Posts Tagged ‘Videos’

No, Toksvig, Sometimes Testosterone-Fuelled Jokes are the Only Appropriate Response

December 2, 2017

Sandi Toksvig, the presenter of Qi, former presenter of Radio 4’s News Quiz, and various game shows on BBC TV, was in the I last week. She and her same-sex partner, a BBC radio presenter or manager, are the founders of the Women’s Equality Party. She came out to say that there ought to be an equal number of women on panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes.

I didn’t read the article, just the headline, so I might be misjudging her. But I found it odd that she could say this, after she very publicly gave her endorsement in the elections last year to Hillary Clinton and Theresa May. Because they were both girls going after the top job. It didn’t matter that Killary has earned her nickname because she’s a vicious warmonger, who has never met a war she didn’t like, and fully backs the American imperialist machine. And if you want to see the kind of horrors that has inflicted on the peoples of the Developing World in the decades since the Second World, I strongly recommend you look at the videos Abby Martin has made about the subject over at The Empire Files.

But warning: you need a very, very strong stomach for some of this. It doesn’t dwell, but neither does it shy way from describing the sexual mutilation of women and men, and the rapes committed by the South American Death Squads trained by the American military at the base formerly called the ‘School of the Americas’.

Both Killary and May are, in terms of their policies, profoundly anti-woman. They have nothing to offer working people, except more poverty, exploitation and disenfranchisement. And women perform the lowest paid work, and so are at the sharp end of this. Both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn actually have better policies for women, and are probably better feminists, despite both being men. Which is why Killary and his supporters in the Labour had to manufacture accusations of misogyny against them. As well as attacking women, who weren’t going to vote for their fave female candidates as ‘traitors’.

Which shows how much respect these self-proclaimed, middle class corporate feminists really have for women and their ability to make their own minds up.

If you want something closer to proper feminism, you could have voted for the Green Party. It’s presidential candidate was Jill Stein, a medical doctor. Part of her platform was Medicare For All. She made the point that women particularly needed it, and was seen discussing the issue with a group of ladies in one of her political broadcasts. I put it up here, so it should be on this blog somewhere.

Likewise the British Green Party. They were, briefly, the left-wing alternative to the Labour party when it was run by the Clintonite fanboys, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then followed by Ed Miliband, who still adhered to their policy of trying to copy the Tories in the hope of winning over swing voters. The Greens are very hot on feminism and equality. I don’t whether it’s still true now, but they used to have a joint female-male presidency, where both a man and woman were in charge of the party together.

But this would have been a bit too radical for Toksvig and go. They want a nice, respectable type of feminism. A feminism that gives women access to the top jobs, but which otherwise leaves the class structure intact. A type of feminism that won’t frighten true-Blue Conservatives with terrible visions of boiler suited lesbians with degrees in sociology telling kids they should be bisexual. Or whatever stereotyped nonsense the Scum, Heil, Torygraph and Star are trying to push.

Now the argument that there should be a better gender balance on panel shows is a good one, and it can stand alone. It doesn’t really need a ‘because’. You can simply make the point that women are half the population, and so should be given half the places on these game shows. To support it, you need only to say that there are very many talented women, who are being passed over because of gender bias, or who provide a different, fresh point of view.

Toksvig’s statement that they’re needed on the panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes is in some ways strange, and actually rather reactionary. It’s misandrist, in that it sees men as being rather nasty, and who can only be restrained and civilised by women. It’s also very curiously old-fashioned, as if Toksvig hasn’t quite come round to understanding how women can also be lewd, crude and coarse.

In general, women do prefer a less coarse type of humour, though that’s true of a fair number of men as well. And I think that an awful lot of men, who don’t like that kind of humour being made in front of their wives also really object to it themselves, but as we’re supposed to be roughty-toughty blokes we aren’t supposed to show it. So we project it onto the memsahibs and use them as an excuse.

But women can also be very coarse. I’ve known women, who were far cruder than I was, and every bit as vulgar as any man. I’m not saying all women are like this. But it’s true of some. And there is the feminist argument that says that women should be free to do so, and talk explicitly about sex, without being condemned as whores.

And since the 1990s there have been any number of female comedians telling very sexually explicit jokes. Or further back, if you count Joan Rivers. The female led, and directed film Bridesmaids won critical acclaim the other year, but the crudity of its humour was remarked upon and did cause some controversy. I also remember a review of evening of stand-up comedy by the gay community in London. This feature a female comedian traumatising the men in the audience with a monologue about her cervical smear. Well, it was the 1990s, the age of Topless Darts and other crimes against television. You can also go and look at Absolutely Fabulous if you like. It’s witty, funny and very well done. But much of the humour is based about sex, and it doesn’t shy from talking about issues that would have Lord Reith spinning in his grave, like homosexuality. One of its heroines, Edina is a man-hungry, champaign-swigging selfish monster, while another of the characters, who runs a PR agency, uses the type of language that would make a docker blush. And when BBC 3 was still around, and orienting itself as da yoof channel, some of the programmes presented by women had coarse language in their titles. Like ‘F*ck Off, I’m a Hairy Woman’, which was presented by a female comedian attacking the beauty industry that demands women pluck and shave their bodies.

But there is also the argument that sometimes, very harsh, cruel, dark humour is the only appropriate response to a particular subject.

For example, there’s the late Bill Hicks, and Frankie Boyle, both known for their bitter political humour. Hicks’ humour was sexually explicit, and could be quite foul. There was an element of homophobia there, particularly when he told his audience that George Michael was gay, and if you ladies loved him, then you were too. But in coarser language. Some of it was simply about porn, the inauthenticity of contemporary rock stars, and getting drunk and stoned.

But he also used his vicious wit against Reagan’s super-patriotic America. In one monologue, he described Reagan’s Attorney-General Ed Meese as a serial killer, who would one day cut his wrists in the bath. Then they’d find the skins and clothes of all the children he’d murdered in his attack.

But Reagan was responsible for backing Fascist Death Squads in Central America, who committed horrendous atrocities. And so there was a point when he said that he’d pay ‘an extra nickel, just to have little brown kids not clubbed to death like baby seals’. It’s shocking imagery, but it was true. And he was one of the greatest protest voices in the media against such horrors in the ’80s. Channel 4 actually gave him his own show. I don’t think we’d be that lucky now.

Now on to Frankie Boyle. Boyle’s humour is too dark, extreme and tasteless for many people, irrespective of their gender or sexual identity. He was a member of Mock the Week, a satirical panel show presided over by Dara O’Briain, but was too extreme for the Beeb. But there was a point to his dark, vicious jokes. What got pulled from one episode was a joke he made about calling up the Ministry of Defence, and getting ‘the Department of N*gger Bombing’. I don’t doubt that this was pulled because it contained the ‘N’ word, which is highly offensive coming from Whites. But arguably, Boyle was quite right to use it, and right about the joke. He explained to Richard Osman at the Edinburgh Television Festival one year that he made it, because he had read about comments from British generals during the Empire’s heyday that said they were all about ‘bombing n*ggers’. He was factually correct. And it was a curt, but pithy remark on contemporary western imperialism under Bush and Blair. Or whichever mass-murderer was in power then.

It was offensive, but it was an accurate reflection of an even more offensive reality.

So while I can see where Toksvig is coming from with her comments, I think she’s wrong to condemn all dark, weird and brutal humour, simply because it offends her delicate sensibilities. Sometimes you need the extreme and tasteless to reveal and comment on an even more horrific reality. One that Toksvig, it seems, with her backing of Killary and May, wants to deny exists, or is perfectly comfortable with.


RT America Fights Back with Spoof of Corporate American Smears

October 28, 2017

This is a great little video from RT America, where their Editor-in-Chief, Margarita Simonyan, responds to the political and corporate witch-hunt against RT by pretending to show how the Russian-owned broadcaster really operates. It shows her counting out her ill-gotten gains in the company of a bear, natch – this is a Russian company. She moves around dressed in the characteristic Russian fur hat, as do many of her workers, who are shown as the bullied drones of Russian industry. And even the cleaning ladies take their orders directly from Moscow. The expats are kept shackled in the basement as evil defectors, and in the studio for foreign news all the supposed ‘live’ footage from places like Syria are in fact fakes, generated through computer graphics and the green screen. Further consultation with her senior staff takes place in a darkened room where everyone is wearing Red Army uniforms. And the news readers themselves are kept chained to their desks.

The clip concludes with a selection of various quotes on the screen by alarmed political figures and former journalists with the network, all going on about how it’s a terrible threat to American freedom and democracy. You won’t be surprised to see that amongst the Republicans there are various figures from Hillary’s branch of the Democrat Party.

The video then ends with the promise ‘Don’t worry – we’ll keep annoying them!’

This puts the lie to the stereotype that the Russians are naturally dour with no sense of humour. Yes, they have a word for ‘funny’ – it’s ‘smeeshno’, and this is very smeeshno indeed. And much of that humour was expressed in political satire. Try Gogol’s The Government Inspector. Written in the 19th century by the great Ukrainian writer, this is about a corrupt post office manager, who opens the letters coming through his office and reads them.
The late Peter Ustinov, in an interview in the 1980s described how he was walking around Moscow when a spiv sidled out of an alley. The man asked him if he wanted to buy any videos. So Ustinov said he was interested, and followed him back down the alley, wondering just what videos the man had for sale. The black marketer opened his coat to reveal-

-videos of the British Whitehall sitcom, Yes, Minister.

This was during Perestroika, and the Russians liked it, because it satirised state bureaucracy, just like so much of their great literature.

There are issues of bias, of course. The presenter of The Empire Files, Abi Martin, left RT, or was sacked, because she criticised a Russian military action on air. But that should not put people off watching RT, any more than watching the Beeb uncritically support the current regime of gangsters and Nazis in the Ukraine. I watch and reblog videos from RT on this site, because they cover issues from a left-wing perspective that you don’t see in the mainstream media. And if RT is growing, it isn’t because they are engaged in a fiendish plot to bring down our governments. It’s because they’re actually doing their job as journalists, and holding government and corporations to account, which the Western media has given up doing since they were taken over by big corporate conglomerates in the 1980s.

Another Satirical Video: ‘Strong and Stable’ Theresa May as Bug-Ridden Windows XP

June 23, 2017

Here’s another fun video from YouTube, taking the mick out of the Tories. Remember how Theresa May was chanting ‘strong and stable’ every five minutes like a stuck record during her election campaign in a vain attempt to make the electorate think that she was a tougher negotiator than she actually is?

Well, this little video takes her catchphrase, songifies it, and shows it as a technical glitch running on Windows XP, so that intercut with footage of May herself are error messages and warnings of virus attack. All mixed in with shots of Boris Johnson on that zipline, of course.

It’s a great video, so sit back and enjoy the fun!


Jimmy Dore and Friends Discuss LSE Study into Media Bias against Jeremy Corbyn

June 8, 2017

In this video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his friends show and talk about a video produced by the London School of Economics into the British press’ bias against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour party. Corbyn, they explain, is the British counterpart of the American progressive, Bernie Sanders, and the British media has been attacking him worse than the American has Bernie.

The LSE video states that the British media sees itself as the watchdogs of democracy. However, corporate ownership has transformed the media into the guard dogs of the political order, and its attack dogs against politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, who threaten it.

In a sample of 25 per cent of the British news about Jeremy Corbyn over 2 months in 8 newspapers, they found that

* 54 per cent of all news articles were negative or antagonistic.
* 67 per cent of all editorials and opinion pieces were negative.

It noted that the right-wing papers were particularly scornful, but there was considerable bias against Corbyn in the left-wing press. The left-wing press denounced him as ‘too left’, ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unelectable’.

Which, as Dore’s own sarcastic comment of, ‘Where have I had that before?’ makes clear, is the same sneers the Democrat party has made against the awesome Bernie.

This was partly due to the civil war in Labour, where anti-Corbyn sources were used in the media to outweigh pro-Corbyn sources.

This is broken down into the stats for the amount of news coming from pro- and anti-Corbyn sources for all newspapers, the Torygraph and the Depress. But anti-Corbyn sources are still used in preference to pro-Corbyn sources in the Daily Mirror and the Independent.

It states that the British media have deliberately set out to delegitimise the leader of the biggest opposition party in the UK.

The screen shows some of the sheer abuse hurled at Corbyn, including ‘vegetarian’. Dore’s fellow comics have great fun with that insult, using it to mock the right-wing rhetoric about ‘pie in the sky’.

It was not only done through scorn and personal attack, but also by associating him with terrorism and the enemies of the UK, such as Osama bin Laden.

* 18 per cent of articles linked him with Iran, Hamas, Hisbollah, the IRA or terrorism in general.

* This was particularly true of articles in the Torygraph, the Depress and the Scum, where the proportion of articles which included these slurs were 14%, 20% and 19% respectively.

* 22 per cent of articles depicted Corbyn or his ideas as dangerous.

* 52 per cent of articles did not give Corbyn’s own views.

* In 11 per cent of articles which did repeat Corbyn’s views, they were taken out of context or distorted.

* The LSE’s video concludes that this is not only a political problem, but also a moral and democratic problem, as the media is used to delegitimise any attack on the status quo, and present neoliberalism as commonsense.

Dore states that this is exactly the same process that has been used against Bernie Sanders and his campaign for single-payer healthcare in the US. And the US media hasn’t told their audience that the reason they can’t have the same healthcare system as the rest of the world is because their government is corrupt.

This video shows what I dare say most of the readers of this blog know already: that the media is massively biased against politicians, who genuinely want to do something for the people.

Like Corbyn.

Like Bernie.

Don’t believe the media lies.

If you haven’t voted for Corbyn already, do so. And save the NHS in England. And if you’re American, support Bernie and his campaign to give America the healthcare system its great people need and deserve. Not the one foisted on it by Trump and the corporate shills in the Republicans and Democrats.


Vote for Corbyn to Stop the Work Capability Tests

June 8, 2017

This is the text of another of my table-top pamphlets, this time against the notorious Work Capability Tests. These were also introduced by New Labour at the behest of Unum and other private healthcare providers.

These are not objective tests to assess who is well enough to support themselves. They are simply a callous, bureaucratic mechanism for throwing people with disability off the benefits they need to support themselves. These have included severely disabled people, including terminal cancer patients in comas!

This iniquitous system has been retained and expanded by the Tories – David Cameron and his Lib Dem lackey, Nick Clegg, and now Theresa May.

It is killing people. As I’ve mentioned far too many times before, about 600 + people have died in misery and despair after having their benefit withdrawn due to these tests. Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and DPAC have put together lists and videos putting names to faces, to show the human reality of these statistics – whose mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were killed thanks to the Thatcherite insistence of cutting down on welfare.

The number of people, who have died after having been assessed as ‘fit for work’ is well above ten thousand, though the true figure may never be known. Mike and the other disability activists, who tried to get the figures were blocked by IDS and the DWP at every turn when they tried to get them.

Jeremy Corbyn has also promised to end workfare.

So vote for him. Don’t let the Tories kill more disabled people under the pretence of saving money.

Stop the Work Capability Test –
Before More People Die

by David Sivier

One of the very worst policies introduced by various governments as part of their campaigns to dismantle the welfare state over the past decade has been the Work Capability Test. This was introduced by New Labour in October 2008 along with a new benefit for the disabled and long-term sick, the Employment Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit. The Work Capability Test is intended to show if the person claiming benefit really cannot work. It consists of questionnaire, in which boxes are to be ticked in answer to particular questions about the claimant’s health and disability. 2Ten of these tests were on the claimant’s physical health, and another ten are on their ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual’ fitness. There may also be a brief physical examination. The tests are performed by medical doctors working on behalf of a government outsourcing company. This was given to the French company, Atos, but the company was forced to terminate its contract a year early in 2014 following public anger at the system’s incompetence and maladministration. The contract was then given to an American company, Maximus. The tests may be repeated as often as the JobCentre Plus decides. If the disabled person scores low in the tests, they are judged fit for work. They lose their ESA and are told to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The tests are based on a monograph, The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Beneft, by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward, of 2005 and a succeeding work, Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? By Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton. They were also strongly influenced by a 2001 New Labour conference, in which Aylward was a contributor, Malingering and Illness Deception. These led in turn to the publication of a Green Paper in 2006, A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work – an independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform. Both Waddell and Aylward were professors at the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, which was funded by the American insurance giant from 2004-9. The Work Capability Test uses a form of Bio-Psychosocial model of assessment, developed in America by Unum Provident. This model of assessment is considered to have been devised by George Engel in 1977. In 2006 a paper produced by Professor Christopher Butler and his colleagues attacked the model as ‘wanting’ and inadequate. Waddell and Aylward’s 2006 paper has also been attacked and discredited by Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz.

Unum, and pseudo-medical testing actually became part of the disability benefits system twelve years or so prior to the Waddell and Aylward’s paper, in 1993, when the-then Conservative Health Secretary, Peter Lilley, introduced tougher testing designed to evaluate whether claimants were totally incapable of work. They had previously been awarded benefit if they were unable to do their job. Lilley considered that this approach was to open to sentimental interference by doctors, and so set up an ‘Incapacity benefit medical valuation group’, whose members included Dr John Le Cascio, the second vice-president of Unum Corporation. Lo Cascio had recently been seconded to its British branch, Unum Ltd, based in Dorking in Surrey. In 1994 Lo Cascio was appointed to train the British doctors charged with carrying out the tests by the Benefits Agency Medical Services. New Labour claimed that the purpose of the Work Capability Tests has been ‘to get people back into work’. This was always a misleading claim. New Labour had a ten-year plan to remove one million people from the 2.8 million receiving disability benefits. Their Secretary of State for Health declared ‘We know that being in work can be good for your wellbeing’, echoing the title of the paper by Waddell and Burton. 13 Years before that, Lilley introduced the tests with the aim of cutting £2 billion from the benefits bill.

And Unum itself regarded the benefit cuts as a great commercial opportunity. In their report in 1994, Chairman Ward E. Graffam was enthusiastic about ‘exciting developments in Britain’, saying ‘the impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’

Atos immediately decided that three-quarters of those in receipt of benefit were fit for work.16 Between the introduction of the tests in October 2008 and February 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions made over 1.36 million decisions on whether to award ESA following the administration of the tests on claimants. It declared 794,000 sick and disabled people ‘fit for work’. From the very beginning, the tests were criticised as being vastly inaccurate, and the treatment of claimants under it as cruel and degrading. ‘We Are
Spartacus’, a network of disability researchers and campaigners, denounced the way claimants were ‘wrongly assessed, humiliated and badly treated’. In response to repeated requests by disability campaigners, the DWP finally released the figures for the number of people dying over 11 months in 2011 while in receipt of ESA. 10,600 people in total had died. Of these, 1,300 had died after being taken off benefit following the decision that they were ‘fit to work’. Some of the people, who have died, committed suicide in despair at having their income terminated. One of these was a 47 year old man, who took a drug overdose. Others experienced a deterioration in their mental health due to the stress of assessment. Between 2008 and 2014, there were 600,000 appeals. This constitutes a third of all assessments, and in 2012-13 there were 465,000 appeals, with a success rate of 39 per cent. In some areas, lawyers had a success rate of over 80 per cent overturning decision by Atos against the claimant receiving benefits. 60 per cent of those, who had successfully appealed had scored zero. That is, Atos had declared them entirely fit for work. In 2013, however, the Conservative government took the decision to end legal aid for claims for welfare payment, which meant that fewer people would be able to afford to take the government to court.

In America, Unum Provident was fined $31.7 million in a class action lawsuit in California in 2003 for running ‘disability denial factories’. Two years later in 2005, John Garamendi, the California Department Insurance Commissioner, fined the company $15 million, declaring ‘Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years’. The insurance commissioners of 48 American states had made a settlement with the company by 2006 that required it to review 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. In 2008 the American Association of Justice declared that the company was the second most discredited insurance provider in America.

Despite public anger at Atos’ conduct of the Work Capability Test for ESA, the government in 2012 awarded the company another contract, worth over £400 million, for assessing whether disabled people were suitable for the Personal Independence Payment that was scheduled to replace the Disability Living Allowance in 2013. The Disability Living Allowance provided the handicapped with up to £130 per week to help them look after themselves. This was mostly awarded to help people cook, wash, and assist those with mobility problems. In the three years from April 2013 to 2016, this is to be phased out and replaced with the PIP, which is designed to get people back into work. The government was determined to cut spending on the PIP by twenty per cent during these three years, after the number claiming DLA rose by 30 per cent to 3.2 million people between 2002 and 2011. This was expected to throw 500,000 people off disability benefit.

As with their administration of the ESA fitness to work tests, Atos has proved to be less than efficient in its administration of the PIP. Those applying for the benefit may have to wait months before being notified that they are entitled. The cancer charity, MacMillan Cancer Support, stated that there were serious delays in the approval of payments. As well as leaving the terminally ill without this benefit, it also meant that they were unable to claim other vital benefits with which PIP was linked. As a result, some were forced in their desperation to take out loans from payday loan companies, which have a truly exorbitant interest rate. The number of problems with ESA dealt with by Citizens Advice rose by 54 per cent from 2011 to 2012, when the bureaux dealt with 450,000 of them.

Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, Mind, criticised the tests for failing to consider the effects of mental health on people’s ability to work. In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, he said

The system is based on assumptions that claimants need to be forced back to work, rather than supported on their own terms, and that those not well enough to go back to work are somehow perceived as scroungers. These attitudes only serve to further damage individuals’ mental health and increase the time until they may be ready to return to work.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, another disability charity, stated that the tests ‘should be more than an exercise in getting people of benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job.’ The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee condemned the tests, stating that the system was so flawed it needed to be completely overhauled.

Guy Standing in his A Precariat Charter states that governments have been able to cut benefits for the disabled far more than for other groups, because they are a minority and so there is likely to be fewer objections to their treatment and lost votes. He also recommends that any firm hired by the government to provide services for the disabled should be bound by three commitments. The first should be to the disabled themselves; the second should be to the government; and the third should be to the whole of society, as the rest of us could be next. The employment contract awarded to such outsourcing firms should include penalty clauses requiring them to compensate the disabled claimant directly when they do not award them the correct benefits. This compensation should be much more than the benefits the disabled person did not receive. They should also be penalised for their mistakes. This would be a start, but it is not enough. The problem lies not with the companies administering the tests, but with the whole system of tests itself. The cause of the problem is attitude of successive governments, from John Major’s Conservatives, through Blair and Brown’s New Labour and then the Conservative-led governments of David Cameron, that the disabled should automatically have their benefits reduced, regardless of the poverty and hardship involved. The goal should be to provide benefits to support the poor and disabled, rather than cuts intended to reduce the tax burden for the rich. The Work Capability Test and the poverty and stress it inflicts should be stopped. Now.


Theresa May Wants Greater Regulation of the Internet after Terror Attacks

June 6, 2017

Here’s another threat to liberty in the UK: the further expansion of the massive surveillance state erected by New Labour and the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

After the terrible atrocity in Manchester last week, Theresa May and the Tories demanded greater regulation of the internet in order to crack down on terrorism. At first, this doesn’t look too unreasonable. ISIS and al-Qaeda before it have disseminated their propaganda through the Net. Several British converts, including the stupid schoolgirls, who ran off to the Middle East to be jihadi brides, were drawn to the terrorists through the loathsome beheading videos these butchers put out.

However, there are dangers as well. Further regulation means that the state has greater powers to spy on all of us, and presents a danger to free speech and conscience generally.

In this clip from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and his producer, Patrick Ford, point out the dangers of such legislation. They cite the intelligence whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who made the point that despite the massive expansion in the American surveillance state after 9/11, there is no evidence that the increased policing of the net prevented further terrorist attacks. They also ask their audience to imagine what would happen, if a generation arose, who believed climate change did not exist because all references to it had been scrubbed from the Net, or if the government used its regulation of the Web to whip up support for another war.

Pakman and Ford state clearly that they are afraid we Brits are going down the same road America went down after the attack on the Twin Towers.

Pakman and Ford are absolutely right to be very worried about this. Blair stood for the expansion of the surveillance state in Britain before 9/11, as did John Major, the Tory prime minister before him. And privacy and civil liberties groups have been extremely worried about this intrusion into the lives and private matters of innocent citizens and the threat it poses to genuine freedom.

The terror attack in Manchester was just the latest pretext to take more of our freedoms away. A few years ago it was the threat of paedophilia and pornography. Tom Pride, of Pride’s Purge, found that some of his readers were finding it difficult to view him, because their internet provider had decided that his blog was ‘adult’ and so not suitable for children. The blog is indeed adult, but only in the sense that it’s a political blog, dealing with an adult topic. Which sometimes involves very forthright language from Mr Pride. But it certainly ain’t porn, and its blocking – and those of similar left-wing blogs – looked very much like an attempt by the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers to clamp down on left-wing bloggers.

Just as YouTube has taken the campaign against fake news as the opportune to demonetise left-wing vloggers. This will force left-wing news programmes off YouTube by denying them the advertising money they need to support them.

Britain has some of the harshest anti-terror legislation in Europe. Thanks to Blair, Cameron and Clegg, British law now provides for secret courts, where you can be tried without knowing the precise charges, the evidence against you, or who your accuser is, and where the press and the public are excluded, if the government decides that a normal, public trial would be a threat to national security.

As I’ve pointed out time and again, this is the travesty of justice the great Czech writer, Kafka, described in his book The Trial and The Castle, and which became horrific realities in Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR.

As Pakman and Ford point out, no-one is arguing that governments shouldn’t have the tools they need to prevent terrorism. But this should not mean a further erosion of civil liberties.

I believe we are very much at that point now.

Don’t let May use the terror attacks to create a totalitarian surveillance state, where the only material allowed on the Net is right-wing, Tory propaganda.

Vote Labour on June 8th for a sensible approach to terrorism.


Vox Political’s Long List of Tory Lies

May 2, 2017

On Saturday, Mike posted a piece asking why anyone should believe the Tories about Jeremy Corbyn considering their long record of lying. He then gave a few examples, such as May’s promise that she wouldn’t call a snap election, her promise that she would seek an agreement with three other nations in Britain – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50 for Brexit; David Cameron’s pledge not to cut Child Tax Credits; the Tories’ promise that they wouldn’t increase NI contributions, and that they would reduce the deficit.

And those are all just starters. They come from a video about the Tories’ broken promises and flagrant lying, that is included in Mike’s article.

He also gives a few more example of Conservative mendacity, beginning with their lies to the rozzers about their election spending. They have also lied about not cutting the NHS, about helping people with disabilities – in fact, their lies, as repeated in the press, have helped fuel a 213 per cent rise in hate crime against disabled people, about the Trident missile test, their denials that their policies are actually causing a fall in British life expectancy.

The list just goes on and on.

And Mike also reblogs Eoin Clarke’s list of 30 U-turns the Tories have made since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Mike’s conclusion is the obvious one: Despite all the ranting, the Tories are weak and liars.


A few years ago I suggested that Ian Duncan Smith should really be called ‘Matilda’, after the lying heroine of the famous cautionary poem by Hilaire Bellocq, ‘Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes’. Etc. But this shows that the whole party should be called ‘Matilda’, given their own contempt for truth.


My YouTube Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Defend the NHS

April 30, 2017

I’ve had my own YouTube channel for a few years now. I haven’t posted anything on there for quite a while, and most of the stuff I have posted up there is about archaeology, early musical instruments and few home-made space videos. However, today I put up a video urging people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to prevent the Tories privatising the NHS.

I state that it began when Margaret Thatcher came to power as part of her campaign to dismantle the welfare state, but that Thatcher was stopped from doing so by her a cabinet revolt and her Personal Secretary, Patrick Jenkin. The cabinet realised that if she did privatise the NHS, it would immediately result in the Tories losing an election. Also, Jenkin went to America and realised just how bad the American system of private healthcare was. So Maggie settled for trying to expand private healthcare in Britain, aiming to have 25 per cent of the British people take out private health insurance.

A few years later in the 1980s there came a dispute between her and the dentists, which resulted in very many of them leaving the NHS. The result of that is that, while there still are NHS dentists, you need to look for them. And private dental care is not cheap. So people are going without proper dentistry.

After that, Peter Lilley in John Major’s administration introduced the Private Finance Initiative, under which private corporations build and manage hospitals for the NHS. It’s essentially a scheme to keep the costs of construction and management off the books. In practice it’s massively more expensive than simply having them build by the state. Those hospitals, clinics and other medical services built through it also tend to be smaller than through ordinary hospitals built by the state. See the chapter in George Monbiot’s Captive State. This was all done to open up the NHS to private investment.

This programme was expanded by Tony Blair, as he, like the Tories, was approached by private healthcare firms such as Unum, Virgin Health, Circle Health and BUPA to privatise more NHS services. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided for the state by private healthcare companies. He split the NHS up and handed its management to CCGs – Community Care Groups. This was supposed to be giving doctors greater freedom and more choice. However, it doesn’t do this as most doctors simply don’t have enough time to spend on administration. The CCGs were given the power to raise money privately, and commission services from private healthcare providers. Again, hospitals and the health centres or polyclinics Blair also built were also to be managed by private companies.

This programme did not stop when David Cameron’s new Conservative government was voted into power in 2010. Cameron had claimed that he going to stop further cuts in the NHS. He didn’t. He expanded the privatisation programme even further. The 2012 healthcare act formulated by his health minister, Andrew Lansley, is a convoluted document, but it removes the Health Secretary from having to provide medical services. Furthermore, the Tories have also passed legislation allowing the NHS to charge for services, even ambulance care. And this is still going ahead under Theresa May.

There is a real danger that the NHS will be abolished, and the country will return to the way it was before the Labour government introduced it. Private healthcare is not more economical and efficient than state healthcare. Private insurance companies and hospitals spend much more on management, including advertising, legal teams and simply trying to raise money from investors, to make sure their shareholders see a profit. There are about 50 million Americans without health insurance. 33,000 Americans die every year from lack of medical care. And it was like that before the NHS, when the charity hospitals, where people were sent if they didn’t have private health insurance, or weren’t covered by the state health insurance scheme, spent much of their time trying to raise money. And millions of people were denied healthcare, because they couldn’t afford it.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will renationalise the NHS. Dr. David Owen has also sponsored a bill to renationalise the NHS. They need our support. And so, if you want to keep the NHS, you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For further information, see the following books:
NHS-SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis (London: OneWorld 2015)
Dr. Youseff El-Gingihy, How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps (Zed Books)
and my own, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, published by Lulu.


The Fantastic Space Art of David A. Hardy

April 22, 2017

This is another couple of videos from the redoubtable Martin Kennedy showcasing the amazing work of yet another space and Science Fiction artist, David A. Hardy. Hardy is one of the longest running space and SF artist working. The entry on him in Stuart Holland’s Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History, runs:

David Hardy’s introduction to astronomical illustration was a somewhat rushed affair. In 1954, as a mere 18-year-old, he was commissioned to produce eight black and white illustrations for a book by legendary UK astronomer Patrick Moore: Suns, Myths, and Men. He had just five days to create them before British national service-conscription-required him to join the Royal Air Force. The commission was all the more remarkable as Hardy had only painted his first piece of astronomical art four years previously, inspired by the work of Chesley Bonestell.

Since those early days, Hardy (1936-) has garnered numerous awards for artwork that spans the science fiction/hard science divide. Born in Bourneville, Birmingham, in the UK, he honed his talents painting chocolate boxes for Cadbury’s. By 1965 he had become a freelance illustrator, beginning a career that resulted in covers for dozens of books and magazines, both factual, such as New Scientist, Focus, and various astronomical publications, for which he also writes; and SF, including Analog and Fantasy & Science Fiction. 1972 saw the publication of Challenge of the Stars, which Hardy not only illustrated but co-wrote with Patrick Moore (the book was updated in 1978 as New Challenge of the Stars). A bestseller, it joined the select pantheon of book that influenced a new generation of up-and-coming astronomical artists.

By now, Hardy’s work was receiving international recognition, and in 1979 he was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Tow years later, another book followed, Galactic Tours, which as the name suggests is a “factitious” guidebook for the interstellar tourist. As a result of the book, travel company Thomas Cook approached Hardy about becoming a consultant on the future of tourism in space-long before Richard Branson had planned Virgin’s conquest of the stars.

Hardy has written an SF novel, Aurora: A Child of Two Worlds; worked on the movie The Neverending Story, and on TV (Cosmos, Horizon, The Sky at Night, Blake’s Seven), and produced record covers for – unsurprisingly – Holst’s The Planets and for bands such as Hawkwind, the Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd.

In 2004, Hardy’s long-standing partnership with Patrick Moore culminated in the award-winning Futures, in which the two explored the changing perceptions of space exploration since they first collaborated in the ’50s, the ’70s (the era of Challenge of the Stars) and into the 21st century. Artistically, Hardy has also embraced the growing digital trend that started in the approach to the new millennium. While still painting in acrylic and oil, he now uses Photoshop as a matter of course.

In March 2003, Hardy was paid perhaps the ultimate accolade an astronomical artist can receive: he had an asteroid [13329] named after him. Discovered ini September, 1998, it was christened Davidhardy=1998 SB32-high praise indeed!
(P. 130).

Several of the paintings in the video come from the Challenge of the Stars and its updated version.

The videos also include his cover illustration for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Snows of Olympus: A Garden on Mars – the History of Man’s Colonisation of Mars, which is another ‘future history’, this time of the terraforming of the Red Planet.

I have to say that I’m really impressed he also worked on Blake’s 7. This was low-budget British SF, but it had some create scripts and a really beautiful spaceship in The Liberator. And I would far rather go into space on something designed by Hardy, and operated by Thomas Cook, than by Branson.


The People of Stoke on Trent Say What They Think of Kipper Nuttall

February 6, 2017


Bottom’s Eddie Hitler and Paul Nuttall. The likeness is frightening.

Over the past week, Mike’s run some brilliant articles about the people of Stoke on Trent expressing their displeasure at Paul Nuttall’s attempt to be elected their MP. I’ve said before that Nuttall looks like Ade Edmondson’s character from the BBC comedy series, Bottom, the stupid, coarse and violent Eddie Hitler. Bottom, however, was intended to be deliberately funny, while there is nothing remotely comic about the racism, misogyny, homophobia and bigotry Nuttall and his party represent. Nuttall’s own attitude to the town and its people is derisory. He has never lived there, and cynically took up residence only a couple of days after he filed his candidacy. The contempt with which he treats them is reciprocated, and the good burghers are fighting back.

Yesterday Mike put up two photos showing just what local people think of Nuttall and the Kippers. One is of a notice in a house window, which states

‘Dear UKIP, Go away. I am neither racist, nor homophobic and you offend me.’

And the ladies of Women Against UKIP put up a mock Blue Plaque in Nuttall’s honour. This reads, ‘Paul Nuttall, leader of UKIP 2016- Did not live here’.

Today Mike’s put up another piece showing a video from Chunky Mark, the artist taxi driver, in which he talks to three people from Stoke on Trent, who give their views on Nuttall and his office in the town. It’s a man and two women. The man makes the acute observation that Nuttall’s office used to be a pie shop, ‘Now it’s a lie shop.’ He states that Nuttall’s party is about causing division, not about helping the people of Stoke on Trent. Nuttall and his party wish to privatise the NHS and schools, abolish maternity and other welfare benefits, on which plenty of people in Stoke rely. And now after making it clear that he wants to privatise the NHS, he now claims to want to save the NHS.

The two women share the man’s views on Nuttall. They also makes the point that he doesn’t really want to work for the people of Stoke on Trent, and is just spreading hatred and racism. One of the women reminds the viewers that Nuttall did say he wanted to privatise the NHS, because we have an aging population. She emphasises this, to show Nuttalls contempt for this most precious of British institutions and Britain’s seniors. She also objects to Nuttall claiming that immigrants are coming to take our benefits. She finds this hurtful to the people of her town, and to the immigrants, who come here and work hard and do not take benefits. And now Nuttall’s pasted his lies up. She states that she is ashamed of the shop, and afraid that his lies will infect the local people. As for Nuttall demanding a ‘quick Brexit’, she states that Britain has voted for Brexit, and it’s going to happen. But we need the best deal, and a quick Brexit is not the answer.

All of this is exactly true. I think the NHS Action Party has a video up showing Nuttall saying quite clearly that he wants to privatise the NHS. And his statement that immigrants are coming here to steal our benefits is another lie. Mike and the other bloggers have posted up the stats plenty of times showing that immigrants to Britain are net contributors to the welfare state. But it’s convenient propaganda to work people up against foreigners, along with the lie that they’re stealing our jobs.

What comes across from this video and the other pics Mike’s put up is that the people of Stoke are ordinary and decent, and extremely and rightly worried that Nuttall and his stormtroopers will whip up racial tension and hatred. Their anti-welfare policies will cause more poverty. The Kippers are doing this purely for their own national political ambitions, without any regard for the local people their divisive policies will hurt. And I’ve no doubt that this could be applied to other towns up and down the country where the Kippers are standing.