Monthly Archives: January 2008

Those keraazy creationist folk!

John Dixon links to a fantastic web page listing 100 quotes from fundamentalist Christians. I haven’t gone through them all, but my favourite has to be this one:

One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

(of course, Revolutionary Communists seem to misunderstand this as well).

On a similar note, here’s a video proving the fallibility of evolution using a simple jar of peanut butter:

Hat tip: Harry’s Place.

And finally, I thought I’d include my favourite Mick Huckabee quote. I’m sure you’ve already read it, but I haven’t commented on it yet so it goes here:

“Interestingly enough,” Huckabee allowed, “if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, ‘This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency’.”

Which of course, if you think about it, is not merely “proof” that the death penalty has divine blessing but that the murder of otherwise blameless people is approved of as well.

All very easy targets. But such fun!

Does your Mayoral candidate pass the 7/7 test?

Wondering which way to vote in May’s London Mayoral election? Allow me to suggest this simple test:

Pick a candidate and try and imagine what they would be like handling a crisis such as 7/7.

Actually, you don’t need to do that with Livingstone. Love him or hate him, he’s already done this:

Brian Paddick? Well, again, this isn’t a hypothetical as he was the Deputy Metropolitan Police Chief at the time:

Boris Johnson? Does the thought make you want to laugh or cry?

Harsh test though this may be, I think it’s a valid one.

Why has the Police Federation allowed the BNP to co-opt them? (UPDATE)

Hugh Muir reports:

And while we are continuing police inquiries, what do we know following their famous march on London? The event itself was peaceful; the least we could expect, but why was Richard Barnbrook, the BNP mayoral candidate for London and “visionary artist” allowed to take a prominent place at the front? Many forces ban their officers from membership of the BNP, as does the Association of Chief Police Officers. Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate and former deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, raised the issue with the organisers, who proceeded – in an orderly fashion – to do nothing. Yesterday BNPtv posted its lengthy footage of Barnbrook interviewing a federation official from Essex police. The disreputable in league with the disgruntled. Hard to know which is worse.

You can watch the film on YouTube. Barnbrook can clearly be seen at the front of the demonstration along with the police’s other high profile supporters (including Susan Kramer, although she seems to have put as much distance between him and her as possible) while the Secretary of the Essex Police Federation Roy Scane (and there is no way a policeman with such a role could possibly not know who Barnbrook is) happily gives Barnbrook an extended interview.

This is of course exactly the kind of tacit approval that the BNP crave. Is the Police Federation nuts?

It’s good to see Brian Paddick’s political radar in full working order however.

UPDATE: The Evening Standard has more on this. How about this for a pathetic/vaguely sinister excuse from the Police Federation:

“Some of my colleagues saw we had the BNP Mayoral candidate with us. The one thing we want to make clear is we didn’t invite him. It wasn’t a closed march. He chose to attend by his own accord which is his right in a democracy. It is disappointing if anyone chose to join the march for their own agenda.

“We didn’t ask him to leave because whether we like it or not we live in a democracy.”

In a democracy you certainly can refuse to allow an individual to lead a public demonstration from the front. You simply ask him to leave. I somehow doubt even the BNP would be uncooperative with a crowd of 22,000 coppers. And you are certainly not required to provide him with a friendly interview with one of your regional officials.

And what’s with this ambivalence about living in a democracy? Are they on a mission to lose public sympathy?

Beware Livingstone supporters claiming you have no choice

Ken Livingstone supporters moving into the clothes peg business. Remember Polly Toynbee’s exhortation in the run up to the general election that people should vote Labour not because they were any good but because the Tories were worse? Well, it seems that Livingstone supporters have started a similar tactic. Seumus Milne, acknowledging that there is “a strong left critique of Livingstone,” nonetheless insists that “the choice [between Livingstone and Johnson] could hardly be starker. No other candidate is in with a shout.” Meanwhile, a bunch of Labour MPs have written a letter to the Guardian demanding that “the real issues in the London mayoral election should be Ken Livingstone’s record after eight years in office” only to immediately add that “Boris Johnson would abolish the 50% affordable housing policy. He opposed the minimum wage, backed section 28 and has called for big cuts to London’s transport and policing budgets. The choice could not be clearer.”

The Labour practice of talking up the Tories in order to shut down debate (and vice versa) is a time honoured tradition, and one the Lib Dems in turn practice themselves all the time. Polly at least had a point; under first past the post voting against the party you hate is more relevant than voting for the party you like. But the Mayoral election will not be conducted under first past the post but the supplementary vote (SV) system.

SV is by no means perfect – unlike AV you still have to take tactical factors into consideration when casting your first preference. But it does broaden the range out to at least the top three. What then becomes important is which candidates enjoy the broadest consensus. Livingstone has always done well out of a broad coalition of lefties, liberals and greens – these are votes Johnson must attract to actually win. Can he? I’m doubtful, and I suspect he can only lose ground over the next couple of months. On this basis it is looking less and less likely that Johnson can win, even if he ends up in the top two.

By contrast, it is not beyond the realms of possibility at all that if Paddick could overtake him. He was very unlucky to have his candidature announced while the leadership election was getting under way which didn’t make for the best of starts. But his relaunch this month has been very successful and he has a broader appeal than the standard Lib Dem candidate.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the only two people who can win this race are not Livingstone and Johnson but Livingstone and Paddick. The fact that Livingstone supporters seek to present the shock haired loon as some kind of looming phantom menace suggests they fear this is true themselves.

What is a constitution?

It seems I am caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the Lib Dem PP’s refusal to back a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty under any circumstances is something I’m not happy with. On the other hand, saying so publicly makes me subject to the fatuous braying of Tory bloggers like Iain Dale and Dan Hassett.

Let’s be clear: the reason the Lib Dem front bench don’t want a referendum on Lisbon is because they are (correctly) convinced we would lose it. To that extent they are being opportunistic, and no amount of soft soaping from Paul Walter or others will change that.

But is Nick Clegg correct to insist that an in or out referendum is the closest we have to the promised referendum on the Constitutional Treaty? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Because the whole point of the Constitutional Treaty was that it was a “delete all, replace with” process. It was a Year Zero approach to reforming the EU. Lisbon, at the insistence of the Euro-sceptics, is not; it is an amending treaty. That being the case, the EU’s constitution is the body of treaties going all the way back to Rome. If you want a referendum on the EU’s constitution, you have to have a referendum about that.

So if you want to get technical here, it is actually more dishonest and going back on past election promises for the Tories not to support the Lib Dem line of an in or out referendum than for the Lib Dems to not support the Tory line for a Lisbon referendum. Far more dishonest.

I think there has been a democratic deficit regarding the EU for a long, long time now. It has left scars and could harm the UK’s role in the EU in the long term. A referendum on Lisbon might help correct that. But the fundamental problem there is that we have a model of strong government and a weak Parliament. Which party supports the status quo the loudest in this regard? Step forward the Conservative Party.

Nick Clegg may not be exactly showering us in glory here, but at least we don’t have a shyster like David Cameron at the helm. I sleep soundly.

New Statesman: not very Bright

Chavez tshirtGiven that Martin Bright has made a very high profile attack on Ken Livingstone this week for, among other things, his links with Hugo Chavez, I have to say I find it very amusing that the magazine of which he is Political Editor, the New Statesman, is currently offering this to all new subscribers:

Pay just £14.99 UK (£26.00 Europe, £32.00 World) for 12 issues of the New Statesman and receive this special edition T-shirt worth £20.99 absolutely free. In addition New Statesman will donate £1 to Venezuela Information Centre UK.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure about the ethics of all this however; as an alternative you can always get a book on Fidel Castro instead. They cover the whole broad range of left opinion, they do. 🙂

Pigs 1, Goths 0 (UPDATE)

The two most read articles on BBCi today give us a fascinating insight into where Britain’s collective head is at.

First of all we have the goth couple who have been banned from the bus because he insists on leading her on a lead. There are two issues here. First of all the bus company are surely only being responsible to ban them on health and safety grounds – the inherent dangers are quite obvious. Secondly, while what people do behind closed doors is fine by me, it is fascinating to compare this issue with the ongoing controversy over Muslim dress codes.

There is much public anxiety these days about Burqas (which I don’t see around anything like as much as I did a couple of years ago – anyone else notice this?) and other forms of Muslim dress. Would we have the same anxiety if like “Dani” and “Tasha” (guffaw!) they merely defined it as a form of sexual expression?

Is it really, as I fear some of my readers may accuse me, illiberal and prejudiced to suggest the two simply grow up, get a life and stop shoving their crass faux radicalism down our figurative throats? Where is the fine line between pointing out that people are making arses out of themselves and celebrating self-expression? Answers on a postcard (well, in the comments below) please.

Meanwhile, a retelling of the Three Little Pigs has been banned from a competition because it apparently is offensive to both Muslims and builders. In the case of the latter, I’m not sure if any retelling of the story can really avoid portraying them in a good light, unless the story is changed so that the houses made of straw and sticks end up meeting the latest tough EU building directives. I wonder if this sudden concern for the portrayal of the construction industry has anything to do with the current domination of Eastern Europeans of it in the UK? Should we all be talking it up with a view to establishing a new generation of eager young British labourers? Maybe studying Auf Weidersehen, Pet should be made compulsory on the national curriculum? Perhaps Bob the Builder should be monumented on the fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square?

But I digress. As I’ve blogged before, in what way are piggies offensive to Muslims? Just because I don’t eat horses, it doesn’t mean I think Black Beauty should be banned. I don’t seem to ever hear Muslims objecting to it either; only people claiming to speak “for” them. I think I need this carefully explained to me, preferably with diagrams, but apparently doing so would be “culturally insensitive” so I fear it won’t happen.

UPDATE: Okay, mea culpa. I’ve read a couple of alternative accounts of the goth incident and while my views on the couple themselves haven’t changed, my defence of the bus driver in question certainly was misplaced. Everyone has a right to get on a bus without being abused, verbally or physically.

Sadly, Tasha herself though doesn’t exactly come out of this well: “I am a pet, I generally act animal like and I lead a really easy life. I don’t cook or clean and I don’t go anywhere without Dani. It might seem strange but it makes us both happy. It’s my culture and my choice. It isn’t hurting anyone.” Sounds like low self-esteem to me. Since Mat wants to bark Mill at me, I will refer him to this. You really think I’m the one enslaving people by conformity?

The referendum question

I have to admit to remaining of the view that if the Lib Dems are in favour of a referendum on our continued membership of the EU, which we apparently are, then if that option looks as if it will get nowhere (which it does) we should be supporting the next best option, a referendum on the Reform Treaty. The fact that we’ve consistently failed to enthuse the public about the EU should not be a reason for refusing to face the music.

But if I don’t quite get Clegg’s line, Cameron’s line is even more inconsistent. Why this fig leaf about a referendum? If the Tories are opposed to the Reform Treaty, which when you read between the lines they clearly are, then why not simply say so? Why push for a national referendum, at great public expense, when a simple no vote in Parliament would save us all a lot of time and money?

It is pure oppositionism – opposing the government for the sake of opposition. The purpose of a referendum in this context (since it isn’t citizen-initiated) is to ratify a decision of Parliament; but if Parliament doesn’t make that decision then we don’t require a referendum.

The Tories have always been the opponents of referendums. They now present themselves as champions, but look a little closer. With the Reform Treaty, they are seeking to give the public a vote on an issue that they oppose and calculate the public do to. With their proposals over council tax, they will only permit a public vote if a local authority exceeds a “trigger threshold” (or as it is currently known, a cap) set by the (Tory) government. Referendums have their place as a way to hold the government of the day to account; but when they are used by government to simply make themselves look popular they are a blatant abuse of taxpayer’s money. It is the politics of Napoleon or indeed Nazi Germany.

There are two ways you can arguably use referendums legitimately – to ratify a constitutional change or at the behest of a significant proportion of the public. You might oppose both uses of referendums, but the dangers inherent of allowing governments to pick and choose as it suits them must surely be worse? Even the much maligned Hugo Chavez doesn’t do that.

You might be uncomfortable with the thick authoritarian streak running through Labour, but Cameron’s weakness for despotism is potentially far worse.