Tags: politics

Kipling

Lest we forget what Tory rule looks like...

"Jack always said it was difficult for us Americans to understand what it was really like here in the darkest parts of the eighties. We had a doddery old president who talked about the end of the world a little too often and was being run by the wrong people. But they had a prime minister who was genuinely mad."

"You know there were even feminists and women's studies theorists who denied she was even really a woman any more she was so far out of her tree?"

"She wanted concentration camps for AIDS victims, wanted to eradicate homosexuality even as an abstract concept, made poor people choose between eating and keeping their vote, ran the most shameless vote-grabbing artificial war scam in fifty years..."

"England was a scary place, no wonder it produced a scary culture."


- Planetary, Warren Ellis
SOCIALISTS!

Politics.

Hey, Grim!
What?

You're into all that politics stuff aren't you. You're always banging on about the Americans, why aren't you talking about the UK Election?
Yeah, I am. American politics is like a three ring circus though. Even though, like us, you couldn't fit a sheet of paper between the two main parties in the US (even with the Republicans going batshit crazy) the yanks play up their slight differences to the point where you'd think they were Sunni and Shia wings of Islam. Over here... every party is - pretty much - saying the same thing. Do you like grey, charcoal or slate?

Oh come on, there's some differences, right?
Frankly it wouldn't matter anyway, I live in a hardcore Tory seat where even if every other voter from last year all voted for a single party, it still wouldn't unseat the Conservatives. I'll still vote, but it's essentially meaningless for me to do so.

So, you must be excited about the prospect of a hung parliament, yeah?

Heard that before... it does hold out the prospect of electoral reform horse-traded in order to form a coalition government. I don't hold out much hope though. Our First Past the Post system tends to throw up strong, minority vote governments as has happened with both Labour and the Tories in the past. Since the system tends to oversupport the winner in terms of seats, once they're in power they don't tend to want to change. Labour promised electoral reform in 1997 and while they've tinkered with the upper house, Proportional Representation or Single Transferable Vote never came up. I am cautiously hopeful that the Libdem surge - which is likely a single election phenomenon - may deliver electoral reform to us, but I've been disappointed before.

But who would you vote for if you could vote for anyone?
There's no party that matches my views, with the Liberals or the Greens are probably closest but the Libs are a bit bourgeois for me and the Greens are too anarcho-primitive, too hostile to progress.

Who are you going to vote for?
Liberals, electoral reform is the only thing that matters to me this election really.

What about the economy?
Well, we're boned if the Conservatives get in. You need to protect people from deprivation and expecting people to man up and look after themselves or to turn philanthropist is staggeringly naive, as we British should know (read Dickens). Hard times are ahead to fix the deficit, but IMO the best way to go about that is social investment, ditching Trident and streamlining services. Ironically, some of things people want to cut are things that should improve efficiency and save money.

And the wars?
Iraq was illegal, but that ship has sailed. Afghanistan was legal, but it's a sideline, largely pointless now. I'm not sure why we're sticking with it.

Man Grim, you're bumming me out.
Check the name.
SOCIALISTS!

Terminology

I follow American politics like some people follow football, possibly because our own politics is usually turgid and boring but also because of the staggeringly stupid bullshit that goes on when the uninformed and parochial populace, with to no knowledge of their own history, politics, laws or the outside world get a bee in their bonnet about something.

One source of particularly straining eye-rolling is the abuse of terminology.

Listen...

If you're going to accuse someone of being fascist, communist, socialist, whatever... learn what these terms MEAN!
DOOM

American Election News

Strolling down the street he found a broken down old bum, begging at the corner. He was a veteran, puffed up on past glories, still wearing the remains of his old army jacket with the medals he'd won.

He stood and he listened as the man told him how great he'd once been, how he'd worked hard and built himself up from nothing - despite the disapproval of his father.

"I used to be like you." He said. "Suited and booted, rich and respected. Then I made a few mistakes... gave money to the wrong people, got in fights because of my stupid pride and I got hooked on the hooch. It's all gone downhill since then, but I used to be like you, surely that's worth a couple of bucks?"

"Tell you what." He said, crouching down. "Here's two dollars... you can spend it on more booze if you really want to, but what I'd like you to do is spend it on a bus ticket. You come see me and I'll help you back onto your feet, I'll get you off the drink, I'll give you your dignity back, I'll teach you how to save, invest in your future so this doesn't happen again. What do you say?"

The bum took the dollars and then he looked him square in the eye. "Fuck you, I don't need your charity. I'm a drunk and I'm going to stay a fucking drunk. I know what I am and I'm not going to try to be anything I'm not."

The man sighed and strolled away, he guessed the bum had the right to ruin himself... if that was what he really wanted...
just me

Well Burqa Me

If it has escaped your notice otherwise, the UKIP Party* came out in favour of a France-style Burqa ban, though perhaps not for the same reasons as the French since they're petty NIMBYS with enough guile to hide their racism behind a thin veneer of anything else they can come up with.

While I don't agree with their reasons I do think the burqa or veil (yes, I know the western terminology isn't accurate) is a problem for two main reasons.

1. Fairness. Hoodies are banned many places, hats have to be taken off in many shops, crash helmets have to be taken off at service stations. We don't allow people to hide their faces most of the time for reasons of crime, identity, safety and security. Just because it's your religion (which is arguable) doesn't get you a free pass to flout these rules and social conventions.

2. Despite protestations to the contrary the concept of the veil or the body covering is one of oppression and control. Values which aren't compatible with multicultural Britain's aspirations to fairness. It carries implications of property, of shame and saying that it's a woman's choice isn't entirely accurate when it can be enforced by the men of the family and when generational cultural indoctrination is at work.

I find kinky BDSM as much fun as the next guy, maybe more, but we don't see leather clad doms walking their slaves down the street on a leash for a reason, plus that's generally role-playing and consensual, which can't necessarily be said for the burqa.

The idea that the burqa is respectful of women is often bandied about as well, that it stops them being sex objects. Newsflash, it doesn't. It hypersexualises whatever you can see. Much like a flash of the ankles in the Victorian era, whatever you can see becomes immensely more meaningful and erotic, the imagination fills in the gaps, generally far more erotically and effectively than reality (especially given the higher chance of rickets).

Like anything else, we all have to compromise in the public arena, whatever we do in private is up to us but, perhaps as a bonus, living free of these things even for a little while might give people more options and a bit of an eye opener.

*A bunch of no hopers who are basically the BNP** with middle class sensibilities.
**Fascists without the uniforms or even a pretence of being intellectual.
just me

I'm afraid it's more religion/atheism issues.

1. Some seem to have missed some of the point of yesterday's post. The main thrust of what I was saying is that in planning, as in many things, religions seem to get special consideration when it comes to architecture. Same as in law, tax and so many other spheres of life and government. It ain't on, basically.

2. Interesting news story today, I don't know if you're aware but in many parts of the US it's still an electoral requirement - at least on paper - that you believe in god. This has previously been regarded as an outdated law, it's obviously unconstitutional, much like the straw bale and London cab laws.

Until NOW.

Now, I always like to point out in instances like this that most nations do have legal, sensible and above board laws against people who are insane holding office, or indeed voting. Insanity, like, say, believing in things that don't exist or that invisible and indetectable spirits are talking to you. Son of Sam was insane (religion was involved) and only killed six people, insane people in political office have the potential to kill much larger numbers of people, simply through irrational policy decisions.

I think it's clear who, if anyone, should be barred from political office...
Bears

Mini-Regrets?

Not 100% sure where I stand on THIS issue. On the one hand it's a little disappointing to see a right-wing, knee jerk reaction to Islam like this which will, after all, only encourage militancy and other issues, on the other hand it's good to see religion of any sort, even/especially Islam being challenged in its assumptions and privileged status.

Why should religious buildings get a relatively free pass on planning permission and why should mosques get a free pass in Europe when churches and synagogues and their attendant architecture don't get a free pass in, say, Saudi Arabia? Of course, we'd be better off with none of them at all and having the old buildings turned over to public use, but you can't have everything.

Opposing the spread of Islam - or indeed any other religion - leads to a heightened persecution complex and increased militancy, even as it does tend to whittle down and get through to the moderates. Being a walkover, on the other hand, ends up with people taking a mile when you give them an inch, as we've seen in so many nations with so many religions.

I guess what it boils down to for me is that it should be fair and equitable, civilisationally, and that architecture should - usually - be area sensitive. If I have to fill out acres of paperwork just to get double glazed windows in an old British village, then minarets should certainly be considered 'not in keeping with the character of the area' and if the Islamic community wants to kick up a fuss about it, they should first relax their own rules and prejudices back home.
special bear

The Death Penalty


I somehow contrived to miss the fuss around The Execution of Garry Glitter show as well as the show itself, I saw a couple of people mention it but didn't know anything about it and it slipped right past me. However it came up today on, of all things, The One Show (when Sir Ranulph Fiennes wasn't growling something about shooting Marxists).

This is a perfectly simple issue for me, in a world where justice isn't perfect, where people like The Birmingham Six can be wrongly imprisoned for many, many years, where flaws in the process where it is still practised (the US) where it's known that it has little or no deterrent effect and where, most importantly, you're trying to enforce a law that says 'Killing is wrong', it's simply not a goer.

Death isn't something you can compensate for. You can't dig someone up and let them go when you realise you got the wrong man. It's irrevocable and you can't get anything out of people who are dead. You can't study them, they can't repay their debt to society through prison work and it doesn't serve the cause of justice, only of revenge.

Most murders happen in one of two circumstances apparently:

1. The heat of the moment - when the threat of execution doesn't hold any threat over you.
2. In a meticulously pre-planned situation where you don't think you're going to get caught.

What execution would be - and is - then, is spectacle, the pursuit of revenge, a sop to the emotions of the bereaved. It doesn't serve justice, it doesn't move anything forward, it doesn't help, it just adds to death.

That's all in the case of murder, in the cases of rape or paedophilia, vile as they might be, there's even less parity. That's not a life for a life which has a certain, ruthless, biblical balance to it, but an excessive - by any stretch - punishment. That isn't to say that such things aren't horrible and don't deserve punishment, or psychiatric treatment (more likely in many cases) but just that they don't warrant death.

What was most shocking in that report was that some 70% of Brits now support the reintroduction of the death penalty. All of a sudden I don't much recognise my own country any more, hang 'em and flog 'em types have always been around but in such numbers? That and all this 'support the troops!' nonsense going around makes me feel like I'm in Texas again or something.
Kipling

FWD: Pro-Test USA (For Colonial Readers)

Subject: The Pro-Test petition: Standing up for Science in the USA

Calling all our American supporters!

Most of you will already know that scientists in the USA, particularly those in California, have in recent years seen a worrying increase in the number of violent attacks by Animal Rights extremists. Last April Professors David Jentsch and Dario Ringach, along with and other staff at UCLA, decided that enough was enough and founded Pro-Test for Science (originally Pro-Test UCLA) and held a rally that was attended by over 800 scientists and members of the public. Since then Pro-Test for Science has gained the backing of important scientific societies including the American Physiological Society, the Society for Neuroscience and the Society for the Study of Reproduction. Pro-Test for Science members have spoken at scientific conferences and written in scientific journals about the importance of speaking out about the value of animal research. Only last weekend over a hundred Pro-Test for Science supporters held a rally at UCLA to counter the dubious propaganda being spread by animal rights activists.

http://www.facebook.com/l/f5dde;www.pro-test-for-science.org/index.html
http://www.facebook.com/l/f5dde;speakingofresearch.com/2009/10/28/pro-test-for-science-pushing-forward-and-pushing-back/

Please show your support by adding your name to the Pro-Test petition, over 11,000 have already done so, and encourage your friends and colleagues also sign up.

http://www.facebook.com/l/f5dde;www.raisingvoices.net/

Pro-Test for Science has its own FaceBook group at http://www.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/group.php?gid=145728920467 and I'd encourage you to join the discussions there.

Finally if you have any questions or would like to get involved* please contact Pro-Test for Science at http://www.facebook.com/l/f5dde;www.pro-test-for-science.org/contactus.html or Speaking of research at http://www.facebook.com/l/f5dde;speakingofresearch.com/contact-us/

Thanks and kind regards,

Paul

* For example through organizing a talk at your school or research institute, or by writing a guest blog piece on the value of animal research i your field of study.