Referendum – Not Such A Good Idea

I used to like the idea of a referendum on big decisions that set the direction of the nation for the foreseeable future. It’s important everyone gets a say, right?

When I was really young and idealistic I looked to a future where the power of computers would allow every voter to have a say on every issue and problem the government faced. Until I realised how chaotic that would be.

But I still thought it was a pretty good idea on big issues like EU membership. I voted in favour every time we had a choice. I’ve gone off the idea. Is it just because I was on the losing side? Or has being on the losing side woken me up to the problem with referendums?

One problem with a referendum is it represents a single snapshot of opinion, influenced by conditions at the moment of the vote, supposedly on one issue, but influenced by many others. Had the UK EU referendum been held before Merkel opened the door to migrants (and not just the minority that are refugees) the result could have gone the other way. Had Johnson not made such a hash of it with his Bus NHS millions the Brexit win might have been greater. It’s all down to the moment, the chaos of lots of voices, each making points, some of them dumb.

Another problem is that many of us, we the voters, don’t have the technical knowledge to make the right choices. And here for me, like Dawkins, I don’t mind admitting this is the case, even if I do think I have a grasp of many of the issues.

Elected representation for a number of years brings some stability that a referendum cannot. The scientists at Cern don’t have a referendum on what experiments should be run.

And ‘experiment’ is a good analogy. The world is changing all the time, such that any elected government is effectively experimenting with the economy in a set of novel world conditions, and the conditions change throughout the life of a government. And you need bags of expert input when making decisions (not less, Mr Gove).

Not only is a referendum a bad idea in this regard, it could also be argued that all too often governments don’t take enough of an account of expert opinion, letting ideological politics overrule it.

It’s not just the government choosing ideology over good ideas. What’s disappointing about a lot of politics is that oppositions act as if the government should have foreseen and planned for problems that neither the government, OR the opposition saw coming; or the opposition work to make a government policy fail, and then crow over the fact that it failed. Much of our plolitical rhetoric carries the fortunate weight of hindsight.

Perhaps we need to make the system we have work better, rather than throw it out in favour of a referendum. And perhaps demand better quality members of parliament, and better standards of political behaviour, and political education (but not the indoctrination of children – looking at you, Momentum).

One of the principles we hold dear is that elected members should come from a cross section of society and therefore be ‘representative’. Unfortunately that alone isn’t enough, because it ensures some popular but inadequate people can be elected, and their faults become apparent the more important a role they are given in government. Counter to this is the fear of elitism – but in science I want scientists to be the elite of their profession.

To some extent this worry of electing dummies is alleviated by the fact that cabinet positions are determined by the leader, and the leader is chosen by the party. There’s a chance that there are enough sensible people around not to elect a fool. Not iron clad I know, but still better than a referendum, surely. It’s even dubious whether opening leadership election to the whole party membership is a good idea – Mr Corbyn.

Corbyn has been elected leader effectively by a referendum of the Labour party membership – anyone with £25 and a bucket of idealistic wishful thinking to spare; and he will now have the power to determine a shadow cabinet. Which will form a destructive rather than a constructive opposition.

So, we (I) have realised that referendums aren’t that helpful.

Is that it? Scrub referendums and let the government decide? Well, no. It should be a parliamentary decision, with free votes – none of that bullying coercion by party whips. And perhaps it should be preceded by more expert opinion. Parliamentary committees have a pretty good reputation generally. We should use them more as precursors to big events, rather than for telling us what went wrong after the fact.

And, better political education! Did I say that already?

And, proportional representation, to stop the use of the fear factor that creates our binary system: “If you don’t vote Labour/Conservative you’ll let Tories/Labour in!”

Pseudo-Liberal Double Standards

Pseudo-liberals are supposedly liberals, but they aren’t too fussed about being inconsistent in the way they apply their liberalism. And will employ methods that one would expect of an authoritarian regime, to the extent that one wonders how they would use their power, if the were in fact leaders of a government; or a secret police.
Continue reading “Pseudo-Liberal Double Standards”

Carl Miller of Demos Still Misfires on ‘Islamophobia’

Carl Miller (@carljackmiller) of Demos, a ‘Cross Party Think Tank’  has produced some research that claims to show spikes in ‘Islamophobic’ tweets around incidents of Islamic terrorism.

There are problems with this research, as pointed out very well in this piece, by Benjamin Jones: Conflating abuse with criticism of Islam risks a return to a UK blasphemy law [1], from the National Secular Society (NSS). One big problem is the word ‘Islamophobia’ and how it is used; which in turn leads to a subsequent problem, the selection and analysis of the tweets used to produce the results.

Carl Miller responded to Benjamin here: Measuring Islamophobia on Twitter [2]. He acknowledges the problem, but then goes on to compound it. Continue reading “Carl Miller of Demos Still Misfires on ‘Islamophobia’”

Catlicks and Prodidogs

 

Religion’s sectarian influence pervades the minds of children and can persist into adulthood and on into politics, and on across generations.

Heather Hastie’s More Delusions About Religion looks at a news article that tries to distance religion from violence, by trying to convince us that the the Northern Irish Troubles were not about religion. That’s nonsense, and here’s why. Continue reading “Catlicks and Prodidogs”

I Don’t Like The Labour Party

I haven’t voted Labour for a long time, and even back then I occasionally voted Conservative when I thought that Labour was leaning too far left.

I’ve been watching the Labour internal conflict and it has echoes of earlier decades, just different players. A post I read recently was about the unelectability of Corbyn, and the author mentioned “57 varieties of Trotskyists“. That pretty much says it all. Continue reading “I Don’t Like The Labour Party”

Cenk Uygur Misrepresents D’Souza – To His Face

Here I go again, unbelievably defending someone I disargee with: Denesh D’Souza. But Cenk does exactly what he’s done with others – totally twists their words, misrepresents the balance of fact by ignoring the salient facts and screaming the obvious but less relevant facts.

Remember, from here on in this isn’t about the case either is making, though some of the points will be covered, it’s about Cenk’s misrerpesentaiton of D’Souza’s case, right there in front of D’Souza, and D’Souza calls Cenk out on it. Naturally, Cenk passes that by; doesn’t hear it for the challenge it is; even misrepresents that.
Continue reading “Cenk Uygur Misrepresents D’Souza – To His Face”

Another Greenwald Attack on The Evil West and its Media

A friend recently asked me why I attacked Glenn Greenwald for his Intercept article Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions.

Specifically I was asked:

It’s strange that your focus is on the reputation of the person who wrote and also whether what is said is unique or not. Neither are relevant. Do you agree with what is said?

Where journalistic integrity is known to be lacking it’s worth pointing out to those that might not know, and in this case it is relevant.
Continue reading “Another Greenwald Attack on The Evil West and its Media”

Populations in a Secular Liberal Democratic EU – #EUref

This is about the UK referendum on EU membership. It’ll meander back an forth across some issues as it’s more an ideas and concerns barf than a rational argument aimed to persuade, so apologies if it’s a chaotic and incoherent at times. These are the issues that I hear people talking about; issues about populations, migration and sovereignty that are easier to understand than the economic ones that even the ‘experts’ can’t give clear answers to.

Here’s a quick summary, with short videos, that explains the organisation of the EU and the powers of its various bodies. Use it as a primer if you’re not sure what the EU is about: BBC’s EU Introduction.
Continue reading “Populations in a Secular Liberal Democratic EU – #EUref”

A Guide To Terrorists For Idiots

[Updated 4/10/2017]

The question of what is and what is not ‘terrorism’ becomes most contentious when it’s not a Muslim doing the killing.

The reason is that there are clearly plenty of Islamic terror attacks, and far fewer for any other religion or ideology, and Muslims and other apologists for Islam don’t like it that Islamic terrorism gets so much attention. They’d like non-Islamic non-terrorist attacks to be called terrorist attacks, or they’d like the world to make less of the ‘Islamic’ in Islamic terrorism (“Nothing to do with Islam”, “Not a true Muslim”, “Terrorism has no religion”, …). And when the real world doesn’t comply, they make fake claims about ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘racism’.

Define-Terrorism

Is there a lone killer, that’s crazy (crazier than run of the mill crazy ideologues) and is he unaffiliated with a particular group or acting without sanction from a particular group?

He’s a crazy lone wolf killer.

Is he doing it in the name of his ideological group in order to strike terror into the target?

He’s a lone wolf terrorist.

Continue reading “A Guide To Terrorists For Idiots”

Excusing Islam From Islamic Terrorism

These whitewash pieces that excuse Islam from any responsibility for Islamic terrorism are two-a-penny. A regular culprit is Mehdi Hasan. But today we have a half-baked piece from Haroon Moghul: Double standards: The only difference between a Christian gunman and a Muslim terrorist is racism
Continue reading “Excusing Islam From Islamic Terrorism”

Lesley’s Salford Experience

Lesley posted an interesting item today in which she described her experience of Salford. I know Salford quite well, though I grew up on Langley – another notorious area that suffered many of these same problems.

The post was mainly about homosexuality. But what I found more interesting was the type of society that exists in these places that, despite all the publicity, is still below the radar for most educated people. There are plenty of hard working decent honest people in these areas (that’s right off a politician’s crib sheet) who live side by side with troubled families.

We think the gulf of understanding between atheists and theists is great – it’s nothing compared to the gulf between the educated middle classes and this under-class. Let’s not mince words; there are very different segments of our society, and even though we no longer like to think in terms of classes, that’s as good a term as any.

The recent Raoul Moat Facebook page comes to mind. I urge you to listen to this: Siobhan O’Dowd. What you hear is a severely uneducated woman being taken down a peg or two by a reasonably articulate radio presenter. All his points are reasonable. It’s so endemic in these sub-cultures to be so anti-police that anyone who evades them is a ‘legend’. Siobhan O’Dowd isn’t condoning any of the harm Moat caused, but isn’t the least bit sympathetic for the police efforts or the expense of mounting the police efforts. Her mind is filled with this screwed (to us) view of affairs, “I wouldn’t say he’s a legend for shooting people, but I would say he’s a legend for keeping the police on their toes, like I’ve told you about five times.”

If you don’t get this ‘other world’ that they live in, then you don’t get quite a lot about life.

Here’s someone who misunderstands, who comments on the clip, “What a disgrace of a human being.. the chav whore.” Another, “this stupid bitch should be steralized and lobotomized.” Another, “Ian is awesome!? This interview is hilarious. Siobahn O’Dowd is fucking retarded.”

Well, she may or may not be clinically retarded or otherwise biologically impaired, but she seems to suffer a psychological depravation that comes from a life of poor education, poverty, and being forced to mix with others in the same deprived environment.

If school doesn’t catch you and inspire you, if you come from a poor home that offers you little, if you can’t figure out that a 200% or 2000% interest to a loan shark isn’t a good deal, if a good bargain is knocked-off tele or mobile from the pub, if you think the police are your enemy, if you think the ‘Social’ is out to screw you and you’re entitled to screw them, then you are basically screwed for the rest of your life, and you are bound to repeat the whole experience for your own children.

To think the Siobhan O’Dowd’s are in control of their lives to any great degree beyond instinctive short sighted responses to problems that come their way, is to be mistaken. To think the common notion of free-will is at work in many of these individuals is a mistake. I’d say it would be mistaken understanding of free-will, but that’s another story – yet our misunderstanding of free-will colours our judgement.

This is our under-class, that includes the Siobhan O’Dowd’s, the mothers who spend more on cigs than their kids’ meals, and the women who learn that some of the men in this environment can’t be trusted, because those men too grew up in the same environment, where their inherent worthlessness leads to the abuse of women and children. You have to get a feel for how lost they are to what we consider a normal life to appreciate how much beyond self-help many of them are.

This isn’t a liberal lefty plea to let everyone off the hook. As members of a society we have a right (we invent this right and claim it) to have a say in how our fellow members behave, to some extent: Golden Rule, least harm, whatever your view is. We are prepared to say that some behaviours are intolerable, and so we avoid where we can, and criminalise where we have to.

We often hear kids say, “I didn’t ask to be born.” when trying to avoid their responsibilities. Well, many of these people didn’t ask to be born into poor families in deprived areas that condemn them and their children to this perpetual cycle. They will not, cannot, break the cycle. They cannot live up to their responsibilities because they are not equipped to do so.

Only the rest of us can do that for them, if we want to. We can make gestures like Lesley’s and help on the ground – but this only alleviates a specific problem for some people. If there is no political will to make bigger changes then we have to accept that this is how it will be.

Political Islam

There may be plenty of British Muslims that are perfectly peaceful, want nothing more than to be allowed to follow Islam on a personal basis.

But that isn’t where the trouble for democracy lies. This Telegraph article, and this Channel 4 Dispatches programme, show the real intent of many ‘politicised’ Muslims. But it’s not as if being ‘politicised’ is restricted to a few fundementalists. Islam is both a religious and a political movement, and it’s long term intentions are made clear over and over again. And the concept of infiltrating organisations that have views or policies that are incompatible with Islam (i.e. with Sharia) with the intent of taking control and applying Sharia wherever they can, is perfectly compatible with the long term aims of Islam.

Pay attention!