We’re Still Here — Free Fire Zone

It doesn’t seem possible, but we haven’t found anything to blog about for the entire weekend. There’s been no news about creationist legislation. Creationists aren’t starting any lawsuits, and no one is predicting the end of the world.

The usual websites we visit are even more boring than usual. The Discoveroids have nothing to say, neither does ICR, and ol’ Hambo is far less amusing than usual. (Yes, we’ve been able to access that site.)

You know what this means. It’s up to you to keep us entertained. Therefore, we’re declaring another Intellectual Free Fire Zone. We’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. But beware of the profanity filters.

Okay, the comments are open. Have at it, dear reader.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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44 responses to “We’re Still Here — Free Fire Zone

  1. Plenty of news this side of the pond: at this very moment, the future of the Britain Formerly Known as Great entirely rests in the hands of 10 rabid and reactionary Creationists!

    We are currently cursed with a shambolic and minority Tory government, which was only able to narrowly cling to power by bunging a £1 billion bribe to 10 MP’s of the Ulster DUP–yep, the self-same DUP party famous for installing hidden spy cameras in public toilet stalls–and those 10 DUP members are being wooed to support PM May’s compromise Brexit deal, which they have so far refused to do on the grounds it is insufficiently draconian and damaging to this country. But the Tories are trying to bribe them further, and their resolve is rumoured to be weakening.

    Hard Brexiteers mostly want to take the country back to the 1930’s, but the DUP long to take us back to the pre-Darwin bliss of the 1830’s.

    It’s a pitiful state of affairs.

    But we must temper self-pity. The recent outrage in New Zealand inflicts on us all a far more painful lesson in the hideous fruits of xenophobic nationalism and insane alt-right paranoia.

    Weep for humanity.

  2. Robert Baty

    The New Zealand shooting overshadowed the other big news Friday; the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturning, for the second time, Judge Crabb’s lower court ruling that Internal Revenue Code Section 107(2) is UNconstitutional, and the Internet has been abuzz, somewhat, about that ever since.

    More reasoned analysis can be expected in the days to come; so we wait.

    It’s not clear if Annie Gaylor will be asking for an “en banc” review or Supreme Court “cert”, but I hope she “goes all the way this time” before giving up, if she must.

    See:

    https://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/34365-7th-circuit-blesses-clergy-housing-allowance-rules-against-ffrf

    Also, see:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2018/05/18/a-christian-not-an-atheist-sparked-lawsuit-on-clergy-tax-free-housing-allowances/#13fd80284710
    .

  3. @Megalonyx
    Yur humble servant has the perfect solution for Brexit, one whch is sure to please all sides.
    !. Bexiteers do no like the idea of allowing those who have voted Leave to have the option of changing their minds and vote Stay.
    2) Bexiteers also do ot like the idea of being forced to Stay against their wishes.
    3) Brexiteers see no difficulty in dividing up a land mass with new hard borders. As, for example, the island of Ireland. Or the territory of Gilbraltar and Spain.
    1′) Surely, Bexiteers would agree to give those who have voted Stay to have the option of voting to Leave
    2′) Surely, Bexiterers woould agre that people should not be forced to Leave against their wishes.
    3″) And surely, there would be no difficulty in enforcing borders on the island of Great Britain.
    Keeping these tihngs in mind, I propose that those parts of the UK who have foolishly voted Stay be given one last chance to vote again in a referrendum.
    Northaern Ireland, Scotland, London and Gilbraltar can either vote again to Stay, or to come to their senses and Leave. Their wishes will be respected. If needs be, the borders will be enforced between those places who are Staying with the EU and the majority of the UK who are happily Leaving.
    Everybody will be happy.
    Leave may mean Leave but Stay might be permitted to mean Leave!

  4. “Yes, we’ve been able to access that site.”
    Ah, but that’s good news.

    Tonight the progressive broadcasting company VPRO

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VPRO

    had a contrarian documentary about Donald the Clown and the Brexit. All the interviewed people were either English or American, so for the regulars here language shouldn’t be a problem.

    https://www.npostart.nl/vpro-tegenlicht/17-03-2019/VPWON_1295406

    While I don’t exactly concur it’s interesting that there are leftists defending to some extent the Brexit and the economical policy of Donald the Clown.

  5. And there is this interview which is somewhat related to Evolution Denial – as well as Anthropgenic Climate Change Denial, Anti-Vaxxers, Flat Earth etc.
    From The Guardian online, “‘Americans have a fascination with fraudsters’: Alex Gibney on the fall of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/17/americans-have-a-fascination-with-fraudsters-alex-gibney-on-the-fall-of-theranos-and-elizabeth-holmes

  6. Michael Fugate

    Linking May to Monty Python – great stuff
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/17/dutch-pm-compares-theresa-may-to-monty-python-limbless-knight

    Not nearly as odious as our not so fearless leader – who seems unaware that actions have consequences.

  7. Thanks, Brandon Haught. That’s a good one.

  8. In his 73-page manifesto the right-wing terrorist from last week declared that he is a supporter of Donald Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.
    I wonder what right-leaning Trump supporters feel about that. I believe that last year in the US all terror attacks came from the extreme right of the political spectrum. I found it ironic that after the Christchurch shooting the mosques in the US were protected with heavily armed guards. Wasn’t it the other way round before Trump?

  9. Michael Fugate

    No doubt the Florida Citizens Alliance will be banning the Bible for violence and sexual assault.

  10. Very interesting, Robert Baty. So rental allowance paid to clergy may no longer be tax-free. But I suspect it’s not over yet.

  11. Robert Baty

    Curmudgeon

    District Judge Crabb ruled 107(2) UNconstitutional and the 7th CIrcuit just overturned her decision.

    It’s not over yet. Annie could try an “en banc” hearing before the full 7th Circuit and/or an appeal to the Supreme Court.

    It’s up to Annie as to whether or not it’s going to be over.

    I hope it’s not over.

    There’s also the option to initiate similar suits in other districts and try for a split decision among the districts in order to strengthen the possibility that the Supreme Court might hear it. I may not live long enough for that to happen if that course is taken.

  12. I hope the Brexiteers succeed as I believe it will re energize the Scottish Independence movement. We were there in Edinburgh during the year run up to the last independence vote. The problem as I see it is that there simply aren’t enough people in the north of the country and the Highlands to swing the vote towards independence. There are alot of people in central and south Scotland who just aren’t ready to break away. That might change if UK goes Brexit. Hope so. Alex Salmand just got into some legal difficulties about alleged sexual abuse with co workers a while ago so Sturgen and the Independence Party are going to have to hold it together if the UK leaves the EU. That should do it. Up the Scots ! A hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (EU member) is not going to go over well either.

  13. hans yes it was. Vocal anti muslim groups were targeted by islamists a couple of times in shootings.
    With all the shootings in America it’s hard to keep track.

  14. @och will
    How will it go in Scotland for Northern Ireland have no barrier with the EU, which special treatment denied to Scotland. As well as other attention spent to buy the DUP votes?

  15. @MichaelF: that’s very ironic. Dutch right wing prime minister Rutte is as right wing as Cameron and May. He has been an eurosceptic until very recently, shouting “I want my money back” several times” – and getting it his way.
    It’s worth repeating. The brexit comedy has one big plus side. Except for the most fanatical once the eurosceptics on the continent have been silenced.

  16. och will notes

    I hope the Brexiteers succeed as I believe it will re energize the Scottish Independence movement.

    The Scottish Nationalist Party, which currently commands a strong majority in the Scottish Parliament, has been vigorously (and admirably, in my view) campaigning against Brexit–even though, as you note, Brexit would likely further their longer term political goal of a second referendum on independence, and with enhanced chances of winning it second time around.

    Had it somehow been known, in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, that the Tories would hold the EU Referendum of 2016 and Leave would narrowly win the nationwide majority while a majority in Scotland voted to Remain–had all that been somehow forecast in 2014, I little doubt that Scotland would have voted for Independence at that time.

    One of the arguments against the Scots Nationalists in 2014 was that a newly-independent Scotland would not automatically retain membership in the EU but would be obliged to apply for membership–a lengthy process which, although certain to ultimately succeed, would mean membership as a junior partner without the extended benefits the UK was able to secure in the terms of its own current membership.

    The Scots Nationalists recognise that the EU does not, as the (mostly English) Brexiteers claim, compromise genuine sovereignty but provides an international co-operative framework which enables mutual prosperity and empowers individual freedom. In other words, the EU does not compromise Scottish sovereignty–but the United Kingdom does, particularly if, as part of the UK, Scotland is dragged out of the EU!

    A hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (EU member) is not going to go over well either.

    That’s an understatement. The hard-won Good Friday Agreement, which has the force of an international treaty, wholly dissolved that contentious border and put an end to the violence of The Troubles–that was only possible because of the memberships in the EU of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland. No one wants to see that border re-introduced and, with it, the return to the sectarian violence of the past. But Brexit brings a wholly intractable ‘square the circle’ problem: the Brexiteers claim they want to “take back control” of our borders but cannot find a way to retain the open border with Ireland despite professing the need to do so. Their current ‘plan’, in the event of a crashing-out of the EU next week without an agreement, is to simply leave the NI border open as at present–but that would bring no end of problems once the UK were to diverge from the EU on tariffs, trading and product standards, free movement of people &c &c. One cannot have ones cake and eat it, too.

    Up the Scots!

    I’ll raise a wee dram to that! If Brexit is indeed inflicted on us, I little doubt that it will inevitably lead to the break up of the United Kingdom. I won’t blame the Scots for breaking away, though I will shed a tear–and probably pack my bags to get out of the rump of a nation of Little Englander xenophobes that will remain south of the border…

  17. @ TomS 🙂

    Your proposed solution to Brexit issues is far more detailed and comprehensive than anything the Brexiteers have been able to produce over the past three years–but alas, there is an error in one of your postulates, e.g.

    2′) Surely, Brexiteers woould agree that people should not be forced to Leave against their wishes.

    Brexiteers do not agree about that at all. In fact, amongst themselves, Brexiteers do not even agree on what Brexit means–but that is by the by. They are certainly happy, as I noted previously, to drag Scotland out of the EU despite the Scottish majority to remain in the EU. And one other thing on which they do actually agree with one another: there must not be a second referendum to ratify the actual Brexit terms now that we know them (as opposed to the fanciful version falsely promised during the original referendum); that would somehow, in their view, be ‘undemocratic’ (i.e. they know they would lose).

    However, your multi-border proposal does indeed ensure delivery of a principle aim of the Brexiteers: the total Balkanisation of Europe and a return to the grand old days of international conflict in the name of Bannonesque ‘economic nationalism.’ Who knows, with a bit of luck we might even get back to shooting Grand Dukes in Sarajevo just to see where that leads us!

    Happy days indeed!

  18. @och will
    About holding a second referendum. It seems to be democratic in Parliament that one have repeated votes on an issue when the votes do not go they way that one wants. Even when the magnitude of the plurality is decisive.

  19. Great comment giant sloth. Up the Pleistocene. !! TomS. I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying about another Scottish independence vote..
    Are you saying the “Scots had their chance in 2014”. Or do you support another independence vote? Sir.

  20. @Och Will: “recognise that the EU does not Brexiteers claim, compromise genuine sovereignty”
    Indeed. That was my main objection against the documentary I linked to above. Plus the EU actually subsidize projects like the Preston one – it does here where I live as well.
    There are two more points.

    1. Our dear SC will tremble from indignation, but others will recognize the problem: the power of multinationals. The revenu of Unilever eg is 1/7 of the British governmental budget; the revenu of Shell 1/3. An “independent” British government will find it hard, if not impossible to enforce laws on such multinationals, even the lacklustre ones our dear SC approves of. In the same way the EU is a political powerhouse when members face an external threat. Ask the Baltic countries.
    2. In the very first place the EU provides a method to solve conflicts without using violence. Compare the Catalonian/Spanish conflict. No matter which side you take, no matter your criticism, before 1975 people like Puigdemont would have been treated far worse. This is why the backstop is so important, obviously.

  21. Oops – the quote I attributed to Och Will stems from Mega. Some more from his comment:

    “cannot find a way to retain the open border with Ireland ”
    Dutch customs expert Hans Maessen (I could not find an appropriate link) claims he has found a way, offered it to prime minister May and her Brexit minister. They didn’t understand it.
    The comedy continues!

  22. FrankB observes:

    it’s interesting that there are leftists defending to some extent the Brexit and the economical policy of Donald the Clown

    Indeed (and thanks, btw, for the link, v. interesting even without being able to speak Nederlands)–but there are many ironies in Brexit. F’rinstance: I was here in 1975 at the time of the first British referendum on membership in what was then the EEC, and at that time it was the British Left that was deeply opposed to it. Their argument then was that the EEC was a ‘Capitalist Club’ that would diminish workers’ rights and, through pan-European law, prevent a future socialist governments from nationalising industries (as the post-War UK Labour government had taken coal mining, railways, and health care into public ownership). It would not possible, in their view, to build a ‘British socialist utopia’ as a member of the EEC–and this remains the view amongst a rump of the old left, such as Jeremy Corbyn). Of course, on the other side, the British Right saw all these things as positive virtues, and among the great cheerleaders for membership in Europe was one Margaret Thatcher (not yet Prime Minister at the time).

    But in practise, the EU has emerged as a centrist, social democratic project, generally good for business by providing for free movement of goods, money and people but at the same time extending enhanced enforcement for human rights and protections for minorities. It is, like all human institutions, flawed: it can be bureaucratic, overly-legalistic, inefficient–but less so than most government–and as a loose federation, it is not subject to the excesses of a government, still less a ‘super state’ that the Brexiteers think it is.

    Good summary by Will Hutton here:

    For if you support EU membership, you will tend to own a cluster of other values and principles. You recognise that today’s economies and societies are interdependent and that it’s imperative to have institutions to manage those interdependencies, whether on climate change or the overarching power of the new technopolists. You are not instinctively distrustful, even hostile, to other cultures, languages and peoples: you find diversity attractive and enriching. You are for openness and tolerance. While proud of your country, you do not see that pride compromised by working with and alongside other countries and peoples.

    You do not believe in capitalism red in tooth and claw; you see the case for stakeholder capitalism, for the regulation of finance and for using state power to promote competition and innovation. You celebrate the role of trade unions in giving employees voice and vital countervailing power. You do not regard low taxation as the be-all and end-all of public policy. You uphold the values behind a social contract in which members of society accept mutual rights and obligations, so sustaining strong public health and education and social insurance that supplies income in adversity or old age. You believe in strong public institutions, ranging from the BBC to museums, which so enrich our country.

    Propounding EU membership is thus a civilisational proposition. It does not mean that you regard every aspect of the EU – its unsigned-off accounts or the intricacies of the common agricultural policy – as perfect. But then neither is every aspect of the UK. But it does mean that you sign up for a set of interlocking propositions, shared by other Europeans, which better allow people to live lives they have reason to value.

    Standing in opposition is a very different set of values and principles. To want to leave is to deny international interdependencies in order to assert national “control”. You reject mutuality of international obligation and the necessary pooling of sovereignty and sharing of law and resource to achieve common ends that would otherwise be impossible. Rather, the moral injunction for state and individual alike is to stand alone and act solely in your own interests. The EU is a hostile “other”: it spends our money and sets objectionable regulations, although when challenged, no regulation can be cited whose aim can reasonably be contested. Small wonder; they reflect the will not just of the British parliament, but of the parliaments of Europe.
    You object to the EU’s openness – to trade, ideas and people – especially to European citizens who can live and work in Britain as of right. It matters not that the British have equal rights: who would want to have the right to leave their homeland to become a citizen of anywhere? At the limit, you can only trust your own, who share the “indigenous” culture and love of home; those from other cultures, who speak other languages and worship other religions, are the alien other whose presence is necessarily the principal cause of your own and wider society’s ills.

  23. @FrankB
    Is this an appropriate link vis-a-vis Hanns Maessen “Brexit: Irish Border is a ‘fictitious problem'”, from the BBC on 14 Nobember 2018
    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-46213434

    @och will
    I cannot find where I said anything about a Scottish independence vote. I referred to a second chance referendum for those entities who voted Stay: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gilbraltar and London.

  24. Karl Goldsmith

    I see Ray Comfort used New Zealand to get views, he is lucky if most of his videos get twenty thousand, but that one was showing around 140,000.

  25. Karl Goldsmith

    Ch4 has a weird documentary called “Mums Make Porn” starting this week in the UK. During the first episode of the three-part series, three of the mums visit the set of a hardcore porn film a part of research.

    The company behind this are known for making trash, American Christians don’t to seem to be happy with the premise. Even I’m wondering, WHY!

  26. @TomS: yes, that’s largely the same, though a shorter version, of what I read in my own newspaper.

  27. Scientists grow ‘mini-brain on the move’ that can contract muscle
    From The Guardian online,
    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-46213434
    “The lentil-sized grey blob of human brain cells were seen to spontaneously send out tendril-like connections to link up with the spinal cord and muscle tissue, which was taken from a mouse.”
    spontaneously
    No design?

    Research article in Nautre Neuroscience
    Technical Report | Published: 18 March 2019
    “Cerebral organoids at the air–liquid interface generate diverse nerve tracts with functional output”
    SL Giandomenico et al.
    https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-019-0350-2

  28. Stephen Kennedy, MD

    My ancestors came to America in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries from Britain, Germany and Ireland. If Europe had not been such a violent and dysfunctional place then, I would probably be a European today.

    For a while it seemed like after the horrific catastrophes of WWI and WWII, Europeans had finally realized that they had to give up their tribalism and establish some sense of unity on the continent they shared. However, it is looking more and more like Europeans will never escape their past.

  29. @SK: looks on the surface can be deceptive. The EU – and it’s predecessor, the EEC – always has seen severe infighting. The EU provides a framework to express that tribalism without starting another war. In that respect it’s extremely successfull. Again, look at the Catalonian independence movement. The Spanish civil war is less than a century ago, remember?
    The EU is also very successfull at defending against external threats. Since the Brexit referendum the UK is seen as one. As always all the member states suddenly are showing complete solidarity. The rightwing brexiteers hoped to get several bilateral treaties with member states; it’s just not going to happen.
    The EU is not a matter of escaping the past. It’s a way of continuing the past while avoiding the eternal wars of pre-1945. It’s an imperfect synthesis of the two main forces in European history since the desintegration of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century CE: the dream of one united Europe (for many centuries embodied in the RCC) and the tribalism you mention. Compare Mega’s analysis of values – I rather have that flawed synthesis than Charlemagne, Charles the 5th, Louis-14, Napoleon and Hitler.
    I also maintain that the Brexit comedy is the best thing to the EU that has happened since the introduction of the Euro. Every member state realizes now that stumbling on is better than falling apart.
    I predict delay. And to postpone still may become to abandon (the Brexit).

  30. Michael Fugate

    This is fascinating – looking forward to seeing what cell types and innervation are involved.
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/18/humans-earth-magnetic-field-magnetoreception

  31. Dave Luckett

    I doubt that this is the proper forum for Bexitation, free-fire zone or no. But I would say two things: one, it has never been in Britain’s interest, nor that of England before that, to ally with a dominant continental power; and two, if you believe that a nation should be governed by a sovereign Parliament composed exclusively of representatives elected by universal adult franchise, you have a problem with the EU.

  32. Michael Fugate

    I must admit that it warms the cockles of my cynicism to get enfranchisement advice from racist misogynist Australia – not that the US is great, but still…

  33. Dave Luckett

    Uh-huh. So much for that.

  34. @Michael Fugate:

    We should not judge the individual man by the thoughts or actions of some of his countrymen.

    I, for one, don’t want to be judged by those in other countries according to the tweets of one Donald J. Trump the Senior. For one thing, I’m a way better spellur.

  35. @DL: just another two months and I can vote my favourite into the European Parliament again. Perhaps you are the one having a problem with it?

    “it has never been in Britain’s interest, nor that of England before that, to ally with a dominant continental power”
    So you think the support of the EEC in the Falkland War was not in the interest of the UK. Let me adapt MichaelF’s comment a bit.

    I must admit that it warms the cockles of my cynicism to get enfranchisement advice from an ignorant, and possibly stupid Australian – not that the EU is great, but still…

  36. @ FrankB: The gratuitous closing snark at Dave Luckett is entirely uncalled for and unworthy of you IMHO.

    And wildly inappropriate–and not just as a matter of simple courtesy. I disagree with Dave on the particular topic of Brexit, but that we differ in opinion and thereby place different weight on the merit of various arguments for and against that does not make either one of us either ‘ignorant’ nor ‘stupid’.

    I have always enjoyed Dave’s posts, have indeed learned much from them, and value his articulate and considered contributions to this blog. I have often profited from many insights he has brought to a number of subjects, have very often agreed with arguments he has advanced, and even in those instances where I do not happen to agree I nonetheless appreciate the clarity of his expression of his views and his willingness to share them.

    I think we all get a little too wrapped up in the whack-a-mole business of dealing with Creationists and their screeds. But let’s not forget that, outside pointless disputes with dogamtists, it is possible (in fact, necessary) to accept that to hold opinions contrary to ones is not an indication of ‘ignorance’ nor ‘stupidity’

  37. Dave Luckett

    The problem with countering absolutist positions is that any response must be moderate, detailed and nuanced, hence long. Thus the Guardian: remainers are enlightened, liberal, tolerant and outward-looking; leavers are troglodytes, mean-spirited, intolerant and xenophobic. Simple. Just as simple as saying Australia is racist and misogynist.

    I see no point in trading insults. The currency debases so rapidly it is immediately worthless. But I will challenge those ideas.

    There is a reason why Britain did not support, still less join, a continental hegemony for most of its history. In fact, it almost always opposed them. The reason is that such a hegemony was and is a direct threat to its interests. Britain is advantaged by its position and outward aspect. Over the last two centuries (at least) it was also advantaged by the overseas Anglosphere. The costs of long distance sea trade scale more to port costs than to distance; land trade is the converse. That is, if it comes to a choice, Britain is better served by trade across the seas and oceans than by trade with Europe. But more, European hegemons tend to exacerbate that difference by protectionism – and the EU is no exception. They also tend to expand. So does the EU. The last four decades bear witness to that.

    The EU has markedly changed character over those four decades. It was a customs union and free trade zone. Those times are past. The EU regulations – over a hundred thousand pages of them, now – control all the industries of Europe – manufacture, agricultural, and service. Control those, and you control the economies of the nations. Control their economies, and you control the nations.

    A democrat (small “d”) would ask if that regime is what the people actually want, They weren’t asked. At least, not in those terms. A customs union and free trade sounded good. They voted for that. But the rest? I don’t think so.

    And what is to be said of the EU’s commitment to democracy, anyway? It looks good. Sure it does. Elected European Parliament; European Commission nominated by the governments of the member states, one each; European Council of Ministers to supervise. What’s not to like?

    Until you realise that the Parliament can only consider proposals of the Commission, and cannot definitively reject them. If it votes them down, they must be reconsidered by a committee – one from “Yes”, one from “No”, one from the Commission – with a view to approval. Eventually, they’ll get through if the Commission wants it enough. The Council of Ministers changes chair and membership for practically every measure. Both Council and Parliament are fragmented, multi-party and polyglot; the Council in addition is made up of people who have full-time jobs already, and then some. It is sometimes said that member countries have a veto in the Council. That is rarely the case.

    There is no avoiding the conclusion that the Commission, not the Parliament, is the driving engine of the EU. The Commission is not elected. So what? It is appointed by the member states. Isn’t that good enough?

    No, it isn’t. Once appointed, the Commissioners are not answerable to anyone. Theoretically, the Parliament can censure them. This is window-dressing. The one time it was tried, it had no practical effect.

    The Commissioners are sworn not to consider the interests of any nation. And they don’t, pretty much. But they head a phalanx of bureaucrats who have an interest in expanding and deepening their power – and that’s what they’ve been doing these forty years.

    In a democracy, the elected representatives propose, debate and adopt (or reject) proposed laws, and instruct the appointed officials. In the EU that procedure is reversed. The EU is no democracy.

    Even the Guardian also admits that EU finances are questionable at least and its policies opaque. It is undeniably expensive to run. And it must be said that its intricate web of regulation tends to make innovation, new products, processes and procedures more difficult to introduce, so it also tends to advantage large corporate interests with investments in present ones. This may go far to explain why growth in Europe has slowed over the last decade.

    These are reasonable and cogent objections to the EU. But they are purely political and economic. Let us turn to the cultural.

    “Xenophobia” and “intolerance” are easy charges to make. But most people want to live in a community whose values they share, whose customs and traditions they understand, and whose language they have in common. They don’t enjoy feeling like outsiders, still less alienated, fearful of giving offence, wary of their neighbours, uncertain of what their words, actions, behaviour actually mean. Is this so very difficult to accept? If you find it so, I suggest that you need to examine your own claim to be tolerant.

    And finally, let me defend my own nation. We certainly do have our racists, bigots, xenophobes, misogynists and monsters, as the events of the last days hideously attest, alas. We will be a very long time atoning for that, and rightly so.

    Yet Australian women received the right to vote from the very first Parliament that sat here, and exercised it in 1902, a long generation before their sisters in the UK and the US. We contributed some of the most notable feminists of the last century. And we are one of the oldest and most robust Parliamentary democracies. Yes, we have done wrong – certainly to our indigenous people, and to other groups, although we have accepted millions of immigrants from hundreds of countries and cultures, with remarkably little strife. I have lived in this city for fifty years and watched it octuple in population, but although it has its poorer suburbs and its affluent ones, I could not tell you where to find a ghetto or a gated community. There is nothing remotely to compare with South London, still less with the south side of Chicago. It is not often that I quote Jesus of Nazareth, but still he had the right of it when he approved removing the log from your own eye before the mote from your neighbour’s.

    And is there really any point in attributing qualities to a nation at all? Stereotyping is insidious. If I am to accept that Australians are racist misogynists, why should I not accept that the French are arrogant, the Americans ignorant, the Italians cowards, the Irish stupid, the English frigid, the Welsh thieves… and so on and on. Be damned to that.

    So. I said that it would be long.

  38. Dave Luckett questions if

    this is the proper forum for Bexitation, free-fire zone or no

    I’ll happily accept our Curmudgeon’s call on that one and desist from the topic if asked: his blog, his rules.

    But I raised it on this thread because it is indeed the case that, through the bizarre workings of our political system, a decision about the fundamental constitution of the UK is currently in the hands of 10 notoriously corrupt and bat-sh!t whacko religious Creationists, the same Biblical literalists who crashed the Stormont Assembly through their corrupt Renewable Heat Incentive, persistently lobby for Creationism in schools and public museums, have a creepy penchant for spy cameras in public loos–and, despite the fact that Northern Ireland voted 56% for Remain, are ardent Brexiteers.

  39. “There is a reason why Britain did not support, still less join, a continental hegemony for most of its history.”
    Exactly my point. Britain’s most of its history ended in 1945 (some woud say 1914, but soit). At least since 1945 Brittannia doesn’t rule the waves anymore. That fact makes that reason totally irrelevant.
    Except of course as long as the UK remains in the EU. For the third time: in the very first place the EU is a way to deal with European conflicts in a non-violent way, while serving common interests against external threats. The two continental hegemonies in the EU are Germany and France. They are its backjbone. So the good old principle of “opposing continental hegemony” has turned into “side with Germany one time, with France another and oppose both the third time” – depending on the interests of the UK. That has largely been the political strategy of The Netherlands, who unsurprisingly sided with the UK many times last few decades.
    Leaving the EU means opposing an undivided continent. That’s something superpowers like China and the USA have a hard time to deal with. The UK hardly has a chance, being a second or third-rate power. Like right wing Brexiteers you prefer to pretend that it’s still the 19th Century, fueled by ignorance and stupidity.

  40. Dave Luckett

    Britain is still better served by free trade with the whole world than free trade with Europe and protection against the rest of the world. Its rule over the waves is immaterial to that; but it does remain the strongest naval/air power in Europe. It has successfully opposed an undivided continent before now.

    European conflicts are now mostly resolved in a non-violent way because the European states are, since 1945, all democracies. Democracies do not go to war with each other. The EU, however, is not a democracy, which is a worry.

    Like the British, in successive centuries the Dutch fought desperate wars against the Spanish, the French, the French again, and then the Germans. Unlike the British, and protected by rather shallower waters than the English Channel, they lost most of them. If I were Dutch, I would not congratulate myself on the emergence of another non-democratic European overstate. It is not the nineteenth century, true, nor the twentieth any more – but some things are perennial, and one of them is the idea that those who ignore history, repeat it. Another is the mistaken and foolish idea that we live in entirely novel times.

  41. Megalonyx says: “I’ll happily accept our Curmudgeon’s call on that one and desist from the topic if asked”

    I have no problem with discussion of the EU or the UK’s possible exit therefrom. I know very little about those things, so I don’t blog about them, but I enjoy learning more. However, I don’t want us to quarrel among ourselves. Disagreement is fine, but let’s keep it under control.

  42. I certainly agree that there are many valid criticisms of the EU—I have often made some of the same ones that Dave Luckett offers here. And there are some vital issues—some of which are indeed derived from the Enlightenment–at the heart of the Brexit debate that call for rational consideration and reasoned debate. But it is essential to distinguish between (1) matters pragmatic, which one can hopefully settle by recourse to data, and (2) matters ideological, which are much more intractable, and sometimes must simply be left as matters about which one can only agree to differ. But conflating these two areas, as often happens, generates more heat than light, and I think it worth calling out a few points from those made in Dave Luckett’s arguments.

    it has never been in Britain’s interest, nor that of England before that, to ally with a dominant continental power

    Sound advice—for the reign of the Hanoverian monarchs and the Victorians. Sorry, but the days of ‘playing the Huns against the Frogs’ the better to extend and protect the Empire are long, long gone. The EU is not is not an alien ‘continental power’ but a confederation within which the UK currently can exercise considerable influence and power, and from which it derives palpable benefits.

    if you believe that a nation should be governed by a sovereign Parliament composed exclusively of representatives elected by universal adult franchise, you have a problem with the EU.

    This is a category error. The EU is NOT a nation, nor a surrogate or replacement for one, anymore than the United Nations, or the World Trade Organisation—which are also objects of valid criticisms, but not because they are deficient as ‘nations’. Participation in such international bodies, and adhering to the principals and tenants of, say, international maritime law, does not undermine the sovereignty of Parliamentary democracies. And those bodies have no direct democratic participation whereas the EU most assuredly has a great deal, largely commensurate with the scope of its powers and responsibilities. If one wishes to argue that it should allow for greater democratic input, I’d likely agree—but it does not require the full direct democratic participation because it does not exercise anything like the range of powers and responsibilities of the individual and sovereign parliamentary nations which comprise the union.

    There is a reason why Britain did not support, still less join, a continental hegemony for most of its history. In fact, it almost always opposed them. The reason is that such a hegemony was and is a direct threat to its interests. …[snip]… Britain is better served by trade across the seas and oceans than by trade with Europe. But more, European hegemons tend to exacerbate that difference by protectionism – and the EU is no exception.

    Again, this is doubtless sound advice—for the long-gone age of Mercantilism. What do you think are the UK’s “interests” which are under “direct threat” by the EU rather than, as I think, interests which are both common to and furthered by co-operation within the frictionless single market and customs union of the EU? Are you aware of the number of major manufacturers which have already begun pulling up stakes in the UK since the Referendum result? The huge drop in industrial investment here in that same span? A number of Brexiteers (and I do not assume you agree with them on this) openly wish to see the EU dismantled and wish economic hardship on our European neighbours—which makes no sense to me: one should not wish ones customers to be poor if you wish them to buy your goods and services.

    You make some solid points about democratic deficiencies with the EU; I broadly agree with most of your crits—in fact, even the most ardent Remainers I know would agree. But again: the EU is NOT a nation, and it is wrong to expect its governance (which is evolving) to display all the features of a sovereign parliamentary state.

    Not that the UK, with its unelected House of Lords and FPTP voting is a perfect display of democratic processes…but don’t get me started.

    Even the Guardian also admits that EU finances are questionable at least and its policies opaque. It is undeniably expensive to run.

    Actually, every bureaucracy is ‘expensive’, and we’d all be better off without them 😊 But, back in the real world, the EU is pretty good value for money. The cost of UK membership works out at 1% of GDP; by way of comparison, the balance of the UK’s own national budget is 40% of GDP.

    The number of employed EU ‘bureaucrats’, which the Brexiteers characterise as ‘an army’, is in fact the same size as the UK’s Derbyshire County Council.

    Of course, Derbyshire County Council is not above reproach. I’m sure they are as wasteful, irritating, and inefficient as any other governing body conceived by man…

    The ‘cultural’ issues you raise are another matter, perhaps for another time.

  43. Dave Luckett

    Indeed the days of Empire are long gone. But Britain’s reliance on seaborne trade remains, Chunnel and all; and seaborne trade has the characteristic that the longer the distance, the greater the economies of scale. It is still
    more in Britain’s interest to trade freely with as much of the world as possible than to trade freely only with Europe while erecting tariff walls against the rest. This applies most particularly to food, for Britain cannot feed itself. That specific British interest is under attack from the EU.

    The EU is not a nation, agreed. I would call it an Empire, that is, a supranational polity that exercises powers over formerly sovereign and independent nations or peoples, which taxes them, supersedes their laws, effectively dissolves their borders, controls their economies and trade, and overrules their courts in all areas that concern it. The EU does all that. But if you don’t like that word – and it’s only a word – I still wonder why you would argue that such a polity, exercising such powers, need not be run democratically – as democratically as a nation should be.

    You argue that “it does not exercise anything like the range of powers and responsibilities of the individual and sovereign parliamentary nations which comprise the union.” I disagree trenchantly. The EU exercises powers that override the individual and sovereign nations and their Parliaments. Witness the abject words of the European Communities Act (1972):

    “All such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies and procedures from time to time provided for by or under the Treaties, as in accordance with the Treaties are without further enactment to be given legal
    effect or used in the United Kingdom shall be recognised and available in law, and be enforced, allowed and followed accordingly…”

    The EU is no democracy. You seem to think that this is an excusable oversight. I doubt that. I think that its salient characteristic of government by a smallish number of elite technocrats is a feature, not a bug, designed into it from the beginning.

    You advance the interesting argument that the EU is not a large bureaucracy – not so very large, anyway – and is therefore not so very objectionable. Personally, I would object to a small oligarchy with such powers, especially one as remote and unaccountable as the EU, even more than I would to a more numerous local administration. Local administrations are at least answerable to local people.

    Any treaty or association with other nations imposes some obligations. The question is, how much, how many, and how onerous, and how they relate to the benefits. No absolute position is tenable. It is a question of what the nation will accept. The problem is that the EU directives and regulations continually proliferate, and hence the obligations become ever more pervasive, numerous and demanding. It is not for me, or for any person, to say when it has reached the tipping point. That must be decided by the people as a whole. I would submit that they have decided.