Posts Tagged ‘Hunting’

Lembit Opik Goes through the Papers on RT: Loss of International Agencies, Cruelty to Animals and Tory Austerity Deaths

November 22, 2017

This is another great piece from RT. It’s their version of that section on the British mainstream news shows, like Andrew Marr and the morning news, where they go through the papers with a guest commenting on stories of interest. In this piece from RT’s Going Underground, main man Afshin Rattansi’s guest is Lembit Opik, the former Lib Dem MP for one of the Welsh constituencies. Opik lost his seat at the election some time ago. Before then he was jocularly known as ‘the Minister for Asteroids’ by Private Eye, because his grandfather was an astronomer from one of the Baltic Countries, and Opik himself took very seriously the threat of asteroid Armageddon in the 1990. I can remember meeting him at a talk on ‘Asteroid Impacts’ one year at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, where he and the other panellists, including Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer who now teaches over here urged the world’s governments to set up an early warning system to defend Earth from such catastrophes.

Here, Opik picks out the stories from the papers about how Britain has lost its position as the seat, or with a member on, three international regulatory agencies as a result of Brexit. We no longer have a candidate sitting at the International Court of Justice. The European Medical Agency will go to Amsterdam, and the European Banking Authority will go to Paris. Opik makes the point that all these agencies are leaving Britain, as there’s no point in them being here if we’re not in the EU.

There’s a bit of lively, spirited disagreement between Opik and Rattansi, which doesn’t seem to be entirely serious. And in fact, the tone of their conversation makes me wonder if they didn’t have quite a good lunch with liquid refreshment. Rattansi is something of a ‘Leave’ supporter, and says in reply that they can go. We don’t want them. And perhaps if the International Court of Justice actually worked, we could prosecute some of those responsible for war crimes.

Opik’s next story is about a ruling by the Tories that animals don’t feel pain, and have no emotions. Which he points out will amaze anyone, who’s ever had a dog or seen one howl. He and Rattansi then comment about how this is all about the Tories trying to make it easier for themselves to go fox hunting, and for Trump and his children to kill more animals.

Opik then goes on to a funnier story, which nevertheless has a serious point. Documents released to Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that Britain lobbied Brazil over obtaining the rights for Shell and BP to drill for oil in more of the Brazilian rainforest. This is a serious issue. What makes it funny is that the government tried to redact the information. However, they got it wrong, and instead of blacking out the embarrassing pieces of information, they highlighted them instead in yellow marker. Which they then sent to Greenpeace’s head of operations. Opik then goes on to make the very serious point that this is information, that the government was trying to hide from us.

The last story is from the Independent. It’s about the finding by one of the peer-reviewed British medical journals that the Tories’ austerity policy is responsible for 120,000 deaths, in what has been described as ‘economic murder’. Opik’s sceptical of this claim, as he says he’s seen stats misused like this before. Rattansi counters in reply by saying that it does come from a peer-reviewed medical journal. Opik does, however, accept that Tory austerity policies have harmed some people, but is sceptical whether its 120,000.

These reports show that Britain is losing its influence on the world stage as a result of voting to leave the European Union. There’s even the possibility that we will lose our place on the UN Security Council if Scotland breaks away. It’s also interesting to hear Rattansi remind Opik that David Davis, the Tory MP, claimed that Britain wouldn’t lose her position as the base for various international agencies and ruling bodies if we left the EU. This is another failed prediction from the Tories. Or another lie, if you prefer.

As for the Conservatives ruling that animals don’t feel pain, the Independent states that this is ‘anti-science’. Absolutely. I think anyone, who has ever kept a pet knows that animals do feel pain, and do have emotions. Or at least, creatures like birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. My guess is that they’ve passed this ruling not just as a way of making the return of fox hunting easier, but as part of an attack on a whole range of animal rights legislation, which they probably see as a burden on farming and industry. Like whatever legislation there is protecting the wellbeing of farm animals or regulating vivisection. And it is very definitely an ‘anti-science’ ruling. It seems that new discoveries are being made regularly showing how animal cognition and mental abilities are much more sophisticated than we previously believed. For example, crows are able to make and use tools. They’ll use sticks to open tin cans, for example. This amazed scientists when they first discovered it, as tool use was previously considered to be confined to primates. And in yesterday’s I there was a report on the finding by scientists that sheep can recognise human faces. And yes, the I has also carried several stories over the years about how scientists have found that dogs really do have emotions. When I read these, my reaction was ‘No sh*t, Sherlock!’ It’s very obvious that dogs do have emotions. But not, apparently, to the baying anti-science morons in the Tory party.

Mike put up the story about medical researchers finding that Tory policies have killed 120,000 people in the UK. I don’t entirely blame Opik for being sceptical, as there have been similar claims made that have been vastly inflated. However I don’t doubt that this is true in this case. We have over a hundred thousand people forced to use food banks, and millions of people living in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know when they’ll eat again. Even if poverty and starvation do not directly cause their deaths, they are a contributing cause by leaving them vulnerable to other factors, such as disease or long-term illness, hypothermia and so on. And there are at least 700 people, who have been directly killed by the Tories’ austerity. These people died of starvation, or diabetic comas when they could not afford to keep their insulin in a fridge, or in despair took their own lives. They’ve been commemorated and their cases recorded by Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Mike at Vox Political, and the great peeps at DPAC.

Many of these poor souls actually left notes behind saying that they were killing themselves because they couldn’t afford to live.

But the DWP has refused to accept it, and blithely carries on repeating the lie that there’s no link between their deaths and austerity. And certainly not with the murderous sanctions system introduced by David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith.

Rattansi was right about the failure of the International Court of Justice to prosecute the war criminals, who led us into the Iraq invasion and other wars in the Middle East. But nevertheless, there was an attempt to have Bush, Blair and their fellow butchers and liars hauled before international justice for their crimes against humanity. A group of British, Greek and Canadian lawyers and activists tried to bring a prosecution, and the lawyer in charge of looking into the case was, at least initially, interested. Then American exceptionalism won out once again, and the US placed pressure on the court to throw out the case.

Being tried for war crimes is just something that happens to other, lesser nations, you see.

If there were any true, international justice, Blair and the rest of New Labour and Bush’s vile neocons would find themselves in the dock, like the other genocides and mass-murderers who’ve been punished. And I’d just love to see Cameron, Smith, Damian Green, Esther McVie and Theresa May join them for their ‘chequebook genocide’ against the disabled.

But unfortunately that ain’t going to happen. However, we can at least get them out before they kill many more people.

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The Young Turks: Ted Nugent Posts Anti-Semitic Rant Blaming Jews for Gun Control

February 12, 2016

The drift of the Republican Right to full-fledged Nazism continues. In this video, The Young Turks anchors Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola comment on another piece of racism by Ted Nugent, ageing rocker, pervert, draft dodger, and pillar of the N.R.A. Nugent has been severely criticised and there have been demands that he should issue an apology after he posted a piece on Facebook asking the rhetorical question who the people demanding gun control were. He called these people the enemies of freedom. And guess what? The people he chose were all Jews. He even stuck little Israeli flags next to their faces, and accused some of being Israeli agents. Uygur points out that he’s wrong about many of those, whom he identifies as Israelis. Most of the men and women he’s fingered as Mossad agents or whatever aren’t. They’re simply American citizens. And quite often they’re distinguished American citizens, whose patriotism should be unquestioned. One of them is a general and the president’s chief of staff. Another is the governor of New York state. These are foul libels.

He’s also maligned the victims of the Holocaust. There’s another post in which Nugent states that he pondered why so many Germans were taken in by Adolf, and so many Jews went quietly to their deaths. This is under the headline, ‘Soulless Sheep to the Slaughter’.

Uygur and Iadarola point out that this pretty much a natural progression. The Right has always hated the Jews. They started off attacking Mexicans and Blacks. Now they’ve moved on to Muslims when they’ve become massively unpopular. And now, inevitably, Nugent has started on the Jews after following those bandwagons.

And this is particularly rich from Nugent. Nugent was so terrified of serving in the Vietnam War that he emptied his bowels in his pants for a week or so, in order to have himself declared mentally unfit. The Turks state they don’t blame him for not wanting to fight in Vietnam. They wouldn’t have wanted to either. But he’s been trying to make up for it ever since by trying to present himself as a supermasculine advocate for hunting and gun rights.

They also point out that it’s simply not true that Jews in Nazi Germany went quietly to their deaths. Many stood up and resisted, fighting extremely hard for their lives and those of their families and communities. But they were butchered anyway, right down to the last man and woman, because the Nazis had superior fire power. So calling the victims of the Shoah ‘soulless sheep’ is a gross lie, and not just a terrible insult to the victims of one of the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th century.

There’s also a party political aspect to this. American Jews traditionally tended to vote Democrat. Many of them were also staunchly behind NAACP and the campaign for Black Civil Rights in America. As teacher, they tended to work in the Black schools, and generally lived and worked in closer contact with Blacks than other sections of the American population. And Nixon was also paranoid about them. Despite the fact that Kissinger was Jewish and there were other Jewish Americans on his staff, Nixon was obsessed with there being a Jewish plot against him, and distrusted Jews because of their traditional left-wing leanings.

This anti-Semitism had died down somewhat after the American Right decided they were going to back Israel after the victories of the Six Day War in the 1970s. In the 1990s, members of the Likud party worked for the Republicans, helping to draft plans for a future invasion of Iraq. But now with a rising tide of anxiety about immigration from Mexico, the threat of Islamist terrorism some parts of the Republicans are once again falling back into hatred of the Jews. And as The Turks themselves point out, it always ends with the Jews.

This is frightening. Nugent’s a disgrace, and should apologise immediately. And the whole drift towards racism and Fascism in America, Britain or wherever needs to be stopped. Before anyone dies in pogroms and race riots.

Secular Talk: Economic Policy Group Shows ‘Welfare Queens’ Have Little Factual Basis

February 7, 2016

This is another excellent political snippet from Secular Talk. In this video, Kyle Kulinski discusses the findings of the Economic Policy Institute, as reported in the International Business Times, that ‘welfare queens’ don’t really exist. ‘Welfare queens’ was the term given by Reagan to lazy, unemployed women, who didn’t want to work and just scrounged off welfare. The Institute’s study shows that most of the people on welfare are the working poor, people in work whose wages don’t cover their basic needs. The report states that

* 2/3 of all people on needs-based public assistance are either working, or have a family member who’s working.

* About half of all recipients of public assistance are working full time.

The report states outright that indolence and laziness aren’t pushing up the welfare bills. Low pay is. And the reports goes on to say that massive bonuses and pay is awarded to corporate executives, it’s appropriate to ask whether corporations are passing their societal responsibilities to tax payers.

* Nearly half of all workers in the forestry, fishing and hunting sectors receive help of some kind.

* This is also true of a 1/3 of those in retail, recreation, entertainment, accommodation and food sector.

Kulinski makes the point that the solution is to the raise the minimum wage. He states that many Republicans actually do want the minimum wage to be raised. He attacks the Republicans, who want to close down welfare programmes, arguing that this would make America Somalia, and force people to starve. He also makes it very clear that he has no time for hypocritical Republicans, who say they love Jesus, but don’t want to put Christ’s concern for the poor and excluded into effect. If America were to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $45 billion in taxes would be saved. Kulinski points out that this is because workers, when they can’t make enough to live on, turn to the state safety net, which is provided by the taxpayer. Thus, if you pay people a living wage, the Republicans could cut the welfare bill, including Medicaid. All you have to do is make Walmart pay their workers more. He argues that Walmart would be able to afford the extra $2 an hour paid to people, and that the cost passed on to the public would at most be 8c more. This would not stop people going to Walmart.

Kulinski concludes that the system now works by making a miniscule percentage extremely rich, who then give crumbs to everyone else. They have to go on welfare to make ends meet, but the corporations have bought congress, so it looks in the other direction. Kulinski states in very forthright terms that this must go.

The show also has some of the cartoons showing the hypocritical attitude towards poor women. When they’re pregnant, the Republicans are desperate not to let them abort the child. When they have the child, the Republicans are hurling abuse and stating they should never have got pregnant in the first place. And there’s a cartoon of a fat cat businessman on a mountain of money accusing a starving worker of being greedy.

This study really should surprise no one. It’s been that way for about twenty years. At the end of the 1990s the Financial Times, then a Liberal newspaper, stated that the vast majority of the poor across the Developed World were working. This is the case for America, Australasia and Europe. They reviewed a programme on the radio about poverty in New Zealand, which showed the problems working people in the land of the Kiwi and the All Blacks had keeping body and soul together. Same as hard-workin’ folks in the Appalachians. And there has been report after report, study after study, showing it in Britain.

And it’s fairly clear that, despite the vilification of people on welfare as benefit frauds and scroungers, aIDS, Cameron and Osbo are very aware of this. No, ‘aIDS’ isn’t a spelling mistake. I’ve decided to call the ‘Gentleman Ranker’ aIDS, because like that foul disease he’s determined to kill people, and spread his vile poison throughout society. But back to the main point. IDS and the others have passed regulations stipulating that if you’re receiving benefit for low pay, you get a phone from your ‘Job Coach’ encouraging you to get a better paid job. In order to cut the welfare bill, of course. It’s a tacit acknowledgement that they know the majority of the poor in this country are working, and aren’t being paid a proper, living wage. But they really don’t want to admit that, as the free market is supposed to make sure that everyone gets what they deserve, in a rising tide that lifts all boats due to trickle down economics. This was rubbish when Reagan and Thatcher spouted it. Hunter S. Thompson had a go at it in Generation of Swine. But they’re still going on as if it were all true, thirty years later.

There’s only one sure way to tackle in work poverty, and that is to demand the minimum wage be raised. And to vote out the people, who are blocking this. Like AIDS Ian Duncan Smith.

Private Eye on Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd and the Resurgence of the Aristocracy

April 11, 2015

One of the reviews in the collection of pieces from Private Eye’s literary column, Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, is of Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd’s The Field Book of Country Houses and their Owners: Family Seats of the British Isles from 1988. Massingberd’s a true, blue-blooded aristo, who wrote a ‘Heritage’ column in the Torygraph. In the book, he made it very clear that he stood for a return of the aristocracy, their power and prestige, after years of Socialism as a ‘social restoration’ under Maggie Thatcher. It’s a view that Private Eye took issue with, and put the boot in accordingly.

Despite being nearly thirty years old now, the review’s still relevant. Cameron is a toff leading a cabinet of toffs – George Osborne, the scion of the baronet of Ballymoney, Nick Clegg, and IDS, who is himself a great landowner, even if he isn’t a member of the titled aristocracy. It is a government that has consistently defended and promoted the interests and power of the rich against those of the poor, and made very sure that the rest of us are kept under their heel.

Their welfare reforms, and the massive curtailment of workers’ rights under the Tories have meant that people with a job now live in fear of being laid off, while those fortunately enough to get jobseekers allowance are effectively treated as helots – state slaves – by the self-described ‘creators of wealth’, who then compete for gaining their free labour on workfare.

It’s a restoration of the old feudal order of serfdom, but under the guise of preparing the unemployed for the labour market, and making them sturdy, self-reliant individuals. As the business leaders imagine themselves to be, all the while they’re demanding more tax breaks and subsidies from the government.

And UKIP are no alternative. They’re further to the Right than the Tories and Lib Dems. The vice-chairman of the Kippers in Wales was a member of the Traditional Britain group. These stand for the restoration of the feudal order, the destruction of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, no immigration and positive no Muslims.

The Eye’s review, then, is a pretty prescient description of the attitudes and motives behind this government, nearly three decades later.

Nob Value

Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd has one great qualification for his line of work. When the toffs he writes about – Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard, Dymoke of Scrivelsby, Fetherstonehaugh-Frampton of Moreton, Houison Craufurd of Craufurdland, Foljambe of Osberton, Steuart Forthringham of Murthly – hear that he is on his way, they must feel pleasantly reassured. For Montgomery-Massivesnob is the only hack in the business with a name as ludicrous as theirs.

It has been the making of him. Massivesnob is no detached architecture critic or social historian. He is himself of the class he portrays: his articles are themselves exhibits in the show, if not the main turn. It is useless to wonder whether or not he realizes that this is why the Telegraph employs him. So much reflection is not in the nature of a nob.

Massivesnob writes a column in the Torygraph called ‘Heritage’. This is the persuasive sales word of our time, signifying anything old and agreeable which might form the basis of a day trip. We have even been encouraged to think that there is such a thing as, contradiction in terms, a ‘national heritage’. Somehow we have accepted that being herded around big houses, behind ropes, by self-important matrons means that we are ourselves the true legatees of the aristocracy.

Massivesnob, quite rightly, has no time for this confidence trick. When he says ‘heritage’ he means it: the inheritance of a name and of a house together, by a private family. He has conducted a long campaign to disabuse us of our belief in a ‘national heritage’ and to reassert the rights of the squirearchy. (His insistence on this has, doubtless, been a reaction to his own family house having been made over to the National Trust before his birth.) And he is admirably purist. These reprinted articles from the pre-lifestyle Field are not about great houses – or interesting people. True squires, they have no other distinction than their success at transmission.

That Massivesnob is now in demand to write similar pieces as a ‘Heritage’ column in a national newspaper says something about the times. For years he snuffled away at family trees as the editor of Burke’s Peerage, scribbling too for the country magazines. he joined the Torygraph as obituaries editor. But now his pieces have become more than antiquarian. Hymns to private property are apropos. The landed are richer than they have ever been in their lives – and even council-house buyers are beginning to feel happier about family seats.

Not that any of this is made explicit. Massivesnob’s appearances in print are winningly slapstick. His own ancestors invariably feature – usually his feminist great-grandmother, who tragically turned the family pub, the Massingberd Arms, into a temperance house. And his ‘robust digestion’ also stars, as he caps each visit by putting himself outside ‘a couple of jumbo cold bangers and a glass of iced lemon tea’, or a large helping of treacle tart. The words ‘ravishing’, ‘luscious’, ‘exquisite’ and ‘engagingly feudal’ exhaust his adjectival resource. Two obsessions recur: Lincolnshire, ‘the still undiscovered Lincolnshire’, and cricket, as played between the big house and the village.

The appearance of this buffoon must be entrancing to the proprietors of what he enthusiastically calls ‘the dimmer sort of seat’. Here is someone who sincerely thinks nothing in the world so fine as ‘the proud distinction of being, say, Fulford of Fulford, Fursdon of Fursdon, Kelly of Kelly or Spurway of Spurway’, who, quite fantastically, is as gratified as they are themselves by their own existence.

Any further qualities are beside the point, though squirearchical accomplishments are loyally applauded. Burrell of Knepp Castle’s appointments ‘have included the chairmanship of the North West Sussex Water Board’; Staunton of Staunton is ‘an enthusiastic beagler’; Sir Anthony Milbank of Barningham is ‘an enthusiastic Gun and enjoys fishing’; while Robert Scrysoure Steuart Forthringham of Pourie and Murthly is a wizard with a bow and arrow.

Clearly the social system that supports such accomplishments must be maintained. As Cookson of Meldon, owner of a measly 5,000 acres, somewhat laboriously explains: ‘If the people of this country wish houses such as Meldon to continue to exist as part of the heritage – especially when the occupants are of the family for whom the house was originally built – then more consideration must be paid to them financially to help keep the system in being.’

Absolutely. And it will be, partly because the National Trust, ostensibly a democratic movement, has transformed public perception of what big estates represent. The houses were the pretty part of the whole social organisation; they are the only part now on view; the system itself is thus glamorized by them. For himself, Massivesnob is quite unembarrassed to state that the fortunes of the Hobhouses of Hadspen were founded on slavery.

Conveniently for the National Trust, those who traipse round the houses, or buy picture-books like this, do so in order to fantasize about themselves as owners, not as scullions. Massivesnob, more lucidly, responded to the ‘euphoria’ of the budget earlier this year with an article looking forward to the return of servants, jovially reminiscing about the days when drunken gamekeepers could be shot.

The ‘heritage’ mania has softened us up for a return to inherited wealth. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd may be a richly Wodehousian figure, but his book, lauding the privately owned, is symptomatic. It is the correlative to Peregrine Worsthorne’s recent articles about the desirability in short of ‘a social restoration’. Come the day, of course, Massivesnob knows where he will be – in his seat again. But the fans of his snufflings seem curiously unaware of where that leaves them: which is sat upon.