pseudomonas: Ostrakon against Themistocles. (ostrakon)
We don't have referendums* in the UK very much. Maybe we'd be more adept at dealing with them if we did. Who knows? So I'm talking on the basis of the representative sample of one referendum in recent times that actually passed.

There seems to be a view that a referendum passing on a matter makes it… real. One gets the idea that if we voted in a referendum to repeal the laws of gravity, the government would even now be reassuring people that weightlessness means weightlessness and of course it'll happen, it'd be undemocratic to suggest otherwise. We voted to leave the EU without losing jobs, so that's what we'll do! We voted to leave the EU without a brain drain, so that is what must happen!

The other view I see around is that this is a solemn overriding pressure; an irresistible force against which no objection is immovable. Brexit means Brexit! If it costs 5% of GDP, so be it! If it costs 15% of GDP, so be it! If it leads to a breakdown in foreign relations and influence, so be it! If it necessitates declaring war on France, so be it! If it calls up the Great Old Ones to devour the residents of all coastal local authorities, then, well, you get the idea.

The question "what price is worth paying or not paying" for Brexit is one that is never answered because the Government is still trying to kid us that there's not even a possibility that things might just not go the way they want.

I readily admit that I'm one of those Remoaner types who thinks that a bad outcome is very likely. But I think that even an ardent Brexiter with their head screwed on right ought to be taking the position:

a) It is bad to go against a democratic referendum.
b) Even so, there are some things which are worse than going against a referendum result.
c) There are various outcomes to the process. Some are bad. (You might well think the bad ones are less likely than I do — but I think any honest observer admits they're not impossible)
d) However much you think that a referendum result is a good thing and ought to be honoured, there are some outcomes that make it on balance not worthwhile.

My position on (d) is "we need to have a grown up discussion on what price is worth paying for what kind of Brexit".

The government's position on (d) seems to be "it's literally impossible for this situation to arise because that would mean going against a referendum". And we're back, circuitously, to the reality-bending powers of referendums. Weightlessness means weightlessness.

But don't worry. Everything will be OK because we voted for it to be OK.

* Or referenda. I don't mind.
Negotiations. Markets. Diplomacy. Whatever.
Who knows? Maybe it will all be OK.
Thought experiment that is deliberately extreme: there is a consultative referendum to sacrifice every firstborn child to placate the gods. A democratic one. It passes. You are the PM. Is your first act on hearing the result to whip out your cleaver?

Comments policy: This is not the place to debate the merits of Brexit per se, there are approximately eleventy million other places to do that. It's to discuss how one should *respond* to a referendum in various circumstances. Also, be nice. Also also, do not be Steven Kitson.
pseudomonas: (eyebrow)
Dear Mr Corbyn,

I realise we probably don't agree on Europe. That's fine. It's a big world and there's room for different opinions. What I can't stomach is the feeling that you think it doesn't much matter what happens.

It seems to me that this is the biggest challenge facing the UK in the short to medium term. Yet you seem resolutely tight-lipped about it — the fact that you haven't been bringing it up at Prime Minister's Questions is just the most obvious manifestation of this.

You seem, based on comments in the media, opposed both to a parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50, and to a referendum on the negotiated terms of an exit deal. The effect of this is that you're happy to let the Conservative government negotiate whatever terms suit them, with minimal scrutiny or restraint. Do you believe that they are the best people to conduct matters? Or do you just feel that it doesn't much matter what happens?

To your credit, you have mentioned your concern for workers' rights in a post-Brexit UK. But you haven't set out definitive positions on membership of* the Single Market, freedom of movement, research collaboration, Common Agricultural Policy, financial passporting, and so on. These are all issues that affect hundreds of thousands of jobs and lives. Workers' rights don't mean much if the jobs have all evaporated.

I'm a member of the Liberal Democrats, who have set out a clear summary of their policy position in a format that Labour might usefully copy. It's fine if you don't agree (though I hope you'd set out your rationale!). It's not fine if you don't care.

Yours &c.

Adam ([personal profile] pseudomonas)

* As distinct from "access to" which is not usefully informative.
Declaration of interest: I work in biomedical research, a field that is likely to suffer particularly heavily under a "hard" Brexit.
pseudomonas: (libdem)
Any Lib Dem members who are interested in arranging for the party to adopt a stance in favour of Basic Income (aka Citizen's Income, Negative Income Tax, Unconditional Basic Income, Citizen's Dividend…) might be interested in a meeting during the York conference next Saturday (12th March).

This isn't a meeting to discuss the policy, it's to discuss the process of getting something into party policy.

times and agenda )
Anyone who won't be at the meeting but who wants to either a) suggest themselves for drafting or promoting the motion, or b) make any comments for the meeting to consider, please let me know; in comments here is fine.
pseudomonas: Angry dragon destroys with flame! (flame)
Racism has a bad image, and quite right too. It's not that it's been eliminated, but that its social acceptability is such that even the BNP pays lip service to Not Being Racist. The very existence of the phrase "I'm not racist but…" is testament to how widely everyone, even massive racists realise that racism is probably not the ideal policy to cling to in life.

But. It seems to me1 that the lines of acceptable discrimination have been drawn such that it just so happens there's no problem at all with discriminating based on place of birth. The UK does it, just about every other country does it; the idea that it's legitimate to say "if you were born here (and/or if your parents were) you are One Of Us and you have these rights and entitlements and may come and go freely, otherwise you are a Foreigner and Not Our Problem" is fully normalised in mainstream political thought.2 We happily abridge the freedoms of myriads of people because they weren't born here. This cannot be right.

I can see absolutely no principled reason for this that wouldn't also amount to an extremely racist justification. I can see many pragmatic reasons for allowing this state of affairs to continue; but working backwards from pragmatic reasoning to a principle is exactly as bad as saying "our economy would collapse without slavery, therefore let us posit that the group we are enslaving are subhuman" (if you think that's too extreme then I would argue that this is merely the most graphic and most recent example of the injustices perpetrated by the mindset).

In the short term I would prefer we accept the cognitive dissonance of saying "this policy is immoral but we will stick to it for pragmatic reasons except in cases where people absolutely require refuge" than maintain the current pretence that there is anything morally acceptable about it. In the longer term, we should work towards (minimally) fully open borders and citizenship on demand for residents of any state3. I would argue that there are pragmatic advantages to that situation too - in particular in terms of increasing economic parity between regions. But even if there were no such advantages we should pursue this goal anyway, on purely principled grounds, just as abolitionists believed in their cause regardless of its undoubted economic impact.

[I considered giving here lots of examples of how the implementations of immigration controls are evil in practice, but actually the point I'm trying to make is that the very concept is evil in principle]

1Yes, I know I'm not anything like the first person to realise this.

2I don't even know of a word or short phrase that means "discriminating against someone based on their place of birth"; there's a lot of pernicious nitpicking by people who hold to this that "oh, it's not really racism because 'people from X' aren't a race", and yeah, OK, it's not exactly racism, but it's ALSO BAD so your argument is crap. [ETA: [ profile] abigailb suggests "Nativism" which is pretty close, but I would like a word describing the phenomenon of discrimination, not its political application, so as to be able to say e.g. "Nativism is a political doctrine based on _____". ETA2: "Xenophobia" is pretty damn close and well known, so maybe we should leave it at that for now. ]

3I have no major problem with the existence of national governments - just as Leicestershire and Lincolnshire have different local governments but there is no suggestion that people born in one shouldn't be permitted to travel, reside, or work in the other.
pseudomonas: (libdem)
The Liberal Democrats have a leadership election going on. Anyone who's joined by the close of nominations - 4pm on the 3rd of June (tomorrow) is entitled to vote.1 Since the election, over 15,000 members have already joined.2

Whenever you join, you can help make Liberal Democrat policy in a number of ways - through your local parties, you can propose policy motions to national and regional conference; you can vote on policy at conference — this is how policy gets decided; and there are many settings, formal and informal, in which you have a chance to persuade others in the party of your point of view. New members with no formal role in the party can and do address the conference in debates.

This post might be aimed at you if:

■ You think that the party is the closest aligned to your political outlook
■ You think the party is good, but not perfect on all things, and would like to move it closer to your ideal. Internal disagreement is a feature, not a bug, and it makes internal democracy more robust.
or especially
■ You think the party was good up until 2010 and then lost its way in coalition — this is my view and, as far as I can tell subjectively, the majority view within the party too. Change is now inevitable. As a member, you can help shape that change.

■ You feel the statement of values that forms the preamble to the constitution is something worth signing up to.

■ You'd like to help campaign for keeping the Human Rights Act, for staying in the EU, against the Snooper's Charter and other security overintrusion, and for constitutional, economic, and political reform.

If you already have decided that there's another political party that you'd rather work within - good luck, and fight the good fight there, this isn't where I'm going to try and convince you to quit.

If you think that the party is nowhere near your views or unredeemable after coalition: consider this post not to be addressed to you. TL;DR: the post is "if you support the Lib Dems, this is where I tell you why you should consider joining", not "this is where I tell you why you should support the Lib Dems"

If you are interested in joining the party, you can do so at

1 So far it's a choice between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb, both of whom I think are people of integrity, and both of whom I trust to take the party to a position much more representative of its ideological and historical roots than the last five years of coalition.

2 Most are new to the party; about 20% have been members before and are re-joining.

Comments: this is basically a post for people who are more-or-less aligned with the party who may want to discuss reasons to join or not to join, the way the party works internally, and maybe the leadership election. It's not the space to argue that the party is terrible, that the coalition was terrible, that another party is terrible, that the UK's electoral system is terrible, or that I am terrible. Really.
pseudomonas: (libdem)
The Conservative party have some nasty policies, and have made some nasty promises, and a lot of changes could happen in the next parliament that are pretty grim — and certainly there are a lot of positive changes that are much needed and will not happen.

But we should remember that they have a majority (even before a single by-election) that makes Major's in 1992 look generous1. And this is a party that still contains David Davis, Ken Clarke, Sarah Wollaston, Nadine Dorries, Peter Bone — all flavours of awkward squad, left and right (relatively speaking, anyway), authoritarian and libertarian, europhile and europhobe. A lot of the policies are going to end up watered down, or defeated, or quietly swept into a disused filing-cabinet. Putting the right pressure2 on the right MPs to convince them might well help. Campaigning in whatever opposition party you're a member of3 to help the Conservatives see they can't count on their majority next time will certainly help. Joining organised pressure groups like the Open Rights Group, Shelter, and Liberty will certainly help.


1 There's a chance that on some issues the DUP / UUP / UKIP might come to their aid, yes. But all these parties are small, UKIP sees them as the enemy on a lot of things, and having to rely on the DUP may well require of them some unpalatable quid-pro-quos. There's also a chance that on some things - the Snooper's Charter, for instance, some Labour MPs will support them. This just means that there's a broader target that needs pressure (from within and without that party).

2 I personally believe that the right pressure is often more "I'd be more likely to vote for you if you do X than if you do Y" rather than "OMG all Tories are evil scum" even if the latter fits the facts better. But y'know, maybe there's a good-cop-bad-cop routine in there or something.

3 As I've said in a previous post, I'm in the Lib Dems and I think you should consider joining and making the party better and stronger — but if you're better suited to another party, please help make that party better and more effective instead.

ETA: and there's always the House of Lords there as well…
pseudomonas: Bacterial conjugation (sex)
What is it with politicians (or possibly civil servants) and the Internet? Hot on the heels of the craziness of the proposed surveillance of web, email, and social media, comes the perennial "let's make the Internet child-safe" proposal.

Yet another idea that neatly combines illiberal with unworkable. At least one might hope the "unworkable" element should hopefully do the job of making sure it doesn't get beyond a draft (though ISTR that didn't deter Australia from trying something similar), but still. *headdesk*

Should this draft be unfortunate enough not to be strangled at this stage, expect endless wrangling over who decides what porn is, shock as people realise that educational, political, and scientific materials have been included, confusion as the powers that be discover HTTPS decades after the rest of the Internet, and bewilderment as people point out that this has been tried lots of times and it Never Bloody Works.

ETA: apparently the proposal is a Lords Private Member's Bill, so a near-zero chance of actually getting anywhere. But still, I remain surprised at what some people think would be a good idea.
pseudomonas: (Default)
For [personal profile] thalassius, [ profile] neonchameleon (following a conversation at the weekend), and anyone else interested in putting numbers to energy supply and usage: is an excellent summary of the figures. Free online or PDF download. Also on paper.

Also, it seems that UKIP are climate-change denialists, and have a leaflet out deriding "Darwinism". If you were planning to vote for them, please don't.
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