sir_guinglain: (Tom)

Comic Strips! Features! Pin-Ups!

May. 31st, 2016 12:50 pm
[personal profile] sir_guinglain
Memories of the first few months of Doctor Who Magazine, when it was Doctor Who Weekly, at The Event Library.
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Posted by Mark Valladares

I may be the candidate in a by-election, but I still have other commitments, and one of those is to accompany Ros to events. A Friday in North Walsham might not be everybody's idea of a 'day off', but I enjoy travelling with Ros when she does school visits as part if the Lord Speaker's "Peers in Schools" program.

And so, we set off mid-morning for the lengthy drive up the A140, across the A47 southern by-pass and across country past the eastern fringes of Norwich before joining the road to North Walsham, where Ros was scheduled to speak to the Year 8 students as part of their series of inspirational speakers.

Having had a healthy lunch, we arrived in good time and were introduced to the headmaster. We also had the company of Andy Newman, who does PR for a group of local schools, and was also covering the story for the local press. And, as we were having tea (and I was avoiding the flapjacks), it dawned on me that this might be an old university colleague. So, I turned to him.

"Were you at UEA in the mid-eighties?". "Yes.", he replied. "In EUR?" "Yes". And then I asked some fairly personal questions, to his increasing bemusement, before introducing myself properly. Andy and I were, indeed, at UEA together, and I had visited him whilst he was on a year abroad, teaching in a lycee in Cambrai. It was one of those coincidences that seems to happen more often than is credible.

Ros gave her presentation, before opening the floor to questions, her favourite part of the session. But don't believe me when I say how good she is at this, read the report for yourself...

All too soon, it was over, and we had to get back to Suffolk - there were postal voter letters to fold and stuff into envelopes. I'm pretty good at folding things, I have a good eye for size, and I'm content to carry out routine, repetitive tasks. I'm even quite quick (it's all those years as a civil servant that develop such a skill set). And, between the two of us, it didn't take too long to have them all ready for delivery.

A key weekend for the campaign lay ahead...
andrewducker: (Default)

Interesting Links for 31-05-2016

May. 31st, 2016 12:00 pm

Buy the Brexit Pig – in a poke!

May. 31st, 2016 09:43 am
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Posted by David Allen


It’s the chance of a lifetime!  Roll up, in your millions!  Come and buy our beautiful Brexit Pig – in a poke!

When Brexit wins, June 24th will be a Golden Dawn*!  Our Prime Minister, Whoever that might be, will soon show Angela Merkel who’s boss!

  • What’s that you say? We’re going to let Cameron stay on?  But that will be disastrous, he’ll drag his feet, it’ll all go pear-shaped!  Surely we need to tell the nation that it’ll be Our Man?
  • What’s that you say? That there’d be chaos, Boris slugging it out with Gove, the Opposition parties threatening to bring down the government?  It’s a nightmare!  What can we tell the public?  I know!  Let’s tell them nothing!  Let’s dodge the question, say nothing at all about who will lead us out of Europe, and hope they don’t notice the problem.  Keep that pig firmly in its poke!

Anyway, our Prime Minister Whoever will know exactly how to deal with Europe.  It certainly won’t be like Norway!

  • What’s that you say? That Cameron is bound to go for the Norway approach, which comes closest to no-change?  Keep quiet about that.  We haven’t told the public who Prime Minister Whoever will be, remember!  Keep that pig firmly in its poke!

It won’t be like Switzerland, or Canada, or Albania!  It won’t be like anything on Earth!

  • What’s that you say? You don’t think we’re just making it all up on the hoof, do you?

We will take back control!  Like Canute, we will be able to hold back the tide of EU migrants!

  • What’s that you say? That the EU won’t let us do that unless we also leave the single market, and we’ve promised that our trade won’t get hit?  And, our business funders actually want plenty of cheap immigrant labour?  Hey, we can deal with this dilemma!  We won’t promise to cut migration.  We’ll just promise to be capable of cutting it!  Keep that pig firmly in its poke!

We are naturally collaborative and peace-loving.  Just see how our three rival Out campaigns love peace!  We will quickly and amicably forge new trading partnerships – with the Colonies, with the Frogs, with everyone we don’t rub up the wrong way…

  • What’s that you say? Funny way to do it, by kicking them all in the teeth, and unilaterally tearing up all the agreements they spent years hammering out with us?  You think it might be slow and difficult?  Don’t say that!  Keep that pig firmly in its poke!

Vote for patriotism!  You know, true patriots always stand alone, like General Galtieri, not together with Allies, like Churchill did!

Vote for democracy!  You know, leaving the European Parliament would be a massive leap forward for British democracy, wouldn’t it?

Vote with your heart!  Vote with your skinful!  Vote with your oats!  Whatever you do, don’t vote with your brain, because that means paying attention to facts!  And (slow down, get very serious now)… Remember, there are no such things as facts!  Facts are for nerds.  Facts are scaremongering.  Like Donald Trump, we Brexiters proudly put forward no real facts at all!

On June 23rd, trust us.  Take a leap in the dark.  Buy the Brexit Pig in a Poke!

( * – Memo, must ask Panos why he suggested that phrase “Golden Dawn”.)


* David Allen is a member of the Rushcliffe Local Party and has been a member of the Lib Dems or its (SDP) predecessor since 1981

Today’s fun email

May. 31st, 2016 09:35 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Dear Sir,

I have 150% of the world’s annual consumption of an element. I wish to sell it. Could you tell me who might like to buy it?

The 404 Song: lyrics and background

May. 31st, 2016 09:30 am
[syndicated profile] bloggerheads_feed

Posted by Tim Ireland

Here’s the fourth music video from The Cautionary Campfire Songbook (Amazon (UK) | Amazon (US)), and the associated album produced in conjunction with Koit: Cautionary Campfire Songs (Amazon | Google Play | iTunes). This one teaches the listener/viewer the steps one should take if they encounter a 404 error, and want to find a copy of the missing page or item.

How did this song come about? Well, I was bouncing some new song ideas around in my head, found myself wondering what could possibly redeem the widely-despised ‘Kumbaya’, quickly arrived at the answer of ‘nothing’… and here we are.

The video goes into detail about the measures you should take if you go to download a web page or similar file and discover that it is missing, but the song alone should be enough to get most people started, even if they’re reduced to asking Google what a ‘Wayback’ is.

My favourite thing about this song is its calming lamentational quality: it prepares you emotionally for your feelings of loss while offering a glimmer of hope about what might yet be found by following a series of logical investigative steps.


Page is missing, Lord
Page is missing, Lord
Page is missing, Lord
Oh Lord, 404

Use the site-search, Lord
Use the site-search, Lord
Use the site-search, Lord
Oh Lord, 404

Check the Google cache
Check the Google cache
Check the Google cache
Oh Lord, 404

Check on Wayback, Lord
Check on Wayback, Lord
Check on Wayback, Lord
Oh Lord, 404

Was it mirrored, Lord?
Was it mirrored, Lord?
Was it mirrored, Lord?
Oh Lord, 404

Did someone save it, Lord?
Did someone save it, Lord?
Did someone save it, Lord?
Oh Lord, 404

Gone forever, Lord
Gone forever, Lord
Gone forever, Lord
Oh Lord, 404

miss_s_b: (Default)

The Blood is the Life for 31-05-2016

May. 31st, 2016 11:00 am
[personal profile] miss_s_b
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Michael Gove and Boris Jonson have announced that only if Britain votes to get out of this pesky European Union will it be possible to reduce or eliminate VAT on domestic fuel bills. They’re entirely correct on this. Others are pointing out that this is rather fantasy economics: which, sadly, it rather is. There’re many good reasons for Britain to leave the EU and I fully support the idea itself. It’s just that reducing VAT on those domestic fuel bills isn’t one of them. This thus might be excellent politics but the economics does look rather fantastical:

BORIS Johnson and Michael Gove today promise to scrap VAT on household energy bills if Britain backs a Brexit.

In the first cash sweetener of the EU Referendum campaign, they argue that leaving the EU will allow ministers to bin the “unfair and damaging” £2 billion a year tax on gas and electricity prices.

Writing exclusively for the Sun, the Tory “Out” campaigners promise: “Fuel bills will be lower for everyone.”

Their argument is as follows:

In a pitch aimed at working-class voters, t hey said: “In 1993, VAT on household energy bills was imposed. This makes gas and electricity much more expensive.
“EU rules mean we cannot take VAT off those bills. The least wealthy are hit particularly hard. As a proportion, the poorest households spend three times more of their income on household energy bills than the richest households spend.
“As long as we are in the EU, we are not allowed to cut this tax. When we vote Leave, we will be able to scrap this unfair and damaging tax.
“It isn’t right that unelected bureaucrats in Brussels impose taxes on the poorest while elected British politicians can do nothing about it.”

That’s all entirely correct. The EU has certain rules about VAT. And once you’ve imposed VAT on something then you’re not allowed, subject to those rules, to exempt that same thing from VAT in the future. This is what is causing all those problems about VAT on tampons. We actually need to get the agreement of all 28 other countries that we might be able to make tampons VAT free. It’s not a sensible way to run a continent, obviously, but that’s the way that it is.

However, whether it would be sensible to eliminate VAT on domestic fuel is another matter:

“More fantasy economics from Vote Leave: leaving EU would lead to smaller economy, a hole in public finances and higher taxes – like higher VAT,” George Osborne said.

Not that I’m going to believe anything Osborne says, obviously. However, lowering VAT on domestic fuel isn’t the way to go, not the way to go at all. Instead we should be increasing it.

Yes, increasing it.

Because the big point here is climate change. And no, I obviously don’t buy into the idea that London is going to be underwater next Tuesday afternoon. But it is a real problem, one we should do something about. And that thing is a carbon tax. And in the absence of that we should at least not have preferential tax rates for the consumption of fossil fuels. Which the current, low and special, VAT rate on domestic fuels obviously is. Thus we should end that reduced rate and tax domestic fuels at the normal VAT rate.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

It’s one of the basic contentions of a certain political stance that capitalism turns us all merely into wage slaves. Fortunately we also have rather better definitions of what slavery is and can thus measure its true prevalence. As Andrew Forrest (the Australian mining billionaire) has done through his Walk Free Foundation. The Global Slavery Index 2016 has just been published and can be found here. And far from us in the capitalist and free market societies being slaves there is a very definite correlation between abject poverty, socialism and slavery. This is also causal, not just correlative. Capitalism is known as the best way of making a place rich and so that deals with the poverty angle. Capitalism is of course not socialism and that rather takes care of that. And there’s also a further good reason why capitalism and slavery are antagonistic: there’s more profit to be made out of paid labour than there is out of slave labour in a richer society. Thus the answer to that slavery that still exists is the continuation of this neoliberal globalisation project: the aim and purpose of which is to bring economic development to all corners of the Earth.

There are some people who are not quite reading this report correctly:

Andrew Forrest puts world’s richest countries on notice: Global Slavery Index

Well, no, not really.

The research, conducted by Gallup, estimated 4300 people in Australia are living in slavery with Mr Forrest identifying food production and the sex industry as two areas vulnerable to the exploitation of workers.
“From the food processing industry in the eastern states to the tomato growing industry in Western Australia, we have unfortunately discovered that forced labour exists in Australia,” the Fortescue Metals Group chairman said. “There is also forced prostitution.”

Any slavery at all is of course too much of it. So 4300 people is 4300 too many. But this is not really a warning to the rich countries at all. Because while Australia might have 4300 too many cases that is not actually where the problem is concentrated. Rather, the global distribution is:

Almost 46 million people are living as slaves globally with the greatest number in India but the highest prevalence of slavery in North Korea, according to the third Global Slavery Index released on Tuesday.
The index, by Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation, increased its estimate of people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labour to 45.8 million from 35.8 million in 2014.

India is a vast place with large areas of the most desperate rural poverty. North Korea of course a socialist hell hole which explains the prevalence there.

The highly secretive country of North Korea had the highest prevalence with 4.37% of its population enslaved, followed by Uzbekistan at 3.97% and Cambodia with 1.65%.

India has the highest number of modern slaves with an estimated 18.35 million followed by China with 3.39 million and Pakistan with 2.13 million.

Poverty and socialism: the two things which capitalism cures remarkably well.

Worth making a point about their definitions. “Trafficking” is one of those words with a malleable meaning. As I described it here:

And not just because they rather gloss over the two meanings of “trafficking” that are used in the debate.

Those two meanings are as follows:

1) The transport of unwilling people (usually women, but of course can at times be either men or children) into forced prostitution. This is of course illegal everywhere: it’s repeated rape just as a very start. It is also vile and we should indeed be doing everything possible to stamp it out.

2) The illegal movement of willing people across borders to enter the sex trade. Strange as it may seem there really are people who desire to be prostitutes. People would, other things being equal, similarly like to be in a country where they get a lot of money for their trade rather than very little. Given these two we wouldn’t be surprised if people from poorer countries, who wish to be in the sex trade, will move from those poorer countries to richer countries. And such is the system of immigration laws that many of them will be unable to do this legally: just as with so many who wish to enter other trades and professions in the rich world. You can make your own mind up about the morality of this but it is obviously entirely different from definition 1).

This report, absolutely correctly, uses that first definition. They are properly recording the incidence of slavery, not just illegal working or the illegal crossing of borders. We can also see this in their actual numbers. For the UK for example, they estimate 11,700. That’s obviously 11,700 too many but it’s also very different from the absurd claims we’ve had that every prostitute in the country (all 80,000 of them) is a sex slave or trafficking victim, or the even more absurd one that that there’s 100,000 Vietnamese alone slaves working in nail bars.

Actually looking at the numbers (it’s better to use proportion rather than absolute numbers, both are presented here) there is the anomaly of North Korea which is just about the only Stalinist state left. Then the rest of the list can be (roughly of course, not wholly accurately) correlated with GDP per capita. The poorer a place the higher the portion in slavery, the richer the lesser. We all wish it were possible to achieve a perfect result of course but that’s unlikely in human affairs. The “North Atlantic” nations (usually defined as Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan and S Korea now being added for a very strange geographic expression but a useful economic one) are all described as having prevalence rates of 0.2% or lower (and yes, of course, 0.2% is too high by 0.2%) while distinctly poorer places have rates of 1.0% or higher. The correlation is very strong here.

supergee: (bs)

What we have to take seriously

May. 31st, 2016 05:54 am
[personal profile] supergee
James Fallows summarizes mass media reaction to the Republican candidate:
“Donald Trump said yesterday that two was a larger number than five. Let’s examine why this is not true….”

Salami slicing TTIP

May. 31st, 2016 08:41 am
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Posted by Jon

Oh TTIP. That great hope to rescue the transatlantic alliance. Or that scary fear of deregulation. Or both. Or neither?

Juncker is worried, apparently. The Commission is putting pressure on the USA, supposedly. New Austrian President Van Der Bellen says he is against it. Merkel and Obama say they are saving it. Fekl and the French government can’t seem to quite make up their minds about it. Meanwhile Greenpeace publishes TTIP leaks, which the Commission calls a storm in a teacup. Meanwhile the Commission cannot any longer put a number of the economic benefits of it, so we end up talking about tactics and the politics of it instead.


We need a bit of sense here. It looks to me like the Commission (and the EU Member States) have learnt the lesson of the ACTA – little attention to the deal, and then all of a suddent it was rejected by the European Parliament. With regard to TTIP there is so much attention to the issue on all sides that it seems excessive. However so much energy and time has been invested in it so as to make some sort of TTIP almost inevitable – for nothing to now emerge looks like a major failure of the transatlantic alliance. The tactics of TTIP opponents therefore need to be two-pronged – to maintain the argument against TTIP per se, if that is indeed the judged to be the right approach. But beyond that, I have come to the conclusion that a salami slicing tactic is the right approach – take TTIP apart, piece by piece, until the pernicious things have been removed from it. TTIP leaks is therefore really helpful in that regard – the more that is publicly known about the nature of the deal the more it can be scrutinised, analysed, and – ultimately – weakened. And then strike a deal at the end of the day as a face saving measure.

Some cool reflection is also going to be needed about the time frame. Forget 2016 (there’s a US election, and we don’t know what is going to happen in the UK’s referendum). Forget 2017 (there’s a German and a French election). Sign it in 2018 as a kind of measly crowning achievement of Juncker’s Commission Presidency. By then it ought to be so gutted of content and meaning so as to be harmless.

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Posted by Tim Harford

Undercover Economist

‘Composers, novelists and film directors try to end on a high. Restaurants keen to manipulate their online reviews have found a similar trick’

Many years ago, I listened to a string quartet perform a challenging piece of contemporary music. The piece, we were told, represented a journey of suffering and redemption. It would descend into discordant screeching for nearly 20 minutes before finally resolving harmoniously. The small concert hall was packed — there were even people seated on stage behind the performers — so there was little choice but to stick it out.

Everything unfolded as promised. The performance sounded like a succession of cats being tossed into a food processor. Eventually, though, the dissonance became resonance, the chaos became calm. It was beautiful.

But then came a sound that had not been in the score; the electronic peal of a mobile phone rang out across the tranquil auditorium. To make matters worse, the beeping arpeggios were emerging from the pocket of an audience member who was sitting on the stage. He was so close to the performers that he could easily have been downed by a solid backhand swing with the viola. It must have been tempting.

The music had been ruined. But it’s curious that 20 minutes of listening can be redeemed or destroyed by what happened in a few moments at the conclusion.

Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and Nobel laureate, tells a similar story about a man enraptured by a symphony recording that is ruined by a hideous screech — a scratch on the vinyl — in the final moments.

“But the experience was not actually ruined,” writes Kahneman, “only the memory of it.” After all, both concerts were almost complete when interrupted. The lived experience had been unblemished until the final moments. The remembered experience was awful.

When we recall things — a concert, a holiday, a bout of flu — we do not play out the recollection minute by minute like a movie in our minds. Instead, we tell ourselves a little story about what happened. And these stories have their own logic in which the order of events makes a difference.

Consider Jenson Button’s 2009 season in Formula One. The British racing driver easily outpaced his rivals in the first seven races of the season, building a vast lead. Then, as the relative performance of the cars changed, Button failed to win any of the remaining 10 races. His rival Sebastian Vettel couldn’t quite catch him, though, and Button became champion with a limp fifth place finish in the penultimate race. One pundit defended Button against his many doubters with the feeble line: “There have been many less gifted world champions than Jenson Button.”

But imagine if the order of results had been reversed. After being beaten in almost every one of the first 10 races by Vettel, Button would have mounted a magnificent comeback, sealing his world championship with a victory in the final race. The same results in a different order would have told a very different story. And the story matters.

Kahneman and his colleagues have run a number of experiments testing these ideas. In one, people were asked to hold one hand in painfully cold water for 60 seconds. Some subjects then had to keep their hand in the water for another 30 seconds while a hidden valve released fractionally warmer water. So, which experience was worse: 60 seconds of pain, or 60 seconds of pain followed by 30 seconds of somewhat lesser pain? The experimental subjects preferred the longer experience with the happier ending.

In another study with Don Redelmeier, Kahneman surveyed colonoscopy patients every 60 seconds while they underwent a distinctly uncomfortable procedure, producing a minute-by-minute record of just how painful the colonoscopy was. Then, Redelmeier and Kahneman asked the patients “the total amount of pain” they had experienced. The responses were strongly correlated with the average of two factors: the pain experienced at the worst moment, and the pain experienced at the end.

This is summarised as the “peak-end” rule. Our memories of experiences are governed by — of course — the most memorable things about them. Had the doctor left the probe inside the patient, without prodding around, for an extra 10 minutes, the final moments wouldn’t have felt too bad and the entire memory of the procedure would have been less grim.

No wonder Jenson Button’s 2009 season seemed mediocre: his peak performances were great but his final performances less so. And no wonder that disruptive mobile phone was so aggravating: since the best moment of the music came at the end, one ringtone managed to spoil both the peak and the end.

Of course, it is no coincidence that the best bit of the music was at the finale: composers, like novelists and film directors, try to end on a high.

Restaurants keen to manipulate their online reviews have discovered a similar trick: twice recently I’ve dined at restaurants in unfamiliar towns that were highly rated on TripAdvisor. Both times, the food was good but unremarkable. Both times, the proprietor pressed gifts upon us as we left — a free glass of grappa, a nice corkscrew. It seems that when people thought back and wrote their reviews, they remembered this pleasant send-off. That makes sense: if you want people to remember you fondly, it’s best to engineer things so that the last thing they remember of you is something other than signing a bill.

Written for and first published at

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Posted by Trevor Pott

Don't step out of this house if that's the code you're gonna wear

Sysadmin Blog  Perhaps the greatest lie ever told is that the many are powerless against the few. This is rarely, if ever, true, yet is something that we are told every day of our lives until we believe it. This is especially the case when it comes to IT.…

[personal profile] naraht
First chapter of seven in the new Return to Night WWII story, which takes the tale of Hilary's revived surgical career into 1940. Part of this series. I will try not to keep people waiting too long between instalments, but given the time of year it seemed appropriate to start posting now.

The bells of hell (2784 words) by Naraht
Chapters: 1/7
Fandom: Return to Night - Mary Renault, The Charioteer - Mary Renault, Purposes of Love - Mary Renault, North Face - Mary Renault
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Hilary Mansell, Donald Scot-Hallard, Ralph Lanyon, Alec Deacon, Miss Fisher, Original Male Character(s), Original Female Character(s)
Additional Tags: 1940s, World War II, Hospitals, Medical Procedures
Series: Part 3 of The bells of hell
Summary: Dunkirk and the Blitz shake Bridstow City Hospital, while a war of the sexes is fought inside the hospital walls. But for Hilary nothing is more important than passing her Fellowship exams.

Inequality Street

May. 31st, 2016 07:43 am
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Posted by Mary Reid

inequality street 4Six years ago my ideas about inequality in society were given a jolt by the publication of a book with the intriguing title ‘The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone‘, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The authors – both academics – drew on research from many sources to show that societies in which there are huge variations in income are bad for everyone, rich or poor, and that more equal societies benefit all their members.

We might expect inequality to have an impact on factors such as life expectancy and educational performance, but the authors observed its effects in some surprising areas of life, from obesity (‘wider income gaps = wider waists’) to teenage births. And in each case the effect was seen right across the income spectrum. The sobering truth is that, amongst the developed nations, the UK is one of the more unequal countries.

I organise the Social Liberal Forum annual conference, and this year we thought it would be interesting to revisit some of these seminal ideas. Responding to the level of interest in the book when it was published in 2010, the authors set up The Equality Trust to carry forward their work, and we have worked with the Trust in putting the programme together.  We have given it the title ‘Inequality Street’, and it will happen on 16th July in London.

An article by Shiv Malik in The Guardian caught our eye recently. It has the challenging title ‘Why inequality is not the root of all evil‘, and we are delighted that he has responded to our invitation to engage in a debate with Prateek Buch.

A number of current parliamentarians will also be speaking (Norman Lamb, Lindsay Northover, Claire Tyler, Jonny Oates) as well as party members and invited guests such as Neal Lawson from Compass and Simon Howard from United Kingdom Sustainable Investment & Finance Association. Vince Cable will give the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture.

The Social Liberal Forum Conference is always a good day of debate, reflection and socialising. You don’t have to be a member of the Social Liberal Forum in order to attend – indeed the conference is designed to be of interest to all Liberal Democrats.

Further details and registration are here. The Early Bird rate ends today so now would be a good time to book your place.

* Mary Reid is the Monday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.

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Posted by Mark Valladares

Canvassing can be a bit grim sometimes, especially if you appear to be knocking on a lot of doors without actually meeting too many people. It is, if you like, one of the curses of modern life. We commute further than we used to. Couples both have jobs, and commitments. Their friends and families are further afield than once they might have been. And it isn't just a problem for urban campaigners, it impacts on those of us in villages too.

However, if you're lucky enough to have a group of people who are willing to come out with you, a lot more ground can be covered, and a lot more voter data gathered. And, Mid Suffolk Liberal Democrats, especially members in Bosmere, have been very supportive, as always.

It has also provided an opportunity for some of our newer members to gain some campaign experience, as it can only be easier if you start by working with a more experienced fellow Liberal Democrat.

And so, a group of us met up at Needham Market and headed off into Barking and Somersham. On arrival, we split up into three groups and hit the doorsteps. And yes, there were a lot of people who weren't in, but we met enough people and heard their issues. Speeding, planning issues, people are only to happy to talk about them if you give them the opportunity to do so.

My day ended at Barking Village Hall, where I was attending the Parish Council AGM. Unlike in Baylham, there wasn't a huge crowd, but there was a group of committed Parish Councillors, working hard to serve their community, and our County Councillor, Julia Truelove, who continues to demonstrate her commitment to the myriad Parishes that she represents.

So far, I've been the only one of the four candidates to attend any of the three Parish Council events thus far - Baylham, Offton and Willisham, and Barking (I've made all three). It wasn't because I was invited, it was because I took the trouble to find out when they were taking place, and made time to get to them.

If I am lucky enough to win on 2 June, they'll be seeing a lot more of me...

No, But We Have a Word For That, Pt 2

May. 31st, 2016 06:56 am
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Belle Waring

Right, so, The NYT has an article on how DNA analysis is helping African-Americans learn about their family history. The author’s grasp on the English language seems to slip away from them at one point (originally two), though. Exhibit A:

Buried in DNA, the researchers found the marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slave owners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves.

MmmmmmOK. This one was changed in an update! Because it sucked before:

The researchers observed that the X chromosome of African-Americans has a greater African ancestry than other chromosomes. Dr. Gravel and his colleagues believe this variation is explained by European men and African women producing children — in other words, slave owners raping the women they held captive.

Thanks for explaining what happens when a rape victim and her rapist “produce children”! Because rape is totally the exact actual word we should use when someone coerces someone else into having sex with him against her will. That might be mebbe by, like, standing right over the person with an axe handle, or else could be something more like keeping your own children enslaved in America so that she couldn’t escape you in France (coughJeffersoncough).

Now, I do understand that people have a general unwillingness to say things like, “noted statesman and confirmed serial rapist Thomas Jefferson exercised extraordinary taste in designing his home.” It just…it just sounds real, real bad. But when talking about slaveowners generally, what is with the “fathered children” thing? Or, let’s grant that people are reluctant even to say that about such a huge number of white citizens often thought to be morally adequate in some vague way as a class (I’m not really seeing it, but, eh.). Nonetheless, even when it comes to the most universally loathed men in the world, like Josef Fritzl, I have noticed a strong inclination for writers to say that someone “fathered children with” their rape victim. At the time of the case, particularly, I found it disturbing to read these words so many times: “fathered children.”

John’s hypothesis was that, to some degree, the rapine part of slavery is baked into the enslavement, with the result that further rape doesn’t seem like the most salient thing? (He was not looking for weird justifications for this abuse of language, just speculating.) About abductors…mmm…same, sort of? Like, the kidnapping is the part where volition goes out the window, and then all further activities are assumed to be unwilling and there’s therefore no need to specifically say raped many times afterward? But I don’t hear it that way. Quite the opposite. Rather, it seems as if people think you can only be raped so many times before…something other than rape is taking place? Or, perhaps, the “was she kicking and screaming” element that is meant to pick out rape rape infects the way people discuss rapes that don’t involve physical violence every single time?

I can easily imagine a lived complexity in which Sally Hemings had some power in her relationship with Thomas Jefferson, emotional power or even sexual power of a kind. But this is something for a novelist to talk about—a journalist or historian needs to say “raped” again even for the 200th instance of forced sexual relations. And “fathered” is just weird and messed-up sounding, redolent of horse-breeding. I do feel things have improved in the last five years. I notice it particularly in reading sites like the (nominally?) feminist Jezebel—commenters will always correct quoted articles of this kind to include the word rape, and I do feel people notice.

“Buried in DNA, the researchers found concrete evidence of slavery’s cruelties, including the fact that enslaved women often became pregnant as the result of being repeatedly raped by their white masters.” Is that even any harder to say, or is it just more unpleasant to read? Thoughts?

We Have a Word For That, Pt. 1

May. 31st, 2016 06:09 am
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Belle Waring

The NYT has an interesting article on how DNA analysis is helping African-Americans
(especially in the south) discover more about the carefully erased history of their families. Most people need to know at least the name of the white families who enslaved their forebears in order to make much progress, but as more information is digitized and collated this can become easier. I ran across this article about an informal genealogy research group in Savannah when I was searching for something else. The list of references includes the ‘Joseph Frederick Waring II papers,’ MS 1275:

Contains 35 items on African-American churches (not dated); 18 items on African-American members of the Republican Party of Georgia from 1867-1869; slave bills of sale from 1856-1859; a list of slaves from 1859, leases to African-Americans from 1865-1866, and a letter from 1851 which discusses a fugitive slave riot.

There’s also the less morally disturbing ‘Antonio J. Waring Collection, MS 1287,’ which contains “The Case of the Africans,” discussing the slave trade from 1817-1820. These two references, and an earlier note from the ‘Joseph Vallence Beven papers,’ MS 71, which, “[c]ontains correspondence dating from 1787 between George Mathews, Thomas Pinckney, and General James Jackson concerning armed fugitive slaves” brought two things home to me.

One, my brother’s friend Tom Pinckney, and a ton of Macintyre’s live along the stretch of the May River within a half-mile from my house. Pretty sure there’s even a Ravenel up in there closer to town. There are zero black families along that stretch of the river. This is obviously morally wrong. However did this inequity arise? At least I don’t go around explaining how I never benefited materially from chattel slavery because my family all emigrated from Ireland 12 minutes ago and were treated exactly like black slaves, except for not being owned outright or made legally sub-human or subject to the dreaded ‘one drop of Irish blood’ test, or even the ‘are you lighter than this piece of A4 typing paper on which I spattered some watered-down sepia ink from a toothbrush’ test. That’s a pretty low bar, though. It’s not exactly “take all thou hast, and give to the poor”-type stuff. More like, “I’m not an aggressive dickweasel! Yay me! Please give me some benne brittle!” Mmmm, tastes like exploitation of West Africa.

Two, the history of slavery in America is always taught as if there was little to no resistance from slaves. I have wondered about that plenty, thinking, when S.C. was 80% black, how in God’s name did white people keep from getting straight murdered all the time? I mean, “by using inhumanly savage violent repression,” obviously, but even so I thought there would be more “whoops, the plantation house caught on fire and nobody could get out mumble because people were standing outside in a circle armed with hoes and axes mumble.” But I’m starting to think that the slavers’ nightmare happened much more than I think, but the news of it was repressed as savagely as the small rebellions, so as to keep anybody from getting any ideas. OK, this wasn’t actually my initial point at all but it is worth considering, so I’ll just break this post up for easier commentatin’.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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