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The Tories and Blairites Cannot Be Trusted to Defend the NHS from Trump

Last week the orange generalissimo managed to cause massive offence and outrage on his state visit here. And it wasn’t just for merely being present, although that was certainly a major factor in the protests his visit provoked. No, Trump and his spokesman were touting for a trade deal with Britain after Brexit. And he demanded that ‘everything should be on the table’, including healthcare.

Which means the NHS.

MPs from all sides of the House immediately swung into action to condemn the Fascist cheeto’s demands that the NHS should be opened up to private American healthcare companies. There were a string of high profile Tory MPs, including former health secretary Andrew Lansley, loudly denouncing Trump’s demand, and stating that they weren’t going to include the NHS as part of the Brexit deal and were going to defend this most precious of British institutions. Lansley in particular was scathing about Trump’s opposition to the way the NHS controlled drug prices. He was afraid that if Trump has his way, this would be discarded to allow predatory American pharmaceutical companies to charge excessive and unaffordable prices for needed drugs.

He’s absolutely right.

One of the current scandals with the American private, insurance-driven healthcare system is that the drug companies can and do charge whatever they like for their products, which means that these are often beyond the ability of ordinary Americans to afford. I’ve blogged on here about a piece from The Young Turks about how Americans are hoarding drugs or buying those intended for animals from vets because they can’t afford them. And the worst example of a drug company actually raising prices is the case of Martin Shkreli. When he took over one company, he raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to well over $300 a pill. He said he only wanted rich Americans to be able to use it, not poor Indians. He was rightly massively vilified for his gross racism and profiteering, but continued to defend himself, as he really couldn’t see that he had done anything wrong.

But while it’s heartening to see all these politicians stand up to defend the health service, I don’t believe them. With one exception, of course: Jeremy Corbyn. The Tories and the Blairites simply can’t be trusted to defend the NHS because they haven’t done it up to now. Indeed, they’ve done the exact opposite, all the while denying it.

Remember how Maggie Thatcher loudly declared that the NHS was ‘safe with us’, and she would keep her wretched claws off it. She even put it in her memoirs, denouncing the claims of the Labour party that she was planning to privatise the health service as lies. But she herself was lying. Cabinet minutes released a couple of years ago showed that she very much wanted to privatise the NHS. She was only stopped because of a massive cabinet revolt and the fact that her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had visited the US and had seen personally what a travesty American private healthcare was.

So she satisfied herself with cutting its budget and trying to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance instead. She was aiming for about 11 per cent of the British population to take out such insurance.

She was followed by John Major, whose health secretary Peter Lilley was, I believe, one of the others who attacked Trump’s demand for a slice of NHS action. But Lilley was responsible for the Private Finance Initiative, under which private firms were to be allowed to bid for NHS contracts and building and running hospitals in partnership with the government. It was deliberately introduced with the intention of opening up the health service to private healthcare companies. And Lilley was advised in his health policies by John Lo Casio of the American private health insurance fraudster, Unum.

Well, the government changed with Labour’s 1997 electoral victory, but the Thatcherite privatisation of the NHS remained on course. Blair was an unashamed Thatcherite, and she had reciprocated his feelings by calling him and New Labour her greatest achievement. Blair also took over Lo Casio and Unum as his advisers on health policy, and continued the stealth privatisation of the NHS. The Community Care Groups of GPs he set up to contract in healthcare services were given the power to purchase it from the private sector and to raise funding privately themselves. The health centres and polyclinics he set up were to be run by private healthcare firms, like Circle Health, BUPA and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Health. NHS contracts, including out of hours services in many regions were privatised and the contracts awarded to private healthcare firms.

And yes, American healthcare firms were among them. Private Eye reported how Blair was surrounded by American public sector contractors, all lobbying for their share of British state business. Like the private American prison company, Wackenhut. And this included private healthcare companies. Blair was particularly impressed by the private American healthcare provider, Keyserpermanente, which he thought provided better value for money than the traditional NHS structure. It doesn’t, but that was ignored, and the American company provided the model for his NHS reforms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted the NHS to become nothing but a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And this continued under David Cameron and Tweezer. Despite the loud shouts by Lansley and Jeremy Hunt that they ‘treasure’ the NHS, both of them preferred private healthcare and previously stated that they wanted the NHS effectively abolished and the lines blurred between state and private provision. There’s also a solid block of Tory politicians that would like the NHS sold off completely. Like the Devon Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, dubbed by Guy Debord’s Cat ‘the Lyin’ King’ because of his gross mendacity. The majority of NHS contracts are being awarded to private healthcare firms, rather than kept in-house, and they have been angling to win the contracts for whole regions. Which brings the complete privatisation of the NHS even closer.

Andrew Lansley’s convoluted Health and Social Care Act of 2012 also enabled its privatisation by removing the obligation of the health secretary to provide healthcare to everyone in the UK, which had been a statutory requirement since the founding of the NHS in 1948. The Tories have also consistently voted to introduce charges for certain NHS services. Mike over at Vox Political has frequently given the voting record of some of the worst Tories, who have not only done this, but also supported other attacks on the poor like cutting welfare services, raising tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax.

And I don’t trust the Lib Dems either. They went into coalition with the Tories and did absolutely nothing as their partners in government continued to attack the welfare state and the NHS. Indeed some of them, like the former MP for Taunton Dean, strongly supported it.

I have to say that I think that the outrage from the Tories at Trump’s demands is largely hypocritical. They’d very much like to make a deal with Trump, that includes the NHS along with other essential services that should only be run by the state. But, as with the cabinet revolt against Thatcher, they’re afraid that if they agree, they will be voted out in a devastating landslide, possibly never to get back into power.

The only person, who can be trusted to defend the NHS and keep it safe from Trump and the other privatisers, is Jeremy Corbyn.

Don’t trust the Tories. They still want to and  are privatising the NHS. Nor the Lib Dems or ‘Centrist’ Labour, who are exactly the same. The only real hope of defending and reviving the NHS is with Corbyn and the victory of a genuine, socialist Labour party at the next election. 

Two Books Showing Bristol Has Not Kept Secret Its Involvement in the Slave Trade

The week before last, Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns was in Bristol, examining its history in the Georgian period. The show’s presented by Dr. Alice Roberts, who I believe is the Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham University. She’s had a long career in television presenting programmes on archaeology, history and human evolution, beginning in the 1980s with Time Team. She’s a medical doctor, who I believe also taught anatomy at Bristol University. She regularly appeared on Time Team to give her opinion on any human remains that were recovered during their escavations.

Channel 4’s ‘Britain’s Most Historic Towns’

Time Team was finally cancelled after a very successful run several years ago, but like its presenter Tony Robinson, Roberts has continued fronting history and archaeology programmes. Each week the show visits a different British town and explores a specific period of its history. Roberts tours the town, talking to experts on its history and architecture during the period, and very often tries on the ladies’ costume at the time. Last year among the various towns the series covered was Cheltenham during its heyday as a regency spa. This year’s series started off with Dover, concentrating on it history during World War II. Last week it was looking at Cardiff in the early part of the 20th century, when the city became the major centre of the global coal industry. And the week before that they were in Bristol, telling its history during the Georgian period. Roberts has a personal connection to the city, as it’s her home town and she went to school here. She also had a personal connection to Cardiff, as it was at its university that she studied medicine.

Georgian Bristol

During the Georgian period – the age of the four Georges, from the early 18th century to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 – Bristol was one of the leading cities in Britain. It’s a port, whose location on the Bristol Channel gave it an excellent position for trading with Africa and America. The programme covered other aspects of Bristol’s history during the period, like the emergence of gin, the 1827 massacre by the army in Queen’s Square in Redcliffe of a mob demanding electoral reform, and the development of the Clifton and Hotwells suburbs as genteel residential areas for the city’s new mercantile elite. But Bristol’s wealth at the time was largely produced from the immense profits from the slave trade. Ships from Bristol took trade goods down to west Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. These were then taken to the West Indies to be sold, and the ships returned to Bristol with West Indian goods like sugar and rum in what has become known as the triangular trade. And it was on this aspect of Bristol’s Georgian history that the programme concentrated.

The show is well done and the research is very thorough. Among those Roberts talked to was Dr. Steve Poole, a lecturer at the University of the West of England; a member of Bristol’s Radical History Group, who talked about the Queen’s Square Massacre; and a couple of distillers, who showed her how 18th century gin was made. She also talked to Dr. Edson Burnett about the slave trade, going through some of the ledgers left by the slavers itemising their ships’ human cargo in the city archives. Some of these are really shocking. They simply give the number of slaves shipped aboard, and the deaths during the voyage. Those taken were simply items of merchandise, with no names. The ledgers give brief descriptions of those who died and how the body was disposed of. They were simply thrown over the side. One of the most horrendous incidents was the scandal surrounding the Zong, a slave ship, which threw its entire cargo of slaves overboard during a storm, and then tried to sue the insurance company for compensation for them as lost cargo. It’s a horrific atrocity and injustice. She also mentioned how a number of plays were written during the 18th century attacking the slave trade, many of which were set in Bristol. She then spoke to the writer and artistic director of a modern play about the trade being staged by Bristol’s historic Old Vic theatre.

Bristol and the Slave Trade

The programme’s coverage of Bristol’s history during the period was fair, although there was much obviously left out because of the constraints of the programme’s length. It’s an hour long, and it could easily take that long to discuss the city’s involvement with the slave trade and some of the architecture that was built for the merchants involved in the trade. As it was, the programme showed only one of them, the house of George Pinney, a 19th century West India planter and merchant. This is now a museum, the Georgian House, open to the public in one of the streets just off Park Street. However, Roberts opened the discussion of the city’s complicity in the slave trade with a statement that was simply wrong. She said that it was a terrible secret.

Exhibitions

Well, if Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade is a secret, then it’s a very badly kept one! Bristol’s M Shed museum, which takes visitors through the city’s history and some of its industries, including aircraft and motor vehicles built here, has a display on the slave trade. This shows not only slave manacles and the manillas, bracelet-like items used for barter, but also maps of homes and other properties owned and occupied by the slave merchants and plantation owners. This follows an earlier exhibit at the City Museum in Queen Street, ‘A Respectable Trade’, which was timed to coincide with the TV series of that name on BBC 1, based on the book by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. The book and TV series were about the slave trade, and much of it was set in the Bristol of the time. The exhibition was staged by local council and showed the historical reality on which the fiction was based. Gregory also appeared in a TV programme at the time, exploring the city’s connection to the slave trade, in which she spoke to several Black anti-racist activists.

Books and Pamphlets

Since then there have been a number of books published on Bristol and the slave trade. The city library has published a catalogue of books and other materials it holds on the subject.  There has also been a book published on the City in 1807, the year in which the slave trade was officially prohibited throughout the British Empire. Dr. Madge Dresser, a historian at the University of the West of England, has also published a book, Slavery Obscured, on the persistence of the slave trade after its formal abolition, in which merchants from Bristol were involved. And back in the 1990s the local branch of the Historical Association published a booklet on Bristol’s Black population in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Society of Merchant Venturers, the mercantile organisation that dominated Bristol’s trade in that period, has also published a catalogue of its holdings, which included it’s members’ plantations in the West Indies.

Origin of Belief Bristol Keeping Slave Trade Connection Secret

I’ve been told by members of the city’s Black cultural and anti-racist organisations that the idea that the city council is somehow covering up the city’s involvement in the slave trade dates from the 1970s. A member of the community rang the council up to inquire about what they knew about Bristol and the slave trade, only to be told that the city wasn’t involved in it. Which is wrong. I wonder if the person, who answered the call genuinely didn’t know about Bristol’s history of slaving. But whatever the reality, this planted the idea that the city council was deliberating hiding the truth. I think it was partly to dispel this idea that the City Museum staged the 1995 exhibition.

Two Books on Bristol from the 1950s and 1970s

But even before then, the city’s involvement in the slave trade was known and discussed. For example, the book Bristol and Its Adjoining Counties, edited by C.M. MacInnes and W.F. Whittard, and published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, has several pages on the slave trade in the chapter by MacInnes, ‘Bristol and Overseas Expansion’, pp. 219-230.

The 1975 textbook, Bristol: An Outline History for Schools, by H. Chasey, published by Georges, also covers the slave trade in its chapter on city’s 18th century trade, pp. 31-2. All the chapters are a page or so in length, with another page suggesting projects or containing questions for students on that period of the city’s history. The paragraph on the slave trade runs

Unfortunately, Bristol was better known at this time for its links with the slave trade. The “Blackbirds” sailed to Africa with various goods, exchanged them for slaves which were then shipped to the West Indies or North America. The ships then returned home iwth sugar and tobacco, the whole “Triangular Trade” bringing enormous profits to many Bristol merchants. Before 1760, Bristol carried about one-third of all the slaves, but this number died away by the end of the century as the anti-slavery movement made progress. (p. 31).

Few Obvious Monuments to Slave Trade in City

I also think that part of this misconception may come from the fact that there are few monuments from the time that obviously have direct connections to the slave trade. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, one of the foreign students on the archaeology course complained to one of the lecturers that her housemate believed Bristol was racist, because there were no monuments for the slaves. The housemate was another foreign student, from Guiana, where I believe the buildings for landing and sale of slaves still exist. I think the student expected similar buildings to exist in Bristol. But they don’t, as the bulk of the city’s slave trade was with the West Indies. There were slaves in Bristol, but these were brought to the city as personal servants, rather than imported en masse as they were in the Caribbean.

Historic Buildings and Later Monuments Connected to Slaves and Slave Trade

However, there are architectural hints at the city’s connection to the slave trade all around. The city’s merchants decorated the exterior of their homes with carvings symbolising their connection to Africa or the Caribbean, such as pineapples. There are also coloured statues, representing the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas in St. Nicholas Market, one of which is a Black African. And several of the city’s pubs also claim a direct connection to the trade. The Ostrich, one of the pubs on the harbourside, had a cellar, in which, it was claimed, slaves were held ready for sale. When I used to drink there in the 1990s there was a poster up about it, along with reproductions of the advertisements of the time for runaway slaves. However, it may be the reality here was more prosaic. The 1995 exhibition said that many the connection of many of parts of Bristol to the slave trade may just be urban folklore. Blackboy Hill, for example, is probably not named after a slave boy, but possibly a racehorse owned by Charles II. The city has also made other gestures to commemorating the victims of the slave trade. There’s a slave walk along Bristol’s docks, and a plaque put up to those enslaved by city on one of the former warehouses by M Shed. A remarkable bridge built across the docks in the 1990s, which features two horn-like constructions, has been called ‘Pero’s Bridge’, after one of the slaves imported into Bristol. And there is a gravestone for Scipio, an African slave brought to the city by his master in one of the city’s churchyards.

Bristol has a very rich and fascinating history, of which the slave trade is one part. It’s a history that definitely needs to be told. And it has only been within the last quarter century or so that the slave trade has been memorialised in local museums, not just in Bristol, but also elsewhere. Bristol has joined Liverpool and Nantes in France in creating exhibitions and galleries on its involvement in the trade. Before then it’s fair to say that City Museum did not display anything on the slave trade. It was a period of the city’s history that most Bristolians probably would have preferred not to commemorate, but it was never forgotten nor kept hidden.

 

Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

Private Eye’s Ian Hislop Pushes the Anti-Semitism Smears on Have I Got News For You

This is another issue that I couldn’t let pass without comment. On Friday on the Beeb’s satirical news quiz show, Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop took it upon himself once more to push the establishment smear that anti-Semitism is rife in Labour. The editor of Private Eye was responding to a question about the expulsion of Alistair Campbell, Blair’s former spin doctor, by the party for saying he voted Lib Dem in the elections. As Mike and Martin Odoni have shown on their blogs, Labour has Campbell bang to rights. What he’s done is very much against Labour party regulations. And Martin has further pointed out that there is no hypocrisy on Jeremy Corbyn’s part for his congratulation of George Galloway when he won Bradford West for the Respect Party. He was only doing what other Labour leaders have done before, such as Neil Kinnock when he congratulated John Major on becoming leader of the Tories. There really isn’t any comparison of the two cases. See

https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/reaction-to-alastair-campbells-expulsion-from-labour-demonstrates-how-pathetically-easily-led-centrists-are/

Campbell whined about how there was a difference between his case and those of members accused of anti-Semitism. Mike pointed out that Campbell’s whinge was a case of sour grapes, and there were differences between his and other Labour party members. Like Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the mighty chief of The Canary, had been thrown out of the party for admitting she voted Green before she joined the Labour party. As for those accuse of anti-Semitism, if they are high-up in the Labour party, and aren’t supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, an excuse will be found not to investigate them and exonerate them. If they’re high-profile supporters of Corbyn, any excuse will be found to expel them. As happened to Mike, who didn’t get any right to appeal.

Alastair Campbell expelled from Labour – but he thinks HE has been mistreated

Hislop, however, is ignorant of all of this, and followed Campbell’s line, ranting that no-one had been expelled for anti-Semitism with a sneer at Ken Livingstone. Livingstone, he claimed, was particularly foul because he had said that Hitler was ‘a little bit Zionist’. 

This comes just after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission announced it was investigating Labour for anti-Semitism, and the MP, Peter Willsman, was suspended on anti-Semitism charges. Why? He claimed quite reasonably that the Israeli embassy may be interfering in the internal politics of the Labour Party. It is an entirely reasonable question, given that Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy official guilty of plotting to decide with British civil servants which Tories would serve in May’s cabinet, offered Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel £1 million in funding at a Labour conference. See

The Peter Willsman debate is a parade of ignorance

As for the assertion that Livingstone was somehow lying about Hitler’s support for Zionism, no, it’s historical fact. Mike, Tony Greenstein, myself and many, many other bloggers have made it very clear that this is so, quoting chapter and verse from the relevant sources. As has John Newsinger, a historian at one Bath’s excellent universities, who is a regular contributor to the conspiracy magazine, Lobster. Hitler and the Nazis did indeed initially support the Zionists from the cynical motive of simply wishing to get the Jews out of Germany. It’s called the Ha’avara Agreement, and there’s even a page about it on the website of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, in Israel.

But history, genuine history, in this case, rather than establishment smears, appears to be utterly foreign to Hislop in this issue.

Just as it is to his magazine, Private Eye. I still read it, and it contains much excellent material, but it has consistently smeared Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. These have included smear pieces from its correspondent ‘Ratbiter’, alias the Groaniad’s Nick Cohen. Like the rest of the lamestream media, it completely accepts the anti-Semitism smear unquestioningly. And it has never, ever interviewed anyone on the receiving end of those smears, like Mike, Martin, Tony, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson and on and on.

If you’re falsely smeared as an anti-Semite, Ian Hislop and his magazine were support the smear and the smearers, not you.

Which gives the lie to his claim that his magazine is somehow anti-establishment and brings you the stories the other parts of the media won’t touch. Admittedly, this is often true, but on certain issues Hislop, Private Eye and Have I Got News For You solidly toe the establishment line. The anti-Semitism smears about the Labour party is one case. The claim that Putin is the aggressor in the Ukraine and a threat to the freedom of the eastern European states is another.

I’ve been tempted many times to write a letter of complaint to Private Eye about their promotion of the anti-Semitism smears, but I’m afraid it would do no good. They either wouldn’t publish it, or would publish it in a very carefully edited form that would deliberately weaken my argument and allow them to publish a reply that appeared to refute it completely. Or else I’d find that my details had been passed on to the CAA or other Zionist smear merchants and trolls, and I’d be accused in turn of being an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier like Mike. Are Hislop and his crew at Private Eye that nasty? I hope not, but as they are part of the media establishment, and the media establishment is that vicious, I’d rather not find out.

As for Have I Got News For You, Hislop and the Beeb were boasting a few months ago that people trust it more than the ordinary newspapers, especially asylum seekers, who come from countries where the state heavily controls and censors the news. This is dangerous, because the BBC itself is very heavily biased against Labour, and consistently follows the Tory, government line. Which is unsurprising, given the number of Beeb newsroom staff, who left to find jobs working as the Tories’ spin doctors. Have I Got News For You appears to be impartial, but it also follows the government line in pushing certain interpretations of news stories. The fact that the Maidan Revolution in the Ukraine in 2012 was carefully orchestrated by the American State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, will definitely not be covered, either by the mainstream British news or by Have I Got News For You and Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye. And neither will they ever publish the truth behind the anti-Semitism smears.

Hislop once again ignores history to smear Livingstone, the Labour Party, and everyone, who has been false accused of anti-Semitism. And despite the satire, Have I Got News For You is, like much of the Beeb’s news coverage when it comes to Labour, fake news.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s Confusion over Anti-Semitism Definition and Labour Anti-Semitism Smears

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is one of the very few columnists I make of point of reading in the I. She writes about racial issues, and I respect her because she’s even-handed. She not only attacks not only White, but also Black and Asian racism and prejudice. But I do have reservations and criticisms of her work. One of these is that she, like the rest of the British establishment media, completely accepts the smears and lies about the existence of massive anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

On Tuesday, 28th May 2019 Tony Greenstein put up a piece on his great blog, praising her for condemning the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism. This is the definition of anti-Semitism that, as its author, the Zionist Kenneth Stern, has testified, has been used by the Israel lobby and militant Zionists to try to silence critics of Israel and its crimes and atrocities against the Palestinians. Alibhai-Brown had said that she does not support it in a piece she wrote in her column in the I the previous week. This was actually about how she rejected the latest attempts to formulate an official definition of islamophobia. This condemns hatred of Muslims or expressions of ‘Muslimness’. She objected to it because, as a modern, liberal Muslim, she was afraid that her community’s reactionary bigots would use this definition to try to silence critics of their intolerance. She pointed in particular to the current mass demonstrations against the teaching of homosexuality to primary school children in a school in Birmingham. It is not just Muslims who are protesting against this – they’ve been joined by Christians and members of other faiths, and the teacher who tried to introduce it was forced out when he did the same at a Christian school a little while ago. Alibhai-Brown said in her article that she objected to the proposed official definition of islamophobia, just as she objected to the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism. Both could be used unfairly to silence criticism.

This is where I think that, at best, her thinking is confused. As someone, who professes genuinely to take an interest in combating racism and is unimpressed with the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism because of its chilling role in silencing legitimate criticism, she must, you would think, realise that so much of the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party are precisely that. Last year the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, not to mention the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, all made accusations screaming that the Labour party was institutionally anti-Semitic because it first did not accept the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, and then, when it did, didn’t accept the examples. They then carried on baying their smears until the party finally accepted it in full. As Tony Greenstein has pointed out again and again on his blog, along with Martin Odoni, David Rosenberg and so many other Jewish bloggers and activists, this has zero to do with actually trying to defend Jews from real anti-Semitism. As they, and other non-Jewish activists like Mike over at Vox Political have said, this is all about trying to silence critics of Israel, or those, like Mike, who’ve defended critics of Zionism like Ken Livingstone.

And if Alibhai-Brown really is serious about combating racism, she should know that, actually, there’s very little of it in the Labour party, as has been made very plain by Jewish organisations like Jewdas and Jewish Voice for Labour. Instead the accusations were motivated primarily to oust Jeremy Corbyn, not because he’s an anti-Semite – he never has nor will be – but because he’s genuinely anti-racism and pro-Palestinian. And he threatens to overturn the wretched neoliberal politics that have seen Brits from nearly all Britain’s diverse communities, including Jews, robbed of control over their lives and thrust into grinding poverty and misery. Because Corbyn is traditional Labour, the Thatcherites within and without the Labour party tried smearing him as a Trotskyite and a Communist. This didn’t stick, and so they took up the rants from the Jewish establishment that he was an anti-Semite because these did, with some help from a very biased media that was more than economical with the truth. Like the Sunday Times and its correspondent, Gabriel Pogrund, who libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier simply because he’s a Corbyn supporter, who pointed out that Livingstone was quite right when he said that the Hitler initially supported Zionism. Which he did, and is recorded fact, as noted on the website of the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem in Israel, in its piece on the Ha’avara agreement between the two.

But the British lamestream media as a whole, including Private Eye, supports and promotes the myth that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour Party. Indeed, anyone, who dares say that it isn’t is accused of being an anti-Semite in turn, just as the critics of the witch hunt at Salem are accused of being witches themselves in Arthur Miller’s classic play, The Crucible. As I’ve said ad nauseam, it’s long past time that the witch hunt was ended and shown up for the travesty it is, and proper restitution given to the victims of the smears and libels. Victims like Tony, Martin, Mike, and also Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and Cyril Chilson.

I am glad that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown does condemn the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, but deeply disappointed that she still promotes the myth of rabid anti-Semitism in the Labour party. But I’m not surprised. Given the way the Israel lobby freely used smear and libel, I guess it’s more than her reputation and career are worth. 

 

Black British Politico John Archer’s Address to African Progress Union

I think for most of us outside the Black anti-racist movements, this country’s Black history and its tradition of Black activism against racism, imperialism and exploitation is largely unknown. It’s overshadowed to a large extent by the inspirational American civil rights movements of the 1960s, and its heroes and heroines. Towering figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. A few Black British anti-slavery activists from the 18th and 19th century, like Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, are known to a certain extent, as well as the Crimean War nurse and heroine Mary Seacole. But that’s it. And I think for most mainstream Brits, Blacks and other non-Whites only entered politics and got elected to public office in the 1980s with Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng and others.

But Black and Asian activism goes right back to the 19th century, and Britain has had elected BAME politicians since the early 20th century. The BBC 2 series, Victorian Sensations, mentioned two in the second episode of the series broadcast Wednesday night, 29th May 2019. Victorian Sensations is about the massive scientific, social and political changes that shook Victorian society in the 1890s. Last week’s was on scientific advances in electricity and Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays, which revolutionised medicine. The pioneers of X-ray examination, however, paid a terrible price for their research in skin cancer caused by their machines. One British pioneer ended up losing the fingers on one hand, and another arm was amputated completely.

This week’s edition was on ‘Degeneration’, and the late Victorians’ fears of racial, social and imperial decline. This covered the ideas of racial decline in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Francis Galton and the birth of the eugenics movement, aimed at preserving and improving British biological stock; the controversy over the New Woman, liberated Victorian ladies, who dared to move out of the traditional female domestic role and pursue masculine hobbies like cycling; Hans Nordau’s book, Degeneration, Lombroso’s Criminal Man, and the fears about mental illness, which resulted in entirely blameless people banged up in lunatic asylums for the most trivial reasons, like a pathetic young man, who was incarcerated for masturbation. It also covered Oscar Wilde, the Aesthetic Movement and the Decadents, including Arthur Symonds, Havelock Ellis and the first sympathetic scientific research in homosexuality. But one of the most interesting pieces in the programme was right at the end, when presenter Paul McGann spoke to a modern Black activists about two Black British activists, who came to Britain from the West Indies, and founded pioneering Black anti-racist movements. One of them was Celeste Matthews, who became a Methodist minister, and founded a Black rights magazine attacking imperialism, Lux.

Another pioneering Black rights activist, who gained public office later in the second decade of 20th century was John Archer. He was elected Mayor of Battersea in 1913, becoming the first person of African descent to hold public office in London. In 1918 he became the first president of the African Progress Union, a post he would hold for three years. This was formed to promote ‘the general welfare of Africans and Afro peoples’ and spread knowledge of Black history. There’s an extract from the speech he gave at the Union’s first meeting in Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s great anthology of British radical writing and activism throughout history, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Edinburgh: Canongate 2013). This runs

The people in this country are sadly ignorant with reference to the darker races, and our object is to show to them that we have given up the idea of becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water, that we claim our rightful place within this Empire … That if we are good enough to be brought to fight the wars of the country we are good enough receive the benefits of the country … One of the objects of this association is to demand – not ask, demand; it will be ‘demand’ all the time that I am your president. I am not asking for anything, I am demanding. (p. 189).

Unfortunately we really don’t know about the great history of Black activism in this country. Victorian Sensations gave a small glimpse of this on Wednesday, and I’d like to know more. Not only is this worthwhile in itself, as a piece of British history that’s been unfairly neglected, but we also need it to combat that growing racism that’s spreading across Europe and which has resulted in Farage’s Brexit party getting 36.7 per cent of the vote in the Euro elections last week.

Experts Say Aussies Still Way Behind America In ‘Electing Nuts’ Stakes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/05/2019 - 3:00pm in

trump morrison

With the final election results for Australia’s 2019 Elections in, it has become apparent that Australia has yet again come in second to the United States when voting for crazy extremists who couldn’t actually care less about the people of their country.

True, Australians did vote against their best interests by relecting the Coalition, much in the same way that Republicans voted in President Donald Trump. But experts say Australia has notably failed to live up to the high standard America has set when it comes to electing people of either poor quality, low morals or a combination of both.

In one widely pointed-to case, brash Australian billionaire Clive Palmer spent $60 million for himself and his United Australia Party (UAP) and, in spite of following Trump’s game plan down to wearing a red tie and borrwing his slogan to urge voters to “Make Australia Great”, failed to win a single seat.

Pundits are speculating as to whether leaving out the word “Again” at the end of the famous catch phrase turned voters against the UAP, as it implied that Australia had never been great, and couldn’t possibly become great unless Mr Palmer was elected. One supporter of this theory, electoral analyst Dud Polling, pointed out that “Mr Trump at least implied that America had once indeed been great”, despite, the analyst said, no one  being able to point to an actual time.

For her part, political specialist Polly Wrong told The (un)Australian that another clear sign of Australia’s failure to match American exceptionalism in this area was the failure of far right candidate Fraser Anning to keep his Senate seat. In what Ms Wrong said  “would have been a winning approach in many areas of America”, the former Senator said of the Christchurch Massacre: “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”

“It is therefore unsurprising,” Ms Wrong said, “to hear Anning will be leaving Australian politics and instead run for king of Alabama.”

For his Alabama campaign, Anning is adding two additional platforms expected to have wide appeal in the inbred state that follow the same logic as condemning Muslims for being the victims of an attack on themselves.

First, Anning will campaign on blaming victims of sexual assault based on the scientific fact that without them having orifices, rape would be an impossibile. Two, he will seek to blame sexually abused children for being sexually abused on grounds that this would be impossible if they weren’t children.

This dual approach is expected to enchant Alabama voters who support the recently passed anti-abortion law that fails to make exceptions for rape and incest, and to the majority of white voters who voted for accused child molester Roy Moore in the US Senate.

Peter Meisel is a confessed American

http://www.twitter.com/petermeisel2

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The Good News in the Euro Election: Sargon, Dankula and Tommy Robinson Lose Massively

There was some crumb of comfort to Labour supporters and other anti-Fascists after the Euro elections. Although Farage’s disgusting Brexit party got 36 per cent of the vote, UKIP was wiped out. And that meant that their far right candidates Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, Mark Meechan, aka Count Dankula, and the infamous Tommy Robinson are very definitely not going to the European parliament.

In this video from the American left-wing Youtube news site, the Progressive Voice, the host goes through the stats for the Euro election. He mentions that UKIP’s leader, Gerard Batten, whom he describes as ‘Sargon’s daddy, in a way’, also failed to get elected to the European parliament. He explains that the entry of Sargon, Dankula and Robinson, who ran as an independent, and others like them caused Farage to leave UKIP, complaining that they were too right-wing for him. He states that Farage was also on the verge of becoming anti-Islam, like Robinson, however. The host then reads out the report on the massive losses of the extreme right Kippers from the Independent. At the time the article was written, the results had yet to be announced for Scotland, so it was unknown how Mark Meechan had fared. Nevertheless, the Progressive Voice states that he definitely lost, though he didn’t know what the exact result for him was.

But the results for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or Tommy Robinson, as a prefers to be known, were very clear. He lost spectacularly in England north-west constituency, coming eighth, and lost his deposit. He lost his deposit and left the count early, complaining about how he had been banned on social media by the ‘establishment’. It was this, he claimed, that had stopped him from winning.

In the south-west, UKIP fared a little better, but not much. They were sixth on the ballot, with only 3.2 per cent of the vote. Sargon was their second candidate in that constituency.

The Progressive Voice then shows the figures for all the parties from Britain Elects twitter account for the south-west. The Brexit Party were first at 36.7 per cent, Lib Dems 23.1 per cent, Greens 18.1 per cent, Conservative 8.7 per cent, Labour 6.5 per cent, then UKIP, and finally Change UK at 2.8 per cent. He explains that the Brexit Party were able to make their massive leap to nearly 37 per cent because they’re a new party founded by Farage after he left UKIP. And UKIP’s share of the vote has fallen by 29.1 per cent. The Progressive Voice then declares that Sargon, Dankula and Robinson are clowns, who should stay on YouTube. But Sargon’s YouTube account has been demonetized because of his antics, so the Voice doesn’t know where he gets his money from. He suggests it might be from subscribers. He also mentions that Sargon has taken a couple of milkshakes, referring to the incidents where he had them thrown at him, and says he doesn’t know how he feels about that.

The Progressive Voice is, like the rest of us, highly amused by Robinson and Sargon losing the election, laughing as he reads their results out. And he goes on to describe Robinson’s antics when he lost later in the video as ‘hilarious’. This was when Robinson left early claiming he’d lost because of the media. The Voice concludes by saying that these three are clowns, and this is the result they got for so being.

The male feminist and anti-Fascist Kevin Logan, who has put up a number of videos on his channel attacking Sargon, put up another yesterday showing his sober analysis of the statistics for Sargon’s failure. In the titles, he puts it all down to Benjamin’s ‘reverse Midas touch’. In Greek legend, everything that Midas touched turned to gold. In Sargon’s case, everything he touches turns, well, something really smelly that usually gets used to fertilise the garden.

He starts with the statistics for the party, narrowing down to where it states that UKIP now have zero MPs. Their vote share is 3.2 per cent, down 29. 7 per cent, and Benjamin only got 53,739 votes. He then shows a picture of Batten with Sargon, both of whom have ‘Not an MEP’ written in front of them. There’s then photographs of Sargon with milkshake all over him and various logs from Burger King, which may have supplied them, and being pelted with fish in Cornwall. The soundtrack for the video is laughter from the old record, The Laughing Policeman.

As you can see from the above title photograph, Sargon’s been the kiss of death for just about every organisation and issue he’s taken up, from Gamergate, Kek, the Skeptics, his brief Liberalists organisation and now UKIP.

I admit, it’s not much consolation now that the biggest number of votes when to the Brexit party, who are scarcely less as extreme and dangerous as UKIP. But it is something.

Weekly Top 5 Papers – May 27, 2019

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/05/2019 - 3:42am in

1. The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey by Daniel J. Hopkins (University of Pennsylvania) and Samantha Washington (affiliation not provided to SSRN)

2. How to Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students by Orin S. Kerr (University of Southern California Gould School of Law)

 Like a lot of papers with tons of downloads, this paper has an audience outside academic specialists. It’s a paper for new law students on how to prepare to start law school.  With around 40,000 new law students entering law schools every fall, it draws a lot of downloads every August.  I’ve been told that a lot of law schools assign it as part of the first week of reading, too.  Either way, it is by far my most read article. Go figure. – Orin S. Kerr

3. A Review of Nancy Maclean’sDemocracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by David M. Levy (George Mason University)

The review is a spinoff of a forthcoming book co-authored with Sandra Peart, Towards an economics of natural equals: a documentary history of the early Virginia school due out this winter from Cambridge. We have been long troubled by the willingness of students of the history of economics to collapse past debates into a single dimension – the size of government. In a way, we find ourselves in Abbott’s Flatland where the unperceived dimension is what separates the Knightians of the Virginia school from their orthodox colleagues. For the Virginia School a commitment to democratic consensus is a commitment to government by discussion and from that comes the endogenizing of group goals. Simultaneously, with the increasing use of archival research in the history of economics conjoined with an academic practice that does not require publication of the underlying data sources, the problem of replication, well-known in applied econometrics, appears. We were quite far along when Professor MacLean’s book arrived and provides an ideal opportunity to explore these issues. Her appeal to the views of Murray Rothbard to illuminate James Buchanan’s views even though their views on democracy differ radically illustrates the dimensional collapse. Her important contribution, the attention she pays to the Warren Nutter-Buchanan school voucher proposal, is spoiled by a failure to notice that when the proposal was republished in a Virginia School working paper in the mid-1960s, racially segregated schools were explicitly excluded from the financing. – David Levy

4. A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory by Matthew O. Jackson ( Stanford University – Department of Economics)

5. Time-Series Momentum: A Monte-Carlo Approach by Clemens Struck (University College Dublin) and Enoch Cheng (University of Colorado at Denver – Department of Economics)

During my days as an undergraduate student, my professors showed me a set of very simple trading strategies such as the carry trade. Such strategies are usually referred to as “factor investment”. Bringing prior trading experience to the degree, I found it hard to believe that one can make serious money by following a set of naïve trading rules. Not surprisingly, many factor investors have experienced disappointment by the real-life performances of such strategies.
 
An observation I made early was that all of these rules seem to work fine in historical backtests over very short periods of time usually not longer than 10 or 20 years. Often, the sample periods contain only a single extreme market situation (e.g. a larger recession) that determines the overall performance of a strategy. Effectively, there is just one observation. 
 
While I see the need for historical backtests, I believe these tests are insufficient. Bootstrapping has been suggested as an alternative. I think we need to go one step further as bootstrapping repeats the same extreme events again and again. Thus, when you bootstrap from a historical sample with one extreme event, you repeatedly analyze the same extreme event. That’s why we looked out for something else and found Monte-Carlo approaches in the risk management literature and hand-tailored them to assess factor investment strategies. – Clemens C. Struck

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Astronauts Could Live in Moon Caves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2019 - 2:15am in

Bit of science news now. Monday’s I, for 20th May 2019, carried an article by Francis Blagburn, with the same title as this article, on page 22, reporting that an American lunar scientist, Daniel Moriarty III, has suggested that astronauts to the Moon could live in its caves. The article ran

Astronauts could make use of the Moon’s nature cave structures to live inside small, natural shelters, according to Nasa.

The novel approach could see astronauts making camp in tunnel-like chambers on the surface of the Moon left by molten activity.

Dr Daniel Moriarty III, a post-doctoral lunar scientist, was speaking as part of an “ask me anything” session on social networking website Reddit when he discussed the concept.

“I think it makes sense to work within some of the structures and resources that are already there,” he wrote.

“It could be interesting to set up shop within a pre-existing lava tube, which could provide shielding from temperature variations and incoming solar radiation.”

Nasa’s next bout of lunar exploration is the Artemis mission, due to be launched in 2024. President Donald Trump has backed the plans and embraced space travel as a theme. “I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6bn so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!,” he tweeted last week.

It’s a good idea, but not as new as the paper believes. Scientists have argued for some time that future explorers of the Moon and Mars would have to build their bases underground in order to shelter from the ambient cosmic radiation. It’s why the lunar base in Kubrick’s class 2001 is underground, and the Martian city in Paul Verhoeven’s ’80s’ version of Total Recall is built into the sides of a canyon. As are many of the Martian cities in Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic trilogy charting the colonisation of the Red Planet, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. And the British space scientist, Duncan Lunan, suggested that future colonists of the Moon would live in the caves there in his book, Man and the Planets, published in the early 1980s. He drew on science fiction for some of the ideas discussed in the book, and the SF work he used for that suggestion had the colonists walking about in conditions of near nudity in lunar caverns. Well, I suppose the engineers would keep it at a constant, regulated temperature, so you wouldn’t have to worry about getting cold, except perhaps in an emergency when these systems failed. But that idea now seems very dated now in contemporary, post-AIDS culture. The idea clearly reflects the changing attitude towards nudity and sexual morality of the late ’60s and ’70s rather than a realistic prediction of future lunar fashions.

I am very solidly behind these proposals for humanity’s return to the Moon, whether done by NASA with the Artemis project or their private competitors, Jeff Bezos and co. Hopefully it won’t be too long at all before we see people living in lunar and Martian caverns for real. Though more suitably dressed for television reports back to Earth.

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