Posts Tagged ‘Sexual Assault’

‘I’ Obituary for Stage Magician and Sceptic James Randi

October 26, 2020

Last Tuesday, 20th October 2020, the stage magician and sceptic James Randi passed away at the age of 92. Randy was a controversial. After starting out as a stage magician, Randi turned to exposing fake psychics. He was a prominent member of the Sceptics’ organisation CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal, along with scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan and the mathematician Martin Gardner. CSICOP’s founders were alarmed at the growth of interest in the occult. Sagan, a Humanist, published his attack on the supernatural in the Demon Haunted World. He seemed to be frightened that we were entering a new Dark Age of superstition, where science and rationality would be forgotten, and in which people would begin their day by poring over their horoscopes.

The I published this obituary of Randi in their weekend edition for 24th-25th October 2020, reprinted from the Washington Post. It runs

James Randi, who has died aged 92, was an internationally acclaimed magician and escape artist who spent much of his career debunking all things paranormal – from spoon bending and water dowsing to spirit channelling and faith healing.

Randall James Ham Hamilton Zwinge was born in Toronto in 1928. A child prodigy, he was shy and often lonely. Bored by rote classroom learning, he sought refuge in the library. At a young age, he developed an interest in magic, and at 17 he dropped out of high school, turned down several college scholarships and joined a travelling carnival as junior magician.

He overcame a stammer and fear of speaking in public, affected a turban and goatee, and honed his illusionist skills under a series of stage names, including Zo-Ran, Prince Iblis, Telepath and the Great Randall.

After a stint at faking clairvoyance, in which many took his prophecies seriously – he correctly predicted the winner of baseball’s World Series in 1949, for example – he said he was unable to persuade believerss that his powers were strictly terrestrial. He said he “couldn’t live that kind of lie” and returned to conventional magic as The Amazing Randi.

He also became an escape artist and held Guinness world records for surviving the longest time inside a block of ice (55 minutes) and for being sealed the longest in an underwater coffin (one hour and 44 minutes), breaking a record set by Harry Houdini.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Randi’s many appearances on television made him a fixture of prime time entertainment. In 1973 he toured with heavy metal rock star Alice Cooper as an executioner simulating the beheading of the singer at each performance.

Randi cheerfully described himself as a “liar” and “cheat” in mock recognition of his magician’s skills at duping people into thinking they had seen something inexplicable when it was, in fact, the result of simple physical deception. He was equally dismissive of psychics, seers and soothsayers. “The difference between them and me,” Randi told The New York Times in 1981, “is that I admit that I’m a charlatan. They don’t. I don’t have time for things that go bump in the night.”

Randi and the research organisation he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1m (£77,000) to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent.

In 2010, at the age of 81, Randi publicly announced he was gay. He married a Venezuelan artist, Deyvi Pena in 2013. The following year, film-maker Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein released An Honest Liar, a documentary of Randi’s life.

I first became aware of Randi in the early 1980s, when he appeared in the pages of the Absurder attacking Doris Stokes. Stokes was a medium, who was then in news, much like Derek Acorah and other celebrity psychics a few years ago. Randi showed that much of her comments and remarks when she was supposedly getting in touch with the dead were ‘bunkum statements’. They sounded true and unique to the reader or listener, but they were actually vague and described the way most people felt. Her descriptions of the deceased and the questions she asked her audience were also so vague that they would apply to someone there, who would then become convinced that Stokes was genuinely in contact with a dead friend or relative.

Several times Randi’s own outspoken comment about those he judged to be frauds landed him in legal. In one case, he was sued for libel by a man he claimed was called by the police ‘the shopping mall molester’. Er, not quite. The target of Randi’s wrath had been arrested for sexually assaulting a 12 or 13 year old girl in a shopping centre. But he hadn’t been charged with the offence, as it was dropped due to plea bargaining. And because he hadn’t been charged with it, Randi’s comments were technically libel.

He also got into similar trouble with Uri Geller. He called him a fraud, at which Geller sued him in every country in the world. This resulted in Randi settling out of court with the notorious spoon-bender.

Actually, I think Randi is probably right here. Geller’s most famous trick of bending spoons has been around since at least in the 18th century. It’s mentioned in a book of such amusements from that time, Rational Recreations. Geller was also successfully sued in the 1970s or so by an Israeli engineering student for misleading advertising. Geller’s publicity claimed his act presented overwhelming proof of the paranormal. The student went to see it and wasn’t impressed. He sued, claiming that all he’d seen was standard stage magic. The beak concurred, and judged in his favour.

There was also a scandal a few years ago when it turned out that Randi’s partner was actually an illegal immigrant, who was living in the US under an identity he’d stolen.

Randi was a colourful figure, but I was never a fan of his. While I agree that fake psychics and mediums certainly exist, and should be exposed because of the way they exploit the grieving and vulnerable, I don’t share his dismissal of the supernatural. I think it’s genuine, but that its very nature makes scientific verification extremely difficult, if not impossible. CSICOP also came off as arrogant, smug and vindictive in their attacks on the paranormal and its believers and practitioners. So much so that they were seen as a kind of scientific witch hunt by their victims. A few years ago the organisation changed its name to CSI, which stands for the Committee for Scientific Investigation. And not Crime Scene Investigation. The name change was not occasioned because there was a cop drama with that acronym as its title playing at the time.

So RIP James Randi. He was a colourful character, who entertained millions, particularly in his bust-up with Geller. Gray Barker, the former Ufologist who began the Men In Black myth with his book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, took great pleasure in Randi’s antics, calling him ‘the Amusing Randi’. But I leave to the reader to decide for themselves whether the paranormal exists. And not everybody who believes in it deserves sneers and ridicule.

The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 2: Sexism, Misogyny and Misandry

February 4, 2020

In the first part of this post, I discussed some of the problems that may arise from all-Black and Asian election shortlists, as suggested by one of the candidates at the recent Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol. In this part I wish to examine some of the problems of the same candidate’s declaration that they were determined to fight misogyny. I am certainly not denying that sexism exists in society, and that women are very far from being equal. I realise that many women have struggled and continue to struggle to make themselves accepted in male-dominated professions and workplaces. I realise that there are many jobs not considered suitable for women. And I also realise that despite some women managing to break the ‘glass ceiling’ and reach the very heights of management, there are still very few female managing directors or chairs of companies. However, the situation is changing in some areas, and this is not reflected in the debate about sexism, sexual harassment or gender and violence, at least not at the level of the popular press.

One of the issues is education. Since the 1990s boys have been falling behind girls at school and I gather that the majority of university students are also women. I know very well that women have had to struggle to get to this point. When I was growing up in the 1980s I remember reading a number of articles about brain sex stating that women would never be equal with men in certain subjects, like maths and science. But this has been shown to be false too. There are a number of factors affecting boys’ performance. One is the importance of sport, sex and violence over ‘book-larnin”, so that one academic commenting on the issue in the 1990s said that boys weren’t interested in the ‘3 Rs’ as the ‘3 Fs’ – football, fighting and, well, you can guess. Another factor may be that teaching is now very much a female-dominated profession, to the point where some schools have been described as ‘man deserts’ because of the lack or total absence of male teachers.

Other factors are class and those jobs traditionally viewed as masculine. Traditional working class male jobs, like mining, emphasised strength rather than academic performance. It may well be the case that, among some working class boys, academic performance is discouraged as effeminate and ‘poofy’. But class has also been a factor. A friend of mine grew up in rural Suffolk and went to the local comprehensive school. As he tells it, it had been a grammar school and still retained a very snobbish class ethos. The school ran classes in its sixth form to prepare pupils for going to university. My friend is highly intelligent, and he told me that despite achieving very good grades, the school never put him in this class. He came from a very working class background, and the school did not consider working class children to be suitable for university. And I’m afraid that there are some teachers that are very sexist in their attitudes to the children in their charge. I’ve heard horror stories decades ago of headmasters, who set up two classes for the bright and less bright. All the boys were in the first, and all the girls in the second. At the same time, I’ve come across two teachers in my time in school, who in my experience did not like boys and treated them worse than the girls. One was female, one was male.

These are issues that need to be examined if boys’ academic performance is to be improved. But there is a problem whether a political and social culture, that has and is making great effort to improve girls’ and women’s academic performance, is also able to to devote the same kind of effort and energy to boys. If boys also need special treatment to help them achieve their potential, then some feminists may resent that as an attack on the schemes that have helped women to make such great strides in achieving theirs.

I’m sure that when the candidate spoke about misogyny, she meant instances of clear hostility and aggression to women. Like discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse or violence specifically towards women. Domestic violence, and the stuff that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of. However, what makes this problematic is the way some feminists have extended it to include even trivial gestures, which many people of both sexes wouldn’t consider aggressive or demeaning. For example, one feminist academic has claimed that women’s self-confidence is knocked through ‘micro-aggressions’ such as calling them ‘love’. This was heavily criticised in the press, with some male writers pondering whether they were being treated with aggression and contempt when women called them ‘love’. Last week an expert from the Chartered Institute of Management appeared on Sky, I believe, and declared that management should stop men talking about sport in the workplace, as this excluded women and led to other laddish behaviours, like boasting of sexual conquests. This was also attacked by anti-feminist bloggers and vloggers like Sargon. Benjamin stated that he’d worked in offices, that were overwhelmingly female and where the topics of office conversation were typically female: makeup and men. Which obviously left him isolated. I’ve also worked in offices where the staff were overwhelmingly female, some of whom were extremely crude. In my first job, one of the girls one day told the rest of the office about how she had been to see a male stripper the night before. I’ve no doubt that if the situation was reversed, feminists, if not ordinary women, would find that unacceptable. But is there now a double-standard in that talk of such excursions is acceptable, if the strippers are men?

Ditto with sexual harassment. This is always discussed as something that men do to women, never the other way round. A few years ago there was a scandal about MPs groping parliamentary staff. This focused very much on women, who were leading the protest. But the Beeb report, as far as I can remember, also mentioned that half the victims were men. Nothing then was said about how they were affected or what steps were being taken to safeguard them. Did that mean that men’s safety in this regard was not as important as women’s? Again, the other year there was a report about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment at universities. One report in the I said that 75 per cent of women students had experienced it. It also said that 25 per cent of men had also. The article then described how universities were trying to tackle it by laying on courses educating students about the issue. But the rest of the article only discussed it as a problem that affected women. The men were mentioned and forgotten.

Domestic violence is also an issue that is framed almost exclusively as something that men inflict on women. I’m very much aware that throughout history, this has been very much the case. However, a friend of mine, who is a former nurse, told me that when he was being trained, they were told that both sexes were sent to the hospital in equal numbers by the partners. Men were, however, much more likely to kill their wives. I certainly do not mean here, to suggest anything to prevent vulnerable women from being given the help and protection they need against violent and dangerous men. The Tories have left such women increasingly vulnerable through cuts to women’s refuges and centres. While it is recognised that men also suffer from domestic abuse from women, you don’t hear that women hospitalise as many men as the other way around. Nor have I come across many articles talking primarily about men as victims of female violence. In fact, I can’t think of one. But I’ve also come across some extremely foul-tempered, violent women. I’ve no doubt discussion of the issue is constrained by some men feeling emasculated by talking about it. No man really wants others to think him ‘pussy-whipped’. And there is the attitude that men should just be a man about it all, and take it. At the same time, I think some women and feminists may also have qualms about discussing gendered violence towards men with the same kind of concern that’s given to women in case in detracted from the campaigns to end violence against women. But clearly such violence exists, and so needs to be tackled.

A campaign to tackle genuine misogyny is entirely praiseworthy. But it overlooks the way men can be similarly affected, and a narrow focus solely on women threatens to create new forms of sexism, rather than combat it. 

 

 

Austerity and Prison Violence

January 15, 2020

A week or so ago Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on the death of a disabled man in prison. From what I remember, like many such instances the man’s own special needs had been ignored and he was actually in prison for a minor offence. At least, one that should not merit his murder. Mike connected this to the Tories’ ongoing campaign of mass murder against the disabled.

In fact, violence, including self-harm, has risen massive in British jails since the Tories launched their wretched austerity. Joe Sim has authored an entire chapter on it in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. Sim has his own particular view of the crisis. He considers that prison violence hasn’t itself been created by austerity. It’s always been there, and is part of society’s brutal maltreatment of the poor and marginalised. But it has been massively intensified by the Tories’ cuts.

The stats are horrifying. Between 2011 and 2016, sexual assaults almost doubled. In 2014-15 there were over 400 serious incidents requiring the intervention of the specialist National Tactical Response Group, In 2015 an average of 160 fires were started each month. Self-harm rose by 40 per cent in two years, so that in 2015, 32,313 incidents were recorded.

321 died in the year to June 2016, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year. 105 of these were self-inflicted, a rise of 28 per cent. Deaths by natural causes rose by 26 per cent to 186. Between January 2010 and December 2016, 1637 prisoners died, 542 of which were self-inflicted.

In 2015-15 there were nearly 5000 assaults and acts of violence against the different groups of people working in prisons. These included 423 on prison officers below the rank of principal officer, 828 on nursing auxiliaries and assistants, 640 on nurses, 535 on care workers, and 423 on welfare and housing associate professionals.

Sim states that to many commentators, including the media, Prison Officers’ Association and mainstream politicians, the cause of this increased violence are the cuts to the prison budget. These amounted to £900 million between 2011 and 2015, or 24 per cent of its overall budget. The Prison Reform Trust said that it was

[n]o mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff.

I’m not disputing that very many of those incarcerated are guilty of the most heinous offences, and fully deserve their incarceration and punishment. But it is very clear that austerity has resulted in a massive deterioration in conditions which fueling violence in prisons against staff and prisoners. There’s obviously a long and complicated debate about the purposes of prison – to punish, reform, or even both – but it is clear that neither staff nor prisoners deserve the maltreatment and violence the cuts have generated.

This isn’t reformative. It isn’t proper punishment. It is carnage.

But the Tories just love killing and death when it’s directed against the poor and powerless.

‘I’ Article on Allegations of British War Crimes in Iraq and Aghanistan

November 18, 2019

I put up a piece yesterday evening commenting on a trailer for the Beeb’s Panorama programme tonight, 18th November 2019, investigating allegations that British troops have committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is also the subject of an article in today’s I by Cahal Milmo, titled ‘Army and UK Government accused of cover-up in war crimes scandal’. This reads

The Government is facing demands to ensure an investigation into “deeply troubling” allegations that torture and murders – including the killing of children – by British soldiers were covered up by senior commanders and officials.

Leaked documents provided to an investigation by BBC Panorama and The Sunday Times detail claims that evidence of crimes committed by UK troops in Afghanistan and Iraq was not fully investigated.

Amnesty International said that rather than sweeping such claims “under the carpet”, Britain needs to ensure cases are “treated with the seriousness they deserve”.

The claims, which include an allegation that an SAS soldier murdered three children and a man in Afghanistan while drinking tea in their home in 2012, arose from two official investigations into alleged war crimes by British forces. The Iraq Historic Allegations Teams (IHAT) and Operation Northmoor, which investigated alleged incidents in Afghanistan, were wound down in 2017 after a solicitor – Phil Shiner _ was struck off for misconduct after bringing more than 1,000 to IHAT.

Neither IHAT nor Northmoor resulted in any prosecutions, a fact which the Government insists was based on “careful investigation”.

But military investigators told the BBC and The Sunday Times that other factors were responsible. One former IHAT detective said: “The Ministry of Defence had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it.”

The media investigation uncovered claims no action was taken after military prosecutors were asked to consider charges against a senior SAS commander for attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to the Afghanistan incident. It also found evidence that allegations of beatings, torture and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch regiment did not reach court.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted all cases had been looked at and “the right balance” struck in terms of court action.

A spokesman for the MOD said “Allegations that the MoD interfered with investigations or prosecution decisions relating to the conduct of UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are untrue. The decisions of prosecutors and investigators have been independent of the MoD and involved external oversight and legal advice.”

Underneath the article is a statement in a box that reads Another investigator said ‘Key decisions were taken out of our hands. There was more and more pressure from the Ministry of Defence to get cases closed as quickly as possible.’

As I wrote yesterday, this is something that no-one really wants to hear. We’d love to believe our girls and boys are far better than this. But I’m afraid that for all their training and professionalism, they are just humans like everyone else, placed in positions of extreme fear and danger. Regarding the killing of children, it also has to be taken into account that the enemy in those areas has hidden behind children and tried to use them to kill allied soldiers. This has resulted in allied squaddies having been forced to shoot them to preserve their own lives.

Falling Off the Edge, a book which describes how neoliberalism is forcing millions into poverty worldwide and actually contributing to the rise in terrorism, begins with a description of a firefight between American soldiers and Daesh in Iraq. The Daesh fighters are losing, and one of them drops a Rocket Propelled Grenade in a house’s courtyard. The fighters then run inside, and throw out of the door two little boys. They boys try to grab the RPG despite the American troops screaming at them not to. One of them makes to pick it up, and is shot by an American trooper.

It’s an horrendous incident, but one in which the squaddie had no choice. It was either himself and his comrades, or the child. It’s a sickening decision that no-one should have to face, and I don’t doubt that it will scar this man psychologically for the rest of his life. One of the complaints Private Eye had about the lack of appropriate psychological care for returning servicemen and women suffering from PTSD was that they weren’t put in the hands of army doctors and medical professionals, who would understand the terrible choices they had to make. Instead many were put in civilian treatment groups, who were naturally shocked and horrified by their tales of killing children. It may well be that some of the accusations of the murder of children may be due to incidents like this. I also remember an al-Qaeda/ Taliban propaganda video from Afghanistan that the Beeb played during the Afghanistan invasion. This was intended for audiences elsewhere in the Middle East. In it, one of the fighters hands a gun to another small boy, who waves it around as if he can hardly hold it, and proudly declares that he will gun down the evil westerners. This seemed to show that the Taliban and al-Qaeda weren’t above using small children as soldiers. It’s evil, and banned under the UN Rights of the Child, I believe. But if the Taliban have been using boy soldiers, this might explain some of the murders.

Even so, these are very serious allegations. I blogged yesterday about how an American diplomat in Iraq was shocked at the conduct of US forces. The mess of one division was decorated with Nazi insignia, mercenaries were running drugs and prostitution rings, and shot Iraqi civilians for sport. And the American army was also supporting sectarian death squads. We need to know if there is similar lawlessness among British troops.

And I’m afraid I have no faith in the ability of the British army or the MoD to investigate these claims fairly. Nearly every fortnight Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ section has yet more information from the Deep Cut Inquiry into the suicide of three squaddies at the barracks now well over a decade ago. There have been allegations that the initial investigation was appallingly inadequate, that detectives and doctors were taken off the investigation, or prevented from properly examining forensic evidence. And reading some of the depositions makes it appear that there may well have been a cover-up. And this also lends credibility to the allegations that the government and MoD are covering up atrocities here.

This needs to be very carefully investigated with complete transparency. And it also shows how profoundly morally wrong the invasion of Iraq was. It was a war crime, and the criminals responsible were Bush and Blair.

 

Raheem Kassam’s Anti-Semitic Claim that Jews Funding Cadwalladr’s Investigation of ‘Leave’ Campaign

November 8, 2018

After the anti-Semitism lies and smears against the Labour party and decent, anti-racist people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni and so many, many others, here’s what looks very much like the real thing. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about a smear made on Patreon by Raheem Kassam against the journalist Carole Cadwalladr. Kassam’s a staunch supporter of Brexit, but many of the ‘Leave’ organisations are now being investigated for breaches of electoral law and funding irregularities. Much of this is the result of Cadwalladr’s investigations into these bodies. Kassam couldn’t tolerate this, and so issued a Tweet claiming that because Cadwalladr’s investigations were published on the Open Democracy website, which is partly funded by George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, she’s being backed by ‘Globalist shills’. Mike explains that this is apparently an anti-Semitic dog-whistle.

Kassam stated

“Cadwalladr has attempted to cover such tracks by issuing a series of tweets alleging that any critique of the billionaire, fund manager Soros is ‘racist’ against Jews. This is despite Soros’s rejection of his Jewish identity, and in spite of the fact that he has openly admitted to assisting in the confiscation of Jewish property during the Holocaust”.

The Liberal Jewish organization, Zelo Street, responded by issuing a firm refutation of Kassam’s claims.

“George Soros did not assist in confiscation of Jewish property” – and this certainly seems unlikely as he would have been only 15 at the end of World War II. “And whether he “rejects his Jewish identity” is irrelevant. Calling “Soros” is code for “the Jews”. Like gratuitously pitching terms like “globalists”, “global bankers”, and “Goldman Sachs”.”

Mike in his article wonders if the Leave response to these breaches of electoral law is simply anti-Semitism, and asks if many Leave supporters will disassociate from Kassam, or whether they will simply double down and renew their calls for Remainers to get over it.

See https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/07/anti-semite-claims-the-jews-are-funding-carole-cadwalladrs-brexit-investigations/

I really don’t think there can be much doubt that Kassam’s tweet was full of coded anti-Semitic terms. The American Right, and particularly Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, have been afraid of the creation of a ‘One World’ dictatorial state for a very long time. In modern Millennialist Christian theology, this will be the beginnings of the End Times, with the Anti-Christ as the dictator of this new global state. Which will, of course, begin the persecution of Christians. See the ‘Left Behind’ series of Christian novels by Tim LaHaye. I don’t doubt that most of the people, who hold these views aren’t anti-Semites. But it can shade into the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly running the world, manipulating capitalism and Communism to enslave gentiles and destroy the White race through immigration and racial intermixing. The literature for this conspiracy theory sees the United Nations as the seed from which the One World dictatorship will develop, as well as the Trilateral Commission in the US and the Bilderberg group. The last is a regular meeting of major political and business figures from around the world, and is the centre of much conspiracist speculation.

The literature also discusses the major roles of the Jewish financiers in the creation of these bodies, through the Rothschild banking family and Bernard Baruch. Some of this literature will try to distance itself from overt anti-Semitism by drawing a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews. The good Jews are the millions of ordinary Jewish peeps not involved in the conspiracy, and who may themselves be the victims of it. The material taking this line will point out that Rothschilds continuing giving credit and financing the Nazi regime even when it began openly persecuting the Jews. The bad Jews are, of course, Rothschilds and the other immensely wealth Jewish banking families. These last are described as ‘Zionists’, but the term isn’t used according to its normal meaning. When the people promoting this conspiracy talk about ‘Zionists’, they really mean the Jewish global banking conspiracy. They definitely don’t mean in its proper sense of supporters of the state of Israel. Hence the Nazis and anti-Semites in America refer to their government as ZOG, or Zionist Occupation Government.

George Soros has now entered the demonology of paranoid anti-Semites because he is an immensely wealthy Jewish financier, who funds a variety of groups promoting human rights, democracy and liberal society, as well as being on opponent of Brexit. Thus, he’s been bitterly attacked and vilified by Viktor Orban and his far-right Fidesz party, which now forms the Hungarian government. At the same time, the real Zionists and Netanyahu’s government in Israel despise him because Soros is an anti-Zionist. He’s despised the Zionist movement because of the way they made deals, under the leadership of Kasztner, with the Nazis to allow the deportation of many Jewish Hungarians on the condition that a certain number should be allowed to emigrate to Israel.

Tony Greenstein has today put up a piece about how George Soros thus provides a unifying connection between modern Nazis and anti-Semites, and Netanyahu and the Israel lobby. He also reproduces with his own article a couple of pieces from other journalists, which support his point. One is by Dove Kent of Jewish Currents, and Adele M. Stan of the American Prospect. These articles are also worth reading, as they show very clearly how Trump is using dog-whistle anti-Semitic codewords to weaken the Left. The women protesting against Judge Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault but is nevertheless trying to become a member of the Supreme Court, are accused of being funded by Soros. As is the Black Lives Matter movement and Trans Rights campaigners. Anti-Semitic tropes were also used to attack the Left during McCarthyism, and were particularly effective because Jews were over-represented in Communist and Left-wing groups. Greenstein in his piece also describes how Netanyahu and the Israeli lobby have also deployed anti-Semitic stereotypes and rhetoric to demonise Soros.

Greenstein also describes how right-wing broadcaster and polemicist, Glenn Beck has also attacked Soros using the rhetoric and ideology of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. He described Soros as a ‘puppetmaster’, a Jewish financier with no ties to any country – which conforms to the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ in Nazi ideology – who wanted to create a ‘one world government’. He also claimed that Soros came from an anti-Semitic family, and participated in the Holocaust against the Jews when he was 14. Beck isn’t a peripheral figure. He’s been a fixture of the American right-wing broadcasting scene for decades. But he is bonkers. Many of his broadcasts and talks are simply rants in which he predicts that America will suffer some kind of totalitarian Nazi-Communist-Socialist-Atheist dictatorship, and that ‘They’ will come for him. And his performance, already bizarre, often ends with him in tears. The online humour magazine, Cracked, a few years ago, covered one of his talks in California, which hilariously described how nonsensical and mad it all was. Apparently it feature someone in pseudo-Nazi costume representing tyranny, while a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty represented freedom. Oh yes, and I think there was someone who was supposed to represent anarchy as well.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/11/george-soros-unifying-figure-for-trump.html

This is the paranoid, anti-Semitic worldview that is deliberately evoked by the attacks on Soros, although I don’t doubt that many of those, who are taken in by it probably aren’t anti-Semites and don’t realise the very definite anti-Semitic background behind it.

As for Raheem Kassam, if I recall correctly he’s another member of Breitbart, who also promotes Islamophobia. I also seem to remember that a few years ago he was also connected to UKIP and perhaps some other extreme right-wing parties in Britain.

Which also shows what a number of anti-racist campaigners have pointed out: the racism may start out by attacking other groups, like Muslims and Blacks, but ultimately it returns to the Jews.

RT: Does MI5 Let Its Informants Commit Crimes?

October 11, 2018

This is another report from RT, which I don’t recall seeing reported in the British lamestream media. In this video put up on YouTube on 5th October 2018, the broadcaster’s reporter, Anastasia Churkina, discusses a court case being brought to a tribunal by four human rights groups, including Privacy International and Reprieve. They allege that MI5 has a policy of allowing its informants take part in serious crimes, such as murder, torture, sexual assault or other serious criminality, if it is in the public interest, according to their QC, Ben Jaffey.

This policy is supposed to have gone on for three decades, in various guises and under various prime ministers. Amongst the evidence is a heavily redacted note, and a letter from David Cameron to a judge involved in trying these cases, telling him that it has been government policy. It also tells him that such oversight does not provide endorsement of the legality of the policy, and that he would not be required to provide a view on whether any one particular case should be referred for prosecution.

This won’t surprise anyone, who’s read Lobster. The magazine, edited by Robin Ramsay, and now online, was set up to publicise and discuss real conspiracies by the western intelligence agencies to subvert the usual political processes. This has meant the overthrow of foreign governments that America and its allies find inconvenient or which pose a threat to American corporate or political interests. Which meant the CIA organizing coups to overthrow democratically elected left-wing regimes in South America, like Chile and Guatemala, and Britain and America collaborating in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran.

It has also meant the monitoring and smearing of left-wing activists and political opponents in America and Britain. Domestically, there is much evidence that MI5 and the SIS collaborated with Loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, operating as death squads against leading Republicans. Over on this side of Irish Sea, there is a lot of evidence very strongly suggesting that MI5 were behind the 1970s smears against Harold Wilson that he was a KGB spy. There have also been serious questions about the deaths of Hilda Murrell and Blair Peach. I don’t doubt that the groups bringing this case are absolutely right.

Regarding the two groups named, Privacy International was launched in the 1990s to stop Britain becoming a surveillance state, in which the government uses electronic means to gather information on its citizens. These include the biometric ID cards and the plans for an ‘electronic bourse’ – basically, forms of electronic payment by card. The government has been keen to promote this scheme as it means that they can track how citizens spend their money.

Reprieve, from what I gather, is an organize that campaigns against the death penalty around the world. It has launched internet petitions calling on the government to intervene in the case of Britons imprisoned abroad and facing the death penalty, as well as direct appeals to the foreign governments involved. It’s kind of like Amnesty International.

I am really not surprised that RT seems to have been the only broadcaster to carry this story, unless I’m mistaken. Fleet Street really wouldn’t like to report on it, because it has been alleged that some of the right-wing press have connections to the intelligence agencies and have served as conduits for their propaganda. Like the Sunday Times when it was edited by Andrew Neil.

Sexual Assaults by the Rich Elite at the President’s Club Banquet

January 25, 2018

The news today has been full of the sexual assaults, including an incident of indecent exposure, of the hostesses at the banquet in aid of charity at the President’s Club. Tickets for the bash cost £5,000. It was a men-only event, hosted by David Walliams, and billed as the most ‘un-PC event’. The hostesses, who wore ‘skimpy’ black uniforms, were subjected to groping, had hands shoved up their skirts, propositioned and some of the men tried to drag them onto their laps. One of those, who attended was the Tory minister Nadhim Zahawi. Walliams claims that he did not see any of the assaults on the young women.

I’m not surprised this has occurred. It was a single-sex event, and one of the prizes was an evening at a lap dancing club, in which the first dance would be free. It was a gathering of oversexed, rich, powerful men, who clearly believed that they could do what they liked. This was regardless of the changed attitudes towards such behaviour and the mass outrage against sexual predators in film and television, industry and general society. It came after the massed women’s marches against sexual assault and exploitation in America, and elsewhere, including London, last weekend. But these entitled men clearly didn’t think it applied to them, and they could carry on as they pleased.

My guess is that this behaviour has been carrying on for years. It’s just that now it’s become front page news, and women are organising and vociferously demonstrating against it. It also reminds me of a comment by one of the contributors to Lobster. The writer had a friend, who had attended a meeting of high level bankers in America. The writer asked him what they were like.

‘Worse than you can possibly imagine’, his friend replied.

That tells you everything you need to know about the attitudes and antics of the super-rich, when they think no-one else is watching.

William Blum on the Economic Reasons behind the New Cold War

December 8, 2017

William Blum, the veteran and very highly informed critic of American imperialism, has put up a new edition of his Anti-Empire Report. This is, as usual, well worth reading. In it he attacks the new Cold War being fought with Russia, and reminds us of the stupidity and hysteria of the first.

Blum does a great job of critiquing the claim that the Russians interfered in the American election. He points out that the American intelligence services actually know how to disguise the true origins of Tweets, and questions the motives imputed to the Russians. He states that the Russians presumably don’t think that America is a banana republic, which can be easily influenced and its government overthrown by an outside power. He also questions the veracity of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Clapper is one of those claiming that the Russians did influence the election. But as Blum reminds us, Clapper himself is a liar. He lied to Congress when he was asked if the American intelligence apparatus was spying on its citizens. He said ‘No’. The answer, as revealed by Edward Snowden, was very definitely ‘Yes’.

He then gives a long list of instances from the First Cold War where people were unfairly accused of Communism and persecuted. For example, in 1948 the Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses and places of work of 1,000 people, who had signed the form backing the former vice-president, Henry Wallace’s campaign for the presidency, as Wallace was running for the Progressive Party.

Then there’s the case of the member of a local school board, who decided that the tale of Robin Hood should be banned, because he was a ‘Communist’. Which is good going, considering that the tales of Robin Hood date from the 14th/15th centuries and are about a hero who lived in the 13th – six centuries before Karl Marx. However, this woman wasn’t the only one to dislike the tales for political reasons. The compiler of a children’s book of stories about heroes deliberately left him out in favour of Clym of Clough, a similar archer outlaw, but from ‘Bonnie Carlisle’, partly because Hood was too well-known, but also because he thought there was something ‘political’ about the stories.

Blum also covers the way Conservatives claimed that the USSR was responsible for the rise in drug abuse in America, and was deliberately creating it in order to undermine American society. He also states that the Russians were also trying to destroy America through fluoridation of the water. As General Jack D. Ripper says in Dr. Strangelove: ‘We must keep our bodily fluids pure.’

Then there are the pronouncements that American universities were all under Communist influence, and the reason why American sports teams were also failing was because of Communist influence.

The anti-Communist hysteria was also used to denounce and vilify the United Nations. Blum writes

1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism. Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States. A bill in the US Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.” There was also opposition to UNESCO’s association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.

Oh yes, and rock and roll, pop music and the Beatles were also seen as part of a Communist plot to destroy American moral fibre. A few decades later, in the 1980s, the same right-wing pastors were saying the same thing, though this time the tendency was to blame Satanists rather than Commies.

And the list goes on, including instances from the 1980s when visiting Russians were subjected hostility and abuse because they were perceived as a danger to the US, thanks to films like Rambo and Red Dawn.

The report ends with Blum discussing Al Franken, a Democrat politician and broadcaster, who is now accused of sexual assault. Blum argues that the real issue that should get people angry at Franken is the fact that he backed the Iraq War, and went out there to entertain the troops, showing that he was perfectly happy with the illegal and bloody invasion of another country.

He also reveals that the list of people, who have been on RT, was compiled by a Czech organisation with the name European Values, which produced the report
The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact. Blum states that it’s not exhaustive, as he’s been on it five times, and they haven’t mentioned him.

He also notes the RT’s Facebook page has four million followers and that it claims to be ‘the most watched news network’. It’s YouTube channel has two million likes. And so is this the reason why the American authorities have thrown away freedom of the press and forced it to register as a foreign agent.

He also comments on the way Theresa May has also got in on the act of blaming the Russians for everything, and is accusing them of interfering in Brexit.

But what I found interesting was this piece, where quotes another writer on the real reason the Americans are stoking another Cold War:

Writer John Wight has described the new Cold War as being “in response to Russia’s recovery from the demise of the Soviet Union and the failed attempt to turn the country into a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington via the imposition of free market economic shock treatment thereafter.”

https://williamblum.org/aer/read/153

This makes sense of a lot of murky episodes from the Cold War. I think Lobster has also commented several times on the way Conservative have accused the USSR of causing the drug crisis. I distinctly remember one of the columnist for Reader’s Digest, Clare Somebody, running this story in the 1980s. If memory serves me right, she also claimed that the Russians were doing so in cahoots with Iran. The Iranian theocracy are a bunch of thugs, but somehow I don’t think they can be accused of causing mass drug addiction in the West. They’re too busy fighting their own. I can’t remember the woman’s surname, but I do remember that she turned up later as one of the neocons frantically backing George W. Bush.

As for the campaign against the United Nations on the grounds that internationalism is unpatriotic, that’s still very much the stance of the Republicans in America. It’s part and parcel of the culture of American exceptionalism, which angrily denounces and rejects any attempt to hold America accountable to international justice, while upholding America’s right to interfere in everybody else’s affairs and overthrow their governments. ‘Cause America is a ‘shining city on a hill’ etc.

As for wishing to bring down Putin, because he’s shaken off the chains of American economic imperialism, that’s more than plausible. American big business and the state poured tens of millions into Yeltsin’s election campaign back in the 1990s, including his crash privatisation of the Russian economy. Which just about destroyed it. In which case, it shows that Lenin was right all those decades ago, when he described how pre-Revolutionary Russia was enchained by western economic imperialism. And perhaps the world, or at least, anybody who does not want their country to be bought up by American capitalism, should be grateful to the Archiplut for showing that a nation can defy American capitalism.

Sam Seder Sacked from MSNBC due to Mike Cernovich’s Smears

December 6, 2017

This is disgusting, but the person causing the outrage and nausea isn’t, or shouldn’t be, Sam Seder.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report is one of the American alternative news shows, whose clips I watch regularly. He’s a genuine liberal, supporting single-payer healthcare and a very trenchant critic of American Conservatism and Fascism. He’s also very critical of Israel and its abuse and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And like others, who have spoken out about this issue, he’s also suffered the smears and accusations of being ‘anti-Semitic’. Despite the fact that Seder is, by his own admission, very Jewish ‘the most Jewish person you know’. This is almost par for the course. In my posts about the Israel lobby and the anti-Semitism smears, I’ve pointed out again and again how those accused of anti-Semitism because of their principled stance against the massacre and brutalisation of the Palestinians are very frequently self-respecting Jews, both secular and Torah-observant. Indeed, Tony Greenstein and other Jewish activists have stated that the Israel lobby particularly attacks Jews. It wouldn’t surprise me the least if this were true. It’s because Netanyahu and the Likudniks and other racists in the ruling coalition claim to speak for the Jewish people as a whole. And so independent Jews critical of Israel are a threat, because they show this to be a lie.

Apart from his own show, Seder was also a contributor to MSNBC. He has now lost that job, thanks to a Tweet he made back in 2009 sarcastically commenting on others’ defence of Roman Polanski. Polanski has been in exile in Europe ever since he raped a 13 year old girl at a party sometime in the late 1960s. Back in 2009 there were moves to have him extradited and tried for his crime in the US. Seder was annoyed by the attitude of other liberals, who tried to defend Polanski on the grounds of his stature as a great film director. So he sent out a Tweet with the sarcastic comment that he hoped that if his daughter got raped, it would be by someone with a great mise-en-scene. Seder has made it very clear that this was sarcasm, and has previously read out a statement on his show, complete with the other Tweets he posted in that sequence, that make it very clear that he certainly does not approve of rape or the sexual abuse of children.

However, this has not stopped Mike Cernovich, a right-wing troll, claiming that this Tweet shows that Seder does, and so he’s been sacked from MSNBC. There are a number of posts about this from other members of the American alternative news media, like The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, and so on. In this clip, Seder describes just who Cernovich is. He states that the only person, who agrees with Cernovich’s view is David Duke, and that isn’t an accident. Of course not. Duke was the leader of the Klan in Louisiana, and those who’ve interviewed him, like Cenk Uygur, have described him as the most anti-Semitic person you could meet. Cernovich himself also seems to be very well-disposed to the Nazi right, retweeting all the nonsense about how diversity equals White genocide and so on.

In this clip below, Seder states that Cernovich may actually have done him a favour, as before he got the job with MSNBC he was more angry in his presentation, and rather more entertaining. He also states that he intends to make a documentary about Cernovich, so that the next time Cernovich goes after someone, they can put it up to show what kind of a person he is.

Here’s an earlier video put up by Seder, which explains the Tweet and the circumstances around it, placing it in its proper context.

I’m disgusted by this, as it shows how the right is using the public’s horror of child sexual abuse to smear and close down their critics. Looking at the second video, in which Seder responds to the smear by Cernovich and Sebastian Gorka, it seems to me that this is an attempt by the Republicans to divert attention away from Roy Moore. Moore’s the Republican Senator for Alabama, who has been very credibly accused of a series of sexual assaults, tantamount to attempted rape, on underage girls. So has Cernovich. As Seder points out in the first video, Cernovich was accused of attempting to rape a girl, but managed to bargain it down to battery. So Cernovich has got absolutely no business accusing anyone of sexual abuse.

It also appears that Sebastian Gorka is also involved in this sordid campaign. Gorka was briefly a member of Trump’s cabinet, and likes to style himself as an expert on terrorism. He’s also another individual with extreme right-wing views. He wears the medal of the Vitezi Rend, a right-wing chivalric order founded by the Hungarian dictator, Admiral Horthy, who was responsible for the country’s collusion with the Nazis during World War II and the deportation of its Jewish citizens. Gorka himself has been very active in extreme right-wing Hungarian politics, and was one of the founders of various Fascist, ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic groups and networks. Not that this has stopped him from being welcomed by Netanyahu. He turned up the other year at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, the annual jamboree for the country’s military. As Tony Greenstein pointed out, this was another example of the way Zionists will ally themselves very easily with genuine racists and anti-Semites, when its convenient.

Seder and his co-host, Michael Brooks, who is also Jewish, have had a great time spoofing Gorka and his pretensions. Much of this has been very silly imitations of Gorka’s accent. Gorka spent several years in Britain, and so has a weird accent that’s a mixture of upper-class educated American, BBC British and Hungarian. All mixed in with his own weird diction. This smear by Cernovich and Gorka shows that Seder has drawn blood with his satire and commentary on Conservative political and moral corruption. Especially with those two clowns.

And I hope that this smear won’t deter him or his supporters around the world, and he’ll continue skewering the Republicans, Corporatist Democrats and the neoliberal elites, who are plunging the working people of America and the rest of the world into poverty for a long, long time to come.

The fact that Cernovich and Gorka have gone this low shows that the alternative news media is having an effect. So support them. And make the mainstream media and the racist right afraid. Very afraid.

Betsy DeVos Removes Guidance Documents for Disabled Students

October 28, 2017

More from a growing pile of already abundant evidence that Betsy DeVos should not be in charge of education in America. Actually, I wouldn’t trust her to run a pre-school or kindergarten. In this piece from The Young Turks, Jeff Waldorf reports and comments on the move by DeVos to rescind the 72 official documents, which explain to students and their parents, what the rights of disabled people are when they go to Uni. American universities are granted money by the federal government to support the needs of disabled students. DeVos hasn’t revoked these. She’s just making sure that disabled students, their carers and relatives, don’t know what they are.

One of these documents translates the official jargon of the legislation into ordinary plain English, so that regular peeps don’t need a lawyer to interpret it for them. Now it’s gone, things are going to be made difficult so that people will need a lawyer, which only the wealthy will be able to afford.

Waldorf states that not only is this move contradictory, as she hasn’t repealed the legislation itself, but it’s the first step to depriving disable people of the state support they need. He aptly describes it as ‘weaponising ignorance’.

DeVos is coming for the very weakest members of American society. That includes transgender people. She got rid of a whole load of federal directives demanding that the transgendered should be allowed to use the toilet facilities of the sex they identified with, on the grounds that this should be left to state and local government.

And she’s done the same with official legislation detailing how universities should deal with sexual assault on campus. That too, should be left to state and local authorities to decide, as well as the unis themselves.

Waldorf parodies the old Pastor Niemoller poem, ‘First they came for…’, with ‘First they came for the transgender, then the sexual assault victims, then the disabled’. He concludes that DeVos and her government are terrible people.

This is truly disgusting. It’s another attempt by the Republicans to restrict access to higher education, so that only the rich can afford it. And the able-bodied. I thought I’d post it here, as I know that many of the readers of the blog are either disabled, or the carers and relatives of people with disabilities. The people this government despise.

Waldorf is absolutely right about ‘weaponised ignorance’. Since John Major’s day there has been a culture of silence with the DSS/ Benefits Agency/ DWP. People are not being told their rights by DWP staff, and it’s been part of a campaign to make sure that benefits are not taken up. The government can then claim that millions of pounds in benefits are going unclaimed, and so appear generous when announcing this fact, while at the same time planning to cut the amount of benefit. That’s how it’s worked out for several decades. And the delays in the benefits system now and the sanctions system has created a murderous system of ‘checkbook euthanasia’ in which the government is apparently trying to make sure that people die of starvation before they get anything from the state.

As for transgender people, they’ve been vilified as potential sexual predators and a danger to women and children based on a single incident, if that. Some commenters have made the point that Trump and the Republicans are turning on them, because they lost the argument about gay rights and marriage.

They’ve also shown how hypocritical their attitude to sexual violence is by repealing the legislation regulating the way universities should handle real sexual assault. So they’re only worried about rape and sexual assault if it involves the transgender. If it’s carried out by cis-gendered people, then apparently they’re completely indifferent to it.

Despite the recent revelations of the sexual assault and exploitation of women – and men – in the movie business by predatory moguls like Harvey Weinstein.

This is being done in America. But the Republicans over here absolutely love every nasty trick the party of Ronald Reagan has ever played, and it will come over here. No doubt loudly supported by the Heil and the Torygraph.