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Going underground

I'm 9 scenes and around 5000-6000 words away from the end of the first draft of "The Apocalypse Codex". And I'm off for a long weekend on Thursday. So I shall not be posting much in these parts this week, as I try to get everything done in time. (The long weekend involves a last-minute trip to the UK eastercon, which is a whole lot more accessible than Minicon, which I was going to be guest of honour at before the family medical crisis blew up. I'd rather be in Minneapolis, but that'll have to wait for another year.)

Meanwhile a couple of thoughts:

1. I will be voting yes for a switch to AV from first past the post in general elections in the UK. Not because I think AV is the ideal voting system, but because it's not as crazy-unfair as the FPTP system the UK currently runs on. The last Blair/Brown government was voted for by roughly 15% of the electorate. The current Tory/LibDem coalition got 54.5% of the votes cast in a 65% turnout: nearly a 40% mandate from the voters. This isn't right: under the current system, minority views are under-represented and a winner-takes-all confrontational style of politics is encouraged. AV isn't automatically going to fix everything (as a glance at Australian politics will show), but it's not as bad as what we've got now.

2. Meanwhile: Apparently 40% of British residents polled do not think the UK has benefited in any way from immigration.

Well, if you're one of that 40% you can stop reading my books right now, because obviously they are of no benefit to you. My grandfather was an immigrant. Didn't speak a word of English when he came here, either. That didn't stop him joining the army during the first world war, or founding a business that eventually employed more than fifty people. It didn't stop his kid brother from becoming a cabinet minister, or one of his other brothers from dying as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. One of his nephews emigrated to the United States and ended up as a Hollywood film director and producer, married to Anne Heywood. I'm proud to be descended from immigrants. So I invite anyone who thinks immigrants have nothing to contribute to the UK to re-examine their assumptions.

Update: Feorag reminds me that she has compiled a list of the pernicious influences immigrants brought to the UK that xenophobes can boycott. Maybe they could read the list over their morning tea — except tea is one of the items on the list.



Glad to see someone whose work I enjoy so much taking the right side on the two issues I care most about. One thing, though - AV will be more beneficial in the UK than in Australia, because we won't be having the stupid "above the line" thing they have, which essentially turns it back into FPTP with added backroom deals...


Here here!

I'm an immigrant myself (from the US to Bulgaria) and I certainly hope I'm contributing something :)


Who the hell did they ask?? Everyone leaving the Daily Mail office in an afternoon?

I've got no immigrants in my family tree but I would say that 9/10 of my friends are 2nd generation. To even consider answering yes to that question shows a level of stupidity so massive it's a wonder these people don't forget to breathe


Apart from anybody else, one half of my all-time favourite film-makers, Emeric Pressburger of Powell & Pressburger (A Matter of Life and Death, The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going! and more), was an immigrant, one who came to Britain in 1935 as a Hungarian-Jewish refugee from the Nazis.

Ironically, although he wrote the script for the very pro-English-heritage and partly-propaganda film A Canterbury Tale, 1944, he, as an enemy alien during wartime, was not allowed on location in Kent, as it was within the wide exclusion zone strip on the southern coast in the long buildup to D-Day.

A couple of Pressburger's MacDonald grandsons are now well-known Scottish film-makers: Andrew is producer of several films including Trainspotting, Sunshine and 28 Weeks Later; and Kevin is director of The Last King of Scotland, Touching The Void and The Eagle and has written a biography of Emeric.


Two causes dear to my heart. Thanks for the shout-out and support on both fronts! Hope writing goes well, and enjoy Eastercon! (I shan't be going as I shall be turning Newcastle purple for AV over the Easter weekend. :-)


That's not exactly the usual flow of migration between these two countries. Hope the country of my birth is being nice to you. :-)


Thanks for reminding me of the film-making thing: I forgot about that side of the family ...


I'm English/British/Irish/Scottish, going back as far as we can trace (I suspect pre-conquest on some side lines, but the direct continuous male line goes back about eight centuries). So I think I can probably claim to be less of an 'immigrant' than the majority of that 40%.

And I'd just like to say that I am strongly in favour of migration, both immigration and emigration. So that 40% can just piss off.

What's sad is the number of second generation immigrants who end up in that 40%, people such as former Home Secretary Michael Howard.

(The elder of my two sisters is a US citizen, so is a migrant.)


Glad to hear you'll be at the Eastercon.

I think as you do on AV. One point is that the three biggest parties all use the system for their own elections.


Eastercon in Birmingham is practical because it's a 5-6 hour drive from home.

Minicon was out because it involves an 8 hour flight. 8 hours airborn in economy class just isn't feasible for someone recovering from recent abdominal surgery (my wife). But we can stop the car whenever wa want, and in emergency, abort the trip, so we're willing to give eastercon a go.


Commenting specifically on the "above the line" thing, as an Australian resident and citizen: Australia has two houses of Parliament (for all states, and the Federal government; the rest of this comment pertains strictly to the Federal government system.) The lower house (House of Representatives) is a strict AV-style ballot: number the candidates, in order, from 1 to N, N being the number of candidates. As an aside, the Australian Electoral Commission has the job of figuring out the likely winner early down pat, with the "two party preferred" count - they figure out who the most likely candidates to remain standing to the last are, and count the votes accordingly as they tally them up. It has been known to happen that they get it wrong, and have to re-tally with a different pairing, but it's relatively rare.

The upper house (Senate) has a proportional system: if there are X vacancies, and Y votes cast, a quota is defined as CEILING(Y/(X+1)). Eg: 1000 votes cast, and 10 vacancies, a quota is 1000/(10+1), rounded up to the next whole number, or 91 votes. If you get a quota of votes, you're elected, and your remaining votes are redistributed (it gets complicated at this point, but the broad gist is accurate.) You can either vote above the line, whereby you are saying, "This party has lodged one or more group voting ticket(s); I wish my vote to follow the lines cast by that party", or below the line, where you number candidates from 1 to N. Apart from the quota system, it is a standard AV scheme.

So the "above the line" thing affects only the upper house - the house of legislative review. I agree completely that it's an abomination; I strongly believe that (a) everybody should be taking the time to understand each party's policies, and voting from a position of knowledge, and (b) everybody should make their own choice about how to number their ballot paper, instead of abdicating it in preference of a party's backroom deals. I suspect that my opinions on this matter have been strongly coloured by the election of Steve Fielding. I do know that it isn't going to go away; there's too much vested interest in keeping the voting system as simple as possible for the masses.

On the general subject of AV: it's not ideal. But then, I seem to remember that it has been proven that no voting system is ideal - there will always be cases where a sub-optimal candidate is elected. It does have the advantage that it's (a) simple, (b) relatively easy to understand (the quota system in the Australian Senate notwithstanding), and (c) easily scalable in counting (again, the quota system notwithstanding).


I got a rather confused leaflet from the No campaign yesterday. As far as I can make out, their argument appears to boil down to: AV is bad, because Nick Clegg.


Minor Correction re Oz State Government: the state of Queensland has only a single house, (the Legislative Council was abolished on 23 March 1922), as do both the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory (not states, of course).


David, at least that has the decency to not contain an outright lie, just a logical fallacy. Most of the No campaign's stuff would be outright illegal, did referenda not fall into an interesting legal gap where the Advertising Standards Commission think it's the responsibility of the people overseeing Party Election Broadcasts, while the people overseeing the PEBs think it's the advertising standards people's responsibility. Stuart, thanks for the info. I was under the impression that 'above the line' voting was for both chambers. I'm glad the stupidity is somewhat contained.


Oh, and as for the proof that there's no such thing as an ideal system, Stuart @11 is thinking of Arrow's Theorem. This is a mathematical proof - so long as you think ranking preferences is something that needs to be considered. If you don't care about preferentiality, then you can have a 'perfect' system - but that 'perfect' system works out to be the obviously-imperfect FPTP. AV is probably the best system possible for electing single representatives for a constituency (someone will now jump in and say "ranked pairs!" or "Borda counting!" or something...) - I'd prefer STV (AV in multi-member constituencies) but it's far superior to FPTP...


Supposedly we can't talk about immigration, though that doesn't stop Dave and the Mail from saying how awful it is. Depressing.

As far as I'm concerned AV is an improvement on FPTP, and I'd have coted for it a year ago but - Nick Clegg. Any action of mine that stands the tiniest chance of harming the Coalition is a priority right now. Plus, I would feel dirty voting for Clegg's thirty pieces of silver.


Paul - a "No" vote will probably keep the Coalition in power longer. Imagine you're a Lib Dem MP, and you're unhappy with the coalition (as many are). In the event of a "No" vote, which of these thought processes seems more likely: "I know! We've just suffered the worst defeats in local elections for more than a decade, we're at an all-time low in popularity, and the electorate have just voted to keep an unfair electoral system which is stacked against us! This is the perfect time to force a General Election! There's no way I'll lose my job doing that!" "Ohshitohshitohshit, I'd better hang on for dear life and hope things get better within the next four years..." ?


"As far as I'm concerned AV is an improvement on FPTP, and I'd have coted for it a year ago but - Nick Clegg. Any action of mine that stands the tiniest chance of harming the Coalition is a priority right now. Plus, I would feel dirty voting for Clegg's thirty pieces of silver."

What makes you think that a vote against AV will harm the coalition more than a vote in favour of it? If AV goes through, the Conservative right-wing are likely to go ape-shit. They already think Cameron's some kind of closet lentil-muncher as it is.

Whereas if AV gets defeated, the Lib Dems are facing even bigger trouble at the next election, and so will have no option but to hang on until 2015 in the hope that things will get better by then.

And finally, it's my understanding that whichever way the AV referendum goes, the legislation on equalising constituency sizes (which gives a big net benefit to the Conservatives) will still go through. So in 2015 we'd be facing an FPTP election with the boundaries changed in a way that takes away a lot of Labour seats.

(i.e. If the referendum fails, my prediction for 2015 is a Conservative majority government).


1) I'll vote for AV, because it's the better of 2 options (but that may be on a flavour1 Not Poodle makes you throw up faster than a flavour2 one does value of "better").

2) Immigration must be a bad thing because the "Daily Snail" says so!! ;-) Oh, wait, there's something very badly wrong with that argument! Probably the bit where the Daily Snail is involved. It's one of the few things that make me wish I was less libertarian! Is that clear enough that I'm in favour of immegration?

Finally, enjoy Eastercon those who make it. I won't be going :-( due to a painfully stiff right knee that rules out all travel options due to the amout of "time spent sitting still", "time spent standing in queues" and "distance I'd need to walk" factors.


I'm voting for AV.

I understand I have Africans in my ancestry, Oh noes!


"The long weekend involves a last-minute trip to the UK eastercon"

Hi Charlie,

I'm the guy that talked to you at Conpulsion about buying you a drink in return for a quick (ish, promise!) pick of your brains about agents and stuff - but then had to disappear off to a game I was already booked into, and didn't get a chance to catch up with you afterwards.

(I'm also the guy who, prompted by Gregor Hutton, gave you a copy of his book, but I've read your post about blurbs, so I do very much understand that at best, it's at the end of a very, very, very long list).

Anyhow, if we bump into each other at Eastercon, and if you're not too busy, perhaps I could buy you that drink? (Or two!). But only if you've got the time.



P.S. I did buy a copy of The Atrocity Archives, and I loved it. Will be buying more stuff very soon. :)


A couple of Pressburger's MacDonald grandsons are now well-known Scottish film-makers: Andrew is producer of several films including Trainspotting, Sunshine and 28 Weeks Later; and Kevin is director of The Last King of Scotland, Touching The Void and The Eagle and has written a biography of Emeric.

I did not know that. Thanks Nicholas.

Other great British immigrants in the film business: Ken Adam, of course, who designed the sets for Dr Strangelove and pretty well every Bond villain headquarters, and was a Polish emigre and RAF fighter-bomber pilot.


How many of that 40% have unwittingly implied that they themselves are of no benefit to the UK?

(Setting aside the usual question of how far back "immigration" goes. Perhaps 40% of the population think that the UK would be better off without human inhabitants?)


I have to play the Devil's Advocate.

Wouldn't you be writing if you weren't resident in the UK?

How many of those who say there was no benefit at all refer to an advantage in aggregate?


The side of the family that did not come to the UK has not been heard of since 1939.


Charlie, clearly you don't count as an immigrant because (a) you're white and (b) you're grandfathered in.


If we had to disavow the last two millennia, we English would all be Welsh. Eek!

(With apologies to my Welsh friends. And family. And the Cornish.)


Wouldn't you be writing if you weren't resident in the UK?

No, because I wouldn't have been born, because neither would my father. (Granddad married a local girl.)

As for the side of the family that didn't migrate to the UK, they were last sighted on a train to Dachau or Belsen. (See also: why scummy politicians trying to conflate the concept of asylum seekers with illegal immigrants makes me want to spit blood. Have they no shame? No, don't answer that ...)


When my grandparents came to the UK they were of an ethnicity that wasn't counted as "white".

(Casual antisemitism didn't become socially unacceptable in the UK until after 1945.)


Be careful about making assumptions as to how persuasive counter-arguments will be on topic #2 above. It's very easy to argue (at least for some of them) "those aren't benefits we received from immigration, those are benefits we received from imperialism, stealing them outright from foreigners".


I'm a son of an immigrant. However, despite that I feel no inclination to blow up buses and trains in order to convert the UK to my version of religion. I must be doing something wrong...


Strangely, neither do 99.999% of immigrants or children of immigrants. Picking out the minute number of bampots you find in any grouping of people to discredit and promote hatred of that group is a standard trick.


It really depends on the % of support within that grouping for the bampots. In the case of radical Islam it is worryingly high.


Ken Adam, from what I can gather, is not Polish but - even more excitingly - of German Jewish origin, born in Berlin to a former Prussian cavalry officer. As a German RAF officer he would have been in extra danger had he been shot down and captured in Germany.

The British film industry had/has lots of immigrants, the most high-profile and central at one time being Alexander Korda. Going back to Powell & Pressburger, their regular gang included cast and crew such as Anton Walbrook, Hein Heckroth, Alfred Junge. Leslie Howard, who appeared in their 49th Parallel and seems thoroughly British, was born Steiner.

More recently, Sir Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, son of a Kenyan of Indian origin; and Terry Gilliam of Monty Python was born American but from 1968 had dual US-UK citizenship and since 2006 is a full British citizen (which apparently means he can spend a max of 30 days in the US now, which is less than other British citizens).

Even someone who looks as though he comes from 1,000 years of hearty yeoman squirearchical English stock as much as Stephen Fry does turns out to have Jewish maternal grandparents from Slovakia. Actually, seeing the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? reminds you that all sorts of prominent British people have overseas antecedents - David Baddiel, David Suchet, Alistair McGowan, Zoe Wanamaker, Michael Portillo... Boris Johnson calls himself a one-man melting pot, with a combination of Muslims, Jews and Christians among his great-grandparents, including the Turkish journalist Ali Kemal Bey.


Unfortunately most people do not distinguish between immigration and mass immigration. The first kind brings many benefits, in terms of ideas and abilities. The second kind still brings the same things, but they are not of additional use. Think diminishing marginal utility. What is still increasing is the influence of the immigrants' different agenda. Since this hinders the realization of the natives' agendas, the net effect is considered as negative. History tells us that this turnover happens when the immigrant population approaches 10%; earlier if the immigrants are very different or the differences are considered very important. When this happens, one after the other good will, tolerance, solidarity, liberty, and peace will vanish. The end result is either segregation, forced assimilation, or expulsion of either the natives or the immigrants, all either total or in the relevant categories. There are NO exceptions to this. It's lamentable, but probably unavoidable.


Speaking as a recent immigrant (to the US) who is married to a former long-term immigrant (to the UK) I personally think in an ideal world everybody should be made to live in another country for at least a few years. Does wonders to your sense of perspective.


Dr T So what are these 'immigrants' agendas' and how do they differ from 'native agendas'? In particular, why is the 'agenda' of my immigrant wife more different from that of myself, a 'native', than, say, the 'agenda' of David Cameron is? What's so magical about national boundaries that makes these 'agendas' change when crossing those boundaries but not when, say, moving from Cheshire to Manchester? Or am I an 'immigrant' to Manchester from Cheshire? Will my different agenda lead to the Mancunians ganging up on me and sending me back where I came from? Are these 'immigrants' agendas' the same as the famous 'gay agenda', or are they different? If you're a gay immigrant, does that get you double agenda points, or do they cancel out and leave you agendaless? Fundamentally, what possible explanation - other than racism - could you have for your assertion that one source of difference (nationality) would cause such different 'agendas' that it inevitably leads to violence while other sources of difference (class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, intelligence, artistic taste, Operating System use) don't? Because the sole Windows user in my office fits in less well than the people from Pakistan and Mexico do...


The only region of the UK where there's a single immigrant community approaching 10% is Scotland. The immigrant community in question is ... the English.

(There are pockets of high-immigration elsewhere in the UK; notably, Bradford has over 10% of Pakistani descent, and London has a >10% immigrant population, but composed of multiple sub-diasporas. But by and large the UK is very whitebread indeed.)

In any event, though, you're talking total bollocks. Where you get exclusive cultures coexisting there's usually some kind of discrimination -- possibly unadmitted -- to enforce separation.


Incidentally, if the BNP/UKIP/EDL want to get rid of the immigrants, they ought to deport those Windsors. Who we all know changed their name from Saxe-Coburg Gotha back during WW1 -- bunch of bloody foreigners!


"Fundamentally, what possible explanation - other than racism - could you have for your assertion that one source of difference (nationality) would cause such different 'agendas' that it inevitably leads to violence while other sources of difference (class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, intelligence, artistic taste, Operating System use) don't?"

But it is not just one (major) source of difference (nationality) that people object to. It is stuff like religion and politics (of the coercive kind) being imported en masse that is the perceived problem.


"But it is not just one (major) source of difference (nationality) that people object to. It is stuff like religion and politics (of the coercive kind) being imported en masse that is the perceived problem."

So suddenly the terms of the debate change. In which case why talk about 'immigration' at all, if that's not what people object to? If people object to 'coercive politics' why not argue against that? (Though of course parties like the BNP or Racist UKIP are the largest political forces for that kind of politics in the UK, and they're anti-immigration). If you object to someone else's religion, why not argue against that?

Unless, of course, those aren't the reasons at all...


You will find that among supporters of radical Islam that support for radical Islam is high. Among Muslims in the UK in general, it's about as high as support for the dissident Republicans is among Catholics in the UK in general.

I also note that a surprising number of supporters of radical Islam appear to be white, British born converts.


"Immigration" as currently-spoken-of is code, of course. Especially for two groups. 1] "Muslims" - or to be specific, those muslims who refuse to accept "Western" social vlues, and at the extreme and want "khalifah" here. 2] E. Europeans, working here, but CLAIMING BENEFIT for their wives and children in $EEuropeancountry.

In these two cases ONLY, I'd be tempted to agree with the "anti-immigration" stance - but only in these special cases, and if pushed, only in the first case. No country needs people coming into it who want to go back to the Dark Ages.

But, overall, and especially historically the UK has benefitted greatly. (some of) my own ancestors were Huguenot, for a start. Then there were the "Ugandan Asians" who were a similar grouping, fleeing religious persecution, with a very "protestant" attitude to work and social responsibility. Once upon a day, I worked in a research lab, which was like a refugee haven. Many from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia etc - all escaping the Nazis or Soviets (or in at least one case BOTH) You HAVE to remeber that it is a code-word.

Though Feorag @ 32 ... There are FAR too many followres of a certain collection of Dark-AGes cmaelherders' myths who have deeply unpleasant views on women, jews, unbelievers, alchohol etc.... - unfortunately. When they start putting up fly-posters at election time, stating that "Voting is un-islamic" you do really want them to go away. Along with the deeply unpleasant christians, whose boss lives in Arizona, who bother me on a daily basis, may I add ....

@ 18 But though you and others here may not like the Tories, the current electoral boundaries are deeply unfair. The constituency borders NEED re-drawing.

Charlie @ 29 I THINK you are in error. Yes, there was a lot of casual anti-semitism in the UK. But it was not regarded with favour by the "ruling class" Think Benjamin D'Isreali, for instance.


The mass immigration of Eastern European Jews into the UK in the 19th and early 20th century was absolutely a very good thing indeed. Many of the familiar High Street establishments were founded by them and their children, and their enterprise created prosperity in other sectors too.

Yet at the time, they faced the same shit as you and the Daily Mail are spouting. They even got it from the slightly more established Jewish communities!


"Where you get exclusive cultures coexisting there's usually some kind of discrimination -- possibly unadmitted -- to enforce separation." And exactly that is my point! One side of the equation takes steps to enforce separation. This can be either active by pushing the other side out, or evasive. It can be either the majority or the minority that prefers exclusive proximity to its own kind, or both. And it really does not matter what is the reason for the preferences, only that they are important to the people involved. The only ways to avoid this is to limit either the scale, the speed, of the diversity of the immigration. Otherwise, once separation becomes impossible things get ugly.


"Among Muslims in the UK in general, it's about as high as support for the dissident Republicans is among Catholics in the UK in general."

And we all know that bit of history. Is that our future, but on a scale 10x bigger?


There are FAR too many followres of a certain collection of Dark-AGes cmaelherders' myths who have deeply unpleasant views on women, jews, unbelievers, alchohol etc.... - unfortunately.

The real solution to that kind of stuff is a revolution in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has been pumping money into barkingly insane Salafi extremist preachers for decades now. If you and yours had just moved to a new country and want to build a community centre and place of worship, what would you say to the nice men who're offering to pay for most of it (and just want to loan you the help of a couple of salaried preachers)?

The extremism is being preached by religious bigots with funding from obscenely rich princes who are sitting atop a giant gushing oil boom and trying -- uneasily -- to buy off their local turbulent priests. It's as if all Christian missionary work worldwide was organized by the Aryan Nations with funding from the Gates Foundation.

As far as D'Israeli goes, I'd just like to note that he was Christian by conversion at an early age and wouldn't have been able to become prime minister if he'd stayed Jewish. And despite his conversion he was on the receiving end of more than a few anti-semitic slurs.


"If you object to someone else's religion, why not argue against that?"

Well, if its radical Islam there is a considerably physical risk attached, unless it is done anonymously, not in real life or one to one with someone you know who is "reasonable".

As for changing terms of debate, there are multiple arguments against mass immigration. Importing fascists is just one of them.


You got the wrong end of the stick. The dissident republicans are massively un-popular among British Catholics in general. They're even unpopular among Northern Irish Republican Catholics, a rather more select group.

As far as islamic extremists in the UK go, a lot of the ones who are currently banged up for plotting to make things go bang were grassed up by their own families.


Disraeli himself was on the receiving end of a lot of very specific anti-Semitic shit from those very ruling classes. To quote Wikipedia:

Much of the criticism of his policies was couched in anti-Semitic terms. He was depicted in some antisemitic political cartoons with a big nose and curly black hair, called "Shylock" and "abominable Jew," and portrayed in the act of ritually murdering the infant Britannia. In response to an anti-Semitic comment in the British parliament, Disraeli memorably defended his Jewishness with the statement, "Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honourable Gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon."

Like Christian bampots, the Islamist bampots shout really loudly.


"Like Christian bampots, the Islamist bampots shout really loudly."

No, they threaten to kill you.


And my last word on Islamic extremists. Should they win, it won't affect me in the slightest. I am a man, not gay, not Jewish and I'll salute whatever flag they run up the pole. I already have the beard.


I specifically said dissident Republicans, not Republicans. The ones who are the splitters of the splitters of the splitters who do not like the idea that the political process (i.e. people talking to one another and, shock horror! making compromises) has gone a long way towards causing peace to break out. The ones who are trying to restart the violence but whose efforts so far have served only to have both sides emphasising the importance of the political peace process and how it will not be derailed. The ones whose actions have been condemned in no uncertain terms by Sinn Fein and high heidyins in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. The ones who have virtually no support from members of those they'd like to think were their community.

What you're doing is like if I, perceiving your to be German from your name, said that you are obviously a murderous racist who is naturally inclined to blame other ethnic groups for their own troubles. Because Germans are all like that - look at the history! And you'd be perfectly entitled to respond "verpiss dich!" because that argument would be racist shite. Just like yours.


I've never been threatened by Islamist bampots, and I used to live in Bradford! I even participated in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. Not a peep.

I have had death threats from Christian bampots, both Protestant and Catholic flavours, though.


"I specifically said dissident Republicans, not Republicans."

Sorry - misread. They are the ones wanting to continue 30 years of civil war. The war in NI ground to a halt for a number of reasons.

It was partly because the UK govt said to the PIRA "You can have anything you want except a united Ireland"

The UK govt was bombed to the negotiating table when the PIRA stopped killing squaddies and started attacking very high value financial targets like the City of London. Several big companies were on the very of moving out of the UK because of that.

It was partly demographics, with Catholics having a greater rate of population increase that other groups.

It was the secularization of Eire and its increased prosperity. No longer did the RCC have a veto on politics there. So Protestant objections softened

Finally, after 30 years everyone was tired of it and even PIRA realized they could not win.

As for my name, it's French.


You realize that you are actually making my point? Immigration brought the number of Jews in the UK up to about 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Most of those lived in the greater London region, with a population of 7 Million at that time. Do the numbers, its about 7%, up from about 2% thirty years earlier. Predictably antisemitism started to rear its ugly head, all the gains from the immigration notwithstanding. And one of the very unfortunate results of this saturation of the immigration buffers was that the UK felt unable to take up any more Jewish immigrants during WWII, limiting the numbers to only 70,000 and re-routing anyone else to Palestine. Note that the same is happening right now, though on a less tragic scale.


""Like Christian bampots, the Islamist bampots shout really loudly."

No, they threaten to kill you."

The only religious/political extremists who have caused any significant risk to my life have been the Catholic ones who blew up a big chunk of the city where I live. Two of my cousins were in Warrington when the IRA blew that up, too - again, Christan, not Islamic, terrorists. I have friends who were in Soho at the time of the nail-bombings, which were committed by someone who wanted to make Britain a white, Christian nation. In contrast the worst danger that has been caused to me, my friends or my family by Muslims has been the occasional dodgy kebab.


Who Do You Think You Are? is a great series of programmes, and I fully commend it as a documentary of how many successful people are from immigrant stock.


The UK govt was bombed to the negotiating table when the PIRA stopped killing squaddies and started attacking very high value financial targets

That's not actually the way the troubles ended, you know.

Hint: there were at least three sides to the NI process. Reductionist over-simplification doesn't help.


Okay, you're banned.

Sorry, but I don't need the extra high blood pressure right now.

Hint: see the moderation policy wrt. racism.


There's quite a frenetic debate on a left leaning UK forum I post on, regarding AV. Mostly there's peple like me on one side voting in favour as an adjustment to a rotton system. The other side favour a no vote, in order that it might throw the Libdems into turmoil and lead to them bringing down the coalition. Hence put the breaks on attacking the wellfare state, NHS and so on. Which is the main concern for many.

Obviously I'm not convinced by that argument but it shows the debate is more complicated than one of purely an electoral reform. Least in some quarters.


By some quarters I mean outside the mainstream media. Realised that could have read as a snide comment about those above. Not meant that way at all FWIW.


My view on AV is that almost anything is better than what we have now. Still, as the old anarchist saying goes - no matter who you vote for the government gets in. Expect no big changes.


"Hence put the breaks on attacking the wellfare state, NHS and so on. Which is the main concern for many. "

Won't happen. Partly for the reasons I gave above (a No vote would discourage Lib Dem MPs from breaking up the coalition) and partly because those things were Labour policy too - Darling was saying pre-election that Labour would make 'worse cuts than Thatcher'. On the other hand the Lib Dems are managing to ameliorate the worst of those cuts (the cut to housing benefit, for example, was stopped by the Lib Dems after it had been announced, and the Lib Dems' spring conference last month has called for all MPs to vote against the NHS changes unless they're radically improved).

Voting No to AV is giving up a long term war to win a short-term battle. And not even a battle where the 'left' side can win, with two Thatcherite main parties.


What I'm mostly interested in is that the outcome of the AV vote could go very nonlinear indeed.

Consider: there's going to be a much higher turnout in Scotland than in England, because we're having a parliamentary election that day. And the Scots are more pro-AV to begin with.

So it's possible we'll see a yes-to-AV win on the back of a Scottish majority, with a less-than-50% vote in England.

That would cause the Tory back-benches to go absolutely batshit carpet-chewing insane, especially as it will probably coincide with the SNP forming a majority government in Holyrood for the first time, on a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.

A major Tory back-bench rebellion would scupper the coalition's ability to pass a bill switching general elections to AV -- unless we then see an ad-hoc Tory progressive/LibDem/Labour bloc form to push the Act through. So basically Cameron will be on the hook to Milliband to pass an Act of Parliament. (It's possible there will be a pound of flesh passing hands.)

Alternatively, the 1922 Committee could kick off a full-bore right wing leadership challenge against Slick Dave, possibly fronted by one of the old monsters (Michael Howard, perhaps).

Either way, a failure by the Coalition to institute AV after a "yes" vote that was unambiguously supported in Scotland, would probably be seen as a slap in the face by everyone north of the border. (And think about what that implies for the referendum on independence that will be bouncing around like a hand grenade with a missing pin ...)

Either way, a "yes" vote could well lead to the wheels coming off the coalition. It could even lead to the disintegration of the UK, as currently constituted, although that's somewhat less probable.


"It could even lead to the disintegration of the UK, as currently constituted."

About time. I cannot understand why Scotland does not leap at the chance of independence. If I lived North of the border, (which I might in future, given that my other half is a MacKenzie) I would definitely be pushing to break away.


Something completely off topic, but it reminds me of something Charlie mentioned a while back:

"“I thought of fighter aircraft as complex software projects at four to six million lines of code,” Selfe related. “But the Volt has ten million lines..."

All bug free, no doubt. Back to Android programming.


Aside: do you have an opinion on illegal immigration, and government policies which seem to ignore the gravity of a problem posed by a large number of illegal immigrants?

On this side of the Atlantic, I've seen cases where intelligent immigrants who come in-country to study in University have a hard time staying (even without attempting to gain citizenship). Laws and policies seem determined to make it hard for such immigrants to earn an honest living here in the U.S.

I've been told that it is trivially easy for illegal immigrants to sneak into this country.

Politically speaking, there are no leaders who want to do something substantive about this problem.

This appears to lead to large numbers of people who could be friendly towards immigrants to distrust immigrants in general...because of the trouble associated with illegal immigrants.

(Among those troubles: encouragement of gray/black-market activity, unlicensed and untrained drivers causing trouble on roadways, an increase in petty crime associated with transients who have no legal status in the community, an increase in violent crime associated with gangs who enable the illegal immigration and prey on illegal immigrants' unwillingness to deal with police, etc.)

I don't know if there is an analogous problem over there in the U.K., in which official (or unofficial) government policy has created a level of social distrust for immigrants in general. I also don't know if the U.K. has an illegal immigrant problem.

It's a tricky policy issue to ask poll questions about here in the U.S., because pollsters can ask 'Immigrant' questions and not be sure whether the person who hears the question thinks 'your grand-dad' or 'illegal immigrant scum.'


Charlie, you think the UK electoral system works poorly? At least the UK has realistic multiple parties.  It's at least somewhat better than the US system, where there are only two parties, there's almost no practical long-term difference between them, and they've done everything they can get away with to lock their monopoly in and make sure it can never change.  We have one gigantic political machine with its hands stuck into two interchangeable sock-puppets.

"No matter who you voted for, the government won."


I'm continuously fascinated that a country with a German royal family (that replaced a Dutch royal family that replaced a Norman royal family), speaking a language created by scandanavian frenchmen attempting to seduce anglo-saxon-welsh barmaids, and which has a knack for adding words from cultures on the far side of the planet (such as "thug" and "ketchup" and "boondocks") to its lexicon, still has a problem with the concept of immigrants.

And that's speaking as an American, the muttiest mutt culture to ever be mutted into existence by a gaggle of mutts, with some of the most intensely hypocritical cultural issues regarding immigration.


The UK only has two parties that form government - Labour and Conservative. The rest pick up the scraps, and have been doing so for about the last 90 years.


"And that's speaking as an American, the muttiest mutt culture to ever be mutted into existence by a gaggle of mutts, with some of the most intensely hypocritical cultural issues regarding immigration. "

Ask some Native Americans what their immigration policy ought to have been.


Charlie@65: A major Tory back-bench rebellion would scupper the coalition's ability to pass a bill switching general elections to AV -- unless we then see an ad-hoc Tory progressive/LibDem/Labour bloc form to push the Act through. So basically Cameron will be on the hook to Milliband to pass an Act of Parliament. (It's possible there will be a pound of flesh passing hands.)

Nope, the bill has already been passed. The switch to AV is in law and will automatically happen if the referendum passes. The only way the Taliban wing of the Tory party could undo AV if it passes is to bring down the coalition, win the ensuing general election and repeal it. A tall order methinks.


As far as I can tell my ancestry includes English, Scots, Irish, German plus Catholic, Baptist, Jewish.

Add into that whatever is left over of the gene pool from freed slaves who simply vanished into the general population, plus if you want to go far enough back, the genes from the various elements of the Roman Army stationed on the Wall.

I think I'm probably a typical Brit.

On AV, as far as I'm concerned anything that messes up career politicians and makes them listen to the rest of us is a good thing.


Speaking broadly:

We have a global trade system that notionally permits the free movement of capital. There are some barriers, but not many. Capital can go wherever labour is cheapest to extract the best return on investment. But labour can't go where it's paid more, because everyone has slammed the shutters down on free travel.

Demanding free movement of capital without free movement of labour is class warfare, of the rich, against the poor.

Incidentally, most countries have a fast-track to residency for anyone who can wave on the order of $1M in liquidity under the nose of the immigration authorities. A very telling fact, as it highlights just what the immigration restrictions are meant to keep out.

The pressure for illegal immigration comes because there are the income differentials between countries; if we had a global level playing field with something approximating equality, we wouldn't see this economic pressure for migration, either of labour or investment capital. (We might still see political emigration -- refugees, basically -- but that's not the same: many refugees want to return to their homes, if they could do so without fear of violence.)

The UK has a very different immigration problem from the USA because we're part of the EU: there is a large bloc of relatively poor eastern European states for whom the UK's relatively high per-capita GDP looks (at a distance) utopian, and who therefore want to move here, and who cannot legally be excluded because we've got reciprocal right of residence anywhere in the EU. A lot of the first wave of eastern European immigrants (Poles in particular) were young folk who came to make their pile and who are in many cases now returning to their homes; but it caused a massive panic in the early noughties when by some estimates a million legal immigrants showed up in the space of a few years.

Immigration from outside the EU is tiny compared to the intra-EU migration, and there's nothing any government can do about it short of taking the UK out of the Schengen Treaty, which would be a bit drastic. Meanwhile, among the alarm-causing headline immigration figures that get the Daily Heil's readers so riled up are counted UK citizens returning from abroad ...



Your link to the ukpollingreport site leads to a poll about the Scottish parliament, not about immigration.


@15: Andrew Hickey

Indeed - "Condorcet method". I think a mixture of Condorcet for the lower house and STV for the upper would give a useful balance of powers.


Agreed. Some of the other contributing factors were:

  • PIRA being progressively more penetrated - there were the claims that even the head of the Provos internal discipline squad was touting for the Brits...

  • PIRA finding it increasingly difficult to achieve its military aims. Firing mortars at No.10 and Heathrow didn't achieve the desired effect, presumably.

  • The even-more-batshit-insane wing of violent Unionism (look up LVF) who decided to enact tit-for-tat killings, only without any pretence at "legitimate targets" (i.e. don't be a Catholic taxi driver immediately after PIRA kills a policeman).

  • an economic recovery of sorts, or at least a reduction in naked inequality between Protestant and Catholics.

  • an reduction in the broader base of support for the extremists - people starting to realise that some terrorists were living rather nice lifestyles on the back of their moneymaking activities (drugs, protection rackets, smuggling, armed robbery) "for the cause".

It's worth reading Mark Urban's excellent book "Big Boys' Rules" to see a debate over the actual effectiveness of the "less carrot, more stick" approach to terrorism - his statistics would argue that it was counterproductive.

Like others have mentioned in the thread, I've never had to worry about extremists Islamists - but thanks to white "Christian" extremists, I grew up in a house where (for a while) there was a gun on the mantelpiece, my school did bomb drills as well as fire drills, and I've done my fair share of looking under the vehicle for suspicious packages.


To nitpick a little, Sir Barnett Stross wasn't a cabinet minister. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health was a junior ministerial position.


ie we don't want no stinkin religious extremists here...


Definitely! like those damn extremist Jains, walking around constantly staring at the floor. Bunch of crazies /massive.sarcasm.

Why is there anything wrong with being extreme in your religion? I'm not religious but an extremely wary of any finger pointing at people claiming them to be extremists, especially when they are just holding opinions way outside the norm rather than doing anything wrong.


I think he did, when he talked about the hypocrisy of it all. This is one reason I support Indian casinos, even though I think most tribes end up losing more than they gain from those things--it's a way to get back at us immigrants. I also think it's good that those casinos give them money to reclaim ancestral lands and protect what they have left.

I'm also amused because I'm an American with ancestors from most of western and central Europe, and I married an immigrant, as people in our family have done every few generations back to the 1600s.

The word to learn is NIMBY. When people have something they value (like a house in a good neighborhood), and they feel they will lose it or dilute it by sharing it (e.g. when other people want to be part of the neighborhood), they will defend it, using whatever lame excuse they can come up with. Skin color's a favorite, but there are many others.


"Why is there anything wrong with being extreme in your religion?"

Well, it rather depends on your religion, as you alluded to. If it's a religion where crusades and jihads feature, then it's probably bad. If it's a religion where "harm no living thing" is central, I would prefer them as neighbours.


The people planning the constituency changes have quite low-level voting data to work with, and I'm told that they are required to maintain the voting balance. They can't gerrymander a marginal into a safe seat. What makes the proposed changes a bit tricky is the reduction in the number of MPs.

Locally, at the last election, UKIP and BNP candidates, together, if they had a Conservative 2nd preference (not unlikely, alas) would have swung one more seat from Labour to Conservative. But they wouldn't have reached the 50% mark, so the Lib-Dem vote would have come into play. In these parts, that swamps the hard-right.

Suddenly you can see why the Conservatives are scared of the idea.

If you're an MP, your best option may be to fight hard for your constituency, and pick up the second-choice votes. And that might be why a lot of senior Labour politicians are scared of AV.

There's the potential to wreck the shift to the Right, and make local actions more important.


Charlie @ 47 I'd agree with all of that. And, of course some money from Pakistan pushing wonderful religions, as well ....

@ 51 not so long ago the christian bampots killed you as well .... @52 All very well saluting the flag, but when they ban alchohol?

@ 57 etc My wife was VERY close to the ALdgate/Liverpool St tube-bomb - and I've been called "kuffar" on the street.

Charlie @ 65 LONDON is likely to vote pro-AV, ( and with a low turnout) with similar anti-rightwing-tory (as opposed to one-nation tory) backlash results....

@ 66 Because Scotland isn't financially viable, EXCEPT as a slave of Brussels. The wheels came off that with Iceland's caolapse, never mind more recent events.

Charlie @ 75 VERY WRONG We are NOT IN "Schengen" I wish we were, and OUTSIDE the EU - like Switzerland and Norway(?).


We're signatory to the Schengen treaty, not in the Schengen area.

taking the UK out of the Schengen Treaty

I thought the UK (and Ireland) weren't members, hence the annoying passport control queues when travelling to/from the UK. Or is the UK just opting out of the common border and pasportless travel parts, but signed up to the rest?


All a bit confusing; I was mistaking the Treaty of Amsterdam (which included the Schengen Agreement) for the Schengen Agreement itself.

The UK signed the Treaty of Amsterdam, which allowed the EU to legislate for common civil and criminal law and immigration policy, and a whole metric buttload of other things. Schengen became part of the Treaty of Amsterdam, but the UK and the Republic of Ireland opted out of the Schengen agreement.


I was about to say 'sounds like the same, but different'. Except the EU common area rules make it a big difference.

If any part could be called the same, it is misplaced anger. The people see the visible effect of a much bigger cause, and direct their anger at the effect (or the people who compose the effect).

RE: the poll. Poll questions are funny things...I once saw a poll move from 40% approval to 90% approval based on how the question was asked.


My grandfather was an Irishman who came to England in search of a better life, at a time when anti-Irish sentiment was at least as strong as some of the sentiment I've seen against people from Eastern Europe in recent years, and much more overt. Much of the rest of my family originates from outside the UK as well (at least the mainland), and I'm fairly sure they've contributed to British society.


Greg @43:"E. Europeans, working here, but CLAIMING BENEFIT for their wives and children in $EEuropeancountry." The benefit rules here are complex (try looking them up on, but basically workers from the EU (with the exception - I think - of Bulgaria and Roumania) can claim child benefit (but not anything for wives) for non-resident children ONLY if their country has a reciprocal arrangement - that is, if say, British workers in Poland can claim Polish benefits for their non-resident children. Oh yes, other EU countries have welfare benefit systems as well as us! And, of course, these workers have to be, y'know, WORKING - which means they're paying income tax and NI contributions.


Yes, the stupidity is contained, which is a definite relief. It came about because, thanks to the quota system in the Senate (which means you need a lower percentage of the vote to gain a seat in the senate), there tend to be a lot more candidates for Senate positions than for the House of Representatives. In absolute terms, it probably ends up being more for the HoR than for the Senate, but because any individual will typically see no more than 5-7 candidates for the HoR, whereas they'll see all the candidates for the Senate seats for their state or territory, it was thought that numbering all the boxes in the Senate was Too Difficult for the Little Darlings. I'm not sure how many misnumberings you're allowed before your vote becomes invalid, but it's not many - on one occasion, I had to go back and get a replacement ballot because I screwed up the numbering.

It's become a little more tolerable in this day and age, with people providing systems online to let you order the candidates at your leisure, print out a sheet showing how to fill in the sheet, and then do the necessary on voting day. But it's still very onerous, it must be admitted. I have voted above the line on occasion; most recently, it was because I'd checked the group voting tickets, and one particular party had a ticket that mirrored exactly how I was planning on voting. But I do so from a position of knowledge, not of reflex "I have voted X all my life, therefore I shall vote X today."

Which is one reason why I like the Victorian system for the upper house: if you vote "below the line", you only have to number five boxes in order. If you number more, great. If not, your vote counts until the last number has been reached in its redistribution, at which point it becomes a null vote. (Full disclosure: I was born in Melbourne, but currently live in Sydney.)

And to grs1961@13: I sit corrected. (I guess that explains, at least in part, how Sir Joh got away with it for so long.)


Full YouGov poll data here, for those who want to be even more depressed.

“In which, if any, of the following ways would you say Britain has benefited from immigration? Please tick all that apply

35% Food 34% Culture 23% The economy 21% Sport 14% Other ways 40% Not applicable, I do not believe Britain has benefited from immigration in any way. 7% Don’t know”

65% think British food has not benefited from immigration? 66% think British culture has not benefited from immigration? I despair of my country sometimes.


Yeah, tea was introduced in Roman times by Asterix and Obelix - before that, the British just drank hot water.


The shift in tactics to economic rather than political targets certainly had an impact. But a larger problem for PIRA and others was the increasing tendency to treat the republic as a piggy bank for funding purposes and some very unpopular own goals in their traditional heartlands in the South.

I was in Limerick the day after a Garda was killed for getting stuck in the middle of some drug related crime and the atmosphere in the pubs was distinctly hostile to people who'd once have been welcome.

The other shift that was happening was while economic conditions in the South improved, the Irish population became increasingly hostile to having to deal with the impoverished North...

I've heard that a similar thing is happening in reverse now with people in the North wanting to be kept clear of the chaos south of the border.

That there will probably be a united Ireland is probably not really in doubt. When it happens, and if it makes a damn bit of difference when it does is quite a separate question.


The problem is most religions are both; and concerning the 'harm no living being' thing, the most extreme examples I can think about, the Jains, only implement this one in the monks and nuns, not in the laity. And with the latter, one of the traditional occupations is in the military.

While the Jains have no history of religious violence, at least none I'm aware of, that may not be the case for some other Indian religious groups, and some of that violence notably predates Islamic rule in India.

Note this case is complicated and may even be a fabrication of Buddhist history writer, but the fact remains the sources don't treat religious violence as an out-of-context problem. As for Buddhism itself, well, that's another story...

Concerning ancient druids, well, maybe the ancient druids only sacrificed volunteers and criminals, but what if criminal was defined by failing to volunteer, sorry, Bonewits?

Does this say anything about neo-pagan druids? Or Meso-American reconstructivists (where the data on human sacrifice is much better, but still marred by historiography of the victors)? Hell no.

Religious prescriptions and actual action are a multi-layered affair, take the Torah and Talmudic interpretation for an example. And look at the actions of most religious Jews contrasting with the Jewish Defense League, eek...


On this note, my father left Ireland to join the navy in WW2 and encountered the usual anti-Irish crap when he was mustered out in London in the late 40s...

That said, he got about as far as it's possible to go in the career he entered and would have got further including a probably knighthood if 30 years of career smoking and drinking hadn't forced him to retire...



I, of course, welcome our Leodensian masters! Bloody hell, ain't associating a person with their point of origin a tad complicated? I am a Glaswegian, which has about as much to do with Glasgow as Leodensian has to do with Leeds.

Hoping to attend your talk in Edinburgh.


As someone of a varied background, I am disappointed that a member of my own family who is the child of naturalised British parents, now spouts Mail opinions about immigrants ruining the country.

You could make the argument that there is some genetic separation going on between immigrant and non-immigrant populations. Immigrants tending to be smarter and more ambitious. I am not sure it's true but repeated selection of the brightest and most ambitious in repeated waves of emigration could be a selection filter.

And as several people have alluded to, Thatcher's cabinet contained a very high (statistically) percentage of second or third generation immigrants to the UK Regards



Is the BNP real? I can't tell. Or are they just a bunch of 20 or so trolls like the Westboro Baptists?


The BNP is real. Typically it polls between 3% and 5% I would guess, but obviously much higher in some areas than others. It has too much neo-Fascist baggage ever to do more than that. It is nowhere comparable to (say) the French National Front in terms of electability.


65% think British food has not benefited from immigration?

And here I was thinking we conquered the Empire to get some decent grub…

(I was raised on meat and two veg. Ye gods, no wonder so many Brits left for places with decent cooking.)


The problem with being outside the EU but in the EEA is that we would still have to abide by all the rules but would have no say whatsoever in the making of those rules.


Problem: we have precisely no solid evidence for the practice of human sacrifice in the UK, unless you count capital punishment. Even the famous bog body looks more like a political killing that anything else, with the Romans wanting to make sure the native troublemaker was really, really dead.

Also ancient Britons might have been Celtic-speaking but were unlikely to be actual Celts. The culture is all wrong for that.


Mistletoe pollen from Lindow Man?


Can't see the connection. I have high standards of evidence with respect to archaeological matters, and all the Lindow Man stuff comes across as "special pleading". The "triple death" thing is particularly ludicrous, especially as there appear to have been at least four methods used to kill the guy (garotte, stabbing, knocking him on the head and drowning). I think Ann Ross was after some funding when she came up with it.


So you discount the Roman accounts?


Late to the party, but you can add cricket to the list of things introduced to the UK by immigrants (


Mind you, the ostensible reason that the above-the-line option ("I vote the Labor/Liberal ticket") exists in Australian Senate voting is also quite plausible; without it the informal (spoiled) vote total skyrockets. Because if you reject the above-the-line option what you then have is a sheet on which you have to enter about 150 numbers, one next to each name, without missing, miswriting, or duplicating one of them, and it trips up a lot of people. I quite enjoy working up from the bottom deciding who I hate the most, but it does take a fair bit of time and effort and concentration.


I've just read descriptions of the AV system. The first linked site promoting it was obscure but the Guardian article made everything clear, I think.

It seems like the perfect quirky system for a nation which insists on driving on the left (instead of driving in the middle as nature intended), drinking beer warm and other quirky things. In any other country this system would produce a 90% ballot rejection rate because of its complexity.

But they should have called it the grading vote or the ranking vote the flunking vote, not the alternative vote.


was he the previous incarnation of Rasputin?


Its possibly not relevant to the larger AV issue in the UK ... but as an Antipodean it has always seemed strange to me that other countries fiddle about with their voting systems (first-past-the-post, proportional representation, preferential vote/alternative vote), when the main issue is surely that so few people actually bother to turn up to vote!

I've always thought Australia's contribution was really here - i.e. compulsory voting. My suggesting this to non-Australians usually prompts a storm of comments along the police- and/or nanny-state line. But I have always seen voting as a duty of every citizen ... if you want to be able to have tax dollars spent on you, you are obliged to at least turn up at the ballot box and choose the least-worst candidate ....


Indeed. The Condorcet variants (my favourite is Beatpath) have both theoretical and practical advantages. They're the best we know for single-winner elections.

Theoretically, if you're going by the assumptions inherent in Arrow's Theorem, 19 times out of 20 there is in fact an ideal winner. The Condorcet variants all choose this ideal winner when there is one. AV does not always do that.

Practically, AV tends to eliminate compromise candidates early. A candidate who is everybody's #2 choice (but nobody's #1) will be eliminated first by AV, regardless of what's happening in the rest of the election, even if (say) the #1 vote is split evenly between three candidates[1]. Yet from a societal-engineering point of view, compromise candidates are probably a good thing.

[1] Note that this means that for any of these three candidates, two thirds of the voters placed them lower than the compromise candidate.


"I've always thought Australia's contribution was really here - i.e. compulsory voting."

Actually, voting is not compulsory, only attendance at the voting booth. It's entirely legal to spoil your ballot. This eliminates apathy (and intimidation) as a reasons for abstaining.

Similar approach applies to vaccination — it's compulsory to go to the doctor for it, but you don't need to get vaccinated. You can instead ask the doctor to fill in the "Conscientious objection form" with you. Again, eliminates apathy.

Result: 90%+ participation in both voting and vaccination...


I wouldn't trust them. They're people such as Julius Caesar justifying expensive military campaigns in Gaul.

The "barbarians" are the Roman equivalent of Moslems, and Trajan's Column is a boast about the equivalent of an oil war.


( Anti) Irish prejudice usually was not because they were Irish, but because they were percieved to be CATHOLICS. One reason ant-semitism never really took hold (in spite of some outbursts referred to above) here was because we had the catholics to hate, instead. And with good reason. The RC church had deliberately killed 2 protestant monarchs, had organised deliberate massacres, and made numerous tries at Gloriana, and then there was the Armada, and then Guido Fawkes ..... (and then the Edict of Fontainbleu - which affected my other ancestors)

Conversely, the only (I think) Irish person to win a VC in WWII was a catholic. After the war, he moved to Liverpool, because the prods despised him, in spite of his VC, because ... and the catholics hated him for fighting for "the Brits" and getting a VC!

The whole Irish thing is horribly complex. The last two hopes of any decent solution were Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, defeated, I'n sorry to say, by my distant cousin, Salisbury. And then the Home Rule Act (yes, actually passed by parliament) the "Government of Ireland Act, 1914. Look at that date. The Brit Imperial guvmint was quite prepared to use military force to enforce this against the Ulster intransigents, when a Serbian terrorist started WWI. The clock was then stopped, with everyone's agreement. Then, some "nationalist" ultra-loopies took German money and arms, to try to start a revolution in 1916. Which crashed-&-burned the whole thing. We then got the awful, bitter fighting 1919-22, resulting in partition. The "South" threw off the "hated British slavery" - and promptly enslaved themseleves to an even worse master - the RC church. That finally ended, about 5 years back, with the paedophile scandals. But the Irish now have new slavemasters - the EU.

Simple answer (?) You can have a United Ireland, or a Catholic Ireland - you can't have BOTH.

Oh and the PIRA didn't force the Brit guvmint to the negotiating table - they were losing, but both sides felt that the game wasn't worth the candle - too expensive, in all ways. On very small point in favour of the PIRA - they regarded their actions as a "war" [and I thought that they should have been taken at their word, which meant you could kill them anywhere at all, and whether I was wrong or not, doesn't matter, now] ..


One effect of that is that now a "Peace Treaty" has been signed, so that you get people like McGuiness saying, in effect: "We HAD a war, we've signed a Treaty - the fighting is OVER." Which is why Sinn Feinn are so anti the current ultra-nutters, and, much as it grieves me to say it, good for Sinn Feinn - at least they are consistent.


Of course, we're solving that problem in the UK by just allowing people to number as few preferences as they want.


"In any other country this system would produce a 90% ballot rejection rate because of its complexity."

Really? You really think that people can't rank their preferences? Because all you have to do is put a 1 by the candidate you want most/hate least, a 2 by the next one and so on until you get bored...


@116 Not a bad summary Greg, but I would amend the final point about McGuiness and the other toy-politicians in Northern Ireland objecting to continued acts of mass murder (attempted or otherwise) being based on the peace treaty. They may be using that as an excuse to avoid alienating the working class grass roots support, but the real reason is economic - NI has seen a huge upswing in international investment since the end (word used advisedly) of the troubles, and the inevitable side effect is that those in positions of influence have financially benefitted too - so none of them wan to see that apple cart upset. Sad to report, but it appears that capitalism is the main brake on any shift back to the bad old days. On a more positive note though, the average NI citizen is just sick and tired of the tiny minority of wackos, and much of the grass roots support for the terrorists has gone, and without the community support and shelter they simply can't function.


There's actually a terrifying large cohort of supporters of dissident republicans, primarily composed of young disenfranchised males in working class catholic areas in the North and throughout  Ireland. Their size and influence are continuously played down by  community leaders in these areas (SF and similar) as admitting they have widespread support is seen as a direct challenge to their power and image as defenders of the poor on one hand , and by the media and public at large  on the other as they are scared to upset the hard won peace deal. 

I can't help but compare it to the radical Muslim extremism issue you guys have in the UK.

On the idea of immigration controls,

Would you have any form of citizen test for an immigrants if only to weed out the most extreme form of beliefs? Eg especially beliefs that negatively affect the freedoms and choices of others (women,children ,homosexuals etc)

Im wondering if a Dutch anti-immigration model ( where the supposed aim is to preserve liberal values)is morally superior to the basic xenophobic terror of swarthy foreigners?   An Irish reader

Ps I'm extremely supportive of immigration to my own country as it has widens our limited horizons no end. however I recognise there are   down sides to everything 


For what values of "lines of code"? I don't know what language(s) the Volt is coded in, but flight control systems are typically written in Ada, to a full safety-critical standard.

One of the things about Ada is that a code statement can (and style guides usually recommend doing so) cover sevaral lines. Also, it's usual to count the number of statements rather than the number of Line Feed characters to determine how much code there is.

Conversely, in C dialects and VB it's normal to count LFs and take that as the number of statements. So a full printout of the Volt's control code could use half the number of sheets of paper that a flight control system does.


Deporting the Windsors...

"For God's sake, Blackadder, I'm not a German spy! I'm as English as Queen Victoria!" "So, your mother's German, you're half-German and you married a German, eh?"

I also note that a surprising number of supporters of radical Islam appear to be white, British born converts.

This isn't all that surprising. "The zeal of the convert" has been noticed as a religious phenomenon for centuries. Makes sense really; on average someone born into a faith is going to be less zealous than someone who converts to it in adulthood. Conversion takes more energy than stasis. It's also, to an extent, a deracinating process, and you need to be a bit deracinated to want to attack your own society.

See Daniel Benjamin here

Demanding free movement of capital without free movement of labour is class warfare, of the rich, against the poor.

Ah, but even if you permit free movement of labour you still won't get it, because labour is inherently sticky. How much effort does it take to sell your shares in General Motors and buy some shares in Tata? Not a lot, right? Now how much would it take for you to move to India, even absent legal restrictions? Language barriers, family connections, and the sheer logistical burden of moving big lumps of meat around means that labour can never be as free to move as capital. (so what's the answer, O Socrates?) Capital controls. (but doesn't the IMF hate them?) Not any more...

and yes, this is a massive turnaround.


People have been known to complain about words 'such as "thug" and "ketchup" ' "corrupting the purity of the English language". The main problem with this argument is that the English language is about as pure as a 40 year old dockside wh0re! ;-)

Indeed, it has been suggested that if languages were character archetypes, English would be a petty thief, in the habit of coshing other languages in dark alleys, and then rifling their pockets for spare vocabulary!



40% apparently think that the UK has not benefitted from immigration (but we don't know what they consider as benefits); Including that 40%, the total of the various categories on that question is 170%, so it must have been a "choose as many as apply" question.


There is a citizenship test for people wanting to naturalize as British Citizens.

Unfortunately it's based on having to rote-learn a book and the book in question contains numerous errors. Not to mention loads of complete bollocks that most Brits don't need to know off the top of their head.

For example, it asks how many MPs are there in the House of Commons? Well, thing is, the number varies. It's a side-effect of the boundary commission, and it changes periodically -- not like the US Senate where there's an iron law dictating the number of senators/state. Also, if I need to know it's the kind of thing I can look up. Knowing whether the number of MPs is fixed or a variable might be useful ... but again: what is a citizenship test for? Is it more appropriate to ask questions like "what level of government is responsible for funding of schools" or "what is the minimum drinking age" (hint: that's a trick question) -- practical stuff involving day to day life -- or "what dates did Queen Elizabeth I rule between?" -- historical context of no direct relevance to daily life?


You can make a case, though, that someone who turns up to vote and then deliberately spoils their paper is expressing a clear voting intention: none of the above.

(Which is a valid statement of desire. I don't, alas, think it would make any actual difference to politicians if "none of the above" were explicitly included and got an overall majority. Perhaps if you could have a "re-run election" box and we just did without politicians for a few years while they continually failed to get elected - but then again, the cost of all those elections might bankrupt the country....)


Yes. the Roman accounts have been shown to be unreliable in terms of stuff we can check and were specifically written to justify military action to those paying for it. It was all "see what barbarians these people are? We have to civilise them!" Also, I don't believe anything substantive was written about Britain.

Let's examine something specific from Roman reports - the stuff in Caesar that inspired the Wicker Man. Such an action would leave substantial evidence in the archaeological record. Firstly the site itself would show a large anomaly on a magnetometer survey. Subsequent excavation would reveal differentiated soil, charcoal and charred bone (which can be tested to determine the species). And even then, we'd not be able to tell the site from a cremation. Occam's Razor would cut in and that's how it would be interpreted.

We also have another interesting archaeological problem to deal with: we don't know what the normal means of dealing with the dead in Iron Age Britain was. We have a few special burials of high status people, and a few special disposals of people presumed to be at the other end of the scale, who didn't qualify for whatever the normal rite was. But the ordinary folk? There's no sign of them. When I was at university, excarnation was the leading hypothesis, and I believe it still is.

You'd think, if the Romans were writing accurately, that something which was different from Roman norms (and whatever it was, it wasn't burial), would have been used as more evidence of the uncivilised nature of the people. But it isn't mentioned. Funny that.


I can't speak for Feorag in these matters, but when reading Roman accounts of non-Roman religious practices, it is always important to bear in mind that their accounts may be from unreliable narrators, for deliberate political reasons.

I seem to remember that it has been proven that no voting system is ideal - there will always be cases where a sub-optimal candidate is elected.

The "No voting system is ideal" thing is Arrow's Theorem. It only talks about ranked voting systems - it doesn't e.g. apply to range voting.

Personally, I think it's very overhyped: The requirements of Arrow's Theorem, if satisfiable, would describe an unfair voting system. You don't want independence of irrelevant alternatives, because you can have setups where the majority has voted A > C and C > B whilst having expressed no preference between A and B.

There is also what I'd regard as a "fairest" voting system - the Kemeny-Young method - but it has computational (calculating the resulting vote is O(n!) where n is the number of candidates - it's feasible to do by computer for <= about 10 candidates) and social disadvantages (it's a little hard to explain - basically you pick an ordering which minimizes the number of disagreements with that ordering. Exactly how you do this may seem like black magic to normal people).

Personally, I'm going to be voting yes to AV, but I'm not terribly happy about it. I regard the whole referendum as a bit of a political stitch-up. AV isn't the best voting system on strict criteria of fairness, but it's more robust against tactical voting than FPTP, which is the main thing I want out of this.


WHen this test came out, I and a number of my colleagues "sat" it from interest. Better than half of us "failed" it, and of those who passed, at least half admitted to having guessed the answer to at least one question!


Haha, Yeah I see what you mean,

I wonder if there is some value in a test that asks more relevant things about the prospective immigrant rather than His/Her arcane knowledge of their destination country,

Ie "your daughter/son has married with out your permission a member of a rival religion/tribe/ethnic group/area/football team, what should you do?

I realise we are going down Thought Police routes now but I'm sure there could be a test designed to easily pick out the most common human behavioural pathologies, the ones that most directly conflict with our western democratic ideas about law, equality and individual rights.


I would disagree that support for dissident republicans is "widespread". My observation (up close and personal, too) is that sectarianism (and a few other ugly isms) are rife amongst young disenfranchised males (and females) from both Loyalist and Republican communities -- this sort of leads into tacit support of the Republican dissidents and remaining Loyalist gangsters, in terms of what might be shouted or graffittied when a few bottles of Bucky have been consumed, but in no way is there the kind of support that the terrorist paramilitary groups had in the 70's and 80's; once you move away from highly ghetto-ised areas, and even outside of the quite specific demographics we've mentioned, even the tacit support vanishes.


Hi Dave

Yeah, Sure I agree its in noway as large as in previous generations, and it is very much limited to specific socio-economic groups

however it is a larger problem that is generally admitted and support from the 16-25 age group is growing, it is this age group that is most likely to be convinced to partake in senseless violence (a la rioting youths in the Ardoyne /O Connell st)

In addition the political arms of these groups are very active in many areas with door to door campaigning and advertising through posters, flyers etc, as can bee seen plastering the walls of inner-city Dublin


On excarnation, I remember reading a few years ago that they'd found a probable site in East Lothian used for excarnation, and it was bronze age. There's suggestions of various sites such as woodhenge, IIRC, being used for it as well in the bronze age.


Hi, as the son of an immigrant I feel motivated to speak here about immigration. It's a bit long, but please do read the whole thing, there's a lot to my point.

I think there's a bit of a category error here between the two sides that have seemed to form on immigration. I want both sides to stop shouting and turning a deaf ear to the other point of view.

Perhaps you can see if you agree with what I'm observing here:

On the one hand I get the distinct impression that the "Daily Heil" haters are really getting exercised about perceived racism and hypocrisy. It seems to offend them that there is any kind of attack on people trying to join in with the wealth of Britain (or as a proxy, any rich Western country). As far as I can see there's an effort to take the long term view of immigration across several generations. I often see references to historical immigrants and how their contributions were a net positive across that century or era. As someone with a reasonable education I fully agree this is the truth. Over approximately three generations, immigrants to the UK both integrate and also add to the wealth of the UK in all senses. But this totally ignores the real problems that people without the wealth and relationship/societal resilience that the upper two thirds of society have.

I really do see the fears of the lowest few tenths of the population. They see the most radical changes in their communities, and as someone who lives in Folkestone in Kent I see they are not only changing to include immigration, but change regularly as successive waves of immigrants wash through the town - moving on to friends and family further inland. A decade ago the conversation amongst the chav end of my family was all about the Albanians, who lived in "Kosovan Alley" (which would be the council housing in Tontine Street). Then it became "Slovaks" (meaning anyone from the new European Union entrants). There have been many groups, usually only for a year or so as various geopolitical events and rules change. Now it's all about the Afghanis who are the constant attention of the police attending fights and domestic disturbances up that street. It's only, at most, a couple of hundred people in a town of about thirty thousand but the hassle and the strain on the town's resources are real. It's also a continuously changing few hundred - thousands of people a year flow through the town. My mother was shoved to the ground by Afghanis in 2010 - because she was dressed as a whore for not being fully covered in muslim dress. She's an Irish Catholic (hence I'm the son of an immigrant) and in her late sixties so doesn't exactly dress like a stripper. One of the minor consequences of immigration "reform" means that new entrants can't work for the first six months in the UK - so there are many bored men hanging out in the street. There were (minor) riots in Dover, six miles away, a couple of years ago for the same kind of behaviour by Albanian immigrants.

I hear my cousins complain about how they can't get help from the police - but the immigrants have constant attention (Of course they are - they're stabbing each other and beating their wives unconscious while my cousins are complaining about what a friend said on Facebook). They can't get council housing (woe betide them paying for their own housing by having a damn job, of course)... You get the idea.

So what I'm comparing here is people who don't face immediate downsides to immigration and can afford to take the wider, longer view against people who wouldn't know a French Huguenot if they were slapped with one - but who are involved in the minutia of radical societal change based on a shift from one culture to multiple and changing expectations. These are the people least able to deal with change - otherwise they'd be earning more, more often, and have wider, more stable social relationships. We shouldn't be punishing them because they can't achieve as much as we do. Just by reading a blog I assume you are way ahead of them academically and in the richness of your social skills.

I would very much like the Daily Mail haters to have a much more sympathetic view of the people who are having to change their behaviour against their will and who are having to make constant accommodations in their expectations because of the constant change. These are the most ignorant and hence vulnerable to manipulative sections of society. They don't watch the news, they talk to friends. They don't read national newspapers, they get the freesheet with ultra-local scaremongering crime news. No wonder the BNP is rising in Kent - the poor have the choice of patronising attacks on their complaints from people with good cars and stable jobs OR a simple message that getting rid of the dirty foreigners will solve their problems.

Obviously the solution is to force all the shitty cultures of this world to stop holding their people down with the "miracle of poverty". But until that happens there will be billions of people who would like to short-cut their rise to wealth by simply moving somewhere more amenable. That doesn't mean we can put three billion people somewhere between Lands End and John o' Groats of course.

Perhaps if the Daily Mail haters didn't constantly belittle the concerns of the others, particularly those who seem to say that unrestricted and unlimited immigration is such a good thing, then maybe they would listen to the problems that a near constant flow of a quarter of a million people a year adding to the UK population has brought. Whatever the talents and constitution of those people, that kind of flow brings pressures and problems.

Just slagging them off as ignorant and stupid is just as effective as saying "let them eat cake". Of course they are ignorant and stupid, but they are also a huge number of people and they deserve a better deal than they are being given by their masters and betters in British society.

As a final point, just a mild wag of the finger to Mr Stross our esteemed host. I see your attempts to see the other point of view with your thoughts on Tony Stark on the recent Q&A thread, but then you use the grossest of simplifications to deny the concerns and frustrations of (what seems like) 40% of the UK population? Perhaps they are saying that nothing good comes from immigration because they are not having a good time of it? They aren't, by definition, the best communicators. Just ignorant and stupid, like the bottom 40% have always been. That doesn't mean their fears should be dismissively cast aside.

Oh, and I'm still a big fan of your work and read your website as often as you update it.


I can't wait to read the books you have on the way. I must admit, I am sorry for the authors that won't be getting a blurb. If I were on the fence about a book, I'd probably buy a book if I saw a blurb from you on the back.


That is some scary information - I was not aware that there was any sort of active recruitment for dissident groups going on in Dublin (or other Irish inner-city areas). I haven't seen any evidence of that in Belfast, although there is still recruiting and membership of the mainstream (if that word could be used in this context) groups in NI -- although with a large emphasis on gangsterism rather than any political agenda. I would agree too that there is probably a strong element of downplaying the situation by the established players -- for a variety of reasons. Anyway, it's a lovely day in Belfast, and I've sidetracked this thread too much already!


As a Daily Snail hater, I'd like to do a rebuttal of this.

I entirely accept that everything you say about Folkestone is true on the ground. The problem is that you've made IMO a huge error in profiling Daily Snail readers. I think they're middle class Little Englander NIMBYs.


erm.... no I'm profiling those who hate the daily mail. Yes it's a generalisation. I'm generalising about those who sneer at the worries of the poorest and least educated in society. Those who sneer at Daily Mail readers (who tend to actually be better educated than the chavs).


The Daily Mail online site is now the second most read in the world of journalism. But then, it merely articulates the fears of the dumbest elements of our society who clearly do not deserve an opinion, let alone a hearing. Everyone here knows what's best for them, if only the bigoted oiks would listen to their betters.


To expand:

It seems to be shorthand for some people to use "Daily Mail Reader" to mean closet racist, ignorant, reactionary scum.

My complaint is that to paint the 40% of the population who aren't seeing the benefits of waiting another 100 years to get the value from the new immigrant getting out of the back of the truck at the roundabout on the A20 - as a "Daily Mail Reader" - is very patronising. (I fully agree in the long term, say over 3 generations, immigration is a great good - but today, right now, is it good for the existing poor?)

They have legitimate concerns and worries - not least about the diminution of their lifestyle (such as it is), their wages and their access to the limited social security net.

Oh, and they don't read the Daily Mail because they don't read much if at all.


I'd like to remind you that, prior to 1939, the Daily Mail was an enthusiastic supporter of the politics and policies of a certain foreign gentleman, that nice Herr Hitler.

They moderated their tune once war broke out -- patriotism sells newspapers too! -- but there's a reason it's called the Daily Heil.

And the drip-drip-drip of long term propaganda eventually poisons the well of public discourse. Why do you think the bored asylum applicants who are attracting so much attention from the police aren't allowed to work for six months? Might it be perchance to make applying for asylum less popular? Why would the government have thought that encouraging people not to work might be a good idea? Follow the line of causality far enough and you end up discovering it's on the rim of a revolving wheel that's being spun by racist media ...


[MODERATOR Comment unpublished by request of commenter]


And given Richard's penchant for suing people at the drop of a word, maybe you ought to eliminate my last comment


I'm generalising about those who sneer at the worries of the poorest and least educated in society.

To quote Wiglaf Droste again, you're aware of the fact poor pigs/bastards/whatever are still pigs/bastards/whatever?

That being said, the crypto part time Marxist in the back of my skull keeps jelling 'lumpenproletariat', but well, before insulting the poor rabble any more, in my experience the offending parties are more or less the upper lower/lower middle class, of course often playing the "can't you see we're dieing?" part...


The Daily Mail seems to run on the principle that Fear Sells. And xenophobia is a really good driver for the fear that sells.

(Moderation in progress as requested.)


Thanks. I know someone who knows Desmond very well. The stories I could tell! But we both want to keep our houses, I assume?


I never understood animus towards immigrants in the United States. I lived in California, where most immigrants are from Mexico or South America. There would be no service economy without them. I recently moved to a place that has a low population of immigrants, and guess what, service sucks and places are often understaffed. Also, I could argue someone who worked their ass off to get into the country, often at risk to their own personal safety, did more to earn that right than someone who just came out of the right vagina. As another pointed out, immigration is just political code to appeal to racists.


There are legitimate concerns about how to deal with immigration, but the debate always boils down to the racist dogwhistlers and the people who want to take a 50,000 foot abstract view of the problem. My biggest problem with illegal immigration in the US is that it skews the new arrivals to a small portion of the world population and incites overly strict rules for legal immigration to counteract the waves of illegals. I would like to see more people from Africa and Asia as opposed to just getting Central Americans and Filipinos. I would like to see more compassionate asylum laws and more humane administration of the immigration and naturalization laws in general. I would also like to see less exploitation of the illegal migrants. So-called liberals don't pay their illegal workers any better than most conservatives/moderates; so pretending their abstract altruism does not have real economic benefits for them as a class rubs me the wrong way.

A hundred years ago most of my ancestors were in Europe or had just gotten off the boat; I believe they benefited this country and that immigrants continue to benefit this country. I would like the pendulum to swing back to legal broad based migration rather than illegal migration that serves as a convenient political football for both parties while it floats the boat of the plutocracy regardless of which ideology a particular member espouses. Also, while immigration is the flashpoint in a few border states, outsourcing is the boogey man for most Americans. And he may or may not actually be in the closet waiting to get us.

150: 142 - I didn't know about Paras 1 and 2, and fully endorse the argument in Para 3.

Hugh - Further expansion. My point about the profile of a Daily Snail reader was that I think they're middle class xenophobes, not "underclass" with arguably legitimate (subject to them being prepared to seek employment) concerns about the effect of immegration on their employability.


Feorag @ 127 I thopught Agricola was fairly accurate re. "Roman" Britain?

Paws4Thot @ 138 Daliy FascistMail - readers are from all sections, but are predominantly social calsses b2/C1/C2, where "Class is maistly defined by education. ( I'm, A1, in spite of having minscule income, because of my education & training ) And, like I said elsewhen, "Class" is a myth, certainly when some of your ancestors were pennniless Huguenots (itself unusual) and others held the highest offices of state possible under the crown. The Mail IS racist, and always has been, it's worth remebering that, btw. - see also Charlie's comment @ 142.

and ... yet ... There is the very real problem alluded to by Hugh @ 135, and by me earlier. What DOES one do about immigrants who either won't or can't (usually the former) make any attempt to integrate into the socisety they presumably want to join? The Afghanis assulting a woman on a Folkestone street, the preachers calling for "Kahlifa" etc? And how does one separate these vile scum, whom we really DON'T want, from the other 95-99% who are just decent folks, like everyone else?


"Really? You really think that people can't rank their preferences? Because all you have to do is put a 1 by the candidate you want most/hate least, a 2 by the next one and so on until you get bored..."

I don't know in your country but in my country a lot of citizens vote drunk. They don't wait until the counting of the ballots to party. Their employer gives them a rare few hours off (we don't have the huge numbers of holidays they have in Europe so just a few hours is an exceptional treat) to go and do their civic duty and they head straight for the bars, finally staggering off to the polls at the last minute.

I've never voted drunk but I've voted plenty of times under conditions of great stress and fatigue due to workplace problems. And I'm not alone in this.

If they put the voting day always on Sunday that would solve the problem, given a Saturday of mental rest. On the other hand, those who usually vote drunk would probably be even drunker.

Of course, like I said, my country is not the United Kingdom, the kingdom of Reason and Order and Quirky systems.


In the times today page 21 Ben Macintyre (another Scot!)

"the pentagon will soon deploy a new drone surveillance system capable of mapping entire cities. In an inspired alliance of lethal hardware with classical allusion this machine is called


Is mapping all it can do I would have thought they had that pretty well covered already?

I suppose could just mean the pentagon has better taste in reading materials than I would have expected or is Charlie actually writing non-fiction when it comes to the Laundry! I am looking at the surveillance cameras in my road in a new light and don't go out without my mirrorshades and tinfoil hat :-)

Ps keep up the great work looking forward to the codex..


Feorag is correct; Roman "history" is largely propaganda when it comes to groups such as the Druids whom they wished to suppress. (NB, beyond gong to some of the same SF cons and through this site, Feorag and I have no real connection, certainly not in who/when/where we've been taught history/archaeology).

I see where you're coming from about the Daily Fail, but I'd add the caveat that the readership are normally "economically active" or "retired with pension" rather than unemployed.


this is the daily mail readship profile


Interesting that significantly more women than men read the Daily Mail


An alternative description of the Daily Mail target audience would be "people who like a comfortable world-view, and don't want to feel guilty or insecure about being relatively well-off". Find a reason why uncomfortable subjects can be blamed on others, and you're cracked it.

So: there are recurring themes of: "false asylum seekers" (better to think of them as economic migrants than cope with a world where nasty things happen abroad to otherwise-decent folk) "workshy benefit scroungers" (better to think of the unemployed as lazy and idle rather than cope with a UK region where there aren't any jobs within fifty miles, or fifty applicants for every job) "self-inflicted teenage pregnancy" (better to think of teenage pregnancy as a deliberate attempt to gain a council house than to acknowledge that sex-education should be done better by parents and schools). working mothers harm their children (better than acknowledging that it's OK to let women away from the kitchen sink).

Throw in the requisite worries about "how will X affect house prices" and you've covered at least one major story in any given issue.

An analogy might be the flipside of the "America: land of opportunity" meme - if Person X made their fortune through hard work, then Person Y's lack of a fortune must therefore be down to a lack of effort, and therefore is their own fault, and Person X shouldn't have to chip in to help them.


It's practically impossible to have a debate on immigration before everyone is taking absolutist positions.

The East European migrant wave will prove a one off affair, unless we invite Ukraine or Turkey to join the EU, so really it is a past point. As incomes in the east rise, fewer people will come and London will continue to act as magnet for Europes young, much Austalians of the past, transients who are here for a couple of years and then go home.

In reality not many people minded them, as they seemed similar to us etc and considering the numbers at the peak it did not cause a lot of problems politically.

Both sides of the spectrum talk about immigration from East European countries as a proxy for the other side of immigration that people are worried about and are not allowed to talk about.

The right talks about east europeans because it allows them to talk about immigration without sounding like awful racists. The left concentrate on it because they don't want talk about anyone else. Hoping to fool us in believing it will be soon over nothing to see here, we did not do this on purpose.

The fact is family reuniting from outside the EEA has doubled since the relaxation in rules, work permits have more than tripled. If net migration remains on current levels then population could hit 70 million soon (well demographically speaking).

I'm not sure if I want that to happen. It has become obvious that our current self congratulatory approach to multi culturalism has it's downsides.

Personally, I don't think that arranged marriages from outside the UK should be allowed to continue, as it maintains a constant 1st generation immigrant culture. It allows the old traditions to survive and keeps power with the cultural conservatives. If they want to continue with arranged marriages, there is a big enough population base to chose from in the UK. Though of course this is in the box marked too difficult to contemplate rather than some tightening up the rules on marriage from abroad that they are proposing.

Also the supposed benefits of immigration to GDP are rather over played. It does boost GDP, but that is because the population is larger.

The main beneficiaries of immigration are the upper middle class, with cheaper cleaners waiters and plumbers. It has been found that immigration does not change the wage rate of the economy as a whole, but it does depress wages for skilled and semi skilled manual workers. I wonder where the big increase for the BNP has come from?

People say 'what about business competitiveness', well I say fxxx 'em. Oh no, they will have to pay higher wages, reintroduce apprentiships or increase spending on company training, oh boo hoo. If wages were higher for the working classes, maybe they would not need benefits to make ends meet.

Maybe we will have to actual fix the British education system so people leaving can read and write and have a positive work ethic.

I don't believe the current rate of immigration will solve any of the country's problems.

At the end of the day it all depends what you think is a sustainable rate of immigration. One side says none, and the other refuse to say what that level, is because to do so would somehow be racist.

Do the pro side really think there should be no controls, what level of people is too many. On current government projection immigrants will make up 39% of new households in the next 20 years, and the population to hit 70 million by 2029.

Should Britain have 70, 80 or 90 million people in 30 or 50 years time. That is not a ridiculous question, if there no controls imposed, immigration would not end until Britain became so unpleasant no one in right mind would want to come here. There would have to be some point when than that happened, otherwise we would be one continuous city from sea to sea.

Has anyone actually worked out what our rate of immigration would be if there were no restrictions. I wonder what it would be.


I don't know in your country but in my country a lot of citizens vote drunk. They don't wait until the counting of the ballots to party. Their employer gives them a rare few hours off (we don't have the huge numbers of holidays they have in Europe so just a few hours is an exceptional treat) to go and do their civic duty and they head straight for the bars, finally staggering off to the polls at the last minute.

There's your problem: over here we don't get time off work to go and vote, it's a working day like any other.


The UK may seem heavily populated if you live down south -- but it's not, really. Scotland (same land area as England) has only 5 million people, most of 'em in a single area, the central belt. If the UK as a whole had the same population density as Hong Kong we'd be able to hold 9.4 billion.


@AK 120:

To answer your question about Dutch populism, it's about as rancid as elsewhere in the EU. They want to ban the hijab and niqab like in France, and are currently pushing a ban on halal and kosher slaughter!

Some of the appeal of Geert Wilders and his PVV has to do with racism, but some is also owed to the PVV's position that the tax deduction on mortgage interest is sacred. The other parties, left and right, were too casual regarding this in the last elections, right in the depths of the financial crisis. I'd heard that Limburg, home province and staunchest supporter of the PVV, has a lot of people who are underwater on their mortgages. Disallowing the deduction would wipe out a lot of people there.

@Rational Plan 158:

There's something to the left avoiding certain problems of immigration--certainly the Dutch left did, as partners of the "Purple" unity government in the 1990s--but that's a far cry from honking on the old dog whistle to stampede voters their way, which the right regularly do.

Sometimes it's ok to damn Daily Fail readers for idiots, at least some of them. Some people are just racist assholes and would be even if they weren't patronized. That's life. In the US, a lot of Tea Partiers are scared and easily led, and some are perpetually angry birther idiots who deserve only our mockery and scorn.

@ Our Leader 142:

Here in the Netherlands, De Telegraaf, a brightly-colored rightwing tabloid, was also "fout in de oorlog" ("wrong in the war"--and in the occupation too).


"...and are currently pushing a ban on halal and kosher slaughter!"

I would hope so - it's barbaric


@dik bruere 162:

Yeah, but at least you know there are some standards. Except for bacon. With bacon you're on your own.


Arguably it's no more barbaric than any other way of killing animals for food.

(On the one hand: sever the carotid artery and exsanguinate the animal fast so cerebral blood pressure drops to zero in under ten seconds. On the other hand: the happy fun scenario of electrically stunning animals -- basically, tasing them -- then using a captive-bolt gun to the head wielded by piece-work staff who aren't paid for a quick kill. If you were going to be executed and had a choice, which would you choose?)


I agree on with everything in 149 on an intellectual basis. As I noted above, I come from a long line of immigrants, and I married an immigrant.

But the problem with immigration is simple: wee need cheap labor.

In my family, the traditional immigrant pattern was as follows: family arrives poor at Ellis Island (or more modern version). Father goes into mining or similar hard labor. Mother runs a small farm. Children go to school, become teachers, mechanics, etc. Their children are ordinary Americans, often engineers and firefighters, with a scattering of preachers, doctors, and professors. My wife's family is following this pattern, except that they were better educated when they first got here, so they're a generation ahead.

The problem, though, is on the farms nearby. They can't get people to do the work of growing the food to feed my family, at least not in the grand scale latifundias that the US currently favors. Before the current silliness, they hired illegals, because people without rights are cheap (see slavery). They want poor immigrants, and they want to keep them poor to keep costs down.

The real problem in the US is that there are real economics driving illegal immigration, and they're not easier to solve. A lot of people (many of whom vote republican) have gotten very wealthy off keeping their workers illegal and poor. Anti-immigration laws are good for their bottom line, and it's going to take a real fight to get rid of them (the laws or the latifundias--take your pick).

On a side note, back in the 1910s, there was the same problem. The (white) unions wouldn't help the Mexican immigrants organize to get basic human rights (e.g. place to sleep, enough food, water to wash up after a day in the fields), so the communist party filled the void and organized the campesinos in some areas. They were run out of at least one town at gun point. If you think we haven't come far in 100 years, I'd kind of agree with you.


"Arguably it's no more barbaric than any other way of killing animals for food.

(On the one hand: sever the carotid artery and exsanguinate the animal fast so cerebral blood pressure drops to zero in under ten seconds. On the other hand: the happy fun scenario of electrically stunning animals -- basically, tasing them -- then using a captive-bolt gun to the head wielded by piece-work staff who aren't paid for a quick kill. If you were going to be executed and had a choice, which would you choose?)"

If we are playing the "what if" game, would you rather prefer a bullet in the head or your throat being hacked until you eventually lost consciousness? If Kosher/Halal slaughter were so obviously humane, animal rights groups would all be pressing for it, wouldn't they? Anyway, why don't we look at the evidence. For example:

"Brain signals have shown that calves do appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law, strengthening the case for adapting the practices to make them more humane.

"I think our work is the best evidence yet that it's painful," says Craig Johnson, who led the study at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Johnson summarised his results last week in London when receiving an award from the UK Humane Slaughter Association. His team also showed that if the animal is concussed through stunning, signals corresponding to pain disappear."


I spent a long part of my life living and working in South west London are to the West. So I'm used to many of my colleagues or people being Asian. As a gay guy I also ended up friends, with a lot of Asian women at College or at work. So I remember girls being afraid of being sent to Pakistan to be married and talking about running away(they didn't), but others being happy with their arranged marriages.

Though the the ones that, I knew were from India and seemed middles class professionals and were sometimes pretty liberal.

On the other hand people having secret boyfriends hidden from brothers and parents, or the rampant affairs and secret abortiions (you should see our company do's, they are out of sight of family and will not waste a second. The absolute saddness of meeting gay muslims, who live a double life the KGB would think complicated. Lots of Asian lads thinking English girls are sluts and whores.

I had a friend who had an out of wedlock kid with an Groan, oh the fuss, the looks on the high street from the Aunties and a brick through his car window outside a Harvester in Slough. It did not end well.

I get a lot of leeriness I get from the men about me being gay, though most seem to unclench after they get to know me. Though that still happens with a lot of white guys.

For a lot of the young ones at work, I'm one the first gay the have known socially.

Working near Heathrow means there is high percentage of 'Freshies' as other Asians call them.

The community is changing, despite the fresh influx, the number who have an arranged marriage and that ends in a hideous divorce, much to family shame (especially on what the parents blew on the wedding)is on the increase. And girls are marrying (gasp) out of religion now. Though it's easier for a Hindu to marry a white person than a Sikh or even worse a Muslim. On the other hand I don't hear good things from the East End.

I'm not really sure what I want, it's just a worry about a separate culture living side by side but kind of looking down it's nose at us. I'd prefer we keep immigration at level that assimilation advances.


"Really? You really think that people can't rank their preferences? Because all you have to do is put a 1 by the candidate you want most/hate least, a 2 by the next one and so on until you get bored..."

Here in the US most people I know on all sides want to know how to vote in the simplest way possible. Thinking about it is not a part of their game. People like me who've never voted a straight party ticket tend to be looked upon as strange, nuts, wrong, or a traitor to "the cause". Whatever that means.

In most of the country, maybe all but over here a lot of details about a lot of things vary by state, voting only the party ticket means you leave off voting for many things. And every election shows a strong tendency to ignore such things. While the voting for a President, Governor, Mayor or such will typically attract 99% or more of the vote the non partisan votes will only attract 50% to 80%. Less at times. Which implies a party line vote while ignoring some or all of the rest of the ballot.

And when North Carolina got to do it's first ranked vote for some judges most folks had no idea of who these folks were nor how to fill out the ballot correctly. Instructions were less than clear.


I have to wonder how much code in a volt goes to user interface. While on a jet fighter would typically get less in that area.



And space settlements mining asteroids is just a matter of a few engineering details. :)


No more barbaric than the regular form of slaughter. In the case of properly-done Kosher slaughter, it's less barbaric because the rules demand instant unconsciousness.

In the UK, the conventional method requires 7 seconds of electrocution, sorry, stunning, before the animals are subjected to an industrial, imprecise death. And note also that slaughterhouse workers are paid piece rates, so the stunning is generally not done for as long as is legally required.


Yes Scotland is underpopulated, for a good reason. It's Wet, Boggy or Mountainous. The idea of a new Metroplitan Inverness with it's bustling 4 million people basking in its post warming glow may be a 1 or 2 hundred years away. On that time scale London might have drifted towards Birmingham away from the Sea. The dykes on the Thames abandoned and the treasures of Central London either rebuilt or copied in a new centre some where North of Oxford.

Most immigrants want to go where there is work, so that is London and now with all these tech work permits, the South East.

People talk about the gentrification of London, but a lot of that population growth is being fed by immigration. White flight has accelerated in Inner London as they cash out and move to the commuter towns.

Future growth will be centered on London. Where will the extra 8 million live, mostly in the South. How many more can London hold without leveling most of it for apartment blocks and it become Sao Paulo on Thames, other wise Newtown as far as the eye can see as Milton Keynes and Swindon head towards half a million each.

I don't think it will happen though, as I think we have started to reach the limit of what is acceptable to the public. We can't rely on market forces though the decline of net migration (roughly 70,000) is due to the weak economy, but despite that, we still had a net rate of 186,000 last year. Plenty places in the World much poorer than us.

If nothing changes, the UK will be World city London, its Metropolitan hinterland of wealth and the rest. Not that isn't the case now, but just imagine London in 30 years with 15 million people. Mmmm that tube will be cosy. A metropolitan englishness will exist separate from what the rest of the country feels.

You hear people moaning about London and Londoners now, imagine the future.

50 years in the future if there were no controls, a city of 30/40 million could exist. It's a future where this leads to great economic success, as it could not happen otherwise.

But London would spread in arc from Southampton to Oxford and Cambridge, the prettier hillier bits would be regional parks in a sea of sprawl. Hmm there could be a story or two in that. From big city future cyberpunk, to a Disunited Kingdom, a Federation of Metropolitan London and the others. Middle European cities, not necessarily poor, but certainly now foreign to each other and heading for a divorce.

The reality, of course, is it won't. There is only so many people we will take in. Nimbys already fight to the death against each new housing estate, road and now rail line.


"No more barbaric than the regular form of slaughter. In the case of properly-done Kosher slaughter, it's less barbaric because the rules demand instant unconsciousness."

a) Instant unconsciousness does not follow from a cut throat. b) You compare "properly done" kosher, with "improperly done" humane slaughter. Hardly a fair comparison, even if the rest of the argument was correct.

Let me post the New Scientist article, without the URL, so it appears here:

"Brain signals have shown that calves do appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law, strengthening the case for adapting the practices to make them more humane.

"I think our work is the best evidence yet that it's painful," says Craig Johnson, who led the study at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Johnson summarised his results last week in London when receiving an award from the UK Humane Slaughter Association. His team also showed that if the animal is concussed through stunning, signals corresponding to pain disappear."

Do we go with science on this one, or not?


Easily is probably the wrong word, fiendishly difficult may be a more appropriate ;D

Its not without precedent however

If the critics of the methodology can be appeased then some kind of test in this vein may prove helpful.........someday.......


The perfect policeman's tool for detecting Thought Crime


Call me selfish if you like, but I'd rather not have any more people in Scotland, and by extension England, than we have already. So how do we get to sero population growth?


@ Rationall Plan 171:

Brit-Cit, citizen!


And as JD commented, "Let this be a lesson Citizen - democracy is not for ordinary people"


You hear people moaning about London and Londoners now, imagine the future.

On a clear day go to the top of the Empire state building, Sears Tower (whatever it is called these days), or drive over the mountains east of LA headed west.

They all seem to go on forever. And only one has a viable water supply close. Much less electricity.


I've seen an American ballot. It's insanely complicated -- votes for everything, from the President right down to the municipal dog-catcher, by way of stuff that patently shouldn't be a popularity context, like judges and prosecuting attorneys!

In contrast, the most complex election I've ever seen in the UK had all of four separate things to vote on (it included, if I remember correctly, a referendum, a council election, a Scottish Parliament election, and a European Parliament election). Each on a separate sheet of A4 paper.


shouldn't be a popularity context, like judges and prosecuting attorneys!

So how do we get judges and prosecuting attorneys outside of the political process? Random selection of the voter roles?

Appointing them just removes the politics from the voters to the elected who were voted into their positions.

Or I'm missing something.


With Cal Hab to the North. Pity they reduced the rest of the North to Rad wastes.


If it was not for the green belts London woudl be just as sprawly. London currently has about 7.5 million in its city boundaries. Another million live in the built up area, and there the green belt froze the city. But city does not really end there. 2 million Londoners were decanted according to government plan to the New Towns around London.

Plus there is all those people in the other towns around London. Depending how you measure it Metro London already covers between 12 and 15 million. Geographers have already noted the Great Wens influence is spreading further.

High speed commuter services combined with people increasingly settling their familes in large country homes over hundred miles and more from London and keep a samll flat in London and weekly commute, often only 3/4 days in Town the rest done by remote working. Any attractive market town within an hour and half of London is now too expensive. High speed lines with small cities are favourites.

So most of the South East, out to Somerset and Dorset, most of East Anglia and anywhere near the East Coast Mainline as far as York. The rise of the super commuter is whats driving train companies profit these days. The five grand season ticket is worth it for a large home for under half a million. Plus the schools are excellent, compared to the war zones in London, or the cost of private education. After your 20's unless you are rich London begins to pall for a lot of people.

My sister fled to the Isle of Wight in the eighties and despite the lower income she does not regret it.

As for water London receives less rain than Rome! Wait for the fight over new resevoirs in the South East.


Actually the biggest sprawl in the US that's I've seen is Dallas/Ft Worth from the air. You can't really see it from any buildings on the ground. Huge. About 15 million people. I'm there every now and again and there's a lake system not too far away. Used to be over 1/2 of the trip there was in open country. Now it seems only the last little bit is in the open. Of course with rural highway speed limits of 70MPH you can cover a lot of open ground in a hurry. :)

Interestingly Atlanta from the air doesn't seem so big unless you notice the loop around it. They have enough trees that during the day you don't notice as much sprawl from the air. Supposedly Atlanta is the sprawl capital of the US.


We used to have FPTP in New Zealand. It did mean that a party could take power with 26% of the vote in one case. We moved to MMP and now only a majority coalition can control government. Problem, it leads to much backroom deals but this somewhat dilutes each parties agenda, the result can only be a good thing.


I see from your comments that you've had a good look at AV and are conscious of its shortcomings in Australia. You may be not aware that voting is compulsory here. Personally I don't think AV would be as acceptable without that factor. And as a one-time Brit myself I doubt compulsory voting would ever be acceptable in the UK!


then using a captive-bolt gun to the head wielded by piece-work staff who aren't paid for a quick kill.

Why is everyone doing the comparison between a sloppy electrocution and a "proper" ritual bloodletting. Are the economics of paying workers less to profit more different for Muslim and Jewish businessmen? I know there are some religious authorities who are supposed to check on this stuff, but business is business and business has a way of finding a way around regulatory safeguards, be they secular or religious.

All in all, a bullet to the head seems to be way harder to screw up.


I suspect the big problem in the USA is the re-election of judges and prosecutors. It makes it such a temptation to take decisions with vote-winning publicity in mind.

The UK system has some problems with the prosecution system—it could be better organised—but the process of picking judges chooses from the pool of experienced trial lawyers, and has a couple of intermediate posts before becoming a full-time judge. It's small-c conservative, run by people who know what trials are like. It's not party-political.


Strictly speaking, Australia does not have compulsory voting. We have compulsory attendance at a polling place. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from turning up, getting your name marked off, obtaining a ballot paper, putting it straight into the box, and walking out.

That said, I'd agree that AV would be far less effective with a smaller turnout.


Also that something like 2/3 of the readership seem to be 55 or older, and that there seems to be a bias towards the South (of England) in the readership.


"If you were going to be executed and had a choice, which would you choose?" So we are back to talking about elections, are we?


The first 3 of your bullet points are part-truths unfortunately:- 1) Asylum - I recently had to check the rules for claiming "refugee status", and these require you to seek asylum "in the nearest safe country". Even when you have well-found concerns for your safety in your own nation, they require you to seek refuge in the nearest safe nation. I'd suggest that the UK rarely meets that definition (and the last time it did so was for western European nationals in 1945). 2) I've actually known people who were not truly seeking work, and others who couldn't find any work that they could undertake within a reasonable travelling distance of their home. 3) Again, there are places where being "homeless and preganant" is the only way to get to the top of the "social housing waiting list". IMO this is a comment on the severe under-provision of affordable property for rent or purchase rather than the morality of the young women in question. If you need to spend half your after-tax income on a private rental, or 5 to 6 times national average salary on a mortgage on a 1-bedroom flat, the problem is property prices! 4) This ties into the other side of (3). If you need 2 full-time wages in order to afford somewhere to live, is it "bad parenting" for both partners to work?


You may be not aware that voting is compulsory here.

I was in Australia for a month last year ... from five days before the election, until after the coalition was agreed.

It would be kind of hard for me to have missed that aspect of the electoral process! (In fact, I found the carnival aspect of the polling stations and the holiday side of things somewhat interesting; we could do with more of that here in the UK.)


Personally, I don't think that arranged marriages from outside the UK should be allowed to continue, as it maintains a constant 1st generation immigrant culture. It allows the old traditions to survive and keeps power with the cultural conservatives. If they want to continue with arranged marriages, there is a big enough population base to chose from in the UK. Though of course this is in the box marked too difficult to contemplate rather than some tightening up the rules on marriage from abroad that they are proposing.

You realise that what you're proposing is that some (or all) British citizens should no longer be allowed to marry the person they choose to marry? You know, I assume, that there is a huge difference between "arranged" and "forced"; the latter is rightly illegal and the former isn't. This law would not only be horribly illiberal but also completely impractical. What form would it take? How on earth do you come up with a legal definition of an "arranged marriage"?


Scotland is underpopulated, for a good reason. It's Wet, Boggy or Mountainous.

Dublin is wet. That's why the inhabitants use an exotic rain-deflecting technology called a "roof". London is boggy. Or it was, before London got built on it. Hong Kong is mountainous.

Much of Scotland is neither boggy nor mountainous.


The Kosher method is not a simple cut throat. It's a very sharp knife to a very specific place that has the desired effect of instant unconsciousness and ease of draining the blood afterwards. If the rapid unconsciousness does not occur, the meat cannot be certified as Kosher.

The comparison is fair because properly done conventional slaughter does not happen, and will not happen while the people doing it are paid piece rates. Even if it were done properly, the stunning process is itself incredibly painful and lasts longer than it takes for the Kosher slaughterer to have produced unconsciousness.

I know very little about the Halal methods, so will not comment on them.

As for me, I'll have none of it, thank you. I consider all methods to be equally cruel and there to be no such thing as humane slaughter.

But the problem with immigration is simple: wee need cheap labor.

Actually, the problem is slightly more complicated than that — we're going through the demographic transition (aka ageing population), and immigration can soften the impact.

Sanely conceived and executed over decades, immigration can slow the change in dependency ratio and give institutions more time to adjust to the new reality.


London was boggy, and soon will be again, when the Thames Barrier gets over-topped!


Having grown up voting in Texas and federal elections (and I still vote in them), then living 12 years in NL watching Dutch, British, French and occasionally German elections (I can vote in city elections now), I'm really hard-pressed to say which is better. In the US we have fifty-odd (counting D.C. and commonwealth territories) potentially different voting systems, more or less holding to a federal standard, sometimes by omission.

As noted above, in some states, they elect judges, even county and city ones, sheriffs, constables, prosecutors. The surest way to win elections is to be "tuff on crime" or to accuse one's opponent of being "soft." In Houston, the big law firms groom partners, especially pretty female ones, to run as judges in order to have a friendly friendly face looking down from the bench. Predictably, Pres. G. W. Bush's people nominated some of these types as federal judges or even Supreme Court Justices,

To keep me from getting too smug about trashing the political and legal system I was born under and praising the greener pastures here, there are the dog's breakfasts resulting from proportional representation in France, the Netherlands, the UK and especially Italy.

And if the current trial (for hate speech) of PVV leader Geert Wilders is any indication, the performance of his lawyer Bram Moskowitz proves bench trials can be as undignified as jury ones. The previous trial was scratched because one of the judges had gone to a speakers' dinner and spoken to an expert witness who also attended. It prejudiced the court, which was a bit embarrassing, but even more so has been Moskowitz grilling that judge during the current trial. Say what you like about Texas judges, but none of them would tolerate such antics for a second.


Shhh, don't tell them that. I like it here as it is, we don't need someone else arriving.


there are the dog's breakfasts resulting from proportional representation in France, the Netherlands, the UK and especially Italy.

What PR in the UK?


European Elections. That's how the BNP got a couple of MEPs


@110: drinking beer warm

Can we get one thing clear: the British do not drink warm beer. We drink beer at cellar temperature, i.e. cool but not so cold we can't smell the aroma or taste the flavour. This is in contradistinction to the US habit of drinking mainstream(*) beer chilled to near freezing point in order that their taste buds cannot detect the fact that what they've been sold as beer is in fact diabetic horse piss. :-)

(*) I'm not talking about US microbreweries, of which there are now sufficient to make drinking beer in the US enjoyable, as opposed to the purgatory it used to be.


Indeed. The temperatures for drinking beers should be considered as similar to those for drinking wines. If you wouldn't chill a full-bodied red wine, don't chill a British bitter.


I'd forgotten that some Euro Elections have used PR.


There is, however 'PR' and 'PR'. The d'Hondt system, used in the European elections, is a horrible mess of a system that couldn't be worse if you tried. Short of hereditary dictatorship I can't think of a worse way of picking representatives. STV on the other hand (as used in e.g. the Scottish council elections, the system the Lib Dems push for) is almost the exact opposite (and would be extraordinarily unlikely to let in a member of the Bastard Nazi Party, not that we should let that influence such things). That both get lumped under the same term "PR" has less to do with the systems and more to do with ridiculous oversimplification by the media.


@146: The Daily Mail seems to run on the principle that Fear Sells

Apocryphally it's been remarked by one journalist that worked there that the ideal Mail story "is one that leaves readers either fearing someone or hating someone, preferably both".


Hmm, I may be a victim of that there ridiculous oversimplification by the media about PR. Or my own confusion of FPTP with PR. The US has neither, in most if not all cases. If someone wins a plurality, we do a runoff.


"I consider all methods to be equally cruel and there to be no such thing as humane slaughter."

That is simply an untrue statement. All methods are not equally cruel, as the New Scientist report explains. And one method, of using Nitrogen gas to render an animal painlessly unconscious would be the most Humane of all. But that would not satisfy Kosher and Halal requirements where the animal has to be conscious during the killing.


There's lots of PR in the UK:

  • Members of the European Parliament are elected by a closed list strict proportional system
  • Members of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly Members and Greater London Assembly Members are elected by the Additional Member System (First Past The Post plus regional lists allocated to ensure proportionality).
  • Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and N. Irish and Scottish local councillors are elected by Single Transferable Vote.
  • Directly-elected Mayors are elected by Supplementary Vote, ok not actually PR at all but a variant of AV that's limited to just two choices.

Which leaves "traditional" First Past The Post only for Westminster MPs and English and (I think) Welsh local councillors.

I believe the technical term for the UK's electoral arrangements is "a dog's breakfast".


I disagree, Sabik.

Not that I'm anti-immigration. As I noted above, my wife's an immigrant, and I'm the descendant of multiple immigrations. We're all skilled, educated, and to be blunt, we could emigrate if we had any desire to. We don't, but the point is, we're neither the problem nor the solution.

The problem is that I'm talking about a problem that's been around for well over 100 years, and this isn't about a demographic transition.

I can point back to the Chinese immigrants who worked in the American west. While Asian illegal immigrants are less of an issue now (though not a totally vanished one), underpaid, often illegal immigrants from Latin America have been an essential part of the US workforce for over 100 years, probably since slavery was outlawed.

Keeping the immigrants out won't work, because there's a market for their work. While I'd love to see them legalized, if that happened, everything would get more expensive around here, people in power would lose some of that power, and that makes for difficulties in getting to a just system.

I'd recommend looking at the history of the farm worker's movement, Cesar Chavez and his cohorts, just to get an idea about how deep the issue goes. This is a systemic problem based on the fact that injustice is cheap when you can externalize its costs. It's far more embedded than a mere demographic transition.


"this is a comment on the severe under-provision of affordable property for rent or purchase"

Over here in the US most of this pricing is caused by demand. And the very high priced areas are in big demand. My wife and I very early in our marriage decided to cut our living costs in half and move away from New England. Now we live in what many feel is a very over priced area of the south but is still way cheaper than New England.

But I've also had to realize that for many people they will stay in a miserable situation they know rather than move to a new WONDERFUL situation they are not familiar with. Which leads to people putting "place" over health, income, housing, etc... Dealing with elderly parents will slap you in the face with this as I and many of my friends have discovered.

Back to housing costs. In the US the larger older cities east of the Mississippi have high housing costs due to the numerous rules that are in place to "help" people. Building codes, rent protection, etc... And there seems to be a mantra that people with money should invest in expensive buildings (those codes again) and sell/rent the housing at a loss.

Housing costs California are just insane. With no rational reason except that a lot of people want to live there. So costs go up.


Remember that cows have very large heads and very small brains. A bullet through the head is NOT guaranteed to induce instant death in a cow any more than it is in a human being.


Depends on the size of the bullet. A large enough slug would be pretty definite, plus those slaughter guns are fired when pressed directly against the head.

BTW, in none of the comments about this issue so far, has anyone provided an explanation for why, if conventional slaughterers are underpaid drones, the religious ones are not.


If this form of animal killing was the favoured method of some rightwing nut jobs like (say) Aryan Nations, or Christian Identity instead of Jews and Muslims it would be condemned out of hand and I doubt anyone at all on this blog would say anything whatsoever in its defence. An illustration of the power of religion even amongst atheists.


One thing you're missing is that Feòrag is a vegan, so I would guess that she would consider any kind of slaughter to be inhumane.

metatron @214; Not really an answer to your question, but the Lubavitch run Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa have a whole mess of problems.


Not sure how I'm going to vote on AV. A year ago I intended to vote for it, assuming it would lead to more coalition style governments, and that this would lead to coalition partners exercising a moderating influence on each others' extreme wings. I've been pretty disappointed with how this particular coalition has worked, so I'm no longer sure how to vote.

However, I've nearly been convinced to vote Yes, by an extraordinary leaflet through the door urging me to vote No. This leaflet explained that the votes of fringe nutters like BNP supporters, would probably be last placed, so their votes would be redistributed in the next round of counting, and then again in the next round etc. Therefore, the leaflet concluded, the votes of BNP supporters would count multiple times, whilst the votes of nice, sane voters would only count once so clearly AV was massively unfair. I am completely flummoxed (and outraged) by this stellar presentation of the 'facts'.


"One thing you're missing is that Feòrag is a vegan, so I would guess that she would consider any kind of slaughter to be inhumane."

I guessed that it might be so. However, even Vegans would (so I assume) want the laws changed to minimize animal suffering as much as possible, even if it offended some religious sensibilities.


Surely the only question that is relevant is: Is AV fairer? Voting against it on the grounds that in a fairer voting system the BNP would do better is just plain wrong. Would you vote against full PR where the BNP's 5% (or whatever) guaranteed them 5% of seats in Parliament?


Somewhat later... I'm still considering my vote on AV. 60% - 40% in favour. The 40% being somewhat influenced by what may potentially lead to destroying the coalition. Before they can destroy the post 1945 welfare settlements. (That isn't to say I don't think the welfare system needs improving, tidying up in some ways. But that's not what this is about.) AV still seems marginelly better than First Past the Post in any case but if it strenthens the coalition, is that itself winning a short term battle for no advancement in the grand scheme. (sorry thinking allowed.) we get into complexities of how AV may play out in future to bennefit the major parties, thus more or less mirroring the current status quo. I'll admit, I've not gone into the stats on that. It does seem a key argument to many on the no side though. On the other hand, would a yes vote really disturb the right wing deadites of the Conservative party enough, to bring the coalition down from their end? I think they'd be smarter than that and plot behind the scenes to replace cameron after 2015. They'd not win a general election outright in current circs I don't think.

As for immigration Charlie spot on with #74. Undoutably there will be out and out xenaphobes or racists in those denying there's any bennefit to the UK of immigration. I think though, many more are responding to the real downwards pressure on wages and conditions having a mobile, cheaper work force brings about. Which is rife for anyone to exploit to their ends. "British jobs for British workers." I don't recall reforming international Capital being an actual manifesto commitment...

(I'll read what I've missed now.)now, :))


75 I meant...


"Undoutably there will be out and out xenaphobes or racists in those denying there's any bennefit to the UK of immigration."

I'm not sure there will be. There's a big difference between the following two questions: a) Is there any benefit to the UK from immigration b) Is there any net benefit to the UK from immigration I suspect that the 40% reported actually meant either (b), or effectively answered: "There is no benefit to me in immigration into the UK"


Surely the only question that is relevant is: Is AV fairer?

And of course that's a question that can be answered with pure logic and no emotions or opinions influencing the answer?


BTW, in none of the comments about this issue so far, has anyone provided an explanation for why, if conventional slaughterers are underpaid drones, the religious ones are not.

From Wikipedia: Rabbis usually require the slaughterer, known within Judaism as a shochet, to also be a pious Jew of good character, who observes the Shabbat, and believes that the slaughter victims are sacrificing their lives for the good of the slaughterer and their community. In smaller communities the shochet was often the town rabbi, or a rabbi from a local synagogue, but large slaughterhouses usually employ a full-time shochet if they intend to sell kosher meat.

Which is what I remember when I looked into this about 20 years ago for some odd reason.

Regarding the Iowa situation, as best I recall they were using illegal immigrants in large numbers and maybe had very unsafe work place. Given the above I assume these folks were used for all the fun work other than the slaughter. And just so everyone knows, it is sarcasm about the fun. Working in a production line slaughter operation is anything but fun. At many levels. It's cold, repetitive, and not very well paid.

Which interestingly ties this all back to immigration. :)


However, even Vegans would (so I assume) want the laws changed to minimize animal suffering as much as possible, even if it offended some religious sensibilities.

As a vegan myself, I agree, but you might be surprised. There is a substantial minority of vegans who oppose efforts to merely minimize suffering, fearing that it will lead to complacency among meat-eaters who can feel as if they've gone far enough toward animal welfare by buying "happy meat." They would say that it's an all or nothing proposition. I'm rather of the opinion that one can simultaneously hold that we shouldn't kill animals unnecessarily for food at all, but if they're going to be killed anyway, it ought to be under the least painful conditions possible.

226: 216 and #225 - I'm not presuming to speak for any individual Vegan on their reasoning so please don't take this as an attack on your views, but I do know a couple of Vegans (not known to post here so no names, no pack drill etc) who are Vegans purely on health grounds, rather than out of animal welfare etc concerns.

I would have been voting 'Yes' in the referendum anyway, but the fact that the 'No' people have been conducting such a deeply dishonest campaign has been a reassurance to me that I made the right decision.

Secondly the 'No' people are also massively outspending the 'Yes' people and this money (plus poster slots, sweetheart printing deals etc etc) is overwhelmingly coming from the usual Tory suspects - which is another indicator that I've got it right.

Thirdly if 'Yes' wins then it's a kick in the teeth for CallMeDave and I do not deny that this would be gratifying to me. It'd be nice to give Clegg a slap with my vote, but if I'm in the 'giving out salutory lessons' bizness then I prefer to target the organ-grinder rather than the monkey.

Fourthly, if 'No' wins then you can forget about getting any other constitutional reform for at least two parliaments and quite possibly more. And we need to be getting other stuff through to properly sort out the Lords, get campaign finance on a better footing, dilute the power of the executive etc etc

Finally I will give my positive reason for voting 'Yes' - in every election of my adult life there has been some kind of conversation running alongside the main campaign about tactical voting:
- should I do it? - can I bring myself to do it? - would it really make a difference? - will someone else do it the other way and 'cancel me out'? - if I vote tactically would I be happy to see my vote used as evidence that 'only %SOMEPARTY can win it' in the leaflets next time around?

All that stuff goes away with STV. I can vote my conscience straight down the line, so can everyone else and then once the votes are tallied we will really see where we all stand.

Surely this is preferable to the single iteration prisoner's dilemma we currently have to deal with?

Regards Luke


Talking of elections, and I agree wholly with the previous poster about the deliberate lies fabrications put about by the "No" camp ... There is a Scottish Assmbly election coming up on the same day. The SNP are widely tipped to win an overall majority. Given that they are not (quite) as vilely parochial and petty-minded and mean as Plaid Cymru, but pretty nannying and puritan, just the same. Does OUR GRACIOUS HOST have any commentary on this? Especially as the SNP's whole thrust, until very recently, was to "emulate Iceland" - err, um ....


Luke - yes, the dishonesty of the 'No' campaign is something that I really don't want them to get away with.

I will probably end up voting 'Yes' since, although I'm a bit disappointed with this coalition, that doesn't necessarily mean all future coalitions will be bad. (Actually - what am I talking about? They're politicians! Of course I'm always going to be disappointed!) Also, there's always the possibility that things would have been even worse if the conservatives had been able to form a government with a straight majority.

And I strongly agree with you about tactical voting. It would be great not to have to consider that a vote for anyone other than labour or conservative would be effectively a wasted vote in terms of influencing national government policy.

230: 227 to #229 inc ref the "No Campaign" materials. I got their landfill yesterday, and it has convinced me to vote "Yes" too.

I also agree with #227 and #229 about tactical voting.


"Especially as the SNP's whole thrust, until very recently, was to "emulate Iceland" - err, um ...."

I think Iceland is going to come out of this mess well. Or at least, better than (say) Greece. Maybe even better than the UK as a whole. Anyway, the whole fiasco underlines the stupidity of a nation underwriting the debts of one of the businesses operating there. The only responsibility a nation has in those circumstances is to guarantee the savings of its own citizens in those banks. Everyone else can get screwed.


However, even Vegans would (so I assume) want the laws changed to minimize animal suffering as much as possible, even if it offended some religious sensibilities.

I had a reply ready last night, but my laptop got bored after hitting preview too many times and crashed the browser, I was too tired/frustrated to rewrite. So here's the gist;

It might be nice for the laws to change, but it's not going to happen. As a Jewish vegetarian living in a bit of Colorado with many ranchers and evangelicals (often the same person) I've made my peace with that. My reasons for being meatless have changed in the past 20 years, from animal rights-ish to more for my health, though I do believe animals should be treated humanely.

I was going to make some mention of the work of Temple Grandin, but I can't decide what to make of it.


I look forward to the day when all meat consumed is factory cell/tissue cultured and we no longer need kill genetically corrupted farm animals for food. I note that PETA has offered a million dollar prize for such marketable synthetic meat.


Further to the passing reference about needed reforms in my last comment, here's my 'if I was dictator' plan for the funding of political parties.

1) Put all donations on the same footing - there has to be an explicit link for all monies receivable to an enfranchised citizen in good standing (non-doms can take a hike, if you want to get involved then come onshore), party subs are a 'political donation' (tied to a membership card held by a live citizen), union levy ditto (also linked to a membership card held by a live citizen), payments in kind (poster sites for instance) ditto, plate fee fund-raisers ditto, loans are deemed to be a donation of the interest (charged at a commercial rate) and convert to a donation of the principal after X years etc etc

2) Everything to be published and fully auditable by anyone who cares to look, donation caps for individuals to be pretty generous, but linked to a weighted average of their tax liability over the previous electoral cycle (you want to punt the party chairman a hundred thou to get ministerial access and the chance of a K down the line? Fine, it's too bloody hard to stop you, but you'll damn well have paid your way tax-wise if that's your game).

3) Add a "citizen's levy" source of funding which is sourced out of general taxation and determined by the number of first preference votes your party's candidates secure at the last general election.

4) For those concerned about getting 'BNP on the rates' - replace electoral deposits with a non-refundable fee and then tweak the citizen's levy formula so that a party breaks even at the number of first preference voters where the old deposit became refundable.

Doubtless this can be gamed and corrupted (everything can it seems), but it's a better set up than the current one I think.

Regards Luke


Personally I'll be voting no on AV. There are plenty of different ways to take the measure of a voting system, and "fairness" or "proportionality" are not necessarily the most important ones.

For example the fact that "minority views are under-represented" in FPTP is rather a good thing. As you point out, 40% of Brits are apparently mildly xenophobic and ignorant[1]. I'd be quite happy if this anti-immigration minority were not allowed to influence politics.

If a particular minority has a worthwhile case to make then they have the apparatus of the courts, free speech, the free press, and lobbying of individual MPs and government ministers in order to make it.

[1]: As one would have to be to believe that immigration hasn't benefited the UK.


"Given that they are not (quite) as vilely parochial and petty-minded and mean as Plaid Cymru, but pretty nannying and puritan, just the same."

Hmm, I'd love to see some justification for that remark.


Having worked in a slaughterhouse I can tell you that there are frequent failures. I recall a pig chasing the bolt man down the room fter he tried to kill it. there was lots of shouting to close doors to avoid the pig getting out into the factory than a rather soggy thud as the unfortunate animal was dispatched with a club hammer.

I haven't eaten pork since especially the processed products. Not ethics just having seen how they were made I wouldn't want to eat them :-)


Yes but, only a small part of Scotland is suitable for large scale settlement. There is a reason nearly Scottish cities are in the Central Belt and up the East Coast.

Traditionally much of Scottish soil was considered poor Farmland. It was not till the 19th (?) century that a method of draining poor soil, with clay pipes buried underground, was devised. To say Scotland is the same size as England and for some bizarre reason it is not as heavily as heavily populated is disingenuous. Scotland could never be as densely populated as Souther England. Also everything North of Birmingham has a Huge range of hills running down the middle of the country.

SouthEastern England is in the rain shadow for the UK and is actually quite dry. It may often be grey, but it does not rain very heavily or often.

London was on only boggy by the Thames out towards the estuary. It is in fact in a big river valley most of it is bone dry.

Hong Kong has a good harbour, but the primary reason it exists is due to Politics. I'm sure if the opium wars never happened or the communist takeover had not driven nationlist refugees there it would not be the city it is today.

Ghangzhou (Canton) is the natural point for a city in the area.

In the far future if we don't control climate change then this may all change.


We used to have much tougher rules on foreign marriage, but New Labour relaxed the conditions and since then the numbers have doubled. We could go back to the old rules.

I don't see why we should not scrutinse arranged marriages across border more carefully. There have been plenty of news features in the papers and television about using arranged marriages as system of getting cousins into the country from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Certainly there are a high number of divorces once the cut off point has been reached. There is plenty of talk about marrying a more bidable wife from the old country and the girls don't get much choice in the matter. Amongst more middle class Indian castes there seems to be more choice and while when a parent says your 25 and you need to get married you do.

It's more varied 'love matches' are on the rise and divorce certainly is, for those who decide against a life of affairs is not what they want.

It's all very well to talk of forced marriage, but how do stop it, and where do draw the line? A girl literally has to run away and go to the Police for anything to happen. A what point does parental pressure become forced.

If we want the people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent to integrate, then they can't keep marrying their cousins from their old village. Even if they won't marry out of their race, at least if both of them are 2nd generation the change will happen.

This might have been a problem we swept under the carpet in the past but we are now affected by the ever increasing Political instability and growing religious fundamentalism in Pakistan in particular.

We are starting to change because it has literally blown up in our face, and maybe we will be lucky and we can muddle along as we are getting slightly more assertive and maybe deciding that handing over government cash to self appointed 'community leaders' has not solved anything. But it needs to change somehow.

At some point if there is a true crisis, rather than ban marriage from abroad, they will just say 'oh dear it's a failed state, no more thanks'. But it will have to a major civil war, or such a horrific attack in the UK that puts 7/7 into the shade, before they risk the blacklash.


Actually, poor slaughtering methods do lead to poor quality meat. An animal slaughtered while frightened and panicked produces poor quality meat. A happy animal actually does produce "happy meat". Industrial abattoirs, irrespective of their putative religious allegiance, tend to have unpleasant practices due to market forces forcing production down to the lowest common denominator. Smaller, local processors may (or may not) hold to a higher standard, if their customers demand it. I have found that in dealing with local processors in Canada, that some have impeccable standards, others are far worse than the large multinational slaughtering and packing plants.

AV is an idea that, given the likely outcome of the upcoming election in Canada, would be far preferable to FPTP.* However, all the major parties are so in love with the prospect of a majority that I really do not see it happening.

I am speaking of the impending election of a party and a leader that have disturbingly absolutist tendencies.


I was just reading about Entropic Gravity and this jumped out at me: "why does gravity have anything to do with entropy? Why do particles follow geodesics? What has entropy to do with geometry? (((The very idea of “entropic geometry” is straight from the realm of Azathoth, isn’t it? Dang!)))"

Looks like Dr. Verlinde could use a visit from the Laundry.


UM I just read the link to the Verlinde publication ideas. My brain hurts.

Going back to Lyndon @ 236 Well, Plaid Cymru appear to be based on the "Welsh" holding their grudges to themselves as trophies. The classic example was the last-ditch attempt to retain parts of N. Wales "Dry" (and if you know how much it rains there, that is another joke entirely) in spite of the virtual dependancy upon the tourist/visitor trade. One effect of Plaid being in partial power in Wales has been the "ulsterisation" of many border areas, and Pembroke, of course. The county of Monmouth (Clwyd) is virtually at a UDI status, since Welsh just is not spoken at all there (any more than it is in about 90% of Wales, sctually ....

Chalie is much better qualified than I to describe the SNP's puritan and control-freak tendencies. Both of these parties have a strong component of evangelical ultra-low-church puritanism in them. Something I certainly find deeply unpleasant.


Its an interesting idea. The problem is that if it leads to the same equations as other theories it is just another picture of "what really happens".


Ah, the Single Transferable Vote system! Know it well. It was used at my old alma mater, UEA, lately known as the centre of the Global Warming E-Mail Scandal.

Clearly STV causes mendacity in the climate-change debate and therefore should be banned worldwide.

Of course I'm kidding, though due to the UEA flavour of STV rule that None of the Above was always a condidate, the returning officer's crew found the humorous numbering of NOTA at 1 and the only live candidates at 2 through 9x1099 a tad less funny as the count drew on, especially if someone demanded a recount.

I've actually wanted to see it at work in the UK for a long time, but since I now live in the make-believe land of America and won't have to live with the consequences I wouldn't press the case either way.

Good luck with your electoral reform everyone. May it be all things to all UK residents.


My final comment on AV. If the public delivers a "No" vote that will be taken by the big players as confirmation that the UK public has firmly and forever rejected any form of proportional representation in Westminster elections.


" If the public delivers a "No" vote that will be taken by the big players as confirmation that the UK public has firmly and forever rejected any form of proportional representation in Westminster elections. "

NEVER say ..... NEVER !!! In politics.


I wasn't aware of the interesting situation in Britain, but then, applying relatively modern notions of ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity is one of the main problems when looking at early history; in the context of 'Celtic' (and 'Druidic'), we could differentiate between 'Celtic' as a linguistic category, notably a subgroup of Indo-European languages, belonging to the centum group, 'Celtic' as a putative culture defined by ethnographical or archaeological data indicating shared customs, mythology and like, or Celtic or Gallic as a political unity in relation to the Romans.

Concerning linguistics, the surviving facts are best attested, though not necessarilly unequivocal; the attested Celtic languages go from Northern Anatolia in the East to the Iberian Peninsula or Ireland in the West, even Iceland when you count some putative Irish monks or the Irish element in the Viking settlement, and from Spain and Norther Italy in the South to the British Islea in the North, with the possibility of some northern islands like the Faroes also being settled; chronologically, earliest attestation of Celtic languages seems to be ca. 600 BC with the Lepontic inscriptions, and spoken languages are likely to be somewhat older; and as everybody knows, they are still spoken today. Britain is somewhere on the periphery of the extension of the Celtic languages, but with the only living Celtic languages.

Of course, in the last paragraph I tried to maximise Celtic extension, so maybe this includes some questionable cases, but then, the only four Continental Celtic languages with a corpus to speak of, Gallic, Lepontic, Celtiberian and Galatian, are situated at these extremes, and they seem to be related; elsewhere there are only place names and like; this leaves us with the paradoxical situation of most data from the periphery, but with little data on some of the putative core areas, e.g. Southern Germany in the case of a relation of the spreading of Celtic languages to the spreading of the Hallstatt culture.

Even the relation and boundaries of Celtic languages to other language groups is up to question, when looking for closely related but distinct outgroups, we are not sure how Celtic relate to Italic languages, whose identity seems to be a problem itself. Most analyses of Indo-European (IE) imply Insular Celtic and Italian languages are 'somewhat close', but that could imply common descent through an Italo-Celtic language, later language contact between both groups or just keeping of ancient Proto-IE features; only an Italo-Celtic language phase might put an constraint on some theories concerning spread of Celtic languages, with an origin of Celtic languages in the vicinity of Italic speakers, and Britain again at the periphery. And then, with some badly attested languages it might be difficult to distinguish 'real' Celtic from celtizised Italic, Illyrian etc. languages, but we know little about Illyrian languages, and it seems like archaeologically the area had some affinities to the Hallstatt culture, which also includes some of the areas implicated in the origin of Celtic languages, so without arguing along the lines of the infamous 'lex Kosinna' too much[1], I'll ask my historical linguists if maybe some poor soul ever proposed Illyrian languages were an offshot from what was to become Celtic languages a little bit later.

An outsider proposition was that there were no Celtic or Italic etc. language families distinct from one another, just a lot of diverse ethnic groups speaking some centum IE language, with some of those languages dieing off without a trace.

But well, even then the Celtic languages seem to derive from the continent.

So, even when excluding questionable cases, Celtic languages spanned a wide area, and they seem to originate in Western Central Europe. Problem is, Britain was somewhat in the periphery of the extension of Celtic languages, and we don't know how far Celtic languages were spoken there; there are names and some inscriptions, but that isn't necessarily incompatible with a small elite speaking Celtic and the rest, well, Mandarin Chinese or whatever; but in this case, one would expect some Non-Celtic (and possible Non-IE) substrate in Insular Celtic languages, where the data is inconclusive:

For the situation in Germanic languages, see

Most of the things I read say Celtic languages arrived in the early first millenium BC, but that's from archaeological sources, equating Hallstatt influence to Celtic. Maybe they were installed before, maybe later. Either way, seems like the Celtic languages didn't originate in the British islands, and probably not in France either, but they had a ong history in both when the Romans arrived. Concerning the language spoken in Britain at this time, maybe the islands were throughly Celtic speaking, maybe there was some substratum left, maybe only some social strata used Celtic languages, like maybe with the Picts, problem is any substratum got wiped either by Celtic, Roman or other influences. Same goes for lots of Celtic in Continental Europe, BTW.

Leaving problems with linguistic identity aside, we could look at ethnographical literature, but here, Ancient ethnography being a mess doesn't really help, e.g. concerning the differentiating between Celtic and Germanic. it seems like Caesar was the first to distinguish Germanic from Celtic and Scythian, and even then, problem is his definition seems more like "anybody on the other side of the Rhine", where constructing the groups in question as distinct from Celtic and invading their territory might have helped to justify aggression against them even against the wishes of the Roman senate. Seems like the use of exonyms like 'Celtoi', 'Germani' etc. was more akin to the use of affectionate names like 'dago', 'hun' or 'china man' than to actual identities.

Concerning archaeological cultures, well, they don't necessarily translate to linguistic or ethnic groups; seems like the two cultures most often implicated with Celts are the already mentioned Hallstatt and La Tene; the Hallstatt shows also in areas where sources indicate other languages, e.g. Illyrian languages were spoken, and there are areas where Celtic languages were spoken, e.g. Lepontic, where there seem to be only influences from Hallstatt; I don't know how the situation is in Britain.

La Tene is younger than the earliest inscriptions in Lepontic, so it is not specific for Celtic, in Britain it only shows in Southern England, and AFAIK Brittany shows only late influences from Hallstatt or La Tene; concerning the relation to linguistic or other cultural identities of 'Celtic', that might mean Asterix wasn't even Gallic after all, but it seems like some Roman place names in Brittany are Celtic.

In summary, there are some archaeological cultures that seem to associated with Celtic languages and maybe ethnicity, but they are not that characteristic; nonetheless, they show some traces in Britain, but it isn't that much.

And with mythology and like, we know little enough of that one, thank you. Even on life after death; on the one hand, we have lots of accounts the Celts believed in reincarnation, on the other, IMHO elaborate burial sites like Glauberg don't seem to fit with this one.

And with political unity, Caesar had some Gallic allies; enough said?

So, let's just say even in Continental Europe the question of Celtic linguistic and cultural identities is problematic.

Concerning human sacrifices, as mentioned, the situation is quite complicated, that's why I mentioned the Mesoamerican cultures, where the situation is much more clear, even though the question ho the Spanisch descriptions relate to the real events is still up to question; most of the accounts coming from the military enemies of the Celts, the Romans doesn't help either, neither does the fact human sacrifice and anthropophagy are the all time favourites for smearing your favourite ethnic or religious out-group. Especially since burial practices like excarnation are apt to be misunderstood as anthropophagy and like; the myth of the 'wicker man' might just relate to the burning of statues. But then, the best propaganda usually has to contain some truth, sometimes distorting them beyond recognition. And also note that even if there were human sacrifices, that doesn't mean the mass sacrifices the Romans described were everyday events; they might have been rare and kept to special occasion, maybe every few years; the Coligny calendar indicates a five or thirty year cycle.

Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if the Celts practised some human sacrifices; there are some descriptions of human sacrifices in other religions by the perpetrators themselves and, leaving rhetorics aside, even the 'humane' Romans used them in special circumstances, as mentioned below. Maybe the Celts only sacrificed only criminals, but, well, problem is such sentences reminds me of trying to blur out the nastier aspects of ancient cultures (of which there were some with the Celts, come on, they were successful warriors) and gets my Pterry kicking and screaming; a personal problem with the idea the Celts only sacrificed the undesirables is that it somehow squares with the idea of a sacrifice, namely to give something one likes yourself and thinks the god in question likes.

But as mentioned above, the Roman outrage about putative human sacrifices with the Celts strikes as somewhat hypocritical, since not only do the gladiatorial games stem from a religious practice and maybe kept some of its details, since the guy giving the coup de grace was costumed as Dis Pater; the Vestigi.., er Vestal Virgins were only killed when the were shown to be unchaste, where proof of unchastity, oh wonder, seems to have been major problems for the Romans, and all of this continued after the Romans stopped downright burying people alive in times of danger.

If the Abrahamic religions cheer about pagan degeneracy, not only does the Pauline explanation of Jesus's death smack of human sacrifice, and the scholastic attempts to rationalize this show an elaboration normally restricted to paederasts, but anybody is invited to a careful reading of the story of Japhet's daughter; nevermind many of the 'child-sacrificing Baal worshippers' of the bible are just Jahweh worshippers that just got a bad rep and may or may not have done so.

But then, I didn't want to smear any religious groups, I just wanted to show that extrapolating from the mythology and past deeds of a religion isn't a valid mode of dealing with current believers; contrary to what some people believe, cultures and religions are not fixed, they are constructed by their members (and sometimes their enemies), of course somewhat in accordance to traditions, but also with the mores of the day. Note that contemporary Hindus quote the Gita in the context of ahimsa, when originally, it was about resistance to killing your enemies was futile, because your enemies were alreade dead in a Sarah 'Terminator' Connor way.

[1] "Sharply defined archaeological cultural areas correspond unquestionably with the areas of particular people or tribes." Dogma in parts of the 19th and early 20th century German archaeological community. Has some affinities to 19th century German nationalism, spiced with the nice fact Kossinna was a member of an ethnic group that could be characterized as "Protestants hailing from Poland speaking a mixture of German and Slavic", which means you're in for some ethnic identity issues.


I agree about the unreliability of the Roman sources, but then, so are all written sources. And problem is, they are the only thing we have got from the times, where even archaeological findings are somewhat open to interpretation[1].

Much of the job of historians is just to unspin the sources; oh, and bang young impressionable students of the opposite and/or same sex.

[1] To make a lame pun, maybe people in a few thousand years think Zombie slave labour was widespread in our times, why else all those 'do not resuscitate!'.


I know little of Pagan Degeneracy but LOOK at wots happened to our Gracious Hosts interpretation of Life in Edinburgh in the near future ... amazing how the Cops have developed in terms of standard street uniform! I mean I would have suspected high tech body Armour and fuzzy disguise blend into the street background so as to be low key unobtrusive to the criminals, but, well ....tatoos and Guns ???


You call it degeneracy, I call it sophistication.

And then, I always thought tattoes a nice way of identifying yourself; ever tried to swim with your money in your mouth cause you had no cash card or like? ;)


Blame the publisher's art director for false advertising.

(The cop in the novel in question boasts no tattoos, is a plain clothes detective who usually wears a suit to the office, and doesn't -- at any point in the book -- carry or use a gun.)


Well, immigration serves them right.

we should have stopped any form of immigration from the British 3 centuries ago. Then we wouldn't have the commonwealth, and the USofA.

You can't have it both ways, not want immigration and still be able to emigrate where you want.

To be fair, same kind of arrogance goes for a lot of other wealthy countries.


Regarding the Celtic languages and culture etc, Britain is a weird kind of place. Since DNA evidence seems to suggest that much of the population (At least before the'dark' ages) has been in the country for the last 5-7,000 years, therefore we have a case of importation of the language, especially if you agree that there are traces of pre Celtic names in various parts of the country.
So the question comes down to when and how the 'Celtic' languages came into the country, I personally favour during the bronze age, with the slow movement of people across the landscape, at the time when things were really getting settled. And there were various changes in material culture and burial practises at that time which may have been important. On the other hand, given both the continuity in ritual sites, similarities between megalithic architecture from the stone age, maybe the roots of 'Celtic' languages go back even that far, and the DNA evidence is the way it is simply because the people who brought in 'newer' bits of language were of similar heritage as those already in the country.


I'm tempted to suspect that they had a standard-issue "urban fantasy romance" cover lying around and decided that they could just paste it onto Rule 34 because there's a female protagonist, so it must be the same, right?


AFAIK there was one theory that even on the Continent, Celtic language and culture were mostly transmitted through a superstratum (either political or religious) or imitation between neighbouring tribes. I keep getting reminded of the spread of Vedic and later Hindu culture in India, and it's not just because the tripartite Celtic society reminds me of the varna theory (never mind what really goes on in Indian villages after dark, the Manusmriti and like are the rigid they are because things obviously didn't happen as prescribed) and both druids and brahmins employed hi-fi mnemonics:

P.S. To be honest, the Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies and Marburg Journal of Religion are quite frequently on my toilet reading list.

No, it's not I'm antireligious, it's just UFO cults make for nice reading.


No; I think the editor's brief included the keywords "cops", "criminal underground doing deeply pervy stuff", and "computer hacking", "will be marketed as near-future SF/crime", and the art director's thought bubble read, "make me one just like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO; that sold well, didn't it?"

And my editor has an alibi; she was hill-walking in New Zealand while the cover concept was coming together in New York.


"You can't have it both ways, not want immigration and still be able to emigrate where you want."

It's called "White Flight"


Interesting to note concerning migrations that high caste Indians have more in common genetically with W Europeans than they do with low cast Indians

"Upper castes are more similar to Europeans than to Asians, middle castes are equidistant from the two groups, and lower castes are most similar to Asians."

Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations - Michael Bamshad et al


Well, there are different studies; also note the auoted article is somewhat wrong, the Indo-Aryans were very definitely not the last immigration to India; concerning those groups, the Manusmriti writes:

"But in consequence of the omission of the sacred rites, and of their not consulting Brahmanas, the following tribes of Kshatriyas have gradually sunk in this world to the condition of Sudras; the Paundrakas, the Kodas, the Dravidas, the Kambogas, the Yavanas, the Sakas, the Paradas, the Pahlavas, the Kinas, the Kiratas, and the Daradas."

Which gets us a nice who is who of ruling foreigners in India (don't mention this to Hindutvas, other tribes in parentheses):

(Paundrakas: West Bengal) (Koda: Choda, uncertain) (Dravidas: South India) Kambogas: Indo-Scythians Yavanas: Ionians, e.g. Hellenistic merchants and rulers Sakas: Indo-Scythians Paradas: Indo-Scythians Pahlavas: Either South Indian or Indo-Scythian Kinas: Maybe Chinese,see Sino-Tibetan army in India after 647 Kiratas: Maybe Tibetan, see above

Oh, for the Belisarius readers here, the Indo-Scythian were driven by what Flint and Drake called Yuezhi and Kushans, which are somewhat absent from the list.

Calling them shudraised kshatriyas served two agendas, exclusion from the community and a possibility to assimilate them, hey, they could start sacrificing again.

So well, Central Asian DNA in Upper Castes today says little about what happened at 1500 BC in India.


Defoe nailed it 300 years ago:

Thus from a mixture of all kinds began, That heterogeneous thing an Englishman; In eager rapes and furious lust begot, Betwixt a painted Briton and a Scot; Whose gendering offspring quickly learned to bow, And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough; From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came, With neither name nor nation, speech nor fame; ... A true-born Englishman's a contradiction, In speech an irony, in fact a fiction; A banter made to be a test of fools, Which those that use it justly ridicules; A metaphor invented to express A man akin to all the universe.


I suspect an infection by the CSI meme.

I'm Not a fan of the CSI Crime Scene Investigation series but it has become wildly popular and, in the various incarnations of of csi you will, always and ever, find that the COPS in their the various CSI localities are given solid Identifiers ... street clothes for the COPS rather than Bunny Suits and Masks that they might wear so as not to hopelessly contaminate the Crime Scene, and also the American Cops carry GUNS ...this is how you tell that they are Cops Eh ? And thus the S.O.C. scientists over there do carry side arms.

Do real American S of Crimes Investigators carry personal side arms about a crime scene? Do their investigative procedures follow the patterns of the American CSI genre ? What the Hell - they do in CSI and similar such CS i type TV programs else to tell that the investigators aren't mere non gun carrying woofters ...who probably vote Democrat even when the role doesn't require that they do.

So, when an artist is commissioned to Do a Near future Stross on COPS in a Big City the artist will dip into the archetype most familiar to the Great American Public and then spin it Future-ward toward Tattoos and Guns.

Oh, well, my, hard cover, copy is on order from The Book Depository and so an ever so British cover is warranted ... Oops 'ang about! I've just looked up my order and it states " No Cover Image " don't suppose that ...?????


The recipe for success - Guns... lots of guns.

Unless it's Spartacus, in which case it's Blood... lots of blood. And Sex. In unfeasible quantities. [Just watched the first 6 episodes of season 2]


OH MY GOD THEY DID WHAT?!?!! (yeah, those exclamation marks are signs of a troubled mind)

Well, so Xena retired and became the wife of a Roman gladiatorial trainer; speaking of which, I liked ROME quiet well (the Jewish Diaspora Al-Quaida was a nice idea), so I might like it. 300-style graphics (worked with a Spartan soldier telling his comic version of Thermophylae, not necessarily with late Roman Republic shades of grey), pseudo-latin (BTW, didn't they use Greek in the areas in question?) and the absence of Kevin Sorbo (working in Ironic Hercules mode might save it in the cae of getting cheesy) makes me fear for the worst. And with the sex, there is always Private's Gladiator...


I confess to being a regular watcher of the Las vegas version, avoiding the Miami ("the bad CSI") and NY ("the boring one") versions; though lately, I got banned from the TV room for pointing out mistakes...


Wow Greg, what you don't know about Wales would fill a library, wouldn't it?

The last district to be "dry" on a Sunday went alcohol-friendly when I was a child (nearly thirty years ago). I have no idea if Plaid had an official policy on it at the time, I suspect not.

You hilariously state that Monmouth is in Clwyd (close, only about 80 miles to the South!) and claim that nobody speaks Welsh there. At all. As my wife has been teaching Welsh to the children of Monmouthshire for over 15 years I find this comment both confusing and somewhat disappointing.

Your comment about "Ulsterisation" is beneath contempt, so I won't bother with it.


They lose the Spartacus effects a bit later. However, speaking as an amateur Lanista I am quite impressed by the choreography. They overdo the blood, but I'll let them have their artistic license on that.


Sorry, that should be "Sparta/300" effects that they lose


Well, I might give Spartacus a try.

BTW, concerning CSI, I forgot to mention I'm proud member of a CSI Arkham group; don't ask, it's better for your sanity...


And well, I guess you know this guy?


No, in real life, the crime scene investigators (or similar) don't carry guns. They're not trained for it. Only police/sheriffs carry guns and most of them never use them. It's just to make people want to watch.


I watch the first and the NY, but Miami is just so tacky.


I have not heard of him. However, the art I taught is mainly unarmed (Shorinji Kempo). I do however like the European sword techniques:


A couple of years ago I wrote a short piece of fanfic for CSI:Arkham. This was before Lady Heather died on the Las Vegas CSI program, and I used her as a character in Arkham. I thought she fit in rather well.


I have seen an early treatment of the British cover for "Rule 34". I am informed that it is happening and trendy with the hip young things, and please to ignore the bleeding of my eyeballs.


Lynodn @ 265 I have a very old friend, a senior lecturer at U of Wales - Cardiff, who lives in Usk ("Brynbuga"), and whose grandparents came from Burry Port. Having been there countless times over the years, I would suggest you are, at the very least, deluded. Just because "Welsh" is taught in schools (because it's compulsory) doesn't mean any one actually USES it. [ A bit like "team games" come to think of it ... ] The phrase "Ulsterisation" came from my friend's wife. Their son is sharing a capital with Charlie at the moment.

Another example, I also know one of the people seriously involved in the WHR project - he even "owns" an ex-SAR 2-8-2 narrow-gauge loco, being restored (slowly) ... His tales of the deliberate spite meanness and opposition to the WHR from the locals, who don't want nasty foreigners (i.e. anyone from more than 20 miles away) bringing MONEY into the area are illuminating.

So, I do know what I'm talking about. I suggest you try again.


I have a certain fond memory for some of the SF covers of the 1960s. Your "I am informed that it is happening and trendy with the hip young things, and please to ignore the bleeding of my eyeballs." would not ill-describe such a style.

I have not tried to discover what today's hip young things desire in terms of cover design and illustration, and would hesitate to blame them for the beliefs of a publisher's art department.

I trust that any ill-effects of the art department's good taste are seen in the remaindered stacks of some other author's work. I suggest that large royalty cheques are a sovereign remedy for this particular ocular problem.


I live in Bradford and a large plurality of my friends are young Muslims. They do not conform to this racist stereotype. I hate casual prejudice paraded as some kind of serious analysis. I've just perused Feorag's list of things that we have got from immigration, and would like to point out that if you take over other people's countries that you have a moral right to let them live in yours, and we should add the things that imperialism brought us to her list: mulligawny soup, tea, oranges and worcester sauce for instance (I skimmed the list, so apologies if they are there). My Muslim friends are more 'British' (according to the inflated opinion we have of ourselves), as they are more tolerant, and less liable to stereotype.


sorry meant to say more tolerant than mr bruere, just to avoid confusion!


For example the fact that "minority views are under-represented" in FPTP is rather a good thing.

I don't think you get a choice in that matter. If I understand correctly, both FPTP and the proposed AV system significantly under-represent minority views. A prominent "that's-a-feature-not-a-bug" characteristic of the D'Hont counting method (i.e., IIRC, the proposed AV) is that the rounding errors are systematically in favour of large parties, at the expense of smaller parties. By design, those rounding errors typically occur at the district level, where they are much larger than at the national level. I am not sure how large the districts would be under the proposed AV, nor whether the system includes a mechanism for dithering the rounding error to neighboring (or other) districts. Those details matter, especially to smaller parties. But either way, minorities views will be underrepresented.

And anyway, in the end result, you get that effect with the majority vote among the representatives in parliament already. Unless the views you object to are not actually minority views, there really is no need to deny them representation.

I don't always disagree with people who prefer the decisions made by a select minority over those made by the uninformed masses, but I would point out that systems ruled by a select minority necessarily have ugly failure modes if the select minority clinging to power goes bad. Perhaps something rings true about democracy being the worst possible form of government, except for all the others that have been tried?

The problem with representative democracy is that, because there usually isn't a candidate who shares your views on everything, when looking at aggregate representation of views on a specific topic, sometimes it is the majority view that is under-represented. For example, if most of the representatives are middle-aged males, you might expect much more conservative decisions about issues that mostly affect young women, than if young people and women also had their say on those issues. A first-past-the-post voting system makes that aspect of representation much, much worse.


Well that's, Er ... comforting ?

Of course I haven't been a Hip and Happening Young Thing since the early 1970s but then I am - really I AM, ever so - confident that your ever so commercially savant Publishers do realize that Hip and Happening Young folks probably cant afford to buy Hard Back Books and indeed might well be somewhat puzzled by the concept of these dead tree composited things that some people ...Read ?


Does Tea count as something Great Britain got from immigrants, as opposed to something it brought back home from colonialism?

On immigration, as an American, it appalls me that some other Americans whose ancestors got here after the megafauna were wiped out think they're not immigrants; maybe some of you in the UK have been around since the Fir Bolg or walked there by land bridge, but anybody calling themselves "English" certainly is claiming to be an immigrant. A good chunk of my father's ancestors left Germany during the religious wars of the 1500s-1600s, thinking England would be a safer place to be Protestant, found their timing wasn't really all that great, and came to North America. Some others were Dutch, some of whom even bought their land from the Indians instead of stealing it. One Irishman showed up in 1805, but he was the only one who got here after the current government. My mother was born in France (her parents were American students) and never did the dual-citizenship papers, so she's stuck being an American now. Most of her family were also English, though some were Huguenots or other random groups. The town I grew up in had some leftovers from when the Dutch colonialists kicked out the Swedish colony, and some from when French immigrants built gunpowder factories, though a lot of the people were Jews who'd left Europe because of the war or chemists who were working for the French-immigrant former gunpowder company. I don't know when the Greeks and Poles got there, but I think it was mostly 20th century. I think a lot of the African-Americans had moved up there after the war, but some had been around a lot longer; they all lived downtown because they hadn't been allowed to buy houses out in the suburbs, though that was starting to change.

I'm an immigrant here in California, having moved from somewhere about five time as far away as Tijuana. A couple of my American-born friends have been illegal immigrants (one lived in Brazil and England without official papers for a while, another got kicked out of Taiwan where he'd been teaching English.) Some of the gringos here complain about Asian immigrants, forgetting that racist American immigrants made laws kept the Chinese and Japanese from moving here for a century or so, but they're starting to catch up. One reason I live in the town I'm in is that there are usually about 25 different cuisines of restaurant on our 4-block downtown street, mostly Asian, though some are various hybrids of European or American.


Sorry, hadn't clicked on Feorag's list to see that tea really was brought by an immigrant. But bad curry was probably still brought back by returning colonist forces, though good curry would have had to wait for immigrants.


Well, Busy Bee, you seem to have misunderstood AV pretty comprehensively. You weasel-word a suggestion that AV is the system which has already given put the BNP into the European Parliament. That's a claim which, in plain English, is a lie.

Let me take a local example of the figures from the last election. The constituency is Great Grimsby.

Lab 10,777 32.7% Con 10,063 30.5% Lib-Dem 7,388 22.4% UKIP 2,043 6.2% BNP 1,517 4.6% Ind 835 2.5% People's National Democratic Party 331 1.0%

The AV system halts when one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. It only elects one candidate per constituency. The districts are going to be larger, because the plan is to elect fewer MPs to Parliament, but all your words about the D'Hont system, rounding errors, and dithering, are simply irrelevant.

Anyway, taking those figures, if the votes for the last four candidates are all allocated to the Conservative, the process wouldn't halt. There are not enough votes available. If they all went to the Labour candidate, it wouldn't halt. So the Lib-Dem second choices are applied, and that will settle it.

We don't know what people might have chosen as their alternatives, second and third and fourth. We might guess that BNP votes are going to end up with the Conservative, but those four minor candidates have about 2/3 the vote of the Lib-Dem. In theory, the Lib-Dem candidate could pick up enough votes to move from third to second, but anyone familiar with the UKIP and BNP would sooner believe in flying pigs.

And this is also an example for the argument that the Conservatives should be terrified by the idea of AV. If BNP and UKIP look like Conservative extremism, would the Lib-Dem vote go to Labour? It doesn't sound crazy. Though, after the last few years, one can suggest that a good many Labour voters would be willing to put a Lib-Dem first, Labour second.


"sorry meant to say more tolerant than mr bruere, just to avoid confusion!"

Actually, I am very tolerant. However, you seem to confuse "tolerating" with "liking" or "approving of". Tolerance simply means "putting up with".


Charlie, Off topic but just wanted to say thank you for being so nice to my son Josh at Illustrious. He brought his copy of Wireless along to be signed when you were in the fan room and came back beaming because you talked to him for a few minutes.

You may not have realised it but you made him a very happy 14 year old- only thing that worries me is that at 14 I was reading Heinlein and he is reading Stross........

Oh and we both really enjoyed the SF Catnip panel- loved the Zepplin hanger as tropical resort story.


No, in real life, the crime scene investigators (or similar) don't carry guns. They're not trained for it. Only police/sheriffs carry guns and most of them never use them. It's just to make people want to watch.

Hmmm. I think they do in North Carolina. I have a memory from about 10 years ago that a pathologist in the the state crime lab discussed having to deal with her sidearm. She mostly considered it a hassle but it was required.

And when my house was broken into about 18 years ago I have a fuzzy memory that the CSI who showed up to try and find some fingerprints had a side arm. But that memory is fairly fuzzy. It was about 3 AM when she was there and life was a bit confusing at the time.

Again, here in the US things vary considerably by state.


This is an especially comical problem in the United States, where EVERYONE is born of "immigrants" other than the native Americans who were mostly exterminated. How the hell can ANYONE be anti-immigrant?

One fucking world, people. You don't have special land rights.


You are aware that, with a ~40% share of turnout, FPTP in a 3 (and a bit) party system is highly likely to return an overall majority in the elected body? (Evidence being most UK general elections since WW2).

289: 265 & 275:-

Based on my experience as a Scot touring Wales. The (North) Welsh speak Welsh amongst themselves, switch to English when they meet a known Scot, and switch back to Welsh if the group is joined by a known Englishman! (not joking or being otherwise cynical or ironic)


Haven't they at least tried to deal with that in the CSI superfranchise? In CSI (Las Vegas) the field CSIs (specifically excludes Jim Brass; he's a cop with no CSI training) are normally CSI $surname, but in CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, at least some of the CSIs hold police rank, are are addressed as $rank $surname.


Well, Busy Bee, you seem to have misunderstood AV pretty comprehensively. You weasel-word a suggestion that AV is the system which has already given put the BNP into the European Parliament. That's a claim which, in plain English, is a lie.

Indeed, it seems I was partly misinformed and partly confused. I apologize for spreading disinformation.

[The AV system] only elects one candidate per constituency. The districts are going to be larger, because the plan is to elect fewer MPs to Parliament, but all your words about the D'Hont system, rounding errors, and dithering, are simply irrelevant.

I hadn't realized AV still means one representative per constituency. That means I must reject whatever gave me the idea that the d'Hondt counting method is involved, but everything else about the AV system makes a lot more sense that way. Thank you for clearing that up for me!

I agree that "rounding error" is a strange way of looking at the selection of a single representative, and that the concept of dithering is irrelevant. I still maintain, however, that the concept of proportional representation with systematic rounding errors caused by the counting method is a useful way of comparing electoral systems. If the number of representatives per district is so small — and the rounding error so large— that the representation isn't even approximately proportional, it pinpoints how the system underrepresents minority views, for example. And the fact that I was so wrong about how significantly the proposed AV system departs from the current system doesn't invalidate my original point that representation, by its very nature, significantly underrepresents minority views and that if the demographics aren't representative, representation causes enormous distortions on topics where views correlate more with life experiences than with political tendencies. In fact, since there's still only one representative per constituency, you can lump in the proposed AV system with FPTP systems in making that aspect of representation much, much worse.


See #288. As a proportion of the poll, FPTP in a 3 party system is highly likely to vastly over-represent 1 party in terms of seats in chamber wrt votes cast for them. Ok, it can also vastly over-inflate the power of an extremist minority party who hold a blance of power in a hung chamber, but that's another argument.

Rounding errors only become relevant in systems where you count votes cast, express those as a percentage, and then allocate seats according to that percentage. In AV (and FPTP) it's irrelevant because the values are Boolean in nature (either you did or didn't register a voting preference for $candidate).


Hold that thought, but don't forget that immigrants are used (No fault of their own!) as cannon fodder in the class wars, lest working class folk get some idea of self-worth. And everyone migrated from somewhere, 'cept maybe somebody around central Africa...


paws4thot @ 289 Exactly. Mean bastards aren't they?

FPTP vs AV Latest bullshit. Boris J ("BoJo" / Mayor of London) has just rubbished AV - which was used to elect him. [ Because that is his (tory) party line ] Oops.


So you can tolerate my (incredibly tolerant) Muslim friends, but you don't like or approve of them. Apologies if that is not what you meant, but it's what yhou said..


@ 295 Yes, because ... like the christians they are deluded.


OK, then, but look at who is spreading the lies.

Every household in the UK should have got a leaflet from the Electoral Commission to explain the system, at the "this is how it works" level.


All 'nations' should probably constantly be in flux. How far back do you go before the land was first empty, then populated by successive waves of 'immigrants'? Me, I'm a descendant of Hugenots and was born in Nigeria.


I may be a complete idiot, but... isnt the benefit of inmigration absolutely obvious and simple?

I mean, that guy or girl that came from X place to your country? Whatever wealth his/her work does generate is being generated in your country, not his/her. Whatever he or she buys or whatever services he/she needs, is a market for your country, not the one they are from.

Yes, they normally send up a lot of money back home, but still. Last time I checked, nobody payed anybody the exact amount of value they generated, so in the end, is a positive for the host country.


Everyone should come live in Bulgaria. :)


"So you can tolerate my (incredibly tolerant) Muslim friends, but you don't like or approve of them. Apologies if that is not what you meant, but it's what yhou said.."

I do not know your friends, so I cannot say one way or another. As for "Muslim" you are quite right that I neither like nor approve of Islam. However, I will "tolerate" it right up to the point where it starts to inconvenience me. And in case you are wondering, I also "tolerate" Xianity, the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on my door and politicians. Plus a lot else.


And one final point. If your "incredibly tolerant" friends still self identify as Muslim, what is it they do not tolerate? Because being Muslim (or Xian for that matter) carries a lot of moralistic baggage. I mean, I was baptized as a baby into the CoE, but nobody in their right mind calls me "their Xian friend" because I dumped that crap long ago.


Here in the States, I talked to a old, old time labor/dogooder organizer. he looked and talked like someone in a old movie, the liberal kind they don't make now. He said he worked on our Southern Border and every time they got better wages and working conditions, Congress cut the Border Patrols budget. Then the workers would lose what they gained. Many did want to go back to the bad old days. They moved North and were willing to work for less than the people there to get a job. Then those people went north. Independent studies have shown that to be true. All the work is in China now or this place would be bloody. In one part of town a lot of the people I know have been hit by drunks. The cops know them, they have no papers of any kind and say they know no English. But nothing can be done to them.


I've gone face to face with a KKKer at a union meeting and kicked him out. Got a warning about what would happen after the DAY. Well, I was already into this race stuff and so far as I can tell the anti-Jew (and other people) stuff started with the Christian Identity Movement over there in in Jolly Old. We had a Christian Identity Movement town council woman. Nobody knew what that it was, but the nice people in town were all scared of her. It was only when nothing happen to me they got guts. Some forgotten C of E Pastor noted that the Israelis were great archers. So were the English. Oveously the English were the true Jews and the Chosen People of God. Who were driven out of Israel, over the Caucasian Mountains into Northern Europe. The real white part. The English race writings were taken to Germany in the Bismark's time. They already had the Social Darwinism Monist Leage. Bernhard Forster made it burn. Forster was jailed by their cops for yelling at a Jew, must have been some kind of yelling. He won some converts and marred Nietzsche's sister. The two of them started re-editing, re-writing and just plan made up a lot of what people think Nietzsche said even today. He did not and said so. As a part of the sell they said others like Wagner were with them. He wrote he was not but a good lie is what's remembered. Hitler was one of their early believers. She was put in charge of the Nietzsche records and was heavily funded by Hitler to say the right things. And given a big Nazi funeral. Those bums you see on TV from America. The ones with the hate tats. They are members of the Arean Botherhood and live by Christian Identity. Some live in armed compounds. They kill people sometimes. Most of them come from prisons where they join a heavy white gang to keep the black gangs off them. Once in never out they say. Our prisons are being re-segregated to keep this from spreading, they hope. And we did not start it. Yes I have sources, in the piles somewhere.


Over here we mostly do not vote for judges. Where we do the guy with the richest backers wins. He makes his ruling by what the right people what. A really rich guy is going all over the country working to let the people vote on who they want as a judge. The old way often smelled. This reeks. Prosecuting attorneys have flat out framed people to win votes so they can move up. The FBI took one to trail on charges of attempted murder over how he put a man on dealt row. he had gotten too big, nothing happed.


Back in the late 60's i sometimes found my self looking at a Brit TV box. Sometimes there would be a guy a on a stool who talked a 1/2 to hour of the worse things I had ever heard. But it was about the Irish so it was OK. I mean I had been down south and even the KKK did not spew that much that fast. Sometime later over here some were telling Polck jokes. People just did not like them and it stopped.



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