Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Danczuk Clan Crucified at Rochdale Labour HQ!

SINCE the infamous case of the “Rochdale Seven” - the expulsion of seven Labour members over their complaints about Danczuk’s suitability as a candidate which was triggered by his then girlfriend Karen Burke being dumped at Alicante Airport with no money and two small children to look after - Danczuk has had the backing of his local Labour party, duly rubber-stamped by the national organisation.
But after he was suspended following the revelation of his “sexting” a 17-year-old girl just over a year ago, the cracks started to appear. When it came to nominating a Labour candidate for the new post of Metro Mayor for Manchester, Danczuk’s backers tried to keep front-runner Andy Burnham out of the constituency. They failed: Burnham got to address local party members, and Rochdale CLP then backed him.
So it should have surprised no-one last week, at Rochdale CLP’s AGM, that Simon Danczuk’s friends and apologists got what the Norwegian football commentator memorably called “One hell of a beating”. Apart from the position of treasurer, which none of Spanker Si’s detractors wanted to contest, every other post up for grabs was secured by someone who wants Danczuk out of Rochdale Labour politics.
Every last post on the CLP taken away from what is referred to in a tone more serious than outsiders might imagine as “The Danczuk mafia”. Another prop kicked away from an MP who still fantasises about being let back into a party which gives every sign of not wanting anything more to do with him. And it gets worse - a lot worse.  
For more go to:
Zelo Street: Simon Danczuk's Pals VOTED OUTzelo-street.blogspot.com/2017/02/simon-danczuks-pals-voted-out.htm   

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Richard Blair on Legacy of George Orwell



In February 1937, an idealistic and ungainly Englishman in his thirties traveled to Spain to take his place in the trenches at the Aragón front to defend the Republic. His name was Eric Arthur Blair, remembered by history as George Orwell. This month, 80 years after the start of that adventure, Richard Blair, the writer’s only son, now a 72-year-old retired agricultural engineer, visited Huesca to take part in the opening of a major exhibition about his father.
TALKING to EL PAÍS during his brief stopover in Madrid on his way back to London, Richard Blair evoked the figure of Orwell and commented on the relevance of his legacy and the enormous interest in his final novel, 1984, which has become an international best-seller since Donald Trump became US president.
“It’s true that in recent weeks, with the references in the United States to ‘alternative facts’ [cited by Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s top advisors], there has been increased interest in his book. But my father has never gone out of fashion.” The book was not so much a prophecy as a fable about Nazi and Stalinist totalitarianism, says Blair, although as he points out, some details from the novel that once seemed like science fiction have been part of our everyday life for some time, such as security cameras that watch our movements, or what some companies know about us from our internet activity, or how we use our credit cards. “Society has evolved toward what he saw. The world is becoming Orwellian,” he says.
Blair is patron of the Orwell society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to spreading knowledge about the life and work of the writer, as well as debate about ideas, and that remains scrupulously neutral about politics. Which might explain why he is so careful in choosing his words when talking about Trump.
“I think that there is a lot of tension and compression in the White House right now. It is true that Trump is attacking the press, but he is a complete enigma, they are all maneuvering and learning to live with each other,” he says.
Nevertheless, he says he cannot help but be happy at the hike in sales of his father’s books, particularly as he inherited the publishing rights (“which expire in 2020,” he points out). But he recognizes concerns that this has been due to the public finding parallels between the current situation and the dystopia Orwell described.
Orwell and his wife Eileen adopted Richard in 1944. Ten months later, Eileen died on the operating table. Some of the friends of the tuberculous-stricken writer suggested that he give up custody of the child but he ruled out the possibility. The relationship between Orwell and his adopted son became closer when the two of them moved to the Scottish island of Jura, chosen because it was a healthier location for Orwell to overcome his illness and where it was so cold that “if you move six feet away from the fireplace, you freeze.”
Blair’s memories from those days are of a loving father who made wooden toys, who had a strange sense of humor, and whose parenting style had none of the political correctness of modern upbringings. On one occasion he allowed the three-year-old Richard to smoke from a pipe filled with tobacco collected from his cigarette butts. The result, aside from a vomiting fit, was that the child saw himself temporarily vaccinated against the vice of smoking.
It was on Jura that Orwell finished 1984, writing in his room during the day and spending the evenings with the child. One of their favorite activities was fishing, especially for the lobsters that filled out a diet otherwise made frugal by post-war rationing. One weekend in August 1947, however, on a journey back from a weekend of relaxation on the west side of Jura, their boat sank and they almost drowned. Blair says Orwell’s health suffered as a result. David Astor, owner of The Observer newspaper, which published the writer’s work, asked to be allowed import the newly discovered antibiotic streptomycin from the United States, with which he was treated between December 1947 and July 1948 in a hospital near Glasgow. But his efforts were in vain: Orwell developed an allergy to the medication. “His nails fell out and blisters appeared on his lips,” Richard recalls. The writer died in January 1950 at age of 46, when his son was about to celebrate his sixth birthday.
What is the most important lesson that Orwell taught us? For journalists, says Blair, there are many. “To be honest. The most important things are facts which can be corroborated, not reality as you want it to be. Journalists today do not have time to check facts, and errors are perpetuated and multiplied on the internet until they become true.” The writer’s son also recalls Orwell’s six rules for clear writing from his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language. “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print; Never use a long word where a short one will do; If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out; Never use the passive where you can use the active; Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent; Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.”
Blair finished up with his father’s definition of liberty: “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Blair is particularly concerned about the lack of dialogue in contemporary society. “All people do is shout at one another, without actually listening.” And he is surprised to see young people who, instead of speaking face to face, spend all day staring into their smartphones. “Even couples in restaurants! Are they communicating with each other via text messages?!” he jokes. And what would Orwell make of the 21st century, the era of the internet, great scientific advances and post-truth?
“Ah, now that’s the million-dollar question. But it’s impossible to get into anyone’s head. Nor to come up with the answer by reading his books. If he were still alive he would be 113, and would have had a lot of new influences… There’s no point in speculating.” As such, we don’t know, and we can’t know. But he does go as far as to assume one thing: whatever his thoughts, they would be characterized by common sense.

Operation Clifton Further Discredits Danczuk

by Les May
WHEN Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale's book ‘Smile for the Camera’ was published in April 2014 it was applauded by almost every reviewer.  But there was one slightly sceptical note struck by Nicholas Blincoe who reviewed the book for the Daily Telegraph.  Whilst almost everyone else seemed to accept at face value everything that Danczuk and his aide Baker had to say about Cyril Smith’s activities, Mr. Blincoe was more cautious in what he said:  
'If it emerges that Smith, who died in 2010, raped young boys at Knowl View, the failure to act earlier will seem unforgivable. But the guilt will be shared.  Everyone in Rochdale read the RAP story.  I pored over it as a 13-year-old. There was never any doubt over Smith’s guilt. So why did no one do anything?' and 'Investigations into Knowl View by the police and council have been extended to discover Smith’s role, if any, in the abuse. We will soon know if Rochdale’s sympathy for Smith was a terrible mistake.'  
‘Smith’s guilt’ here refers to the story which had appeared in the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in 1979, about him carrying out fake medical examinations and spanking young men at Cambridge House Hostel in the early 1960s.  The reason ‘There was never any doubt...’ is that when the story appeared Smith huffed and puffed and blustered, but did not sue.
In the event Blincoe’s prediction of May 2014 that ‘We will soon know...’ proved to be wildly optimistic.  It has taken not one, but three, investigations to get at the truth about what Baker wrote and Danczuk put his name to.  
Essentially their credibility rests on three claims: 
1)  That Smith was protected by, amongst others, the security services, and was effectively immune from prosecution, 
2)  That Knowl View special school was a ‘sweetshop for paedophiles’ and Smith took full advantage of it,
3)  That there was a ‘cover up’ by officers of Rochdale Council about what was happening in the school. 
Now we have known since July 2015 that the first of these claims is false.  
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-33716982

This is what I wrote about this incident on the Northern Voices blog in September 2015: 
On pages 221 and 222 of his book is a typical Danczuk story about Smith.  In recounting this story he forgot the collateral damage being caused to the reputation of the Northamptonshire Police:   
'His car had been pulled over on the motorway and officers had found a box of child porn in his boot.  The police were naturally disgusted and wanted to press charges.  But then a phone call was made from London and he was released  without charge Senior officers had threatened the officers involved with dismissal if he was not released immediately.  The mood was tense and sullen as officers stood back while Cyril breezily walked past them to freedom.  All the staff who knew about it were threatened with the Official Secrets Act if they discussed the matter any further.  Once again Cyril walked out of the police station knowing he was a protected man.'  
A totally convincing story, but totally untrue.    
How do we know?    
Because detectives have interviewed Danczuk, two former chief constables, about 60 police staff, a journalist who has written extensively about Smith, and several members of the public.   No witness has been found who saw Smith in custody or was involved in his arrest, no reports of the alleged incident have been uncovered and no witnesses have been found from Special Branch.   A manual trawl of its archives was undertaken by Special Branch and the Crown Prosecution Service searched its archives for relevant information.   Both found nothing. 
So far as I know this is the only one of Danczuk's stories that has been subject to scrutiny.  I leave it to your imagination to figure out how much it has cost to find out the truth about it just because he and Baker could not be bothered to check it out before committing it to print. http://northernvoicesmag.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-humbug-of-simon-danczuk.html 
Their second claim about paedophiles at Knowl View school was demolished in September 2016 when Operation Jaguar was closed due to the absence of substantive evidence.  
This is what the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had to say: 
‘Between April 2014 and April 2015, 13 files with multiple allegations were submitted by GMP to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) relating to 27 suspects and 16 victims (I think they mean complainants), of both physical and sexual offences.  In 2016 the CPS communicated their decision on the final one of the 13 files that was still under review.  No further action will be taken in relation to this allegation.  In May 2016 a further file was submitted to the CPS and in August 2016 the CPS advised there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.’
Danczuk did not like this one little bit and responded with:  
'I believe that there has been a catalogue of failings by GMP during the investigation of these crimes.   A failure to prosecute will leave child sexual abuse victims devastated that the people who changed their lives forever will not be brought to justice.  This statement from GMP announcing that they have not been able to prosecute any more abusers will, I am sure, mean that the perpetrators of these horrific and evil crimes will sleep more happily in their beds tonight.’  
In other words he ‘knows’ the people accused are guilty, and if the evidence cannot be found it is due to police failings.   http://northernvoicesmag.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/old-news-from-knowl-view.html
Whilst Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd did not see fit to defend the good name and professionalism of Greater Manchester Police, the local Police Federation chairman Inspector Ian Hanson, did saying:  
 '(f)rom his comments I would assume Mr Danczuk is in possession of very specific information that backs up his comments (and) if that is the case then he should refer that information to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaint's Commission) himself immediately.'  
In a Facebook post, Ian Hanson said a statement released by Mr Danczuk on Thursday was 'totally lacking in detail or substance'.  
Inspector Hanson said of Simon Danczuk: 
'.... I will publicly call him out to deliver the firm evidence that he bases his criticism of GMP on to my office by 12 noon on Monday - and I will personally deliver it to the IPCC.' http://northernvoicesmag.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/danczuk-given-ultimation-to-cough-up-by.html

As for their claim of a ‘cover up’ this is implied rather than made explicit.  But anyone reading page 113 of their book could not be left in any doubt of what is being suggested, especially as they refer to one council officer by name.  Certainly the media took the view that the police investigation into whether there had been a ‘cover up’ by Rochdale Council had come about because of the book. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/rochdale-mp-welcomes-knowl-view-7501342

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Wiggett from GMP, said:  
'Following the publication of MP Simon Danczuk's book 'Smile for the Camera’, GMP conducted an assessment of the allegations contained within that book. As a result of the assessment, GMP decided that a criminal investigation was required. 
'This also followed consultation with Rochdale Council and the QC conducting the independent inquiry on their behalf. The council asked Neil Garnham QC to suspend his independent review and he has agreed to do so.
'The GMP investigation will now seek to identify whether any offences have been committed in the way that previous reports of abuse were handled or allegedly covered up.' http://www.itv.com/news/granada/story/2014-07-24/investigation-into-alleged-knowl-view-abuse-cover-up/

After more than two and a half years and at a cost of nearly three quarters of a million pounds the Greater Manchester Police investigation Operation Clifton concluded that there was no ‘cover up’ of what was happening at Knowl View.  In other words Danczuk and Baker once again got it wrong.   Now at this point I must declare an interest.  In May 2015 I was interviewed at Rochdale Police Station for some two hours by two officers who were part of this operation.  I handed over copies of all the relevant documents I had amassed during my own investigation and signed statements detailing the information I had provided verbally.  At the end of the interview I was asked to express a view as to whether I believed there had been a ‘cover up’. I said no. So far as I was concerned I was very impressed by the thoroughness of the investigation.  
Danczuk sees things differently.  He has described Operation Clifton as a 'shambles' and he said: 'This must be the most bizarre and unprofessional police investigation I’ve seen in my time in public office.  The police have been effectively investigating themselves.  The way it has been handled by the police warrants investigation.'

What he does not say is that the investigation was set up examine whether there had been a ‘cover up’ by Rochdale Council and that he was wrong to suggest that there had.
This is curious because in April 2014 he had dismissed the existing enquiry into claims of a ‘cover up’ set up by Rochdale Council in January 2014 as a ‘bogus review’ that lacked the necessary independence.  It was this enquiry which was superceded by Operation Clifton. 
He said at the time:  
'It's well known that Rochdale council are knee-deep in litigation over claims of historical physical and sexual abuse and their so-called independent review is nothing more than a defence of the council.  
'I don't know why they're calling it an independent review because the council commissioned it, they've set the terms of reference and the council leader is busy calling round people connected to Knowl View asking them to come and speak to him.
'There's nothing independent about it and I think it's wrong that the council should be investigating serious allegations of abuse that they had responsibility for preventing.' https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/28/cyril-smith-abuse-police-alleged-rochdale-cover-up  

Incidentally, the council leader in question was Colin Lambert who went on to deliver the Labour party a stunning victory at the next election but was then replaced by someone closer to Mr Danczuk.

Operation Clifton cost almost £750,000, Operation Jaguar cost in the region of £500,000, the cost of the investigation by Northamptonshire Police is unknown but we can tentatively place it in the tens of thousands of pounds, if not more.  Taken together the sum is in the region of one and a quarter million pounds.  Even though Danczuk was the proximate factor which led to each of them, he rejects the findings of all of them.
Allowing Danczuk to remain in a position where anyone might be inclined to take the slightest notice of his views on Cyril Smith, Knowl View and indeed the whole question of sexual abuse of children, is rapidly becoming an expensive luxury the country can ill afford.  But he won’t go until he is pushed and the people to do that pushing are the members of Rochdale Labour party or, if they still won’t do it, Rochdale’s councillors from the other parties need to kick up a fuss and not be cowed by attacks from Danczuk’s cronies.
Rochdale will never climb out of the mire so long as it has Danczuk as its MP.  Blaming the police when they don’t come up with the findings you think they should is lacking in judgement.  Doing it three times is the action of a fool.  

Monday, 20 February 2017

Bids for Shaun Greenhalgh art hit record on day

'Going to work' (1925) by L.S.Lowry
THREE paintings in the style of Lawrence Stephen Lowry by the Bolton artist Shaun Greehalgh, beat their reserve prices when they went on sale at the Bolton Auction Rooms today.  People at the auction rooms reported that the pictures were bought after a bitter series of telephone bids came in.
The reserve prices in the auction house catalogue was given as £1,000-£2,000 in the case of each painting.
On the day, a spkesman for the auction house told Northern Voices that one of the paintings went for £5,700, and the other two went for £5,100.
Shaun Greenhalgh was born in 1961, and became famous after the British Museum examined some of his work before two of his reliefs were submitted to Bonhams auction auction house in 2005, its antiquities consultant Richard Falkiner spotted 'an obvious fake'.  Then Bonhams consulted with the British Museum about various suspicious aspects, and the Museum then spotted several unlikely anomalies.
The Greenhalgh's family became known as the 'the garden shed gang'.  They built up an elaborate cottage industry at Shaun's parents' house in The Crescent, Bromley Cross, South Turton, which is  north of Bolton town centre.[
Shaun Greenhalgh had left school at 16 with no qualifications.   A self-taught artist, he had been influenced by his job as an antiques dealer, he worked up his forgeries from sketches, photographs, art books and catalogues.  He attempted a wide range of crafts, from painting in pastels and watercolours, to sketches, and sculpture, both modern and ancient, busts and statues, to bas-relief and metalwork.  He invested in a vast range of different materials - silver, stone, marble, rare stone, replica metal, and glass.  He also did meticulous research to authenticate his items with histories and provenance (for instance, faking letters from the supposed artists) in order to demonstrate his ownership.  Completed items were then stored about the house and garden shed. The latter probably served as a workshop as well.
Shaun's father, George Greenhalgh, who fronted as the sales operation of the fakes – produced by Shaun, died in October 2014 at the age of 91.
Since his Dad died, Shaun Greenhalgh has produced several paintings in the style of Lowry which went on sale in Bolton today, and bringing more than double their reserve price.
The three successful pictures at the auction included 'Going to work'; 'Coming from the mill'; and 'Before kick off', all framed oil on canvas after L.S.Lowry, and painted by Shaun Greenhalgh in 2015.












Spanish Civil War in Wakefield

Comrades
Wakefield Socialist History Group are holding a SPANISH CIVIL WAR event on Saturday 11 March, 1-4pm at the Red Shed (Wakefield Labour Club), Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 1QX.
The speakers are:
*Granville Williams (Granville is the editor a  new book, THE FLAME STILL BURNS: THE CREATIVE POWER OF COAL.  He is on the National Committee of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom).
*Bob Mitchell (Bob is a former councillor and former Mayor of Wakefield.  He has a particular interest in poetry and the Spanish Civil War).
Admission is free.  There will be free light snacks.  Plus there is a bar with excellent real ale.
Fraternally
Alan Stewart
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

http://georgeorwell.org/SpanishCivilWar.htm

Judge in Undercover Policing Inquiry to Quit


THE Judge, Sir Christopher Pitchford, involved in the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing used to infiltrate trade unions and left-wing groups in England since the 1960s, has revealed that he has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
This means he will eventually have to stand down from the complex and already-delayed probe.
It is said that this has not yet affected his running of the inquiry so far - although the judge's physical symptoms have been becoming apparent.
The home secretary has been asked to appoint another judge to work alongside Sir Christopher and succeed him when he ultimately stands down.
The inquiry is already well behind schedule because of a complex legal dispute with Scotland Yard over how many former officers from the controversial unit at the heart of some of the allegations ought to give evidence.
This fall-out is expected to come to a head in a public hearing later in the spring which is expected to still take place with Sir Christopher at the helm.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Ian Allinson now on Ballot for Unite Secretary Job

by Ian Allinson
IT's great news that I've now had notification from Unite that we have have passed the 50 nominations threshold - so I will be on the ballot paper. With this notification came a list of the nominations they have accepted. Your own was not on this list.

If you haven't yet sent off your nomination, please do so without delay - if they aren't received by Wednesday they won't count. For branches, the best way to submit the nomination is online - either using a link in the email sent to branch secretaries on 13 January, or the codes on the letter you received. Workplaces have to do it by post.

For nominations you need the following information:
  • Ian Allinson
  • Membership number 30439666
  • Branch NW/55

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wigan Pier'& the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War and Wigan
Museum of Wigan Life
Tuesday 28th February
12 noon – 1pm
Price: £2.50 per person (incl. tea/coffee)
  booking required
We mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama when the International Brigades helped stop Franco’s advance on Madrid during the Spanish Civil War.  What made local people up sticks and fight for democracy and socialism in another country?  What was the background to this international conflict?  Find out more about the passion and sacrifice of the young volunteers of the International Brigades and their supporters both here and in Spain.
George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier at 80!
Stephen Armstrong
Museum of Wigan Life
Tuesday 7th March
12 noon – 1pm
Price: £2.50 per person (incl. tea/coffee)
 booking required
Stephen Armstrong, author of The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited, marks the 80th birthday of Orwell’s original book with this fascinating talk about Eric Blair (George Orwell) and his writing.  Orwell researched his book in the old reference library, now the Museum of Wigan Life, and his work has sometimes been controversial in the town.  Armstrong examines the context in which Orwell wrote and his approach to social reportage.  Come along and find out more about Wigan’s relationship with one of the 20th century’s most important writers.

Our thanks to Community History Manager Lynda Jackson in Wigan for the details.

Friday, 17 February 2017

'THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN' at Royal Exchange

CELEBRATED CONTEMPORARY VERSION OF EARLIEST GREEK DRAMA REINVENTED IN MANCHESTER

Royal Exchange Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh present

THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN

By Aeschylus in a new version by David Greig
Directed by Ramin Gray; Composer John Browne; Choreographer Sasha Milavic Davies
10 March - 1 April - The Theatre
Press Night: Tuesday 14 March, 7.30pm
THIS spring the Royal Exchange Theatre sees one of the world’s oldest dramas play out on its unique stage. THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN by Aeschylus, in a new version by the multi award-winning writer David Greig, is an extraordinary theatrical event featuring, at its heart, a chorus of forty women and men from across Greater Manchester arguing for their lives. Reimagined for the Exchange by director Ramin Gray (Artistic Director of the Actors Touring Company) this production has been beautifully reworked for this in-the-round space and, following its original critically-acclaimed production in 2016, is remade for and with the people of Greater Manchester.

Written 2,500 years ago THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN has startling resonance for 2017, reflecting major issues of contemporary society. Suppliant means ‘asylum seeker’ and the play explores issues of migration and democracy, gender politics and political power. The Royal Exchange Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh 

 present 'THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN' from 10 March – 1 April.

A group of women leave everything behind to board a boat in North Africa and flee across the Mediterranean. They are escaping forced marriage in their homeland, hoping for protection and assistance, seeking asylum in Greece.
The forty-strong Chorus is a diverse mix of talented and passionate volunteers from across Greater Manchester who have been working with the company to create the power and energy of a Greek chorus. They perform alongside Oscar Batterham, Omar Ebrahim and Gemma May Rees.
The production features new music by composer John Browne who has used the ancient Greek instrument the aulos (likely to have been used in the original production 2,500 years ago) to create a beautiful and unique sound for the production, clashing ancient sounds with contemporary composition for a 2017 chorus and audience.

'I, Daniel Blake' Snubbed by US Oscars

KEN Loach's film 'I, Daniel' Blake'* was been overlooked  in the 2017 Oscar nominations.  The picture which was filmed in Newcastle, and starred the Geordie comedian, Dave Johns, had been expected to grab the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science.
Since winning the Palme d’Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival, two awards at the British Independent Film Awards (Dave Johns for Best Actor and co-star Hayley Squires for Most Promising Newcomer), last Sunday the film got five Bafta nominations.
It got Best Film - where it will be up against the all singing, all dancing and very lovely La La Land among others - and Outstanding British Film, the list of Bafta possibilities also includes Best Director for Ken Loach, Best Original Screenplay for Paul Laverty and Best Supporting actress for the aforementioned Hayley Squires.
So, you can see why everyone expected the film, which tells the terrifying tale of two people thwarted by the bureaucractic British Benefit's system, to be among those read out during the big reveal of the nominations, which came direct from Los Angeles last Tuesday afternoon.
Jessica Cripps discussing  I, Daniel Blake‘s controversial exclusion from the Oscars on 'epigram' wrote:
 'Successful cinema leaves an impact on its audiences. I, Daniel Blake reached parliament when MP Jeremy Corbyn recommended Prime Minister May watch the film as an example of the government’s ‘institutionalised barbarity.'
She concludes by saying:
'The gritty realism may have failed to create a buzz in Hollywood, but the honesty has touched the hearts of audiences worldwide; it lives on in political ripples rather than in an Academy Award.'
 
*  The indie winner: I, Daniel Blake It won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, comes from a beloved British auteur and has garnered critical acclaim, but would Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake prove too tough a sell for cinema audiences? If UK distributor eOne had any qualms, they have surely evaporated now that I, Daniel Blake has opened with an impressive £404,000 from 94 cinemas, and £445,000 including previews. Stripping out the previews, site average is a very robust £4,298.

Monday, 13 February 2017

ROCHDALE ONLINE & Operation Clifton

ASSISTANT Chief Constable Debbie Ford (Published on ROCHDALE ONLINE:  8/2/2017) said:  
“We launched Operation Clifton in July 2014 in response to a request by the Home Office to investigate allegations of a criminal cover up of non-recent sexual abuse at Knowl View School.
“GMP was asked to carry out this huge undertaking after a QC-led inquiry, on behalf of Rochdale Council, uncovered potential criminal offences.
“GMP undertook a two year investigation and committed a team of 15 staff led by a dedicated Senior Investigating Officer. Three independent advisory group members also oversaw the investigation to provide external scrutiny and challenge.
“Operation Clifton was a lengthy and detailed investigation which has been undertaken by dedicated staff who collated and examined a large volume of information to ensure that the right conclusions could be drawn. Having undertaken this work I can confirm that there will be no criminal charges brought under Operation Clifton.
“Furthermore the investigation concluded that there was no evidence of corruption or attempts to cover up the allegations to protect offenders or organisations’ reputation.
“I am grateful for the commitment and effort of the team involved.
“The documentation and findings of Operation Clifton have been submitted to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) who will now review them over the coming months.”

Joint Trade Union Statement on Police Spies

Joint Union Statement: 
We the undersigned are outraged at the news that despite court orders to the contrary, the Metropolitan Police Service has destroyed evidence required for use in the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry. State spying on trade unions and political campaigns is a human rights scandal that affects millions of British citizens.  
Despite continued reassurances, the Pitchford Inquiry has failed to secure the documents that will be central to the investigation. Trade union core participants are beginning to question whether the Inquiry team has the ability to stop the police from obstructing the pursuit of justice. Lord Justice Pitchford needs to act now to restore our faith.  
We are calling on Lord Justice Pitchford to announce an urgent Inquiry hearing to examine the destruction of evidence by the police. The Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe should be forced to give evidence under oath to explain why, how and under whose authority documents have been destroyed. 
Lord Justice Pitchford needs to take immediate measures to secure all documentation held by the police, in order to prevent future destruction and avoid the entire inquiry descending into a hugely expensive cover-up on the part of the Metropolitan Police.  
SIGNED:
Len McCluskey (General Secretary) and Gail Cartmail (Acting General Secretary) UNITE the Union, incorporating UCATT 
Matt Wrack (General Secretary) Fire Brigades Union
Chris Kitchen (General Secretary) National Union of Mineworkers
Tim Roache (General Secretary) GMB union 
Mick Cash (General Secretary) Rail Maritime and Transport union 
Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary) National Union of Journalists 
Dave Smith and Roy Bentham (joint secretaries) Blacklist Support Group



Shaming Saint Michael


Christopher Draper goes shopping…
by Chris Draper

ONCE upon a time I had a holiday job working in a Nottingham supermarket.  I fondly remember one particular day I did nothing but stick individual adhesive price labels on hundreds of boxes of Cornflakes. Nowadays shops programme prices into a computerised system that ultimately prints out individual bill-receipt at the till.  This Universal Product Coding (UPC) places a legal obligation on shops to ensure that the prices displayed on shelves are identical to those applied at the till.  As price alterations are almost invariably upwards staff must assiduously replace old shelf prices otherwise all customers at that store are systematically overcharged.  Overcharging continues until a customer finally notices and insists on rectification.  When items were individually priced it was simple to see if the price displayed on the till conformed with that on the item but UPC makes it much easier for shops to get away with overcharging and of course its in their financial interest to do so and my local, Llandudno, Marks & Spencer food department is a serial offender.

Over the last year I have been overcharged in this way on at least ten occasions, most recently yesterday (8.2.2017) and on the previous occasion just two weeks ago.  I also shop locally at ASDA and ALDI, the latter never overcharge and the former very, very seldom but Llandudno Marks & Spencer with deplorable regularity.  Even if you spot an overcharge you are required to go to another part of the store to a “Customer Service Counter” this is usually unmanned and you’re expected to wait until a passing assistant stops to help.  Usually I have to find someone myself to complain to.  Then you are required to empty out your shopping until the overcharged item(s) are located.  The assistant will then disappear to find the appropriate shelf price label before belatedly returning to admit that you have indeed been overcharged.  Then the overcharge will be dismissed as an isolated incident.  You are meant to feel grateful when you eventually get back the amount you were overcharged however if you paid by card then you are first required to produce it so the sum can be credited back on your account.  All the trouble and inconvenience is suffered by the customer whilst all illicit profit accrues to Marks & Spencer who, of course, have no system in place to recompense all those shoppers who previously paid the inflated price.

On every occasion I notice an overcharge I endure this tiresome ritual.  I’ve informed M&S HQ of this practice and on each occasion, always ask to speak a manager. I’ve also requested a “customer comment book” to formally record these incidents but I’ve been told none exists and each time I’m presented with a different “acting store manager”.  Invariably they claim ignorance and insist the store does not consciously overcharge but the regularity of such incidents evidences culpability. Utterly exasperated after the previous (January 2017) overcharge I left my contact details with “Craig” and requested that the store manager offer me an explanation of this continued discreditable performance.  The manager did not have the courtesy to reply. 

I could of course confine my shopping to Asda and Aldi but I’m now determined to challenge M&S overcharging.  Sometimes the store makes a gesture to deflect criticism (on the last occasion a bottle of wine) but this is not general practice.  I have now informed “Trading Standards” of this lamentable story but in truth UK law is predictably lax although both Tesco and Sainsburys have in the past been fined for overcharging.  In Connecticut customers overcharged are legally obliged to be given the item free not merely a refund of the excess charge.  Overcharging then costs the stores money whereas, perversely, M&S Llandudno profits by not giving this matter due care and attention.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Plumber wins legal case on worker's rights


THE Court of Appeal decided that a plumber, Gary Smith (pictured) who worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years until 2011, is entitled to basic rights such as sick pay even though he was technically self-employed.

Gary Smith had claimed that he was dismissed following a heart attack and sued Pimlico Plumbers for sick pay.


The case is one of several that have considered the relationship between independent contractors and companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and parcel delivery firm Hermes and City Sprint UK Ltd.
This decision in the Appeal Court could mean more protections for thousands of independent contractors working job-to-job with little security and limited employment rights.
With the number of workers in the gig economy jobs surging in recent times, campaigners have claimed that it leaves many with no guarantee of earnings and no protection if they can't work.  In some cases workers have claimed they are being paid less than minimum wage.
However yesterday, a Judge warned that the ruling would not necessarily be applicable to all workers in similar positions.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Knowl View: No Charges, No Case, No Cover-up

by Brian Bamford
SIMON Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale, often sounds like a gramophone record in which the needle is stuck.  When faced with the bad news that, after the expenditure of almost three-quarter's of a million pounds on Operation Clifton, there is no case to support charges against anyone for the alleged cover-up of a child sex-abuse scandal at Knowl View school up Bamford in Rochdale, Mr. Danczuk does what he always does and blames the investigators for doing a bad job.
True to form Danczuk has declared:  'I am not at all surprised at the outcome of Operation Clifton, as it has been a shambles from start to finish.' 
Then Danczuk hints at yet another cover-up, saying:  'They've wasted a lot of public money trying to protect their reputation and this doesn't help anyone.'
It seems that this whole investigation which has cost so much public money has turned out to be a castle built on the sand of the book published by Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker called 'Smile for the Camera', in which the authors extrapolated in an imaginative way about claims that there had been widespread abuse at Knowl View by Cyril Smith and others, and a cover-up.
The report on Operation Clifton, which we on Northern Voices' participated, has now been written, and will eventually be incorporated into the national overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse.  This is not expected be published in full for the best part of decade.

Bullying, Positive Behaviour & Culture

ALMOST a year ago, a report was disclosed to the Bury Times that claimed one in ten council staff at Bury MBC had been bullied in the last 18-months up to March 2016, and a quarter felt unable to cope with their work demands.
Last Monday (23rd, January 2017), a body entitling itself the Positive Behaviour Task Force met to consider the situation.
The Bury Positive Behaviour Task Force is in theory composed of representatives of the unions UNISON and Unite the Union, as well as representatives of management and HR (Human Relations).  Initially the Unite union which is the biggest union at Bradley Fold Waste Depot, was not invited to participate on this Task Force, more recently however, after complaints from the Unite Commercial Branch, a full time officer was incorporated onto the Task Force but has yet to attend.
In a response to a question about the level of alleged bullying up to March last year a Council spokesperson said:  'The Council takes any allegations of bullying and harassment very seriously and we place the utmost importance on dignity and respect for all our employees... (I)n response to this question 26 Dignity at Work complaints have been investigated in the past three years (6 since April 2015) and there have been 18 cases which have been handled via the mediation route (4 since April 2015).'
The spokesperson then added:
'In terms of taking action, a positive action taskforce has been established along with an Employee focus group to make our policies work effectively on the ground in practice.  We have a further survey planned for the autumn which will be anonymous as are all of the staff surveys we carry.'*
Speaking to the Bury Times (2nd, March 2016), Labour Councillor, Sandra Walmsley, said:
'I don't think there is a culture problem at the council with bullying.  If that was the case, we would have known about it before the survey.... I am hoping the taskforce will get to the bottom of this issue.'
At Bradley Fold Waste Depot there has been various complaints of forms of harassment over the last decade or so, yet at the time of writing the Unite union which represents the bin-men has not had an update or as yet seen any of the minutes of the meetings of the Positive Behaviour Task Force.  Nor, as yet, has the Bury Unite Commercial Branch representing the Bury bin-men seen the results of the 'further survey planned for the autumn (2016)' promised by Bury MBC.
This must be troubling.  
https://councildecisions.bury.gov.uk/documents/.../Questions%20responses%20web.p

Spanish Civil War & Wigan

Wigan talks at the Museum of Wigan Life:

Two talks of interest at the Museum of Wigan Life: on Tuesday 28 February from 12 to 1pm, Charles Jepson will mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama by speaking on The Spanish Civil War and Wigan.
On Tuesday 7 March from 12 to 1pm Stephen Armstrong will talk on George Orwell - The Road To Wigan Pier at 80.
Both talks are price £2.50 including tea/coffee.  To book click here.
Museum of Wigan Life, Library Street, Wigan WN1 1NU.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Bangladesh: Free garment union leaders now!

'LABOUR Start' and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) are raising concerns about the safety of trade union leaders and workers in Bangladesh, after a number of labour activists and workers were arrested on apparently arbitrary grounds.  CCC reports that the arrests have come in the wake of a week of unrest, as thousands of workers in the Ashulia area of Dhaka went on strike to demand higher wages. The strike, started on the 12th December, 2016 at the Windy Apparels factory - most recently in the news following the death of one its employees in October. The factory supplies a number of well know high street brands including H&M, Inditex (known for the brand Zara), Esprit, Tesco, Arcadia, S Oliver, and Debenhams. The strike spread over the following days to other factories in the Ashulia area. By the 20th December 2016 59 factories were closed, although many were shut down as a preventative measure by factory owners rather than by striking workers. The workers are demanding the implementation of minimum monthly wage of 15.000 BDT/ month (182 EUR). At the moment the minimum wage is 5.300 BDT, which was set in 2013 after the Rana Plaza collapse.
It is unclear how the strike started but it is generally acknowledged that it was not a coordinated action and none of the major trade union federations have endorsed the strike. At a number of press conferences trade union leaders have instead urged workers to return to work, while recognizing that their concerns need to be dealt with by the government and employers. Despite this it appears the government is taking the opportunity to carry out a crackdown on trade unions, by threatening and arresting their leaders.
For more go to www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=3310





 

Blacklist Debate in Parliament

THE Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, has secured a Westminster Hall debate in parliament with the title 'Blacklisting in the construction industry' for 4pm - 4:30pm on Wednesday 8th February.  
The debate is open to the public and Blacklist Support Group urges supporters inside and outside the UK parliament to turn up.  If you're coming, make sure you arrive early enough to get through the long queue at security.  'Blacklisted' t-shirts are a good look for the media. 
The Blacklist Support Group continue to campaign for a full pubic inquiry into the blacklisting scandal.
Blacklist Support Group

Monday, 6 February 2017

Francisco De Goya Artsy Link

Hi - my name is Alonzo, and I work at Artsy. While researching Francisco De Goya, I found your page: http://northernvoicesmag.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html.
I am reaching out to certain website and blog owners that publish content in line with our mission to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone. We hope to continue promoting arts education and accessibility with your help.
Our Francisco De Goya page provides visitors with De Goya's bio, over 235 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date De Goya exhibition listings. The page also includes related artists and categories, allowing viewers to discover art beyond our De Goya page. We would love to be included as an additional resource for your visitors via a link on your page.
If you are able to add a link to our De Goya page, please let me know, and thanks in advance for your consideration.
Best,
Alonzo

"Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of source of their wonders."
-Francisco De Goya

Ian Allinson on Unite Nominations

THREE weeks in to the five-week nomination period and we know of 33 nominations so far, but at least one has been disqualified and probably many more will.
To be sure of getting on the ballot paper we need to redouble our efforts, particularly for workplace nominations - if your branch covers more than one workplace then each workplace is entitled to make a nomination too. There is updated guidance on nomination meetings etc here: http://www.ian4unite.org/how-to-nominate-me/
The other key step to ensure a real contest is to ensure that all the paperwork for nominations has been submitted accurately and promptly. If your branch or workplace has nominated me, please check that it has been sent off and that you have had an acknowledgement from Electoral Reform Services. I'd be grateful if you could let me know progress on submission and acceptance of nominations so we have as accurate picture as possible.
There are still lots more nomination meetings taking place - please send in details of any you know of. I'm planning to visit Stevenage, London and the West Midlands this week to speak at some and visit workplaces. This will include three meetings with Fujitsu members (not all nomination meetings) as we have a national industrial action ballot opening on Friday. If you're near Heathrow or Manchester Airport (T3) please show your support for members at BA Mixed Fleet fighting poverty pay and the two-tier workforce that resulted from the 2011 deal.
This week some women members produced a statement welcoming my release of the report on the treatment of women officers in Unite. They are asking other women in Unite to add their names too.
The best argument for Len McCluskey is Gerard Coyne. This article provides some useful points to address people's fears about "splitting the vote" and letting Coyne in. If McCluskey genuinely believed the right could win the election, why did he trigger it in the first place? If he is genuinely worried about the impact of media support for Coyne, why won't he agree to livestreamed hustings in every region? We could enable thousands of members to join the debate without filtering it through a hostile media.
Finally, we still have plenty of leaflets left. Let us know how many you want and where to send them. If you provide a postcode we can also suggest workplaces you could visit. Even if they have already nominated, this is a chance to discuss key issues facing members and how together we can make Unite a stronger and more effective union.
Solidarity
Ian (Allinson).

Bristol Radical History Agenda

Some events featuring BRHG this month in Weston-super-Mare, Cardiff and Bristol :

The Captain Swing Riots

Date: Fri 10th Feb, 2017
Time: 2:15 pm
Venue: United Reform Church Hall, Boulevard, Waterloo St, Weston-super-Mare BS23 1LF
Price: Note: this is for University of the Third Age members, you will need to join at the event if you are not a member.
With: Roger Ball

The ‘Swing riots’ were a massive wave of protests, machine breaking, arson and extortion carried out by impoverished farm labourers and village artisans between the summers of 1830-31. More details here.

The 1831 Bristol rising - solidarity in South Wales

Date: Sat 18th Feb, 2017
Time: 1.00-2.00 pm
Venue: Room 1, Cathays Community Centre, 36-38 Cathays Terrace, Cardiff CF24 4HX
Price: Free-Donation
With: BRHG
Note: This workshop is part of Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair.

After the defeat of the first reform bill in early October 1831 violent protests exploded in many British cities. The rising in Bristol was the most spectacular and suffered the harshest repression by the military. This talk considers this revolt and, using new research, solidarity actions in South Wales to aid the Bristol ‘rioters’.

Spies and Trouble Makers: Wales's response to the Russian revolution

Date: Thu 23rd Feb, 2017
Time: 7:30-9:30 pm
Venue: The Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
Price: Donations
With: Aled Eirug
On the centenary of the February revolution in Russia, this talk considers the impact of these world changing events on the Welsh people. Aled Eirug is the former head of news and current affairs at BBC Wales and is writing a book on Welsh opposition to the First World War.
For more information on these events see: http://www.brh.org.uk/site/event-diary/

Noam Chomsky on the new popularist paradigm


NOAM Chomsky is a philosopher, social critic, political activist, and pioneering linguist. Having served as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books, with his most recent book, Who Rules the World?, published in 2016. Chomsky spoke with Harvard International Review editors Kenneth Palmer and Richard Yarrow about his reflections on politics in the West, and what issues he thinks it has failed to properly address.

Question:  What would you consider the origin of the rise in populist sentiments, illustrated by the referenda in the United Kingdom...and the ascent of Trump in the United States?  Do you see a common thread between these developments?

Noam Chomsky:  What’s happening in Europe and the United States has certain similarities.  It fundamentally traces back, I think, to the new liberal programs of the past generation which have just cast a huge number of people to the side. These programs have improved corporate profit, kept wages stagnant, and highly concentrated wealth and power. They’ve undermined democracy. People have no faith or trust in institutions in Europe— it’s actually worse than [in the United States]. Decisions are basically made in Brussels; people can elect whoever they like, but [the EU elections] have almost no implications for policy. As [economist and Columbia University professor] Joe Stiglitz pointed out, it’s basically one dollar, one vote, and one of the reactions is just anger at everything.
So for example, Brexit interacts with the Thatcherite programs of de-industrializing England. Financial manipulations enriched southeast England and left the rest to wither on the vine. People are angry about that, but they picked, in my view, an irrational answer, since leaving Europe doesn’t help— Europe didn’t elect Thatcher, Major, Blair, or Cameron. My guess is that Brexit will even make it worse, but you can see what the source of the anger is.  On the continent it’s pretty similar: the austerity programs have severely harmed the economy, but they’ve also essentially undermined democratic functioning: the centrist parties are collapsing, and there’s no faith in institutions. You see it in both the Trump and the Sanders phenomena—different ways of reacting to this collapse of functioning policies that [once existed] for the benefit of the population.
Trump supporters are not necessarily very poor—some of them are moderately well-off, they have jobs, but then, the image that’s been used, which is not a bad one, I think, is that they are people who see themselves as standing in line trying to get ahead. That they’ve worked hard, they’ve “done” their place in line, and they’re stuck there. The people ahead of them are shooting off into the stratosphere, and the people behind them, in their view, are being pushed ahead in the line by the federal government. That’s what the federal government does [in their view]—it takes people who are behind them and who haven’t worked hard enough they way they have, and pushes them ahead by some supportive programs. They listen to talk radio, for example, and hear laments about how Syrian immigrants are treated like kings while “I can’t get my kids my college.”
Question:  Recently, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton identified a marked decrease in life expectancies or increase in mortality rates among white, middle-aged Americans, often due to drug abuse or suicide. How would you say that change in mortality rates has been affecting American culture or society?
Noam Chomsky:  It’s the other way around, I think: the changes in American culture and society have led to the mortality rates. This is a sector of exactly the kind of people I was describing, mostly white and mostly male, in the sort of working age period of their lives, who are apparently suffering from depression, loss of face, lack of sense of any self-worth, and turning to drugs and alcoholism. Something similar happened in Russia during the market reforms of the 1990s. There was a huge increase in the death rate, and probably millions of people died. And a lot of it was the same sense that “everything’s falling apart, we have nothing, I’ll just drink myself to death.”
Question:  Do you think that the changes in mortality rates are necessarily connected with the changes in politics—that it’s all part of a similar phenomenon?
Noam Chomsky:  I think it’s a reflection of it. Very much like, in another way, the Brexit vote is. That is, “I have no way out, so I’ll scream.” It would be quite different if, say, there was an organized labor movement, which could mobilize people. In the 1930s the situation was objectively far worse, but there was a sense of hopefulness. I am old enough to remember—there was militant labor action, CIO organizing, left-wing parties, and a relatively sympathetic administration, and so somehow we were going to get out of this. And now people don’t have that. It’s a striking difference.
Question:  You’ve talked a lot about the use of drones and, especially during the Obama administration, have criticized their use. Do you think there are ever conditions under which drone strikes are justified? What would be necessary to meet a moral threshold?
Noam Chomsky:  For example, just recently, ISIS was blocked with a drone that had an explosive in it. Would that be legitimate?  It’s wartime, [the launchers of the drone were] under attack, they’re using a weapon for self-defense.  I don’t approve of it because I don’t approve of them, but in that kind of situation I guess you could argue that it’s like any other kind of weapon.  On the other hand, when it’s a technique of assassination of suspects, it’s a different story. I mean, it’s not a question of drones.  Suppose we sent killers to assassinate people who we think are planning attacks on us. Would that be legitimate?  Suppose they did it to us—would that be legitimate?   The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers have published op-eds saying we should bomb Iran now, not wait.  So would Iran be justified in sending somebody to assassinate the editors? How would we react?
Question:  Do you think that US politics has been changing in its attitude toward humanitarian issues, or toward using drones in a better way?
Noam Chomsky:  Take a look at US history.  We’ve been at war for five hundred years without a break. The people who lived here were driven out or exterminated. Up until the twentieth century it was clearing what we now call the national territory, with constant war and vicious, brutal war. Immediately after that it expanded to other parts of the world. It’s five hundred years, virtually without a break, and the policies really haven’t changed much.
Question:  Do you see potential for greater change, and by what means? How do you think the attitude towards humanitarian issues could change?
Noam Chomsky:  It has in some respects. Take, say, torture again. The popular negative reaction was sufficient, so that it’s now apparently not being used like the way it was being used under Bush. On the other hand, we shouldn’t exaggerate. Take maximum security prisons in the United States: they’re torture chambers. I mean, prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement, which is torture, for long periods, maybe a large part of their life, so torture still goes on all the time.
Question:  Psychologist Steven Pinker argues that over time we’ve been able to use reason and the “better angels of our nature” to make improvements in reducing violence. Would you agree with his analysis?
Noam Chomsky:  There’s something to that, but the story that he presents is pretty shaky. I mean, ninety-five per-cent, roughly, of human history is in hunter-gatherer societies. He claims that they were very violent and brutal, but the specialists on the topic don’t agree with him. There’s work by some of the leading people who work on indigenous societies—Brian Ferguson, Douglas Fry, Stephen Cory—they just claim [that Pinker’s notion about hunter-gatherers is] completely false. The large-scale killings are pretty much associated with the origin of cities and the state system. One [of Pinker’s] strongest arguments is in what’s called the “democratic peace,” that democracies don’t fight each other. Almost all the evidence for that comes from the post-Second World War period, but during this period non-democracies don’t fight each other either. Russia and China have been virtually at war, but never broke out into a war. They’re not democracies, but the United States and Russia also didn’t go to war, and Russia’s certainly not a democracy.  What happened in 1945 is that great powers, or powers of some scale, recognized that you just can’t go to war anymore.  If you do, everything’s destroyed.  So Europe had centuries of murders and internal wars, but not after 1945 because the next one’s the end.  I don’t think that shows anything about the better angels of our nature.  In fact, most of the wars since 1945 have been exported, and if you take a look at the way Pinker handles these, he mostly blames the victims. The wars, he says, are in Southeast Asia and Muslim areas. I mean, is that because of the Iraqis and the Vietnamese?
Question:  What do you think is the most important issue in international politics that is not being adequately discussed today?
Noam Chomsky:  Well, there are two huge issues, neither of them being adequately discussed.  One is an increasing and very serious threat of possible nuclear war, especially at the Russian border.  The other’s an environmental catastrophe, which is coming at us very fast, and there’s nothing much being done about it. These are issues of species survival, really, beyond anything that’s ever been written about in human history. Take, say, the [last US presidential] election campaign. [These two problems were] barely mentioned, which is just astounding. Here we have an election campaign in the most powerful state in human history, which is going to have a major effect on determining what happens in the future, and the most crucial issues that have ever arisen in human history are just not being discussed.  What we’re discussing is Trump’s 3 a.m. tweets and things like “did Hillary lie in her emails?”
Question:  Why do you think those issues are not being discussed more broadly?
Noam Chomsky:  I think there’s a kind of a tacit recognition that people should be kept out of the democratic system. It’s not their area, so divert them with something else. That can be consumerism, that can be obscene remarks about women, anything, but not the major issues. I don’t think that’s a conscious choice, but it’s just kind of implicit in a subconscious, elite recognition of the way the world is supposed to work.
Question:  Does that apply for these issues as well— the nuclear threat and the environmental threat?
Noam Chomsky:  If you start looking at the nuclear threat, you have to ask yourself a lot of questions that maybe are best kept under the rug. Like, for example, why did NATO expand to the East? In fact, why does NATO exist? NATO was supposed to be a defense against the Russians. No Russians after 1991, so why NATO? A lot of questions like that are quite serious, and of course, it’s not that they’re not discussed at all. There’s scholarship, but they’re not in part of the mainstream. The way we talk about it is demonizing Russia, and they’re doing plenty of rotten things, but there are other questions.