the brilliantly leaping gazelle

My Election Notes 2019; E-Day – 15 ( pt.2)

A somewhat discombobulating thought popped into my head early – 5am early – this morning and has bedeviled my thoughts ever since. It’s the boa-constrictor of thought, the more I try not to think about it, to focus on other things, the stronger its hold. And probably today wasn’t the best day to have this thought, as I had a therapy session and given my many issues, I never leave feeling tip-top!

However. yesterday, as you are no doubt aware, Clive James died. Gushing tributes poured in, well deserved I’m sure. The common consensus was that he was a wonderful person, charming but modest. His death was the lead item on BBC R4’s ‘PM’ His death rather relegated that of Jonathan Miller’s sad demise into second place, which had it occurred on any other day, gushing tributes to him would’ve doubtless filled the airwaves. He too was accomplished.

his morning I was struck by the painful truism that my own sad demise will not be afforded the same treatment. The only thing that leapt to mind was me surviving multi-organ failure and a month in a medically induced coma, and even that was thanks the expert care I received; the medical staff did all the work, I just lay there. One would suppose that I’d be able channel this feeling of failure into a sudden burst of creative possibilities, but no, instead I’m writing a blog that hardly anyone will ever read.

My Election Notes 2019; E-Day – 15

To prevent  the risk of being accused of being something which I am not, let me say that what I am, which is pro-logic, pro-reason and basically against anything that doesn’t involve either some evidential proof or the use of one’s critical faculties. So it seems that o hate someone on a basis other than their personality makes as much sense as hating someone because of their blood group. Which is none at all.

Earlier today I thought of George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’, principally his assertion that,

It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

The reason I thought of that was because I was listening to the news yesterday and a Jewish man said that he feared for his families’ safety because of anti-Semitism, and that because of that, he was thinking of moving to Israel. I’m not suggesting his fear isn’t real, or that putting his families safety first is anything other than correct. What I am saying that thinking of moving from the UK to Israel is the very opposite of rational if you want to keep your family safe.

Israel’s in a part of the world where most of it’s neighbours wish it didn’t exist in the first place, it has been at war with one of them, been engaged in a near constant violent conflict with people’s in disputed territories it controls, an armed conflict supported with money and arms from a nearby country. One that has nuclear weapons and which Israel sees’s as a threat. And unless one is wealthy, or can get strings pulled, I’d wager that one would be housed close to those disputed territories, where safety is uncertain at best.

I could list yet more reasons I think why being in Israel is less safe than the being in the UK,  but then, I have the luxury of not feeling threatened, of not having a family to worry about. Perhaps when one has got more to lose, one loses one’s sense of perspective?

Perhaps.

My Election Notes 2019; E-Day – 16

 

Here’s the post I was going to write yesterday concerning three events that others might think unrelated, but to my mind are part of the same worrying trend. I write to my mind but then I have suffered brain damage….

A quick recap. The first concerned a high court judge permanently banning activists against LGBT equality lessons from demonstrating outside a Birmingham primary school. The second dealt with the chief rabbi strongly criticizing Labour, claiming the party wasn’t doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism and other faiths making supportive statements. Well here is the third,

Health secretary ‘looking seriously’ at compulsory vaccines for schoolchildren

The health secretary has said he is “looking very seriously” at making vaccinations compulsory for all children going to school in England.Some experts have suggested it may be necessary to address falling rates of immunisation and a surge in diseases like measles.

Matt Hancock told an event at the Tory conference he had taken legal advice this week on how to go about it. Unvaccinated children were “putting other children at risk”, he said.

The uptake of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine in particular has been declining in many countries. The reason is not clear. Rates dipped in the 1990s following publication of a report linking MMR to autism, but partly recovered after that research was discredited and disproved.

However, the volume of anti-vaccine sentiment on social media has been swelling and in March, the head of NHS England warned “vaccination deniers” were gaining traction online.

 

Of course they have! Why listen to health professionals with all their evidence and studies, a welter of demonstrable historical fact to support the absolute validity of the science, when instead its easier to believe something you’ve read and then shared online, because it ‘feels’ right? If something feels right and you believe in it, then isn’t your opinion just as valid as everyone else’s? In a word, no.

Granted there may be children who suffer adverse effects after being vaccinated, but is it circumstantial? Are there other causal links? Diet? Lifestyle? Pollution? I don’t know, but admit I don’t know.

He added: “The worst thing is if you don’t vaccinate your child and you can, then the person you are putting at risk is not only just your own child, but it’s also the child that can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Measles is highly infectious and can cause serious health complications, including damaging the lungs and brain. There were more than 82,500 cases in Europe in 2018 – the highest number in a decade and three times the total reported in 2017.

In England, the proportion of children receiving both doses of the MMR jab by their fifth birthday has fallen over the last four years to 87.2%. This is below the 95% said to provide “herd immunity”, the level considered by experts to protect a population from a disease.

 

To me, this story and the two yesterday are linked by not just by other peoples frankly idiotic beliefs, not just that some are considered more worthy of credence than others, but a selfish belief in the correctness of your belief. It baffles me that in the second decade of the 21st century religion isn’t a niche activity! The same stupidity informs people who are vaccination deniers, that despite all the evidence that comprehensively proves them wrong, they believe they’re right.

That people who believe in this nonsense – any religion, conspiracy theories and other guff – concerns me. Because not only are they having children who they’ll indoctrinate with this garbage, but it’s more that what other evidential fact will they ignore, because it doesn’t ‘feel’ real? Will they, for example think that climate change isn’t real? Or that if they break their arm, the worst thing they can do is to go to their local A&E and get it set in a plaster cast? See how that ‘feels’!

It’s like Horace Vandergelder as said “Ninety percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in danger of contamination.”

My Election Notes 2019; E-Day – 17 (pt.2)

Its not all doom and gloom, in the real world wonderful things happen, like this,

EuroMillions jackpot of £105m claimed by Selsey couple

A builder and a shop worker have been named as the winners of a £105m EuroMillions jackpot.

 Steve Thomson, 42, and his wife Lenka, 41, from West Sussex, were the sixth jackpot prize winners in the UK this year, operator Camelot said.

I must confess to being slightly disappointed when the winner’s of such a of such life changing amounts of money turn out to be so old that there’s hardly any life left in them to change.

But not these two! They’ re young enough to enjoy it to the full yet old enough to do so wisely.

Good luck to them but it seems they’ve been lucky enough as it is.

My Election Notes 2019; E-Day – 17

Shitting cock! There’s so much happening that I want to post about and it just adds and adds. For one there’s comparing the Brexit party ‘contract’ with the government’s own assessment of what a ‘no deal’ Brexit would entail, contained in its ‘Yellowhammer’ document. I might have to merge that with post with one about the Conservative manifesto, and it’s pleasingly re-assuring promise that all we have to do to ‘Get Brexit Done’ is vote Conservative, and compare that with comments by Ivan Rogers – until recently our top civil service wonk at the EU – on the likelihood of that happening.

Then there’s one on opinion polls, their skewing of the election narrative in the media because of the bandwagon effect. And another about whilst there are strict rules on traditional forms of political advertising – billboards, pamphlets, etc – and television adverts, online it’s free for all. Not to mention the W.H.O report on climate change which to my utter surprise, contained dire warnings if drastic action isn’t taken.

By tomorrow all these will have been pushed further down my to-post list because of another thing in this election campaign, in much the same way Jacob Rees-Mogg and his comments about the Grenfell tragedy seem to have slipped off the news agenda.

But instead I want to post about three events that may on the face of it seem wholly unrelated, but to me are not. But then, I am brain damaged, so…..

Birmingham anti-LGBT school protests: judge makes ban permanent

A high court judge has permanently banned activists against LGBT equality lessons from demonstrating outside a Birmingham primary school.

Protesters went head to head with a local authority during the five-day trial to stop protests outside Anderton Park school. The school, in the Sparkhill area of the city, has become the focus of a long campaign to halt LGBT equality messages being taught in the classroom.

Most of the protesters have been of Muslim faith and some have stood regularly outside the school chanting “Let kids be kids” and carrying placards with the message: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Following the five-day hearing in October, the high court judge Justice Mark Warby reserved his judgment until a later date. On Tuesday, he announced the verdict, saying an exclusion zone surrounding the school would remain in place permanently banning protesters from gathering outside the school.

Warby said protesters had grossly misrepresented what was being taught at the school and caused a significant adverse reaction to children, teachers and local residents.

 

Wait, was he seriously suggesting that protesters had deliberately misrepresented what was being taught to inflame the situation ? Claiming that teachings in a book written over 2,000 years ago thereby confers upon them some unquestionable moral authority in today’s society is so absurd as to be laughable. Actually any book written over 2,000 years ago is a product of its times and certainly not be used as an instruction on how to lives one’s life. I mean, we don’t use medieval medical treatments like blood letting, , now do we? And is it only me that finds it highly ironic that lesson’s about tolerance are being protested against by a religion who seek tolerance for themselves and their faith?

And then was this today as well,

Chief rabbi attacks Labour anti-Semitism record

The chief rabbi has strongly criticised Labour, claiming the party is not doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism – and asked people to “vote with their conscience” in the general election.

 In the Times, Ephraim Mirvis said “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root” in the party.

Which was followed up by this, as the BBC reported,

Here’s the council’s formal response to the chief rabbi’s criticism of Labour.

“As a faith community, we commonly are threatened by Islamophobia. This an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit,” it said.

British Muslims – whilst from the most disadvantaged communities and rarely allowed a voice in the public space – will listen to the chief rabbi and agree on the importance of voting with their conscience.”

 

And then for good measure, another peddler of fairy stories, added his ha’panny worth,

Justin Welby backs chief rabbi after Labour antisemitism remarks

The archbishop of Canterbury has in effect backed the chief rabbi’s comments on the Labour leadership’s record on antisemitism with a tweet highlighting the “deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews”.

 

 

This kind of solidarity between faith groups, supporting each other and seeing an alleged intolerance toward on one faith group somehow symptomatic of a wider societal problem of intolerance generally that affects them all is a new, and to an atheist like me, deeply worrying phenomena. Remember the outrage over ‘The Satanic Verses’? I don’t recall there being any concerted effort by other faiths to join in, seeing an attack on one as an attack on all. Same with ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’ – which I must say I thoroughly enjoyed – where was the solidarity there? Just because a lot of people believe in something, it doesn’t then give their beliefs legitimacy. Lots of people believe the earth is flat, or that U.F.O’s exist, or that Elvis is alive as well, does that make it true?

 

There was going to be a third thing but this post is too long as it is, so I’ll post it tomorrow. Unless of course something else catches my eye….

My Election Notes 2019: E-Day – 18

Last night provided me with the perfect illustration of how a series of known facts can, thanks to Twitter,  Facebook and other ‘social’ media platforms can easily be distorted or presented in such a way as to confirm pre-existing prejudices.

Last night, my house-mate showed me a video she had seen on Twitter. Apparently, when Foreign Secretary, Boris’s Johnson has visited Russia to visit the media mogul Eugene Lebedev at some parties.  The house where these parties took place was supposedly near some land owned by Vladimir Putin. These parties were, reported  John Sweeney with the earnestness befitting a man standing on a on a hill somewhere in a Russian forest, ‘Bunga Bunga parties! On one occasion, Johnson had gone without his police escort! Apparently MI6 thought presented potential problems.  Sweeney reassured us it was all true, cross his heart and hope to die true, because both the BBC and the Sunday Times had reported it.

I didn’t watch the entire video, but apparently Sarah Sands accompanied Johnson at least once, I was told, and she is now the editor of BBC R4 ‘Today’ programme, this proved something. Well to me it proved that before becoming editor of ‘Today’, she had formerly been editor of ‘The Standard’. a London newspaper owned by – cue drumroll – media mogul Eugene Lebedev and they were friends, and he was being friendly. And what to make of the claim that Putin owned some land nearby? Just because he owns it, doesn’t mean he uses it. He’s the President of Russia, I bet he owns lots of land there. Possibly for tax reasons, or possibly to preserve a natural woodland habitat. Who knows? I don’t and more importantly, neither does John Sweeney,  but that doesn’t stop him from planting the suspicion in our minds that something – no-one knows what – murky is going on.

Those parties that were like ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties? Talk about nudge-nudge, wink-wink! We all know – or think we know – what the ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties were all about. Hosted by the ageing crooner and former Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, and attended by older men and much younger women, they invariably turned into what happens when older men, alcohol, other illicit substances and younger women have a party.

We know what sort of a man Boris’s Johnson is. In fact, what sort of man would take his police escort to a party of that sort?

And as to Sweeney’s assertion that because the BBC and Sunday Times had reported on this, it had to be true, well if I was to learn that those articles had been written by him, shocked I would not be.

But that is the danger inherent with social media. Things that feel like they might be true, have a patina of credibility to them and re-enforce existing prejudices, regardless of truth, can be shared many times over by those in the same echo chamber.

But then I would write that, given that as I don’t have a smart ‘phone, I don’t get these videos sent to me. More importantly, even if I did, I like to delude myself that my natural cynicism, memory and critical thinking would help me interpret things differently. But here’s the thing, in this age of ‘fake news, is my delusion simply that!

Or, to be even more paranoid, am I meant to start doubting myself?

And just to prove how easy it is to present things out of context so as to give a false impression of the background leading up to it, who better to illustrate this point than John Sweeney himself. This is a trailer that the BBC put out for his ‘Panorama’ documentary, ‘Scientology and Me’, which shows him shouting and generally losing his temper in a not BBC way.  What we don’t see is the constant intimidation by the Scientologist’s that caused this. But what need have we in an age of Twitter, of context or nuance?

My Election Notes 2019; E-Day – 19

This post was meant to be about something else, but that something else will have to wait until tomorrow because I’ve spent too long converting a pdf. into a Word file. Whilst I imagine these things are simple if you know what you’re doing, I don’t and therefore it isn’t.

Anyway is it just me or has anyone else noticed the Nigel’s Farrago has somehow managed to pull off the same trick as Boris’s Johnson. And no, that isn’t a euphemism; much as I’m sure Boris’s Johnson is no stranger to being pulled off. And Donald Fart. Both being pulled off and pulling off the same trick.

How have they done this I mean it’s a clever thing to do and everything, but still, how?

In what possible universe are they outsiders, removed from the political class, that has consistently – as they would have the disenfranchised believe – ignored their political wants as somehow being not as deserving as others.

Possibly some of the blame lies with the mainstream media, which treated Donald Fart’s election campaign as a bit of a joke and therefore failed to subject him to anywhere near the same level of scrutiny as other candidates until it was too late. What do we know about Boris’s Johnson? I mean, really know. Granted, now he’s PM and fighting an election campaign, he’s being subjected to a level of scrutiny about his conduct that he has managed to keep hidden from the public and with good reason, as the public are not liking what they see. Did anyone else hear the boo’s that heralded his entrance onto the stage for BBC1’s ‘Question Time – Leaders Special’

But Nigel’s Farrago seems to have gotten a free pass. He appeared, fully formed and somehow able to channel people’s frustration into serving his own political ends. In fact, rather like Harold Saxon. For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Doctor Who’ Harold Saxon is an invention of the Doctors nemesis, ‘The Master’. Bear with me. Finding himself trapped on earth, he manufactures an identity, an entire history so as to launch a political career. Using mind control, he convinces people to think him good, without knowing why

Only he isn’t. And it’s only when it’s too late and becomes Prime Minister that people realise that.

But hey, ‘Doctor Who’ is only voguish science fiction, and besides, after announcing The Brexit party will not field candidates in over 300 seats, the best he can hope is to do is influence Boris’s Johnson, if he becomes Prime Minister. After all, we know “The Master’ can change gender, but can he?

My Election Notes 2019: E-Day – 20

I’ve read the Brexit party’s contract with the people, so called, because,

The old mainstream parties have made ‘manifesto’ a dirty word. Everybody knows that a manifesto is little more than a set of vague promises that its authors have no intention of keeping.

I think everyone with an I.Q larger than the radius of their kneecap can see the see that that.

And secondly, the contract, is, it pains me to admit it, a model of clarity, both in terms what it says and also how it is presented. Certainly it is a refreshingly easy read. If all of the manifesto’s published thus far were slimmer’s, then the Liberal Democrat and Labour one’s would be the before ‘photo’s and the Brexit party the after one’s. It says to voters ‘We’re different, we’re not tired, we’re dynamic and forward thinking and that’s why we want to make Britain great again. ‘

And up to a point one thinks ‘Yean, it all makes sense, it all seems fair and reasonable.” But then, rather like ‘those pesky meddling kids’ who thwarted the light-house keepers evil plan in ‘Scooby-Do’, you start wondering where on earth have those pesky little details gone? You know, the one’s that give a little substance to these bold claims. For example, they say they’ll

Phase out the BBC licence fee.

And replace it with what? A subscription model of some kind? Adverts? One is left wondering. And there’s more. A lot more detail free playing to the crowd bullshit. They want to,

Invest in our High Streets: alongside our reforms to Corporation Tax, we will replace business rates with a simpler system to assist small High Street retailers and leisure operators outside the M25, with any reductions funded by an online sales tax.

No-one can possibly disagree with investing in our High Streets! Apart that is, from the countless consumers who’d rather spend their hard-earned money to buy more, for less, online. Ah, an online sales tax, you say? That’ll work! Because the big online retailers like Amazon and eBay, not only are they more than happy to disclose how much profit they make in the UK, they want to pay tax! This has been well documented, both in the press and parliament.

There’s more detail free promises, like,

Invest in the NHS and Social Care: we need to keep investing in these essential and treasured public services — with more medical staff and less waste.

Well we can all agree with that. But read on a few pages further and you’ll find this,

We need to develop a National Health Service fit for the 21st Century. The Brexit Party believes in continued investment in the NHS, better management, increasing the number of medical staff and cutting waste. We want the NHS to be a beacon of excellent care. It was the Labour governments of Blair and Brown that burdened the NHS with billions of pounds of debt through their Private Finance Initiatives.

Mmm. Details, schemtails! Yes Blair and Brown did introduce P.F.I, into the N.H.S, no-one denies this, but it was and has been massively increased and aggressively pursued by successive ideologically driven free market Conservative governments.

The NHS must remain a publically-owned, comprehensive service that is free at the point of use. Your postcode should not determine your care or health.

Again, nothing contentious here. All good, yes? Er, no!

There should be no privatisation of the NHS; where existing private initiatives have failed to deliver we will return them to public ownership.

No one has ever mentioned the privatisaiton of the NHS. What is a concern though is the increasing tendency of NHS. Trusts being forced to sell off lucrative services to private providers. So yes, whilst,

The NHS must remain a publically-owned, comprehensive service that is free at the point of use.

It’s the lack of any detail of what they mean by privatisation. It’s not clear how all – not just some – of these services that the NHS currently provides will be paid for, who is going to be paid and how so called ‘Cinderella’ services – the not money-making one’s, the un-glamouress services most of use – be funded? Fine and everything if they’re ‘free at the point of use’ but if taxpayers money is boosting the profits of private companies, that money that could be put to greater use if it were re-invested in the NHS.

I was going to stop there, but then I spotted this promise of theirs to,

Introduce 24-hour GP surgeries to relieve the strain in A&E departments.

You mean they’re going to re-negotiate GP contracts? Does the trouble Jeremy Hunt had with junior doctors not ring any large fucking bells? That would be a walk in the park compared to incurring the wrath of a workforce whose members are already leaving in large numbers. And who would want to visit their GP at 2am?

I know I’m nit picking but it’s their fault, simplifying it and all, making it so easy to read and find fault with. What did they expect?

There are a lot of faults to be found and I haven’t finished finding them yet…

My Election Notes 2019: E-Day – 21 (pt.3)

Just watched ‘the BBC’s ‘Question Time – Leaders Special’ and my initial thoughts are these

Jeremy Corbinned looked as if someone a size too big had lent him that suit back-stage, like a boy wearing a new school uniform that his Mum says has a couple of years in it And he didn’t answer all the questions asked of him, rather, he did that politicians trick of answering the question he wished he’d been asked

Jo Swindle. It was nice to see her being called out on things the Lib Dems had helped the Tories push through when they were in coalition with them. Nice to see her voice go up an octave when she was challenged on reconciling being a democrat with revoking Article 50 and ignoring the wishes of 17.4 million people. Her response was basically, ‘We’ve been honest with what we believe….we’ve been honest and we don’t care what you think. I mean, we have to pretend like we do, but we don’t really

Boris’s Johnson walked onto the stage to the sound of boo’s. And it didn’t get much better from there. He looked so uncomfortable, so ill at ease, that he made Gordon Brown seem like a showman.

But the leader who impressed was Nicola Sturgone. She had command of the issues, tackled what could’ve been difficult questions head-on and left one with the abiding impression that if she was not out and out enjoying it, she was less terrified by it than the others.

It’ll be interesting to see what the press and social media make of it.

My Election Notes 2019: E-Day -21 (pt.2)

Just a quick one, as I’ve only got up, thanks to leaks in my bedroom last night, including one that woke me up by dripping onto my face! Exactly!

Anyway, Priti Patel made headlines yesterday with her claim that,

Tory government not to blame for poverty in UK

And she’s so right, in a cold factually correct way. How could they? They’re only policies after all. In much the same cold and factually correct way, guns don’t kill people either.

In both cases it’s how they are used that does the damage. And by who, on whom.