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Saturday 29 April 2017

Shedding The Shroud

Yesterday, Andrew Turner - MP for the Isle of Wight - resigned.

The resignation's timing was almost guaranteed to be a response to the revelation that he'd attended a publicity event in a school, at which he had expressed some very backwards and highly homophobic views.

Andrew Turner has been our MP since 2001. Previous to this he ran in Hackney South and Shoreditch in 1992 and European elections in Birmingham East in 1994. In 1997 he finally decided that if he couldn't get in anywhere else, he'd show up here, and in 1997 lost to Peter Brand of the Lib Dems.

Some people believe that we get the political representation we deserve.

I'm going to dismiss anything and everything he has said in press appearances and in parliament. It is very easy for anyone to say anything. What I will discuss, what I will expose and lay bear, is his voting record. Any MP can lie. When it comes to their voting, that is where they truly show what they are all about. You can't vote against something and then claim to be for it.

He's consistently voted against every kind of welfare and benefits, and voted for reductions in spending on benefits. Contrariwise he votes consistently against taxing those who earn more than £150,000, mansion tax, corporation tax and capital gains tax. A believer in trickle-down economics, it seems.

He wants the NHS privatised. This is usually phrased in a mischeivous way like "against restriction of private provision of health service" or "reforming the NHS to allow purchasing of private treatment" or any other way to make Literally Selling Our Health Service sound like a positive thing.

He votes to defund local government, votes against more proportional representation, votes for tuition fees to go up pretty damn consistently. Against younger people getting the vote. For stronger border controls. Against regulation on Fracking. For selling off our national forests. Against stopping train fares increasing. For privatising Royal Mail. Against secure tenancy. For tearing apart foxes with packs of hounds.

We're building a picture of who this man is, at this point. He's pretty much everything that a left (or centrist even) hates in this world. Combine his consistent refusal to vote in favoure of equal rights of ANY kind, and he's that stereotypical right-winger that wants to buy the community centre in a kids film. You know the one? Wherein the protagonists have to take part in the dance contest to win the prize money to buy it first? He's that guy.

This island can be beautiful.

I have often spoken about it in a disparaging way, and I don't think I have done so unfairly. For all the gorgeous coast and for all the particular things which are considered positive and good, this place has big problems, which can only be solved by doing difficult things. A recent article in Vice actually very eloquently addressed this.

A big part of the problem is that a significant proportion of those who live here - not all, maybe not even most, but definitely a large part - lean to the right. Older people, traditionalists, wealthy people who have second homes or retired down here; this island houses many of them, and isn't helped by the fact that representation of non-white folks has classically been very small. (I mean for god's sake there's a shop somewhere on this island that still sells gollywogs, as if that's fucking clever.)

I don't believe a lot of these people are actively bigoted, or purposefully hurtful toward others. I don't think they take time out of their day to write thinkpieces about how wrong homosexuality is or how asian people are ruining everything. I DO think, however, that these beliefs are in there, somewhere; and they're never really questioned or challenged by the island as an environment, or the majority of the British press, which has a well-defined and globally recognised right-wing bias. 40th most free in the world. Isn't that something.

So of course they vote for this guy, because he reflects all the things they quietly assume to be true, and have never had to disbelieve, even if it would make the world a better place.

I daresay there's also a large proportion of voters here that voted for Turner over and again because he's the devil they know. For the same reason as many people stay in bad jobs or bad relationships, because they are afraid of the alternative. Whatever that alternative might be.

I've written to Andrew Turner on many occasions. I only received an actual reply from him once, and that was in my first letter to him - wherein I asked him to challenge Tony Blair's appointment of Ruth Kelly, a highly relgious woman and member of Opus Dei, as the Education Secretary (and subsequently Communities Secretary). Something he did, with applomb, and I will give credit. I saw the PMQs in which he questioned this appointment.

I now recognise the distinct irony of asking a bigoted MP to score political points by taking down another bigot. Every other letter I had written since called on him to question his party on matters of rights, equality and welfare, and I received a stock response from the desk of his secretary and little else.

The kind of people that actually have a lot to lose under Tory governance, the kind of people who are directly attacked by Andrew Turner's voting record, find a lot of problems heaping on them. It's easy for those whose lifestyle and welfare is threatened to not pay attention to the political issues that cause those problems. That's an old trick. It's the trick being played on all of us, consistently, and has been for years. We're discouraged from caring about anyone else, because we've got our own shit to worry about. Why should I help put up the tent? My hands are full holding onto this guy line.

That's how Turner came to hold the seat for as long as he did. That's why it took actually being a bigoted asshole in public for him to be forced into resignation, as I have no doubt he was. It wasn't that he was a poor-hating homophobe - it wasn't even that anyone else KNEW he was - it was that he said as muchm and was called on it by a teenage girl who deserves the heaps of praise heaped on her for standing up for what we should all know is right.

For as long as I have been politically aware, this dinosaur has represented dinosaur isle.

Now he's gone.

It's time for us - for the people who have been the target of his parliamentary attacks - to put someone in place that actually represents us. The real us. Not the dying, decaying holiday town that the money has made us.

Let's go.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Strategy Of The State

Penned by Sun Tzu some 500 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, The Art Of War is a true classic. It is one of those books that a lot of people claim to have read, less people have actually read, and less people still remember more than a few scattered phrases. There's a cult surrounding it, somewhat; a popularity cult that claims it can unlock the secrets of success in many an arena. I for one have always been suspicious of cults.
There is undeniable wisdom there, though. I'm not a general, I'm far from an expert on just about every matter, and I can't quote the book - or for that matter Carl von Clausewitz, or Miyamoto Musashi, or the more questionable Robert Greene - from back to front. What I am, is an enthusiast in regards to strategy and militaria, a wargamer, a roleplayer, and a person that likes reading about shit to understand other shit.

I didn't expect Theresa May to call for a snap election earlier this week, but now that I think about it, I'm not as surprised as I was. Sun Tzu, in these quotes below, will tell you why.
"...those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him."
 "Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."
 "Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of your enemy's unpreparedness."
On reflection, it had to happen now.

In three years, the effects of Brexit will have bit deep. People would be hurting. What damage the government can do to the NHS would be three more years advanced, waiting times longer, services more curtailed, and a lot of people confused as to why. Areas of natural beauty - and hell, areas of not so much natural beauty - will be sounded out for fracking; local dissatisfaction will be building about that.

In three years also, maybe the Blairites will have been weeded out from the Labour party; less knives in the party leader's back, less grumbling and whining. Maybe the LibDems could have established themselves further. Maybe the actual hurting of Brexit will have brought people to question the wisdom of triggering Article 50 at all, drawing more support away from the Tories and UKIP. Also those Tory MPs currently under investigation for electoral fraud haven't been properly charged or punished, yet - bet three years would be plenty of time for that to happen.

The press is still working for the Government. I don't know if that would have changed in three years, but as of right now, they're still on side. Why wouldn't they be?

By circulation, the most read newspapers in this country (and their owners) are:
  1. The Sun (Rupert Murdoch)
  2. The Daily Mail (Viscount Rothemere)
  3. The Metro (Viscount Rothemere)
  4. The Evening Standard (Evgeny Lebedev)
  5. The Mirror (Trinity Mirror PLC)
  6. The Telegraph (The Barclay Brothers)
  7. The Times (Rupert Murdoch)
  8. The Daily Star (Richard Desmond)
  9. The Daily Express (Richard Desmond)
  10. i (Johnston Press)
Eight of them are owned by individuals (through far larger holding companies), all rather wealthy, who definitely have a vested interest in keeping the Tories in power - corporation and capital gains tax kept low

 If you want to check out their political leanings, or at least the leanings of those stories they prioritise, feel free to google their front pages. Oddly, despite most of these papers having a distinct anti-immigrant leaning, their owners are absent from these shores: Murdoch in Australia, Viscount Rothemere in France, the Barclay Brothers in the tax haven of Jersey. Desmond's father was an immigrant from Latvia, and Lebedev is from Moscow.

Just as a sampler, here's a few headlines:
  • 1 In 7 Labour Voters Turn Tory (Express)
  • Corbyn Puts UK At Terror Risk (Telegraph)
  • Crush The Saboteurs (Mail)
  • Crackdown On Foreign Cooks (Express)
Nice. The relevance of all this of course is that, in this moment, Theresa May can still count on the most popular newspapers in this country to carry a message that supports her angle. Clausewitz actually provides a lesson on why this is necessary:
"Modern wars are seldom fought without hatred between nations; this serves more or less as a substitute for hatred between individuals."
 A somewhat sterner lesson from the same:
"All war presupposes human weakness and seeks to exploit it."
That's why it all had to happen now. With the opposition's disarray vastly amplified by the press, and the portion of the British public that are still pro-Brexit whipped up into following May's party into the teeth of recession.

I have hope. I also have fear.

I'm seeing a lot of the left crumble. Calls for unity are made, but nobody wants to agree who to rally behind. Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats - whose voting record is questionable, frankly - is coming under just as persistent press attack as Jeremy Corbyn. No matter how sensible or smart Corbyn's policies are, they get passed up because people "don't like him" for whatever weird nebulous reason they can't quite nail down - sure-fire proof that the press attack is working.

It's going to be hard times. I hope that we can make it out with some of our country in one piece.

Because if we survive this attack, the push back will be so much easier.

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war."

Sunday 16 April 2017

Rocky Balboa

Everyone knows Rocky, right?

You know, Rocky. Boxer. Running up the steps to this awesome piece of music here. Fought Mr T and Dolph Lundgren. The Italian Stallion. Gets the stuffing knocked out of him but wins anyway.


You probably know what I am going to say if you've actually WATCHED the first Rocky film. A lot of people haven't. They're all the same, right? Except the first one isn't. At all. The first one has a degree of quality that you simply wouldn't expect.

He loses.

In the first film, he trains his guts out. This failed boxer, this southpaw down on his luck, works his ass off to have a shot at even threatening Apollo Creed. He beats shit out of more animal carcasses than a Leave voter. HE RUNS UP THOSE STEPS. He takes on a coach that pushes him harder and further than ever before.

He gets in the ring, and while Apollo Creed demonstrates greater skill, Rocky just...doesn't go down.

It comes down to a split decision, and in that decision, Rocky loses. Apollo Creed is the victor. The win isn't the point. The point is that Rocky survived. His admirable traits aren't skill or brilliance. Rocky Balboa is a study in tenacity, stamina, bull-headed survival urge.

I value those traits.

This country is in a sorry state of affairs right now. A series of sociopathic - some might claim psychopathic - decisions and moves made by the party in power are ruthlessly putting money in their pockets, and the pockets of their friends. It's not JUST greed, I know - there's some ideological ignorance going on, pushing their particular agenda regardless of...well, anything at all.

We have to fight back, obviously. At every level. From simply repeating information that is relevant, to educating one's self and others, to voting, to activism of all kinds. Fight on multiple fronts.

But what we have to do on top of this, is survive - and I believe we can do that.

This country will emerge from under Theresa May's bootheel still in one piece. It will be hurting, a lot. Pain specifically designed to make us turn on each other, to blame our peers and fellows for the punishment being doled onto us by those on high. It's my hope that we can be Rocky; that we can survive, regardless of how badly beat up we are getting.

All I can hope is that, after the death by a thousand cuts, we come back capable of rebuilding; and that the cruelty forced upon us doesn't infect us.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Smash And Grab

I think I've worked it out.

All of those measures that the government have taken, recently. All of those cuts to benefits, tax breaks to big business, funding reductions to necessary services. Concessions to fracking companies, tightening of the screws of austerity.

All of the truly suspect conflicts of interest that are just being undertaken without any regard for the law, or fairness, or even trying to appear fair. Gideon Osborne being an MP and also an editor for a newspaper, finally leveraging his political career to succeed in the career of journalism that he'd failed in on his own merits. Phillip Hammond, harming most of the country with his most recent budget, while his own firm gets a significant tax easement. Andrea Leadsom, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - whose job it is to prevent hydraulic fracturing on protected or green-belt land - previously having worked in an investment fund that dealt primarily with fossil fuel companies. The Prime Minister's husband having investments in the private companies that will do very well from the increased privatisation of basically half our nation.

Every single thing they do - from forcing through Brexit and anti-privacy and anti-person laws, to clear instances of lying to the public and deliberately sabotaging diplomatic relationships with other nations - has been a confusing mess of sociopathic thrashing, but I've finally settled on the key.

They don't care any more.

They know they won't win the election in 2020. They just know - they are throwing it. And instead, they are literally tearing apart the nation's resources while they still can, and divvying them up between themselves and their friends.

This was it, the big one. The cash out of dreams. No need to make tiny profits hiding in the shadows and pretending to be a bunch of valid politicians. The austerity kick lasted for six years and had precious little effect, doing nothing to reduce national debt or make anything better for anyone at all. No need to hide behind the common good, now - so instead, it's a fire sale.

The punishing effects of Brexit are being felt already, but they will have truly started to dig in, in three years. By then we'll have signed the paperwork and we'll be out on our collective ass. We'll be hurting - and there will be opportunities. Opportunities for companies to make a killing off our low pound and our need to trade outside of the single market. Opportunities that can be tapped by the right investment firms and companies.

Such companies and firms will probably already be made fat from buying up the NHS, student debt, and who knows what else. Virgin had a knockback from getting their claws into our health service - OUR health service, WE pay for it - and so are considering court action, and are spewing venom all over the press. Employment figures are still all over the place, and people are desperate for work - desperate enough that companies can profit from a reduced set of worker protections (the EU sets those) when hiring. After all, they'll need to somehow make up for everything they lost from a ready market of immigrant labour.

You wait and see. They will all be friends of our current government, or connected to them in some way. I would place money on the fact. The people that make the most profit from our nation's loss will be the family, friends and old work colleagues of the Front Bench and their cronies.

Because they won't have to care, come 2020. Because they aren't going to try and win. They will probably still receive a significant amount of the vote - because hell, a vast swathe of the country doesn't pay attention to what is actually going on anyhow - but they will lose. And then, they will start resigning in droves.

Come 2021, the Tory opposition will contain less than half of the faces that it currently does. Those left behind won't be the party faithful. They will be the outliers, the back benchers, the ones whose name nobody really knows. The ones who haven't been part of the Cabinet, who have just sat quietly and made their expenses claims and voted to take money from disabled people.

There will be more. There always is. And maybe in five or ten years, they'll pull themselves back together again. And those who win the election of 2020 will work their guts out, trying to rebuild, repair and recussitate the crippled husk of a nation that they are left with once the current crop are done with it.

And come 2030, those still hurting from the mass sell-off - those still disadvantaged by the plundering of a nation - will be told how Labour (or whoever is in charge) can't be trusted to fix this mess, and that new leadership is required.

And god help them, some people will believe it.

And the entire cycle of shit will begin again.

I hope this isn't how it goes. I truly hope this ram-raid smash-and-grab profiteering isn't what happens. It just seems to be the only explanation for the decisions these people are making.

I'll be keeping an eye out, though. Just to see who is there to salvage the wreckage of the United Kingdom, and to see who they know that wears a blue tie.

(Yes, I am aware of the irony that I present this theory a mere week after putting out a blog about how conspiracy theories are all bunk. But still.)

Saturday 1 April 2017

Conspiracy Around The World

I recently watched a live broadcast from SpaceX as they performed yet another launch.

This one was of interest to me - as each of their developments tend to be. I watched as they succesfully launched and recovered both stages of a satellite deployment rocket, all automated - that was quite a thing to see. The most recent one, however, was the re-use of a first-stage rocket they had previously launched. What this means for the future of space travel and orbital engineering is a massive reduction in costs over time.

The space age is cool. But I digress.

What I noticed in the comments - and yes, I broke the rule of never reading the comments - was a significant amount of...what I hope was trolling, from supposed flat-earthers.

So I have spoken about conspiracy before. In my opinion the truth is almost always 1) visible if one simply looks and 2) worse than the theory itself. Quite often, they fall down at a very basic question, and that question is one word.


Let's take 9/11 being an inside job. Why would the administration do it? To justify war against several nations in the Middle East? If we cast our eyes back a few years, we find US troops kicking in doors and dragging folks away without needing a terrorist attack to justify it. Even after 9/11, the British people in particular didn't want war. It happened anyway, because administrations do what the hell they want when it suits them, and people protest and are angry and then nothing changes anyhow.

There's quite a few war-justification conspiracy theories, it turns out - including the US knowing that Pearl Harbour was going to happen ahead of time and letting half their navy get scrapped to justify war against Japan. Again. Why? We could take a lesson from how Hitler justified war against Russia and began Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. What did they do? Dress up a bunch of prisoners in Soviet uniforms and shoot them half a mile across the border. Simples.

Anyone remember The DaVinci Code? That's a nice theory too. Apparently a significant proportion of the New Testament and a large swathe of religious activity since has been put in place to conceal the fact that Jesus was married, had children, and that his bloodline is extant today. Again, we ask ourselves. Why? Except this time, we have nobody who really benefits from that being kept a secret. If we believe that the New Testament is gospel (fnyar) truth anyway, we're in kind of serious trouble - but half of the West thinks he was a blonde white guy anyhow, and now his apparent bloodline would be banned from entering the US.

Some folks think we didn't land on the moon, either - because we apparently didn't have the technology but we had to come across as beating the Russians, so after burning all the money and time we did on research on how to achieve what we (let's face it) did actually achieve, we then constructed the moon in a TV studio and just pretended. Six times. Even going so far as to fake a bunch of failures, make fake moon rocks and other assorted japes, just to keep the Russians from thinking they won the space race. Or at least, I think that's the motivation. I'm confused as to why we'd pretend about it.

Which leads me back to the flat earth.

There's been something of a resurgence in this particularly odd belief in the past ten years or so. Shaquile O'Neil has come out as being a flat earther - but then, the guy who founded Boko Haram was, too. You know, the terrorist group that abducted a bunch of schoolgirls.

As per the usual formula, The Truth is being kept from us. According to the theory, the earth is actually flat, and every single proof against that (of which there are a huge amount) are either constructed by those in power or coincidences. The entire scientific community is in on this, it appears - and by necessity, so must every single pilot and sailor be. Needless to say, there needs to be some serious bending of the laws of physics to explain how we're on a flat plane rather than a sphere, too.

So completely disregarding all of the evidence that even regular old folks like you and I can access - the earth casting a round shadow on the moon causing a crescent moon, the horizon actually being curved and that curve being more pronounced the higher up one goes, that kind of thing - the biggest question I find myself asking is...why?

Why would we be lied to, about the earth being flat?

Who actually benefits from that? Whose power relies on us believing the world is round? Whose profits demand that we believe it, and act in certain ways? Which organisation has the time and resources to pay off essentially the entire world to make us believe that the earth is round, and why the hell would they bother?

I can understand why people would want to think 9/11 is an inside job. It's easier than the truth - that it actually happened the way we think it did, that a bunch of hijackers achieved their goals (mostly) and did a lot of damage. I don't understand what comfort or solace or happiness can be achieved by believing the earth to be flat.

So I'm genuinely curious. Does anyone who reads this blog believe the earth to be flat? If so - why? And why wouldn't it be round?

Just a thought.