OPEN DISCUSSION AUGUST 2019

Aug 1, 2019

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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43 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION AUGUST 2019

  • The August open discussion thread is now open.

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  • Seems appropriate to bring the subject of human population density on planet Earth to the fore.  The challenges we humans face with our global warming world are most certainly exacerbated by the elephant in the room issue that rarely makes the headlines, human population expansion.  We add over 150,000 or more humans to the Earth every single day and the pressures on food availability and land degradation are multiplied accordingly.  I will include a link with some data on the issue.  Our impact at present levels are evident but it is hard to comprehend a planet with over 10 billion which is the projection within the next 100 years, if not sooner.

    http://worldpopulationreview.com/

     

     

     

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  • Hi Aroundtown [#2],

    Your comment is bob-on.

    Of course global climate change and overpopulation are on a collision course.

    That means the only way for the vast majority of humans to really switch on to both problems is for the available land for cultivation and the number of mouths it can feed to cross.

    “Ah” I hear you say “but that must be centuries off”.  Bear with me.

    Climate change will, at a rate that is exponential, reduce the amount of land for cultivation.  At first sight this doesn’t seem important, but many people miss three crucial points:

    1. Human beings, even scientists, often fail to understand the so-called hockey stick effect of natural growth curves – and both of our datums are rapidly approaching the hockey stick ‘elbow’.

    2. Many people – even those involved in environment-watching – fail to notice some of the root causes of accelerating climate change – the Russian Taiga deforestation still comes a long way down the list of environmental concerns.  By the way, am I the only regular visitor here to have noticed that Siberia is on fire?  1.6 million hectares destroyed, the last time I looked.  One of the biggest environmental disasters of the last 50 years.

    3. This means that our weather is going to get weirder.  It doesn’t have to get hotter to reduce a food crop to fertilizer – without direct human intervention – it can happen with wind, drought, precipitation out of season, early frosts … ask any farmer.

    I’m not a scientist.  Perhaps I’m overly pessimistic?  It seems to me highly likely that the only way billions of human beings will learn about over-population is dying before they can reproduce – the very essence of a failing species.  I am increasingly of the opinion that it will happen in my Daughter’s lifetime – and she’s 25.

    Peace.

      Report abuse

  • Aroundtown #2 and Stephen of Wimbledon #3:  If you haven’t already read it, I recommend Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now, The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.  Chapter 7 deals with overpopulation, and chapter 10 with environmental issues.  As Pinker says, we should not pretend that all the trends are positive or that the problems are minor, but problems are solvable and voices of reason and science are being heard.

    I think Pinker makes a good argument that as the ideas of the Enlightenment become stronger, there is reason to be optimistic, not Pollyannaish, but optimistic.  Barring some cataclysmic event, science and reason will prevail.  The age of Enlightenment began in the 1700s and, despite some obvious downturns, society has been on an upward trajectory since that time.  Whether it be life expectancy, health, wealth, inequality, education, just to name a few issues, conditions are better today than just a few centuries, even decades, ago.  Secularization continues to gain momentum and people, especially young people, are loudly demanding rational environmental and other social policies.  I think we need to keep a grip on ourselves and do everything we can to support science, reason, and progress. Report abuse

  • I appreciate the fact that I am not alone in expressing concern for our collective plight.  I tend to gravitate towards Stephen of Wimbeldon’s pessimistic glass is half empty proclamation as it applies to our probable outcome generally but I continue to see some reason for optimism for action as expressed by Michael 100 that we might see the collective error of our ways and act, but the tide is shifting lower for me as time passes.

     I will include a link to a recent article taken from a more extended essay (that which is findable within the post) that sums up her outlook for our trajectory, it is scary but enlightening as well.  Seems like many years ago now but a poster here, Sara, once schooled me on the adherence and value of hope, I still remember the lesson and try to retain “hope” we might have a collective awakening.  As stated though, I am tending to gravitate toward the pessimistic as regards those who have the levers of power at their disposal, let us “hope” they can awaken before all is lost.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/facing-extinction-humans-animals-plants-species_n_5d2ddc04e4b0a873f6420bd3

  • I appreciate the fact that I am not alone in expressing concern for our collective plight.  I tend to gravitate towards Stephen of Wimbeldon’s pessimistic glass is half empty proclamation as it applies to our probable outcome generally but I continue to see some reason for optimism for action as expressed by Michael 100 that we might see the collective error of our ways and act, but the tide is shifting lower for me as time passes.

    I will include a link to a recent article taken from a more extended essay (that which is findable within the post) that sums up her outlook for our trajectory, it is scary but enlightening as well.  Seems like many years ago now but a poster here, Sara, once schooled me on the adherence and value of hope, I still remember the lesson and try to retain “hope” we might have a collective awakening.  As stated though, I am tending to gravitate toward the pessimistic as regards those who have the levers of power at their disposal, let us “hope” they can awaken before all is lost.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/facing-extinction-humans-animals-plants-species_n_5d2ddc04e4b0a873f6420bd3

  • Over-population.

    To fix this you need first and foremost to lift people out of poverty. It also is how mass migration, the primary political threat we will face first, is ameliorated.

    Fertility rates and migration are glued to our prospects. Report abuse

  • Phil #7

    That is such an important point.

    It is also what makes it so ironic that, on the whole, the people who rage most about immigration are also the very ones who rage most about the International Development budget.

    If for some weird reason a country really is determined to reduce immigration, and all the economic and cultural benefits it brings, then the very best way to achieve that is to invest heavily in developing countries and stop dropping bombs on them (or supplying the bombs for other countries to drop). Report abuse

  • It is quite possibly the single most useful investment we can make. People are made happy and change their behaviours when they can see visible progress in their family’s state year on year.

    Nor should we be panicking that this will add to the eco load on the planet. The point, is if we intervene and choose the nature of our help, and become a little more dirigiste about it, it can become the spearhead of sustainable living.

    It is 50% cheaper to install electricity from solar and battery than from off grid in Africa and India, say. Rammed earth is a fantastic and near zero eco impact building method, that needs no significant infrastructure of energy supply and transportation. Local sewage and water treatment using bio-reactors and algae, can reduce water consumption, generate green gas for nighttime power, produce potable water, all from solar and entirely scalable and off-grid.

    Africa is the biggest challenge, with 400% population growth scheduled by 2100. This could possibly be brought down to 200% if enough folk could be lifted out of comparative poverty within the next generation. Total fertility rates can drop very rapidly when folk are optimistic about their prospects. They make smarter decisions. Rather than investing in their old age with extra biddable kids, they invest in their kids and their kids….

     

    Governments can use big companies (Laing, Balfour Beaty, Skanska and lesser like Arup) to do this with the proviso that only eco techniques are employed. This develops their skills and produces exemplar installations and processes. These companies are astonishingly gung-ho for eco (in my personal experience) but get trapped into conservatism by simple commercial pressures and in the absence of elevating standards. They will love it and it will help deal increasingly with market conservatism.

     

    Neo-classical economic thinking gets thrown out of the window in war-time. We come more to our senses, rediscover what the Tiger Economies of the Pacific Rim discovered, capitalism coupled with a little dirigisme can deliver joined up policy to meet the demands of an urgent problem. Our current economic loyalties are to system that will work much better in a fairer world, yet to arrive. Until then it is gamed by the winners to further win. With the consequence that the great mass of losers become the source of all the instability that may terminate the entire game.

    Discouraging the wasteful investment of money into merely tricking wealth out of the other players, in favour of investing long-term in wealth creation with tax incentives, can be the means to better helping ourselves close on sustainable living. Developing nations, invested-in through tax incentives for eco system provision provided by our own builders, developing their eco skills, can reward everyone. Report abuse

  • Marco,

     

    It does seem that right wing thinking is mostly for the here and now with a future sub-contracted as often as not to some external supernatural agency.

    Left wing thinking more often, it seems to me, imagines a tomorrow, and, at its best, a distant other that needs due consideration also.

    Bo Jo and his cohort of Catastrophe Capitalists will not invest if it means others will gain also. They will cut off our noses to spite all our faces. Report abuse

  • Phil #13

    It was entirely foreseeable, even before the referendum. You only needed to see what else just about every single one of the loudest pro-Brexit voices had advocated over the years to see that Brexit was always going to be nothing more than the (from their point of view) necessary clearing away of the rights and responsibilities that stood in the way of the corporate haven, tiny state, billionaire wet-dream they were so determined to achieve.

    On a slightly different note, though, quite a few of us are now pushing back against the cosy nicknames for Boris Johnson. Terms like Boris, BoJo, #BunglingBoris etc all help mask the real menace of the man. He is not our friend, he is not some bumbling clown, he is not a good bloke at heart, he is not a joke: he is someone who, wholly unsuited for the post of PM, has nonetheless acquired it through decades of sheer hard-nosed, hard-headed, self-serving determination and will continue to be utterly ruthless in his pursuit of what will serve him and his cronies best. Jokey nicknames are misplaced. Report abuse

  • It was indeed entirely foreseeable. A year ago some Brexit spokesman on food made it perfectly clear that he expected the demise of several British food producers as cheap American produce is imported in the interests of “choice”.

    Reassurances remain empty and the naked business interests of the various players are shamelessly on show per the Stephen Fry video I posted a while back.

    I completely agree Johnson must not be portrayed as cuddly in any sense. In my mind, BoJo was the Heath Ledger Joker (we need some photoshop now). Pending that simply Johnson has a chill to it (thanks Lyndon) whilst being a dick. Report abuse

  • Hi,

    I found that the most effective way to find errors in my beliefs is to double check everything I can, in the most stupid and automatic way. By stupid I mean, check without debating if I should check or not even if I’m 100% sure, and even if I have already a lot of good evidence evidence that I’m true.

    For some context, this behavior come from my programming computer experience, and assume nothing is the only correct way to correct bugs in programs, because most of bugs lies on an implied assumption being false.

    And I have a lot of evidence, that it works very well. A lot of case where I used it I found mistake.

    I assumed this attitude was uncommon even in the skeptic community. and estimate that 1% of the population did it.

    And I double check this assumption. I made a search on “systematic doubt” and similar term. And found literally nothing. So it is very likely that my estimation of 1% is a huge underestimate that this method is unknown. As such this is a kind of meta discover and one additional proof that my method has some success. (But I don’t pretend that other method are more successful).

    Fun point, “systematic doubt” on google give “Cartesian doubt” which is a philosophical position which says that doubting is a way to reach knowledge, but it seems, that very few speaking use it in the same literal meaning than me.

    PS: I read the comment policy, and the “Do not be rude.” is relevant to by usual behavior. Despite all effort I do, when I have a debate with any one, I’m systematically perceived as rude. One part of the reason is that I typically say: I think that you are wrong on this point, and very often with evidence of my affirmation. But I have no idea how to change my way to debate and I tried a lot.
    So I’m in a high risk of breaking the “do not be rude” rules here. My decision is that I will do my best just not enter in a debate here. But if at any point, if someone say that my attitude is rude on this site, I will simply stop to post, to not break the rules more than once. Report abuse

  • Xavier Combelle  #17

    Welcome to RDFRS!

    Examining one’s assumptions is a very good habit to get into. And it is something we all need to be reminded to do, because our evolution has apparently predisposed us to favor what we think we already know. The scientific method, with its insistence on testing ideas against evidence and logic, has helped to make us wiser by calling into question the foundations of our beliefs about the world. Philosophers, especially the more skeptical kind, have played a similar role in the past, and I can readily appreciate the same rigor of thought being necessary in computer programming.

    You mention the problem of being perceived as rude. If you are inclined, as you seem to be, to express your views in a straightforwardly fact-based and well-reasoned manner, you are not likely to have any such trouble here. The kind of rudeness that is particularly not favored here is that which expresses personal disrespect or malice towards one or more other participants on the site. Merely disagreeing with someone, however, is never rude or offensive. Report abuse

  • Xavier Combelle says:

    Despite all effort I do, when I have a debate with any one, I’m systematically perceived as rude.

    One part of the reason is that I typically say: I think that you are wrong on this point, and very often with evidence of my affirmation. But I have no idea how to change my way to debate and I tried a lot.

    I think there is a need to distinguish between being politely critical and perhaps brutally honest, and simply being abusive.

    There will always be those  holding ridiculously ignorant and irrational views, who will play the “offended card”, when their nonsensical or bigoted claims, are debunked.

    This is particularly prevalent among science deniers who have acquired (pseudo) “expertise” at pseudoscience sites, and although they could not pass a relevant school science exam in that particular science, feel fully qualified to pose with airs of superiority, as they offer laughable  contradictions to whole teams of university experts, or top scientific bodies!

    I think that you are wrong on this point, and very often with evidence of my affirmation.

    Such people are often unimpressed with scientific evidence, because their concept of “evidence” and “reason”, is engaging in mental contortions, confirming their preconceptions, while they frequently expect to impress opponents with the false authority of self-awarded badges of “logic”, “evidence” and “reason”, which they have simply asserted will support their fanciful arguments.

    They do this with sincerity, because they have been coached in fundamentalist irrationality, so their standards of education are so abysmal, that they literally don’t understand what the processes of scientific methodology and reasoning are!

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  • I see some of our UK brain addled MPs think that some sort of fudge and smoothing of conflicts will provided answers to the stupidity of Brexit – aided and abetted by religious “faith-thinking”!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-49486371
    The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he could consider chairing a proposed citizens’ forum on Brexit.
    He was asked to take on the role by a group of senior MPs who said a forum would “consider how to heal the divisions in our country since the Brexit referendum”.

    Responding to the letter, Justin Welby said the forum should not be a “Trojan Horse” used to delay or prevent Brexit.

    Speaking to the BBC, he said the project was “not the solution” on its own but could be used to “heal” and bring “reconciliation” to the country.

    We don’t need “reconciliation”!

    We need lying criminally traitorous charlatans exposed and prosecuted!

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  • Excellent long read from The Guardian (UK newspaper) here – actually an edited extract from This Land Is Our Land by Suketu Mehta. I haven’t read the book, but the bit in this article is spot-on on the subject of how fear of immigration has always been planted and fanned and manipulated by the far-right for their own purposes – and, importantly, how what starts off being an attack on the rights of immigrants invariably turns into an attack on the rights of all.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/27/immigration-panic-how-the-west-fell-for-manufactured-rage Report abuse

  • Alan #21

    We don’t need “reconciliation”!
    We need lying criminally traitorous charlatans exposed and prosecuted!

    I couldn’t agree more, Alan. Nothing less will do.

    Ever since the referendum Brexiters have been acting as though the 48% no longer existed, as though we’d all just rolled over and allowed ourselves to be browbeaten into acceptance, or would, at least, in time. Well, we haven’t and many of us won’t. Brexit is a crime scene, and to simply accept it would be a crime in its own right. I am not the least bit interested in ‘reconciliation’ with those who, knowingly in the case of the leaders, foolishly in the case of most of the voters, have brought us to a situation where we are literally talking about food and medicine shortages, where god knows how many people will lose their livelihoods, where xenophobia and ethnic nationalism are now overt, and where the UK is going begging cap in hand to Trump, of all people. The whole thing is an utter disgrace and a disaster, and if people in ridiculous costumes are going to help mend it, they are going to have to be of the judicial variety, not the ecclesiastical.

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  • Alan4discussion  #21

    BBC on-line News: “… Responding to the letter, Justin Welby said the forum should not be a “Trojan Horse” used to delay or prevent Brexit. …”

    If I were a Briton who wanted to remain in the European Union, I could not regard the Archbishop of Canterbury as an impartial minister who might facilitate the healing and reconciliation of divisions within the United Kingdom after he had expressed such clear endorsement of the view that the United Kingdom had no choice but to leave. Hardly a recommendation of himself as an evenhanded chairman for such a forum. If his theology were more robust, he would be aware of the need for justice to effect any lasting reconciliation, and justice is always a question of truth. But justice was not part of the leavers’ campaign in the 2016 referendum nor has it been part of their programme ever since. Instead it has been all lies, fear-mongering and deception.

    No, Marco at #23 is right. This sorry case needs judicial attention, not ecclesiastical. Report abuse

  • Thanks for the petition link, Phil – also, good to see you back, haven’t seen you around for a while.

    Today has been a dark dark day in British history. You’re absolutely right that mass protest is now required.

    There’s also the legal challenge to prorogation in the Scottish courts. The people behind it (Jo Maugham QC, Joanna Cherry MP etc.) seem reasonably confident that their case will be heard this week and that they stand a good chance of winning. I bloody hope so. Johnson has found an excuse for the prorogation (new Queen’s Speech) that, if genuine, would be legal; but surely no one is going to fall for it for one second: never was a deceit more obvious or more transparent, and not only because the prorogation is far longer than any has ever been before.

    This outrage, together with his plans (announced yesterday) to put a whole load of Brexiteers into the House of Lords as well, to stifle opposition to Brexit there, make it abundantly clear: the UK is currently in the grip of a hard right coup, and parliamentary democracy is in real danger. If anyone had predicted before the EU referendum that we’d find ourselves in this situation as a result of the Leave vote, they’d have been laughed out of court. And yet … here we are. Report abuse

  • Hi Marco,

    A very dark period indeed and growing gloomier.

    I hope the weird ferocity of these Gunpowder Plotters intent on blowing up democracy itself is noted by all. They know its their last chance. Party fortunes have reversed and the Brexit party is put back in its box, having done its job of scaring the scare-able.. This, given the comparative disarray of the rest, makes it the moment to push ferociously to the right by every legal (so far) means possible.

    It will foment the unpicking of centuries of slow and decent moving together of small and not so small countries, recognising their need to collaborate increasingly on existential threats.

    I always argued that the right wing set of moral values, loyalty, obedience and purity of institutions were the evolved response to war, creating a cultural carapace. But now wars are less needed in existential terms, and those moral virtues become the very levers by which “war” may be conveniently contrived.

    Catastrophe capitalists need fragmentation. Not real democratic power in people’s hands, but atomised power. For all its faults the EU served its people first.

    We need to see the desperation in these plotters and match it with a fierceness of our own. It would be nice to demonstrate a tide turning against the takers.

    Sorry to be a stranger. Just very busy, mainly working on sustainable horticulture… Report abuse

  • You see, Phil? That post with its absolutely spot-on, insightful analysis is the perfect example of why we miss you so much when the sustainable horticulture takes you over!

    The media report on this latest event, that latest comment, the other latest speculation (and all that is essential reading for people like me), but in the focus on minute-by-minute developments, the bigger picture – the huge dark forces now at work in our politics and state – is lost. In the UK we are so used to thinking of ourselves as a strong, sane, reasonably decent democracy that we’re unlikely to see the real danger to that democracy until it is far, far too late. Report abuse

  • Everyone:

    There is a new front in the war on science. I had a brief discussion with my sister-in-law who’s children have been educated in the Catholic school system. The older boys are now in their Junior year of high school and in a recent assignment, they were to write an essay about how scientific ideas change over time. This all sounds quite exemplary in that, if taught within a science context, it would encourage critical thinking and curiosity. However! They are using critical thinking as a means of incorporating mysticism into the context of science! Suggesting that back when people believed the earth was flat that was the science of the day and then Galileo and Copernicus came along. I told that, like the idea that vaccines cause autism, flat earth was a culturally dispersed idea put forth to make people afraid and that it was not science.

    I began to explain that we still teach Newton to physics students, and we introduce Einstein and Hawking when the students have sophisticated enough skills to understand that these are additional nuances to the older science and that these did not negate Newton but added to the knowledge on the same topic, she brought the bizarre example of “how scientists thought that eggs were bad for you and now they don’t anymore”! When I attempted to re-explain how this was, again, a cultural phenomenon, not science and the media’s and readers’ lack of scientific backgrounds are responsible for such nonsense, she dismissed me.

    Religious schools are now using spurious critical thinking skills as a Trojan Horse to allow students to introduce skepticism to actual scientific facts that are well-founded.  We need to fight this!  We must stop scientists from saying things like, “No one knows.” when they are asked an intuitive question like “What is beyond the universe?” as it is contributing to the idea that scientific facts about this universe are only guesses!! Report abuse

  • Jacqueline Verrilli says:

    We need to fight this!  We must stop scientists from saying things like, “No one knows.” when they are asked an intuitive question like “What is beyond the universe?” as it is contributing to the idea that scientific facts about this universe are only guesses!!

    Welcome to RDFS.

    The correct answer to questions about the universe is: Scientific explanations only go as far back as the big-bang.

    Supernaturalists frequently trot out the fallacy; ” Science does not know all the answers, THEREFORE (without a scrap of evidence) we do”! This is called “God of gaps”!

    https://www.quora.com/What-would-Earth-be-like-if-evolution-didn-t-exist/answer/Alan-Appleby-4

    Those who claim science is only guesses are frequently people whose education has been so neglected, that they don’t even have credible guesses about the subject areas in question! Often they don’t even know the names of specialist sciences!

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  • I’m so refreshed to see several others writing about the world’s population problem.  And its link to climate change.  I comment on a lot of news stories on the internet.   WAPO and elsewhere.  And when any story about climate change comes to a headline I beat the drum about population.  And I feel as though I’m the only one.  Because nobody else talks about it.  It’s also COMPLETELY absent from politics.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think the subject was mentioned by any of the 20 announced Democratic Party candidates for President.  Or by any U.S. Senator.  The 500lb gorilla is invisible to them.  Why?

    I’d say catastrophe is the future given the destruction of forests in Africa, Siberia and the Amazon Basin.  Africa promises to quadruple in population this century.  South America’s population growth is also spinning out of control.   And the worst carbon offender in the world (The U.S.) is identified as having a looming population problem.  At its current rate of growth, fueled by immigration, the U.S. will have 600 million population before 2100.   This growth will make carbon reduction efforts much like spinning our wheels.  I try to point out to people that the lines are still nearly exactly congruent on the graph for carbon and population.

    The U.S. is highly unlikely to throw fossil fuels out the window.  One positive note is the shift away from coal and toward natural gas for electricity production.  But it’s a slow process and the U.S. still relies on coal for 25% of its power.  All this population growth is fueling greater energy demand.  U.S. electricity consumption grew 4% in 2018.  The largest jump in a long time.

    I’m 61 and if I live another 10 years I’ll be able to say the U.S. doubled in population in my lifetime.  As I near the last phase of my life it makes me very sad to think that at some point in the future the U.S. and the world will look like Soylent Green.  The movie will be proven prophetic.  People will eat each other when the food runs out.  I’ve seen the future and it is crowded, blazing hot, and hungry. Report abuse

  • Laurie #33

    Did anyone attend the demonstrations against prorogue of parliament today? Good turn out?

    Hi Laurie – I’ve been missing you as well as Phil, so good to see you post again!

    I was at one of the smaller Scottish demonstrations yesterday but the turnout was still encouragingly good, considering the relatively small local population, the short notice at which it had been organised and the truly horrible weather: standing around in constant pouring rain for two and a half hours when the temperature’s only 11ºC (52ºF) isn’t much fun!

    But there were about 80 demos right across the UK, even in smaller and more conservative places where protesting isn’t in the blood, and photos show them to have been very significant in terms of size.

    There is a real sense of outrage but also deep concern bordering on panic. Johnson’s only been PM since 23 July and already he has shamelessly torn up the unwritten rulebook of our unwritten constitution. It is well known that he is a fan of the “Great Man” theory of history, and that he views himself as one of them. He is entirely without scruples or any sense of responsibility to anyone but himself. And so the UK right now is teetering on the brink of genuine dictatorship. And as if that weren’t ironic enough in a country that thinks of itself as the mother of democracy and as having the “queen of parliaments”, the real dictatorship power isn’t even being exercised by Johnson himself right now, but by an unelected special adviser (and campaign director of the law-breaking Vote Leave, and long since found guilty of contempt of parliament), Dominic Cummings. So we are now indeed being ruled by an “unelected bureaucrat”, which is one of the main (though untrue) accusations made against the EU by the Leave side. But then, they also campaigned on the basis of restoring parliamentary sovereignty (again: an entirely baseless argument, since our parliament had remained sovereign throughout), and are now trying to suspend that same parliament and present it as the enemy of “the people”, whose “will” apparently has to be done at all costs – costs being the operative word.

    It is a heist, a coup, and in the true definition of the word: fascism (Merriam-Webster: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”).

    I wrote that we’re teetering on the brink of dictatorship, rather than that we’re there already. The fact is, to all intents and purposes we *are* there already, but there is a very last-minute fight-back that we have to hope will prove successful. There are legal challenges to the prorogation of parliament going on in the Scottish, English and Northern Irish courts. The Northern Irish court is being asked to rule that a No Deal Brexit would put the UK in breach of its international legal obligations contained in the Good Friday Agreement, and that it would therefore be unlawful. Since the GFA is rooted in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland being members of the EU and its therefore being possible for people and trade to flow freely between them without the need for any kind of border checks, it would seem patently obvious that that is the case, so hopes are riding high on that one. A number of senior politicians are now also calling for top-level inquiries – including by the Metropolitan Police – into the excessively dictatorial behaviour of Dominic Cummings this week (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/31/boris-johnson-must-launch-inquiry-dominic-cummings-reign-of-terror). 

    My view is that they are going to have to be stopped by the police and/or the courts. It is hugely important that our politicians hold their nerve and stand up to them to the very last, but the fact is, dictators don’t listen to elected politicians, and Johnson/Cummings have let it be known they would simply ignore any instructions coming to them from parliament. Their immediate priority is to get us out of the EU on 31 October come what may – they don’t much care what happens after that.

    But it’s important to remember that Brexit has never been primarily about the EU. It has always been about stripping away the protections for workers, citizens and the environment that, in the minds of the hard right, “hamper” big business, and selling off our public services, including our NHS, as profit-making ventures to their big business cronies. So no one should kid themselves that, having used the methodology of the dictator to get us out of the EU on 31 October come what may, they will then return to the democratic fold to try to get the rest of their plan through on the basis of consensus. Brexit will just be the start.

  • Dennis G. Carrier  #34

    The problem of population growth is certainly very important. When you “beat the drum about population,” do you mention what needs to be done about it? It seems to be a problem that is best dealt with by dealing with related problems, in particular (1) ensuring that women have full control over their own bodies, including their reproductive functions, and (2) planning and investment to improve economic conditions and enable poor people to raise their standards of living. Wherever women’s personal autonomy is respected and poverty has been significantly reduced or overcome, birthrates drop markedly. Report abuse

  • Marco

    Thanks for that informative comment.

    My beloved MacBook up and died a couple weeks ago but my new one will arrive next Tuesday. Posting comments on my kindle is quite aggravating. I’ve enjoyed the respite from media in general.

    I’m in a state of burn out from US national news because of Trump & co. destroying the place here. Local news is one gun shootout after another and not a single thing being done about it. I do catch BBC evening news on our public broadcasting channel which is the best news available here. Still, I do appreciate your inside info.

    I agree that this is a struggle between the haves and have nots over protections for workers, citizens and environment, all of which have lost ground here if they ever had it at all. So sorry for you all to be dragged down this discouraging road.

    If we could magically peer into a crystal ball for a view of the future i’d be afraid to try. Report abuse

  • Laurie

    If we could magically peer into a crystal ball for a view of the future i’d be afraid to try.

    Oh god, yes, I know exactly what you mean, Laurie. I’ve never felt so fearful for the future – or the present.

    I can quite see that the BBC would seem like a good source of news compared with the likes of Fox, but actually its reputation has taken a terrible knock since the EU referendum. It took a decision, right from the announcement of the Leave win, that that was that, the argument was over, we were definitely going to leave and that all protest, discussion, argument etc by Remainers was therefore irrelevant and they were going to give us as little airtime as they could possibly get away with. So huge, central-London-filling demonstrations were mentioned as an afterthought in an article with an entirely different headline, while tiny pro-Brexit demos were covered prominently.

    And the BBC’s failings in the EU department go back well before the referendum itself. It has always been as guilty as any of the print media of failing to report on EU news, and failing to counter disinformation about it. As a case in point, throughout the entire Brexit referendum campaign, its flagship current affairs discussion programme, QuestionTime, did not include a single pro-EU MEP (Member of the European Parliament) on its panel. Plenty of anti-EU MEPs, but not a single pro-EU one. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage was practically a permanent fixture.

    It is noticeable that since the renewal of its Charter a few years ago, the BBC has been much more in the pocket of the Tory govt. Many of us have all-but abandoned its news coverage because it has basically become the British Brexit Corporation. It has a handful of really good journalists who are still doing their job properly, but on the whole it’s just been too tamed these days.

    The burn-out is real, though, isn’t it? I was reading recently that more and more people are seeking help from their doctors for Brexit-related stress, and I’m quite sure it’s the same in the US with Trump. Anyone who isn’t stressed by what’s happening in the USA and the UK right now simply isn’t paying attention.

     

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  • Hi Laurie. Hope you are otherwise well.

    I caught up with the tail end of it in London. And eager for more…

    Yep, it is all about re-invigorating the money making ability of the rich. The have-nots are the political tools of choice and seem curiously easy to bamboozle. But that is why the right wing press have, for decades, cultivated xenophobia and a cult of immigrant blame even when statistics have shown a net boon for the economy whilst our population ages. I want to smack their silly faces for being so gullible, but must try simply to get them to see the underlying reality of it.

    Taking my ten thousand steps in the Epping Forest the other day I was photographing some buzzards when a nice man about my age stopped and got chatting. Things went well until he started talking about his neighbours. They spoke… not English… to each other, apparently, so this was why he was excited about Boris. I left rapidly, running through in my head the list of his follies I would have lectured him patiently on. I had to leave knowing it would have degenerated rapidly as my patience wears thin with these people. I then wondered what bodies the buzzards were getting excited over. Perhaps a muntjac, perhaps another brexit/remain punchup . Report abuse

  • Marco

    Interesting because it’s true that BBC news really does appear remarkably neutral from our perspective here. And besides that, it presents content about other parts of this world that are NOT America. Astounding! Disappointing that a paragon of trustworthy  competance, as I perceived it, is owned to such a degree. Must reassess. Report abuse

  • Laurie

    It’s on the EU and Brexit that they’ve failed especially.

    But their lapdog approach to the government on that front inevitably casts a shadow on their neutrality and credibility on other subjects too.

    They’re probably a reasonably reliable source of info about other countries, though: just too Establishment, too Tory, too complacent, too forelock-tugging when it comes to politically controversial UK matters. Report abuse

  • Phil

    Very amusing. I’m well but harried these days.

    I make no show of patience with the paranoid Anglophone bunch here. They make their presence known when I’m sorting through fresh veg at market, getting the latest hairdo and quietly choosing books at library. Why me?! Granted I have the map of northern Europe written all over me but I consider these intrusions to be the height of ignorance.

    I can’t contain my exasperation any longer. The source of this xenophobic entitlement is definitely FOX nowadays but has existed in the past as short sighted railing against bilingual education for several decades. A quick switch to French with some creative code switching with Arabic serves them right. Report abuse

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