Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Dark Posts

Did you know that Facebook allows the sending of 'dark posts', which are targeted to particular users, are not visible to anybody else, and which disappear without trace after a few hours (except that FB keeps a record of them)? It appears these were used on a large scale by Strategy Communication Labs and Cambridge Analytica to target selected voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to win the election for Trump. Information from Carole Cadwalladr on Aljazeera News May 23. So did these demons help to swing the EU referendum? I would think that was matter for a criminal investigation.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Election 2019

It seems that we shall save £109 million by not electing Euro-MPs next year - less than £2 per citizen or 40p a year for the duration of the Parliament - a small reward for loss of influence! Of course, the fact that we flooded it with UKIP parasites last time was off-putting, but it was a useful warning against proportional representation.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Home Office Gnome Office

Today's Guardian brings yet another story of abuse by the Home Office. A hard-working and successful Asian software engineer realised that Inland Revenue had made a mistake in his favour. As soon as he realised he contacted them and paid the extra £4000, as was his right. Some gnome in the bowels of the Home Office decided this was suspicious and invoked an obscure clause allowing them to withdraw his work permit and right to stay. He and his family risk imminent deportation. What is shocking about all these cases is the total lack of flexibility and compassion. The arrival of a new minister has so far made no difference. The 'culture' of this rotten ministry seems to be infected from top to bottom. Some civil servants at all levels should be sacked, and so should one or two past ministers, starting with Theresa May.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

8th Amendment

I have not followed the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, but I find it absurd that people who oppose abortion also oppose contraception. Women abort because they have become pregnant and cannot face bearing the baby, but if contraception were freely available fewer women would find themselves in this situation in the first place. More generally, it seems a mistake to enshrine laws in the constitution of a country, which makes them much harder to change. A prime example is the American 2nd amendment adopted in 1791, at a time when machine guns and assault rifles were inconceivable. Ten more students died in Texas yesterday in the latest high school shooting; these assaults have been taking place almost weekly this year.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Armageddon!

Michelle Goldberg has pointed out in a NY Time opinion piece, that the opening and closing prayers at the US Embassy ceremony were given by American Evangelicals who believe that all Jews must be gathered in to Israel as the prelude to the Apocalypse, in which any Jews who don't convert will be sent to hell. Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch preacher, who opened proceedings, is recorded as having said that religions like 'Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism' lead people 'to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.' John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, gave the closing benediction; he once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. It is terrifying to think that VP Pence, who is 'a heart-beat away from the Presidency' belongs to this crowd. Michelle Goldberg is author of 'Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism' - highly recommended!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

AntiSemitism and Islamophobia

Orthodox Judaism and traditional Islam resemble each other more than either resembles Christianity, both being religions of obedience to laws rooted in the huge literature of Talmud and Hadith. Jews and Muslims suffered for centuries from Christian persecution, fleeing together from Iberia and the Balkans. The sacred languages of both are Semitic. You would expect the followers of both religions to stand together today, yet the supporters of Israel are now the greatest purveyors of Islamophobia; how does one explain the paradox? The big change came in the 19th century, when more and more Jews achieved citizenship in West European countries, many of them at the same time abandoning the practice of Judaism. Also, many Europeans were ceasing to practise Christianity, but prejudice against Jews persisted and mutated into a new racist form; it was claimed that Jews are an alien race, an enemy of Western culture. People like Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler were abused as 'Jews' in spite of being Christians. Zionism was born as a reaction to this racism and was itself a form of racism, based on the myth that all Jews everywhere are permanently in danger of persecution, whether or not they practise Judaism. Anyway, Zionism, and Israel which is its realisation, still need antisemitism both to recruit new immigrants to Israel and to silence critics, who are afraid of being called antisemitic if they criticise Israel. But by calling itself 'the nation State of the Jewish people', Israel seems to make all Jews everywhere responsible for its expropriation and abuse of Palestinians. It is not commonly realised that Hitler multiplied the number of 'Jews' by four; the traditional definition of a Jew was the child of a Jewish mother, herself raised by a Jewish mother; the Nazis regarded anybody with one Jewish grandparent as Jewish, and Israel has adopted the same definition. To delegitimise resistance, supporters of Israel have helped to spread and finance fear of Islam, ably assisted by fanatics such as Bin Laden and al-Baghdadi. You can read all about it in 'The Islamophobia Industry' by Nathan Lean (Pluto Press, 2012), now made into an excellent documentary by Al-Jazeera. The consequence, Muslims in America and parts of Western Europe suffer abuse like that of the Jews in 1930s Germany.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Iran Deal

The USA had a big investment in the Shah's Iran, so they were terribly shocked by the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-81, When revolutionary students broke into the embassy and held its personnel hostage. It probably cost Jimmy Carter his re-election and ended on the day Reagan was installed, suggesting that the Republicans made a secret deal (cf the pact with North Vietnam which enabled Nixon to defeat Humphrey in 1968). But that doesn't explain why the US still has a fixation on Iran 36 years later. In fact, Iran does not threaten any vital American interest - unless Israel is considered an interest rather than a drag on US foreign policy. The influence of Iran on Iraq was brought about by the US-UK invasion of 2003. Its presence in Syria is widely misunderstood as support for a 'Shia government'. In fact the Assad regime is secular, based on the Baath ideology, but Iran is more afraid of extreme Sunni militancy than of secularism (and so should the US be). Saudi Arabia hates Iran because Wahhabism holds that all Shia are enemies, to be fought against wherever they are found. As for Bahrain, it is a Sunni tyranny dominating a Shia majority. There remains Israel, which has a pathological fear of Iran, based on Iranian rhetoric about 'removing Israel from the map', but that does not mean nuking Israelis - and countless Palestinians; Israel has had nuclear weapons for fifty years, and there is no reason to believe that Iran's leaders are suicidal. In fact a one-state solution for Palestine would remove Israel from the map and replace it by a secular state with equal rights for all its people, but for that Israel would have to abandon its 'racially' based nationalism (although there is no Jewish race; that was a fiction invented by European anti-Semites). And what if Iran did re-start its nuclear programme? America made no effort to stop Pakistan from getting the bomb, although India already had it, and Pakistan is a much more unstable country than Iran. For seventy years the logic of MAD (mutually assured destruction) has prevented nuclear war. If US aggressiveness made Iranians re-start their nuclear programme, it would apply to Iran too. But perhaps Trump is too mad for MAD.