Tag Archives: Politics

Lies, Damned Lies, and .. Political Rhetoric

Britain voted to leave the EU, and the 48% of British people that voted remain went all wobbly, then turned into hate filled monsters spewing fire in the direction of the 52% Brexiters, for the hate filled xenophobic racist bigotry some of the 48% perceive in them.

I’ve no way of knowing how many of the 48% have gone crazy with hate, but they are certainly loud. It really isn’t the end of the world for the UK, though you’d think it was from the rhetoric. Look at Aleppo. Remember two World Wars?

We’re damned lucky to live in Britain, even a Brexit Britain. We have to get over our disappointment and deal with it, whether it’s committing to the leave process or trying to persuade the nation to remain in the EU despite the referendum – not such a good idea.

But the haters, with their powder dry, primed and ready to blow, watched the Tory government hold their conference. Correction – the crazies watched and misrepresented, and the gullible lapped up the misrepresentations.

There is always room to criticise a government – none are perfect and there’s always room for improvement, and opportunities to take a different route. That’s what an opposition should focus on. The gross misrepresentations are plain dishonest and bring into disrepute the offenders themselves more than their targets.

Amber Rudd gave her conference speech, and despite the text of her speech being available, people seemed to hear things that weren’t said by Rudd, their Babel Fish translators set to Demonic.
Continue reading Lies, Damned Lies, and .. Political Rhetoric

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 of 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.

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 anyway; 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.

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.

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 – not of that bullying party whip stuff. And perhaps it should be precedded 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.

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

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

Arm The Teachers God Damn It!

GunOwners

BBC had a reporter in a gun store somewhere in the US. One gun happy customer or staff member said this latest shooting wasn’t a gun issue but a mental health issue.

OK, so keeping automatic rifles out of the hands of a person with issues wouldn’t have prevented the deaths?

And would that same commenter be happy to pay the taxes to solve all the mental health problems in the US, so honest decent sane folk can have their guns? As if that would be possible.

But he may have a point. It might be a mental health issue really. An issue of the mental health of these people that see their particular right to bear arms and their right not to pay taxes (that might help to improve the health of the nation) as being so essential.

The American Dream turned nightmare (again). Automatic firearms in the hands of a people steeped in religious ire, enabled by conservative greed, and libertarian I’m OK so sort yourself out because I couldn’t give a fuck and I’m not paying taxes to help you fix your shit. What could go wrong, so often?

Just in case you think the right to bear arms and religious nut-jobbery are independent carzinesses, try this: What Does the Bible Say About Gun Control?

Maybe all this lunacy is hard to avoid in a place like the US. Diversity doesn’t guarantee sanity. The UK is smaller and it’s easier to manage the craziness. Our total population is only about twice that of California; about 20% of the US as a whole. There are fewer backwaters where craziness can unfold unseen in plain sight, though we’ve had our share.

In Hungerford UK in 1987 Michale Ryan killed 16 people. How did he manage to kill so many? Semi-automatic rifles and a hand gun. Surprise. In 2010 Derek Bird killed 12. His weapons: a double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle with a scope and silencer. But part of the problem in this case was that he was on the move. The death toll could have been less had he tried a single location spree. Without automatic weapons there’s the opportunity to fight back at some point, or to evade the shooter. Without any firearms the nut case is even more limited in the damage he can do.

This is the armoury of James Eagan Holmes, suspect killer of 58, as reported on wiki:

On May 22, 2012, Holmes purchased a Glock 22 pistol at a Gander Mountain shop in Aurora, and six days later bought a Remington Model 870 shotgun at a Bass Pro Shops in Denver. On June 7, just hours after failing his oral exam at the university, he purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, with a second Glock 22 pistol following on July 6. All the weapons were bought legally. In the four months prior to the shooting, Holmes also bought 3000 rounds of ammunition for the pistols, 3000 rounds for the M&P15, and 350 shells for the shotgun over the Internet. On July 2, he placed an order for a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest, two magazine holders and a knife at an online retailer.

His defence at the moment is based on his mental state. But would his mental state have enabled him to kill so many without all the firepower?

Obviously not. Surely that is obvious, right? But I’ve got it all wrong it seems. Gun control isn’t the answer!

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, believes we should arm the teachers. This, from the New Yorker:

“Following the Newtown shooting, Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners for America, suggested that these massacres might be avoided in the future, if only more teachers were armed.”

Be prepared, for your next job interview:

Yes, you have a PhD in your subject, have taught at several prestigious schools and come with glowing references. But I see that you are only expert in small arms. Is there some reason why you never trained with semi-automatics? You’re not a God-damned Darwinian Evolutionary pacifist sun of a bitch are you?

The New Yorker again:

“As Pratt’s sentiment should make clear, the United States has slipped its moorings and drifted into a realm of profound national lunacy.”

Slipped? Drifted? As in dived headlong?

Anticipated teacher training:

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!