Ten Tory MPs with less than 50% of the vote.

July 10, 2014

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It is true that if you were to include the number of potential voters in each constituency, no current Cabinet Minister would have received over 50% of the vote. But with the freedom to vote, comes the freedom to not vote, and with that in mind we should look more closely at the the percentage that current Tory MPs – seeking to impose voter threshold on strike action – managed to win at the 2010 general election, among actual voter turnout.

So here’s a quick list of ten:

  • Sajid Javid – MP for Bromsgrove and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities – 43.7%.
    – A man who is in control of the state’s involvement in culture, media, sport, and has the key responsibility for equality in the UK, was elected with less than 50% of the vote in Bromsgrove.

  • David Jones – MP for Clyde West and Secretary of State for Wales – 41.5%.
    – A Secretary of State for an entire country, elected with a little over 40% of the vote.

  • Oliver Letwin – Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Policy Review – 47.6%
    – Letwin – after winning less than 50% of the vote – insisted that public sector workers require “discipline and fear”. On a completely unrelated note, Letwin used £2,145 in Parliamentary expenses to fix a leaking pipe on his tennis court.

  • Mark Garnier – MP for Wyre Forest -36.9%
    On his website, speaking of strikes in November 2011, Garnier writes:

    “These strikes, which will cost the economy up to half a billion pounds, were not voted for by a majority and will hit ordinary working people hardest.”

    - Replace the words “strikes” with “Tories” in this massively ironic statement, and you have a far more honest sentence.

  • Jessica Lee – MP for Erewash & Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve – 39.5%.
  • Stephen Mosley – MP for the City of Chester – 40.6%
    – On his website, Mosley says:

    “The strike action undertaken by PCS union members in June highlighted the unconsidered approach that appears to be the default setting for many unions.
    Less than 20% of their members voted for the industrial action and less than half walked out on their responsibilities that day.”

    - Interesting admiration for majority votes, when almost 60% of Mosley’s own constituency doesn’t want him representing them.

  • Nicky Morgan – MP for Loughborough – 41.6%
    – Elected with a minority of the vote, and yet voted in an attempt to ensure same-sex couples couldn’t get married. She believes with less than 50%, she gets to regulate the love lives of others.

  • Edward Garnier – MP for Harborough, Knight Bachelor and former Solicitor General – 49%.
  • James Morris – MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis – 41.2%
  • Paul Uppal – MP for Wolverhampton South West – 40.7%
    – Uppal voted in favour of a change to striking laws that would prohibit strikes in the transport sector unless a majority of the workforce voted in favour and not merely a majority of those voting. This same principle, if applied to Parliament, would mean every Cabinet Minister would not have been elected. The closest would have been Theresa May, though she’d still have fell short by 7%.

    - If a Conservative Party wishes to impose a 50% voter threshold on strike action, then I see no reason why there should not also be a 50% voter threshold on the ability to propose legislation and vote in Parliament. Indeed, if MPs with less than 50% of the vote in their own constituency can vote to restrict pay and pensions for public sector workers, I see no reason why those same public sector workers can’t then strike with less than 50% of the vote.


  • The Imperial President? Not so much…

    June 30, 2014

    President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union. Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

    President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union.
    Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

    If you were to add together the average executive orders of President Obama, President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison and Tyler (and the first few months of Polk’s Presidency); they’d still add up to less than President Reagan’s average. And so for a Republican Party with a Presidential hero sporting an executive order average of over 11 Presidents (including the current) combined, alongside its recent history of losing the Senate, losing the Presidency twice, losing the popular vote for the House, wildly abusing the filibuster, and generally considered responsible for the shutdown of the government, you might think the Speaker would be a little humble. You’d be wrong. Instead, he’s choosing to sue the President for use of executive powers.

    In lieu of addressing wage disparity, or a jobs bill, or working to solve climate change issues, the Republican obsession with the President has become a pantomime. In his memorandum, Boehner’s case lacks substance, whilst also betraying the true purpose of the lawsuit. One of his points reads:

    “There is no legislative remedy”

    - What this means is, there is no legislative remedy – from a positive PR perspective – to force the President to give in to the demands of the minority Party, and so they’ll pass the buck to the judiciary, whilst throwing around terms like “Executive Monarchy” in the hope that the public will jump on board. There is of course already a legislative remedy to the overreaching of executive power, and that includes de-funding the executive branch and beginning impeachment proceedings against executive branch officials if they feel they have a strong case. They’re also aware that the judiciary has the power the strike down executive orders if they deem it to be unsupported by the Constitution. The Speaker therefore does not have a strong case, and so neither of the previously mentioned legislative remedies serves the GOP well from a PR standpoint, especially after the constant failure of House Republicans to defund the ACA, the obscene abuses of the filibuster, and the disaster of shutting down the government. They’re therefore ignoring the legislative remedies, as if they don’t exist. It is one big publicity stunt, and as with the shutdown, it will be scrutinised thoroughly and reflect terribly on the GOP.

    Further, the ill-fated lawsuit that Boehner seeks to bring against the President, will be filed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group – a standing body of the House of Representatives – funded by every taxpayer in the US. If the lawsuit fails – which it will, because the President has not issued an unconstitutional executive order, nor overreached executive power – it will be the second time Boehner has used ‘BLAG’ and failed, costing the taxpayer in the process. It must strike most as incredible that a Speaker has been able to get away with wasting taxpayer’s money on constant symbolic attempts to defund the ACA (knowing they’d fail every time), defending anti-liberty discrimination based on sexuality (for which Boehner used BLAG), on shutting down the government, on a publicity stunt to sue the President, all whilst successfully achieving the title of the least productive Congress in history with disastrously low approval ratings.

    The Speaker summarised the President’s use of executive orders as the work of “aggressive unilateralism”, and that the President is in fact an “Executive Monarchy”. Echoing Boehner’s summary, the beacon of wisdom Karl Rove – conveniently forgetting the time President Bush aggressively used signing statements to bypass laws and extend Presidential power – said:

    ““This is imperial power, this is George III.”

    - I’m almost certain King George III did not face such a hostile Parliament, to the point where getting basic aides confirmed by the Senate becomes a long drawn out battle. The implication from Rove and the Speaker, is that the President is abusing the use of executive orders beyond anything that came before. The biggest threat to liberty since George III. So, how does that check out. How does the President’s yearly average of executive orders compare with past Republican Presidents? According to research by The American Presidency Project:

    President Obama – Democrat – yearly average: 33.58
    President Bush – Republican – yearly average: 36.38
    President Bush Sr – Republican – yearly average: 41.50
    President Reagan – Republican hero – yearly average: 47.63
    President Ford – Republican – 68.92
    President Nixon – Republican – 62.30
    President Eisenhower – Republican – 60.50

    - President Obama has a lower yearly average of issuing executive orders, than any previous Republican President since the 1950s. Compared to those Republican Presidents, he’s a beacon of restraint. Indeed, Obama is issuing executive orders at a rate of 0.09 a day, far below the Republican Presidential average of 0.22 a day (which is higher than the Democrat Presidential daily rate).

    To find a lower yearly average on issuing executive orders than President Obama, we have to go back to Grover Cleveland’s first term as President, between 1885 and 1889. The highest in my life time, has been small government, Republican hero, President Reagan. In his first term, President Obama issued 147 executive orders. By contrast, President Reagan in his first term, issued 213 executive orders, and Reagan wasn’t faced with the one of the most hostile and obstructionist Congresses in decades.

    If 33.58 magically turns President Obama into King George III, I can imagine 47.63 turns President Reagan into King Henry VIII.

    Remember those figures as the Speaker wastes taxpayers money on a frivolous party political publicity stunt over the coming weeks.


    The right-winged media & the release of al-Baghdadi.

    June 22, 2014

    The BBC reported today that ISIS have moved to within 90 miles of the Iraq-Jordan border, having taken over the town of al-Rutba. The town sits on the main road between Jordan and Baghdad, and is around 110 miles from the border with Saudi Arabia. It marks an unnerving couple of weeks of very violent extremists spilling over from the Syrian civil war into the new and fledgling democracy to the south.

    The past couple of weeks have also produced a plethora of commentators trying to untangle the web of blame, hoping to land at a particular constant (their favoured figure of hate), rather than admit a whole host of variables, like a complex jigsaw, led to the rise of ISIS and the damage it is inflicting upon Iraq. America’s conservatives have spent the past couple of weeks attempting in any way possible to lay the blame for the crisis in Iraq at the door of the President.

    Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro told the nation last week, that ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in US custody, and released in 2009 during President Obama’s Presidency:

    “The head of this band of savages is a man named Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the new Osama Bin Laden. A man released by Obama in 2009, who started ISIS a year later.”

    - This came a few days after Pirro called for the President to be impeached for the prisoner swap that led to the release of Bowe Bergdahl.

    Fox’s Megyn Kelly went a little further, and described the circumstances under which al-Baghdadi was released:

    “We are also learning more about the leader of the terror group, a man described as the new Bin Laden, the heir to Bin Laden. It turns out he had been in U.S. custody until 2009, over in Iraq, when he was then turned over to the Iraqi government as part of our troop drawdown. And then he was released.”

    - The implication being that the President has a history of releasing dangerous prisoners, including one who went on to form the group currently slaughtering its way across Iraq. Indeed, Michael Daly writing for The Daily Beast took up the story and went further:

    “When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from a U.S. detention camp in 2009, the future leader of ISIS issued some chilling final words to reservists from Long Island.”

    - The chilling words were reported by Army Col. Kenneth King, the commanding officer of Camp Bucca in 2009 and said to be al-Baghdadi telling the camp as he left, that he would:

    “See you in New York.”

    - The source of the story, Colonel King goes on to express his anger at the release of al-Baghdadi in 2009:

    “We spent how many missions and how many soldiers were put at risk when we caught this guy and we just released him.”

    - The story went international, with The Daily Mail over here in the UK taking it up and capitalising the words “set free” for extra effect:

    “Revealed: How Obama SET FREE the merciless terrorist warlord now leading the ISIS horde blazing a trail of destruction through Iraq.”

    - The UK’s Daily Telegraph proposed their own explanation as to why al-Baghdadi was released in 2009:

    “One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq.”

    - So to summarise, according to the right winged press and TV networks, Al-Baghdadi – the leader of ISIS in 2014 – was released from US custody in 2009, handed to the Iraqis, probably due to an amnesty granted to insurgents at the behest of the Obama administration. That’s the narrative. And yet, the problem with the entire story here, is it isn’t actually true. Any of it.

    Politifact researched the claim and found it to be entirely false, and worse for US conservatives; al Baghdadi was actually released in 2004, when a Republican was President. A year later, a US intelligent report tells us that the Pentagon considered al-Baghdadi to be incredibly dangerous:

    “He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”

    - Less than one year after al-Baghdadi was released from custody on President Bush’s watch, the US was again searching for him, for the most hideous crimes.

    Back to the story. It seems that Michael Daly, the Telegraph, the Mail and Fox all framed their narrative around the story told by Col.King. Interviewed days later on ABC, King told the network that he “could have been mistaken” and that whilst he didn’t know the name of the guy he’d seen at Camp Bucca in 2009, it looked a bit like al-Baghdadi. From what he could remember. Five years ago. And from that, Fox construct an entire anti-Obama rant, with a story of how al-Baghdadi was handed over to authorities in Iraq and then released. Politifact checked with the Department of Defence, who issued the following statement:

    “Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, also known as ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ was held as a ‘civilian internee’ by U.S. Forces-Iraq from early February 2004 until early December 2004, when he was released.”

    “He was held at Camp Bucca. A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.”

    - And so it turns out al-Baghdadi wasn’t even released to the government in Iraq, as Fox claimed, let alone in 2009. Nor did Obama release him as part of a “amnesty” as suggested by the Telegraph. Though, had al-Baghdadi been released in 2009 as part of an amnesty, that too would not have been President Obama’s doing. As Politifact notes, it was late in 2008 – toward the end of President Bush’s term in office – that the President signed the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, an agreement that binds the US to the following terms:

    “The United States Forces shall act in full and effective coordination with the Government of Iraq to turn over custody of such wanted detainees to Iraqi authorities pursuant to a valid Iraqi arrest warrant and shall release all the remaining detainees in a safe and orderly manner, unless otherwise requested by the Government of Iraq.”

    - Not only was al-Baghdadi released in 2004, but had he been released in 2009 – as suggested by the right winged media – his release would have been due to a framework signed by President Bush in 2008.

    The entire story was false and ridiculously manipulative. It relies solely on an army Colonel remembering a face from five years ago, that looked “very familiar”. There was no fact checking from Fox, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, or The Daily Beast. There was no mention of the US-Iraq agreement. This is how little it takes for Fox to turn a non-story into a familiar national anti-Obama scandal that bears little – if any – resemblance to reality.


    Sarah Vine & Daily Mail land.

    June 11, 2014

    In the green pastures of Daily Mail land, where the year is perpetually 1950, Dvorak’s Symphony 9 plays on a loop, and everyone attends Church on a Sunday. Where someone with slightly darker skin in the village is a frightening novelty, morality and normality are defined by Christianity, gay folk are trying to destroy humanity, and someone with tattoos can only mean one thing; the decadent youth and their alien ways are throwing their lives away, destroying this once great country, and they don’t even know it. If only they’d suspend their critical faculties, and pick up the Daily Mail from time to time, the country could be great again!… Or something like that.

    I woke up shocked this morning. Shocked that my life has been a lie. Thanks to Sarah Vine over at the ever illuminating and rational Daily Mail, I learnt this morning that my tattoos are simply a “hideous” form of self harm. This came as a shock, because up until now, I thought I had my tattoos as a form of self expression, that I chose them because I felt they represented me in a way that I wanted to represent myself, and that they had a certain meaning to me and me alone. I thought I was pretty happy when I had my tattoos. Of course, we all have our problems in life, but on the whole, I really fucking love me. At least, that’s what I thought. I thought I knew what my tattoos meant to me, because, well, I’m me. That all changed this morning when I read Sarah Vine’s column for The Mail (and Tory’s and the Mail are notoriously excellent at understanding young people) and discovered I have serious mental health issues that I address by harming myself with tattoos. I discovered my friends must be covering their intense inner sorrow, with outward displays of faux-happiness and joy. I discovered that the word “self-harm” can now be thrown around whenever we see someone doing something we personally wouldn’t do.

    But then I thought, maybe it’s an ironic piece? I mean, there appears to be a noticeable irony in someone writing for the Daily Mail, and being married to Michael Gove having the nerve to refer to anything other than writing for the Daily Mail and being married to Michael Gove as “ghastly” and “self harm”. Perhaps it is Sarah Vine’s cry for help. I mean, she has her ears pierced; a needle pushed through the body, and a piece of metal shoved into the hole. Does this not also count as self harm? There can’t be much pleasure in writing for a newspaper famed for its tacit support for Fascism in the 1930s, and that recently hounded a transgender person – Lucy Meadows – to suicide, whilst married to a man universally hated by the profession he’s the Minister for. Perhaps at this point you’re thinking that I’m being incredibly judgmental in presuming that I get to tell someone else that their private life, their private loves, and the way they express themselves is “ghastly” or “self harm”. Yes… you’d be right. It’s pretty shitty and irrational of me, isn’t it?

    There is a degree of irony in the article itself:

    “Think of poor, frail Amy Winehouse, her emaciated limbs decorated like a navvy’s; think of the ethereal, fragile Peaches Geldof.”

    - Yes. Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’, like The Mail did when they plastered unflattering pictures of Amy Winehouse all over a completely irrelevant article, whilst needlessly poking fun at her, despite this being in the middle of her health issues:

    “At first glance it may seem she had forgotten to get dressed.
    But bra, shorts and ballet slippers almost count as overdressed for Amy Winehouse these days.”

    - Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ like The Mail did with this article dedicated entirely to how ill she looked coming out of a restaurant:

    “The Rehab singer looked worse for wear after dining at Balans restaurant in London and exposed a small pot belly after the meal.”

    - Nothing says compassion and sensitivity for those suffering quite like having a gutter photographer selling you photos of every troubled moment, for a paper that gets a bizarre kick out of dehumanising those struggling. So yes, think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ and the grotesque rag of shit with a business model that relies on perpetuating the suffering and misery of others.

    The article goes on:

    “When I was Barkley’s age, tattoos were the preserve of sailors, Hell’s Angels and ex-cons.”

    - When my grandfather was my age, in the 1940s, writing for (or owning) The Daily Mail was the preserve of Nazi supporters and the British far right. Some things change, some things remain remarkably similar.

    The article goes on, still:

    “Twenty-year-old Ross Barkley, by contrast, has used his to illustrate his more contemplative side. On the outside of his arm, in Chinese script, the word ‘fengxian’, meaning ‘to devote’. And at the base of his hand, a quotation from none other than the Greek philosopher Aristotle: ‘No notice is taken of little evil. But when it increases it strikes the eye.’
    Wow. Who knew that beneath that rugged exterior lurked the sensitive soul of a classicist?”

    - This came as a shock to me too, because I have a rose tattooed on my arm, and I haven’t even studied botany. There is absolutely no reason why Barkley would need to know the first thing about the classical period, to take away something meaningful from a pretty universal quote. Indeed, that is part of the timeless genius of Aristotle. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of classical Greek philosophy, to take something meaningful from a fifteen word quote. Similarly, Sarah Vine doesn’t have to be an expert in the art of jewelry making, to have a piece of metal shoved in her ear.

    There is no single reason someone gets a tattoo. Do some people get tattoos as a form of self-harm? It’s a possibility, though I don’t know of anyone who has. For some, their bodies are a canvas for the art form. For others, a tattoo might commemorate a moment in time. For others, a tattoo might be a middle finger to a neat and tidy, soulless, and robotic business-defined culture they find to be so devoid of individuality. For me – as for all others – it is simply a form of self expression. I don’t care what someone else thinks of my tattoos. There is no hidden anguish in my choosing to be tattooed. Like the clothes I wear, the haircut (to an extent; though nature took away most of my hair) I have, the photographs I take, the words I write, the tattoos I have; all are forms of expressing myself, and myself alone. They mean something to me. We express ourselves in a variety of ways and what is important is that I decide what it is that represents expression to me. No one else. Certainly not a Tory journalist flippantly using the subject of mental health to explain away her personal dislike of tattoos, from the unbearably stagnant pastures of Daily Mail land.


    Trolling UKIP: #WhyImVotingUKIP

    May 21, 2014

    It’s a day before the European election, and the #WhyImVotingUkip Twitter trend has spectacularly backfired on the Party this morning. Once you make your way through the three pro-UKIP tweets, you find yourself in a forest of wonderful satire. And so, here are a few of my favourite #WhyImVotingUKIP tweets so far:

    btfd

    fff

    ddddde

    fffffg

    nhgnr

    rfrr

    trey

    untitled1

    Untitled-2

    Untitled-2d

    Untitled-2e

    Untitled-2r

    Untitled-3

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    At least, I think these are satire. Given the frequency by which Tea Party-esque comments are publicly made by UKIP members, all of the above tweets could just as easily be actual UKIP comments.
    Tomorrow is election day. Get out and vote!


    European Elections – East Midlands – UKIP’s Roger Helmer.

    May 4, 2014

    East Midlands Member of the European Parliament; Roger Helmer. Source: Berchemboy at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons.

    East Midlands Member of the European Parliament; Roger Helmer.

    Source: Berchemboy at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons.

    It seems the case that with the European elections on the horizon, those voting will be voting for the party rather than the candidate. Indeed, no European politician in this country – with the exception of Farage – seems to be a household name. We tend not to know whom our representative in Brussels is, instead choosing to vote for the party we most identify with at that moment in time. For that reason, I thought I’d offer a brief overview of the MEP for my area – the East Midlands – UKIPs Roger Helmer. And what an overview it is; vicious homophobia, rape victim blaming, admired by Koch funded corporate pressure group, climate denier.

    It is fair to say, I am not a UKIP fan. Having spoken recently to a young Polish girl who had been disgustingly mistreated by nurses at a hospital that she had given birth at, purely for her nationality, and how she’d cried herself to sleep that night – a night that should have been a happy time, now forever ruined in her memory – I fully blame the divisive and grotesque rhetoric of UKIP among others for that. Human beings are a pawn in their game and I find them very much the heirs to Thatcher, with a hint of fear-driven nationalism thrown in for good measure. In short, the Tea Party of the UK.

    We all remember the UKIP Councillor who blamed the floods on gay marriage, and we laughed. But rabid homophobia and anti-secularism seems unnervingly to be a key component to the thinking of a lot of UKIP politicians. Helmer, on kids struggling to come to terms with their sexuality (a struggle perpetuated by the idea that one particular sexuality is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong'; a religiously motivated absurdity), said:

    “If we give adolescent youngsters the wrong signal at a key period of their lives, if we glamorise homosexuals in the media, if we fail to discriminate, we risk the likelihood they will fixate on the wrong gender. We risk denying them the chance of a normal life.”

    - He also wrote that the real victims are not the LGBT community still fighting for equal rights, and to be free from religiously motivated discrimination, bullying, and stigma; but the homophobes themselves:

    “Many people find the idea of homosexual behavious distasteful if not viscerally repugnant. It is this perfectly biologically-determined repugnance that the homosexual lobby seeks to stigmatise with the word ‘homophobia’.”

    - It’s like claiming George Wallace was the victim of the civil rights lobby.

    Helmer also tweeted:

    “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual?”

    - The implication – along with his early statement, that children might become gay if the media “glamorises” homosexuality – being that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be cured, further dehumanising the LGBT community. As if dehumanising immigrants wasn’t enough. It is about as rational as claiming a psychiatrist can try to ‘turn’ a blue eyed person into a brown eyed person. It is anti-scientific, anti-human, and a very religious position to take. Incidentally, The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists agree:

    “…homsexuality is not a psychiatric disorder. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

    On gay marriage, Helmer – like most absurd right wingers – argues a slippery slope fallacy, whilst defending Church opposition to same-sex marriage, as justification for restricting the rights of others, and upholding Christian supremacist ‘values':

    “…once you start to tamper with the institution of marriage, you get into some very murky water indeed. If two men can be married, why not three men? Or a two men and a woman?”

    - Firstly, this implies that Christianity has some sort of inherent right to the institution of marriage in the first place, and secondly, if Helmer is correct and homosexual marriage leads inevitably to “murky waters” such as polygamy (ironically, Biblically acceptable) then we must accept that heterosexual marriage lead to homosexual marriage, and so in fact the very institution of marriage itself, starts the ball rolling down the slippery slope. The only way out of that slippery slope, is to claim “traditional” marriage should continue to be defined along religious lines. And that’s fine if you’re a Christian; simply don’t have a same sex marriage. You however have no right to enshrine your self-claimed ownership of marriage into law, restricting the rights of anyone else. Helmer’s argument by its very nature, is one that seeks to impose religious “values” on everyone. Roger Helmer is anti-secular.

    Whilst seeking to restrict the rights of the gay community, and subtly hinting that they’re all mentally ill, Helmer said that the word ‘homophobia':

    “…it is just a propagandist word created by the militant gay rights lobby.”

    - Yes! Those ‘militants’ fighting for the same rights that Helmer himself enjoys, whilst referring to those who simply wish the same rights as “…distasteful if not viscerally repugnant“.

    Echoing a number of US Tea Party members, Helmer also isn’t a big fan of women. In 2011, on his blog, Roger Helmer said that in the case of rape':

    “…the victim surely shares a part of the responsibility, if only for establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind.”

    - Yes. He said that. In fact, here’s the blog in question.

    He goes on to say:

    “It is naive for a woman to undress and get into a man’s bed and not expect him to draw the obvious conclusion.”

    - A creative way to say “you brought this on yourself“. Roger Helmer believes that the victim shares blame for being raped. Those poor rapists. I’d suggest that if Roger Helmer believes this, he poses a danger to women, not just for how he votes, but for the fact that he’s clearly unable to control his sexual urges, and considers “establishing reasonable expectation” as a justifiable excuse for violating the autonomy of the body of another human being.

    As UKIP seem to be positioning themselves as a party of the ordinary working people, it’s probably worth noting that Farage himself is an ex-city trader, and that Helmer was appointed ‘Adam Smith Scholar’ by American corporate funded right winged pressure group ‘American Legislative Exchange Council’. ALEC is funded by corporate donors, including in 2009, over $200,000 from the Tea Party funding Koch brothers. The same family that funded right winged extremists during Kennedy’s Presidency, and orchestrated the 2013 government shutdown, seeking to denying the ordinary working people affordable healthcare. Helmer – being a climate skeptic – was also a key speaker at The Heartland Institute’s Seventh International Conference. The Heartland Institute also received funding from the Koch brothers, as well as – predictably, given the subject – big oil companies and big tobacco companies. UKIP are the Tea Party of the UK, in every way possible.

    So for all his climate denying, and speaking on the topic to institutes funded by big corporate interests, imagine my surprise when at the previous European election, we had a leaflet through our door for Helmer’s campaign – he was a Tory at the time – that read:

    “Conservatives played a key role in making new laws to cut carbon emissions and promote renewable energy“.

    - This part of the leaflet, was a major factor for the Helmer campaign, given that it had an entire section dedicated to:

    “…tackling climate change”

    - And yet, the leaflet didn’t explain to voters that Helmer is a key member of ‘The Freedom Association’ of which he became the chairman of in 2007. In 2012 – after Helmer had became Chairman – at a time his campaign was running on its green credentials – ‘The Freedom Association’ said:

    “Evidence is quite clearly emerging that man is not having the impact on the climate that the EU climate alarmists claim.”

    - The leaflet was a blatant lie, given that according to ‘Friends of the Earth’, Roger Helmer has one of the worst voting records when it comes to the environment, in Europe. The campaign literature gave the impression that Helmer had ‘played a key role’ in cutting carbon emissions, when in fact the opposite is true. And he’s proud of it.

    I often write on the absurd and often offensive and hideous remarks and actions by US Tea Party members toward every minority that possibly exists. They seem entirely divorced from reality, a threat to human liberty and dignity, funded by corporate interests, and yet, my own area in leafy middle England appears to have elected one of them – a homophobic, religious supremacist, corporate, rape apologist, victim blaming, misogynistic, climate denier – and looks set to re-elect him. And so, if you’re in the East Midlands, get out and vote on May 22nd. I am embarrassed to know that in Europe, the area that I live is represented by Roger Helmer. We are not like him. The East Midlands deserves far better.


    Why secularism is good for the religious.

    April 12, 2014

    Thomas_Paine_rev1

    “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their “legislature” should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
    - Thomas Jefferson.

    A wall of Separation between Church and State” was a phrase first coined by Thomas Jefferson in his famous letter penned to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. The significance of Jefferson’s letter was that the phrase was not coined as an attack on religion in the United States, but protection for the freedom to be religious according to one’s own conscience. The Danbury Baptists in Connecticut were concerned that the powerful Congregationalist Church in the state may acquire a position of privilege and power and that their right to practice their faith freely, would be under threat. The same worry almost two centuries earlier had prompted the pilgrims to flee England, for a land in which they could worship according to their own conscience and without fear of state oppression. Jefferson wrote to the Baptists to reassure them that the constitution of the United States protected their right to believe and to worship, and would not empower another sect with state privilege above any other. Secularism protects and enhances the rights of the believers, to believer without fear.

    Jefferson’s point in his letter to the Baptists was that secularism protects the right of individual interpretation of faith for the individual believer. Secularism concludes that belief is between the individual and their God, and has nothing to do with any Earthly power. If the individual wishes to dedicate their entire existence to their belief – including their choice of clothing, France banning the veil is the opposite of secularism – the secular state protects that right. Conversely, the Earthly power must not empower or permit privilege to a particular choice of belief, to the detriment of all others. A line of equality is maintained by state neutrality. We are equal regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, belief, and gender. From that position, we are free to test and elevate the boundaries of our own abilities and to seek happiness, without harming the same liberty for others.

    If we imagine a small group of twenty believers of a particular faith, it is quite likely that each will have differences pertaining to interpretation of articles of faith, given that religious literature is so vast in scope even for one religion. They may be small differences or large important differences. In that situation, it would be absurd to say “Number 12 in the group has the inherent authority to punish those of us who don’t abandon our interpretation, and follow his interpretation“. It is obvious that no single individual in the group has that privilege of authority, simply because a faith is not an absolute science. We must start from the premise that all 20 have the equal right to belief. It is also obvious that if number 12 did institute a policy by which those who disagreed with him were punished, the differences do not suddenly go away. The individual beliefs will still differ, opinions don’t change, it is fear of punishment that will prevent those differences from being expressed, and so not only is the individual oppressed, but the right of all of us to hear dissenting views and not be told what we – as grown adults – should be allowed to hear, is similarly oppressed. Humanity is blessed with curiosity, and uniformity of thought is impossible, and attempts to argue otherwise are inevitably bloody and oppressive. Shia and Sunni, Catholic and Protestant; history teaches us that granting privilege to one interpretation, does not end well. If your faith relies on fear to survive, it not only has no right to privilege, it absolutely doesn’t deserve privilege.

    An individual’s interpretation is anchored to their own experiences throughout life. As Jefferson noted; it is a matter that lies solely between an individual and his or her God. Only secularism protects the right of each individual within the group to disagree, to question, and to value each individual’s right to interpret their faith according to their conscience and without fear of oppression by any other member. If the personal belief of each member is strong, it will withstand the freedom of others to differ. Indeed, whilst secularism may diminish the privilege and supremacy of a single interpretation, it is the only mechanism by which religious liberty for the whole group is preserved and protected.

    The great Thomas Paine expressed beautifully a concept in one sentence, that religious texts have failed to express through thousands of pages:

    “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”

    - Secularism guarantees equal rights as citizens under the law. If a Christian wishes the right to build a private temple of worship, the same right must be extended to Hindu’s, to Muslims, to Sikhs and so on. If, as an atheist, I wish the right to “offend” the beliefs of others, I must accept the right for others to hold views that “offend” my beliefs. You are free to believe that homosexuality is a sin, you are not free to restrict the liberty and equal civil rights of gay people according to your belief. Your belief plays no part in the liberty of others. You are free to believe that those who abandon their faith are evil. You are not free to restrict the liberty of those who abandon their faith based on your belief. Because again, your belief plays no part in the liberty of others. Similarly, if someone believes those who subscribe to your religion are a great evil and should be restricted and punished, they’re free to believe that, they’re just not free to enforce it through the state. We are all to be considered equal regardless of belief, or ethnicity, or sexuality, and of gender. This further enhances our security when questioning, criticising, and inquiring. The mark of a civilised society.

    It isn’t just a single religion controlling the apparatus of state that leads almost inevitably to human rights violations. It is the tyranny of a single sect, of a single religion that tends to cause problems for smaller sects of the same faith. When Catholics held state power, Protestants were brutally slaughtered. When Protestants held state power, predictably, Catholics were brutally slaughtered. To end this ceaseless war between sects vying for power, required secularism and declarations of inalienable rights that no religion had a right to violate.

    Indeed, the fight isn’t between secularism and religion – religion is protected and freed by secularism and anyone wishing to oppress rights based on someone’s belief, is by definition not secular – the fight is between secularism and a particular individual’s interpretation of their religion to the often violent exclusion of all others. If, in the group of 20, 19 of the members all believe one interpretation to be correct, but you don’t, those 19 still have no inherent right to force you to live by their beliefs. You have the right to criticise the beliefs of the 19, to believe differently to all of them, and to worship freely according to your conscience only without fear. You have a criticism of the Bible or Qur’an? Then say it, or keep it to yourself, or write it, or express it in anyway you wish. No one has a right to prevent you from that. Your expression of your faith – as long as it doesn’t interfere with the liberty of anyone else – is yours only. Secularism is therefore the only mechanism by which the smaller sects, and the individual believers are protected. A real world example, would see the natural rights of the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia currently facing oppression, completely protected. The barriers to freedom and equal rights for Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia are the necessary result of one sect opposed to Shia beliefs presuming a place of privilege that they do not deserve. Shia Muslims in Saudi are prevented from obtaining high office. Shia parents are banned from using certain names for their children. Saudi schools teach children that Shiites are a Jewish conspiracy, and need to be destroyed. I struggle to describe this hideous manipulation of the young minds of children, as anything other than abuse. The Shia minority in Saudi Arabia face oppression, for no other reason than the Salafi leadership doesn’t believe what they believe. The presumption on the part of the leadership, is that their belief is inherently privileged. It is a position maintained by force, and if a privilege must be maintained by force, it is wholly illegitimate.

    If a religious authority in a non-secular country suddenly decries an aspect of your daily life, or something you consider sacred to you, as a violation of the state’s religious principles, you are in danger of the state punishing you. Your human rights are in the hands of the religious authority. In a secular state, if the same religious authority were to decry an aspect of your daily life as a violation of their religious belief, they’d be free to say so, they wouldn’t be free to punish you for it. Your liberty and right to believe differently is preserved and protected. No single religious person or group has a right to punish you for not accepting and living according to their beliefs. Secularism recognises this and trusts you as an individual to come to your own conclusions and beliefs freely and without fear.

    It is clear to me that a faith loses its integrity the moment an individual is forced to accept it at gun point. When I hear the claim that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the World, I choose to discount not only those children considered ‘Muslim’ by way of being born to Muslim parents, but also those who live in countries in which it is illegal to leave the faith, or to openly question or criticise the faith. At it stands, apostasy is illegal in Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, UAE, Somalia, Afghanistan, Saudi, Sudan, Qatar, Yemen, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Jordan, and Oman. Apostasy in Jehovah’s Witness families is enough for a child to be disowned. It is supremacy by way of threat. If we were to hold a gun to someone’s head, and instructed them to say that they are in fact a giraffe or I’ll fire the gun, we wouldn’t then suggest the giraffe population was clearly growing. The integrity of an individual’s faith is diminished entirely when it is actively forced upon others. Similarly, a child isn’t to be considered of a particular faith. They have not reached an age by which they can rationalise, critique, and accept or reject religious precepts. Their minds are a sponge, and if a particular religion is indeed correct, teaching a child to be critical and curious will lead that child to the religious truth of that faith anyway. It should be obvious to all that a faith enhances its integrity if those who find it, find it through their own free inquiry and will, rather than indoctrination and threat. Secularism is an idea based on free inquiry, expression and will. The opposite, is indoctrination and threat.

    Secularism begins and ends with the idea that the beliefs of an individual are sacred to that individual, and have no inherent right to trespass upon the liberty of others. A Sunni majority has no inherent right to force Shia to live by the dictates of their interpretation of Islam, Congregationalists have no inherent right to force Baptists by threat of state punishment, to live according to the dictates of their interpretation of Christianity. As a non-believer, no religious faith or sect has the right to threaten me with state punishment, if I do not adhere to, or if I criticise or satirise their religious guidelines. Similarly, I have no right to prevent or restrict your liberty in believing anything you choose to belief and worshiping where ever you choose to worship, as long as it isn’t forced through the mechanism of state. We are equal citizens deserving of equal protections. Progress – both individual and societal – is the product of free inquiry, debate, expression and compromise, and not forced adherence. If you believe a slightly different interpretation of your faith, than what is demanded of you by the authorities, then feel free! Express it! Secularism encourages that discussion. Indeed, as secularists, we believe only you have the right to decide what it is you believe, and how you express that belief. The chains between you and those wishing to regulate your thoughts, are completely smashed. To paraphrase Jefferson, the state should not be in the business of regulating your opinion and your expression; to do so is by its nature oppression. For that reason alone, secularism is good for those who are religious.


    The Oppression of Brunei.

    April 9, 2014

    Secretary Kerry meets Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.  Secretary Kerry insists the US has a "robust relationship" with one of the most oppressive states on the planet. Source: By U.S. Department of State from United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Secretary Kerry meets Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.
    Secretary Kerry insists the US has a “robust relationship” with one of the most oppressive states on the planet.
    Source: By U.S. Department of State from United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei is an autocratic ruler with honours from across the Globe. One of the richest men in the World – not least due to Brunei’s oil wealth, which accounts for almost two thirds of its export revenue, and is set to run out within 30 years – Bolkiah has been awarded the British Honorary Companion of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, and Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath. In Sweden he was the recipient of the Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim award. In France, the Grand Croix of the National Order of the Legion of Honour. In Germany, the Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. And US Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the “excellent cooperation” and “robust relationship” between the US and Brunei recently. So, on the World stage, a pretty respected leader it seems (I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the oil and gas reserves). And yet, by the end of April this year, Brunei is set to become one of the most oppressive nations on Earth.

    This isn’t the start of the oppressive nature of the state in Brunei. The country tries to maintain the image of respect for the freedom of other faiths, and other Islamic sects, by signing agreements like the ASEAN Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Human Rights. Similarly, economic strength and popular welfare provisions mask its vicious prevention of the most basic rights. Since the 1990s Brunei has been in the process of de-secularisation and enforcing an ideology that mixes Shafi’i Islamist thought and a Monarchical system of oppression to form a new political ideology they call ‘Melayu Islam Beraja‘. Basically, a weak attempt at a faith-based justification for the Sultan’s right to control and oppress whomever he pleases.

    Through institutionalising ‘Melayu Islam Beraja‘, the Islamic Al-Arqam sect was banned by authorities in the mid-90s with the adherents made to undergo a sort of Orwellian reprogramming class. Their leader – Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad – spent 10 years in prison. The pretense for the ban was “theological deviation” from what is considered an acceptable interpretation of Islam (that which the Sultanate decides is acceptable) though the state only took notice of the movement as the sect grew in size, suggesting the true reason for the crackdown was political paranoia. Senior Christian Church leaders believe they’re under surveillance and are careful what they say at Church for fear of repression. The Bahá’í Faith is banned. Bibles are not permitted to be imported, all schools are banned from teaching Christianity, and temples dedicated to others faiths are no longer permitted to be built. Proselytizing for other faiths is already banned. It is illegal for a Muslim to convert to another faith; if someone does convert, they are immediately required to undergo Islamic schooling again until they revert. Public celebration of Christmas is banned. Additionally, all post-secondary school students must take lessons on the incredibly anti-secular, anti-democratic ideology of Melayu Islam Beraja. And as of this month, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s hideously oppressive new Syariah penal code based on the most cruel aspects of Shari’a is set to come into force. April 2014 marks the final stage of the de-secularisation process, transforming Brunei into a fully fledged Theocratic dictatorship.

    Despite the International Commission of Jurists ruling that the new Syariah penal code violated practically every possible human right, in its quest to anchor concepts of justice to the 7th Century, Brunei decided to push ahead regardless. The ICJ said:

    “If implemented, the code would lead to serious human rights violations by reintroducing the death penalty and imposing other cruel and inhuman punishment including stoning, even for conduct that should not even be considered criminal.”

    - According to the new penal code, the death penalty for both Muslims and non-Muslims will now be utilised for those convicted of robbery, adultery, and ‘sodomy’. Amputation is the punishment for theft. For sexual ‘crimes’ the method of death will be stoning. Homosexuality carries the penalty of flogging. Despite Brunei’s apparent commitment to women’s rights, the ICJ notes that the new death penalty law will disproportionately apply to women. This is because it is difficult proving rape, and if the woman fell pregnant due to being raped, she will be prosecuted and stoned for ‘adultery’ whilst the rapist is statistically likely to walk free.

    Ex-Muslims face death for apostasy. Public gatherings of those adhering to other faiths will now be restricted and those wishing to gather will need to register. Anyone caught selling anything during Friday prayers will lose their licence to conduct business. Also under the new code, if a non-Muslim adopts a Muslim child, the biological Muslim parent will now face 5 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

    The new penal code will also crack down on the fundamental right to free expression. For Muslims who publicly insult the Prophet, or to mock and deny certain teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison, and 40 lashes. But it isn’t just mocking faith that will carry punishment. Opposition to the implementation of harsh Shari’a codes has been popping up on social media sites from all different sects of Brunei life; including from Muslims. The grotesquely oppressive regime that runs the country responded by threatening anyone caught mocking or insulting the new penal code itself:

    “They can no longer be given the liberty to continue with their mockery and if there is a basis for them to be brought to court, then therefore, the first phase of the Syariah law this coming April will be relevant to them.”

    - Criticising and mocking the law itself – the very fundamental of a free and progressive society – is now to be considered a crime. It is a curious threat that highlights the narcissism of the Sultan. Human beings are not “given the liberty” by anyone else to speak freely. Free expression is a natural condition, restricted by those who assume positions of privilege for themselves to erect barriers to that freedom. Usually when it threatens the prevailing power structure.

    Quite ridiculously, non-Muslims will be banned from using certain words. 19 words in all. The state will now punish non-Muslims for uttering baitullah; Al Quran; Allah; fatwa; Firman Allah; hadith; Haji; hukum syara’; ilahi; Ka’bah; kalimah al syahadah; kiblat; masjid; imam; mufti; mu’min; solat; and wali. This is impossible to define as anything other than oppression. A clear attempt to prevent non-Muslims freely critiquing, inquiring, and investigating a religion and its history, because that religion and that history is intrinsically ties to the perceived legitimacy of the Sultans authority. Having read the Qur’an several times, and familiarised myself with a collection of Hadith, I am struggling to figure out where a ban on Islamic words is found.

    Brunei’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Muhammad Abdulrahman met with the chairman of the Saudi Consultative Council, Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh in February this year to take advice on how to implement Shari’a. One has to question the mentality of a leadership that sees the Saudi system – a system that has just designated all atheists as terrorists and is hated even by the majority of Muslims – as one to be emulated. Again, it is one of narcissism. This is echoed in the Sultan’s own words on the new penal code, which he claims:

    “…should be regarded as a form of special guidance from God and would be part of the great history of Borneo island.”

    - The Sultan seems to be under the bizarre impression that his personal beliefs have the inherent and legitimate authority to inform others how they should view a code based on his personal beliefs and values. One suspects faith is the excuse for the creeping paranoia at the knowledge that political instability in the country is inevitable, as crude oil and natural gas reserves deplete without a viable economic alternative – that ensures the high standard of public services many in Brunei now expect – short of political and economic liberalisation; a threat to the autocratic Sultanate itself. And so increasingly one paranoid sect of one faith burns its dictates into the fabric of society and refuses to allow any form of criticism. It is an ideology invented by the state, and which coincidentally, permits the state the privilege of being the sole authority on the whole of Islam. The Sultan is essentially casting himself as a Medieval Pope. It is no surprise that under those conditions, oppression is aimed at potential political – as well as religious – dissent and free expression. Indeed, if the Sultan genuinely believed his position to be self evidently legitimate, the people would come to the same conclusion freely, rather than at the point of a gun. I would suggest he probably knows he has no more right to rule and to use his beliefs to infringe upon the liberty of others, than has any other citizen of Brunei.

    The new penal code is one long grotesque licence to abuse others, that quite obviously exists for no other reason than to further cement the power of the ruling family. It is an extension of the crackdown on Al-Arqam. It is political. It is the product of an oppressive and sociopathic regime with a delusional sense of its own importance and supremacy, controlled by a paranoid and narcissistic man that the British, French, Germans, Swedes and Americans among others have pathetically bestowed honours upon for decades.


    Lady Gaga, the veil, and the charge of ‘cultural appropriation’.

    April 7, 2014

    The Ghunghat - Traditional Hindu face veil used in parts of India. Source: By Mohsyn Clicked by Zainab Zaidi (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

    The Ghunghat – Traditional Hindu face veil used in parts of India.
    Source: By Mohsyn Clicked by Zainab Zaidi (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

    There’s a certain irony in conservative members of a faith that has a long history of invading three continents, countless cultures, institutionalised slavery, building a Mosque on Temple Mount, building a Mosque over the church in Istanbul, destroying the Gods worshiped by others in the Ka’bah, appropriating the centuries old veil as its own, and borrowing Pagan and Gnostic Christian myths for its own holy book, to then claim others are “culturally appropriating” its symbols. None of them were the symbols of Islam in the first place, including the veil. The charge of offensive “cultural appropriation” is thrown at the pop star from the conservative sect of Islam. I find this to be a particularly dishonest explanation for the claim of ‘offence’ on this subject.

    It is a similar tone – based entirely on western colonialism and a disingenuous ‘victim’ mentality – to that made by several conservative Muslims – including Mo Ansar – when they speak of western ‘imperialism’ of the past. Ansar once mentioned the French invading Muslim Tunisia in the 19th Century as an act of western imperialism. He neglected to mention that Tunisia was only “Muslim” by the 19th Century, because imperialist Arab Muslims had invaded it and established the Arab Aghlabids dynasty in the first place.

    When we analyse where the problem actually lies, it isn’t long before we find the predictable occidentalist, anti-western undertones that drive the ‘offence’ this time (as with most other times). The problem doesn’t seem to be based on cultural ideas or garments making their way across cultural boundaries, or a desire to keep a symbol of faith particular to Islam, nor on Lady Gaga’s intentions, but simply, that white people from the west have done it. A sort of “it’s not fair! They’re copying us! And we don’t like them!” child-like attitude.

    cultural
    – It’s a curious charge to make. It suddenly became a ‘race’ thing. Let me be clear, it is quite obvious that privilege based on gender, sexuality, and ethnicity persists and oppresses. This is true in Islamic countries, as it is in Western countries. The struggle for equality is ongoing, and I am quite sure that only secular democracy provides the mechanism for correction and progress. It is also true that the suggestion of privilege, sometimes – like this time – doesn’t stand to even the most basic of scrutiny, and is quite obviously used as a tool to deflect from a weak argument or a complete inability to address the content of the argument presented. That is the case here. The last half of the above tweet is the suggestion that all white people – including Lady Gaga – are actively trying to destroy another culture. All of us. We plot against Arab muslims; the eternal victims of colonial white devils. One suspects this line of reasoning isn’t extended to white, western muslims. In which case, what she means is, white non-muslims should not be allowed to wear the clothing of their choice, if a particular religion – one that appropriated it in the first place – has decided they now completely own it.

    colonial
    – To claim ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘not your costume’ of the veil from conservative Muslims, is to suggest Muslims have completely monopolised the use of the veil from every other culture that’s ever used it and continues to use it. The very same ‘colonial’ attitude that Lady Gaga is charged with. Religious hypocrisy at its finest.

    Islam appropriated the veil from Pre-Islamic Arab culture, which in turn, probably inherited it from earlier semitic cultures in the north. The veil is first mentioned in Assyria, centuries prior to Islam. Millions of non-Arab Muslims wear a veil, appropriated from those pre-Islamic cultures. To suggest Lady Gaga wearing the face veil is an insult to Islam, further suggests that non-Islamic cultures that have always had the veil, and long before Islam are not to be considered, and that it is an Arab Islamic garment only, with anyone else wearing it to be compared to the Arab Islamic standard only. Ironically, this is an Arab Islamic imperial attitude. Check your privilege!

    The veil existed long before Islam, and across cultures. It isn’t just Arabic, nor Islamic. About 20 centuries before Islam appropriated cultural symbols of lands that it invaded, Assyrian kings introduced a ban on slave women wearing the veil, whilst high ranking women wore them as a symbol of honour. For the Assyrians, the veil was a symbol of the class system. Later, according to the 6th book of Herodotus, the deposed King of Sparta – Demaratus – left Sparta for exile, with his face veiled to show he felt insulted by the tone of the new King Leotychidas. Tradition tells us that Sikh Guru Ji refused to meet a Hindu Queen unless she removed her veil. According to The Lalitavistara – a biography of the Buddha – describes how Yasodharā, the wife of Prince Siddhattha was constantly insulted for not veiling her face. She replied:

    “Those who are restrained in body and behavior, measured in speech, with senses controlled, calm and at peace, why should they veil their faces? Even if covered with a thousand veils, if they are shameless and immodest, dishonest and devoid of virtue, they live in this world uncovered and exposed. Even without being veiled if their senses and their minds are well-guarded, they are faithful to one husband, never thinking of another, they shine like the sun and the moon. So why should they veil their faces? The sage reading the minds of others knows my intentions as do the gods know my conduct and virtue, my discipline and my modesty. Therefore why should I veil my face?”

    - Tertullian writing in the 3rd century speaks of Arab women veiling their faces, as well as Greeks and Africans. Strabo in the 1st century speaks of Persian women veiling their faces. According to the Jewish apocrypha, and the story of Susanna:

    “31: Now Susanna was a very delicate woman and beauteous to behold. 32: And these wicked men commanded to uncover her face (for she was covered) that they might be filled with her beauty.”

    - Indeed, today there exists a denomination of Christian nuns who completely cover their faces with a veil. In Rome, they ascend the Scala Sancta steps on their knees, with their faces covered by the veil. As a part of the Nishimonai Bon Dancing in Japan, female dancers wear the Hikosa zukin face veil. The Hindi word ‘ghunghat’ is a that describes a face veil worn by some sects of traditional Hindus in regions of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Gujarat among other places in India. The veil has never been, and never will be a garment specific to Islam, with a meaning controlled by whatever conservative Muslims decide it means.

    One would have to travel far, far back in the history of mankind to find an era when all cultural groups kept to themselves, and did not benefit and grow from constant exchange of ideas and symbols. Britain is a melting pot of beautiful cultures. Indeed, as an Atheist I celebrate Christmas on December 25th, despite it being Christian and Pagan in origin (Christianity appropriating that particular festival for itself). I get the “you shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate Christmas!” nonsense from angry Christians claiming it an insult to their faith, but that isn’t the point. I enjoy that time of the year, the family traditions, the happiness. I also enjoy the evening out on Diwali. In the UK, you will find Muslims celebrating Christmas, giving cards and gifts and love on St Valentine’s day. We are a melting pot, and it’s a good, progressive thing.

    There is no reason to suggest that Lady Gaga’s use of the face cover, was in any way malicious. In fact, in 2012, she explained she wears it as a symbol of “mourning” for problems in the World. Clearly she’s a very expressive person, and clothing is a wonderful form of self expression, whether you like or agree with the sentiment behind the expression or not. Other forms may include making a comedy movie, like The Life of Brian, or a piece of art, like ‘Christ in Piss’. It is self expression; a way to convey how one feels. That is absolutely everyone’s right. Her skin tone, the country she was born, or her religious beliefs are not relevant, the expression in this case was not based on anything like that. To suggest it, is a weak counter-argument that is only used to perpetuate an east vs west, Muslim vs Everyone else false narrative and it is incredibly destructive and intellectually bankrupt. Lady Gaga is not setting out to intentionally mock or insult anyone else. Crucially, Lady Gaga wearing the veil, does not intrude upon the freedom of Muslim women to wear the veil as an expression of faith or cultural heritage. The basic freedom and right should always be protected.

    For Muslim women the veil may indeed be a symbol of modesty, it may be a symbol of faith or culture. It may symbolise whatever that particular Muslim woman decides it symbolises to her alone. But that in no way impacts on how non-Muslims have worn the veil throughout history, or how anyone else chooses to wear it today. The veil is a garment like any other, and all should be free to wear whatever they choose, to express however they choose, for it to mean whatever it is the individual decides it means to them, without harming the liberty of others, and free from state or religious coercion. In this case, the charge of ‘cultural appropriation’ does not stand up to scrutiny, and is quite obviously used as a way to express anti-western sentiment, a perpetual fantasy conflict, hidden behind wrongly appropriated language that denotes oppression. It isn’t.


    Madam President: Hillary leading for 2016.

    March 5, 2014

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

    Prior to 2008, Virginia’s electoral college votes were solidly red. Republicans could count on votes from the state of Jefferson and Washington, as much as they could count on the votes of the deep south. Democrats had not taken the state in a Presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That changed in 2008. A year in which both parties campaigned heavily, saw the once solidly red Virginia hand its votes to the Democrats by a margin of 6.3%, for the first time in 44 years.

    By 2012, President Obama became the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt, to carry Virginia in two consecutive elections. In fact, the margin of victory for the Democrats in 2012, was greater than the margin of victory for the President in the country overall. A year later, Virginia voted to elect Democrat McAuliffe to the Governorship ahead of Tea Party favourite, Ken Cuccinelli. Thanks to the far more progressive areas of Fairfax and Loudoun, and the toxic brand of the Tea Party movement; Virginia is becoming blue.

    This is bad news for the GOP for 2016. The potential field for Republican candidates in 2016 is not particularly inspiring, and no single candidate stands out. A poll out of New England College found that despite having no intention to run, Mitt Romney is favourite among GOP voters for the nomination in 2006. Ted Cruz only manages 10% support, the scandal prone Chris Christie only managing 13%, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio sharing 7% apiece.

    Even more concerning for Republican strategists, is a latest poll of voters in Virginia, conducted by Roanoke College this week, showing that any of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, would face a massive defeat, if the Democrat nomination was Hillary Clinton. If the 2016 Presidential race were between Clinton, and Christie, Clinton would come out victorious at 43% to Christie’s 41%. A race between Clinton and Paul Ryan, would give us Clinton on 53% to Ryan’s 37%. Others include; Clinton 51% to Jeb Bush 38%. Clinton 47% to Rand Paul’s 40%. Clinton on 47% with Ted Cruz on 37%.

    In Ohio – an incredibly important battleground state – Clinton commands a firm lead in polls over all Republican candidates. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that biggest challenge in Ohio to Clinton would be from Paul Ryan, who trails by a huge 9 points. Clinton leads by double figures over Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Ryan, and Kasich.

    The bad news for Republicans doesn’t end there. Even in the solidly red state of Texas, the Republicans are struggling. In 2012, Romney won 57% of the vote to the President’s 41%. Even with Texas’ changing population, it is still cloaked in red. Yet, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling, of all potential Republican candidates, none manage to win over 50% of the vote if paired off against Hillary. Jeb Bush comes closest with 49% to Clinton’s 42%. Though it’s unlikely that Bush will run. Senator Cruz – the favoured Republican candidate in Texas by a clear margin – only manages 48% to Clinton’s 45%. So, if on the off chance Jeb Bush were to run and win the Republican nomination, he may take Texas, but he’d lose Ohio, and according to another poll, he’d lose Florida too.

    The close polling between Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton in Texas, are echoed in Red States like Louisiana. Louisiana last went blue in 1996, voting to help secure a second term for President Clinton. Twenty years later, and another Clinton has the potential to turn Louisiana blue once more. Another poll by Public Policy Polling found that whilst the Republican contenders hold leads over Hillary, the margin is small enough to push Louisiana into the Democrat camp, with the right campaigning from the Clinton team in 2016. Jeb Bush again leads Hillary by the largest margin of 7 points, whilst Christie’s lead is down to just 1 point.

    This is particularly problematic for Republicans for a number of reasons. Firstly, as noted above, there aren’t any stand out GOP candidates that one might consider as posing any sort of a threat to a Hillary campaign in 2016. Secondly, the majority of Republican voters are not on the Tea Party fringes, and moderate Republicans might well be tempted to vote Democrat or simply not vote at all; the former is certainly a possibility if the Clinton campaign presents a more moderately conservative message going into 2016. This is of particular worry for Republicans in swing states and states polling low margins between Hillary and Republican candidates. Of Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, the Republicans will need to take two of the three to stand any chance at the White House. As it stands, they may not take any. Thirdly, the majority of US citizens placed blame for the government shutdown on Congressional Republicans, leading to this Congress sporting an all time low approval rating. Congress began 2014 on just 13% approval rating. Republicans in Congress are not popular, this is damaging to any future President campaign, particularly if the prevailing candidate comes direct from an appalling incompetent Congress. And lastly, the Republicans are going to have to spend a large amount of money defending their lead in states that would normally be solidly Republican. They need to do this, whilst also spending vast sums of money to win swing states like Ohio and states recently lost to Democrats, like Virginia. This is one huge uphill battle for Republicans.

    Indeed, the uphill battle is of their own making. The loss of Virginia represents the failing message of a Republican Party being dragged to the fringes of the right wing and failing to modernise. Inevitably, a shift to the fringes presents massive election issues for the GOP. In less than three years, they need to craft an entirely new, modern and inclusive message, an electable platform away from the fringes, improving their image especially with minority groups, and women voters. They also need one candidate to rally behind, and present that new message of inclusivity and modernity. A political party that only appears to represent white, middle aged, heterosexual, Christian, business men driven solely by imagined Benghazi conspiracies, is not an electable party.


    Time to reshape the Supreme Court.

    February 27, 2014

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Duncan Lock, Dflock (Own work).

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: Duncan Lock, Dflock (Own work).

    It is no big secret that the President has struggled to get his executive branch and judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate over his time in office. The incessant blocking effort by the minority Senate Republicans halted any attempt to diversify the courts prior to Reid’s ‘nuclear option’. In fact, over half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch and judicial positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. The effect of this staggering conservative grip on power can be seen in most evidently in the decisions handed down by the courts. From those decisions, we can see that corporate America has a dedicated team batting for their side in the courtrooms of the United States.

    In 2010, the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee threw up a surprising result, in which the US Supreme Court used the First Amendment to strike down restrictions of corporations and unions using treasury money to finance political expenditure. This contradicted several previous court precedents, and Judge Stevens – one of the four Supreme Court dissenters – argued that the winning conservative majority had expanded the scope of the question they were addressing, to give themselves an opportunity to change the law. The dissenters argued that the threat of big moneyed corruption – essentially, vast sums of money spent on campaigns exchanged for Congressional votes – was a big enough reason to place limits on corporate expenditure. This was ignored, and the court applied First Amendment rights to corporations; entities that can’t vote, can’t be thrown in prison, are completely amoral, and whose purpose it solely to make money, and have never taken too kindly to democratic accountability. The court essentially decided that corporations are people.

    In 2007, the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. led to the US Supreme Court finding in favour of corporate interests discriminating on basis of gender. Lilly Ledbetter was hired by Goodyear in 1979, retiring in 1998. During those years, she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts. This led to further inequality in her social security, and overtime pay. She only learned of this inequality toward the end of her career. The Supreme Court ruled that because she didn’t file suit within 180 of her first paycheck, she couldn’t sue for gender discrimination. The Supreme Court thus ruled in favour of corporate interests, when it conflicts with gender equality.

    In 2011, the case of PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, the Supreme Court ruled that generic-drug companies cannot be held liable under state law, for failing to give full label warnings of potential side effects of the drugs they produce. This came about after Gladys Mensing sued PLIVA for failing to report the dangers of the drug they were producing, which led to Gladys developing a completely irreversible neurological movement disorder. The Supreme Court found in favour of PLIVA, even if PLIVA failed to notify the FDA of new health risks.

    Time after time, the Roberts court in the United States rules largely in favour of corporate interests, ignoring past precedents, or just completely overturning previous finance, labor, health, environment, and tort law. Citizens United, Ledbetter, PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, Exxon-Valdez, Sorrell vs. IMS Health, Philip Morris USA v. Williams, Gross v. FBL Financial Services AT&T Mobility v. Concepción. The list is endless. And usually results in a 5-4 decision in favour of corporate interests. This is a direct result of the conservative grip on power over the courts in the US.

    The constant threat of filibuster meant the President’s field of eligible candidates significantly withered, and professional diversity, nonexistent. According to research by the Alliance for Justice, of President Obama’s 281 judicial nominees, only 10 have experience in representing labor and worker interests in disputes. Only four of the 56 circuit judicial nominees have worked as public defenders, compared to 21 as prosecutors. Around 85% of President Obama’s judicial nominees to be confirmed have worked as Corporate attorneys or prosecutors. Of the 177 judicial nominees to the district courts, only 8 worked previously in a public interest role. A staggering 71% of President Obama’s district court nominees have worked primarily with corporate interests. The problem is clear; the courts lack professional diversity.

    It is perhaps true that Reid’s Senate ‘nuclear option’ opened opportunities for incredibly talented judges from all walks of life, with experience representing individual workers and consumers rather than just corporate interests, to enter the district and circuit courts without fear of filibuster, but as it stands right now, the courts of the US lack that much needed diversity. As of today, there are 29 vacancies for the district courts, and six for circuit courts. Selection committees for the judiciary on a state level should be using this time to promote professional diversity, and specifically encouraging those with public interest backgrounds to apply. Reid’s nuclear option – requiring a simple majority to confirm nominees rather than a filibuster proof majority – presents a wonderful opportunity for Democrats to push for a far more diverse judiciary – not just in terms of racial, gender, and sexuality diversity, but also professional experience – and a unique opportunity to change the power balance in the US for the better.


    The Theocracy of Arizona.

    February 24, 2014

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Visitor7.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: Visitor7.

    One can only imagine the outrage that would grip the Christian communities of the United States if signs across the businesses of the nation started appearing that insisted “Christians will not be served here”, or perhaps firefighters refusing to serve the needs of Christians in trouble, or teachers refusing to teach kids who identified as Christian. Screams of anti-Christian discrimination would take over Fox News and the World would be treated to hour after hour of journalists asking for Sarah Palin’s vacant opinion. And yet, this same discriminatory tone is exactly what the Christian-right in Arizona is attempting to force upon the LGBT community and non-religious folk in the state.

    Arizona’s now infamous SB1062/HB2153 law allowing businesses to deny services to the LGBT community, passed by both the Republican controlled Arizona State Senate, and House is proving to be a disaster for the GOP. The response from Republicans in the State Legislature and beyond, has been almost as shameful as their willingness to pass such a vicious piece of Theocratic and bigoted legislation in the first place. It isn’t the targeting and dehumanising of gay people for discrimination – in a very Jim Crow like manner – that has bothered their conscience over the past couple of days; it has been the national and international attentional the state has received for the hideous Bill.

    According to the Bill, religious freedom is only fully recognised if religious folk have the legalised right to oppress those they don’t particularly like, and deny those people equal rights. During the debate, Democrats tried to amend the Bill so as to not include firefighters and police (the fact that this was even up for debate, is horrendous in itself). Republicans voted against the amendment. As it stands, the Republicans in Arizona have revoked equal protection under the secular, constitutional law, if Christians don’t like them. Creeping Theocracy, framed as ‘religious freedom’. The same horrendous argument was used to permit an Arizonan constitutional amendment in 2008, banning same-sex marriage. Christians with the right to marry, restricting the same right for same-sex couples to marry, is hard to describe as anything other than Theocratic and a belief that Christianity must be considered supreme. It is the institutionalising of Christian ‘values’ above all others. The same is true for SB1062/HB2153. Christian supremacists in Arizona are targeting an unprotected group that they take great pleasure in oppressing, for the sake of further empowering their ideology, in much the same way that white supremacists took great pleasure in protecting their privilege by oppressing the rights of anyone with darker skin. Arizona’s Christian conservatives, have publicly set fire to the United States Constitution, and replaced it with Leviticus.

    Republican State Sen. Steve Pierce – a man who voted to legalise anti-gay discrimination and enshrine Christian privilege into law – has decided he now hopes Gov. Jan Brewer will veto it. You may think he’s had a change of heart? You may think he now acknowledges that there is no fundamental right to oppress that overrides the right to equal protection and citizenship under the law. Perhaps he believes it is wholly wrong to institutionalise discrimination. Perhaps he’s accepted that Christians have no privileged right to decide who should be treated as a second class citizen based on sexuality, in much the same way that white Americans had no privileged right to decide who should treated as a second class citizen based on skin tone. Maybe Republican State Sen. Steve Pierce had a change of heart. Well, no. In explaining why he now opposes the Bill, Pierce said:

    “I don’t like the negative picture of Arizona, and I’m on board asking the governor to veto the bill.”

    - Steve Pierce is far more concerned about looking bad, and the negative attention that comes with legalising discrimination, than he is with legalised discrimination itself. Pierce then signed a letter, along with Senators Bob Worsley, and Adam Driggs.

    “While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”

    - Yes. It’s pointing out the theocratic and bigoted nature of the Bill that is the problem. Their complaint is that they aren’t allowed to discriminate in peace. Following the line of ‘a shield’ protecting all citizens’ religious liberties; if this bill were active in Texas, it would afford the right for a business owner of a member of the congregation of the Appleby Baptist Church in Nacogdoches – who believe in racial segregation based on the ‘curse of Ham’ – to place a ‘whites only’ sign in his shop window, and claim it on ‘sincerely held religious belief’.

    I’m almost certain the same Republican state representatives don’t take issue with their salaries being partly funded by LGBT taxpayers, or the roads they drive on, or the state education their children receive, or the police protection they enjoy. Conveniently, I’m sure none of that violates their ‘sincerely held religious belief’.

    But the State Republicans aren’t the only ones to provide awful responses to the controversy. Kristin Jarnagin, vice president of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association said:

    “We have already lost untold amounts of tax dollars due to the negative perception that this legislation attaches to our state’s image, and the bill hasn’t even been signed into law yet.”

    - Similarly, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council said:

    “With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage. This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts.”

    - Yes! That’s the problem! Tax dollars and the effect on a sporting event. Apparently bigotry is fine, if it doesn’t interfere with tourism. That’s what they seem to have decided is the problem. Not the further institutionalising of heterosexual privilege and legalisation of bigotry and bullying. Not the subtle message sent out that the rights of all non-Christians should be secondary to the rights of Christians, and dependent on the demands of those Christians. This legislation not only legalises discrimination against the LGBT community – and, well, anyone else that Christians decide they’re not too keen on – it tells the LGBT community and non-Christians that they are not to be considered equal citizens, will not be entitled the same rights as Christians, and that their right to equal citizenship and protection should be decided upon by Theocrats, on the basis of Biblical ‘morality’. It is the grotesque concept of the state recognising and establishing religious intolerance at the expense of equal rights. Completely anti-constitutional. It is the state placing the supremacy of the Bible, above the Constitution. It is the state creating two classes of citizen; the religious, and the non-religious, with the former to be given a privileged societal position above the latter. This is illegitimate and extremely dangerous religious (and so, Christian) supremacy, in much the same way as Jim Crow was illegitimate and extremely dangerous white supremacy.

    It seems to be the case that conservative Christians struggle to identify the difference between being persecuted for their faith, and challenges to the supremacy of their faith. The latter, is not the same as the former. The Bill authorises persecution, for the sake of the supremacy of faith. A state based on the supremacy of one religion should be considered as vile and dangerous as a state based on the supremacy of one skin tone. It is vastly anti-secular, and vastly anti-American. It is a dehumanising bill that should offend all who value equality, human dignity, secular protections, and the Constitution. There is so much wrong with this Bill, and the response to it, that it’s difficult to know where to even begin.


    Republican hero Ted Nugent in his own words.

    February 22, 2014

    “If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!”
    - Sarah Palin’s reason for endorsing Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

    It’s been a terrible twelve or so months for the Republicans. An objective commentator might point out that the shift too far to the right, or to the left, will always spell trouble for a political party. Most voters are not looking to radically shift the direction of the country to either extreme, and so the more a party appears to offer such a shift, the more voters will turn away. Instead of addressing the issues that Republicans seem to have in connecting with anyone who isn’t a white, middle aged, Christian, heterosexual male, they instead have weirdly chosen to embrace that mentality of exclusivity. An extreme ideological mentality – moulded and set by overly paranoid conspiratorial ‘analysts’ like Limbaugh – that will without doubt see them fall further from electability and harm the party in the long run. Nowhere is this more pronounced than their odious courting and embracing of Ted Nugent by Republican Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

    So here is the GOP’s new hero, Ted Nugent, in his own words:

    Ted Nugent in 1992 on anyone who wasn’t born in America:

    “… Yeah they love me (in Japan) – they’re still assholes. These people they don’t know what life is. I don’t have a following, they need me; they don’t like me they need me … Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ‘em; I don’t want ‘em in this country; I don’t want ‘em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ‘em pumping my gas; I don’t want ‘em downwind of my life-OK? So anyhow-and I’m dead serious …”

    Ted Nugent on those fighting to break down barriers to gender equality:

    “What’s a feminist anyways? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough?”

    Ted Nugent on the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin:

    “Trayvon got justice.”

    Ted Nugent’s letter to the girlfriend of a guy he’d met, who wouldn’t let him go hunting:

    “I wrote her something and I said ‘Drop dead, bitch’… What good is she, trade her in, get a Dalmatian. Who needs the wench?”

    Ted Nugent after explaining how he dodged the Vietnam draft:

    “But if I would have gone over there, I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed all the Hippies in the foxholes. I would have killed everybody.”

    - Instead, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent worked up a plan to dodge the draft, whilst fellow Americans put their lives on the line.

    Ted Nugent on rappers:

    “MTV is a liberal lump of hippy snot. They are embarrassing. Those big uneducated greasy black mongrels on there, they call themselves rap artists.”

    - Yes. The new hero of one of the two major political parties in the US, referred to people as “uneducated greasy black mongrels”.

    Ted Nugent on what constitutes “real” Americans:

    “You know what I’m on top of? I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

    - In the same interview, and following this quote, when told that African Americans were just as hard working as white Americans, Nugent said:

    “Show me one.”

    Ted Nugent on President Obama:

    “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.”

    Ted Nugent and Confederacy nostalgia:

    “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

    - The South. You know, the region fighting specifically to uphold the institution of slavery.

    Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

    “You probably can’t use the term `toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”

    Ted Nugent’s violent, misogynistic rant on what he’d like to do with his machine guns and women in politics:

    “Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these [machine gun] into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? ”

    Ted Nugent – having exhausted Confederate nostalgia, racism, and misogyny – now turns to repugnant homophobia:

    “I got to tell you, guys that have sex with each others’ anals cavities – how can we offend guys that have anal sex?”

    Ted Nugent solution to those people crossing the border from Mexico:

    “In an unauthorized entry, armed, like they are right now, invading our country, I’d like to shoot them dead.”

    Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

    “Our politicians check their scrotum in at the door. Even Hillary, but obviously she has spare scrotums.”

    After Nugent’s most recent vile Benghazi tantrum, in which he referred to the President as a “chimpanzee” and “subhuman mongrel”, Texas Governor, Republican Rick Perry said that he didn’t take offence at the comment, and:

    “That’s Ted Nugent. Anybody that’s offended sorry, but that’s just Ted.”

    - A few hours later, it would appear that Perry had a change of heart, when he then told CNN:

    “That is not appropriate language to use about the president of the United States.”

    - A bit of an odd choice of words. I’d suggest it’s not appropriate language to use about anyone, not just the President. It’s horrendously racist terminology.

    The cynic in me might argue that Perry issued this second comment on the controversy, because Nugent’s ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘mongrel’ analogy is incredibly damaging to the Republicans, and to the campaign of Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. It was perhaps Perry’s way of attempting to create distance between the Republican Party, and a horrifyingly racist, misogynist, homophobic, Confederacy sympathiser. Greg Abbott on the other hand, will be continuing to campaign alongside Nugent. It is frightening that in the US, in the 21st Century, Wendy Davis – a great advocate of women’s health rights – will almost certainly be defeated in Texas’s gubernatorial race, by a Republican candidate who has fully embraced a venomous human being like Ted Nugent.

    The love affair between Ted Nugent and the GOP, reflects perfectly the hideous direction the Republican Party has taken in recent years. Indeed, Nugent is the personification of the Tea Party influence on the Republican Party; his violent, misogynistic, racist, homophobic rhetoric, subtly masked with conspiratorial (Benghazi) tones as its weak justification, is the very essence of the Tea Party. It is a brand new Republican Party falling over to the political extremes more and more by the day. It is therefore a Republican Party unlikely to win the White House again in a very, very long time.


    One man’s freedom fighter…

    December 6, 2013

    one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, freedom, mandela freedom, mandela lincoln, hamas freedom

    It is a thoughtless cliche that paradoxically seems to endure. It is used to defend the most horrendous atrocities that seek to control every aspect of the lives of others. It is an extreme show of cultural relativism that appears to link those who fight for equality, justice and freedom, with those who fight to prohibit equality, justice and freedom.

    It may be said that whilst ‘freedom’ is an end, terrorism is not an end, but a way to get to an end. However, I find this particularly flawed, because it discounts my contention in this article, that terrorism can and often is used to implement a system of perpetual terror – Taliban controlled Afghanistan, for example – upon those who are outside of its narrow supremacist vision. Fighting for the power to put others in your cage, cannot be considered freedom.

    It would appear to me that the word freedom is self explanatory. Any system that seeks to control others, by elevating a particular race, or gender, or sexuality, or religious belief above others, is not freedom. It is supremacist. Indeed, any system that institutionalises privileges for a particular race, or gender, or sexuality, or religious belief, is not freedom. It is supremacist. If you fight to uphold or to implement a supremacist system, controlling the lives, loves, thoughts, and the words of those who do not fit your narrow spectrum of what is considered decent and correct, you are a terrorist. You advocate perpetual terror. You are not fighting for freedom. You are fighting for oppression.

    Freedom does not, and should include the freedom to oppress others according to your ideology. A freedom granted to one, must be a freedom granted to all. This includes the fundamental human right to think and speak freely without fear of oppression. The breaking down of patriarchal barriers that seek to oppress women as if an object to be owned and controlled by men. The freedom to love, regardless of sexuality. The freedom to assembly. The freedom from any form of discrimination based on the colour of one’s skin. The freedom to choose leaders. The freedom to believe whatever you choose to believe. The freedom to seek the life you wish. Freedom is the leveling of a playing field. If you fight for these principles, you are a freedom fighter.

    I have heard often the excusing of the oppressive nature of Hamas, with the phrase “one man’s terrorist”. It’s a cliche that appears to attempt to link the cause of Hamas to great freedom fighters of the past; to those fighting the oppression of an opposing structure. As if freeing women or gay people or non-believers, can be considered as morally equivalent to caging women or gay people or non-believers. As if oppression is relative, and therefore acceptable. Hamas have nothing that could defined as ‘freedom’ etched into their being. They use violence in an attempt to implement a system of perpetual terror based on the supremacy of one religion. There is nothing that can be described as ‘freedom’ about this.

    There are many strands to Hamas’ anti-freedom agenda. Crucially, religious supremacy. This seems to feed their heterosexual supremacy, and their patriarchal supremacy. Article 6 of Hamas’ constitution reads:

    “The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Only under the shadow of Islam could the members of all regions coexist in safety and security for their lives, properties and rights(11). In the absence of Islam, conflict arises, oppression reigns, corruption is rampant and struggles and wars prevail.”

    - For some inexplicable reason, Hamas have decided that they have a natural right to impose their ideological structure upon all people living in Palestine. They then contradict their inherently oppressive message, by complaining that anything other than their own oppressive system, is oppression. Yet the implementation of their strict “moral” structure sees the horrendous treatment of gay people, the oppression of women, and the torture of anyone who critiques their beliefs. This isn’t freedom, nor are those fighting for it to be considered “freedom fighters“. Nor are those who forgive it, or support it – George Galloway for example – to be considered anything other than religious supremacists.

    As noted above, freedom does not include a supposed inherent right to oppress whomever you wish. It is the equivalent of the Confederate State of America in the 1860s insisting that any leveling of the racial playing field, is inherently oppressive to white people, and that by fighting to uphold white supremacy, they’re actually ‘freedom fighters’. How ludicrous. Threatening and breaking supremacist ideals, is the promotion of freedom. Hamas, the Taliban, and others like them, do not get to call themselves freedom fighters. It is preposterous to do so. In the same way that it would be preposterous to define Jefferson Davis as a freedom fighter. Those who defend their actions, insisting that Jefferson Davis was in fact a freedom fighter, must lay out what freedoms he was actually fighting for. Their argument must be stronger than those who think differently, otherwise the argument fails.

    The distinction between freedom fighter and those fighting to establish a system that enshrines oppression can be seen most clearly if we contrast Article 6 of Hamas’ constitution above, with the Bill of Rights of post-Apartheid South Africa:

    “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.

    The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes ­
    freedom of the press and other media;
    freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
    freedom of artistic creativity; and
    academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.”

    “Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”

    - These provisions establish the right of everyone to speak freely, to associate, to love, to believe, to live without fear of oppression. It establishes a line of equality that no gender, sexuality, race or religion can rise above. This was an incredible achievement. It is not often that those who fight for revolution in an oppressed nation relinquish power once they have it. Robespierre, Castro, Lenin; all forged oppressive power for themselves out of the structures they fought to break down. Those who fought Apartheid to frame a system in South Africa upon which freedom is enshrined, rightfully earn the title ‘freedom fighters’.

    The distinction between ‘freedom fighter’ and ‘terrorist’ is clear. Motive is important. If you are fighting to implement or uphold a system that openly restricts rights, threatens punishment for exercising basic rights like expression or love, and oppresses those who do not fit into its structure, you are advocating the power for yourself to cage and chain others. This is terror. If however you fight to break those chains, to free people from an oppressive cage of illegitimate power structures, and establish a line of equality upon which supremacy is prohibited, and all are considered equal, you are a freedom fighter.

    Freedom and terror are incompatible.


    Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

    November 28, 2013

    800px-Rand_Paul_Filibuster

    It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

    “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
    Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

    - Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

    That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

    The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

    So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

    Let’s start with the most staggering.
    Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
    Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
    Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
    More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

    Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

    In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

    Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

    “To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

    - Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

    Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

    75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

    And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

    These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

    Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.


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