Posts Tagged ‘Women’s Rights’

Donald Trump Predicted in Stephen Baxter’s 1995 Novel ‘Titan’

July 16, 2017

I’ve been making my way through Stephen Baxter’s SF novel, Titan, these last few weeks. Baxter’s a British SF writer, with degrees in maths and engineering. He applied to be an astronaut on the Anglo-Soviet mission to Mir in the 1980s, which went to Helen Sharman. He’s probably best known for his Xelee-sequence books. These are set in a universe dominated by the extremely advanced, but mysterious Xelee, who are engaged in a war across the entire universe with the Photino Birds, dark matter creatures determined to age and extinguish the universe of ordinary matter. He has also written other novels about a variety of parthenogenic humans, descended from a lost troop of Romans, a catastrophic flood in the Bronze Age, and the books The Long Earth and The Long War, about parallel worlds, with the late, great Terry Pratchett. His novel, Voyage, an alternative history in which NASA launches a final manned expedition to Mars, was adapted for Radio 4 by Audio Movies in the 1990s. He was also the scientific advisor for the 1990s BBC SF series, Invasion Earth, about aliens from the higher physical dimensions invading the planet.

Titan is also about a last, crewed NASA mission. This time its put together by a team of astronauts, space scientists and ground control crew as the Agency’s last, great space expedition before it is closed down following a shuttle disaster. It’s set in what was then the near future – 2004 onwards – in America increasingly falling into right-wing extremism, irrationalism and Christian fundamentalism. The leading politician and subsequent president, is Xavier Maclachlan, a Texan with standing on an aggressively anti-science platform. Here’s the description of the man and his policies on pages 284-5.

Hadamard was in Washington during the inauguration of Xavier Maclachlan, after his wafer-thin win in the 2008 election.

Maclachlan called it a ‘liberation of the capital’.

Armed militia bands came in from Idaho and Arizona and Oklahoma and Montana, to fire off black-powder salutes to the nationalist-populist who promised to repeal all gun control laws. In the crowd, Hadamard saw a couple of Ku Klux Klan constumes, a sight he though had gone into an unholy past. Come to that, there was a rumour that a former Klan leader was being made ready to become a future White House chief of staff. And in his speech Maclachlan appealed to the people to end what he called the ‘Israeli occupation of Congress’…

And so on.

As soon as Maclachlan lifted his hand from the Bible, US peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and Africa started to board their planes to leave. Foreign aid stopped. The UN was being thrown out of New York, and there was a rumour that Maclachlan was planning some military adventure to take back the canal from Panama.

Army engineers – set in place during the handover from the last Administration – started to build a wall, two thousand miles of it, along the Mexican border, to exclude illegal immigrants. White it was being built, troops brought home from peacekeeping abroad were operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

There was chaos in the financial markets. Machlachlan had withdrawn the US from the North American Free Trade Treaty, from the World Trade Organisation, from GATT. Reviews of the country’s membership of the World Bank and the IMF had started – arms of an incipient world government, Maclachlan said, designed to let in the Russians. He had raised tariffs – ten per cent against Japan, fifty per cent against the Chinese – and world trade collapsed.

The Chinese, particularly, screamed. And so Maclachlan sent the Seventh Fleet to a new station just off the coast of Taiwan.

Meanwhile all the strategic arms treaties with Russia were torn up, as Maclachlan orderd his technicians to dig out the blueprints for Reagan’s old dream of SDI. In fact, Maclachlan wanted to go further. He was inviting ideas for what he called his ‘da Vinci brains trust’. The press was full of schemes for fantastic new weapons: smart remote sensors; dream mines that could shoot at passing traffic; smart armour that would use explosive tiles to deflect incoming projectiles; maybe even an electrical battlefield in which electricity-propelled shells would be zapped in by low-flying aircraft.

And back home, Machlachlan had cut off any remaining programs which benefited blacks and other minorities, and any funding that appeared to support abortion, which had been made illegal in any form.

Xavier Maclachlan was a busy man, and he was fulfilling his campaign promises.

Clearly, much of this is an extrapolation from the policies and attitudes of the Republican party and the American extreme Right in the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan had brought right-wing Christian fundamentalists into the Republican party, who had previously stood aloof from politics as part of a corrupt, fallen secular order. He had also begun to wind up government welfare programmes, particularly those aimed at benefiting minorities, such as Black Americans. Fears of an imminent apocalypse, social breakdown and Russian invasion, even after the collapse of Communism, had resulted in the emergence of the survivalist and then Militia movements, armed right-wing paramilitary groups. These had a bitter resentment of the federal government, which culminated in McViegh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. They also tended to be bitterly racist and anti-Semitic. They believed and still believe in stupid Nazi conspiracy theories that claim that the Jews are trying to destroy the White race through racial intermixing and that America is covertly controlled by the Jews through the ‘Zionist Occupation Government’, or ZOG. These groups and right-wing American fundamentalist organisations also believed that there was a secret, Illuminati conspiracy to create a one world Satanic superstate centred on the UN. Phyllis Schlafly, who was actually a Democrat, regularly denounced the UN as well as women’s rights. And one leading figure in the militias – I think it may have been Bo Gritz, who supposedly served as the model for ‘Rambo’ – stated that the way they would clear America’s international debt would be by minting a single coin with the legend ‘1 Trillion Dollars’. As for the Klan, there were a series of scandals in which senior Republican politicos were revealed as having links to or membership in the White racist terrorist group. The most notorious of these was David Duke in Louisiana, who is unfortunately still around and blaming the Jews for everything even today.

And political scientists and economists were predicting the rise of China and the other ‘tiger economies’, which would dominate the ‘Pacific Century’ even then.

Of course, there are things Baxter failed to predict, like 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also takes the conventional view that the various free trade agreements and UN organisations, like the IMF and the World Bank, are nice, liberal, benefificial institutions, rather than the way corporate America imposes its own neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, particularly the developing nations.

Not that the Democrats have been much different. Counterpunch has reported that Obama was considering removing the ‘No first strike’ policy towards a nuclear confrontation, and Killary has been every bit as aggressive in her stance towards Russia and China as the Republicans, perhaps even more so.

As for the White extremist and racist groups supporting the new president, all that’s different is that the Klan has been largely replaced, or subsumed, into the internet-based Alt Right. But the hysterical fear of gun legislation, promoted and lavishly funded by the gun manufacturers and the NRA, against the desires of the majority of Americans, and even the NRA’s own rank and file membership, remains strong.

It shows how long the attitudes held by the American right, and which led to the election of Donald Trump, have been around. Since his election, left-wing news sites such as The Young Turks, Secular Talk and the David Pakman Show have reported that Americans have become increasingly dissatisfied with Trump. Sixty per cent of the American public want him impeached. This dissatisfaction even extends to Republican voters.

Trump, however, in his racism, his isolationism, aggressive nationalism and hatred of the welfare state and women’s rights, is very much in line with the general political stance of post-Reaganite right-wing American politicians. Indeed, he’s so much a part of this political trend that, with caveats, his election – or rather, the election of someone like him – was predicted by Baxter over two decades ago.

No wonder an increasing number of young Americans are looking to progressive politicos like Bernie Sanders for leadership and the redemption of their country against a corrupt political elite and the military-industrial complex. And I fervently hope they win, and that humanity will continue to reach out to the cosmos in a spirit of genuine exploration and wonder, and not as another arena for warfare.

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Secular Talk on Lack of Media Outrage for Syrian Rebels Massacring 126 Civilians

April 18, 2017

In this video from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski reports and comments on the news that Syrian rebels massacred 126 people trying to leave the besieged government-held villages of Foah and Kfreyah. Those killed included 68 children. The Islamists threw food onto the ground, so that starving children ran out and gathered around it, scrambling for the food. They then bombed the buses which were set to take the children and the other civilians away to safety. Kulinski compares the massive lack of outrage over this atrocity in American media, with the posturing over the supposed gas attack by Assad. And from Assad’s point of view, the attack made no sense, as Assad is actually winning. He has nothing to lose, and everything to gain from such an assault. But while this resulted in calls for Assad’s removal, the American media, when it did condescend to cover this, just called it a ‘hiccup’. This is, Kulinski points out, because the American government is run by the Neo-cons, who want regime change, because Assad is allied with Putin. The Syrian rebels, who committed this carnage, are allied to the American government, just like the US government armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The American government wants to install instead of Assad a dictator, backed by their corporations. Kulinski also makes the point that while he doesn’t know what kind of government would be in power should Assad fall, it would probably be a Salafist-Wahhabist theocracy like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is a government that would deprive women of their rights, executes young boys on roundabouts, and would institute the death penalty for crimes like apostasy and witchcraft.

Jimmy Dore on the MIT Professor Showing Trump Wrong about Sarin Gas Attack in Syria

April 18, 2017

As well as appearing on Counterpunch’s website, Theodore A. Postol also appeared on RT, and his analysis of the Sarin gas attack in Syria was also covered by Jimmy Dore. Postol is the emeritus professor of Science, Technology and National Security at MIT. He concluded that, contrary to what the American government and Syrian rebels were saying, the poison gas that killed the people of Khan Shaykhun was not dropped as a bomb from a plane, but was released from an improved ground-based weapon, about 12 cm long. Trump and the American media have claimed that the attack was the responsibility of Assad, and launched an attack by Tomohawk missiles on the air force base, from which the attack was supposedly launched, in reprisal.

In this video, Dore savagely critiques the statements of Trump, Sean Spicer and other members of the White House. He makes the point that the American government is simply interested in regime change in Syria. They are not interested in protecting civilians, as is shown by the American military’s own cavalier indifference to the number of civilian deaths their strikes have brought about in Syria and Iraq. Nor are they against chemical weapons. The American armed forces have used depleted uranium, which has caused birth defects in Iraq.

He also points out that the White Helmets, the rescue team that moved into treat the survivors, are hardly an impartial source. They are allied with the Islamist rebels – al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS and the western forces seeking to overthrow Assad. This is ignored by the American media, who don’t have reporters in the country. And those reporters that have been there, such as Eva Bartlett, who has appeared on Dore’s show, have been dismissed.

Dore also criticises the American media for their complicity in promoting every war since Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in the 1980s. The reporters on these programmes, such as CNN, MSNBC, and so on, earn $30,000 a day and are not willing to do anything that might jeopardise their position. If they do, they’re sacked. This is what happened when Phil Donohue opposed the Iraq Invasion on his show, stating clearly that all the pretexts for it were false. The broadcaster immediately took him off the air. They claimed that it was because of low ratings, a lie, as he had the highest ratings on the network. A little while later an internal memo surfaced stating that the real reason he was sacked was because the network did not want someone who was against the invasion, and therefore appeared unpatriotic, to front their network.

Dore urges his viewers not to believe CNN, MSNBC and the other news networks, nor Rachel Maddow, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and other celebrity broadcasters, as they are also lying to support the war. Nor should the mainstream newspapers, like the New York Times also be believed, as they too have published nothing but lies and propaganda for the various wars. As are the corporate, establishment Democrats. This is all about what Chomsky called ‘manufacturing consent’. He shows a clip of Postol on RT stating his conclusions and that the report claiming the attack was launched from the air is so poor, that none of the intelligence analysts he knew would have signed off on it. Dore states that this evidence will be dismissed, despite the professor’s immense expertise, because he’s only a professor and he contradicts what the government and media are saying. He also points out that the American establishment has also been trying to close RT down, just as YouTube is trying to close down the alternative news outlets on their platform, both left and right, because they’re producing better, more objective news than corporate television. YouTube has blocked adverts on these news shows, so that they don’t get the advertising revenue they need. Nevertheless, Dore vows that he’ll continue making these programmes.

Dore points out the similarities to the 2013 poison gas attack, which again was a false flag operation designed to draw America into the war by the rebel forces. He also makes the point that it is like the Iraq war all over again. While he doesn’t know quite what form the government will take if the rebels win, he believes it will probably be a Sunni theocracy where women have no rights, just like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are pushing this war. As for the rebels themselves, these so-called moderates beheaded a child on a roundabout, but this was glossed over by the American media.

Today Is International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017

It’s International Women’s Day today. According to Wikipedia, it was first started by the Socialist Party of America, who held the first Women’s Day in New York on February 28th, 1909. Following a suggestion by Luise Zietz at an International Women’s Conference in August 1910, it was then celebrated the next year in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It then spread to the Russian Empire, and became a formal day of celebration under Lenin and Alexandra Kollontai after the Bolshevik coup. It was then celebrated mostly by the Communist countries until 1975, when the UN inaugurated International Women’s Day.

The Wikipedia article gives its history as follows

The earliest organized Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union.[3] There was no strike on March 8, despite later claims.[5]

In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark.[6] Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Woman’s Day (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference.[7][8] Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women.[9] The following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.[3] In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations.[7] In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune.[7] Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.[2] Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.[7]

Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the years leading up to 1914, none of them happened on March 8.[5] In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries.[5] The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.[5][10]

In London there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.[11]

In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women’s Day in Petrograd, Russia, on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.[2] Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.[5] Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.”[5]

Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, but it was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women’s day must be celebrated as are other holidays.”

From its official adoption in Soviet Russia following the Revolution in 1917 the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist countries and by the communist movement worldwide. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists in 1936.[7] After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the state council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.[12]

The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.[13]

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’. The article then explains

In a message in support of International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on how women’s rights were being “reduced, restricted and reversed”. With men still in leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, he called for change “by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world”.

A few weeks ago The Young Turks released the news that the organisers of the Women’s Marches in America were planning a Women’s General Strike against Trump. I don’t know if this is actually taking place, but there are a number of articles about it in today’s I newspaper. Including a report that the veteran feminist, Gloria Steinem, has called Trump a ‘walking violation of women’s rights’. Which is true, unfortunately.

So I’d like to give my best wishes to all the females readers of this blog on this special day.

The Young Turks: Female Staffer on Sexism and Misogyny in Trump Campaign

February 2, 2016

This is another piece about Trump’s terrible attitude to women. A former member of Trump’s campaign team in Iowa, Elizabeth Mae Davidson, has left it and is seeking advice from a civil rights organisation, citing The Donald’s sexism and refusal give women working for him equal pay to that of their male co-workers. She states that she was paid $2,000 a month, while the men, who were also working part-time for the campaign, were paid $3,500-$4,000. She also points out that sexism and negative attitudes towards women were rife in his company.

Cenk Uygur, the Turks’ anchor, points out that her statement about pay has yet to be ascertained legally. It is possible that she could ‘just be saying it’. But he points out that Trump and the Republicans do not want women to be paid equally. They reject it on the grounds that it’s just an excuse for women to sue corporations. Uygur makes the point that as a staffer for Trump, Davidson should have known this, and it should have come as no surprise when he did it to her.

Uygur also reports that when Davidson and another female activist met Trump, he said, ‘You guys could do a lot of damage.’ They thought at the time that he was referring to their looks. Trump, again, has laughed off this accusation, saying that ‘a lot worse could be said’, but denies he actually did so, stating that ‘it’s not in my vocabulary’. He has then gone on to make other comments and accusations against Davidson. One of them is that she behaved strangely when she was on campaign team, to the point where she started dressing as his wife.

Uygur has some sympathy for her position as a woman working for such a terrible man, who does see women simply as sex objects and doesn’t want them to have equality with the men in his organisations. But he criticises her for having the same selfish attitude to these issues that permeates all Republicans. The Republicans don’t care when the policies they advocate harm other people. Not when people are unable to feed themselves on their pay, find themselves discriminated against at work, or are shot down, assaulted and imprisoned by the cops for no reason whatsoever. This last is a reference to the racist shootings by police of unarmed Black men, which sparked the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests. In one of the most horrific incidents, a young boy was shot and killed, simply because he was playing with a toy gun. When incidents like these happen to other people, the Republicans simply shrug and say it doesn’t matter, because it didn’t happen to them. but when it does happen to them, there’s outrage.

Uygur’s entirely right about Trump’s horrendous attitude to women, and the way it’s firmly based in Republican attitudes to gender. The Republicans are very much in favour of traditional gender roles. Jerry Fallwell, the right-wing TV evangelist, first made his breakthrough into national US politics in the 1970s, when he led a campaign against the equal pay act. This was the piece of equalities legislation which gave American women the right to be paid the same as men for the same work. And the attitudes to women get more crazed and reactionary the further right you go. Ann Coulter, possibly the Republican’s most splenetic and venomous polemicists, has stated that she doesn’t think women should have the vote. Really. You can check it for yourself. Along with all the other insane and bigoted things she said. There’s whole lists of them on the Net and Youtube.

And these attitudes aren’t confined to America. They permeate UKIP over here, and you can find the same rants against equal pay and maternity leave for women, and flexible working hours to they could fit in their duties looking after their children, in the pages of the supposedly ‘female-friendly’ Daily Mail. They’ve also attacked equal pay legislation and campaigns as harmful to industry, alleging that such provision for maternity leave will make women employees less productive and more expensive to hire. They’ve then go on to argue that this will result in either less women being employed, or firms suffering economic damage from having to employ them and cater for their needs.

I found this meme about the Republicans’ appalling attitudes to women’s rights on the Tumblr site, 1,000 Natural Shocks. (Over 18s only). It probably refers principally to the most vociferously debated and obvious campaign against a recently won right for women, abortion. But it also describes pretty much their entire attitude to women’s rights as a whole, from working outside the home, equal pay, to the right to vote. And this is all despite the fact that the Republicans also have very powerful women on their side, like Coulter and Sarah Palin. And they are powerful, no matter what can be said about their own intelligence, sanity or the stupidity of their policies. But the danger is, for some reason people still continue voting for them.

Republicans Women's Rights

Secular Talk: Saudis Imprison Muslim Professor for Liberal Interpretation of Islam

January 17, 2016

This is another piece from the atheist news programme, Secular Talk, about Saudi Arabia. I know I’ve posted a lot of pieces from them about the Saudis up recently, but as the Saudis are a ruthless, oppressive absolute monarchy that has just executed 47 people, including a young man simply for attending a pro-democracy demonstration, this needs to be said. Especially as our government is fawning all over them.

In this edition of the programme, Kyle Kulinski reports on the sentencing of a Islamic preacher, Abdel-Karim al-Khadar, a professor of Islamic Studies, to ten years in prison, followed by a further ban on travelling abroad for another ten years after his release. He was convicted of disobedience to the sovereign and starting up a human rights organisation. His real crime is that he started teaching a liberal interpretation of Islam, based on the Qu’ran, that included mutual coexistence and women’s rights. And he was not any kind of atheist, but a Muslim scholar, who taught Islamic studies in his own home.

This was too much for the Saudis, whose government includes many, who are actively supporting and funding the Islamist terror groups al-Qaeda and ISIS. He states that America is being played for a fool. The Saudis have somehow got on to the UN Human Rights Council, despite the fact that they blatantly don’t believe in them. And they’re not even bothering to hide it. Kulinski makes it clear that he’s so disgusted with the situation, that if he were president, he’d ended America’s dependence on oil and cease trading with such a treacherous and oppressive ally.

I’m reblogging this as it directly concerns Britain and specifically David Cameron. It appears to have partly been due to Cameron’s wrangling that the Saudis got elected to the UN Human Rights council. And then Cameron tours Saudi Arabia selling them British armaments that they really don’t need, and which will be used to kill civilians in Yemen.

So despite all his verbiage about attacking ISIS and the War on Terror, Cameron actively supports those who share their poisonous ideology, and who are actively supporting them.

Empire Files: Saudi Arabia’s History of Thuggery

January 17, 2016

Yesterday I put up a number of posts criticising and attacking Saudi Arabia and its brutal use of the death penalty, following the complaint of the Saudi Foreign Minister, al-Jubair, that the kingdom had an image problem because of it, and moaning that people should respect their use of the death penalty ‘Because it’s the law’. This is another, very informative, and grimly fascinating video discussing Saudi Arabia’s long history of repression, violence and brutality from its very foundation. The video’s from Empire Files, which is another news agency specialising in criticising and documenting the corruption and political oppression committed by the American Empire.

Presented by Abby Martin, the video begins with shots of the western great and good meeting and praising various Saudi royals, mentioning the country’s election to the UN Human Rights Council. It then goes on to discuss the Saudi use of public executions. Among the crimes liable to the death penalty are atheism and adultery. 43% of all executions are for non-violent drug offences. It also discusses the execution of Ali al-Nimr, a democracy protester, by crucifixion and beheading. These cases are judged in secret courts, and other punishments include amputation and whipping.

The programme also goes on to examine the almost complete absence of rights for women in Saudi Arabia. Despite having been given the right to vote, women in Saudi Arabia require the permission of male relatives or guardians to go to school, work or even receive medical treatment. They may also be punished for their own sexual assault. The video cites a rape case, where the victim received more lashes than her attackers. Women constitute only 17% of the Saudi work force. 77% of female graduates are unemployed.

The kingdom has also been actively clamping down and suppressing protesters and activists campaigning for democracy. Many of these have been arrested and tried in secret courts. The punishments include execution, or transferral to re-education centres. The attacks on democracy campaigners escalated after 9/11. Before hundreds were being arrested. Now it’s thousands. Furthermore, no civil rights organisations are allowed in the country.

The programme then moves on to describe the history of the kingdom. It’s an absolute monarchy, ruled by a single dynasty. The current king’s personal wealth is estimated at $18 billion. Despite the obscene wealth of its rulers, 20% of its population live in abject poverty, with a youth unemployment rate of 30%.

Thirty per cent of the country’s population is composed of migrant workers, who are virtually slaves due to the system of kafala, sponsorship, through which they are imported. The programme describes their exploitation, with 15 – 20 hour working days, maltreatment, confiscation of passports on arrival, and adverts for runaway labourers and domestic workers, similar to those for de jure slaves in the American West.

Martin then talks to the Saudi dissident, Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the Gulf Institute. Al-Ahmed states that part of the problem is that the country’s vast wealth is confined to the king, his relatives and cronies. The present king can in no way be described as a great reformer. He imprisoned his four daughters for 14 years, and to this day no-one knows what happened to them. The king is an absolute monarch. The Saudi parliament is only partially elected. It is also partly appointed, and wields no power. As for the judicial system, al-Ahmed describes it as medieval and tribal. It deliberately excludes women, blacks, ordinary people and the Shi’a. It is similar to ISIS. And the bond between Saudi Arabia, America and the West is money. Bill Clinton and George Bush have both visited Saudi Arabia, probably secretly looking for Saudi sponsorship for their election campaigns. Al-Ahmed states that this should be investigated by the FBI. It appears to be a case of the Saudis trying to buy off prospective American presidents in the aftermath of 9/11.

The kingdom itself was founded after 20 years of warfare and campaigning by Ibn Saud, who declared himself king in 1925. Ibn Saud was aided in his rise to power by a religious militia. These later revolted, and so Ibn Saud had them massacred. The conquest of what is now Saudi Arabia was complete by 1932. Ibn Saud tried, and failed, to conquer and incorporate what is now Yemen.

The Saudi family struck oil after World War I, and invited the Americans in to exploit it. The Americans were only too pleased, after having been shut out of the rest of the oilfields of the Middle East by the triumphant European colonial powers. The American oil company, Chevron, staked its claim to the Saudi oilfields in 1933. This resulted in the formation of Arab-American Oil – Aramco. Despite the name, Aramco was 100 per cent owned by the Americans. It is the property of four American oil companies, including Chevron and Mobil. These oil companies paid a small proportion of their profits to the Saudi royal family as royalties.

Italian bombing during the Second World War severely disrupted oil supplies. In 1943 President Roosevelt declared that the defence of the Saudi oilfields was a national priority. Two years later, in 1945, Roosevelt signed a treaty with the Saudis giving them American protection in exchange for oil. This was the start of the network of American army and naval based in the country. In 1953 15,000 or so oil workers went on strike, demanding a union. The monarchy responded by assassinating the leaders and promulgating a royal decree banning working class organisations. In 1962 a left-wing revolution broke out in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UK responded by supporting the royalist counterrevolution.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the West has not gone untroubled, however. There was a rift following the foundation of Israel. In response to Israeli victories during the Arab-Israeli wars, the Saudis launched their oil embargo, sparking the energy crisis of the 1970s. This did not, however, bother Nixon and Kissinger very much. If the worst came to the worst, they planned on bombing the kingdom in order to secure the vital supplies of oil. In the event, they didn’t need to take such drastic action. The Saudis were alarmed by the spread of Communism. So Nixon and Kissinger convinced the Saudis, along with the UAE, Qatar and Bahrein to back their war on Communism and specifically the conflict in Vietnam.

In the 1980s Saudi Arabia was the major backer of the Mujahideen. In 1979 there was a religious uprising in imitation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It was suppressed, and the 60 leaders executed. Saudi Shi’a were also attacked for celebrating a Shi’a religious festival. Following the killing of a student, there were mass demonstrations by the Shi’a, women’s organisations, the Communist party and the religious community. In retaliation, the Saudis deployed 20,000 soldiers, strafing the Shi’a communities with helicopter gunships. And Ronald Reagan pledged his support in suppressing any revolution. Saudi Arabia was, of course, the major American base in 1990 for the Gulf War.

The Saudis’ response to the Arab Spring was, predictably, also harsh. The regime issued a ban on all journalism that dared to question or criticise the monarchy, and the internet was subject to even heavier censorship. Saudi troops helped to crush the Arab Spring in neighbouring Bahrein. Despite this, people are still fighting and dying for their right to freedom in the east of Saudi Arabia. There was another uprising in 2013 following the shooting of another young person. Saudi Arabia has also responded to the threat by making massive purchases of arms. It is the biggest customer for American weapons, having bought $5.5 billion of them c. 2012. The kingdom is also a major financier of al-Qaeda and ISIS. This was admitted by Hillary Clinton in documents revealed by Wikileaks. They are estimated to have given $100 billion to terrorists.

They also had strong links to the 9/11 hijackers. 28 pages of the official inquiry into 9/11 remain classified, but the leader of the inquiry has stated that the material points to Saudi Arabia as a major funder. Nevertheless, the current crisis in the Middle East has alarmed them so much, that the Saudis have held secret meetings with Israel. The Saudis have also been active trying to suppress the rebellion in Yemen. So far, half of those killed have been civilians. Saudi arms have levelled the ancient and historic city of Sanaa, and there are cases where civilians and rescue workers have been attacked and killed.

This is a brutal, authoritarian and cruel absolute monarchy, responsible for the savage suppression of human rights and democracy throughout the Middle East. It is scandalous that the West continues to support this murderous regime, although not surprising given the vast profits from and the dependence of the West on Saudi oil, while western arms manufacturers make money from selling to them.

Secular Talk on Saudi Arabia’s Use of the Death Penalty, even against the Children and the Disabled

January 16, 2016

Okay, this is another piece I thought should be put up in response to Mike’s post, over on Vox Political, about the Saudis’ complaint about the world’s reaction to their mass execution of 47 people last week. Their foreign minister, al-Jubair, complained that they have a bad image because of it. They’re right, but that’s only one reason. Other reasons include the almost complete lack of rights for women, freedom of belief and conscience, and other barbaric parts of their legal code, such as whipping and amputation. Oh yes, and their enslavement of foreign workers, although it is never called that.

But to go on, al-Jubair also complains that the world should respect the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, ‘because it’s the law’. They maintain that they don’t look down on Britain, because we don’t have the death penalty.

I don’t think that’s quite the whole reason, why they’re offended because we don’t respect them for their use of the death penalty. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state with shari’a law. My guess is that what really offends them is that the rest of the world hasn’t given their legal system the automatic respect they feel it deserves due to its religious basis. In Saudi Arabia, other religions apart from Wahhabism, even other forms of Islam, such as Shi’ism, are banned. Used to the automatic enforcement of respect for their religion in their home country, they’re annoyed and upset when the rest of the world doesn’t similarly acquiesce, and respect their legal code.

In this piece from the atheist news programme, Secular Talk from 2015, Kyle Kulinski discusses how the Saudis executed 102 people just that half year alone. This is up from the 127 people they executed in 2014. Those executed include children under 18 and the disabled. The crimes for which these people were killed included acts, which are not crimes in the West. Like adultery, apostasy, witchcraft and atheism. They also execute for crimes that aren’t considered so serious that they require the death penalty in the west, such as marijuana possession or smuggling.

Kulinski goes off at the end on a rant about how nonsensical Islam, and by implication, all religion is. I don’t share his atheism or secularism, and so don’t support his views in this part of the show. But apart from this, it makes excellent points about the injustice and brutality of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Kulinski, however, is not a hypocrite and makes it clear that he is opposed to the death penalty everywhere, including America. He states very clearly that Saudi Arabia should suffer the same kind of punishments that have been inflicted on other oppressive regimes, such as sanctions and the divestment of commercial interests.

Anti-UKIP Vote Meme

May 5, 2015

This is another meme I found over at the SlatUKIP facebook site. It’s their tweets from last night, collected into a comprehensive list of reasons why no-one should vote for the Kippers. It was done by one of their readers, OgdenW.

It comprehensively describes the double standards and mendacity of a party, which consistently tries to present an image of happy moderation while standing for the extreme right, bigotry and intolerance. The list of reasons includes its racism, its hatred of immigrants, Islamophobia, anti-women’s rights and hatred and contempt for LGBT. It also lists it’s policies in favour of stripping working people of their employment rights and furthering their exploitation, as well as their support for fox-hunting, fracking and other policies, which would wreck the countryside. As well as their support for gun ownership.

It also shows how we would lose trade if we left the EU, contrary to the Kippers’ predictions.

And finally, there’s the personal faults of Farage himself, a millionaire banker, who is definitely not a ‘man of the people’, as well as a ‘functioning alcoholic’ who spends 5-6 hours a day by his own admission in pubs.

Anti-UKIP Vote Meme

UKIP: The Party of Hate and Negativity

March 21, 2015

This is another excellent meme laying out UKIP’s negative attitude to just about everyone and anyone, who isn’t a rich, White, male supercapitalist.

UKIP Hate Meme

It says

Hate the NHS? Hate foreigners? Hate the minimum wage? Hate paid maternity leave? Hate the Gays? Hate refugees? Hate tolerance? Hate clean air? Hate Asians? Hate Women’s rights? Hate foreign food? Hate the working classes? Hate fairness?

Hate Britain?

VOTE UKIP

Join the party of hate – Britain’s newest establishment party.

It really does just about say it all.