Posts Tagged ‘Middle Ages’

Rees-Mogg Would Like to Be the Pope, But Would Left-Wing Catholics Want Him?

February 21, 2019

One of the most ridiculous things Jacob Rees-Mogg said this week was during an interview on Points West with host David Garmston. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area. Mogg is the local MP for Bath in Somerset, and now one of the leading personalities in the Tory party. Garmston went to visit him at his palatial home in the Georgian city.

The Beeb interviewer asked him if he’d like to be Prime Minister. It’s a good question, as it’s clear that Mogg is very ambitious, and there are those in the party that would desperately like him to be in charge and in No. 10. But Mogg denied that he had any plans in that direction. Instead, he declared, he’d rather be Pope. Garmston then asked him the natural question: how could he be, when he’s married with six children? Oh no, Mogg declared, any Roman Catholic man could be.

Now this is news to me, and to just about everyone else, I should imagine. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and so should already be a member of the clergy of a sufficiently high rank. Like a cardinal. Or so it seems to me, as an Anglican, looking at the history of the Roman Catholic church. If laymen have been made pope, I can only assume that this occurred sometime during the Middle Ages as part of the political maneuvering surrounding the papacy. For example, after the collapse of the Roman Empire the only form of government left in many towns in Gaul and elsewhere were the bishops. Hence there were instances where, after the death of the previous incumbent, local townspeople chose laymen, including pagans, to become their bishop. Those laymen, who accepted the demand, then had themselves baptized and converted to Christianity. There are accounts of such conversions and the election of lay people in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks. Or so I believe. I did medieval history at school, and these are the only instances I can remember, in which a layman entered the episcopacy directly, let alone the papacy.

Of course, Rees-Mogg is saying all this just to present himself as a good Roman Catholic. But I wonder how many Roman Catholics would actually want someone as right-wing as him as a member of the clergy, let alone sovereign pontiff. There’s a range of political views amongst Roman Catholics, just as there is in any religion or metaphysical ideology. And there’s also a strong tradition of genuinely social, left-wing activism. For all that elements within the Roman Catholic church during the War and after have supported Fascist regimes, I got the distinct impression that most Roman Catholics in Britain and the British colonies were actually left-wing. Certainly in Australia Irish Catholics formed the backbone of the Ozzie Labor party, and the Roman Catholic members of my own family were very staunch Labour. Radical organisations for Roman Catholics have included Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, and I have the impression that, as well as Quakers, there were many Roman Catholics involved in CND and other peace movements. One of my Catholic aunts was a member, and I can remember her telling us that when she was on a march, she found herself next to a group of Franciscan friars.

A little while ago I bought a book on Roman Catholic social thought, which is broadly left-wing, although outside formal party politics. This includes activism and work on behalf of the poor, for peace and on behalf of women. This latter obviously doesn’t include supporting contraception or abortion, which feminists obviously see as central women’s rights. And there have been Roman Catholic prelates, who have been martyred because of their advocacy of the poor. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a Fascist death squad in one of the central American countries, who brutal dictator Reagan was supporting. He was assassinated outside his church. After his murder, the assassins scrawled on the wall, ‘Be a patriot – Kill a priest’.

The present Pope, Francis, seems to have moved the papacy closer to supporting the poor, defending the environment and even stating that it is not his place to judge gays. Some of that may reflect the wider changes in social attitudes, at least in the developed West. For example, right-wing Roman Catholic traditionalists, like Peter Hitchens, who are against same-sex marriage, have said that they feel the battle against it, is lost. It may also reflect a genuine horror on Francis’ part against the vicious homophobia that exists in some parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. But also the centre of Christianity, and Roman Catholicism, is moving towards the global south as the developed West becomes more secular. Thus the Church has to speak out on issues that directly effect the peoples of the developing world. Like poverty, hunger, exploitation, the rape of the environment. Issues that also concern other Christians around the globe.

I can’t see Rees-Mogg being interested in any of that. Indeed, his voting record shows he’s strongly against it, although I’ve no doubt that, like Margaret Thatcher, he is probably personally very generous. It seems to me that Mogg’s comments may partly have been to appeal to the religious right within the Tories. Like Ian Duncan Smith also stressed what a good Catholic he was, and how he was very concerned at poverty in Britain. Their appeal goes beyond Roman Catholics, of course. Under aIDS the DWP seemed to be stuffed with right-wing Christians of various denominations. Mogg may have made his comments partly with an eye to inheriting the Gentleman Ranker’s grubby mantle.

But no matter how pious he appears, I can’t imagine any left-wing Roman Catholic wanting to see him anywhere near an official position in the Church, just as an increasing number of Christians of all denominations are turning away from the religious right and their vile policies.

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Raheem Kassam Knows Zilch about Fascism, Imperialism, Nationalism or Socialism. And Definitely not History

January 21, 2019

In my last piece, I discussed a twitter argument between Raheem Kassam, one of the most vehement leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and James Melville on Twitter. The row had erupted when Kassam started moaning about how left-wingers were reporting his comments to Twitter in the hope of getting him thrown off social media. Melville had no sympathy for him, telling Kassam that he was reaping what he sowed after Kassam had put up a piece himself telling his supporters to pile onto Melville’s own account and hound him off the Net. And when Kassam put up a picture of Churchill in a yellow vest, Melville rhetorically asked him if he knew that Winnie had been an opponent of far right extremism. Which brought forth the following tirade from Kassam:

Lol now this guy who had a meltdown yesterday is going through my feed picking out tweets he thinks he can argue with. Churchill defeated imperialistic (opposite of nationalist) National Socialism (opposite of right wing) which wanted a united Europe under Germany (EU)”.

Which was followed by

“Fascism is an ideology. Conservatism is a philosophy. There’s your first problem in attempting to link the two. Fascism concerned itself with a corporate-state nexus (like socialism, and indeed our current pro-EU system does). Your understanding of philosophy is poor”.

Zelo Street commented on the relationship between Nazism and imperialism by pointing out that the Nazis were nationalists, far right and had zero relationship to the EU. Melville himself pointed out that Hitler and the Nazis were Fascists and right-wing extremists.

Kassam’s views on Nazism, the EU, Fascism and socialism are bonkers, but they’re a staple part of much Libertarian and ‘Leave’ campaign ideology. They follow Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, in believing that the Nazis were socialists because, er, the Nazis said they were. Despite the fact that Hitler staunchly supported capitalism, did not want to nationalize any firms except in emergencies, smashed the trade unions and put their leaders and activists in the concentration camps along with leaders and members of the mainstream German socialist party, the SDP, the Communist KPD, and anarchists, as well as other political opponents. Kassam also doesn’t seem to realize, or doesn’t want to admit, that the Nazis and Italian Fascists were very much nationalists. The full name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers Party. And unlike the ‘socialist’ part of their name and programme, they took nationalism very seriously. Only ethnic Germans could legally be citizens. German industry, values and identity, or rather the Nazi version of them, were aggressively promoted.

The Italian Fascists were exactly the same, although they retained the trade unions, but incorporated them into the machinery of state government and control and made them subservient to the state and private industry. At the same time, private industry was aggressively promoted. The Fascists also aggressively pursued a policy of italianita – Italian national identity. Ethnic minorities within Italian borders, such as those communities which spoke German or one of the Yugoslavian languages were to be forced to become Italian and made to speak Italian. At the same time the party absorbed much of the ideology and finally the party of the Italian Nationalists, which was merged with the Fascists in 1922.

Kassam is right about Hitler wanting a united Europe under Germany. However, he did not want anything like the EU. The EU supposedly is a union of democratic states with equal status. It is not an empire nor an occupying power, although fanatics like UKIP have claimed it is. The claim that the Nazis were the founders of the EU is based on a piece of Nazi ideology devised later during the War when they were losing to Stalin and the Soviet Union. They weren’t enough blonde, ethnic Germans to fight the Russians, who were showing very clearly that they definitely weren’t the ‘subhumans’ of Nazi racial doctrine. So they tried to gain support from the occupied countries by spuriously claiming that Nazism stood for a united, capitalist Europe against the Communist threat. It was a piece of propaganda, nothing more. The real origins of EU lay in the 1950s with trade agreements between France and Germany and the establishment of the customs union between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg – the ‘Benelux’ countries.

Then there’s Kassam’s claptrap about corporativism equals socialism. By corporativism they mean state control or regulation of capitalism. The hardcore Libertarians believe that only an economy absolutely run by private enterprise without any state regulation is really capitalist. But this situation has never existed. Governments since the Middle Ages have regulated industry to a greater or lesser degree, and industrialists, merchants and entrepreneurs have always sought state aid. For example, before Adam Smith wrote his Wealth of Nations promoting laissez faire free trade, the dominant commercial ideology in Britain was mercantilism. This was a system of regulations governing British international trade. This included tying the colonies in North America and the Caribbean into a very constraining relationship with Britain and each other in which their exports were rigidly controlled in order to keep them serving the commercial interests of Britain.

From the ’50s to the end of the ’70s there was also a form of corporativism in Britain, in which the economy was subject to state planning in which the government consulted with both the industrialists and the trade unions. It was somewhat like the Fascist version, but within a democratic framework and pursued by both Labour and Tory governments. The current form of corporativism, in which private industry dominates and controls Congress and elected politicians through political donations and sponsorship, in return receiving government posts and determining government policy, is very much in the sole interests of private industry and capitalism.

But I’m not surprised Kassam doesn’t know anything about this. He is, after all, a hack with the extreme right-wing news organization, Breitbart, and has appeared several times in articles by the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization Hope Not Hate because of his vicious islamophobia. As for his distinction between Conservatism and Fascism, this also doesn’t work. Fascism is notoriously fluid ideologically, and is therefore extremely difficult to define. In many ways, it was whatever line Mussolini thought was a good idea at the time. The Duce wrote a book defining it, The Doctrine of Fascism, but contradicted himself the next year by declaring that Fascism had no doctrine. It was a movement, not an ideology. As for Conservatism, while the Tory philosopher Roger Scruton in his 1980s book on it stated that it was largely ‘mute’, it is also ideological. As it stands now, it promotes private enterprise and attacks state involvement in industry and welfare provision. And a recent academic study quoted in the new edition of Lobster, issue 77, states that Conservative parties in the West are becoming more ideological and are increasingly resembling the authoritarian parties of the former Communist bloc.

Kassam is therefore utterly wrong. Socialism is not corporativism, and the modern form of corporativism is very definitely capitalist. The Nazis weren’t socialists, they were nationalists and imperialists, and were in no way the founders of the EU. But such distinctions clearly don’t matter to the extreme right-wing propagandists of Breitbart. And especially those, whose own islamophobia is shared by real, overt Fascists in the Alt Right.

For further information, go to the Zelo Street article at http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/raheem-kassam-fails-history-101.html

Books on Jews on the Slave Trade

October 6, 2018

Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum and a Jewish woman of colour, was, as I’ve blogged about several times before, smeared as an anti-Semite after some snitch from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism or a similar organization hacked into a private conversation she had been having with two friends on Facebook. This was about the Jewish involvement in the slave trade. Walker, as is abundantly clear from her own commitment to her faith and communities as both a Jew and a woman of colour is certainly not an anti-Semite. She makes it very clear that while there were Jews active in the slave trade, the ultimate responsibility for it lay with their masters, the Christian monarchs of Europe. Her discussion of the subject was based on, and cited research, by mainstream historians and scholars.

Looking for books on the subject on the Net I found these two, available from Amazon.

Saul S. Friedman, Jews and the American Slave Trade (Transaction Publishers 1997).
and Eli Faber, Jews, Slaves and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight (NYU Press 1998).

Both of these books seem to have been written to refute the assertions of the Nation of Islam that Jews were chiefly responsible for the American slave trade.

The Amazon Review of Friedman’s book runs

-Jews and the American Slave Trade is a much needed response to an explosive issue that has been plagued with false charges and pseudo-scholarship. In a calm, logical and precise academic fashion, Dr. Friedman amply proves that Jews did not dominate the slave trade to and in America and, in fact, played a minuscule role even when part of the larger European, West Indian, North American, and South American slave societies. From ancient slavery to colonial mass transport, through each involved European nation to each American colony, Dr. Friedman’s careful analysis is thoroughly documented and interestingly crafted. Jews and the American Slave Trade should be read by students, teachers, and the public at large.- –Dr. David A. Rausch, professor of history, Ashland University -The best antidote for myths and falsification of history is the truth. Prof. Friedman has provided just such an antidote to the calumnies of recent years about the role of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade. It is a scientific work that reveals the bad as well as the good. There is no doubt that this is the best survey of Jewish involvement in the slave trade to the Americas. It ends with a masterful analysis of the antipathy that has developed between Jews and African-Americans in the contemporary United States.- –Howard L. Adelson, professor of medieval history, City University of New York -In this forceful and impassioned response to the Nation of Islam’s Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews (1991), Friedman (Youngstown State Univ.) combines his own extensive primary source research in American archives with the findings of David Brion Davis and hundreds of other distinguished scholars, to document conclusively -that Jews did not dominate the slave trade in the European colonies of South America and the Caribbean or the antebellum South-… Friedman’s essential point remains clear: -when the import and sale of Africans was at its peak Jews owned less than three-one hundredths of a percent, 0.03 percent of all the slaves in America.- All levels.- –E. R. Papenfuse, Choice -Saul Friedman’s book is a trenchant, courageous, and scholarly refutation of that lethal mix of old-fashioned Jew-hatred and modern Holocaust envy which expresses itself in the allegation that Jews controlled the slave trade to and in America.- –Edward Alexander, professor of English, University of Washington, Seattle “

For more information, see: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jews-American-Slave-Trade-Friedman/dp/1560003375

Amazon’s description of Faber’s book states

In the wake of the civil rights movement, a great divide has opened up between African American and Jewish communities. What was historically a harmonious and supportive relationship has suffered from a powerful and oft-repeated legend, that Jews controlled and masterminded the slave trade and owned slaves on a large scale, well in excess of their own proportion in the population.

In this groundbreaking book, likely to stand as the definitive word on the subject, Eli Faber cuts through this cloud of mystification to recapture an important chapter in both Jewish and African diasporic history.

Focusing on the British empire, Faber assesses the extent to which Jews participated in the institution of slavery through investment in slave trading companies, ownership of slave ships, commercial activity as merchants who sold slaves upon their arrival from Africa, and direct ownership of slaves. His unprecedented original research utilizing shipping and tax records, stock-transfer ledgers, censuses, slave registers, and synagogue records reveals, once and for all, the minimal nature of Jews’ involvement in the subjugation of Africans in the Americas.

A crucial corrective, Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade lays to rest one of the most contested historical controversies of our time.

See: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jews-Slaves-Slave-Trade-Perspectives/dp/0814726380/ref=pd_sbs_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0814726380&pd_rd_r=3d9f47d4-c977-11e8-8b24-ed803f1d8857&pd_rd_w=66JkT&pd_rd_wg=IEMvw&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_p=18edf98b-139a-41ee-bb40-d725dd59d1d3&pf_rd_r=S1B4YJZT7YR2G4RT5W0K&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=S1B4YJZT7YR2G4RT5W0K

I haven’t read either of these books, and so I can’t personally comment on them. However, from what I’ve read about the slave trade, they seem correct. Hugh Thomas in his book, The Slave Trade, makes the point that Jews played only a very minor role in the American slave trade.

And if a tiny minority of slavers were Jews, it is also true that Jews were also part of anti-slavery movements. In February 1869 there was a public meeting against the slave trade and the enslavement of the indigenous Pacific Islanders in Sydney, Australia. The meeting included not only Christian religious leaders like the Anglican bishop of Sydney, the Rev. John Graham of the Congregational Church, and the Revs. J.P. Sunderland, Adam Thomson, and G.H. Morton,m a Presbyterian minister and G. Hurst, a Methodist clergyman, but also the Rev. A.B. Davis, rabbi of the Sydney synagogue.

The claim that Jews were the dominant force in the American slave trade is anti-Semitic, and utterly refuted by real history. These two books might help readers interested in learning the real truth behind the Nation of Islam’s vile claims. And Jackie Walker herself is demonstrably not an anti-Semite, but an impassioned worker for racial equality and an opponent of racial prejudice, who based her comments also on genuine, accepted scholarship.

Blairites and Jewish Establishment Join Racist Hate Fest Organised by Friends of the EDL

September 22, 2018

This is absolutely disgusting. Last Sunday, the Labour MPs Lucy Powell, Beverley Hughes and Louise Ellman, along with the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and current President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyle (below) attended a demonstration organized by the North-West Friends of Israel. The demonstration was ostensibly against anti-Semitism, but in reality it was another attack on the Labour party for not fanatically supporting Israel. And the organisers, the NWFOI, are also friends and supporters of the EDL and its former leader, Tommy Robinson, AKA Stephen Yaxley Lennon.

No, this is Dr. Who’s Sil, but he’s far more interesting and entertaining than the President of the Board of Deputies.

Tony Greenstein has an excellent piece about the demonstration on his blog, as has Mike over at Vox Political. Greenstein states that

The EDL, formed by Tommy Robinson aka Steven Yaxley-Lennon, was an organisation of Islamaphobic and racist bigots which managed to combine support for Israel with Hitler salutes. Tommy Robinson himself is popular with Zionists these days and completed a tour of Israel with his Zionist fan Dr Brian.

He continued, describing the NWFOI’s relationship with the EDL

In its opposition to Palestine solidarity demonstrations outside the Israeli Kedem shop protest in Manchester in 2014, NWFOI worked with the EDL… As a report at the time observed: ‘NWFOI warmly welcome the English Defence League to their demonstrations.’ The accompanying commentary by Natan Levinson of NWFOI, explained that: ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

And his article goes on to give further details of the close relationship between the two.

Zyle’s attendance at the event marks a notable reversal of the Board’s attitude towards Robinson and his supporters. Previously they wouldn’t have had anything to do with them. The Board issued a statement against the EDL a little while ago, which said that

Tommy Robinson’s record of anti-Muslim provocation means that he could never be a partner of a respectable or mainstream Jewish organisation.

Mike stated that

This should signal the end of any credibility held by the people named at the top of this article, and the organisations they represent. The reaction on the social media has been damning.

He then goes on to give some of the comments on twitter by people, like John Clarke and Ms. G. Richards, who feel that their attendance discredited the anti-Semitism smears and those making them, and that it was inappropriate for Labour MPs to attend.

Absolutely. And Jewish Voice for Labour, who organized their own counterprotest at the event, and who represent British Jews as much as Mirvis and van der Zyle, issued the following statement

For the last three years there has been a concerted effort to discredit and unseat Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition, a man who is quite possibly the most consistent anti-racist leader the Labour Party has ever known.

This campaign has been led by a coalition of groups which are deeply opposed to Jeremy’s championing of Palestinian rights together with political opponents many of whom have shown little previous interest in combating antisemitism.

Rather than seeking to oppose genuine anti-Jewish hatred, they have cynically sought to amplify and manipulate the anxieties of British Jews in order to further their political aims.

Many of those organisations and individuals taking part this Sunday, including Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and the Board of Deputies, are the same instigators of the campaign against Jeremy.

That progressive Jewish organisations, including those supporting Palestinian human rights, were excluded from participating suggests that the organisers and speakers are not acting in good faith.

For some of the headline speakers, however, the demonstration is not just about antisemitism. Rather it concerns the uncritical defence of some of the actions of the Israeli government whilst giving voice to those who want to remove Jeremy Corbyn, a consistent and principled supporter of Palestinian rights, as leader of the Labour party. We cannot emphasise enough that they do not speak for us.

What is also very bizarre and grotesque is that members of Jewish Voice for Labour have both been accused of not being really Jewish, as well as sneered at by other Jews for being Jewish! Mike reproduces a tweet from Revolution Breeze containing a tweet from Ben Goren saying that an American rabbi called him a ‘Jew Boy’, while a British rabbi said he wasn’t a Jew!

Mike states that the demonstration was a racist event, organized by people using the banner of opposition to anti-Semitism to hide their own racism. In normal circumstances, those Labour MPs and activists, like Ellman and Powell, would get away scot-free with this, and would continue their activities conspiring against and trying to undermine and overthrow their leader. They would continue lying and smearing him, with their comments picked up and repeated by the right-wing press.

He concludes

But their appearance at this event shows that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue. MPs must support the leader, and the will of the party – or they must be replaced by those who will.

By appearing at this appalling event, Lucy Powell and the others have done the Labour Party a huge service.

Precisely what that service is, is shown very clearly in the title of Mike’s article: ‘Lucy Powell’s speech at festival of ‘racial hatred’ makes the case for mandatory reselection’.

And Mike’s right: it is absolutely unacceptable that these Labour rebels should support racist, islamophobic organisations against their own, democratically elected leader.

See Mike’s article
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/18/lucy-powells-speech-at-festival-of-racial-hatred-makes-the-case-for-mandatory-reselection/

and Tony Greenstein’s at
http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/09/nw-friends-of-israel-tommy-robinson-and.html

Greenstein and the Electronic Intifada have published a number of articles exposing the connections between the Zionist British Jewish establishment and the EDL, which has a Jewish division, as well as the Jewish Defence League and the British branch of the Israeli far-right party, Herut. And these links with the EDL should utterly discredit everyone, who turned up to support this disgusting event.

Robinson claims that the EDL is not racist. It is just against Islam, which it presents as aggressive, exploitative and aimed ultimately at overthrowing democracy, secularism and the non-Muslim faiths here in the UK and elsewhere. But the ‘counterjihad’ movement, of which the EDL is a part, is very racist and intolerant. There are elements, which do believe that a war will come in the next decade between far-right European ‘patriots’ and Islam and the left. And I’ve also seen videos on YouTube by anti-Islam activists in the US which not only demonise Muslims, they also demand their expulsion from the US if not the West.

This is chillingly similar to the expulsion of the Jews from Britain in the Middle Ages by Edward I, which was then followed by a wave of other European nations.

The Zionist establishment clearly believe that supporting and collaborating with far-right movements which covertly support ethnic cleansing is acceptable, and does not present any danger to British Jews.

It does. You don’t give Fascists an entrance into mainstream politics. If they are seen to be supported by prominent, respected, if not respectable people, they will naturally exploit this as much as they can. Because as the example of the Nazis shows, they don’t stop with the persecution of only one group. They go on rounding up and killing others. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some members of the EDL, as well as hating Muslims, aren’t also bitter anti-Semites themselves. But perhaps Mirvis, van der Zyle only feel that, once the EDL and its allies expel Muslims, they only Jews they’ll persecute will be left-wing and anti-Zionist, you know, the people they regard as ‘the wrong sort of Jews’.

The event is also a slap in the face to organisations working to overcome prejudice between communities, and especially to bring to Jews and Muslims together.

This demonstration was a dangerous, racist farce, and the Blairites and members of the Jewish establishment – Mirvis and van der Zyle – who attended have betrayed the very people they claim to represent.

Self-Taught Engineer Successfully Flies aboard Steam Rocket

September 21, 2018

And now, before the serious stuff, something completely different, as Monty Python used to say. This is a short video I found on YouTube from the Inside Edition channel. It’s their report on the successful flight of a steam-powered rocket, built and crewed by ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes. Hughes is a limousine driver and a self-taught engineer. His reason for building the vehicle is, er, eccentric: he wanted to see if the Earth was flat.

The video was posted on 18th March 2018, and shows Hughes and his rocket taking off in the Mojave desert in the south-western US. It climbed to an altitude of 1,850 feet before finally returning to Earth, its descent slowed by two parachutes. Hughes had spent ten years building it, and the video shows stills of early versions of the rocket.

Hughes’ landing was rough, however. The video describes it as a crash. A rescue team got him out of the cockpit, but he complained that his back was broken. When the news crew caught him with him to talk, ironically just outside a courthouse where he’d been giving a ticket for speeding, Hughes’ claimed that he might have a compressed vertebra.

The video ends by reassuring its viewers that, yes, the Earth is indeed flat.

I’m actually saluting this bloke, because he’s obviously really clever and has done something I’d love to do myself: build a low power rocket that could hold a man or woman and send them up to a reasonable height. Way back in the 1990s I had a paper printed in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society arguing for the construction and flight of such vehicles as a new leisure industry. I based this on the use of hang-gliders, paragliding and microlight aircraft as hobby aviation. People fly them because they want to enjoy the experience of powered flight, not because they actually want to go from A to B. In the same way, I feel, human-carrying rockets could be built and flown to give ordinary people something of the experience of astronauts going into space aboard real rockets, like the Space Shuttle or the Russian Soyuz craft. But obviously without having to spend millions on a ticket to space.

Steam, or hot water rockets, have been around since the 19th century. The first modern hot water rocket was patented in Britain in 1824 by the American inventor, Jacob Perkins (1766-1849). The American Rocket Research Institute, based in California, and founded in 1943, established a special centre for the research and construction of hot water rockets, the Perkins Centre, named after him. The Institute runs a number of training programmes for students and aspiring rocket engineers. The rockets developed could carry payloads up to 5,000 feet.

After the War, the German rocket scientist, Eugen Sanger, and his wife Irene Sanger-Bredt, carried out research into hot water rockets to see whether they could work assisting heavily loaded aircraft into the air. The main US researcher in the area was Bob Truax.

The rocket engines developed by the RRI ranged from senior student college engineering projects with a thrust of 700 lbs per second to the Thunderbolt II constructed by Truax Engineering, which had a thrust of 16,000 lbs per second.
The photo below shows the STEAM-HI III hot water rocket being installed at the Perkins Safety Test Centre in 1963.

This photo shows Truax Engineering’s Thunderbolt rocket and its static test firing in 1973.

See ‘The Rocket Research Institute, 1943-1993: 50 Years of Rocket Safety, Engineering and Space Education Programs’, George S. James and Charles J. Piper, in Jung, Philippe, ed., History of Rocketry and Astronautics, AAS History Series, Vol. 22; IAA History Symposia, vol. 14 (American Astronautical Society: San Diego 1998), pp. 343-400.

And the Earth is very, very definitely round. As it has been known to be by educated European since the 9th century, and by the Greek astronomers long before that. All that stuff about how people in the Middle Ages believed the world was flat and that if you sailed far enough west you’d fall off was basically invented in the 19th century by Washington Irving. The Church Fathers knew and accepted that it was round. St. Augustine said so in one of his works, and argued that when the Bible spoke of the world as flat, it was an instance of God using the beliefs of the time to make His moral message intelligible to the people then alive.

I’ve no idea where the modern delusion that the world’s flat comes from. Well, actually, I do – it seems to have started a year ago in 2017 with the comments of a rapper on American radio. But before then I thought the idea was very definitely dead and buried. In Britain, the Flat Earth Society had dwindled to a single member. This was actually a physicist, who believed that the Earth was round. He used the Society to argue against dogmatism in science. And I thought he had packed finally packed it in, leaving the number of Flat Earthers in Britain at zero.

Now it seems that there are any number of eccentrics, who believe the world is really flat. They’re completely wrong about that, including Hughes.

But Hughes did something superb in building his own, human-carrying rocket

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Anti-Semitism and the Aristocracy

September 20, 2018

Last night I put up a piece debunking the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, based on the chapter about this vile book in Jon E. Lewis’ The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups (London: Constable & Robinson 2007), pp. 433-50. The Protocols are a notorious anti-Semitic forgery, probably concocted by Matvei Golovinski of the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, to make his master, Nicholas II, even more anti-Semitic and to intensify the persecution of the Jews.

The Protocols purport to be the minutes of a secret meeting of a group of elite Jews, intent on destroying all non-Jewish religions and conquering and enslaving Christians and gentiles. They claimed that the Jews were at the centre of a massive conspiracy controlling the banks and were encouraging the downfall of Christian civilization by promoting liberalism, democracy, socialism and anarchism. At the same time they were distracting gentiles from uncovering this plot through using alcohol, gambling, games and other amusements.

There is absolutely no truth in any of this whatsoever. But the book became an immense success and was read and influenced many Fascists and anti-Semites. These included Adolf Hitler, who made the book a compulsory part of the German school syllabus.

Like much of Fascism, it’s a rejection of modernity – the mass society of modern politics that emerged in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Modern politics and secular ideologies were attacked. At one point, the Protocols claim that Darwinism, Marxism and Nietzscheanism have been successful because they have been promoted by the conspiracy. (Lewis, Mammoth Book of Covers-Ups, p. 444). The forger’s own view of what constitutes the best society is revealed very clearly in another passage, in which the conspirators celebrate their destruction of the aristocracy.

The people, under our guidance, have annihilated the aristocracy, who were their one and only defence and foster-mother for the sake of their own advantage, which is inseparably bound up with the well-being of the people. Nowadays, with the destruction of the aristocracy, the people have fallen into the grips of merciless money-grinding scoundrels who have laid a pitiless and cruel yoke upon the necks of the workers. (p.446).

Historically, some of the persecution of the Jews in the later Middle Ages was due to the fact that a large number of the aristocracy had become seriously in debt to Jewish bankers, and tried to get out of their obligation to pay it back by urging for their persecution and expulsion.

A significant number of aristocrats and the upper middle class were supporters of Nazism before the Second World War. The leader of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosley, was a baronet. Aristocrats and landlords joined pro-Nazi and appeasement organisations like the Anglo-German Fellowship. Martin Pugh on his book on British Fascism between the Wars describes how the aristos welcomed members of the Nazi elite at dinner parties on their estates, when the swastika was discreetly flown from the flagpoles.

And there still seems to be a fascination and dangerous sympathy with Nazism even today. Way back in the 1990s and early part of this century, Private Eye published a number of stories about one Cotswold aristocrat, who had very strong anti-Semitic, racist and anti-immigrant opinions.

And then there’s the Traditional Britain Group on the far right of the Tory party. These also have the same, genuinely Fascist attitudes, and one of their leaders is fascinated with the Nazis and the Third Reich. It was the Traditional Britain Group, who invited Jacob Rees-Mogg to their annual dinner, which Mogg accepted. When the Observer published the story, Mogg claimed that at the time he hadn’t known anything about them. If he had, he wouldn’t have gone. Which doesn’t really sound convincing, as people don’t normally accept dinner invitations from organisations and people they know nothing about. But perhaps Mogg, as well as being viciously right-wing, is also very naïve.

As for the Tories being good friends of the Jews, as the current head of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyle claimed in a speech, David Rosenberg posted up in response a series of incidents across the decades which put the lie to it. These showed very clearly how anti-Semitic the Tories had been, and which parts of it may very well still be.

And one of the attractions of anti-Semitism, apart from sheer racism, is that, in the form of conspiracy theories like the Protocols, they blame the Jews for all the forces of modernity that threaten the aristocracy and the upper middle class, and celebrate the aristocracy itself as the people’s saviours, and so appealing very strongly to certain types of Tories.

Far Right Watch Explain Why Tommy Robinson Is Not a Martyr for Free Speech

June 12, 2018

Last month, Tommy Robinson, or to give him his real name, Steven Yaxley Lennon, was arrested and jailed for contempt of court. Robinson is the former leader of the Islamophobic EDL, and has also been a member of PEGIDA UK, as well as the BNP. He’d been covering the trial of a group of Pakistani Muslims in Leeds on the internet outside the court. Robinson already had a suspended sentence for doing the same thing about a year ago in Canterbury. The rozzers swooped, Robinson pleaded guilty, and is now enjoying a holiday at her majesty’s pleasure.

His supporters have gone berserk, claiming that he’s been persecuted for his beliefs and that this is a serious breach of free speech by the multicultural establishment to protect Muslims. They’ve also been on the internet claiming that this is all part of the establishment’s campaign to make Whites extinct through immigration and racial mixing. The Islamophobic Dutch politician, Gert Wilders, who is himself no stranger to prosecution for racism, has condemned Robinson’s arrest and imprisonment. As has Pauline Hanson, the head of the minuscule Australian anti-immigration party, the One Nation Party. Hanson runs a fish and chip shop in Western Australia, and she’s made herself president for life of her outfit, so there are definitely no overtones of Fascist dictatorship there.

Last Sunday, 4th June 2018, Robinson’s supporters held a rally in London demanding his release. This has alarmed anti-racist activists and organisations. Hope Not Hate have released a video telling the truth about Robinson and what he really stands for and why he was jailed. As have Kevin Logan, the male feminist and anti-Fascist, and Far Right Watch. RT also covered the demonstration, and their short clip shows some of Robinson’s supporters trying fighting or attempting to fight the police.

Far Right Watch are an unpaid, volunteer group of nine people dedicated to exposing Fascism and the Far Right on the internet. In this video, which is about 28 minutes long, they answer five questions about Robinson and bust seven myths about him.

They start out by making the point that Robinson is a racist, and has been a member of a series of racist organisations, including the BNP. He’s also a criminal, having been convicted 12 times of various offences, including fraud. They go into great detail, including citing the official court document explaining to Robinson why he is being jailed, showing that his arrest is certainly not political censorship but was done as part of the ordinary legislation designed to give defendants a fair trial.

They point out that under English law since the 13th century, a person is innocent until proven guilty. This is unique to English law and the legal systems that are derived from it, and it’s a cornerstone of British justice. Robinson broke that in his coverage of the case, because his commentary on the trial assumed that the men being tried were guilty.

This is serious because it threatened to prejudice their trial, meaning that if the judge considered that the accused couldn’t get a fair trial because of Robinson, the trial would be abandoned or the accused acquitted. And if the accused were guilty of the heinous crimes with which they were charged, it would be a serious miscarriage of justice. Hence the mass of legislation surrounding the reporting of criminal cases which bind real journalists.

Robinson also violated accepted journalistic procedures by broadcasting live. When the professional broadcasters cover cases from outside a courthouse, it’s always recorded, and the report is then examined by legal experts to make sure that it complies with the law. Robinson did not none of that. He had no control over what was occurring, and was simply filming events as they happened. Furthermore, there were other people also coming to court for their trials, and his cavalier contempt for the law could have placed their cases in jeopardy.

His followers have also claimed that Robinson was all right to present his commentary on the case, as it was over. This video reveals that it wasn’t. The case Robinson was covering was only one of a number of trial, which were ongoing. They have also claimed that the ruling of contempt of court doesn’t apply to him, because he was outside the courtroom. That isn’t the case. The documents state that Robinson was still subject to the laws about contempt of court because he was still in the precincts of the court. Mike, who is a professional journalist, and who knows the law, told me that the precincts of the court are wherever the judge decides they are. So that excuse for him doesn’t hold up.

As for Robinson’s swift arrest, it’s so fast because he was given a 13 month suspended sentence for doing the same thing in Canterbury last year, which he didn’t contest. This sentence would immediately have started the moment Robinson broke the law again, regardless of any additional sentence he would be given for this offence. And while the speed of his arrest is unusual, it’s not unknown. Plus the fact that Robinson actually pleaded guilty to contempt when he was tried for it, so there’s absolutely no reason for the whole process to be prolonged with a lengthy trial and prosecution.

The video also makes the point that Robinson’s own interest in the trial was cynically racist. He wasn’t interested so much in the welfare of the children these people are accused of violating and exploiting. He was only interested in it as a way of generating further hatred against Muslims. He hadn’t covered a string of similar trials up and down England and Wales, for the simple reason that the paedophile gangs being tried in these cases were all White. Just like he also wasn’t interested in talking about Jimmy Savile or the allegations against the former Tory leader, Edward Heath.

As for Wilders and Pauline ‘President for Life’ Hanson fulminating against his arrest and sentencing as a travesty of British justice, or words to that effect, the same laws against contempt of court are in force everywhere, including the Netherlands and Australia. So if Robinson had broken the law in those countries, as he has here, he’d still have been jailed.

In short, Robinson is in no way a martyr for free speech, as the document outlining the reasons why he has been jailed states very clearly. This wasn’t about politics. It was about justice, giving the accused a fair trial, under laws which go all the way back to the Middle Ages. It was definitely not about protecting Muslim paedophiles, or the elites advancing the cause of ‘White genocide’ or any of the stupid and vile conspiracy theories that the Far Right may choose to believe or make up about it. And Robinson himself is hardly a high-minded, principled political activist. He’s a convicted criminal and a racist, who knowingly violated the law in order to generate more anti-Muslim hatred.

The Social Hierarchy that Makes Prejudice towards Some Minorities More Acceptable Than Others

May 9, 2018

Way back on April 23rd, Mike also wrote an article commenting on the near complete media silence over islamophobia in the Tory party, contrasting this with the furore over the supposed anti-Semitism in Labour. Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi had appeared on Robert Peston’s programme to state that islamophobic incidents and rhetoric were almost weekly occurrences in the Tory party. The only news outlet that reported Warsi’s statement, which not even Peston himself commented on, was RT. Which shows just how much we need the Russian-owned broadcaster and supposed ‘propaganda outlet’ to correct the massive bias in our own media.

Aleesha, a Muslim female blogger and political activist, who talked about the massive increase she’d seen in Tory islamophobia, but which went unnoticed and unremarked by the media, and which no one was condemning or acting against. She discussed the vehemently islamophobic comments of the Tory MP, Bob Blackman, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign for the post of mayor of London against Sadiq Khan, and the official EU Leave campaign, which said that Europe has an ‘exploding Muslim population’.

Aleesha further asked

“Why is nobody acting? I have been blocked by Tory councillors and Tory MPs when I call islamophobia out. Why are these MPs and councillors supporting islamophobes? It makes me think that the Tory party has an actual problem with islamophobia, not to mention the dozens of times I’ve been religiously abused by Tories.

“Are we just going to ignore it? When will we give these cases the rightful outrage? Islamophobia is absolutely normalised in British politics and nobody is really doing anything about it. The silence from our politicians shows their inability to act and their legitimation/endorsement of these views. Are we going to act, or are we going to do nothing and let MPs like Bob Blackman host more extremists in Parliament?”

Mike ended his article by referring back to Baroness Warsi’s comments, and concluding that the real reason islamophobia is being ignored is because the Tories love it.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/04/23/sick-of-labour-anti-semitism-lets-talk-about-tory-islamophobia-instead/

As Mike has pointed out repeatedly, racism of all types, including islamophobia, is far more prevalent amongst the Right, including the Tories, than the Left and the Labour party. But the media aren’t commenting on it, and are playing up the supposed anti-Semitism in Labour for purely political reasons. They fear Corbyn’s Labour and its programme of ending neoliberalism, renationalising the NHS, part of the electricity grid and the railways, and restoring the welfare state. The Blairites in the Labour party and their allies in the Israel lobby also despise him, not because he is an enemy of Israel, but because he demands dignity and justice for the Palestinians. This also attacks traditional geopolitics in the region, where the West has supported Israel and Saudi Arabia against Russia and the surrounding Arab nations. As a result, the Tories, the media, the Israel lobby and the Thatcherite Labour Right, the Blairites, have all seized on the spurious allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters as a way of trying to unseat the Labour leader and marginalise and expel his supporters.

There are also a number of reasons why islamophobia is far also far more acceptable than other forms of racial prejudice. Colour prejudice is one factor. Most Muslims in this country are Black or Asian, and Muslims may also be seen as more foreign than other ethnic groups because historically they lay outside and beyond the European Christian mainstream. While there have been Muslim communities in parts of Europe, like Spain, the Balkans and Russia and the Baltic states since the Middle Ages, they were always marginal communities outside the European mainstream. Europe in the Middle Ages was Christendom. Muslim Spain was part of the Islamic world, as were the Muslim communities in the Balkans which were established after the region was conquered by the Muslim Turks. The Ottoman Turks were an aggressive, expansionary threat to the European Christian states up until the late 17th century. The massacres of Christians carried out by the Ottomans at the end of the 19th century, when the Greeks and Serbs fought their wars of independence, became notorious, and so contributed to this stereotype of Islam as an innately hostile threat. At the same time, the massacres carried by Christians against Muslims was little reported and did not provoke the same outrage.

There is also the legacy of British imperialism, and its conquest of part of the Dar al-Islam in the creation of negative views of Islam and its peoples, followed by the continued instability of the region after independence. The result has been that Islam and Muslims have continued to be seen as a threat completely opposed to Europe and the West. The stereotype has been reinforced by the rise of militant Islam following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Islamist terrorism and highly emotive campaigns by some Muslims in Britain, such as the Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the controversy over the Satanic verses, and the marches and demands for Pope Benedict’s death after he quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor’s negative comments about Mohammed.

And added to all this is Huntingdon’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ thesis, which stated that after the collapse of Communism, there would be an inevitable conflict between the West and Islam. Huntingdon’s idea has been taken up by very many on the right, from the Republicans in America to UKIP, the Fascist and Nazi right in Britain and Europe, and now, it seems, a very large part of our own Conservative party.

But a few years ago, one right-wing writer also offered his own views on why prejudice against some minorities was more acceptable than others. He wrote

‘Is there, in effect, an unofficial pack of equality Top Trumps cards? In egalitarian Britain, who has the best minority credentials? They could go something like this:’

He then laid his scheme of how these cards would look as follows:

LESBIANS AND GAYS
Media Connections 9
Victim Status 4
Rarity Value 3
Fear Factor 6
Political/financial clout 8

MUSLIMS
Media Connections 4
Victim Status 6
Rarity Value 4
Fear Factor 9
Political/financial clout 4

JEWS
Media Connections 9
Victim Status 8
Rarity Value 6
Fear Factor 5
Political/financial clout 10

DISABLED
Media Connections 2
Victim Status 9
Rarity Value 8
Fear Factor 1
Political/financial clout 2

GURKHAS
Media Connections 7
Victim Status 5
Rarity Value 6
Fear Factor 9
Political/financial clout 4

TRANSSEXUALS
Media connections 1
Victim Status 3
Rarity Value 10
Fear Factor 2
Political/financial clout 3.

So who was the terrible person, who compiled this league table of marginalised groups? Well, actually it was Daily Mail sketch writer Quentin Letts, in his book Bog Standard Britain: How Mediocrity Ruined This Great Nation (London: Constable 2009), pages 115 to 117. They’re in the chapter ‘Bum Rap’, where he comments on the way the vile homophobia of some Caribbean rap lyrics are apparently considered acceptable, when Lynette Burrows was reported to the cops for homophobia when she questioned on the BBC the right of male gay couples to adopt baby girls. He concluded on this issue that

… it is hard to escape the conclusion that the police leave rap music alone because it has more minority value than the gay people it so charmlessly attacks. Lynette Burrows was collared because she was an easy target and because she was one of the majority. The rappers are more frightening and they have the political Scotchguard of victimhood.

But you could use his grading of the comparative power and victim status of various minority groups to argue that anti-Semitism is far more unacceptable than other forms of racial prejudice, because Jews have a greater victim status and political and financial power. If this came from someone on the left now, they would almost certainly be libelled as an anti-Semite. But there has been no such outcry against Letts. And I hope there isn’t, because I don’t believe he has written anything anti-Semitic.

There is some truth in what he writes, as the majority of Westerners are acutely aware of the long history of persecution the Jews have suffered in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust. Jews are also generally more integrated than some other groups, and Brits have a more positive attitude towards them. Only 7 per cent of Brits in polls say they are anti-Semitic. Many leading businessmen and media figures are Jewish, though this certainly does not mean that the vile conspiracy theories that claims Jews control business and the media are anything but murderous lies. And the anti-Semitic smears of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and the Jewish Leadership Council carry weight, because they are part of the Tory establishment.

Against this, there are still anti-Semitic attacks and harassment. Nazi groups, like the banned National Action in England and the Alternative Fuer Deutschland in Germany have made terrifying speeches calling for the murder and extermination of Jews. And many of those libelled by the Blairites, the Tories and the Israel lobby as anti-Semites are self-respecting Jews, whose only crime is that, like their gentile anti-racist friends and comrades, they support Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left.

Real, murderous anti-Semitism, like other forms of racism, still exists, and Jews have given their support to other marginalised groups suffering racial abuse in the West. The ADL, the American Jewish organisation dedicated to tackling anti-Semitism, for example, also came out in support of Muslims against Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Thus, for a variety of historical, social and economic reasons, prejudice against some minorities, such as Jews, is far less acceptable than others, such as Muslims. But racial prejudice generally is far more common in the Tory party, and the current attacks on anti-Semitism in the Labour party has far more to do with politics than real anti-Semitism, as shown by the fact that so many of those smeared are genuinely anti-racist and Jewish.

Jonathan Arkush Shouldn’t Be Immune from Criticism; the Chief Rabbi Wasn’t

April 15, 2018

Jonathan Arkush is the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who splenetically claimed that Corbyn was ‘anti-Semitic’ to spend Passover with the left-wing Jews of Jewdas and that the organisation was a nest of anti-Semitism. It’s the standard libels and smears of the Thatcherites and the Israel lobby. Anything coming from the left which challenges the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians or other atrocities in the Middle East is immediately declared to be anti-Semitic, along with those reporting or protesting against them. This includes genuinely anti-racist gentiles and self-respecting Jews, many of whom have been subject to real anti-Semitic abuse and assault, and did lose family in the Shoah.

And as Mike and a thousand other left-wing bloggers have pointed out, Arkush himself used an anti-Semitc trope when he attacked Jewdas. They were to him the wrong sort of Jews. I’ve discussed here how the trope has been used by paranoid conspiracy theorist to distinguish between the Jewish bankers, like the Rothschilds, who they see as being behind the global plot to create a one world Satanic Communist conspiracy, and ordinary Jews. And so make their bizarre and malign views seem less Nazi.

And yesterday I put up a piece about how Oswald Mosley apparently told Marks and Spencer, the founders of the British department store, how he intended to do the same. He was going to whip up hatred against the poor, impoverished Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe coming into the country fleeing pogroms in their homelands. But middle class, respectable Jews like Marks would be left alone. Spencer apparently had his butler politely throw Mosley, and a dam’ good thing too!

Arkush should be held responsible and criticised for using anti-Semitic tropes in his libels against decent Jews. And it shows the hypocrisy and cowed nature of the British political establishment and media that he hasn’t. But other leading Jewish establishment have been criticised for their use of similar, chilling bigoted language.

A few years ago the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Jonathan Sacks, caused justifiable outrage when he declared that Reform Jews were ‘enemies of the faith’. It’s horrifying bigoted words. It’s the accusation that was has been used by sectarians and religious bigots of all types through the ages to justify the persecution of rival sects and religions. Protestants and Roman Catholic Christians used it against each other during the Reformation, and the Roman Catholic church also used it to justify the persecution of the Cathar heretics in the Middle Ages. It has also been used by Christian anti-Semites to justify the persecution of the Jews.

The outrage was so great, that Sacks was forced to make some kind of apology, as he should. And so should Arkush for his use of anti-Semitic tropes against Jewdas and other left-wing Jewish groups.

It shouldn’t matter how ‘establishment’ a person is, or how respectable their organisation. If they make bigoted statements they should be held accountable and forced to apologise. If they cannot apologise, they should be removed.

Jonathan Sacks apologised for his bigotry. So should Arkush.

Physics Textbook on Cosmology and Gravitation

March 15, 2018

M.V. Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation (Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing 1989).

Yesterday came the news of the death of the great British physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking at the age of 76. Hawking had suffered for most of his adult life from motor neurone disease, since he was diagnosed with it in his early 20s. He was given only three years to live, but instead managed to live out a very full lifespan working on his theories of the origin of the universe and Black Holes. He was a great ambassador for science. His book, A Brief History of Time, was a bestseller when it appeared in 1980s, although he admitted that it was probably a book few finished. And he showed that it was still possible for a disabled person to do cutting edge research, provided they had the necessary technical and medical support. In his case, it was his wheelchair and the machine that allowed him to speak, first of all by keying in the words, then by twitching just a single muscle. Some of the praise seemed a bit too fulsome to me. Like when they started saying that he was the greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein. I don’t think he was. And Hawking on his own didn’t unlock the secrets of universe or Black Holes, as the Beeb’s presenters also claimed. As for his great sense of humour, well, it existed, as his appearance on shows like The Simpsons demonstrated, but my memory of it is marred by him turning up with the TV critic, Victor Lewis Smith, telling fart jokes and laughing on the 1990s series, Inside Victor Lewis Smith. But it really was inspiring to see how he was a great hero to the ‘A’ level students at a science fair yesterday, and how he had inspired them to become interested in science.

One of the complaints Richard Dawkins has made about popular science programmes is that they’re too ‘dumbed-down’. He points out that they have to have lots of explosions, and they mustn’t include equations, in case that scares people off. There’s a lot with which I don’t agree with Dawkins. I’m not an atheist, and have argued on this blog against him and the other militant atheists. But he is right here. Scientists writing the popular science books have said that they’ve been told by their publishers to leave equations out, because every equation in a book damages sales.

I think this is the wrong attitude to have. It’s why I’ve put up this piece about the above book by M.V. Berry. It’s an undergraduate physics textbook, which does contain the fundamental mathematical equations for this area of physics. Its contents include

1. Introduction

2. Cosmography
2.1 What the universe contains
2.2 The cosmic distance hierarchy and the determination of galactic densities
2.2.1 Parallax
2.2.2 Distance from velocity measurements
2.2.3 Distance from apparent luminosity
2.2.4 Weighing galaxies
2.3 The red shift and the expansion of the universe.

3. Physical base of general relativity
3.1 The need for relativistic ideas and a theory of gravitation.
3.2 Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: gravity
3.3. Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: inertial frames and absolute space.
3.4 Inadequacy of special relativity.
3.5 Mach’s principle, and gravitational waves.
3.6 Einstein’s principle of equivalence.

4 Curved spacetime and the physical mathematics of general relativity.
4.1 Particle Paths and the separation between events
4.2 Geodesics
4.3 Curved spaces
4.4 Curvature and gravitation.

5 General relativity near massive objects
5.1 Spacetime near an isolated mass.
5.2 Around the world with clocks.
5.3 Precession of the perihelion of Mercury
5.4 Deflection of light
5.5 Radar echoes from planets
5.6 Black Holes

6 Cosmic Kinematics
6.1 Spacetime for the smoothed-out universe
6.2 Red shifts and horizons
6.3 Apparent luminosity
6.4 Galactic densities and the darkness of the night sky.
6.5 Number counts

7 Cosmic dynamics
7.1 Gravitation and the cosmic fluid
7.2 Histories of model universes
7.3 The steady state theory
7.4 Cosmologies in which the strength of gravity varies

8 In the beginning
8.1 Cosmic black-body radiation.
8.2 Condensation of galaxies
8.3 Ylem.

Appendix A: Labelling astronomical objects
Appendix B: Theorema Egregium
Problems
Solutions to odd-numbered problems
Useful numbers.

there’s also a bibliography and index.

I’m not claiming to understand the equations. I struggled at both my ‘O’ level maths and physics, and what I know about science and astronomy I learned mostly through popular science books. But in the mid-1990s I wanted to see at least some of the equations scientists used in their explorations and modelling of the universe. One of the popular science books I was reading said at the time that this book was at the level that people with ‘A’ level maths could understand, and this didn’t seem quite so much a jump from my basic maths skills. So I ordered it. I’m afraid I can’t say that I’ve read it properly, despite the fact that I keep meaning to. Some of the equations are just too much for me, but I can follow the explanations in the text. I’m putting this notice of the book up here, in case there are any budding Stephen or Stephanie Hawkingses out there, who want to go a bit further than the pop-sci explanations, and see for themselves what the maths behind it all is like.

The Beeb also said in their eulogy for the great man, that Hawking hoped that the people reading his A Brief History of Time would come away with one point, even if they hadn’t finished it: that the universe is governed by rational law. Actually, this ideas isn’t unique to Hawking by a very, very long way. It actually comes from the Middle Ages, and is the assumption that makes science possible. Hawking was an agnostic, I believe, and many scientists are atheists. But this assumption that the universe is governed by rational laws ultimately comes from Christian theology. The founds of modern science in the Renaissance pointed to the passages in the Bible, in which God’s Wisdom creates the universes and establishes the boundaries and courses of natural phenomena, like the tides and stars. And the anarchist of science, Feuerabend, pointed out that the assumption that the laws of the universe all form a consistent whole come from Christian doctrine, quoting the 13th century theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas: ‘We must believe that the laws of the universe are one, because God is one.’

Hawking has passed away, but it’s clear that he has inspired many more people to become interested in this rather arcane branch of the sciences. I hope this continues, despite the Tories’ attack on education and science and research for its own sake.