Posts Tagged ‘The Pope’

Andrew Marr Praises Steven Pinker’s Book on Science, Rationality and Free Markets

February 28, 2018

Mike has posted a number of pieces on his blog commenting on the right-wing bias displayed by Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning show. One recent example of this was his comment to a Tory guest, who came on immediately after he had given a hard interview to someone from the Labour Party. His interview of the Tory was softer, and at the end of it he leaned over to tell her that she had done ‘very well’. Or something like it.

I’m not surprised by this bias. Marr is a fan of the free market, the sacred ideology at the heart of Thatcherism, against which no-one is allowed to blaspheme or question. He was in the I newspaper a few weeks ago praising Steven Pinker’s new book, which argues that the world has got immensely better due to science, reason and markets. Pinker’s a neuroscientist and atheist polemicist. The book’s a successor to his previous work, The Better Angels of Our Nature. This was written to refute the claim that the 20th century was the bloodiest period in human history. This argument has been made in defence of religion, as much atheist polemic is based on the violence and bloodshed that has been generated by religion. But the 20th century is a problem, as the massacres and genocides there took place within an increasingly secular world, and in the case of the horrors committed by Communist regimes, were perpetrated by aggressively atheist regimes. And in the case of the Fascist regimes, it’s questionable how religious they were. General Franco in Spain believed that he was defending Christianity from secularism and materialism when he launched his attack on the Republican government, and horrifically many Christians did support the Fascist regimes against the supposed threats of Communism and Socialism. I’m well aware that Hitler claimed that he was doing ‘the Lord’s work’ in persecuting the Jews in Mein Kampf, but in his Table Talk he has nothing but contempt for Christianity, and wants astronomical observatories set up near schools as part of a scientific campaign against the religion. Hitler’s own religious beliefs seem to have been a kind of monistic pantheism, possibly not that far removed from those of the Monist League, who also sported the swastika as their symbol. As for Mussolini, the Italian dictated signed the Lateran Accords with the papacy, in which the Pope finally recognised Italy’s existence as a state in return for Roman Catholic religious education in schools. But il Duce had started out as a radical socialist, and many members of the Fascist party still were vehemently atheist. Much depended on the religious opinions of the local Fascist ras whether Roman Catholic religious education was taught in the schools in his area. I don’t wish to go into this argument now, whether these regimes were really atheist or not, or if the 20th century really was the bloodiest period in human history. I just wish to make the point that this was the issue at the heart of Pinker’s previous book.

Pinker’s new book apparently tells us that everything’s getting better, including the environment, and Pinker marshals an impressive arrays of facts. But all this said to me was that people and governments have become more ecologically conscious. It does not mean that we aren’t facing the devastating loss of an extraordinary number of this planet’s animal and plant species, or that we face catastrophic global warming which may make the Middle East uninhabitable.

But even more questionable is Pinker’s and Marr’s assertion that modern, post-Enlightenment society has been immensely improved thanks to the science, reason and markets. In the case of science and reason, at one level the statement is obviously true. Human life has benefited immensely from scientific advance, particularly in medicine. But the view that science and reason didn’t exist before then is one that many Medieval scholars would strenuously reject. In contrast to the stereotypes, the Middle Ages actually wasn’t anti-science. There are poems from the 12th-13th centuries celebrating it, and the new knowledge that was flooding into Europe from the Islamic world. The 15th century English poem, The Court of Sapience, lists the various branches of knowledge known to the medieval world, and celebrates them as the area of ‘Dame Sapience’, an idealised personification of wisdom. As for superstition and the occult, historians have also pointed out that the Middle Ages were also an age of scepticism as well as faith. Medieval theologians wrote texts arguing that visions of demons were more likely caused by a full stomach interfering with the correct functioning of the nerves, and so causing bad dreams. Others doubted whether the seers, who claimed to be able to identify thieves through peering in bowls of water or other reflecting surfaces, had any such powers, and were simply using common knowledge to put the blame on notorious thieves. And in contrast to what Marr apparently thinks, free market capitalism did not suddenly emerge in the 18th century with the French Physiocrats and then Adam Smith. In fact, some Christian theologians were arguing for free trade as far back as the thirteenth century.

As for free market capitalism benefiting humanity, the evidence today is that it really doesn’t. The neoliberalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan has done nothing but make the lives of the poor much poorer across the world, and in so doing has increased international tension and political violence. The Korean economist, Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, shows how the strong economies of the world’s developed nations were all created, not by free trade, but by protectionism.

This is very clearly not something any true-blue Thatcherite wants to hear. But it also shows the strange, cult-like nature of the ideology of free trade capitalism. A number of writers have pointed out the apparently illogical, absolute belief its supporters have, even when they are shown the plentiful evidence to the contrary. They still go on believing and demanding free market solutions, even when it is abundantly clear to everyone else that not only do they not work, they are even causing immense harm. And Marr is clearly one of these true believers. He also seems to have uncritically accepted the view that science, reason and free market capitalism were all products of the Enlightenment, when academic historians have been pushing the origins of science and capitalism further back to the Middle Ages, and demonstrated that the Age of Faith was also one of Reason, however irrational it now seems to us.

Marr’s praise of the book and its promotion of the free market also gives more than an indication of his own political beliefs, and why he is much less sympathetic to left-wing guests on his show than those from the right. He’s another member of the cult of neoliberal market capitalism, and this has to be protected at all costs from unbelievers. Even when he and the Beeb swear impartiality.

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John Wycliff’s Arguments for Pacifism

February 18, 2018

Last Sunday I put up a piece about the Lollard sermon, The Perversion of the Works of Mercy. The Lollards were the late fourteenth-early fifteenth century followers of the English theologian and reformer, John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was a kind of proto-Protestant, who denounced the corruption of the church, rejected the papacy and maintained that the Bible should be the sole authority for Christian doctrine. The Perversion of the Works of Mercy attacks the way people have turned away from performing their Christian obligations to feed, clothe, give drink to the poor, visit and care for the sick and prisoners, and instead do this all for the rich and powerful. It’s a powerful message for today, when the Tories’ official policy is to increase the tax burden of the poor, in order to give massive tax cuts to the rich. The Tories are also cutting benefits to the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled as part of this programme of making the rich even richer, while at the same time claiming that the destruction of the welfare state is all for the benefit of the poor themselves. It’s saving them from ‘welfare dependency’, and is encouraging them, in the notorious words of Norman Tebbit, to get on their bikes and look for work. It’s all part of the Tory and Thatcherite embrace of the Victorian attitude of ‘less eligibility’, which stated that conditions of state aid should be as harsh as possible in order to deter people from taking it up, and encourage them to take any job, no matter how low paid or exploitative.

Wycliffe was also a pacifist. I also blogged a month or so ago about a book I found on his pacifism in the Oxbow Bargain Book Catalogue. Wycliffe’s pacifism is also discussed by Basil Cottle in his The Triumph of English 1350-1400 (London: Blandford Press 1969). Here’s the passage where he discusses Wycliffe’s rejection of war, quoting the medieval theologian himself:

In each particular, Wyclif’s views are revolutionary, and his treatment of of war is typical of this: those who go to war cannot with justice say the Lord’s Prayer. ‘And before the seven axingis that Crist techith in the Pater Noster meneth … algatis to axe in charite, and thefore men that liven in werre ben unable to have their axinge; but thei axen ther owne dampnynge in the fifte peticioun, for ther thei axen that God for3yve hem ther dettis that thei owen to Hym, ri3t as thei for3yven men that ben dettours unto hem.’ [And for this reason the seven askings that Christ teaches in the Lord’s Prayer mean… at all events to ask in charity, and therefore men that live in war are unable to have what they ask; but they ask for their own damnation in the fifth petition, because there they ask that God may forgive them their debts that they owe to Him, even as the forgive men that are debtors to them.] But what was the situation in which the divided Church now found herself?-the Pope offering indulgences t6o those who would fight against the antipope (a subject extensively treated in a sermon on Martyrs) , and Bishop Despenser of Norwich leading his beastly and futile ‘crusade’ of 1383 against Flanders: ‘now men seyen that thei shulden, bi lore of ther feith, werre upon Cristen men, and turnen hem to the Pope, and slee ther persones, ther wyves, and ther children, and reve hem ther goodis, and thus chastise hem. But certis this came nevere of chastyment of Crist, sith Crist seith He cam not to lese lyves bu save hem. And hefore this is chastyment of the fiend, and never chastyment of Crist, that uside pacience and myraclis.’ [Now men say that they should, by the teaching of their faith, war upon Christian men, and win them over to the Pope, and kill their persons, their wivs, and their children, and rob them of their goods, and thus punish them. But certainly this kinid of punishment never came from Christ, since Christ says He came not to destroy llives to save them. And for this reason this is a punishment from the dreadful fiend, and never a punishment from Christ, who used patience and miracles.] Yet ‘blynde heretikes wanten witt as ydiotis, whan thei seien that Petre synnede not in smytynge of Malcus ere, but 3af ensaumple to preestis to fi3t’ [blind heretics lack understanding, like idiots, when they say that Peter did not sin in striking off Maclhus’s ear, but set an example for priests to fight]-though Christ prevented him from fighting further. ‘Lord, where this Pope Urbane hadde Goddis charite dwelling in him, whan he stired men to fi3te and slee many thousaund men, to venge him on the tother People and of men that holden with him?’ [Lord, did this Pope Urban have ~God’s charity dwelling in him, when he incited men to fight and kill many thousand men, to avenge himself on the other Pope and on men who belong to his side?] The friars, says Wyclif, preach to a bellicose text- that the English must get in first with their attacks on their enemies in other countries, for fear they do the same and sin be increased on both sides; a hideous doctrine of sinning so as to good.)

Cottle goes on to observe that ‘This new pacifism may have distasteful to readers who still enjoyed the memory of Crecy and Poitiers and to the old soldiers who must have figure among the 1381 malcontents’ (the Peasant’s Revolt). (pp. 235-6).

This hatred of war was shared by Sir John Clanvowe, soldier, diplomat, courtier, poet, crusader, and the author of the Boke of Cupide. This was so similar to Chaucer’s works, that for a time it was accepted as that great poet’s own composition. Clanvowe himself died in a village near Constantinople. Clanvowe wrote

‘The world holt hem worshipful that been greet werryours and fi3teres, and that distroyen and wynnen manye londis, and waasten and 3even muche good to hem that haan ynou3, and that dispenden oultrageously in mete, in drynke, in clothing, in building, and in lyuyng in eese, slouthe, and many oothere synnes.’ [The world considers them honourable who are great warriors and fighters and destroy and conquer many lands, and waste and give much property to them that have plenty, and spend outrageously on food, drink, clothing, building, and living in ease, sloth, and many other sins.] (Cottle, op. cit., p. 253).

Cottle himself says of this passage that ‘the attack here is almost on rank, and Clanvowe is disgusted that it is of these proud and vengeful people that ‘men maken books and soonges, and reeden and singen of hem for to hoolde the mynde of here deedes the lengere here vpon erth’. [Men make books and songs, and recite and sing of them so as to keep the memor of their deeds the longer here on earth.] (p. 254).

As I said with my earlier post about the Perversion of the Works of Mercy, I’m not putting this up to attack Roman Catholicism. I despise religious intolerance and don’t want to provoke any more sectarian religious hatred. I’m also deeply impressed with the various Roman Catholic organisations, clergy and lay people that genuinely work for the poor and those in the needy, and radical groups like Doris Day’s Catholic Workers. My point here is to show merely that religious radicals, like Wycliffe and Clanvowe, despised the way the poor were ignored and treated by the rich, and condemned war as fundamentally unchristian.

This is an attitude that attacks and refutes the vicious opinions of the religious right, with their prosperity gospel – that Christ wants everyone to be rich, and if you’re poor, it’s your fault – and is solidly behind the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. These wars aren’t being fought to protect America, Israel or anyone else. They’re fought purely for the profit of immensely rich multinational corporations, who hope to profit from the theft of these nations’ state industries and oil reserves. As the above texts show, they would have been thoroughly condemned by Wycliffe and Clanvowe.

The Western Myth of Buddhist Tolerance Blinding the World to Its Persecution of Muslims

December 17, 2017

The clip below is a grim report from The Young Turks about the methodical rape of Rohingya women in Myanmar by the Buddhist armed forces. This comes from a report from the Associated Press with 29 women and girls, who had fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh. Some of these testimonies are very disturbing. In one instance, a woman was nine months pregnant, when she was caught by the soldiers and raped. She couldn’t get away because of her condition. Nevertheless, her husband, who sounds like a scumbag himself, is blaming her. She didn’t run fast enough. He, however, had already scarpered. In another interview, one woman told of how she and her husband were both caught, and her other half was tied to a tree while the Myanmar storm troopers gang raped her in front of him. When he began to scream and cry at what was being done to his wife, they stabbed and killed him.

Savagery, brutality and violence are part of the human condition, and are found in people of every race, creed and political ideology. Buddhism is no different from any other religion or ideology in this regard. But M. Reza Pirbhai published an article in Counterpunch in September this year, 2017, arguing that the world’s failure to respond adequately to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was partly due to the western, liberal myth that Buddhism is uniquely tolerant. He begins his article by arguing that the silence and reluctance to condemn the atrocities is partly due to western imperialist perceptions of Islam as uniquely evil. He then goes on to argue that the positive image Buddhism has as a uniquely tolerant religion was created in the 19th century by disaffected western intellectuals. Alienated by the sectarianism and bigotry of their own Christian culture, they turned to the Buddhist east, and so created an entirely false image of the religion as uniquely peaceful and tolerant. He writes

Academia is in fact rife with examples of scholarship that touts the tolerance and inclusiveness of Buddhists and the general argument is nothing new. According to Thomas A. Tweed, Professor of History at Notre Dame University, increasing awareness of religious diversity due to colonial expansion and Christian missionizing led Euro-American Enlightenment intellectuals repelled by Christian sectarianism to consider Buddhism to fit the bill of the “natural religion” (or “perennial philosophy”) they sought, one that exuded “tolerance” toward people of different faiths and was amenable to scientific progress. So convinced were they that some, such as the nineteenth century German-American scholar Paul Carus, even chastised Asian Buddhists when they launched polemical assaults on Christian missionaries, accusing the Asians of using language the “Buddha certainly would not…” So was born the pervasive myth, characteristically articulated by the early twentieth century Swedish-American Theosophist Herman Vetterling, that Buddhism is “a religion of noble tolerance, of universal brotherhood, of righteousness and justice,” and that in its growth as the religion of a global community it had not “caused the spilling of a drop of blood.”

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Michael Jerryson, picks up where Tweed signs off to show that the tendency to associate Buddhism with tolerance did not die in the early twentieth century or remain bound in an ivory tower. In the wake of World War II, it found its way into the writings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, marching further forward in time with such works as Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and by the 1980s assumed political dimensions in the form of the Free Tibet Movement. And finally, who can forget (even if you want to) Keanu Reeves in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha.

Social history, however, tells a different tale than Orientalists and popular culture. For every instance of forbearance, history also provides examples of violent intolerance legitimated by Buddhist doctrines and conducted by practitioners. As many ancient Jain and Brahmanical texts speak of persecution at the hands of Indian Buddhists, as Buddhists accuse their South Asian competitors of the same. And consider Jerryson’s examples of the sixth century Chinese Buddhist monk Faqing, who promised his 50,000 followers that every opponent they killed would take them to a higher stage in the bodhisattva’s path. Or recall that with the advent of nationalism, Buddhist monks rallied to the cause as with Japanese Rinzai support for the military campaign against the Russians in 1904-5, or Zen and Pureland Buddhist justifications of the Japanese invasions of China, Korea and Singapore during World War II. Buddhism has been corrupted in these places, they argued, and violence is necessary to insure that ‘true’ Buddhism is restored and preserved. The same rhetoric – of some fundamental Buddhism under threat – also underwrites the more recently nationalized bigotry and violence that Buddhist monks and laypersons have unleashed on non-Buddhists in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and, last but not least, Myanmar.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/13/rohingya-and-the-myth-of-buddhist-tolerance/

It isn’t just Muslims, who are in a perilous position in Myanmar. So too are the country’s Roman Catholics, who are also under the threat of Buddhist persecution. This explains why the Pope was very careful not to describe the Rohingya as indigenous Burmese when he decried the violence against them the other week. He was afraid of upsetting the authorities too much, and calling down persecution on the country’s Christian population. At least according to another article in Counterpunch.

Pirbhai’s article notes that Buddhist priests, laymen and armed forces have also carried out atrocities against those of rival or different religions elsewhere, including Sri Lanka. In May 2013 Tariq Ali also published a piece about rising Sri Lankan Buddhist fundamentalism. This was during the conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamils, who wanted a separate state and union with India. The Sinhalese are Buddhists, while the Tamils are Hindu, although the Tamil Tigers, the revolutionary force fighting for independence, were Marxists and therefore atheists. The civil war resulted in horrific atrocities, for which the Sri Lankan army was condemned, but little action taken by the West. And Muslims there were also the victims of Buddhist intolerance. Ali wrote:

Four years after the brutal assault on the Tamil population and the killing of between 8—10,000 Tamils by the Sri Lankan army, there is trouble again. The saffron-robed fanatics, led by the BBS—Bodu Bala Sena: the most active and pernicious of Buddhist fundamentalist groups that have sprouted in Sinhala strongholds throughout the island— are on the rampage again. This time the target is the relatively small Muslim minority. Muslim abattoirs have been raided, butchers shops attacked, homes targeted. Terrified kids and adults in Muslim areas are living in fear. The police stand by watching passively while the Sri Lankan TV crews film the scenes as if it were a school picnic.

A few weeks ago, Buddhist monks led some hoodlums and attacked the car sales room of a Muslim-owned company (Emerald Trading) in Pepliyana. Reason? An employee was stepping out with a young Sinhala woman and her father had complained to a local monk. A journalist on The Sunday Leader (a courageous broadsheet whose editor Lasantha Wickramatunga had, four months ago, denounced President Rajapaksa for corruption, predicted in print that he would be killed as a result and was) reported on 2 April that, ‘Following the complaint, an eye-witness saw a monk leaving one of the temples in Pepiliyana followed by a group of youths, mostly under 25 years of age. The group carried stones and, people were later to discover, kerosene…’

As if the anti-Tamil pogroms were not enough to satisfy the blood-lust, a BBS blogger explained the ‘reasoning’ behind the targeting of Muslims in the Colombo Telegraph (6 March 2013):

“Muslims have been living in this country since 7th century and now only they want to have Halal food in Sri Lanka. Population wise they are only 5%. If we allow Halal, next time they will try to introduce circumcision on us. We have to nip these in the bud before it becomes a custom. We should never allow the Muslims and Christians to control anything in Sri Lanka. What is Halal to Muslims is Harem to Sinhala Buddhists. Slaughtering cow and eating beef should also be banned in Sri Lanka. Instead, we should promote pork. We are glad that the parliament has re-introduced pork in their menu. Hijab, burqa, niqab and purdah should be banned in Sri Lanka. The law and the legislature should always be under the control of the Sinhala-Buddhists and our Nationalist Patriotic president. After all, Sri Lanka is a gift from Buddha to the Sinhalese.”

Difficult to imagine how circumcision could be ‘nipped in the bud’ even by a buddhist, or how the percentage of the Muslim population could have decreased from 9.7 percent in 2011 to 5 percent today. It has undoubtedly gone down but demographers doubt it could have done so by more than one or two percent at the most. The decline is obviously a direct result of unchecked harassment and persecution. It has gone down over the last few decades. The Tamils did their bit. Muslims in Tamil-majority areas were harassed and effectively driven out by ethnic purists from both the communities. They regret what they did now because it has been done to them on a much larger scale.

If it were only the BBS mouthing this nonsense, it would be one thing. But many within Sinhala political-military mainstream pander to rhetoric of this sort. In Pottuvil in the Ampara district, for instance, where the Muslims are a majority, the uniformed soldiers have been collaborating with the local monks and monasteries to erect Buddhist statues and inflaming the region in noise pollution via loudspeakers which start early with Buddhist hymns and a nightly replay. Local women who own land are being driven off it: the monasteries steal as the army provides protection.

The 1911 consensus revealed, as has always been the case, that the Buddhists compose a huge majority (70.2 percent), followed by the Tamil Hindus (12.6), Muslims (9.7) and Christians (7.4). Nobody threatens the Buddha or his followers except fanatics from within.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/on-buddhist-fundamentalism/

Ali ends his article with a report of Buddhist sectarian attacks on Muslim fishermen in Myanmar.

And will talk of Burma joining the Commonwealth be nipped in the bud? Buddhists have clashed with a tiny Muslim minority and driven them out of their villages, though the cause in this case appears to be material rather than ethno-religious Puritanism. The Buddhists wanted the land for themselves. A macabre confrontation resulted in, of all places, an Indonesian refugee camp where the Burmese Muslims had been provided with shelter. Eight Burmese Buddhist fisherman whose vessel had foundered in nearby waters were also rescued by the Indonesians and taken to the same camp. That night the two sides battled and all the fishermen apart from one were killed. Muslim casualties were two dead, and seven wounded.

It was an ominous precursor of the mass violence against the Rohingya that broke out a few years later.

Pirbhai ends his article by noting no religion has the monopoly on violence. But the myth of Buddhism as uniquely peaceful and tolerant is blinding Americans to the savagery that Buddhists, as humans, are capable of committing.

“No religion has a monopoly on ‘violent people’,” Jerryson astutely concludes, “nor does any one religion have a greater propensity for violence.” All religions are vast complexes of thought and institutions and devotees of each can always find legitimacy for hostility or hospitality toward the other depending on mundane needs or wants. It is for this very reason that the apparent disconnect between historical Buddhism and the sustained Euro-American myth of its tolerance is as malignant as the perpetual dehumanization of Islam and Muslims is cancerous. These Buddhists have long been the good guys and those Muslims the bad in this lore. Each is a necessary fiber in the liberal fabric of Euro-American imagination that veils the gaze of international law when it comes to the murder and displacement of the Rohingya.

More Anti-Science from Trump: Climate Denier to Head NASA

September 13, 2017

This is absolutely incredible. It really is like something from dystopian Science Fiction, but unfortunately it’s true. In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano comment on a report from Democracy Now! that Trump has decide to appoint Jim Bridenstine as the new head of NASA. Bridenstine has no scientific credentials, and doesn’t believe in climate change. In fact, in 2013 he stood on the floor of the senate and demanded that Barak Obama apologise for promoting it.

The trio begin the clip by remarking on the evidence from the hurricanes to hit America that climate change is real. Before storm Harvey, only three magnitude 5 storms had hit America. They then show how ludicrous the decision is by stating that as Trump has appointed someone, who doesn’t believe in a scientific fact to head a scientific agency, then Richard Dawkins should be appointed to head the national prayer breakfast. Dore jokes that there hasn’t been a government this anti-science since Galileo. And the Pope has apologized for him. The papacy also acknowledges climate change. Which means the world’s most religious Roman Catholic is more progressive than Trump and his minions.

There’s no way this is anything other than an attempt by the Republicans and their paymasters, the Koch brothers, and the other big polluting industries, to hobble and silence research into climate change in America. One of the functions satellites carry out is weather and climate monitoring. Space research generally has also led to greater understanding of weather systems on Earth. For example, the massive storms that rage across Jupiter are driven by the same laws and forces as those, which generate similar storm systems on Earth. Countries like India have invested in their space industry for the promise it offers of monitoring the weather and the progress of crop diseases, which can be disastrous for a developing nation, much of whose population are subsistence farmers.

Dore’s wrong about the Pope’s treatment of Galileo, however. Yes, it was scandalous, but at the time Galileo’s own research was actually undersupported. And he didn’t help himself in his book, the Dialogue of the Two World Systems. He knew the pope was an Aristotelian, but deliberately made the Aristotelian speaker in the book appear as stupid as possible. Even so, the Church was not uniformly against him. He did have supporters within the church and amongst the cardinals. See James Hannan’s God’s Philosophers: Science in the Middle Ages.

But this is like something from Science Fiction. Stephen Baxter’s Titan is an alternative history, in which a rabidly anti-science senator becomes president of the US and closes down NASA. It’s because he’s a Creationist, and doesn’t believe in the Copernican heliocentric system, or the discoveries revealed by Galileo. What isn’t shut down, is given to the USAF and given over to defence instead, while the agency’s museum is shut, except for its museum. This is then altered to stress the religious experiences many of the astronauts had when exploring space.

This isn’t quite fair on the Creationists. Those I knew did not reject Galileo and they didn’t reject heliocentrism, although I’ve since come across people, who do on the Net. But there are still clear parallels between Baxter’s book and Trump and those who back him.

Yesterday I found an interview with the veteran comics creator, Pat Mills on YouTube. I’m going to have to write a piece about it, because Mills is very left-wing and a fierce critic of capitalism and Britain’s class system. In the video, he states that when he started writing for 2000 AD, he and the others were told to create futures, which people would live in. And now we are. He pointed out that there really were robots, which looked like Robusters, and we also now had Donald Trump, who was very much like something from 2000 AD’s often bleak view of the future.

And he’s right. Trump’s appointment of a scientific ignoramus like Bridenstine is almost exactly like something from Science Fiction. And Mills compared Trump himself to Judge Cal, the deranged Chief Judge of Mega City 1, who behaved like Caligula. He appointed his pet fish as judge, and had one of the other judges pickled. Oh yes, and he called in the alien Kleggs to keep the human population of Mega City 1 under control. Trump hasn’t made contact with an evil alien life forms yet, but the nepotism and corruption is all there. Even if he hasn’t made his goldfish senator. But given the fictional parallel drawn by Mills, Bannon, Kelly-Anne Conway and the others he’s got rid of should be glad he just had them sacked. The real trouble’s going to start when he starts ordering human-sized pickled jars.

The Sky at Night on the Vatican Observatory

June 14, 2017

Tomorrow evening, Thursday, 15th June 2017 at 11 O’clock on BBC4 the Beeb’s repeating its Sky at Night special on the Vatican, ‘Inside God’s Observatory’. This was first shown on Sunday at 10.00 pm.

The blurb for it for Sunday in the Radio Times runs

Maggie Aderin-Peacock and Chris Lintott have been granted rare access to the Vatican and its little known observatory, the Specola Vaticana, perched on a hill top 30 km outside Rome. They explore the observatory’s rich history, going inside the Vatican walls to visit the Tower of the Winds – a secret antique sundial that helped revolutionise the calendar – and the remains of a nest of telescopes, atop an old medieval church where the science of spectroscopy was born. (57).

A few years ago, New Scientist interviewed the head of the observatory, Guy Consolamano, an American, who is a monk as well as an astronomer. There have also been other programmes on the observatory on the Beeb over the years. I seem to recall there being one in the 1990s on the radio. I’ve got a feeling the Observatory was set up by one of the popes as an attempt to undo some of the damage to the church’s reputation caused by Galileo’s trial for heresy. It was to show that the church wasn’t against science, and I believe that since then the popes have been very careful not to say anything about the scientific validity of scientific theories.

The Observatory’s also interesting because in the 19th century, its mathematical calculations were performed by nuns, who were referred to as ‘computers’. Which is obviously of interest for the history of women in science.

Outrage at Theresa May’s Refusal to Condemn Trump’s Sneer at Sadiq Khan

June 6, 2017

After Sunday’s terror attack on London, Donald Trump responded with a disgusting Tweet sneering at Sadiq Khan, the capital’s mayor. Trump said

At least 7 dead and 48 wounded and Mayor of London said “there is no reason to be alarmed.”

The Orange Buffoon then followed this with

Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his “no reason to be alarmed” statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!

In fact, Mayor Khan was misquoted. He has said London is the safest city in the world, but that’s a relative statement. It does not mean, and he made it clear that it did not mean, that there was no danger.

This would, of course, be lost on Trump, a political opportunist, islamophobe and general numbskull, who would not recognise the important point, and distinction, Khan made.

Mike over at Vox Political has asked the vital question of why his state visit should be allowed to go ahead, when he can’t even show proper respect to our capital’s mayor?

And Theresa May has added insult to injury – and shown her similar lack of backbone – by failing to rebut Trump’s slur. In a press conference, May was asked something like five times if she would had or would criticise Trump for his statement. She didn’t. Instead, she went on about how Mr Khan is ‘doing a good job.’ You can see the transcript and video of this over at Mike’s blog, as well as reading the disgusted Tweets against May’s cowardice that followed.

I will say one thing in May’s favour: she did at least acknowledge that Khan was doing a good job. But the fact that she hasn’t condemned Trump’s remarks, as the Tweeters like Owen Jone, Tom London, and others Mike has reblogged, have said, shows she isn’t fit to be Prime Minister.

Isobel Tweeted

Sadiq Khan is the Elected Mayor of London, May is an insult to her office, we have no space in the UK for Trump who insults or elected Mayor.

Mike’s article concludes

This is the will of the country.

We don’t want our government to welcome a US President who insults us after we have been attacked.

And we certainly don’t need a prime minister who won’t condemn the man who utters such an insult.

That is why you should do this:

Vote Labour on Thursday – for our national pride.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/06/can-we-really-tolerate-a-state-visit-from-a-us-president-who-trolled-us-after-a-terror-attack/

Trump’s sneering attack on the man the people of London chose as their mayor doesn’t surprise me. A week ago after the Manchester terror attack the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, sneered at the young victims of that atrocity as ‘liberal trendies’, many of whom ‘supported open borders to let the Islamicists’ in. He later repeated the slur, stating that they had ‘run the white flag up’ to Islamicists.

Jones has given his unswerving support to Trump, and had him several times on his programme, Infowars, when Trump was campaigning for the presidency. Jones has claimed that the US government orchestrated the Oklahoma bombing, the 9/11 attacks and that the kids killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting were actors. He claims that the incident was faked so that the American government could bring in greater gun controls.

He also believes that real babies are sacrificed to Satan at occult ceremonies attended by the global elite in Bohemian Grove; that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were satanically possessed, and that Barack Obama was going to have everyone incarcerated in FEMA camps.

In the clip below from The David Pakman Show, Pakman and his producer discuss Jones’ smears and the fact that Infowars has been given a press pass to attend Trump’s meetings. Pakman makes the point that one of the victims of the Manchester suicide bomber was an eight year old girl. How was this innocent child a ‘liberal trendie’?

Of course, Jones is an islamophobe, who believes that Britain has surrendered to Muslims by passing legislation outlawing hate speech. He thinks this makes it illegal to criticise Islam.

It doesn’t. You can still criticise Islam, just as you can any other religion or ideology. Or at least, you should. What you can’t do is spread hate against Muslims simply for being Muslims.

Now there are extremists within the Muslim community, who do want to stop criticism of Islam. The people demonstrated against Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses in the 1980s, Mohammed Akhtar, Kalim Saddiqui and the rest, did want to make blasphemy against Islam an offence in British law. And there have been riots and screams for the deaths of those Muslims believed had blasphemed against their religion around the world. One of those, whose beheading was demanded by the bigots and the fanatics, was the previous pope after he quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor’s views on Islam.

But the legislation the British government introduced was designed to protect innocent Muslims from attack by racists and xenophobes, simply for their faith, when they were normal, peaceable people. It was designed, not to surrender to the Islamists and bigots, but to stop them creating the hatred and division they wish to exploit to radicalise more Muslims.

Jones doesn’t recognise this, and so he thinks we’re soft on them. And he’s not alone. There are plenty of extremely right-wing Republicans, who believe the same. And it looks very much like Trump is one of them. Hence the sneers.

Given these sneers from Trump and Jones, and Trump’s own vicious islamophobia, it would be an injustice and a mistake to let him enter the country on a state visit.

Steve Bannon’s Admiration for French Fascist and Nazi Collaborator

March 20, 2017

The more you find out about Steve Bannon’s views, the clearer it is that he’s a real Fascist, who should be kept as far away from government, and decent society, as possible. In this piece from TYT Nation, the host, Jeff Waldorf, talks once again about Bannon’s love of the French racist novel, The Camp of the Saints, and how he views the wave of immigrants that entered Europe from Syria through the prism of its narrative.

The book was written in the 1970s by Jean Raspail, and describes an armada of boats carrying 800,000 poor immigrants from India, who come to France to overthrow White, Christian civilisation. The immigrants are described in scatological, pornographic terms, and their children are also described as diseased, ‘like spoiled fruit’. They are welcomed into Europe by a corrupt liberal establishment, including a liberal pope from Latin America. The book’s hero, Calgues, is a White supremacist, who kills both these immigrants and the White liberals, who have allowed them in and help them. After murdering a hippy, Calgues reflects on how these young people have been ‘culturally cuckolded’ and deprived of the sense of knowing that they belong to the superior civilisation.’
I’ve put up a piece about this before, when one of the other left-wing YouTube news presenters did a segment about it.

But Bannon’s admiration for French Fascism seems to extend beyond this novel, right back to the French monarchist and Fascist, Charles Maurras. Maurras was the founder and editor of the extreme rightwing newspaper, Action Francaise. He was bitterly anti-Enlightenment, a view that Bannon also shares. Bannon has also said that he wants the Enlightenment to end. Maurras was bitterly anti-Semitic, and was prosecuted several times for urging and demanding the assassination of Jewish politicians, including, in 1936, the then president, Leon Blum. During the Nazi Occupation and the Vichy Regime, he wrote articles supporting the deportations and the arrests of resistance members, Jews and Gaullists. Indeed, he went so far as to recommend that if the Gaullists themselves could not be found and arrested, then their families should be rounded up and shot. Waldorf shows how this parallels Trump’s own views on the arrest and torture of the families of terrorists suspects.

It doesn’t surprise me that remotely that Maurras was anti-Enlightenment. There was a very strong element of this in European Fascism generally. After the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler wrote that the shame of 1789 – the year of the radical phase of the French Revolution – had been undone. So strong was this element, that many historians viewed Fascism as an entirely anti-Enlightenment movement, until later research showed how Fascism had also taken on elements of Enlightenment thought. The religious right also despises the Enlightenment for its attack on Christianity and organised religion. Here again, the situation is rather more complicated, in that recent historians have pointed out how European Enlightenment doctrines built on earlier philosophical attitudes and religious concepts. The doctrine of democracy and equal human worth are two of those. The idea that humans all have equal value and dignity ultimately comes from the Christian doctrine that everyone is equal before God, though medieval philosophers like Thomas Aquinas were quick to point out that this did not apply to their functions in earthly society. Similarly, the doctrine that people have inalienable human rights is also a metaphysical, religious doctrine, in the sense that it is not immediately obvious. It seems so to us, because it is so much a part of our culture. Nevertheless, it rests on a series of arguments and attitudes that are not self-evident, and have to be demonstrated.

Bannon is already notorious for his White Supremacist and anti-Semitic views. This adds further details on them. Waldorf also notes that Bannon has described himself as a ‘cultural Leninist’, which he equates with Bannon’s economic populism. This isn’t quite right. Bannon is a ‘cultural Leninist’ in that he shares Lenin’s goal of destroying the state, and then reconstructing it to serve his movement and ideology. Which makes Bannon very dangerous, indeed.

And it isn’t just America, which is in danger. Hope Not Hate has also published articles on Breitbart’s role in supporting UKIP, and their plan to create an even more extreme, anti-immigrant, racist party. Among the various Breitbart columnists in this country is James Delingpole, who also used to write for the Spectator. It has also given space to the bigoted rantings of the right-wing troll, Katie Hopkins. I gather she’s got a column in the Scum. The fact that she is also being embraced by real White Supremacists like Breitbart, whose leader admires such overtly racist works and individuals, should disqualify her from having her racist nonsense published in the mainstream press, even one as low as the Scum.

Bannon himself is only one of a number of a racist ‘basket of deplorables’, which includes Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt-Right. All of them should be cleaned out of government as quickly as possible, before they can bring even more misery to America’s working people and people of colour, and export their vile views and policies over here.

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians was Planned from the Start

October 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted up an excellent article critiquing and rebutting a piece by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador in the Groaniad. Regev uses the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, where Communists, Jews and other Leftists saw off Oswald Mosley and his thugs in the BUF, to try to drum up support for Israel. Mike comments on the way Regev deliberately tries to confuse Jewishness, with Israel and Zionism, and his explicit claim that opposition to Israel is a form of anti-Semitism. As Mike, many of his commenters, and numerous critics of Israel, both gentile and Jewish have pointed out time and again, this is not the case. Both Mike and I have put up a number of posts reporting and commenting on opposition to Zionism and the Israel lobby from decent people, who are not anti-Semites, but simply opposed to Israel’s dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians. This includes many courageous, principled Jews and Israelis, who have been reviled and actively persecuted because of their stance. They include the academics Dr Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, an Israeli, who now teaches at the University of Exeter, I believe. Dr Pappe was forced out of the country of his birth through a campaign of official persecution and intimidation.

Mike makes the point that the Zionism of the late 19th and early 20th century is not the same as that today. Then the movement was, as Regev himself argues, a movement for Jewish self-determination. Today it is simply a movement for the militaristic expansion of Israel, and the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous peoples. Mike makes the point that Israel’s borders are not the same as today, despite the impression Regev’s words give, and that the hostility against Israel is due to the military expansion of its frontiers. He also makes the point that Israel’s policy aggression is not rooted in Judaism as a religion. He has a point. Zionism started as a secular movement. It remained a secular movement until Rabbi Kook made a series of prophecies in the 1960s which seeming legitimised Israel from a Jewish religious perspective. But as Sam Seder, the host of the radical news show, The Majority Report, has pointed out, Judaism has no overall religious figure determining dogma and belief like the papacy in Roman Catholicism. The traditional attitude was that it is a sin to attempt to restore the Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah, and there are plenty of texts which support that view. As the graffiti on the walls in Jerusalem says ‘Zionism and Judaism are diametrically opposed’. Religious opposition to Zionism amongst Jews is also expressed in the Neturei Karta, a group of Orthodox Jews, who are still opposed to Israel on religious grounds, and who held a mass demonstration against it New York several years ago. The anti-Zionist movement also includes other Jews from more liberal traditions. Many of them are opposed to it, because it’s persecution of the Palestinians is similar to the persecution the Jewish people have also suffered in their history, and they see their Judaism as being in solidarity with other movements for the emancipation of the whole of humanity.

MIke’s article concludes

No, he wants you to believe Israel – and the Zionists – are victims of anti-Semitism, even while they steal land that legitimately belongs to others and suppress those who would try to resist, and even though many Jews have declared their opposition to these activities.

Understand this, and it becomes clear that his claim that anti-Zionists see “the Jewish state” in the terms he describes is nonsense.

Zionism is not Judaism. Israel is not Judaism. Mark Regev is a propagandist trying to exploit and pervert the memory of a proud collaboration between Jews, the Irish, and many British groups.

Don’t let him get away with it.

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/06/do-not-let-mark-regev-use-the-anniversary-of-cable-street-to-lie-about-modern-zionism/ Go and read it. And read the comments many of Mike’s readers have left supporting his previous articles on this issue. Many of them come from Jewish critics of Israel, who are definitely not self-hating, or any other kind of vile slur the Israel lobby and its lackeys throw at them.

I differ from Mike in that I believe that there was always an element within Zionism from the very start that contemplated and planned the dispossession of the Palestinians. In the piece ‘Same Old Same Old’ in Robin Ramsay’s ‘View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 58, Ramsay notes how one of his readers spotted a paragraph claiming precisely this in a review of ‘Four Books About Islamist Terrorism’ in the Sunday Telegraph for 18th June 2009. This states

Meanwhile, the founder of modern political Zionism, the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl, had earmarked a site for the Jewish state. In June 1895, he wrote in his diary: “We must expropriate gently the private property” and “spirit the penniless population across the border”.

Ramsay lays bare what this means

Ethnic cleansing, in other words. Which is what the Israeli state has been doing since it was founded; but doing it piecemeal, slowly enough to avoid making too many waves in America.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster58/lobster58.pdf and scroll down until you get to the relevant section.

Now the quote from Herzl makes clear that he did not want it done violently. But as Ilan Pappe has documented in his books and lectures, it was done with considerable violence. Massacres and forced expropriation were committed from the very foundation of Israel in the 1940s. And quite often the worst perpetrator of these crimes were Labour governments under leaders like Golda Meir.

This does not mean that all Israelis support this programme of ethnic cleansing. Indeed, as I’ve said, there are many Israelis and human rights organisations in Israel, that are deeply opposed to it. These include B’Tselem, the human rights agency. There is a political party standing up for the Palestinians, which includes both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis have protested against the house demolitions, where rabbis have also led down in front of bulldozers to protect Palestinian homes. Members of the Israeli armed forces have also protested against their country’s oppression of the Palestinians. And a few years ago a Jewish peace organisation occupied the New York headquarters of the Friends of the IDF.

And many modern anti-Zionists aren’t opposed to the state of Israel. Most of them, including Dr. Finkelstein, want a two-state solution, in which Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders. But Regev in his article lies and says Israel’s opponents want the complete destruction of the country. The Israeli government, however, firmly refuses to pull back from the Occupied Territories on the grounds that this would leave the country militarily vulnerable. And so they continue to justify their dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians.

Praise the Lord! Pope Denounces Trump

February 20, 2016

And now a piece of good news from the Roman Catholic church, for a change. The new Pope, Francis, was in the news the other day for criticising the Tousled Gauleiter of Trump Tower. According to the Holy Father, Trump ‘is not a Christian’. The Pope said he couldn’t really comment on politics, ‘but anyone who talks about building a wall instead of bridges between people is not a Christian’.

Well, he’s right. Trump isn’t a Christian, despite his claims to the contrary. None of the evangelical churches in New York have any record that he’s attended services. When he did go to church in the Iowa Primary, he mistook the Communion plate, on which was the bread and wine Christians take in this part of the service, with the collection plate and slapped money on it.

It also shows how important the Developing World is to the Roman Catholic church, as well as other Christian denominations, as church membership falls in the West.

This isn’t the first the Pope’s said something to upset the Republicans. They got very angry a little while ago when the Pope endorsed the doctrine of climate change and attacked its critics and opponents. One of the Republicans then went on the offensive and tried to school his Holiness on Christianity. Somehow, I think the Pope, for all that Roman Catholic theology can be very different from Protestant, Evangelical religious views in certain areas, probably knows far more about Christianity and the basic doctrines of the faith than a Right-wing blowhard.

I’m not a Roman Catholic, and I’m quite aware that not all the readers of this blog will be religious. But here I think the Pope’s done something unequivocally right, regardless of one’s beliefs in God or religion or whatever. The Vicar of Christ 1, Donald Trump Nil, as they say on Final Score.