The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation

Koan

@NoetheMatt: Gotta love living in a nation that wants to bomb folks for inhumane acts but doesn't want to accept refugees fleeing said inhumane acts.

25 April 2017
Coalition and a "progressive alliance"

Let's set expectations. We're not going to do a post every day. Life happens, we have other things to do.

And we're not going to follow the fast current of the election stream, other people do that. No, we're going to look at the eddies in the current, the little things that might prove insignificant, but might prove interesting. We've spotted them, we can say something about them, and we will make comment.

So, one week in, six to go. Labour has continued its tired attacks against the Lib Dems in government, banging on and on about the "betrayal" of "university fees". This remains cant and hypocricy. Labour brought in tuition fees. Labour broke its manifesto promise to treble tuition fees. The Lib Dems were foolish to sign an uncosted promise in 2010, but worked hard to ensure the final scheme was sustainable and fair.

It's also distraction. Labour is saying, "Look, a mote in someone else's eye. Hur hur, go wash it out." Then Labour turns round, and whacks people over the head with the massive plank coming out of its own eye. They want us to look at a foolish pledge someone else made in 2010, and ignore how Labour sided with the Conservatives and betrayed its own history, just last month.

Caroline Lucas (Green co-leader) made noises for her party, Labour, and the Lib Dems to stand down in each others' favour. Labour rejected the idea out of hand; the Lib Dems may be more receptive. Both Lib Dems and Greens may stand down in Shipley, where odious sexist Philip Davis (C) is to be challenged by Sophie Walker (Women's Equality Party).

Could the Lib Dems coalesce with either establishment party? The minimum demands appear to be 1) remain in the EU, 2) meaningful voting reform, 3) nothing gets done until these are done.

Additional notes: There is major personal animus against Foxface (C, Maidenhead). Labour has ruled out any coalition. Tim Farron says he cannot see common ground with either party under their current leadership. Any coalition would have to be approved by a special conference, to be held at Cold Trafford (or any other stadium that can hold 100,000 people.)

This blog's expectation: no C+LD coalition this time, there's no overlap in the manifesto. LD+Lab is just about conceivable, but would require the Lib Dems to be the larger party, and to have removed Jeremy Corbyn from office. Likely by winning his seat.

"Progressive" alliance

"Progressive" is a loaded term. Had it been able to deliver its campaign promises, the Cameron agenda would have been more progressive than is generally acknowledged. The 2015 government was elected to allow social movement, to boost the worst-off in society by quietly demolishing barriers.

Cheaper childcare. Make sure everyone has a good education. Better road, rail, and broadband. Support apprenticeships and boost small businesses. Change the culture to encourage voluntary activity.

All of this would attract floating voters. This blog believed - and still believes - that the Cameron agenda would have led to a better society. It may not have been perfect, it may not have been the best available, but it was deliverable, and a foundation to build from.

Other voters have a similar view.

_stephanieellen: I've always been more of a liberal Con, and felt voting for DC in 2010 the party had a social conscience. It felt like it had been modernised and tempered - there were elements I didn't fully agree with, but broadly it was moderate and pro-EU. Since the EU Ref I have felt responsible for enabling such a thing to happen.

I enabled this chaos; I bear that responsibility. And I'm sure as hell going to work hard to get a liberal moderate voice in the HoC. The centrist Cons I voted for in 2010 / 15 don't exist any longer - the Party does not represent me, nor what I voted for previously.

The problem? Cameron didn't carry his party with him. He was too modern for the Conservatives. Cameron was opposed by a coalition of racists, fascists, people who believe Enoch Powell was dangerously tolerant, and people who think it was a mistake to go past 1955. They provided enough internal strife to distract, and eventually to claim the party. From a modestly progressive manifesto, the Conservatives have reverted to their selfish type.

They're not meritocratic, they're meretricious.

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24 April 2017
Will Jewish voters swing against Tulip Siddiq?

The Jewish Chronicle reports that Labour MPs are staring into the abyss under noxious Corbyn. Politics writer Marcus Dysch expects rage against Corbyn to translate into votes against Labour MPs Wes Streeting (Ilford North) and Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn).

We're not convinced. Dysch agrees that the MPs are doing a good local job, and have nothing to do with the anti-semitism of others. Siddiq left the front bench in order to properly represent her constituents - and perhaps to distance herself from Corbyn. Dysch's argument feels a little woolly.

What's the evidence? An early 2010 survey of "self-identified Jews" suggested that Jewish political affiliations were broadly in line with the national trend at the time: C and Lab about equal, and well ahead of LD. North London and non-observant Jews tended towards Labour, observant Jews in west London tended Conservative. Take that as a starting point.

The Election Study found in 2014 that Jews were roughly C 46% Lab 30% Mud 12% LD 5% - slightly more Conservative than the overall population. We'll take that as a first draft of change, partly reversed by polling day.

Survation and the Jewish Chronicle produced a poll in April 2015 saying C 69% Lab 22% Mud 2% LD 2%. There are severe methodological differences: Survation only polled geographic areas with lots of Jews, the other surveys were national. We cannot compare this figure directly with the other surveys. But we can compare it against a similar survey in May last year: C 82% Lab 9% LD 5% Mud 2%.

A 12% swing (three times the margin of error) from Labour to Tory from May 2015 to May 2016 was slightly larger than the population as a whole; a similar swing from May 2015 to now would be unremarkable.

Other background may help. The Jewish Chronicle has been a public voice criticising Corbyn for anti-semitism. It certainly reflects a louder part of the community, and may be advocating harsh treatment of Corbyn. Its rival, the Jewish News, is even more strident.

We cannot dismiss this thesis: by accident or design, Corbyn is coming across as anti-semitic. This view is reinforced by the Jewish media, and reflected back to voters, and they reflect it back in the opinion polls.

In the final analysis, we reckon Dysch might be right, but for the wrong reasons. He's projected that neither Streeting nor Siddiq will survive, and they'll lose large chunks of Jewish vote. Dysch implies that this movement amongst his readers will be crucial.

On this final point, we don't agree. Streeting and Siddiq would fall because of swing in the population as a whole, not just amongst Jewish voters. Siddiq has distanced herself from Corbyn on the question that matters to non-Jewish voters, and this may assist her cause.

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22 April 2017
70 cents in 100 euro

The right-wing press has been banging on about the 0.7% foreign aid commitment. They reckon the target should be dropped, because "the free market" will provide. Let us marshall the evidence and see if a conclusion emerges.

The 0.7% target was voted through the UN General Assembly in 1970. Discussions in the 1960s suggested a total of 1% of national income, combining government and private aid. At the time, it was difficult to work out the amount of private aid, so the government contribution was pegged at this level. Outside of Scandinavia and north-west Europe, the target has generally not been met.

The target applies to "official development assistance". That's money provided by government or quango, to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. At least a quarter will not be paid back. Military spending is excluded, cultural programmes are included if they promote local capacity.

Critics claim that aid somehow undermines the nascent state, and prevents people from taking charge of their own future. According to these naysayers, foreign aid reduces the need for government to tax and to earn the trust of its citizens.

The right-wingers may not like "virtue signalling". This blog does. The government in Westminster has (historically) been very wealthy, and we would like everyone to have lives as comfortable as ours. International aid is a small step in that direction.

This blog will back some criticism of the 0.7% target: it is a target on the amount spent, not the end value. Even this criticism has been ameliorated by the "millennium development goals", set in the late 1990s as measureable and time-limited priorities. When their time expired, they were replaced by new sustainable development goals, which run until 2030.

The GDP target has been around since 1970, and doesn't appear to have been reconsidered since. Are we now able to establish the amount spent on development aid by private organisations? Is 0.7% still the right figure? A wider discussion around development aid appears to be in order; reducing the total amount spent would not be a good deed. Pending that discussion, we would expect to honour the commitment.

According to reports, Foxface will maintain 0.7% for the worst reasons. Not because she believes in it. Not because she's going to ask the questions about aid efficacy. No, she's playing games with people's lives, cancelling the pledge would "send the wrong signals" to wavering sponsors.

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21 April 2017
Queer or No Queer

Tim Farron gave an interview to Channel 4 News. The interviewer pressed him on his views on homosexuality, to which Farron noted "we're all sinners". That's consistent with Tim Farron's evangelical Christian views, which posit that every human sins. It's also a foolish choice of words: secular society has a very different definition of "sin".

David Baddiel, the sanctimonious atheist, claimed "those telling me that of course Tim Farron's views are in no way homophobic don't seem to be actually gay..."

Except that David Baddiel, the sanctimonious atheist, has blocked very many actually trans and queer people. Their "offence"? Upsetting his little echo chamber, and daring to suggest that David Baddiel, the sanctimonious atheist, might perhaps be wrong about something.

David Baddiel can write as he likes. He can block as he likes. But when he declines to hear a point of view, and actively silences a point of view, we will draw our own conclusions. They do not favour David Baddiel, the sanctimonious atheist.

The facts are Tim Farron puts his liberal principles above his Christian faith.

Miss_s_b I'll tell you something that is liberal, though. If a person believes in their heart of hearts that something is wrong, and yet still campaigns for the right of other people to do it because it's other people's right to make their own moral choices?

Let us not forget who the real enemy is. Foxface's personal voting record...

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20 April 2017
The daring bid of May

Robert Peston (ITV) provided the headline.

The first in a semi-regular series of round-ups, covering all the stuff to do with the 2017 Westminster election. Some commentary from us, mostly a round-up to note the talking points and other events that look important at the time. (And we may be a day or two behind the news. Tough shit.)

We start with a set of Instant Reactions.

Hugo Rifkind (The Times, liberal-right): It's a terrible idea for the Tories. Their vast support is mist and whim and may not survive electoral scrutiny. Libs will do very well, Lab will do worse than last time but not disastrously enough to change anything much. I just don't see why formerly Tory remainers would still vote Tory, PARTICULARLY if they think the Tories will win anyway.

Aaron Bastani (Novara Media, communist left): UK has been moving ever further away from 'stability' & 'unity' since the 2009 euros. An election in June is next step in bizarre collapse. Hung parliament of any hue is 1 thing markets would have been grateful that UK didn't have. For Ireland, Scotland, Brexit election is shit.

There are a lot of Lib Dem seats Tories won which should be going back. With Farron and Lib Dem polling [poorly] at the moment, maybe that pushed decision over.

Since Copeland 2 things clear: Lib Dems not picking up polling, UKIP voters v likely to go back Tory. You'd expect some Lib Dem recovery, but it won't be anywhere near enough. Sadly, with Farron, I see no chance for 'progressive alliance'

Zadok Day (Conservative): Prediction time - lowish turnout. LDs under twenty. Tory maj ~ 50+. Corbyn will say did better than expected and won't resign.

JacqueP (Lib Dem): So now, it's clear. The enemy of Conservatives isn't Labour. It is "remainers". 48% of voters are enemies.

Jackie Pearcey (LD, Manchester Gorton): That Theresa May decided to go before the boundary changes give her advantage suggests her position is weaker than we might think.

A lot of talk about potential prosecutions of Conservative MPs for mis-declaring their election expenses. We have never thought this was likely to amount to much, but if it did the entire 2015-17 parliament would be a constitutional fiction. In particular, irrevocable decisions would not have been in compliance with the constitution. In that light...

David Boothroyd (Lab, Westminster, and heir to David Butler): The mandate from a referendum decision only lasts until the next instruction from the electorate - a new referendum or a general election. So calling a general election now annuls the referendum: if the next Parliament has a majority for staying in the EU, that is a mandate.

We also heard that Foxface (C) would not take part in any television debates. She was open to other formats, but not debates. Look, we did this joke to death in 2015: see the "It's Debateable" section of the Weeks from February to April. (Favourite? this little vignette)

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4 April 2017
In defence of Europe. And peace.

"The fundamental problem with EU membership is that it renders voters in any one nation powerless to change many of the basic aspects of their governance," says Stephen Pollard. That's the whole bloody point.

Mr. Pollard (and we're using him as an example of very many similar views) couches his argument in terms of "sovereignty". But what is this? What opportunities have been closed off by the EU? What concrete everyday thing could one do if one were to leave? Many people have asked this, and we've yet to see anyone provide an answer.

From the other side, Mr. Pollard and his fellow travellers purport to tell us how to run our lives. We have freedoms - to import goods, to travel, to study, to live - without reference to any other body.

These are "negative freedoms", in the argot of Isaiah Berlin. We can do these things, and we harm nobody by having that freedom. We harm nobody by exercising that freedom. But these freedoms would be closed down, purely to satisfy the fantasies of some elderly men.

"We'd be allowed to pass our own laws," cry the exiters. Would we rather have food on the table, or legislate away hunger? Would we rather live a good life, or mandate misery for all? And who is this "we" the exiters speak of? They do not speak for this blog: in the words of Marcus Brigstocke, "don't 'we' me."

The EU is a reminder that humanity is real, and "nations" are not. A reminder that jaw-jaw is better than war-war. The EU is a way to allow humanity to recognise that it has a lot in common and divisions are fake. By mixing people and cultures, it aims to talk up our shared experience, and make war unthinkable.

If the European project kills the Westphalian theory of "nation-states", so be it. The "nation state" was always an administrative convenience that entrenched power away from the people. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Within days of Mrs. May writing her letter to Mr. Tusk, we find Michael Howard banging the drums of war about Gibraltar. It is the sound of war-mongering. Civilised people are against war; but Michael Howard is not being knocked back by his peers. We can reasonably conclude that Mrs. May backs Mr. Howard, and wishes to fight a meaningless war over delusions of empire. And that Mr. Howard, and Mrs. May, have chosen to leave the ranks of the civilised.

The EU is a living and breathing effort to prevent the horrors of the past. It was formed at a time when politicians remembered the key lessons of two world wars: this senseless waste of life must not happen again. The gross inhumanity - including the genocide against Jews - must not happen again. As imperfect as it is, the EU has done its bit to prevent massacres and death on our doorstep.

The EU allows us to pool our humanity, and help prevent the massive losses of armed conflict.

Some of us wish to use all tools in our arsenal against warmongers, facists, and those who would deny common humanity.

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2 April 2017
Puzzled Pint for March 2017

Alice in Wonderland was March's theme.

Location: fitting a list of words into a word wheel. Turns out they're overlapping compound words, hole punch, punch card, etc. Nice twist we didn't see coming. 7.

Advice from a Caterpillar Some of the words fit based on size; others require a link that perhaps isn't terribly clear. Three items to establish fairly weak patterns doesn't quite work, and we fixed half of the answer by trial and error. Marking down for a second word placement puzzle. 5.

Mad Tea Party Very nice logic puzzle, and there's always room for a pure logic puzzle. 7.

Off With Her Head Pair the definitions, one is the other with an extra letter. The playing cards give the order. An exemplary puzzle, nothing to criticise at all. 8.

Lobster Quadrille Another definition puzzle, and re-using a trick from DASH on the Quidditch pitch. Point off for being the second definition puzzle, and for not-clear-its-an-answer. 7.

Meta A join-the-dots puzzle, which could be solved by arranging the path on its own. Not sure that the intended word work as well as they might. 6.

Overall, this is a strong Second-Class set, and amongst the best we've seen.

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24 March 2017
The letter Richard Burden did not answer

So, here's something. At the start of February, we wrote to our MP about a matter of legislation before him. Here's our letter...

Dear Richard Burden,

(More: The letter in full.)

As a constituency representative in a representative democracy, you are now required to make a decision. You will doubtless consider all the evidence before you. You will weigh the advice from the public, the nebulous plans from the government, and the facts established over the past seven months. It is abundantly clear that it is not in the UK's best interests to leave the European Union.

Could you confirm that you will now accept the result of the enquiry mandated by the referendum vote, and vote to affirm that the UK will remain in the European Union?

I look forward to your positive response.

It is no surprise that we have not had a positive response. After the thick end of two months, we have not had any response from the man who claims to be our constituency MP. This does surprise, and it dismays.

This blog is getting loud, and we're getting personal.

Richard Burden did not follow his better judgement, but followed his own personal advantage. He preferred the transient security of today's Labour front bench to the right thing.

Richard Buden betrayed the values that got him elected. Richard Burden voted for a mean, nasty, fearful, head-in-the-sand society.

Richard Burden voted to give free rein to an elite cabal. He had the chance to give power to the people, but he chose to give it to Foxface and the Capitol.

When he trooped through the lobby, Richard Burden voted with the racists. The Labour MP looked to the bigots, and the bigots looked to the Labour MP, and they were all the same.

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