The End of Democracy

March 20th, 2017

Democracy is history. It has gone, it is over, it is no more. I would say that it has gone to join the choir invisible, but it’s just not funny. Something once hard fought for, a right now taken for granted is, across the planet, being perverted, warped and crushed before our eyes. In the US, respected investigative journalist Greg Palast reports that a number of blatent methods were used to disenfranchise traditionally Democrat voters to swing the 2016 election. In the UK, the director of the Leave campaign casually admits that without the ficticious claim of £350m a week extra for the NHS, they wouldn’t have won the referendum.

Further troubling information has emerged about the role of Cambridge Analytica in voter message targeting from Trump’s campaign. Annually according to the Advertising Associate, across all media, products and services, the UK spend on advertising exceeds £20billion. That would suggest advertising works. Money buys votes, whether that’s votes for political parties or washing power. Advertising mobilises. Advertising spreads. Advertising changes behaviours.

The basis of democracy is universal, free sufferage. A civilised society is defined by its ability to run free, fair elections. The case made by Greg Palast was the universal sufferage was denied in a number of ways:

  1. By investigating similarly named people registered in different states for votor fraud.
    • They were supposed to cross check by d.o.b. and social security number. They didn’t
    • There were supposed to exclude cases with different middle names. They didn’t.
    • They targeted statistically black/hispanic/muslim names: Washington, Hernandes, Mohammed
    • They sent small postcards asking people to confirm their voting address. These did not state that non-return would result in removal from the electoral roll. Traditionally, response is more common from older, wealther, homeowners. i.e. traditional republicans. The younger, poorer, transient voters moving regularly for jobs might never receive them. Traditional democrate voters.
  2. By insisting that voter fraud by double registration is a massive issue, therefore these measures are essential.
    • It isn’t, independent research has shown that the number of cases is and has always been vanishingly small.
  3. By removing protections for hacking vote registration systems by turning off the vote photographing and anti-hcking protection. Exit polls have traditionally been exceptionally good indicators of eventual outcomes. Except where the Republicans were provably able to do just this.

I quote from Palast’s excellent article:

“In the state of Ohio they have fancy new machines which can record an image of your vote and an anti-hacking function. They were turned off,” explains Palast. “I went to court with Bob Fitrakis a law professor in Ohio to have this overturned. I went into the judge’s chamber, and there the Republicans did not deny that it was turned off but they said to turn it back on would create havoc. – This after the FBI had issued a warning that they feared the machines would be hacked.”

It seems like the battlelines between Trump’s WH and the security & intelligence servcies were drawn up long before the election result.

Here in the UK, we have a Labour party leader at war with the right-wing and other MSM. He is sneered at, ridiculed and ignored. No-one can question his integrity, but to counter this blast, he has to be smarter and more charismatic. But he isn’t. His great election strategy? Win by word of mouth. Facepalm. £20Billion says that isn’t going to work, but this is too important to lose. Too much is at stake. But of course it isn’t We’ve already lost democracy to the autocrats, corporations and billionaires.

Unreasonable Perceptions

May 8th, 2014


George Bernard Shaw was the filthy old misogynist who said:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man”

Naturally this only relates to men;  the unreasonable woman is derided as premenstrual and is told that what she thinks, feels or believes isn’t real, has no validity. Go away, do not pass Go, your views do not represent progress.

But the counter quote to the above is from Rosanne Barr:

“Women complain about PMS, but I think of it as the only time of the month when I can be myself.”

and surely this is the truth. The time of the month that most totally defines a woman’s femininity is the time that men are most afraid of her. They confuse femininity with passivity, with compliance, with selflessness. They don’t recognise the raised voice, the impatience, the anger, the harsh words, my God – the opinions! “You’re hysterical”, we’re told. But at that time of the month, we are free to think the otherwise unthinkable – that partners are selfish, that children are spoilt, that parents are demanding. Hush, little woman. Lock yourself away until these thoughts pass.

“When she bleeds the smells I know change colour. There is iron in her soul on those days. She smells like a gun.”

Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

Conspiracy Truths

April 4th, 2013

MiBEveryone loves a good conspiracy theory. I certainly like teasing myself with the “what-ifs”. They may have existed before the 20th century, but with the increase in media connectivity, eye-witness reporting vs closely controlled and lazy Main Stream Media (MSM), the ground in which they grow is increasingly fertile.

I define conspiracy as  a situation where the truth of the circumstances surrounding a situation has not been widely revealed in the MSM, and where a number of influential people have been involved in keeping back that information. I will postulate 3 main categories.

  1. Occasions so astonishing, you can’t believe they’re true.
  2. Occasions where, for a number of (often valid) reasons, the full truth has not been reported.
  3. Occasions where a number of influential people have kept the truth from the MSM.

As examples of number 1 above, I might offer The Moon Landings. I know there are a number of people who fret about shadows and wind etc, but I have serious doubts that the number of people involved in the mission would keep quiet for this length of time to protect a long disappeared regime.

The line between numbers 2 & 3 is more murky. There undoubtedly have been factions within the governments and security services of many, if not every country, that would like to throw the rug of “National Security” over the dirt of nefarious, illegal activities. But some times, just some times, the nutters on the conspiracy websites are proved right all along.

Though it pains me to say it, David Icke was blethering on about Jimmy Savile’s unpleasant proclivities back in the 1990s. He may just have got lucky – talk enough tripe for long enough, and some of it might be found to be true. There are a lot of other names in the frame – from the arrests made by the Met Police’s Operation Yewtree, it is clear that a signficant number of men in powerful positions throughout the establishment have probably used that power to have sex with vulnerable, often under-age youngsters. It was always illegal. Lots of people knew – in the case of Savile, apparently hundreds, but no-one did anything.

But who can we trust? Senior figures within the BBC, our national foremost media organisation, turned a blind eye. Our newspapers are more interested in the (legal) sex lives of reality show wannabees than proper investigate journalism. So its unsurprising that the vacuum left behind drags in all sorts of detritus. David Icke afterall, believes that the world is run by people with reptilian blood-lines. And not in a metaphorical way; in a scaley, “ooh look, a six-foot lizard in a shirt and tie has just stuck out its forked tongue” kind of way”.

But, similar to “Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me”, so too, “Just because I’m certifiable, doesn’t mean I’m wrong”. So like Tommy Lee Jones & Will Smith reaching for a copy of National Enquirer to keep ahead of alien news, I’ve been delving around the internet to see what there is. Another figure against whom Icke has pinned many paedophiliac accusations (and worse) is the late Tory prime minster, Ted Heath. Famous for being a confirmed batchelor, most people assumed he was a repressed homosexual, but rumours abound the internet that Heath was involved in the rape and indirectly, the murder of young boys.

One blog looking to collect information to cross references sources, rumours, acknoledgements and information is The Needle Blog and any reader is welcome to leave referneces on the Operation Greenlight page. Another conspiracist figure to achieve a degree of fame / notoriety is the author and barrister Michael Shrimpton. He claims to be a Security & Intelligence Consultant, and has probably moved in those circles in the past, but his current obsession with Germans would lead most people to wonder about his current status. He is apparently about to release a book – Spyhunter, so is doubtless lining up the publicity. But he makes some startling claims:

Now if Ted Heath is entirely innocent of the claims made against him, then I feel for his relatives and posterity’s view of him, but only 6 months ago, no-one was allowed to defame the saintly Sir Savile either.

Bear in mind, the National Enquirer was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism in 2010. Icke may yet turn out to be right about the lizards too, but I won’t hold my breath.


Slave Drivers

February 27th, 2012
Child Slavery

How much are our young people worth?

Wikipedia  states that that despite slavery being officially illegal in every country in the world, there are currently more slaves in existence than at any point in history, with estimates ranging between 12m to 27m people. The last country to ban slavery was Mauritania, the former French colony in West Africa who only got round to amending their statute books in 1981.

Wikipedia lists three types of slavery: Chattel slavery – where people are treated as personal property, bought & sold commercially which includes the sex trafficking that currently exists on every continent including Europe.

Bonded labour, or debt bondage occurs when a person pledges their labour against a loan. The payback period is often undefined and can be inter-generational. It is the most widespread form of slavery today and Dubai would not exist without it.

The third category is forced labour, where an individual is forced to work agaist his or her will, under threat of punishment, with restrictions on their freedom. So has Cameron instigated this form of slavery to solve the UK’s unemployment problems? In pre-industrial societies, slave labour was economically essential. Had the current worldwide depression swung the balance of power back that way?

Reading some of the sites dedicated to the abolishion of slavery puts modern British workfare into perspective. No-one is being beaten, raped, having their families threatened or being controlled beyond the hours of, ooh, 8 til 6ish 5 days a week for a few weeks. In return, they get money to eat, rent paid, free prescriptions. Put like that, no-one currently protesting is likely to want to trade places with a Ukrainian girl tricked into believing she was going to nanny for a rich British family only to find herself drugged, raped, beaten and being forced to service 10 men a day, or a Bangladeshi builder promised a fair wage who has his passport stolen and is forced to work 12 hour shifts in 40 degree heat with no water or even a bed of his own.

So does Sir Stuart Rose have a point? Are companies being gutless in backing away from offering 3 months work to the unemployed while the taxpayer picks up the tab? Organised demonstrations are resulting in bad publicity for companies, as organised by Boycott Workfare. Reading their site underlines why the situation is unhelpful for individuals, but what does it say about society? In the current post-depression global economy, few are comfortable. Job security is low, new jobs are hard to come by and firms are closing every day. Current low-paid, low-skilled workers are hyper sensitive that an unending source of free labour will do nothing to boost their own employability and just takes them closer to their own P45. And does it not miss the point? The issue is not so much that great swathes of young people are not employable – it is that companies are not employing. How does exploiting the unemployed fix that?

Living it up or scaling down?

July 1st, 2011

I recently came across a thought-provoking blog: Early Retirement Extreme written by one Jacob Lund Fisker. It chimed with many thoughts I’ve been having; mostly mid-life crisis ones, around what’s it all about?

His philosophy is essentially Bhuddist in outlook – that happiness does not result from consumerism, but rather from self-actualisation. He is unapologetically frugal, earning far more from investments than he spends, but the early retirement in his title is somewhat of a misnomer – he is not promoting an end, but a shift in expectation & outlook. Following his methods may indeed allow you to “retire” in 5 years, but that’s a side effect of living in balance, not a marathon session of denial ahead of an almighty splurge.

Those methods are the antithesis of the usual run of get-rich-quick schemes. They are focused almost entirely on not spending, as opposed to earning large amounts of money to support an unsustainable lifestyle. Affluenza is indeed the disease of our time. I look at couples who feel the need to live in 4/5 bedroom houses, and wonder why?

I’m probably consuming more housing than I need. The inertia that stops me selling the house to buy a small flat outright sends me to a job that takes all my energy and most of my time and prevents me doing the things I might like to do. As a result, I have no time or energy to do jobs such as washing windows (and I’m teetering on the brink of an ironing service), thereby compounding the need to go to work to pay for the things I only need because I go to work. But what is it all for? You spend all your life working yourself to death to assemble stuff that is skipped when you die. What was the point? Polyp sums it up thus:

The problem with Fisker’s philosophy is moving towards it once you are on the hamster wheel of salary slavery. I could potentially live more frugally – I could rent a room round the corner from where I work, sell the car and pay off the mortgage on the house. But inertia’s the problem, solved by another day of life wasted. Hmm.


Weather to believe ’em or not….

January 21st, 2011

A tale of two headlines: Daily Mail – 2010 was ‘second warmest year’ since records began in 1850. Daily Telegraph – 2010 was the coldest year since 1986. The gist of the story is that pretty much everywhere on the planet had a record-breakingly hot year… except us in the UK.

There are those that will clutch this information as further evidence of anthropological (i.e. man-made) global warming. However, the newsworthy weather events around the world this year are all manifestations of the regular La Nina weather pattern which predicts cooler currents in the central and eastern Pacific, leading to increased rainfall. This impact of this La Nina has been particularly strong, with huge swathes of Queensland, Sri Lanka, Brazil and South Africa flooded (the latter doesn’t seem to have generated so much news coverage though). As I’m sure you all know, La Nina is the reverse of the El Nino warming of the Southern Oceans, reputed to show its impact around Christmas time, hence the name. El Nino episodes reduce rainful and therefore have the opposite effect – droughts and forest fires.

Nasa Satellite Image

Regularity does not imply predictability though:

  • La Nina conditions do not always necessarily follow El Ninos,
  • the cyclic frequency varies from 2-7 years,
  • the length of the cycle from 7 months to 2 years
  • the strength is also variable – effects lasting less than 3 months are ignored, changes in sea-surface temperatures lasting up to 7-9 months are categorised as El Nino / La Nina conditions, and only if they last longer than 9 months is it officially an El Nino / La Nina episode

So what is a “standard” La Nina year? Yes we have unprecedented photographic and media coverage of the impact this year, but does that mean its an unprecedented year meterologically speaking?

I am not a climatologist, but I know something of complex systems, and weather is one of the most complex around. I’m just not convinced that 160 data points is enough to draw any conclusive trend on global temperatures for any more than the 160 years measured. Nasa report that they only have solid La Nina data going back 50 years. That’s not even an eye-blink of time in comparison to the history of the planet. Not even enough time for a synapse to fire to begin the thought of blinking an eye. This is the strongest La Nina in 50 years – that’s all we can state. Anthropological global warming may be true, but be very wary of anyone who declares that to be a fact – we have insufficient evidence to call it that. It’s a hypothesis, and even if it is true, solar effects as part of the sun-spot cycle could easily mask or reverse its effects. I’m not convinced humans are important or clever enough to change anything.

Just Add Water

January 19th, 2011

A-ha! I’ve found the article I alluded to in my last post. It was: 10 Virtually Instant Ways to Improve Your Life. What a fantastic title – the concept that with a few minor, virtually unnoticable tweaks, you become rich, beautiful, successful and able to eat chocolate til it oozes out of your ears without putting on an ounce. Of course reality isn’t like that, and in fact this list isn’t the usual, stop smoking, eat healthily, get some exercise, marry a goat blah blah blah of other lists. It is subtly different; it’s not about what you do, but about how you think. Of course one can argue with the premise that one can change one’s thoughts in an instant. Nothing is that simple, apart from instant mash. Anyway, I reproduce it here.

  1. Stop jumping to conclusions. There are two common ways this habit increases people’s difficulties. First, they assume that they know what is going to happen, so they stop paying attention and act on their assumption instead. Human beings are lousy fortune-tellers. Most of what they assume is wrong. That makes the action wrong too. The second aspect of this habit is playing the mind-reader and assuming you know why people do what they do or what they’re thinking. Wrong again, big time. More relationships are destroyed by this particular kind of stupidity than by any other.
  2. Don’t dramatize. Lots of people inflate small setbacks into life-threatening catastrophes and react accordingly. This habit makes mountains out of molehills and gives people anxieties that either don’t exist or are so insignificant they aren’t worth worrying about anyway. Why do they do it? Who knows? Maybe to make themselves feel and seem more important. Whatever the reason, it’s silly as well as destructive.
  3. Don’t invent rules. A huge proportion of those “oughts” and “shoulds” that you carry around are most likely needless. All that they do for you is make you feel nervous or guilty. What’s the point? When you use these imaginary rules on yourself, you clog your mind with petty restrictions and childish orders. And when you try to impose them on others, you make yourself into a bully, a boring nag, or a self-righteous bigot.
  4. Avoid stereotyping or labeling people or situations. The words you use can trip you up. Negative and critical language produces the same flavor of thinking. Forcing things into pre-set categories hides their real meaning and limits your thinking to no purpose. See what’s there. Don’t label. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
  5. Quit being a perfectionist. Life isn’t all or nothing, black or white. Many times, good enough means exactly what it says. Search for the perfect job and you’ll likely never find it. Meanwhile, all the others will look worse than they are. Try for the perfect relationship and you’ll probably spend your life alone. Perfectionism is a mental sickness that will destroy all your pleasure and send you in search of what can never be attained.
  6. Don’t over-generalize. One or two setbacks are not a sign of permanent failure. The odd triumph doesn’t turn you into a genius. A single event—good or bad—or even two or three don’t always point to a lasting trend. Usually things are just what they are, nothing more.
  7. Don’t take things so personally. Most people, even your friends and colleagues, aren’t talking about you, thinking about you, or concerned with you at all for 99% of the time. The majority of folk in your organization or neighborhood have probably never heard of you and don’t especially want to. The ups and downs of life, the warmth and coldness of others, aren’t personal at all. Pretending that they are will only make you more miserable than is needed.
  8. Don’t assume your emotions are trustworthy. How you feel isn’t always a good indicator of how things are. Just because you feel it, that doesn’t make it true. Sometimes that emotion comes from nothing more profound than being tired, hungry, annoyed, or about to get a head-cold. The future won’t change because you feel bad—nor because you feel great. Feelings may be true, but they aren’t the truth.
  9. Don’t let life get you down. Keep practicing being optimistic. If you expect bad things in your life and work, you’ll always find them. A negative mind-set is like looking at the world through distorting, grimy lenses. You spot every blemish and overlook or discount everything else. It’s amazing what isn’t there until you start to look for it. Of course, if you decide to look for signs of positive things, you’ll find those too.
  10. Don’t hang on to the past. This is my most important suggestion of all: let go and move on. Most of the anger, frustration, misery, and despair in this world come from people clinging to past hurts and problems. The more you turn them over in your mind, the worse you’ll feel and the bigger they’ll look. Don’t try to fight misery. Let go and move on. Do that and you’ve removed just about all its power to hurt you.

This is a fantastic list! Apart from the last one – I remain unconvinced that when karma is taking its time to even the score, a helping hand might not go amiss, but nevertheless. But there at No. 8 is the one that stuck in my mind: Don’t assume your emotions are trustworthy. It even gives a few benign, non-contraversial examples: hungry, tired, annoyed. To which, I might add, pre-menstrual. What? I’m a woman, I’m allowed to say it. Look down & check your underpants – if they’re lumpy, you are not.

Are mental habits easier to change than physical ones? Phobics would say not, Paul McKenna would disagree. But both physical and mental habits improve with attention and effort. These are worthy ones to attempt.

Emotions vs Reality and Normality

January 19th, 2011

Perception of RealityAgain I’ve found myself absorbed by this evening’s programming on BBC4. The second hour’s viewing was the incredibly well researched yet wiltingly safe second of the three-part documentary – Michael Mosley’s The Brain: A Secret History, which looked at the role of emotions in our lives.

However I missed the first 5 minutes in my efforts to recover after the preceding, far more hit-and-miss, anecdotal, emotionally nuclear option of Sectioned. This was a documentary that followed the stories of 3 men: Antony, Andrew and Richard.

Antony had been in and out of hospital for 26 years since a breakdown in 1984. He had a diagnosis of schizophrenia which he disagreed with, but his daughter could attest that without regular anti-psychotic drug injections, his ability to look after himself disintegrated to a worrying level. While the terms of his section insisted he received the injections, he was well enough to protest that they weren’t required. After 5 months with no treatment, he began to slide back towards self-neglect.

Andrew represented the statistic that a particular demographic “at-risk” are men in late-middle age, adjusting to upcoming retirement. He was also the token middle-class story, having had a successful long-term career as a pathologist, despite suffering from bipolar disorder. However this had spiraled out of control as retirement loomed, leading to an unfortunate paranoid incident involving a high-speed chase. His wife was at her wits-end, lost 3 stone and at one stage could see no future other than divorce.

The most tragic case was that of Richard – 34 and since the age of 19, helplessly “mad”, in common parlance. Despite his section, he seemed free to leave the secure unit long enough to get alcohol and drugs, and the team working with him accepted he would always have a drug and alcohol problem. He was happy to confide to camera that the voices in his head that he called his Gods told him to overdose on heroin on Christmas day. As the date loomed and it seemed unlikely he’d be able to get the necessary supplies, he was relieved when the voices told him it would ok if he did it after Christmas. He died: death recorded as accidental overdose. He was funny, optimistic and personable. One can only assume that the unit did their best to stabilise him with prescription drugs, but his death seemed horrifically inevitable.

My background thoughts were around something I read a couple of weeks ago, when launching this blog, about ways to improve your life and get out of a rut. One of the options I read and meant to go back to investigate further was essentially: while your emotions are real to you, they do not necessarily represent impartial reality. That struck a chord with me, and I’m annoyed that I can’t now find the article I was reading. Nevertheless, the impact of emotions on moods, and how we judge their reality will be the subect of the next few posts.


January 9th, 2011

The 50’s were a time of great leaps forward in psychology and psychiatry. And great leaps backwards..Four Experiments than should never be repeated. Thanks Martin.

Automatic for the people

January 6th, 2011

I’m watching The Brain: A Secret History on BBC4, about Mind Control. In amongst a scarily breezy canter through the history of ECGs and MK Ultra is the point that its not just dogs and pidgeons that respond reliably to Pavlovian rewards. So in my quest for self improvement, do I need a specky bloke in a white coat to chuck me a scooby-snack whilst zapping my backside off the sofa? Are humans really so automatic?