Monday, April 24, 2017

Brexit, British General Election 2017 and Blair

Leading British Labour Party politician Chuka Umunna today posted on his Facebook Page a note angrily rejecting former Labour Party British Prime Minister Tony Blair's call to Labour supporters to vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat in the June British General Election, in order, according to Blair, effectively to block a Brexit 'at any cost.'
This is some indication of the confusion I believe Brexit is going to impose on the June British General Election. Making it almost impossible to predict what will be the outcome. Although, once again going against the grain, I have already predicted that I do not believe, as most of the talking heads are suggesting, that current Conservative Party British Prime Minister, Theresa May, will walk away with a landslide. I think she will have a Parliamentary majority of about 30 ...

(Facebook comments here.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

It May All Backfire For May

And so. Everyone and his uncle is predicting that British Prime Minister and her Conservative Party will reap the rewards of a double digit polling lead over the opposition Labour Party, and win the General Election in June by a landslide. I'm not so sure.
Yes. She will win. I'm going to stick my neck out and say, with a majority of no more than 20-30. Which will be seen as a shocker. Bearing in mind she has a majority of 17 now.
The first thing that everyone forgets is how badly all the pollsters got their call of the 2015 General Election, and why. You may remember (because I'm an insufferable pr**k, and won't let you forget), I was one of the few to call that election correctly. And the reason is that I paid attention to the true nature of the underlying trends.
Most analysts - even now - say the unexpectedly good result for the Tories was due to a collapse in the Liberal vote. This was true of the seats that the Conservatives gained in the South-West. But, in the North of England, it was the Labour vote which collapsed.
So. All this talk of the huge majority that May will rack up, due to a collapsing vote in the North of England? Folks. It already happened. But. But. The polls, Geoff. The polls. What about the double digit lead that the Tories didn't have back then?
First, we live in a totally different age now. I mean, literally. The SNP closing out Labour in Scotland. Brexit changing the political landscape. Tactical voting now being second nature. Fake news. Alternative facts. Leaders who lie as a political philosophy.
No-one actually tells the truth to pollsters any more. Polls are no more than Christmas wish lists, people thinking aloud, wondering 'what if.' You watch those polls tighten dramatically as reality strikes home. Or not, as folks continue to lie.
Won't make any difference. Because this election is going to be about the stay-at-homes. Tory voters are pretty good at turning out. But, what about those Conservative Remainers? They are used to expressing displeasure by hopping over to the Liberal Democrats. Look at Richmond. They know May is going to win. So, maybe a few surprises there?
Yeah. Liberals Democrats are hopping with joy. But, they worked decades to get to some 54 MP's just a couple of elections ago. They'll pick up a lot of Tory Remainers. But they'll lose some of their own Leavers. Plus, their left-wing, which deserted to Labour in 2015. They ain't coming back. And the few Tory seats they may pick up in the South and South-West. Will be offset by the potential gains they lose to the Tories in the North. Where former Labour Leavers, who moved to UKIP in 2015 (the Labour collapse pollsters missed in 2015), will now switch from UKIP to the Conservatives. Snatching several potential gains from the Liberals.
Please note that last point. This, in my opinion, may well be the trend that everyone else misses this time. UKIP Leavers in the North switching to the Conservatives in droves. But, not enough to offset a surprisingly strong Labour showing, a low Tory turnout overall, and strong(ish) Liberal activity.
Which brings us to Labour. Yes, there are too many who dislike Corbyn. Yes, there are those who will say, s**t, we're going to lose anyway, let's send a message we want Corbyn gone. But. The core Labour folk. The diehards. Those who still sing the Labour anthems in the grimy sandstone temples they call Labour Clubs. They'll turn out. Along with all those Momentum acolytes. The collapse won't be enough to hand May a 100-seat majority.
I could go on. But. Bottom line? One more time. Too many Tories will stay at home. Labour already collapsed in 2015. Any more collapsing between the main parties will pretty much offset itself. Save for UKIP shifting to the Tories in the North. The Liberal Democrats will be lucky to come away with about 60 seats. And, as I say, the Tory majority will be no more than about 30. And the history books will excoriate May. Who will be gone by the following General Election.

[Facebook comments here.]

May in June

Well. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap election. This has to be the biggest political yawn since.
I'm sorry. I'm so underwhelmed. I can't even be bothered to think of a semi-humorous analogy.
The ruling British Conservative Party has been recording a double digit polling lead over the main opposition Labour Party since.
The Labour Party itself is led by the most ridiculous and disastrous political leader since.
As British General Elections go, there hasn't been a better chance for a sitting Prime Minister to win re-election in a landslide since.
Of course May is not going to play ball, and offer any of the opposition parties a foot in any door. No-one has occupied a more commanding political position since.
I mean. Let's get real. I haven't yawned so much since.
[Tomorrow, if I can be bothered, I will be offering a stunning and comprehensive analysis of the possibility that the British Prime Minister called the General Election in June, because her surname is May.

Facebook comments here.]

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Freedom -v- Security

In the light of the actions of Khalid Masood, this may be regarded as an insensitive post. I do the sensitive bit at the end. But the fact is that we live in times increasingly dominated by the public interest argument about the relative emphasis civilized societies place on security versus freedom.
Frankly, it is almost never a very honest debate. It depends on one's political starting point. And where in history one chooses to begin the narrative.
Who fired the first shot? Who invaded whom first? Who is due the most retribution? When? And for what? Was it The Crusades? The Moorish push westwards? The desire for oil? Militant Islamic fundamentalism? Migration of Muslims into the West? Fear of cultural and religious differences? The 'militant tendency' of the Islamic faith? The vigorous fundamentalism of Old Testament Christianity? What?
To be fair. To be effective. To live in the real world. For myself. I begin the discussion with where we are now. In which regard, I think it fair to say that the first responsibility of any level of government is to protect all of the individuals who live within the jurisdiction of that level of government.
If we are talking about Great Britain, that 'protection,' in my opinion, means equally protecting the security of people going about what used to be called their lawful occasions. And it means protecting the rights and freedoms of Muslim residents to be Muslim. Of anyone to be who they are.
I do not see the need for choice. Legislators and law enforcement use their best efforts to ensure that folks are safe from any danger. Societal oversight then makes sure that government does not overreach itself in offering protection from that danger. And all citizens remain vigilant to respect the differences between the many different beliefs, religions, cultures, preferences and lifestyle choices of all those living together in a nominally free society.
Beyond that, yes, it is incumbent on all of us who choose to be sentient to look to the causes of hateful difference between us, to see what can be done to minimize the possibility of that hateful difference becoming harmful. Whether to individuals, or to society generally.
It is also incumbent on all of us who choose to care to pay attention to all the possible triggers for violent behavior: emotional issues, lifestyles, environment, belief systems, whatever.
There will be much argument in the coming days about what lay behind this attack in London. That is important. It is why I began this post by addressing that subject. For, to be frank, while a relatively small group of people will be spending their time dealing with the immediate and personal grief following the loss of their loved ones (and my heart very genuinely goes out to them), the rest of us will be engaging in that wider debate about cause and consequence.
I wanted to offer my primer in a discussion which, because of the nature of the times in which we live, will almost certainly involve much heat, innuendo, blatant falsehood, distraction, and toxic hate. This post won't prevent that. But at least it allows me the opportunity for contribution, in what I hope is a calm and measured manner.
All of which said. I do very truly feel terrible anguish for those who died. Those who are injured. Those who suffer, because of loss, concern, worry and the tremendous amount of care that is yet to come. Not least, because the rest of us will likely forget all these good folk, just as soon as the news cycle moves on.
I also grieve for a society. Any society. Which creates a soul, so lost, that he or she feels the only way he or she can feel safe, can express themselves, is the need to engage in violence against another. I feel desperately sorry for a society that stands by and allows them to be so lost. So forgotten. That gets its priorities so wrong.
Perhaps somewhat controversially, I have feelings for the bringer of violence, who died in the violence of his making. He is likely the product of circumstances not all of his own making. We can pretend otherwise. But that will, with respect, achieve little, if we are truly looking for a safer society. I have feelings for anyone who was born in what most people in the world regard as an obviously 'civilized' and peaceful corner of the world. And yet was so troubled, so unhappy, so disturbed, so unsatisfied with that corner of the world, that the way he felt he could best bring meaning to his life was to take the lives of others. He has much to answer for. So do we.
And finally, I feel tremendous sadness that we feel the necessity to elect leaders whose first reaction to episodes such as this attack will almost certainly be to calculate how they can use the episode to maximize their political status.

Deluded Losers

I link to what I regard as an appalling article, from the former Editor of The London Guardian.
We elected Donald Trump. We voted for Brexit. We discover it is not just Russians bombing the Middle East and killing civilians. Martin McGuinness did what he did. Khalid Masood did what he did. And behind all of these events are people who acted for reasons.
As human beings, we judge. But. If we want things to change, we have to move beyond the judgment, and understand the reasons. Understanding requires what Preston reviles as 'the oxygen of publicity.'
It is my God-given right to think any way I choose. To express those opinions however I want. And to act upon them in any manner that is legal.
But when you are the former Editor of a respected news outlet, and you are read by many, there is an especial responsibility upon you to recognize your outsized contribution to that 'oxygen of publicity' (certainly outsized compared to you or me), and to act accordingly.
It is my undersized but considered opinion that, with this article, Preston acted like a narrow-minded pig.

It's The Agenda, Stupid!

I read an article in The London Daily Telegraph, the headline of which screams: 'Gibraltar accuses Spain of 'hijacking' Telegraph poll.'
Sigh.
The themes are: nothing is what it seems to be; all is virtual; anyone can hack anyone; nothing is objective; everyone has an agenda; find out for yourself; decide for yourself; and stop blaming other people for the dumb decisions you make.
The NSA has so many satellites in space (not to mention the British, French, German, Australians, Israeli's et al), it looks like Steptoe and Son's scrapyard up there.
They record every electronic communication made anywhere in the world. They have infrared, x-ray, microwave, ultraviolet and plain 'ol normal eyesight. You can't shit in a pot without the US knowing what you are doing. And that's just the US and the NSA.
They don't need warrants. Warrants are what you get to introduce evidence to trial. Not to spy on your granny. And anyone with an associate degree from Peoria Community College and Photoshop can turn it all around, and change what is on your computer, in your pics, on your record, what shows up in a poll.
Your computer and your telephone can be hacked when they are turned off, inside a lead box. And it doesn't take a lot of money. It ain't just Donald Trump, Breitbart and United Airlines changing the story.
We live in a world of the immediate. Where your fifteen minutes was so sixteen minutes ago. Standards went the way of the horse carriage and the audio cassette. Mainstream went conspiratorial, in order to keep up with Daisy May's viral blog on alien cooking and the rise of the altright.
No-one wants boring and staid and honest any more. They want color. Vibrancy. Crazy. Silly. Cats. And if it's a 'true' story about the cat eating the alien cooking that Daisy May says brought the altright to power, then so much the better.
So.
Stop believing what you read. What you are told. What you see in your Facebook feed. Find out for yourself. Look to an author's credentials. Their politics. Find purpose. Agenda. Form your own view. Own it. Act on it. And take responsibility for it.
Oh. And as for Gibraltar. Wake up. Let's mouth the words. Colonies are ancient history. Worse than slavery. But. People should be allowed to decide for themselves. To design their own destiny.
Got that? With me so far? Now. Chuck that out the window. And let the harsh glare of cold hard reality shine a little sense onto the equation.
Gibraltar stands at one of the two entrances to the Mediterranean. It is owned by the UK. Which just left the European Union. Underneath the Rock is one of the least secret and largest 'Top Secret' military bases possessed by Great Britain.
It is a primary training base for those activities of its special forces GB doesn't want the rest of the world knowing about. GB ain't giving up Gibraltar anytime soon. Whoever hacked The London Daily Telegraph's poll ...

Who Have We Become?

And not just the CEO of United. Not just the employees who dragged this man off the plane. Not just the police who aided and abetted. All of us.
The passengers who took video's. Rather than offering up their own seats. Or stepping in. And just saying. This is wrong.
I watched the whole video. All the way through. Did I do so because I was shocked? Or did I do so out of trainwreck curiosity?
If you do watch the whole video. It becomes quite clear at the end. That the gentleman in question has issues. He is horribly disturbed.
I can understand why. But do most of us really care? Do most of us watch the video and say. This man believed himself to be in a place of safety. And they made him feel unsafe. Or do we just snigger at such a notion?
Do we really care? Or do we just use it as an excuse to attack large corporations?
Do we really care? Or do we post another attack on the police?
Do we really care? Or is it just another opportunity for political insult, political point-scoring?
What do we care about? Who have we become? We engage in verbally violent language about anyone who does not agree with us. And then we wonder that casual violence follows.
We think that it is better to gain fifteen minutes of fame through viral social media. Than doing the right thing. Stopping the wrong thing.
We believe ourselves righteous. Yet we cannot see the poisonous self-righteousness when our positive outlook survives only because we perceive the negative so strongly in others.
Why do we redefine the most basic values? Find reasons to hedge on simple truths, like honesty, responsibility, loyalty, and decency? I mean, what the heck ever happened to the notion of simple decency in civic life? In every aspect of our lives?
And we are all to blame. None of us is excused. We have all of us left decency behind. There is now always too much at stake in winning with respect to all that we do.
When did we put aside the idea of losing gracefully? The notion that there is not always just one right? When did we decide that preaching was more important than listening? Winning more important than taking part?
When did we lose sight of the fact that maintaining the dignity of others should always be more important than the way we look to our friends, to our gallery, on Facebook, on Twitter, in the mirror?
When will we all wake up, look in that same mirror, and truly ask of ourselves: who have we become?

[Facebook comments here.]

Ordinary People Taking Back Political Definition?

Yesterday, I posted several posts on Facebook (at least one of which a contributor described, probably accurately, as provocative) about the definition of political terms, in particular our use of the term 'feminist.'
I'm bound to say, the discussion about the use of the term 'feminist' has become (it continues) quite an interesting debate, devoid of heat. Wish more political argument at the moment was the same.
The nature and the topic of the discussion got me thinking. I believe we are witnessing at the moment one of the great political shifts of history.
Even though, at the moment, it appears to be all about a move to the right, I do not believe that history will show that is/was its primary thrust. I take the view that history will show that the underlying trend is/was about ordinary people taking back control.
I think this has been building for about forty years. Since about the Sixties. When, in my opinion, politicians of all political hue began to seduce electors by giving them political permission to do whatever they liked, without thought for the consequence to society as a whole.
Cutting a long story short, this came to a grinding halt, again in my opinion, with the Great Recession of the last decade.
The primary political reaction was a progressive one. But it was one proffered less by ordinary people, and more by an entrenched left-of-center political elite.
The prescription did not produce enough. Anywhere in the world. Not of itself. And also because it was set against a tapestry of forty years of permissive politics and globalist economic trends. Where all was about, on the one hand, global ambition, without thought for the social or spiritual welfare of individuals, who were, on the other hand, 'bought off,' with the admonition that, within this impersonal structure, they could pretty much do as they wished.
The reaction to this formalized progressive approach was a right-wing backlash. The conservative drift had been gathering steam for some time. But it truly only came into its own with the failure of the progressive response to the Great Recession.
This conservative reaction became, in my opinion, ugly, when, in the past 18 months, it took populist form. And here is where I may set myself apart from other talking heads.
I do not see this populist trend as set in a right-wing mold. I think this is a current, even if unfortunate, phase. There is much about the current right-wing populist offering which is inherently impossible to achieve and implement. That will become apparent. And folks will eventually go looking for a more centrist or even leftist populist alternative. I truly understand this offers little support to the many individuals who will suffer in the meantime:
All of that on one side. Wherever the current populist trend ends up on the political spectrum. I do see a huge inherent silver lining. Namely, ordinary people finding a way to declare that they've had enough of professional politicians treating them as guinea pigs in some never-ending series of social experiments.
That can only be good news in the long-term. And it brings me back to where I began this post. The discussions I referenced at that point seem to recognize that one of the ways in which professional politics seeks to exclude ordinary people, and to 'keep them in their place,' is to use a whole glossary of 'accepted' terminology, a whole slew of debating rules and precepts, the purpose of which is simply to confuse ordinary folk.
I am delighted that the threads of discussion to which I refer appear to accept that no one section of our society has the right to exclude others from political debate, merely by stating that they are not qualified to debate or to vote, because they do not understand the issues, and/or they do not understand or they do not subscribe to the terms or the verbiage or the precepts the 'professionals' insist should be adhered to in any debate.
If nothing else, I do see this rise in populism putting an end to that exclusionary nonsense.

[Facebook comments here.]

When Brexit Means 'Bromide'

[‘Bromide’: a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate. "Feel-good bromides create the illusion of problem solving."]
I know I can be a bit thick on occasion. But there are aspects to this post-Brexit conversation that I simply don’t understand.
Here’s what I believe I know. And I think the best way of understanding Brexit is to compare it to a marriage break-up.
We’ve been throwing pots and pans for decades now. Time to grow up. The kids are sick and tried of it. Stay together. Split. Make up your minds.
Ok. Says Dad. I’ll have one last go at trying to agree terms with Mom. Then you kids get to decide.
Agrees pretty weak terms. But. It’s the best he can do. Kids say: sucky terms; split.
Then, all the neighbors weigh in. Well. We know you said the kids could decide. But what about the relatives? Don’t they get a say? Did Mom negotiate in good faith? Did the kids have the telly on when they voted?
Next up. Split suddenly becomes a ‘process.’ The kids start saying. Ok. We said: ‘split.’ But. Terms have to be agreed. Right? And you know. Maybe we’d like another vote on those terms.
Huh?
Well, we’re going to be affected by your splitting. And. And. But, you knew that when you voted ‘split.’ What did you think was going to happen?
Besides. Says Dad. Help me here. What if. We negotiate terms of the split. And you don’t like them. And you vote ‘no’ to the terms. What are you suggesting? We get back together after all?
Ok. Enough of the analogy. It’s almost as confusing as reality.
Look. I’m no rocket scientist. But here is the reality, as I see it. The nation voted to Leave the European Union. I’m not entirely sure why that Leave is dependent on what the French think. Or the Slovakians. The Polish, the Germans, or the Lithuanians. Bless them all.
In other words. Why the all-fired focus on negotiating terms? Didn't David Cameron already do that? Why do we think we're going to get better terms for Leaving than we were offered for Remain? And isn't all this backchat actually just a backdoor way of trying to overturn the Leave vote? I mean. Bearing in mind I'm thick.
Surely the process is: the British government works out what it wants Leave to look like. Maybe has some options. Discusses with other British political parties. Has a vote in Parliament. Calls a General Election, and then has a vote in Parliament. Whatever.
Then it goes to the EU. Once. And says: here are the options. Choose. Puts a time limit on it. Either they choose. Or they don’t.
If they don’t. We shrug. And we Leave. Because the people already voted to Leave. And the terms are ours to present; not the EU's to negotiate.
We pursue our own path. It will then be up to France and Germany and Slovakia and Poland and Lithuania either to trade with us, exchange immigrants with us, or not. Face sanctions from the EU, or not.
But. At some point, surely, we no longer accept diktat from the body we have voted to Leave. That is our decision. And ours alone. Surely?
And as to Tim Farron’s call for a second referendum, to take a view on the negotiated deal with the EU. How exactly does that work?
The first referendum had a consequence. If we vote Leave, then we Leave the EU. What happens if we say ‘No’ to the negotiated deal? We Leave the planet?
Or, is there something I'm missing?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Charlotte, Police Training, Citizen Design, Mutual Responsibility


I have little time for photo-opportunity, headline-grabbing advocacy by mindless protest. I believe in advancing solutions that might make matters better.

I am truly sorry for Keith Scott and his family. As I am for all individuals who have to suffer the consequences of violent death.

Our systems of government and civil order are not perfect. But, until we change them through the channels and by the means that our communities have evolved since the founding of the United States of America, then they are the systems that apply to all of us. However unfair or unequal some of us may view them to be.

I spent some time recently advocating, as effectively as one man can, for a change in the way that policing policy in the US is devised and implemented – Citizen Design of Policing.

But, here’s the thing. How many people, whether in my immediate community of Carrboro, NC, where I specifically attended the inaugural Citizen’s Police Academy, back in 2015, so that I could address that concept, face-to-face with Carrboro police officers. How many of my fellow citizens in Carrboro, or anywhere else in the US, who may have read my posts, how many of them have taken any steps to change policing policy in their communities? As opposed to raising a fist at a football game?

What I regard as a truly realistic pathway to allow communities to design the manner in which they are policed exists right now. It requires no new legislation. No new governmental bodies. No new funding. Just the will of citizens to demand of the elected officials commanding the allocation of resources to police authorities that those elected officials immediately make the allocation dependent on those police authorities understanding that, henceforth, their rules of engagement will be defined by those allocating the resources, on behalf of the local citizenry, and with the involvement of concerned citizens. It really is as simple as that.

Yet. As much (or, as little) as I have advocated. What movement has there been among the citizenry of Carrboro, NC – my current hometown? What plans advanced by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen? Why is Carrboro important, in the greater scheme of things? Other than the fact that many within this highly liberal borough are today extremely vocal about events three hours down the road, in Charlotte, NC. Other than that fact, it isn’t. Unless you agree with my oft-stated position that, if we were to experiment with a concept like Citizen Design in a small community like Carrboro, we might then be able to export the successful notion to more at-risk communities around the US.

That would be an achievement far more effective than a raised fist, a tweet, a photo opportunity or a CNN-headlining flash mob.

Now. Citizen Design alone will not change everything. One thing I learned during my advocacy and while engaging in quite proactive conversation at the Carrboro Police Academy is that all US police training is based on suppression, not de-escalation.

Literally, the rules of engagement in any confrontation between citizen and police officer are designed on the basis of command suppression. The police officer is trained to create a command presence. Shouting commands to the citizen to comply with the commands. Lack of obedience is then used as the trigger for escalation. Leading to use of force to bring the confrontation to an early close.

In fact, we had one quite interesting exchange in one of the experiential scenarios in which we engaged after some eight hours of the Academy. My police officer team-mate ‘shot’ a fake perpetrator, as I was engaged in talking to the perpetrator. We had a quick review afterwards.

To be honest, I liked those of my hometown officers who participated. We were on first name times. The discussion was vigorous, but respectful. And that is the way it should be.

I made only a quick point. There was not time for more. But I stated that, if we had more time, I would argue that the shooting of the perpetrator was wrong.

My team-mate said that the shooting was standard policy. The perpetrator was threatening a police officer (me). I countered that, although the perpetrator had initially advanced towards me, the advance had halted when I took a deliberate step back. I was no longer in immediate danger. And the call should have been mine. I had my ‘gun’ drawn, and was fully capable of protecting myself.

I believe the latter to be a standard policing approach in, for example, the UK. Where it is the belief that most perpetrators generally are not attempting to threaten wider society, but merely to carve out a place of safety. Allow them a heavily-defined area of safety. And one can de-escalate the situation by containment.

I’m not sure I convinced my team-mate in that one brief exchange. But I did two things. I began a conversation. In which all who truly care about policing should be engaged. And I fully understood the consequences of what I believe to be the current misguided thinking behind US police training. Namely, that we are going to have many more instances of contested police shootings as long as training emphasizes suppression over containment and de-escalation.

Now. Looking to the wider picture. And to thoughts which may well unsettle some folks. We all have a responsibility for civil order in our communities. We may not like the manner in which law enforcement is legislated in our society at the moment. But it is a form of enforcement that has been evolved by communities using the existing channels of legislation and government. If we want matters to change, then we use those channels and advocate for change.

In the meantime, we should all commit ourselves to make the existing system of enforcement work. We should all get stuck in. We do not stand to one side. Yelling, screaming and rioting.

Now, let me make that point even more clear. And I may be contradicting what I have said in the past. I am not saying don’t yell and scream. In the immediate moment. I am saying, don’t stand to one side. Commit. Make that moment of law enforcement work. As best we can. Understanding that all humans are, well, only human.

Which means that. Sometimes. When the situation arises. When we personally are faced with an immediate challenge. In a law enforcement scenario that thrusts itself upon us. Very often the outcome will be one which depends upon our personal commitment, our personal morality and our personal investment.

And so. Whether it leads to outrage or not. I’m going to say it. If Keith Scott’s wife had truly wanted to protect her husband, she should have run over, put her own life at risk for her husband and inserted herself between the police officer and her husband. She should not have stood by taking a video.

Keith Scott’s wife had enough time to make a decision. And she chose to take a video rather than saving her husband’s life.

That in no way exonerates the police. That does not lessen my revulsion at rules of engagement which can only lead to confrontation and death. That does not remove responsibility from the police for their actions. But, as a statement, it does place upon Keith Scott’s widow the responsibility that is hers alone.

We as a society are responsible for what we do and what we don’t do. We are responsible when we support the existing status quo, which allows police to suppress not de-escalate. And we are supporting that status quo when all we do is raise a fist, rather than actively involving ourselves in the processes that give effect to change.

Police are responsible for their actions. They are responsible when they draw a gun. They are responsible when they fight back against citizenry attempting to take control by designing the policing policy in their community.

And Keith’s Scott widow is responsible for the decision she made. To take a video. Rather than running to the aid of her allegedly mentally unwell husband.

I’m not sure what it is. Too much social media? Too many technological advances? Too much life by instant celebrity? I truly do not know. But it seems to me that we have become a society of bystanders, passers-by.

We do not achieve. We ape. We do not commit to our own advance. We watch the virtual ambitions of others. We do not seek substantive gain. Merely fifteen minutes of personal celebrity.

There is much about our society at the moment which just leaves me puzzled. Much about our politics. Much about our elections. And much about this horrible episode in Charlotte, NC.

But of one thing I am reasonably certain. We are where we are not because one side is wrong and the other side is right. Not because one person or group of people did something terrible. And the rest of us are exonerated. But because we have all of us allowed our own personal moral compasses to become terribly corrupted. Before we look to excoriating others, we might better look to wondering about our own actions, inactions and thought processes.

And lest you think I’m totally missing what others may think is the genuine bigger picture, let me link to the Movement for Black Lives platform. With this caveat. We will only move forward together. If we start placing more emphasis on the realistic and consensual ‘yes,’ rather than an unrelenting focus on the uncompromising ‘no.’ If we roll up our sleeves and get involved, rather than merely standing by. If we say the hard things that are unpalatable, rather than always playing for Facebook ‘Likes.’

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Chilcot: The Limerick

 
“There was an old man called Chilcot
Whose Report on Iraq was all shot
He declared without fear
What we wanted to hear
That WMD’s there were not”


Well. We learn the lesson time and time again. And then a week later, we forget it. Whether it is Brexit, Trump, Benghazi, Clinton’s e-mails, or now, for the – how many British Iraq War Reports have there been? – umpteenth time. The more information we are given by establishment figures of supposed repute, the more we can be absolutely certain we are still in the dark.

And so. Gee. Which first? The plug? The explanation? The expose? The conspiracy theory? Tell you what. I’ll leave you to do most of the legwork this time. I’ll try to keep it simple.

I have written essentially two books. The first one, very kindly published by a wonderful gentleman called RA Kris Millegan, and entitled Maggie’s Hammer. The other is the kitchen sink version, from which the latter was artfully distilled, and is known as Dead Men Don’t Eat Lunch.

Between the two, I set out my belief that the world continues to be fed a massive lie about WMD’s in Iraq. Namely, that there were always WMD’s in Iraq. That the invasion was staged in order to make them disappear. For reasons of which I am not certain. And all the rest is establishment collusion. Also for reasons of which I am not certain.

I’m not going to feed you the rationale for that belief. If you really care, buy the books. I have only three things to say:

1) A British government scientist called David Kelly ended up dead in the woods (there was a lot of that in my story) because he believed that, in 2003, there remained substantial potential in Iraq for Hussein to construct a deadly biological weapons capability, and the British government were lying about it.

He believed this because he was the lead scientist tasked by the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) with reporting in 1998 on what still existed in Iraq with respect to its biological weapons program after seven years of United Nations inspections.

Kelly produced a 100-page report setting out all that still remained in Iraq in this latter regard. This was no ‘sexed-up’ report. No Blair pipe-dream. It was Kelly’s factual account. And it related only to biological weapons. Similar reports were produced in respect of Iraq’s continuing chemical and nuclear ambitions.

2) Nick Cohen, currently a columnist with the respected (London) Observer newspaper, laughed at me in, ooh, I dunno, about 2005, when I ran by him my rationale for suggesting that the Iraq invasion was merely a cover to make Iraq’s WMD’s disappear.

He did me the courtesy of not laughing when I asked him the following, rather convoluted question: Ok Nick, so, when the US and the UK governments told you and the rest of the world’s gathered media that, oops, there aren’t any WMD’s after all, how many of you stuck your hands up in the air, and said, um, hang on, holding all the UNSCOM reports here, the ones from 1998, when their inspectors were thrown out by Saddam, the ones with the pretty maps showing us where all the weapons sites were/could be/should be. Er. When are we going to be taken on the grand tour, to prove to us that all these sites no longer exist?

Not only did Nick not laugh. He did me the further courtesy of saying, in no particular order: huh, good question, and, er, no-one …

Mind you, he didn’t want to talk to me any more. This might have been ‘cos I didn’t know when to stop. And I might have made the rather dry point that, he and the world’s gathered media simply bought the first explanation on offer from the very same people they had just accused of lying …

3) Would anyone care to explain to me how it was that ISIS, you know, the nasty military group headed by Saddam’s former generals, how they managed in 2014 to lay their hands on the very same chemical weapons in Iraq that, you know, weren’t supposed to exist?

I think I’ll leave it there. You read Chilcot. Believe what you want to believe. Then, construct your own conspiracy theory …

Friday, June 24, 2016

David Cameron's Resignation


I may be the only Tory in the universe to say so, but I'm going to miss David Cameron. The British Conservative Party is a broad church. It's why, even though my politics have shifted leftwards during my lifetime, I have still been able to accommodate my British politics within the rather nervous embrace of that Party.

But now, we enter a time of darkness. Not just for the British Conservative Party, which is about to be taken over by the neanderthals (think Donald Trump, with an Oxford accent). But for Great Britain generally.

The European Union is going to strip Great Britain bare, before it throws it out ignominiously. All this talk of the rest of the world still respecting Great Britain will be seen to be so much tosh. Great Britain has become little more than the City of London, surrounded by a rather quaint tourist attraction called 'the Queen and her lands.' For sure, folks will do business with Great Britain, but on their terms, and at their pace. Not those of Great Britain.

For six years as Prime Minister, and for ten years as Leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron kept his cool and his pride, as the media treated him as the 'not' guy. Not-Thatcher, not-Blair. He was denigrated, diminished and denied. He did make tough decisions. That wasn't just a testosterone battle cry. He coaxed Great Britain out of one recession. And laid the foundations to help it survive the next one. He didn't please everyone. He didn't try to. He knew that was impossible. He just attemptied to do the right thing for the country as a whole.

His brave decision to move the British Conservative Party closer to the center of political thought was not just show. Many of my friends may disagree with that sentiment. But he took on the right within his Party. Those who now crow at his demise. And time and again, he put his credibility on the line when a progressive issue close to his heart was on the agenda. Not least the issue of gay marriage.

The irony of his resignation, indeed the opposition to him over ten years from those within the right-wing of his Party and in the right-wing media, the irony is that, tacky politics aside, it was his decision to hold a referendum on Europe that was the cause of his leaving. They may laugh now. But ultimately, they will thank him for the opportunity he gave to the British people to have their voice heard.

History will show that Cameron was a seriously underestimated man. He won two General Elections, in very difficult circumstances. He gave the British people three opportunities to express themselves on issues central to modernizing British politics and the nation - the voting system, Scottish independence and then Europe.

But for me, I will remember him as a leader who surprised and then warmed with a no-nonsense, man-of-the-world, self-confident, courageous and compassionate approach to the business of guiding the people for whom he clearly cared through the complexities and dangers of an increasingly intense world.

Now, let's not get too mushy. Fact is, and this is perhaps the most surprising item of all, Cameron has not yet even turned 50. Many years left. Though I expect for the next decade he will want to focus merely on raising his young family, and supporting his wife in her career ambitions.

In the meantime, it would be an idiot who does not see a likely parallel in American politics. In which case, since folks seem to be turning against progressive elites who do not listen to them, Hillary should be very scared right now ...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Equanimity about Equity of Inequality


I am moved by the angst of a well-known British right-of-center writer to share my thoughts about inequality as we move towards the New Year. Yes, it’s three o’clock in the morning. And the new biological timetable that attends my current ill health has decided, once again, that my thoughts flow best when everyone else is asleep.

Along with my few ailments, maybe it’s advancing years that make me more settled, or perhaps more blunt, about the whole subject of inequality. Supporters of Donald Trump say he is rational. Detractors say he is a rich whack-job. Take your pick. So. By the numbers.

People are not born equal. We can have a whole metaphysical discussion about this. Which I’ll avoid for now. But, the bottom line is we are not all born with the same gifts. Or the same amount of ‘em.

The only thing that is equal to all of us is the need for us to eat. And pretty much right there are the two factors that have dominated political economy since the time sapiens decided it was better to hit someone with the club, rather than dragging it behind him.

We need to eat. We need to find a way to do it. Some of us use physical strength. Others our developing brains. Some hunt. Some grow. Some just take from others. From this point on, further discussion is really about the finer points.

The finest point being that, as our brains have evolved, not all brains equally by the way, another natural phenomenon, not one we can blame on the 1%, many of us have developed a countervailing influence over the natural order of things – the notion of justice.

So it is that some of us decided that it wasn’t always just that Harry with the club got best pickings of the body carcass. So, we ganged up and stopped him. Or we thought up clever ways of trapping Harry. Or taking sides with him. Or designing stealth drone clubs to attack him when he wasn’t looking. And so on.

Blah, blah, blah. Fast forward a few thousand years. To the end of the cold war. And the advance of globalization. And the points made by Matthew d’Ancona in the article linked to earlier.

It’s really not all that complicated. There is no such thing as freedom. That disappeared the moment Harry hit someone. And that someone retaliated by joining with his fellows to take Harry’s club away. After that, all was legislation and regulation. The balance in society between those with individual strength and those with strength in numbers.

And that has pretty much defined the evolution of the seemingly separate political strands of right-wing individualism and left-wing collectivism. Which definitions are themselves somewhat ironic. Since, certainly in modern times, that right-wing individualism appears to support global corporatism, while the left-wing collectivism has the ambition of protecting less advantaged individuals.

Anyways, my point is, there is no overarching right or wrong. It’s all a question of balance. People are different. They do different things. They give value to different things. They see things differently.

Ambitious people want to get rich. That involves other people. Using them as digits. As units. Whether it is as labor. As a market. As buyers. Whatever. So long as the others get something out of it, they’re happy to go along. Until they feel ripped off. Then, they react. When they get sufficiently upset, they organize, they find strength. And maybe, they get to take the club away from Harry again. Or, they just move way, and do their own thing somewhere else.

And the history of political economy, relative inequality, the supremacy of right or left, individual or collective, at any given moment, is all about where the pendulum is at that point in history. Is Harry in the ascendant? Or those organizing against him?

There is no end of history. No final destination. No ultimate moment. It is all a question of where the pendulum is. No more. No less.

So. Why the long essay about all of this so early in the morning? Hmm. ‘Cos I’m off work awaiting further tests. ‘Cos I’ll have to return to work at some point. And I’m none too happy with my place of work at the moment. And Matt’s article got me thinking about why. And why it is that the unhappiness is causing so much angst. When I’m trying to make my life about magic not angst.

And I realized (not this morning; it’s been building for a while) that, well, different people see things different ways. Because we are different.

Forget the notion of co-operation (you do all know by now that I work in a co-operative food retailer, right?). The fact is, the same human impulses are at work in my co-operative as anywhere else.

There are those with ambition, who do the planning and the overlording. There are those of us who put up with it, so long as we benefit. And there are those of us who do not benefit so much, and we organize and push back.

Those at the top present all sorts of rationale to underpin why the big picture says we need to do x and y in order to ‘succeed.’ While we at the bottom of the pile retort that this ‘success’ looks great on paper, but it still leaves us with sore limbs and a miserable-looking pay raise.

And the epiphany for me, these past few weeks, as I’ve found myself not in the immediate emotional thick of it all, is that, as with most of human endeavor, we are all right. Because we are all attempting to gain different things from the same big picture.

Those at the top want pretty graphs with the lines going up. Those in the middle also want the lines to go up, so that they will be left alone. And that requires that they lay it on those of us below. Who want to be left alone, and to be paid more.

Of course, there is no way we can all be happy. In equal amounts. At the same time. Sometimes the folks at the top win. Sometimes those of us lower down the ladder get our payback. It’s a constant to and fro. And it all ends up being a matter of balance. Over time.

So. What am I saying? None of it matters? Heck no. Well, if you want to be the hermit, on top of the mountain, communing only with the universe. And I’ve thought of that. But I missed Wham. Unless you go for that, then no. Care. Argue. Fight. Rationalize. Every day. Never give in. Keep moving that bloody pendulum. But. Do it all with a pinch of salt.

We are none of us re-inventing the wheel. We’re none of us treading new paths. It’s all been done before. It will never change. We will always be different. Always unequal. Always striving to gain advantage.

Spend each day. Every moment of your life. Believing passionately in what you believe. So long as. At the end of each of those days. You have the good sense to step back and chuckle. We are who we are. We will always be that way. It is a never-ending circle. Enjoy it. Believe it. Honor it. But, don’t let it overwhelm you. Don't let it define you. That’s all.

Life is absurd and purposeful, all at the same time


No. I'm not dying. I'm just having an existential moment. As I prepare for Christmas, with a weather forecast telling me that North Carolina is going to be in the seventies for the next week.

It's taken me some 59 years (not sure if I beat Albert Camus or Leo Tolstoy). But I now realize that the lesson of life. It's true meaning. Is that life is absurd.

Yet, that realization leaves no explanation for the existence of my consciousness. Yours too. Unless, the further step of understanding is that we can only give that consciousness, our lives, true meaning if we use the realization of absurdity as the platform to give ourselves purpose.

In which regard, Norman Mailer is right as well.

Look. Of course life is absurd. How can it be other than absurd to imagine that our incredibly fragile bodies can possibly represent any kind of sustainable or effective vessel for the equally incredible consciousness that possesses it?

It is impossible that some grand series of universal accidents created this ridiculous collection of vulnerable cells, to house an intelligence that has me in awe each and every day I wake up.

This isn't going to be a discussion about creationism, or evolution, or intelligent whatever. It is a post about absurdity. And the first absurdity is ever to make plans on the basis other than that our vibrant consciousness is always hostage to a body that is likely to collapse at any moment.

So. Don't make plans? No. Make 'em up the wazoo. Otherwise, what's the point in being alive? But don't take them too seriously. And don't make them ridiculously extensive. Because, fragility of the body aside, and the next absurdity, why do we think that the eighty to ninety odd years we spend on this planet is really going to make any difference?

We had a Kennedy. Got shot. We had a Clinton. Got undone by a Bush. Who got undone by an Obama. Who most likely will get undone by a Trump. Or a Cruz. Which is worse?

Hitler was terrible. Stalin likely worse. Pol Pot the pits. Yet, they are gone. And yet, we have a Putin and fascism on the rise in the western world.

We had a Mother Teresa. And yet, we still have poverty in India. Alongside the Porsches and Lamborghini's. We still have some 50 million below the poverty line in the US. Yet, we have more billionaires than ever.

We elect Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour Party. In the absurd belief he will become Prime Minister. We have absurd expectations of Bernie Sanders. In the almost certain and realistic belief he will never be President.

Too many of us have too many regrets. When we know we could not have done differently. Instead of enjoying the moments that were good, and shrugging at the rest.

And that is the only reaction to the absurdity of life. To shrug.

I have no clue, no-one truly does, about purpose. Why create, evolve, cook, lego-build a consciousness that can produce a Mona Lisa, an Empire State Building, a community garden, a homeless shelter from scratch, if that whatever allows it only to live for eighty years, to leave little lasting legacy, no memory of a before, and no idea of the after?

Maybe the answer is in the question. Maybe the answer is so that we, a few of us, over time, maybe more of us, can realize that life, material consciousness, is not the be all and end all, that there is more, that this life is truly absurd, we are supposed to 'get' that, so that we are able constantly to laugh at it, to chuckle, while doing what we can, before the next, as consequence of a continuous 'before'.

And that what we can do is to eschew the arrogance that says we can change the eternal, the universal, and truly to focus on what is around us. To realize the absurdity of thinking we can control anything. Except what we think and do. Without thinking we can affect the consequences. While, at the same time, always being conscious that we are responsible for the consequences of what we do and say. Dreaming, believing, planning, and believing once more. All the while understanding that we have no control over what will actually happen. While believing (again) that it will happen as we wish.

Truly, truly, truly understanding that the biggest obstacle to joyfully accepting the absurdity of life is fear. The fear that we will not be taken seriously. Who cares? The fear that we will not have enough. Who cares? The fear that what we have will be taken away. Says who?

I never began to have any effect with my advocacy (not to mention my music or my writing), whether Weaver Street, or police, whatever, until I stepped back, and placed it in the context of absurdity, fear and personal experience.

Of course WSM is absurd. It is a concept based upon individuals truly believing that, by putting aside their personal fears, and committing to the collective conscious, that collective conscious, democratically expressed, free of fear, will actually take care of all the personal fears.

How absurd for us to believe that we could get the simple lesson that we conquer fear by simply not being afraid? Instead, we never get past the reality that the collective is no more that the collection of all the unaltered individual fears.

Why on earth do ISIS truly believe that they can overcome the unified fear of the remainder of the nations on earth? Because of their own fears.

Why do small-minded people persist in believing that restricting the freedom of individuals will ever lead to other than violent response? Fear.

So. There it is. Geoff's lesson of the day. Overcome fear to understand absurdity. Embrace absurdity with a chuckle, in order to understand purpose. Restrict purpose to making impact on what is around you. In a benign fashion. Always with the understanding that the purpose is not design or destination, it is the journey, the faith, the good works and the chuckle last thing at night.

Which is not to say we minimize purpose. Far from it. We energize it with faith. Not religious faith. Faith in people. Faith in ourselves. Faith in the concept that opening our eyes to the immediate, the possible and the realistic allows for the collective to be achieved by the combination of the many realities.

For universal ambition is an arrogance that serves only the self. Helping those around us, understanding the power of our immediate limitations, is the means truly to serve those we know, ourselves and life purpose. That is the lesson of life. That is the power of life. It's magic. Along with a good chuckle.

I believe in St. Peter. Not the guy in the white robe. But some sort of higher power, collective enlightenment, continuing universal consciousness. Some sort of meter that will affect what happens next. But I like St. Peter.

And I look forward to saying to St. Peter. Sorry, mate. I ain't Barack, or Bill, or Steve, or Dave, or Angela. I did nothing big. Nothing lasting. No legacy. Not even a footnote. I'm the guy who laughed. Who realized it was all a cosmic joke. And spent a few years trying to help a co-worker not to cry. Gave a bike to an unknown little girl. Wrote a song that made people laugh. Got to the bottom of a twenty-seven mystery. And sold 270 books to the only folks who cared. And yet. I feel good. And don't give a toss what you think. What's next?

Only to hear him say. Huh. Barack and the rest are back in kindergarten. Big Fella wants to see you. Or some such. Yup. Time for one of the purple ones ...