scotland

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

For those who thought Scotland has the kind of leadership we should aspire to it may be time to think again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 7:57pm in

For readers in England it would be easy to be wholly unaware that Scotland is facing a massive political crisis.

No, I am not talking about the desire for independence.

Nor am I taking about the resignation of Richard Leonard as leader of Labour in Scotland yesterday, which is a matter almost inconsequential to Scottish politics , so remote is Labour from power in Scotland now.

Instead I am referring to a much more important question, and that is whether or not Nicola Sturgeon can survive as First Minister and leader of the SNP. This is in serious doubt, and for good reason, just months before Scottish elections are due to be held at which it is expected that the SNP will win by a landslide.

The  doubts about Sturgeon’s future are well founded. Two enquiries must report before the end of March. Both have to suggest whether or not Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament over her involvement in the prosecution of the former SNP leader, Alex Salmond, on charges of rape and serious sexual assault.

Salmond was cleared of all such charges. Although I know Alex Salmond, I am not seeking to discuss his case, as such. It has been resolved according to the due process of law. I accept that.  In a very real sense, the allegations raised in that case are now closed.

What is not closed is the role of Sturgeon, and others associated with her (including her husband, in his role as chief executive of the SNP) had in that case ever being brought. The allegations here are of what might best be called corruption, and an abuse of public office.

I am not as aware of the facts as some who I know are. Robin McAlpine, the director of Common Weal, a think tank with which I have worked, is one person who has looked at the facts. He has written what I think to be an important article on the allegations made against Sturgeon. It was published yesterday. In it he says that his long political experience has taught him that:

Everything I have seen has driven me to the same conclusion; nothing is more important than integrity in public life. That may seem anachronistic to some (given modern political culture) and not particularly left-wing. But the positive change I want cannot be built on anything but the firmest of foundations; when corruption or misuse of power creeps into those foundations, nothing good can be built on them.

He added:

There is no doubt in my mind that there was and is a coordinated plan of action created by a powerful group of people, developed and executed in secret but using public resources, all with the sole purpose of forcing a perceived opponent out of public life in Scotland.

He elaborated, making clear the opponent was Salmond, and saying, having provided evidence, that:

The damage I believe this is likely to do to confidence in the conduct of public life in Scotland is substantial.

That the politician is Nicola Sturgeon, the man Alex Salmond, the civil servants a group surrounding Leslie Evans and the party officials a group surrounding Peter Murrell (husband of Sturgeon) should play no part in affecting the details I have set out above.

I reiterate that people like Robin McAlpine know a great deal more about this than I do. I have discussed it with others who have also reviewed it in detail. What I am sure is true is that this issue has the capacity to massively undermine  confidence in Scotland just as it needs it. The political consequences can only be guessed at.  But, they could be huge. The political rockiness of this moment does not look like it is going away.

The head of state is leading a coup in the USA, but don’t rule out that it could happen here

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2021 - 7:47am in

I am sitting watching the BBC News Channel at 8.25 on Wednesday evening. And what is happening as I watch is an attempted coup in the USA. Incited by Trump, thousand have stormed the Capitol. Admittedly, most of them look pretty confused. But the reality is that they have deliberately sought to prevent the endorsement of the President-elect of the USA. If that is not a coup, led by Trump, then I am not sure what is.

For some years now I have talked about the threat to democracy from right wing politicians, like Trump. I have been suggesting the same risk exists here. Indeed, emulation is so common now that it now seems almost inevitable that copy cat actions will now happen in other parliaments when right wing politicians dislike results in the future.

What is happening tonight cannot be dismissed as a freak. This is what fascism looks like. And we should all be worried. What is at stake tonight is liberal democracy. And that matters. Our right to choose is under threat. And a President of the USA orchestrated this.

And you think this could not happen here? You should believe it could. Let me provide an example. There is now ample evidence that people in one country of our Union want to leave the UK. Their political leadership is asking for the democratic right to choose. And that is being denied to them. Is this very different from what Trump has been doing in defying and seeking to deny democratic choice? I see little difference. The contempt for the will of people is similar.

When politics ignores people’s wishes for proper representation democracy is at threat. That is clearly happening in the US now. And it’s also happening here. Johnson smirked with contempt when saying he would not allow a Scottish referendum on Sunday. We have a democratic crisis here too, led by our head of state.

Worry.

History Debunked Refutes the Myth that James I was Black

More from the whackier end of racial politics. History Debunked has put up a number of videos refuting various assertions and myths promoted as Black history. One of his videos attacked the claim, seen in the Netflix interracial historical romance, Bridgerton, that Queen Caroline was Black. This has arisen from the fact that one of her ancestors was a 13th Spanish Moorish prince. But that was five hundred years before her birth, and so any biological trace of her non-White ancestry would have disappeared way back in her lineage. Apart from which, the Spanish Moors were Berbers and Arabs from North Africa. They were darker than Europeans – the term ‘blue-blooded’ for the aristocracy comes from the Christian Spanish nobility. Under their idea of limpieza de sangre, ‘blood purity’, the racial ideology that distinguished them from the Moors, their skin was supposed to be so pale that you could see the veins in the wrist. But the Moors were nevertheless lighter-skinned than the darker peoples south of the Sahara, in what the Arabs called Bilad as-Sudan and the Berbers Akal Nguiwen, ‘The Land of the Blacks’. Which I think shows that the Arabs and Berbers, dark as they were compared to Europeans, very clearly didn’t think of themselves as Black.

In this video Simon Webb debunks a similar myth, that James I of England/ VI of Scotland, was Black. This ahistorical idea apparently began with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a Black Jewish sect who believe that one of the lost tribes of Israel went to sub-Saharan Africa. Webb mentions that a group of them settled in Israel in the Negev. He uses this to try to refute the demand that Israel should open its borders by stating that Israel had taken in people of a number of different racial groups. They are now, for example, taking in people from India. It’s true that Israel has taken in refugees from Africa, but many of the groups they’ve accepted were Jews. In the 1970s they mounted a rescue operation to transport the Falashas, the Black Jews of Ethiopia, away from their oppression in that country to safety in Israel. My guess is that the Indians they’re accepting are also Jewish. There’s an indigenous Jewish community in India, the Bene Israel, and it sounds like some of them may be migrating. There is, however, considerable racism amongst White Israelis. Abby Martin covered this in some of her reports for The Empire Files on TeleSur, in which she interviewed Black Israelis about the abuse, including physical assault, they’d experience. Gentile African refugees, although present, are resented by many Israelis as ‘infiltrators’, the term they also use for Palestinians trying to return to the ancestral lands from which they were evicted during the Nakba, the term they use for foundation of Israel and their massacre and ethnic cleansing in 1947.

But back to the Black Hebrew Israelites and James I. The Black Hebrew Israelites believe that the Spanish Moors were Black, and that they went from Spain to colonise Ireland and Scotland. Which must be news to most Scots and Irish. Mary, Queen of Scots was mixed race, but Lord Darnley, James’ father, was fully Black and so was James. The English, however, were determined to erase any trace of this Black ancestry, and so embarked on a deliberately policy of intermarrying with the Black Scots and Irish in order to make them White, at the same time destroying all the contrary evidence that they were Black. Although this myth began with the Black Hebrew Israelites it has spread out from them into the wider Black community. To support his description of this bizarre myth, Webb on the YouTube page for the video has link to an article in the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Patriot, which proudly promotes this claim.

Was King James I of England black? – YouTube

The belief that the Spanish Moors were Black has formed the basis for an anti-White racist view of history. A few years ago the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, carried on its online edition a piece by a Black historian, Garikai Chengu. This claimed that the Moors were ‘obviously Black’, and their colonisation of Spain brought science and reason to a Europe then gripped by ignorance and superstition. There’s some basis for this in that the revival of science in the West began when Christian scholars acquired Arab and Islamic scientific texts from places such as Islamic Spain and Sicily after that was conquered by the Normans. However, it’s grotesquely exaggerated and is really just a piece of racial supremacist propaganda, albeit one by Blacks rather than Whites. I think it’s fair to see such Afrocentric views of history as a form of Fascism, including this myth that the Irish and Scots were also really Black. Some historians have no trouble describing certain Black political movements as forms of Fascism. One recent book by an academic historian not only includes the classic Fascist movements of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and various other White, European far right movements, but also Marcus Garvey’s Negro Improvement Association and the Nation of Islam, as well as Narendra Modi’s BJP in India. The inclusion of Marcus Garvey and his organisation may well offend many Black activists. Garvey is one of the pioneers of Black liberation. A month or so ago there was a Black celebrity writing in the pages of the Radio Times recommending that children should be taught about him in school. I really know very little about Garvey, but the claim that he was Fascistic rings true. When I was working as a volunteer in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol one of the jobs I was given was unpacking some of boxes of material given to the Museum by private individuals and institutions. One of these included a document by Garvey’s organisation. I didn’t do more than glance at it, but it appeared to be describing some kind of military parade or armed wing. This included women’s units and mechanised and mounted forces of various kinds. I don’t know if Garvey and his followers were ever able to set up such a paramilitary force or whether it was all a fantasy. But one of the features of Fascism is its militarism. The Nazis and Italian Fascists, not to mention the various other Fascist movements, all started out as paramilitary organisations complete with uniforms and arms.

Alongside the entirely reasonable demands for social and economic improvement and renewed action to combat White racism, the Black Lives Matter movement has also brought out and articulated strains of overt anti-White racism. One example of this was the attempt by Sasha Johnson, of the Oxford branch of the organisation, to set up her own paramilitary Black army in Brixton to protect Blacks from the cops, and her tweet that the White man wouldn’t be Blacks’ equal, but their slave. Which got her banned from the social media platform. I think there is a real need to start studying and publishing material specifically on Black racism and Fascism. At the moment, there appears to be very little, if any, books specifically published on it. If you search for ‘Black racism’ on Google, what comes up is articles and books on the attacks on affirmative action programmes by right-wing Whites. Way back in the ’90s and early parts of this century there was a book published on Black anti-White violence in America. This might be White Girl Bleed A Lot, which is a similar book. However, I’m not sure how academically respectable the latter is, as I think its author may have joined the extreme right. I can see many people on the left resisting any attempt to categorise and study various Black Fascist movements from the belief that, as Blacks have been oppressed in the West, and are still disadvantaged, it is unfair to characterise such movement as they arose in response to White racism and persecution.

But this does not change the nature of these movements and the racism and racist history they promote. Whatever their connections to the broader Black liberation movement, they’re still racist and Fascist themselves, and should be viewed as such. Fascism everywhere needs to be fought, regarded of race.

2020: what a year

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 11:17pm in

I have already reviewed 2020 from the perspective of Tax Research UK, but the wider perspective is worthy of comment, if only as the groundwork for looking forward in another post.

There are many reasons to be glad that 2020 is done. Most, of course, relate to COVID. Too many people have died in the UK and around the world from this disease. Already it is one in a thousand people in the UK. That is a horrible statistic. My sympathies go to all who have lost relatives and friends. My thanks go to all who cared for them. It seems that the NHS and those who work in it have been far too readily forgotten, already.

Of course, there are upsides, like the development of vaccines, but so far there are many more downsides to note. Saying so, I am going to avoid statistics and reiteration of the news. And I will sweep the other major event of the year, which was Brexit, into the analysis. There is good reason for doing so, because when looking at the political economy of the UK in 2020 some big themes emerge.

What we saw in 2020 were five emerging themes. First, the Tories ceased to be the party of mainstream business interests and became, instead, the party of speculators and rentiers. Nothing else could explain their indifference in Brexit. Cronyism, on the other hand, explained their approach to Brexit. It is a very long time since abuse on the scale seen this year was a feature of UK politics, and amazingly the public appears quite indifferent to it.  Underpinning the government approach to both issues was deliberate prevarication to facilitate what, I am sure, was thought to be the gain to be made from confusion. It was a trait I forecast as theme of government in my 2011 book, The Courageous State, where I described its practice as the activity of the cowardly state. I defined that as the form of government that, when recognising a problem, runs away from it always believing that the market will find a solution because chaos inevitably provides an opportunity for gain. And so we ended up with a Brexit deal on Christmas Eve, and the adoption of the Great Barrington approach to herd immunity in the UK, with as yet unknown but likely to be horrendous consequences.

Second, we saw hopelessness in Opposition.  The Torties had only two advantages over Labour in 2020. One was that, as a result of deceit and lies they were in power. The other was that they know what they wanted, even if their goals were wholly anti-social for the vast majority in the country. Labour, on the other hand, lost Corbyn, and the indecision that had been a feature of his period as leader, and gained Starmer, and absolutely no sense of purpose at all. If there is a single overwhelming characteristic of Labour to note in 2020 it is that it has not the slightest idea what it wants, who for, and why. I wish I could say otherwise, but this is the most certain explanation of why it is not light years ahead in the polls when, given the performance of the government, that is where it should be.

Third, and in contrast, issues relating to the future of the Union, saw rapid change.  The SNP has succeeded in communicating precisely what it wants. It has also managed to keep a lid on the massive disquiet on Sturgeon’s position on a second referendum within the party for the time being, even if I cannot see it lasting beyond May. As a result, the party has had an extraordinary year, and support for independence has grown, considerably. That it will happen at some point is now the obvious conclusion. When the majority of a population want to be rid of their colonial power it happens, eventually, and usually sooner rather than later.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, was simply abandoned by the UK. That’s the best that can be said for the Tory position. For all the claims, bluster and utter nonsense said on the issue by Johnson, he walked away and left it to its fate. As a consequence, the whole of the UK is in an extraordinary position of constitutional isolation. It’s very hard to think of a situation where one, supposedly sovereign country, is so utterly divided, with part within and part without an international trading bloc, and with an internal border of some significance within it that represents a considerable obstacle to trade. The British indifference to Ireland has reached its apotheosis and next there must come some form of Irish reunification. It seems inevitable now. I am angry for the people of Northern Ireland; they have good reason to feel abandoned, whatever their views on the future, and that is not healthy.

Fourth, climate change has hardly registered this year. We will live to regret that. The Green New Deal remains no more than a vague promise. Time is being lost, and is potentially irrecoverable.

At the same time, and fifth, the economics of austerity has not been defeated. Labour and the Tories both subscribe to it. The household analogy remains firmly embedded in their economic narratives. Neither shows the slightest understanding of the reality of macroeconomics.  Modern monetary theory has never been more in the public eye, and is being run away from on all sides. Tories fear it undermines austerity. Labour fears the Red wall will not like it. Marxists criticise it because they claim it does not embrace an adequate theory of class. And all of them cannot spot that what it describes is the potential for recovery within the economy that we have, which none of them apparently want to partake in. So, we end up with meaningless debate o when to raise taxes, who to impose taxes on, and what cuts to impose rather than having the thinking we need on the big picture of how we can invest and return to full employment whilst delivering a sustainable economy that modern monetary theory makes possible.

If there was, then, a summary of 2020 it would be that this was the year when the leading politicians sweated the small stuff, for personal gain, or for not knowing what else to do, whilst the big issues of coronavirus, the constitution, the economy and even the future of the UK as a country went on around them without them apparently noticing or caring. If ever we looked to have an unsustainable political system then this was the year to see it in action.

It’s been a pitiful year for politics and the political economy. People have died as a result. The fabric of society has been undermined. The UK is falling apart. And the official Opposition seems unwilling to assume its role as the creator of alternatives. It’s been deeply depressing, and it may well get worse before it gets better.

Video of Me Playing the ‘Rights of Man’ Hornpipe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 10:26pm in

Here’s a bit of British folk music from the radical tradition. I’ve just put up on my YouTube channel a short, six minute video of myself playing, or trying to play, an 18th century hornpipe celebrating The Rights of Man, one of the books of the great 18th century English radical democrat, Tom Paine. He was born the son of a Thetford staymaker, and a supporter of the American Revolution. His pamphlet, Common Sense, was written to defend it, and attacks the institutions of the British monarchy and aristocracy. He was initially a supporter of the French Revolution, but turned against that as a perversion of his principles. The Rights of Man was written as a defence of republicanism. Although it was massively popular with a print run of 200,000 copies, it was denounced by the upper classes up and down Britain and burned on village greens before being finally banned by royal decree. Not surprisingly it still had a huge underground circulation in Scotland and Ireland. Paine eventually emigrated to America where he died. I think he was too radical for the Americans, although The Rights of Man was praised and regarded as highly influential by several American presidents. Unfortunately, his remains weren’t allowed to rest quietly. A fan, John Cobbett, dug them up and brought them back to Blighty. Unfortunately, he went bankrupt and the skeleton was seized as an asset, before it was ruled that it wasn’t. The skeleton disappeared and no-one knows what has happened to it.

I found the sheet music to this, as well as a brief description of Paine’s life and career, which I read out in the video, in Robin Williamson’s English, Welsh, Scottish & Irish Fiddle Tunes (New York: Oak Publications 1976). I play it on a keyboard, but with the setting on violin so that it sounds as it was originally intended to be played. Or as close I can manage it. The arrangement printed in the book is Scots.

Rights of Man Hornpipe – YouTube

Will Johnson Quit or Be Forced Out, Once He Has Wrecked the Country For Brexit?

Also in Lobster 80 for Winter 2020 is a very interesting piece by Simon Matthews, whose observations about Johnson’s real motives for running for PM and supporting Brexit I discussed in my previous blog post. Matthews has a piece, ‘Time for the Pavilion (or: there are 365 Conservative MPs)’ pondering whether Johnson will either retire as PM or be forced out by angry members of his own party, once he has successfully ruined the country with a hard Brexit.

And Matthews makes some very interesting observations. Johnson’s majority looks impressive, but is actually very fragile. 50 Tory MPs, for example, voted against the imposition of the second national lockdown at the beginning of November. And many of the 80 new MPs forming the Tories’ parliamentary majority actually have very small majorities in their own constituencies. He writes

Secondly, and less remarked upon, Johnson’s majority of 80 is actually quite fragile. No fewer than 78 Conservative MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less, and of these 34 have a majority of 2,000 or less. Indeed,
all the fabled ‘red wall’ seats that Johnson gained are in this category. Any MP in this situation would be aware that it really wouldn’t take much of an electoral swing to oust them.

Also, although the background of the typical Tory MP is privately educated, with a background in the financial sector, think tanks and policy groups, and is strongly anti-EU, there are still 102 Tory MPs who support the European Union.

Finally, and a puzzling anomaly, there are still 102 Conservative MP’s who were pro-EU in 2016. Admittedly, some of these may have been so at that time because it was party policy (i.e. now party policy has changed,
their views will have changed, too); and there will be others who were ‘pro-EU’ on the basis of Cameron’s re-negotiation of 2015-2016. But, nevertheless, amongst those 102 there must be some (40? 50?) who would much rather the UK stayed as close to the EU as possible, including membership of the Single Market, Customs Union and the EEA rather than exit everything, in its entirety.

BoJob’s position is very precarious. If things get very desperate, and the Tory party does decide it wants to form a ‘government of national unity’ in a coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, it would only take 45 Tory MPs to oust him.

The article then goes to discuss the problems Johnson faces from Brexit, and particularly the challenge it poses to the integrity of the UK, and opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the EU and the Americans, and members of both chambers of parliament. He’s also got severe problems with the Covid crisis, and the havoc this and the consequent lockdown has played with the economy. The sacking of Dominic Cummings could be seen as a warning shot to Johnson from Brady and the party’s donors out in the tax havens, who feel they are being ignored by the PM. But he notes that the donors and corporate backers really don’t seem to have an idea of the massive damage that Brexit will inflict on the UK economy. It will destroy 60-65 per cent of UK manufacturing, and although stockpiling of food and other goods has been going on since 2017, these supplies can only last for so long. So that Britain will return to the food queues of the ’60s and ’70s at the borders.

He makes the point here that the majority of British ports are foreign owned. In footnote 7 he writes

The owners of the UK’s main trading ports are Associated British Ports (owned in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait), Forth Ports (Canada), Hutchison Port Holdings (Singapore), Peel Group (the Isle of Man and Saudi Arabia), PD Ports (Canada) and Peninsular and Oriental Group (complex, but seemingly Dubai, China and Hong Kong). The latter group include P&O Dover Holdings Ltd, which operates most of the ferry services out of Dover, and is owned by the Peoples Republic of China. (The other ferry services at Dover, DFDS, are owned in Denmark). The intention post-Brexit of declaring many UK ports ‘free ports’, when so many can be connected back to tax havens anyway, is striking, and one wonders to what extent the owners of these ports have lobbied for that outcome.

Matthews concludes that Boris is on such shaky grounds that he may well decide to jump before he’s pushed.

The truth is that Johnson can now be ambushed by so many different groupings for so many different reasons, that the chances of him remaining PM after he has delivered the hard Brexit his backers require
must be doubtful. And why would he anyway? He looks bored most of the time and wants money. Leaving Downing Street – and the cleaning up – to others, gives him time to spend with his many different families, time to write his memoirs for a hefty advance, the chance of a US TV show and time to kick on, as all ex-UK PMs do, with earning serious money on the US after-dinner speaking circuit. The possibility that some formula will be devised to facilitate his exit, possibly a supposed medical retirement, looks likely.

After all, he’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had. Why would he wait until he is sacked from this one?

See: Time For the Pavilion (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

I found this interesting in that it showed that there is grounds for optimism amongst the gloom. The Tories have a huge majority, but it’s fragile. Very fragile. If Starmer actually got his act together and started behaving like a leader of real opposition party, he could start cutting it down significantly. But he doesn’t, perhaps because, as a Blairite, the only policy he has is stealing the Tories’ and winning the support of their voters, and backers in big business and the Tory media. Hence his silence and his determination to persecute the socialists in the Labour party.

It also shows just how much damage the ‘No Deal’ Brexit Johnson seems determined to deliver will do to Britain. It’s going to wipe out nearly 2/3 of our manufacturing industry. This won’t matter for the Tories or Blairite Labour. Blair took the view that British manufacturing was in decline, and that it could be successfully replaced by the financial sector. This hasn’t happened. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very clearly that the British and other economies still depend very much on the manufacturing sector. The fact that it appears comparatively small to other sectors of the economy merely means that it hasn’t grown as much as they have. It does not mean that it is irrelevant.

And it also shows once again how this chaos and poverty is being driven by a desire to protect the Tories’ backers in the financial sector, and the foreign companies owning our utilities, as well as the British rich squirreling their money away in tax havens. Shaw pointed this all out in once of his books written nearly a century ago, condemning the way the idle rich preferred to spend their money on their vapid pleasures on the continent, while the city preferred to invest in the colonies exploiting Black Africans instead of on domestic industry. He stated that while the Tories always postured as the party of British patriotism, the opposite was the truth: it was the Labour party that was genuinely patriotic, supporting British industry and the people that actually worked in it.

Shaw was right then, and he’s right now, no matter how the Tories seek to appeal to popular nationalistic sentiment through images of the Second World War and jingoistic xenophobia about asylum seekers. The Tories haven’t backed British industry since Thatcher and Major sold it all off. The only way to build Britain back up is to get rid of her legacy.

Which means getting rid of Johnson, the Tories and Starmer.

Is the BBC Really Trying to Change the Name of the Anglo-Saxon Period Because They Think It’s Racist?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 1:36am in

Simon Webb posted this video on his ‘History Debunked’ channel nearly three weeks ago, on the 23 November 2020. In it he discusses the BBC’s decision to stop calling the period between the departure of the Romans in 410 AD and the Norman Conquest of 1066 the ‘Anglo-Saxon period’ because the term is apparently perceived as racist. A BBC programme he was listening to on the radio referred to it as ‘the early medieval period’ and there is, or was, apparently, an article in the Corporation’s BBC History Magazine stating that there are moves to change it, as it deters Black people studying it because they associate ‘Anglo-Saxon’ with White supremacy. And in America there are moves to stop using the term altogether and simply refer to it as the early middle ages.

Webb takes this view that this is an attempt by the Beeb to rewrite the past so that it resembles the multicultural present. But he points out that his was the period when what had been Roman Britain was settled by Angles, Saxons and Jutes. ‘English’ comes from the word ‘Anglish’, for Angles, who also supplied the country’s name, England, from Engla Land, ‘Land of the Angles’. He states that this process of settlement is described in the last chapter of his book, Life in Roman London, published by the History Press, which is one of the few popular treatments of this subject. As for the term’s racial connotations, well, the Anglo-Saxons were White. Webb shakes his head in amazement at this attempt to rewrite history in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and wonders where it will end.

The BBC wish to replace longstanding historical expressions – YouTube

I’m not sure what’s actually going on here. Historians have referred to the period between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Norman Conquest for a long time as the early Middle Ages. It used to be referred to as the Dark Ages. Some older readers of this blog will no doubt remember Michael Wood’s great series, In Search of the Dark Ages, broadcast by the Beeb in the ’70s/’80s. However, historians and archaeologists have largely stopped calling the period that as more has been found out about it, and the period has increasingly seemed to be less dark. I think it might still be used for the couple of centuries after the departure of the Romans from Britain and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon England. Other terms used for those centuries are ‘Post-Roman’ and ‘Sub-Roman’. And the term ‘early Middle Ages’ of course makes perfect sense for the rest of Europe, which weren’t settled by the Anglo-Saxons, although northern Germany, the Netherlands and Jutland in Denmark were their ancestral homelands from which they migrated to Britain. The term also makes good sense for Ireland and the Celtic parts of modern Britain, Wales and Scotland. But in the context of English history, the period absolutely should be called the Anglo-Saxon period. That’s what the people, who founded and created England have been called following King Alfred himself. There were Black people seen in the British Isles and Ireland during this period. Round about the 8th-9th century or so the Vikings of Dublin brought in a shipload of ‘blamenn’ – blue, or Black men. I think the historian David Olusoga has also talked about the arrival of another shipload of Black people in Cumbria round about the same period. Medieval people certainly knew that Black people existed. They describe them as living in Africa and believed they had acquired their Black complexion through being burnt by the sun. But Black people in Europe at the time would have been very, very rare and the vast majority of the population would have been White. That’s not racism, but a simple statement of historical fact.

I’m afraid that racism has cast a very long shadow over this period ever since the Nazis. For many years I was a member of a Dark Age re-enactment society, Regia Anglorum. This tried to recreate the history of the British Isles round about 1066. While re-enactment in Britain is largely acceptable, except for World War II, or at least, the idiots who want to dress up as the SS, in Germany it’s regarded very much with loathing and contempt. This is because of the appropriation of the history and archaeology of the Teutonic tribes and the Vikings by the Nazis. The overtly Fascist fringe has done the same over here, harking back to the Celts and especially the Anglo-Saxons. As a result, some perfectly historical symbols were banned for very obvious reasons. Some of the pottery from migration period Anglo-Saxon graves is decorated with the Swastika, and you can find it on rock carvings in Scandinavia. But obviously no self-respecting re-enactor for the early middle ages is going to use it on their clothing or equipment because of the connections with Nazism. I can’t talk about re-enactment as a whole, as it’s a very large milieu and there were are large number of different groups, but the organisation I joined was very definitely non-racist and certainly had members from different ethnic groups. A number of the people in Regia when I was there, including some of its leading members, were Jewish. And their religion made absolutely no difference to anyone, whatsoever.

From what I can make out, there was little racism in Europe until after the Middle Ages. There was conflict between ethnic groups, states and nations, but little in the way of racism based on colour. From what I’ve read I think that modern racism really emerged through transatlantic slavery, although I think that the wars with darker skinned people, such as the Arabs and Moors during the Crusades and the Muslim conquest of the Balkans also played a part. The term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in ‘Anglo-Saxon’ history, simply refers to a period. It has, or shouldn’t have, any connotations of racism or White supremacism.

This needs to be got across, assuming that some people genuinely feel that it is somehow racist and that this isn’t a misperception or exaggerated reaction by whoever makes these judgements after Black Lives Matter. But to stop calling that period of English history ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is in itself a falsification of history. It should go on being called the Anglo-Saxon period, but also made clear, if necessary, that it is an historical term, not one from any racial or racist ideology.

Scottish currency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 7:15pm in

There are two straightforward reasons for sharing this tweet here.

The first is to promote the Scottish Currency Group, to which I am an adviser.

The second is to promote the Common Weal podcast on Scottish currency linked through it. Common Weal is always worth listening to, but I am biased as I have worked with it as well.

I am unapologetic for making the plugs.

Why is Scotland still debating whether it will need its own currency when independent when the answer is so glaringly obviously that it will?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 5:50pm in

There is still an ongoing debate on whether Scotland would need its own currency immediately after independence. I am baffled by this. The answer is yes if Scotland wants to really be independent. It's as simple as that. I explain why in this video.

‘I’ Article on Companies Developing Technology to Cleanse Air of CO2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 10:08pm in

This is interesting. It might be another corporate puffpiece, but if it’s genuine then it does seem that some of the technology in SF novels about combating climate change might be coming true.

In its edition for Saturday, 28th Novewmber 2020, the newspaper ran this story ‘Conjuring a climate solution out of thin air’ by Maeleine Cuff, subtitled ‘Giant machines that can suck CO2 out of the atmosphere? This is no sci-fi’. It said

Scientists agree that global climate targets are slipping out of reach. To keep warming below 1.5 C – the “safe” climate threshold – the world will have to work out a way to remove 100 to 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere this century.

Enter direct air capture (DAC). It is an offshoot of carbon capture and storage, whereby pollution from factories and power plants is trapped and stored underground. DAC takes that one step further, focusing on pulling the gas directly from the air. That is a tougher ask, because CO2 in our air is at much lower concentrations than in the flue gases of a power plant. But DAC technology can scale, it could give humankind the power to control global pollution levels.

This month the Government pledged £1bn to the creation of four industrial carbon capture clusters, which will trap emissions from industry and pipe them out to sea for storage.

There are signs a breakthrough might be close. Swiss firm Climeworks has built a handful of DAC plants across Europe. Orca, under construction in Iceland, will be the world’s biggest facility when it opens next year, capable of removing four million tons of CO2 every year. Canadian rival Carbon Engineering, meanwhile, is building a plant that could suck away a mikllion tons a year.

Both use chemical reactions to bind CO2 molecules, drawing them away from the other gases that make up our air. The CO2 can then be pumped underground for storage or used with hydrogen to make low-carbon fuels.

In the UK, the captured CO2 is most likely to be pumped into spent oil and natural gas fields in the North Sea. There is little need to worry about it escaping once it has been stored, says Professor Stuart Haszeldine, an expert in carbon capture technologies at the University of Edinburgh. “We know how to do this,” he says. “We know what the engineering is. And most importantly we know how to behave and and remediate this if something does go a bit wrong.

Climeworks is partnering with Icelandic start-up Carbfix to store its CO2 safely in basalt rock, “Even if you have an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, it cannot come out again,” says Christoph Beuttler from Climeworks.

It is still early stages for DAC – there are only 15 plants in North America and Europe – and the tech remains very expensive.

Costs should come down, however, as efficiency improves. Climeworks thinks it can reduce the cost of extracting a ton of carbon dioxide from $1,000 to $100 within a decade. But DAC is never going to be a cheap option. “The fact is, it is going to be easier to decarbonise a lot industrial processes than it is to build an entire sector from a standing start,” says Dr Mark Workman, a carbon storage expert at Imperial College London.

There is also a fierce debate over who will pay for it. Most experts think governments will have to force the creation of a new market. That could be in the form of subsidy regime, or with legislation to force fossil-fuel producers to arrange for storage.

A hike in VAT to pay for the polution caused by goods and services has also been mooted, placing the cost on a public who, Dr Workman argues, are not prepared for the scale of such a challenge. “We are going to remove an invisible gas and store it in invisible storage sites. And we are going to be talking vast quantities of money – tens, if not hundreds of billions of pounds,” he says. “There is does need to be a much broader social dialogue about this.”

There was also a boxed article on the same page, ‘DAC in the UK’, which ran

In St Fergus on the east coast of Scotland, Pale Blue Dot Energy wants to build not only a carbon storage hub for Scotland but also the UK’s first direct air capture (DAC) system. It has teamed up with Canadian firm Carbon Engineering to get a DAC site up and running by 2026.

It faces a race to be the UK’s first DAC plant. Climeworks tells I the Government’s funding announcement means it is now looking at expanding into the UK too.

Stephen Baxter predicted this kind of technology in one of his ‘Xelee’ novels. Set centuries in the future, Earth is tackling the problem of global warming by freezing the Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere and turning them into giant balls of dry ice. The planet’s waste heat is also dumped into space by beams of giant lasers.

No-one’s talking about giant lasers just yet, the use of technology to scrub the atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide does seem to be close. It’s just that at the moment it’s too massively expensive to be practical on a large scale. Perhaps a new technological breakthrough will be needed before it becomes really affordable.

Pages