Author: Philip Roddis

On Chelsea Manning (and B. F. Skinner)

Philip Roddis Do I say hero or heroine? Pass. I’ve a head full of thoughts on that subject but it’s not where I want to go here. Chelsea Manning is back behind bars. Not as punishment but as coercion. A grand jury held in secrecy wants him/her to testify against Julian Assange and s/he won’t.[1] A judge has held Chelsea Manning in contempt and she is being detained after refusing to testify about her disclosure of military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks in 2010 … The former Army intelligence analyst, who served about seven years in prison for the massive leak, objected to the questioning in a grand jury appearance … [in] a continued effort by federal prosecutors investigating the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. CNN today In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available,” [Manning] said. “My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”…Prosecutor Tracy McCormick said …

WATCH: Robert Newman’s History of Oil

Philip Roddis The best comedians are the cleverest people on the planet. I’m grateful to a BTL comment on OffGuardian, below a piece of mine on Venezuela, for linking to this forty-five minute video. It has Robert Newman saying exactly what I try to say, but with vastly greater wit and panache, on the history of oil and, more generally, a materialist perspective on history. Performed in 2006, it could have been yesterday given the clueless way we insist on viewing each “pro-democracy” intervention – Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Venezuela – on a case by case basis. Given too the criminal way ‘our’ media ignore the material drivers of war. In both my two posts this week on Venezuela, I described corporate media as having “abdicated a core duty in their refusal to explore motives that cast a very different light on Western interventions sold to us as humanitarian”. Newman treads the same ground but here too – damn the man – he does it better.

Venezuela: a study in opinion manufacture

Today’s Observer runs an editorial on Why Venezuela needs consensus, not conflict. It opens with the image shown above, of an anti Maduro rally (or to be pedantically accurate, one in support of a Juan Guaidó “recognised” by the USA – dutifully followed by that long list of leaders beholden to Washington and Wall St. – as president). Note the absence of faces.

Venezuela? The bad guys are on Wall St.

Philip Roddis With Washington talking up a military coup (Democrats for once in no hurry to berate Trump on the issue) and Russia a sufficiently interested party to have flown nuclear capable bombers into Caracas last month, it behoves us all to get up to speed on Venezuela. It should go without saying we can’t trust a word corporate media say but, case it doesn’t, here’s why. First, corporate media are not independent but reliant on market forces. This applies not just to the billionaire media but, for reasons given elsewhere, to Guardian and BBC too. Second, media both sides of the Atlantic have a long record of backing US predation on the global south. Never have they deviated from this – take the Guardian’s cheerleading on Iraq. Worse, they’ve abdicated a core duty in their refusal to explore motives that cast a very different light on Western interventions sold to us as humanitarian. Third, sanctions have sown economic havoc in Venezuela. They’re spoken of in such calm tones that an already innocuous word loses …

Breast cancer, feminism & Israeli warplanes

Philip Roddis I’m critical of identity politics both in its passive form, as theory-lite substitute for class analyses of oppression and exploitation, and in its more active manifestations. Such as when, in 2016, millions of progressives bought the idea of HRC as the self evidently superior White House contender. This despite a role in Libya that should have seen her in the dock at the Hague, and a commitment to ‘no fly zones’ in Syria that would, in the view of America’s highest-ranking military officer (indeed, of any rational observer) have brought the world closer to WW3. Such as when liberal media drip feed, into their hawkish charge sheets against Russia, Putin’s alleged homophobia.[1] Or when self styled liberals vie in Guardian features to pour ordure of the vilest kind on Julian Assange, a man true progressives – God knows there’s enough of the easy kind to go round – owe a profound debt of gratitude. Then there’s Israel, regarded by many of us as an apartheid state and by some of us as regional …

Land of the free

Philip Roddis The map below shows the spread across the USA of laws against support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. It was compiled by Palestine Legal, an organisation dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Americans who speak out for Palestinian freedom. One state with anti BDS legislation on its books is Texas. Says The Intercept: The bill’s language is so sweeping that some victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Southwest Texas in late 2017, were told they could only receive state disaster relief if they first signed a pledge never to boycott Israel. That demand was deeply confusing to those hurricane victims in desperate need of help but who could not understand what their views of Israel and Palestine had to do with their ability to receive assistance from their state government. The evangelical author of the Israel bill, Republican Texas state Rep. Phil King, said at the time that its application to hurricane relief was a “misunderstanding,” but nonetheless emphasized that the bill’s purpose was indeed to ensure that no …

First they came for the socialists…

Philip Roddis It’s ten to one you read in my title the opener to a much cited quote about Nazi Germany. And two to one that even if you couldn’t identify the author, Pastor Martin Niemöller, you could give an approximation of how the rest of it goes: I did not speak out because I was not a socialist…a trade unionist…a Jew… Though anchored in time and place, in history at its darkest, the pastor’s remorse – he was not speaking rhetorically but in penitence – points to a truth neither finite nor spatially bound but universal: what goes around comes around. To look the other way as others are cruelly treated is not only cowardly and immoral. It is dangerously myopic. No man, opined one of England’s finest poets, is an island. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Then they came for the intellectuals… Mao targeted these. So, in more distilled and chilling form, did Pol Pot. And long before Hitler’s doctors injected the disabled – life unworthy of the name – with …

Peterloo and the Realist tradition

Philip Roddis Worthy, sumptuously shot, convincingly acted and not without moments of insight – but a tad leaden. That’s my take on Mike Leigh’s new film, released November 2. I’ll give a more nuanced view in a moment but first a timeline, reverse chronology, in which Peterloo – the event, not the movie – can be framed: Orgreave 1984…Bloody Sunday 1972…Amritsar 1919…Peterloo 1819. It’s hardly a competition but the toll of fifteen sliced to death by mounted and sabre flailing yeomanry, many of them drunk, charging into the crowds at St Peter’s Field in Manchester on August 16, 1819, is dwarfed by that of 379 mown down at Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh, April 13, 1919. As are the fourteen shot dead by the Parachute Regiment in Derry’s Bogside on January 30, 1972 – while at Orgreave in June 1984, police in riot gear and supported by dogs killed no one at all when they attacked[1] striking miners, their livelihoods on the line. So why lump together events separated not only by centuries and continents, but by …

Your debt and mine to Julian Assange

Philip Roddis In a recent post I referred to the vile treatment of a man who brought us irrefutible evidence, and in screeds, that the widely cherished notion of the West being democratic is a fat lie. True, some of us knew this already, but Wikileaks shocked even the most hardened critics of liberal democracy by the extent and unprecedentedly fine granularity of that evidence. In view of its shabby betrayal of Julian Assange – and the fact its readership demography maps closely onto that of my own site – I, pace Media Lens, singled out the Guardian for particularly scathing treatment. Two examples were columnists Deborah Orr and Suzanne Moore. It should surprise no one that both are women. Though Assange’s character assassination has involved many a male journalist – not least Russia Cold Warrior Luke Harding, whose uniquely personal betrayal of trust marked an all time journalistic low [1] – shills and hacks who also happened to be female had a spearhead role to play, given the precise form the assassination assumed. Here’s what computer …

Review: Unprecedented Crime

The unprecedented crime Peter Carter and Elizabeth Woodworth refer to in the title is that of willfully causing global temperatures to rise, through greenhouse gas emissions, to levels already causing large-scale loss of life while threatening human survival and that of countless other species. They might with equal accuracy speak of crimes, plural, when those who from positions of authority either actively aid key offenders or, by failing to hold them to account, betray the trust placed in them.