Posts Tagged ‘Tobacco’

Ex-CIA Head Michael Scheuer States America Should Not Support Israel

November 27, 2018

I found this short clip of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA, speaking at a debate held at Georgetown University. He was answering questions about his view that America should not support Israel.

The panel are incredulous at this, and raise the old canard about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East.

He makes it clear that he believes that America should be indifferent to whether Israel survives, and that democracy is a silly foreign policy goal. This has been proved in Afghanistan. Against the response that democracies are less likely to wage war on democracies, he replies that he spent four years when two of the world’s greatest democracies managed to kill 640,000 of their own people. He states that democracies will fight like other people, but it is not the business of the US to install democracy anywhere. ‘We don’t do it very well. We do it ridiculously badly as a matter of fact.’ He goes on to say that it is a canard that countries have a right to exist. No, they have a right to defend themselves.

He then denies the charge that Israel and its representatives corrupt US politics. No, it’s Israel-supporting Americans who do that. As for his evidence for this, he points to what they did to Ambassador Freeman. The panel states that that was not corruption, it was a lobby doing what a lobby does. The panel then compares the Israel lobby to the tobacco lobby and the gun lobby. And Scheuer replies by saying that none of these lobbies rebound to America’s harm, while the Israel lobby does exactly that. They then ask him about the harm the Israel lobby has done. Scheuer responds by saying that they have convinced Americans that Israeli interests are identical with US national security interests. When the chairman of the panel says that a lot of people would agree with that, Scheuer says bluntly that a lot of people are foolish, and leading America into defeat.

I think Scheuer’s an old school American Conservative of the type who believes that America has no business telling other countries how to run their affairs. It’s classic isolationism. He isn’t alone. One of the American servicewomen voicing this objection was a senior Pentagon officer, who despise the Neocons for dragging America into a series of pointless wars in the Middle East.

And no, America is not good at installing democracies. It has always instead installed Fascist dictatorships. The democracies it has installed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are artificial and very dependent on continued US military support.

As for Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East, that’s rubbish. Lebanon is also a democracy, though very carefully limited in a system of consociality, so that the different religions occupy particular posts in a very careful balancing of sectarian power. Iran’s a theocracy, but it’s people also vote in elections, so it has a democratic component. The democracy the Neocons wanted to bring to Iraq was similarly limited, in that they wanted the only parties to gain power to be those standing for complete free trade, low taxes, and so on. The constitution the Americans imposed on Iraq has written into it that the Iraqis’ own oil industry cannot be nationalized. It has remain in private hands. Which means those of the western multinationals. And Israel itself is very dubious as a democracy. The Palestinians are very much second-class citizens and the Israeli state only acts on behalf of the European and American Jewish colonists.

And it should be absolutely axiomatic – a clear, fundamental true political principle – that one major reason why so much of the Arab and Muslim world hates America has absolutely nothing to do with hatred of democracy or western civilization per se, but because America backs Israel, the persecution of that nation’s indigenous Arab and Muslim population, and invades and plunders other Arab and Islamic states.

Scheuer’s a brave man for pointing all this out, and I’m surprise the Israel lobby hasn’t smeared him as an anti-Semite. Perhaps they have. But he’s right. As are all the other decent critics of Israel, that the country and its foreign lobbies have smeared.

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Thought Slime’s Top Anti-Capitalist Horror Movies

November 1, 2018

This is a suitably Hallowe’en themed video from the left-wing American vlogger, Thought Slime, which I found on YouTube. In it, he discusses the top five horror movies with an anti-capitalist messages. They are George A. Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead at 5, The Stuff, 4, Alien at 3, John Carpenter’s They Live, 2, and Society at no.1.

In Dawn of the Dead, the heroes take refuge from the zombie apocalypse in a shopping mall. However, the zombies themselves are drawn to it because of its importance to them in their former lives. Thought Slime then discusses how the film thus presents zombies as a metaphor for mindless consumerism. He also acknowledges that Romero himself didn’t intentionally put an anti-capitalist message in the movie, and only realized that he had after he had made it.

The Stuff is, Thought Slime says, not a good movie. One of the actors insisted on improvising his own lines, and it shows. But it is very clearly an anti-capitalism film. It’s about an evil corporation that finds a highly good seeping out of the ground, and decides to package it as a new foodstuff. Not only is this mess addictive, it also gradually takes over the brains of those who eat it, and eats them from the inside out. The company isn’t worried about this, because it’s making them lots of money, and so they kill Federal investigators and anyone else who might discover its evil secret. The movie also includes fake adverts for this Stuff, and has it shown served in restaurants.

Thought Slime explains just how close this satire is to the behavior of amoral companies in the real world. The tobacco companies knew about the lethal effects of the product they were selling, and continued to promote it. And Big Oil is very aware of the damage petrochemicals are doing to the environment, but are intent on selling them because of the massive products they make. Even though this threatens to destroy the world.

Alien also has an anti-capitalist message, as the real villain isn’t the titular extraterrestrial creature, but the Wayland-Yutani Corporation. The Alien’s like a wild animal, a force of nature. But the Wayland-Yutani corporation, which employs the Nostromo’s crew, are completely amoral. They want it for their weapons division, and considers the crew expendable. Thought Slime compares their disregard for the safety of their workers with that of the corporations mining rare earth elements now, who similarly aren’t concerned with protecting the lives of the miners they employ. He also ask which company would also be so set on acquiring such dangerous weapons. As he ponders, the name ‘Raytheon’ appears on the screen, the name of one of the big American weapons manufacturers. He also makes the point that the Alien itself is a metaphor for sexual assault and the invasive nature of pregnancy, but doesn’t elaborate on it as it has been better explained elsewhere.

In They Live, an unemployed vagrant, played by the wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, discovers a pair of magic sunglasses that reveal that the Earth has been taken over by evil capitalist aliens, and the subliminal messages that they put in banknotes, the press and adverts to keep people enslaved, obedient and consuming. The aliens represent current capitalism and the capitalist class, while the spectacles are a metaphor for class consciousness. He discusses how the Nazis have taken this film as an anti-Semitic metaphor about the Jews, and makes the point that this is angrily denied by the director and writer, John Carpenter, himself.

He argues that within the film there is no alternative to capitalism, and compares this to Noam Chomsky’s book on propaganda. This argues that the major news outlets and the media all have this bias. He also recommends Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, which argues that capitalism ensures that capitalism is the only economic model people will consider.

He puts Society in top position because, if They Live is didactic about the evils of capitalism, Society is practically a call to revolution. In this movie, the rich are a completely separate species of goo monsters with predatory sexuality that prey on the poor. The hero is a normal lad a family of them has raised, but that’s just a joke they’re pulling at his expense. He can never really be one of them. Class mobility is an illusion. They control the politicians, education system and the police. Anyone who tries to expose them is consumed by the system. It isn’t a conspiracy movie, like They Live, which suggests that before the aliens arrived, society was just and good. But in Society, there has never been a good past. The goo monster rich have always been in control. The goo monsters don’t need to do what they do. They simply behave as they do because they enjoy it. And humans are, in this movie, a metaphor for the poor.

He concludes by saying that he doesn’t think that these movies were made to turn people anti-capitalist, but framing it that way makes it easier to communicate an anti-capitalist message to people. Horror movies are uniquely positioned to do this as they are a commodification of death and suffering. They’re considered more mercenary than other movies, are cheap and easy to make, and can turn a big profit at the box office, even if they’re terrible. Here the opening titles come up for the film, Ghoulies, which he explains at the beginning of the video is one of his favourites. And even when a horror movie is good and artistically accomplished, it inspires scores of cheap knock-offs. It’s considered a low genre which provides cheap, almost pornographic thrills. Thought Slime then argues that this attitude is rooted in classism. In other words, he says, hoity-toity types ignore horror movies. Which is why they’re good for reaching out to people against capitalism.

Warning: There is some foul language, and it naturally contains clips from the films it mentions. Though as this video was posted on YouTube, it shouldn’t be too horrific for the proverbial People Of A Nervous Disposition.

Jeffrey Archer Demands Ban on Gambling Advertising in Radio Times

October 30, 2018

Heavens, and what is the world coming to! I’ve just read something by Jeffrey Archer that actually made sense, and with which I agreed. The scribe of Weston-Super-Mud is in the ‘Viewpoint’ column of the Radio Times today, for the week 3-9 November 2018. His piece is titled ‘We have a gambling epidemic’ and has the subheading ‘Cigarette advertising is banned – so why not ads for betting?’

Archer begins by talking about how the Beeb has lost much of its sport coverage to the commercial channels, and so he has his enjoyment of the footie, rugger, golf and cricket ruined by advertising for gambling. He describes how these try to tempt you into having a flutter, even though the odds are stacked against you. You may win occasionally, but in the long term you’ll lose. He then goes to compare this with tobacco advertising, which also took many years to ban because powerful commercial interests were involved, which also heavily sponsored sport. He also claims that the NHS wouldn’t be in crisis if no-one smoked, because the money thus saved would vastly outweigh the tax revenue tobacco brings in. He then writes

Fast forward: we now have a gambling epidemic. More than 400,000 punters have become addicts, 26,000 of them aged 16 or younger. So how long will it take the Government to ban gambling advertising on television? Far too long, I suspect. A good start was made at the Labour party conference in September by deputy leader Tom Watson, who promised immediate legislation to dealwith the problem if a Labour government were elected. Watson pointed out that several experts had shown that unfettered gambling causes impoverishment for the least fortunate in our society, and this often results in abusive behavior towards young children and partners,, and all too often ends in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicide.

Rewind: successive governments took years to acknowledge that “Smoking damages your health”, and even longer to admit that “Smoking kills” should be printed on every cigarette packet; and it took even more time before they finally stamped out all forms of smoking advertising. Please don’t let’s take another 20 years before the Government bans gambling advertising, and wastes a generation of young people simply because of the tax revenue.

He then recommends that Tweezer’s new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, should steal Watson’s clothes and bring in tough legislation dealing with gambling addiction before the next election, because ‘No one ever remembers whose idea it was, only the party person who passed the law.’

His piece ends ‘The slogan ‘When the fun stops stop’ is pathetic, and will reman so until it’s stopped.’ (p. 15).

Archer and Watson are absolutely right about the damage tobacco advertising has done, and which gambling and the advertising for it is continuing to do. And obviously a disagree with his recommendation that the Tories should appropriate Labour’s policy. If they did, it would only be token gesture of actually doing something for ordinary people, like Hammond’s wretched budget. A cosmetic improvement designed to get them re-elected so they can continue wrecking people’s lives in other ways, through destroying what remains of the welfare state and privatizing the health service.

But I’ve absolutely no fear whatsoever that the Tories will ban gambling advertising, for the same reason that they’ve never banned advertising for alcohol. There are heavy restrictions on the way booze is advertised, but not an outright ban. Which the European Union wished to bring in, according to Private Eye a few years ago.

The contemporary Tory party is a creature of its corporate donors. Always has been, to a certain extent. The Tories have always boasted that they represent business, and their MPs, like MPs generally in a political culture dominated by corporate cash, include the heads and managing directors of companies. Indeed, this is one of the reasons the Tories are dying at grassroots level. Ordinary party members in the constituencies are annoyed at the way they’re being ignored in favour of the donors from big business.

Going back 30 years to Major’s government, there was a demand in the early 1990s for an end to alcohol advertising. Major’s government was firmly against it. And one of the reasons was that very many Tory MPs had links to the drinks industry. Which Private Eye exposed, giving a list of those MPs and their links to particular companies.

I’m very confident that the Tory party now has very strong connections to the gambling industry, and so will very definitely not want to risk losing their cash. Just as it wouldn’t surprise me that if Labour did try to ban gambling advertising, the Thatcherite entryists in the party would turn against it. One of Tony Blair’s grotty schemes was the establishment of megacasinos in this country, modelled on America, of course. One of the ideas being kicked around was to turn Blackpool into a British Las Vegas. It’s a very good thing it failed.

Archer’s absolutely right to want gambling advertising to be banned. But the Tories are the last party that’s going to do it. If any party will, it will be Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Artists Saying ‘Nope’ to the Arms Industry

October 19, 2018

This is another great little video from Novara media, posted on YouTube on the 17th October 2018, about a group of artists, who withdrew their work from the Design Museum and exhibited elsewhere. This is the Nopetoarms collective, a group of radical artists protesting against the arms industry.

They made the decision to withdraw their works following the announcement that the museum would be hosting a reception for Leonardo, the 9th largest arms company in the world. Novara’s Ash Sarkar tweeted that it was a case of the British art establishment coopting radical artists to stay relevant, and ‘facilitating the social calendar of slaughterers to stay wealthy’. They also told her it was a private event, and she had to use other entrances and exits. One of the artists, Glen Orton, states that the movement contained work by Syrian artists, the Hong Kong movement, and other protest groups, who’d been teargassed, beaten, bombed. He was ‘gobsmacked’ that they even considered hosting the company. The Museum stated that they could not immediately commit to refusing money from the arms, oil and tobacco industries.

Another artist, Jess Worth, states that when the time came to move their works, there were forty people in the collective, which now comprised a third of the exhibition. The artists then decided to exhibit their work themselves, on their own terms. Charlie Waterhouse, another artist with the group, states that once the decision was made to remove their work, the Museum’s PR machine attacked them by claiming they were trying to shut down free speech and stop people seeing the exhibition. This made them think that putting the show back on would be a good thing. The exhibition is now being held in the basement of a leisure centre in Brixton, where it is curated and controlled by the artists themselves.

Worth explains that they wanted their exhibition to be free, unlike the Design Museum, which charged 12 pounds, the artists would write the labels themselves, so that it would present the work in the way they wanted. They wanted it grounded in community. They also wanted to make it accessible to people, who wouldn’t normally go to an art gallery.

Waterhouse also explains why the art is hung on clothes pegs from fences. It’s so that people say, ‘Oh, I can do that. Then, ‘I can do that’, and go and do it.

The video explains that oil and arms funding in the arts industry is a massive problem. Worth explains that being in a museum space conveys the impression that a company’s work is legitimate, because otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to be there. This is immensely valuable to the companies involved.

Waterhouse goes on to say that this has got to stop. On the one hand, they’re taking money from the arms industry. On the other, they’re levering cachet from the artists’ work without paying them. It’s a scam, he concludes.

The video also explains that the collective would like to do more. Worth says that what they’d really like to see is museums and other cultural bodies having a code of fundraising ethics, determining who they will and won’t take money from, that’s really clear on their website that everyone can see.

Waterhouse says that it’s time for artists to mobilise, to realise that their ethics, morals and feelings are valid, and they don’t just have to kowtow to the money.

Orton ends the video by saying that the Design Museum doesn’t know what it’s done.

The video shows the works of art as they’re displayed in the leisure. They not only comment explicitly on the arms industry, corruption and other issues, but also on the exploitation of the poor and working class through zero hours contracts. And among the iconic figures used in the works there’s David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

I think it’s really great that these artists have stood up for their beliefs against the arms industry, and that they’re encouraging their public to get involved and create their own pieces as well. I wish them all the best for their exhibition.

Dr Gerald Horne on Trump as the Product of the Racist History of the US

September 10, 2017

This is another fascinating video from Telesur English. It’s from an edition of the Empire Files, in which the host, Abby Martin, interviews Dr. Gerald Horne, the chair of History and African American Studies at the University Houston. Dr. Horne is the author of 20 books on slavery and black liberation movements. The blurb for the video on YouTube states that his most recent work is The Counterrevolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States.

The video is just over half an hour long, and it completely overturns the entire myth of the founding of the United States, in which the Founding Fathers were noble idealists, intent on bringing about a truly democratic state in which all men would be free. In fact the opposite was true. The Founding Fathers were either slave-owners, or else otherwise deeply connected to slavery and slave trade through their business interests. Instead of noble liberators for everyone, they were deeply opposed to granting Black Americans their freedom.

Dr. Horne argues that they were the products of British imperialism and its slave trade, which was first introduced into the Caribbean and then shifted north to the English colonies in North America. He traces the history of Black enslavement and anti-Black racist movements from the American Revolution to the American Civil War, and thence to the formation of successive waves of the Klan. His intention is to show that Trump is not an historical aberration, a strange historical throwback on America’s long progress to freedom and liberty, but a product of America’s racist history and the mass support anti-Black movements have enjoyed and exploited throughout it.

The programme begins by explaining the background to the Confederate monuments, which the Unite the Right stormtroopers marched to defend in Charlottesville the week before last. These were not simply memorials to great generals or valiant soldiers, as the myth around them says. Most of the Confederate monuments in the US were erected in two periods – the period of Jim Crow in the 1920s and ’30s, when the segregation laws were being introduced, and the 1950s when the Civil Rights movement was beginning. They were set up to convey a very specific message: that while Black Americans were technically free, the ‘Negro’ had better know his place beneath the White man. Or else.

He then goes on to describe the emergence of slavery in the US. He states that Britain at the end of the 16th century was ‘a failed state’. The British Civil War of the 1640s between Charles I and parliament was a quasi-bourgeois revolution, which gave some rights to the British merchant and middle classes. The real bourgeois revolution was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which allowed the middle classes to exert more political control, and allowed British merchants to wrest control of the slave trade away from the Crown as a royal monopoly.

The most important part of the British empire in the New World at the time was the Caribbean, and particularly Jamaica. These colonies became immensely profitable due to sugar. However, in the 1720s there was an economic crisis in Caribbean slavery, so some of the major Caribbean slaveowners moved north, to Carolina and other parts of the US. It was from these slave-owning families that the Founding Fathers were descended.

Horne also briefly discusses the role north American slavery played in the definition of White identity. Back in Europe, the different European peoples saw themselves as members of separate nations – English, Irish, Scots, French, Germans and so on. it was only when they crossed the Atlantic to America that they created an overarching racial identity to differentiate them from their Black slaves.

Horne then goes on to argue that the major catalyst for the American Revolution was the American colonists’ frustration at the British governments attempts to limit slavery and stop further colonial expansion beyond the Alleghenies. One of the critical moments in this was the Somerset Case, which ruled that slavery was illegal in England. The ruling was expanded to Scotland a year later. The taxes against which the Boston Tea Party was staged included those levied on slaves. They had been imposed by the British government as a deliberate anti-slavery measure. The British government was also tired of expending men and treasure in the various wars against the continent’s indigenous peoples. This angered the colonists, who longed to expand and seize native American land to the west. One of those, who stood to make a profit from this, was George Washington, who was a land speculator. As indeed, in a curious historical parallel, is Donald Trump. The Founding Fathers also feared and hated Black Americans, because the British had given their freedom to all Black Americans, who remained loyal. As a result, the Black Americans were solidly behind the British against the emerging independence movement.

Dr. Horne then goes on to talk about the American Civil War, and Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves held by the Southern states. Horne points out that it was felt at the time that Lincoln had somehow broken the rules of war, and done the unthinkable by arming the slaves. As for Lincoln himself, he didn’t have much sympathy with them, and was considering deporting them after the end of the war. Horne goes on to discuss how the deportation of Americans of African descent continued to be discussed and planned at various periods in American history afterwards. It was yet again discussed in the 1920s, when there was a movement to deport them back to Africa.

After the ending of slavery in American following the defeat of the South, many of the American slave-owners and traders fled abroad, to continue their business overseas. Several went to South America, including Brazil, while others went to Cuba.

After the Civil War came the period of reconstruction, and the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 19th century. Horne also talks about the lynching movement during this period of American history, which continued into the early 20th centuries. Not only were these intended to terrorise Black Americans to keep them in their place, but at the time they also were also almost like picnics. Photographs were taken and sold of them, and White spectators and participants would cut the fingers off the body and keep them as souvenirs. Dr. Horne remarks that, sadly, some White homes still have these digits even today.

He also talks about the massive influence D.W. Griffith’s viciously racist Birth of a Nation had on the Klan, boosting its membership. Klan groups began to proliferate. In Michigan, one branch of the Klan concentrated on fighting and breaking trade unions. Later, in the 1950s, the Klan entered another period of resurgence as a backlash against the Civil Rights campaign.

Horne makes the point that in this period, the Klan was by no means a marginal organization. It had a membership in the millions, including highly influential people in several states. And the Klan and similar racist organisations were not just popular in the South. The various pro-slavery and anti-Black movements also had their supporters in the North since the time of the Civil War. He also argues that the campaign against segregation was extremely long, and there was considerable resistance to Black Americans being given equality with Whites.

He also states that one of the influences behind the emergence of the Alt-Right and the revival of these latest Fascist and White supremacist movements was the election of Barak Obama as the first Black president of the US. Obama was subject to rumours that he was really Kenyan, with the whole ‘birther’ conspiracy theories about his passport, because he was Black, and so couldn’t be a proper American. And it is this bitter hostility to Obama, and the perceived threat to White America which he represents, that has produced Trump.

Watching this video, I was reminded of Frederick Douglas’ great speech, What To the Slave is the Fourth of July? Douglas was a former slave and a major voice for abolition in America. His speech noted how hollow the rhetoric about the Founding Fathers protecting Americans from slavery under the British, when they themselves remained slaves in reality.

He’s right about the rule of the sugar economy in saving the British colonies in the Caribbean, though from my own reading about slavery in the British Empire, what saved these colonies first was tobacco. It was the first cash crop, which could easily be grown there.

The role opposition to the British government’s refusal to allow further colonial expansion in provoking the American Revolution has also been discussed by a number of historians. One book I read stated that British colonial governors were encouraged to intermarry with the indigenous peoples. Thus, one of the governors on the British side actually had cousins amongst one of the Amerindian nations. The same book also described how the British granted their freedom to Black loyalists. After their defeat, the British took them to Canada. Unfortunately, racism and the bleak climate led them to being deported yet again to Sierra Leone. There were also Black loyalists settled in the British Caribbean colonies. One report on the state of colony instituted by its new governor in the early 19th century reported that the former Black squaddies were settled in several towns, governed by their own N.C.O.s under military discipline. These Black Americans were orderly and peaceful, according to the report.

As for the former American slave traders, who emigrated to Latin America, this is confirmed by the presence of one of the witnesses, who appeared before the British parliament in the 1840s, Jose Estebano Cliffe, who was indeed one of the émigré merchants.

Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks have also described the horrors of the lynchings in the Deep South, including the picnic, celebratory aspect to these atrocities. They made the point that if news reports today said that similar lynchings had been carried out by Arabs in the Middle East, Americans would vilify them as savages. But that attitude doesn’t extend to those savages in the US, who carried out these atrocities against Blacks.

It’s worth mentioning here that Blacks weren’t the only victims of lynching. Tariq Ali in an interview in the book Confronting the New Conservatism about the Neocons states that in Louisiana in the 1920, more Italians were lynched than Blacks.

The video’s also worth watching for some of the images illustrating Dr. Horne’s narrative. These include not only paintings, but also contemporary photograph. Several of these are of the slaves themselves, and there is a fascinating picture of a group of Black squaddies in uniform from the Civil War. I found this particularly interesting, as the photographer had captured the character of the soldiers, who had different expressions on their faces. Some appear cheerful, others more suspicious and pessimistic.

There’s also a very chilling photograph of people at a lynching, and it’s exactly as Dr. Horne says. The picture shows people sat on the grass, having a picnic, while a body hangs from a tree in the background. This is so monstrous, it’s almost incredible – that people should calmly use the murder of another human being as the occasion of a nice day out.

This is the history the Republican Party and the Libertarians very definitely do not want people to read about. Indeed, I put up a piece a little while ago at a report on one of the progressive left-wing news programmes on YouTube that Arizona was deliberately suppressing materials about racism, slavery and segregation in its schools, and making students read the speeches of Ronald Reagan instead. As for the removal of Confederate monuments, right-wing blowhard and sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly, formerly of Fox News, has already started making jokes about how ‘they’ want to take down statues of George Washington. Nobody does, and the joke shows how little O’Reilly really understands, let alone cares about the proper historical background behind them. I’ve no doubt that Dr. Horne’s interpretation of history would be considered by some an extreme view, but it is grounded in very accurate historical scholarship. Which makes it an important counterbalance to the lies that the Republicans and Libertarians want people to believe about the country and its history.

Meme on the Poisoning of Navajo Land by Mining Corporations

February 10, 2016

The big environmental news in America over the past few weeks is the massive poisoning of the local water supply in Flint, Michigan. This has been going on for years, and the water is seriously contaminated with lead, even in the local hospitals. The authorities did absolutely nothing, and continued to ignore the problem despite coverage from the local press. After about a year, the story’s managed to get through to the national American media, and it’s became a major scandal.

This is another scandal involving the poisoning of a people’s water supply, but it’s one that hasn’t made the news yet. It’s the contamination of the water supply of the Navajo First Nation by abandoned uranium and coal mines. The meme states that 75 per cent of all abandoned uranium mines are on tribal lands, which might indicate that other Native American peoples are affected.

Now this is very much an American issue, but it’s also part of what’s happening globally. Way back in the 1980s the Telegraph over here was moaning about how environmentalists weren’t letting the uranium mining corporations dig out the fuel from Aboriginal tribal lands in Oz. I’ve got a feeling there’s still a scandal and controversy going on about it, which centres around proper payment for the Aboriginal owners and clean-up operations afterwards. I have a feeling – though I don’t know – that the same is being done to the Aboriginals Down Under. Their land is being trashed, and not cleaned up afterwards.

And I have a horrible feeling that some of those corporate vultures involved may be British, or will want to come to Britain to do the same thing to our Green and Pleasant Land. If they aren’t doing it already, thanks to Bliar and Cameron. One of the companies that poisoned another Amerindian people’s land decades ago certainly was. Way back in the 1980s the Hanson Trust was in the Sunday Express. It was being sued by the Sioux, because their cement works was polluting their reservation. And this didn’t surprise me at all.

Lord Hanson was an asset-stripper, who bought up other companies, only to strip them and sell them off at a profit, before going on to carve up the next one. He was the Thatcherite dream. And he did it to W.H. and H.O. Wills in Bristol. Wills were a booze and cigarettes combine. They had several tobacco factories in Bristol, one of which was a huge construction that was used as a location in the Tom Baker Dr Who story, ‘The Sunmakers’. They also owned Courage’s brewery in the centre of the city. These both went their separate ways when Hanson got hold of them.

And he also tried to get his mitts, Maxwell-like, on the company’s pension fund. However, he found the pensioners’ lawyers were too good for him, and ended up selling the company off a few years later. Although that kind of corporate theft is associated with Robert Maxwell’s looting of the Mirror pension fund, the legislation that allowed it was Tory. It was passed by one Margaret Thatcher. You could also tell how grotty the Hanson Trust was because they also launched a PR campaign on TV. This bent your ear about how many times the plastic chairs they made would go around the world, if you lined them up one by one. It ended with the slogan ‘A company from over here, doing rather well over there’. ‘Over there’ meaning America. Well, God help our American cousins. Ben Elton recognised what they were and sent them up as the archetypal nasty corporation in his stand-up tour, Motorvation.

It doesn’t matter what colour the ordinary man or woman’s skin is to these vultures, whether your White, Black, Asian, Amerindian, whatever – companies like the Hanson Trust just loot, pollute and move on. They’re everywhere, and we need to stand up to them, no matter where in the world they’re operating. Because if the do it to one of us, they’ll do it to all of us.

Navajo Water

If you want to see the original, it’s on the over 18 Tumblr site, 1000 Natural shocks at http://greybeard55.tumblr.com/image/138997619025.

Beyond the affect on the Navajo people’s own health, and the global politics of the situation, there’s also the issue of the destruction of the ancient heritage of the American people as a whole. The Navajo reservation contains some of the most stunning and beautiful scenery in the US. The sand paintings made by the tribal shamans during their healing ceremonies are highly regarded by art connoisseurs. And the area possesses some of the most enigmatic and fascinating indigenous American archaeology in the US. From the 12th to 14th centuries AD the area was the centre of several highly developed civilisations. They built brick fortress cities high up in caves in the canyon walls, and a system of irrigation canals. They also had a peculiar system of roads. These appear to have been cut straight through the landscape, like the Romans. They also made them double, so that there was a pair of roads running parallel to the same destination. No-one quite understands why, though it’s thought that there might be some ideological or religious reason for it. I also think that, like many of the other Native American civilisations in the South West, they had extensive trade contacts with Mexico and the great civilisations there, such as the Aztecs. But it’s another mystery how those trade systems operated. Mesoamerican goods and motifs appear in the remains of the peoples of the Southwestern US, but they don’t appear in the material record of the peoples in between. What was going on? Why not? How were these items traded, and why?

And the history of the area also bears witness to the devastation caused by climate change. Many of the civilisations in what is now the Navajo reservation vanished in the 14th century as drought finally dried up their water supplies, and they were forced to move out of the area. Their cities and crops were abandoned. Now there’s a lesson relevant to today, and the contemporary crisis surrounding climate change and global warming.

There are still many unanswered questions, and vital lessons to be learned from the Navajo and similar peoples. The poisoning of them, and the destruction of their land are an attack both on their people and civilisation, and that of the wider American people. And needless to say, they and the people of Flint, deserve better.

Vox Political: 70,000 Indian Mullahs Sign Petition against Terrorism and ISIS

December 15, 2015

Amid the slew of bad news, this is very optimistic news indeed. Mike put up an article yesterday over at Vox Politcal about a report in the Independent that 1.5 million Muslims, including 70,000 members of the ulema – the Islamic clergy, had signed a petition organised by the Dargah Aalah Hazrat condemning ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The people signing the petition were pilgrims attending the Urs festival at the shrine of a local Sufi saint near the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan.

Mike writes

But the truth is, these people could deal the terrorists a far more bitter blow than any air strike. They are taking away the terrorists’ assumed legitimacy.

Daesh wants people around the world to believe that it is an Islamic organisation, and that true Muslims not only should, but will support it.

But here are one and a half million of them – admittedly in India – who won’t accept anything of the sort.

This could cripple Daesh’s recruitment of cannon fodder – or perhaps I mean radicalised fighters. No, cannon fodder is more appropriate.

Read the full article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/14/70000-indian-muslim-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-terror-groups/

I hope Mike’s right. The ulema are Islam’s religious leaders, and they can play a powerful role in forming Muslim popular opinion, and in providing or denying legitimacy to national governments. The obvious example of this is the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Even before then, back in the early part of the century, the Islamic clergy were able to mobilise a mass campaign against what they viewed as British imperialist domination. I’ve forgotten the precise details, but part of the grievance was about British economic domination through the tobacco industry. One of the Muslim scholars then denounced baccy as un-Islamic, with the result that nearly everybody in the country stopped smoking overnight. Tobacco profits fell, and the British government had to climb down on that particular point.

I’ve put up several pieces already on how most ISIS fighters actually have only a very superficial understanding of Islam. My guess is that this also extends to a segment of the leadership. Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, for example, has been reported as having no theological training. Despite the name, he’s not a ‘mullah’, the Iran term for a member of the clergy. At least, he isn’t formally.

As for cannon fodder, my guess is that’s exactly how the upper echelons of ISIS, the Taliban and al-Qaeda regard their followers. The mass use of suicide bombing by Muslims in recent conflicts began with the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. He bought a load of cheap keys, and in a ceremony gave them out to the suicide troops on the front, telling them that they were the keys to the kingdom of heaven. I’m not sure, but I think at least some of the soldiers were young boys. During the war the Iranians were reduced to using kids as young as 14. I know Muslims, who are very unimpressed and disillusioned by this shabby deception on the part of the government.

As for the Taliban, for many liberal and moderate Iranians, they’re a model of exactly the kind of hard-line regime they don’t want in their country. During the elections a few years ago in Iran, Ahmedinijad was attacked by his opponents as wanting to turn Iran into a ‘Taliban state’. John Simpson in his book on Iran makes the point that although the country is extremely authoritarian by Western standards, it’s people still felt they were freer than those of Soviet Russia.

How effective this will be for destroying any spurious legitimacy the Islamists possess remains to be seen. Part of the problem is that there is no overall religious leader in Islam. And Islam, like Christianity and many other religions, is also split into various sects, which can vary greatly on doctrinal issues. Much of the various Islamist movements seem to be a product of, or at least strongly influenced by, Wahhabism, the fundamentalist Islam of Saudi Arabia. This has been lamented by Muslims from nations, whose traditional form of Islam was much more liberal. And there is also the additional problem in that Islamism is a reaction against the official Islam promoted by the state in countries like Egypt. It may well be that the impressionable kids, who most need to take on board the Indian ulema’s message, won’t, because it doesn’t go with the stuff they read coming out of the jihadis’ sites.

This, however, is a major move by popular Islam against the Islamists. It also bears out what one poll reported about the majority of Muslims around the world despising ISIS. Hopefully, it’ll deter some from giving the mass murderers their support and aid.

Your Unrepresentative Representative: Filibustering Jacob Rees-Mogg

April 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has added Jacob Rees-Mogg to the other Tories he has profiled in marginal seats. These have extreme right-wing views, which may not be shared, and very probably aren’t, by many of their constituents. Rees-Mogg is currently the MP for part of Bath And North-East Somerset. He is another true-blue, old Etonian toff, the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former Times and Independent columnist. I’ve posted a little piece on Rees-Mogg jnr’s extreme right-wing views when I put up Private Eye’s review of his father’s book, Picnics on Vesuvius: steps towards the New Millennium.

And his views are extreme. He attended one of the black tie gala dinners of the Traditional Britain Group, a far right outfit who stand for the destruction of the welfare state, privatisation of the NHS, restoration of the old feudal social hierarchy, and ban on immigration, particularly of Muslims. They got into Hope Not Hate’s news when it was revealed that UKIP’s vice president in Wales, Gillibrand, was a member. Among its other antics, the Group has made racist sneers and condemnations against Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, murdered by White youths in a vicious, racial attack, the MPs Nadhim Zahawi and Chuka Umunna. They have also put up films by and hosted speakers from the Front National in France and the British Democratic Party, a splinter group of the British National Front. One of the founders of that organisation is Andrew Brons, who, like others in the NF, used to goosestep in Nazi costume in the 1970s. Both Gillibrand and Rees-Mogg have distanced themselves from and denounced the racist comments made by the Traditional Britain Group.

Rees-Mogg himself strikes a curiously archaic figure, more at home in the high culture of Glyndebourne than in the more plebeian environs of much of contemporary British culture. Hence the title of Mike’s piece: Will North-East Somerset consign Jacob Rees-Mogg to the history he clearly represents? MIke’s piece begins

What on earth is Jacob Rees-Mogg doing in Parliament during the 21st century? He belongs in the 19th.

It’s hard to know where to start, when discussing this particular wet-wipe. Perhaps the best way to do so would be to point out that a new constituency had to be created before he could actually win a Parliamentary seat – and even that is only a Tory marginal, perhaps because The Guardian‘s criticism that this candidate’s highly privileged life ran against the Tories’ then-current narrative of social inclusion rang true with the electorate.

In 1997, Rees-Mogg attracted ridicule after canvassing a working-class neighbourhood of the Labour seat of Central Fife with his nanny. Rumours he had gone around the constituency in a Bentley were dismissed by Rees-Mogg as “scurrilous” – he insisted it had been a Mercedes.

In 2001, he stood for The Wrekin in Shropshire – and lost again, this time to Labour’s Peter Bradley, who managed a 0.95 per cent swing to Labour against the national trend of a 3.5 per cent swing to the Conservatives.

He finally achieved his ambition of a Parliamentary seat in 2010, in the newly-created North East Somerset constituency, with a majority of just 4,914. It seems he was not above a few dirty tricks to achieve this, however: In December 2009, a pamphlet which purported to show him talking to a local constituent and calling on the Government to “show more honesty” was criticised after it emerged that the “constituent” was a London-based employee of his investment firm.

Mike points out that his voting record shows that he is intent on following his own extreme right-wing views, even going against his own party whip in order to do so. He defied the whips when voting in the fixed-term parliaments bill, the 2011 motion on the referendum on the European Union, and the 2012 House of Lords reform bill.

He has also been responsible for filibustering several bills. This is deliberately talking out a private members bill to make sure that it does not get passed or discussed further. He did this to the Daylight Savings Bill of 2010-12 and the Sustainable Livestock Bill for those same years. Mike describes the rubbish he talked in order to block them. As an example of his archaic chauvinism, he declared that local authority figures with the power to issue on-the-spot fines should have to wear bowler hats. He also supports Zero Hours contracts. He has also been reported to the parliamentary standards commissioner for talking about tobacco, mining, and the oil and gas industries in parliament, without mentioning that he has significant personal interests in those industries through his partnership in a venture capital firm.

And his voting record shows that he has pretty much the same right-wing views as the others Mike has profiled. He’s in favour of cutting taxes for the rich, while making sure that the poor are hit by VAT. He supports the creeping privatisation of the NHS, the Bedroom Tax, cuts to welfare payments and the benefits cap. He also supported making local authorities responsible for making sure people could afford the council tax, and then cut that.

He also supported the various private free schools and academies, the increase in tuition fees and removal of state support for ‘A’ Level and Further Education students. He is also for further military involvement overseas, culling badgers, selling off Britain’s forests, secret courts, the expansion of state surveillance, and the police and crime commissioners. He also wants to replace trident with further nuclear weapons, opposes further EU integration, localism and the devolution of power to local authorities. He also disapproves and voted against same-sex marriage, and removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

This last should come as no surprise. He made it the central platform of his election campaign in central Fife. My guess is that it probably didn’t appeal much to his prospective constituents. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Nationalist vote actually went up after he did.

Mike’s article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/30/will-north-east-somerset-consign-jacob-rees-mogg-to-the-history-he-clearly-represents/

Vox Political on Cameron as Political Whore, and Political Parties as Corporation Power Brokers

July 29, 2013

My brother, Mike, has an interesting piece reporting on Michael Meacher’s description of Cameron as a corporate whore on his blog. Entitled, Cameron, Corrupt Corporate Whore, According to Meacher, it begins

It seems opponents of the Coalition have realised its degraded claim to be a government is worthless and have decided to pour contempt on it at every opportunity.

I mention this after seeing Michael Meacher’s excellent column on David Cameron. The fake Prime Minister’s instincts, according to Mr Meacher are “that there is no such thing as the rule of law, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money”.

These words should come as hammer-blows to Cameron’s credibility. It is to his credit that Michael Meacher has written them – but also to the shame of the Labour front bench that none of them had the guts to come out with it first.

Mr Meacher supports his claims by laying out a wealth of evidence that, while the comedy PM crows on and on about Labour’s (non-existent) pandering to the unions, “there is almost nothing… that Cameron won’t do, no commercial interest he will disdain, no policy he will refuse to alter if it will ingratiate himself with the sources of money and power… He has prostrated himself before a wide range of commercial interests by changing government policy to suit them in order to recruit their money and power for himself and his party in the lead-up to 2015″.

Mike and Michael Meacher then provide the proof in various policies Cameron has adopted due to lobbying from different companies.

Now I have to say that I think political parties, through forging links with private industry and think tanks, are rapidly changing from institutions of government above the organisations, corporations and social groups they regulate, into power brokers, whose role is to allow these private interests access to governmental power. If you look at all three parties, including New Labour, their conferences are sponsored by industries and corporations. Their leading members frequently have careers in those corporations, or use staff on secondment from them, and the policies they enact have been drawn up by those very same companies. The only role the parties have is to choose which parties they will favour, and provide a democratic front for policies that have been formulated in private by private companies or associated think tanks in their own interest.

Now there has always been corruption and influence peddling in politics. American politics is notorious for the way a big corporation, which sponsor a politico’s election campaign all the while expecting him to return the favour once in office. Under New Labour and the Coalition, however, this type of corruption has become institutionalised. Private industry has supplied legions of Special Advisors, in opposition to the Civil Service, which traditionally had the duty to supply ministers with suggestions for future policy.

As for what can be done about, a good start would be listing, which MPs have connections to which companies, and how they have voted in these companies’ favour. Private Eye did this during Major’s government, when he did his best to put off any legislation against the tobacco and alcohol industries.

David Cameron, Alan Clarke, the Conservatives and the Tobacco Lobby

July 23, 2013

David Cameron has been in the news the last few days for his attempts to block legislation requiring that cigarettes be sold in plain packages, as has been suggested in Australia. Central to this campaign is one of the Tories’ spin doctors, Lynton Crosby, who is part of the Crosby Textor Aussie lobbying firm that works for the tobacco industry.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much par for the course for the Conservatives, who have long running connections to the tobacco and alcohol industries. During Major’s administration his economics expert, Alan Clarke, took up a position with British American Tobacco. Private Eye, with their usual wit and bile, sent him up as BATMan, a parody of the superhero strip. This featured Clarke as BatMan, hurtling around in his BATmobile, shaped like a giant cigarette, combatting the evil forces of the anti-smoking lobby and forcing Third World children to take up smoking. He was rather like an overweight, middle-aged Nick O’tine, if you can remember that anti-smoking advert from all those years ago.

So, as with so many of the Tories’ policies, no change there then.