Posts Tagged ‘The Queen’

Poverty and the Insensitivity of the Queen’s Speech

December 30, 2018

A few days ago Mike put up an article reporting the backlash against the monarchy that had occurred as a result of the Queen’s speech. I never saw it as I find the speech horrendously boring, but I gather that Her Maj had sat in a wonderful gilded room, complete with a priceless gold Erard piano, and urged us all to be tolerant of each other at this time. People were naturally more than a bit annoyed to hear someone, surrounded with the kind of wealth most people can only dream about, telling the rest of the country in effect that they had better respect their superiors when poverty is massively increasing and people are fearing for their jobs, their homes and whether they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children tomorrow.

They also resented the fact that the royal family, as rich as they are, are subsidized by the rest of us through our taxes. Mike in his article reproduced a number of tweets critical of the monarchy, pointing out that the Queen’s comments that we should put aside our differences in the national interest was the type of slogan the Tories come out with.

One of the tweets by Mark Adkins went further, and said that it wasn’t just the monarchy itself that was the problem, but what they represented: the British class system that made breeding more important than anything else, and which concluded ‘This world view helps justify racism, snobbery and the demonisation of the poor. A Republic is long overdue!’

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/26/insensitivity-of-queens-speech-prompts-backlash-against-the-monarchy/

I’m not a republican, but this did show that the Queen was seriously out of touch. She could have made her speech in more sombre settings or even actually on the front line, as it were, at a food bank to show that she was at least aware how much some people were suffering. It all reminded me of the comments the 19th century German socialist writer Adolf Glasbrenner made about the Prussian monarchy of his day in his piece Konschtitution. The piece is supposed to be an explanation of the German constitution by a father to his son, Willem. It’s written in the Berlin dialect, and is written from the perspective of someone, who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s like some of Tony Hancock’s speeches, when he started talking about aspects of British constitutional history, that he obviously didn’t know anything about. Like his remarks in the episode ‘Twelve Angry Men’ about Magna Carta being a poor Hungarian peasant girl, who was burned at the stake in order to get King John to close the boozers at half past ten. Or like some of the rants by Alf Garnett about how great Britain is, but without the racism.

Amongst Glasbrenner’s skewed explanation of the Prussian constitution are his remarks on the monarchy. These include:

‘The King does, what he wants; and against that, the people do, what the kind wants. The ministers are therefore responsible for nothing happening. The king rules quite irresponsibly… Should the people come to penury or starvation, so is the king bound, to say he’s sorry.’ He also declares that the form of the state is ‘monarchical-pulcinelle’, the latter word a character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The commedia dell’arte was one of the sources of the modern British pantomime as well as Mr. Punch in the Punch and Judy show, so you could possibly translate the phrase into a British context by saying it was ‘monarchical-Mr. Punch’ The piece also has a line that ‘without Junkers (Prussian aristocracy), police and cannon freedom isn’t possible’.

Although it’s a spoof on the Prussian constitution and the classical liberal conception of the state, which was that it should simply guard against crime without interfering directly in society or the economy, it obviously has some relevance to the Tory conception of politics. This also stresses the monarchy, strongly rejects any kind of state interference, and also believes that freedom is only possible through the aristocracy, the armed forces and the police. Although the police aren’t being supported so much these days, as the Tories want to save money by cutting their numbers so that they protect the rich, while the rest of society are left to defend themselves from crime. Perhaps they still think we’ll all hire the private security guards like the Libertarians and Virginia Bottomley were so keen on as replacements.

More ominously, in the present situation over Brexit it also reminded me of a poem by the Liberal Serbian poet Zmaj Jovanovic, ‘The National Anthem of the State of Jutunin’ I found quoted in Vladimir Dedijer’s Tito Speaks (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1953). This is a memoir of the former Yugoslav dictator’s life and his break with Stalin and the Soviet bloc. It was printed in the last issue of Borba, a Communist magazine, when the Yugoslav king, Alexander, seized dictatorial power, dissolving parliament and banning political parties.

O thou, Holy God, keep our King alive
In good health, strong, proud and glorious,
Since this earth has never seen, nor shall
Ever see a king equal to him.
Give him, O Lord, the holiest gifts from heaven:
Police, gendarmeries and spies:
If he doesn’t fight the foe,
Let him keep his own people under his heel.
(p. 69).

I’m not accusing the Queen, nor the Duke of Edinburgh or anyone else in the royal family of planning to seize power and rule like an absolute monarch. But I am worried about Tweezer’s plan to put 3,500 troops on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Under the Conservatives and New Labour Britain has become a very authoritarian society, including through the establishment of secret courts, where you can be tried in camera without knowing the identity of your accuser and with evidence withheld from your lawyers, all in the interests of national security. We now have a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, publishing smears in the media against Jeremy Corbyn and other politicians and public figures in Europe and America for the British and American secret state. And Mike reports that Tories are now requiring EU citizens or the children of EU citizens resident in England sign up to a central registry, which may make their information available to other public or private bodies without telling anyone which. This is another very disturbing development, as it seems that the British state is determined to leave them open to official persecution. And I’ve said in a previous blog post that a priest at my church, who ministered in Australia, is worried that if Corbyn gets into power, the Tories will try to get the Queen to dismiss him, just as they had her to do Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam in the 1970s.

I support the monarchy, but it needs reform and the Queen’s lack of tact in showing off her wealth at a time of great hardship has only made matters worse. And I’m afraid the increasing authoritarianism of the Tory and New Labour governments could discredit the monarchy if and when there’s a backlash.

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Tweezer’s Threat to Post-Brexit Democracy

December 26, 2018

Last Wednesday, the 19th December 2018, Mike put up a truly alarming article. May, he reported, was planning on putting 3,500 squaddies on the streets of Britain if the country crashed out of the EU without a deal.

Mike in his article made the point that it looks like the Tories are desperate to get the country out of Europe before new tax legislation comes in, which would force the millionaires she serves to pay more tax. It’s a very strong argument. The only reason we are due to leave the EU on the date May set is because May set it. If negotiations with the EU take longer to secure a deal, it’s possible for May to postpone it. But she clearly doesn’t want that. And Tory policy, and for that matter, New Labour’s, has been for us to become a low wage tax haven off Europe, for the benefit of the extremely rich. Hence the continuing scandal of the City of London becoming one of the major centres of global money laundering. For further information, see the ‘In the City’ column in Private Eye.

Mike also commented that May appeared to be deliberately running down the clock to Brexit, perhaps due to being deliberately influenced with the hard right European Research Group and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And low taxes mean that not enough money is available for social policies that benefit ordinary people. Mike therefore concluded that

Put these elements together and it may be easier to understand why Mrs May is planning to deploy 3,500 soldiers onto the streets of the UK in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. Martial law would preserve her government – sorry, dictatorship – against the civil unrest that her policies seem certain to provoke.

Mike then supports his conclusion with further arguments – that Tweezer knows she’s on borrowed time, but is determined to cling on to power, that the government wishes her to stay in power to continue the harm she’s doing to our country and society, and the complicity of the media in this, distracting the country in order to stop them realizing how they are being stripped of their rights and forced into debt.

Mike’s commenters are also extremely alarmed at the idea of Tweezer calling in the armed forces, and some of their comments are very well worth reading. Dan Delion, for example, said

If you want to know what may be in the pipeline, I urge you to read part 2 (Emergency Powers) of the Civil Contingency Act 2004 (it’s not long ~ 10pp) which describes the legislatiion that already exists – set up by Tony Blair, as it happens.
This is nothing to do with the replacememnt for Emergency Planning (that’s part 1 of said Act), but is intended to deal with any form of civil strife – just like Brexit.. Makes me wonder if May found what was up her sleeve and has been planning to keep the law in reserve, just in case Remoaners (or any other bodies) get uppity!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/19/brexipocalypse-may-threatens-martial-law-if-she-doesnt-get-her-contradictory-way/

This really is monstrous. The last time I can remember the army being called on to the streets of Britain was back in the 1970s, when there was a widespread fear that the country was on the verge of collapse, mostly due to strikes. And members of the establishment, including the Times and the editor of the Mirror, were definitely planning a coup in the mid-70s to overthrow Harold Wilson’s minority Government. This was partly because he was feared – and smeared by MI5 – as a KGB agent. Ken Livingstone discusses the proposed coup in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. Left-wing activists, including journalists, were to be rounded up and interned in one of the islands off Scotland. This was no mere fantasy. Francis Wheen also describes the proposed coup and the plotters in his book, Strange Days: Paranoia in the ’70s. And Lobster has discussed several times MI5’s smears against Wilson.

The plotters did try to get the generals at Sandhurst interested, but they did their duty to Queen and country instead and send them packing. but there is nevertheless a real threat there. The Trotskyite writer, Ernest Mandel, in his book From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (New York: Schocken Books 1978) argued that democratically elected socialist and Marxist regimes have always been prevented from fully carrying out their dismantlement of big capital by the military. Mandel’s book is an attack on the ‘Eurocommunist’ direction western European Marxist took as they broke from the Stalinism and rigidly bureaucratic politics of the Soviet Union and turned instead to democratic elections and multiparty politics. It was a strategy intended to avoid a violent confrontation between the workers and capital. Mandel writes

Now, the essential aim of the Eurocommunist strategy is precisely to avert this confrontation at any price. Its capacity to influence the behaviour of the bourgeoisie, however, is virtually nil. The coups of Kapp, Mola-Franco, De Gaulle, Pinochet and Eanes have never been warded off by the pledges of Ebert-Noske, Otto Wels, Prieto, Thorez, Allende, or Mario Soares that the army is ‘national’ and ‘democratic’ and ‘stands above the class struggle’ and ‘respects the constitution’. (pp. 196-7).

The Kapp putsch was an attempt by parts of the army to overthrow the Weimar coalition government of post-WW I Germany headed by Ebert, the head of the SDP, the German equivalent of the Labour party. Thorez was the head of the Communist party in France when De Gaulle briefly seized power to govern by decree. Allende was the democratically elected Marxist president of Chile who was overthrown by Pinochet. General Franco was the Fascist leader of Spain, who overthrew the Republican government. I’m not familiar with the other names. Mandel is here discussing Marxist politicians, who were unable to stave off coups or coup attempts. Jeremy Corbyn very definitely isn’t a Marxist, but the Tories and mainstream media have been trying to smear him and his followers as Communists, Trotskyites and Stalinists. I can easily believe that some Tories would want him overthrown militarily if he did become prime minister.

I was talking a few months ago to one of the priests at our church, who also has strong left-wing beliefs. He lived and ministered for a long time in Australia, and told me that he wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power. He considered it possible that the Tories here would do what their counterparts Down Under did. They invoked the Queen to have the definitely democratically elected Gough Whitlam removed from office. I think if that happened here, it would utterly discredit the monarchy, though I can see a very carefully crafted story being concocted by the political establishment and the media to justify such an outrageous abuse of the monarchical prerogative.

And even if May’s preparations to put the army on the streets in the event of a No Deal Brexit is only to prevent rioting, there’s still more than element of self-interest about it. It was rioting over the poll tax in 1989 that forced Thatcher to retire, even though she won the vote of No Confidence in the Tory party with a slightly higher majority than Tweezer. And she nearly went eight or nine years previously, in 1981-2, with the rioting then.

And she clearly is concerned that rioting will occur if Britain leaves the EU without some kind of deal. Rioting no doubt caused by lack of food, medicine and other essential services caused by her shoddy negotiations with the EU.

May is a direct threat to British democracy, and the lives and livelihoods of Britain’s citizens. She works only for the rich, and would like to use the army to keep herself in power. Just like Thatcher’s friend, the mass murderer and torturer General Pinochet, and the other Latin American fascists the Tories supported.

Maria the Witch on the Rise of Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Fascist Candidate

October 25, 2018

This is a mirror on Kevin Logan’s channel of a piece by Maria the Witch warning and explaining about the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, the Far-Right, Fascist candidate in the Brazilian elections. From what she says about herself at the beginning of the video, Maria is a Brazilian who studied in the US. However, Bolsonaro’s dangerous ascent to power has pushed her into making this video so that when the time came, she ‘wouldn’t be laughing like an Anglo’.

At the moment, Bolsonaro is only a few votes away from the Brazilian presidency, at 46 per cent he’s just shy of the 50% + 1 required for him to take power. At a 49 per cent approval rating, he’s way ahead in the polls.

As for who he is, the video has a clip of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman explaining that he’s a former army officer, who has openly praised the country’s military dictatorship, which last from 1964 to ’85. He has a long history of making racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and encouraging police to kill suspected drug dealers.

Glenn Greenwalt of the Intercept explains that he’s been called Brazil’s Donald Trump, which radically understates the case. He’s much closer to Duterte in the Philippines or General Sisi in Egypt. He is far more dangerous than Trump, as democracy in Brazil is far more fragile. It lacks the political infrastructure that America and the UK have to limit the power of the president. He is likely to win against Lula’s successor – Lula da Silva was Brazil’s previous, left-wing president – because of the animus built up by the media and the business class against PT, the Workers’ Party.

As for his bigoted comments, he once said in an interview that he’d rather hear that his son died in a car accident than was gay. He defended torture and rape during the dictatorship, and when a member of Brazil’s lower house confronted him about it he told her she needn’t worry, because she didn’t deserve to be raped by him – meaning that she was too ugly for him to rape her. He’s made a whole slew of similar comments about Blacks and the indigenous peoples. More worrying are his models for dealing with crime. They’re taken from the world’s worst dictators like Pinochet. As in the Philippines, he wants to send in the army and police to slaughter indiscriminately anyone they consider to be a drug dealer or criminal without trial. He believes in military rule. He does not regard the military coup of 1964 as a coup, and wishes to replicate it. And he has the entire top level of the military supporting him.

The institutions that would constrain Bolsonaro or somebody like him in the US – a strong supreme court, the CIA or the FBI, and other political parties, don’t exist. Due to his popularity, there is a sizable part of the Brazilian population that fears he will bring back the worse elements of dictatorships, such as the summary execution of dissidents, shut down media outlets, and closed congresses.

Maria then asks how this is possible in a country that has been ruled for 14 years by the centre left PT. Back to Greenwald.

Greenwald explains that it’s similar to what is happening in America, the UK and Europe where this kind of extremism is spreading, and the media outlets that have aided its rise refuse to take any responsibility for it. The media is very oligarchical, and in the hands of a small number of very rich families. The journalists themselves are afraid of Bolsonaro and don’t support him, but continue to create the narrative that supports him: that Bolsonaro and PT are simply two sides of the same coin. PT are a left-wing dictatorship, like Bolsonaro represents a rightwing dictatorship, and both are equally bad. Greenwald makes the point that during the 14 years PT governed the country, there was a very free and open press that constantly attacked them. they impeached one of their presidents and put the other in prison, so the idea that it’s a dictatorship like that to which Bolsonaro aspires is grotesque. But this is what is normalizing Bolsonaro.

As for Lula da Silva, he was thrown in prison just as he was leading in the polls and banned all of the media from interviewing him. The Intercept/em> has tried, as have others, but there are prevented by a prior restraint order issued by the Supreme Court. He states that Brazilian institutions carry much of the blame for the rise of Bolsonaro, just as American institutions do for Trump and British for Brexit, and European globalization policies for the rise of the extreme Right on the continent.

Maria also explains that there have also been a series of events that have weakened Brazilian democracy, aimed not just at PT but also at other left-wing parties. Earlier this year councilwoman Marielly Franco was murdered, PT president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and then Lula was arrested.

There is then a segment from a report by Amy Goodman explaining that Franco was a member of Rio de Janeiro’s council, a human rights activist. She and her driver were assassinated as they returned from an event on empowering Black women. Franco was a Black lesbian, who was fiercely critical of the police’s killing of people in the favela neighbourhoods. The night before her death she had Tweeted ‘How many more must die before this war ends?’ In January alone 154 people were killed by the cops in Rio State. Goodman goes on to say that last month President Temer ordered the military to assume control of police duties in Rio. Dilma Rousseff was impeached three years ago by the Brazilian senate in a move she denounced as a coup. Lula was leading in the polls, but had been convicted of corruption and money-laundering, charges many believe were trumped up. Rousseff stated that this was the second part of the coup, after her impeachment.

The British human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, told The New Internationalist ‘Extraordinarily aggressive measures are being taken to put Lula in jail by the judiciary, by the media, by the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil’.

Maria then goes to a Brazilian academic at King’s College, London, Anthony Pereira, the professor and director of the Brazil institute there, who explains that this is nothing new but a relapse into Brazil’s ‘fashy disease’ from the 1960s, which was never properly cured.

Pereira explains that the transition from dictatorship to democracy was unique in that it was very slow and gradual, and unlike the Chilean transition, informal. It was managed by the regime itself, which changed the rules when it feared instability, dividing the opposition and making a lot of deals. Tancredo Hernandez was the first civilian candidate to win the presidency indirectly in 1985. After he won the election, Hernandez talked to the military and many other politicians and promised that there would be no revenge, no trials for human rights abuses, and that he would make sure that the political elite could make a smooth transition from the military to the civilian. There was a church report organized by the diocese of Sao Paolo on the human rights abuses, and people knew there had been torture, but these revelations were not state policy. This informal transition kept things very much as they had been. This explains why Bolsonaro’s discourse – his rhetoric – sounds very much like what was said in 1964, talking about the unity of the Brazilian family, how the left cannot divide the country, it cannot allow women to be against men, Afro-Brazilians to be against Whites, for homosexuals to be against heterosexuals. It’s a bit like One Nation Conservatism in Britain where there is a view of an organic, hierarchical society, patriarchal, dominated by the social elite. It has a place for everyone, but it rejects what it calls ‘activism’, associated with subversion and not being really Brazilian. And it rejects the Left, because of its association with Communism, Socialism and Venezuela. It’s a unity which excludes an awful lot of people.

Maria goes on to recommend that people watch the full pieces by Pereira and Greenwald explaining the country’s relationship with the workers’ party, PT. She also recommends that people look at the videos by the Intercept and Democracy Now. She states that people should be interested in this, not just because one of the world’s largest countries is going full Fascist, not just because the US and Britain have both had a hand in Brazil’s dictatorship, but also if they don’t want her to be silence or, worse, hunted down. She also recommends another female left-wing YouTuber from Brazil for those of her viewers who speak Portuguese. The videos and links to them are shown at the end of Maria’s video.

I’ve put this up as it seems that every Fascism in one guise or another is on the rise again. And the Fascist in one part of the world embolden and strengthen the stormtroopers in others. It’s also important to know that Britain also was involved in supporting the Brazilian dictatorship.

And Greenwald is right in that the forces that are enabling the rise of Bolsonaro are the same as those aiding the rise of the extreme right over here: globalism – not just confined to the Continent, but also a part of British economic policy – and an oligarchic media that is heavily biased against the Left.

And I was talking a few weeks ago to a left-wing minister at my local church, who wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power if he was elected. If his fears are justified, then what has happened to Lula da Silva will be repeated over here to stop Jeremy Corbyn and a genuine reforming, Socialist Labour government.

George Galloway Interviews on China and Tax Dodging by the Rich

December 6, 2017

This is a very interesting edition of Sputnik, one of the programmes on RT, hosted by media bete noir George Galloway, and a young Asian lady simply called Gayatri. Sputnik was, of course, the first satellite put into Earth orbit by the Russians. The name means ‘fellow traveller’ in Russian, and has come to mean an artificial satellite ever since.

In the first half of the programme, Galloway and Gayatri interview Jeanne-Marie Gescher, a British sinologist, who has been studying China ever since the notorious Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Gescher has written a book about the country and its transformation, and describes how she was just about the only western person flying into China after the massacre, when all the other westerners were trying to get out. This, however, gave her a head start of a couple of years over the other academics researching China, when she was one of the very few westerners actually in the country. Galloway talks about President Xi’s party congress, and makes the point that most of it was about ‘socialism with a Chinese face’, rather than economics. He and Gescher also discuss the role of a strong central authority in governing and forming China, ever since its foundation all those millennia ago. They make the point that the role of a strong central authority is so much at the core of the country’s character and government, that it has been said that without it China is like sand. Gescher states that ever since the ancient shamans led the earliest ancestors of the Chinese to settle down, there has been a tension between two philosophies towards government and the natural order. One is that the natural world is too complex for people to understand, and so government is best carried out by a single ‘son of Heaven’ – the official title of the Chinese emperor – who governs autocratically. The other recommends instead that the world be subject to a structured investigation. This is not democratic, but it is wider than the concentration of power in a single autocratic figure. Gescher also describes the way China has repeatedly fragmented over the ages, only to come back together as a single, unitary empire again, with a quote from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the great classics of Chinese literature. To people of a certain age, the book is best known as the basis for the Chinese swashbuckling tale broadcast by the Beeb in the ’70s, The Water Margin.

They also discuss Donald Trump’s apparent volte-face last week. Before he went to China, he was full of anger at the Chinese and there was much resentment in the American media about perceived Chinese mistreatment. Trump was going to tear them off a strip about it. After he got there, however, and met the President, he ended up praising the country. Gescher states that this has shown the Chinese that Trump ‘flip-flops’. This will worry them, as there is nothing more dangerous than a leader, who so capriciously changes position.

Next on the show is Professor Steve Keen, who has also written a book demolishing economics. Keen’s a former economics professor at Kingston University, though at the end of the interview he states that he has left academia to go his own way via Patreon. Keen, Gayatri and Galloway discuss the infamous Paradise Papers and the tax dodging by the very rich. Keen himself isn’t shocked by the way the super-rich like Bono, Lewis Hamilton and the Queen have deprived the treasury of their taxes. He seems to accept that it’s just part of the pathology of the very rich. He states that they’re terrified of anyone else getting their hands on their money, and so pay enormous fees to people, who tell them how they can legally avoid paying cash.

Galloway is shocked, however, and makes the ironic point that the Queen, in her case, is actually avoiding paying tax to herself. Which is true. He also wonders about the mentality of the rich, who will spend their money on colossally expensive items like luxury super-yachts. Keen states he knows someone, who has actually bought one. This man had a 120-ft yacht, but turned it in for a 140 foot vessel, complete with space for a grand piano. He states that this comes from the sheer greed and sense of entitlement of the rich.

He then talks about the various fake holding companies and offshore accounts that the rich use in order to avoid paying tax in the country where they really make their money. He’s actually been to the Cayman Islands, and seen the office block, where so many multinational companies legally have their headquarters. He states that he read so many of the brass plaques on the building’s walls before he gave up. But it was all a scam. There was no-one in the building. It was all very much a legal fiction.

Keen himself has recommended his own way to stop this. At the moment, the tax on profits allows the rich to dodge paying tax by allowing them to cast their companies as subsidiaries working for a parent organisation somewhere else in the world. To stop them doing that, Keen recommends that there should be a tax on transactions instead, which would bring money back into the treasury and which couldn’t be avoided by setting up fake parent companies.

He also has a very different view of taxation than other economists. He argues that the point of taxation isn’t to pay for government services. Governments, by their nature, create money. They pump it into the economy. What taxation does is take it out of the economy, so you don’t have runaway inflation.

Talking about his decision to leave academia, Keen states that it was forced on him by the government’s effective privatisation of higher education. This has turned students into ‘informed consumers of higher education’. However, the league tables concentrate on the Russell Group, and so the new universities that were created post 1992 are starved of funding. This has led him to break with the university, and start crowdfunding his work. He states that he has a great bunch of people funding him through Patreon, and that he’s learned a lot from them. He is also critical of university tenure, because it creates a very conformist mindset. It’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to do the opposite, but he states that by the time professors have done all the things needed to gain tenure, they are afraid of stepping out of line.

The programme ends with Galloway and Gayatri reading out some of the Tweets they have received on the shows contents. Several people remark that, whatever Trump says, America very much needs China to avoid collapsing. And others are about the Queen and the rest of the rich dodging tax.

This is interesting, as it shows that Galloway is a very good interviewer. I also find it quite a nostalgic experience, as it reminds me of what quality television on BBC 2 used to be like in the 1970s and 1980s. No fancy graphics, just the programme’s host or hosts in the studio and his or her guests, talking. You can see the same approach used by Tariq Ali on his TV show. And while it is talk, it’s very much informed talk by experts, that isn’t dumbed down and reduced to soundbites by programme editors afraid that too much pop videos have left people with an attention-span no longer than a gnat’s.

Keen’s perspective on the rich and their sheer avarice is interesting, as is his proposed solution. I’m also struck by his innovative attitude to taxation. I’ve read similar things like it on Mike’s blog, where he has reblogged material from the Mainly Macro economist. As has the Angry Yorkshireman, Tom Clarke. This looks like a positive approach to the dismal science that will break the Tory orthodoxy about taxation and paying for the welfare state.

What Horrors Have Our Imperial Governors Committed in Iraq?

December 1, 2017

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, ever since I read an op-ed piece in the I by Yasmin Alibhai-Browne. Alibhai-Browne’s an Muslim lady, whose family were Ugandan Asians, married to a White Brit. She writes about racism, multiculturalism and related issues. She’s a modern, tolerant Muslim, who attacks anti-White, as well as anti-Black racism. I’m not saying I always agree with what she says, but she offers a different perspective.

And a few weeks ago she published a piece attacking the former British diplomat, who said we should try to kill the various Brits, who’ve gone to Iraq to fight for the Islamists before they come home. Alibhai-Browne was shocked by this, as were a number of others, including Mike over at Vox Political. It is, after all, the attitude of the death squads. It’s extra-judicial execution, or political murder. But it’s in line with Obama’s and Trump’s policies. This is, after all, what drone strikes are. They’re sent into foreign countries, like Yemen, to kill terrorists, including American citizens. And their families, including their kids. The last are simply called ‘fun-sized terrorists’.

Those opposing the drone strikes have asked people to imagine what would happen if the situation was reversed. If an Islamic, or Black African, or Asian country sent drones into America to kill White, American terrorist groups like the Klan. Or perhaps a more appropriate target would be Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was responsible for various Fascist coups in Latin America, and supporting tyrants and mass-murders across Asia, from Pakistan to Indonesia, as well as the carpet-bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. If anyone should be killed by agents of a foreign power, it should be Kissinger, simply because of the millions of people he’s had killed. I’m not recommending that anyone should do it. Just saying that if America has the right to send drones to kill terrorists, then the people of Latin America and Asia have the absolute right to blow him away.

One of the deeply disturbing facts Abby Martin revealed in the Empire Files, as well as other left-wing news networks, is how far out of control the American military and its private contractors – the mercenaries it hired – were in Iraq. They were running prostitutes and brutalised and murdered ordinary Iraqis. There are reports of these b*stards driving around, shooting ordinary men and women waiting to cross the street. Simply for sport. The butcher, whose career in Iraq was turned into a glowing cinematic celebration by Clint Eastwood in American Sniper was a Nazi, who boasted of killing women and children. Yeah, that’s who Eastwood decided to promote. His film so incensed the reviewer over at 366 Weird Movies that he broke with describing and cataloguing strange cinema, like the works of Ed Wood and co, to attack Eastwood and his oeuvre in an article. The reviewer described himself as an old-fashioned Conservative, and hated Eastwood because he wasn’t.

So you don’t have to be a lefty-liberal to be sickened by this. Just an ordinary person with a conscience.

And the American Empire was complicit in these murders. Martin also revealed how one of the military governors put in by Bush or Obama actually assisted the Shi’a assassination squads, which roamed Baghdad and the rest of the country kidnapping and murdering Sunni Muslims. Because the Sunnis were the dominant, privileged sect under Saddam Hussein, and now form the backbone of the insurgency.

Alibhai-Browne in her article on the British diplomat, who was all in favour of killing British Islamists before they could return to Blighty, noted that he came from a privileged class, which knew all about Islam but had no sympathy with Muslims or the ordinary people they governed. He was another public schoolboy, and Oxbridge graduate. He had a background in Arabic, and had a full diplomatic career in the Middle East. And he’d also served as governor in that part of Iraq run by Britain.

Which makes me wonder what atrocities he’s committed, or turned a blind eye to. A year or so ago I read a book by an Arab author and political scientist, A Brutal Friendship, which argued that the rulers installed by Britain, America and the West, were brutal dictators, who oppressed their people and ruled by terror. One example was the Prime Minister of Iraq in the 1950s. He was installed by us, and was hailed and promoted by the establishment as a great leader, wisely ruling his country. In fact, the man was so hated by ordinary Iraqis that they rose up against him. Not content with simply hacking him to pieces, they then ran over the pieces with cars.

Now I might be slandering the man. He might, for all I know, be perfectly blameless, and to have ruled well. Or as well as anybody could, given the circumstances, which were corrupt from the very beginning.

But I don’t know. I don’t think any of us will know, until we have a genuinely free press and free television in this country.

America has a genuine tradition of free speech, which was strengthened by Clinton’s passing of the Freedom of Information Act. The corporatist elite have been trying to weaken and undermine it ever since. Just as the political and corporate elites have been trying to do the same to its British counterpart. And that was already deliberately weaker than Clinton’s when Tony Blair introduced it. America has a tradition of genuine, radical, investigative journalism. The arch-neocon, Daniel Pipes, in his book on Conspiracy Theories, points out that much of the anti-American tropes going round the world, like ‘the almighty dollar’ have their roots in Americans’ own criticism of their country and its economic and political system. As an arch-Conservative, Pipes is definitely no fan of this. And the American elite are trying their best to stamp it out. Witness the attacks on RT, Al-Jazeera, the Real News, Democracy Now! and other, alternative news networks like the David Pakman Show, Sam Seders’ Majority Report, the Jimmy Dore show, The Young Turks and so on.

But we don’t have that tradition in England. Not since the decline of the genuinely left-wing press in the 1950s. We don’t have a written constitution, and there is no guarantee of freedom of speech in this country. Not necessarily a bad thing – it means we can ban hate speech, like calls from the Nazi fringe to murder Jews, Blacks, Muslims, ‘Reds’, the disabled and anyone who ever looked at them funny at the bus stop.

And our press is very deferential. A while ago Channel 4 broadcast a documentary showing just how much power the Queen has to censor information about the royal family. Far more power than the other ‘bicycling monarchies’ on the continent, like Denmark.

And the state has covered up horrendous atrocities committed by the British Empire. It was only the other year that Kenyans imprisoned and tortured during the Mao Mao insurgency actually won the court case, and the British state declassified the documents showing how Britain was running interment camps. This has formed the subject of a book, Africa’s Secret Gulags. But we also have the thirty year rule, to prevent the release of sensitive information, and the state can withhold it for even longer, if it thinks it’s necessary.

So we have no way of knowing what our troops – and our imperial staff – were really doing in Iraq. All we have are assurances from our leaders and our own self-image that, as Brits, we are all that is good, noble and right in the world. And that we would never butcher civilians.

But we have. And we may still be doing so. We won’t know, until we get rid of the crushing censorship and our investigative reporters are free and willing to expose what’s really going on.

Which, I hope, will be that we aren’t. But until that day comes, we will never know for sure. And there is absolutely no cause for complacency.

The Young Turks on Steve Bannon’s Favourite Viciously Racist Anti-Immigrant Book

March 12, 2017

In this piece from The Young Turks, host Cenk Uygur talks about Steve Bannon’s favourite book, the French racist novel, The Camp of the Saints. It’s a very grim insight into Bannon’s own deeply racist views regarding refugees and non-White immigration, and the racism at the heart of the Trump administration. Bannon is the head of Breitbart and Trump’s leading advisor. Uygur states that there’s some debate over whether Breitbart really is racist and White supremacist. He notes that Bannon boasts that his network has produced the Alt-Right, but that some of them reject the claim that they are racists. They argue instead that they’re ‘Judeo-Christian’ supremacists, or whatever.

Uygur’s report is based on a piece by Paul Blumenthal, another journalist at the Huffington Post, who noticed that Bannon kept referring to The Camp of the Saints. In 2015 and 2016 Bannon made statements, reproduced in the video, comparing the mass influx of refugees from the Middle East into central, northern and southern Europe, to The Camp of the Saints. So Blumenthal followed this up, in order to find out what the book was actually like.

The book was written in 1973 by the French author, Jean Raspail. Cecile Alduy, a professor of French literature at Stanford, states that the book is literally and profoundly racist, in that all the characterisation and motivation comes from race. Reviewing the book in 1975, Kirkus stated that the French publishers were claiming that the book was a publishing event. It was, in the same way that the publication of Mein Kampf by Hitler was a publishing event. Uygur also quotes Linda Chavez, who was a member of successive Republican administrations, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s, who also states that the book is extremely, vehemently racist.

The book is about the landing in France of 800,000 starving refugees from India, whose leader is called ‘Turd-eater’, because he literally eats excrement. They are also hypersexualised, and their migrant boat is described as running with sperm. They have come, not to fit in with French and European society, but as a deliberate plan to overthrow it. Their acceptance by the French authorities will be a sign to the rest of the non-White world that Whites are weak, and ready to be invaded and conquered. As a result, the Chinese flood into Russia, The Queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman, and the president of the USA is forced to put a Black family up at their home, Gracie Mansions. Uygur points out how dated this prediction is, as America have had a Black family put up in the president’s house, clearly referring to the Obamas. This was the president and his family. It may be no big deal to everybody else, but it is a huge matter if you’re deeply racist.

The hero, Calgues, is a young man who murders both the Black and Asian immigrants and those Whites, who seek to help them. He sneers at them because they have never held in their heads the belief in the superiority of their own people, and hated people of other colours. Raspail states that such Whites have been ‘culturally cuckolded’. Uygur states that this may be where the term ‘cuck’, derived from ‘cuckold’, and used by the Alt-Right as a term of abuse, comes from. The book celebrates the White world’s wars of conquest and domination.

Uygur states that much of the book’s characterisation of non-White immigrants is clearly projection, from the hypersexual nature of the Indian immigrants to the fact that their appearance in Europe is part of an organised non-White invasion. Its authors view is coloured by the fact that Europeans invaded and conquered when they immigrated to other countries, and so see the influx of non-White migrants in the same terms.

He then goes on to show how dangerous the book, and the influence it has had over Bannon, is through its influence on the way he views migration from the Middle East. The book celebrates the murder of non-White immigrants. Bannon himself has stated that the current wave of immigration from the Middle East hasn’t happened by accident. Uygur rightly tears into that by making the sarcastic comment that the migrants fleeing from the wars the West has started in their countries couldn’t possibly be doing so for that reason. No, it must be because they want to invade the West.

The book’s readership is tiny, but various extreme right-wing ‘philanthropists’ have kept republishing it, so that it has very much been kept in print. It’s an extremely racist book, and the fact that it is one of Bannon’s favourites does indeed show, as Uygur points out, how racist Bannon and by extension the Trump administration are.

Sam Seder on Bercow’s Propose Ban on Trump in Parliament

February 10, 2017

Sam Seder, the host of the American internet news show, Majority Report, yesterday covered John Bercow’s proposed ban on Trump speaking to the House of Commons. Seder and his colleagues discuss a report on one of the other news shows, that Trump was planning to meet the Queen on a visit to this Sceptred Isle. According to Seder, the show had a Brit on to talk about the visit. The Brit stated that Her Maj had met a wide variety of ‘really horrible people’ including ‘serial killers’, and so she would have no trouble in meeting Trump. Comparisons are then made with John Wayne Gacy, who killed nearly a twenty men and boys.

He then shows the clip of Bercow’s speech, in which Bercow makes the point that addressing the House is an earned honour, not a right; that there are plenty of precedents for a head of state not being allowed to address parliament on a state or diplomatic visit; that the three keyholders to parliament – the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the Lord Chamberlain, were usually united, but on this occasion he would break with the others. Bercow stated that even before Trump’s ban on Muslim travel to the US, he would have been opposed to Trump’s visit. He was even more opposed now.

Seder and his team then finish with impressions of Trump demanding to sit on the throne.

It’s very clear that Seder and the rest of his crew find British parliamentary attitudes to Trump, in lumping him in with mass murderers and Bercow’s proposal to ban him hugely amusing. But as I’ve said in my last post, Bercow is right about everything he’s said. He also made it clear that parliament should not allow Trump to speak, if it took seriously its aim of combatting racism, sexism and supporting equality.

Quite apart from the fact that, even if Trump himself is not, many of his close supporters, like Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon, are anti-Semites and White Supremacists. The prospect of Trump addressing parliament is very much like the home-grown British Fascist, Oswald Mosley, and his attempts to get elected in the 1930s. As well as his party’s thuggery and brutality to Jews and left-wingers.

Yes, comparing Trump to some of the mass murderers, who’ve met the Queen is funny. It’s less of a joke when you consider that the murderers the Brit was talking about were probably heads of state responsible for horrific crimes against their own people. And allowing Trump to address parliament in reality would be a very grim joke, with very few laughing.

Trump Insults Australian Prime Minister and Mexican President

February 4, 2017

Another day, another example of how absolutely, constitutionally unsuited for government, or even civilised company, Donald Trump is. Yesterday there was the news that Trump had managed to insult the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and threatened the president of Mexico with invasion.

Trump had been discussing an agreement signed last November between Obama and the Ozzies in which America promised to take a few of the refugees coming to Australia, who were temporarily settled in the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Dictator Drumpf really doesn’t like the idea of taking prospective immigrants to Oz, and made his opposition very plain. According to the Washington Post, the orange megalomaniac told Turnbull that it was ‘the worst deal ever’, accused the Ozzie PM of trying to send him the next Boston bombers and said he was worried that the deal would kill him politically. He also told Turnbull that he’d already spoken to four national leaders that morning, including Putin, and that this was the ‘worst call so far’. The phone call was expected to last an hour, but Drumpf rang off after only 25 minutes.

Here’s the Young Turks video in which John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s highly undiplomatic phone call.

Then there are reports that in his phone call to the Mexican president, Trump is supposed to have accused the Mexican army of cowardice in trying to sort out the drug cartels, and threatened to send US troops to do the job instead. He is claimed to have said

‘You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.’

There have been denials that this was ever said from the Mexican president’s office, but it appears to be true. John Iadarola, discussing the report in the video below, suggests that the denial might be an attempt by President Pena Nieta to save face. When he stood up to Drumpf last week, his approval ratings unsurprisingly shot up. Trump talking to him like this looks like a humiliation, and so he may have wanted to cover it up to prevent his approval ratings plummeting accordingly. It does, however, unfortunately seem to be true.

Iadarola and Kasparian make the point in the video about Trump’s insulting phone call to Premier Turnbull that Drumpf is perfectly happy to bomb the nations of the Middle East, but as soon as their citizens want to move out and seek refuge in America, he’s gets upset. In fact Australia’s immigration policy is itself highly controversial. I can remember Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer at one of the British universities, saying at the Cheltenham Festival of Science in the 1990s that their treatment of refugees made him ashamed to be an Ozzie.

As for the drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels are indeed ‘bad hombres’. Actually, I think that term gives a romantic gloss to gangs of utter scum, who are completely subhuman in their cruelty and barbarism. In one of the Mexican provinces where they’re particularly strong, the gangs were engaged in feminicido – feminicide – as a kind of very sick sport. They got their kicks raping and killing women. And far from being cowards, the Mexican cops, who take them on are as hard as nails. A few years ago the on-line humour magazine, Cracked, did a list of the toughest real life vigilantes. Top of the list was a secret organisation of Mexican coppers, dedicated to rubbing out the gangs and their members. The identities of their members were unknown, to prevent reprisals against their families. The overall impression given was that these men were like the Punisher, but even more ruthless and absolutely dedicated.

I’ve no doubt that the Mexican army isn’t as good, as well trained or as well equipped as the Americans. But considering that America and her allies are still in Iraq and Afghanistan after nearly a decade and a half, I really don’t see that the Americans would have any more success in dealing with the drug cartels than the Mexican authorities.

Quite apart from the fact that you don’t tell the head of a friendly neighbouring state that you’re going to invade his country if he doesn’t sort a domestic problem out. Trump really has no idea how that sounds, not just to other nations generally, but specifically to Latin Americans. There’s considerable resentment of America in Central and South America, particularly in Argentina. It dates from the 19th century. Before then, many Spanish American liberals were solidly in favour of the US as the kind of modern, progressive country they wished their nations to be.

Then the US invaded Mexico, and causing these intellectuals to reverse their previous positive attitudes. They became bitterly resentful of what they saw as the US’s contemptuous, colonialist treatment of Latin America. It was the start of what I think is called ‘Arielismo’, in which South America writers used the character of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the brutish servant of the wizard Prospero, as a metaphor for the imperialist contempt with which they perceived Americans treated their Spanish-speaking neighbours to the south and their culture.

The Young Turks in the video above also talk about how Trump’s brusque, insulting treatment of his Mexican opposite number may imperil the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico. This has resulted in a loss of jobs in America, as firms have shifted their locations south to take advantage of the cheaper labour there. But they argue that it has also benefited America.

Trump is clearly one of the most undiplomatic presidents in American history. You really do wonder how long it will be before this loudmouthed buffoon starts another bloody war, or a major international incident, simply because he can’t keep a civil tongue in his head.

He can’t even be counted on to behave decently with our head of state. Mike a few days ago carried a story on his site that Prince Charles had been told not to lecture Drumpf on global warming, if he meets him, as otherwise the Orange Supremacist will ‘explode’. Now I’m well aware that not everyone reading this site is a monarchist, and the exaggerated deference, with which they’re treated should definitely go. I’m referring to all those arcane rules of behaviour, which dictate that you must only talk to the queen if she speaks to you. Those rules should have no place in the 21st century. But that does not excuse another head of state from going on a rant at ours.

Kevin Logan: Britain Tells Trump to ‘F*** Off’

February 3, 2017

Okay, the language ain’t big and ain’t clever, and I duly apologise to the refined ladies and gentlemen who visit this blog. But the sentiments behind the coarse language is exactly right. Kevin Logan is a sweary male feminist, who has a vlog, ‘The Descent of the Manosphere’, ripping into anti-feminists and racists of various stripes, many of whom are connected to or sympathetic to the Alt-Right. So naturally, he really isn’t a fan of the Orange Duce.

In this short video, he praises the internet petition to stop Trump from going on a state visit, where he will meet the queen as our head of state. He notes that the petition so far – he posted the video on Monday – has more than 1 million signatures, which makes it the most signed petition in the site’s history. The petition isn’t to stop Trump meeting Theresa May, so government business will continue as usual, presumably. The petition beats an early one, also immensely popular, which wanted to ban Trump from entering Britain completely.

Logan applauds Trump for having united the British people in this issue, who are now more divided than they have been since the English Civil War. And he also praises Trump for having provoked the British into uniting to stop him from meeting the most archaic aspect of our constitution, the reigning monarch. And he ends by urging British citizens to go and sign the petition.

Logan also mentions that Trump has managed to make himself massively unpopular domestically in America, and shows footage of the mass demonstrations of people against his Muslim ban, waving placards and shouting ‘Let them in!’ and ‘No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!’

Counterpoint on the Stupidity of Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister

July 23, 2016

Counterpunch, an American radical leftwing magazine and site, has put up a piece by Brian Cloughey on the utter stupidity of Boris Johnson’s appointment as Foreign and Commonwealth Minister. He describes the political machinations and manoeuvrings of Johnson and Gove as they jockeyed for power, how Johnson stabbed Cameron in the back over Brexit for no reason other than that he thought it would bring him to No. 10; the many lies Johnson has spun over his career, and the ignorant, bigoted and sheer racist comments that have made him at once a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a danger to Britain’s peaceful relations with foreign nations.

Cloughey states that Johnson was sacked from the Times because he made up a quote. In 2004, the-then Conservative leader, Michael Howard, sacked him from his job as front bench spokesman for lying about his adulterous affair with Petronella Wyatt, whom he made to have an abortion. Cloughey describes Johnson as

clever and has a certain juvenile attractiveness for some people because his private life is colorful and chaotic while he has a certain facility with words and gives the impression that he could be all things to all men and to a certain number of women…

The trouble for Britain is that although Johnson is a twofaced, devious, posturing piece of slime who can’t be trusted to tell the time of day, he was most effective in capturing the public’s attention and helping persuade a majority to vote to leave the European Union.

He describes how he lied about the amount Britain contributed to the EU, and notes how after Gove’s betrayal of the treacherous Boris, the Tories ditched him and elected Theresa May instead. He considers Johnson, and the poisonous, racist rhetoric of the Leave campaign to be responsible for the increase in ‘hate speech’ and attacks and harassment of Blacks, Asians and Eastern Europeans which rose to 3,000 incidents in the weeks before and after the Referendum.

Cloughey remarks on the insulting comments Johnson has made about other leading foreign politicians and heads of state. He described Shrillary as having “dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”, Obama was ‘downright hypocritical’, and Putin a ‘ruthless and manipulative tyrant’. As for Trump, he described the Donald as ‘out of his mind’ and suffering from ‘stupefying ignorance’.

He referred to the crisis in Turkey as ‘the crisis in Egypt’, declared that ‘Chinese cultural influence is basically nil, and unlikely to increase’. He also claimed that it was said that the Queen loved the Commnwealth “partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.” He was no less sneering about the peoples of the Congo. When Tony Blair went off to visit the country, he declared “No doubt . . . the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Cloughey writes that Johnson has tried to excuse his comments by saying that they were taken out of their proper context, without actually saying what the proper context was. And although many people would agree with some of what he said about the various foreign leaders, they are hardly the kind of comments that you want in a foreign minister, part of whose job is speaking diplomatically and trying to establish a good relationship with those with whom he’s negotiating.

Cloughey concludes:

Britain’s prime minister would do well to reconsider her decision to appoint this gobbet of slime to a position of responsibility in her government. He will not serve Britain well.

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon

Johnson is a clever man, if only in the way he has skilfully creating an entirely false image of a rather Billy Bunterish, lovable buffoon. But his comments about Black Africans and the Chinese are likely to cause offence, and really don’t bode well for Britain’s relations with the rest of the world. Apart from the dated, offensive terms used, like ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’, the ignorance behind his dismissal of Chinese culture really is stunning. The contribution of the Chinese to science and technology is immense. You only have to open a text book on the history of science to find that many of the most fundamental scientific discoveries, from printing, to paper, to watermills, rockets and so on were made by someone in the Middle Kingdom. The influence of Chinese culture is rather less, but it is there.

Let’s deal with the very obvious modern Chinese influences in British society. One of the most obvious are Chinese takeaways, restaurants and cuisine. It may not be high art or great literature, but it is a very obvious Chinese cultural influence. Very many people in modern Britain like Chinese food, and Chinese restaurants and chip shops are a very common feature of our modern high streets. Then there’s the influence of Chinese cinema. A few years ago the Chinese won critical acclaim for a number of art films, but probably far more influential are the Hong Kong Chinese action and martial arts movies, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ever since Bruce Lee sprang into action in the 1970s. This encouraged generations of children to learn the eastern martial arts. Many of those taught are Japanese, but they include Chinese techniques too, such as Kung Fu. And then there’s the influence of Chinese literature and religion. In the 1970s and ’80s a generation of British schoolchildren were exposed to the Chinese classics The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Wu Chen-Ang’s Journey to the West through the TV series The Water Margin and Monkey. There were even two translations of Chen-Ang’s classic novel issued, both abridged, one of which by Denis Waley. The influence of the Monkey TV show and the novel behind it have persisted to this day. The BBC promotional trailer for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were very much based on Monkey, and made by the same company that made the videos for the Gorillaz pop group. And I noticed that the other night on Would I Lie To You, Gaby Roslin’s response to a stuffed monkey produced by one of the other guests, as to do a mock martial arts move, and intone ‘Monkey’ in the type of strangulated squawk that characterised some of the voices in that series.

Going further back, there was the craze in the 18th and 19th centuries for chinoiserie, Chinese art and porcelain. You only have to turn on one of the antique shows to see at least one of the experts talking about 18th century pottery, exported to Europe, examining pieces of jade, reproduction Shang bronzes, or 18th century wallpaper, depicted with Chinese designs, usually of people going about their business. Quite apart from the very stereotypical images of the country’s art, like the paintings of the two loves on the bridge.
China has also, naturally, had considerable influence on the culture of its neighbouring and other Asian countries. This is clearly an area for someone who knows far more about these nations’ histories and culture than I do. One example of the Middle Kingdom’s considerable influence is Japan. Buddhism was introduced by Chinese monks, and for centuries the Chinese classics formed the most prestigious part of Japanese literary culture. Further west, many of the people depicted in Persian painting have a distinctive Chinese look to their features. This was because of the cultural links and exchanges between those cultures during the Middle Ages.

In short, a moment’s thought reveals that Chinese cultural influence is certainly not negligible. Nor is it likely to remain so. The country has turned into an economic superpower, and has made considerable inroads into Africa. And way back in the ’90s, its space programme was so advanced that the Quantum Physicist and SF writer, Stephen Baxter, published an article in Focus magazine predicting that the first person to walk on Mars was very likely going to be Chinese.

Now clearly, British industrialists and financiers are very much aware of how powerful China now is. You can see it by the way they’re desperately trying to encourage the Chinese to invest, or buy up, British industry, just as they were a few decades ago with the Japanese. No-one wants potentially advantageous trade deals to be scuppered through a few tactless comments from the Foreign Minister.

And BoJo’s comments may very well cause offence. Johnson made much about his suitability for the role on the world stage, because of his position as one of the British team negotiating with the Chinese during the Beijing Olympics. But his comments also suggest that he could well have the opposite effect as well. The Chinese are, as a nation, a very proud people, and I gathered from working in one of the local museums here in Bristol that there is still a considerable feeling of humiliation about their defeat and occupation by Britain and the other foreign powers in the 19th century following the Opium Wars. Many of Britain’s former colonies are very sensitive to what they see as condescension. A few years ago there were diplomatic ructions when one of the Developing Nations – I think it may have been India – accused Britain of showing ‘colonialist and imperialist’ attitudes towards it.

Johnson with his comments about ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’ uses the rhetoric and vocabulary of 19th and early 20th century racism. If he uses them when he’s foreign minister, he will cause offence, possibly starting another embarrassing diplomatic row. Let’s hope he keeps his mouth shut, and leaves the talking to others better informed.

And just to remind you, here’s the opening and closing titles from the Monkey TV show. Which, even though it’s now thirty odd years old, definitely has more style and class than Boris Alexander de Feffel Johnson.