Witney By-election

The candidates for the by-election to replace David Cameron, worst Prime Minister of the UK ever, have been announced. Unfortunately, it appears that the Loony vote will be split. There are fourteen candidates, and as well as the Official Monster Raving Loony Party there are candidates for The Bus Pass Elvis Party and the Eccentric Party. Emilia Arno managed to get her nomination in on time despite not, apparently, having a website: as I write the only Google hit for “Emilia Arno” “One Love” is the Wikipedia page on the by-election. UKIP have lived down to their usual practice by selecting a homophobe to stand: if he split the Tory vote enough to let the Liberal Democrat in, all my Christmases would have come at once.

One Love have a website, though, and it seems all about air pollution apart from this bit containing a badly spelled complaint submitted today to the European Commission alleging the UK EU referendum and the intention to invoke Article 50 under the Royal Prerogative was illegal. Alas for them! The Remainiac groups I am a member of will support the Liberal Democrat, who is Liz on her leaflets, Elizabeth on the ballot paper.

Long convoluted sentences- it’s the subject.

Onywye. Loonies. The Official Monster Raving Loony party, the original and best, oppose Capital Punishment as it is unfair to Londoners. They want to leave Europe.

Lord Toby Jug, standing for the Eccentric party, uses it as a way of making money. Better to do it above board than as Mrs May does it, charging to have meals with her or her cabinet. Jug invites you to email him to book him as a speaker, or his band The Eccentric’s for an evening of wild rock and roll. I hope he gets £500 worth of publicity from standing. His policies aren’t as funny as OMRLP’s, and may be cribbed: they both want to pay off the National Debt with credit cards. No, definitely not as funny, but he might think they are: People who allow their dogs to poo on the pavement without cleaning it up should be forced to wear it as a moustache.

The English Democrats, also Loony, are not funny at all. Surveys show that young women are keen to have children at a sufficient
birth-rate to ensure the long term stability of the size of the population. They are however currently deterred due to difficulties in acquiring housing, financial pressures and employment difficulties. A population policy should involve a more family friendly stance and include the following:
* The introduction of joint taxation and transferable tax allowances for married couples, who have parental responsibility for a child, which will help those dependent upon a single wage and will help where a mother [or father] stays at home to care for children full time. The government should not be trying to force mothers who wish to stay at home out to work.

Helen Salisbury, standing for the NHAP or National Health Action Party says, The NHS represents British values at their best – fairness, compassion and the best care for all people regardless of their circumstances. I am proud to work for a service where I can concentrate on what is right for my patients, whoever they are, and although they may worry about being ill they do not need to worry about paying for medical care.

But the current government is in the process of breaking up the NHS, inviting private providers to take over more and more services.

The combination of austerity and privatisation is leading us to the brink of disaster; their promise of a service ‘free at the point of delivery’ is hollow if that service is threadbare and fragmented and provided by companies whose priority is profit not patient care.

Unfortunately, a loony, Robert Courts, is most likely to win. He will play a part in forcing through Brexit, and what could be more loony than that?

Emilia Arno – One Love Party
Dickie Bird – UKIP
David Bishop – Bus Pass Elvis Party
Robert Courts – Conservative
Duncan Enright – Labour
Mad Hatter – OMRLP
Lord Toby Jug – Eccentric Party
Adam Knight – Independent
Elizabeth Leffman – Lib Dems
Winston Mckenzie – English Dem
Helen Salisbury – NHAP
Larry Sanders – Green Party- brother of Bernie
Daniel Skidmore – Independent
Nicholas Ward – Independent

Time to Leave

Truly we are in the clutches of our enemies. Here is run of the mill hypocrite, liar and cheat Charles (right) “Charlie” Elphicke, MP for Dover:

Thank you for your email… I was very disappointed at the outcome [of the referendum]. I had made the case to remain because I was concerned that the pound would collapse, the stock market would crash and the French would seek to return the border to Dover [not hard to predict, really.] …However, the people of Dover & Deal, as well as the people of Britain as a whole, did not agree. They decided that they wanted to leave the Europe an Union. The turnout was incredibly high. [For a decision of this magnitude?] The result was close, but clear. [One vote is “clear” if you want it so, but 3.78% is not clear.] While I did not want this, it is now my duty to roll up my sleeves and make it work…I cannot agree that…MPs should seek to subvert the expressed will of the people and vote this down in Parliament. We serve the people and we must respect the will of the people. [Tell that to all the Tories- I have spoken to some- who want to bring back the Birch, as well as hanging.]

I am sorry to send you a response I know you will find to be disappointing.

All the Tories from Cameron and May down are saying the same- “We must respect the Will of the People”. It is a disaster. It harms the people- harms our environment, making fracking easy and beaches dirty, preventing employees from enforcing any rights they retain, reducing net migration by the only means available, which was tanking the economy. The Tories’ paymasters, the very rich, will profit from our misery, and our misery will make us vote for anger and hatred and deceit, rather than hope and worthwhile change.

If Labour oppose leaving the EU, angry voters will vote Tory or UKIP so that they can harm themselves in the way they chose, incited by the lies of Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, thereby harming their interests. Labour will lose working class voters who voted Leave.

The Liberal Democrats may regain some ground by being the largest party supporting Remain. I think the Greens should too. We won’t be the vanguard of the working classes- our niche is nice, handwringing middle-class folk like myself- so we can speak up for the truth, while politics gets dirtier, and hope a few people listen.

During the campaign, David Cameron said he would invoke Article 50 immediately if he “lost” the referendum. Immediately after, he said that would be for his successor. They do not care, their lies are so blatant. Now, mouthing certainty of invoking it, they will find more reasons to delay, causing more uncertainty, market turbulence, and gains for the wealthiest. We need to invoke Article 50 now.

Bruegel, the triumph of death, detail

Those Tory policies in full

Well, what can we expect from a Government with the ringing endorsement of 25% of the electorate?

Repeal of the Human Rights Act. “Human rights are not for prisoners, transsexuals and weirdos,” Theresa May, Home Secretary, told the Daily Mail. “Human rights are for the nice people, like Mail readers. And if ever you thought you needed a human rights lawyer, perhaps we would find you had never been one of the nice people in the first place.” The germ of this post was satire: but the genuine quotes are in italics, such as David Cameron’s gem Britain has been a passively tolerant country for too long. Oh God, here come the plans to criminalise or restrict ever more association and speech.

Return of hanging. The Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has more ideas than removing local authority support for schools and turning them over to private companies. He wrote, Hanging may seem barbarous, but the greater barbarity lies in the slow abandonment of our common law traditions. Priti Patel, new junior minister at the DWP, also supports hanging: I do think that when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in the country and where we have seen murderers and rapists … reoffend and do those crimes again and again I think that’s appalling.

On that basis alone I would support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent. We hope she does not mean for benefit claimants.

Making work pay. Can’t live on a minimum wage zero hours contract? Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, has the answer. Within the first two years of the Conservative government, everyone on JSA for more than six months will receive a personally tailored sanction, removing their income. He described the 87,588 sanctions issued in July 2014 alone as “only the start”. You will find that your zero hours contract is “better than nothing”. He has not, yet, proposed hanging for jobseekers, but does treat them worse than prisoners on day-release.

Stopping progress to equality. Caroline Dinenage is now minister for Equalities at the Department for Education. She voted against equal marriage, but said “I support gay marriage now,” gritting her teeth. As well as wanting to cut the BBC, the new Culture Secretary also hates gays.

A sense of purpose for our children. Secretary of State Liz Truss says, I have seen too many chaotic settings in nurseries, where children are running around. There’s no sense of purpose.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary and former Hulture Secretary, wants a return of fox hunting. “Fox hunting is the perfect symbol of our new Compassionate Conservatism”, he said. In places that should be devoted to patients, where compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite: a coldness, resentment, indifference, even contempt. Such as the Health Department’s ministerial team.

Oliver Letwin, minister of State for the Cabinet Office, has already stated Conservative plans for health.

The end of Arts faculties in universities. Nicky Morgan, secretary of State for education, says, If you wanted to do something, or even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do, then the arts and humanities were what you chose because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course, we know now that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Well, it’s a blog. Mostly cribbed from The Guardian. In his last term, Mr Cameron’s inspiration was Mrs Thatcher; but now, why not Arthur Wellesley? Here is what he wrote about Peterloo:

It is very clear to me that they won’t be quiet until a large number of them bite the dust, as the French say, till some of their leaders are hanged, which would be a most fortunate result.

Wax vanitas

 

Tom Pursglove, liar

Gilray, the French Savants

Dear Tom Pursglove,

I am very sorry to think that my Conservative MP is a liar, but it seems the only possible explanation of the facts.

Before the election, your boyish excitement that the A45 from Stanwick to Thrapston might be dualled was initially quite attractive in its naïvety. It is hardly the equivalent of building the M1- it is a distance of about six miles, and cars enabled to pass the lorries on the road might conceivably get to Thrapston a minute quicker. Still you were excited, and you sent me and others cards through the post announcing it. I am perturbed that you imagine it was your campaigning rather than that of Mr Sawford, the sitting Labour MP, that made this possible: it is tantamount to accusing the Tory Secretary of State for Transport of corruption, giving gifts to Conservatives for narrow party advantage rather than the public good.

However then it emerged that there is no funding for the project; that it will not commence until 2020, possibly not until 2026; and that it might not start at all, because of possible environmental concerns. Mr Sawford announced this, and it would have been graceful of you to apologise for what could still, then, charitably have been called a mistake.

Instead of that, you posted this rubbish on your website, headed “Transport Minister refutes Labour A45 Scare Story”. This is a serious allegation, that the Labour MP is spreading falsehoods to scare voters. However, in the article you admitted that The proposals to improve the A45 between Thrapston and Stanwick will be developed by Highways England during the first Road Period, which runs from 2015/16 to 2019/20, but may not enter construction until the next Road Period as the environmental sensitivities of the site are recognised by the Department for Transport. It is important that we get this right. In other words Mr Sawford had been correct, and you had not.

However when I emailed you to point this out, you replied, I am sorry that you do not believe what I have said on this – time will prove who is right and who is wrong.

This perplexed me. Could you really not perceive the difference between “We now have the dualling of the A45” and that the A45 might be dualled, but probably not for ten years and perhaps never?

Were you just blustering? No-one will care, you thought. Never explain, never apologise may be the motto of the Alpha Male, but I was brought up to believe that Conservatives were gentlemen, who behaved in an honourable way.

Perhaps you did not see the difference, and did not understand what Mr Sawford was saying. But that would mean you are a fool.

When I described this to Eileen, a prosperous, middle aged married lady, the kind of person with a stake in the country that you might imagine to be a natural Tory voter, she was surprised that it so perturbed me. She said it is just the way politicians speak- divorced from reality, concerned only about image, saying what they imagine would make us like them if only we believed it. This contempt for the political class is a serious threat to our democracy. It may be too late for politicians to restore our faith in you, but surely you see that telling the truth is a necessary condition for that.

However it is possible that you are our enemy, deliberately seeking to weaken democracy by inflaming that contempt and inciting hatred for benefit claimants and immigrants, to benefit your wealthy paymasters.

A change from Hogarth: Gilray. If only “Light expelling darkness” were true!

Gilray, Light expelling DarknessAdded: after you were elected with the support of just 30% of your constituents who could vote, and your government was elected with a majority on 25% of the electorate, I despair.

Lies, damned lies and Conservatives

So, will the A45 become dual carriageway between Stanwick and Thrapston, or not? Yes, say the Tories. No, says Labour.

I use the Nene Valley News, delivered by my local council, to put muddy shoes on, when I come in from walking across the fields. Once, its front page headline concerned a man who had lost his dog then got fined for walking it in the park without a lead. On 6th December, its headline was,

Tom Pursglove and Peter Bone MP’s Joint Listening Campaign succeeds

It reported that “Under this Conservative Government, we now have the dualling of the A45”.

Around the same time I got a card through my door, trumpeting “TOM PURSGLOVE [prospective parliamentary candidate] LISTENED- CAMPAIGNED- DELIVERED: A45 DUALLING AND CHOWNS MILL ROUNDABOUT IMPROVEMENTS ON THEIR WAY”.

I do not like Mr Pursglove. I have had many letters from him asking what issues I consider important. One option was “Benefits- making work pay”. Perhaps he does not understand that you make work pay by introducing the living wage and banning zero hours contracts, not by benefit cuts and sanctions starving people into zero hours contracts. Anyway, by claiming responsibility for the illusory road improvements, Pursglove necessarily admits responsibility for the evisceration of the Children’s Centre services.

Oddly enough, the Labour MP Andy Sawford had reported in his email newsletter that the A45 would not be dualled. I glanced through it and deleted it, but when I got Pursglove’s card I emailed him to check. He confirms that no money has been allocated for dualling, and if the work is to be done at all it will be considered in the “next roads period”, 2021-26. This answer to a Parliamentary Written Question confirms that. Sawford had worked with the Tory council to lobby for dualling.

My local council- 35 Conservative, 3 Independent, 2 Labour- has spent my council tax on Tory propaganda which is not true. I am displeased at this. I looked at photos of various people with the Roads Minister posing in front of a map, but found them too revolting, so here is some Hogarth.

Hogarth, Soliciting votes detailHogarth, Soliciting votes

 

Homonormativity

File:Илья Репин - Портрет графини Наталия П. Головиной.jpgGay marriage is a regressive policy, which will increase the power of conservatism, and so should be opposed. This is not my view, but an argument I want to play with. Bear with me.

I found the word “homonormativity” here, and understood immediately: the coiner might quibble about my interpretation, but these are the basics. Heteronormativity is the pretence that heterosexuality is normal, and therefore other ways of being are less. Homonormativity occurs when gay people ape heterosexual behaviour, forming long term cohabiting relationships: so James Cantor‘s coinage “euphilia”, meaning love which unites a couple, as distinguished from paraphilia, sexual activity not directed at another human being. He shifts gays out of the class of weirdos into the class of Normals.

Gay marriage is profoundly conservative: for those who take it up, their relationships may be more stable, and they may be more confident and better able to contribute to society. They marry, they are accepted among the Normal people, leaving the oppressed behind. The oppressed- gay teens cast out by homophobic parents, those with internalised homophobia, suffering with drug addiction depression and self-harm- if there were a gay community it would be working for them, not for gay marriage, as their need is so much more immediate.

In economics, I no longer believe in “trickle down”, as I have observed “gush upwards” for too long; Rawls’ Relative Least Advantaged Person is not benefiting. Yet I still put a Rawlsian argument for gay marriage: those of us who will not marry will still benefit from it. Our sexuality will be seen as weird or wrong in itself by fewer people. One hopes this generation of gay married couples will remember homophobia, and retain fellow feeling for gay people; but even if they did not there would be fewer excluded and oppressed people in society. That is a good thing.

Occasionalism

pussyWhy have only two scientists from Muslim countries won the Nobel Prize? Is it because Al-Ghazali killed science for Muslims?

I first heard that idea from the Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Prospect magazine. As I recalled it, Ghazali had said it was more important to study the Koran than to study the natural world, and scientific endeavour died. So I was pleased to discover The New Atlantis, with its in-depth article accessible to the educated layman. It pits Mu’tazilism against Ash’arism. The former is the creation of al-Mamun, the seventh Abbasid caliph, who died in 833. He opposed a flourishing Byzantine empire, and sought advantage by translating ancient Greek learning for practical use. He also sought power over the religious scholars by contending that the Koran was created, so must be interpreted by human reason, but the Ash’arites believed the Koran was co-eternal with God, and unchallengeable.

By 880, holding Mu’tazilist beliefs was criminal, and Occasionalism was official teaching. It states that God’s will is completely free. That a fire is hot, say, is not because of natural laws but because God wills it, and God could change his mind, making it cold. That it is always hot is a matter of habit, not necessity. Maimonides explained it thus: just as the king generally rides on horseback through the streets of the city, and is never found departing from this habit; but reason does not find it impossible that he should walk on foot through the place.

Some Christians might agree: God is all-powerful. A generally predictable world- nights start getting longer after the winter solstice, for example- is part of God’s good gifts to us, for if things dropped stopped falling we would stop functioning. Though we leave space for miracles. Sustained rationalist attempts even make our chaotic weather patterns more predictable.

Fountain logoAl-Ghazali wrote The Incoherence of the Philosophers, arguing (according to Hillel Ofek in The New Atlantis) that reason, which leads us to discover, question and innovate, was the enemy of piety. Law was similarly ossified: Islam had been a system of government as well as a religion, unlike Christianity which had developed among the poor and excluded. For four centuries, Koran and Hadiths were applied to new situations through argument, or ijtihad; then all important legal questions were regarded as already answered, and new thinking was a crime.

Fortunately,  I googled, and found this defence of Al-Ghazali in The Fountain. The sharp conflict between religion and science is a modern phenomenon, and unnecessary (I am happy as a Christian to accept the theory of evolution). There were scientific achievements in Islamic countries well after Al-Ghazali. Nuh Aydin writes that Ghazali used philosophic techniques to refute philosophic assertions contrary to Islamic doctrine, but accepted the Greeks’ mathematics, astronomical sciences, and logic.

Then I see that The New Atlantis is published by the “Ethics and Public Policy Centre”. I heard of them: ah, yes, a conservative group opposing Roe v Wade and stem-cell research. However attractively presented (I considered a subscription) their articles on gene sequencing or Islam are untrustworthy.

Reformation

File:Hans Holbein d. J. 065.jpgYou can see it, now, the utter clarity of it. Then, it was more confused:

Against Henry’s kingdom I have all the kingdoms of Christendom. Against each one of your bishops, I have a hundred saints. Against your one parliament, I have all the general councils of the church, stretching back for a thousand years.

Here is The Trial of Thomas More, an account by Gerald Wegemer. It is partisan: the title of the book whence it comes is Portrait of Courage, rather than portrait of a politician.

Henry VIII’s desperation for an heir, as well as being selfish, came from the Wars of the Roses, ended within living memory. Uncertainty of succession could start a new civil war. It could weaken England before its enemies France and Spain. Spain could get what he wanted by kidnapping the Pope: the Pope was partisan, too weak to be above politics or do the work of God.

The phrase “the King in Parliament” as the source of legislation comes from that time. Henry, in doing something so unpopular as divorcing his wife to marry a harlot and breaking the Church had to bring the country with him, and the tool he chose was Parliament as the symbol of the agreement of the people. The King’s despotism reduced, slightly, and has reduced ever since.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e1/Thomas_More%C2%B4s_farewell_to_his_daughter.jpg/184px-Thomas_More%C2%B4s_farewell_to_his_daughter.jpgHenry was Catholic, but wanted to be his own Pope. His son Edward was wildly Evangelical/ Reformed. Elizabeth united the Church of England, where both streams though in deep disagreement could worship together, leaving room for difference of conscience. Absolute agreement on doctrine is not necessary for salvation.

So, it is now clear. In escaping a foreign despotism we started towards escaping the English despotism. In permitting disagreement, we freed thought to enable progress. At the time, it was unclear, unpopular with the masses and opposed by great men.

This is another draft which has sat for eight months. I don’t know how to finish it or round it off.

Breathing

Pieter Bruegel Babel detailI kneel in the ritual space, and breathe. I count breaths for ten minutes, then observe them for five. I am breathing quite regularly and deeply, and immediately I judge and question that. Is it “natural”? Is it some imposed or habitual thing? Previously my breathing has varied. Such a strong feeling in me:

This is new

and therefore to be resisted.

So strong. Perhaps not ideal, to be that conservative: if everything new is a threat, I am stuck with what has not worked before. Oops, positive: if I am wary of everything new, I may stay with what has worked in the past, I will not run after silly fads (it is hard to be positive both about conservatism and New-seeking).

Conservatism. Something I have to change in myself, something not in my interests, something indicating I have bad habits. Yet another thing to fear. Or- one voice in a multitude of voices, within me, all worthy of attention.

So much of culture is designed to affect how we see things, how we judge or perceive them whether by thinking or feeling: this is the right or normal way to see that particular thing. That is what a “spin-doctor” is for, to manipulate perceptions, and those who work against equal marriage are distressed that not everyone is as disgusted by gays as they are. On the bus, a man moaned that he had not had his heating allowance (jargon: winter fuel allowance) yet. “They begrudge paying it, that is what it is.” Either he would moan about anything, or a short delay has made the government look worse than it need to.

There is not only no right way to feel about something- someone dies, so you should be grief-stricken, and anger is just weird and horrible and no way should you feel that- but no one way to feel about something. I meditate, and pay attention to my breathing, and as well as the suspicion there are other feelings, which my conscious mind may give attention or not: they are all me.

I used a thing until it was beyond worn out, and its replacement has just cost me £6. Here is abundance-world. I bought a printer, with two ink cartridges included, for £10 more than two ink cartridges, and it has a scanner/ photocopier function. So my scanner is not unnecessary. If I can’t give it away I will throw it out, and that feels wrong, wasteful, yet is a reasonable response to the circumstances.

Bad vaccines

bad vaccinesA fbfnd shared this. It appears vaccine manufacturers wish to poison us, perhaps because they want to cause autism.

You will be aware of the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. That this is on facebook means that I cannot even tell if any of its allegations are true, leave alone whether there are reasons for the inclusion of latex rubber in vaccines, or whether it can cause allergic reactions when in a vaccine. And, of course a vaccine contains “bacterial DNA”- that is what a vaccine is, and how it works.

This, dear Reader, is a scare story. My great respect for my fbfnd is slightly reduced by her sharing it. It contains exaggerations and possibly untruths, and I find that from my own knowledge.

I had all the vaccinations normal when I was growing up. Oh NO!!-

They never did me any harm; in my day

Ohmygod. Apologies: I am still prone to these wee outbursts of Conservatism. In my day, boys (ahem) were not inoculated against measles, and the South Wales outbreak, preventable if a sufficient proportion of the population had been inoculated, may have killed a man.

How much trust is appropriate? One tends to hope that in the UK at least, there are enough people in the system who care about truth, and children’s lives, to ensure that vaccines are not injected including harmful substances with no benefit to outweigh any possible risk. In Pakistan, the CIA used a vaccination programme to spy on Osama bin Laden, so perhaps less trust is appropriate.

When it comes to bee population collapse and nicotinoid pesticides, the Government needs evidence of a connection before it will restrict the pesticides, yet supports no research which would make such a connection. I do not believe pesticide companies wish to kill off bees, and so prevent the pollination of our food crops- that would not be good for profit- but they do have an interest in continuing to sell pesticides and might take a higher risk than I would of a disaster approaching the dimensions of the Cretaceous asteroid. Interest may affect ones assessment of evidence. How far do you take the precautionary principle?

Why bother? I am neither going to kill the bees or save the bees, by research or a petition signature; I am not going to be vaccinated. It matters because of the world I live in. I am aware of dog-eat-dog capitalism and high-functioning psychopaths and concepts of honour and decency and joy in creativity and altruism. Where should my trust level be? This picture may even inoculate me against scare stories, so that when one is true I deny it.

These are things I cannot know for certain, and I want rationally to reach a level of trust in the world which is not merely dependent on my mood or the sunshine. That would be a back-up, when “I will do my thing and be concerned only with real bad things, if they actually happen” seems too scary.