All 57 entries tagged Politics And Other Things No One Cares About

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August 12, 2011

Collective Punishment And The Riots

Writing about web page http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/councils-set-to-evict-rioters-2335878.html

Is anyone else slightly scared by the threats from several councils to evict people found guilty of rioting this week from their council homes? In a statement picked up by the Independent, Councillor Paul Andrews, Manchester City Council’s executive member for neighbourhood services, said:

“If you are a tenant of any of our properties, and you or your children are found to be involved in the looting we will use whatever powers are available to us to make sure you are thrown out.”

Does this not strike anyone else as being a bit, you know, collective punishment-y? Specifically the way Andrews goes out of his way to say that even if it’s not the adults in the house but their children, it could still lead to eviction.

As we’re living in one of the more hysterical periods of public opinion I suppose I am obligated to point out the obvious, namely that I don’t condone the riots and think anyone convicted of looting should be punished in accordance to the law (attacks on the local community deserve jail). But I feel distinctly uncomfortable with the idea that we can punish people who might have had no idea that their relatives were out causing trouble, or who might have had no power to prevent their relatives from doing so had they known.

Yes, good parenting will often lead to kids who won’t do this sort of thing, but this does not mean that everyone whose kids took part is a bad person, even when in some cases they might not be top notch parents.


A little levity from the wonderful Photoshoplooter blog.

The idea that doing this will lead to people self-examining and deciding to be better people is also something of a gamble. When I first heard about the proposal it put me in mind of the Israeli policy of last decade whereby the houses of suicide bombers from the Palestinian community were bulldozed as collective punishment. It didn’t stop the suicide bombers from coming and the Israeli army recommended it end in 2005 as “the policy had little deterrent effect and inflamed Palestinian hatred”. Or the Intolerable Acts, passed by the British in America in 1774 as a reaction to the Boston Tea Party and other acts of defiance from the colonists, which provoked mass outrage across the country and lead to the American War of Independence. I find it hard to think similar won’t happen in the cases of some of the looters. They already feel detached enough from regular society to not care that they are smashing it up, making them homeless would surely only lead to more resentment and stored up trouble?

The rioters almost certainly knew they risked jail for their actions, but few would probably have anticipated losing their homes. The powers to evict clearly exist, otherwise they would not have been mentioned as an option, but it sounds like they are being called up as an extraordinary option rather than a usual part of the due process of the criminal justice system. This means anyone subject to an eviction has been specially singled out by the authorities, and this is quite likely a recipe for future antagonism and refusal to engage from the evictees.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find idea of collective punishment is somewhat gross in itself. It doesn’t even follow the judicial convention of innocent until proven guilty as it is essentially inflicting punishment on people who are innocent, alongside the guilty. We need to punish the guilty in these riots, but we need also to avoid making a whole new set of problems, both by fostering further resentment and by escalating the viciousness of our response. If the state can’t behave in a civilised way, why should the people?


March 04, 2011

Ideas For New Bank Holidays

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12640636

The government wants to move the May Day bank to either St George’s day a week or so before, or to ‘Trafalgar Day’ in October. Now there are some who might suggest that targeting the May Day holiday, a strongly socialist and pagan linked date, rather than the other May bank holiday is a bit ideological. Perhaps it isn’t. but it ignores one simple and undisputable fact – we don’t get enough days off compared to the rest of Western Europe.

The TUC have complained about this for years, saying in 2001 that with a European average of 10.8, Britain still only had 8, a number which would have been part of the European average, thus dragging it down.

So why not let us have another bank holiday without ditching an existing one? Some suggestions:

Pankhurst Day, 14th or 15th July

“Votes for my homegirls or else!”

Emmeline Pankhurst’s birthday. Why not pick a suffragette? Was her struggle, and those of the 50% of the population she fought alongside and for, any less significant than that of Nelson at Trafalgar? The uncertainty of her birth date means we can choose, shall we synchronise with France or strike out on our own? Plus mid-July is a good bet for some half decent weather.

Armada Day, 18th August

“Michel Pez said the weather would be lovely, what an idiot!”

Why Trafalgar Day? Why not another battle? Most WWI and WWII events were over longer periods of time, or are rather more international in flavour, so why not pick a military event which really sums Britain up – the Spanish Armada whose defeat was a combination of British blood mindedness and the weather. Mostly the weather. 18th August is the New Calendar date of Elizabeth I’s “heart and stomach of a king” speech, which is one of the best in British history. The downside is it would be quite close to the existing August holiday.

Reform Act Day, 7th June

George Cruickshank’s depiction of the Peterloo Massacre, a significant event in the history of democracy in Britain (and a possible contender for a bank holiday in its own right).

We don’t really do revolution in Britain, do we? The one time we did, overthrowing Charles I and the ructions that lead to Cromwell taking over, it was reversed within a few decades. Britain has long been the country of incremental changes, so why not celebrate one of the most major incremental changes? The Reform Act 1832 wasn’t perfect, it left a lot of people still disenfranchised (women and poor people mostly), but it was a significant step away from the still borderline feudal world we lived in, towards a slightly more democratic future. We could celebrate the day by going to Old Sarum and pelting effigies of crooked politicians with eggs.

First Association Football International Day, 30th November

Scotland’s 1872 team, great moustaches.

If we want major events that happened in the last three months of the year, currently underserved by bank holidays, forget Guy Fawkes Day (might upset Catholics), Halloween (might upset non-pagans/people who hate costumes and having their houses egged), or my birthday (apparently I am not significant enough, humph). What we need is something which celebrates Britain’s biggest cultural contribution to the world. Which celebrates British innovation and ability to apply rules to anything, even something which essentially used to be an excuse for a fight. Which celebrates the way England and Scotland just love to get one over on each other. The first ever official football international match, a 0-0 draw between England and Scotland. Considering the game involved men with amazing names like Cuthbert Ottaway and Reginald de Courtenay Welch, it seems rude not to celebrate it. (Wales and Northern Ireland can have a day off on the day of the first Wales vs Northern Ireland match).

Any other similarly genius/insane suggestions?


December 09, 2010

A Letter To My MP

I just wrote a letter to my Liberal Democrat MP, John Leech, who today voted against the tuition fee bill. I am glad he did, glad he kept his promises, and heartened that in his speech on the matter – he recognised that education can benefit the country as well as the individual, and that large amounts of debt are a bad thing. I wrote the letter for two reasons, one to communicate my pleasure that my representative in Parliament did as he said he would in order to get my vote, and secondly because I want to know where he goes from here. I want to know what those Lib Dems who kept their promises are thinking. I don’t know if I will get a response, but I thought it worth a try.

Dear John,

First of all I wish to congratulate you on sticking your election promise, and recognising that the raising of tuition fees in conjunction with the massive cuts to university funding will harm this country on many levels, leaving the young of today facing obscene amounts of debt, hurting our institutions’ abilities to deliver world class teaching and research, and damaging the knowledge economy which remains probably the only thing this country truly excels at now the financial sector has been shown up as a house built on false promises.

It is encouraging also to see that not all politicians will sacrifice their promises, and by extension their electorate, at the first sniff of power.

However I would like to ask a question – how can you continue to be a part of a party some of whose leaders and members have shown themselves to be spineless and treacherous? As things stand, despite my admiration for your stance, I do not feel able to vote for the Liberal Democrats ever again. The trust is gone, and whilst individuals such as yourself have shown that there are those who will keep their promises, I feel distinctly uncomfortable that my vote in a way helped contribute to the passing of a policy which I think is wrong by giving the Liberal Democratsthe clout in Parliament to form this coalition with the Conservatives which has clearly turned the heads of a large number of your colleagues.

How do you intend to proceed knowing your leader is new widely, and in my view correctly, viewed as a two-faced liar? What reassurances, if any, can you offer your constituents about your future stances and that of the Liberal Democrats? If this party is asking you to vote against what you think is right, and you are willing to defy your leadership on a matter they deem to be crucial, can you see yourself continuing as a Liberal Democrat MP?

I do respect what you have done on this matter, which why I feel able to write this letter to you as I think your vote shows you are one of the Liberal Democrats still willing to listen to the people who elected them in the first place.

Kindest regards,
Holly


October 13, 2010

How Many Millionaires Does It Take To Run The Country?

So benefits are being cut, and public sector pensions are being cut, and jobs are being cut, and students are to be charged more… One recurring theme to be found in much of the invective unleashed by those who oppose the government as it merrily slashes its way around the place is that this financial pain is being inflicted by a bunch of millionaires. Until today I hadn’t quite realised the extent of this. Yes David Cameron and George Osbourne have the sort of histories (and faces) which scream “excessive money in the family” but I didn’t realise how deep it ran.

Depending on who you ask either 18 of the 23 full time senior cabinet members (The Times) or 23 of the 29 members entitled to attend cabinet meetings (The Daily Fail) are worth more than a million pounds. Indeed, according to the Mail article only Vince Cable, Andrew Lansley, Eric Pickles, Baroness Warsi, Patrick McLoughlin, and Danny Alexander don’t have a million pounds stashed away somewhere from property, shares, inheritance, publishing or wallpaper.


Lend us a fiver!

Apart from the curious situation where two of the three men tasked with tackling the economic state of the nation (Cable and Alexander) aren’t in this rich club, does it not strike people as a bit… exclusive?

I’ve nothing against millionaires in theory. I only know two millionaires and both earned their money through hard work and graft. Yes, I grit my teeth at the unfairness of those born with silver spoons and rich parents, but if there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that money can be lost as well as gained – just track down Rupert Everett’s apperance on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ to see someone encountering the evidence of an ancestor who frittered it all away. The rich should pay more tax and take more personal responsibility and that, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with having more than a million pounds.

However, if virtually the entirety of a country’s leadership is comprised of millionaires doesn’t that suggest that the national leadership is lacking a perspective or two? Like those of people who have less than a million pounds, aka the vast majority of the people of Britain? After all, the median wage in Britain is smidge over £25,000pa, a rate which would require nearly 40 years in order to accumulate a million pounds, if the recipient didn’t spend a penny and wasn’t taxed.


From the BBC, 2006/07 figures give an idea of the shape of British earnings.

So here’s my completely unworkable and insane idea for the week.

You might have heard of Labour’s women-only candidate lists. It’s not new news, here’s an article about it from 2002, and whatever its problems it does come from a well intentioned position – the desire to bring about equal representation of women and men in parliament. The idea, amongst those who advocate it, is that this equality is a good thing as it brings a proper representation of the British people. I am sympathetic to this, even if I am not 100% certain that single gender candidate lists are the best way to achieve it. Harriet Harman has also made it one of her aims to get half the shadow cabinet roles to go to women.

But if we’re trying to move towards equality in one area, why not another, just as pressing – financial status? I’m sure the massed ranks of millionaires in the cabinet can do a most excellent job of understanding how things affect millionaires, but I don’t believe they have enough insight into my position, or that of the family struggling at the poverty line, or even the upper middle class family with the doctor on £80,000 and the head teacher on £70,000. If we take it as read that a cabinet full of men cannot act in the best interests of women (and I believe they couldn’t, and vice versa), how can a cabinet of millionaires act in the best way for the massed ranks of non-millionaires?

So the madcap idea of the week is this – force the cabinet to represent the population in general. With 29 positions there might be space for as many as two millionaires (not because this is proportionate, but because it’ll be hard to wean ourselves off our addiction to excessively rich people right away) and then 27 people from a variety of financial positions, although the majority would earn between £18,000 and £30,000. Why not? A list of people for the 29 slots from which the cabinet will be decided, and then when elected they will all have to work together to decide who gets which role and how to run the country. Of course it would be almost totally unworkable in reality (because if there’s one thing people cannot do, it’s work together), but it would bring voices to the table which are flat out ignored by all major parties.

Otherwise we’ll just go on being run by an unrepresentative group of people who won’t feel the pain we’ll feel in the next few years. And that cannot be healthy, surely?


September 29, 2010

E–Mil, Illegitimate Sprogs And The Mail's F Grade In History

Writing about web page http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1316129/Ed-Miliband-I-dont-believe-God-I-WILL-married.html

The Mail, today:

[Ed Miliband’s] personal set-up has caused consternation since he became the first major political leader in British history not to be married to the mother of his children.

First major political figure in British history not to be married to the mother of his children?

Poor Charles II. Forgotten again, and by a very Royalist newspaper. :(

Still he probably had a good time having kids (well, having the attendant sexual intercourse) with Lucy Walter, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Barbara Palmer, the Duchess of Portsmouth, Moll Davis, and of course, Nell Gwyn. What a randy monarch (but apparently not a major political leader despite being, y’know, a pretty major political leader and figure).

Of course there was also Henry I, William IV, numerous other male monarchs.

And Ken Livingstone, who clearly much be a major leader based on the amount of bile the Mail and its London mini-me The Evening Standard throw at him.

And what about David Lloyd George? Prime Minister from 1916-22, of whom a newspaper wrote in 2008 “there are no politicians today who could ever think of getting away with the uber-sexed personal life, peppered with illicit lovers and illegitimate offspring, that Lloyd George led over 14 years in Downing Street, first as Chancellor, then as Prime Minister, from 1908 to 1922.”

The newspaper in question? The Mail.

Still, they might be historically ignorant and internally inconsistent, but check out their page three totty:


Phwaor! David Lloyd George!


September 20, 2010

Secular Schools – Logical

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/18/secularist-manifesto-secularism

I read something I liked today – Evan Harris’s secularist manifesto in the Guardian was reasonable and reasoned, boiling down to the logical argument that the more secular a state, the more religious freedom there is as no religion has a more favoured position than any other.

religion flow
A interesting graphic from brin.ac.uk, a Manchester University affiliated site about religion in the UK.

Not everyone liked the manifesto, and a quick trip into the loony bin, aka the comments section, showed this to be the case. Some of the theists (and a tiny number of atheists) demonstrated an inability to read and assumed this to be an atheist manifesto, ignoring the fact that atheism and secularism are not the same thing, no matter how loudly one shrieks that they are.

One of the dissenting comments took exception with points 2 and 3 which combined could be taken to argue that there should be no state run religious schools. When another commenter piped up that they felt this was reasonable as no state school would advocate communism or Tory-ism in the way that religion can be espoused in state schools the original dissenter on this issue insisted that it was their right to have their children taught in a school which taught exclusively or mostly about a single religion, or which strongly presented one religion as more “right” than others.

Choice is education is a big issue, one which Labour got very obsessive over and which the coalition seem even more concerned about if their proposed free school idea is anything to go by. But in the case of religious schools it’s an impractical red herring. The commenter’s mistake was to assume that all religious schools are equal. This is most definitely not the case.

I went to a Catholic state school. In fact, I went to a very very good Catholic state school, the sort which pumps out great results and which attracts middle class parents from miles around, resulting in them herding the family into church on a Sunday in order to convince the local priest to back their case for their child to go there, despite the fact they don’t know their stations of the cross or who the Immaculate Conception was (the latter is almost uniformly identified incorrectly by people I’ve met). But my Catholic state school was not like others.

I’ve heard the stories. The ones from other people who went to other Catholic state schools. The one about the class who were shown a video of an abortion in order to scare them off. The one about the people who were told homosexuals would burn in hell. The ones with the scary nuns as teachers and the intimidating priests who would come in to visit. The ones where sex before marriage was a massive crime, and teachers were sacked for affairs.


Karate nun was not in evidence at any of the above schools. Sadly.

Yet in my school the extent of the Catholicism was that we didn’t learn about contraception in biology and general studies classes, and the time our beloved biology teacher prefaced the (National Curriculum mandated) lessons on evolution with a weary “Right, I’ve been told to tell you all that this is just a theory and there are other possible explanations for how the world came into being… (pause) Right, now that’s over with, this is what happened.”

Which version is Catholic? Which version would please our irate Guardian commenter? My Catholic school was the only one for miles and miles, the catchment radius stretching from Frodsham to Crewe, north to Knutsford and south almost as far as Tarporley. That’s a large area, I lived ten miles away and wasn’t anywhere near the furthest commuter. If you were a hardcore, no abortion, no homosexuality, fire and brimstone Catholic and the only school in the area is one like mine – Catholic sure, but liberal in the extreme for one – would you be happy with an institution you’d probably see as wishy-washy?

Surely, faced with dilemmas like this, it makes more sense even for religious people to have secular schools run by a secular state as at least they will then know exactly what form of their religion their kids are being taught? I’m no fan of religious extremism, quite the opposite, but religious state schools don’t really offer religious people much choice at all, and could in theory lead to their children developing a totally different view of their religion to their parents.

Of course one can argue that all subjects are, by necessity, restricted in their scope, my awesome biology teacher didn’t teach me the entirety of biological studies in my time there. But that’s not a valid comparison in this case – the argument for religious state schools is akin to arguing for a school which only teaches plant biology, and not animal biology. Just boring experiments involving sprouting cress rather than dissecting something red and wobbly which apparently used to belong to a cow (or sheep if you’re in a post-BSE Cheshire).


Cress.

In a secularist society religion is a personal thing, and the state and schools have no place advocating any particular brand over any others. To do so will only create dissatisfaction anyway.

However I’m quite glad we didn’t get the abortion video. The squeamish reaction of my class to dissecting a heart was bad enough, I fear that video might have sent several 15 year olds over the edge completely.


May 11, 2010

A Guide To Being 'Unelected'

One of the most commonly repeated phrases from the election, and some time before, is that Gordon Brown should not be prime minister because he was “unelected”. It’s a curious thing hat this mantra has been repeated so much that hardly anyone seems to question it, when even a cursory glance at the substance of the argument causes it to fall down, at least in our current system.

First and foremost, the most obvious rebuff is that most people in the UK did not vote for Tony Blair. If you lived in Sedgefield in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and voted Labour, then yes, you voted for Tony Blair. But this covers only a relatively small number of people. Reports, possibly apocryphal but undeniably believable, suggest that voters this time around were confused as to why their ballots did not have Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s names on them. The leadership debates may have contributed to this cult of personality, they have certainly done nothing to show people the reality of their vote – that it is not for the men on the podium unless you live in Kirkcaldy, Witney or Sheffield.

As this is the most obvious and common counter argument, it has frequently been addressed, mostly by people saying “Well yes, I know I was voting for a candidate called James Plaskitt/Fiona Bruce/John Leech, but I knew by voting for them I would be registering support for Brown/Cameron/Clegg”. This is only sort of true because it assumes that Brown, Cameron and Clegg will win their own seats. Whilst it is normal for the party leader to be found in a safe seat, one where you would assume they would get in, this is not guaranteed.

Peter Robinson anyone?


IRIS!

Those who voted for the Democratic Unionist Party may well use the above argument that they knew who they were voting for, but it makes no difference – the DUP will either be lead by a genuinely unelected leader, or it will have to find a leader from the MPs it does have, someone who will be ‘unelected’ by the logic applied to Brown. It is unlikely this will ever happen to the Big Three of politics in Westminster, but this represents a shot across the bows of those who stick to the ‘unelected’ theory.

Moving on from Robinson, a common feature of the British electorate is that it remains remarkably impervious to its own history. The way the rants about Brown being ‘unelected’ come across, you would think he is a terrible precedent, a man dangerously breaking rules which have existed for years, an exception.

He is not.

Not even close.

Here follows a brief history lesson, of the sort that does not get taught in schools because it represents the sort of hot potato that governments are not too keen on having taught, rather like proportional representation or the number of Brits who live abroad (i.e. as immigrants).

There have been 20 prime ministers to begin their terms since 1900. There have also been 29 elections. As a quick quiz question, how many of these 20 prime ministers were like Brown, first becoming prime minister due to a change of party leadership between elections, rather than coming to power by winning an election?

Here is a picture of a campaign poster from the 1923 election whilst you come up with your answers. I wish campaign posters were more like this these days:

And the answer is… 13 out of 20.

Yes, 13. 65%.

Now there are caveats. Two of these were Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George who took over war coalitions in WWI and WWII. Popular choices, both would have been elected anyway, and at a time when an election was unthinkable they represented the flexibility of politics and ability of the parties to work together to protect and help the people.

Three of the remain eleven called elections immediately after taking power. These were Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal), Stanley Baldwin (Conservative) and Anthony Eden (Conservative).


“I’m Anthony Eden, and I ain’t afraid of elections (although I am afraid of Egyptians)”.

The remaining eight ruled on regardless. That is one PM more than the number who won elections from opposition to become PM. The eight were:
Arthur Balfour (Conservative, succeeded his uncle Robert Cecil, hence the phrase “Bob’s your uncle”)
Herbert Asquith (Liberal)
Neville Chamberlain (Conservative, almost called an election but bottled it, rather like Brown)
Harold MacMillan (Conservative)
Alec Douglas-Home (Conservative)
Jim Callaghan (Labour)
John Major (Conservative)
Gordon Brown (Labour)

The seven to take power from opposition were:
Andrew Bonar-Law (Conservative)
Ramsey MacDonald (Labour, and with election posters like the above, can you blame people?)
Clement Atlee (Labour)
Edward Heath (Conservative)
Harold Wilson (Labour)
Margaret Thatcher (Conservative)
Tony Blair (Labour)

Now obviously some of these were elected, re-elected, or took over as leader between elections after their first term as PM (Wilson). This survey looks solely at those on their first terms.


Bob’s your uncle. Literally.

The most surreal thing about Brown is that it is not like this covers only older PMs, John Major arrived ‘unelected’ in 1990, just twenty years ago. Even I vaguely recall this happening and I was only just starting primary school at the time.

If people want to complain about ‘unelected’ PMs, they need to understand that it is a part of the electoral system in this country, and that the alternative, a directly elected PM, is a rare thing. Funnily enough, a lot of those complaining Brown is ‘unelected’ have no such problem with the actual head of state, Elizabeth II, being unelected.

I am not saying I agree with the system as it is. However I do think that throwing the ‘unelected’ label around without awareness of the history of ‘unelected’ PMs, without thinking through the implications of a Peter Robinson situation, and without understanding how the electoral system in this country works, is lazy.


January 21, 2010

David Cameron's Ambitions

Writing about web page http://www.andybarefoot.com/politics/cameron.php

(This website is superb, make you own airbrushed Cameron confection! Hours of fun.)

Please tell me I am not the only person who cannot look at those scary Tory posters without humming a catchy Elvis tune?

He doesn’t want to stop at Prime Minister! He wants to be king!!!


January 11, 2010

The Irrelevant Mr Choudary

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were allowed to choose who we are to be angry at?

It seems like a strange thing to say, but the recent shebang about Anjem Choudray and his Islam4UK organisation proposing a march in Wootton Bassett, has got me wondering if the people of Britain can even be bothered to decide who they want to get angry at any more.

Some context. I don’t really like what Choudary stands for, he’s anti-freedom (explicitly) and seems to belong to a twattishly sexist, homophobic and intolerant branch of his faith (as exists in all). However in all the media storm I have yet to find any estimate of the size of his organisation beyond claims in the Telegraph that he said there would be “500” people taking part in his march. The general rule with marches which do go ahead is to take the number of people the organisers say are present, add it to the number the police say are present, and divide it by two. In other words, no one is capable of guessing the attendances of such things. If Choudary really did have 500 members at his disposal I would have been surprised.


Choudary indicates how many friends he has.

Or rather I would have been had this not been blown out of all proportion by the media. This isn’t a lesson in how to combat extremists, it’s a lesson in how the media is now explicitly telling us what to get hysterical about.

Islam4UK are a tiny bunch of nobodies.

This very pertinent fact appears to have been lost in the media’s willful creation of a storm out of nothing. Under legislation in place for twenty four years, all marches must be applied for a pre-approved before they can go ahead. This takes into account safety concerns, of which a march such as the one proposed would involve. Controversial marches do take place, the English Defence League have held several recently, but a smaller town like Wootton Bassett might be less likely to approve one than a larger, better equipped place like Birmingham. The march was very unlikely to have ever taken place. Choudary for one knew this and has practically admitted he did it for the attention, not hoping to actually hold the march.

And the result? Hysteria.

There are Facebook groups with thousands and thousands of members protesting this. There’s a selection of officials, from parliament down to Wootton Bassett’s council expressing their outrage. There’s a group who were ambitiously claiming to be able to round up 500 people, who have achieved immense publicity. And there’s the media who are responsible for all this.


A newspaper, being hysterical.

Unpopular marches happen all the time in the UK. In fact if you were a Northern Irish Catholic watching this you might wonder what all the fuss was about – the annual routine of Orange Order (and other) parades around NI has long enraged the Catholic population, but in recent years the furore has died down, partially through the efforts of the Parades Commission to prevent the marches going through contentious areas, like Drumcree, and partially because the situation has improved in NI. Improved, but not resolved. In the last week a PSNI officer was seriously hurt in a car bomb attack. Whilst this isn’t explicitly linked to the parades, it’s a symptom of the same underlying problem. In the worst times in Northern Ireland the funerals of those involved weren’t just subject to marches on the same streets, they were physically attacked with bombs and guns.

There are a lot of people in this country who hold views I find repellent. Some might even march for them. In the last decade I’ve turned my nose up at the pro-fox hunting banners of the Countryside Alliance, the borderline racism of the English Defence League, the antagonistic flashes of Orange in NI. But they went ahead. They went ahead because freedom of speech, as long as it doesn’t target people, is valued here. Choudary has done some nasty things which amount to violating this privilege (if the stories of sending letters to soldiers’ families are true), but at the same time he has a right to say stupid things. And so I don’t blame him for doing so. I blame the media for making a mountain out of a molehill. Choudary is a nasty little goblin, but that’s all he is. Getting worked up about him is playing into his hands.

We’d do a lot more damage to him if we simply ignored him.

Also, have a look at this widely unreported protest by the British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD). Surely the reason it wasn’t widely reported was the cold weather and not the fact that Muslims walking around saying “Free speech will dominate the world” and “Secular democracy for the United Kingdom” isn’t scary?


August 12, 2009

When Agendas Destroy All Logic

Writing about web page http://lornakismet.wordpress.com/2009/08/01/how-house-bill-runs-over-grandma-%E2%80%9Cits-time-for-you-to-die-granny-%E2%80%9D/

I’ve just read a right wing American blog in which the author says:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.
Pesky Emotional Repubican

I really hate the stereotype of Americans as being stupid or moronic because the ones I’ve met, both in Europe and in a month long jaunt in Chicago seemed intelligent, if occasionally a little ill-informed about things from outside their area (which could be anything from their home state to the boundaries of the USA, or even North America and Mexico). All the ones I met were open minded and able to grasp the basic concept of fact checking.

But that quote above, that one single sentence has made me despair. It’s one person’s opinion, but it’s so staggeringly, breathtakingly, mindblowingly stupid on every single imaginable level that it has crippled my ability to be objective. I mean, the rest of the blog piece is pretty stupid too (failure to understand what NICE does, general lies about the NHS) but really if you’re going to claim the NHS causes the deaths of disabled people because it doesn’t care about them then try not to talk about a man who has lived his entire life (decades beyond his original life expectancy) within the NHS system is the worst rhetorical device of all time.

Stephen Hawking = well clever.
Pesky Emotional Republican = monumentally stupid.

We need to get Dr Hawking an English accented talking voice box.


September 2014

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