Religion & Politics Blog

The Worlds Shortest Political Quiz describes me as a left-liberal. I consider myself a non-fundamentalist protestant. I have little time for dogmatism or sectarianism in either politics or religion, but this blog will contain opinions. Read at your peril.

How a dictatorship flourished in the East End

The Guardian’s Nick Cohen is on blistering form describing how a dictatorship flourished in the East End

The neurotic fear of accusations of race and religious bias helped Rahman build a municipal dictatorship. The system of elected mayors is always open to abuse, because there are so few controls on them. Rahman pushed it to the limits. He controlled grants and officials could not prevent him handing public money to his supporters. He controlled the officials, too, and used supposedly impartial public servants to “carry out electoral activities on his behalf”.

Tower Hamlets First, his political party, was nothing more than a cult of the personality. If you wanted a safe seat on the council, you had to show a lapdog loyalty to Rahman. Speaking of dogs, the judge noticed that when there was not even the slightest justification for an accusation of racism, Rahman and his cronies would accuse their opponents of “dog-whistle politics” instead. By these means, anything and everything an opponent said could be turned into coded racism, even when the racism was only in the mind of the accuser.

Come on, admit it – it’s not just in the East End you see these tricks played. The postmodern universities and identity-obsessed scour speech for the smallest hint of bigotry, real or imagined. They seize on it – and with a whoop of triumph – cry that the mask has slipped to expose the true face of prejudice. Surely you have noticed, too, that in the paranoia that follows, careerists and charlatans flourish.

He doesn’t mince words, does he?

It’s yet another examle of the way the identity politics and priviledge theory adopted by large parts of the left have created an envionment in which corrupt bullies can thrive.

The fiasco of Tower Hamlets goes to prove it’s not just the storm-in-teacup culture wars in nerd fandoms or the toytown politics of student unions that have been poisoned.  If effects the real world as well.

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When writing about controversial subjects you have two choices. You can write balanced pieces that stick to the facts, and watch them sink without trace. Or you can write button-pushing clickbait and partisan hit pieces. But surely it’s better to keep your integrity and self-respect than to be Arthur Chu

Posted on by Tim Hall | Leave a comment

#GrantShappsFacts

Some things you might not have known about Grant Shapps. Or Michael Green. Or….

  • Grant Shapps plays crumhorn for Lordi.
  • Grant Shapps once ordered three Shredded Wheat. But he only ate two of them and sold the third on eBay for a profit
  • All the Grant Shappses, every single one, are Pod People from the planet Zog. Nobody knows their real agenda
  • The Grant Shappses will be one of the monsters in the next season of Dr Who

All of these are true. It says so on Twitter.

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Half a million people reportedly registered to vote yesterday, the last day before the deadline to register before the election. That’s something that’s hard to take in.

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First Past The Post – Is this the villain?

Yes, I know full well that there’s far more about the current Hugos fight than just voting systems. There are all sorts of issues about who the awards belong to and what they’re supposed to represent.

But this blog post is not about those issues. I’ve covered that elsewhere.

There’s a fascinating discussion on Making Light below a guest post by Bruce Schneier how to change the voting system to defeat the emergence of organised slate voting that’s so disrupted the Hugo Awards nominations this year. As a lifelong election anorak it’s an interesting subject. An emerging consensus seems to be some version of Single Transferable Vote is a good way to go.

As I see it, the problem isn’t slate voting, even though that’s widely considered to be against the spirit of the thing. The problem is the First Past The Post system that’s used for the nominations ballot. That’s what’s enabled a group comprising a small percentage of the voters to completely dominate the results. The Sad Puppies haven’t broken the system, all they’ve done is proved that it’s broken.

But FPTP has been causing problems long before that.

All it takes is a critical mass of voters with heavily-overlapping tastes to have the effects of completely shutting out those whose tastes don’t overlap. I believe it’s this, rather than behind-the-scenes slates organised through back channels, that’s led to the appearance of award nominations being dominated by a clique. It doesn’t need the conspiracy alleged by the Sad Puppies to produce the Hugo nominations ballots of the past few years. It’s just an unintended consequences of a voting system designed for a different age when SF wasn’t so fragmented into sub-tribes.

While I don’t doubt that some puppies have motivations that aren’t concerned with the health of the SF scene, they do gain energy from the ranks of those who feel disenfranchised from the present system.

STV will fix both the problems of slate voting and the problems that gave rise to slate voting. In that respect, it’s a win-win.

Next month the United Kingdom goes to the polls in a real election. We’re still using the archaic FPTP system in an election where the two-party system it was supposed to serve has completely broken down. We will almost certainly end up with a Parliament that bears little or no resemblance to the way the electorate voted, and may well result in a government which has no popular mandate. We’re in for some very bumpy times, for stakes far higher than deciding who’s supposed to have written the best book or fanzine of the year.

We need to be using STV for real elections too.

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Rotten Boroughs

The Government report into what’s been going on at Rotherham is damning stuff.

Casey, the government’s lead official on troubled families, said the council lacked “the necessary skills, abilities, experience and tenacity within either the member or senior officer leadership teams”.

Concluding that the council needs a fresh start, Casey’s 154-page report said: “The council’s culture is unhealthy: bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced ‘political correctness’ have cemented its failures.

“The council is currently incapable of tackling its weaknesses without a sustained intervention.”

She also criticised the council’s deep-rooted culture of suppressing bad news and ignoring hard issues, writing: “RMBC goes to some length to cover up information and to silence whistleblowers.”

There’s a lot of blame to go round, but one root cause of these rotten boroughs is an electoral system that results in single party fiefdoms in any party’s heartlands, especially those of Labour. Don’t be distracted by the fact there are currently ten UKIP councillors in Roherham; they were only elected in 2013 after the scandal broke. Before that it was a monolithic one-party state run by the Labour Party.

You might assign some of the blame to an electorate who vote in local elections on national issues along tribal lines, without paying enough attention to what the people they elect get up to in office. But the bigger villain is the first-past-the-post electoral system, deeply flawed and anti-democratic at national level, and utterly unfit for purpose at local level. Even if Rotherham had remained firmly in Labour control, it’s difficult to believe the presence of a viable opposition group on the council would not have bought these terrible problems to light earlier.

The 2015 general election is likely to produce a second successive hung Parliament, in which the distribution of seats will bear little resemblance to the distribution of votes. Electoral reform for parliamentary elections is likely to be high on the political agenda. Does Rotherham make the case for parallel reform of local government even more important?

Electoral reform is sometimes dismissed as a pastime for political anoraks. But Rotherham demonstates why it does actually matter.

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Bolsover, a hotbed of Satanism?

According to the census results, Bolsover in Derbyshire contans Britain’s highest concentration of Satanists. But both Bolsover Council and The Church of Satan are questioning this.

Bolsover is precisely the sort of place that ought to spawn metal bands. So where are Bolsover’s Black Metal acts?

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“My Tribe, Right or Wrong” is a really bad cultural anti-pattern.

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Fox News Facts

The radical preacher who controls Birmingham

#FoxNewsFacts was a trending topic on Twitter a few days ago. The hashtag stated that the radical Islamist preacher pictured above controlled Birmingham, there was another dangerous radical cleric called Jaspur Q’rat, and people were being forced to study The Kerrang.

This was British humour’s response to the claim made by a talking head on Fox TV that the city of Birmingham was 100% Muslim, and non-Muslims were forbidden to enter.

I posted a few myself, stating that it was punishable by death to confuse Birmingham with The Black Country, but nobody outside the area knew the boundary, that the soccerball team “Wolves” were made up from werewolves, and that Prince Philip really is an alien lizard. Many of them got retweeted a lot, and a few people claimed the last of those might actually be true.

Liberal England gives some background on the talking head in question.

Steve Emerson, the soi-disant terrorism expert who told Fox News that Birmingham is a “Muslim-only city” where non-Muslims “don’t go”, has apologised for his “terrible error”.

That is to his credit, but Emerson will be a busy man if he is going to apologise for all his terrible errors.

Steve Emerson not an expert on terrorism as such. His mission is not to inform but to spread propaganda. He’s a professional charlatan, a “court prophet”, who has made a successful living telling whatever his sponsors want the gullible to hear.

His “terrible error” was not being wrong about Birmingham, but not stopping to think that such an obvious and easily-disproven lie would escape from the Fox News media bubble. Birmingham should throw his insincere false apology back in his face.

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So, American right-wingers are robustly defending a group of French Communists, while others who identify as liberals are making excuses for the religious fundamentaists who murdered them? Have I just woken up in Bizarro-World?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments