background preloader

Politics & Society: Social Comment

Facebook Twitter

Commentariat

Ffi's political analysis - All the news not fit to print - Piero Scaru. Rise up against the tyranny of the safety Nazis: Persecuted people of Britain! You've had your lives ruined by petty, nonsensical 'safety' rules. Now a brilliant new book explodes the myths. Often 'health and safety' is abused by private and public organisationsNow ID is needed if someone buying Christmas crackers looks under 16Most reasons given for not using mobiles on airplanes are bogus By Michael Hanlon and Tracey Brown Published: 21:09 GMT, 14 June 2014 | Updated: 11:42 GMT, 15 June 2014 Summer 2009.

One of us, Tracey, is standing at the back of a long and hot security queue to get into the House of Commons. She is wearing a jacket and carrying her handbag. From within, her mobile phone rings. ‘Get off that phone!’ ‘Er, hang on, why?’ ‘Because we all want to go home alive tonight!’ For your 'ealth an' safety: A new book looks at the way in which the seemingly unanswerable interests of 'safety and security' are being used and abused Exchanges like the one above are an increasing feature of modern life.

These rules are making life more complicated, more expensive and more frustrating than it needs to be. Terrorism? We are not arguing for danger. THE REALITY... 'We hear you’ is just pious codswallop. The Conservatives can play at this with the most confidence. So far as they are concerned, they emerged from the bloodbath with barely a scratch. All they need do is murmur a few attentive platitudes, re-affirm their promise of a renegotiation with a supposedly humbled EU, wait for the public hysteria to fade in the face of good economic news, and then face an utterly demoralised Labour party led by (ha, ha, ha) Mr Miliband. What’s to worry? If they beat Ukip in the Newark by-election – even if their 16,000 majority is drastically cut – they will privately (and possibly even publicly if they are particularly foolish) declare the present emergency officially over.

Their most urgent worry, bizarrely, is that the Lib Dems are now dead in the water, which leaves a lot of disenfranchised voters who could become a dangerously unknown quantity at the general election. Yes indeed, the Tories know how to manage this “crisis”. But what about the EU itself? Wrong again. In our own modest way, we’re living in a Boko Haram world. It seems that over the weekend, the BBC forced a well-regarded 67-year-old DJ on Radio Devon to resign because he had been so careless as to play a 1932 recording of The Sun Has Got His Hat On. This contained a word that is now unmentionable. It is rude, offensive, and I would never use it; but this word has become so intensely haram that a miasma attaches to anyone using it, even inadvertently; and the prohibition is now enforced with a semi-religious fervour.

When Jeremy Clarkson used it – or rather mumbled it, in an out-take never intended for broadcast – the drama went on for days. A clerisy of self-appointed internet witch-doctors went completely loco – or perhaps boko is the word. Clarkson apologised – entirely correctly. But that was not enough for the internet mob. Clarkson Haram! Harriet Harman called for him to be sacked. So when the BBC hierarchs heard about the latest goof, by a relatively unimportant DJ on Radio Devon, you can imagine that they were fit to be tied. Benghazi nuts, anti-vaxxers, birthers: Do they really buy their own nonsense? Why do people believe ridiculous things, in despite of all reason and proofs to the contrary? There are parents who allow their children to be vaccinated for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus, even though those diseases are much less harmful than their supposed cures. Despite mountains of evidence, some Americans refuse to accept that Obama was born in Kenya and that his father was Malcolm X.

And don’t get me started on 9/11. Yes, I’m just trying to get your attention. The fact is, we all view the world through a distorting lens of our own interests, prejudices and presuppositions. Just as snorers can’t hear themselves snore, the farthest-out claims of even the hardest-core conspiracy theorists don’t sound the least bit unhinged to their own ears.

The key word is “faith.” But whether they are sincere or not, why should anyone care what conspiracy theorists believe? For one thing, because their ideas — or the emotions that animate their ideas — influence real-world policy-making. You sexist/racist/liberal/elitist bastard! How dare you? While he was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tony Judt found the breath to educate those who believe they could ameliorate pain with soft words and bans on ‘inappropriate’ language. “You describe everyone as having the same chances when actually some people have more chances than others. And with this cheating language of equality deep inequality is allowed to happen much more easily.” Worry about whether you, or more pertinently anyone you wish to boss about, should say ‘person with special needs’ instead of ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’ instead of ‘mentally handicapped’ and you will enjoy a righteous glow.

You will not do anything, however, to provide health care and support to the mentally and physically handicapped, the old or the sick. As the late and much-missed Robert Hughes said, ‘We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism’. To which you could reply, what’s new? All true. Income segregation on the rise: Wealthy Americans with kids are isolating themselves, and poor families suffer. Since the suburban boom of the post–World War II era, parents of means have moved from cities to affluent areas with better schools. Despite what facile style section pieces tell you, this has long been a trend. But a new analysis of census data featured in the Wall Street Journal shows that wealthy people with kids are now twice as likely to segregate themselves from the poor than they were in the 1970s. Conversely, poor families now cluster together as well. According to an analysis of census data by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell University and Sean Reardon at Stanford University, the proportion of families living in affluent areas doubled from 1970 to 2009—it went from 7 to 15 percent.

At the same time, the percentage of families living in poor areas also more than doubled—it went from 8-18 percent. So what’s going on here? Why are more affluent Americans with children clustering together now than they did in the '70s? In Shutdown Washington, Women Are the Only Adults Left. This article appears in the October 28, 2013 issue of TIME under the title “The Last Politicians.” To subscribe to TIME magazine for $2.99 a month, please click here. At one of the darkest moments of the government shutdown, with markets dipping and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue hurling icy recriminations, Maine Republican Susan Collins went to the Senate floor to do two things that none of her colleagues had yet attempted. She refrained from partisan blame and proposed a plan to end the crisis.

“I ask my Democratic and Republican colleagues to come together,” Collins said on Oct. 8. “We can do it. Senate Appropriations Committee chair Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, happened to be standing nearby, and she soon picked up a microphone and joined in. As with most anything that happens on C-SPAN, the burst of bipartisan vibes was meant to send a message. It’s quite an irony that the U.S. Cigars and poker are out. (MORE: 11 Things You Don’t Know About the Senate Sisterhood) Devils in Red Dress. The Book of Mormon: Why the world’s most capitalist religion breeds so many entrepreneurs. By Hamish McKenzie On July 31, 2013 On a sunny summer’s day in Provo’s North Park, hundreds of children are out with their parents, lining up for pretzels, lining up for face painting, and lining up to pet sheep. On a stage set up in front of a children’s playground, a folk band entertains a crowd of smiling people in shorts and T-shirts.

At the park’s north end, men and women dressed in period costume sit on wooden chairs and embroider cloths by hand, spool yards of wool on a knitting wheel, or guide visitors around a pioneer village. It’s July 24, Pioneer Day, a state holiday in Utah. It marks the 166th anniversary of the arrival of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon settlers in Salt Lake Valley. Pushed out of Illinois and Missouri by suspicious locals, the group of 1,600 pioneers established a new colony in an inhospitable region of mountainous scrublands. Pioneer Day celebrates that resilient spirit.

The results of that “feeling” are becoming apparent. The Man at the Center of the Princess Diana Conspiracy. The anti-Kiev rebels are getting ready for battle by arresting “spies” and interrogating reporters while looking over their shoulders for support from Moscow. SLOVYANSK, Ukraine—When he threw his head back, shaking it in disbelief that such a question could be asked, the real menace of the former Soviet military officer came through. One of his gold teeth glinted in the light as he sneered. Why was he holding a pro-Ukrainian woman activist?

She who had been led blindfolded into detention on Sunday evening. “I have information she is a spy,” said Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the pro-Russian militant leader in Slovyansk, a rust-belt industrial town on a tributary of the Donets River an hour’s drive from the Russian border. The pro-Ukrainian activist, who had taken part in the February protests in Kiev that led to the ouster of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, is among seven others, including a charity worker, currently being detained in Slovyansk by Ponomaryov and his masked gunmen. Ross Andersen – Humanity's deep future. Sometimes, when you dig into the Earth, past its surface and into the crustal layers, omens appear. In 1676, Oxford professor Robert Plot was putting the final touches on his masterwork, The Natural History of Oxfordshire, when he received a strange gift from a friend. The gift was a fossil, a chipped-off section of bone dug from a local quarry of limestone.

Plot recognised it as a femur at once, but he was puzzled by its extraordinary size. The fossil was only a fragment, the knobby end of the original thigh bone, but it weighed more than 20 lbs (nine kilos). Plot’s fossil was the first dinosaur bone to appear in the scientific literature, but many have followed it, out of the rocky depths and onto museum pedestals, where today they stand erect, symbols of a radical and haunting notion: a set of wildly different creatures once ruled this Earth, until something mysterious ripped them clean out of existence. There are good reasons for any species to think darkly of its own extinction. "Still, God Helps You" The extraordinary story of William Mawwin, sold into slavery at the age of 6.

It is Monday morning in Phoenix, Arizona, and 33-year-old William Mawwin is getting dressed for school. His right arm is an old prosthetic the color of Hershey’s syrup. The prosthetic has begun to hurt him, but he cannot afford a new one. On his left hand, four fingers are missing down to the second knuckle. His naked back and chest are welted with raised, pinkish scars, some from beatings, others from burns. More scars, from knife wounds and skin grafts, map his body.

In the slow, careful way he has taught himself, he puts on socks, jeans, a neatly ironed shirt, dress shoes with pointed tips. Across from his bedroom, a guest room stands empty except for a twin bed and a chest of drawers. He does not look forward to school holidays, to spring or winter breaks. All videos courtesy of Ed and Carlos Ashhurst.

The evening I formally met William and shook his hand, he was with his friend Edward Ashhurst, a filmmaker hoping to make a documentary about William’s life. Rice with insects in it. The Inside Story of Russia's Fight to Keep the U.N. Corrupt - By Colum Lynch. When U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi, Russia, they were supposed to discuss the civil war in Syria. But the Russian leader -- joined by his top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, and defense secretary, Sergei Shoigu -- suddenly changed the subject to more mundane matters. A series of U.N. reforms aimed at streamlining billions of dollars of spending on U.N. peacekeeping was posing a threat to Russia's commercial interests.

Putin and his national security team politely but firmly pressed the U.N. leader to back off, according to several senior U.N. -based sources briefed on the meeting. The high-level intervention on U.N. spending marked only the latest example of Russia flexing its diplomatic muscle to protect its commercial position at the United Nations.

For much of the past decade, Russia has been engaged in a systematic effort to stymie attempts to root out corruption in U.N. spending. Despite Dwyer's claim, the U.N.' The mad fuss over Reginald D Hunter's stand-up routine shows how divorced from reality the PC lobby has become. Reginald D Hunter, the black American comedian, is in very hot water for his stand-up routine at the annual shindig of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA). He peppered his performance with the n-word (something he’s very well known for doing) and also told jokes about Jews, women and Ireland. Now, the PFA is demanding its five-figure fee back, and outraged commentators are accusing Hunter of setting back the cause of anti-racism in football.

A Guardian writer says Hunter has made it that bit more difficult to "kick racism out of football" because in the future racist fans might defend their use of the n-word on the basis that "Hunter said it". Are these people serious? The fuss over Hunter's gags shows how borderline psychotic the culture of political correctness has become. This is bonkers. PC’s wrenching of words from the context in which they are uttered has reached its ridiculously logical conclusion in the world of football.

Memo to Iran’s apologists: President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. Has President Ahmadinejad ever denied the Holocaust? David Morrison, co-author with Peter Oborne of a new apologia on the Iranian ‘government’, appears to think that he has not. In a bizarre and disgraceful interview with the Telegraph, alongside his co-author, Morrison recites the main claim of their book – which is that the Iranian regime is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Oborne’s Telegraph colleague Con Coughlin too kindly skewers that claim as ‘delusional’. But even more alarming than that conspiracy theory of theirs is Morrison’s claim (uncorrected by Oborne, the Telegraph’s chief political commentator) that he has ‘never come across a statement from President Ahmadinejad saying that the Holocaust didn’t happen’.

‘Q: …for example held a conference to discuss the historical veracity of the Holocaust.David Morrison: I’m not sure whether the conference actually said that.’ Really? Going on, the interviewer tries to correct Morrison’s claim by saying: No, not ‘may be right’. I Am Not This Body. Anxiety: We worry. A gallery of contributors count the ways. We live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom: our body. — Marcel Proust Every time I look at my face in a magnified mirror in a hotel bathroom, I jump back in surprise. Seen closely, my skin looks like the surface of a strange planet. Ridges and canyons pock my chin and lips. Forests of tiny hairs grow from my ear lobes. Whatever comes from inside the body is like a foul messenger from the underworld, whom we fear to encounter.

I do not identify with my body. Last summer I visited the beach on a busy holiday weekend. Plato called the body the prison of the soul. Stéphane Blanquet Ever since the first man and woman sewed fig leaves for their loins, human beings have been embarrassed by their bodies. We are especially embarrassed by the inside of our bodies. Like our buttocks, breasts and genitals, all our interior regions are private parts. Squeamishness about bodies contributes much to the fear of death. Margaret Heffernan: An Epidemic of Wilful Blindness: Savile, Armstrong, LIBOR, HSBC... Eric Hobsbawm: He hated Britain and excused Stalin's genocide. But was he a traitor too? The west's hypocrisy over Pussy Riot is breathtaking | Simon Jenkins. Mail Online - Euroseptic: Mary Ellen Synon in Brussels.

What was punishment in the Bible is reality in Britain | Alexander Boot. The crumbling Coalition is being torn apart by the post-Budget Public Spending Review.