12 May 2015

UK General Election 2015 - A View from the Asylum



Well, that was a jolly little election wasn’t it? The polls got it wrong. Or was it the Poles? (Blasted foreigners coming over here and taking away our sense of reality).

But then I thought the anti-immigration sentiment encouraged by UKIP had had some effect when I was told something about Exit Poles, only to discover I’d got the spelling wrong, and an Exit Poll was a system of finding out how people had actually voted (as opposed to how they said they would vote.

The Exit Polls told us that all the other polls had been wrong, and that far from being faced with a “Hung Parliament” (some say hanging is too good for them) there would probably be a Conservative government with a workable majority.

The trouble was that we had all learned to believe the earlier polls, and now we had the Exit Poll none of us believed it. Indeed one-time leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown said if the Exit Poll was right he’d eat his hat. So far as I know this has not yet actually happened. A dollop of custard might help it go down, and it would be appropriately in line with the Party colour.

Similarly, ex-Labour Press Secretary Alistair Campbell said he’d eat his kilt. Again, yet another broken promise.


What do I think of Clegg?
So, in the end we did finish up with a Conservative Government, and now David Cameron (left) has got to learn how to govern without the moderating influence of the Liberal Democrats.

I’m sure we are all going to enjoy the ride, and I recommend we all hang on tightly and try not to scream too loudly. It’s going to be a scary ride for Cameron himself as he now heads a government with hugely reduced majority compared to the one enjoyed by the previous Coalition.
 
Many of the swivel-eyed loons on the Conservative back benches that John Major used to refer to as “the Bastards” are still there ready to kick up a rumpus over membership of the EU.

Once again we have gone through an electoral process that is increasingly falling to bits, as more and more Parties build up a following. “First-past-the-Post” cannot in any way be deemed as democratic in a multi-party environment. I’ve never been a great fan of either UKIP or the SNP, but they’ve thrown into sharp focus the ludicrous nature of our system.

One and a half million people voted for the SNP and got 56 seats. Nearly four million people voted UKIP and got 1 seat (they had two before, so that’s a 50% reduction). Who is going to tell me that this makes any kind of sense?

Under a proportional system the Conservatives would still have won (with about 250 seats), Labour would have come second (with about 200 seats), UKIP would have come third (with about 70 seats) and the Liberal Democrats would have come fourth (with about 50 seats). SNP and Green Party would also have been represented but with fewer than 50 seats.

What do I think of Cameron?
As the results from our ridiculous system came rolling in, it soon became obvious that the Exit Poll was actually spot on, and as the day after the night before began to shine its Tory-blue light into our bleary eyes, our ears picked up a strange sound, rather like dead flies falling on to a parquet floor. In fact, that’s what it was .. the sound of Party Leaders falling like dead flies: first of all Nick Clegg (right)
- who managed to retain his seat - resigned his leadership of the Liberal Democrats. 

Labour Leader & some guy in a suit
Then Ed Miliband (left) resigned as Leader of the Labour Party (having failed to convince the British people that what they needed was more distinct Socialism, more class envy, and acceptance that if they were not fat-cat bankers then they were some kind of victim).

And then – keeping his promise that if he failed to win the South Thanet Seat he would resign – UKIP Leader Nigel Farage (below) did in fact resign. It was the end of the war and the Farage Balloon had been deflated. He was now free to spend more time with his beer and fags.
UKIP - United Koff-sticks & Independent-Breweries Party

And on the third day he rose again!

After pressure from Party members Nigel Farage decided to un-resign. (Is that a word? My spell-checker’s accepted it anyway). Susan Evans, his appointed deputy, had enjoyed the shortest period of office in the history of the world. A pity – I quite like her.

And what are we to say about Scotland? Having lost the referendum on Independence, the SNP managed to destroy the Labour Party in Scotland and won all but a couple of seats. Their
Let's hear it for me!
leader Nicola Sturgeon (left) - a bit of cold fish in my view - was hailed as some kind of heroine, and you could sometimes see the flicker of a smile hovering around those thin lips. Now, thanks to the vagaries of our electoral system, she has 56 seats in the Westminster Parliament on only 9% of the UK vote.

The SNP is a National Party with a set of policies closely resembling Socialism. “National Socialist” .. now why does that ring a bell? A National Socialist Party with a charismatic leader. Oops! Now watch them make merry with Prime Minister Cameron. It won’t be long before the Scots are so fed up with the UK Government that the “Smiling Assassin” will be able to whip up enough enthusiasm for a second attempt at Independence.

Don’t even think about boycotting Haggis .. it was invented in England! It was in an English recipe book by 1615. It’s not found in Scottish documents until 1747. Crikey, that’s just over an hour and a half between them!

I must draw this academic analysis of the General Election to a close, happy in the knowledge that we have some excitement to look forward to in the shape of leadership elections for Labour and the Liberal Democrats. I was looking forward to a UKIP leadership election too but Mr Farage has denied me that pleasure by only pretending to resign in the first place.

©Lionel Beck
The Last Liberal Democrat in Town.
May 2015



13 April 2015

ISLAMIC TERRORISM



Islamic Terrorism

Stop Denying the Obvious 

In recent years I have become weary of listening to news of the latest Islamist atrocity followed by leading politicians bleating on about “Islamic State” and their like practising a “perversion of Islam” –“essentially a religion of peace”.

I suspect it has something to do with the innate ability of the British people to exercise tolerance to the point of absurdity, just because we think tolerance is a good thing. Also, since Islam is a Religion having long-distant but vague connections with the Abrahamic and Christian religions, it must therefore be benign: so those who follow it should be respected for their views.

I have long since held the opinion of Islam that it cannot be described as a religion of peace. The evidence to the contrary is slapping us in the face almost every time we switch on the TV News, and yet we are still reluctant to face the facts, and become apologists for the religion. We have become paralysed by so-called Political Correctness, by which we cannot allow ourselves to face the prospect of being accused of either Racism or Islamophobia.

Racism is a stupid word in this context, since Muslims are not a Race. Phobia is an irrational fear of something. I don’t think that fear of Islam is in any way irrational, so I’m not even sure if the word “Islamophobia” is correct.

I should admit that there was a time when I counted myself amongst those who strongly defended the rights of Muslims to follow their religion which (I also believed) was a “Religion of Peace”. But that view was consequent upon my ignorance, and I think that ignorance is widespread amongst those who would aspire to govern this country.

Having subsequently come to an entirely different point of view I was heartened to see my feelings echoed in a book that recently came to my attention: Heretic – Why Islam needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The fact that she and I are “on the same page” is important only insofar as she was born, in Somalia, into a Muslim family, and brought up strictly to observe the tenets of Islam. I therefore think that her opinions are far more important than mine, based as they are on inside knowledge of what it means to be a Muslim. Her views carry infinitely more weight than my own, so I urge people to buy this book and become better informed about Islam.

By the time Ayaan Hirsi Ali had become a teenager she realised that the religion she had been schooled in was repressive, prevented innovation and change, was not subject to debate or analysis, was abusive to women, socially in their 2nd-class citizenship and physically in the practice of female genital mutilation. Against massive opposition from her own family she parted from her religion and fled to the Netherlands in 1922, where she went from cleaning in factories to winning a seat in the Dutch Parliament. A prominent speaker, debater, and writer, she was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. She is now a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Her book Heretic .. opens with a paragraph that invites us to fill in the blanks from any number of newscasts that we might have heard in recent years:

                On ________, a group of ________ heavily armed, black-clad men burst into a ________ in ________, opening fire and killing a total of ________ people. The attackers were filmed shouting “Allahu akbar!”
                Speaking at a press conference, President _______ said: “We condemn this criminal act by extremists. Their attempt to justify their violent acts in the mae of a religion of peace will not, however, succeed. We also condemn with equal force those who would use this atrocity as a pretext for Islamophobic hate crimes”.

Of course, the most recent example you could use to fill in the blanks would be the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Though if you hark back a few years to their most spectacular evil act you’d also have to change a few words as well to involve aeroplanes and skyscrapers. But I think you see the point she is making.

The author goes on to say ..

                For more than thirteen years now, I have been making a simple argument in response to such acts of terrorism. My argument is that it is foolish to insist, as our leaders habitually do, that the violent acts of radical Islamists can be divorced from the religious ideals that inspire them. Instead we must acknowledge that they are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in Islam itself, in the holy book of the Qur’an as well as the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad contained in the hadith.

The really scary thing for us to recognise is that every barbaric act (beheading, crucifixion, burning, amputation &c) carried out by so-called Islamic State, or Al-Quaeda, or Boko Haram, can be fully justified by reference to the Qur’an. Therefore, far from being “un-Islamic”, they are indeed being wholly Islamic!

Now, speaking as an atheist, I have little time for either the Bible or the Qur’an, but there is a big difference between the two. Whilst the Bible is full of bloody and gory exhortations and punishments by God (not to mention a number of stories that can only be described as fantasies), adherents to the Bible, on the whole, do not accept every word in that book as the literal and final Word of God, to be followed as LAW.

On the other hand Muslims who take their religion seriously accept the Qur’an as the final and immutable instructions from God, given to his Messenger Muhammed. It has remained set in the 7th century of Middle-Eastern tribal life, and has rarely been open to interpretation, analysis, modification, query or discussion (except by non-Muslims and ex-Muslims of course). Querying the validity of the Qur’an is simply not an option, whereas for centuries Jews and Christians have deliberated over the interpretation of the Bible, and have in practice (since the Reformation) gradually moved towards a flexible interpretation, even to the point of never referring to certain sections of it. We should acknowledge that in medieval times the practices of Christianity were very similar to what we are now seeing in fanatical Islamism. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is saying Islam needs the same Reformation as that of Christianity, and it’s needed urgently.

In the more extreme Evangelical Christian sects in the USA there are many who do take the whole Bible literally and refuse to recognise the current scientific view of the Universe and our place in it, but even if I lived amongst them, should I openly declare my rejection of Christianity I dare say it would be unlikely that hordes of angry American Christians would rise up and call for my immediate death. But you try converting from Islam to another religion, or question the validity of the Qur’an, or the divine nature of “The Prophet” then you are potentially on Death Row.

I think it is therefore incumbent upon all of us, especially our “leaders” to understand this fundamental difference between Christianity as it is generally practised - having evolved into a 21st century religion (which by the way doesn’t override the secular laws of the land), and Islam – rooted (apparently immovably) in the 7th century. 

We in Britain say to our Muslim citizens, “You want a new mosque? OK, build one here.” 

Try building a new Christian Church in an Islamic State.

Islam is based not on what good we can do in this life; it is based on the importance of the next life, where you will find a Paradise that is described in great detail, down to the number of rooms and gardens, and how they look, and the number of black-eyed virgins ready to cater for your every need. (Obviously this is a male-dominated Paradise; it doesn’t sound very appealing for women!)

And you can get to this wonderful “next life” by killing all those “pigs” and “monkeys” that refuse to accept the Prophet’s divinity. Western liberal democracy? Freedom of thought? Respect for women? It’s all sinful. There are billions of human beings out there who don’t accept your adherence to the word of Allah through his Messenger, so make a start – just strap this bomb to your chest – Paradise awaits your arrival.

Finally, saying Islam is not a religion of peace is not the same as saying there are millions of Muslims who are not peaceful. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is saying that peaceful Muslims have somehow managed in their own minds to modify or ignore certain central tenets of their Faith. They have contrived to activate cognitive dissonance reduction. These are the people we should be encouraging, instead of constantly trying to make excuses for the atrocities of the radical adherents, by citing things like social deprivation and foreign policy errors made by our leaders.

© Lionel Beck
April 2015







16 March 2015

UK GENERAL ELECTION - MAY 2015 - MY MANIFESTO



Election Manifesto for the
None-of-the-Above Party

European Union

In the belief that the advantages of being in the EU outweigh the disadvantages, we propose that the UK should comply fully with EU principles except those with which we disagree.

Border Control:  We will take full control of our own borders. If we wish to plant hollyhocks and delphiniums in them, we will not be dictated to by the French that they should be entirely given over to garlic bulbs, nor by the Germans that we should plant sausages.

Freedom of Movement within the EU: We intend to propose that the chains on leg irons should have another couple of links added to increase freedom of movement.

Greek Exit: We wish to discourage the whole idea of a Greek Exit on the grounds that in the event of a serious fire this would discriminate against those of us who are not Greek.

Education

The teaching of “Creationism” will be banned in all schools. God knows it’s wrong.

Sex education in schools will include and introductory course in Latin, with particular reference to the meaning of “coitus interruptus”.

Defence

We intend to stop sitting on defence in order to reduce the incidence of splinters in bottoms.

The Economy

People who avoid paying their taxis will be compelled to use other forms of transport. We propose to remove VAT (Value Added Taxis, i.e., those that carry advertising)

We will increase the Personal Allowance to £12,500 thus taking millions of people out of any obligation to pay taxis. Taxi operators will consequently become insolvent but will obviously benefit from the aforementioned increased Personal Allowance as their income will below that threshold.

Transport

We will always be in favour of transport, as being a useful means of getting from A to B and vice versa.

We will build a network of mobility scooter paths in order to reduce the deaths of pedestrians.

People who drive with their mouths open and wearing hats at the same time will have their driving licences revoked.

Highway authorities will be prohibited from erecting signs saying NO ROAD MARKINGS. The rationale is that a driver who is unable to see that the road on which they are driving has no markings should not be in possession of a driving licence. Similarly, signs saying NEW ROAD LAYOUT AHEAD will be banned on the grounds that local people saw the changes being made, and people from outside the locality were not aware of the original layout. They also become particularly meaningless when the signs remain in place for up to five years.

The HS2 project will be re-routed to replace the current East Coast main line, thus avoiding going anywhere near Birmingham. 

The railways will be returned to Public Ownership, and all trains brought up to the same standard as French TGVs.

Justice

Capital Punishment will be restored, but reserved exclusively for two groups of people: those who put apostrophes in the wrong place, or use apostrophes where they are not needed, and those who persistently fail to turn up for hospital or GP appointments.

Social cohesion and integration

We intend to set up a new government agency known as the Office of Political Correctness (or “Ofspeech”) to be headed up by Jeremy Clarkson.

Cartoonists will be required to operate on a not-for-prophet basis.

Cartoons, dolls or puppets representing Punch & Judy will be banned on the grounds that they are offensive to white people, being a gross caricature of both their facial features and their personal ethics. That’s the way to do it.

All religions will be discouraged, and everyone will be obliged just to be nice to each other.

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy should be in English so we can understand it and this, basically, would involve not sticking our noses into everyone else’s business.

Health

A & E Departments will be known as Alcoholics & Emergency Departments. For people who fail to turn up for appointments, please see the Justice section above.

In order to be worthy of their huge salaries, doctors need to be prepared to be hauled out of bed at 3 in the morning to examine Grandma’s arthritic knee.

Politics

Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesdays will be replaced by a half-hour session of custard pie throwing; this would be similar to the current level of behaviour, and yet be far more entertaining.


To see further details of our policies please visit our Website (currently down for maintenance).







12 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie


Sunday 11th January 2015 saw an amazing gathering of over a million people in Paris.

It was a mass demonstration of great dignity, peace and solidarity against the disgusting murders of journalists, cartoonists, police officers and ordinary shoppers a few days earlier by four Islamic Jihadists.

I watched this awesome spectacle for several hours on the BBC News Channel, and I would describe it as a manifestation of Civilization versus Barbarism.

For one day, at least, Civilization smashed Barbarism. We must hope that it lasts for considerably longer than one day.

We saw, united in friendship and common cause, white people, black people, brown people, Christians, Muslims, Jews, people of no faith at all; people from all over Paris, France, Europe and beyond, including Prime Ministers and Presidents from all over the place, arms linked during a slow and dignified march from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation in the cause of freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

I don't care whether or not Charlie Hebdo published cartoons that were offensive to some Muslims. That could never justify going on a shooting spree. And as Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation said yesterday, "When someone tells you a cartoon offends Muslims, what he is really saying is that it offends him".

I was moved by an interview with a Jewish man and his daughter in the crowd who were each holding a white rose. He explained that the roses had been given to them by his Muslim neighbour as a symbol of peace. A French woman standing next to a man from North Africa said, "I don't know this man, but he is my brother".

On a final note regarding the satirical magazine and its "offensive" cartoons, it is important to realise that it is not just Islam that has been the butt of their jokes, but Christianity as well. There was recently a cartoon depicting Jesus hanging on the cross, with the caption, "I'm a Celebrity - get me out of here!" No bunch of crazed Christians went on a shooting spree.

I believe whenever there is anything in our political institutions or our religions that are either stupid or ridiculous, then it is incumbent upon us to ridicule them. We survive by having a sense of humour .. something sadly lacking in most religious fundamentalists of whatever faith.



30 October 2014

Catholic Church catches up with Science


I has been my long-held view that Religion and the churches that peddle it, do not, as a rule, lead the development of society. What happens is that from time to time the Church takes a leap forward to catch up with society.

Take the matter of contraception; officially discouraged by the Catholic Church, we all know (and that includes the Church) that it is widely practised by Catholics. I venture to suggest that the time will come when it receives the Church's official approval.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis - who in many ways has so far been a remarkable Pope - has (according to USA Today) just made an interesting statement about Creation. Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences he said "When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so; He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment."

This is not entirely new because earlier Popes have talked in similar terms. I think the current Pope's pronouncements carry more weight, however, because of his radical views on many things, and because of his popularity.




"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

Pope Francis .. October 2014

 
 

It is probably because the Catholic Church has previously dabbled in a more scientific view of creation that the more rabid evangical protestants (found predominantly in the USA) denounce Catholics as not being "Proper Christians".

The Pope's view on Creation is anathema to those who like to adhere to the Disneyesque view of Genesis and indeed the rest of the Bible. In fact the Pope falls into line with other eminent thinkers such as Lionel Beck and Thomas Paine. What? Oh, alright, Thomas Paine!

So if we accept evolution, the question that now arises is, at what point along the evolutionary path did the organic beings that preceded primitive humankind acquire a Soul capable of surviving death and "ascending" into "heaven"?

I'm not going to try and answer that one becasue I wish to retain some semblance of sanity, but I'm sure there are people out there who are going to tell me the answer.