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Bristol’s Elected Mayor Supports Schools That Refuse to Open

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 2:31am in

Boris Johnson is desperate to get the children back to school as quickly as possible if he can, and has decided that schools will reopen next week for children of specific ages. Parents and teachers are naturally worried about this, especially as the public schools won’t reopen until September. It seems to be once again one law for the plebs and another for the entitled rich. And once again, Boris is utterly complacent about the health and welfare of ordinary people in his desire to get the economy moving once again. So long as the elite don’t get it, he’s not worried.

Mike has published a series of pieces about this, including the very strict regulations governing the movement of young children when they return to the classroom. Mike has commented that this seems less like schooling and more like a prison. The Tories have tried to justify this by pointing to Denmark, which has already allowed its children to return to school. This is not the first time the Tories have embarked on a disastrous policy and tried to justify it as just following the Danes. And that makes me wonder what else they aren’t telling us about our friends across the North Sea. Way back in the 1990s the Tories laid off a vast number of civil servants. This, they declared, would cut bureaucracy and reinvigorate the economy. The Danes had done it, and so boosted theirs. But they didn’t follow the Danish policy absolutely. It had worked in Denmark, I was told by a Danish friend, because their government had given its departing state bureaucrats very handsome final payments of about £40,000 or more, and encouraged them to set up their own businesses. The Tories didn’t do any of this. They just laid people off. This also had a knock on effect on the economy. I’ve heard that for every civil service job, there’s 1 1/2 jobs supported by it in the wider economy, as those employed by the state purchase goods and services. Which meant that when our civil servants were kicked out, they took an awful lot of other people in private industry with them. Now that the Tories are telling us that the Danes are sending their children back to school, I do wonder what it is that the Danes are doing right, which our benighted government isn’t and won’t tell us about.

Mike has also put up a piece on his blog examining the question of parental responsibility if a child contracts the Coronavirus or the Kawasaki disease from school. It seems very clear – in British law parents are held accountable if they send their child to a hazardous environment and as a result they become ill or injured. This is regardless whether they have been urged or told to do so by the government. Parents therefore have a very strong case for refusing to allow their children to go to school if they are afraid for their safety.

Civil disobedience: would parents be irresponsible to send their children back to school now?

These concerns are also shared by Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, and his cabinent. Like many Bristolians I received an email last Wednesday from Rees discussing what he and his team were doing about the coronavirus. Rees particularly mentioned schools and stated that he supported those schools that would remain closed. Rees said

Our city’s teachers and school staff have been working even harder than ever to keep schools open for children who are vulnerable and whose parents are key workers. Rather than accepting the 1 June date from the Government, Councillor Anna Keen, a local schoolteacher and our cabinet member for education, and our education team have met regularly with head teachers. The government made the schools opening a binary debate by not discussing their announcement with unions but I am afraid this has been consistent with their continuing failure to engage with cities on decisions, throughout the crisis. 

We have also met with school leaders representing teaching and children across Bristol throughout the pandemic, listening carefully to their views and concerns. It was very clear that they did not want a blanket approach across Bristol – and the teaching unions in Bristol support this too.

Like other councils, our position is clear:  schools should stay closed until they can begin to reopen safely. We are 100% backing teachers to work with parents and communities to make decisions on how their schools return, as Anna’s blog set out on Wednesday.

We also backed the unions’ calls for scientific advice on child transmission to be published. From the start of last week, all parents and carers have begun receiving a letter from the council, via schools, to remind them that they do not have to send their children in and that they should not expect their school to open on a particular date, in a particular way.

The Tories and their pet press and media have done their best to portray those teachers and unions objecting to schools reopening as selfish and unconcerned with the welfare of their pupils. This is the opposite of the truth. I realise that there are bad, sometimes terribly bad teachers, but most teachers are very concerned about the performance and wellbeing of their charges. But the Tories have always hated teachers and demonised them as part of their campaign to break the unions, privatise education and indoctrinate them with approved Tory values. This latest attack on teachers worried for the health of their students is just more of this same rubbish.

I’m not a great fan of Rees. He’s made some decisions for Bristol that have been very foolish, and has alienated many people in south Bristol with his refusal to accept residents’ plans for housing development in Hengrove Park in favour of his own scheme, which was rejected by the regulator. But this time Rees is right.

He and Bristol’s school heads and teacher are worried about schoolchildren’s health and protection against the Coronavirus. Boris isn’t, and shouldn’t be believed whatever comes out of his mouth.

Captain Moore’s Fundraising Is an Indictment as well as an Achievement

There was praise and celebrations across the country and, indeed, some others, yesterday at the news that Captain Tom Moore had succeeded in raising £15 million for the NHS by doing laps around his garden, all at the grand old age of 99. It’s an inspiring feat, for which Captain Moore rightly deserves the all the praise he received. The army also did their bit by providing him with a guard of honour as he did his laps.

But Mike also put up a provocative piece yesterday, which while also celebrating Captain Moore, also pointedly argues that his fundraising feat is also an indictment and distraction. It’s an indictment of the way the Tories have kept the NHS underfunded. And it’s also a distraction from the Tories catastrophic mishandling of this crisis. It keeps attention away from crucial issues, such as:

The Tories were told to buy equipment, including for ventilators and PPE, after the Health Service’s preparedness for a pandemic was tested in 2016. They didn’t.

We need mass testing to combat the epidemic, but the Tories have so far only managed 35,000 a day, and that’s reluctantly.

The disease chiefly affects those at the bottom of society, which is why ethnic minorities are disproportionately likely to suffer from it.

Mike asks why no-one in the mainstream media is asking why the Tories aren’t funding the NHS properly. And he concludes that as poor people are more likely to die than the very rich, the Tories will keep on distracting us until they decide that enough of us have died.

Cpt Tom Moore hasn’t really been found fit for work – but his fundraising shows the NHS isn’t either

These are excellent points.

The fact that no one is asking why the NHS is so underfunded is a terrifying demonstration of the way 40 years of Thatcherism has normalised charity work standing in for state provision. Thatcher wanted to dismantle the welfare state completely, including privatising the NHS. She was only prevented by doing so by a massive cabinet revolt, but since then the Tories and Blue Labour – the Blairites – have been privatising the NHS by stealth. One of the reasons Thatcher wanted to abolish the welfare state, apart from the fact that she saw it as supporting idlers – a view which she also shared with the Nazis, who called such people ‘asocial’ – was because she thought it discouraged traditional charity. If the welfare state was dismantled, the poor would not suffer, or at least, the deserving poor wouldn’t, because human generosity lead people to give more to charity. Over the other side of the Pond, former Democratic president Bill Clinton expressed this in a speech in which he said there couldn’t be a government programme for every issue, and so turned instead to private charity. And where Clinton led, Blair followed, trying to transform the Labour party into a slightly more liberal version of the Tories in the same way that Clinton had taken over much of the free market, anti-welfare ideology of the Republicans in the US. He was also profoundly influenced by Thatcher, who reciprocated, calling him her greatest achievement.

Later on, however, it appears that Thatcher realised her views about private charity were wrong. It doesn’t work like that, and is no substitute for state provision. People have not become more generous. In America, it must be recognised that religious Conservatives are, on average, more generous donors to charity than secular liberals. But charity simply isn’t able to alleviate poverty and deal with issues such as lack of proper healthcare, homelessness and so on as state action in the economy and proper welfare provision. But governments have carried on as though it was.

Thus we have continued fundraising drives for hospitals and other parts of the health service. Schools are also expected to raise part of their budgets through private fundraising by teachers and parents. And a 99 year old man has had to raise money that the government should have provided anyway as a matter of course. To which you can add that now millions of people are being kept from starvation by private charity – food banks – instead of getting the money they need to live, eat, heat their homes and clothe themselves and their families from the welfare state.

A similar point was made a few years ago by one of the American left-wing news sites on YouTube. This was after it was reported that some American teachers were too poor to run cars, but were nevertheless still determined to do their best for their pupils. The media was praising their heartwarming dedication, just as the media yesterday praised Captain Moore’s heartwarming good deed. But the news site argued that such poverty wasn’t heartwarming. Quite the opposite. Dedicated teachers deserved to be paid properly, so that they could afford possessions like cars that everyone else takes for granted.

As for distracting us from the way the government’s repeated failures is killing us, Mike has got a point. During a period of revolutionary ferment, I can’t remember whether it was the 18th or the 19th century, Austria’s chief of police or minister in charge of security was asked if he didn’t think the theatres should be closed. He replied that he wanted them kept open to divert the people away from revolution. And so we have the unedifying spectacle of the press and media encouraging us to praise the great heroes of the medical, care and other workers, who are doing their level best to combat this disease. And all the while the same newspapers have vilified the NHS, junior doctors and other medical staff for resisting Tory NHS reforms and demanding higher pay. It’s particularly disgusting that so many of those, who have lost their lives are members of ethnic minorities that the Tories have done everything they can to smear and deport. One of them came back yesterday with a poem, ‘Will You Still Clap me?’, which pointedly asked whether Brits would still continue to appreciate the contribution BAME people give our society after the crisis is over. It’s clearly struck a nerve, as the head of UKIP denounced it, as has right-wing internet personality Sargon of Gasbag, I mean Akkad.

Mike and Zelo Street have written excellent pieces attacking such hypcrisy, which can be seen at:

‘You Clap For Me Now’ poem highlights hypocrisy of coronavirus response



I am not decrying for a single moment Captain Moore’s splendid fundraising effort. He deserves all the praise he gets. But the NHS also deserves to be properly funded, its workers to be properly equipped and paid, and the British people to have a proper welfare state that gives people the right money they needed to support themselves. And they absolutely deserve a far, far better media than the one we now have, which refuses to raise these issues.

As for the Tories, all they deserve is our utter, unreserved contempt.




Rachel Riley Fans Bully Ken Loach into Resigning as Anti-Racism Judge

Okay, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented public health emergency, a global pandemic that is forcing country after country across the world to go into lockdown. The French passed legislation a week or so ago stipulating that citizens had to have documented permission in order to leave the homes. Earlier this week our clown of a Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, appeared on television to tell us that he was ordering us, with certain exception, to stay in our homes. The exceptions are key workers and people caring for the sick. You are allowed to leave home to get food and other necessary visits. But that’s it. Shops, businesses and libraries are closing, and there are to be no public gatherings of more than two people.

The crisis has brought out the very best and worse of people. People are going round to check on and run errands for neighbours in high-risk categories, such as those over 70, and those with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable, like cancer patients. On the other hand, we’ve also seen mobs clearing the shelves of food and toilet paper in supermarkets and stores, hoarding them and so preventing others, like the elderly, sick and healthcare workers, from acquiring them. One of my neighbours was so upset when she personally saw this happening when she went shopping that she burst into tears in her car.

But one person the crisis hasn’t affected is Rachel Riley. She appears to be as squalid, mean-spirited, spiteful and bigoted as ever. She, Oberman and a female hack had tried to get Ken Loach and Michael Rosen dropped from judging a competition organised by the anti-racist organisation, Show Racism the Red Card, because she decided they were anti-Semites. The accusation’s risible. Ken Loach is a left-wing film auteur, who is passionately anti-racist. And that includes fighting anti-Semitism. Of course the Thatcherites inside and outside the Labour party and the Israel lobby tried to smear him as anti-Semite a year or so ago because he has directed a film attacking Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. But he enjoys the support of very many anti-racist, self-respecting Jews in the Labour Party. When he appeared at a meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour, he was given a standing ovation.

As for Michael Rosen, not only is the accusation risible, it’s also personally offensive. Rosen’s Jewish, though this doesn’t bother the smear merchants. They seem to especially delight in smearing Jews, who dare to have the temerity to demonstrate that Judaism does not equal Zionism. Indeed, there is, or was, a bit of graffiti on a wall in Jerusalem stating ‘Judaism and Zionism are diametrically opposed’. This is an attitude completely alien to the Jewish establishment. As Tony Greenstein has pointed out time and again, the current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis grew up in apartheid South Africa and a right-wing settlement on land stolen from the Palestinians, and led a British contingent on the March of the Flags. This is the annual event when Israeli bovver-boys goose step through the Muslim sector of Jerusalem, vandalising property and trying to intimidate the locals. Rosen is an author, poet and broadcaster. He was the Children’s Poet Laureate. I believe he has, like so many other Jewish Brits, lost relatives in the Shoah. He is a Holocaust educator, and appeared before parliament to testify about it. Like Loach, he is very, very definitely no kind of anti-Semite or Nazi. But because he dared to support Jeremy Corbyn, Riley and the other smear merchants attacked him.

Show Racism the Red Card defied the smear campaign of Riley and her fans. The organisation had received statements from people from all walks of life supporting Loach and Rosen. It therefore announced that they were delighted to have them as judges. That should have been it. But it wasn’t. Riley issued another Tweet claiming that Loach is a Holocaust denier. This was because Loach had initially supported another person, whom he believed had been unfairly accused of anti-Semitism. When he found out that the woman really was an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, he cut off all further communication. Riley deleted this Tweet, but the damage was done. Her fans and others, who had been taken in by her lie bombarded Loach and his family with abuse and threats. He has now been forced to withdraw as a judge.

Mike put up a piece commenting on this vile behaviour. He pointed out that Riley will continue bullying and smearing people until she’s stopped. He’s currently fighting a libel case brought by her, despite Riley not challenging the facts on which Mike based his statement that Riley had bullied a schoolgirl for being anti-Semitic, simply because she supported Corbyn. Mike appealed once again for donations, as justice is expensive. If he wins his case, it just might stop her trying to use the law to smear, bully and silence others. See his article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/03/18/sickening-bullying-of-innocents-shows-riley-wont-stop-until-she-is-made-to/

Riley’s tactic of posting and then deleting a Tweet that could be considered libelous and an incitement to intimidation is shared by another noxious character: Tommy Robinson. The arch-islamophobe with convictions for assault and contempt of court has a habit of turning up on the doorsteps of his critics, or their elderly parents, with a couple of mates, demanding a word at all hours of the day and night. He’s also handy at dishing out smears. Mike Stuchbery, one of his most persistent critics, has been forced out of his job as a teacher and live abroad, after Robinson and his crew turned up late one night at his house, banging on the walls and windows and accusing him of being paedophile. It wasn’t remotely true, but then, as Boy George sang so long ago, ‘truth means nothing in some strange quarters’. Robinson also gets his followers to persecute and intimidate his critics, and then also denies he has deliberately provoked them. He denounces and doxes them on the Net, posting details of their home addresses, which he then deletes. No, he wasn’t sending his followers round to threaten them. It was all a mistake, and he took the offending Tweet or post off the Net as soon as possible. It’s all ‘plausible deniability’.

And Riley seems to have adopted the same tactic.

Which shouldn’t surprise anybody, considering how closely linked the Israel lobby is with the EDL. Tony Greenstein, in particularly, has documented and photographed various occasions in which pro-Israel, anti-Palestine protesters have turned up virtually arm in arm with the EDL’s squadristi. I am not accusing Riley of being an islamophobe, but she’s adopting their tactics.

She’s disgusting, and it’s long past time when anyone stopped believing her lies and abuse. I hope Mike will be able to do this when he finally has his day against her in court. Not just for Mike, but for everyone else she’s threatened, bullied and smeared.

What next for CORE?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/03/2020 - 3:21am in

In our previous blog from our 2020 symposium at the Bank of England we covered what we have achieved so far. But most of our agenda was dedicated, quite rightly, to what comes next. Here are three highlights from the day.

Encouraging more student participation in economics

One of the inspirations for CORE was the pent-up frustration of students on economics courses, many of whom seemed to view these courses as something that was done to them, rather than something that they participated in. This should be a golden age to study economics, and to use that knowledge to change the world for the better. Students still deserve more from their courses to help them along that path, and we’re working with teachers to find more ways in which they can use the principles they learn in CORE to understand the world, and maybe use economics to change it.

As Wendy Carlin, project director at CORE, told the learners in our audience, “We want more curious students to create a stronger democracy, and better policies.”

At the symposium we welcomed two inspirational groups of students who showed us how they had taken CORE’s principles and used them to help explain their experience of the world around them. From the University of Stirling Management School, MSc business students Anja Gaenssle, Kriti Singhal, Wenjun Ma, and Ashan Abeyratne spoke about how they had applied concepts like game theory, feasible sets, and other-regarding preferences to understand news and current events.

“CORE has provided a practical platform to decode social news,” Ashan said. “”The relevance of economics for us has been rekindled,” Kriti agreed.

Also visiting from the University of Exeter, Jiangshan Li, Gadibalwe Masalela and Nariman Hanno, three students from the quantitative methods course taught by Carlos Cortinhas that uses projects from Doing Economics, spoke about their project to explore how governments could measure support for policies to mitigate climate change.

Creating a more diverse economic profession

“We have a pipeline that is more male and privately educated than other university disciplines,” says Sarah Smith, head of Economics at the University of Bristol, “Economics has an image problem.”

Sarah is one of the organisers of Discover Economics, the Royal Economic Society-backed initiative to bring the excitement of economics to schools, not least those that have no economics teaching. We support the effort, and have also been attempting to create an economics teaching that is more relevant to women and people of colour.

Discover Economics aims to interest a more diverse group of school students in taking economics. It’s clear that to be part of this effort, we need to work as much as we can with schools, to reach children as they make important decisions between the ages of 15 and 17. Discover Economics is doing this by, among other things, creating a team of student ambassadors to visit schools.

Our attempt to reach potential economics students in secondary education has just begun, and we intend to do more. In France, Econofides already recasts our material for 260,000 school students each year. In the UK CORE’s Schools Economics Challenge has proved popular. Andrew Sykes, head of economics at St Paul’s School and a member of the CORE team who focuses on outreach to schools point out that the challenge, which asks students to use CORE’s material to make a video, doesn’t just develop technical economics skills: it helps show students that economics is about problem-solving, creativity, and evaluating a wide range of ideas. “The skills that the competition develops in partnering are especially important,” he explains.

The Economy 2.0

Every year we make word clouds of what students tell us are the pressing problems in society that economics should be addressing. We have noticed that the word clouds have recently changed. First, look at this one, drawn from responses given by the Bank of England’s new recruits in 2016:

Sam Bowles, whose work has steered CORE’s content since the outset, points out that inequality has been a “Golden thread” through our treatment of the economy: why are some nations and people rich, and others poor? How does the power or individuals or groups change the possible outcomes in society? What is fair, what is feasible, and how should policymakers respond? We have dragged these ideas, normally kept for later studies in economics, into introductory courses, where they should have been for many years already.

Now look at this word cloud from UCL’s new intake of economics students in 2019:

Note the difference.

It is clear that mitigating the effects of the climate crisis present an important set of challenges for the next generation of economics policymakers, many of whom are now students who will be studying CORE in the next few years. Sam argued that this crisis mirrors the changes in the world that inspired the last great revision of introductory teaching, Economics by Paul Samuelson, published in 1948. “I suggest that climate change is today what the great depression was for Samuelson,” he said, and so will have a much greater influence on The Economy‘s next version, just as the crisis will have a much greater influence on public policy.

Our existing emphasis on the biosphere, sustainability, and social preferences have all been innovations for introductory courses, but climate change means the innovations are just beginning: students need an economics in which change is not always marginal, and in which social preferences and positive feedbacks create sudden jumps, tipping points and multiple equilibria.

“What will a non-marginal economics look like?” Bowles asks, pointing out that we already have some clues from CORE’s existing units on the environment and financial crises. Look at figures 17.24 and 20.24 in The Economy, dealing with tipping points in the housing market and climate:

“We want to make the modelling of instability and non-marginal changes essential tools in introductory economics,” Sam says, “These are really hard problems and we need all your help … but we think we can do it.”

The post What next for CORE? appeared first on CORE.

Turning Point UK Preparing Anti-Academic Witch Hunt

There’s some areas of the American right still pining for the days of the McCarthy witch hunts. And unfortunately, it looks like they want to export them to these shores as well. Turning Point UK is one of them. If you don’t remember, Turning Point UK is the British spawn of the American Conservative outfit, Turning Point USA. Founded by the repulsive Charlie Kirk, who ‘LIVES AS A CAPITALIST EVERY DAY’, as he shouted at the Young Turks’ Cenk Uighur, this is supposed to be dedicated to inspiring young people with right-wing ideals, turning back the evil tides of liberalism, socialism and so forth. Its British branch got off to a notoriously bad start when Candace Owens, another prominent American rightist, told the assembled faithful at its inauguration that Adolf Hitler wasn’t really a nationalist. She declared that what he did would have been all right if he’d stuck to his own country, but he wanted to make everyone German. This was the opposite of nationalism. This was the opposite of history and morality, as was soon pointed out to her. TPUK have kept a quiet profile since. So much so that it has been suggested that the outfit is no more than a trick to part elderly American Conservatives from their money through encouraging them to donate to it, so little has it actually done. Unfortunately, it still seems to be around and making a nuisance of itself. Zelo Street has posted a couple of articles about the organisation posting attack ads libeling former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey as anti-Semites, terrorist supporters and claiming they aid paedophiles.

And now Zelo Street has also reported that one of its scummy number has announced on Twitter that they want to import their parent organisation’s campaign of blacklisting left-wing academics. TPUSA has a ‘Professor Watchlist’ of academics they claim have a ‘left-wing agenda’. One critic, the Skeptical Seventh, has said of this that “They must know that what they are doing will lead to people being harassed, being shut down … It is undermining academic freedom, which is ironic for an organisation that claims to be in favour of free speech”. Yes, but for them it’s a case of free speech for me, but not for thee. However, the Beeb reported that it had been told by Dominique Samuels, one of the TPUK’s influencers, that they wouldn’t be introducing that policy over here.

This has been flat-out contradicted by the odious Darren Grimes. Grimes was upset when Priyamvada Gopal, a lecturer at Cambridge, tweeted a particularly apt quote from Lord Macauley to describe Priti Patel. She said:  “We should acknowledge, as we look at Priti Patel, that there was one very successful cultural eugenics project: ‘We must at present do our best to form…a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect’”. This was too much for Grimes, who didn’t recognise the quote, and ranted  “This person is a lecturer at Cambridge. Is it any wonder our students are churned out of these university factories like hard-left, braindead sheep when this is what is teaching them?! What a truly bloody horrendous thing to think, never mind tweet”. Gopal herself was highly amused by Grimes’ reaction. She said “Before I withdraw again for a bit, I thought I should share my enjoyment of Mr Grimes’ condemnation of Lord Macaulay’s  ‘truly bloody horrendous thing to think’ … The great thing about British far-right is their complete ignorance of their own history &  literature”. Macauley’s comment demanding the anglicisation of Indians is notorious. It frequently appears in textbooks as an illustration of the hostile attitude of the British colonisers to their subject peoples’ indigenous cultures.

The TPUK twitter feed then joined in with the ominous statement “Our uni campuses are overrun by leftist lecturers who teach their overt political bias as objective truth. This is not ok. The fight back begins now. Introducing ‘Education Watch’: Documenting University Lecturers’ Political Bias”.

This is, as Zelo Street has commented, the right using the false assumption that not only do they have the right to their own opinions, but also their facts, to start a witch hunt. And as Grimes was at the launch of Toby Young’s wretched Free Speech Union, it also shows that’s a sham as well.

Paul Bernal, an associate professor of Law at UEA, commented: “Can I just ask, what do the thought-police *want* us lefty academics to teach our students? Obviously facts are out. Analysis is against the law. Nothing foreign. Nothing expert”.

Tim concluded his article on this latest right-wing assault on free speech with the observation that TPUK were obviously trying to whip up hate and harassment because they were so desperate for the publicity. And so he was sure that they would be condemned by all good Conservatives.


Let’s be clear what Turning Point are demanding – the harassment and purging from academic of lecturers, whose politics they disapprove of. This is a feature of just about every totalitarian regime and movement. The Italian Fascists did it. The Nazis did it in the ‘coordination’ of the universities, which saw Jews and Marxists purged. The Communists did it. And it got really unpleasant in China under Mao during the Cultural Revolution, when children were called upon to denounce their parents and teachers. The BNP or National Front also tried something like it in Britain in the 1980s. They urged nationalist schoolchildren to write to them informing on ‘Communist’ teachers. They would then send a couple of their thugs round to assault them. TPUK haven’t called for having them attacked, but this is what such a list would lead to.

As for this wave of left-wing lecturers churning out a generation of impressionable kids indoctrinated with cultural Marxism or whatever, this is, in my opinion, somewhat of an hysterical overreaction. Yes, there are outspoken left-wing academics, and always have been. But there are also Conservatives and all shades of political opinion in between. And, with a few obvious exceptions, such as those calling for sectarian or racist violence and hatred, for example, they should all have the right to teach what they believe to be objective fact. Because this is what democracy and freedom of speech means.

Freedom of speech and conscience means putting up with speech, ideas and opinions of which you don’t necessarily approve. It certainly does not mean tolerating only those opinions that you share. That, whether done by the left or the right, leads to intolerance and persecution.

And in the intellectual context, it also means the massive impoverishment of national culture. As a result of the Nazi purges of the universities and the arts, German culture suffered immensely. That of other countries, particularly America, benefited immensely, as talented scientists, mathematicians, writers, film-makers and artists took sanctuary on the other side of the Pond. It’s been said that if the Nazis hadn’t taken power, and pushed their greatest minds abroad, the 20th would have been hailed as the German century rather than the American.

This is what Turning Point would like to do to America, and which their equally idiotic counterparts on this side of the Pond would like to do over here – a stifling, stagnant, impoverished culture in order to enforce their own intellectual agenda.


As Media Amplifies Unrest in Venezuela and Beyond, Millions Are Quietly Revolting in Colombia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 7:53am in

Many of the massive anti-neoliberal protest movements that exploded across the globe last year have pressed on into 2020, especially those that rose up throughout Latin America. Many of those demonstrations — clearly newsworthy due to their enormous size, composition, and motives — were and continue to be ignored by prominent English language news outlets, essentially creating a media blackout of these movements.

This trend has been particularly magnified in Latin American countries whose current governments are closely allied with the United States, with Colombia, in particular, standing out. Despite being faced with protests from hundreds of thousands of people fueled by anger over state corruption, proposed neoliberal reforms and a spike in murders of social leaders, the unrest in Colombia has garnered remarkably little international media attention.

In contrast, U.S.-supported right-wing movements attempting to topple socialist governments like those in Venezuela and Bolivia have received a great deal of coverage and open support from both the media and the political class.

It is certainly telling that international media outlets largely ignored the protests of Colombia’s teachers, who were motivated to act largely due to a dangerous wave of violence targeting them incited by the government itself, leading to several murders and hundreds of death threats in the span of just a few months. Colombia’s President Iván Duque’s political mentor Álvaro Uribe, himself president between 2002 and 2010, accused the country’s teachers of brainwashing the youth: “Teachers only teach them to yell and to insult, not how to debate, warping their minds,” he said.

That story was overlooked in the media, likely due to the close ties between the country’s conservative government and the United States. Colombia remains the continent’s top recipient of American military aid, despite the fact that the U.S. government itself has disclosed ties between Colombia’s military, former President Uribe and the illegal drug trade.


Colombian teachers protest to defend their lives

Of the recent protests that have taken place in Colombia, the strikes led by Colombian teachers and one of the main teachers’ unions in the country — the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fecode) — have received almost no coverage in English-language media. The Fecode-led strikes revolve not around demands for better wages or increased funding for public education but around the slew of death threats and recent murders that have targeted Colombia’s education workers.

“Our teachers continue to be threatened and attacked,” said Fecode head Nelson Alcaron, “This government is indolent. It isn’t taking measures to protect their lives,” he added, noting that 240 have been threatened this year alone. “We live in a country that kills children, that kills social leaders, with a government that is against peace…That is why we have to change something. We cannot continue to live like this,” another protester said.

Though the fact that Colombian teachers are protesting in defense of their very lives is clearly newsworthy, adding to the importance of the demonstrations is the fact that these murders and death threats are closely tied to Colombia’s current government led by President Iván Duque. Duque and his political allies have incited violence against the country’s teachers, and those affiliated with Fecode in particular. The president’s political party, the Democratic Center, have stepped up their rhetoric towards education workers, asserting that teachers’ unions, namely Fecode, “must disappear” while some Democratic Center politicians have moved to criminalize teacher protests and strikes and fire any teachers who make political statements deemed non-essential to the subject they teach.

Colombia Protest

Protesters hold signs that say “Teacher” in Spanish, during a march in Bogota, Colombia, Dec. 4, 2019. Fernando Vergara | AP

As these verbal attacks have grown, teachers in Colombia have been increasingly targeted, especially after Fecode-led strikes and demonstrations took place during the latter half of last year denouncing a new wave of threats towards teachers which they assert are linked to Duque’s political base. One demonstration in August was partially spurred by the brutal murder of school principal Orlando Gómez, who was abducted from the school where he worked and then murdered after having received numerous death threats for his educational work in the violence-plagued Cauca region.

As noted by Fecode during a 24-hour teacher strike “in defense of the lives of teachers” that took place last September, 10 teachers were murdered and another 700 received death threats during Duque’s first year in office. Fecode claimed the murders and death threats were directly related to “a systematic social media campaign of harassment and outright lies against educators and their students” led by Democratic Center activists and leaders.

Yet, since 2020 began, the wave in violence against teachers has continued to grow. In the first two weeks of February alone, one teacher was murdered, a regional coordinator of Fecode survived an assassination attempt, an entire school was forced to close down due to death threats made against teachers, and 15 Fecode-linked teachers were forced to flee the town where they lived and worked. Last week, death threats were sent to an additional 25 teachers ahead of their school’s plan to commemorate a massacre committed by a paramilitary group 25 years ago. In response to the wave of violence and threats, Fecode announced another strike to take place in coming weeks to both highlight and denounce the dangerous situation faced by Colombian teachers.


Western media ignore largest strike in over 40 years

One reason for the jump in violence targeting Fecode and Colombian teachers may be due to the fact that their demonstrations helped to spur much larger protests that have united diverse factions and groups in Colombian society in their opposition to various right-wing policies of the Colombian government. Following the Fecode-led demonstrations in August and September of last year, a massive national strike and anti-government protests saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets last November amid a backdrop of anti-government demonstrations in several other Latin American countries, including Chile and Ecuador. Today, seven million Colombian students have been left without teachers amid a massive strike.

The national strike was joined, not just by Fecode, but by the country’s labor unions, student groups, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and farmers, among others. It was the largest national strike to take place in Colombia since the late 1970s and was met by the Duque government with curfews, border closures, rubber bullets and teargas, with at least one person killed by a police projectile.

Since November, however, the national strikes and general anti-government sentiment have continued, with national strikes and related demonstrations taking place in December and January. Another strike is planned for Friday and a separate strike is scheduled to take place in March. Protest organizers asserted last month that these actions will continue “until something changes,” with the high rate of murders targeting social leaders remaining one of the main complaints of those demonstrating.

While the protests have gripped Colombia, they have barely been reported in the Western press, with coverage of the monthslong rebellion garnering barely a few, disinterested mentions. CNN, for example, appears not to have discussed the events for over two months. When mentioned at all, the idea that the protests are largely the result of “foreign meddling” (CNN) from Venezuela or “Russian trolls” (New York Times) is often floated.

Colombia protests media bias

Both CNN and the NYT were quick to write off popular protests in Colombia

In comparison, there was widespread coverage of and immediate support for the right-wing protests and coup attempt that brought down Bolivia’s socialist president Evo Morales in November, with media falsely claiming he had resigned (CBS News) due to election fraud (New York Times). Collectively, corporate media welcomed the fall of a supposed “full-blown dictatorship” (Miami Herald) and the “restoration of democracy” (The Economist).


State-backed terror and “low-intensity democracy” in Colombia

One reason for the lack of media coverage likely owes to the decades-long U.S.-Colombia alliance. In order to cover the popular movements against Duque’s government, the media would have to acknowledge the gravity of Colombia’s current situation, which would then increase international pressure on Duque and his administration to address the issues that motivate the protests, something the U.S. government does not support.

Duque was elected president in May 2018 to much fanfare from the Western press. The election took place under a generalized state of terror, his leftist challenger Gustavo Petro narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, while many of his supporters were less lucky. This was the first election in which the left felt they had a chance of gaining power since the assassination of President Jorge Gaitan in 1947, an event that sparked decades of civil war. Right-wing paramilitary death squads linked to the government issued public death threats, promising to kill those who voted for Petro. In addition to the intimidation tactics, there was also widespread vote buying; American human rights lawyer Daniel Kovalik, an election observer, was mistaken for a voter and offered money to vote for Duque. There were over 1,000 official electoral fraud complaints.

Colombia Protests

A campaign poster of presidential candidate Gustavo Petro in the “Bolivar 83” community in Zipaquira, June 16, 2018. Martin Mejia | AP

Despite this, corporate media heralded the flawed election as a victory for democracy, downplaying or flatly ignoring its failings. For example, CNN stressed that “though there have been isolated incidents of violence related to the election, they have been minimal,” suggesting that the only fear voters had was that Petro would swing the country “dangerously to the left.” Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera creatively told its readers that there was a “taboo” against voting for leftists in Colombia. After his victory, Donald Trump invited Duque to the White House where he said that it was “a great honor” to be “working very closely” with him, especially on regime change in Venezuela. In comparison, the Venezuelan election taking place at the same time, overseen and praised by 150 international observers was written off as a “heavily rigged” (New York Times) “farce cementing autocracy” (Huffington Post) and the “coronation of a dictator” (The Independent), despite the lack of evidence of fraud.

Duque, as previously mentioned, is the protege of Álvaro Uribe, a man once ranked by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency “on a list of 104 important narco-traffickers contracted by the Colombian narcotics cartels” and who was alleged to have served as the “head of Colombia’s paramilitary groups” by former paramilitary members prior to and during his time as president.

Under Uribe, the government carried out a years-long series of extrajudicial murders and massacres that resulted in over 10,000 deaths. Dubbed the “False Positives Scandal,” Colombian forces would murder anyone they wished, later claiming their victims were members of the leftist revolutionary army the FARC. Through this practice, the military could impose its rule across the country through terror and by disappearing those who opposed it. One member of Duque’s Democratic Center party, Senator Carlos Meisel, recently called for this Uribe-era program to be reinstated.

This policy was part of a longstanding partnership with the United States to control the country through force. Thousands of soldiers and other security forces have been trained at the notorious School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA (now rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security). There, recruits are taught that communist subversion is a cancer that must be immediately eradicated through force to ensure freedom across the Americas. They are instructed on torture techniques based off Gestapo manuals. Signs of communism, leaked instruction books show, include criticizing the judiciary or police, unrest among labor or student groups, striking, questioning the government, circulating petitions and refusing to pay rents and taxes. Indeed, as historian Doug Stokes found, one manual entitled Revolutionary War, Guerrillas and Communist Ideology noted that participation in the democratic process was a dangerous sign of subversion, as communists can “resort to subverting the government by means of elections in which the insurgents cause the replacement of an unfriendly government official to one favourable to their cause.”

The forces trained by the School of the Americas took the message to heart and made Colombia by far and away the most dangerous country in the world to be an activist. According to the United Nations, a minimum of 107 human rights defenders were killed in 2019, with the number of those killed in 2020 already hitting double digits, something the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights describes as a “staggering,” “vicious and endemic cycle of violence and impunity.” More trade unionists are killed in Colombia than all other countries combined, with over 2,000 killed between 1991 and 2006, alone according to Amnesty International. Meanwhile, 52 journalists have been killed since 1992, compared to just five in Venezuela (none of whom were killed by the government).

Uribe and other presidents partnered closely with the U.S. in its “Plan Colombia” program, a campaign ostensibly aimed at reducing drug production but whose real target was the local population and leftist militias such as FARC. Colombia has some of the most fertile, unspoiled land on the planet, and underneath lies a mountain of oil and valuable minerals. Under the guise of eradicating coca production, the U.S. and its local partners have forced millions of people off their ancestral land, impoverishing them in the process. And if they refuse to leave, they are often killed and labeled as FARC terrorists afterward.

As a consequence of near-constant violence, Colombia has the largest internally displaced population in the world. 16 percent of the country — some 7.7 million people — have been forced from their homes in a massively underreported genocide, a disproportionate amount of them from black or indigenous backgrounds. For context, Syria’s displaced population numbers 6.2 million.

Yet because Colombia has for decades been a close ally of the United States and Europe, the country continues to be referred to as a “democracy.” This has led to academics coming up with new phrases to explain the apparent paradox, including “low-intensity democracies,” “undemocratic democracies” and even “genocidal democracies.”

The fact that so many groups — students, unionists, victims of violence, farmers and teachers — are on the streets in such numbers protesting today is a testament to their fortitude, given the long history of violence meted out by the government and its death squads. But like in Chile, young and the disadvantaged are beginning to break the spell and lose their fear. While the outcome is far from certain, the conviction of those protesting is not in doubt.

Feature photo | Police detain a protester in Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 21, 2020. Student and labor groups called for new protests as they hope to reignite demonstrations against President Ivan Duque that brought thousands to the streets late last year with a wide range of grievances with his conservative government. Ivan Valencia | AP

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post As Media Amplifies Unrest in Venezuela and Beyond, Millions Are Quietly Revolting in Colombia appeared first on MintPress News.

The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 2: Sexism, Misogyny and Misandry

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/02/2020 - 5:35am in

In the first part of this post, I discussed some of the problems that may arise from all-Black and Asian election shortlists, as suggested by one of the candidates at the recent Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol. In this part I wish to examine some of the problems of the same candidate’s declaration that they were determined to fight misogyny. I am certainly not denying that sexism exists in society, and that women are very far from being equal. I realise that many women have struggled and continue to struggle to make themselves accepted in male-dominated professions and workplaces. I realise that there are many jobs not considered suitable for women. And I also realise that despite some women managing to break the ‘glass ceiling’ and reach the very heights of management, there are still very few female managing directors or chairs of companies. However, the situation is changing in some areas, and this is not reflected in the debate about sexism, sexual harassment or gender and violence, at least not at the level of the popular press.

One of the issues is education. Since the 1990s boys have been falling behind girls at school and I gather that the majority of university students are also women. I know very well that women have had to struggle to get to this point. When I was growing up in the 1980s I remember reading a number of articles about brain sex stating that women would never be equal with men in certain subjects, like maths and science. But this has been shown to be false too. There are a number of factors affecting boys’ performance. One is the importance of sport, sex and violence over ‘book-larnin”, so that one academic commenting on the issue in the 1990s said that boys weren’t interested in the ‘3 Rs’ as the ‘3 Fs’ – football, fighting and, well, you can guess. Another factor may be that teaching is now very much a female-dominated profession, to the point where some schools have been described as ‘man deserts’ because of the lack or total absence of male teachers.

Other factors are class and those jobs traditionally viewed as masculine. Traditional working class male jobs, like mining, emphasised strength rather than academic performance. It may well be the case that, among some working class boys, academic performance is discouraged as effeminate and ‘poofy’. But class has also been a factor. A friend of mine grew up in rural Suffolk and went to the local comprehensive school. As he tells it, it had been a grammar school and still retained a very snobbish class ethos. The school ran classes in its sixth form to prepare pupils for going to university. My friend is highly intelligent, and he told me that despite achieving very good grades, the school never put him in this class. He came from a very working class background, and the school did not consider working class children to be suitable for university. And I’m afraid that there are some teachers that are very sexist in their attitudes to the children in their charge. I’ve heard horror stories decades ago of headmasters, who set up two classes for the bright and less bright. All the boys were in the first, and all the girls in the second. At the same time, I’ve come across two teachers in my time in school, who in my experience did not like boys and treated them worse than the girls. One was female, one was male.

These are issues that need to be examined if boys’ academic performance is to be improved. But there is a problem whether a political and social culture, that has and is making great effort to improve girls’ and women’s academic performance, is also able to to devote the same kind of effort and energy to boys. If boys also need special treatment to help them achieve their potential, then some feminists may resent that as an attack on the schemes that have helped women to make such great strides in achieving theirs.

I’m sure that when the candidate spoke about misogyny, she meant instances of clear hostility and aggression to women. Like discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse or violence specifically towards women. Domestic violence, and the stuff that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of. However, what makes this problematic is the way some feminists have extended it to include even trivial gestures, which many people of both sexes wouldn’t consider aggressive or demeaning. For example, one feminist academic has claimed that women’s self-confidence is knocked through ‘micro-aggressions’ such as calling them ‘love’. This was heavily criticised in the press, with some male writers pondering whether they were being treated with aggression and contempt when women called them ‘love’. Last week an expert from the Chartered Institute of Management appeared on Sky, I believe, and declared that management should stop men talking about sport in the workplace, as this excluded women and led to other laddish behaviours, like boasting of sexual conquests. This was also attacked by anti-feminist bloggers and vloggers like Sargon. Benjamin stated that he’d worked in offices, that were overwhelmingly female and where the topics of office conversation were typically female: makeup and men. Which obviously left him isolated. I’ve also worked in offices where the staff were overwhelmingly female, some of whom were extremely crude. In my first job, one of the girls one day told the rest of the office about how she had been to see a male stripper the night before. I’ve no doubt that if the situation was reversed, feminists, if not ordinary women, would find that unacceptable. But is there now a double-standard in that talk of such excursions is acceptable, if the strippers are men?

Ditto with sexual harassment. This is always discussed as something that men do to women, never the other way round. A few years ago there was a scandal about MPs groping parliamentary staff. This focused very much on women, who were leading the protest. But the Beeb report, as far as I can remember, also mentioned that half the victims were men. Nothing then was said about how they were affected or what steps were being taken to safeguard them. Did that mean that men’s safety in this regard was not as important as women’s? Again, the other year there was a report about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment at universities. One report in the I said that 75 per cent of women students had experienced it. It also said that 25 per cent of men had also. The article then described how universities were trying to tackle it by laying on courses educating students about the issue. But the rest of the article only discussed it as a problem that affected women. The men were mentioned and forgotten.

Domestic violence is also an issue that is framed almost exclusively as something that men inflict on women. I’m very much aware that throughout history, this has been very much the case. However, a friend of mine, who is a former nurse, told me that when he was being trained, they were told that both sexes were sent to the hospital in equal numbers by the partners. Men were, however, much more likely to kill their wives. I certainly do not mean here, to suggest anything to prevent vulnerable women from being given the help and protection they need against violent and dangerous men. The Tories have left such women increasingly vulnerable through cuts to women’s refuges and centres. While it is recognised that men also suffer from domestic abuse from women, you don’t hear that women hospitalise as many men as the other way around. Nor have I come across many articles talking primarily about men as victims of female violence. In fact, I can’t think of one. But I’ve also come across some extremely foul-tempered, violent women. I’ve no doubt discussion of the issue is constrained by some men feeling emasculated by talking about it. No man really wants others to think him ‘pussy-whipped’. And there is the attitude that men should just be a man about it all, and take it. At the same time, I think some women and feminists may also have qualms about discussing gendered violence towards men with the same kind of concern that’s given to women in case in detracted from the campaigns to end violence against women. But clearly such violence exists, and so needs to be tackled.

A campaign to tackle genuine misogyny is entirely praiseworthy. But it overlooks the way men can be similarly affected, and a narrow focus solely on women threatens to create new forms of sexism, rather than combat it.