the size of a city had been scooped out of the Arctic.

These climatic changes are threatening the stability of many of the cities the Russians built up in the north. They’re also a further threat to all humanity, as they release methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. About 25 times more powerful. This threatens to create runaway global warming beyond the tipping point, to the point where the survival or human civilisation, if not the human species itself, is very much under threat.

Looking through this old issue of Pravda International, it was therefore particularly interesting to find an article by their staffer, Jennie Walsh, reporting the launch of a rock album by Greenpeace, released by the Soviet recording company Melodiya, to raise awareness of environmental issues.
The article, ‘Breakthrough for the Environment’, reads

The ecological pressure group Greenpeace has long highlighted the international potential of the environmental movement. The recent release of their rock compilation album, Breakthrough marks an important step forward for the campaign, and for Western music.

Two years ago Greenpeace chairman David McTaggart approached Ian Flookes of the Wasted Talent Artists Agency with a view to putting on a concert of Western bands in the Soviet Union in order to generate roubles for a Soviet-based Greenpeace campaign. Political problems prevented this at the time, but in the changing climate of perestroika the plans were restarted last year, though a compilation record was considered more appropriate.

‘After what happened at Chernobyl, I think the Soviet authorities have become extremely environment-conscious and their approach to Greenpeace and to the project has been one of great support’, Flookes told Pravda International.

With the full cooperation of the Soviet state record company Melodiya, who were granted independent status last year, Breakthrough is the first major release of contemporary Western rock music in the USSR.

It is the first time that Melodiya has been able to do a ‘normal’ promotion campaign, with many of the artists (who all gave their services free of charge) present at the Moscow launch in March. There was an incredible reception. One record store queue was over 7,000 people, which is quite phenomenal – even by Soviet standards!

The purpose behind Breakthrough, however, must not be forgotten amid such hysteria. Kate Karam of Greenpeace emphasised that in releasing the album, they wanted to educate as much as to entertain. Despite perestroika, it is still difficult to put out independent information in the USSR, and the album provided a vehicle for the distribution of a booklet highlighting the work of Greenpeace and the environmental problems of the USSR.

The profits from the record sales will be shared between Greenpeace and the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, one of the first independent, non-governmental organisations to be founded in the Soviet Union.

The money will be spent only on projects within the USSR. This is a major indication of the political changes that have taken place. Greenpeace is quite a radical organisation by any standards, and to have some of the top soviet scientists and public servants (including Velikov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) support them through the Foundation, has been vital to the project. It is also an important challenge – a challenge to get programmes started in the USSR while maintaining the traditional Greenpeace principle of direct action.

Several environmental projects have now been formally agreed. Greenpeace will use some of the funds from the record to organise an East-West exchange programme in cooperation with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, for children to study environmental problems. Projects in the pipeline include work with the International Foundation to establish a central clearing house for information on atmospheric pollution problems and trying to involve the Soviet Union in the campaign to stop the industrial pollution of the Baltic Sea.

‘We don’t want to impose our Western standards about the environment on the Soviet Union,’ explains Karam. ‘I think that’s a danger with many of the Western organisations taking advantage of the new political climate there. Greenpeace is going to Russia to learn about their specific problems, because it is wrong to develop homogeneous attitudes about the environment. We need to study and talk to people before we launch into setting up offices and membership drives. Getting educational materials out in Russia is a big enough challenge right now without going straight into direct action projects.’

The popularisation of ‘green politics’ in the West may be little more than rhetoric on the part of its leaders, but it has encouraged the critical eye to fall on eastern Europe with regard to its environmental record. The socialist system may have failed the environment as much as the capitalist, but the big difference is the West has had 10 years lead time with environmentalists pushing legislation through. ‘I think the question is now how bad the USSR’s record is, but what is going to happen over the next 10 years – not in the past 50. I don’t think its fair to criticise.’

Now that the Soviet authorities have made active moves to encourage environmental concern, particularly by creating a Ministry for the Environment, Greenpeace are keen to see whether other east European countries follow suit.

Breakthrough is to be released in all the east European countries as well as in the UK, USA, India, Australia and Japan, emphasising the international aspect of the green movement.

The release of the album worldwide, under the title Rainbow Warriors, will probably be slightly more of a gamble than it has been in the Soviet Union. Compassion fatigue in the West, however, might be overcome by the quality of the record.

There probably hasn’t been an album released yet, which features so many top musicians – U2, Simple Minds, The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel and Sting to name a few. There are 26 tracks, all of which have recently been hits. For many, the album will probably have an intrinsic value just for this reason. The fact that it supports Greenpeace will be a bonus.

In the three weeks since the album was released in the USSR over 10,000 copies have been received on the forms that were enclosed in the information booklets.

The worldwide launch is on May 22nd and if it sells for reasons other than its musical content, its educational and mobilising potential could be as effective as the fundraising.

Now, unfortunately, we have had Russian hackers releasing scientific data in an attempt to discredit climate change and global warming, while Trump is also trying to stifle climate science, including the virtual closure of America’s Environmental protection Agency. He and the rest of the Republican party are determined that only the paid propagandists for the Koch brothers will be heard.

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.

Stephen Hawking’s Defends NHS as Hunt Lies about its Privatisation

August 22, 2017

I know the Tories will immediately complain about the title of this article, but that’s exactly what’s going on. The Tories have been privatizing the NHS piecemeal since the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher wanted to sell it off completely and replace it with an American-style insurance based system. Thatcher was prevented from doing so through a massive cabinet revolt, plus the fact that her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how appalling the American system was after he actually did some research and went there.

But the privatization is still going on. There was a mass exodus of dentists in the late ’80s-early ’90s, after Maggie – or was it Major?-refused to give them any more money. Then came Peter Lilley and his Private Finance Initiative, in which hospitals were to be built and run for the NHS by private contractors. Then New Labour expanded this massively, breaking up the NHS internal structure to model it after the American private healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente. Blair was approached by a whole slew of American private healthcare companies. His idea was that hospitals and clinics should be taken over by private healthcare companies, like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare and so on. The community care groups of doctors, which were supposed to commission healthcare for their patients, where to obtain it from both private healthcare providers as well as the NHS. And they were also given the powers to raise money from private enterprise.

And before anyone objects that Blair was a Socialist, no, he wasn’t. He had Clause 4 removed from the party’s constitution. He was also profoundly hostile to the trade unions, who have formed part of the very core of the Labour party since it was founded in the very early 20th century.

Blair was a true, blue Thatcherite. The first thing he did when he got into power was invite Thatcher round. And she responded warmly, declaring New Labour her greatest success. Remember, this is the woman, who proudly shouted about how she was going to destroy socialism.

And the Tories have carried on her project of gradually destroying the NHS, bit by bit, while loudly proclaiming how much they’re in favour of it.

The present Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is a prime example of this. He even wrote a book in which he declared how much better everything would be if we had a private healthcare system, like America.

Yeah, like America, where the poorer parts of the country don’t have any doctors at all, because it isn’t profitable. Where once a month, in Virginia, people sleep in cars overnight in order to join the queue for the doctor’s or dentists’ surgery offering free dental care that Saturday.

Where something like 20 million Americans can’t afford their medical coverage, and 30,000 people die every year because of this.

And where the Republicans and corporate Democrats have been lying and smearing Bernie Sanders, because he dared to run on a platform of ‘Medicare for all’. You know, giving Americans state-funded healthcare, like in the other parts of the world.

This is what the Tories are doing to Britain. And last week, as Mike reported on his blog, Stephen Hawking, the great cosmologist, called them out on it. He also accused Hunt of cherry-picking the data about the supposed deaths caused by NHS staff not working Saturdays.

Hunt got terribly upset about this, and declared that Hawking didn’t understand statistics.

This is a joke from a professional moron. Statistics are a vital part of science and medicine. Much of modern science, including astronomy and cosmology, is going through the data, trying to find something that is statistically significant. It can be time-consuming, tedious work, requiring sophisticated techniques to sort out what’s importance from apparently random results.

Hawking’s a physicist, who has been working with some extremely advanced maths as part of his investigation into the origins of the cosmos and the nature of Black Holes for his entire career. I don’t believe in his ‘No Boundaries Solution’ to the problem of the origin of the universe, but it’s abundantly clear that he understands stats. And as a man stricken with Motor Neurone Disease, a terrible illness, which has left him confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak and scarcely a muscle, Prof. Hawking clearly has first-hand experience of NHS care.

In short, don’t believe Hunt. Believe Hawking.

And yesterday one of the doctors weighed in, to request that a televised debate should be held between the two. See that story on Mike’s blog.

I’ve got no doubt that this will never happen. The schedules are full already, and the last thing the Tories will want is putting their man in a position where he’ll lose against a vastly more popular, far more respected and definitely more intelligent opponent.

Although they’re both authors. Hawking’s most famous work was A Brief History of Time, published back in the 1980s. It was a national bestseller, following very much in the footsteps of Carl Sagan’s epic Cosmos, another pop-sci blockbuster from a great science communicator, as well as a concerned scientist who attacked militarism, imperialism and man-made global warming.

As for Hunt, very few have read his book, which is why he can still repeat the lie that the Tories aren’t privatizing the NHS with a straight face, despite having advocated himself.

Such a debate would be so unequal in Hawking’s failure that I’ve no doubt that the Tories in charge of BBC News, the same people, who gave Corbyn such overtly biased coverage during the general election, are blanching at the very thought of it. Such a debate will never happen, just as the BBC will never own up, and confess that they, and particularly Laura Kuenssberg, are massively biased and everyone, who has complained about this painfully obvious fact is absolutely right.

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.’

Rush Limbaugh: Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars Is Leftist NASA Plot

August 20, 2017

Here’s another right-wing gasbag, who should lose his radio show. In this clip from two years ago – 2015 – host Sam Seder of The Majority Report comments on Rush Limbaugh’s pronouncements about signs of flowing water on today’s Mars by NASA. NASA announced that they had found evidence that water still flows today on the Red Planet at the right season. The space agency states that this is a survivor from the period, 3 billion years ago, when the planet was much warmer and wetter than today, and a great ocean may have covered the entire northern hemisphere. The discovery is of immense importance in the search for possible life elsewhere in the solar system.

This is science, but it’s too much for Rush Limbaugh, who sees a conspiracy where there is none. NASA is part of the leftist plot to delude the world into believing in global warming, and this announcement, he goes on to suggest, may be part of it. He ridicules his producer, Sneedley, who was excited and enthusiastic about NASA’s announcement. Limbaugh then declares that he is a ‘big time science guy’ who gone past ‘science 101’. He then goes on to cast scorn and suspicion about the announcement. It’s part of some leftist plot being pursued by the agency, but he doesn’t quite know what yet. But it’s probably about global warming. Soon, he predicts, they’ll announce that they’ve found a graveyard.

Limbaugh’s a Republican broadcaster, who’s been a fixture of American right-wing radio since the 1980s, loudly applauding Ronald Reagan and ranting about how the ‘Leftists’ are trying to destroy his country. In the clip, Seder and his co-hosts and producers ridicule Limbaugh not only for his scientific ignorance – what, pray, is ‘Science 101?’, as well as the way he has openly sneered at and belittled his producer.

They then conclude the programme by further mocking him. They imitate Obama’s voice to declare that Islam is the one true religion. The Martians rejected this, which is why they were hit by a devastating drought. That’s why Obama is going to declare shariah law, and have a child from every White family in the mid-West sold into slavery in the Middle East.

This is to poke fun at Limbaugh, and the stupid, paranoid opinion amongst many American Republicans that Obama is a secret Muslim advancing the plans for an Islamic takeover of the US.

The clip shows much of what’s wrong with the American right’s attitude to science, their massive ignorance, which they think shows how perceptive they are, and their stupid paranoia about ‘leftists’. Which in this case, means anything and anyone, who isn’t as crazily right-wing as they are.

I’ve put up several pieces here about the possibility of life on Mars, and the use of certain genetically modified organisms to terraform the Red Planet. I know that several of the readers of this blog have science backgrounds and similar interests. I’ve put this up because I thought people might like to see just how stupid and ignorant Limbaugh, and by extension, his audience, is about this whole issue.

Firstly, as Seder points out, when NASA made the announcement they said it was about the state of Mars 3 billion years in the past. It’s nothing to do with global warming.

Absolutely correct. Planetary scientists now believe that there was a period during the early history of the solar system, when Mars was warm and wet. I think the National Geographical mentioned this when they did a piece on Mars in the 1980s or ’90s. It’s also discussed in Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic SF novel about the colonization of Mars, Red Mars.

What killed Mars was not global warming, but global cooling. Mars has no tectonic plates, and so it is theorized that the planet’s atmosphere was not renewed through releases of gases released from its rocks through geological forces. Over millions or billions of years, the atmosphere evaporated into space. The surface pressure is about 5 milibars – that of a laboratory vacuum. Without an atmospheric blanket to focus and increase the sun’s light, the planet cooled. Without atmospheric pressure to sustain it, water rapidly sublimates into vapour on the Martian surface. What water has survived is locked up in the ice caps, and may be as permafrost below the Martian surface.

Mars has never been cited as a warning of the dangers of global warming. That’s always been Venus. Venus lies closer to the Sun than Earth, and so has suffered runaway global warming as ever increasing amounts of carbon dioxide was released from its rocks. The result of this is that the planet is covered by a permanent cloud layer. Surface temperatures reach something like 400 degrees C, the rain is sulphuric acid, and its surface pressure is enough to squash a human flat. If you want an example of how different the histories of Mars and Venus are, go have a look, or read, the chapter ‘Blues for a Red Planet’ in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Sagan was a major believer in the threat of global warming, and in that episode of his epic science history blockbuster, explicitly drew a parallel between Mars’ fate and that of our own world, if we don’t cut carbon emissions.

As for finding a graveyard on Mars, some scientists have speculated on the possibility that we may find fossils of the creatures that may have lived on Mars, far back in ancient geologic time. There are also serious scientists, who have suggested that we should look for evidence of advanced extraterrestrial civilisations in the planets of our solar system. Our solar system lies in a part of the Galaxy, where the stars are an average of a single light year away from each other. That’s a short enough distance for an advanced civilization to make the difficult journey across interstellar space to another solar system. And the solar system is so old, about 4 billion years if not more, that it is statistically likely that intelligent life has arisen elsewhere in our Galaxy. And just as the Earth orbits the Sun, so the Sun orbits the centre of the Galaxy, taking 225 million years to complete one revolution. This is long enough for our Solar system to have come close to one of those other stars, harbouring alien life.

So signs of an extraterrestrial civilization may well exist on Mars. However, Mars has been dead for so long, that it’s unlikely that there exist any remains of an indigenous Martian civilization on the planet’s surface. In their entry ‘The Surface of Mars’, subtitled ‘Desert’, in their book Catalogue of the Universe, astronomers Paul Murdin and David A. Allen write

If once great cities stood here, they have crumbled to unrecognizable shapes. If trees bowed before moist zephyrs, they have returned to the dust whence they rose. If aircraft landed here, they too have vanished, or been buried beneath unknown depths of sand and rocks. (pp. 205-6).

Not all scientists are convinced that the features NASA suggested was evidence of flowing water were actually produced by it. Others believe that the marks on the surface may instead be produced by the release of other chemicals in liquid form from the underlying rock.

But if liquid water still flows on Mars, albeit it occasionally, not only does it augur well for the possible survival of some life, even if only primitive bacteria, but it also makes the planet more hospitable for possible colonization.

NASA’s claim to have found evidence of surface liquid water was therefore immensely exciting. And Limbaugh’s producer, Sneedley, was actually absolutely right to be excited about it. It’s his host, Limbaugh, who’s ignorant. And dangerously so.

No-one expects ordinary people to be experts on science. Science has advanced at such a rate that it’s too much for many ordinary people to keep update with scientific advances, some of which can be very arcane to laypeople.

But we do need people to be reasonable well-educated. And especially about threats to the planet, like global warming. It’s why there’s a need for good scientific writers and broadcasters to explain the issues clearly.

Limbaugh with his stupid denial of global warming, and his paranoid suspicion that NASA is part of some larger ‘left-wing’ plot, is actually doing the opposite. He’s disparaging real science and trying to keep people ignorant in order to promote his own, extreme right-wing views.

He’s also a danger on racial issues. A day or so ago I reported that Trump had cut funding for FBI and Department of Homeland Security initiatives against White racist terrorism. This included a charity, Life After Hate, that helps former Nazis leave these organisations without being attacked by their fellow stormtroopers. It’s a real danger. Matthew Collins, one of the founders and leaders of the anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism organization, Hope Not Hate, had to migrate to Australia in the 1990s after he appeared in a documentary exposing the violence of the NF and BNP. Obama had given $400,000 to the charity. He would have funded them sooner, but he was prevented from doing so by the ravings and possible denunciation by Limbaugh.

It’s debatable, however, how long Limbaugh will actually carry on. Far from being the influential Republican spokesman he thinks he is, his radio station in recent has been haemorrhaging sponsors and advertisers. His ratings have fallen to the point, where fewer people listen to him than to College radio stations with the range of only one or two miles. The only thing keeping him on air is money from Republican and similar extreme right-wing think tanks. If they pull out, he’s off the air.

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.