Tag Archives: politics

Yertle The Turtle, and other stories (not necessarily the ones you’re expecting)

Spent a bunch of time today wrestling with a format change over at History Basics. As the gathering of all the possible resources, writing a bit about them, and formatting all the links, was a time-consuming part of the old process, and the long full-format entries that I aspired to were a bit too much to read (according to some feedback), it seemed a good idea to split different segments out. Hopefully the Research Guide, containing the gathered resources, will be a manageable format to sustain in the future.

As my friend Rob feedbacked yesterday that he’d like me to discuss a book that I mentioned I’d read to my kids, I thought I would do it. I’m not sure whether or not he meant it as a serious suggestion, but it sounded like a fun idea to me, so I’ll do it.

Yertle The Turtle, by Dr. Seuss.

Yertle is the King of all he surveys, which at the start of the story consists pretty much of just the pond. He orders some of his subjects to climb on each other, to create a living pedestal which would allow him to see further, and thus have more to be King over.

Unsatisfied, he orders the pile higher and higher, until he spies the moon and becomes jealous of its height.

Meanwhile, one of his underlings towards the bottom of the stack is getting rather uncomfortable. Mentioning this, and receiving no sympathy, eventually he burps, which wobbles the top of the stack so much that Yertle falls off.

There’s an obvious moral here, don’t make things unbearably hard on those you’re in charge of, it could be your downfall.

Historically, we can see this bear out: it wasn’t for nothing that the American colonies split from Britain, similar with India and South Africa. The list goes on, it’s easy to single out Britain as imposing its will on the rest of the world, the same could be said for America through the latter half of the twentieth century through to the present.

It was probably from watching Gandhi that I really got the concept of “home rule”. I think with how unstable the West has made the Middle East, that we could really use that lesson.

So I didn’t really understand Welsh “devolution” at the time, but more recently have been in favour of Scottish independence, and would rather Britain left the EU.

I think that those that govern should be accountable to those they govern, and the further removed that people are from their overlords, the worse it is.

About the only “Remain” meme that I like, is “Help! I don’t want to be stuck on an island with the Tories!”. Though I find the Labour Party equally as distasteful as the Conservative Party.

I think it does show, though, that politicians on a national level are too far removed from the people they are supposed to represent. It bugs me, both in the UK and the US, where election winners are declared before all the votes are counted. Even though mathematically it may be impossible for another candidate to win. All the time, you’re told how important your vote is. The thought that anyone might not actually vote fills people with horror. And then, if you happen to live in the wrong area, your vote literally doesn’t count. If the vote is such a sacred responsibility, and really that important, you should be absolutely ashamed that peoples votes (and in hard numbers, not a small number of votes) are disrespected so.

Switching to the US, government on a State level can be pretty bad. And while several states are more populous than Scotland, no state is as populous as England (source: Wikipedia and Wikipedia). Several States have ludicrous laws like those forbidding farmers from selling raw milk to those that would like to buy it. See Joel Salatin’s book Everything I Want To Is Illegal. But still, there are States that have declared that there are certain Federal laws that they won’t enforce.

So let’s get smaller. County? Still seems too big to me. City and surrounding area? Well, you know how you hear all the time about how bad it is that the politicians dictating on education have no experience with teaching. You may have heard about city folk with no farming experience passing laws about farming.

Just keep going smaller.

Neighbourhood could work. Although some Home Owners Associations are pretty bad, micromanaging the height of your grass, or what you’re allowed to keep visible to the street, at least you can move out.

Onorous neighbourhood-local government could lead to the ultimate literal application of “home rule”.

In a strangely converse manner, Yertle is toppled when he has many people under him, in reality it’s easier to depose someone when there’s fewer other people he’s accountable to.

Anarchy is not the absence of rules, but the absence of rulers. You can have equal-to-equal agreements, without delegating it all to those that crave power (aka, those least suited to having power).

And that’s where a Remain argument falls apart (I can’t say it makes all of Remain’s points fall apart, though most Remain arguments have nothing to do with my points). It assumes a cutting Britain off from the rest of the world, whereas it is perfectly possible to be friendly with many other countries, without a slow uniformity being imposed. Independence does not necessitate isolation. In fact, some Remain treatises get very close to this point, that immigration won’t stop if we vote Leave.And yet they poke the Panic button that trade will stop if we vote Leave. There may be some cheese we don’t get from the trap, but it doesn’t mean that all opportunity will suddenly dry up.

I could probably elaborate more on some of those points, but this is eating up too much of my sleep time.

As I’m not planning to be there to suffer the consequences of either a Leave or a Remain vote, I don’t think it’s my place to vote in the referendum, though Facebook has been advertising to me for weeks to register. I voted with my feet to leave the nanny state a few years ago. The US is, of course, far from utopia, just in some (but not all) important regards, the eye of Sauron Big Brother doesn’t seem very interested in my corner. And long may it remain so.

It Feeds The Rich While It Buries The Poor

I saw a video on Facebook a day or two ago, giving an overview of how the US effectively turned ISIS from a powerless group into what it is today.

Link here.

This sounds somewhat familiar, as ne’erdowells such as Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Manuel Noriega, Carlos Castillo Armas, and many others were put in power, trained, propped up, or otherwise backed by the US, before becoming a thorn in the side.

I recall reading a bit about this in a book by Michael Moore, while he was on his big crusade against Bush II. That was before I discovered Mr Moore was just as misleading as the Bush regime, but on that particular point he was quite right. (He’s been suspiciously silent during the reign of Bush II’s successor, who hasn’t been any better – wait for Moore’s big comeback when the next Republican president hits)

“We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum. Then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer.” – quoted in Civil War by Guns ‘n’ Roses (embedded below).

It also should be pointed out that, in addition to the power vacuum mentioned in the video above, There’s lots we’ve done to encourage people to be our enemies. The humiliations we inflicted on our prisoners, which were, and were supposed to be, deeply offensive to Muslims (though I can’t imagine anyone else would particularly like it, either). Bombing the shit out of countries for no good reason isn’t going to win you any friends, either, and for all the propaganda about very precise weapons, the amount of “collateral damage” we’ve inflicted is something we should be deeply ashamed of, and is likely to turn people who might possibly be supportive of us, into personal enemies.

And I very much doubt the list stops there.

It should also be pointed out that our actions have had lethal repercussions for Christians in the middle east. The near-total elimination of Christians in Iraq (either fleeing the country, or through death), churches that dated back to the first couple of centuries AD. I recall seeing that symbol replace profile pictures on Facebook. the martyrdom of those Ethiopian Christians, in that video that did the rounds a little while ago.

A little while ago, Christian leaders in Syria were begging the West NOT to help them, it’s like they’ve seen our track record, or something. Christians in Syria are supporting Assad. Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the US are trying to oust him (mentioned in the video above, though I’ve also read France and Saudi Arabia are also against him).

Listen to “Syria, Assad, and the US” and “A No-Brainer In Syria

i don’t remember how I felt about the war in Afghanistan when it started. I’d like to think that I thought it was a knee-jerk reaction, a punishment meted out before all the evidence had come to trial, so to speak. I’d like to think I thought that, but I don’t really remember.

I remember being skeptical about the war in Iraq. That the news outlets were pushing for it (shame on you, BBC) in the run-up, the reasons for going to war being dubious, the Blair regime saying they hadn’t decided to go to war yet, when they’d already started shipping troops out, and the protest against the war, apparently the largest protest in British history, being completely ignored.

Two books on the subject, one I read a few years ago, and the other about a year ago, have proved pretty interesting. Disarming Iraq, by Hans Blix, who lays out his experiences very methodically, goes into the perspectives of the weapons inspectors. Backstabbing For Beginners, by Michael Soussan, goes into the inner workings of the Oil-For-Food program. A much more lively book, it provides insight into the political situation of Iraq at the time.

More recently, I remember the Kickstarter videos for an as-yet incomplete documentary project called “The Killing Of Tony Blair“, where George Galloway, MP, intends to prove that the former Prime Minister is guilty of War Crimes. Galloway was the only Labour MP to lose his job over opposing entering the war in Iraq. I think he’s probably got a pretty good case, though I am a bit cautious. The caution may be a natural reaction to Galloway being a politician. And, although Galloway has done all right for himself since then, the documentary may be easily dismissed by some as a “revenge piece”.

On the American side of the pond, although the current President talked a lot about peace while he was campaigning for the job the first time round, he seems to have acted as much an interventionist as his predecessors, at least as far as Truman. The only politician who’s really seemed to mean what he says about not going to war, has been Ron Paul. Recent article

I’ve seen on Facebook statements like, “if we can’t afford to care for our veterans, we shouldn’t send them to war in the first place”, which I have to say I agree with.

There’s also been kerfuffle over policies of immigration of refugees from these places. There seem to be extremes of “don’t let anybody in” and “let everybody in”, where a middle way is probably much more sane than either.

The concern over refugees is specifically about the Muslim ones, though we know Christians are trying to escape the area. It seems accurate that there has been Muslim killing Muslim, and so (most of) the refugees are trying to escape those you don’t want to let in. Seems reasonable to me.

Those concerned about the Trojan Horse factor, I don’t know. That doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, either, but I cannot envision a vetting process that could easily catch that. Can’t say I’m terribly worried about it, but then again, I don’t live in an area that would be a priority target.

The relationship between Christians and Muslims has long been tricky, and that needs to be acknowledged. Church and State usually have tensions and disagreements, and political power is often at the expense of someone else’s, so there’s a certain amount of status quo there. Trying to compare Greece under the Turkish yoke, or Syrian Christianity under the Muslims, to Christianity in China, or in he USSR as-was – my face twists like a dog chewing toffee, just trying to think about it.

There was a story I came across in the last year or two, about previously friendly Muslim neighbours giving up a Christian family to extremists that were heading into town.

The situation’s difficult, and it’s frustrating how little acknowledgement of that, how little nuance, and how little consideration for opposing viewpoints there is.

Anyone can cherry-pick verses from the Koran (or the Bible) to show how it promotes peace, or violence. I think careful consideration needs to be given to the history of Christian/Muslim relations, and try to discern events that are purely religious, and what is political with a religious mask on.

Another thing I’ve seen on Facebook, is the uncensored version of the phrase, “Stop killing people, you f***ing twats.” I’ll agree with that one, too.

Musings On Being Not From Around Here

I thought that I should write something more about the experience of being an Englishman in a foreign land. Occasionally there’s stuff I miss, like certain kinds of cheeses I was particularly fond of. I’ve been watching Pie In the Sky with my wife, and Henry Crabbe’s signature dish is steak and kidney pie, which has me drooling. I was not so fond of the kidneys in those pies, guess I lean more towards Steak and Ale. And once you start down that path, Shepherd’s Pie, Cottage Pie (hey, I could probably manage to make one of those. Hmmmm….)

Rats, now I’m hungry.

And just having been through Candy Day, sweets/candy are different. What’s called Smarties in the US, those from the UK would recognise as Refreshers (weep with me, people).

But other than inconsequential stuff like that, there’s not always that much noticeable difference. The flags everywhere one gets used to. The politics is several decibels louder, but is otherwise much the same: people I wouldn’t want to vote for, against other people I wouldn’t want to vote for. I mercifully don’t get to vote over here, so I am freer to ignore as much as I can. Which is nice, because so many people are extremely uncharitable to differing viewpoints.

On that note, that reminds me of an incident from a year or so ago. It seems that the pool for jury duty is pulled from the Department of Motor Vehicles’ list of people with a driving license. I’m pretty sure the application form for the driver’s license asked about my citizenship status, but I can’t find the form online. If it did, and if the person working there entered the information accurately (so, pretty big if), then the system wasn’t clever enough to disqualify me there.

I got a questionnaire about jury service. Question 18 was (and I truncate it somewhat): “To be eligible… you must… be a US Citizen… do you meet these qualifications? If not, why?”.

I took the questionnaire back with the relevant portions completed. Handed it in to the people behind the desk, said I wasn’t a citizen so I couldn’t be on a jury. They told me that not being a citizen didn’t automatically disqualify me to be on a jury. Well it says right here on the form… We know what it says.

I believe I have mentioned on this blog before, my intense dislike of forms (especially ones with stupid questions). Imagine how much I don’t like the form and all my research saying one thing, and people who have to deal with the form saying the exact opposite. Lying to my face, whether they know it or not. I must confess, I have a hard time being charitable.

Had I ended up on a jury, I’m sure one lawyer or another would have had a field day with that.

Anyway, I happened to know a guy… my neighbour used to be the Justice of the Peace, and so when I saw he was around, I took the form round and asked him about it. He didn’t think the issue had come up during his time (and who knows, may not have since: could go some way to excuse the desk jockeys). He said I should fill in question 19 and get it notarised.

Question 19 was:
“Do you feel you should be excused from serving as a juror because of undue hardship or because you do not meet the eligibility requirements for jury service? [yes/no] If you answered “yes”, please complete the Affidavit For Excusal on the reverse side and have your signature notarized and return to the address above.”

“Do I feel?” That’s a really weird way of putting it. It is not lawful for me to be on the jury, what on earth do feelings have to do with it? Or excusals? If I’m not allowed to do it, and they would open themselves up to legal trouble if they made me do it, “excusal” is a funny word. I’m not let off the hook, as it were, because legally, I’m not on the hook.

See what I mean about stupid questions. Which then continue.

On the affidavit mentioned towards the end of Question 19, there was a space for “Permanent Exclusion based on incapacity due to illness or injury”, and a space for outlining “undue hardship”, but there was no space properly designated for any of the grounds for disqualification/ineligibility from Question 18.

As the “illness or injury” part said “Permanent Exclusion”, the neighbour, and later the notary, thought that might be the right place for saying why I couldn’t do it. The notary was surprised that the people I’d dealt with didn’t seem acquainted with that part of the law.

When I took the form in this time, it was a different person at the desk, and she was dealing with someone when I got there. When I could, I handed the envelope over. In the envelope, I’d also enclosed a note that suggested it might be good for the affidavit to be amended to include an appropriate space for the disqualifications. I seem to recall mentioning that the envelope was about jury duty, and that I couldn’t do it because I’m not a citizen. She said she’d give it to the judge or JP or whoever it was that deals with them. Whoever it was, I was surprised it was someone so high up the food chain who had to deal with it. On my way out, I heard the envelope being opened.

This was over a year ago, and I haven’t heard anything back, so I assume it went ok.

I think that’s the biggest thing that’s directly relevant to my experience of being an alien (“whoa, I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien…”). I had to take a long trip to have my biometric information recorded for my green card. I had to carry my immigrant visa everywhere, and now I have to carry my green card everywhere, but I’ve never been required to show it.

So, that’s what springs to mind about being a foreigner. Feel free to throw me some more questions about the experience, in the comments below.