Posts Tagged ‘Videos’

Teachers Scrabble for Cash as Entertainment During American Football Game

January 9, 2022

Yeah, I know, I said I really shouldn’t be platforming mad right-winger Alex Belfield. But this is another genuinely interesting and concerning video he’s put up. It seems a group of teachers demeaned themselves as half-time entertainment in America during a game of American football. An insurance company donated a pile of cash and during the interval a group of teachers came on to scrabble physically for it, stuffing it down their shirt and jumper fronts, in order to get $10,000 each for their school to buy equipment. As you can see from the comments on his site, people compared it to the Hunger Games and the way the poor was forced to compete in that for food.

It’s a bit like Bumfights, a series of videos that came out over a decade ago, but with middle class educators rather than tramps and hoboes. Bumfights were made by a group of rich kids, and featured the homeless fighting each other or doing something equally demeaning in order to get a burger from the people videoing them. It was exploitation of the poorest and desperate. Someone has said since that the homeless people that appeared on these videos were actually paid much more than a simple burger, but this was left out of the cut. Well, perhaps. But it was still immensely tasteless and demeaning, nonetheless. And so is this.

I go the impression that the state schools in America are in crisis, just as they are over here. Various American governments have been trying to close down ordinary public schools and transform them into charter schools. These are, I believe, the American equivalent of our academies. This is often against the wishes of the local community, including parents, teachers and local clergy. Who are naturally ignored. One of those pushing ahead with this policy was Barack Obama, who has described himself as a moderate Republican rather than a Democrat. There’s also the right-wing push for home schooling to protect children against extreme left-wing indoctrination in schools with Queer and Critical Race Theory. Some of the poverty also comes from the peculiar way American public schools are funded. It comes out of local taxes. If the area’s affluent, then so are the schools. If it’s poor, then the local schools are too, and more likely to be poorly maintained and lacking needed equipment and teaching materials. It isn’t like that over here, but government funding to state schools has been increasingly cut so that it’s far less than many need, while governments from Blair onwards have given massive funding to the academies.

I dare say that the insurance company, who donated the money, and the organisers of this competition thought they were doing something noble. After all, game shows have featured people scrabbling for prizes ever since they were invented. But in their case, this is genuinely for entertainment. There isn’t an economic need motivating them, or not usually. And in the quizzes in which celebrities compete to win money for charity, dignity is preserved. You don’t see the celebs on the Chase physically scrabble for the cash on their hands and knees. But I’m afraid this nasty little piece of squalid entertainment could start a trend, and might come over here.

This is just exploiting people’s poverty. Schools everywhere should be properly funded so that they can afford to give their pupils the best education possible with the equipment and learning materials they need. And teachers should be properly paid as respectable professionals responsible for educating and inspiring the kids in their charge.

There Are Big Unanswered Questions about Alex Belfield, His Court Cases and the Donations from His Supporters

November 30, 2021

Okay, I admit it: I’ve put up any number of posts about mad right-wing internet radio host, Alex Belfield. So many, in fact, that one of the great commenters here described him as ‘my favourite right-winger’. Well, something like that. Belfield is interesting in that he says openly what the Tories think in private but deny in public. He’d like the NHS privatised, because somehow handing it over to private healthcare companies will reverse the lethal chaos and deprivation that four decades of Thatcherite privatisation and three decades of Tory cuts have done. Much of his views are bog-standard Daily Mail bigotry. He rants about the Channel Migrants – ‘the dinghy divers’ – as he calls them – landing here and being put in 5 star hotels. But I’m pretty sure the migrants and asylum seekers aren’t getting five star service. They’re there because there seems to be nowhere else to house them. And while I’ve no doubt some of them are economic migrants, others are equally doubtless genuine asylum-seekers fleeting some horrific regimes. He also hates British benefit recipients. There was a story in the mainstream news a few months ago that there were a couple of million jobs going unfilled. So Belfield put up a video about that, demanding all benefits be stopped so that people should be forced to apply for them. Never mind the fact that a large proportion of the benefits being claimed are by people in work, who can’t support themselves on the paltry wages the Tories and British capitalism have decided are enough to keep them alive.

He also hates the BBC, left-wing media and students and universities. He has a feud going with the Beeb. He claims he was forced out of a career in local radio because of jealousy from the other broadcasters. He, a working class lad from a pit village, who had never gone to uni, had more viewers than they, who were ‘Guardian-reading, middle-class, champagne-sipping, oyster-eating Naga Manchushy – for some reason he has an especial hatred of Naga Manchetty – twirlies. He’s been the subject of a series of raids and prosecutions, including a court action involving Jeremy Vine. He’s appealed and received donations from his viewers to help him fight these cases, all the while protesting his innocence and claiming that the courts have found him innocent, at least in the specific cases he’s put up videos about. However, the truth seems to be rather different and somewhat murkier. Jim Round, one of the great commenters on this blog, has pointed out that Belfield has not disclosed what he’s done with the money. Which contrasts very strongly with his loud denunciation of the BBC for allegedly spending half of the donations to Children In Need on the charity’s directors and staff and refusing to reveal what it has done with the donated money. Last Friday Jim made this comment about Belfield’s court cases.

‘As pointed out previously, Belfield is the defendant in all of the cases, the main one now a six week jury trial at crown court next July, something he fails to mention to is supporters.
The other is the now public Jeremy Vine defamation case. A video he posted shows Belfield waving only the letterhead of an FOI request (again, freely available) to his followers (who uncannily like Farage followers, never research anything he tells them)
There is a lot more to it if you are prepared to waste an hour of your life searching Twitter.
He has now deleted the above video, something he does regularly if his followers pass negative comments or he gets a bit to close to the line.
On a side note, the Liverpool taxi driver has been quoted as saying that the bomber asked specifically for the hospital, and the mosque story seems to come from a Daily Mail “source” make of that what you will.’

And today Jim posted this comment and link to a Twitter post about the Belfield vs. Vine case.

‘Some light reading for you, have a look at the link in this tweet (apologies for it being Twitter)
https://mobile.twitter.com/The_Mumpsimus/status/1464564826731122689?cxt=HHwWgsC4_ej8ltMoAAAA
I am (not) surprised your comments on those YouTube videos get deleted, shocking behaviour from so called bastions of free speech isn’t it?’

If you follow the link, you get to a Tweet from ‘Outing the Snallygasters’, who says of the Vine case:

‘FACT CHECK: 5th Oct’21 the High Court defamation case, brought against Alex Belfield @celebrityradio, commenced. His defence was poor & the Judge made him pay the claimants costs (£25k). He posted a number of deflection tweets/video. Here’s the truth

⬇️

https://bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2021/3068.html’

The email address is that of the official court records. The Tweet’s also worth looking at for the three pictures of the thumbnails from Belfield’s videos with ‘False’ stamped across them.

The statement that the judge ordered Belfield to pay Vine’s costs appears to contradict Belfield’s own statements that he’s a pure as the driven snow and the court hasn’t been able to find anything against him.

Belfield is doing well at the moment. He says he has over 300,000 supporters, which is quite possible. It’s a respectable number, but I get the impression that it’s dwarfed by the really popular YouTube creators, like Zoella and the beauty vloggers.

But apart from his appalling right-wing views, there are serious questions to be asked about his own conduct and what he has done with the money given to him through the kindness of his own supporters.

Quinn Discusses Possible Screen Adaption of ‘Hyperion’

November 9, 2021

This interesting little snippet comes from the ‘Quinn’s Ideas’ YouTube channel. Quinn’s a Black American fantasy/ SF writer and graphic novelist with a taste for galaxy-spanning SF that tackles the big metaphysical ideas, like power, responsibility, suffering, the nature of humanity and the possibility of alien life and truly sentient AI. He’s a big fan of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune, which has now been filmed by Denis Villeneuve and has been playing in cinemas around the country. Quinn’s put up a series of videos about Dune, which are well worth watching, as well as other great SF works like Asimov’s Foundation. In this video he talks about the news that there are plans to adapt Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, but it’s not known yet whether this would be for the cinema or TV. He hopes it’s TV.

Hyperion is another of his favourite books, and he’s also posted videos about it. It, too, is another SF classic. It set in a future in which humanity has expanded throughout the galaxy, united into a type of interstellar UN called the Hegemony. Outside the Hegemony are the Oustlers, a society of nomadic humans, who have adapted themselves to space, who attack and raid vulnerable Hegemony worlds. Also outside the Hegemony is the Technocore, a society of intelligent AIs, who rebelled against their human creators centuries ago and fled into space. Their whereabouts is unknown, but they have established apparently friendly relations with humanity offering advice and technology. Earth was destroyed hundreds of years ago by accident in an attempt to create an artificial Black Hole. Although the humans have FTL spaceships, these are still quite slow compared to the cosmic spaces they traverse, so that it can take months or years to travel from one planet to another. These transit times are offset for the crew and passengers of such ships through a form of relativistic time dilation, so that the subjective time they experience in flight is shorter than that in the outside universe. A more immediate form of travel are the Farcasters, technological portals that allow the user to pass instantaneously across space from one world to another.

Hyperion itself is a sparsely populated agricultural world, threatened with attack from Oustlers. It is home to the mysterious Time Tombs, strange monuments that have appeared to have travelled backwards in time. Haunting them is the Shrike, a gigantic humanoid killing machine, whose body is a mass of cruel spikes and blades. In this future, Christianity has declined to the point where it’s a minor sect that survives on only a few worlds. Among the new religions that have replaced it is the Church of the Final Atonement, centred around the Shrike. Six pilgrims are periodically selected to go to Hyperion, journey to the Tombs and meet the Shrike. It is believed that although the creature will kill five of them, it will grant the wish of the survivor. The novel follows six pilgrims, who entertain each other by telling their stories on their way to meet the creature.

The pilgrims include a former Roman Catholic priest, sent to investigate the disappearance of a fellow former cleric while conducting an anthropological study of the Bikura, a mysterious human tribe; a female gumshoe from a heavy gravity world, investigating the murder of the biological and cybernetic reconstruction of the poet Keats; a Jewish academic from a farming world, desperately seeking a cure for his daughter’s condition. An archaeologist investigating the Time Tombs, she has started to age backwards after a mysterious event until she reaches infancy. There is also a noted galactic poet and writer of trash historical fantasies about the last days of Earth, a Palestinian Martian colonel and a Templar master. The Templars are another new religion, which worships trees, and the Templars have converted some of the vast trees on their homeworld into spacecraft.

The book’s influenced not just by Keat’s poem ‘Hyperion’, but also by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I therefore think Quinn’s right in that it would be better as a TV adaptation, as each tale could constitute an individual episode within the overarching story. At the heart of the book is the problem of evil, how the universe can contain such immense pain and suffering. It’s an issue that has challenged philosophers and theologians down the centuries. Hyperion is a Science Fictional attempt to examine the problem, as exemplified by the Shrike.

Hyperion was the first in a series of novels completing the story: The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and the Rise of Endymion, all of which I found similarly worth reading. It would be great if Hyperion was adapted for screen, but I’m afraid that, like some of the Dune adaptations, some of the central ideas which make the book an SF classic might be lost. If, that is, the book’s ever adapted at all. Things seem rather tenuous and it may all come to nothing. We shall have to wait and see.

The CIA and the Assassination of Zairean President Patrice Lamumba

October 5, 2021

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posed this question on my review of History Debunked’s video about the real brutality and evil of the hero of the film Hotel Rwanda:

“My question is, what did the UN actually do to stop the massacres? Sod all, it seems. They did not even do the obvious thing and dynamite the radio-station which was pouring out non-stop incitement to the Hutus to go out and murder Tutsis. There is a pattern here. In 1960(?) UN peacekeepers, called into the Congo by elected leader Patrice Lumumba to quell a rebellion by the Civil Guard, confiscated their weapons on arrival, but shortly afterwards, on orders from above, handed them back! When UN representative Conor O’Brien took serious steps to end the illegal secession of mineral-rich Katanga, he was promptly recalled. Next, UN “peace-keepers” stood by while Katangese troops seized and beat Lumumba – the man who had called the UN in in the first place – and then took him away and murdered him. According to a report in the Sunday Express, UN troops riding in an open truck at the back of a passenger train they were supposed to be protecting, sat tight while rebels stopped the train and massacred the passengers. In 1967, UN peace-keepers occupying the border area between Israel and Egypt withdrew without a demur when Nasser ordered them out so that he could launch an attack on Israel. No thanks to the UN that Israel resisted and prevailed. Has there ever been a conflict where UN peace-keepers have justified their title? Were they in former Yugoslavia facilitating the bloodshed, I wonder? Can’t be bothered to check!”

This is deep question, one that probably needs a whole book to itself. I don’t think the Peacekeepers facilitated the horrors in the former Yugoslavia, but there certainly were occasions when they did absolutely nothing to stop them. The massacre of Srebrenica, which was supposed to be a safe haven, is an example of this. From what I gather UN forces simply left and let the Serbs enter and massacre at will. I have come across a book by a Muslim author suggesting that the UN and British presence in Yugoslavia is part of a covert plot to guard the oil pipeline coming up through the Balkans. The same book also suggests, however, that the 7/7 bombings were also a false flag operation by the intelligence services to provide a pretext for the various invasions, but I don’t really believe this.

However, Susan Williams’ book, White Malice, shows that Patrice Lamumba of Zaire was overthrown and murdered by the CIA. Zaire was the supplier of the type of uranium used in the Manhattan Project which created the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Americans were desperate to retain control of the mines producing the uranium and had Lamumba killed because he was felt to be too close to Communism.

Lobster quotes Williams’, showing that the Americans were operating secretly in the Congo with the CIA’s predecessor, the OSS.

“The OSS station in the Belgian Congo had a unique, top-secret mission: to protect the export of uranium from the Congo to America and to keep it out of enemy hands. Congolese ore was essential for the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first atomic weapons and was led by the United States, with some assistance from Britain and Canada. This uranium was used to build the first atomic bomb to be tested: the Trinity test in New Mexico, in July 1945, which launched the atomic age. It was also used to build the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following month—on 6 August and 9 August, respectively.

The source of the ore was the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga, the southern province of the Congo. Shinkolobwe produced uranium that was far richer than any other uranium in the world: it assayed as high as 75 per cent uranium oxide, with an average of 65 per cent. By contrast, ores of marketable quality from the Colorado Plateau in the US and from Canada contained two-tenths of 1 per cent . . . .’ (pp. 30/31)”

The review states

“In retrospect it is obvious that any African leader in the Congo who didn’t swear allegiance to the American embassy and promise to let the US control the uranium was going to be disposed of. Patrice Lumumba, the nationalist Congolese leader at the time, didn’t understand this or didn’t care (which of
those isn’t clear to me) so he was ousted and killed. Williams devotes 250 pages to the Congo and the death of Lumumba. The events, military, political and diplomatic, preceding that murder are detailed day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. To justify the killing of Lumumba and the installation of an
American puppet, the CIA duly invented a ‘communist plot’.”

Lamumba is only one of a whole string of foreign politicians and heads of state, who have been assassinated or overthrown in American-backed coups. William Blum devotes a whole chapter to these in one of his books, and another chapter to US secret interference in foreign elections.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster82/lob82-cia-africa.pdf

Myles Power Attacks Holocaust Denier Fred Leuchter

October 2, 2021

Okay, I’ve attacked the fanatical Zionists for making false accusations of anti-Semitism against decent people, who make legitimate, reasonable criticisms of the Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Now to deal with people, who could be justly accused of genuine anti-Semitism: real Nazis and Holocaust deniers.

I found this excellent video on YouTube yesterday. Myles Power is a Brit, who appears to specialise in exposing real human rights abuses and genuinely terrible people. And a number of these genuinely terrible people are those trying to claim that the Holocaust never happened or was much smaller than real, mainstream historians believe. The target of his video was Fred Leuchter and one of Leuchter’s friends, who were alleging that they’d been terribly libelled by Power. Power’s video was his response, showing not only that he hadn’t libelled them and adding even more, damning evidence against them.

Leuchter was an engineer who designed gas chambers and other execution machines for the American prison service. In 1988 he was hired by Canadian Nazi Ernst Zundl to go and examine the remains of Auschwitz and see if it really was a gas chamber. He did so, came to the conclusion that he could find little trace of Zyklon B, the gas used by the Nazis to murder 6 million Jews, and that therefore Auschwitz wasn’t a gas chamber. It’s nonsense. The evidence showing the reality of the Holocaust is, as an American judge ruled, so plentiful it cannot be sanely denied. And this applies very much to such infamous centres of the murder as Auschwitz.

Channel 4 screened a documentary following Leuchter on his journey and examination of Auschwitz, interviewing him and various others, including Zundl. The documentary also feature a Jewish historian of the Holocaust, who debunked Leuchter with genuine fact. The reason why there were few traces of Zyklon B in the brickwork was because the gas doesn’t permeate very far into it. And after thirty years or so the majority of the gas that did would have been exhaled from it. There is also the problem in that what remains of Auschwitz is only a fragment of the historic death camp. After the War much of it was demolished by the Poles and the bricks used to build a housing estate nearby. Leuchter therefore only examined a tiny part of the original structure. Further proof of the use of the gas probably exists in the bricks used in the neighbouring homes.

Leuchter and his friends also claimed that there is little documentary proof to support the Holocaust. This was debunked by the Jewish critic as well. The Nazis were determined to hide their murder of the Jews, and so used coded language to describe what they were doing. This euphemistically referred to the mass murder as ‘relocation to the east’ or ‘special operations in the east’. In fact, supporting the reality of Auschwitz is not only the testimony of the survivors, but also that of its Commandant, Rudolf Hoess. Hoess was unrepentant and really didn’t see that he had been responsible for one of the most horrific crimes in history. His testimony has been published by mainstream publishers. I found a copy in Waterstones a few years ago. There are also speeches from Heinrich Himmler, the SS chief responsible for the Holocaust, including one at Auschwitz. Despite the euphemistic language used, the evidence to support the Holocaust’s reality is plentiful and absolutely incontrovertible.

But evidence supporting Leuchter’s expertise on the issue is far less impressive. Leuchter claimed to have been employed by six American states to design gas chambers and other methods of execution. Inquiries by a Ms. Shapiro of an organisation representing Holocaust survivors found that he had, in fact, been employed by only one, Missouri. He either hadn’t been involved with the others, or had appeared briefly to make a few comments and offer his services, but hadn’t been taken on. And some of the machines he produced were definitely dodgy. One machine he built to kill the prisoner using drugs would have paralysed the victim, as intended, but he would have been left in terrible agony by the chemical used, which would have produced a terrible burning sensation. After one state terminated his contract, he told them he had deliberately sold them a faulty machine, which would require servicing from time to time. Power goes on to say that he has found evidence that casts doubt on whether Leuchter is actually a qualified engineer as he claims. This will be the subject of a forthcoming video.

And lastly, there’s the obvious point that it doesn’t help Leuchter’s credibility that the man with whom he is talking about the terribly way Power has libelled him is clearly a Nazi standing in front of a gold, Nazi emblem. You know the one – the eagle carrying the swastika. And Power isn’t afraid of any legal action from these bozos, because not only is their case rubbish, people genuinely suing for libel don’t usually tell their victims beforehand.

It’s an excellent video and I wish Power all the best in exposing these goons and their assault on history to whitewash the Nazis.

Afghanistan Withdrawal – the Conspiracy Theories Start

September 2, 2021

For some the catastrophic departure of the western armed forces from Afghanistan has been almost unimaginable. This is not surprising, as successive governments have been telling us for years that the Taliban had been successfully contained and victory was only a few months away. They find it particularly incomprehensible that the US and western armed forces were so unprepared for the Taliban’s reconquest of the country, that President Biden has left 73 military planes and $80 billion worth of kit behind in the scramble to get out. One of these is the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host, Alex Belfield. In the video below, Belfield wonders if all that military equipment has been deliberately left behind to be taken and used by the Taliban, in order to provide the pretext for more wars. He sees this as part of an overall strategy by out governments to keep us afraid. One of these ruses has been, so he argues, the Coronavirus. He seems to follow here the line of some of the sceptics that Covid doesn’t present a real threat, but has just been used by the government in order to justify a totalitarian seizure of power through the lockdown.

Belfield’s been sceptical about the Coronavirus and the lockdown almost from the beginning. His argument is usually that the lockdown is doing more harm than good to the economy and to the health, mental and physical, of the British people. He’s right in that clearly people’s businesses and wellbeing is suffering, but is completely and utterly wrong about lifting the lockdown and letting the disease take its course and carry off whoever it may.

But I can’t say that his paranoia about the US leaving behind so much military equipment is unwarranted. The American and British public were miss-sold the wars in the Middle East. We were told we were freeing Afghanistan from a brutal theocratic tyranny and defending America and ourselves from future terrorist attacks. We weren’t. The troops were sent in to secure the country so that an oil pipeline could be built, one which Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban to build. The Taliban had pulled out, and so the NeoCons were looking for an excuse to invade. This came along in the shape of 9/11.

Ditto Iraq. We were informed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t. Hussein had led a largely secular regime, which was cordially hated by bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics. We were told that the invasion would liberate the Iraqi people from Hussein, who really was a tyrant. But the invasion wasn’t about granting a grateful Iraqi people democracy. It was about Aramco, the joint Saudi-American oil company seizing the country’s oil reserves and the western oil companies grabbing its oil industry. Other multinationals, such as Haliburton, which employed various members of Bush’s family and cabinet colleagues, seized its state industries. Meanwhile the country descended into sectarian violence and chaos, the secular state and the feminism it promoted vanished, and the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – hired as part of the peacekeeping forces ran amok with drug and prostitution rings. They also amused themselves by shooting ordinary Iraqis for sport.

It’s been said that America is a ‘warfare state’. That is, its military-industrial complex is so pervasive and powerful that its entire economy is geared to and depends on war. It was suggested years ago in one of the publications of the old Left Book Club, as I recall, that this is deliberate. American political ideology rejects Keynsianism, the economic doctrine that maintains that the state should interfere in the economy through welfare spending, public works and so on to stimulate it. American political culture, on the other hand, rejects this in favour of laissez-faire. But the American economy still needs government intervention, and the only way the American state can do this is through war and military spending. Hence the continual need to find new wars to fight. First it was the Cold War, then the War on Terror.

I tend to believe in ‘cock-up’ rather than conspiracy – that the world is the way it is because of the incompetence of the authorities, rather than that there is some overwhelming and all-pervasive conspiracy against us. This does not rule out the fact that real conspiracies by the intelligence agencies, big business and various covert political groups really do occur. My guess is that the armaments left behind in Afghanistan are there as a result of incompetence rather than a deliberate plot to produce more war and international instability for the benefit of the war profiteers.

But after the lies that have sustained two decades and more of war and occupation in the Middle East, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true.

The Almaz – The Soviet Union’s Armed Spy Space Station

June 26, 2021

This is another fascinating little video from the military historian Mark Felton. I’ve put up a couple of his videos demolishing the stories about Nazi UFOs and space/time travel. But some real aerospace and military technology comes very close to Science Fiction. In this video, he talks about the Almaz armed spy stations launched by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. They were manned spacecraft, designed to photograph NATO military targets during the tense days of the Cold War. They were launched under the cover of a civilian space programme, Salyut. And to protect them from western attack, each station was armed with a rapid fire aircraft gun. It’s an idea close to the Bond film, Moonraker, in which Bond tackles Hugo Drax and his minions aboard their own space station.

The Almaz, ‘Diamond’, stations consisted of three sections. There was the main, piloted station module, a cargo section for resupply, and a launch and return craft. The stations were launched using a Proton rocket, and carried a two-three man crew, in space for 20 to 30 days before returning to Earth and being replaced by the next crew. They were armed with 25 mm Rikhtor guns, a modified version of the tail canon used on the Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder Russian bomber. The Russians were afraid that vibrations from the canon might damage the spacecraft, and so arranged a test firing. Salyut 3 (Almaz 2) was due to come to the end of its life in July 1974, and so was selected as a suitable test vehicle. After the last crew left on the 19th of that month, the station was remotely operated so that it targeted and shot down a defunct Soviet satellite. The Almaz station, the satellite, and the spent rounds were all burned up when they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere afterwards. To date, Russia is the only country that has fired a weapon in space, but this may change.

I remember the Salyut space programme. It was always presented as just civilian research into living in space, and people were impressed by the lengths of time the Russians were able successfully to keep crews in orbit. However, these achievements were never as spectacular or interesting as the Moon landings. Now it’s been revealed that they were military spy missions, a fact that has almost certainly been revealed as a consequence of the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War.

It’s not just with the Bond film Moonraker that the Almaz stations have a similarity. In Kubrick’s and Clarke’s classic SF film, 2001, the world is on the brink of a nuclear war. After the first section, which shows a group of primitive hominids being led to intelligence by the black monolith on the prehistoric Earth, the film cuts to space, showing various satellites gliding in orbit while the Orion space shuttle makes it complex maneuvres to dock with the wheel-like space station. Although their purpose isn’t obvious, as Kubrick didn’t want people to think his film was repeating the themes of his Cold War nuclear satire, Dr Strangelove, these satellites are actually orbiting nuclear weapons platforms. Real killer satellites like them, but using ‘pop-up’ lasers to destroy nuclear missiles, were designed as part of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative, or ‘Star Wars’ programme. There have been a number of books written about possible future wars in space, such as The Shape of Wars to Come, and a year or so ago former president Donald Trump called for the creation of an American space force. Which I think has provided the subject matter for a comedy on Netflix or one of the other streaming channels.

The arming of the Almaz stations shows how terrifyingly close the threat of war in space is to reality. I hope that for the sake of the world we manage to halt the militarisation of space and keep space exploration and, hopefully, colonisation, peaceful. Although this may be difficult given rising tensions between the West, Russia and China.

Right-Winger Belfield Attacks Tesco Humanless Stores – And He’s Right!

June 26, 2021

I’ve put up a number of posts commenting on videos produced by right-wing internet radio Alex Belfield. Belfield is a working class. He says he was born and raised in a pit village, never went to university and was therefore sneered at and looked down upon by his co-workers and superiors in local radio. He has a real chip on his shoulder about this, and is constantly denouncing the BBC and its staff, who are supposedly very middle class ‘Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping left-footers’. He hates the affirmative action programmes for Blacks and modern media identity politics, describing the Blacks and those of other ethnic minorities, as well as the gays, who fill them as ‘box-tickers’. He is particularly scathing about BLM, though there are many reasons why people, not just on the right, should despise them. He’d like the lockdown lifted, Priti Patel to start taking tougher action on the ‘dinghy divers’, the illegal immigrants coming over the Channel in leaky boats. I think he also thinks that many disabled people are just malingerers, and would definitely like the NHS privatised and handed over to private management.

But in this video, Belfield is exactly right. Tesco have announced that they are launching stores that don’t have tills. Instead, it seems, people will just pay for what they want using an app on their mobiles or other device. I can remember something about this on the BBC news a few months ago. In these stores there are to be no, or hardly any, serving staff. You simply walk in, take what you want and leave. There are cameras mounted around the store watching what you pick up, which is automatically deducted from your account.

Obviously there are a number of major issues with this idea. One is privacy. Everyone who comes into the shop is under electronic surveillance, another step towards the kind of totalitarian surveillance society that’s been introduced in China, as very chillingly described in the Panorama documentary ‘Are You Scared Yet, Human?’ a few weeks ago. Another major issue is joblessness. People are naturally worried about the effect further mechanisation is going to have on jobs. Despite assurances that the robot workers in car factories, for example, have created as many jobs as they’ve replaced or more, it’s been predicted that 2/3 of all jobs, particularly in retail, will be lost to technology in the coming decades. It looks frighteningly like the employment situation in Judge Dredd’s MegaCity 1, where, thanks to robots, 95 per cent of the population is permanently unemployed.

In this video, Belfield concentrates on another issue, loneliness. He points out that many people, especially older people, go to the shops because their lonely. These people are going to be made even lonelier by the lack of human contact with shop staff in these places. And this is apart from the fact that not everyone – again, particularly older people – don’t have mobiles or the other gadgets that will supposedly allow the stores’ computers automatically to make the transactions when you use them.

I’m not a fan of self-service tills for the same reason, although I admit that I do use them if there’s a queue. And to be fair, they’ve also been denounced by the Daily Mail, which called them ‘Daleks’ and demanded a return to human service staff when they first came out. I’ve therefore got absolutely no problem with putting this video from the mad right-winger up. He’s saying something that both left and right should agree on.

I’m also sceptical about these stores’ chances for survival. People need contact with other humans, and those businesses that have tried to remove them completely in favour of robots have come crashing down. A few years ago a Japanese businessman proudly opened a hotel operated by robots. There were robots on the welcome desk, including an animatronic dinosaur. I think your luggage was taken to your room by an automatic trolley, and you got your meals from a vending machine. A few months or a year or so later, the whole idea came crashing down. No-one wanted to stay. When journalists interviewed some of the few guests that actually stayed there, they said that it was actually very lonely. There were no other humans about, apart from the maintenance and ancillary staff. At a much less elevated level, a Spanish brothel that had opened with sex robots rather than human sex workers also closed.

It also reminds me of an episode of the revamped X-Files when that came back briefly a few years ago. This had Mulder and Scully eating in an similar automatic restaurant. Problems start when one or the other of them is unable to pay their bill. The automatic till demands payment, which for some reason isn’t going through. The machines working in the kitchen behave ominously. The two paranormal sleuths leave without paying, but they’re followed to their homes by a flock of angry drones. Meanwhile, their phones are continuing to demand the payment they owe the restaurant. Their fully automated, computerised homes start to disobey them and behave awkwardly. The domestic robots also start rebelling. And it looks like the duo will be on the receiving end of the anger of a full-scale robot attack force. Fortunately, this is stopped by one of the two finally getting the payment to go through. It ends with Mulder writing on his report that it matters how we treat our machines. Because how we do will determine how they will treat us in turn. It’s another example of Science Fiction as ‘the literature of warning’ and the threat of the machines taking over. But it does seem to be a reasonable treatment of the fears that such fully automated restaurants and stores provoke, as well as the frustration that occurs when the technology that takes your payment doesn’t actually work. I doubt that Tesco’s stores will automatically send squads of robot warriors after customers who have similar problems. But there will be problems when the machines make mistakes, and don’t charge people for the goods they’ve bought, or charge them the wrong amount, or otherwise go wrong. Which could lead to perfectly innocent people being wrongly accused of shoplifting.

Belfield is right about the threat posed by Tesco’s brave new stores without tills or attendant humans. This will lead to further unemployment, and a lonelier, more alienated society.

Grim Jim on the Role-Playing Games Based on the Terran Trade Authority Handbooks

May 6, 2021

The Terran Trade Authority handbooks were a series of SF art books by Stuart Cowley published in the late ’70s and early ’80s beginning with Spacecraft 2000-2100. Cowley took various paintings of spacecraft, published originally as covers for paperback SF novels, and turned them into a future history and typology of these fictional spacecraft. I’ve only got the first book, Spacecraft 2000-2100, but I think there were others on space wrecks, star liners and great space battles. The books were the fictional publications of a future governmental organisation, the Terran Trade Authority, and its subsidiary, the Terran Defence Authority, which regulated trade between Earth and the other planets and civilisations, as well as providing for the planet’s defence. In this future, humanity was only just expanding into interstellar space, but had encountered two nearby alien civilisations on Proxima and Alpha Centauri. These aliens were markedly similar to humans, although not so similar that their ships didn’t need modification for human use. These similarities were so strong that there was speculation about a deep kinship or common origin for the three different species.

I came across the book when I was on holiday and was really blown away by the art. This was by such great SF artists as Chris Foss, Angus McKie, Bob Layzell and others. And even now, about forty years later, the books are fondly remembered by SF fans. What I didn’t know is that they also spawned two Role-Playing Games set in their fictional universe, one published by Morrigan Press.

I found this video by Grim Jim, a game designer, who’s also a fan of these great books. Here he talks about the RPGs, which unfortunately failed to make much of an impact. According to him, the Morrigan RPG gamebook has been long out of print. If you want to play it, you’re therefore reduced to either finding a second hand copy somewhere, or pirating it. Normally he wouldn’t recommend the latter, but this is really the only option for people who want to play it. He talks about the mechanisms of the game system used, which seems to have been a generic game system. For some reason the book replaced the awesome paintings of the original TTA handbooks with computer art. This is fine, but doesn’t have the paintings’ quality. G J speculates that Morrigan may have had to use computer art because of problems over the copyright for the paintings. It seems that by the time Morrigan published the book, the copyright had reverted back to Cowley.

I’m not really into games, but a number of my friends are very much into RPGs, like the classic Dungeons and Dragons and so on. One of these is Traveller, an SF game which I think came out in the 1970s a few years before the TTA handbooks and the games based on them. People are still putting up videos on YouTube about the TTA books and their spaceships, including one which recreated them zooming through space through CGI. This isn’t politics, but I thought people would enjoy this video about a great piece of SF art and literature.

We Own It Message against Massive Profiteering by Serco for Failing Test and Trace System

February 27, 2021

I got this message from the campaigning group We Own It protesting against the massive profits Serco have made from the Test and Trace system despite its massive failures. As they point out, Test and Trace was supposed to stop a second lockdown being needed. But they’ve started paying dividends to their shareholders again, and have even claimed that their shareholders have saved them and that the system has been successful.

The message includes links to a video they have made about this scandalous conduct on Facebook and buttons to share it by Twitter and Email. It also makes it clear that the money wasted on Serco should instead have gone to local health teams.

Yesterday, Serco announced that they will be restarting the dividend payment to shareholders after a six year break.

Serco’s shareholders will pocket millions after delivering a contact tracing system that has completely failed us.

Serco have profited off misery, have completely failed and they should be nowhere near the Test and Trace system. We can’t let them get away with this. Please will you share the message far and wide?

Share the facebook video: Serco, give every penny back

Share now on twitter: This is outrageous

Send the video by email

Serco’s CEO Rupert Soames had the audacity to say that their involvement in Test and Trace has been ‘a remarkable success’.

What?! Test and trace was supposed to stop a SECOND lockdown being needed.

We can’t quite believe it. Even though the Test and Trace system has had ‘a marginal impact’ on transmission, Serco still have a key role in Test and Trace, and their profits last year were up by 75%.

They’ve had hundreds of millions of public money.

But the CEO of Serco said yesterday that it was shareholders who ‘saved’ them.

It’s a joke.

Serco should do the right thing and give back every penny that it’s taken in coronavirus contracts.

This money should be going to local public health teams.

You can share the video by whatsapp or email, but please do share it!

Share the message on facebook

Share now on twitter

Your campaigning has had a big impact. Millions more has been given to local public health teams to contact trace, and we understand that there are trials happenining currently in which positive cases go straight to local public health teams. Thank you SO MUCH.

It’s not enough progress, but it is important. By sharing the video today, you’re helping to further spread the message: Our communities want local public health teams to lead and we want Serco OUT. 

In solidarity,

Cat, Pascale, Chris, Johnbosco, Alice, Matthew – the We Own It team.

P.S. Want to go further? We have a plan to get motions passed in councils across England, calling for local public health teams to get the funding they need to lead on Test and Trace. For those outside of England, you can celebrate that contact tracing is in public hands.

Will you take a motion forward locally? There is a step by step here, and we have already passed motions at two councils!

This will help hugely to show Matt Hancock that local communities are united in calling for this!

I’ve absolutely no problem with promoting this message and their video, as Serco has been laughing at the British public for decades by providing substandard, shoddy service in exchange for lucrative public contracts. It’s about time this was stopped and the service taken inhouse instead.