Wednesday, 21 May 2014

My Day Out at UKIP's 'Non-racist Carnival'

Yesterday, my home town of Croydon was flooded with immigrants. Well, I say 'immigrants' but only in the technical sense that most were not from Croydon. Some came with their purple and yellow rosettes, to proclaim loudly their non-racism. Others came with their furry microphones, notebooks, cameras and furrowed brows, hoping to catch a glimpse of the new messiah of British 'non-racist', right-wing politics, Mr Nigel Farage - whose name sounds suspiciously French but some of whose ancestors hail from 19th century Germany, as does his wife. Alas, the great man never appeared and we were left to wonder if Quentin Letts (of the Daily Mail) would have to interview himself, or if Dan Hodges (of the Telegraph) would be tempted to round up the disgruntled rabble and lead them into the hills to found a religion based around the worship of Tony Blair.

Local UKIP personality, Winston McKenzie

Fortunately, these things did not come to pass. Instead much lively and mostly good-natured debate ensued in the street. The event had been billed as a carnival to show that UKIP was not a racist party but turned into a PR disaster after the steel band refused to play on when the event's association with UKIP was revealed to them. Anti-UKIP activists also showed up to let it be known that they were in no doubt as to UKIP's racist credentials. I too was momentarily tempted to tell the incomers that they were not welcome in Croydon and that they should go back to UKIP-land (or wherever it was they came from) but decided that they might find that rude rather than ironic. So I ended up talking for a while to one of the UKIP faithful, in order to get an insight into what really lies behind their enthusiasm for a brand of politics which others see as racist or even fascist.

The man I spoke to was called 'Rob', I think (apologies if I've got that wrong). Perhaps surprisingly, Rob came across as very reasonable, articulate and mild-mannered; no gibbering, swivel-eyed loon. He was a banker by profession (like Nigel Farage) and came from recent immigrant stock, like many of the other UKIP representatives present. This in itself did not surprise me: being an immigrant oneself does not automatically make you more welcoming towards other immigrants. My own mother was an immigrant to the UK from Hong Kong in the 1960s, although she never considered herself a 'foreigner', having arrived on a British passport from a colonial outpost. She has also voted for UKIP herself, although many other UKIP supporters would undoubtedly call her a 'chink' and regard her as an outsider, no matter how much she railed against immigration. The desire to be accepted can lead to a strange form of self-denial.

Rob was keen to tell me that he wasn't against immigration, per se. He just wanted Britain to take control of its borders back from the EU. What's racist about that? In itself, not much. It's only when you look at the ideological motivation behind that desire that you see a clear racist agenda, in my view. Rob clearly was not a racist, himself. There are, without doubt, many UKIP members and supporters who are not actually racists. UKIP is careful to avoid overt racism in its official statements, so it's possible to claim that it is not, indeed, a 'racist party'. However, it is very obviously a party which attracts racists, homophobes, misogynists and assorted bigots in large numbers. Rob wanted to assure me that there were only a handful of 'nutters' in his party and that there were just as many in other parties. If he were talking about the Tories, then he may have had a point, but it's just inconceivable that senior members of any other major party would be capable of making quite so many outright racist and bigoted statements. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try to compile a similar list from members of the Labour, Lib Dem or Green parties; they wouldn't get very far at all. In fact, in terms of UKIP's stated policies on immigration and the EU, there is almost no difference between them and the BNP, as this video clip, comparing Nigel Farage with Nick Griffin, illustrates.

Official UKIP policy does reveal some startlingly hostile attitudes towards immigration, despite what Rob wants me to believe. For example, UKIP wants to "prioritise social housing for people whose parents and grandparents were born locally." So, you might be British born and bred, with a British passport, but if your parents and grandparents weren't from here then you're just not British enough for UKIP's liking. Does that not strike you as a teeny bit racist? Conveniently, Nigel Farage himself passes this test - but only just. Why stop at access to social housing? If that policy seems reasonable, why not restrict health care, education and other services only to those with parents and grandparents born locally? My mother certainly wouldn't qualify and neither would I (although I'm British born). Neither would many of the UKIP representatives in Croydon yesterday, including - I suspect - Rob.

The hostility doesn't end there, though. Another policy states that "Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing - they should pay into the pot before they take out of it." This blatantly ignores the fact that if an immigrant is working in the UK, then they are paying taxes, so they are 'paying into the pot', as much as anyone else in the UK. Why on earth should they therefore be denied the same rights as other residents, including basic healthcare and education for their children (who may even be born here)? 

Clearly, it's not just an understandable antipathy towards EU bureaucracy that is motivating these UKIP policies and I think it's accurate to call them 'racist'. In case anyone wants to trot out the tired rejoinder that 'nationality / religion / whatever isn't a race', I would ask them to consider that perhaps the Nazis weren't technically racist, seeing as they only really hated Jews, gays, communists, gypsies and the disabled. In fact, there is no scientific definition of 'race'. A race is whatever you perceive it to be. It is simply 'the other'. Defining race in terms of skin colour is just one arbitrary, unscientific way of doing so, among many other equally arbitrary and unscientific ways.

Still, Rob's main concern seems to centre mainly on British sovereignty and freedom from EU interference. So I ask him why UKIP is not campaigning against the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Industry Partnership). He looks blankly at me. He hasn't heard about it. I explain that it is a proposed trade treaty between the EU and the US, which would give multinational corporations the right to sue national governments for legislation which might harm their profits (e.g. health and safety legislation, workers' rights, environmental regulations, tax enforcement etc.). The TTIP would be a total surrender of national sovereignty to big corporate interests but only the Green party was campaigning against it. Rob did seem alarmed and promised to look it up. But his ignorance on the issue was a sure sign that UKIP's professed concern about British sovereignty and national interests was highly selective at best, and little more than a front for xenophobia and racism at worst. Besides, there are other parties who are not especially enthusiastic about the EU and are also offering an in-out referendum, such as the Green party (although the Green party favours negotiating major reform of the EU from within) or the left-wing No2EU party. What attracts people to UKIP in particular is not so much the Euroscepticism but the immigrant-bashing rhetoric and its barely concealed racism. If you're still not convinced, look at this UKIP poster:

UKIP election poster

This is blatantly racist, in my opinion. It doesn't say "2.2 million people in Britain are looking for work, etc ..." but "26 million people in Europe ..." It also fails to mention that you are just as entitled to go looking for work in France, Sweden and Germany if you want to, where pay, working conditions and unemployment benefits are all far higher than in the UK. No, the clear implication is that all those foreigners are coming here to steal your job. It plays on fear of unemployment and a visceral xenophobia. Never mind the fact that even if all immigration were stopped tomorrow, not a single new job would be created, or that immigrants tend to create more jobs than they take and have a positive effect in economic terms.

But what of all those UKIP representatives and supporters who come from immigrant stock? Are they deluded? Consider the case of Ernst Röhm, founder of the Nazi SA (Brownshirt stormtroopers). Röhm was a long time close friend of Adolf Hitler and a well-known homosexual. You could say he was Hitler's 'gay friend' (there were even rumours that he was more than a friend). None of this saved him from being killed in the 'night of the long knives', nor did it prevent the subsequent persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis

Now, I'm not saying that UKIP is a Nazi party. What I am saying is that having gay and black friends (or supporters) does not make you non-racist and non-homophobic. I'm also saying that if you are non-white, an immigrant or any of your immediate ancestors were immigrants, or you're gay, or a woman, or disabled, or non-christian, or truly care about British sovereignty, then your interests are not best served by a party whose ideology is founded on various kinds of bigotry and which attracts large numbers of extreme bigots, including racists, homophobes and misogynists. They may pretend to be your friend today, but they probably will sneer at you behind your back and tomorrow maybe in front of your face. I hope Rob will come to understand that.

If you want to vote for a genuine, non-racist, radical, anti-establishment party which is realistic about the pros and cons of the EU and doesn't take bribes from millionaires and big business, then I would ask you to vote Green this Thursday. At least, don't swallow the UKIP snake-oil.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The BBC Propaganda Files: 11 Years On (Still Abusing Science)

There is nothing more guaranteed to arouse my anger than the abuse of science by the media, especially when that media takes £145 of my money every year, without my consent, whilst pretending to be vaguely accountable to me through my government. Fortunately, they use some of this money to produce cracking good comedy and drama programmes for my entertainment and delight; programmes like The Thick of It or Spooks. Unfortunately, they also use some of it to produce unmitigated, pure propaganda drivel and pump it into my home like so much silage. Most of the time, this nauseating brain-poop is disguised as 'current affairs' - sometimes ending up on Newsnight - or a 'factual' documentary. Sadly, last night I had the misfortune to witness one of these again, as it was the anniversary of 9/11.

The programme was The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years On, which first aired last year but which has now migrated to the Yesterday channel. The version I've linked to here is on Vimeo and is slightly different to the one I saw last night, as it seems to have been somewhat re-edited, perhaps to remove some of the more laughable factual errors. Nevertheless, it is still full of astonishingly brazen deceptions. It would be incredibly tedious to go through every single one of these, so instead I shall focus on just one segment of the programme which deals with the forensic evidence of explosives found in dust from the 9/11 debris, from about 30 minutes until 38 minutes in the version to which I linked above. This should be sufficient to illustrate why this programme is nothing but propaganda. It also illustrates some uncomfortable truths about the academic establishment, of which I was once a member.

The programme introduces now-retired Professor Niels Harrit, formerly of Copenhagen University, who co-authored a paper published in 2009 by the science publisher, Bentham, in their Open Chemical Physics Journal, called Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. I've linked to the original paper, which is fairly accessible if you want to read it, but there is also a more concise summary for non-specialists here. The programme gives the strong impression that this is just the pet armchair theory of one eccentric retired chemistry professor. At no point does it mention that the paper was a collaborative effort by 9 authors; all accredited professional scientists, including chemists, physicists and engineers, most of them still practising professionals. 

The BBC make a lot of play out of the fact that the paper studies only 4 independent dust samples, where as the US Geological Survey and the forensics lab, RJ Lee, apparently studied many more. Of course, it is very difficult to get hold of uncontaminated dust samples from 9/11 these days, so 4 is quite good going. What the documentary fails to mention is that none of the previous studies attempted to look for explosives, as they were conducted for other purposes. Indeed, the RJ Lee report is totally consistent with Harrit's paper and lends further support to its conclusions by confirming the extremely high abundance (6% by particle count) of microscopic elemental iron spheres in the 9/11 dust. The only satisfactory explanation for this abundance of iron-rich microspheres is that they are the residue of a thermitic reaction and Harrit's paper demonstrates the formation of such spheres upon ignition of the thermitic material. Once again, this is not mentioned in the documentary.

At least the documentary does not resort to the kind of puerile ad-hominem garbage which is commonly found on so-called 'debunking' websites, such as the JREF forums. There it is common to find people referring to Bentham Open Chemical Physics as a 'vanity publication' or claiming (without any evidence) that Harrit's paper was somehow not peer-reviewed. The claims stem from the fact that most critics don't understand how scientific publishing works (because they are not scientists) or what open journals are for. Harrit's team published in an open journal so that the paper could be downloaded for free by members of the general public. Had they published anywhere else, you and I would have had to pay a hefty fee (often £20 or more) just to read their work. Instead, open journals charge the authors' institution directly for each paper they publish, but only after it has been through the same peer-review process as any other journal. Open journals are therefore the ideal medium for work of wide public interest such as Harrit's.

So, thankfully the BBC weren't so stupid as to make baseless and easily refuted claims about the reputation of the journal or directly about the reputation of the papers' nine authors (despite only mentioning one of them). However, it did present the opinions of a couple of experts of its own to try to refute the findings of Harrit's paper: Professors Richard Fruehan and Chris Pistorius of Carnegie Mellon University. They are specialists in metallurgy, whose jobs and careers are entirely dependent on grants from the US government, of course. They ought to be sufficiently qualified to have a valid opinion on Harrit's paper, although their independence must be considered questionable, at the very least. Was it not possible for the BBC to interview some non-US-based academics, preferably including a specialist in nano-particle chemistry? Apparently not.

At one point, Pistorius betrays the fact that he almost certainly hasn't even read Harrit's paper, as he suggests that what they found may simply have been red primer paint, as painted onto the steel columns of the WTC. This possibility was explicitly considered in the paper and comprehensively rejected for several reasons (see section 7 p. 27-28), not least being the fact that paint does not undergo a very fast and highly energetic exothermic reaction when heated to 430 deg C. Paint also dissolves in industrial solvent, where as Harrit's thermitic material does not. If the BBC had bothered to ask Professor Harrit about the primer paint hypothesis, he would no doubt have laughed, before calmly explaining why it's a total nonsense.

At another point, Prof Fruehan claims that he can find "almost anything" in any sample of dust. Really? What an extraordinarily stupid remark. If that were so, there would never be any point examining any dust sample for anything, since we know we will find literally everything in it, including nano-thermite explosives, presumably. I'm sure Prof Fruehan is not an idiot, so I can only conclude that his remark was designed to mislead, to shrug off the findings of Prof Harrit's team as somehow irrelevant and not worthy of discussion, despite the fact that they cannot be refuted. 

Fruehan also makes the highly disingenuous remark that Harrit's thermitic material contains less energy per kilogram than ordinary paper. Wow! This point seems like a clincher and is seized upon with glee by the BBC film-makers as they cut to a shot of a pile of paper, burning away tamely. It seems impressive and if you're not a scientist you will immediately get the idea that whatever it is Harrit found in the dust can't possibly have been capable of blowing up the twin towers. (The great irony here is that the official explanation actually does claim that the towers fell as a result of ordinary fires, fuelled by stuff like wood, paper and plastic, long after the jet fuel had burned off, but never mind). For a moment, I was flummoxed too, until I remembered that energy is not the same thing as power, and certainly not the same as temperature. Power is energy per unit of time. Of course, paper (like wood) is quite energy dense but it burns slowly, releasing its energy over a relatively long time (i.e. with low power). That's why wood is a fairly effective fuel which can keep a fire going for hours. Fortunately, wood fires do not explode with great force, but some less energy-dense materials can, and do. The actual power density of Harrit's thermitic material is shown below (blue line), compared to a known sample of commercially available nano-thermite (red line). The x-axis is the input temperature to a differential scanning calorimeter, which rises linearly over time:

Fig (29) from Harrit's paper comparing power density of thermitic material found in 9/11 dust (blue line) with commercially available nano-thermite (red line).
The graph above shows that Harrit's thermitic material ignites at a lower temperature and burns with more power, over a shorter time, than a sample of highly engineered, commercially available nano-thermite. Both are capable of generating much higher output temperatures, in excess of 3000 deg C, easily capable of slicing through steel (melting point 1540 deg C), and both can also generate high pressures, comparable to a conventional high-explosive. Both are less energy-dense than paper, but that is a completely irrelevant and specious fact, calculated to mislead viewers. 

Nano-thermite has many times the power density of ordinary thermate, because the particle size is so much smaller, but the output temperature and pressure depend on many other factors, including the exact volume and geometry of the space in which the ignition occurs, as well as the ignition method. However, if you want a very good demonstration that even ordinary thermate is more than capable of slicing easily and cleanly through a steel beam, the professional engineer Jonathan Cole (from Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth) has made this excellent video. Nano-thermite/thermate is simply much more efficient and creates explosive pressure in addition to very high temperatures.

Clearly, Prof Fruehan must know the difference between energy and power, so why does he make that specious remark about paper? The only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that he is deliberately trying to misdirect the audience, with all the skill of a practised liar. But perhaps I'm being harsh. What can he do? Does he really have the option to admit the truth? Only a very brave or a very foolish academic would rock the boat by calling into question the lies of his or her own paymasters in the government.

The physicist, Prof Steven Jones was one of the co-authors of the Harrit paper. He found out to his cost what happens when you assert your academic freedom against the establishment. He was a well-respected professor at  Brigham Young University, until 2006 when he started to raise questions about the official explanations for the collapses of the twin towers. His only crime was independent thought, for which he was sacked from his post, possibly as an example to any other academics who might get ideas about expressing their views. There is no such thing as academic freedom. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and these days the piper is paid either by the military-industrial-security complex or by the government - which in turn is paid by big business, including the military-industrial-security complex. I know this because I was an academic (at one of the 'top 5' science universities in the world, supposedly) and I kept my eyes and ears open.

My message to the BBC is this: Stop abusing science. Stop abusing scientists. Stop pumping propaganda into my home, at my expense. Make more good comedies and drama instead. Thank you.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Deport Clarkson and Philips to Norway

I wish to join the growing chorus of voices in the media calling for the immediate deportation of Melanie Philips, Jeremy Clarkson and other 'hate preachers' to Norway, considering how dangerous their views are as an inspiration to terrorists such as Anders Breivik, currently on trial there for mass murder. What? Oh sorry, I appear to have got that wrong. Apparently, the media are calling for the deportation of so-called Muslim 'cleric' and erstwhile MI5 asset, Abu Qatada. It's an easy mistake to make. After all, Qatada has plenty in common with Clarkson and Philips: he's a great fan of cultural purity and has no time for lefties. One difference is that Clarkson has never been found guilty of any crime in the UK, whilst Qatada has spent years in prison -  for holding abhorrent opinions and inciting violence. However, Clarkson was once prosecuted for a speeding offence and he has definitely broken the law, many times. It seems unlikely that Qatada will be prosecuted here for any actual terrorism offences, since that would be embarrassing to MI5, among others.

Hate preachers
Abu Qatada has been accused of being a spiritual inspiration for terrorists, such as Richard Reid (the 'shoe-bomber') and tapes of his sermons were allegedly found in the flat occupied by Mohammed Atta in Hamburg before the 9/11 attacks. Curiously, a copy of the Top Gear Annual was also found in Atta's flat ... No, OK, I am (probably) making that bit up, although I don't know - he may also have had a copy of Razzle under his bed. One thing I'm not making up, however, is that both Clarkson and Philips were quoted approvingly in Anders Breivik's manifesto. Philips in particular is quoted extensively for her opposition to multiculturalism, an opposition heartily endorsed by Qatada too, as well as many of the newspapers now shouting for his deportation. *Irony Klaxon*

As for Breivik, allow me a small digression: the media have consistently sought to portray him as a psychotic loner and delusional fantasist whose views are marginal to the society in which he is embedded. None of these claims stand up to examination. Breivik displays no symptoms of psychosis whatsoever - no hallucinations and no disconnection with everyday reality. He is almost certainly a psychopath, but that is merely an extreme personality type. He may also be considered delusional in some ways, but no more so than the writers he admires, such as Philips. In fact, his delusions are extremely widely held and they are promoted almost daily by British tabloid newspapers: I remember reading a Sun headline screaming that Muslims would be a majority in the UK within about 20 years. Over half a million people voted for the BNP in 2010 and nearly a million voted for UKIP. Similar numbers support the EDL. If Breivik is delusional, then he is certainly not alone in his opinions and scarcely a marginal figure. He was also a 3rd degree Freemason, affiliated with an Oslo lodge, at the time of his crimes. Before you go shouting 'conspiracy theorist!' at me, I should point out that I don't regard this fact as terribly significant, except to illustrate that Breivik was far from being a 'loner'. In fact, he was fairly gregarious and clearly had connections to people with power and influence in Norwegian society.

Breivik's connections go well beyond Norway, however, as he seems to have met senior members of the EDL and claims to be in a more secretive organisation he calls the Knights Templar, supposedly founded in London in 2002. Could there be a deeper connection between the founders of the Knights Templar (a name with obvious Freemasonic undertones) and the shadowy and wealthy figures who channel funding to the EDL too? Perhaps. If we had been talking about al-Qaeda, the media would immediately have taken this as irrefutable proof of a global conspiracy but we'll reserve judgement and merely say that Breivik is well-connected and may not have been acting entirely in isolation. Just because various police forces have been unable (or unwilling?) to investigate those connections in much depth does not mean that Breivik must be making them up. Breivik certainly never lacked for money, even after several business failures. One has to wonder whether his parents (divorced when he was 1 year old) were merely overindulgent or whether he had financial support from other quarters? Would his mother, on only a nurse's salary, have been happy to provide the tens of thousands of dollars Breivik spent on tons of fertiliser, farm equipment, guns and fragmentation rounds, in between playing video games at home and failing to get a job? If only we all had such an understanding mother.

Enough of the digression. I simply wanted to make it clear that Breivik is no isolated monster, but a product of social and political forces which have very wide and mainstream currency, despite the understandable attempts of his various mentors to distance themselves from him. The enthusiasm of the media for the deportation of 'hate preachers' like Abu Qatada stands in naked, hypocritical contrast to their total silence on their own complicity in creating the paranoid, Islamophobic hysteria which feeds not only Breivik's murderous delusions, but those of  millions who share his views. If they looked into a mirror, they would see not Breivik's cold smile, but the face of Abu Qatada; the man they hate so much that they actually, secretly love him - and his opposition to multiculturalism. It's strange that he's still here. After all, we had no trouble illegally transporting terror suspects to be tortured in Libya and whenever the US tells us to deport one of our citizens to them, we always comply with great haste and without a word of censure from the European Court of Human Rights.

So why is the 'will-they-won't-they?' Qatada deportation pantomime still dragging on? Because it's great entertainment for the masses. It serves a whole host of useful purposes: burying other news, making Theresa May look resolute and strong on 'terrorism', whipping up more anti-Muslim sentiment for the divide-and-rule strategy of the British elites. If Qatada ever does get deported, they'll be sorry to see him go. I wish I could say the same about Jeremy Clarkson and Melanie Philips.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

2020 Vision: A Warning from the Future

Today, I was shocked to receive an email purporting to come from Britain in the year 2020. There's a faint possibility it may be a hoax, but it did explain that technology was invented at the end of 2019 which enables emails to be sent backwards in time using superluminal neutrinos or something - only emails though - so I guess it's entirely legit. It certainly seems to ring true when you read its account of what Britain is like in the year 2020. Here is the main part of the text:

Dear Citizen, 

This is a message of solidarity from the future. It is the year 2020 and the Conservative-Neo-Liberal-Corporate Alliance Party has won its third successive electoral victory with the biggest landslide majority in history. This was inevitable, following first the abolition of voting rights for the unemployed in 2016 and then the introduction of corporate block votes for companies with more than £10 million annual turnover in 2018. It was felt that this was fair, in view of the 'wealth' that these companies create. Besides, it was also just an honest reflection of the fact that these big companies have provided most of the funding for all three of the big political parties anyway for many years. Seeing as they wield so much power behind the scenes, why not just give them votes, so they can wield that power more openly, it was argued - and everyone simply agreed because, well, the media were in favour and it would have been political suicide to gainsay them and their advertisers. 

Unemployment itself is now at a new record high of 91%, although productivity has never been higher and the economy is actually booming. Of course, only very few people are sharing this bounty. When I say, 'unemployment' is 91%, that is actually a bit misleading, because everybody still has to work, apart from the top 1% who are rich enough to live off their investments.

The Government introduced various 'workfare' schemes at the end of 2011. This was in response to a terrible outbreak of laziness, especially among young people. For some strange reason, which economists  at the world-renowned think-tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs, are still researching, poorer people are prone to becoming lazier in harsh economic times, but not when jobs are plentiful. The young are disproportionately affected, too, as are women. No one is sure why the inability to get out of bed seems so strongly correlated with economic recessions, but the finest minds in economics are working on this problem and it can only be a matter of time before a Nobel Prize is awarded for this ground-breaking research. A few dissident voices who suggested that by sacking thousands of public sector workers, the Government might, in some way, be adding to the laziness epidemic, were dismissed as 'moaning minnies' and 'economically illiterate'.

Poster from Arts Against Cuts

Thus it was that big companies such as Tesco, Arcadia Group (Topshop, Topman, Burton etc.), Boots, Asda, Serco and so on were offered the chance to obtain free labour from unemployed people who were told that they had to do it or else they would be made destitute and left to starve or beg on the streets. By an odd coincidence, most of these companies had made generous political donations and yet were far less generous when it came to paying the tax that was due from them.

It soon became obvious to many of these companies that they were paying their regular workers far too much, considering that they now had access to a large pool of free labour. Soon, they stopped advertising actual paid jobs, since they no longer needed to hire people and pay them a wage when they could simply get people in at the expense of the taxpayer (i.e. someone else). The Government was managing the economy so badly that unemployment was already pretty high and there were plenty of well-qualified graduates and people with good CVs among the 2.8 million on the dole, so why pay wages when you can get these people for nothing? A few audacious companies even began to contemplate a rather cheeky strategy, suggested by management consultants and accountants: why not simply sack your entire workforce and then get them back in for free once they started signing on?

It was a brilliant idea and the consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers who suggested it was later knighted for services to industry. At first, some companies baulked at the idea, as they weren't sure they could get away with such a blatant scam; surely people wouldn't be so utterly moronic as to fall for this, they thought. Wouldn't there be an outcry? They needn't have worried.  It turned out that the British public were amazingly docile and incredibly easy to fool. Years of corporate propaganda throughout the media, washed down with reality TV, celebrity gossip and sport, combined with a natural deference to authority and there was barely a whimper of opposition - especially from the official opposition (the so-called 'Labour' Party).

How coerced labour destroys real jobs

All over the country, companies started sacking their workers en masse in 2013, only to get them back within weeks, without having to pay them a penny. The bill to the taxpayer (who is currently a man called Mike from Dorking) soared, of course, as did the official unemployment figures, but the economy itself was largely unchanged, as people continued to do their old jobs. The only real difference was that people were now working for benefits, paid out by the Government, rather than proper wages. Salaried jobs became so scarce they were auctioned to the highest bidders and given as prizes in the national lottery.

Today in 2020, the only salaried jobs are senior management positions or top jobs in the media and banking 'industries'. The army is largely supplied by forced labour too, which is just as well, since a US-UK led coalition invaded Scotland 'to restore democracy' in 2016 following Scottish independence. Scotland almost immediately descended into civil war between two rival factions; one supporting Celtic and the other Rangers. Rangers fans immediately seized the North Sea oil fields, including those claimed by England, causing alarm in the oil markets. They also alienated the US after they announced their intention to trade Scottish oil directly in return for Mars bars, eggs, flour and hydrogenated fats, instead of US dollars.

A full scale invasion of Scotland, however, only received UN backing after a 'dirty bomb' was left in a shortbread tin at the gates of Buckingham Palace, together with a note saying "Och, pal, stuff this up yer boggin Sassenach airses and haunds aff oor oil, ya wee bawheid shites!" US intelligence sources immediately blamed Scottish religious fanatics and ordered an invasion, saying it had nothing whatsoever to do with oil, although 'conspiracy theories' have proliferated on the internet, some even claiming that the bomb might not have been planted by Scots at all! (Ridiculous. I mean there was a note and everything and a guy in a kilt was seen placing it on CCTV. Come on, FFS it was in a shortbread tin!).

Meanwhile, an unexpected side-effect of workfare is that many new work-for-benefits jobs have been created which curiously recall the kind of jobs which might have existed in medieval times, when we last had this kind of feudal system. The textile industry is back, as Britain now exports cut-price clothing to newly-affluent China, made by children as young as 12 in the revived Lancashire cotton mills, following the lowering of the working age in 2017. Most people don't go to secondary school any more, since tuition fees were extended to secondary education in 2015, after the Liberal Democrat wing of the Party promised categorically that it would never happen on their watch. But it's OK, because no one needs education any more.

Soon after workfare was introduced, the billionaire Sir Philip Green, who controls the Arcadia retail clothing group, created the new post of 'Anal Hygienist' leading to an honours degree from his newly created private university. The new 'Anal Hygiene' profession has flourished due to high demand from super-rich socialites such as multi-talentless heiress, Tamara Ecclestone, who never quite mastered the art of wiping their own bottoms. However, highly-paid economists have proven with irrefutable mathematics that laziness is a problem confined to the poor, since rich people obviously must have been extremely industrious in order to acquire their wealth (it stands to reason). Tamara, for example, barely has enough hours in the day to buy enough shoes to keep her on her feet, in between visiting beauty therapists and furiously employing people to be creative on her behalf. In 2020, such people are truly the wealth creators and workfare-job-creators of the nation.

I urge you therefore, not to change anything! Just keep on not doing whatever it is you're not doing. Capitalism is feudalism and feudalism works! It's a time-honoured system and there is absolutely no alternative. Don't think for yourself. Don't protest. Do as you're told.

Yours sincerely,

D. Cameron

President-for-Life, 2020

There is a UK-wide day of action against workfare on Saturday 3rd March, 2012.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Iran vs the Petrodollar: World War Three?

The US is raising tensions with Iran, possibly as part of the build-up to a war which has been threatened, on and off, for at least a decade. The US has had a unilateral trade embargo against Iran going back to 1995. There are reasons to be alarmed now, however, as the US has called for an international embargo of Iranian oil, to which Iran responded by threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which about 40% of the world's oil supplies pass. Only the EU has responded positively to the US call, though, as China, Russia, India and even key NATO-member, Turkey, have all firmly rejected the US position.

If you live in the West, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is all about Iranian nuclear ambitions. The media narrative is that the West wants to put pressure on Iran to halt its supposed nuclear programme. Every now and then, hysterical claims appear in Western media outlets, that Iran is on the brink of developing nuclear weapons and intends to use them against Israel, Southern Europe or perhaps give them to terrorists. A Telegraph story from 6 years ago (Iran 'could go nuclear within three years') is fairly typical. This is propaganda but it is not all scaremongering, as Iran does have a nuclear enrichment programme, although the informed consensus is that it is still quite a long way from developing a nuclear weapons capability, let alone an actual bomb.

Cartoon from

Iran has been repeatedly threatened by Israel and the US, who both possess nuclear weapons. No doubt Iran would feel a lot more secure if it did have some nuclear capability of its own as a deterrent to its belligerent enemies, but it is still co-operating with IAEA inspectors and it clearly has no current intention to develop a nuclear device, so Western accusations are knowingly premature and exaggerated, as they were against Iraq in 2002.

Still, the hawks would argue that Iran is a rogue state; part of the infamous 'axis of evil' identified by George W Bush, including Iraq and North Korea. Therefore, any attempt to stop the Iranian nuclear programme must be justified, as is any attempt at 'regime change', despite the fact that we scarcely batted an eyelid at North Korea's nuclear programme. Does this argument really stand up to scrutiny? There is no doubt that Iran is one of the most repressive states in the world, in terms of its attitude towards internal dissent. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, Iran ranks 159th out of 167 states on its (slightly subjective) scale of democratic freedom (North Korea is bottom). That's pretty bad, but do remember that Saudi Arabia actually ranks two places lower, at 161st. We sell all the arms and torture equipment the Saudis could possibly want, because they are among our staunchest allies in the region. Iran is apparently the enemy of democracy, where as Saudi Arabia isn't. This kind of doublethink illustrates clearly that freedom and democracy have got nothing to do with our policy towards Iran.

History also attests to Western hypocrisy with respect to Iran. You will almost never hear it mentioned in Western mainstream media (including the BBC of course) that Iran used to be a relatively democratic state, until an infamous coup in 1953, instigated by Britain and the US. This is also one of those vital bits of history you will never, ever learn in a British or American school. I'm guessing this is because it must be rather embarrassing for countries which boast of being 'democratic' and 'free' to be caught red-handed overthrowing democratically elected foreign leaders for rather sordid reasons like oil rights. So the reason that Iran is a paranoid autocracy today is because that is how the US and Britain wanted it to be. When it comes to making foreign policy, democracy is a total pain in the arse, frankly.

Britain and the US installed the Shah as Dictator in 1953. His brutal rule was ended by a broad-based revolt of the Iranian people in 1979, but democracy never returned to Iran, as the revolution was taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. Democracy would be too easy for the West to undermine, so Iran became a repressive Islamic republic, its paranoia somewhat justified. Thus, from the viewpoint of history, it is the US and Britain, not Iran who are the  major aggressors in the region, constantly meddling in the internal affairs of other countries in order to secure oil supplies and lucrative contracts for their transnational oil companies. Indeed, since its foundation in 1783, there has scarcely been a single year in which the US has not been at war. Most of these have been wars of aggression beyond US soil.

OK, but surely Iran is a major sponsor of international terrorism, right? You could say that. Iran is a sworn enemy of Israel and does give material support to the highly unsavoury groups, Hezbollah and Hamas, although some might describe them as 'freedom fighters'. As always, the definition of 'terrorist' is subjective: The US provided support to the brutal, right-wing rebel Contras against the democratically elected left-wing government of Nicaragua (ironically by illegally supplying arms to Iran), and numerous similar organisations throughout Latin America. Some might call this 'sponsoring terrorism' and there are dozens of other examples of the US and the UK giving support to terrorist organisations all over the world, except we tend to label them as 'rebels' when they are on our side.

More recently, it appears the West or Israel have been waging a covert war inside Iran, murdering Iranian scientists, the latest with a sophisticated car bomb, and sabotaging nuclear facilities, all without any legal justification. This is surely terrorism, by any definition, but we seem to be OK with it. How many people have been killed by Iranian covert operations in Europe or the US? None, although there are lots of unproven and rather wild allegations of Hezbollah attacks in unlikely corners of the world, like Argentina, although the latter may well turn out to be one of a number of Israeli Mossad false flag operations. Also, how many wars of aggression has Iran started, compared to the US or Britain? I think the last time Iran started a major war may have been around the 6th century AD, although I may be wrong. That's hardly a very aggressive country, although I'll grant that a possible 21st-century Sassanid revival could be a complete game-changer.

So, if it isn't terrorism or Iran's nuclear ambitions that are driving us towards war, what is it? The answer is the same as always, of course: oil. But there's more at stake this time. The future of the dollar as the world's reserve currency is on the line and that is no trifling matter. The main aim of Western powers appears to be the same as in 1953: regime change. Patrick Cockburn in the Independent argues that this is primarily due to Israeli manipulation and provocation, although he also points out that the US has been sponsoring Jundullah Sunni insurgents inside Iran to carry out terror attacks since 2008. There is no doubt that the West, especially the US has always wanted to regain control of Iran's huge oil fields. What worked in 1953 could work again; a covert war to destabilise the country from within, combined with external pressure, to force a coup favourable to Western interests.

I do not think that the US is in any position to mount a successful full-scale invasion and occupation of Iran, despite all the sabre-rattling and even a limited naval operation in the Strait of Hormuz would be highly risky. The US is militarily stretched and domestic sentiment is weary of large-scale ground wars. Russia has also signalled repeatedly that a US attack on Iran risks provoking a much larger conflict. Both Russia and China have considerable interests in Iran and they may well be ready to defend those with more than diplomacy. Iran certainly has the potential to spark World War 3 and even US military hawks are - hopefully - not crazy enough to risk that. Hence the strategy is to provoke internal revolt, as in Libya and Syria.

The extent of Asian opposition to the US-EU-Israeli policy towards Iran is made very clear by the earth-shattering news that India has made a deal to buy Iranian oil using gold instead of dollars, to circumvent US-EU financial sanctions. The Israeli DEBKAfile agency also reports that Russia and China are ready to follow suit. Could this be Israeli misinformation designed to provoke US military action? Possibly, but the news has scarcely been reported at all in the Western media and it certainly rings true to me, since several countries have been making moves towards dumping the dollar in recent years. This would ultimately be catastrophic for the US economy and its hegemonic position in the world.

Ever since 1971, the US has been able to write blank cheques by printing dollars, no longer linked to gold or silver. Initially, this was to pay for the Vietnam War. They got away with this because other countries needed to hoard dollars to pay for oil and any surplus was stored in US Treasury bonds, allowing the US to run endless budget deficits very cheaply. Hence, as long as oil trade increased and was conducted in dollars, the US could print money without causing too much inflation at home. If the dollar stops being the world's reserve currency, all those foreign-held dollars will soon come home to roost, probably resulting in hyperinflation. China is one of the largest holders of US dollars, so if China were to start paying for oil in gold, that would be very bad news indeed for the US. It is perhaps no surprise that the wars against Iraq and Libya followed soon after those countries stopped selling oil in dollars.

As China, Russia, India and Turkey clearly have no intention of joining any sanctions on Iran, it is obvious that they will only serve to hurt Europe, causing the price of oil to rise. European nations already reeling from the effects of the banking crisis, eurozone instability and counter-productive austerity policies seem hell-bent on collective suicide. The last thing they need is an inflationary oil-shock but this is what they are inviting, all for the sake of indulging US and Israeli belligerence.

Western hubris is likely to precipitate a major shift in world power to the East and Iran could well be the catalyst for this, although it may not require an apocalyptic military conflict. If Europe's (including Britain's) leaders had any sense (which they don't), they would grow a collective backbone and take a course independent of the US and Israel, in readiness for a world in which the US no longer calls the shots. Finally, I would observe that US attempts to repeat their 1953 trick of sparking a coup in Iran may ultimately backfire so severely, leading to an economic collapse, that it could result in some kind of popular revolt in the USA. Wouldn't that be poetic justice?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cupid of the Underworld

And now for something completely different. This is a poem from the vaults: a poem about the redemptive power of suffering, with an anti-war counterpoint. Then again, maybe it's just about a rather fetching lady with a bow and arrow. Whichever you prefer:

Redeemer - my killer, my victim - pale Archeress

Cupid of the Underworld

Draw taut the silken sinews of your hand.
Could drops of pity foil perfection's aim?
Your bow smiles to see its prey unmanned -
an arrow flies - the killer bears no blame.

Somewhere in a desert stands a man,
about to move his finger. Blood tastes the same
in every clime - from London to Afghanistan -
a bullet flies - the killer bears no blame.

Like Zeno's arrow spinning in eternal flight,
my mind retraces time to whence it came:
You live in darkness, hunt by moonlit night
and guiltlessly you smile but bear the blame

for every cruel cut this world endures,
for which injustice there is one redress:
the poisoned barb that breaks my skin is yours;
redeemer - my killer, my victim - pale Archeress.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Million ££ Pound ££ Prize Question

Okay, enough ranting from me. I thought I'd offer you a competition instead, with a MILLION POUND PRIZE !!!! I often hear the defenders of bankster capitalism claim that banks 'create wealth' or that private banks are vital to our economy. We can't tax or regulate them too much, for example, or we'll scare them away to Switzerland and Hong Kong, which would apparently be a disaster for us, because .. err .. well because banks 'create wealth' don't they?

I'd like to know more about this magical wealth creation process that occurs in banks, because I'm a bit hazy on the details at the moment and I'm sure some genius neo-liberal economist (perhaps one who works for a bank?) will be able to answer my question, given that I'm offering a good old capitalist incentive: what an economist might call a 'price signal'. That's right folks, I'm prepared to pay a MILLION BRITISH POUNDS to the first person to offer a satisfactory answer to the following simple question:

How do private banks create wealth?

That's it. Just post your answer in the comments, leaving a contact number or email and the first good answer will get £1,000,000. That's a MILLION POUNDS. 

Small print: Of course, you will not object if I pay this in the form of a credit card specially issued by the newly created Bank of Insane Gibberish, with £1,000,000 credit on it (based on the £10 note I hold in my piggy bank as cash reserves).