Posts Tagged ‘Telegraph’

Real Steampunk Inventions from the Pages of ‘The Engineer’

May 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This included the Randolph Steam Coach of 1872.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

Max Beer on the Depression of the Lower Middle Classes by Big Business

August 28, 2016

I found this passage in Max Beer’s two volume book, A History of British Socialism, in volume 2, page 347. It’s part of a long discussion on how the early Labour party was assisted in its rise because of the way the working class and the lower middle class found themselves under similar attack and allied themselves against attempts by big business to reduce their independence and grind them into subservience. Beer’s book was published in Britain in 1920, but this passage could describe the situation of millions of office workers, sales assistants and small shopkeepers today. And especially the latter. I’ve already blogged about the way the predatory supermarkets are driving the small businesspeople into bankruptcy, and in so doing pushing up unemployment. In this passage, Beer talks about how the shopkeepers of his time were under attack from the department stores. He writes

In commerce and finance a similar process has come into operation. The wholesale traders are reducing the retail traders to the role of distributive agents working on commission. And the great manufacturers are gaining control both over the wholesale and retail trade. The great departmental store, the large importers, and the co-operative societies have been displacing great numbers of small shopkeepers. The tendency of modern times appears to be the displacement of the independent lower middle class by a salaried class of clerks, salesmen, official and civil servants. This process of concentration in commerce and finance could not escape the observation of a sociological writers like H.G. Wells. “Shopkeeping, like manufactures,” he declares, “began to concentrate in large establishments, and by wholesale distribution to replace individual buying and selling… The once flourishing shopkeeper lives to-day on the mere remnants of the trade that great distributing stores or the branches of great companies have left him. Tea companies, provision-dealing companies, tobacconist companies, make the position of the old-established private shop unstable and the chances of the new beginner hopeless. Railway and tramway takes the custom more and more effectually past the door of the small draper and outfitter to the well-stocked establishments at the centre of things; telephone and telegraph assist that shopping at the centre more and more… And this is equally true of the securities of that other section of the middle class, the section which lives upon invested money. There, too, the big eats the little. through the seas and shallows of investment flow great tides and depressions, on which the big fortunes ride to harbour while the little accumulations, capsized and swamped, quiver down to the bottom”.

I think Wells was the son of a shopkeeper, and so had personal experience and interest in what was happening to this class. And the description of how trade was moving away from the local area into the centre of towns, assisted by the trams and railways, along with orders by telephone and telegraph, could almost be a description of the ruin of modern British high streets by the construction of vast, out of town shopping centres and the mass ordering of goods by shoppers through internet dealers, like Amazon. We’ve been here before, folks, and Old Labour had the capacity and will to solve those problems. And it still has, if it can get past the Blairites and their intransigent advocacy of big business against the worker, the employee and the small businesspeople.

German Journo Udo Ulfkotte on Europe’s ‘Bought Journalists’

August 2, 2016

In my last piece, I discussed an article in Counterpunch by Thomas Harrington about the corruption of the British, French, German, Spanish and Italian press, even serious, progressive left-wing newspapers, to reflect American foreign policy interests, neoliberal economics and aggressive American militarism, even at the expense of the interests of their own citizens. Harrington’s article follows a book published in Germany by Udo Ulfkotte, a journalist with the Franfurter Allgemeine, one of the country’s foremost papers, roughly equivalent to the Times or the Torygraph. Entitled Gekaufte Journalisten (‘Bought Journalists’) the book describes how German and other European newspapermen have been bought by the American secret state, to publish pro-American, anti-Russian articles. Despite being a bestseller on that side of the North Sea, an English translation is still awaiting publication. Harrington’s article links to an interview with Ulfkotte on RT on YouTube.

In it, Ulfkotte describes how he too was bribed and corrupted by the CIA and the Bundesnachrichtsdienst – the German secret service – to write pro-American propaganda pieces. He describes how he has become an honorary citizen of Oklahoma in the US, amongst other rewards for his services, and goes on to describe how very many journalists from across Europe, particularly Britain, have been similarly corrupted. Those that have been corrupted the least are the French. He states that no-one will come up to you saying that they’re from the CIA, but ultimately, these are the people journalists like himself served. They get taken on in a system of ‘plausible deniability’. If they becoming too embarrassing, the agencies deny that they ever had anything to do with them. Ulfkotte’s states that after writing anti-Russian articles for the secret services, he is sick and tired of doing so and especially fearful because of the push to war with Russia.

He describes his country as so much under American control that it is ‘an American colony’ and a ‘banana republic’. Most Germans, for example, are against nuclear power, but still the Americans have sited their nuclear missiles in the Bundesrepublik. One of the instances of journalistic corruption he describes is obviously particularly shocking to a German very much aware of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. He describes being sent to Zubaidat in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. There he saw how the Iranian soldiers had been gassed used mustard gas made in Germany. Ulfkotte states how horrifying this was, to see German poison gas used again four decades after the Nazis. But when tried to write an article about it, it was spiked.

He also describes how he was asked to write a piece by the BND, the German intelligence service, describing how Colonel Ghadafy was also building poison gas plants in Libya. He himself had no knowledge of this, and all the information about it was supplied by the German intelligence agency.

He also describes some of the consequences if you refuse to join the ranks of the corrupted. He discusses the case of a German civilian helicopter pilot. This chap was a member of the ‘Yellow Angels’, a group that assists with traffic accidents. The spooks approached him about joining them as one of their spies under the cover of the organisation. He refused. He was then sacked from his job as a pilot because he was ‘untrustworthy’. The judge presiding over the case concurred with the assessment, and so the gentleman lost his job. Ulfkotte himself states that he’s not afraid what the intelligence services will throw at him. He’s already had three heart attacks, and has no children.

Here’s the video:

I’ve no doubt that what Ulfkotte says is true. As I said in my last post, Lobster has published a number of piece over the years on the way the British press, and particular journalists, have served as an outlet for propaganda cooked up by the CIA and the British Secret State. Leading journalists, such as an editor of the Times, were also recruited by the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a Reaganite programme to train up-and-coming British politicians, like Tony Blair, to support the Atlantic alliance. Which is why you definitely won’t read much about BAP in the papers. Private Eye has also published pieces about BAP, and the way journalists with connections to the British intelligence services have tried to intimidate other journos into revealing their sources or working for them on issues relating to domestic terrorism.

What Ulfkotte describes is just the German part of a nasty web of intrigue that has been spread all over the continent. I’m not surprise that the French are the least corrupted. Under De Gaulle France pursued a solidly independent line, retaining its own, genuinely independent nuclear deterrent – ours is effectively signed over to American control – and establishing cordial relations with the eastern bloc. De Gaul blocked our application to join the Common Market – as the EU then was – in the 1960s because he feared that we were a Trojan horse for American interests.

A war with Russia is definitely not in the interests of anyone in Europe. I can remember being shocked when I was growing up in the 1980s at the suggestions then by American generals that there could be a ‘limited’ nuclear war in Europe, and apparently this appallingly stupid notion has been revived under Shrillary. Such a conflict would leave the continent, including Britain, a burnt, radioactive cinder, if it didn’t lead to the total destruction of all life on Earth as the conflict escalated. And the anti-welfare policies peddled by these papers have resulted in hardship and misery across the Continent and promoted the rise of Fascist parties and organisations as peoples have turned against each other to fight for what’s left.

Anti-Feminist Pamphlets from Tory Free Market Thinktank

July 23, 2016

feminism pamphlets

The pamphlets in question. Picture courtesy CJ.

This will annoy nearly every woman and also a very large number of men. Looking round one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday with a friend, I found a whole load of pamphlets from the Institute of Economic Affairs. They’re a right-wing, free market thinktank connected with the Tory party. I think they were also trying to promote themselves as non-party political when Tony Blair was in power, as I think he was also very sympathetic to their message. Put simply, their pro-privatisation, anti-welfare, anti-poor – one of the pamphlet’s was Alexis de Tocqueville’s Pauperism, anti-Socialist – another was Von Hayek’s Socialism and the Intellectuals. And anti-feminist. Two of the pamphlets were anti-feminist screeds, intended to encourage women to forget any notions of equality, independence and a career, and return to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

The two pamphlets were entitled Liberating Modern Women…From Feminism and Equal Opportunities – A Feminist Fallacy. They were collections of essays on individual subjects within the overall theme of rebutting feminism. The contributors seemed to be an equal number of men and women. Among the policies they recommended were measures to preserve the family from break up and end ‘no fault’ divorces. They claimed that men and women pursue different goals because of innate biological differences. And rather than being a patriarchal institution, the family was actually a matriarchy. They also attacked women working, because it meant that the household economy was now based on two people having an income, whereas before it was only the husband’s wage that was important. And, almost inevitably, there was an attack on single mothers. Left-wing welfare policies were attacked for taking them out of the jobs market and placing them into ‘welfare dependency’.

My friend decided to buy them to see how extreme, shocking and bonkers they actually were. Though he insisted that I tell the woman on the desk when paying for them that we we’re buying them because we agreed with them, which raised a smile from her. While walking round town afterwards he said he would have felt less embarrassed holding these pamphlets if he’d had something less offensive to put them in, to disguise the fact that he had them. Like one of the porno mags. I didn’t recognise most of the contributors to the pamphlets, but one name stood out: Mary Kenny. She had been a journalist for the Guardian or Observer, but moved to the Torygraph. My friend was also shocked, as the Institute of Economic Affairs has been on Channel 4 News several times. It’s one of the organisations they’ve gone to for ‘balance’ discussing particular issues. My friend’s point is that they’re policies are so extreme, they really aren’t providing any kind of reasoned balance at all, just more far-right opinion.

There’s an attitude amongst some Republicans in America that feminism really is a terrible Marxist plot to destroy Western civilisation, despite the fact that it existed before Marxism, and its campaigns for votes for women and equal opportunities cross party-political boundaries. Despite the institute’s arguments, there really isn’t one of their views that isn’t vulnerable to disproof. For example, it’s true that men and women tend to perform different jobs, and have different personal goals and attitudes. But it’s very debatable how far this is due to biological differences. A few years ago, back in the 1990s there was a lot of interest and noise about supposed sex differences in the organisation of the brain. Men’s and women’s brains were made differently, and this was why men were better at maths and parking cars, and women were better at language and communication, but couldn’t read maps. Since then, the situation has reversed slightly. One female neuroscientist, Cordelia – , wrote a book a few years ago arguing that any psychological differences and intellectual aptitudes that differed between the sexes weren’t due to physical differences in the brain. With the exception of individuals at the extreme ends of the scale – very ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ brains, brains are just brains, and you can’t tell their former owner’s sex simply by looking at them.

As for feminism itself, it’s probably fair to say that many women do feel caught between their careers and their families, and would like more time to spend raising or attending to their children. But their entry into the workforce, and pursuing jobs, hobbies and interests previously reserved for men are the product of profound needs and desires on their behalf. It isn’t a case that they have been somehow brainwashed or indoctrinated by some kind of feminist ‘false consciousness’. For example, you can hear from older women how they felt when they were young, when they wanted to play with boy’s toys, like train or construction sets, like Meccano, but were forbidden by their parents. Or wanted to try their hand at ‘boy’s’ subjects at school, like woodwork. Or join in with boy’s games like footie or rugby. This doesn’t mean that all women wanted to do all of the above, only that a sizable number did want to do some of those, and felt frustrated at the social conventions that forbade them to. When the feminists in the 1960s argued that women had a right to do traditionally male jobs and pursuits, they were articulating the desires of very many women. They weren’t just abstract theorists speaking only for themselves.

As for the statement that the entry of women into the workforce has made family finances more difficult, because mortgages are now based on a double income, that’s also very open to query. It might be that the change to women working has had an effect, but I’ve also seen the argument that women had to go out to work, because the income from the husband’s wages alone wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

As for the family being a ‘matriarchal’ institution, the status of women has changed over time. But in the Middle Ages, women were basically their husband’s chattels. And in the West, women didn’t automatically have a right to hold their property independently of their husbands until the Married Women’s Property Act in the late 19th century. One of the early feminist tracts from 19th century Germany was a polemic attacking the way women’s property automatically became their husband’s on marriage.

I’m alarmed by the break down of the traditional family, rising divorces and absent fathers. I always have been, ever since we did ‘relationships’ as part of the RE course at school, when the news was full of it. But part of the problem isn’t the ease of divorce, although it became more difficult and expensive when Blair was in power. It’s the fact that many people do find themselves trapped in unhappy relationships. Some idea how much of a problem this was can be seen in some of the jokes about how awful marriage was and quarrelling spouses. At a far more serious level, you can also see it in accounts of men, who walked out on their families, and took up bigamous marriages elsewhere in the days when divorce was difficult and all but impossible unless you were very wealthy.

The two pamphlets were published a little time ago. One dated from 1992 – twenty-four years ago -, and the other from 2005, about eleven. But they represent an attitude that’s still very present in the Conservatives, and especially in right-wing newspapers like the Daily Heil. A week ago the Tories elected Theresa May as their leader, and will no doubt be presenting themselves as the ‘pro-woman’ party. This shows the other side to them, the one that’s beyond and underneath Cameron’s rhetoric of flexible-working hours, and the Tories’ embrace of female leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

Vox Political: Jeremy Corbyn Considering Prosecuting Blair for War Crimes

May 23, 2016

Mike today has put up a piece reporting that Jeremy Corbyn has not pulled back from his previous demands that Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes. The Torygraph considers that Bliar will be heavily damaged by the Chilcot Inquiry’s report. The Labour leader has said that he believes the Iraq War was illegal, following UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s statement that it was. If so, Mr Cobyn believes Blair should indeed be prosecuted.

Mike in his comment says that if Blair is guilty of war crimes, then Corbyn is absolutely right to demand his prosecution. And this marks Labour out from the Conservatives. When Labour politicos commit wrongdoing, they’re prosecuted. Unlike the Tories, who have let Zac Goldsmith get away with his vile Islamophobic smears against Sadiq Khan.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/23/is-jeremy-corbyn-ready-to-call-for-tony-blair-to-be-investigated-for-war-crimes/

In my view, there is no question whatsoever that Bliar was the instigator of an illegal war. Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Greg Palast, an American journalist formerly with the Groaniad shows this at length his fascinating book, Armed Madhouse. The Iraq invasion was primarily launched to allow the Saudis and the Americans to grab the Iraqi oil industry and its vast oil reserves, which are the second largest after Saudi Arabia. The Neocons in the Bush administration backed it, because they saw it is as their chance to get their mitts on the state’s nationalised industries, which could be privatised and sold off to the profit of American multinationals. They also fancied using it as a lab rat in a massive experiment at creating the kind of low tax, free market utopia demanded by Reaganomics and Libertarian frauds and nutters like Milton Friedman and von Hayek.

And back in 1995, the Likud party of Israel and the Republicans in America jointly produced a plan to invade Iraq, ’cause Saddam Hussein was sending arms to the Palestinians.

The result of the invasion for the Iraqis has been nothing but chaos and death. The privatisation of Iraq’s state enterprises and the lowering of it trade tariffs has meant that every country in the world dumped their goods on Iraq. The result has been that unemployment rocketed to 60 per cent.

Hussein was a brutal dictator, who cracked down ruthlessly on some of the country’s ethnic and religious groups. His gassing of the Kurds and massacre of Shi’as in the aftermath of Gulf War I (also illegal, in my view) is notorious. But the divisions in Iraqi society have only got worse, much worse, since the invasion. The country was relatively integrated before the invasion, and in the major cities like Baghdad the different quarters occupied by the different tribes and sects weren’t barricaded. That has now changed. The Shi’a and Sunni Muslim areas are now walled off from each other, in which reminds me of the ‘peace barriers’ put up between Nationalist and Loyalist areas in Belfast and other cities in Northern Ireland.

And it is not just a question of the justification for the invasion that may be considered a war crime. Other crimes have been committed, real crimes against humanity. Apart from the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the mercenaries sent in as part of the invasion force have run amok. There are reports of them abusing and raping civilians. One report described how cars of them would casually shoot Iraqi civilians driving along the country’s streets and roads. I’ve put up here a piece from either The Young Turks or Secular Talk about an American diplomat, who was sent to Iraq, who returned to America shocked by the casual brutality of the American troops towards the people they were supposed to have freed. He stated that the attitude was that ‘they were there to kill the N*ggers’. And leading American generals are involved in the state terror against minorities carried out by the post-war Iraqi government. One of them helped direct the death Shi’a death squads that massacred Iraqi civilians.

If the Chilcot does conclude that Bliar is a war criminal, as I believe it should, then I’ve no doubt Blair and the rest of his cabinet will fight like rats in a trap to avoid prosecution any way they can. If Blair goes down, it leaves the rest of the cabinet similarly open to corruption, or at least the other leading members of New Labour. And it may also serve as a precedent for prosecutions against Bush and elements in the Obama administration, including Shrillary, for their part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Not to mention the complicity of Likud and large sectors of the American military-industrial complex.

Expect more accusations of anti-Semitism. When the Likud-Republican plans for the Iraq invasion were revealed almost a decade ago, it was very loudly denounced by the Zionist Right as another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This is, of course, rubbish. No-one was accusing the Jewish people of responsibility, or even necessarily the Israeli people. They had simply unearthed an historic fact: that Likud, an Israeli party, was partly responsible for the illegal invasion. Espionage agencies, industrial cartels and political groups engage in clandestine conspiracies, as Robin Ramsay in Lobster has been showing since the 1980s. The grand conspiracies involving global secret plots by the Freemasons, the Jews and Reptoid aliens are all rubbish, but smaller plots, concocted by the intelligence agencies, and leading figures in business and politics certainly did and do. The Iraq invasion is the product of several of them.

Corbyn will be absolutely right to demand Blair’s prosecution, but I’ve no doubt that there will be a lot of pressure for the Chilcot inquiry to find Blair either not guilty, or to discredit its findings and Corbyn himself. Too much of the British, American and Israeli establishment is implicated to allow Blair to be prosecuted.

Meme Against Farage Opposing Treatment of Foreigners for Aids on NHS

April 4, 2015

This is another meme attacking the Purple Duce I found over at the SlatUKIP site. Farage at some point during the leader debates made the monstrous comment that HIV positive migrants entering the country should not be treated on the NHS. There have been reports in today’s Independent and Telegraph that the comments were made to cement the Kippers’ core voters, not to gain them anymore support. It’s so extreme that even Douglas Carswell, who has made more than his fair share of offensive remarks for the party himself, has refused to endorse it.

Farage Aids

Mike over at Vox Political has reported that this has been mooted before. I can’t remember whether it was solely by UKIP, or whether the Tories also had this brainstorm, but one or other or even both of the parties decided that an absolute wizard way to discourage immigration would be to stop sick migrants being able to claim NHS treatment.

Apart from the obvious inhumanity of denying medical aid to someone, merely because of their migrant status, the idea’s also wrong because of the danger it presents that those with serious, communicable diseases would pass them on to the indigenous population because they could not afford treatment.

It might discourage immigration, but it would almost certainly assist the spread of disease. But evidently, it sounds good to the morons and Fascists, who make up the Kippers’ core vote. It’s a good reason why anyone sane and normal shouldn’t have anything to do with them.

Private Eye on Telegraph Supporting Farage

February 19, 2015

In addition to covering up the investigation into tax avoidance and money-laundering at HSBC, and being party to either covering up paedophilia by MPs, or else trying to smear them, the Torygraph has also blotted its copybook even further. It has supported Nigel Farage. Private Eye reported in their issue for the 4th – 14th April last year how one half of the weirdo Barclay twins, the newspaper’s proprietors, were very impressed by the Mussolini of British swivel-eyed loons.

Backing Nigel…

Nigel Farage’s performance in his debate with Nick Clegg last week impressed the Daily Telegraph, whose editorial praised his “persuasive” oratory and predicted that UKIP would do “exceptionally well” at this year’s Euro elections.

We can now expect plenty more of this in the coming months, at least if the Telegraph’s many editors hope to curry favour with their proprietor. For Sir Frederick Barclay, one of the weirdo twins who own the paper, is now a discreet but dedicated UKIP supporter. He has helped pay for back surgery for Farage, who still needs treatment for injuries sustained in the 2010 election-day plane crash. And, by happy coincidence, Farage is holding his 50th birthday party next month at the Barclay-owned Ritz. Will a well-wisher pick up the tab?

The Torygraph did not earn its nickname for nothing. It has always been staunchly Tory, and the support of one of its co-owners for Fuhrage demonstrates that whatever else UKIP are, there are certainly not anti-establishment. Nor can they realistically argue that the media is biased against them.

But they probably will.

Insurance Companies Hampering Council Investigation of Child Abuse

February 19, 2015

Radio 4’s File on Four next Tuesday investigates the way council’s insurers are influencing the way local authorities investigate claims of child abuse and are trying to limit the amount paid in compensation. The blurb for the programme in the Radio Times runs

Tim Whewell investigates the role insurance companies play in local authorities’ handling of child sex abuse cases, with many firms wanting to limit the amount of compensation paid. Whewell hears claims from lawyers that getting access to information and files is becoming increasingly difficult, and this is causing further distress to victims. One former senior member of staff alleges that they were made to alter the way they approached investigations, just to protect insurer’s interests.

The programme will be on at 8.00 pm.

Coming after Peter Oborne’s resignation because of corporate corruption at the Telegraph and the on-going investigations into historic sex abuse, this should be a major scandal.

Vox Political on Peter Oborne’s Resignation Article in Open Democracy

February 19, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article on Peter Oborne’s resignation, entitled Oborne’s resignation article lifts the lid on Torygraph corruption. This reports on Oborne’s article giving his reasons for resigning from the Torygraph, including extracts from the article. While the newspaper’s cover-up of tax avoidance and money-laundering was the immediate reason Oborne took the step of walking out, this was only one of a number of instances where the newspapers content had been grotesquely distorted to suit the interests of the advertisers. Other examples include a puff-piece about Cunard’s Queen Mary II; extremely minimal news coverage given to the pro-democracy protests in China, with another puff piece by the Chinese government urging the British people not to let events in Hong Kong ruin the relationship between the two countries; further puff-pieces about the wonders of Tesco, while the false accounting scandal at the company was, like Hong Kong, barely mentioned.

The virtual black-out on any adverse news about HSBC, including its investigation by the Swiss authorities, began two years ago in 2013. Quite simply, the bank was a such a major advertiser, that journalists were told that they simply couldn’t afford to lose the account. And so they did everything they could to appease it.

Oborne further makes the point that the Telegraph is only one case of the corruption of British journalism in general. He attacks the way the newspapers, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, were silent during the phone-hacking scandal, regardless of whether or not they were involved.

He makes the excellent point that this has extremely serious implications for democracy. Newspapers aren’t just entertainment, and they aren’t their to appease big corporations and rich men. ‘Newspapers have a constitution duty to tell their readers the truth’.

Mike himself is a trained journalist, and as he says, has personal experience of this. He walked out on two jobs because of management interference in the contents of the newspapers he was with to suit their advertisers.

The article begins

Peter Oborne has written an enlightening article on OpenDemocracy, covering his concerns about the Daily Telegraph’s editorial enthrallment to its advertising department and the effect on its news coverage.

Passages like the following are particularly disturbing:

The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.

The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected the Telegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like the Times) I could not find a single leader on the subject.

At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.

On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.

The article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/18/obornes-resignation-article-lifts-the-lid-on-torygraph-corruption/.

The Guardian and Observer haven’t exactly been as entirely blameless or free of such contagion as Oborne describes. In the 1990s and 2000s they often featured in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for running the same kind of puff-pieces Oborne describes. Frequently, these were articles extolling the virtues of extremely authoritarian countries, like Indonesia, which at that time was pursuing its brutal occupation of East Timor through terror and genocide, and similarly harshly suppressing and persecuting political dissidents. Nevertheless, it should be said that Groaniad and Absurder still published articles criticising such regimes.

And Murdoch’s might empire also has form in this. Australia’s Minister for Public Enlightenment was personally horrified by the Tianamen Square massacre. Nevertheless, Murdoch was keen to expand his global empire into the Chung Kuo. Thus when Chris Patten tried to publish his book describing his experiences and perspectives as the last British governor of Hong Kong, it was turned down by HarperCollins. The publisher was owned by Murdoch, who didn’t want to upset the Chinese, and so lose his chance of subjecting the citizens of the Middle Kingdom to the same kind of moronic bilge he inflicts on the rest of the population.

The corruption of the British press goes back decades. The Torygraph and HSBC are merely the most extreme and recent example. Let’s hope this prompts people to strike back and demand a genuinely free and informative press.