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Tag Archives: Current Affairs

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.

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.]

…and Wales, and Northern Ireland… but including them in the title wouldn’t have been as funny. No, I am not meaning to be insulting your great nation at all, simply to consider a side of the issue only a few people have bothered to discuss: that of independence, or lack of it, on the rest of the UK.

It has long bothered me that whilst I had thought he Union was a two-way partnership, that only Scots get to decide who breaks it. Apparently (and I am sadly too lazy to read the details, but hopefully will tomorrow) the Act of Union has nothing in it to override what seems to be the overriding principle of self-determination, that Scots get to decide how they are governed (though the rest of us don’t get decide not to be voted by Scots- but given the most obvious recent example of that was Gordon Brown, maybe that’s not so bad a thing). It is certainly true that the Scots Parliament of old was led into union by some conniving and possible arm-twisting (their economy having collapsed following failed colonial adventures in Panama) but it’s hardly like the government of England was anything like what we’d consider a democracy today, with universal suffrage to elect an MP to represent you absent let alone referenda. Now Scots get democracy to decide the fate of the Union, but the English do not, even though, as I will point out, it will affect us in several key areas.

But on the plus side, ignoring the democratic deficit south of the border, northwards we see quite the opposite picture: a predicted 80% turnout, lots of lively debate, people getting engaged in the issues which rarely happens with day-to-day national, local or international politics. More controversially, 16-17 year olds are allowed to vote, which some say might be too young, but it is at least the age when people start to develop the true ability to make their own independent decisions, not simply those they have learned from their elders (thanks to some old Robert Winston documentary for that half-remembered tidbit) and, after all, it’s a potentially irreversible decision which will affect the young.

The fact is that what Scots are voting on will affect both Scotland and the rest of the UK. From the currency union issue, to Trident, to investment here in the north of England (which might be affected by proposed cuts to corporation tax in Scotland, though this may be of little effect in the sea of other economic troubles Scots may face), to the political balance in Westminster. Even good old Auntie Beeb loos set to be affected, with the creation of a separate Scottish Broadcasting Service out of the existing BBC Scotland, no to mention all those licence fees the BBC can’t live off anymore. And the alternative, no plus “devo max” might mean Scots are even more disproportionately funded well by now than the rest of us- not only unfair, but who picks up the tab?

And for all the Yes campaign’s going on about Scotland being free of the distant, Tory-led government in Westminster pushing NHS privatisation, the bedroom tax and a whole host of other policies. Guess what- neither do we. Look at any electoral map, and you’ll find that there are plenty of non-Tory seats in many areas of the North of England, which is also neglected by the powers that be in London in favour of the capital’s wealthy and powerful interests. Many of us don’t want Trident any more than you do. But we don’t get to be separate from all this- yes, we had the regional assembly thing but that had few powers, and it got rejected.

I aim to elaborate on this tomorrow when I’m less tired. And maybe mention the odd possible positive for us south of the border too. But time is short, and I wonder who will read this or be affected by it before they go to the polls tomorrow. Indeed, postal voters will have cast their ballots already. But if any Scot is reading this, remember: it affects both you and us, and please consider this when you do vote. I won’t tell you how, as that is the nature of democracy which I believe pretty strongly in (not in the same way I hope to believe in God, as democracy is not infallible). Indeed, as I said, I am excited that so much lively political activity is indeed taking place. I hope it all works out for the best.

Well, I’ve been on holiday for two weeks in Florida. I had aimed at least to have a good time, try to get on well with my hosts (my mother’s friend and her family) and get all the books read I’ve taken with me, I suppose. So far I have only finished one- John Brunner’s Times Without Number, a sci-fi novel set in an alternate history where the Spanish armada successfully defeated the English and invaded, yet Spain itself was reconquered by the Moors; where time travel has been developed (deceptively easily, it turns out), yet travel in spatial dimensions is limited to the horse and carriage. I suspect in a Catholic society, the lack of Protestant work ethic discouraged any industrial revolution which might have lead to the development of the steam engine? I wonder. It is a world where aristocracy and slavery is the norm, where the Catholic Church wields considerable influence, and the Inquisition is considered humane for using truth-drugs and hypnotism instead of torture as a means of interrogation. But these are the good guys, aiming to prevent the misuse of time travel for personal or political gain, or the timeline from being altered significantly. The epitome of Deliberate Values Dissonance, for any of my fellow tropers who may be reading. Oh, and I’ve also started on Jane Austen’s Emma and a collection of sci-fi short stories from the sixties.

So, I’m now in Florida, and have been for about a week, along with my mother. The weather is certainly as warm as can be expected, but can be very stormy, with lots of lightning and at least a few power cuts. Due to issues with lost or delayed luggage (a nightmare for some) we haven’t yet done too much, besides shopping, Starbucks and a couple of trips to the beach. There is some interesting wildlife to be seen even in the extensive back yard of our hosts, including various birds, a squirrel, the occasional deer and raccoons and even evidence of a bear which left its mark on the fence. In the interests of privacy I will not share too much about my hosts save to say they’re pretty nice folks, if I must be reminded it is the GULF (of Mexico- we’re in southwest Florida) we have been to the beach of, not the SEA! (Presumably a customary distinction the locals make?)

Next week, possible boat trips to see dolphins and possibly a tour of the Everglades. Pictures I hope will find their way to this blog- minus, for the sake of privacy, any well-defined human subjects, as agreed.

My post on the Israel-Palestine conflict seems to have been viewed by at least one Palestinian- possibly someone who commented on one of my friend’s Facebook thread. I hope I didn’t disappoint him by being a little too pro-Israel. It seems the guy who was supposedly captured was actually killed in action. I forget his identity. Now, at last, it seems there is actually a more lasting ceasefire and the chance of some talks… or is there? And the fact the Palestinians have gone to the world courts? I wonder how that will lead. O world, when will you learn to stop fighting and wasting life in this way?

That said, the whole business with the oppressive, murderous “Islamic State” does make me think that some military action is necessary. A cautious approach, however- maybe a few airstrikes to limit effectiveness, arm the Kurds or Iraqis in general, aim to reconcile opposing groups within Iraq, and let them sort their own problems out. Don’t give in to the demands for all-out action at any price- this will only lead to more support for these radical groups and end in more waste of civilian life. And do our best to help those in need- do not ignore the Christians and others who they are persecuting.

Anyway, enough of this.

Hopefully I could before long get some books or videos reviewed. I have bought and hope to bring back a few VHS tapes which are unavailable in the UK, including the badly-dubbed version of Macross- Do You Remember Love? as well as They Were Eleven (mystery thriller in space), Explorer Woman Ray (Indiana Jones type fayre, but with a female protagonist?) and the Leiji Matsumoto classic Galaxy Express 999. Maybe I shall review the Moorcock and the Brunner.

And maybe finish the (currently long and rambling) essay on what might make an ideal democracy, if certain of my readers don’t mind yet more political fayre. (Note, ideal democracy doesn’t necessarily mean ideal political system.)

Maybe I’ll even have some ‘gators or dolphins to show you.

[This post has been edited from its original form for personal reasons.]

As basically anyone will know who has been following the news lately, Israel and Palestine- or more appropriately Hamas- are out to kill each other yet again. It seems to follow the same old pattern every time- Hamas fires rockets out of Gaza, Israel turns around and responds by trying to utterly blitz Hamas into the ground and ending up killing way too many innocent civilians in the process. Or maybe things are quite different than that. The pro-Palestinian lobby claims the Israelis are deliberately targetting civilians as part of a deliberate genocidal campaign to get rid of the Palestinians and turn the whole of the Occupied Territories into a complete Jewish state, the pro-Israeli side claim Hamas are deliberately using civilians as human shields (and get free international support for their side). As usual, it’s the ordinary folks, who may or may not otherwise be politicized, suffer, in huge numbers. Maybe the odd Hamas rocket, most of which are ineffective, get past the Iron Dome and hit somebody. Certainly a few Israeli soldiers have been killed.

And of course there are desperate pleas from the international community and all concerned for a permanent ceasefire for the sake of ending this dreadful suffering. Yet when all sides agree to a temporary ceasefire for three measly days to give the Gazans some time to patch things up, what happens? You go to bed hearing on the radio it’s going to happen, and wake up in the morning ot find it’s been broken yet again. Israel claims Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets, and responds with shelling; 53 dead. Hamas denies firing anything. Some civilians reported as acting as if the ceasefire was going on still, however. An Israeli soldier gets captured, 2 more are dead. And the whole bloodied roundabout goes on turning.

Now, as a Christian of the sort who believes the modern state of Israel to be some partial fulfilment of Bible prophecy, I really want to support them; I believe the idea of a restored Jewish state, in the wake of the centuries of persecution they endured, is a good thing, but not at the expense of those who were living there already. It does seem hard sometimes, when you see what the Palestinians have had to put up with since 1948, and when you see what is happening now (Gaza completely blockaded, settlements in the West Bank, seemingly disproportionate reprisals every time Israel gets attacked) you begin to wonder. Yet Israel has throughout its history been under threat, first from its Arab neighbours, now militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Can you blame them for trying to neutralize the threat of constant rocket attacks? I wonder.

In all honesty, feelings in support of both sides run so high, and there seems to be two completely different versions of events, that you don’t know what to believe. As with the Ukraine in more recent days, everything gets lost in the haze of propaganda and the fog of war. What I do know, is that people are suffering, and that there seems to be no easy end in sight. I’ve almost come to the conclusion that, if both sides could stop their fanaticism, maybe the two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders might be the best stop-gap until the Lord returns. I know, somehow, it won’t. But we must try to make the best of a bad situation.

 

Of course I’ve missed bits out- the murders that started the whole thing off, the new phenomena like the tunnels Hamas are now digging into Israel to attack it, and the Israelis going in on the ground in response, instead of just the usual airstrikes.

 

In time I may follow up with comments on the general insanity of it all, with more mention of Ukraine; and certainly it would be worth a discussion on what makes a just war, if at all. (To my mind, whilst conflict may occasionally be necessary, few actual instances seem truly justified, all things being weighted in the balance.) But that is for another day. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).

So Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, the so-called “Iron Lady”, has died today. And whilst some persons (including of course Cameron) are on TV waxing lyrical about how great she was and how much she will be missed, the people who were just waiting to use her grave as a urinal are already leaping for joy and coming out with the hate. Truly the Marmite of politicians.

Whilst it lasts, here’s a Youtube clip from the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ showing a certain song. Whilst it lasts, see how many of the comments are inspired by the passing Baroness….

Respect for the dead you’d have thought might be in order, but not a bit of it. I guess the handling of the miners’ strike, her reputation in Northern Ireland, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and the Poll Tax -sorry Community Charge- all do that.

But can’t it wait a bit, at least?