Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Putin’

Uri Geller Loses His Temper with the Spoon Council

August 8, 2022

This is hilarious, and nothing to do with politics. I gather that Uri Geller has raised his head again, threatening to use his psychic powers against Vladimir Putin. Or at least his spoons. I found this video from 2012 on YouTube in which the great psychic loses his temper during an interview with a man from the Spoon Council. Geller wants to talk about his great achievements, while his interviewer keeps reminding him that he became successful in Britain through appearing on TV and bending people’s spoons. Geller gets very irate at this, and throws him out, threatening to call his lawyer. But there’s a shot of his car outside, decorated with bent spoons.

Geller’s amusing, but I seriously doubt that he has any genuine psychic powers. The spoon bending trick, for example, goes back to the 18th century where it can be found in the book Rational Recreations. Which sounds like the kind of book Mr Spock would read for fun. And back in the ’70s, an Israeli judge found against him in a court case brought by a dissatisfied customer at one of his cabaret performances. Geller was at the time Israel’s foremost nightclub stage magician. He advertised his performances as showing undeniable proof of the existence of psychic powers. But an engineering student who went to one said that all he saw was stage magic, and sued. I think it was under the Israeli version of the trades descriptions act. The beak was not impressed with Geller either, and found in the student’s favour.

At his height in the ’70s Geller was working with scientific psychic researchers like Andrija Puharich. He once claimed to have teleported from Israel to the US, although someone punctured this by producing his airplane ticket. He appeared on one American TV show with one of the American astronauts, who had played golf on the Moon. Geller produced the golf ball he claimed the astronaut had hit and lost up there. And back in the ’90s the Mexican government paid him to use his psychic powers to find lost Aztec gold. He looked for it by flying about over the land of the ancient Mexica in a helicopter waving his hand out the window in the hope of getting the vibrations or whatever. Nice work if you can get it!

Back to the spoons, one of Private Eye’s spoof columns for a long time was ‘Me and My Spoon’, in which the magazine spoofed interviews with celebs and politicians with fictional interviews asking them what their opinions on spoons were. These satirical pieces usually ended with the celeb throwing a strop. Geller’s interview here seems straight out of it.

Brexiteer Michael Heaver Reveals Reclaim Party’s Exciting Warmed-Up Tory Leftovers Policies

July 26, 2022

Michael Heaver’s another right-wing, Brexiteer YouTuber. Most of his content seems to be about how wonderful Brexit it, or would be, if it wasn’t for those evil whining remoaners and the European Union trying to sabotage it all the time. He seems to have gone from the Tories to backing the Reclaim party, as well as wanting the return of Johnson. Today he put up a piece revealing Reclaim’s new, (ahem, cough, cough) policies. Laurence Fox’s party will be fielding 600 candidates, which, if true, is definitely a challenge to the Tories and the other established parties. Their policies are:

Do Brexit properly.

Net Zero immigration.

Cut taxes.

I think there’s also something about getting rid of the Green agenda. And I also think they want to support Johnson’s return to power, because the other Tory leadership candidates are so terrible and will hand the government over to Starmer. Or such is the fear amongst some Tories.

This is hogwash. Let’s go through them.

Do Brexit properly: Can’t be done. Uh-huh, no way. It’s simply impossible, like squaring the circle or redefining PI as equalling four, which is what the Nebraska legislature did way back in the 19th century. If this had gone ahead, it would have meant that clocks would have gained fifteen minutes everyone hour. But like ‘Get Brexit done’ it makes a good slogan. You can’t enact Brexit without reneging on one of the key policies of the Good Friday Agreement, which was an open border with the Republic. It’s either that, or the Irish backstop in the middle of the sea, thus alienating the Loyalists. Johnson got into power claiming that he’d ‘get Brexit done’. Well, he did, and it’s been chaos. Britain’s trade with the EU has taken a massive hit, there are real threats to British industry and agriculture, the financial sector the Tories and Blairites have been so keen to protect and establish London as a international hub has also been threatened. By Brexiteer Tories, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who moved his investment business across the briny to Dublin. All while he was telling the rest of us that Brexit would be A Very Good Thing Indeed. There were delays at Dover months or even years ago because of the additional red tape added to hauliers and other travellers going to the continent now that we were no longer part of the EU. That red tape is also damaging our music industry, as it’s made it extremely difficult for British musicians and performers to travel over there to perform.

We were told that the Tories had an ‘oven ready deal’ with Europe for Brexit.

We were told that the millions saved on our EU contributions would be spent on the NHS.

We were lied to.

And this, as the late, great Max Headroom used to say, is simply ‘more of the same’. Except that he was talking about epic, rocking 80s pop music and videos.

Net zero immigration. More red meat for the Tory faithful, and other sections of the population worried about immigration. Mostly non-White immigration. And there are real moral and practical problems with that. Firstly, there’s the moral question of denying asylum to people, who may very well be in real danger of persecution in their countries of origin. I think many of the prospective migrants properly are coming here for economic reasons. One former channel migrant was interviewed on GB News or Talk TV, and he said that most of the other immigrants he was with were trying to dodge military service in their home countries and hoped to settle so that they could bring their families over. I can’t say I entirely blame them for wanting to do so, especially when these countries are dirt-poor, corrupt dictatorships like Eritrea. But nevertheless, I think there are people trying to get here because they face real threats to their lives for their views or simply because of their ethnicity or religion. Gay people around the world face persecution, particularly in Africa. Go back a few years, and there were the Yezidis, whose women were raped and enslaved for sex by ISIS. Last year there were Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban takeover. And in the past few months Britain and other European nations have taken in refugees from Ukraine, escaping Putin’s genocidal onslaught. I don’t see how you can morally turn at least some of these away.

Then there’s the economic aspect. As Buddyhell over on Guy Debord’s Cat, and just about everyone else on the web has point out, Britain needs immigrant doctors, nurses and other workers for the NHS. Yes, we should be training our own. But we haven’t been doing so ever since one of the Tory ministers – I think it may even have been Enoch Powell – decided in the 1960s to solve the shortage of NHS doctors by encouraging them to come from Pakistan and India. I can’t see the Tories wanting to spend the money to pay for the proper training for doctors and other medical professionals. Not when they seem content to drive them away by not paying them what they deserve and overburdening them with work and paperwork.

People also immigrate to Britain and settle down and raise families as part of their work. I know a number of people, who came to this country to work, and particularly on ground-breaking scientific or engineering projects. This country is short of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians. These are precisely the type of people we should be encouraging to come here, if only so that they can pass these skills on to Brits.

Education is a major part of this. There’s a movement of academics, both teaching staff and students, between countries and across continents. Most university’s, I’d say, have international students, some of whom are going to try to settle down here. Academics also take up posts at universities and colleges right across the world. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, several of the department staff were foreign. One was Portuguese while another was German, for example. At the same time, archaeological work takes people right across the globe. At the time I was there, there was great excitement about Neolithic discoveries in Ukraine. One of the lecturers had also helped carry out excavations of archaic homo sapiens remains in Romania. Another leading member of the department had also been excavating in Iran. Some of these academics will no doubt wish to settle down and make their home here. Either way, I can see Brexit and a zero-net immigration policy causing real problems with universities obtaining needed foreign academic staff.

And it’s going to be hypocritical. The Tories have, in my recollection, shown themselves perfectly willing to grant British citizenship to anyone rich enough. Just as Rishi Sunak got his green card to work in America by paying a million dollars. I strongly suspect that if Reclaim got in, we’d have more of the same. It would be easy immigration for the global super-rich, and keep out for everyone else.

Cutting taxes: More of the twaddle you’ve been hearing from the Tory leadership candidates. What this means is cutting taxes for the rich while passing the burden on to ordinary people at the bottom. This is supposed to encourage more investment, and hence more jobs. Balderdash. The money saved simply rests in the elite’s bank accounts. Meanwhile, because there’s less money going into the exchequer, the Tories and Reclaim after them will tell us all that cuts need to be made, more pushing of the mythical NHS waste, profligate spending on the welfare state, too many civil servants and so on. The result, more punitive cuts to the NHS, more destruction of the welfare state, more people struggling to survive on food banks, more starvation, malnutrition and grinding poverty.

Attacking the Green Agenda: The scientific consensus supports climate change, and the Green New Deal promises more jobs as well as combating threats to the environment. But the right don’t believe in climate change, and, with money coming in from Big Oil, they really don’t want to end our dependence on fossil fuels any time soon. All last week while the rest of us sweltered they told us that the rising heat was nothing to worry about, was not cause by global warming, and we were all wimps and weaklings for thinking otherwise. I wonder if Reclaim and its bosses also have their places booked for the biodomes the rich will no doubt retreat into as the deserts march on London, Birmingham and anywhere else.

Bring back Johnson: Really? There are people who really won’t be told. There’s a petition up for his return. Just like there are Americans who want the return of Trump. That’s incredible. Aside from the party politics, Trump was a disastrous president. A friend lent me a book on his presidency, and what came across most strongly was how incompetent he was. He quarraled with his leading generals, one of whom actually swore at him while telling him precisely what he was in the White House. He made up policies on the spur of the moment and then changed his mind just as suddenly. Appointments were made with important visitors, but not kept. Or he didn’t tell his staff about them, just forgot them. He deliberately undermined leading White House staff, replacing them and then doing the same to the new replacements, all of whom were determined to undermine their predecessors and competitors. And rather than draining the swamp, Trump was massively corrupt giving government contracts to friends and anybody else, including the Russians, who were prepared to stump up cash. Government monies that were intended to protect workers on bread and butter issues like pensions vanished in various politicos pockets, where they gave it to their favourite businessmen.

Johnson has been similarly incompetent. He was grotesquely tactless and incompetent as foreign secretary. Once he got his behind in No. 10 he showed himself unwilling to knuckle down and do some actual work. It seemed that every few weeks he was heading off to Chequers for a holiday. He caught Covid because he personally broke lockdown rules. And he gave valuable PPE contracts to his friends and other Tory donors. The result was problems with supply. But no worries, eh? His mates were all right. The parties were just a symptom of a man, who doesn’t like to work, loves the power and the popularity that comes with it, at least in his own imagination, and really, really, has zero sympathy with ordinary working people and their problems.

And he’s still clinging on to power, just like Gordon Brown tried to do with a deal with the Lib Dems after he lost the election to Cameron. Ian Hislop got very excited about this on Have I Got News For You, calling him ‘Mr Barnacle’. Well, Johnson is behaving exactly like the marine mollusc, and the same should apply: ‘get ye gone!’ It says something about the effectiveness of establishment propaganda that someone really thinks he’s done such a good job they want to keep him in power.

But back to the Reclaim party, there’s nothing new here. It’s just the same old Brexiteer Tory policies, promoted by a few new faces. And I honestly can’t see many of them getting a seat. Some might, but I foresee a lot of lost deposits, compounded with them splitting the Tory vote in certain quarters so that a Lib Dem or possibly Labour candidate get in.

I have a feeling they’ll go the way of UKIP and the Brexit party as another right-wing group trying to ‘break the mould of British politics’.

Message from the Stop the War Coalition about their National Day of Action Tomorrow

June 24, 2022

Stop the War Coalition sent me this email this afternoon giving the details about the protests they’ve organised up and down the country as part of a day of action tomorrow, Saturday 25th June 2022.

International Day of Action – Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine. It also coincides with Armed Forces Day and the NATO Summit in Madrid where global leaders will discuss upping the alliance’s ante in response to Ukraine.

That means we must step up our campaign too. Tomorrow is the anti-war’s opportunity to get out onto the streets and say loud and clear No To War & No To NATO. 

The British government has taken one of the most aggressive and belligerent positions on the conflict. Britain is pouring arms into Ukraine and is training Ukrainian troops. Boris Johnson has twice flown to Kyiv to pour cold water on any prospect of peace negotiations. Our focus has to stay on shifting British government policy and opening up prospects for a negotiated end to the war. 

In London we are holding a protest tomorrow outside the Ministry of Defence. We will be there from 2:00-4:00 pm. Do join us.

We have a great line-up of speakers including: Mohammad Asif, Director of Afghan Human Rights Foundation; Alex Gordon, President of RMT; Lindsey German, Convenor StWC; Andrew Murray, Vice President StWC; Roger McKenzie, Liberation general secretary; Kate Hudson, CND general secretary; and musician Sean Taylor.

Join the Protest Tomorrow

And, it’s not just London… The anti- war movement is growing all over the UK. We have a record number of groups up and down the country organising on a local level, from Dorset to ManchesterSheffield to Shrewsbury!

Get along down to your local event. Find the FULL list and details by clicking below. 

Protests Around the Country

We are asking all groups to report back on how it went. So please do send us pictures and a few sentences about your Day of Action by emailing us back so we can include yours in our roundup.

.Email us Back!

Their email also discusses a new pamphlet available from the Coalition against NATO’s aggressive eastward expansion. This helped to provoke Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, although that certainly doesn’t it excuse his invasion.

NATO; A WAR ALLIANCE – NEW PAMPHLET!

Get your pamphlet – newly updated for 2022 today.

The events of 2022 have put the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its policies under the spotlight more than at any time in the post-Cold War period. The brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in February forced many to reflect on the effect of NATO’s aggressive eastward expansion. Though it does not excuse Russia, there is no doubting that it has contributed to the current dangerous situation the world finds itself in.

Featuring contributions from Andrew Murray, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Chris Nineham, Carol Turner, Matt Willgress and Jenny Clegg.

Get your pamphlet Today!

Stop the War Coalition on their Protests Planned for this Saturday

June 21, 2022

I got this email from the Stop the War Coalition about a number of protests they’ve organised for this Saturday, 25th June 2022.

We have groups up and down the country – from Glasgow to Southampton – organising for the International Day of Action this Saturday. 

In London we are holding a protest outside the Ministry of Defence.

We will be there from 2:00-4:00 pm. Do get along if you can.

We have a great line-up of speakers including: Mohammad Asif, Director of Afghan Human Rights Foundation; Alex Gordon, President of RMT; Lindsey German, Convenor StW; Roger McKenzie, Liberation general secretary; Kate Hudson, CND general secretary; George Solomou, former British soldier who resigned over the Iraq War; and musician Sean Taylor.

The war in Ukraine is ongoing and on the brink of escalation. It is fast developing into a proxy war between Russia and NATO and it is the Ukrainian people who are suffering the consequences.

Rather than sending extra missiles to Ukraine, the British government should be urging for a ceasefire and getting both sides around the negotiating table in peace talks. From the beginning of the war we demanded that Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine and that the British government stop fuelling the conflict.

Join the Protest

There are protests organised in DorsetLondonManchester, Sheffield, BrightonGlasgowSouthampton and Cardiff plus other events in NottinghamYork,  Hull and Shrewsbury.

If you’ve got a protest or event organised let us know

I’m Organising An Event on 25 June

I strongly support Ukraine’s right to exist as a free, independent sovereign state and utterly condemn Putin”s invasion. As for Putin, he’s a monster. Since he came to power Putin has demonstrated over and over again that he’s an authoritarian butcher with nothing but contempt for democracy and the rule of law. He’s done everything he can to all but outlaw public protest, has banned those parties that look like beating him in elections, and the journalists that dare to criticise him have had visits from his thugs to show them the error of their ways. And twenty years later, the murder of the Russian dissident Politovskaya, who was a very trenchant critic of the arkhiplut, still looks very suspicious. He started a murderous war in Chechnya at the beginning of this century, which included horrific massacres of the civilian population, such as in the city of Grozny. And his wretched long arm has stretch out over here to assassinate his critics and foes who’ve taken refuge in our great nation.

But Stop the War’s analysis of the situation is right. There is a profound danger of the war escalating. We had a general only the other day telling us that British troops should be prepared to fight in Europe. This is terrifying. I think the Coalition are correct in saying that NATO should not have expanded up to the Russian border, so that the Russians felt threatened. This was the original agreement signed after the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War. But it was violated and as a consequence this terrible, evil war has broken out.

We desperately need peace, and far more jaw-jaw not war-war. As John Lennon said, ‘Give peace a chance’.

Tulsi Gabbard Accuses Ukraine’s Zelensky of being Putinesque Dictator

June 5, 2022

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, parts of the right have sympathised with Russia and argued against supporting Ukraine. I think Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters have put up a post raising issues about Ukraine and I believe that Peter Hitchens may have done so as well. This afternoon I found a short video on YouTube from American Republican politician Tulsi Gabbard, which, if true, raises significant questions why we should be supporting Zelensky’s regime. She claimed that Zelensky closed down three Ukrainian TV stations because they were criticising him, and that he banned the party that came second in the Ukrainian elections and imprisoned its leaders, all actions which Putin has been accused of doing. In the case of Putin, there’s little doubt: this is exactly what he has done. But there have been no reports over here of Zelensky doing the same, though this is not to say he hasn’t done them. One of Hitchen’s videos on the war is about what the media isn’t telling you. Gabbard in her video calls the people demanding support for Ukraine ‘warmongers’, which is surprising language coming from a Republican. But it’s no more surprising than the Tories opposing Blair’s invasion of Iraq. Some of them were no doubt opportunists, opposing the invasion simply because it was done by Labour, not themselves. But some of the Tories did oppose it from moral conviction, the best example being Hitchens, who has continued to denounce it and Blair. It’s possible that Gabbard is the same.

There’s a fair amount of self-interest in the Tory defence of Russia. Russian oligarchs have contributed handsomely to Tory coffers. In America Trump’s government also gave contracts and concessions to Russian firms, quite apart from the rumours that Putin had some kind of incriminating footage involving Trump from the Orange Man’s visit to Russia. And even if these accusations of dictatorial behaviour by Zelensky were true, they would not justify the Russian invasion and the atrocities Putin’s forces have committed. But they do raise questions about why we are providing military aid. Are we doing so simply because Ukraine is a sovereign nation, which is threatened with annihilation and dismemberment by a larger, more powerful former colonial master – Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and before then the Russian empire? Or are we backing it for the same reason the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Barack Obama, Hillary ‘Queen of Chaos’ Clinton and Victoria Nuland helped to orchestrate the the Orange Revolution of 2012? That had nothing to do with overthrowing an unpopular president, and everything to do with installing one who favoured the west rather than Putin’s Russia. These are serious questions that need to be answered. But I doubt we’ll get them through the mainstream news.

Ukrainian Journalist in 2014 Calls for the Extermination of 1.5 Million Superfluous People in Donbass

April 6, 2022

This chilling video turned up on the ‘Tom’ channel on YouTube yesterday. I don’t know who ‘Tom’ is, but his channel seems to be devoted to supporting Russia’s war. At the moment he’s posting videos casting doubt on the reports of Russian war crimes in Bucha. Some of these are from western sources, others from RT, which, as an instrument of the Russian government, can’t really be trusted.

This is a clip from a Ukrainian broadcaster, Hromadske.tv from 2014. There a journalist states that there are parts of the Ukraine that are severely overpopulated, such as the town of Donetsk. This has a population of 4 million, 1.5 of which he says are ‘superfluous’ and should be exterminated. He also states that the Donbass, one of the most heavily industrialised regions in the country, is Ukrainian and should be exploited for the benefit of Ukraine.

This is clearly being put up now to support the Russian accusation that the Ukrainian government are fascists. They aren’t. The fascists are there, but they’re supported by only a minuscule number of Ukrainians and Zelensky himself is not only a moderate but also Jewish. It wouldn’t surprise if there is, alongside the profound historic ties between Ukraine and Russia, also a deep-seated hatred stemming from the Holodomor. This was an artificial famine created by Stalin during the purges and collectivisation of agriculture in the 1930s. Seven million Ukrainians died. And the real Fascists of the Azov battalion have led Ukrainian armed attacks against the Russian and the Russian-speaking Ukrainian breakaway regions.

I support Ukraine in this war and utterly condemn Putin’s invasion. But I feel there are aspects that we are not being told about in the west. Hence I’m putting up this video. See what you make of it.

Jeremy Corbyn on Putin and the Invasion of Ukraine

March 17, 2022

I’m posting this for Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog. He posted a comment a few days ago stating that some nutter elsewhere on the web had accused him and Jeremy Corbyn of being pro-Putin. This is absolute nonsense, as this video from Double Down News put up on YouTube on the 28th February shows.

In it, Corbyn makes it very clear that he utterly condemns the Russian invasion and its horrifying loss of human life and has every sympathy with the Ukrainians. He states that all wars end with a political solution, so let’s cut out the fighting and go directly there. He feels that we should go back to the agreements made at the end of the Cold War, particularly that in Minsk. Starmer has denounced the Stop the War Coalition as a Russian stooge, for which there’s no evidence. All governments try to make sure it’s only their line that’s heard during a war, and truth is the first casualty. It’s very easy for political leaders to send other people’s children to die. He states that he has been accused of being pro-Putin, but he has a record of standing up against tyrants and for human rights both in the Soviet Union and in democratic Russia. As Putin, he was helped into power by various world leaders – here the video shows Putin meeting and greeting Blair, the Queen and, I think, George Dubya. This was at the same time Putin invaded Chechnya to persecute and murder its people. He talks about the palpable racism in Moscow towards Chechens, complete with footage of Russian Nazi scum goose stepping about with their wretched right-arm salute. He was part of a parliamentary human rights delegation that met Russian officials complaining about the abuse of human rights, and was part of a demonstration in London with Tony Benn against the violations and the war in Chechnya. And when the terrible events in Salisbury took place, Corbyn said it was a consequence of Russian money in Britain, which needed to be examined. This is followed by a clip of his speech in parliament attacking this dirty money, and noting that the Tories had received £800,000 in donations from Russian oligarchs. We now have the Magnitsky rules and other legislation. But there have been people on the left who have been quite consistent in their support for human rights and the rights of journalists.

He says that when the Iraq war broke out in 2003 he was completely opposed to it, but didn’t want to go to war with the US or anybody else. He wanted peace for the people of Iraq. Similarly an attack on Russia in Ukraine will just produce another war and more bitterness and hatred. It would mean more of the world’s precious resources being used to manufacture weapons rather than dealing with the environmental crisis that threatens everyone. He states that it often seems that the people who have absolute unity are more prescient, so it’s good to stand out sometimes. As for wars being won or lost, he says that after they’re over and the media circus has moved on, the person who has lost a son is forever left with that, wondering on their birthday what they would have done and that goes on for all their life. Nobody ever wins a war, and having a war is a defeat for all of us. The best option is to halt the war as quickly as possible and move on to peace, recognition and understanding. In the case of Ukraine, the country could be occupied with massive destruction,, leading to resistance fighting and a civil war that could go on for a very long time. And worse is the possibility of a conflict between NATO and Russia with their nuclear armaments.

Being anti-war isn’t a weakness. It’s looking at the current conflict and seeing that it needs to be resolved and we need peace. We need more voices for peace and anti-war activists around the world to speak and oppose what their governments are doing. He was inspired to see so many young people on the streets of Moscow protesting against the war and that it was not being done in their name. It was the same language many people used against the Iraq War, and which Americans used against the Vietnam War. It is the voices for peace around the world we should be listening to at the present time.

There you have it from the man himself: he’s made it clear that he condemns the invasion, as he condemns all wars, and has protested against Putin when others in the West embraced the tyrant. He wants the war to stop not just because of the carnage that all wars cause, but of the dangers of this escalating into nuclear war. And he admires, respects and supports anti-war campaigners in Russia and around the world.

Jeremy Corbyn: the prime minister this country should have had.

Ukrainian-Australian Instrumentalist Larysa Kovalchuk Talks about the Bandura

March 14, 2022

Ukraine’s president Zelenskyy has said that he fears that Putin’s invasion is designed to wipe his country off the map and erase its history and culture. I’ve noticed that along with armed resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces and civilians, there have also been a number of videos posted to YouTube from Ukrainians, including those in the West, about their national instrument, the bandura. It’s described as a ‘lute-zither’, and the entry for it in Anthony Baines, The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments (Oxford: OUP 1992) runs as follows

‘A popular Ukrainian instrument looking like a large lop-sided lute and held almost vertically on the lap. The body, with a back shaped rather like a shallow basin, bulges out on the treble side and, across this, up to 36 metal strings (called pristrunki) fan out to tuning pins placed round the edge, which has a thick rim to hold them. These are chromatically turned melody strings, plucked by the right hand. Over the short neck run six or more bass strings, mostly plucked by the left hand.

‘The bandura, going back to the 18th century, formerly accompanied minstrels’ songs and ballads, but its ringing, harp-like tone is now heard in popular orchestras. There was also, played mostly in the first half of the 19th century, the torban or ‘Russian theorbo’ (or ‘gentleman’s bandura’), in app0earance like a theorbo and and again with pristrunki, here diatonic (as in older banduras), as well as fretted strings and long bass strings. Bandura and torban are both said to have been brought to Russia by Italian musicians in the 17th century (there is, in fact, a Paduan instrument of c. 1390, now in Vienna, with similar treble strings , perhaps related to the pandura which the lutenist Piccini later (1623) named as having been his invention.’ (p. 19).

In this video, Ukrainian-born Australian Larysa Kovalchuk talks about the instrument and briefly demonstrates its ringing sound. She states, however, that it has 64 strings, but also says that it’s also sued to play harp and harpsichord music. Ukrainians are proud of their national instrument, which no other people play. It is indeed a fascinating instrument, and I hope it will soon be played once again in peace rather than in this terrible war.

Sting Reprises 80s Anti-Nuclear Song against War in Ukraine

March 14, 2022

A few days ago I put up the YouTube video of Punk legends Toyah Wilcox’s and Robert Fripp’s song of support for Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Sting has also posted on YouTube a version of his 80s hit ‘Russians’ as a protest against Putin’s bloody invasion of ‘a peaceful and unthreatening neighbour’. It’s dedicated not just to the Ukrainians but also to the many Russians protesting against the war, and is once again a plea for our children and our common humanity.

Sting released ‘Russians’ right in the middle of the new Cold War under Thatcher and Reagan, when it seemed all too possible that a nuclear war would erupt to end humanity and destroy our lovely and beautiful planet. It was partly based on a theme from Prokofiev and urged everyone to protect their children against the nuclear threat. One of its lines is ‘How can I protect my little boy/ From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?’ with the refrain ‘Believe me when I say to you, do the Russians love their children too?’ It also reminded both sides that ‘We share the same biology regardless of ideology’. It was a powerful, heartfelt song that reflected the deep fears and hopes of millions across the world at the time.

Sting states that he hasn’t really played it since because it wasn’t really relevant. Horrifically, it is now, with Putin threatening to launch nukes if NATO gets involved. I find Sting’s piece profoundly moving, but I’m also furious with the way geopolitics has gone in eastern Europe in the forty or so years since this was written. Reagan was an arch-reactionary who supported every bloody Fascist dictator that disgraced Latin America in his campaign against Communism. But together he and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Communism fell and the former Soviet satellites went their own way. And in the former Soviet Union, Gorbachev did his best to transform the Stalinist Communism of the Soviet state into something genuinely good and progressive. He wanted to introduce democracy and multiparty elections, ended the persecution of religion, and wished to create a mixed economy in which state and private enterprise existed alongside each other. But he also wished to create a new class of genuine cooperatives, where the workers would hire and fire management. He wanted Russia to join the rest of the world in the Green movement and tackling environmental issues as well fully support human rights. And as the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of people from the former eastern bloc came over here to work and run businesses.

Terrible things were still being done across the world, including the first Gulf War, which was also really about oil rather than freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. But the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War made it that bit better. For all the claims that socialism was dead and that free market capitalism would now reign unchallenged at the ‘end of history’, it was still an optimistic time. It looked like the world had finally put that part of the nuclear threat behind us and that we could look forward to a future without any more fears of another Cuban missile crisis or similar armaggeddon.

And now I feel that all that hope and promise has been squandered through great power interference and Putin’s warmongering. Well, damn this! I want the world to go back to how it was before all this erupted.

Bring back Gorbachev!

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the war, and especially to those in Russia. May peace come soon.

Suspended Russian TV Station Says ‘No War’

March 11, 2022

This video was put up on YouTube by the Groaniad. It shows the final minutes of a Russian TV station suspended by Putin and his thugs for their independent coverage. The CEO and her team say their farewells, and that they hope to be back on air sometime in the future. One of the men says the old Spanish Civil War anti-fascist slogan, ‘No Pasaran’. And as they file out they say ‘No War’.

My absolute respect and solidarity to them.

Putin has been clamping down on civil liberties and freedom of speech, conscience and the press in Russia ever since he managed to get himself elected. People have been arrested simply for protesting against normal policies, like housing. And when the press publishes something the Kremlin doesn’t like, they get a visit from the boys. People have been beaten and even thrown down stairwells. The last time I looked 8,000 Russians had been arrested for protesting against this war. Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tory hypocrites are trying to make protesting as difficult as possible in this country, all while trying to present it somehow in keeping with British democracy. But in Putin’s Russia, it takes real courage to stand up against the government and the wretched Nazi-Fascist propaganda the government is pumping out.

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the War.

And No Pasaran to Fascists everywhere.