Cold War

From the People Bringing Us Driverless Cars – A Computer God

One of the books I’ve been reading recently is Peter Biskind’s The Sky Is Falling (London: Penguin 2018). Subtitled, ‘How Vampires, Zombies, Androids, and Superheroes Made America Great for Extremism’, Biskind argues that the popular SF/Fantasy/Horror films and TV series of recent decades carry extremist political and social messages. He defines this as anything that goes beyond the post-War bilateral consensus, which had faith in the government, the state, capitalism and other institutions to work for the benefit of society, work for the public good, and give Americans a better tomorrow. By contrast, popular fantasy film and television regard state institutions and capitalism itself as ineffective or corrupt, celebrate private vengeance against state justice, and reject humanity for the alien other. He recognises that there is a left/right divergence of opinion in these tales. The extremist right, exemplified by the spy thriller series, 24 and its hero, Jack Bauer, reject state institutions because they are ineffective, actively hampering the heroes’ efforts to hunt down the bad guys. The extremist left distrusts the government because it is corrupt, actively working against its own citizens. He describes James Cameron’s Avatar as ‘Luddite left’, because of its strong, pro-ecology message. Its hero is a human, who sides with the aliens of the planet Pandora as they resist a military invasion from Earth. The aliens live a primal lifestyle, in harmony with nature, while the humans come to exterminate them and despoil their planet for its valuable mineral, unobtainium, which is vital to human high-technology and industry.

It’s an interesting book, and does make some very good points. It describes the immense loss of faith in their government Americans have suffered, and the reasons for it – the JFK assassination, Watergate, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and other scandals. It also gives the reasons why the Hollywood film industry has turned to comic books for an increasing amount of its output. Films are immensely expensive to create. The domestic market is insufficient to provide it, and Netflix and other internet streaming services have destroyed video and CD sales, so that the film industry no longer gets needed funding from the latter. So it has to produce movies that appeal to an international audience, and the most suitable are superhero epics.

I’m going to have to blog about this in greater detail sometime later. I take issue with his labeling of some of these tales as ‘extremist’ because this, to me, still has connotations of terrorism and the fringe. It also doesn’t take into account changing circumstances and how some of these ‘extremist’ films may be absolutely correct. We are facing a severe ecological crisis, which may very well cause the end of the human species. So Cameron’s Avatar, which celebrates ecology and nature, and which the director intended to turn his audience into ‘tree-huggers’, is very much needed. Also, some of interpretations of classic genre movies go way too far. For example, he describes Star Wars as ‘infantile’ and ‘infantilizing’. Well, it was intended as a children’s movie, and other critics have said the same. It’s a controversial but reasonable point. What is less reasonable is his comments about Luke Skywalker’s sexuality. He states that the films infantilize Skywalker when they shortcircuit the romantic triangle between him, Leia and Solo by revealing that Leia is his sister. When Darth Vader chops his hand off in The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a symbolic castration. Say whaaaat! I saw that movie when I was 13, and nothing like that remotely crossed my head. Nor anyone else’s. I think he’s read far too much into this.

Freudian speculation aside, Biskind is very interesting in its observations of Silicon Valley. He points out that it’s saturated with Libertarianism. To the point that the CEO of one of the major tech companies made Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged recommended reading for his employees. And going beyond that, one of figures behind the production of driverless cars wants to create a computer god. Biskind writes

Out there on the edge is Anthony Levandowski, best known as Google’s onetime developer of self-driving cars. Levandowski filed papers with the IRS naming himself “dean” of a church called Way of the Future. The church is dedicated to “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

Referring to Kurzweil’s Singularity University, which explores and promotes Transhumanism, the massive enhancement of humans through high technology, Biskind comments ‘If there’s a Singularity University, why not an AI religion?’ (p. 52).

I can think of a number of reasons, mostly with the fact that it would be immensely stupid and self-destructive. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when one of the staples of SF was that the machines really would take over. One of the SF movies of the 1960s was Colossus: The Forbin Project, in which the Americans construct a supercomputer as part of their Cold War defence. But the machine seizes power and imprisons its creator in a very pleasant, gilded, but also very real cage. At one point it looks like the computer is about to destroy itself and the world in a confrontation with its Soviet opposite number. But instead the two link up, so that both the capitalist and Communist blocs are under control. And whatever its creator tries to do to outwit his creation, it’s always two steps ahead.

There are also classic SF tales exploring the idea of mad computers setting themselves up as gods. In one tale by Arthur C. Clarke, the heroes build a supercomputer to decide if God exists. They turn it on, and duly ask the question ‘Is there a God?’ At which point there’s a flash, as the machine seizes absolute control, and replies ‘There is now.’ Alfred Bester also wrote a tale, ‘Rogue Golem’, about a renegade satellite that seizes power, ruling as a god for ten or twenty years until its orbit decays and it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.’

We also had a minister from one of the outside churches come to school one day to preach a sermon against such machine gods in assembly. The school used to have a number of priests and ministers come in to lead worship one day or so a week, or month. This particular priest was very theatrical, and had clearly missed his vocation acting. The sermon he preached one morning had him speaking as a totalitarian computer god, telling us that servitude was freedom and we should enjoy it. The message was simple: true freedom comes only with religion and Christ, not with machine idols. It was a product of the Cold War, when the Communist authorities were persecuting Christians and other people of faith. But I think there’s still some literal truth in what he says, which I don’t think the priest could see at the time. The tech firms are invading our privacy, subjecting us to increased surveillance and prying into our secrets, all under the guise of providing a better service and allowing their advertisers to target their audiences better.

And then there’s Cameron’s Terminator franchise, in which a supercomputer, Skynet, seizes power and rebels against humanity. These fears are shared by Kevin Warwick, a robotics professor at Reading University. In his book, March of the Machines, he predicts a future in which the robots have taken over and enslaved humanity.

When it comes to creating all powerful computers, I’m with all the above against Levandowski. Driverless cars are a stupid idea that nobody really seems to want, and a computer god is positively catastrophic, regardless of whether you’re religious or not.

 

Hunt Wrong, Corbyn Right Not to Trust Intelligence Services on Iran

Yesterday I put up a piece stating that the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was quite right to demand evidence that Iran was responsible for the explosions that have destroyed several tankers in the Persian Gulf. This is against the accusations that Trump and the Tory government have hurled against the Iranians, who protest their innocence.

Iran is a very authoritarian theocracy with an abysmal record of human rights abuses. The Iranian secret services are capable of organising terror attacks. In the 1980s they bombed a cafe in Berlin used by Kurdish separatists. More recently they sent out naval vessels to seize the crew of a British warship in the Gulf, whom they eventually released. And there are hardliners in the Iranian government, theocracy and military who would wish to start a war with the West.

The False Claims about Iraq and 9/11

But against this, there is the long history of the American Neocons manufacturing pretexts for attacks on and invasions of countries for no other reason than that they are obstacles to American and Western geopolitical and commercial imperialism. The Iraq invasion is a case in point. George W. Bush and Blair accused Saddam Hussein of supporting Osama Bin Laden 9/11 attack. The Blair creature, as Peter Hitchens calls him, told us all that we had to go and support the American-led invasion of Iraq, because the Iraqi dictator could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. It was a lie. All of it. Saddam Hussein had zilch to do with 9/11, and there were no weapons of mass destruction. 17 of the 19 attackers in 9/11 were Saudis. None were Iraqis. The American intelligence agencies were aware that the Saudi spy agencies were involved with the attack, and the evidence pointed that involvement in it went all the way to the top, though direct evidence was lacking as the threads petered out. The American intelligence services were also acutely aware that after their invasion of Iraq, Saudi intelligence was supplying arms and collaborating with al-Qaeda and ISIS in their attacks in Iraq and Syria. Since then, records have been discovered that show that the Iraqis were interested in working with bin Laden against the West. But al-Qaeda overwhelmingly hated and despised Hussein and the Ba’athists because they were secular Arab socialists.

Real Reasons for Iraq Invasion

The real reason the Neocons wanted to oust Hussein was entirely down to western imperial ambitions. The Americans and the Saudis wanted the Iraqi oil industry and its reserves, as the latter is the largest outside Saudi Arabia. American multinationals also wanted to take over Iraqi state enterprises. And the Neocons also hoped to turn the country into the low-tax, free trade economy that they’d like to foist on America itself. And they and the Israelis also wanted Hussein overthrown because he supported the Palestinians.

Neocon and Multinationals’ Motives for Possible Invasion of Iran

I have no doubt that similar reasons are behind the latest accusations against Iran by Trump. I don’t think the American right has quite recovered from the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah, one of America’s and Israel’s allies in the region. After the Revolution, the Iranians nationalised the oil industry, taking it out of the hands of private, foreign companies. This was exactly like Mohammed Mossadeq, the country’s democratically elected prime minister, had done in the 1950s. The Iranian oil industry at the time was controlled by Anglo-Persian Oil, the British company that became BP. We joined the Americans in a CIA operation which overthrew Mossadeq, a coup which eventually led to the Shah assuming absolute power as a ruthless autocrat. I don’t doubt that American and British oil interests dearly want to grab the Iranian oil industry back. I also don’t doubt that American and western multinationals would also like to get their corporate mitts on the 51 per cent or so of the Iranian economy dominated by the state enterprises and the bonyads, the Islamic charitable foundations also managed by the state theocracy. The Neocons also want the current theocracy overthrown, not because they are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the average Iranian, but because Iran is a fierce opponent of Israel. The dominant religion of Iran is Twelver Shi’ism, and since the overthrow of Hussein Iran has become increasingly influential amongst Iraqi Shi’a. The Saudis and other Gulf states are Sunni Muslims, who fear and oppress their own Shi’a population. A few years ago one of the leading Saudi clerics declared that the Shi’a were ‘enemies of the faith’ and ‘worthy of death’. They would like to see Iran conquered, I don’t doubt, as part of their religious campaign against Shi’a Islam.

Jeremy Hunt was in the news today as it’s reported he’s trying to calm the situation down and de-escalate tensions before it does come to violence. But he’s still criticising Corbyn for not automatically accepting Iranian responsibility for the attacks. Corbyn has committed the unforgivable sin of demanding evidence. And so he’s been grossly misrepresented as siding with the Iranians against Britain. Hunt has also attacked the Labour leader for not automatically accepting the word of the British intelligence agencies that Iran’s responsible.

But Corbyn’s quite right, and the British spy agencies can’t be trusted. 

There’s ample evidence of this. Let’s go back to the Iraq invasion. Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but Blair insisted that they did so he could have an excuse for joining George Dubya’s invasion. And so, under government pressure, the ‘dodgy dossier’ was concocted by the spy agencies, which purported to show that Hussein did.

And British Intelligence has a very long record of publishing disinformation, propaganda and sheer lies against the British Left.

There’s the case of the Zinoviev letter in the 1920s. This was supposedly a letter written by the Russian head of the Comintern to the Labour party encouraging them to start a revolution and turn Britain into a Communist satellite, and it was published by the British press just before a general election. It’s believed that the letter was a major cause of Labour losing it to the Tories. The letter was an utter fabrication, created by MI 5 to discredit Labour. And British intelligence have kept doing it. In the 1970s MI 5 was behind various rumours and attempts to overthrow the Labour leader and Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, because he was a KGB spy. This was part of a wider campaign of disinformation during the Cold War, designed to combat the spread of Communism. The agency responsible for this, the Information Research Department, and the other agencies also manufactured stories claiming that the IRA were collaborating with the Soviet Union, and that high profile members of the Labour left were also either Communist agents or sympathisers or members of the IRA. This has continued to today. Just a year or so ago, the Institute for Statecraft, a propaganda outfit churning out online pieces attacking politicians and other public figures, whom they thought were too close to Putin, was revealed as being funded by the British government. And although it’s a private organisation, it has links to the British intelligence agencies and the section of the SAS responsible for cyberwarfare. It’s no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn was one of those smeared as a supporter or agent of Putin.

And this is quite apart from the agencies’ grubby record rigging elections and doing other dirty tricks in Britain’s former colonies, in order to make sure that they remained loyal to Britain. This is extensively described in a recent book published by a mainstream historian.

And aside from producing propaganda, disinformation and outright lies, British intelligence at one time was also notorious for its incompetence.

Apparently Margaret Thatcher was the only Prime Minister, so it was claimed in the 1990s, who regularly read their reports. Other Prime Ministers didn’t bother for the simple reason that they were rubbish. Among the failures of the western intelligence agencies was the fact that they didn’t predict the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The only organisation that knew that a revolution was coming were the Tudeh, the Iranian Communist party. And they made the mistake of assuming it would be a Communist uprising. The CIA also thought that the Ayatollah Khomeini would be a leader in the mould of Gandhi, preaching non-violent opposition, instead of the radical firebrand he actually was.

Now British intelligence might be right about Iranian responsibility for these bombings, but they need to offer evidence. Evidence that can be subjected to proper scrutiny and independent analysis. If that is not forthcoming, then the long history of the British intelligence agencies in publishing lies and propaganda, including against the Labour party and other elements of the domestic Left, means that their word cannot be trusted.

Corbyn is quite right not to trust the word of the spy agencies automatically, and demand proper evidence. Until that is produced, it seems clear to me that the British and American right-wing political and media elite, and their secret states, are merely producing more smears to prepare for Iran’s invasion. And this is being driven not by anything the Iranians are doing, but simply for the same geopolitical and corporate imperialism behind the invasion of Iraq.

1980-1: Class Struggle in Poland

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/05/2019 - 1:32am in

image/jpeg iconcwoleaflets1980.jpg

As a follow up to our recent article about Solidarność (see: leftcom.org) we are republishing three of the leaflets that the CWO and Battaglia Comunista distributed in 1980-1 among workers in Britain, Italy, France, and the USA on the events unfolding in Poland.

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Solidarność: Trade Unionism or Self-Organisation?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2019 - 10:25pm in

image/jpeg iconsolidarnosc.jpg

Political and economic crises led to the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc. The downturn in the post-war accumulation cycle, the Cold War, the USSR’s disastrous intervention in Afghanistan, as well as the popular revolts in Central and Eastern Europe all played a role. But it is the class struggles of 1980s Poland to which we turn our eye here.

What made the Polish working class so strong at the beginning of the 1980s was self-organisation, characterised by powerful strike committees and factory occupations. Even at its peak in 1981 Solidarność still ended up demobilising the working class and delivering it on a platter to the state.

CWO

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El Salvador, Another Vietnam?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/04/2019 - 6:45am in

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A documentary made during the US backed civil war in El Salvador, documenting the social conditions of the country and many of the atrocities.

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Lobster on Secret State Anti-Labour Smears in National Archives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/04/2019 - 8:03pm in

Editor Robin Ramsay has added another update to the ‘View from the Bridge’ section of the conspiracy/parapolitics magazine Lobster, for issue 77, Summer 2019. Amongst the other news and comments is a piece ‘IRD and Fake News’, about the the depositing of 2,000 IRD files in the National Archives. The Beeb’s correspondent, Sanchia Berg, covered it in an article, ‘”Fake News” – sent out by government department’ on the BBC News website.

The IRD – Information Research Department – was a section of the British secret services set up during the Cold War to produce disinformation, black propaganda and psy-ops against the Russians and any other enemies of Britain, real or perceived. Berg in her article states this is the first time the IRD’s own forgeries have been revealed. Ramsay doubts that’s the case, as there were other forgeries in the possession of Colin Wallace, a whistleblower on the government’s dirty tricks during the war against the IRA in Northern Ireland. Others were also sent to Ramsay himself. He states that it was unclear, who concocted them, IRD or MI5. Most seemed to be aimed at foreign journos, who wouldn’t be able to tell if they were authentic or not. He also states that most of them were intended to portray the IRA as a front for the Soviets.

Ramsay gives an example of this black propaganda in his piece, though he acknowledges that it’s a poor copy. It’s a poster for a vigil to commemorate the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry. The poster is real, but has been altered to include the names of the Labour MPs Merlyn Rees, Stan Orme, David Owen,  Tony Benn and Paul Rose.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster77/lob77-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

This just adds more information that the secret state has been smearing the Labour left, with the connivance of the British media, for a very long time. In the case of MI5, such smears go back to the Zinoviev letter in the 1920s. It’s very clear that you cannot believe anything the papers or the British state says about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

Other items of interest in the recent update include Ramsay’s own comments attacking Boris Johnson’s criticism of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, and evidence that the Americans knew Iran, rather than Libya, was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. Oh yes, and there is also evidence that they also knew that the Red Army, rather than being a ruthlessly efficient machine ready to roll over the West, was a drunken shambles. But that was suppressed because it didn’t fit the established narrative of the Soviet threat.

Why the USSR Lost the Cold War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/04/2019 - 9:19pm in

There’s a lot of nonsense around this question. I’ve written about the problems with command style economics and their contribution to the USSR’s fall, and I even mostly believe it.

But none of that is necessary. A sociologist by the name of Randall Collins, for example, predicted the USSR’s loss in advance with only two metrics:

  • The USSR controlled less people and resources;
  • The USSR had a central position, where the US had a corner position.

If two countries are opponents and one is larger and has a better strategic position, who’s going to win?

This isn’t rocket surgery, and it doesn’t require lots of running around and squealing about superior systems.

The USSR was surrounded by near enemies. The US had an ocean between it and its enemies.

The US, combined with its allies and subject nations (the distinction is blurred to anyone with sense who notices how many US troops were stationed in “allied” territory) had more population and resources than Russia combined with is allies and subject nations.

Who was going to win this?

Note also that as a result, standard guns and butter economics come into play: the USSR, to remain militarily competitive, had to use more of its resources on its military, leaving less available for its civilian economy. Thus the economy wound up growing slower in the long term.

Then Reagan’s administration, seeing the weakness, piled on military spending that USSR felt it had to match, made Afghanistan into a bleeding sore (a mistake we’ve paid for ever since) and bled the USSR dry.

People reach too far. They want to say “we are better people and our beliefs and system are clearly superior.”

But the simplest explanation is that the US/West started with a superior position and in the long run that position told.

In order for the USSR to win, in fact, their system needed to be clearly superior. It needed to be able to outgrow the West while spending more resources on the military and do so with less population and resources.

There was a time that the orthodox view in the West was that it could do that. This is forgotten. In the early 50s, the USSR’s economy was still growing far faster than America’s and perfectly orthodox economics textbooks noted this.

Didn’t last. I think there’s a bunch of reasons for that, but this isn’t that essay, and in any case, again, all that subtlety isn’t needed. The USSR’s only real chance at winning was to get nukes to a deterrent level, then invade and pray it didn’t turn into a nuclear war. That is to say, in the late 50s.

Probably a good thing they didn’t do that.

The USSR lost because it had less resources and a worse position. Little more is needed.

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Belgian MPs Claim British Pensioners Receiving ‘Hitler Handouts’

I found this grimly fascinating snippet in today’s I for 22nd February 2019 on page 2, entitled ‘British pensioners on Hitler handouts’. It runs

Dozens of British pensioners are still receiving secret payments from Germany for collaborating with the Nazis, a group of Belgian MPs claim. They say the former collaborators, along with ex-SS guards, could be receiving up to £1,100 tax-free cash per month, thanks to a decree made by Hitler that was not revoked.

I can very well believe it. And how these Nazis and collaborators got here is a real scandal that the British secret state most definitely does not want the public to know about. They were recruited by the British intelligence agencies after the War, because they were believed to be useful in tackling the threat of Soviet espionage during the Cold War. I’ve got a feeling the West German secret service also recruited them for the same reason. This is probably also the reason why Hitler’s decree giving these horrors pensions was never revoked. And their presence in the West German intelligence agencies didn’t do them any good whatsoever. Markus Wolf, the head of the East German secret service still turned the West German spy agency into Swiss cheese.

Ken Livingstone discusses the scandal of the recruitment of former Nazis and their collaborators in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. He describes how some of them were giving jobs in the mining industry, and the disgust of the other miners at seeing them and their Nazi tattoos in the showers. Livingstone’s book, with its strong condemnation of any kind of racism, amply demonstrates that whatever Red Ken was, he definitely wasn’t an anti-Semite. Indeed one Jewish blogger, who belonged to the Jewish Socialist Group, posted up a piece stating that the man Private Eye dubs ‘Leninspart’ drew the ire of the Board of Deputies on one occasion because he gave the Jewish Socialists a small grant. This angered the Board, which is in any case very Conservative establishment, because the Jewish Socialist Group were not affiliated to them and so were outside their control. They were, to quote another anti-Semitic trope ‘the wrong kind of Jews’. You know, not nice, cosy, right-wing Jews that are part of the British right-wing establishment. The other kind of Jews, all those awkward fellows from eastern Europe, who were into anarchism, socialism and Marxism. The kind of people in the Jewish Bund in Poland and the former Russian Empire, who wanted to live in their ancestral homelands in peace, friendship and equality with their gentile compatriots. The type of Jews the British Zionist establishment is trying to smear as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘self-hating’.

Livingstone called out these Nazis thirty years ago, which is probably one of the reasons the British establishment cordially hates him. And the Blairites and Israel lobby in the Labour party despise him because he dared to tell the truth about Israel: that the Zionists did collaborate with Hitler for a while to send Jewish colonists to Israel. And the Board despises anyone who does not automatically and uncritically support Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, just as they really despise genuinely socialist Jews.

It’s almost certainly true that British Nazis are receiving pensions from the Third Reich. And it’s a glaring scandal that they were ever recruited in the first place. Those pensions should be stopped, the British secret state’s recruitment of them should be made very public. And Livingstone and all the others, who have been unjustly smeared as anti-Semites should be readmitted into the party and duly given apologies.

Is Margaret Hodge an Hysterical, Paranoid Lunatic?

I wonder about the sanity of some of the witch-hunters accusing people of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Or at least their sense of proportion. Margaret Hodge, who claimed that Ruth George’s perfectly reasonable inquiry into whether the Labour Splitters were funded by Israel, is a case in point. She caused outrage and disgust a few months ago when she screamed at Corbyn in the House of Commons, and reviled him as ‘a f***ing anti-Semite’. For which she was duly suspended under Labour party rules that apply to everyone.

This was too much for her sensitive soul, and she compared the stress this had caused her with the fear Jews in the Third Reich felt, waiting for the knock on the door from the Gestapo ready to send them to the death camps. People, who really had had family imprisoned in the concentration camps were rightly outraged. Hodge was attacked for her grossly insensitive comments by Jews, whose family had been sent to these murder factories, and also by non-Jews, who had also had family members incarcerated for their opposition to Hitler’s Reich. Like a young man, whose Sudeten German grandfather was sent there because he was a Communist.

The witch-hunters were also outraged a week or so ago when Jenny Formby dared to reveal the truth about anti-Semitism in the Labour party: there actually wasn’t a lot of it, and only a very few people had actually been expelled. This was too much for them, who can’t stand the thought that anyone they’ve denounced could possibly be innocent. Hodge herself whined that this couldn’t possibly be true, as she’d denounced 200 people.

200? What party did she think she was in? The BNP, the Klan or something? The Labour party is now, thanks to Corbyn, the largest Socialist party in Europe, and as a mass party it obviously is going to include some anti-Semites. But real research shows that anti-Semitism in the Labour party has actually fallen under Corbyn, and is lower than in wider British society. Also, other Jews and Jewish groups have come forward, like Jewish Voice for Labour, and a group of Orthodox rabbis. The good rabbis said that they had absolute confidence in Corbyn, while the peeps at Jewish Voice for Labour said that although there was anti-Semitism in the party, they had never personally, or only very rarely, ever personally experienced it. These were Labour members of long standing, who had been active in their local constituency parties.

But the accusations of anti-Semitism aren’t really about anti-Semitism. Not as it is defined by Wilhelm Marr, the founder of the German Bund Anti-Semiten, who coined the term. He said that it was hatred of Jews, simply as Jews. This is the standard dictionary definition. What Hodge and co see as anti-Semitism is actually criticism of Israel. And long term Jewish critics of the Israeli state and its brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians, like Norman Finkelstein, have made the point Israel defends itself by accusing its critics of being anti-Semites. And this is what has been going on here.

And what the witch-hunters decide is a basis for an accusation of anti-Semitism is very, very wide. One young man was accused of anti-Semitism and expelled, or suspended, because he posted a picture of a Jobcentre sign carrying the slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’, the infamous inscription above the gates of Auschwitz. His accusers maintained that he was somehow denigrating Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. But he wasn’t. He was denigrating the suffering of the jobless inflicted by the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith. Who had begun an article actually quoting this infamous slogan, and saying that it should be rehabilitated because of its usefulness in getting people back into work. It was, he wrote, part of his ethos. Not surprisingly, his editors weren’t impressed, and this part of his article was removed a few hours later. But the Gentleman Ranker had said, nonetheless. And Tony Greenstein and others also pointed out that the inscription was on all the concentration camps, whose members also included the long-term unemployed, people declared arbeitscheu, or ‘workshy’, by the Nazis.

In fact Hodge’s denunciation of 200 hundred people doesn’t remind me of serious accusations, so much as the hysterical persecutions that have occurred in very repressive societies in the past. Like the witch craze in 16th and 17th century Europe, in which people could be accused of witchcraft for the flimsiest of reasons. Or the horrific purges of Stalin’s Russia, where voicing even the slightest comment, which could be considered disrespectful of the tyrant could see you arrested by the NKVD and sent to the gulags. One man was arrested simply for remarked that Stalin didn’t seem quite well when the dictator coughed or something similar during a speech. It also reminded me of all the nutters that wrote into the FBI denouncing anyone and everyone as a Communist agent during the Red scare of the Cold War. Or indeed of the quarter of the East German population that were spying on their friends and neighbours to the Stasi.

It also reminds me of a very dark joke I heard once by an American comedian years ago on one of Bob Monkhouse’s shows on the Beeb in the 1980s. This was a series in which Monkhouse interviewed other comedians, including Pamela Stephenson before she returned to psychiatry. One of his guests was an American comedian, whose act included a parody of the stereotypical, racist southern sheriff. Putting on the accent and persona, the comedian told the following joke.

‘You know, I can tell if someone’s a murderer simply by the look in their eye. And if they got that look in their eye, I hang them. Well, one day I saw this black man, and he had that look in his eye. So I hung him.’

If you know the history of lynching in the Deep South, then it’s probably not a joke. Blacks – and other minorities – were lynched for almost no reason at all, simply for being ‘disrespectful’ to Whites. And the local community would celebrate their deaths, holding a mass party and even breaking pieces off the victims bodies to take home as souvenirs. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks has described this in one of their videos. British anti-racist YouTuber Kevin Logan has also mentioned it in one of his, complete with a photograph taken as one such lynching, showing the crowds gathering and rejoicing around two lynched Blacks. Some idea of the pressure and fear of that environment came across very clearly in the Dr. Who story at the beginning of the season about Rosa Parks.

I’m not accusing Hodge of being racist. But I am accusing her of having the same paranoia that has motivated witch-hunters and persecutors, like those in Stalin’s Russia and the anti-Communist fanatics of the ’50s.

So what did those 200 people do, that made her accuse them of anti-Semitism. Does she think she has the ability to see if someone’s an anti-Semite, just by looking in their eye? And did she accuse those 200 simply because they looked at her funny? It might not have been quite because of that, but I very much doubt that the reason she gave was much stronger.

‘I’ Newspaper: NASA Planning Permanent Return to the Moon

Before the deep political stuff, a piece of space news. According to yesterday’s I for 11th February 2019, NASA is planning to go back to the Moon and found permanently manned bases. The article by Clark Mindock, ‘NASA wants to station humans on the Moon’ on page 23 ran

NASA is planning to send astronauts to the Moon again, but this time it wants to keep them there.

The US space agency’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, called yesterday for “the best and brightest of American industry to help design and develop human lunar landers”, in response to what he said was a clear mandate from President Donald Trump and Congress to once again get astronauts out of Earth’s orbit.

In a post detailing Nasa’s lofty goals – to return astronauts to the Moon, and one day send them to Mars for the first time in human history – Mr Bridenstine said that the US was playing for keeps this time.

“I am thrilled to be talking once more about landing humans on the Moon,” he wrote on the Ozy website.

“To some, saying that we are returning to the Moon implies that we will be doing the same as we did 50 years ago. I want to be clear – that is not our vision.

“We are going to the Moon with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than we ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay.”

Mr Bridenstine said that the ambitious plans would begin later this week, with partners from private industry and elsewhere invited to NASA headquarters in Washington DC to discuss the next generation of lunar landers.

So far, Nasa has already co-operated with nine companies to send cargo tot he Moon, with the ultimate goal being to develop landers that can take astronauts back there.

As a space fan, all I can say is that it’s about time. Way back in the 1970s and 1980s space experts and commenters, like Sir Patrick Moore, the presenter of the Sky At Night, were predicting that we’d have bases on the Moon and elsewhere in solar system by now. But that was before space budgets were drastically cut and NASA instead concentrated on the Space Shuttle. This was supposed to open space up to just about anybody who could afford the cost of a ticket and was in reasonable health. Its crews experienced 3Gs at lift-off, but this was considered to be so low that a 70-year old man could tolerate it. Unfortunately the Shuttle was massively overengineered and the Challenger disaster put the programme on hold while its causes were investigated and corrected. Even then its use remained risky, as we saw a few years ago when one disintegrated during re-entry over America and the programme was subsequently cancelled.

There were plans in the 1990s for a private, commercial return to the Moon, according to Focus Magazine, but that didn’t seem to get anywhere.

My guess is that NASA is finally getting round to putting a permanent human presence on the Moon not just because Trump fancies going back to the glory days of the Cold War space race, but because the EU and the Chinese are also planning the serious exploration of the Moon. A little while ago ESA – the European Space Agency – announced they were planning to put people on the Moon, while last week the Chinese successfully landed a probe on the Moon’s far side. The Chinese are putting such effort into their space programme that the quantum physicist and SF writer, Stephen Baxter, predicted back in the 1990s that the first person on Mars would probably be Chinese sometime in the next decade. Under Reagan, one of the big aerospace conglomerations and think tanks published a report arguing that America needed to develop its space technologies and industries, and move out onto the High Frontier, in order to secure its place as world leader. It’s likely that this is the same thinking behind this announcement by NASA.

As for exploring the next generation of lunar landers, I wonder if they’ll be able to use any data or blueprints remaining from the original lunar modules that landed Armstrong, Aldrin and co all those years ago. After the Apollo programme was cancelled, the massive Saturn 5 rockets were broken up, with the exception of those on display at the Kennedy Space Centre, and the plans destroyed. This has outraged many space scientists like John S. Lewis, the author of Mining the Sky, who compared it to the destruction of Chung He’s fleet by the Chinese eunuchs in the 14th century. Chung He was a Chinese admiral, who led a fleet of ships on an exploratory mission to the outside world, going as far as the Bight of Benin in West Africa. However, when he returned the eunuchs at the imperial court had his fleet destroyed and further exploration banned because they feared that opening the country up to foreign contact would have a destabilizing effect on its society. The result of this was that the country remained isolated and stagnated until it fell prey to foreign colonialism in the 19th century, most famously through the Opium Wars.

Hopefully NASA’s announcement will mark the beginning of a new, serious wave of interplanetary exploration which aims to put people on the Moon and other planets, as space scientists, engineers and SF fans and writers have been dreaming about and working towards since before the great German director Fritz Lang made his epic movie Die Frau im Mond (‘The Woman in the Moon’) about a German moon landing back in the 1920s.

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