Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Jimmy Dore: Americans Going to Mexico for Dentistry

October 8, 2017

Yesterday I put up a story from the I, which reported that over half of British dentists were planning to leave the NHS in the next few years. If that happens, courtesy of Jeremy Hunt and the Tories’ plan to privatize the NHS, British dentistry might end up looking very much like this.

In this video from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano comment on a story broadcast on NBC. The news team there visited the town of Los Almagadones in Mexico, which now styles itself the ‘dentistry capital of the world’. The town has a population of 5,000, but has more than its fair whack of dentists. It has 600 practicing dentists, working in more than 300 clinics. 114 million Americans lack dental insurance, and so can’t afford dental treatment. And so some make the journey south of the border to get their teeth fixed.

Dore states that this will explode the myth of American exceptionalism – the idea that America is innately superior to every other nation. Clearly it isn’t. Not if many of its citizens are reduced to going abroad for healthcare. Dore points out that the stories of Canadians coming to south to America for their medical treatment is largely a myth. But the story that Americans are going to Mexico are very real.

He and Placone and Zamora also use the story as an opportunity to lambast the continuing racism against Mexican and Hispanic migrants in the US. Americans are going south of the border for what is known as ‘dental tourism’, but the Mexicans aren’t organizing mass protests or trying to shame them.

The three joke about the idea of combining tourism with dentistry, including building a combined nightclub and dental surgery, before Dore rounds of the video with a well-aimed attack on Hillary and the corporate Democrats. These are the politicos, who rigged the Democratic nominations so they could steal it from Bernie Sanders and give it to Killary. And she and they care only for the immensely rich, and are entirely happy to deny ordinary, middle class working Americans with single-payer healthcare. Because free, universal healthcare is ‘utopian’, despite the fact that the Germans have had it ever since Bismarck in the 19th century.

Bernie Sanders in his book describes vividly the deplorable lack of affordable healthcare in America. Many counties lack doctors, let alone hospitals, because the area is too poor to support one according to the law of free market economics. He tells how one Sunday every month, one of the dental surgeries in Virginia provides free dental treatment. People are so desperate for it they actually sleep in their cars overnight.

This is what British healthcare is going to be like, if Theresa May and the Tories get back in.

Don’t let her. Get her and them out. Now.

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Secular Talk on Seven Fascist Regimes Supported by America

September 23, 2017

In this video from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski talks about seven Fascist regimes that were supported by America in the country’s campaign to stop Communism around the world. This campaign included overthrowing not just Marxist regimes, but also democratic socialist or other left-wing governments, which dared to champion the poor in the countries over American corporate interests.

The countries include Chile, whose democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a CIA backed coup by General Pinochet. And who was Pinochet’s idol? Mussolini. He talks about the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in another coup, because he nationalized the banana plantations. He was very popular with the indigenous Maya peoples, but angered the United Fruit Company, who lobbied Congress for his removal. The US also backed the Samozas in El Salvador and the Fascist dictatorship and death squads in Nicaragua against the left-wing Sandinistas and Daniel Ortega. They also supported the Fascist junta in Argentina, and the brutal dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay.

And apart from these individual nations, there was also a collective policy of supporting death squads in these countries, who hunted down and killed former left-wing leaders, politicos and activists. In one country these butchers actually used chainsaws to murder their victims.

And you won’t be surprised to find that lurking behind at least a couple of these coups is Richard Nixon and his main man, Kissinger. Which bear out the description of Kissinger as a war criminal. He is, but that hasn’t stop Hillary raving about what a close friend he is. And that’s a very strong argument for voting against Killary.

Kulinski says that this explodes the myth that America is somehow the great defender of democracy around the world. He also points out that much of this was in the Cold War, and he never bought the line that if Communism was allowed to seize power in Vietnam, the next thing you knew it would be in Virginia.

In fact, these are only a few of the bloody regimes America helped install and support. William Blum, the veteran critic of American imperialism, has a chapter to devoted to them in one of his books, and the total is a very, very long list, which includes many others not mentioned here.

This is the reality of American imperialism. And it’s worth remembering, as Trump tries to drive America and the West into another war, this time with North Korea and Iran. He’ll claim that, again, he’s defending democracy. He isn’t. It’s just more of the same imperialism and exploitation of poorer nations that drove so much of American foreign policy interventions during the Cold War.

And it needs to be stopped. Now.

Stephen Hawking’s Defends NHS as Hunt Lies about its Privatisation

August 22, 2017

I know the Tories will immediately complain about the title of this article, but that’s exactly what’s going on. The Tories have been privatizing the NHS piecemeal since the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher wanted to sell it off completely and replace it with an American-style insurance based system. Thatcher was prevented from doing so through a massive cabinet revolt, plus the fact that her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how appalling the American system was after he actually did some research and went there.

But the privatization is still going on. There was a mass exodus of dentists in the late ’80s-early ’90s, after Maggie – or was it Major?-refused to give them any more money. Then came Peter Lilley and his Private Finance Initiative, in which hospitals were to be built and run for the NHS by private contractors. Then New Labour expanded this massively, breaking up the NHS internal structure to model it after the American private healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente. Blair was approached by a whole slew of American private healthcare companies. His idea was that hospitals and clinics should be taken over by private healthcare companies, like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare and so on. The community care groups of doctors, which were supposed to commission healthcare for their patients, where to obtain it from both private healthcare providers as well as the NHS. And they were also given the powers to raise money from private enterprise.

And before anyone objects that Blair was a Socialist, no, he wasn’t. He had Clause 4 removed from the party’s constitution. He was also profoundly hostile to the trade unions, who have formed part of the very core of the Labour party since it was founded in the very early 20th century.

Blair was a true, blue Thatcherite. The first thing he did when he got into power was invite Thatcher round. And she responded warmly, declaring New Labour her greatest success. Remember, this is the woman, who proudly shouted about how she was going to destroy socialism.

And the Tories have carried on her project of gradually destroying the NHS, bit by bit, while loudly proclaiming how much they’re in favour of it.

The present Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is a prime example of this. He even wrote a book in which he declared how much better everything would be if we had a private healthcare system, like America.

Yeah, like America, where the poorer parts of the country don’t have any doctors at all, because it isn’t profitable. Where once a month, in Virginia, people sleep in cars overnight in order to join the queue for the doctor’s or dentists’ surgery offering free dental care that Saturday.

Where something like 20 million Americans can’t afford their medical coverage, and 30,000 people die every year because of this.

And where the Republicans and corporate Democrats have been lying and smearing Bernie Sanders, because he dared to run on a platform of ‘Medicare for all’. You know, giving Americans state-funded healthcare, like in the other parts of the world.

This is what the Tories are doing to Britain. And last week, as Mike reported on his blog, Stephen Hawking, the great cosmologist, called them out on it. He also accused Hunt of cherry-picking the data about the supposed deaths caused by NHS staff not working Saturdays.

Hunt got terribly upset about this, and declared that Hawking didn’t understand statistics.

This is a joke from a professional moron. Statistics are a vital part of science and medicine. Much of modern science, including astronomy and cosmology, is going through the data, trying to find something that is statistically significant. It can be time-consuming, tedious work, requiring sophisticated techniques to sort out what’s importance from apparently random results.

Hawking’s a physicist, who has been working with some extremely advanced maths as part of his investigation into the origins of the cosmos and the nature of Black Holes for his entire career. I don’t believe in his ‘No Boundaries Solution’ to the problem of the origin of the universe, but it’s abundantly clear that he understands stats. And as a man stricken with Motor Neurone Disease, a terrible illness, which has left him confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak and scarcely a muscle, Prof. Hawking clearly has first-hand experience of NHS care.

In short, don’t believe Hunt. Believe Hawking.

And yesterday one of the doctors weighed in, to request that a televised debate should be held between the two. See that story on Mike’s blog.

I’ve got no doubt that this will never happen. The schedules are full already, and the last thing the Tories will want is putting their man in a position where he’ll lose against a vastly more popular, far more respected and definitely more intelligent opponent.

Although they’re both authors. Hawking’s most famous work was A Brief History of Time, published back in the 1980s. It was a national bestseller, following very much in the footsteps of Carl Sagan’s epic Cosmos, another pop-sci blockbuster from a great science communicator, as well as a concerned scientist who attacked militarism, imperialism and man-made global warming.

As for Hunt, very few have read his book, which is why he can still repeat the lie that the Tories aren’t privatizing the NHS with a straight face, despite having advocated himself.

Such a debate would be so unequal in Hawking’s failure that I’ve no doubt that the Tories in charge of BBC News, the same people, who gave Corbyn such overtly biased coverage during the general election, are blanching at the very thought of it. Such a debate will never happen, just as the BBC will never own up, and confess that they, and particularly Laura Kuenssberg, are massively biased and everyone, who has complained about this painfully obvious fact is absolutely right.

How the ‘White’ Race Was Invented to Divide the American Working Class

April 10, 2017

There was another, very interesting piece in Counterpunch last week by Richard Moser, ‘Pawns No More: Ted Allen and the Invention of the White Race’. This discussed the work of Theodore W. Allen’s classic analysis of the origins of racism and racial oppression in America, The Invention the White Race: Volume I Racial Oppression and Social Control and Volume II: The Origins of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America. Allen was a White working class writer and political activist, who spent 20 years working in the Virginia state archives to amass an impressive amount of evidence to support his view: that the ‘White’ race was invented by the colonial authorities to divide the bonded poor, both Black and White, and stop the formation of a united working class opposition to slavery.

Allen noted that when the first Africans arrived at Jamestown in 1619, there was no special status attached either to them or to people of European origin. Indeed, Whites, as a special demographic category, did not exist, and would not exist until after Bacon’s Rebellion 60 years later. Moser writes

What Allen discovered transformed our understanding of race in America and can transform our organizing practice and activism.

He shocked readers with a startling finding:

“When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no “white” people there; nor according to colonial records would there be for another sixties years.”1

Oh, yes, there were English and Irish, but nowhere in the colonial record is there evidence that law or society granted special privileges to people based on European origin.

The white race and white identity were “invented,” Allen argued, by the ruling elite of Virginia, in order to divide laboring people in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. The white race was constructed and used as a political instrument to divide and conquer.

How did this come to be?

By 1620 or so, a system of unfree labor became the dominant labor system in Virginia. The system was essentially slavery, some “bond-laborers” had time-limited contracts, but most servitude was open to interpretation by custom. A majority of these bond-laborers were Europeans.

The archival evidence is clear, as well, that the role of African and African Americans was “indeterminate.” From 1619 to the years following Bacon’s Rebellion, the status of black people was contested in the courts and in the fields. Africans held a variety of social and economic positions: some were limited term slaves, some free, some endured lifetime bondage, while others were property holders, even including a few slave owners.

It was not until after Bacon’s Rebellion, or the second phase of Bacon’s Rebellion to be precise, that law and society created a new custom of racism, and for that to happen, the white race had to be invented.

What was the trigger?

“[I]n Virginia, 128 years before William Lloyd Garrison was born, laboring class African-Americans and European-Americans fought side by side for the abolition of slavery. In so doing, they provided the supreme proof that the white race did not then exist.”3

The Rebellion occupied the capital of Jamestown and pointed the way toward freedom for everyone, by contesting the rule of the oligarchs who had grown rich on slave labor and land stolen from the natives.

“[I]t was the striving of the bond-laborers for freedom from chattel servitude that held the key to liberation of the colony from the misery that proceeded from oligarchic rule…” 4

After the rebellion was suppressed, law and custom began to shift. Europeans were increasingly designated as “white” in the historical record, and given privileges that conferred a “presumption of liberty” while blacks were increasing subjected to legal and cultural limits to their freedoms. Whites were encouraged to view blacks with contempt and see their inferior social positions as proof of innate inferiority.

Conditions for working class Whites continued to be appalling throughout the US, both in the North as well as in the South, but there was a major difference between White and Black. The law presumed Whites were free, and so they had the ability to improve their conditions, and even such basic rights as the right to basic literacy – which were denied enslaved Africans.

Moser’s article is written not just as a piece of interesting historical analysis, but as a piece of factual ammunition for the campaign against the neoliberal rule of the rich elite in Trump’s America. He concludes

Here is Allen’s legacy and challenge to us: racism is historical, it is the product of human activity. If it was then, it is now. Racism was founded on a system of privileges designed to win working class white people’s support for slavery. And so it is to white privilege that we must look if we want to free ourselves from being the tools and fools of the rich and powerful.

We must be pawns no more.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/06/pawns-no-more/

This is important. American progressives have repeatedly pointed out the way the corporate elite are using working class White racism to bolster their own dominance, while at the same time doing everything they can to deny working and middle class Americans of their rights and ability to make a decent living, regardless of race. Bernie Sanders recounts in his book, Our Revolution, how he asked a local union leader in Mississippi how the Republicans got so many poor Whites to vote against their own interests. The union leader told him: racism.

Trump, Bush senior and junior, and Reagan all used White working class fears of Blacks and Black empowerment to get Whites to vote for them and policies that favoured only the rich in a policy that goes all the way back to Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’.

And the corporate elites over this side of the Atlantic have also used the same approach. It isn’t as blatant as it is in America, because British laws banning the promotion of racial hatred makes some of the overtly racist rhetoric of some American politicians illegal. But it’s there, nonetheless. You think about the way the Tories have constantly harped on the dangers of immigration, and the way that shaded quite quickly into racism with the vans Cameron sent round into mostly Black and Asian areas, which encouraged illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Or asked the public to snitch on illegal immigrants. And then there’s UKIP, which again tried to attract White working class support through opposition to immigration, which at several times crossed over into real racism and Islamophobia, attracting members, who were very definitely part of the Fascist right. All the while also promoting policies that would hurt the very working class White voters they pretended to want to protect, such as privatising the health service, destroying the welfare state, as well as employment rights and rights for women.

Moser’s right in that this strategy, and the people behind it, need to be shown for what they are: a wealthy, corporate elite, who don’t care about the White working class, only about their own rule and power. A wealthy elite, who are using them to divide and rule working people. An elite that fears Whites and Blacks coming together to break their power and improve conditions for all working and middle class people, regardless of race. Theodore Allen’s analysis of the origins of the ‘White’ race is an important part of that ideological struggle.

Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Medicare For All Bill

April 3, 2017

In his book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, which I reviewed yesterday, Bernie Sanders devotes an entire chapter to the problem of healthcare. He states very clearly and in great detail why America a system of free healthcare, which he calls Medicare For All. He shows that 48 million Americans cannot afford health insurance, and those that can, still may not be able to afford to go to the doctor because of the complex system of deductions that are part of private health insurance policies. The costs of prescription drugs is artificially high thanks to the pharmaceutical companies, so that poor Americans may not be able to afford them. Despite the Republicans sounding off, like the Tories over here, about the importance of access to mental health care, this is all beyond the reach of many Americans. As is proper dentistry. I’m English. Orwell joked as long ago as the 1940s in his book The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English, how my people have bad teeth, and it’s a gibe that’s been made regularly by Americans ever since. But despite the shining whiteness of the toothy-pegs of Hollywood celebrities, even this is beyond many Americans. Sanders describes how dentists and dental nurses in one county in Virginia once a month treat patients free for a day. So desperate are people for this treatment, that they actually sleep over night in their cars.

America needs Medicare For All. Bernie included it as one of the planks of his presidential campaign. He gives the text of it in his book. Here it is.

Medicare For All:
Leaving No One Behind

Coverage

A federally administered single-payer health care p0rogram means comprehensive coverage for all Americans. This plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics, and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.

What It Means for Patients

As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card. A single-payer plan means no more co-pays, no more deductibles, and more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.

Getting Health Care Spending Under Control

We outspend all other countries on our health, and our medical spending continues to grow faster than the rate of the inflation. Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way toward getting health care spending under control. The United States has thousands of different health insurance plans, all of which set different reimbursement rates across different networks for providers and procedures. This results in an enormous amount of paperwork and high administration costs. Two patients with the same condition may get very different care depending on where they live, the health insurance they have, and what their insurance covers. A patient may pay different amounts for the same prescription drug depending solely on where the prescription is filled. Health care providers and patients must navigate this complex and bewildering system, wasting precious time and resources.

By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively. The government will also be able to track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure that communities have the providers they need.

Major Savings for Families and Businesses

The United States currently spends $3.2 trillion on health care each year – about $10,000 per person. Reforming our system, simplifying our payment structure, and incentivising new ways to make sure patients are actually getting better care will generate massive savings. This plan has been estimated to save the American people and businesses more than $6 trillion over the next decade.

The Typical Middle Class Family Would Save Over $5,000 Under This Plan

Last year, the average working family paid $4,955 in premiums and $1,318 in deductibles to private health insurance companies. Under this plan, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay just $466 per year to the single-payer programme, amounting to a saving of over $5,800 for that family each year.

Business Would Save Over $9,400 a Year
in Health Care Costs for the
Average Employee

The average annual cost to the employer for a worker with a family who makes $50,000 a year would go from $12,591 to just $3,100.

How Much Will It Cost?

This plan has been estimated to cost $1.38 trillion per year.

How Would It Be Paid For?

* A 6.2 per cent income-based health care premium paid by employers. Revenue raised: $630 billion per year.

* A 2.2 per cent income-based premium paid by households. Revenue raised: $210 billion per year. A family of four taking the standard deduction can have income up to $28,800 and not pay this tax.

Progressive Income Tax Rates

* Revenue raised: $110 billion a year. Under this plan the marginal income tax rate would be:

* 37 per cent on income between $250,000 and $500,000.

* $43 per cent on income between $500,000 and $2 million.

* 48 per cent on income between $2 million and $10 million. (In 2013, only 113,000 households, the top 0.08 per cent of taxpayers, had income between $2 million and $10 million).

*52 per cent on income above $10 million. (In 2013, only 13,000 households, just 0.01 per cent of taxpayers, had income exceeding $10 million).

* Taxing capital gains and dividends the same as income from work. Revenue raised: $92 billion per year. Warren Buffett, the second-wealthiest person in the country, has said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. The reason is that he receives most of his income from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at a much lower rate than income from work. This plan will end the special tax break for capital gains and dividends on household income above $250,000.

* Limit tax deductions for the rich. Revenue raised: $15 billion per year. Under this plan, households making over $250,000 would no longer be able to save more than 28 cents in taxes from every dollar in tax deductions. This limit would replace more complicated and less effective limits on tax breaks for the rich, including the alternative minimum tax, the personal exemption phaseout, and the limit on itemised deductions.

* The Responsible Estate Tax. Revenue raised: $21 billion per year. This provision would tax the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 per cent (three-tenths of 1 per cent) of Americans who inherit over $3.5 million at progressive rates and would close loopholes in the estate tax.

* Savings from health tax expenditures. Revenue raised: $310 billion per year. Several tax breaks that subsidise health care (health-related “tax expenditures”) would become obsolete and disappear under a single-payer health care system, saving $310 billion per year.

Most important, health care provided by employers is compensation that is not subject to payroll tax or income taxes under current law. This is a significant tax break that would effectively disappear under this plan, because all Americans would receive health care through the new single-payer, rather than employer-based program.

(pp. 334-8).

Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

I.W.W. Issue Nationwide Call for Prison Strike in America

September 10, 2016

Yesterday, Counterpunch published the call from the I.W.W. Incarcerated Workers’ Organisation Committee calling for a nationwide strike in American prisons against slavery. This is the use of prisoners as unpaid labourers for private companies. The I.W.W. is the syndicalist trade unions, nicknamed the ‘Wobblies’, which was at the forefront of American working class radicalism in the early 20th century. It still exists to day, and has a branch in Bristol, which meets at one of the radical bookshops in Bristol’s Old Market. The call begins

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

The prisoners go on to state that they need popular support on the outside. They describe the impact the slave system in American prisons has on the wider community. Ordinary citizens are arrested and sentenced to prison for the specific purpose of providing unfree labour for these private companies. They also talk about the ‘extra-judicial executions’ of Black Americans, naming a few of the victims. This is related to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, which protests against the complete disregard some members of the American police have for the value of human life in shooting Blacks, regardless of the severity of the crime, or even if there is any crime at all. Several of the victims have been innocent.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.

Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.

I’m quite aware that criminals in the prison system are hardly innocent victims, and that many are guilty of the most vile offences. But in this case, they have a point: they are being used as slave labour for private profit, and this is affecting the wider community. In America, the private prison corporations donate money to the political parties and for the election of judges, so that they will run on a platform of being tough on crime. The local political candidates are effectively bribed to pass laws introducing harsher penalties, and judges are effectively bribed to pass longer sentences. There’s a case in one of Michael Moore’s films, Capitalism: A Love Story, we he discusses the case of a teenage schoolgirl sent to jail for truancy, because the beak was connected to the local prison company, which wanted more slave labour.

Nor is this iniquitous system confined to America. Mike put up a piece several weeks ago, discussing the highly exploitative conditions in private prisons, in which prisoners are used as unfree labour for British companies. Mike made the point that we cannot close our eyes to such exploitation in this country, and claim that it doesn’t happen here. It does. Of course criminals should be punished, but it’s one of the fundamental cornerstones of the concept of justice that the punishment should fit the crime. The exploitation of prisoners as unpaid workers goes directly against this. As a punishment, it’s only an excuse for their exploitation for the profit of big business.

The strike has spread to something like 24 states and 40 prisons all over America, according to a report on Democracy Now! Over on this side of the pond, we need to start thinking about how we can stop the exploitation of prisoners for corporate profit over here.

Secular Talk on Ben Carson Advocating Free Gun Classes

February 21, 2016

In this fascinating clip from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski critiques a speech by Ben Carson, one of the Republican presidential candidates, in which the great surgeon lays out why he opposes gun control.

Carson’s a neurosurgeon, and his skill as a physician is certainly not in doubt. On everything else, however, he talks rubbish. For example, he’s been telling everyone that he used to be a real teenage tearaway. He claims he was violent, once trying to stab one of his friend in the stomach. The belt, apparently, stopped the knife. Everyone who knew him says the opposite. His friend can’t remember the incident, there’s no account of him being at all violent, and the people who knew him at College say he was extremely hard-working. You’d have thought hard-work, perseverance and a normal family background would be more than enough for a politician. But apparently it’s not what Republicans expect of a Black man. And so he has to invent all this complete bullshit about being a violent thug, who was eventually turned from crime by the grace of Jesus. I don’t decry or disbelieve people, who have genuinely turned away from lives of crime because of the Lord’s grace. I just don’t have much time for the tale when it’s simply being cynically used as a marketing tool by someone desperate to ingratiate himself with the electorate.

Carson says he’s not in favour of gun control, because of the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing gun right and ‘a regulated militia’ and so on. He says that instead of gun regulation, he’s in favour of free classes to instruct people on proper gun use and safety. His argument for not depriving Americans of their guns is the usual argument about the public needing to have weapons to protect themselves against government tyranny.

Kulinski points out that this interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is simply erroneous. The Founding Fathers inserted that clause into the Constitution because they did not want a permanent standing army, as such military forces were a threat to the government. They had been used throughout history to overthrow governments in coups. As a compromise, they allowed Americans to keep their guns and form militias to protect themselves and their nation. So, he remarks, it’s actually the opposite of what Carson is talking about. The people are allowed to keep their weapons, but it’s to prevent the existence of a standing army, which could overthrow the government.

Kulinski is exactly right. The Founding Fathers in their opposition to standing armies were part of a tradition of political thought going back to 16th and 17th century Britain. The collection of 17th century political texts from the British Civil War, Divine Right and Democracy, contains a number discussing the issue of militias and standing armies. Standing armies were resented as a threat to traditional English liberties. They were the mark of foreign despotisms like France and the Turkish Empire. As for militias, I got the impression that they were like the Home Guard and Territorial Army in modern Britain. They were semi-professional soldiers, who could be mobilised by the authorities against the threat of invasion, such as the Spanish Armada, rather than unregulated bands of citizens.

Kulinski states that there is another aspect to the 2nd Amendment. It was put in to placate Virginia and encourage it to enter the new United States by allowing it to set up slave patrols. Virginia was a state where slaves were in the majority. Its rulers feared that if it joined the US, the slaves would escape north to their freedom in those states, where slavery was in the minority. So in order to reassure Virginia that slavery would be protected, the 2nd Amendment was inserted to allow them to set up slave patrols in the north of the state to capture runaways. Kulinski therefore says that there is considerable irony in a Black American defending gun rights and the 2nd Amendment.

He also makes the point that the Republicans are just plain wrong when they say that the Democrats are against gun rights. What the Democrats are for is some moderate legislation restricting the ownership and purchase of certain types of weapons. They aren’t going to confiscate everyone’s guns, as that would be illegal and unconstitutional. They are in favour of buy-back programmes, where the state purchases them from individuals, and takes them out of use that way.

And finally, he also makes the point that there is no way an ordinary individual with his firearm can possibly take down the government, with its armoury of highly sophisticated firearms, tanks, planes and missiles.

Hoverbikes to Appear in 2017?

November 30, 2015

This is another fascinating piece of technology news from Youtube. It’s on the hoverbike that’s been produced by the Aerofex company, and which may be on the market in 2017. According to the video it has two rotors, can fly up to ten feet off the ground and stay in the air for an hour and a quarter. The downside is that if you want one, it’s going to cost $85,000. Here’s the video.

It reminds me very much of the Piasecki ZV-8- Airgeep, which was designed for use by the American army. A model kit of this was produced in the 1990s by Glencoe Models, of Northboro, Massachusetts. According to the background information given with the kit,

The Piasecki ZV-8_ or 59L VTOL Airgeep was designed for the army to increase mobility by combining the versatility of an all-terrain ground vehicle with the benefits of a small helicopter. The first flight was on October 12, 1958. Some of its capabilities were to include the ability to fly at speeds up to 150 miles per hour, and to fly unhindered over water or mountains. Actual top speed was closer to 70 miles per hour with a maximum cruising range of 75 miles. General dimensions were 24 ft. 6 in. long and 9 ft. wide. Having a very low profile and a significant amount of speed combined with its ability to fly low along the ground would have made it an elusive target.

Power for the Airgeep comes from two flat opposed six cylinder Lycoming engines. Rated at 180 horsepower each, the 0-360-A2A piston engines are housed in the fuselage and turn the two large propellers via drive shafts. To aid in stability the front propeller turns clockwise and the rear turns counter-clockwise. Directional vane below the props control side to side and forward-reverse motions.

Protection from minor contact with immovable objects is taken care of by the large inflatable bumpers at both ends. The perimeter of the duct area is also shielded to protect the crew in case of detachment of one of the propeller blades.

Today the Piasecki ZV-8_ or 59L Airgeep resides at the United States Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Piasecki Airgeep

Airborne bikes have appeared in a number of SF movies since the appearance of the Speeders in the Star Wars films. By far the best known are probably the Speeder bikes used by the imperial storm troopers in the third of the original movies, Return of the Jedi. Similar vehicles also appear in the third Riddick film, simple called after its hero, Riddick, where they’re ridden by a posse of interplanetary bounty hunters sent to catch or kill him. Unlike the Star Wars Speeder bikes, the ‘hogs’ used in Riddick seem to be propelled not by some kind of anti-gravity field, but by something more like a downward-facing jet.

It’ll also be interesting to see if this does actually go into production. Some of us can still remember the one-man helicopter that was due to come on the market for about the same amount of money. One even appeared in one of the Spy Kids films, as I recall. In practice, however, that scheme was a failure. They never managed to get it stable, and its press release got into the ‘Funny Old World’ column in Private Eye. The machine went on sale, but as it was lethally unfit to fly, purchasers were legally forbidden to try doing so, on the grounds they’d kill themselves. And that was the end of that dream of single-person flight.

If these pics are to be believe, though, it looks like they’ve solved that problem. I hope it comes out. Like most people, I could never afford one, but it looks a cool way to travel.