Bit Quiet Today

May 14, 2009

For, you know, the four people who read my blog…

Bit quiet today doing some actual work. Getting on with the job? Hm.

Will write ‘Science & Politics Part II’ in a couple of soons….


GB is damaged property as far as the press are concerned – even when he does something good, which actually does happen sometimes, he won’t get enough credit.

Although mainstream media frequently deride the assumption that ‘They are all at it’ its the only view thats been robust to the revelations of the last week. All MPs have to be audited and exposed, in a political context. They don’t care about accountability to the public, so get as much politics in it as possible and make them accountable to one another.

I prefer GB’s proposal to audit all MPs to David Cameron’s forcing just a few people who comprise the shadow cabinet to repay.Ideally you might have both – all MPs should repay.

That repayment should be compulsory but better the reward for the Lib and Lab MPs  who repay now, voluntarily.

The solution isn’t to simply reduce the number of MPs, but being from Scotland, I would say this.

Righteous Immigration

May 13, 2009

The BNP are determined to make immigration an issue again at this election. Apparently we have to look after ourselves first, its just too risky to let impoverished foreign workers take the most dangerous jobs, the ones we won’t touch.

Speaking of extremism, if there was one minister I’d shuffle right out of government it would be Phil Woolas. He was perhaps appointed as one of the few MPs more extreme on this issue than the British public. As recently as March he accused the office of national statistics of ‘whipping up anti-foreign sentiment’. Sounds like the work of statisticians to me.

But imagine the opposite case – what would happen if we were to have unlimited immigration? Apocalypse, according to the Daily Mail. But really, what would happen?

We already have had, historically, a policy of unlimited emigration. We didn’t really care about the indigenous people when we sent our criminals to Australia. We didn’t ask the French when we went to Canada. There are numerous examples of unlimited emigration in our history, but we don’t like it when it comes back to us.

What if we were to send back our dear Polish workers and receive in return all our pensioners from Spain? It would be another of those ‘economic storms’ blowing over the Atlantic. Immigration, in the face of a declining British population, is one of the few factors which assist in securing growth.

Already people come freely from accession countries like Romania. They can come here no problem. But as far as we are concerned, they can starve here. Because we don’t give them work permits, although we dangle some calendar years in front of them saying stay for a bit, maybe next year we’ll allow it – but we don’t. So that’s the solution? Immigration without employment? Will this help poverty, will this help crime?

When people come to this country despite our attitudes there’s something of a compliment in that. So what if, for a little while, lots of people came? I want my kids to grow up in a school surrounded by lots of different cultures and languages. I want them to learn about life in the world outside our island bubble, and feel like a global citizen. I want them to learn how to cook.

Nobody has a deed to this island.

Something not about expenses for a change…

I was speaking recently at a “parliamentry debate”-style night hosted by a dialectic society. One of the mock bills brought forward sought to elect the house of Lords entirely by lottery of national insurance number. You can read more about this kind of proposal would work in a book by Anthony Barnett and Peter Carty.

The idea we debated was to create in the house of Lords a very large citizens jury, within the protection of the Parliament Act. They would remain an amending body, brought together from all walks of life, a sample normalised in such a way as to be representative of the national insurance pool.

“Its not for the shoemaker to decide whether the shoe fits” was one of the quotes of the night.

Those taking part in the exercise would be paid a salary and serve for a year.

At no point in the legislative process do the subjects of legislation have the power to amend an existing bill – this would change that, and power is the right word.

It would also enable those who have served in such a second chamber to use the experience to better fulfill their maximum potential in the democratic process – more engagement with less apathy.

Most of all it would achieve what must be the goal of any progressive government: making peerages affordable for the working class.

There seems to be a notion ubiquitous in the commentariat that the recent allowance scandals bring the profession of being an MP into disrepute, dissuading good candidates from running.

Some general points:

1) Clearly bad candidates have been running up to this point. The British people need to move on from satire and derision into a pro-active realisation that a very large fraction of their politicians are corrupt. The insistance that MPs are respectable is out of touch. 

Remind me why the BNP want to stop aid to africa and spend it all domestically? Because of corruption – maybe they’d prefer to keep it for themselves.

2) MPs are not the only ones who have to work a transparent allowance system. We seem to have less scandals about bailed out bankers these days. Their system is different from that of everyone else – to insist on respectability is out of touch.

3) You can’t call being a politician a profession. To do so is…oh you get it…

On the last point…

For something to be a profession it must have a professional body which acts with neutrality in providing guidelines for best practice, basic standards for its chartered members and instruments for the discipline of its members in the event of unprofessional conduct, or conduct which brings the profession into disrepute.

I’m not saying it is possible to have such a body, but politics is what it is. It hasn’t grown more corrupt over time. Its always been like this through history, all thats increased is transparency, with a few blips, so we see whats really going on. 

Politicians won’t lose the good reputation they never had. The opportunity of course is to make it credible for the first time – this is a genuinely exciting opportunity. But respect cannot be assumed, asserted or demanded it must be earned.

Something I started on labourhome a while ago and will finish now, sligtly flinching at some of the lack of coherance in what I wrote now but here it is…

This, if permitted, should form the first of three articles on science and politics. They are not rants, although each discipline has intruded into the other’s territory with regularity to the point of the familiar. Neither are they pamphlets for one view only. I want to inform and I want to challenge. I want to take as many people along for the ride as I can. I want to look at ethics and science now, and then look at a totally new understanding of science within politics and then finally an utterly transformed approach to science policy.

I am a research Scientist in the field of experimental particle physics. Muon and neutrino physics, to be specific. By the third article that won’t sound obscure.

This first article will be a confession of sorts. I will state what a Scientist is not. I will not apologise as though ashamed for science or its contribution to economy and reason. However by considering what a Scientist is ‘not’ I am explicitely considering a negative. 

The confession is that (please bear with me here, I am going somewhere) Scientists love research. We love adding to knowledge. We will develop complex clarifications of models and extensions to theories, new technologies. However, if the complexity of these things has increased then it has been at the expense of vastly simplifying science in culture for our own ends. 

I am looked at as though a pillar of the community and that’s fine. Quite like port. But I’m looked at with deference and not just me. Scientists in general are, I believe, considered the modern witch doctors. Pillars of the community, their word goes unquestioned. We can have people repeat what we say like mantras. I’m not saying we’re evil, or that we’re not. It’s a lot of power for human beings.

Kevin Barron said:
“If medical science was telling us that we ought to…then maybe that’s something that we should do, but it should be driven by science and not driven by some of the debate that we heard last night.”

I have omitted the issue itself in an attempt to deviate discussion away from the bill in question. I am talking in much broader terms. Please do not see this as a discussion about that bill or an advocacy of a particular position, if you know what that bill was. 

He was referring to ethical debate. And here is my problem. Science won’t tell you anything. Science actually doesn’t have a mouth and it doesn’t understand language. It simply has no advice. Scientists have mouths, we sometimes understand language, we have varying opinions. Genuinely varying opinions. Do not ask science if it will be a substitute for debate or you will be utterly staggered by how right wing science can be. Yet I have heard labour put Scientists on a pedestal above activists, publicans, voters and plebs. On some issues that is ok. On any issue with an ethical component that makes me uncomfortable as a Scientist. 

Gallileo warned us to leave Scientists alone, or at the very least not arrest them. But we’ve gone too far the other way. Heidegger warned us that as technology increased debate would decrease. He foresaw a world from which we would seek to extract from faster and more efficiently, and humanity as a resource but believed that it was yet possible to have a ‘releasement towards things’ to say yes to some and no to others. To hold the conscience separate from the calculator.

I don’t want to be a witch doctor.

If you want to be a Heidegger then you will be considered mad or religious and to the detriment of culture you shalt be derided by the fundamentalist interleaving of science and state, just for disagreeing.

Still, its ok to have opinions – lets respect them (without being patronising!). It has to be democratic.

Its not just Gordon Brown who seems to do anything except be a true figurehead. Party leaders need to take on so called ‘extreme’ parties such as the BNP, not just spin their own lines and present their own policies.

Its not sufficient to just call the BNP racist.
Many British people would be sympathetic to the front page of the BNP website. There is a racist undercurrent beyond the core vote and the BNP know that.
Racism is everywhere in Britain. If you are from Romania you can come here but not work, just starve. If you are French its different. ‘British jobs for British workers’ can just as easily be from Labour as the BNP. The clothes we wear are frequently made by slaves, we just don’t even realise they are there – they’re like, the invisibles, untouchables, the Dalit. And its not that they’re only abroad, they can be in the UK, immigrants made to work in dangerous low paid conditions.

Why can’t we just defeat the BNP through actual argument. You deny platforms and relegate people to the extremes and people will never be able to counter their argument when they first hear it.

How about this?

Remember make poverty history? The BNP want to stop ALL FOREIGN AID 

Glad to see diversity in schools and workplace? The BNP want to send back ALL IMMIGRANTS and even use tax payers money to pay them to leave. So goodbye international students, foreign billionaires, the economy…commonwealth and american immigrants…(altho im personally in favour of immigration in a general way)

They want to introduce national service. Is that something you want given our current foreign policy? The new one would be to leave NATO.

They want capital punishment by DNA. Oh dear. 

I mean come on, the policies they do propose are not terribly sophisticated. But they seem to be beyond the current generation of politicians to counter. 

You will never find a more easy enemy to beat. It’ll be a boost to Labour if Brown defeats them first. He, Clegg, Cameron, the Queen or anyone, could completely wipe the floor with them in a televised debate.