Posts Tagged ‘Railways’

RT on the Media Silence over Corbyn Receiving Peace Prize in Geneva

December 12, 2017

RT put up this video yesterday, reporting that the Friday before, Jeremy Corbyn and Noam Chomsky had been awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize by an international committee, the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. The committee had been impressed by the Labour leader’s ‘sustained and powerful work for disarmament and peace’. But they also note that this has not been widely reported in the British press.

Mike also covered the story from the NHS Skwawkbox. They reported that the All Okinawa Council Against Henoko New Base also received the award along with Corbyn and Chomsky. The Bureau was impressed by Corbyn’s work as an ordinary member, then vice-chair and now vice-president of CND, as a past chair of the Stop the War Coalition, as well as his work over 34 years as an MP. They were impressed by his statement that he could not press the button for retaliation in a nuclear attack, and arguing that military spending should be cut and the money spent instead on health, education and welfare.

The award ceremony itself was held on November 24th in Geneva, but Corbyn had to wait until this weekend to collect it.

Mike also noted at the very start of his piece about Corbyn receiving the prise that the British media was silent about it. He wrote:

<strong>Where are the celebrations from the mainstream TV and newspaper media in the UK? The leader of the Labour Party has won a major international peace prize and I can’t find any headlines about it at all, apart from in Skwawkbox!*</strong>

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/09/jeremy-corbyn-collects-sean-macbride-peace-prize-2017/

There’s no need to look very hard to find reasons why the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 and the British press weren’t keen to report this honour for the Labour leader: they cordially hate him as a threat to the Thatcherite corporatist agenda that is ruining the country and forcing millions of Brits into mass poverty. And his fellow recipients are also enough to give any right-winger a touch of the vapours. Noam Chomsky is a veteran critic of American imperialism. I think in his personal political beliefs he’s an Anarchist/ anarcho-syndicalist. Which means he believes the best form of society would be one where there was no state, and everything was run by the workers through trade unions. The All Okinawa Council against Henoko New Base sounds like one of the local organisations set up on the Japanese island of Okinawa to oppose the presence of the American military base. The Japanese are increasingly resentful of American bases on their territory, and see it very much as military occupation, especially after the Fall of Communism and the removal of the Soviet Union as a threat to Japan.

But America now is a warfare state. It has expanded the war on terror to include military strikes and campaigns in seven countries, and its economy is heavily tied in to government spending on the arms industries. And where you have arms manufacturers with a powerful voice in government, you also find wars. And Britain is being dragged into them through the ‘special relationship’. Not that in Blair’s and Cameron’s case the Americans needed to do much dragging. I got the impression that Blair was enthusiastic for the Iraq invasion, and Blissex, one of the very highly informed commenters on this blog, stated that, according to the Americans, it was Cameron and Sarkozy in France, who pushed for the airstrikes to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya.

Throughout his period as head of the Labour party, the British media has been bitterly biased against Corbyn. When the plotters in the Chicken Coup staged their mass resignations the other year, it began with the collusion of one of the plotters to do it on Andrew Neil’s show. Now that Corbyn has made a genuinely positive achievement, which they can’t very well sneer at, or spin so it reflects badly on him, the media have no choice but to remain silent.

Apart from the issue of defence and western militarism, there are other reasons why the corporate media hate Corbyn: he wants to strengthen the welfare state, and embark on a campaign of renationalisation – renationalising the NHS and also the utilities industries and railways. This frightens the multimillionaire businessmen, who control the papers.

And so in the I yesterday, in the column where it quotes the opinions of the other papers, you had a quote from Simon Heffer in the Torygraph ranting about how ‘Stalinist’ Momentum were trying to deselect the ‘thoroughly decent’ moderates in the Labour party. And another quote from Karren Brady of the Apprentice declaring that Corbyn was a ‘Communist’, who supported nationalisation for his own peculiar reasons. She also reminded us that the nationalised industries had been failures, citing British Gas particularly.

Well, Heffer has always been a Tory spokesman, and the Telegraph has been particularly vocal in its hatred of the Labour leader. Not only is Heffer a dyed in the wool Tory, he was also a contributor to a book celebrating Enoch Powell that came out a few years ago, entitled Enoch at 100. Not only was Powell responsible for inflaming racism in Britain with his ‘rivers of blood’ speech, he was also a Monetarist, which became Thatcher’s favourite economic doctrine. Monetarism was regarded at the time by the majority of economists as stupid and ridiculous, and was effectively abandoned by Thatcher herself later in her tenure of No. 10.

And the ‘moderates’ in the Labour party are no such thing, nor are they ‘decent people’. They are liars and intriguers to a man and woman. They did everything they could to unseat Corbyn, and silence or throw out his supporters. But now that the likes of ‘Bomber’ Benn – so-called because of his enthusiasm for airstrikes on Syria – have failed, the Torygraph has to lament how they’re being ‘persecuted’ by Corbyn’s supporters.

As for Brady’s comments about the nationalised industries, yes, I do remember how there were problems with them. British Gas was notorious, and became notoriously worse after privatisation. But private ownership has very definitely not brought more investment nor improved the performance of the utilities companies. Quite the reverse – the rail network is actually performing worse now than it was in the last years of British Rail. It now consumes a higher government subsidy and charges more for worse services, all to keep its board on their expensive salaries and bonuses and bloated dividends to its shareholders.

But Brady really doesn’t want you to know that. She’s a businesswoman, who clearly stands four-square for the companies seeking to make vast profits from the former state sector. So she very definitely isn’t going to admit that there’s a problem with them.

Brady herself also likes to project herself as some kind of feminist heroine, thrusting through the corporate glass ceiling and inspiring other women and girls to take up the fight to make it in business. As Private Eye mischievously pointed out, this would be more convincing if she hadn’t begun her business career working in the offices of one of the porn companies.

The business elite are frightened of Corbyn, because he’s set to renationalise industry and empower British working people. And so if they can’t vilify him, as they couldn’t with the award of the Sean McBride Peace Prize, they have to keep silent.

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Democratic Party Leader Donna Brasile Reveals Party Controlled by Hillary Before Her Nomination

November 4, 2017

This is another piece of political dynamite. In this clip from the Jimmy Dore show, the comedian and his two co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, discuss the latest revelation about the corruption within the Democrat party.

And it’s a doozy.

Donna Brasile, who took over as head of the Democratic Party after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was caught corruptly acting for Clinton, has a new book coming out about the state of the Democrat Party during the presidential elections. Well, Killary has, so she may as well put her oar in as well. A passage from the book was published in Politico magazine. It was entitled ‘Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC’. It reveals how the DNC made a secret deal with Clinton in which they signed over nearly all the fundraising money and gave her control of the political campaign, including strategy and staffing.

Brasile is also corrupt like her predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. During the Democratic presidential nominations, she was leaking debate questions to Hillary, so she would have the advantage over Bernie.

And I know this is just ad hominem, or rather, ad feminam, but to me Brasile looks like the Afro-American cousin of Mrs Slocombe from the classic BBC comedy series, Are You Being Served?

Are You Being Served’s Mrs. Slocombe

The Democrat National Convention’s Donna Brasile

Brasile starts by slagging off her predecessor, dismissing Schultz as ‘not a good manager’. She then goes on to reveal the details of the deal. Under the laws set down by the Federal Election Commission, an individual can only give a maximum of $2,700 directly to an individual in the presidential elections. The limits are, however, much higher for the parties in the individual states. The donors, who had already contributed this amount to Killary’s campaign, could contribute another $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund. This represented $10,000 to the parties of the 32 states, who were part of the agreement, which made up $320,000, and $33,400 to the DNC.

She also mentions that the party usually shrinks the number of staff in the period between presidential elections. But Wasserman Schultz had decided not to do that. She had placed a great number of consultants on the payroll, and Obama’s consultants were also being paid by the party as well. Here Dore points out that this shows the contempt the party has for anyone except their donors. The party was already in serious financial trouble, but Wasserman Schultz was serving the consultants and donors from whom the party was taking money, not its grassroots supporters.

Brasile goes on to say that about the time of the Convention, leaked emails revealed how Clinton was keeping most of the money, and very little was going to the state parties. A Politico story published on May 2 2016, quoted Hillary as saying that they would concentrate on building the party up from the bottom. That’s how they were going to win. Instead the states kept less than half of one per cent of the $82 million they had raised.

Then Brasile found the document that would prove to be the smoking gun in the shape of the Joint Fundraising Agreement itself between the Democratic National Convention, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America. The Agreement was signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, amongst others, and a copy sent to Marc Elias, Killary’s lawyer. It specified that Killary would control the party’s finances, strategy and all the money raised in return for raising money and investing in the party.

Killary’s campaign would have the right of refusal over who was the party’s communications director, and the final decision on other staff. It also bound the DNC to consult Killary over all other staffing, budget decisions, data and mailings.

This explains why Tulsi Gabbard got removed from the DNC when she suggested that there should be more debates, because Bernie did well in them.

The agreement was signed in August 2015, four months after Killary had announced her candidacy, and nearly a year before she got the nomination.

Brasile also goes on to say that she tried to find other incriminating documents or evidence of corruption within the DNC, but did not find any. Dore pours scorn on this, pointing out that Brasile herself was involved in a series of shady moves to give the nomination to Killary over Bernie Sanders. She also states that the agreement was not illegal, but it was certainly unethical. It wasn’t a criminal act, but it compromised the party’s integrity. This comment again draws very heavy sarcasm from Dore, as it’s just about the worse act of corruption that could possibly be done. It sweeps away any kind of democracy or popular accountability within the party and places it very much under the personal, dictatorial control of a single individual. She also states that she didn’t trust the polls. Touring the country slocombe – er, I mean Brasile, had found there was little enthusiasm for Hillary. And she was particularly worried about Obama supporters and millennials.

Dore, Placone and Zamorano also take the point to reproach the show’s critics for defending Hillary from these charges of corruption, and the smears and accusations they had made against Killary’s left-wing rivals. Dore reminds his audience how he and the other left-wingers were told they were ‘misogynists’, because they backed Bernie against Killary. And because a group of lads had thrown dollars bills after her in protest at her taking money from the corporations and Wall Street. This was despite the fact that Dore himself had voted for the Green New Deal, and its presidential nominee, Jill Stein. Who was very definitely a woman. And throwing money at Hillary and calling her a corporate whore is just fair comment. She is a corporate whore, just like all the corporate whores, male and female, in politics around her.

As for all the accusations she made about Donald Trump conspiring with Russia to steal the election from her, this was exactly what Killary tried to do. She had made a deal with the Russian intelligence services to get dirt on Trump. Whatever the Clinton campaign claims is happening, he says, you can bet that the opposite is true. He also responds to Killary’s comments attributing her failure to having the election stolen from her by stating that Killary had also tried to steal the election through rigged primaries and superdelegates. And then there’s the highly undemocratic electoral college. With an exasperated sigh he asks the rhetorical question of how she could lose to someone like Trump.

He names all the various politicos and celebrities, who attacked him for not backing Hillary, including the producer of the Family Guy. He makes the point that the Democratic Party was lying to its supporters. It wasn’t the Russians, it wasn’t Trump, it was the Democrats, lying to their own grassroots supporters about the corruption within it. He is also angry about how people are turning their anger over their cavalier treatment by the Democrats and Killary on the Jimmy Dore Show. These are people who are poorly raised and have no power. If they really want to show how brave they are, instead of attacking a jag-off YouTube show, as Dore describes it, they should take those who are really powerful. Like Killary and her backers in the DNC.

But the Democratic left and ordinary people are sick of it. Various groups, including progressives and the unions, and in fact 80 per cent of the party, are talking about breaking with the Democrats and forming their own. He urges Bernie Sanders to join them and form a third party, rather than urging people to join the Democrats.There’s no point in anyone joining the Democrat party, as in the view of Dore and his co-hosts, the Democratic Party is dead.

These revelations should have repercussions over here in Britain. The Blairites in the Labour party are joined at the hip to the Clinton Democrats. Blair modelled his New Labour on the Clintons’ New Democrats, copying their policy of adopting the policies of their right-wing opponents in order to win them over at the expense of ignoring their own working class grassroots.

And just as the Clintonites started screaming and libelling anyone who dared to think that Bernie and his policies of strong unions, protectionism and single-payer healthcare were better for America as ‘misogynists’, so the Blairites over here did the same to anyone and everyone who supported Jeremy Corbyn. Because obviously wishing to return to strong unions, higher wages, better workplace rights for employees, proper welfare provision and the renationalisation of the railways and electricity, and an end to the privatisation of the NHS, are real threats to women’s welfare.

Of course they aren’t. The only women they threaten are the Blairite shills in the Labour party and the media, including the Groaniad, who regard the real horny-handed sons and daughters of toil with a mixture of horror and condescension, and confidently expected that, as upper middle class gels from public schools, they were entitled to a place in government along with their brothers from the same class and educational background.

This applies to the various media hackettes, who were raving about Killary’s tour promoting her book What Happened in Britain and the rest of the world the week before last. One of them raved about how, when Killary spoke at the South Bank Centre, women brought their daughters to hear her. She was inspirational! Well, she is to women, who also have an absolute lack of any real morals and admire a corrupt, corporate shill and ravening warmonger. A woman without absolutely any qualms about backing right-wing Fascist coups in small Latin American states. And then, when she loses the election, throws a colossal tantrum and blames everyone else except her, and particularly the Russians.

A woman, who falsely claims that she’s an outsider, simply because she’s female, while being just as much an insider as the men with whom she works and against whom she competes. While also consistently voting against those measures which would improve the lot of ordinary women. Like Medicare For All, stronger welfare provision, better wages and regulation of the banks, so that ordinary folks would not have to pay higher taxes to bail out greedy financiers after they destroyed the economy. Policies that would allow poor women, and this means just about everyone in America and Britain who aren’t rich, to eat, rather than starve in order to feed their children and pay the utility bills.

And, you know, ending foreign wars so that women don’t have to watch and fear for their daughters, sons, husbands and friends coming back from the Middle East with broken or missing limbs and shattered minds, or in body bags.

You know. Those kind of misogynistic policies.

With these revelations, I think everyone in the Labour party, who were smeared as anti-female for supporting Corbyn, is owed an apology by Rachel Reed and their friends in the media.

But I ain’t holding my breath.

Dennis Skinner: Stop Treating Northern People like Second Class Citizens for HST Rail Link

November 2, 2017

In this short piece from RT, Dennis Skinner angrily demands that Theresa May stop treating the people of the north as second class citizens, whose homes can be casually demolished to build the HST rail line.

He states that research has shown that down in the ‘leafy suburbs of the south’, 30 per cent of the first 140 miles of the rail line will be tunnelled under ground to prevent having to knock houses down. But in the north, only 2 per cent will go underground, because the company states blandly that it’s cheaper to knock them down. He requests the Prime Minister to meet with the constituents in his part of Bolsover to assure them that a further thirty houses will not be knocked down.

May simply replies that she is sure that HST will be happy to look into that, and says she would like to remind him about the benefits that HST will bring with the northern powerhouse and the growing economy in the Midlands. To which the Beast of Bolsover looks extremely unimpressed, shaking his head with his other colleagues on the bench.

In fact Skinner has every right to be sceptical, as research has been done that predicts that rather than benefit the north, the rail link will actually take industry and jobs from that already struggling part of the UK.

Quite apart from the manifest injustice of the rail chiefs apparently considering that the homes of the good people of the north aren’t worth the same consideration and preservation as those in the south. I can very well believe that they take this view, as there is very much a London first mentality amongst the metropolitan elite, and particularly amongst the Tories. You can see that in the way any major artistic or cultural project is immediately scheduled for London rather than any of our nation’s great provincial cities. And this was especially true when the capital was run by Boris Johnson.

Despite the rhetoric, May and the Tories have absolutely no interest in how the rail network will affect people in the deprived parts of Britain, which it will allegedly benefit, and are only concerned in case it harms their part of the south.

Corbyn: Labour Is the Real Party of the Centre

October 5, 2017

I didn’t put up an article about this, when Corbyn made the claim last week at the Labour conference. So I’m doing it now. In his speech to the Labour conference last week, Corbyn proclaimed that Labour is the real party of the centre. This should upset and frighten the Blairites, Lib Dems and Tories, who have been busily screaming that Corbyn and Momentum are Trotskyite entryists, and that Labour has moved to the far left.

Blair did this a little while ago, when he turned up from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since he handed power over to Broon, and flew off, having done his best to finish Maggie’s and the Tories’ goal of privatizing the Health Service in Britain, and aiding George Bush and the Likudniks in their demented project to turn the Middle East into a gigantic charnel house for the sake of big business and the American-Saudi oil companies. He’s trying to set up his own Blairite party, which he claims will represent the true centre ground of British politics.

No. It won’t. Blair and the Tories were never the centre ground. They were right-wing. Indeed, following the victory of Maggie Thatcher and her abandonment of the post-War consensus that advocated a mixed economy and state investment in industry, and comprehensive welfare provision, the Tories and their entryists in the Labour party in the form of Blair, New Labour and Progress, the Tories were far right. They stood for absolute privatization and the dismantlement of the welfare state, aims which Blair, as Thatcher’s political golden boy shared.

The press, Tories and Blairites have been whining ever since Corbyn won the leadership election, however, that Labour is now a party of the far left. And indeed there was a letter repeating that lie in the I newspaper today. But it’s untrue. Under Corbyn, Labour party has become once again a party of the centre-left. It advocates a mixed economy, a properly funded and state-run NHS, and proper welfare provision, so that 100,000 of us don’t have to rely on food banks to stop ourselves from starving, and 7 million of us don’t have to worry about whether we can afford to feed ourselves or pay the utilities bills. And where the trains actually run on time. As they did, or did more regularly, before John Major privatized them.

These are not extreme left-wing policies. They way entirely mainstream policies in the thirty-odd years from Labour’s election victory after the end of the Second World War to Thatcher’s election in 1979. This was a period of economic growth and prosperity and where the difference in wealth between rich and poor was at its narrowest.

This has all been wrecked, thanks to Thatcher and her followers in the Tory party and New Labour. And it is excellent that under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is set to reverse nearly forty years of Thatcherite misgovernment and exploitation, and return politics to its true centre ground.

RT: McDonnell States Labour Will Take Back Rail, Water, Energy and Royal Mail

September 25, 2017

I’m giving this clip from RT’s coverage of the Labour party conference a massive thumbs-up. It’s a short clip of McDonnell stating that they intend to back rail, water, energy and the Royal Mail to give them to the people, who actually use and work in them. They aim to save the country and industry from the Tories’ mixture of belligerence and incompetence. And their commitment to a fairer society does not end at Dover. Just as they want a Britain for the many, and not the few, so they want a Europe for the many and not the few. This means, while respecting the results of the Brexit referendum, they will be working with our European partners during the transition period. And they will stop the Tories’ brutal treatment of immigrants.

Now we’re going to hear the screams and angry wailing from the neoliberals – the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Blairites. They’ll all start ranting now about how this is just discredited ‘Trotskyism’, that will wreck the wonderful, strong economy nearly four decades of Thatcherism has created. And, of course, the Tories, whose cabinet is stuffed with toffs and millionaires, will immediately start claiming that it will make working people poorer.

It’s none of these things. It’s good, solid, traditional Labour policy. The type of policies that gave this country decades of economic growth and higher standards for working people after the war. This was a Labour party that ensured that there was a real welfare state to look after the poor, that unions did represent the working man and woman against exploitation by their employer, and that an increasing number of young people could go on to uni without worrying about acquiring tens of thousands of pounds of debt at the end of it.

And if Labour does, as I fervently hope, renationalize those industries, I would very much like a form of workers’ control implemented in them. One reason why the Tories were able to privatize these industries was because, when Labour nationalized them after the Second World War, the party was too timid in the form nationalization took. The state took over the ownership of these industries, but otherwise left the existing management structures intact. This disappointed many trade unionists and socialists, who hoped that nationalization would mean that the people, who actually worked in these industries would also play a part in their management.

I’ve no doubt that if such plans were drawn up, all you’d hear from the Tories and the other parties would be yells about surrendering to the union barons, along with Thatcherite ravings about the Winter of Discontent and all the other trite bilge. But as May herself promised that she would put workers in the boardroom – a policy, which she had absolutely no intention of honouring – the Tories can’t complain without being hypocritical.

As for the power of the trade unions, as Russell Brand points out in his piece attacking Rees-Mogg, most of the people now relying on food banks are the working poor, whose wages aren’t enough to stave off starvation. And one of the reasons why this is so is that the Tories and then the Blairites have done everything they can to break and destroy the unions, so that the owners of industry can pay the workers a pittance and sack them at will.

And the Tories are treating immigrants brutally. We’ve send them send the vans around and put up posters telling immigrants to hand themselves in. And there have been outbreak of violence at the detention centres for asylum seekers again and again because of racist violence and bullying by the outsourcing companies running, like Serco, or G4S or whoever. And this is quite apart from the sheer racist venom spouted by the Tory press – the Heil, Scum, Express and so on.

This is a fine speech with excellent policies. Policies that hopefully put an end to four decades of Thatcherite misery, poverty and exploitation.

A Real ‘Steampunk’ Toy: Pre-World War I Clockwork Monorail Train

August 13, 2017

A little while ago I put up a series of posts about real, 19th century inventions, which now seem like the weird machines of Steampunk Science Fiction. This is a subgenre, which imagines what the world would have been like, if the Victorians had invented spacecraft, time travel, interdimensional travel and other elements of Science Fiction, or had completed and fully developed real inventions like Babbage’s mechanical computer, the Difference Engine, steam carriages and dirigible aircraft, like that flown by the French aviator Giffard in 1854.

One of these real Steampunk inventions was the monorail. A steam-driven monorail system was designed by an American inventor and entrepreneur. This astonished me, as I always associated the monorail train with the technological optimism of the 1960s and ’70s. It was an invention for a technological age that never happened. After writing the article, a reader posted a comment on the piece kindly pointing out that a steam monorail system had been built in Eire. the track and its train have been restored, and are now a tourist attraction. The commenter included a link, and if you go to that website, you’ll see the train in question. It is very definitely an Irish train, as its been decorated very patriotically in green.

This hasn’t been the only example of such trains I’ve found. They even existed as miniature toys. Looking through the book Mechanical Toys: How Old Toys Work by Athelstan and Kathleen Silhaus, with photos by Nelson McClary (New York: Crown Publishers 1989) I came across the illustration below of a toy monorail train, stabilized with a gyroscope and powered by a single wheel. It was produced by the Ely Cycle Co., of Britain, in 1912. It was first patented in Britain in 1908, and then in Germany in 1911, where it was also manufactured by Suskind. The text notes that it was stabilized by a gyroscope long before Sperry used it in aircraft and ocean liners.

The use of a single wheel is also like the various Science Fictional vehicles that similarly have only one of these, like the monocycles in Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. This toy, and others like it, show a whole world of Victorian and Edwardian invention that seemed to anticipate a technological future that never quite happened, as well as the immense inventiveness of the manufacturers.

A Real Steampunk Monorail Train

July 5, 2017

This is another piece of real steampunk technology I’ve found in yet another book on the weird inventions of 19th century, Victorian Inventions by Leonard de Vries, trans. by Barthold Suermondt (London: John Murray 1973). Along with illustrations and contemporary depictions of dirigible balloons and other flying machines, submarines, ships, steampunk carriages and electric trams, bizarre prototypes and version of the telephone and typewriters and other strange devices, there’s also series of very unusual trains and railways. One of these was a proposed monorail, which was the idea of the American investor, E.S. Watson.

The piece of text for the pic reads

Mr E.S. Watson of Water Valley, Mississippi, has been granted a patent for an elevated railway with only one rail. This rail may consist of normal T-Section and is supported at regular intervals by wooden poles or concrete columns. Figure 2 shows how the locomotive and coaches rest on the rail. The major part of their weight, and hence their centre of gravity, are at a lower level than the rail. Consequently, the train can never be derailed or overturn. Another advantage of this method is that road traffic can pass below the rail and no level-crossings are required.

(p. 33)

I can remember when waaay back in the 70s the monorail was being described in books on popular science as the railway of the future. Now it’s clear that it’s another invention that the Victorians produced, or at least thought of, long before. Despite being hailed as the future of rail transport, it has never really caught on, except in one or two particular attempts to create the town or urban environment of the future. It’s thus very ‘steampunk’ in that it’s a vision of an alternative future that never happened.

Cartoons of Cameron, Osborne, Peter Lilley, Milton Friedman and Paul Dacre

July 2, 2017

Hi, and welcome to another cartoon I drew a few years ago of the Conservatives and their supporters in the press and leading ideologues.

These are more or less straight drawings of five of the men responsible for the present nightmare that is Theresa May’s Britain. A Britain where a hundred thousand people are using food banks to stop themselves from starving. A Britain where a further seven million people live in households where they’re eating today, but don’t know if they’ll eat tomorrow. This is the Britain where the NHS is being gradually privatised behind the public’s back, so that the Tories don’t lose the next election. A Britain where the majority of the public would like the railways and utility industries renationalised, but the Tories want to keep them in private hands so that they provide substandard services at high prices for the profits of their managers and shareholders.

This is a Britain where the press screams hatred at ‘foreigners’ – meaning not just recent immigrants and asylum-seekers, but also EU citizens, who came here to work, but also second- or third-generation Black and Asian British. A press that demonises and vilifies Muslims, no matter how often they march against terrorist monsters like those of ISIS and their ulema – the Islamic clergy – denounce hatred and mass murder.

Immigrants and foreign workers are net contributors to the British economy. They are less likely to be unemployed and rely on the welfare state, so that their taxes are supporting the rest of us. Many of them have come here to fill very specific jobs. But they are still reviled for taking jobs from Brits, and for being scrounging layabouts, preventing true, hardworking Brits from getting the benefits they need.

This is a press that also denigrates and vilifies the very poorest in society – the unemployed, the disabled, unmarried mothers and others on welfare, so that the Tories can have the support of the public when they cut benefits to these groups yet again.

This is a Britain were the majority of people in benefits are working, but they’re stuck in low-paid jobs, often part-time, or zero hours contracts. Many of them are on short-term contracts, which means that, while they have a job today, they may not in a few months time. Nevertheless, even though these people do still work hard, the Tories have decided that the jobcentres and outsourcing companies should also pester and harangue them to get off benefits, because it’s their fault they’ve got a low-paid job. And this is despite the fact that it has been nearly four decades of Thatcherite doctrines about maintaining a fluid labour market, and a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ to keep wages down.

The Tories are a party that yell passionately and incessantly about how they are ‘patriotic’, while the others were the ‘coalition of chaos’, but who have done so much to break up the United Kingdom into its separate kingdoms and provinces. Cameron called the ‘Leave’ referendum, hoping it would draw the venom from the Tory right. England voted for Brexit, but the rest of the UK voted to Remain. With the result that there is a real constitutional crisis about whether the UK can leave the EU and still remain intact.

It also threatens to renew the Nationalist/Loyalist conflict in Northern Ireland. Part of the Ulster peace process was that there would be an open border with Eire. The majority of people in the Six Counties, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, wish to retain the open border. But if Britain does leave the EU, then there’s a possibility that border will have to be closed.

The Tories have also endangered the fragile peace in Ulster in other ways. Having lost their majority in parliament, they’ve gone into an alliance with the DUP, a group of highly sectarian Loyalists, who condemn evolution, abortion, homosexuality and bitterly hate Roman Catholics and Gaelic Irish. They’re the same people, who demand the right to march through Roman Catholic areas screaming hatred at the residents. A party, whose links with Loyalist terrorists are so strong they’ve been dubbed ‘the Loyalist Sinn Fein’.

This is the party, that tries to present itself as for ‘hard-working’ ordinary people, while its dominated by elite aristocratic, old Etonians toffs like David Cameron and George Osborne.

The Conservatives have also been trying to present themselves as female-friendly and pro-women, as shown by their selection of Theresa May to lead them. But the people worst hit by austerity have been women, who make up the majority of low-paid workers, particularly in the service industries, like care workers and nurses. Some of the latter are so poorly paid, they’ve had to use food banks. When asked about this, all that brilliant intellectual Theresa May could do was to mumble something about how there were ‘complex reasons’ for it. No, there’s a very simple reason: you’ve paid them starvation wages.

This is a Britain where, according to Oxford University, 30,000 people were killed by the Tories’ austerity policy – introduced by Dodgy Dave Cameron – in 2015 alone. A policy which has dictated that people on benefits should be thrown off them apparently at the whim of a jobcentre clerk, and that terminally ill or seriously injured citizens should have their benefits withdrawn, ’cause they’re ‘fit to work’. Such poor souls have included cancer patients in comas.

Here’s a selection of some of those responsible for this squalid carnage.

At the bottom left is David Cameron. Bottom centre is George Osborne, and on his right is Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail. This is the Tory rag that has done so much to spread hatred against immigrants, ethnic minorities, the EU, the working class, the trade unions and which has been consistently anti-feminist. This last has been quite bizarre, considering that it was a founded as the newspaper to be read by the wives of the city financiers, who read the Torygraph.

On the right, above Dacre and Osborne, is Peter Lilley, from a decades old issue of Private Eye.

Lilley’s there because of his role in destroying the welfare state and privatising the NHS. It was Lilley, who pranced across the stage at a Tory conference in the 1990s reciting a stupid song he’d written about having a little list, in imitation of The Mikado. This was a list of everyone he hated, including single mothers and other benefit scroungers.

Lilley was also responsible for the PFI scheme, in which the government goes into partnership with private contractors to build and run public services, such as bridges and hospitals. These schemes are always more expensive, and deliver poorer service than if the bridge, hospital or whatever had been constructed using purely public funds. Hospitals built under PFI are smaller, and have to be financed partly through the closure of existing hospitals. See George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, about the way Britain has been sold off to the big corporations. But governments like it, because the technicalities of these contracts means that the costs are kept off the public balance sheet, even though the British taxpayer is still paying for them. And at a much higher rate, and for much longer, than if they had been built through conventional state funding.

Lilley’s PFI was the basis for New Labour’s ‘third way’ nonsense about running the economy. It has also been a major plank in the ongoing Thatcherite project of selling off the NHS. A few years ago, Private Eye published an article showing that Lilley developed the scheme, because he wanted to open the NHS up to private investment. And now, nearly two decades and more on, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries are being run by private healthcare companies, and the majority of NHS operations are actually being commissioned from private healthcare providers. The Tories hotly deny that they are privatising the NHS, but Jeremy Hunt has written a book in which he stated that he loathed state medicine, and Theresa May has kept him on Health Secretary, despite the bankruptcy of an increasing number of NHS Trusts, this shows that the reality is very much the complete opposite of their loud denials.

And the person on the left of Lilley is the American economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was one of the great, free market advocates in the Chicago school of economists, demanding that the welfare state should be rolled back and everything privatised. He was the inventor of Monetarism, which was roundly embraced by Enoch Powell and then Maggie Thatcher. This was to replace the Keynsianism that had formed the cornerstone of the post-War consensus, and which stated that state expenditure would stimulate the economy and so prevent recessions. One of the other world leaders, who embraced Monetarism as his country’s official economics policy was the Chilean Fascist dictator and friend of Thatcher, Augusto Pinochet. Friedman regularly used to take jaunts down to Chile to see how the old thug was implementing his policies. When Pinochet was not imprisoning, torturing and raping people, that is.

One of Friedman’s other brilliant ideas was that education too should be privatised. Instead of the government directly funding education, parents should be given vouchers, which they could spend either on a state education, or to pay the fees for their children to be educated privately. This idea was also adopted by Pinochet, and there’s a very good article over at Guy Debord Cat’s on how it’s wrecked the Chilean educational system. Just as New Labour’s and the Tories privatisation of British universities and the establishment of privately run ‘academies’ are destroying education in Britain. It was also Maggie Thatcher, who began the trend towards removing the payment of tuition fees by the state, and replacing the student grant with student loans. The result has been that young people are now graduating owing tens of thousands in debt.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, said that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism was considered so daft by his lecturers that no-one actually bothered to defend it. He suggested in an article that it was adopted by the Tories for other reasons – that it gave them an excuse to privatise the utility industries, destroy the welfare state and privatise the NHS. Even so, eventually it became too glaringly obvious to too many people that Monetarism was a massive failure. Not least because Friedman himself said so. This sent the Daily Heil into something of a tizzy. So they devoted a two-page spread to the issue. On one side was the argument that it was a failure, while on the other one of the hacks was arguing that it was all fine.

In fact, it’s become very, very obvious to many economists and particularly young people that the neoliberalism promoted by the Tories, New Labour, Friedman and the other free market ideologues is absolute rubbish, and is doing nothing but press more and more people into grinding poverty while denying them affordable housing, proper wages, welfare support and state medicine. But the elites are still promoting it, even though these ideas should have been put in the grave years ago. It’s the reason why one American economist called neoliberalism and similar free market theories ‘Zombie Economics’ in his book on them.

May’s government looks increasingly precarious, and it may be that before too long there’ll be another general election. In which case, I urge everyone to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, as he’s promised to revive the welfare state, renationalise the NHS and parts of the energy industry, and the rail network.

They’re policies Britain desperately needs. Unlike the poverty, misery and death created by the above politicos.

Counterpunch on the Dangers of the Driverless Car

July 1, 2017

Ralph Nader in an article posted on Tuesday’s Counterpunch took to task the current hype about driverless cars following a day long conference on them at Washington University’s law school.

Driverless cars are being promoted because sales are cars are expected to flatten out due to car-sharing, or even fall as the younger generation are less inclined to buy them. Rather than actually investing in public transport, the car industry is promoting driverless automobiles as a way of stimulating sales again.

Nader is rightly sceptical about how well such vehicles will perform in the real world. There are 250 million motor vehicles in the US. This means that real driving conditions are way more complicated than the simple routes on which these vehicles are developed and tested. And while the car industry claims that they will be safer than human-driven vehicles, the reality is most people won’t want a car that they can’t control, whose guiding computer can malfunction or which could be hacked into, whether by the manufacturers or others. Along with such vehicles come increased pressure from the manufacturers for less protective regulation for their drivers, passengers and the general American public.

As for developing a driverless car, which can be taken over by its human occupant in an emergency, researchers at MIT have already shown that this won’t work. Instead of producing driverless cars, we’d be better of concentrating on creating vehicles that are safer, more efficient and less harmful to the environment.

He concludes

The driverless car is bursting forth without a legal, ethical and priorities framework. Already asking for public subsidies, companies can drain much-needed funds for available mass transit services and the industry’s own vehicle safety upgrades in favor of a technological will-o’-the-wisp.

He also links to a report by Harvey Rosenfeld into the dangers posed by driverless cars. It’s quite long – 36 pages. This makes it very clear, however, that driverless cars are disastrous. They’re literally a car crash waiting to happen. The report also claims that much of promotion of such vehicles comes from the insurance. Although driverless cars are likely to be much less safe than ordinary cars, the claims that they will be less liable to accidents will allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for those driving ordinary vehicles.

Driverless cars have been under development since the 1980s, but I can’t see them becoming a viable reality any time soon. Last year the industry proudly announced two types of driverless car, one of which was called the Tesla, after the great Serbian physicist and inventor of Alternative Current. These were withdrawn after accidents in which people were killed.

I have to say, I don’t know anybody who wants one. The various pieces I’ve read about them say that for their owners, using them will actually be quite boring. This is despite the claims that people will be able to read, work or relax instead of driving. But you can do all of that anyway by simply travelling by bus, rail or tube.

Then there’s the threat of unemployment. Two-thirds of all jobs are expected to be lost to automation in the next decade. There are about 40,000 truckers in Britain. That’s 40,000 people, who may lose their jobs if driverless lorries are every produced. And they have been trying to develop them. I can remember Clarkson nearly bursting with excitement while riding in one during an episode of Top Gear a few years ago.

My guess is that the reasons behind their development is far more sinister, and almost certainly connected to the military. For years the military has been trying to develop autonomous, robotic weaponry. I’ve blogged about some of the war robots that have been created and which were featured a few years ago in the popular science magazine, Frontiers. These included various types of jeep, which had been altered so that they carried guns. Such machines have been under development for a very long time. Kevin Warwick, a robotics scientist at Reading University, describes how the US army created a robotic jeep equipped with a machine gun way back in the 1950s. This looks like another step along the way to producing the type of autonomous war robots, which Warwick and some other robotics scientists fear may pose a very real threat to the human race as they become more advanced and their intelligence greater. We are creating war machines very close to the Daleks of Dr. Who or The Terminator franchise.

It also seems to me that the navigation software and computer hardware needed for driverless cars will also find a major general applications in other types of robot. Despite claims by some neuroscientists that the human brain is a load of inefficient ‘kluge’ created by blind evolutionary forces that select for survival, rather than particular skill, cyberneticists have found it very difficult in practice to replicate the way living things, from insects all the way up to humans, actually navigate their way around the world.

Think about the way robots have to work their way around objects. They have to estimate exactly how far away the obstacle is, then work out a path around it, all done using maths. A human, meanwhile, rather than estimating how many steps it takes to the object, and then planning a path of some many steps, precisely laid out, are needed to walk around it, simply does it.

An example of how difficult robots actually find such navigation in practise was given by Warwick when he appeared at the Cheltenham Festival of Science over a decade ago. There’s been a kind of robot Olympics held in Reading. The various competing teams had tried to produce robots that could navigate their own way around the town. Warwick’s team had created a robot with an infrared detector, which would simply follow the light source planted on the back of the human running in front of it. Which to me sounds very much like cheating.

All went swimmingly, until suddenly the robot veered off the road and started shooting off somewhere else entirely, before it collided with something, fell over and stopped. Warwick and his team wondered what happened until it finally occurred to them that the robot had fixed on that big, infrared light source in the sky, the Sun, and ran off trying to pursue that.

This was a decade or so ago. I’ve no doubt that things have improved since, but I doubt that they’ve improved quite so much that driverless cars, or completely autonomous robots, are going to be appearing in the next few years.

And until they do, I shall be very suspicious of the hype.

Real Steampunk Inventions from the Pages of ‘The Engineer’

May 29, 2017

I’ve posted up several pieces this weekend about some of the real inventions of the Victorians, and how they have inspired and resemble the science and machines of steampunk Science Fiction. This is a branch of SF, which imagines what would have happened had the Victorians invented space travel, computers, time machines and were able to journey to parallel worlds. One of the founding works of the genre was William Gibson’s and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, which was set in an alternative Victorian Britain, which had entered a steam-driven computer age after building Charles Babbage’s pioneering mechanical computer, the Difference Engine of the title.

Some of the most amazing examples of Victorian and Edwardian engineering and technology can be found in the pages of The Engineer. This was the industry’s trade magazine, founded in 1856 by Charles Healey. In 1976 the magazine issued a glossy book celebrating the history of the magazine and the legacy of its founder. The book said of him

Healey has been described as a man of great strength of mind and character who always had ‘a smile, a question, and a penetrating look’. He had financial interests in railways in the Bourdon gauge, and among his many friends were leading men in railway engineering including Robert Stephenson, Isambard Brunel, and Sir William Fairbairn. But there is no evidence Healey used his editorial pages to promote his financial interests.

The magazine’s purpose, as it confessed in January 1916

was to spread the gospel of engineering. ‘Whilst engineering knowledge was the possession of but few men great progress was impossible, and it is the object of the paper to expand and distribute technical and scientific information. In so doing so it may fairly claim to have been a factor of no little importance in the great developments that have taken place during the late 60 years.’

And the magazine celebrated the practical work and achievements of engineers over the more abstract theorising of scientists. The book states

The Engineer pointed out that men of abstract science had done something, ‘but not much for us’. While applied science ‘has done for the physical world everything which science so far provide capable of accomplishing at all – railroads, manufactories, mines, the electric telegraph, chemical factories. And by who is it applied? Why the civil engineer, the mechanical engineer, the mining engineer and the shipbuilder who himself represents an important branch of engineering.

‘The wide earth over, we find the engineer working on principles, dealing with physical truths, using the investigations of those who have preceded him as stepping stones to knowledge, and leaving behind him through each generation mementoes of his labours. Mementoes, the result of a perfect acquaintance with such physical truths as men of the most exalted intellects have discovered-mementoes which will endure when the existence of the “leading journal” has become a matter of history’.

The ’70s were a period of economic depression, and part of the purpose behind the centennial volume was to counteract the mood of the times and inspire a new, fresh generation. The magazine declared

Today, when the economy is depressed, is an opportune moment to produce a book which will remind industry of its glorious past and act as a spur to project it into the future. It will also remind engineers and manufacturers of the power, grace and majesty of engineering.

Very much the same could be said today. Later this week, one of the topical issues programmes on Radio 4 will be discussing Britain’s critical lack of engineers, and asking how more young people can be persuaded to enter the profession. I’ve said in my previous blog posts that one way could be to link it to the interest people have in restoring and repairing motor vehicles, and the cyberpunk milieu of Science Fiction enthusiasts, who design fashions and exotic machines for this Victorian technological age that never was.

Much of the material in the book is about industrial machines and processes, which to most lay people, myself included, probably isn’t that interesting. Such as various types of manufacturing machines, industrial smelters, metal and chemical refining processes, pumping engines and so on. There’s also a chapter on railway engines, which is clearly of interest to steam enthusiasts and the people, who played with Hornby Railway sets when they were children.

But the machines and buildings I find the most interesting, are where the Victorians’ ideas prefigure those of modern technology, both real and in the imagined worlds of SF.

In architecture, the magazines shows two designs for a colossal tower for London, that was intended to rival the Eiffel tower in Paris. One of these shows very clearly the influence of the French structure.

Another was more straightforwardly British in design. Except for its size. It was going to be 1,240 feet.

We’re almost looking here at the soaring tower blocks of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or indeed, Judge Dredd’s Megacity 1.

Instead of a channel tunnel, a massive bridge was proposed to span La Manche, and link Britain to France.

And to warn ships of dangerous rocks and water, they also designed a floating lighthouse.

As well as normal railways, they also designed an overhead railway and rainwater collector.

The book also showed contemporary illustrations for the steam carriages and buses that were being developed in this period as the first precursors to modern vehicles driven by the internal combustion engine.

This included the Randolph Steam Coach of 1872.

Other vehicles included Goodman’s velocipede of 1868, which could reach the amazing speed of 12 mph, and the Liquid Fuel Company’s steam van of 1985, which was entered in a competition the magazine ran for road carriages.

There was also an illustration of a one horse power road steamer, which could carry two people.

It also included the schematics for another vehicle, the Serpollet Steam Phaeton of 1891.

From this, it looks like a budding car enthusiast could possibly build one of these machines, in the same way people also build their own custom cars, and cyberpunk inspired machines like the one I posted up yesterday.

A Mr Nairn, an engineer from Leith in Scotland, also published his design in 1870 for a three-wheeled steam omnibus.

There was also this illustration of an early motorcycle, Duncan and Superbie’s bike of 1894.

and an early car, Panhard and Lavassor’s two-seater from 1894.

And to show that waiting at traffic lights were also a blight that afflicted the Victorians, there’s an illustration of the traffic signals at Bridge Street in Westminster in 1868.

The Victorians and Edwardians were also experimenting with new ways to move vehicles across ground, such as caterpillar tracks. These included traction engines, such as Ingleton’s Automatic track of 1868. This was engineered to allow the tracks to be raised when the engine reached the end of the field, and needed to make a tight turn.

Even after petrol began to supersede steam in the early 20th century, some firms were still experimenting with caterpillar tracks on the new petrol-driven tractors. The photo below shows the caterpillar tractor and train produced by the Holt Manufacturing Company of Peoria in America.

In some cases, the search for alternative means of locomotion went so far as reinventing the wheel. In 1909 Diplock patented a design for putting ‘walking feet’ on a wheel.

This is interesting, as H.G. Wells’ The Land Ironclads was about warfare conducted using machines some have seen as predicting the tank. The land ironclads of the title, however, are much more like contemporary naval vessels. They are long, contain rows of snipers along their sides. And unlike tanks, they walk across the ground on mechanical legs like vast, mechanical millipedes, somewhat like the Walkers in Star Wars, but with more legs.

The Victorians were also keen to solve the problems of ships navigating shallow waters. Bourne’s Steam Train, proposed in 1858, attempted to solve this problem through using the paddle wheels as terrestrial wheels, allowing the vessel to climb over sandbanks, and the engine could be geared down to provide more power.

It struck me looking at this that if it had been developed further, you’d have had amphibious landing craft like the DUK of World War II.

This was also the age in which people were making their first attempts at flight. One of the bizarre vehicles featured in the book was Carlingford’s aerial chariot of 1854. This was launched from a pole ranging from 6 to 9 feet in height, carried forward by a falling weight. This was like the Wright Brother’s early planes. Unlike the Wrights’, the aerial chariot didn’t have an engine and the pilot tried to crank the propeller by hand.

The magazine also published illustrations of the British military’s experiments with balloons in 1874.

As well as wings, engineers were considering more exotic methods of flight. In 1916 there were a series of designs for planes held aloft by spinning discs. Looking at them, it is hard not to see them as the first predecessors of the helicopter.

As for balloons, this led to the development of dirigibles like the Zeppelin, a 1923 design for which was also published in the magazine’s pages.

Petrol driven cars and motorbikes are now ubiquitous, though there is still great affection and interest in vintage, veteran and historic road vehicles. One businessman in Leckhampton, one of the suburbs of Cheltenham, proudly displayed his early motorcycle from about the time of the First World War in his shop window.

The steam vehicles weren’t as efficient as modern petrol and diesel vehicles. They also faced stiff political opposition from traditional, horse drawn vehicles. Nevertheless, you do wonder what Britain would have been like if these machines had caught on to the point where they were the preferred method of transport, rather than horse-drawn carriages.

And these carriages, and the other machines and designs shown above, still have the potential to fire the imaginations of fans of historic technology, steam enthusiasts, and Cyberpunks. And perhaps, if more people saw some of these machines and their designs, some of them might try to make some of them. This would not only bring them to life, but also possibly inspire more people to take an interest in engineering and the great heritage of invention.