Television

Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Gef the Talking Mongoose

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 5:17am in

According to next week’s Radio Times for 30th May – 5th June 2020, Radio 4 next Tuesday, 2nd June, is broadcasting a programme on the bizarre affair of the Manx poltergeist, Gef the talking mongoose. The blurb for it in the Radio Times runs

In the 1930s, a BBC employee who was interested in psychic phenomena investigated the story of Gef the Talking Mongoose – a supernatural creature with a foul mouth and disturbing habits, said to haunt a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Man. Thinking to amuse the public in the silly season, he published an account of his findings, little knowing that Gef would cause a national scandal, prompt questions in the House, drag in Lord Reith himself, and provoke a front-page court case. Docudrama by Robin Brooks featuring Jasmine Nazina-Jones.

Gef the Talking Mongoose is supposed to be one of the poltergeist cases with the best supporting evidence. About a decade or so ago the Fortean Times, the magazine for connoisseurs du weird, published a long article about it. I leave it to you to decide for yourself what you think of it or the paranormal, but this could be an interesting programme. However, with docudramas you’re always left wondering how faithful they are to the facts, and how much is dramatic license.

Way back in the ’90s ghosts and ghost-hunting were all the rage, and Most Haunted and other shows like it were gathering sizable audiences for what were niche shows on the satellite and cable channels. It was lampooned on the Beeb comedy show, Dead Ringers, where Most Haunted’s star psychic at the time, Derek Acorah, received psychic impressions from a hibernating tortoise in a shed in a garden centre, before being possessed by the unquiet spirit of Desmond Decker. Slumping, ‘Acorah’ started singing ‘I don’t want to dance’.  The ghost hunting craze has passed, though there are still very many people up and down the country spending their weekends visiting haunted places in the hope of seeing or experiencing one. Most Haunted has come and gone, and Derek Acorah, I think, has sadly left us. But nevertheless, its fellows and competitors are still around on some channels.

I found the video below from Red Letter Media on YouTube. That channel specialises in film reviews, not always respectful, but always well informed and often hilariously funny. One of the hosts, Mike Stoklasa, here talks about his guilty pleasure. Which is watching one of these shows, Ghost Adventures. It’s clear that he doesn’t take it too seriously, but is very careful not to say that it’s all scripted, even when there’s abundant evidence in the clips he provides to show that it is.

In the edition he talks about, the ghost hunters visit a museum that contains a dybbuk box. A dybbuk is a type of Jewish demon. The show’s stars intend to open the box to see if it really does contain a demon. To make sure they are properly protected spiritually, they have on hand a rabbi. They ask the reverend gentleman if he knows how to deal with such a demonic object. He replies that he does, as he’s just looked it up that day. The ghost hunters seem a bit crestfallen, but ask him if he personally believes in demons. He tells them that he doesn’t, not in his personal religion, but he’s prepared to believe in them for the sake of the script. Oh dear! Stoklasa then helpfully explains that he thinks that what the rabbi meant was that he would, if the course of the programme required it, and that the show didn’t have a written script.

More proof that the show isn’t scripted comes from a video Ghost Adventures put on YouTube. One of the ghost hunters is talking to the viewer about some place he wishes to investigate in the locale they’re investigating. Then a door comes open. The presenter makes an exclamation of surprise, the sequence cuts, and then he is shown approaching the same location and giving the same speech. Stoklasa merely comments that it’s bad editing. Here’s Stoklasa and Jay talking about it.

There’s a considerable amount of evidence for the existence of ghosts and the paranormal, and many of the people I’ve come across who take them seriously enough to investigate them, whether believer or sceptic, are by no means gullible fools or cynical debunkers. But, as with everything else on TV, not everything you see is objective reality and it’s a myth that the camera never lies.

Help! I’m in Love with The Quarantine (ft. 161. Turkey on a Skewer)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 2:00am in

Time no longer means anything. I have absolutely no idea how long I’ve been under stay-at-home. You could tell me 8 weeks or 18 weeks and I’d nod my head and say “that sounds right.” Confession: for as much as everyone wants to get things back to “normal,” I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying it.Continue reading Help! I’m in Love with The Quarantine (ft. 161. Turkey on a Skewer) →

178. Calico Stuffed Peppers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 2:39am in

Tags 

1970s, Food, Television

FUN FACT: as of June 30 I am unemployed. Yeah, only 2 weeks into the job they sent us to work remotely, and then 2 months later they decided to shutter the school. Permanently. So here I am, shit out of luck. Mr. Sauce, Esq. said that I had jinxed myself with the  “I hateContinue reading 178. Calico Stuffed Peppers →

Hooray! Murdoch Papers Too Ashamed to Publish Pathetic Circulation Figures

Ho ho! Zelo Street yesterday published a very interesting and amusing article about the continuing decline of the lamestream press. Jim Waterson, a hack at the Guardian, posted a series of tweets about the latest circulation figures for British newspapers. And they aren’t encouraging. Zelo Street has said for the past couple of months that the press has been badly hit by the lockdown. People simply aren’t buying papers. It’s why the Murdoch rags, inter alia, have been pushing for the lockdown to be lifted and actually took to implore their readers and internet followers to #buyapaper. They’re not remotely interested in the welfare of the great British public. But they are worried about falling sales and what Murdoch and the other chief inmates of News International will do about them – like start laying people off.

Waterson tweeted that, although the newspaper sales figures were supposed to be out that day, the industry had insisted that they should no longer be published. The monthly ABC sales charts have also been permanently stopped because they give a ‘stimulus to write a negative narrative of circulation decline.’ Which in English, rather than the garbled version spouted Newslink’s yuppie manager in the comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey, means that it encourages people to write about how the press is in trouble. Nevertheless, most of the papers did publish their figures. The exceptions were the Times, Sunday Times, Torygraph and the Scum. And the paper with the highest circulation was the Daily Heil, with 944,981 copies sold.

Well, as the character, Gus, once said, I’ll just throw that into your intellectual wok and see if it stir fries.

Zelo Street points out that this is the first time no newspaper has sold less than a million a copies. It also suggests that this has happened to the Sun, which is why the super, soaraway Current Bun is not publishing its figures. It’s possibly been supplanted by the Heil for the first time in 40+ yearsThe Street also argues quite reasonably that both the Heil’s and Scum’s Sunday editions will have worse sales than the dailies. This means that the press is in terminal decline and we’re entering the endgame.

Novara Media’s excellent Aaron Bastiani put an additional boot into the Murdoch title’s shame. If newspapers won’t publish their sales figures, then the Beeb shouldn’t review their front pages every morning. Unless we know these papers’ reach, it’s just giving them free advertising.

Good point.

Zelo Street also states that the press is probably going to lose even more readers when they work out that the papers they support wanted the lockdown lifted for the sake of their own profits, not out of concern for the public’s wellbeing. A number of may well die from Coronavirus infections picked up when the papers told them that the disease was nothing to worry about. And their survivors will put two and two together and decide not to continue supporting them. Or even bringing a class lawsuit against them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/press-heading-for-early-oblivion.html

My guess is that the reason the Torygraph and the Murdoch rags aren’t publishing their sales figures is partly economic. Apart from being embarrassed at how pathetically their mighty organs are doing, they’re also afraid of repercussions from advertisers. If they find out how low the newspapers are selling, they may well want the advertising rates reduced. This will mean a further drop in these newspaper’s income. Which means greater losses, and the threat of even more redundancies.

To many people it will come as absolutely no surprise that the Times and the Torygraph are in such a mess. Private Eye have covered many times their problems and falling circulation in its ‘Street of Shame’ column. In the case of the Torygraph, it’s problems are due to bad corporate management, including a devotion to internet gimmicks rather than solid news reporting and deliberately altering news content in their interests of the advertisers. This last policy so infuriated Peter Oborne that he left the paper and went instead to the Heil, making his own criticisms of it very public. There have already been redundancies and cutbacks, but these have failed to halt the paper’s continuing decline. The Eye has also said that the Times’ sales are now so low, that if it were any other paper it would either have been folded or put up for sale by its management years ago. But it’s the British paper of record, and so allows Murdoch to grab a place at the government table because of its prestige. Which means that if its circulation is so low that there’s no reason the Beeb, or anyone else, should take any notice of it, Murdoch’s ability to influence government decisions, even to act as kingmaker in his decision which party to support, is severely damaged.

Ditto with the Scum. It certainly didn’t have the Times‘ prestige or even its journalistic standards – indeed, it’s a matter of debate whether the scabrous rag had any standards at all. But it was Britain’s leading newspaper with a huge circulation, and more visibly influenced British politics through its shrill trumpeting of everything Thatcher and the Tories ever did, until Murdoch decided to flirt with New Labour. Now that’s also been seriously damaged.

Zelo Street is right in that these newspapers still have an influence beyond their print sales through their online presence, but there are problems here as well. Many of their articles are behind paywalls, which means that many casual readers won’t read them because they won’t want to pay or subscribe to the wretched rags. And if they are free, then it comes from money made from print sales. Which mean that when those go down, the paper’s ability to put up their articles free on the net also declines. The situation does not look good.

I’ve no sympathy for any of these foul rags. I suppose it’ll be a shame if the Times folds, after lasting for nearly 300 or so years. But as it, its Sunday counterpart and the Scum are just rightwing, Tory propaganda rags that lies, smear and libel decent people with absolutely no compunction, as far as I’m concerned it deserves to go under. Britain will be better off without them.

And while we’re on the subject, what about the sales figures for Private Eye? I know it’s a magazine rather than a newspaper, but much of it is news. My guess is that it’s circulation is also falling in line with the rest of the press. It’s hostility and snide remarks about left-wing news sites and internet organisations like The Canary and The Skwawkbox also seem to suggest that it’s afraid of their competition. Private Eye does publish some very good stuff, but it has also promoted the Blairites and the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn’s Labour party, as well as other material which is utterly wrong. So I have very mixed feelings about it.

As for the rest of the press, their mostly right-wing propaganda rags, and so absolutely nothing worthwhile will be lost if they go under as well.

 

 

Boris Isn’t Churchill, He’s Neville Chamberlain

Okay, it’s finally happened. I think people have been expecting this, but were hoping that somehow it wouldn’t come true. But it has. Mike today has put up a piece reporting that the death toll from the Coronavirus has hit 62,000. 51,000 people are known to have died, according to some of the people, whose tweets about this tragedy Mike has reproduced in his article. That’s more than those killed during the Blitz.

How do I feel about this? Absolutely furious and bitterly ashamed. Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, but we now have the second worst death rate from this foul disease in the world. And it can all be put down to our leaders’ incompetence, their doctrinaire pursuit of neoliberalism and private industry at the expense of the res publica, the commonweal, the public good. And their willingness to sacrifice the health, safety and lives of the great British people for the sake of their corporate profits and the narrow interests of their own class.

Mike, Zelo Street and a host of other left-wing bloggers and activists have published article after article minute describing the Tories’ culpable negligence. They were warned in advance by scientists and medical experts that a fresh pandemic was coming sometime. As you know, I despise New Labour, but Blair, Brown and the rest nevertheless took the threat seriously. They prepared for it, setting up appropriate government and NHS departments. What did the Tories do? Shelve all these plans, because they were committed to austerity and they didn’t think the money spent on these precautions were worth it. 2016 the government wargamed a flu pandemic, and this pointed out all the problems we’ve subsequently experienced with the Coronavirus. And what happened after that? Zilch. For the same reasons the plans were shelved and weren’t updated and the specialist departments closed down.

And the Tories’ commitment to austerity also meant they prevented the NHS from being adequately prepared for the outbreak. It had too few intensive care beds, the supplies of PPE were too small, and underlying it is the plain fact that the NHS has been criminally starved of proper funding for years. Because, for all that they’re praising it now, the Tories are desperate to sell it off and have a private healthcare system like the one that works in America. You know, the one country that now has a worse death toll than ours.

Austerity has also exacerbated the impact of the disease in another way. It hits the poor the hardest. Which is unsurprising – the poor often suffer worse from disease, because they don’t have such good diets, jobs, housing and living conditions as the rich. In this case, poorer people do jobs that bring them more into contact with others, which leaves them more exposed to infection. I really am not surprised, therefore, that Blacks and Asians are therefore far more likely than Whites to contract Covid-19. There are other factors involved, of course – ethnic minorities as a rule tend to live far more in multigenerational households than Whites, which increases the risk of infection. But Blacks and some ethnic groups also tend to do the worse, most poorly paid jobs and that’s also going to leave them vulnerable.

And Boris is personally responsible for this debacle. He was warned in November that the Coronavirus was a threat and January and February of this years the scientists were telling him to put the country into lockdown. But he didn’t. He was too preoccupied with ‘getting Brexit done’. He also didn’t want to put this country into lockdown, because it would harm the economy, which meant that the big businesses that donate to him and his scummy party would take a hit. And he and Dominic Cummings and certain others also subscribe to the Social Darwinist view that the disease should be allowed to take its toll on the weakest, because they were useless eaters holding back all the biologically superior rich businessmen the party idolizes. It was a simply just culling the herd, nothing to worry about. And apart from that, Boris was just personally too damn idle. He doesn’t like to read his briefs, he didn’t turn up to the first five meetings of Cobra, and rather than working shot off back home at the weekends. And he was also far too interested in pursuing his relationship with his latest partner.

Johnson fancies himself as Winston Churchill. A few years ago he published a book about the great War Leader, that was so execrable it was torn to shreds by John Newsinger over at Lobster. In this, the Blonde Buffoon resembles Jim Hacker from the Beeb’s comedy series, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Whenever Hacker had some grand idea that would raise him or his administration above mediocrity, he’d start posing and speaking like Churchill. Boris hasn’t quite done that, or at least, not in public. But he certainly shares Hacker’s vanity in this respect.

But he isn’t Churchill. He’s Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. Churchill hated Nazi Germany and was determined to destroy it. Chamberlain, on the other hand, wanted to avoid war. Hence he came back from Munich waving a worthless piece of paper, which he proclaimed as ‘peace in our time’. He was thus absolutely unprepared for Hitler’s invasion of Poland. But the Tories got rid of him, and replaced him with Churchill.

Johnson was unprepared for the Coronavirus. He should have been removed long ago and replaced with someone, who could do something about it. But that would mean replacing the entire Tory party, as none of the Prime Ministers since Brown have been serious about preparing for this threat.

And thanks to them, more people have now died than in the Blitz.

What an under, damnable disgrace!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/20/uk-coronavirus-deaths-hit-62000-no-wonder-johnson-only-appears-for-pmqs/

 

Radio 4 Serialising New Version of ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 2:12am in

Interesting news for fans of the Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Radio 4 begins a new version of his short story, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ on Monday, 25th May 2020. It’s split into ten parts, and is being broadcast on weekdays at the same time of 7.45 pm. It’s been updated by the show’s writer, Julian Simpson, so that the the pair investigating Ward’s disappearance from a secure psychiatric hospital are a couple of podcasters, Matthew Heawood and Kennedy Fisher. In several of Lovecraft’s short stories, the main characters’ final act is to write down their adventures for others to find just before they’re finally killed or captured by whatever nameless cosmic horrors are pursuing them. ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, in which a sailor, who has narrowly survived an encounter with the malign elder god in his sunken island of R’lyeh, and writes down his account of the experience shortly before his own death, is one classic example of this. However, as it’s now 2020 instead of the 1920s, and it’s for the radio, Friday’s edition of the show, according to the Radio Times, has the pair uncovering his audio files.

This could be good. The Beeb has broadcast some of Lovecraft’s works before. Radio 4 Extra a few years ago serialised ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, which was read by a narrator. That seemed to stick faithfully to Lovecraft’s text. While this obviously takes a few liberties, it could still be worth listening to. On the other hand, it could be like the BBC 1’s version of the War of the Worlds last year, which diverged so much from Wells’ book that it was ultimately disappointing. Let’s hope it isn’t.

Radio 4 Tackles Bad Culture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 6:01am in

Ho ho! According to next week’s Radio Times for 23rd – 29th May 2020, next Saturday’s The Archive will be on the subject of Bad Culture. This is the type of music, art, literature, film, TV or whatever which is so bad that it’s entertaining. The blurb about it in the Radio Times reads

Steve Punt is joined by Grace Dent, Robin Ince and Laura Snapes to analyse why seemingly bad culture can be so enjoyable, looking at the films of Michael Winner, the songs of Astley and the poetry of Danielle Steele.

The programme’s Archive on 4: So Bad It’s Good?, and it’s on Radio 4, Saturday 23rd May, at 8.00 pm.

Robin Ince, who presents The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 with Brian Cox, wrote a book a few years ago, The Bad Book Club. This was about some of his favourite terrible books, one of which was the autobiography of John Major’s half-brother, Terry Major-Ball. But people have been particularly bad films for a very long time. I think that goes back to the ’70s at least, when Michael Medved, before he morphed into a right-wing pundit, published The Golden Turkey Awards about some of the worst movies ever made. Then in the early ’80s he presented Channel 4’s The Worst of Hollywood, which screened some of the classics of Bad cinema. These included Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster, The Wild Women of Wonga and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Ed Wood was the stunningly bad director who also gave the world Glen/Glenda or I Changed My Sex, and Robot Monster. The costume for the latter creature was a gorilla suit with a diving helmet stuck on top. The guy who played it did so because he owned the gorilla suit. I think it’s also in Robot Monster that there’s a 2 minute segment of dinosaurs going on the rampage for no reason at all. It’s because Wood’s studio was right next to that of stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen was responsible for a string of SF/monster movies, including Earth Versus the Flying Saucers, as well as the sequence in the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad where the Arab sailor fights an army of skeletons. Wood used to go round to Harryhausen and use any material that the other director had no use for after editing. That day Harryhausen had cut 200 feet of film out of a film about dinosaurs, and gave it to Wood when he asked him if there was anything he could use. Glen/Glenda is about a man struggling to come to terms with his transvestism. It’s a serious subject, which in the hands of a good director would no doubt be highly praised by critics. But this was made by Wood, so it’s abysmal. Like Plan 9 From Outer Space, it has Bela Lugosi in it. He plays God in a dream sequence in which he says ‘Dance to this, dance to that, but beware the little green dragon sleeping on your doorstep.’ This makes no sense at all. The film is, however, one of Alice Cooper’s favourites, or so he told Muriel Grey on Channel 4’s pop programme The Tube a long time ago. When she asked him ‘Why?’, he replied that it was because it made him wonder just what he had just watched because it was so weird. Her reply was classic: ‘You’re a strange boy, Alice’. Yes, and he’s made a whole career out of it. Wood was himself a transvestite with a passion for cashmere sweaters, a fact not lost to the makers of the ’90s film biography of him.

Since The Worst of Hollywood has come Mystery Science Theatre 3000. This is an SF look at Bad Films, in which the crew of an orbiting satellite a thousand watch, and make rude remarks about, terrible movies. The SF author, Jack Womack, responsible for a series of books set in a violent, dystopian future Ambient, Random Acts of Mindless Violence, Heathern and Elvissey, is also an aficionado of weird and Bad books. He supplied a list of some of his favourites in his personal collection, with his comments on them, in an interview he gave in the ’90s to the Science Fiction magazine, SF Eye. They included Bottom’s Up with the Rear Admiral: Memoirs of a ProctologistThe Elvis Image, which is about a journalist crisscrossing the deep south in search of Elvis impersonators, and Behold! The Protong!!! by Stanislaw Szuchalski. Womack described this as ‘America’s greatest eccentric tells you why Communists are descended from the Yeti’. 

A few years an academic did a study of the type of people who deliberately went to see bad movies. He found that they tended to be of above average intelligence, and also watched transgressive cinema. You know, like the films of John Waters and some of the other cinematic horrors Jonathan Ross discussed in the ’80s in his Channel 4 series, The Incredibly Strange Film Show. They like those for the same reasons they enjoy terrible films, because both provide an experience that is outside the mainstream.

This could be a very funny, interesting programme about some truly awful cultural productions. But will it include any clips from Wood’s wretched oeuvre? 

J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Racist and Biased Equalities and Human Rights Commission Drops Tory Islamophobia Investigation

Here’s another revolting development, as it would be described by Marvel Comics’ ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing, the idol o’ millions and butt of the Yancey Street gangs’ pranks. On Tuesday Mike reported that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission had decided not to go ahead with an investigation into islamophobia in the Tory party. It considered that this would not be ‘proportionate’ after seeing the Tories’ own plans and terms of reference for its own investigation, which included specific reference to islamophobia.

The Muslim Council of Britain declared that these terms were a ‘facade’ and that the investigation was too narrow compared to Labour’s Chakrabarti investigation into anti-Semitism. They went on to say that the investigation would hide the hundreds of incidents of bigotry in the Tory party, which they had uncovered.

Mike in his article makes the very valid point that it doesn’t matter what the EHRC says about ant-Semitism in the Labour party. It has shown it cannot treat the two parties equally. Indeed, BoJob’s own behaviour provides a prima facie case for investigation. Mike concludes

If the EHRC can’t see that, then no decision it makes about the Labour Party can have any weight at all.

I recommend that it be disbanded and replaced by an organisation staffed by people who can do the job properly.

Equalities watchdog undermines itself by refusing to examine Tory Islamophobia

Of course, Mike’s right. There’s Johnson’s wretched book 72 Virgins, a wish-fulfillment fantasy if ever there was one, about a bike-riding Prime Minister foiling an evil Islamist plot to bomb parliament. This also included racist comments about other ethnic groups as well, including a Black character, who is described as a stupid coon, and a shady Jewish businessman who makes his money by exploiting migrant workers. This nasty anti-Semitic stereotype was accompanied by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the Jews controlling the media. And then, of course, there’s Johnson’s vile newspaper column in which he compared women in burqas to bin bags and letter boxes. Despite all the bluster about how he was merely being un-PC and it was an act of free speech, nothing more, Johnson’s rhetoric did lead to a spike in islamophobic assaults, especially against women clad in that way.

Zelo Street and other left-wing bloggers have also put up articles about the numerous supporters of BoJob and Rees-Mogg revealed by the internet activist Jacobsmates, who posted viciously islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter. Like the various Conservative politicos Mike and Zelo Street also reported were suspended by the Tories for their islamophobic conduct. In their posts they had declared that Sadiq Khan and other Muslim and ethnic minority politicos, like Diane Abbott, should be killed, ranted about how Muslims were plotting to destroy the country and were responsible for rape and terrorism and supported the old anti-Semitic conspiracy libel that Muslims and non-White immigrants were being imported into Europe and the West by the Jews with the intention of destroying the White race.

And the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is grossly disproportionate itself in the importance it gives to the allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour on the one hand and islamophobia in the Tories in another.

The reality is that there was far less anti-Semitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn than in wider British society, and that the vast majority of it comes from the right, and especially the far right. What those screaming about Labour anti-Semitism really objected to was anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians. This is why Corbyn was viciously denounced as an anti-Semite for attending a speech by a Holocaust survivor, who compared Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of himself and other Jews, while the same witch-hunters had nothing to say about Tweezer and Rachel Reeve singing the praises of Nancy Astor, a real anti-Semite and supporter of Hitler. Part of the motivation for the anti-Semitism smears against Labour was pure partisanship. It was a convenient stick for the Tory establishment, including the Thatcherites within the Labour party, to beat Corbyn and try to oust him or prevent the party from ever coming to power. It didn’t matter whether they were true or not. And western geopolitical interests were involved. Israel is one of the pillars of British Middle Eastern policy, along with Saudi Arabia. Tony Greenstein among other bloggers and activists has put up a number of quotes from British officials showing that it always was regarded as a centre of western influence in the region from the days of the British Mandate in Palestine, comparable to Ulster in Ireland.

The anti-Semitism smears had nothing to do with real anti-Jewish hatred. It was purely about defending Israel and preventing a genuine the formation of a socialist, genuinely Labour government.

The EHRC’s decision not to investigate Tory islamophobia may also be connected to the anti-Muslim prejudices of its leader, Trevor Philips. He is, or was, a member of the Labour party, but was suspended a little while ago by General Secretary Jennie Formby for islamophobia. He had accused Muslims of forming a ‘nation within a nation’ and stated that the members of the Asian grooming gangs, who abused White girls, committed their horrendous crimes because ‘Muslims see the world differently’. He seems to regard Muslims as fundamentally different and Other to the rest of British society, stating that they ‘are not like us’. He also chaired a Tory conference on ‘Challenging Islamophobia’, in which he and several of the others attending even blamed Muslims themselves for the terrorist attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and Finsbury Park. They were, Phillips and the others declared, a natural response to Muslim terrorism. In 2006 Ken Livingstone, then mayor of the London Assembly, accused Phillips, who was chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, as the EHRC then was, of pandering to the right and turning it into a huge press department while at the same time winding down its legal work. Six of the EHRC’s commissioners also resigned in protest at Phillips’ leadership. Phillips has also presented programmes for Channel 4 which accused Blacks of being far more inclined towards criminality than Whites, and that a significant number of British Muslims had terrorist sympathies among other accusations. Both of these were misleading. In fact, the number of British Muslims, who had terrorist sympathies was s1-3 per cent, rather than the nearly quarter that has been claimed.

Tony Greenstein has put up a long piece including several other articles, which extensively discusses Phillips’ islamophobia  and shabby career and critiques and demolishes the two programmes he presented. Greenstein states that when he was active in student politics in the 1970s, he came across Phillips politically. It struck him then that Phillips really had nothing to say about racism, and was only using the fact of his colour for political advancement.

See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/03/even-tommy-robinson-supports-trevor.html

And its very noticeable that, as Greenstein describes in the above article, Phillips has received glowing support from a series of notorious racists and islamophobes like Tommy Robinson. Phillips is also another Labour rightist, who has weaponised the anti-Semitism smears for his own benefit. When he was suspended for islamophobia, he claimed that it was really because he had spoken out about Labour anti-Semitism. Which is purest twaddle.

With someone creditably accused of islamophobia himself in charge of the EHRC, it’s not surprising that it has decided not to pursue anti-Muslim prejudice in the Tories.

And this sorry episode also illustrates another point Quentin Letts has made about race relations in this country. In his book, Bog-Standard Britain, the Tory journo argued that there was a racial hierarchy of power and influence amongst ethnic and other minorities. Jews were at, or near the top. Blacks and Muslims were much lower down. I think Muslims may well have been at the bottom.

There’s much truth in this, as Sayeeda Warsi herself has complained that people are able to say things about Muslims with impunity, for which they would be immediately attacked if they said them about Jews.

Tony’s article also reports that Richard Littlejohn, another scummy right-wing hack, has even claimed that Phillips only agreed to chair the EHRC in order to close it down.

Perhaps this would now be the right action to take. Mike’s right in that at present it seems utterly unfit for purpose.

Starmer Throws Away Corbyn’s Popular Socialist Labour Policies

I really shouldn’t be surprised at this whatsoever. It was inevitable, and everyone saw it coming the moment Starmer entered the ring in the Labour leadership contest. But I hoped against hope that he would still have some sense of honour and remain faithful to his election pledges. But he hasn’t. He’s finally taken his mask off and revealed his true, Blairite neoliberal face. And in the words of Benjamin J. Grimm, your blue-eyed, ever-lovin’ Thing, ‘What a revoltin’ development’ it is.

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting that Starmer had given an interview to the Financial Times in which he blamed his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, for last year’s election defeat. He claims that Corbyn’s leadership was the chief topic of debate. That’s probably true, but only up to a point. The long, venomous campaign against Corbyn certainly did whip up a vicious hatred against the former Labour leader amongst a large part of the electorate. Some of the people I talked to in my local Labour party, who’d been out campaigning, said that they were shocked by the vicious, bitter hatred the public had for him. One woman said that it was as if they expected him to come up the garden path and shoot their dog.

But Starmer was also one of the reasons for Labour’s defeat. It was due to Starmer’s influence that Labour muddled its policy on Brexit by promising a second referendum. Johnson’s message of getting Brexit done was much simpler, and more popular. It’s almost certainly why Labour lost its historic strongholds in the north and midlands. These were areas which voted heavily for Brexit. But obviously, as the new leader of the Labour party, Starmer doesn’t want to mention that.

Then he goes on to blame the defeat on Labour’s policies. He claims Labour had overloaded its manifesto with promises to nationalise several utilities, issue £300 billion of shares to workers and promising another £83 billion in tax and spending. However, these policies, contrary to what the habitual liars and hack propagandists of the Tories and Lib Dems claim, had been properly costed.

Now I don’t doubt that the manifesto was overloaded by too many promises. When analysing what went wrong in the local constituency meeting, some felt that it was because the manifesto was too long, contained too many such promises and felt that they were being made up on a daily basis as the election progressed. But the central promise of renationalising the electricity grid, water and the railways were genuinely popular, and had been in the previous election in 2017. And Starmer promised to honour the policy commitments made in last year’s manifesto.

And now he’s shown in this interview that he has no intention of doing so.

He’s also demonstrated this by appointing as his shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, another Blairite, who attacked Labour’s 2017 manifesto for offering too much to voters. Mike also reports that a leaked letter from Phillipson to other members of the shadow cabinet shows her telling them that from now on any policies that involve spending must have the approval of both Starmer and the shadow Treasury team before they’re even put in the planning stage.

Mike comments

Clearly, Starmer wants an “out-Tory the Tories” spending policy of the kind that led to then-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves promising to be “tougher than the Tories” on benefits, in just one particularly out-of-touch policy from the Miliband era.

Absolutely. He wants to show Tory and Lib Dem voters that Labour stands for responsible fiscal policy, just like it did under Blair, who was also responsible for massive privatisation and a further catastrophic dismantlement of the welfare state.

Blair also made a conscious decision to abandon traditional Labour policies and its working class base in order to appeal to Tory voters in swing marginals. And the first thing he did was to recruit former Tory cabinet ministers, such as Chris Patten, to his own to form a Government Of All the Talents (GOATS). Starmer’s trying to make the same appeal. And it’s shown glaringly in the choice of newspaper to which he gave the interview. The Financial Times is the paper of the financial sector. Way back in the 1990s it was politically Liberal, although that didn’t stop one of its writers supporting workfare. According to Private Eye, the newspaper was losing readers, so its board and director, Marjorie Scardino, decreed that it should return to being a Tory paper. It has, though that hasn’t helped it – it’s still losing readers, and has lost even more than when it was Liberal. Starmer’s trying to repeat the Labour Party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, begun under Neil Kinnock, in which it successfully tried to win over the banking sector.

The rest of Mike’s article is a dissection of Starmer’s promises to stop landlords evicting their tenants because of the Coronavirus crisis. These look good, but will actually make housing scarcer and actually increase the problems renters have finding rent. Critics of Starmer’s policy see him as protecting landlords, rather than tenants.

Please see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/11/keir-betrayal-starmer-rejects-policies-that-made-him-labour-leader/

Starmer’s policy does seem to be succeeding in winning Tory and Lib Dem voters.

According to a survey from Tory pollster YouGov, Starmer has an approval rating of +23, higher than Johnson. People were also positive about his leadership of the Labour party. 40 per cent think he’s done ‘very well’ or ‘well’ compared to the 17 per cent, who think he’s done fairly or very badly.

When it comes to Tories, 34 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 25 per cent, while regarding the Lib Dems, 63 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 53 per cent of Labour people.

Mike states that this is humiliating for Starmer, as it comes from people, who have a vested interested in a duff Labour leader.

Starmer gets approval rating boost – courtesy of Tory and Lib Dem voters

And Starmer has been duff. He’s scored a couple of very good points against Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he’s largely been conspicuous by his absence. This has got to the point where the Tory papers have been sneering at him for it, saying that Piers Morgan has been a more effective opposition. It’s a point that has also been made by Tony Greenstein. See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/05/if-labour-wants-to-win-next-election.html

Even if these stats show that Tory and Lib Dem voters are genuinely impressed with Starmer, that does not mean that he has popular mandate. Tory Tony Blair won over Conservative voters, but that was at the expense of traditional Labour voters and members. They left the party in droves. It was Corbyn’s achievement that he managed to win those members back, and turned the party into Britain’s largest.

But Starmer and the Blairites despise the traditional Labour base. As shown by the coups and plots during Corbyn’s leadership, they’d be quite happy with a far smaller party without traditional, socialist members. And Starmer was part of that. He was one of those who took part in the coups.

Starmer is once again following Blair’s course in wanting to appeal to Tories and Lib Dems instead of working class voters, trade unionists and socialists. He wishes to return to orthodox fiscal policies, which will mean more privatisation, including that of the NHS, and completing their destruction of the welfare state.

He wants it to become Tory Party no. 2, just as Blair did. And for working class people, that means more poverty, disease, starvation and death.

 

 

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