An economic Bill of Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/03/2018 - 12:53am in

It’s time to revive an idea floated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, write Mark Paul, Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton in the American Prospect:

Many may question in this time of “resistance,” if this is the right time to fight for an expansion of economics rights, but no one wins anything of consequence by simply playing defense.

Read more here.

Rating the relative hotness of digital literacy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/03/2018 - 9:42pm in



A scoville unit is a measure of capsaicin, the chemical that makes a hot pepper hot. Most capsaicin is found in the ribs and seeds of a pepper, which is why seeding a pepper makes its heat less potent. The scoville scale is a way to rate the relative spiciness of chili peppers so you can tell what will have more punch, the Naga Viper, or Moruga Scorpion.

If time and effort are of the essence, you want to make sure you make the most of your efforts. You also risk the challenge of “taster’s fatigue.” That is when your receptors are so worn out or overused that you can’t taste anymore. At that point, human fallibilities take over, and there is likely no effect.

Hot or not in literacy education

In education, we also focus on what is hot, or ultimately not important. The hot topics are a large focus for educators in Pre-K up through 12 during the limited 180 days in a school year. Everything else is deemed as not worth the time, focus, and expenditure.

In literacy contexts, this yearly determination of what is hot or not in K-12 reading & writing is conducted by the International Literacy Association (ILA). This year’s report was culled from over 2,000 respondents around the globe. The majority of participants were classroom teachers, reading & literacy specialists or coaches, supervisors, or school and district administrators. Participants were asked to rank the “hotness” of 17 different literacy topics and indicate their level of importance.

According to the report, the purpose of this report is to identify the topics that are trending and receiving the most attention among educators, policymakers, and the media. The topics identified as “important” are those that are most critical to advancing literacy for all learners.

Hot but not important this year

In this year’s report, Digital Literacy was #1 on the “hot list”, but #13 on the “importance list”. The ILA defined digital literacy as “teaching children how to compose and communicate using digital technologies as well as how to comprehend and evaluate information in digital forms.” The takeaway of this section of the report basically states that we give digital literacy too much attention in the classroom. In effect, it’s not a valuable use of valuable time during the school year.

Digging deeper in the report, ILA shared two quotes that help contextualize some of the thinking in this issue. A literacy coordinator in Cameroon shared, “Digital literacy is being overemphasized…Modeling, moving from support to independence, and critical thinking are far more important than the mode of presentation.” Whereas, a school administrator in Liberia stated, “Access to digital technology is very limited in Liberia and is even nonexistent in rural parts of the country. Nevertheless, digital literacy is more or less pivotally essential for success in the 21st century.”

The final report bundled digital literacy, disciplinary literacy and critical literacy into what they’re calling “21st Century Skills.” In the latest issue of Literacy Daily, they explain that all three areas share a “common goal” of improving how students “consume and evaluate information and communicate their ideas.” Disciplinary literacy refers to the idea that literacy is unique from one field to another and that each teacher in a subject area should be teaching reading as part of the discipline. Critical literacy is a pedagogical perspective that encourages the student to analyze the text for deep understanding of the author’s viewpoint and motivations.

Missing the mark

Teaching in a K-12 classroom is an enormous challenge. Even more to the point, helping a child develop the literacy practices they’ll need to interact and communicate safely and effectively now in their future is a herculean task. I recognize the fact that you need to teach everything, and focus on everything, but do not have the time in the day, let alone the entire school year to teach and focus on every area. But, I think we’ve missed the mark, and run the risk of once again not focus on literacy practices in new and digital spaces that will negatively impact our students. Put simply, we are not, and have not effectively been integrating digital literacies into our educational systems. I believe this is true not only for Pre-K through 12, but also into higher education.

There are many symptoms of this lack of authentic integration of the Internet and other communication technologies into our classrooms. These symptoms range from regular news reports that suggest that children leave K-12 not prepared to do anything of value in the workforce. These reports are echoed by the same complaints that higher education is also less of a value than it has in years past. These symptoms of the problem are also shown in news reports that look at the future of jobs, and the recent trends that show businesses creating their own in-house education and training programs to teach employees how to be digitally agile as this is not happening in our schools. I cover these stories weekly in my newsletter. Please subscribe for greater detail on the trends that I’m finding.

I think we are not effectively integrating digital literacies into education, and have not done so for at least a decade. Enormous changes are happening as we move from print to pixel, and our classrooms, and literacy education more specifically, are not accounting for this change. This is an aggravating factor that impacts the ways in which we view the importance of education in our classrooms. This in turn impacts the poor pay and retention of teachers in the U.S., and the challenges we have in filling pre-service programs, and ultimately our classrooms. Let me explain my thinking.

Making sure kids are safe

As I explained in a recent keynote and post, I’m a believer in first principles thinking. During my time teaching in K-12, and now my framing for my pre-service teachers, I indicate that our basic job as K-12 educators is to make sure students are safe now and in the future. As a literacy educator, our job is to make sure we help create literate individuals to allow them to engage as a member of society. We need to help them read, write, and communicate so they can participate safely with others. This involves applying for jobs, making points in a discussion, reading signs as you drive down the street.

Yet, as we recognize that our society is increasingly more interconnected in digital spaces, we do not effectively create a space for these changes in our classrooms. As digital texts and tools become more ubiquitous, we do not think progressively about how to leverage these spaces and contexts to prepare our children now and in the future. As I reflect on my time as an educator and researcher, this has not been happening for some time.

Some historical context

Ten years ago, I was working on my dissertation while at the University of Connecticut. In this research, I was studying the critical evaluation skills of adolescents and they read and write online. In this research, I shared hoax websites with students to see if they were able to effectively evaluate the credibility and relevance of information found online. On one specific day, I had groups of students research these websites that they did not know were hoaxes. One by one they went up in front of the class and reported on why this information was useful (relevant) and truthful (credible). You can see some video of them reviewing websites in the video embedded below.

After the students all incorrectly identified these hoax websites as credible and relevant, I told them the websites were all hoaxes. To this, they all were visibly upset and many cried. They exclaimed that I was a teacher and shouldn’t lie to them. They exclaimed that they read these things on the Internet, and as a result, it had to be true. As part of my dissertation, I then had them study the content and contextual pieces that fooled them, and had them recreate those clues as they created hoax websites of their own.

My reason for sharing this historical context is that this research was conducted ten years ago. The participants in that study are now adults. In reviewing this earlier work, I do not see much that has changed in the classroom as we think about the use of the Internet in our schools.

Furthermore, in this work we viewed the critical evaluation of online information, and the apparent failures to effectively fold digital literacies into instruction as a primarily academic topic. That is to say that previous work centered on information that individuals needed to evaluate based on their merits. The ultimate impact may be minimal to the individual. Some of the questions we asked in the past focused on questions like “what is the height of Mt. Fuji?” In the grand scheme of things, a wrong answer may not negatively impact the learner.

However, we now see that the use, consumption, evaluation, and creation of digital texts is not an academic issue. We know that trolls, bots, and algorithms are actively targeting individuals across digital, social spaces. We know that the purpose is to confuse, misdirect, and harass individuals and impact their online and offline behaviors. We also know that trolling and online harassment lead to instances in which all individuals are provided with an opportunity to share their narrative and opinion online. This is regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. We now have a need to educate all individuals on how to interact in these spaces. We also need to solidify attempts to empower others, while advocating for these literacy practices for all.

Keeping digital literacy hot

Eating spicy foods is a bit of an art form. There needs to be an appreciation for the burn and possible enhancement of the flavor brought on with the heat. Of course there is a bit of allure and mysticism that comes along with eating spicy ghost peppers. It could be a display of willpower, strength, or determination in seeking to tackle spicy content. Or…it could just be simple arrogance or ignorance.

Given the potential hazards that could occur while introducing digital literacies into the classroom, educators must adopt a flexible disposition and an appreciation for the complexities, advantages, and limitations inherent online. They must constantly consider changes to these spaces to permit new concepts, processes, and approaches of information delivery to continue developing in society. Educators and students to work collaboratively together to continually define (and redefine) what it means to be able to read, write, and communicate effectively using digital texts.

All of this requires that educator (and students) reconsider their concepts of “school” in addition to these digital literacies and their potential use. Just as we find with the eating of spicy peppers, this integration may require an equal balance of personal epistemological perspectives. There is also a need for flexibility and an indication of what works for each individual person.

Teaching, learning, and assessments that effectively integrate digital literacy requires that educators regularly problematize their thinking about the opportunities for the classroom. Eating hot food can either be a pleasant exhilarating culinary experience or a personal unyielding nightmare. Bringing technology and digital spaces into the classroom can also bring about great opportunities, along with the potential for treading uncharted waters. The focus, especially in K-12 literacy education, should be to keep digital literacy on the front burner, and as hot as possible for the upcoming future.


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Have a Lot to Study in a Limited Time? Evidence-Based Help

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 10:13pm in



Learning a huge amount of material in a short time is never easy. But it helps to study smarter. Here are a few tips.

Britain: Universities on Strike

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 7:34am in

British university lecturers are in their fourth week of a militant, historic strike—taking a stand not just against austerity, but for a more humane, democratic higher education system.

The Jimmy Dore Show on the Smears against Corbyn for his Response to Salisbury Attack

Mike over at Vox Political has already put up a piece commenting on the Tory and right-wing Labour attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for his response to the government declaring that Putin is responsible for the nerve gas attack in Salisbury on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Corbyn stated in his speech that he totally condemned the attack, but wants absolute proof that Putin is responsible before blaming Russia and retaliating. This is just too much for the Tories, who when they find themselves confronted by a real statesman, rather than someone who just sabre-rattles and strikes nationalistic poses, immediately start lying. So the Labour leader has been vilified as Putin’s puppet, and for failing to condemn Russia for the attack in Salisbury. Despite the fact that Corbyn has condemned the attack. And the Beeb in their coverage was absolutely delighted when they showed the Tories cheering on the Labour backbenchers, who attacked Corbyn. This must have been music to the ears of their news editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who presented that piece. But Mike’s article shows how Corbyn is absolutely right, along with the support he has amongst thousands of people online sick and tired of Tory and Blairite lies, people who also make extremely good arguments in the Labour leader’s favour.

In this piece from the Jimmy Dore show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, also discuss the smears against Corbyn. They make the same points Mike has made, and then apply it to the situation in America, where the Republicans and the Corporate Democrats are doing their level best to smear Bernie Sanders. And so Sanders has been reviled as racist, misogynist, wearing expensive clothes, you name it, they’ve flung it at him. This is, Dore states, how the establishment deals with anti-war progressives. It’s also, as they point out, the way the Democrats are attacking Trump. He’s being attacked as Putin’s puppet by that section of the Democrats that is now even further right than the Republicans.

He goes further, and describes his own vilification and smearing by his right-wing opponents. He has 300,000 subscribers to his channel, which is much smaller than The Young Turks’ 3 million. But he’s been smeared, his videos edited to make it appear that he’s saying things he isn’t and misquoted. He states that mostly he doesn’t respond to the smears, as this would elevate them and bring them to more people’s attention. With the exception of the Washington Post, when he decided he’d have a little fun. He makes the point that when Bernie announces his candidacy for the presidency, the abuse against him is going to make that against Corbyn pale.

Dore also makes the point that all this material from the intelligence community, like MI6, which supposedly points in the direction of Putin, really isn’t convincing either, given the way the intelligence services lied about there being weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And Steffi Zamorano also finds it very strange that the British government is leaping to attack Putin, but has declared that everyone in Salisbury is safe, and has not called the incident a terrorist attack.

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was sacked and smeared because he was too honest, is also very critical of the identification of the nerve agent used in the attack. This has been identified as Novichoks, a toxin created by the Russians. But he presents evidence that casts considerable doubt on that identification, and the assertion that the Russians must be responsible. He concludes

1) Porton Down has acknowledged in publications it has never seen any Russian “novichoks”. The UK government has absolutely no “fingerprint” information such as impurities that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.
2) Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.
3) The UK is refusing to provide a sample to the OPCW.
4) “Novichoks” were specifically designed to be able to be manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench. The Americans dismantled and studied the facility that allegedly developed them. It is completely untrue only the Russians could make them, if anybody can.
5) The “Novichok” programme was in Uzbekistan not in Russia. Its legacy was inherited by the Americans during their alliance with Karimov, not by the Russians.

His article on this explicitly compares it to Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. See:

Some of the commenters on this blog have also pointed out that with an election coming up, and May seven points behind Corbyn, she definitely needs to start sabre-rattling to get the nationalists on her side. Plus, international tensions are delight to the arms industries, who want to sell more kit to our forces. And Porton Down, our chemical weapons research centre, has now been £50 million to build a new research factory. Which is just amazing, considering the government is pleading that there isn’t enough money to support the NHS, the sick, disabled, unemployed, the poor, schools or provide anything like the funding a really civilised society needs.

And as for supplying money to Porton Down, this comes rather late. As Mike points out, Labour set up a special regiment to deal with chemical weapons attacks. But this was closed down by Cameron in 2011.

And the backbench Labour rebels, who were attacking Corbyn seem mostly seem to be members of the Labour Friends of Israel. So the Israel lobby in the Labour party is seizing its chance to attack Corbyn, and try to get back into power that way. More smears by those, who manufactured the smears that Labour is full of anti-Semites and Nazis. I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised. They’re very strongly connected to the corporatist Blairites, and it was Blair, who put pressure on MI6 to ‘sex up’ the dossier so it would provide a pretext for the Iraq invasion. So more lies from them.

Putin is a thug. In Russia he actively stamps on and persecutes opposition parties and politicians. Journalists and other critics of his regime are regularly beaten, and many have died in very suspicious circumstances. 14 other Russians have also died in similarly suspicious circumstances over here. But we have to be absolutely sure that he is responsible, not jump to conclusions, and make sure our response is proportionate and reasonable.

But May’s hysterical nationalism will play well with the jingoistic hordes of the Scum, Fail, Express and the rest, who will even now be salivating at the thought of making her into another belligerent Thatcher. Even if that means precipitating another, dangerous crisis in international relations.

Physics Textbook on Cosmology and Gravitation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/03/2018 - 10:20pm in

M.V. Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation (Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing 1989).

Yesterday came the news of the death of the great British physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking at the age of 76. Hawking had suffered for most of his adult life from motor neurone disease, since he was diagnosed with it in his early 20s. He was given only three years to live, but instead managed to live out a very full lifespan working on his theories of the origin of the universe and Black Holes. He was a great ambassador for science. His book, A Brief History of Time, was a bestseller when it appeared in 1980s, although he admitted that it was probably a book few finished. And he showed that it was still possible for a disabled person to do cutting edge research, provided they had the necessary technical and medical support. In his case, it was his wheelchair and the machine that allowed him to speak, first of all by keying in the words, then by twitching just a single muscle. Some of the praise seemed a bit too fulsome to me. Like when they started saying that he was the greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein. I don’t think he was. And Hawking on his own didn’t unlock the secrets of universe or Black Holes, as the Beeb’s presenters also claimed. As for his great sense of humour, well, it existed, as his appearance on shows like The Simpsons demonstrated, but my memory of it is marred by him turning up with the TV critic, Victor Lewis Smith, telling fart jokes and laughing on the 1990s series, Inside Victor Lewis Smith. But it really was inspiring to see how he was a great hero to the ‘A’ level students at a science fair yesterday, and how he had inspired them to become interested in science.

One of the complaints Richard Dawkins has made about popular science programmes is that they’re too ‘dumbed-down’. He points out that they have to have lots of explosions, and they mustn’t include equations, in case that scares people off. There’s a lot with which I don’t agree with Dawkins. I’m not an atheist, and have argued on this blog against him and the other militant atheists. But he is right here. Scientists writing the popular science books have said that they’ve been told by their publishers to leave equations out, because every equation in a book damages sales.

I think this is the wrong attitude to have. It’s why I’ve put up this piece about the above book by M.V. Berry. It’s an undergraduate physics textbook, which does contain the fundamental mathematical equations for this area of physics. Its contents include

1. Introduction

2. Cosmography
2.1 What the universe contains
2.2 The cosmic distance hierarchy and the determination of galactic densities
2.2.1 Parallax
2.2.2 Distance from velocity measurements
2.2.3 Distance from apparent luminosity
2.2.4 Weighing galaxies
2.3 The red shift and the expansion of the universe.

3. Physical base of general relativity
3.1 The need for relativistic ideas and a theory of gravitation.
3.2 Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: gravity
3.3. Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: inertial frames and absolute space.
3.4 Inadequacy of special relativity.
3.5 Mach’s principle, and gravitational waves.
3.6 Einstein’s principle of equivalence.

4 Curved spacetime and the physical mathematics of general relativity.
4.1 Particle Paths and the separation between events
4.2 Geodesics
4.3 Curved spaces
4.4 Curvature and gravitation.

5 General relativity near massive objects
5.1 Spacetime near an isolated mass.
5.2 Around the world with clocks.
5.3 Precession of the perihelion of Mercury
5.4 Deflection of light
5.5 Radar echoes from planets
5.6 Black Holes

6 Cosmic Kinematics
6.1 Spacetime for the smoothed-out universe
6.2 Red shifts and horizons
6.3 Apparent luminosity
6.4 Galactic densities and the darkness of the night sky.
6.5 Number counts

7 Cosmic dynamics
7.1 Gravitation and the cosmic fluid
7.2 Histories of model universes
7.3 The steady state theory
7.4 Cosmologies in which the strength of gravity varies

8 In the beginning
8.1 Cosmic black-body radiation.
8.2 Condensation of galaxies
8.3 Ylem.

Appendix A: Labelling astronomical objects
Appendix B: Theorema Egregium
Solutions to odd-numbered problems
Useful numbers.

there’s also a bibliography and index.

I’m not claiming to understand the equations. I struggled at both my ‘O’ level maths and physics, and what I know about science and astronomy I learned mostly through popular science books. But in the mid-1990s I wanted to see at least some of the equations scientists used in their explorations and modelling of the universe. One of the popular science books I was reading said at the time that this book was at the level that people with ‘A’ level maths could understand, and this didn’t seem quite so much a jump from my basic maths skills. So I ordered it. I’m afraid I can’t say that I’ve read it properly, despite the fact that I keep meaning to. Some of the equations are just too much for me, but I can follow the explanations in the text. I’m putting this notice of the book up here, in case there are any budding Stephen or Stephanie Hawkingses out there, who want to go a bit further than the pop-sci explanations, and see for themselves what the maths behind it all is like.

The Beeb also said in their eulogy for the great man, that Hawking hoped that the people reading his A Brief History of Time would come away with one point, even if they hadn’t finished it: that the universe is governed by rational law. Actually, this ideas isn’t unique to Hawking by a very, very long way. It actually comes from the Middle Ages, and is the assumption that makes science possible. Hawking was an agnostic, I believe, and many scientists are atheists. But this assumption that the universe is governed by rational laws ultimately comes from Christian theology. The founds of modern science in the Renaissance pointed to the passages in the Bible, in which God’s Wisdom creates the universes and establishes the boundaries and courses of natural phenomena, like the tides and stars. And the anarchist of science, Feuerabend, pointed out that the assumption that the laws of the universe all form a consistent whole come from Christian doctrine, quoting the 13th century theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas: ‘We must believe that the laws of the universe are one, because God is one.’

Hawking has passed away, but it’s clear that he has inspired many more people to become interested in this rather arcane branch of the sciences. I hope this continues, despite the Tories’ attack on education and science and research for its own sake.

Radio 3 Programme on Internet Threat to Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/03/2018 - 8:06pm in

Next Tuesday at 10.00 pm Radio 3 is broadcasting a programme about the threat to democracy in the age of the internet. It’s part of the Free Thinking Festival, and is entitled ‘People Power’. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

Democracy was the most successful political idea of the last century but can it survive the digital age? Anne McElvoy chairs a discussion with Rod Liddle, associate editor of the Spectator, David Runciman, author of How Democracy Exists, Caroline MacFarland, the head of a think tank promoting the interest of “millennials”, and geographer Danny Dorling. Recorded in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival. (p. 130).

McElvoy recently presented the excellent short history of British Socialism on Radio 4. Now, I might be prejudging the programme, but it looks like very establishment thinkers once again trying to tell us that the Net, bonkers conspiracy theories and electoral interference from the Russians are a threat to western democracy as a way of protecting entrenched media, political and business interests.

The Net isn’t a threat to democracy. What is destroying it, and has caused Harvard University to downgrade America from a democracy to an oligarchy, in the corporate sponsorship of politicians. Because politicos are having their electoral funds paid by donors in business, they ignore what their constituents want and instead represent the interests of big business. Which means that in Congress they support the Koch and the oil industry, and the arms companies against 97 per cent of Americans, who want greater legislation over guns to prevent any further school shootings.

As for the press, they’re aiding the collapse of democracy because they’ve become part of massive media and industrial conglomerates, and represent the interests of their corporate bosses. They are most definitely not representing ‘truth to power’, but are instead another layer of power and ideological control. They promote the policies their bosses in big business want, even when it is actively and obviously impoverishing ordinary people. Like the way the right-wing press is constantly pushing neoliberalism, even though this as a doctrine is so dead it’s been described as ‘Zombie Economics’.

In this case, the internet really isn’t a threat to democracy, but the opposite. People can check the lies their governments and media are telling them, and disseminate real information to correct it, as well as go further and identify the people and organisations distorting and corrupting our politics from behind the scenes.

And this is obviously scaring the political and media elite. Otherwise they wouldn’t be transmitting programme like this.

These Teachers Refuse to Be Weaponized

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/03/2018 - 12:04pm in

by by Michelle Chen


The call to “arm the teachers” started as another stink bomb President Donald Trump lobbed into the crowd at a conservative rally. But somehow, the concept cycled through the 24-hour news loop and, within a few hours, became a ubiquitous meme. Now, the morally repugnant idea of gun-toting teachers in America’s schools has taken center stage in the nation’s macabre debate on gun safety.

read more

West Virginia school employees sold out?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/03/2018 - 3:19am in

image/jpeg iconWest Virginia strike.jpg

West Virginia teachers who had taken the initiative to force their union into a strike demanding that the state pay their health insurance found out via a robocall last week that "their" union had accepted a promise of a 5% pay offer (which they did not demand) but with no settlement of their grievance.

The "untold specter of labor unrest" is still a fear for the bourgeoisie or they wouldn't have made an offer at all. The unions’ failure to prevent the constant erosion of wages, working conditions and overall living standards can only encourage workers to organise more on their own account

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Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part One

Presented by the Conservative journo Peter Oborne, this is a very hard-hitting and extensive investigation into the malign influence and tactics of the Israel lobby. It covers not just the soft corruption of political lobbying – the various donations in money and paid trips to Israel given to Tory and Labour politicos, but also the co-ordinated smear campaign against anyone who dares to speak out in favour of the Israeli state’s victims. It’s a smear campaign that has seen very respected members of the Jewish community, including senior rabbis, and BBC journos like the late Orla Guerin, Jeremy Bowen and even Jonathan Dimbleby accused of anti-Semitism. The result has been that the Beeb was pressured not to put out an appeal for the victims of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and there was complaints about its coverage of those murdered by Israel’s allies in the Christian Fascists of the Lebanese Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. And there has been constant pressure by these same bullying thugs on the Groaniad under its former editor, Alan Rusbridger. Who really does look like Harry Potter. Much of this pressure and screaming abuse seems to have come from America. The organisations are carefully structured, so that they keep the total number of donations secret, and their donors hide behind anonymity. When investigated they repeat the same, smooth words about just trying to keep the argument open by presenting Israel’s case, or mutter platitudes about supporting a two-state solution. All the while doing their level best to make sure that their voice is the only the British public hear, and rabidly pursuing business deals on stolen Palestinian land.

I’m afraid I may have misheard some of the names in the programme, and so misspelled them, but they should be roughly accurate.

The documentary begins with the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the Conservative Friends of Israel. Despite the horrendous carnage and destruction wrought, David Cameron in a speech made no mention of this, but instead praised the Israelis and his pledged his lasting support to them if he became Prime Minister. It was this that prompted Oborne to launch his own investigation into the Israel lobby. He makes the point that they have influence on both sides of Parliament, as shown by an exchange between a Conservative MP, who was a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, who asked a question about Israel’s continuing safety. This was answered by a Labour MP, who was a member of the Labour Friends of Israel. Oborne then interviews Michael Ancram, former Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary from 2003-5, about the Israel Lobby’s influence. as well as Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran from 2003-6. Dalton states clearly that the Israel Lobby does exist, and is important in defining the debate about Israel and the Palestinians. The Conservative Friends of Israel is highly influential, and boasts that it includes 80 per cent of all Tory MPs. Its chair, Richard Huntingdon, received £20,000 last year (2008) in donations, and gave £34,000 to the Conservatives. And the director of the No. 10 club, that exclusive Tory fundraising outfit in which, for a mere £50,000, you can meet David Cameron or have lunch with William Hague, is also included. The Tory Friends of Israel also arrange paid trips to Israel for MPs. So far there have been more of these than equivalent trips to America and Europe combined. Oborne states that in fairness, he has to say that he went on one of these, and there was no pressure to report favourably about Israel. But two MPs, who went on one of these trips, then received afterwards £25,000 in donations. This prompts Oborne to ask Ancram if this explains the soft line taken by the Tories about Israeli influence, and why the Tories don’t like to talk about it.

The documentary then moves on to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, and $3.6 billion’s worth of damage inflicted. Michael Howard gave William Hague £25,000 in donations. Hague then made the mistake of making a speech criticising the Israeli response to Lebanese attacks as disproportionate. As a result, Lord Kalms, a CFI donor and head of the Dixons electronics chain, was outraged, and threatened to withhold further funding. Which he did, and Hague never received a penny more. The Israel lobby attacks even the mildest criticism of Israel. The director of the CFI, Stuart Pollak, had a meeting with David Cameron after the speech. Then, at his lunch with the CFI, Cameron didn’t mention the Lebanese invasion at all.

The programme then moves on to the organisation’s income, as revealed by the Parliamentary Accounts Register. For comparison, the pro-Arab lobby revealed that they had been given £43,000 in donations. How many had the CFI been given? No-one knows. They didn’t register any. They’re structured as a group of individuals, and are not incorporated, so they don’t have declare any under the rules. In 2008 the CFI gave the Tories £2 million, but this is not the whole story. One Tory MP said that after a chance meeting with Stuart Pollak, he received two donations from businessmen he had never met, and who did not live in his constituency. The CFI gave £30,000 to Cameron’s team. And in 2005 Cameron met Plocha Zabludowicz, who gave the future Tory PM £15,000 and a further £35,000 to Tory Central Office. The total figure for the donations given by the CFI is £10 million, more than the other lobbies.

Then there’s the incident of the UN vote over a motion censuring both Hamas and Israel for the carnage in Gaza. The CFI rang Hague up to condemn the resolution and demand that he criticise it. Which he duly did.

But the Israel Lobby only became really powerful in Britain under Maggie’s favourite Labour pet, Tony Blair. Jon Mandelsohn, a prominent pro-Israel lobbyist, stated that ‘Zionism is pervasive in New Labour’ and ‘It is axiomatic that Blair will come to Labour Friends of Israel meetings’. There are more Labour MPs in Labour Friends of Israel than their opponents across the benches in the Tory Friends of Israel. The documentary describes how Blair met the rock entrepreneur, Lord Levy, at the Israeli embassy, who then raised £15 million for the Labour party before the row over ‘cash for questions’. When Blair became PM in 1997, he gave Levy a life peerage. Levy, however, was unpaid and never a formal servant of the British state, so that the deals he made as Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East between Israel and the Arab nations could be kept secret. The programme interviews Prof. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University’s Middle East department, who states that he considers Levy has damaged Britain’s reputation in the Middle East.

The documentary then moves back to CFI lobbyists at the Tory party conference. Their purpose there is to make sure Cameron’s policies are in line with Israel’s This means that Michael Kaminski, the Polish leader, who heads a small, far right nationalist party, is lionised by the Tories, despite his record of making anti-Semitic remarks and his refusal to apologise for the suffering of Jewish Poles during the Second World War. Stuart Pollak was most keen not to have Cameron’s speech to the CFI at the Tory conference covered. He is shown waving the camera crew away. The CFI totally support Kaminski. They also plead that they’re totally transparent through the distinction between their donations as a group, and those of individual businesspeople.

Continued in Part Two.