[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As we go into release week for Lock In, a quick look at some reviews of the book from the last several days, all positive (hooray!):

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[T]here must be magic (defined here as a combination of skill, vision and intuition) behind Scalzi’s talent for turning out one compulsively readable book after another. Reading his novels is like watching the finest episodes of your favorite sci-fi series, with provocative ideas, high-stakes conflicts, gripping action scenes and a leavening touch of humor.”

Austin American-Statesman (registration required): 

Lock In actually works best as a smart novel about the future of disability, about the moment when those whose physical bodies have failed them have the chance to become human-plus and the jealousy and resentment that could engender in everyone else.”

Washington Post:

“Witty banter between Shane and partner keep the novel from becoming too philosophical while exploring what it means to live a virtual existence.”

20Something Reads:

Lock In is a fast and thrilling read, with plenty of character development to support a satisfyingly twisty plot.”

So far so good.

[syndicated profile] uk_polling_report_feed

Posted by Anthony Wells

The monthly ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror is out tonight. Topline figures with changes from their previous online poll are CON 32%(+1), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 18%(+1): no significant change from a month ago.

ComRes also did a batch of favourable or unfavourable questions. As usual no one actually got a positive rating – the least unfavourable was David Cameron (minus 18), followed by Nigel Farage (minus 21), Ed Miliband (minus 34) and Nick Clegg (minus 43). For the political parties the Conservatives and Labour were both on minus 16, UKIP were on minus 19, the Liberal Democrats on minus 40.

Having the Conservative party and Labour party viewed equally unfavourably is unusual. Whatever the ups and downs of day-to-day politics, the Labour party is normally seen more positively than the Conservative people (people see Labour as having it’s heart in the right place in a way the Tory party doesn’t). As ever, it’s just one poll so unless other polls start showing the same I wouldn’t get too excited.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

The ComRes online poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror is out. 

Is the Tories’ toxicity no longer an issue?

ComRes note

“the poll’s Favourability Index finds that the Conservative Party is viewed more favourably than Labour for the first time, suggesting that the Tory brand is now seen as no more “toxic” than the Labour one.”

On a net basis, the Blues and Reds are tied, as ever this is just one poll, and we’ll need to see further polling, but if this remains the case, then the nasty toxic Tories meme may have been negated, and the tactical anti-Tory vote at the General Election might not be so much of an issue next time?

On the Leaders’ favourability ratings

On Expectations for the next government

Agree Disagree Don’t know
Labour is likely to be in government after the General Election next year 32% 33% 36%
The Conservatives are likely to be in government after the General Election next year 28% 36% 35%
The Liberal Democrats are likely to be in government after the General Election next year 7% 68%   25%


On events in the Middle East, ComRes note

More than half of the British public (55 per cent) think that if the “Islamic State” continues its advance into Iraq unchecked then it will pose a direct threat to security on British streets.

Most Britons (51 per cent) disagree that it is possible for a prime minister to make good decisions about international crises via a BlackBerry, as David Cameron claimed this week.

The poll found more support (40 per cent) than opposition (29 per cent) for British intervention around the world with military force if necessary in cases of humanitarian emergency.

Despite this, there is little support for Britain to do more in the region. Just 26 per cent of Britons think the emergence of the “Islamic State” shows that Britain withdrew from Iraq prematurely; 39 per cent disagree. Similarly, 26 per cent think the situation in Iraq means that Britain should consider delaying the current plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, compared to 40% who disagree.


ComRes interviewed 2,058 GB adults online between 20 and 22 August 2014


[syndicated profile] love_and_liberty_feed

Posted by Alex Wilcock

Will Peter Capaldi know how to fly the TARDIS in an hour’s time? Take a Deep Breath!

We’re thrilled looking forward to the new Doctor, and an old monster. Sixty-seven million years old (today).

It’s not the first time dinosaurs have savaged London (and I’m not talking Boris vs Ken). Doctor Who history includes the 1974 story Invasion of the Dinosaurs, featuring Jon Pertwee and, as I’ve written before… Some problems. But it also boasts one of the most fabulous book covers (and onomatopoeic effects) ever devised.

Doctor Who: The New Adventures – Blood Heat is a more thrilling if more obscure 1993 story published as part of the brilliant continuing book range that kept the series and Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor alive in the 1990s. It even features Silurians, too! But the cover of Jim Mortimore’s novel, while thrilling, isn’t quite as awesome as that of Malcolm Hulke’s novelisation from 1976. So I’ve drawn a very subtle bonus feature to fix that. I think you’ll agree it was just what it needed.

I don’t know what tonight’s story will bring us, aside of course from another Tyrannosaur in the capital and a Doctor who’s at last not hiding his age, but I hope it’ll be every bit as exciting as its two predecessors. Now all they need is to commission a book version and a proper painted cover – both Chris Achilleos and Jeff Cummins are still around. There’s only one way to decide which… FIGHT!




See it in an hour.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, Henry Rollins wrote a piece in LA Weekly called “Fuck Suicide,” in which he basically engages in a bit of “tough love” victim-blaming. This caused the world to drop on Henry Rollins’ head (here’s a fairly representative sample). Henry Rollins, to his credit, has offered up a reasonably decent apology, and plans to follow up in the same forum where the original piece ran. So that’s good, so far. Apologies are hard and hard to do well, and I think he hits the basics (and for those who don’t know, here are what I think are the basics).

A number of years ago a girl who I knew in high school committed suicide in college, in a way that at the time I thought was astoundingly dramatic. For years, when I thought of her at all, I was kind of pissed off at her. I thought of all the people she hurt with her actions, and I thought that fundamentally, what she had done was selfish and stupid and designed to get her attention that she thought she was owed and now would not be able to appreciate because she was dead — not that I thought she had thought about what would happen after she committed suicide. So that was my thinking about her, like I said, for years.

And then somewhere along the way, and I don’t remember when precisely it was, I realized that someone in this scenario was indeed an asshole, it’s just that I was putting the finger on the wrong person. The asshole was me. Because in fact I knew nothing about what was going on her head, or how much pain she may have been in, knew very little about depression or how it works on people — basically I knew nothing, period, about anything relevant. All I knew were my own opinions, based on my own life experience, in which neither suicidal thoughts, nor depression outside of a few occasional bad days, had ever featured. I wasn’t qualified to judge. Life is one long process of discovery about just how little you know about pretty much everything, and that includes people and the insides of their heads.

When I think of this young woman now, I mostly, simply, feel sad. I wish there would have been a way she could have seen her way through to sticking around. And I’m sorry that I spent years generally being pissed off at her. It was wrong of me, and it didn’t do either of us any good.

This is my way of saying that I get why Henry Rollins wrote what he did, and why he was the asshole in that scenario, and why I’m pleased, in that vague way that one is when thinking about people more famous than you, whose work you’ve enjoyed, that he’s accepted that he blew it and is trying to walk it back. As I’ve said many times, we all show our ass from time to time. I certainly have. What you do after you show your ass matters.

My daydreams are all of salads now

Aug. 23rd, 2014 11:50 am
[personal profile] strangecharm
I always forget that, after a couple of days here, I'm just hungry all the goddam time.

There's no protein here, except in the meat I have to eat which makes me sick, but there's hardly even any vegetables. The only one I've had since I've gotten here is corn on the cob.
[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Rebecca Watson

Support more videos like this at Patreon!

No Gods No Masters tee available on Skeptical Robot (remember to take 50% off with code hellyeah50 at checkout)!


In a previous video, I talk about the science of false rape allegations. One point I made was that the vast minority of rape allegations – at most 8% but probably more likely close to 2% – are false allegations. This is one piece of evidence that you should use when trying to determine if a rape allegation is false.

This fact caused a lot of otherwise sensible people to lose their minds. I found it very interesting, because these tended to be skeptics who accept this exact same idea without question if you don’t mention the topic of rape. For instance, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a phrase that skeptics love to throw around. What this means is that if something has a very small likelihood of happening, you need a proportionally large amount of evidence to convince you that it may be so. The odds that John Edward is actually talking to the dead are incredibly low, so in order to believe it we ask that he provide a proportionally impressive demonstration to convince us.

But because we’re talking about rape and not psychics, suddenly many skeptics abandon their belief that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and instead demand that no claims be considered extraordinary based upon their odds of happening.

Another common skeptical phrase is “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” This comes from Dr. Theodore Woodward, a professor at the Unversity of Maryland School of Medicine. He was conveying to his interns that they should bias their thinking toward what is most likely to be so – not all medical conditions are equally likely to occur, so a doctor should be biased toward a common condition while keeping the more rare conditions in mind.

Skeptics use the “zebra” metaphor quite often when discussing topics like ghosts. Is it more likely that the knocking you hear at night is a ghost, or an old furnace? A sensible person will start from the assumption that it’s an old furnace, and go from there.

But again, when you use the topic of rape, many otherwise skeptical people will argue that you should remain perfectly unbiased as to whether those hoofbeats are horses or zebras, or whether that illness is a cold or lupus.

Obviously there’s a reason why this is so: if you are raised in a society that believes that ghosts are just as likely as old furnaces, then you will balk at the idea that you should be forced to provide overwhelming evidence that the knocking is your dead Grandfather.

And if you are raised in a society that believes that false rape allegations are just as likely as true rape allegations, then you will balk at the idea that you should be forced to provide overwhelming evidence that an alleged rape victim is lying.

Now to be clear for the pedants, I don’t think that false rape allegations are as likely as your dead Grandfather knocking on your walls, and so I don’t think that a person should need to provide enough evidence to overturn the laws of physics in order to prove a false rape allegation. I simply think you need to look for enough evidence to overcome the 98-to-2 odds, just as you would want to see those stripes before determining if that really is a zebra or not.

legionseagle: (Default)

In praise of Dorothea Callum

Aug. 23rd, 2014 08:55 am
[personal profile] legionseagle
There were a couple of mentions of Arthur Ransome flying past at Worldcon - one in the Sense of Wonder in Children's SF panel, where he was mentioned in passing as being superb at invoking sense of wonder in a non-SFF context ("I couldn't stand the books," Farah Mendelsohn added). Then my happenstance encounter with @ActuallyAisha led me to her blog Practically Marzipan which I've been diving into periodically ever since, as I've temporarily surfaced from the awful con-crud from which I've been suffering*. Passing mentions of Arthur Ransome there also reminded me of one of my favourite heroines in all fiction, Dorothea Callum. And so this post.

Oddly enough, Dorothea doesn't appear in either of my two favourite Arthur Ransome stories, We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea and Missee Lee. In the latter case, it's probably because a meeting between Missee Lee, a woman who saves a prisoner's life purely by the deployment of weaponised etiquette, and either of the Callums, whose innate politeness has the GA saying, "My own fault" within a minute and a half of meeting them, would probably create some sort of synergyistic energy loop which would destroy worlds.

But she does appear in this charming crossover fic Pieces by constantlearner, which begins "The Viscountess St George was homeless, unemployed and widowed." Dorothea, of course, being the Viscountess St George in question.

But why Dorothea? Well, she's intelligent, sympathetic, sensitive, has a rich and varied inner life and still has a lot to learn. She's a very quick study, but the fact we see and share the learning process makes her more human - more real - than characters who seem to have been born knowing how to light a fire in the rain with a single match and no newspaper.

Also, her victories, being painful and worked for, are therefore all the more real.

Read more... )

*I was reading Ziegler's The Black Death on the DLR to and from ExCel once I finished Robert Harris' An Officer and a Spy. The combination of Ziegler and concrud did have me thinking, "It appears cases were already being noted at or in the immediate aftermath of DWCon, in Manchester, but these went almost unremarked. So, before symptoms made themselves manifest, many who had been exposed in DWCon moved onwards, following the customary summer migrations of their peoples, on to Worldcon. With them the disease travelled too, an invisible and deadly passenger...."

** Her finest hour, for the reasons I will explain

*** I suspect that the unfinished fragment, Coots in the North may have been abandoned precisely because crossing the streams in this way doesn't work.

**** Including at school work. Both the Ds actually enjoy intellectual pursuits, which is a rare thing in children's literature - at least, not to have the narrative voice present it as a defect or at least an oddity.

***** A middle-class boy does something in book 1 which is technically criminal albeit done for the best of motives and, after some sticky moments, gets away with it. In book 2 his working-class friends are framed for acts of the same type which because of their class (their parents, who believe in their innocence, are limited in their ability to act on that belief because the "victim" of many of the acts is their employer and it's the Depression) neither the police nor the local community are prepared to let them get away with.
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Austria, not Fife

Fife Today reports:

Concerns have been raised over an SNP councillor’s ability to serve his constituency – because he lives and works in Austria, it is claimed.

Cllr Arthur Morrison, who represents Kirkcaldy East, draws a salary of £16,234 but in 2013/14 turned up to just seven of 47 committee meetings for which he is a member.

ince April 1 this year, he has attended only two more…

The Press attempted to contact him through various channels – including email – but all met with no response.

Cllr Kay Carrington, who also represents the ward, revealed: “Around 20 per cent of calls to me are by people who have failed to reach him.”

The Scotsman adds:

Mr Morrison said: “I try to get back every four or five weeks – usually five, I tend to miss all the major meetings.

“My goal is to take work in Austria to Kirkcaldy and to try to create employment.

“I used to hold surgeries, but for the last year I haven’t. It’s difficult to get back a short with costs of £3,000 to £4,000. Most of my [council] salary goes on expenses to fly back to Kirkcaldy.

“The SNP are concerned. It’s not a happy situation and it tears me apart.”

[personal profile] kareila posting in [site community profile] dw_dev
There will not be a dev chat meeting today unless someone else shows up for me to talk to, because Mark and Fu are on vacation.

However, I will be around trying to hack on DW stuff for the next few hours, so come find me if you want to pick my brain about anything.

The next scheduled meeting time is on Saturday, September 6, at 12 pm EDT.
[syndicated profile] liberal_bureaucracy_feed

Posted by Mark Valladares

Yesterday, I caught up with the first three elected Interim Peers lists, as elected by Federal Conference delegates in 1999, 2004 and 2006. Today, it's time to move on to the 2008 list, and the 2010 'top-up' list that went with it.

Here's the 2008 list, in order of election;
  1. Brian Paddick - count 1 (1 August 2013)
  2. Duncan Brack - count 1
  3. Viv Bingham - count 1
  4. Ramesh Dewan - count 1
  5. Ben Stoneham - count 1 (19 November 2010)
  6. Julie Smith - count 1 (8 August 2014)
  7. Jonathan Fryer - count 1
  8. Gordon Lishman - count 1
  9. David Williams - count 1
  10. Catherine Bearder - count 2
  11. Jonathan Marks - count 2 (19 November 2010)
  12. Chris White - count 3
  13. Jock Gallagher - count 4
  14. Ruth Coleman - count 4
  15. Jackie Pearcey - count 5
  16. Justice McGuinness - count 6
  17. James Kempton - count 6
  18. Bill le Breton - count 7
  19. Robert Adamson - count 15
  20. Josephine Hayes - count 23
  21. Peter Price - count 27
  22. Qassim Afzal - count 27
  23. Monroe Palmer - count 27 (19 November 2010)
  24. Fiyaz Mughal - count 29
  25. Bernard Greaves - count 30
  26. Jane Smithard - count 31
  27. Alan Sherwell - count 31
  28. Jeremy Ambache - count 31
  29. John Stevens - count 31
  30. Tony Vickers - count 31

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Mark Valladares

Crown photo by trainjasonIn his recent article in Liberal Democrat Voice, Liberal Democrat Party President refers to a review of the Party’s disciplinary procedures, carried out by a senior barrister, Diya Sen Gupta, and goes on to say;

She has now made recommendations to us and I am determined that we will implement these as quickly as possible.

Now call me a stickler for process if you will, but where does Tim get off making such a statement? After all, authority over membership matters is a State Party matter, not a Federal one, and changes to the Membership Rules require the agreement of the relevant bodies – in England, the English Council – through a vote.

And what are these changes that Tim is determined to make? I don’t know, he didn’t actually say. For all I know, they may be just fine, although every constitutional change that I have ever encountered promises to make everything better, even if it turns out that they haven’t, and require further change later on.

But what intrigues me more than anything is that, with just one exception, most of the comments are about the use of the phrase ‘gold standard’, and one might assume from this that the members and activists who read Liberal Democrat Voice have decided that Tim can be blindly trusted. Now, Tim’s a decent chap, means well and all that, but an expert on disciplinary procedure? And are we the sort of people prone to saying, “He’s a decent chap, we’ll just let him change the Party’s procedures”, after a case where not only did the process seem to let us down, but where too many people seemed to think that interfering with it whilst it was underway was a sensible thing to do – and yes, I mean you, Mr Clegg.

And, for the record, I take the view that, just as in the judicial process, the executive should not interfere, in a disciplinary process, the party leadership should do likewise – it’s about trusting the rules you set up and relying on the checks and balances that you build into them. And, if the processes have failed, rather than delivering an outcome you don’t like (not always the same thing), seek changes.

So, Tim, tell us what these proposed changes are, and ask us to approve them. If they are fit for purpose, we almost certainly will. But promising something that you can’t personally deliver is one of the things that got the Party into its current hole, and until we understand that, it’s hardly likely to get better…

* Mark Valladares is a former Regional Secretary in both London and the East of England, and designed the disciplinary process for the latter once upon a time.

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

Photo by trainjason

[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Daniela

The Chief of Protocol for the city of Brussels has been arrested for taking off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions. She has made an official complaint as she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings got caught in her veil. Since the veil is banned in the country, she was fined and might face up to 7 days in prison.

The head of a radical Muslim Group issued a fatwa calling for the killing and gouging out the eyes of Aminetou Mint El Moctar, a human rights activist working for the rights of women and children in Mauritania. The fatwa was ssued after she spoke out in defense of a man accused of apostasy

Despite the country’s Catholic majority and history, Spaniards are choosing not to marry by the church. The number of Catholic weddings, has been steadily declined and is now only 30% of all marriages.

Sierra Leone’s 365 Ebola deaths traced back to one healer who claimed to have powers to heal the disease. After “treating” Guineans who crossed into Sierra Leone to seek treatment, she caught the disease and died. People who went to her funeral got infected and spread the virus to their own villages.
On a related note, here is an interesting article on how and why Ebola is affecting more women than men.

The first Church of Satan has officially registered as a legal entity in Ukraine. The Church of Satan is a religious organization dedicated to the philosophy of LaVeyan Satanism as codified in The Satanic Bible.

Featured image: Church of Satan service in the Ukraine.

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Portsmouth - Spinnaker Tower. Image courtesy of http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1511600 - some rights reservedq

As PoliticsHome has reported, Gerald Vernon-Jackson is one of the three bidding to be the next Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate in Portsmouth South.

Former leader of the council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson is one of the party’s most skilled campaigners and led the council team there to a series of political gravity defying wins, until the Hancock scandals brought things crashing down this year.

On that affair, and the resulting demands from some that he stand down as council group leader, he told a local newspaper earlier in the year:

‘There aren’t any Lib Dem councillors calling for my resignation,’ he said.

‘If my colleagues wanted me to, then I would. So the people who have said it are my political opponents, and they do not wish to do anything that is supportive of us.

‘I accepted Mike’s word and I was totally wrong. I fired Mike from the cabinet and he fought tooth and nail against it, but I said no.’

[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Coincidences are funny.

I recently got an email from astrophotographer Teoh Hui Chieh, who was sending me several photos and a time-lapse animation she took near the volcano Mount Bromo in Indonesia. The shots are lovely, as you’ll see in a moment.

That very same day, about an hour or two later, I got an email from astrophotographer Thierry Legault, who was sending me several photos and a time-lapse animation he took near the volcano Mount Bromo in Indonesia. The shots are lovely, as you’ll see in a moment.

But what the what?

Yup. Coincidence. They don’t know each other, but they were both in that location around the same time, and shot remarkable images of the land- and skyscape.

Here is Hui Chieh’s time-lapse animation:

And here is Legault’s:

There’s no losing here; both are gorgeous. I love the shots of the volcano (Mount Semeru) venting steam as the stars whirl above it, and the lights from cars illuminating the fog below. If I saw such a scene in a movie I would have thought it fantasy! But it exists.

The image at the top of this post is from Hui Chieh. I’m so used to seeing star trails in the Northern Hemisphere, it took me a moment to realize that shows the south celestial pole! That’s impossible to see north of the equator, but this scene is at a latitude of about -8°, just south of the equator, so the southern sky’s pole is just barely above the horizon.

You can explore more of Hui Chieh’s photography on Flickr, and Legault’s (who has been on this blog many, many times) at his website.

As for the coincidence, well, they happen. It’s a big world, with countless things happening all the time. People who say, “I don’t believe in coincidences” (usually in the movies, when it so happens that events were not coincidental) in general just don’t have a good grasp of large number statistics. Given world enough, and time, unlikely events occur. Like having two world-class photographers send me pictures from the same spot at the same time. I’ll take it.

[personal profile] naraht
Metamorphosis (954 words) by Naraht
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Return to Night - Mary Renault
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Hilary Mansell/Julian Fleming
Characters: Hilary Mansell, Julian Fleming
Additional Tags: Gender or Sex Swap, Magical Realism

I could apply for surgical posts in all the London hospitals, she thought. I wouldn't even have to change my name.

(Written for the Trope Bingo amnesty.)
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Hannah Bettsworth

I’ve recently had the chance to work in the Scottish Parliament during August, and it’s been a really great experience. On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the final debate before recess, courtesy of Liam McArthur MSP. By the wonders of technology, you can watch it too.

It was an interesting experience. Alex Salmond took the opportunity to note all the good things the Scottish parliament had done, and attempt to be fair to other parties. He did actually manage this; however, his argument that the parliament has done some great things and made some mistakes could apply to every parliament across the world, including Westminster.

The tone of the SNP side was set when Salmond announced something along the lines of this being the first time the people of Scotland have had democratic control over their own destiny. Cue laughter and widespread derision from the opposition benches, as well as SNP applause.
He started talking about his childcare plans. As we already have the power to improve childcare in Scotland, it’s perfectly reasonable that Willie Rennie began to heckle him on the topic.

Johann Lamont set out a reasonable view of backing solidarity with people all across the UK, in a very Labour way. Two things particularly jumped out at me. Firstly, the fact that she wants to see a new non-party focused politics in Scotland, when it is her and Mr Salmond who are the problem in that regard, and secondly that she was stressing the importance of the Yes campaign accepting that if a No vote happened it would be the ‘settled will of the Scottish people’. So, Labour aren’t going to be happy with any further referendum attempts. Quite rightly. I never want to do this again.

Ruth Davidson gave a tour de force of a speech. It was like a student debate and the right wing one knows they’re going to get pilloried but speaks their mind anyway. She’s not wrong that the UK is a force for good in the world, and her description of losing the UK as like losing a key part of herself is exactly how I feel about my identity. I’m sure many Scots feel, as Ruth said, that Britain is not ‘broken, or bad, or wrong.’

It’s a shame that Willie Rennie had to begin his speech by tackling the, as he correctly described it, disgusting behaviour of the SNP members who had heckled Ruth as she spoke of her national identity. He went on to give a great speech reclaiming the language of change and of freedom from the Yes campaign. He’s wholly correct that a No vote is a vote of confidence in the Scottish people and our aspiration to work together to change the world. Although, if he keeps saying that when he cries freedom it’s for individual, not national freedom, I am actually going to get him to yell freedom at some point. Preferably immediately after a No vote on the 19th September.

In the end, we can all agree with Patrick Harvie – perhaps not economically, or about oil, but about his timely reminder of Margo McDonald’s words about being opponents but never enemies. The debate really showed us that if it’s a new politics we want – the people who embodied that on Thursday were Willie, Ruth and Patrick.


* Hannah Bettsworth is a member of Edinburgh University Liberal Democrats and of the Executive of Scottish Liberal Democrat Women.

Politicians' biases

Aug. 23rd, 2014 12:57 pm
[syndicated profile] chris_dillow_feed

Posted by chris dillow

All professions - yes, even economists - tend to have a biased perspective on the world; the French call this deformation professionnelle. Reading Theresa May's proposals to combat Muslim "radicalization" reminded me that politicians are prone to such biases too.

I say this because they are selected to have certain dispositions. It costs time and money to enter politics, and success does not necessarily go to the most meritorious. This means that politicians, even more than others, will tend to be over-optimistic. Also, you tend to enter politics if you think policy can make a difference. This tends (there are exceptions) to select against those with an Oakeshottian conservative disposition, who believe that bounded rationality plus the innate imperfections of human nature mean that some social evils cannot be eradicated.

There's a third selection effect. Politicians are selected for their emphasis upon rhetoric and persuasion. Many would-be pols were active in the Oxford Union. But if you emphasize some things, you naturally de-emphasize others. And one of these other things might be the dull grunt work of day-to-day policy implementation; the soaring rhetoric of Winston Churchill excites more admiration among politicians than the quiet administrative ability of Stafford Cripps or Norman Fowler.

This is where Ms May comes in. These raise some obvious questions: do we really want to keep potential terrorists in the UK where they can cause trouble here rather than let them kill themselves in Syria? If the security services devote resources to people plotting terrorism overseas mightn't they be distracted from those plotting terrorism here? Might a clampdown on "radicalism" reinforce some Muslims' perceptions that the west is at war with Islam and so encourage some hotheads into terrorism? Wouldn't such actions suggest to some that the "western value" of free speech is mere hypocrisy, thus further antagonizing some Muslims? (Nelson Jones has likened May's proposals to the Six Acts).

Now, like pretty much everyone else who bloviates upon these issues, I don't know how strong these objections are. But I do know that revenge effects are common in the social sciences. And I fear that politicians might be underweighting them because of their deformation professionnelle.

I stress that I'm not making a partisan point here. One thing for which this goverment deserves more credit than it gets is a lack of the legislative hyper-activism of the New Labour years. And Npower's claim that it hasn't cut gas prices for fear of a price freeze under a Labour government is - if true - an example of how Labour has under-estimated the power of revenge effects.

However, it's not just politicians who should be blamed here. So too should be voters (and the media). The tendency to regard politics in the spirit of partisans cheering for one side or another distracts us from some fundamental questions, such as: what can politicions actually achieve?

andrewducker: (No Time Travel)

Would you like to see the future?

Aug. 23rd, 2014 12:57 pm
[personal profile] andrewducker
This is a marvellous look at the future I've seen as inevitable for quite some time now. If you want a glimpse of how society is going to be turned upside down over the next 15-or-so years, then it's mandatory viewing.

(The bit I'm _really_ looking forward to is the 15 years after that. But that's a topic for another day...)
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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August 2014

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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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