To be honest we’ll sack you

23 05 2011

I hesitate before writing this.  I don’t wish to convey, in the least, that I imagine a utopian society where lying is acceptable, encouraged or seen as inevitable.  It isn’t.  I also think we live in a society that is distinctly not a utopia.  To improve the world, you have to work with systems that are in place.  Societal norms must be used even as they are not accepted and work is done to change them.

It aggravates me to hear people complain about politicians lying to them, or if not lying, then being less than 100% honest about their views, when the merest slip of the tongue, no matter how valid, honest or accurate the opinion, will get them fired (or much flak to that effect).

I think people need to perhaps consider that it is their attitudes that, in effect force politicians to be less than wholesome with the truth.  I challenge anyone reading this to imagine a politician being totally honest and keeping their job.  To not evade a question, to give complete answers, to share both the negative and positive sides of their policies and political positions, and retain even a hope of re-election.

Would you trust a politician who lacked the sense to conceal elements of the truth given the current state of our society, the bias of the media and the unwillingness of people to do read behind the headlines?  I wouldn’t vote for someone who was so naive.  Would you?

Is it then the politicians who can’t be trusted, or we who in effect, with our vote, are asking them “please lie to us”?

#seriously





Thanks to everyone!

9 05 2011

I just wanted to write and say thank you to everyone who voted for me and also for my fellow candidates (big shout out to Mark Collins, Rebecca Taylor, Brian Stone & Paul Elgood!) in the recent local elections.  On top of that, a huge thank you to everyone who voted YES to AV- it’s a real shame that the British public came out so strongly against electoral reform (I can’t believe Brighton voted no!).  I think Sam Power deserves great respect for his tireless efforts as the man “on the ground” for the local YES campaign.

I think we ran a great campaign- Mark & Rebecca really showed me a great deal about how to build and run a campaign (see Becky’s post on the result here), and I felt the enthusiasm and dedication of the YES campaign was really inspiring and made me feel happy to be a part of it.

A final, most sincere thank you to Lawrence Eke who (it felt at times) single handedly built and captained the Liberal ship in Brighton & Hove.  You’re  a champ!

And what next?

EDIT – here are the election results for the city and for my ward in particular





Is sustainable growth an impossibility?

11 01 2011

Let me open with a small proviso: this post is far more theoretical in nature than the typical fare on this blog, so take as many pinches of salt with it as you wish.  I wrote it some time ago, but am prompted to post it now in response to what I feel is a complementary view on it by Paul Krugman on his blog over at the NY Times.  Whilst I don’t feel the fundamentals of the arguments are similar (they aren’t), I nonetheless feel that we are discussing the same idea: in short, that what people see as economic “growth” is, in my view at least, unnecessarily blinkered, when in reality it is people’s choices of what they value that creates wealth and growth.  Those choices are not pre-decided and can and will be revised as circumstances change.

Is sustainable growth an impossibility?

In short: no it is not.  While sustained growth of a given (real world) variable under certain conditions can certainly be shown to be impossible (or at the best existing only as a limit), the potential for as-yet-unimagined avenues for growth and change mean that growth can theoretically be sustained infinitely.

Example:

Malthus originally published his ideas in Europe at the end of the 18th century, and while his point that population increases in geometric progression (i.e. exponentially) has been borne out, that has yet to produce the implied catastrophe.  Now while the argument can be made that it either a) has occurred (or is occurring) but in non-obvious mean or b) is definitely going to occur, I purport instead that changes in human society which are impossible to predict will avert this outcome.

Fundamentally humankind is a highly adaptable organism, equally we are driven by the profit motive.  As the need for sustaining increasing population (i.e. preventing food riots/famine) outweighs the profit made by not altering the status quo (current cash crop profits, supermarkets forcing low purchase prices via monopsony) then humankind will veer towards alternative solutions, which at that point will be economically sensible and thus worthy of investment.

A second argument is that repeatedly throughout history technologically advancement has significantly changed the face of our civilisation, beyond what could have been imagined in previous generations.  While sci-fi authors of the 50s have accurately imagined some of the developments of the ensuing half-century, I nonetheless feel that people who believe in the “singularity” are validated by the notion that to people of Malthus’ time, we are already in a culture so totally different from their own that it would be impossible for them to imagine it; our “future” being unpredictable and qualitatively different from [their] “today”.  Thus it is impossible to say that growth cannot be sustained indefinitely, only that particular types of growth cannot be.

Humanity has consistently discovered deeper and more underlying fundamentals of the universe (or potential multiverse) in which we inhabit.  The eventual harnessing of those fundamentals generally involves a paradigm shift (an exponential increase) in the energy capacity of our civilisation.

Example: elements, underlying the development of chemistry, allowing for a huge increase in output of energy and economy.  Atomic structure, allowing us access to the strong nuclear force via fission and fusion, both of which pale in comparison to the potential energy output from matter/antimatter collisions.  However even our current understanding of the fundamental forces (which would imply an upper limit on energy production (e.g. harnessing all the energy from all stars in the universe)) may be flawed.  It may be that the creation of parallel universes via big bangs whose entire energy output can be channelled into our own is achievable.  I do not say this because I think it likely, but more to point out that history demonstrates that our understanding of reality, and what is really possible, fundamentally shifts, and with increasing regularity.

Example: if humankind digitises, our capacity for growth would increase exponentially- our requirements for sustenance would no longer be organic and thus the ability of the earth to produce subsistence level food would be irrelevant.  Developments in energy harnessing (fusion, high-efficiency solar conversion etc) would solve the “food” shortage.

The final argument is also technological, however it may not always hold true: historically advances in agriculture have consistently increased the world’s ability to generate subsistence.  It is possible that this may continue, although I would personally argue that the ability of evolution to increase the efficiency with which organisms transfer the sun’s energy into their own (i.e. by which food could be made more efficient to eat, or grazing animals to need less grass to live on) is on a geological scale compared to our own far faster rate of growth.  Thus eventually, unless something along the lines of an energy->matter converter is invented, food itself will eventually run out.

In conclusion- growth is sustainable, as long as our ideas about what needs to grow are flexible.





Engagement is a two way street

4 01 2011

Seems my comment over on Ben Duncan’s blog got lost somewhere, so I thought I’d repost it here, where I can ensure things don’t get…misplaced.

Hi Ben

I’ll start by saying I completely agree that it’s very positive seeing so much political engagement, but I must add I don’t think you’re really helping the situation with your commentary.

Whilst it’s true that pay freezes result in real-term losses of “real” earnings due to inflation, the VAT increase only affects luxury items and not essentials or “reduced” items such as (just for example- *public transport*- which is at 5%)

See: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/start/introduction.htm#4

I can appreciate you’re trying to help, but as you say- not trying to “bring the office of councillor into disrepute”- perhaps accuracy with respect to VAT is in order? I don’t think scaring people unnecessarily is helpful do you?

Equally, you’re essentially saying “the silver lining” to people’s economic suffering is that your party will gain politically? I often wonder where the green party stand beyond green issues, guess that clarifies it.

Have to say I think it’s a shame that someone who openly encourages “engagement” in political issues would miss an opportunity to engage with a voter in his city.  It’s not the first time either.





Why people should vote Liberal Democrat

10 12 2010

I’m sure that many seeing this headline will be enraged- the timing, coming so soon on the back of so much (well-earned) resentment towards the party, will surely make people irate.  Now partly that’s good for me- hopefully it means you’ve read this far- but truly, that’s not the motivation.

I’m writing this now because it’s as true now as it was when I joined, and perhaps now is the time when people will be most open to believing it- because they want change.  (If you don’t want to read further, just scroll to the bottom for the summary).

I used to be apathetic when it comes to politics.  I didn’t vote, and I didn’t care to, because I felt that to vote for someone was to give them my support- to say “Yes, I want you,” to represent me, to govern on my behalf.  And I felt that there was no party out there, no option on the ballot that would have given me a candidate that would represent me.  So I didn’t vote.

A good friend of mine said, “we should all vote Liberal Democrat” and I listened warily, expecting some extollment of the party’s virtues; why it was worth supporting.  He said, “if the Liberal Democrats get in, people will be willing to believe things can be different.”  I like to say, “I’m voting for more than just red & blue politics.”

If you are angry, if you think the system isn’t working, if you think that it’s isn’t fair, isn’t just, isn’t democracy as you’ve always imagined it, then that’s why you should vote Liberal Democrat.  Most people understand that monopolies are bad.  What our politics has been since its inception is a duopoly- only two players in the market.  The lack of competition meant that neither truly had to be “good” to win, only “not as bad”: not an ideal I can believe in.  If another party were to win, each of the then three would have to work all the harder to deliver to the populace government that was worth voting for, or they wouldn’t get in.  The Lib Dems had the best chance at this- the current coalition is proof of it.

So I joined, and I’m glad that I did- you might think having read this that I’m a tactical member, but no longer- that was why I joined, but truly, I’m a member now for three main reasons:

1) The Liberal Democrats are the party whose values most closely co-incide with my own

2) Their support of proportional representation means that a Lib Dem majority would allow a change in politics from the current “superparties” to smaller, more representative parties who then form loose coalitions.  This would then mean there could be a party whose manifesto I 100% agreed with- I could finally have my wish to be voting for a an option I felt represented me.

3) In my local party, I feel that what we are trying to achieve are good things and worth working towards.

I hope you’ve read this far, because this is an entreaty, not an article.  Here’s what I want you to remember:

—————————————————————

VOTE– if you’re angry, if you don’t like the way things are being done, please VOTE.  I don’t care who for, just VOTE.
VOTE for the party whose values are closest to yours
If you don’t like monopolies, VOTE for a party who support PLURALITY in politics.

I’m not saying I agree with everything the party does, or everything it wants to do; I’m not saying people should vote Liberal Democrat indefinitely & regardless.

People should vote Liberal Democrat because they represent the best option to achieve a system of government that is worth voting for.





An introduction to my co-candidate

5 11 2010

Larissa is the other Liberal Democrat candidate running in Brighton’s regency ward. Check out her blog here:

I feel that perhaps before I start on my tirades on various issues I should set the scene as it were, the background to my political views and situation. I believe my political interest begun in joining LGBT forums online when I was young and getting involved in issues of and campaigns on equality that way.  I became fully politically interested at college when I chose, perhaps slightly on a whim, to study Politics and Sociology among my A levels … Read More

via Larissa’s Blog





Wrongs & Rights

3 11 2010

I’m going to preface this article by explaining my thoughts on “rights” (as in ECHR).  I think it is unfortunate (but perhaps necessary in practice), that people refer to what are, in my mind, privileges that citizens of an ethical society grant to one another as “rights.”  Not because they aren’t right (as in right and wrong) to have, but rather because the language of “rights” is one of intrinsic, natural, “god-given” privilege.  Something that it would be wrong to deny a human being.

When I say they might need to be necessary in practice is because the defence of civil liberties is an ongoing and fundamental struggle.  To treat privileges as rights is to make them more resistant to encroachment, our “rights” are bastions of liberty, designed to keep people free.   When I say it’s unfortunate, it’s because it’s not true.  What we call “rights” are privileges we grant one another, by choice, as part of our social contract.  We have agreed (however implicitly) as a society, that members of that society deserve certain privileges; that to deny members of society these privileges  is to threaten society.  Without free speech, our society would not be safe.  Without the privilege of a fair trial, our society would not be safe.  Our society rests on the freedom of its citizens- from the power of government, and from one another.

We live in a representative democracy- people have a vote by which they influence the choice of their leaders, who act as representatives of the people when making laws for society (taking cynicism aside for the moment).  As such, people consent implicitly to be held accountable to the body of laws of that society.  We get our vote, we get our privileges and in return we follow the laws enacted by this mutually “agreed” body.

Part of the laws we have mutually agreed to be bound by include penalties for members of society who transgress those laws.  Some of those penalties include restrictions of privilege- such as freedom of movement.  We have agreed that some actions, if convicted by due process, deserve the sentence of temporary removal from society- prison.

Prisoners have had their rights (mistakes in the system aside for the moment)- they have had habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial, trial by jury, to not be tortured and so on.  They have the right of appeal, the right to privacy and security of person.  Nonetheless, the rule of law has, by due process, confined them to segregation, the intent of which is to prevent them from negatively interfering with law-abiding member of society, whose privileges they have infringed on.

Prisoners do not deserve the vote for two reasons-

1. They are separated from us to keep us safe from them- the vote gives them influence over our society, which they have been removed from by warrant of their actions.  They do not deserve influence over a society they are not currently part of- similar to how citizens of one country cannot vote in another.

2. Voting, like freedom of movement, is a privilege we grant one another as part of our social contact.  If you break that contract, why should you retain all of your privileges?  Punishment is a necessary disincentive to law breaking.

____________________________________________________

Taking the argument of prisoners to one side for the moment, and in light of the actual ruling of the Court (surprisingly not linked to in any of the news sites I’ve seen this discussed on </s>), it is pretty clear that argument (2) applies to all felons, regardless of imprisonment.  The Court took issue with the lack of proportionality of punishment (disenfranchisement), with the severity of the crime causing imprisonment (or in the original case, the reason for continuing detainment).  The amusing implication (for me), is that people are up in arms about prisoners voting, whilst I would argue that criminals should be denied the right to vote- in prison or not.