Welcome to The New Twenties

Now I was going to say that it must have been another year since I managed to actually get a blog post put up, but in the meantime another new year has come and, due to particularly superlative procrastination on my part, gone. Not just another year, of course, but another decade. Once upon a time it was thought that this would be a perfect time to revive the Old Twenties and all don our flapper dresses [1] and dance the Lindy Hop[2], but as someone, somewhere joked, what we actually got by way of a revival was, in fact, the stock market crash and pandemic aspects. [3] As if Australia being literally on fire and Britain being flooded out again wasn’t bad enough.

Of course the one thing that has been forgotten in the COVID-19 (coronavirus) madness is probably Brexit, which finally “got done” at the end of January, calling for some… very zealous and common-sense-challenged people to be asking if local councils were holding official celebrations despite the fact that there were (and remain) so many who were still opposed to the idea of Brexit and no doubt many more, the silent majority I’ll bet, who simply didn’t care. Following this, was to be the entry into a somewhat confusing transition period where we would technically be out of the EU but still subject to some of its rules, in order to have time for a trade deal to be hashed out. The whole thing felt like they were two sides insistent upon having all their demands met no matter what, with such irreconcilable differences unable to be overcome in a mere year and no deal inevitable. After all that some sort of vague deal managed to be hashed out with very little time for business, it seems, to really prepare, and causing all manner of problems with supplying goods, first to Northern Ireland then, it seems, Britain itself. And a skills shortage, possibly. Whatever, it doesn’t look like being the perfect thing some Brexiteers imagined it would be, but neither the total clusterf**k some zealous Remainers thought would be the case, yet.

Another thing which, whilst not having lost its prominence entirely, was somewhat less of an issue in UK politics was the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party and the election of his replacement following a particularly disastrous (for the party) win for the Conservatives. It might not go without mentioning the possibilities as to why last year’s General Election went so well for the Conservatives and so badly for Labour. Whilst I will leave the analysis to those who have the ability and patience to do so, I think that Brexit, the public perception of Corbyn and his close associates (if not the man himself), and a manifesto which seemed to be an unachievable, jam-pakced wish list (even if it is not quite as bad as its detractors make out), would seem to be among the key reasons. Now I neither want to pretend that more people than I would like are so pro-Brexit to the point of thinking that the Labour Party has somehow betrayed them or democracy, and were so desparate to “get Brexit done” that they will vote in any government that can promise it but I do think more people than they would like to admit were probably just sick of the process dragging on endlessly an Parliamentary gridlock turning into a farce, when there were other issues they actually cared about. That plus the fact that some people, for any number of reasons, simply felt that the Labour Party and its representatives had lost touch with them. People who identified as working class were supposed to be who the Labour Party were supposed to represent, but seemingly, a lot of them felt it wasn’t. Perhaps these might have been older people, some of whom are still clinging to the “working class” identity out of upbringing even if they are no longer quite that, some might be doing so without paying heed to such bizarrely Marxist deliniations such as “proletariat” and “petit-bourgoisie”[4], which perhaps unsurprisingly is seen by some[5] as just the preserve of some university educated metropolitan elite or what-have-you. It could be to do with over-zealous Corbynistas and over-zealous EU-philes[6]. It could be simply that they feel that their local council or local MP doesn’t seem to be respecting their wishes. It could even go back to the Blair era. If you look at the stats, it’s quite clear that it’s not just Corbyn and not just Brexit[7]. (Not exactly as if Brown or the “wrong” Miliband were winning elections, or Blair did so without a much-reduced turnout post-1997.) Whatever it is, somehow a contingent of people seem to think the Tories, or whatever Nigel Farage is doing these days, is the lesser evil. Even if I think they’re daft, they obviously don’t.

On the other side of the Pond, US-Americans had their own polls. Given the Great Orange Swamp Monster’s performance in the current crises and the kind of person he generally is, I’m surprised people support the man at all, but it is fair to say that Biden is no great shakes either due in part to being the establishment man, some of his past record on things involving race relations, and seeming a little on the senile side. He is, ultimately, same old same old. And yes, Kamala Harris is black and a woman, which is ground-breaking in its way, but apart from that…? As a leftie I might have preferred Bernie Sanders, but then, in some respects he is the American Jeremy Corbyn. Either way, I think Biden is in, and Trump is out. That the latter was trying to resist every effort by dubious claims of fraud on the former’s part looks like an act of desperation, either to try and nudge the Electoral College in his favour or simply because it would look bad to his supporters (and his ego) to admit defeat lightly, was a ridiculous waste of time. Some of his supporters alas took that to illogical extremes, in their sick-joke storming of Congress dressed like comedy Vikings and, sadly, getting people killed. Lest I look like a Trump-hater, yes, I’m sure the man has done some good things his opponents are not prepared to admit, but then a proverbial broken clock is right twice a day, and generally a man with zero political experience who doesn’t even seem to be all that good a businessman, whose morals are if not better than a lot of career politicians at least openly awful and (as the post election fraud claims and that phone call seem to be proving) a tenuous grip on reality (which, admittedly, many people seem to have these days) is not in any way qualified to be president. But ultimately, that is for America to decide. Britain has its own political craziness to contend with.

And then there is that damned pesky virus. I don’t want to go into it more than is necessary as people are mostly sick of it by now, including myself. Suffice to say I think those people who think this whole business is a hoax, or that people should not take it seriously and follow guidelines where reasonable, are not really being sensible. I want to take it perhaps a little too seriously, like “Yes, it’s real. [8] Yes, it’s nasty. [9] Wear a damned mask (if you can). [10] Take a damned vaccine. [11] And whatever you do, stay well more than 2 metres away from me if I don’t know you.” [12] But I can get a little paranoid about the whole situation. And at the same time, the economic costs, the impact on civil liberties should not be underestimated. And the way some Western governments including my own have failed to react all that adequately and the corruption involved in procuring PPE is reprehensible. Any competant government should have at minimum been able to do what Boris and co. have done. And no, I can’t see Corbyn would have done it any worse. Moreover, there are those, suffice to day, who have reason enough to distrust the whole system, who would much rather pretend the whole thing is a hoax and the vaccine is a greater potential risk than the virus. Talking about “misinformation” or taking any approach which gives the mainstream the benefit of the doubt, and engaging in anything that so much as looks like censorship and depravation of civil liberties is, I think, only counterproductive. As is, I have learned the hard way, trying to pretend towards rational argument when you neither know enough about things or, more important, how to be sensitive to people’s particular situations, only makes things worse. Ultimately, people should be able as much as possible to make their own decisions, but certain emergency measures I am prepared to tolerate, even if they are very difficult to endure.

And then we have had racial tensions, statues coming down, the American West on fire, Siberia on fire, the climate crisis in general, Extinction Rebellion and more. Fun times. I may address Black Lives Matter or XR in a future post [13], but really tackling so many difficult topics in one post, much like everything about the 2020, is getting wearisome. I could go on. And QAnon. And on.

And now we come to 2021. We have a vaccine, a rather thin Brexit deal, no more Trump (I hope)… but more lockdowns and no quick end in sight. Oh yeah, and the whole Afghanistan clusterf**k. And seemingly everywhere else on fire. Or flooded. Or otherwise plagued by maybe-not-as-natural-as-we’d-prefer-to-think disasters.

So to cheer us all up, here’s a video of people in the 1920s dancing the Lindy Hop to round off this post. I hope the New Twenties will itself have something worth remembering.

Footnotes:

[1] Or suitable male equivalent, whatever that is. Unlike the Old Twenties, of course, it’s probably slightly more acceptable to don a flapper dress if you are not exactly a young lady, and there’s no accounting for taste.

[2] Perhaps the Charleston might be a better pick since the Lindy Hop seems to have been more popular later, but it sounded better.

[3] Likely referring to the Spanish Flu of 1918-20 and the Great Crash of 1929, both at different ends of the decade. Seems like we’re less lucky than they were in that respect to have both coming along at once, even in spite of higher standards of living, no major wars to recover from, or prohibition, or bigotry…

[4] Which is to say, between wage labourers and the self-employed with their own businesses.

[5] Mostly, though, those on the populist and far right. But it’s easy to convince others thus.

[6] Who are not necessarily the same thing, though there may be some overlap. Tratitionally, leftists such as Corbyn were very anti-EU as being just another pro-capitalist enterprise.

[7] Though on that score, if you promise in your manifesto to “respect the result of the referendum”, and people take that to mean leaving the EU one means or another come what may, then people will take that to mean that not only can’t you be trusted, they can be forgiven for thinking you are undermining democracy itself. You probably aren’t, on account of the fact there probably isn’t all that much democracy in a meaningful sense to undermine in the first place, but I’ll address that in a future post.

[8] Which it is.

[9] Which it can be.

[10] Which is probably a good idea up to a point, but not all masks are as effective as others, it only works if you wear them properly, and the things re damn hard to breath in and unpleasant to wear.

[11] Which probably isn’t a bad idea either, but some people can have some nasty reactions and side effects.

[12] Which is probably overkill.

[13] Which means I almost certainly won’t.

 

Thoughts on the Manchester terror attacks

This will not be much. Thing is I have not really reacted to it up until now, as my mental “wiring” makes it rather difficult for me to form any kind of emotional response to events that aren’t happening right in front of me, and at the same time make it seem dishonest to try and feign one. Of course, I would like to hope that anyone I know in or around that area is safe. I offer my condolences to those who have suffered losing someone close to them in this attack. I can but imagine what it must be like to go out hoping for an enjoyable evening you were looking forward to for some time, only to have to be caught up in such a horrific incident. I might like to point out that, on the plus side from what I have heard, there have been some great positive examples of humanity being shown in people willing to go out of their way to help others. Including, lest anyone be prejudiced, from Muslims. This is certainly heartening

My main concern, as with any such attack, is the fall-out from all this. From the usual responses of hate or fear-mongering from the far right and professional shit-spewers like Katie Hopkins and the “final solution” tweet, and the anti-Muslim backlash that might result (it seems only hours after someone attempted to set fire to a mosque in Oldham, though of course whether it was connected, I dare not speculate). Or of the necessity of having the army drawn in to accompany armed police officers in patrolling key sites (perhaps slippery slope thinking this is one more step down the road to martial law). Or whether, with campaigning for the General Election rightly temporarily suspended, the Tories might try and gain capital from this the way the Thatcher government gained from the Falklands, in being seen to deal with this issue? (Never mind the possibility that cuts to police and security services in the regular sense upped the risk of this in the first place, and thus likely quelling any thoughts of the slippery slope nature). Is my saying this trying to make political capital out of the deaths of people? Perhaps, however at the same time do we pretend the aims of the bombers themselves are not political? That the inevitable fascist and far-right backlash is not political? That there are bound to be some people bringing up past associations with groups branded terrorist (rightly or wrongly is beyond the scope of this article and I dare offer no argument either way besides) to attack Corbyn and McDonnell with? That the nature of the government response is not in some way a political matter, subject to political scrutiny? Yes, there needs to be time to mourn, and time taken for the government to put in place some kind of emergency response, but as some people have said, it is almost like we are letting the terrorists get away with disrupting our democratic processes. 

In conclusion, yes, it is right to mourn. Fear and anger, moreover, are perfectly natural, understandable responses for those affected. But there is no reason to let go of what our true values are supposed to be, let the powers that be trample on our civil rights, or give in to misdirected hate or blame. And it is no reason for the rest of us to live in the abject fear some might suppose we should.

Registering to vote? (UK general elections 2017)

I am wondering, especially at this late stage, if it is worth asking people to register to vote. I always have in the back of my mind, for example, the anarchist types who don’t really agree with the state, think voting is a waste of time, and think direct action will do more good (if at all). I can sympathise with those people. In a way I can sympathise with those people who find the whole thing terribly confusing, or are sick of the whole thing, but…

At the same time, it still seems important to have some influence in the way the government is pushing things. Not just Brexit. Whether we want to see most of our major institutions and public services privatised or shut down. Whether we want a system which is fundamentally set up for rich capitalists, depriving those at the bottom of a decent life (or any life) or everyone. Whether we want a government which, in the nicest possible language, seeks to control the internet and undermine some of our civil liberties… maybe. And so on.

Much is made of the younger generations being the least likely to want to vote and there is a big push by some to get them to do so. This isn’t entirely a bad idea, as it means governments care more about the people whom they can win votes off. So, you get the triple lock on pensions but 18-21 year olds can’t get housing benefit, and tuition fees are sky-high. For example.

So, I’m not going to tell you you must register to vote, but I will say this- take an interest in how things are run, and be willing to make a change if you can. Don’t just fall back on the old excuses of “it’s not worth it, it’s too confusing”- just take some time to research. Read the manifestoes. Go to a local hustings event. Don’t necessarily follow the news, as it can be biased, but it is probably better than watching stupid crap that clogs up the airwaves and bandwidth elsewhere. Or read up on alternative ideas of politics.

And if you are going to register to vote- do it soon, as you only have until midnight. You  can do it here:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Media claptrap?

Now, it’s easy to treat the mainstream media or some sections of it as some kind of whipping boy. Those on both sides who like to accuse the BBC of bias, to those on the left who like to go on about the demonizing antics of the Daily Fail Daily Mail or The Sun whilst those on the right do exactly the same with The Guardian. Or the more conspiracy minded types- or at least those who have no truck with the ruling establishment – who consider that the entire mainstream media are not to be trusted at all and prefer some alternative media source, however biased and full of “fake news”. After all, it can be pointed out that often the regular media has not been above reporting “fake news” in the past itself. (But it is not as if alternative media on t’internet is automatically more trustworthy. There is no such thing as a totally unbiased, trustworthy source- or nothing we can be 100% sure is.) Now, much as in the past I’ve liked the BBC, I myself have a long tradition of shouting at the radio with regularity every morning, over some line it wants to push, or the antics of interviewers wanting to push from interviewees the line they want (though politicians are often all too keen to make a speech).

There are a couple of things that have drawn my attention of late in the British news media, relating to certain things within government that are legally impossible. One: that the sitting Prime Minister, currently Theresa May, has the power still to call an early General Election. Ignoring quite clearly a little thing called the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, which quite clearly aimed to put a stop to that and requiring a motion, passed by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons for this to happen, otherwise Parliament would sit for a period of 5 years. The other, similar thing is that Scottish First Minister Nichola Sturgeon is capable of threatening us with another Scots independence referendum at the time this country (Britain as a whole) needs it the least, in the vain hope the EU will let them back in with open arms. But, of course, she cannot do this without approval from Westminster, and before Brexit is concluded, Mrs. May is firmly opposed to any such undertaking. (Occasionally Tories are not without sense.)

I wonder what to make of Lansman and Momentum [left-wing Labour Party affiliated movement formed in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s appontment as leader] trying to get endorsement from Unite and take over the Labour Party, (Certainly some on the left do not like Lansman and ilk who they feel have launched a coup within Momentum, but that is beside the point). Look at the way the media are treating it as a “secret plot”- all the more to sensationalise it and possibly demonise those on the radical left. Or there are those who try and point out that the media- even the Guardian- are out to get Corbyn. Certainly they seem to be distorting facts about even when he is competent, but it seems a lot is left to be desired even then. Yet it is worth pointing out that any organ of the establishment and capitalism is not exactly going to give too much real space to anything that looks like socialism. Too much of a threat, I suspect.

Those who seem more conservative or nationalist leaning also seem to suppose that within the media there is some kind of “liberal elite”, affiliated with Europe to such an extent that they are out to derail Brexit by all counts. Maybe so. But then maybe the blogosphere is quite capable of producing its own twaddle. I’ll deal with that another time.

And then we have the narratives surrounding right wing populism in general. Particularly with Trump. Is this the reaction of a disaffected white working class? Perhaps there is some truth in this. Well, with Trump, I’ve heard allegation that those on lower incomes (perhaps however disproportionately from ethnic minorities) tended to vote Clinton, and not forgetting this was hardly a democratic result given Clinton actually won the popular vote.

Of course with Trump, too, they obsess over his tweets, his antics, his personality flaws, and whether or not the Russians hacked the election as to his actla policies- in other words, what matters.

Back here, it gets me how so much attention is paid when it comes to things like Brexit on what I would consider disgraced political has-been like Tony Blair (less respectable elder statesman, more potential war criminal and in hindsight less saviour than real destroyer of Labour?) The establishment looks like it will prop up those in its own club.

And don’t get me started on the way the news media seems to give so much space to celebrity related stories, the royal family, the ongoing doping and other corruption scandals within the world of sport, and indeed sport in general. These things are peripheral to the real issues facing the world at present, some of which are completely ignored.

And how the terrorist threat seems to be magnified beyond all proportion, when cars probably kill far more people than terrorists. And as for state actors, their stupid wars, mismangement, public service cuts…

Of course many today decry the internet age, the financial unviability of news media, and how it means the death of good quality journalism in favour of talentless hacks. But even as a kid I recall hearing how journalists- and let’s not forget politicians- were among the less trusted professions even back in the ’90s, as far as the popular imagination is concerned. There has long been the fact of advertising pressure on commercial media, the clear division of  bias in most of the British press, and state powers leaning on the lot – including the supposedly unbiased public service BBC.

Whatever media one chooses to trust, we must always critically evaluate, fact check, and question whether there truly is such thing as an unbiased source. Ever.

Well, this post has been something of a stream of consciousness semi-rant, and more to do with politics again. But ne’er mind. Maybe one day I will add some variety to this blog again. But first, I must post something.

In, Out, In, Out, Shake It All About… (On the EU Referendum)

[Amendment, 24/09/2019: I seem to be somewhat confused in my opening paragraph about what day it was. Probably I started writing the day before polling day and finished on the day itself and, as I recall, this was written in a hurry so I hardly was bothered to go back and proof-read. As it is I’ve had to add in this note as well as go back and correct the numerous typos I have found.]

Well, there’s only one day left to go before the dread EU Referendum is upon us Brits, and we decide once and for all whether we want to remain a part of it or not. Some of us will have already done postal votes and for them, the decision has already been made. Others will have already voted at the traditional polling stations. For me, even with only a few hours to go before the close of polls…  well, that’s another story.

To begin with I was definitely on the Leave side, and it’s quite surprising how much of this had to do with the one thing most secularists would be mortally afraid of if you mixed it with politics: my Christian faith. There are actually a few more conservative Christian types who actually think our membership of the EU contravenes the will of God, that when God divided the nations at Babel and later set their borders, this was somehow a good thing in order to prevent some of the worse abuses of power that sinful human nature could produce. This kind of argument I will best leave to one of my former pastors to make- see [1]. On top of this, there were even arguments to the effect that since the Queen had made in her Coronation Oath to do various things including upholding the Christian faith and so on, this was actually a covanent with God and the secularizing tendencies of pan-European institutions were somehow about us breaking that covenant. Even one book I read contained an alleged prophecy stating that we should come out of Europe because it would align itself with the Antichrist before The End. I kid you not.

Now, of course, when I looked into it, there seemed to be plenty of good secular reasoning to back this up. When you looked at, say, the Greek crisis and what the EU has forced (against the declared democratic will of the people) upon it in terms of austerity, to keep the Euro alive, we get one example of why it seems that this kind of power structure is no good- it undermines democracy and national sovereignty. How many referenda have we also had in the past on the EU constitution or other treaty changes, in various countries, where the EU basically said “Wrong! Do it again! Let’s hear the right answer!” And then there’s TTIP- the pending trade deal that might allow corporations to sue governments and force the privatization of the NHS. Not to mention the litany of regulatory blunders as part of things like the Common Fisheries Policy which, in setting quotas to conserve fish stocks, only forced fishermen to throw back perfectly good, and perfectly dead, catches of fish back into the sea. Or the various problems which the Common Agricultural Policy, farm subsidies &c. might likewise cause. (You hear little of butter mountains and wine lakes these days, however. Though that make a good idea for a short story- Jenny Everywhere in Surplusland, maybe?)

All this led to some pretty unpleasant conclusions- like voting for and supporting parties I was somewhat uncomfortable with, i.e. UKIP. The more I heard about it and the actions of some of its members (everything from bigoted remarks to their voting records for MEPs inside the EU, which seemed counter-productive), the more I grew concerned, but, as I knew the candidate for our area personally, I thought maybe they’re not all that bad, and frankly, some of their manifesto ideas seemed to make sense at the time. Sadly, of course, their attitude to climate change (unrelenting skepticism) was not one of them, their economic ideas are unflinchingly neoliberal and this conflicted with some of my inner leftie tendencies which still remained after all this time.

Of course not all my Christian friends were in favour of UKIP and leaving the EU. Most of these being the leftty activist types whom I knew through SPEAK or those who knew them, who probably had a very different idea of what Christianity was to some of my church friends- much more inclined towards social justice issues and less upon (where it infringed on worldly politics over evangelism at all) personal moral issues and would be religious liberty. Many of these people were astounded I’d even want to consider, at least, supporting UKIP. No matter how much I’d try to say they weren’t that bad really, I had to wonder.

Of course now I left the church (one of whose members is the local UKIP candidate), and with spending more time amongst those of a more radical leftist bent, I had reason to want to reconsider my views on the matter.

Now, when all that’s said and done, there are several things that really get me about this referendum business.

First of all, as has been pointed out in the mainstream media quite constantly, there have been claims of scaremongering from both sides. Typically one side will come out with some claim, and the other side will try and rubbish it or try to point out flaws. The Leave campaign seem to provide some of the more egregious examples, like the alleged money we supposedly spend on the EU which when things like the rebate is taken into account and the fact we get some back anyway, and any savings we make from it form a minuscule part of government spending- we will not have all that much more to spend on the NHS. That even assuming the offset in economic losses will make it meaningless anyway.

Worst of all is all is the way in which the immigration issue has been so much of a big deal. The Leave side have been hinting, for example, that Turkey might join the EU and bring millions more immigrants to the UK, using the refugee crisis as leverage (even in spite of the fact that we are not inside the Schengen area and those trying to climb on lorries desperate to reach the UK are hardly going to be deterred by Brexit). Yes, it is true that there is ultimately so much space to go around, so many houses, so many hospital beds. Perhaps free movement of labour does seek to drive down wages and conditions as immigrants might have a lower level of demands in terms of wages (which are naturally higher than in their home country anyway). But at the same time, immigrants can also pay taxes, start businesses, possibly fill the jobs British people would seek to avoid anyway, and actually be of benefit to our eeconomy instead of a burden. How much of the pressure on our public services is not in fact down to austerity? How much of the housing crisis is really down to bad policy or even markets? How much of the business with jobs is down to neoliberal notions of shareholder value trumps everything? Frankly, this is more about scapegoating those less fortunate than us instead of blaming the real people responsible- the rich and powerful. Exploiting xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Then again the Remain camp isn’t so much better- even suggesting the security of Europe might be threatened if we left, that the economy would take a nosedive- admittedly, though many economists back that one up. Typical of the tit-for-tat mentality in the debates, the Leave campaign immediately hit back and rubbished these claims, reckoning, for example suggesting that the economists who make such predictions also failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. And the business interests who favour Europe? They said the same thing about is joining the Euro, didn’t they? And as history has proven, maybe our not joining it turned out not to be such a bad idea after all.

There is also the suggestion that Brexit is all about right-wing values and hate, which it should not be- it is not about personalities, who our awkwards bedfelows might be, but on the issues. Just like I could not care less about all the celebrities and political dinosaurs the campaigns wheel out (why should we care so much particularly about what celebrities have to say any more than anyone else?) nor do I care if Farage, Boris and their ilk are campaigning for Leave. After all, I don’t like Cameron, Osborne or those dinosaurs as Blair (the man who brought us into Iraq), or all the heads of corporations who want us to stay in, but they are all supporting Remain.

One thing I am very skeptical of is the claim that the EU has been instrumental in securing peace in Europe. Never mind that the institutions which would later develop into the EU were mostly a Western affair, and for the four and a bit decades after WW2 the biggest possible threat to peace was the tension between capitalist Weat and “communist” East, dominated by Russia/the USSR which covered a good chunk of eastern Europe and is satellite states a good chunk more? That, although the EU now encompasses much of Eastern Europe and some parts of the former USSR, there are yet more tensions between it (and the West in general) and Russia, which is not part of the EU? What about Ukraine? What about the former Yugoslavia 20 years ago? So what good has the EU done for peace? Can anybody really tell me if the last 70 years since WW2 has not had a resumption of major conflict on the level of the two world wars, has not been in spite of, rather than because of the EU? I would welcome suggestions.

So, what of the Left case for “Brexit”, sometimes referred to as “Lexit”? Wasn’t the Left traditionally Euroskeptic back in the ’70s? Well, we’ve seen sadly little of it. Despite the fact that there are a few trade unions (RMT?) supporting it, a few within Labour (not Jeremy Corbyn however, who seems to have gone over from his original euroskepticism to support the normal party line). There are of course a few on the fringes- George Galloway of Respect, the Socialist Labour Party (something to do with Arthur Scargill methinks) and the like. The Morning Star newspaper seems to have carried plenty of columns arguing a left case for leaving the EU. But we see little of this in the mainstream media- it’s all Cameron and Osborne on one side and Gove an Boris Johnson on the other. I mean, even UKIP has been complaining that Farage has been sidelined in the debates, but he gets more prominence than any on the left arguing for Brexit. The fact is that, for all the worker’s rights, environmental protections (you know, like those fishing quotas) and whatnot that came from the EU,  it still a neoliberal-oriented organization and no-one on the left who wants to remain in the EU argues for it without hoping for substanitial reforms. The only worry is that with a Tory government in power- and especially if Cameron has to step down- a lot of these may be eroded further. We worry about TTIP, but if we make the much-vaunted trade deals on our own, how do we know they won’t be as bad as if not worse than what we might get out of TTIP- which we cannot influence if we leave, along with our comrades across the Channel. But to suggest the EU is internationalist- well, it actually is a regional trading bloc at odds with some other parts of the world, and actually discriminates against those outside the EU with regards to things like free movement rights. Much hope for world socialism there? Doubt it.

Nevertheless, I came across a film which makes the case for “Lexit”, which might be worth a watch. [2]

And another article (shared through a friend) which suggested that we’re basically screwed either way. [3]

So, I’m out to vote. If you are eligible to vote (and are not an anarchist who doesn’t beleive in voting in principle), I encourage you to do so if you have not already. I doubt I can influence anyone at this stage with an article like this, and frankly don’t want to. I barely know myself. But there you have it. As ever, confused.

 

[1] http://riversofwater22.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/an-open-door.html?spref=fb

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq72f81kkM4

[3] http://www.thecanary.co/2016/06/21/the-eu-referendum-is-one-of-the-cruellest-tricks-every-played-on-the-british-public/

I’m ba-ack! Or am I? (In which I drop bombshells, and write about what I might be writing about… maybe.)

Well, this is a short post just to let you know that I am alive, well and hope to start posting more of my thoughts on this here blog. (Oh yes and, people who didn’t know I have a blog, I have a blog. ) WordPress tells me it’s been nearly a year. Of course, you’ll say, we’ve heard THAT one before, haven’t we? Well, true. But there have been certain other reasons besides my usual sheer laziness. One of which is perhaps a year of spending a lot of time worrying about certain faith matters before getting to the point that, all things considered, maybe it would be better off not having that faith at all. That is to say, I have come to the point where if Christianity (at least in the sense I believed it) is going to be worth following, it had better be true: its demands are so great that it had better be worth it, and there had better really be a God out there able to make us into the kind of people who can follow it. But, on closer examination of reality, how much of the evidence seems to point the other way? Just which claims, interpretations of scripture, etc. are true and which are not? Is this God everybody claims is really there and working in their lives, really there, or is it just all coincidence and tricks of the mind? All in all, I concluded, it probably was not. Unfortunately not all of my Christian friends might know about this, and I have also been hesitant to make it public. Partly out of fear it might upset the faith of some, partly as a lot would try to react with surprise, tell me I haven’t really stopped believing or try to bring me back into the fold. Well, I have no objection to you believing what you want, if it is true for you then as long as it harms no-one else, I have no problem with it. But do not expect me to believe any longer. I hope perhaps to address this in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, I have this whole EU election thingy (even if it ends up being last minute again and affects nobody’s opinion or vote) and reflections on certain very nasty murders that have taken place in the last week or so. Not much fun, sadly, but needs comment. In the future, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that big ideal democracy post (my ideas have shifted on that), some stuff about capitalism (short: it has many shortcomings and needs to be replaced, eventually), and maybe more fun stuff like anime reviews, wry observations, silly rants about inane nonsense… oh yeah, and I forgot that Jenny Everywhere story.

Watch this space.

(In memoriam to the victims of the Orlando shootings, Jo Cox MP, and all victims of senseless violence everywhere.)

[Edited for typos, 23/04/2018]

On the first past the post system in the UK- is it fit for purpose? (My thoughts)

(Edited from a post on the Powerswitch forums)

With election time coming up, and with it being a messy one in which many people are hoping or wishing that minor parties might have some chance to influence things in parliament, some people are questioning whether an alternative to the first-past-the-post electoral system (in which people make a single vote for who they want to be the member of Parliament for their local constituency and the person with the most votes wins, then the party which wins the most seats gets to form a government) might have helped those parties do better. UKIP are polling even higher than the Liberal Democrats and yet (perhaps due to a fall in support) are, according to some sources, unlikely to win even some of the seats they were gunning to get, such as Farage’s hopes for South Thanet. As for the Greens, well they’re polling lower, but some want them to have more influence as an alternative to the same old politics which even UKIP isn’t much of an alternative to (if not, in their view, even worse). Perhaps an alternative: AV (rejected by the majority in a referendum as being too confusing), STV or even full-on proportional representation, might help to stop the same old same old ruling the show every time?

But is it really the right way to go?

The reality is that the first past the post system is definitely fit for purpose if we understand how it’s designed to work.

Basically people are so obsessed by the party system they fail to see it’s about voting for the person as well as simply the party. What is really not fit for purpose is that we have no real separation of powers between the legislature and the executive- the latter being made up from whatever sitting MPs lead the party with the most seats or whatever coalition is formed that can gain the confidence of the House (and the Crown). In something more like the American sort of system, where the executive is elected separately from the legislature, only with the difference of having direct election of the head of government rather than the questionable electoral college system that exists Stateside, we would not need to worry about FPTP with respect to electing members of parliament.

Now certainly if we were to maintain this lack of separation of powers, some sort of alternative voting system which still allows us to have a specific local MP who is directly accountable to the electorate in a given locality might be a worthwhile compromise, but a full proportional-representation system would not be something I could support, as it removes that link and does not give us any idea (beyond party leadership) who are the people who will be elected to Parliament.

Thoughts, criticisms, elaborations most welcome.

Is Russia really a threat to the Baltics, or the West?

As apparently NATO are beefing up security therein and the powers that be reckon Putin and the Big Bad Bear actually poses a real risk. And it’s come up on Question Time but need to follow it more closely.

I honestly don’t get it, to be fair. Seems like posturing. I don’t really understand quite what is going on in the Ukraine, whether the so-called “pro-Russian” rebels are being backed by Russia, or actually are a false-flag type operation involving actual Russian military. Or if the current administration in Russia is as “Nazi” as some make out, just because of that Right Sector lot. Or if there was not some skullduggery on even the West’s part in the overturning in the old regime in [Ukraine, presumably].

I am not too sure I can trust our own powers that be any more than I do Putin on the issue. Just because Russia might be involved in the Ukraine, doesn’t mean it will be in the Baltics. I mean, surely Ukraine once was Russia, or at least part of it. The Baltics have passed between various powers over the years.

Yet I can see the real fear those countries may have. Once part of Russia, then gaining their independence, then losing it again to Stalin’s Soviet Union. Russia is right on their doorsteps, Britain is not. My late Estonian grandfather, I am told, couldn’t go back (part of having to do with having fought for the other side- which along with the fact of my other, late German grandfather, causes some mild embarrassment when talking to British war veterans, even if thy are sympathetic) and became a displaced person. It would just have been too dangerous for him. Yet old Blighty took him and others like him, in.

Listen to the pro-Western and pro-Russian commentators, you get two completely different versions of events. Question is, who do you trust? Again, I have no answers. Do any of my readers?

[ERRATUM, 15th March: As noted in the comments below it was presumptuous of me to suggest that “surely Ukraine once was Russia, or at least part of it”. I did have the Kievan Rus in the back of my mind when thinking of this, however, it is of fairly little relevance to the modern nation of Ukraine or its people. After all Estonia and presumably the rest of the Baltics also weren’t really a “proper” nation (independent, self-determining and recognised as such) until recently (i.e. last century or two) and were part of the Russian Empire too for some time, as well as being passed between various European powers. I suspect I may be corrected further on this, though.]

So the UK government are about to bomb IS. So what should I tell my MP exactly?

I get an email in one of my several e-mail accounts (one used largely for this very purpose) from campaign group 38 Degrees, telling me to write to my MP expressing my feelings on the vote Parliament has been suddenly recalled to vote on. Thing is, they don’t have a position, and give out opinions of various members who hold completely opposing views, as well as resources outlining the case for both sides.

Now there can be little doubt that IS are a particularly nasty bunch who are quite willing to murder anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their particularly narrow and extreme view of Islam, and need to be stopped somehow. The question is as to whether, as for example the Stop the War Coalition might put it, intervention of this nature won’t end in disaster, bombs will end up killing ordinary civilians innocent of the crimes of IS, and be subject to mission creep, be it boots on the ground or “accidentally” hitting targets belonging to and servicing al-Assad’s regime– the same Assad who has apparently given his blessing to intervention against IS? The situation on the ground appears to be a total mess, and we intervene at our risk, perhaps. We don’t know how it will end up.

All in all, armed conflict and the morality of engaging in it are very tricky matters. The only thing I know is, sometimes they appear necessary but the wrong people all too often sadly get hurt. So, what shall I be writing to my MP on this particular matter? Nothing, probably, for what can I write that will be meaningful?