Posts Tagged ‘‘Secular Talk’’

Radio Programme Tonight on Bishop Grosseteste’s Medieval Big Bang Theory

June 14, 2017

Science Stories on Radio 4 tonight, `14th June 2017, at 9.00 pm is on ‘The Medieval Bishop’s Big Bang Theory’. According to the short description about it in the Radio Times, the programme’s presenter, ‘Philip Ball tells the tale of a medieval Big Bang Theory forged by Bishop Robert Grosseteste in the 12th century’.

Grosseteste was the 12th century bishop of Lincoln, and was one of the leading figures of the 12th century renaissance. As well as leading English churchman, Grosseteste was a pioneering natural philosopher. In his Hexaemeron, a theological and philosophical meditation on the first six days of creation, according to the story in Genesis, he worked out a theory that is surprisingly close to that of the modern ‘Big Bang’. In Genesis, the creation of the world begins when God separates the light from the darkness. Grosseteste believed that God had created the world beginning with a tiny point of light, which exploded outwards. Its expansion created ‘extension’, or space, and the material from which God subsequently created the material universe over the next five days.

A.C. Crombie, in his Science in the Middle Ages, Vol. 1: Augustine to Galileo (London: Mercury Books 1952) writes

The first important medieval writer to take up the study of optics was Grosseteste, and he set the direction for future developments. Grossetest gave particular importance to the study of optics because of his belief that light was the first ‘corporeal form’ of material things and was not only responsible for their dimensions in space but also was the first principle of motion and efficient causation. According to Grosseteste, all changes in the universe could be attributed ultimately to the activity of this fundamental corporeal form, and the action at a distance of one thing on another was brought about by the propagation of rays of force or, as he called it, the ‘multiplication of species’ or ‘virtue’. By this he meant the transmission of any form of efficient causality through a medium, the influence emanating from the source of the causality corresponding to a quality of the source, as, for instance, light emanated from a luminous body as a ‘species’ which multiplied itself from point to point through the medium in a movement that went in straight lines. All forms of efficient causality, as for instance, heat, astrological influence and mechanical action, Grosseteste held to be due to this propagation of ‘species’, though the most convenient form in which to study it5 was through visible light. (99-100).

This makes it sound very close to the modern theory that all the forces – gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces – were united at the Big Bang, and subsequently separated out from this primal Superforce.

Grosseteste was also one of the medieval writers, who first posited the Moon as the causes of the tides. The association between the Moon and the tides had first been made by the Stoic philosopher, Posidonius, who was born c. 135 BC. Crombie writes

Grossetest in the next century [following Giraldus Cambrensus in the 12th] attributed the tides to attraction by the moon’s ‘virtue’, which went in straight lines with its light. He said that the ebb and flow of the tides was caused by the moon drawing up from the sea floor mist, which pushed up the water when the moon was rising and was not yet strong enough to pull the mist through the water. When the moon had reached its highest point the mist was pulled through and the tide fell. The second, smaller monthly tide he attributed to lunar rays reflected from the crystalline sphere back to the opposite side of the earth, these being weaker than the direct rays. (126-7). It’s not quite right. The tides are simply caused by the Moon’s gravity acting on the oceans as a whole. Mist isn’t involved. Nevertheless, he was right in pointing to the Moon as the cause of the tides.

Which is more than can be said of Bill O’Reilly. Until recently, O’Reilly was the lead anchor on Fox News, Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing news network over in America. The host of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’, he specialised in right-wing harangues which occasionally ended with him insulting and screaming at his guests if they dared to disagree with him. He did this to the son of one of the firefighters, who lost his life in 9/11. The lad committed the unpardonable offence of saying that his father would not have blamed all Muslims for the attack, and would not have wanted America to go to war over it. This was too much for the veteran newsman, who screamed at the lad that he was a disgrace to his father, and then had him thrown off the show.

He also showed himself massively ignorant scientifically in an interview with the head of American Atheists, the atheist movement, which I think was set up and headed for years by Madalain Murray O’Hair. Trying to refute whatever point the man was making, O’Reilly seized on the notion of the tides as something that was scientifically inexplicable. There are clips on Kyle Kulinski’s Secular Talk and other left-wing news programmes of O’Reilly repeating, ‘Tides go in, tides go out, you can’t explain it’. All the while the lad looks at O’Reilly with a bemused expression on his face, and simply comments, ‘Perhaps its the mighty Thor’. O’Reilly, however, didn’t get the hint that he was being justifiably mocked, and so simply carried on with his daft refrain.

O’Reilly’s comments and use of the tides shows that O’Reilly knew precious little science, and that Grosseteste had a better idea of what caused it 900 or so years ago, in an age when books had to be copied out by hand and western science was beginning the recovery of ancient Greek and Latin scientific and mathematical texts and learning from the great natural scientists and mathematicians of the Muslim world.

Given O’Reilly’s massive ignorance on something I can remember being discussed in some of the text books we had at school, it’s no wonder that American scientists, educationalists and the general public are seriously worried by Trump’s attack on science education in America, and particular in his attempts to cover up climate change.

As for O’Reilly, he was sacked from Fox News a few months ago after his sordid and vile attitude towards women finally caught up with him. Like the head of the network, Roger Ailes, O’Reilly used his position to try to exploit women sexually. In the early part of this century he was forced to settle a case brought against him by a female colleague to whom O’Reilly had made an uninvited and very unwelcome sexually explicit phone call. This was followed by a series of allegations by other female journalists at Fox News of sexual harassment. This got to the point where the advertisers on the network got fed up, and started taking their custom elsewhere, at which point the veteran reporter lost his job.

Bishop Grosseteste, however, remains one of great figures in the history of western science. While many scientists would not share his religious beliefs, and would question the grounding of his scientific views in them, he is nevertheless important as one of the leading medieval scientists, who contributed to the foundation of modern science through his study of optics, mathematics and the natural world.

Paul McGann Makes Powerful Appeal to People to Register to Vote

May 17, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has also reblogged a video by Paul McGann on behalf of the Labour Party, in which he appeals to people to register to vote if they have not done so yet. If they don’t, and therefore won’t be allowed to vote, then they will have no voice in how the country is governed, and over vitally important issues and causes like the NHS.

So please don’t lose your voice, and register.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/17/a-powerful-appeal-for-people-to-register-to-vote-from-paul-mcgann/

This is now more important than ever. The Tories, like their vile counterparts, the Republicans, in America, have changed the voter registration legislation in the hope that this will prevent more people from voting. These changes mean that many people, who believe they are registered to vote, may not be so in fact. If they come to the polling station, they will be turned away.

And I don’t doubt for a single minute that the Tories are hoping that enough of the British people will be apathetic or so fed up with politics, that they will stay away from the voting booths, and so allow them to win by default.

Republican politicians in America have let the cat out of the bag regarding their own electoral reforms, and openly admitted that it is to prevent supporters of the Democrat party, and especially the young, the poor, students and Blacks from voting. I’ve reblogged videos from The Young Turks and Secular Talk that have covered this.

These are the groups in America that vote Democrat, and young people and ethnic minorities are also the parts of the population which are more inclined to vote Labour over here.

And despite all their attempts to appear hip, anti-racist, and entirely cool with gays and the new attitudes to gender and sexuality, I don’t doubt that these are also the groups the Tories also fear and despise. They clearly have absolute contempt for students, as shown by the massive increase in student fees and levels of debt that occurred in the seven years we’ve been ruled by these scoundrels.

So please, if you have any doubt, take McGann’s advice. You really can’t afford not to.

Incidentally, looking at McGann in the video, it seemed to me that with the distinctive haircut, long, angular face and tweed jacked, he was channelling a certain Eric Blair, alias George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm, 1984 and the Spanish Civil War memoire, Homage to Catalonia. Orwell was a convinced Socialist, who wrote a book looking forward to a revolution that would bring about a distinctively English form of Socialism in his book, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English. He was a bitter critic of Communism and totalitarianism, because he had witnessed the way the Communist party under Stalin had betrayed its left-wing allies and murdered their members during the Spanish Civil War. Orwell, like so many other idealistic young people across Europe and America, had personally fought in the War, joining a brigade affiliated to POUM, a non-Marxist Socialist party. He was also strongly impressed with the achievement of the Spanish Anarchists in creating a genuinely Socialist society, in which the workers and peasant owned and managed the farms and industry themselves, before they were defeated and massacred by Franco.

Back in Britain, Orwell worked as a journalist as well as a novelist. He was a convinced anti-imperialist through his experiences as a serviceman in Burma, then part of the British Empire. To understand the depths of hardship working people were experiencing during the Great Depression, he lived for a time as a tramp. This led to the book Down and Out in London and Paris, and The Road to Wigan Pier. This last was reprinted a few years ago because of its relevance to the poverty caused by the Tories through austerity. He also satirised British bourgeois culture and values in Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

As a political journalist, he argued that its writing should be as clear and lucid as possible. There have been criticisms of his remarks and recommendations about how it should be written, but his comments have been taken extremely seriously. His stature as one of this country’s foremost political writers is recognised in the fact that there is a literary award named after him, the Orwell Prize, for political writing.

So in the above video, you have a brilliant actor, Paul McGann, channelling one of the greatest political writers.

Brilliant! as they used to shout on the Fast Show.

Donald Trump Considering Removing American First Amendment Rights?

May 1, 2017

In this brief clip from The Ring Of Fire, host Farron Cousins discusses the statement of Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s chief of staff, that the Orange Fascist is considering abolishing the First Amendment. That’s the part of the American constitution protecting freedom of the press, assembly and the separation of church and state. Donald Trump is debating removing those freedoms because he’s upset at the press’ criticism of him.

It’s astonishing that he’s considering doing what no other president has done.

Cousins makes the obvious point that while the Republicans like to sneer at those on the left as ‘special snowflakes’, this shows that Trump is actually one of them. So much so that his fragile ego can’t take criticism and so he’s literally thinking of attacking the American constitution itself.

Cousins states that Trump won’t be able to do this. It would require a constitutional convention, in which he would need a two-thirds majority. He also wonders where the guns rights lobby are in all this. They may not care about the First Amendment, but when there’s a whiff that the government might repeal the Second, they’re out in force. But Trump has no problems removing that amendment either. He made sure that the NRA stopped attendees from bringing guns to one of his rallies. And once Trump has removed the First Amendment, he will definitely come for the Second.

It’ll be interesting to see how the American right handles this obvious statement of real, near Fascist lunacy from Trump. Secular Talk a little while carried stories about the weird accusations thrown at Barack Obama from some of the right-wing Talk Radio hosts. The Republican right pilloried Obama as a dangerous racist and a Communist bent on genocide. Two right-wing radio hosts declared that Obama was going to become a dictator, who would kill more people than Moa or Stalin. One of Trump’s own aides is a bug-eyed lunatic, who thinks that Obama is an anti-White racist determined to wipe them all out. Quite apart from Alex Jones’ rants about how Obama wanted to incarcerate Americans in FEMA camps.

All that was rubbish. It never happened. And even when Obama was in power, it was obvious that it was all tosh except to the deranged conspiratorial fringe.

But this isn’t coming from Alex Jones and the Infowars paranoiacs. It’s coming from inside Trump’s own team. It states very clearly that Trump would like to be a dictator.

And as such, it’ll be very interesting to see how Republicans like Alex Jones, loudly shouting that they, and only they, are the guardians of the Constitution, handle this statement from the man they serve and promote as the upholder of American freedom.

Secular Talk on Lack of Media Outrage for Syrian Rebels Massacring 126 Civilians

April 18, 2017

In this video from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski reports and comments on the news that Syrian rebels massacred 126 people trying to leave the besieged government-held villages of Foah and Kfreyah. Those killed included 68 children. The Islamists threw food onto the ground, so that starving children ran out and gathered around it, scrambling for the food. They then bombed the buses which were set to take the children and the other civilians away to safety. Kulinski compares the massive lack of outrage over this atrocity in American media, with the posturing over the supposed gas attack by Assad. And from Assad’s point of view, the attack made no sense, as Assad is actually winning. He has nothing to lose, and everything to gain from such an assault. But while this resulted in calls for Assad’s removal, the American media, when it did condescend to cover this, just called it a ‘hiccup’. This is, Kulinski points out, because the American government is run by the Neo-cons, who want regime change, because Assad is allied with Putin. The Syrian rebels, who committed this carnage, are allied to the American government, just like the US government armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The American government wants to install instead of Assad a dictator, backed by their corporations. Kulinski also makes the point that while he doesn’t know what kind of government would be in power should Assad fall, it would probably be a Salafist-Wahhabist theocracy like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is a government that would deprive women of their rights, executes young boys on roundabouts, and would institute the death penalty for crimes like apostasy and witchcraft.

Secular Talk: Jeremy Scahill Criticises American Pro-War Journalism

April 13, 2017

This is another piece criticising the pro-War slant of American news, this time from Secular Talk. The host, Kyle Kulinski, comments on the appearance of the respected journalist Jeremy Scahill on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Scahill was asked by the programme’s male anchor if he believed Americans had been desensitised to the war in Syria through media coverage. Scahill attacked Trump for giving even more leeway to bomb and invade the countries of the Middle East in campaigns, which had killed civilians. In March alone, according to one group monitoring airstrikes, the US military had killed 1,000 civilians in Iraq. Trump had also supported military intervention in Syria for a long time, and there had been strikes made by special ops forces as well as normal ‘boots on the ground’. He had also supplied intelligence and arms to the Saudis for the war in Yemen, which was also claiming innocent lives.

Scahill stated that CNN needed to withdraw all appearances from retired generals and colonels, because they were pushing the war. He also attacked two journalists in particular, Fareed Zakaria and Brian Williams, for their outrageous enthusiasm for the war. He states that Zakaria would have sex with a cruise missile if he could, and criticised Williams for his ‘obscene’ quotation of Leonard Cohen.

Kulinski remarks on how Scahill seems to have been aged by his experiences making a film in which he talked to people in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, who had been the victims of drone strikes. He points out how a simple Google search will show that Trump doesn’t care about protecting civilians, as he claims. He said he wanted to kill the families of terrorists as well as the terrorists themselves. In his raid on Yemen, he killed an eight year old American girl, as well as 35 other innocent victims, in a raid that Obama had considered would cost too many innocent lives. 200 civilians have also died in a recent air strike in Mosul. Kulinski makes the point that there has been a 432 per cent rise in drone strikes. Trump is also aiding Saudi Arabia, who have blockaded Yemen. As a result of this, 17 million Yemenis are facing starvation. As for chemical weapons, America has given white phosphorus, a truly horrific weapon, to the Saudis for Yemen and Israel, which has used it in Gaza. Kulinski points out that the media is now part of the military-industrial complex. They don’t check their sources, and they have on retired generals and colonels, who are on the payroll of the arms companies. Kulinski praises Scahill for cutting through all the corporate, pro-war bullsh*t, but says that means that Scahill probably won’t be coming back to CNN any time soon.

I’ve put this up as I think it is interesting and heartening that some journalists are attacking the mainstream media for their bias in promoting an American invasion of Syria, and the obscenity of Brian Williams’ quotation of Leonard Cohen. I wonder what Cohen himself would have thought of it, if he were alive today. I don’t know what his personal politics were, but the people I knew, who were fans of his were leftie liberal types, who hated war.

The Humanist Report: Bernie Sanders Warns of the Power of Corporate Media

April 4, 2017

This morning Mike’s put up a piece attacking the mainstream media for their constant libels, falsehoods and misrepresentation of the Labour party, and their apparent success in convincing the general public that Labour, at least under Jeremy Corbyn, is unelectable.

Bernie Sanders wrote a piece in one of the American magazines a few weeks ago criticising the power of the corporate media in the US, and the way it constituted a genuine threat to democracy. The clip below is from the Humanist Report, whose host describes the article and Bernie’s argument.

Bernie stated that, as a rule, the issues that concern most working Americans are treated the least seriously by the corporate media, with those of severe concern to ordinary folks given the least serious coverage. The media also likes to present ‘politics as entertainment’, which explains the rise of Trump, an entertainer, who knows how to exploit this type of media coverage.

The media is also biased against working class issues and the politicos who stand up for working people, because of the power of the advertisers, in the extreme wealth of corporate presenters, and the shrinking number of corporations and the immensely wealthy tycoons that own them. Sanders points out that you don’t see any in-depth articles attacking the bloated prices for prescription drugs, that have made them unaffordable to the poor. That’s because American newspapers and corporate media make part of their revenue from the advertising from the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies.

The news presenters audiences see on their TV screens are also immensely rich through multi-million dollar contracts with the TV networks. Sanders points out that this doesn’t make them evil, but it does distance them from the bread and butter interests that matter to your average middle class person. Similarly, the number of companies that own the US media have also declined. There used to be about nine different companies owning American broadcasters. Now there are six. Thus the American media is increasingly in the hands of a small number of extremely powerful magnates. There are about 15 of these, whose individual wealth is in the billions.

This is dangerous because the corporate media still have the power to shape public opinion. For example, when Bernie was running for the presidential nomination last year, there was a more or less complete news blackout own him. But they gave plenty of coverage to that Nazi buffoon, Donald Trump. Academic studies, such as one made by Harvard, show that the corporate controlled media is effective in deciding which issues matters to Americans, such as terrorism.

The presenter states that this has been good for alternative media – for the Humanist Report, Secular Talk and The Young Turks, as people are increasingly turning to them. But it also means that the corporate-controlled media are failing in their job. They are meant to be the ‘fifth arm of government’, which keeps power in check and accountable to the American people. But they aren’t. They represent the aims and wishes of an immensely wealthy elite against those of the American people as a whole.

Secular Talk: Pressure Your Congressman and Sign Petition to Support Medicare For All

April 3, 2017

This was put up on the 27th March on the Secular Talk YouTube channel, so I don’t know if this is still going through Congress. In this clip, Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski reports that not all Democrats in Congress are complete sell-outs, and some have responded the proper way to the failure of TrumpCare: they’re now pressing for Medicare for All. John Conyers has proposed it in the House of Representatives, and the awesome Bernie Sanders is proposing it in Senate. 72 Democrats have backed it, but this is less than the total 192 Democrats in the House.

The bill also has the backing of National Nurses United, Brand New Congress, and the Justice Democrats group of progressive Democrats.

Kulinski recommends that his viewers should get on to their congressman, if he’s a Democrat, and urge him to vote for this bill. He also urges them to make it clear that if he does not, then they will vote against him in the next election. He gives the example of a comment from a politico that what really gets things going at Congress is when the phones start ringing.

There is also a petition up at the Justice Democrats’ website supporting the bill, which Kulinski also urges his viewers to sign.

Kulinski states that now is the time to introduce this bill, as they have the support of 55 per cent of the country. One of the leading Democrats, who does not support it is Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi wants to lead the Democrats, but believes that giving everyone proper access to medical care is a step too far. Kulinski also states that those Democrats, who don’t want to support Medicare For All, but maintain that they should just stick to supporting Obamacare are sell-outs. He makes it clear that Obamacare is a great step forward, but it is at heart a right-wing solution. It was proposed by Newt Gingrich way back in the 1990s, and various forms of it have also been backed by Richard Nixon and the Heritage Foundation in the 1980s. It’s an improvement, but still has very severe drawbacks.

Kulinski goes on to urge his viewers to point out to their Democratic representative that they can even rub the Republicans’ noses in it by citing Trump back at them. Trump said in a speech that he believed in Medicare For All. Quote: ‘If a nation can’t look after its sick people, then it’s over. I believe in Medicare For All’.

He makes it very clear that this reform is needed. There are 53 million people, who cannot afford medical insurance in America. Every other developed country has some form of free medical care. It is also bizarre and iniquitous that the country can find billions to fund the war in Syria, and give massive corporate bail-outs and subsidies to the banks and big business, but then states that Medicare For All is too expensive, and the existing Medicare budget needs to be cut.

Who Really Wants Driverless Cars and Further Automation

March 30, 2017

This follows on from my last article, where I commented on a piece by Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski about a report produced by the accountancy firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This predicted that by 2030, a third of all jobs in Britain, Germany, and America would be lost to automation. Japan would also be affected, losing roughly a fifth of all jobs. Kulinski in his piece quoted a report by the BBC. This came out about a year ago, and the issue was the subject of a documentary, possibly on Panorama. I think it’s very likely to come true. One of my friends watched it, and was really frightened.

This is an issue I feel passionately about, but don’t think it’s really being taken at all seriously. And I’m very much unimpressed by some of the reports, which uncritically hail every new development in automation as a benefit, without taking cognisance of the possible drawbacks.

One example of this is the issue of driverless cars. The car industry has been trying to create one of these since the late seventies. They’re mentioned in the Usborne Book of the Future, a children’s book about the possible developments in technology and space I can remember reading as far back as 1979. More recently, the companies developing them have been testing them on the road. These have had disastrous results. Several of the driverless vehicles have crashed, and there has been at least one fatality.

I don’t know a single person, who actually wants one of these. And certainly there are no end of people, who feel that these machines would actually be less safe than those driven by a real, flesh and blood human being. But nevertheless, whenever they’re mentioned, it’s always in terms of how wonderful they’re going to be. A few months ago Points West, the local BBC news programme here in Bristol, did a little piece on research into these cars at UWE, complete with a brief interview with Tassi, one of the scientists working on the project. This annoyed me, because there was absolutely no suggestion at any point of the possible down side to the project.

There are about 40,000 truckers in Britain. These are the people, who are most likely to lose their jobs to driverless vehicles, as haulage companies introduce them to cut labour costs. Other professional drivers likely to be affected will include taxi and bus drivers, possibly ambulance men and women. Thus we’re looking at 40,000 plus losing their jobs, for the profit of their companies. And if other areas of the economy are also losing jobs to automation, it’s unlikely that they’ll find other employment. But no hint of that from the Beeb.

Also a month or so back, Points West also did a piece about James Dyson’s decision to set up a centre for technical innovation in an old army base in Wiltshire. This was hailed as good news. The programme and the presenter on this segment, Will Glennon, also reported the establishment of a place where inventors and businessmen could meet to make deals in one of the old engine sheds in Bristol’s Temple Meads Station, and similarly celebrated the technological advances being made at the city’s university. They also talked to the head of the Institute of Directors, or a similar organisation. In actual fact, this captain of industry really didn’t say anything controversial. What I found infuriating was the complete absence of any kind of awareness that this could have a massive detrimental effect on the employment of ordinary people in the city and beyond. Glennon simply took the line that this was all wonderful, and something we should look forward to and be proud of.

But clearly, if it leads to nothing but one third of the working population being thrown out of their jobs, with no means of support except Jobseekers Allowance – and what a farce that is, if there are no jobs – this isn’t. And I found it actually insulting that the team at Points West should think it was.

Now I’m not a luddite. I can see how the scientists working on these projects are interested in them as scientific problems. But they have social consequences. Kevin Warwick, the cyberneticist and quondam cyborg at Reading University, actually states in his book The March of the Machines that one of the five reasons he lists for automation is to save on labour costs. Which means employing fewer people. In the current social arrangement, this means more poor unemployed people, with the benefits going to the rich and the technicians and engineers responsible for producing these machines.

And if that’s the case, ordinary working people have absolutely no reason to welcome or celebrate these advances. They may lead to cheaper products, but if you don’t have a job that will pay you enough to purchase them, then there’s no point.

But this seems lost on the producers of the programme in question, and a media and corporate environment which sees these very much as benefiting the rich middle class to the exclusion of everyone else.

As I said in my last post, welcome to the nightmare world of Megacity 1.

Secular Talk: One-Third of All Jobs Will Be Lost Due to Automation by 2030s

March 30, 2017

In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski comments on a recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the firm of accountants, that by the 2030s one third of all jobs in Britain will be lost to automation. This process will also affect America, Germany and Japan. In America, 38 per cent of all jobs will go; 35 per cent in Germany, and 21 per cent in Japan. As Kulinski points out, the 2030s aren’t very far away, and this is frightening.

He goes on to discuss an article he read by Stephen Hawking about this problem some time ago, in which the cosmologist said that there are two ways this could go. It could lead to a dystopia, in which the benefits of automation were monopolised by the rich. The result would be massive unemployment, social unrest and war. Or a way could be found to spread the benefits to everyone in society. One way this could be done is if we accept that this is inevitable, and that all jobs will go eventually. Instead of throwing people onto welfare, people could instead be assigned a machine at birth, and given an income derived from the work this machine does, so that not everyone has the same income.

He also notes that the same report suggests that some job losses could be offset by gains in areas that have not yet been automated. He is sceptical of this claim, however.

Kulinski states that this issue needs to be tackled urgently, and that so far only a very few have dared to take it seriously, and then only in a limited area.

Welcome to Megacity 1 and the world of Judge Dredd. The writers of the long-running comic strip acknowledge that Dredd’s home city – a vast, sprawling supercity of over 1 billion people spread along the east coast of America – is a monumental dystopia. John Wagner described it as ‘a gigantic black comedy’. The City suffers from 98 per cent unemployment due to robots. As a result of this and massive overcrowding, crime is rampant. And any sign that there might be a paid job going can easily result in a riot.

The massive psychological harm inflicted through such conditions has been portrayed again and again, particularly in the class Dredd strip, ‘UnAmerican Graffiti’. This was about the contest between two graffiti artists, ‘Chopper’, an unknown lad, and ‘the Shadow’, a robot. Chopper, like many others, had been driven to street art as a reaction to the boredom and despair created by the terrible unemployment rate. This was a society, where the problem was so great that schoolchildren were told that getting a job was unlikely, and therefore they needed a hobby to stave off boredom.

The solution Kulinski discusses for solving the problem of high unemployment due to automation – by assigning each individual at birth an income from a particular machine – in similar to a social programme in Mick Farren’s 1980s SF book, Exit Funtopia. This is a piece of ‘Future Noir’ set in a dying future Britain. Environmental and economic collapse has resulted in a society, where many citizens have been forced to become impoverished migrants – Joads, after the family in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, forced onto the road in search of work. The ‘Funtopia’ of the title is a giant amusement park, where members of different subcultures can live out their fantasies away from mainstream society. Each member of the park is given an income based on the work a robot performed by robot doing their job. As befitting a piece of Noir, the hero is a ’40s’, a man who recreates the styles in dress and culture of the 1940s, called Marlowe. After the private eye, of course. There are also references to Godard’s Alphaville.

I’m very sceptical about this scheme. I don’t think it would work on the grounds that there isn’t a straight equivalence between one person equalling one machine. The jobs lost through automation may well be those in which the job lost may only constitute one function in a series of processes carried on by a machine, or a number of machines.

The great Polish SF writer, Stanislav Lem, also discussed this problem in one of his short stories. In this tale, a space pilot from Earth touches down on a planet covered in little black discs. There is only a single inhabitant left. When the pilot questions him, the man tells him that the black discs are the result of the decision by the planets’ leaders to solve their unemployment problem through automation. Nearly everyone was thrown out of work, except for the planets leaders and those who possessed the automated factories. There was massive unrest. It could have been avoided if the factories had been nationalised, and the profits shared amongst the citizens. But this wasn’t done. With the population growing restless, the leaders held a competition to decide how the problem could be solved. The winner was an inventor, who had developed a device for turning everyone into one of the black discs. It was selected through an extremely literal and legalistic reading of the conditions of the competition. The whole unemployed population was rounded up to be killed in this way, and eventually the unrest spread to the ruling class, who also found themselves fed to the murderous machine. Only the inventor was left, alone on his world, surrounded by the glassy remains of his victims.

Lem was an intellectual, who used SF to explore philosophical problems and concepts. He could create very serious works like Solaris, filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky and Stephen Soderbergh, or hilarious fables, often with a strongly satirical edge, like The Futurological Congress and the Cyberiad. I think that short story was written in the 1970s. But it’s coming true, very quickly, and needs to be tackled.

But what’s the odds we’re going to get the dystopian option, ’cause the elites running society, the economy and the media, simply won’t want to create a more egalitarian society as the price of solving the problem. Get ready for Megacity 1. Assuming, of course, that they don’t try turning us into the equivalent of the little black glass discs.

Trump Hires Racist Staffer, Who Believed Obama Was Planning White Genocide

March 12, 2017

It really does seem that hardly a week goes by without another Nazi or White Supremacist being found lurking amongst Trump’s staffers and supporters. In this piece from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski reports and comments on the appointment of Curtis Ellis as one of the assistants to the Secretary of Labor. Ellis used to write for World Net Daily, a far right news organisation that makes Alex Jones and Infowars look restrained and sensible. As an example of just how whacko World Net Daily is, Kulinski tells the story how they attempted to claim that a camera flaw in a photograph taken of President Obama in Africa showed supernatural evidence of the former president’s supreme evil. The camera flaw produced a muzzy patch in the photo of Obama, which WND then claimed was a ghost. Yes, Obama was so evil, that a ghost had run across the road in front of the camera to demonstrate just how malign he was.

Kulinski makes the point that just because the rest of the website is nuts, doesn’t mean that Ellis himself is. This is true, but Ellis, as Kulinski then goes on to state, is nuts. In May 2014, he wrote a piece entitled ‘How the Radical Left is Planning a White Genocide’. He argued that the ‘radical Left’ under Obama was literally planning the extermination of the White American working class as part of its campaign against American racism and the redistribution of the country’s wealth. This was not the usual mouthings of ‘White genocide’ by the racist right, which see this as occurring through immigration and racial intermixing, but a literal holocaust committed through armed force.

Kulinski makes the point that the extreme right has been making claims like this for decades, and the atrocities they have warned were coming have never actually materialised. For example, they’ve been claiming since the 1990s that the government had a secret policy, ‘Agenda 21’, to declare a state of emergency and then round the American people up and incarcerate them in FEMA camps. Various rightwing nutters were screaming that Obama was going to put this in operation. Well, Obama’s been and gone, martial law has not been declared, and the American people has not been forcibly interned. However, there has been no apology for this slander from the right.

He also makes the point that the right is always claiming that it’s the left, who claim victim status. But here Curtis Ellis was, claiming that Whites were to be the victims. He also makes the point that while Trump isn’t an ideologue, the stupidity and lunacy of this article shows how incompetent Ellis, and the rest of the Trump administration are, to run the country.