Category Archives: Uncategorized

Backing Ed

Notes from a Broken Society

Like a lot of Labour Party members and activists, I’m angry and confused at the moment.  I’m angry that with the Tory Party in disarray, losing MPs to UKIP and humiliated in Europe once again as a direct result of its fear of UKIP, the media focus appears to be all about Labour’s leadership “crisis”.  And I’m confused because, with millions in poverty while working ever-longer hours, with some of the worst child poverty rates in the developed world, with hundreds of thousands of people dependent on food banks, and with our National Health Service being dismantled in front of our eyes, you might have thought that the handful of Labour MPs briefing anonymously against Ed could have found something more useful with which to fill their day.

While our anonymous comrades were busy talking to the media, I spent yesterday in an activists’ day here in Brighton Pavilion, in…

View original post 675 more words

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Geoffrey Bawa & Being Overrated


Anoma Pieris from , is an Associate Professor in Architecture at Melbourne University, whom I have had the pleasure of acquainting over the last few years on matters to do with Architectural theory.

I have always maintained that Geoffrey Bawa is overrated, and that the propping up of Bawa as an Architect goes beyond his skill as an architect and there are other elitist socio-political reasons as to why Bawa is revered and beatified by Sri Lankan society at large, for this I have of course taken much criticism for being pompous – one shalt not criticise Bawa and live in Sri Lanka at the same time.

Anoma Pieris responds to this question and identifies why Bawa is is so overrated, and why that is so wrong, a view I am delighted to always have held.

This cultish reverence of Bawa has in many instances given Sri Lankan Architecture students very little outside Bawa to aspire to, it is important that a more diversified balance amongst Sri Lankan architectural greats is maintained.

1 Comment

Filed under 2014, architecture, Uncategorized

Independence Referendum: The Morning After

main-image

First published here.

A win for independence in Scotland would have led to drastic changes to parliament in the UK including the short-to-medium term irrelevance of Labour

A little over half of those who went to bed last Thursday in Scotland, wondering what Friday will hold, woke up to the news that the United Kingdom will remain as it has been for 307 years and that Scotland will not break away to form an independent state. The campaign has been marred by allegations of scaremongering, increased verbosity of the establishment, heated debates on fiscal matters and devolution.

Irrespective of the outcome, it must be concluded that the Scottish referendum was a great celebration of democracy with extremely high turn-outs for voting. Estimates suggest that more than 80 per cent of those eligible to vote turned up for voting, compared to only more than 50 per cent who voted in the Scottish elections of 1999 when powers were first devolved.

The decision to hold a Scottish referendum was made in October 2012, by allowing the Scottish parliament to hold a referendum that was legally valid to confer independence. The terms of the referendum were a matter of great debate, but as George Eaton identifies here, contrary to most observers, it was Alex Salmond in his political astuteness who outmanoeuvred David Cameron – who, according to many, is reflective of a political class that was extremely complacent about the aspirations of the Scottish peoples. There are at least three factors Eaton identifies that helped Salmond outplay Cameron.

Westminster retains the constitutional authority to determine when a referendum can be held, and even though the initial date was September 2013, this date was moved to September 2014 in return for Salmond deciding to allow a one question vote, thereby winning another year’s worth of vital campaigning time for the Yes side of the debate. The second move Salmond made was in determining the wording of the referendum question. By managing to stave off pressure from the recommendation of the electoral commission to have the question read “Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?” having it read instead as “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, Salmond found a much easier way of channelling nationalist energy towards an eventual yes vote. The other vital concession Salmond managed to garner was the right for 16-17 year olds to vote in the referendum, even though voters in this age group do not vote in UK or Scottish parliamentary elections. Young voters are more inclined to vote for independence, as this YouGov poll reveals.

The complacency of the Better Together campaign, headed by Alistair Darling, was evident from the very beginning with Westminster taking for granted that Scotland would vote to remain in the UK. This notion was not without basis, as the opinion polls consistently showed that those in favour of voting No outflanked those in favour of voting yes by a double-digit margin. Then came the disastrous second debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond, where Salmond vociferously and passionately argued about the case for independence, managing to appeal to many of those who were dithering on which way to go. Even though the debate wasn’t the primary reason, it was probably the last straw on the camel’s back. The double-digit lead that the No campaign had held for so long eviscerated over a matter of weeks and panic hit the No camp when aYouGov poll on 6 September showed the Yes camp to be in the lead for the first time.

The panic that set in was probably good for the Yes camp and was just the bad news that was needed to galvanise the whole of Westminster together. All three leaders of the main parties went on a very strong door-to-door campaign, even to the extent of cancelling Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday. Further powers of devolution were promised to the Scottish parliament and last ditch attempts were made to make packages of political appeasement that would swing the momentum from the Yes, back to the No.

It is also worth mentioning here that there were many voters who, indeed, wanted to stay in the union and vote no to independence, but due to the deep involvement of the toxic establishment and their support for the No camp, many of these conscious No voters were deterred. Right-wing media organisations, the BBC, big corporations and banks all fought vehemently against independence and this galvanised many voters to look at this vote as a statement screaming of anti-establishmentarianism. It must be mentioned however, that Rupert Murdoch, that great icon of the establishment is an avid fan of Alex Salmond.

It is also important to note as Owen Jones does here, that the same establishment that put its weight behind the No campaign will, similarly, be taking part in the alleged scaremongering tactics against Ed Miliband and the Labour campaign come the General Election in 2015. Labour, which was complicit at worst and connived at best with these tactics, will have to know that some of their friends in the No campaign will be some of their worst enemies in a matter of a few months.

In all of this, one thing that is glaringly evident is the second coming of Gordon Brown. Brought up by a father who was a Church of Scotland pastor, Gordon Brown is also the author of Courage, a compilation of eight biographies of those who have shown resolve and courage during times of difficulty. Sadly for many on the left of the spectrum, Brown got lost in Tony Blair’s New Labour, and many wonder what would have become of Labour if Brown inherited John Smith’s leadership of the Labour party as he was touted to, instead of Tony Blair.

It is widely thought that this passionate speech by Gordon Brown, on the last day of campaigning tipped the undecideds (about 14 per cent at most times) in favour of voting no and that it was this momentum that helped carry the No camp along.

What would have happened if the Yes camp had won?

The No camp won, and all is well. But what may have happened if it went the other way? David Cameron had made it clear that he would not resign if Scotland decided to vote in favour of independence, and indeed he would not be constitutionally obliged to resign.

I am of the opinion that New Labour’s advent in 1997, which led to the negligence of the welfare of the working class and, therefore, the erosion of Scottish Labour – which gave rise to an otherwise emasculated Scottish National Party (SNP) in the Scottish parliamentary elections that followed – is more to blame. Those who wield the knife out to Cameron as the prime minister who potentially oversaw the end of a 307-year-old union should have a memory that stretches far beyond 2010 when he became prime minister.

If Scotland had voted in favour of independence, there would have been a Tory backbench revolt that may have culminated in Cameron resigning. This would mean that Theresa May or George Osborne would have most likely become Tory leader, unless William Hague would have been recalled as a caretaker leader to steady a wobbly Tory ship. What is less spoken of is that Scottish independence may have also ended Boris Johnson’s leadership ambitions, if not delay them. Of course, this uncertainty in the Tory camp would translate into voter discomfort and Labour would have solidified its current lead to land Ed Miliband in Downing Street.

However, if Scotland legislatively moved out of the United Kingdom in 2016, it would have nullified the mandate of Labour MPs representing Scottish constituencies. Going by the current electoral standings, Labour would lose more than 40 MPs in Scotland, whereas the Tories would lose their one MP (as the joke goes – there are more pandas in Edinburgh than there are Tory MPs in Scotland). Thus, with such a colossal haemorrhage of MPs to independence, Ed Miliband would no longer be the leader with the largest party, and parliament would have to be dissolved, and General Elections will have to be recalled. When this happens, the Tories will romp home to what most analysts believe will be a clear majority, coupled by the fact that Labour will be electorally and arithmetically much weaker without the legal recognition of Labour in Scotland. As such, Labour will be transformed into a mere ideological sister party and the Labour coffers will be much weaker than the Tory funding to refight in a general election. It must be noted that this current electoral status quo remains only due to the currently incumbent culture of hung parliaments.

The Tories would then have proceeded to change electoral boundaries to suit them and that would cast Labour into the wilderness until it found inroads back into the mainstream.

Thus, should Scotland have become independent, we may have been looking at an increasingly right-wing England in the medium to long term.

What happens now?

Scotland has however voted against independence, and the speculations made above will not come to fruition, yet. Therefore, political life in the union will go on as it has been for the last three centuries.

However, the three party leaders have to make sure they do not renege upon the promises made to give increased powers to the Scottish parliament. Tory MPs are already preparing to revolt if greater devolution packages are showered upon Scotland. In his speech on Friday, Alex Salmond referred to the fact that Scotland isn’t independent “yet”, leaving room to speculate that if Westminster breaks its promise for greater devolution in Scotland, the SNP may perhaps take the route Quebec took when there were successive referenda that plagued Canadian politics in the mid-to-late 1990s.

As a friend of mine specialising in constitutional law noted, “This may have been a defeat for secession but it was definitely a victory for self-determination,” and the Scots as a people should be proud of this.

Image from here.

1 Comment

Filed under 2014, england, politics, UK, Uncategorized

Ridiculous Study of the Day Says Smelling Farts Might Prevent Cancer

TIME

It has been a weird week in health news. First doctors said that Justin Bieber might save young boys’ lives (the “hip” bowl cut is actually a form of sun protection — skin cancer be gone!), and now scientists out of the University of Exeter insist that smelling farts could actually prevent cancer, among other diseases. Uh, okay.

“Although hydrogen sulfide gas”—produced when bacteria breaks down food—”is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,” Dr. Mark Wood said in a university release.

Although the stinky gas can be noxious in large doses, the researchers seem to think that a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving…

View original post 85 more words

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Boring Men And Women Who Love Them

image

This probably is the first time I am posting something like this, not really my area and this is hardly about Ed Miliband and how he will be the next Prime Minister.

But in an increasingly pernicious pornified public culture, where the cosmetics of a relationship supersede true responsibility when in private and where the ephemeral glamour of a wedding day is given more importance than the substance of a marriage that makes it durable, it is truly remarkable and refreshing that thoughts like those in this link still find their way to the public sphere.

Of course I post this not because I am going soft, but I have long argued that short lived relationships have everything to do with rampant consumerism that individualises people into one’s and feeds to them the perception of absolute independence.

Image from here.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2013, Uncategorized

No Woman, No Drive – Marley

Why Saudi women must not be allowed to drive.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2013, Uncategorized

On Being a Conspiracy Theorist

4ZyNO

More often than not, when one has a view point that is diametrically opposed to what is considered the norm, one is quite easily referred to as a conspiracy theorist, and this is quite sincerely a case of playing the man instead of the ball, to throw a football metaphor. Facts are hardly refuted but the purveyor of the facts is attacked.

Egypt is descending from frying pan to the fire, and the role of the US in the military coup is increasingly evident, as shown by these New York Times op-ed’s here and here and a piece on Al Jazeera here.

Of course many are just terming these theories to be conspiracy theories in the hope that such a blanket term would absolve them of the responsibility or the bother of having to refute them. Indeed, the term is a very convenient way of shutting one down. Much to my displeasure many people close to me, and those close to them quite generously dish out the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ when they hear a viewpoint that is rather different to theirs.

So called ‘conspiracy theorists’ usually are vindicated much later when facts come to the surface. There were many who cried foul in 2006/7 when Gmail was gaining popularity, and many wondered how much of a threat Gmail and Google can be to one’s personal security, they were shunned as conspiracy theorists then, only to be later vindicated that the NSA was monitoring social media sites, Google included. There were many who opined that Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the PLO was actually killed in hospital, and that he didn’t die a natural death, this theory is now held in high esteem and investigations are currently ongoing.

Tariq Ramadan, an Oxford academic and grandson of Hasan AlBanna, the founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says the following on what entails being called a conspiracy theorist –

In our day, it is not unusual for writer who does not accept the official consensus to be dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist,” for his analysis to be rejected before studying the facts upon which it is based. Are we to conclude that in our globalizing age, with its networks of national security policies and structures and its new means of communication, political scheming, malicious stratagems, manipulation of information and of peoples are a thing of the past? “Conspiracy theorist” is a new insult devised for those who think the wrong thoughts, who don’t fit in; paranoids, people who ascribe occult powers to certain states (the United States, the European countries, Israel, the Arab and African dictatorships, etc.) that they really do not possess. We must forget what we learned about the conspiracies that have left their mark on the history of Latin America and Africa (from the assassination of Salvador Allende to the elimination of Thomas Sankara); we must overlook the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq and to the massacres in Gaza (both presented as legitimate defense); we must say nothing about the West’s alliance with and support for the literalist salafis of the Gulf sheikhdoms; close our eyes to the benefit for Israel of regional instability and of the most recent coup d’État in Egypt. We must remain naïve and credulous if we are not to notice that the United States and Europe on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other, have agreed to disagree on Syria, and that the 170 Syrians who die each day count for nothing against the strategic and economic interests of the Great Powers.

Our obligation is to stick to the facts, to avoid oversimplification. The polar opposite of an over-simplified reading of events is not “conspiracy theorizing” but that of intelligence informed by history, by hard facts and by a detailed analysis of conflicting interests. The interpretation presented here may well be wrong or inexact, but substantial and verifiable evidence has repeatedly confirmed it. From those who have criticized or challenged our analysis, we look forward to a fact-based counter-analysis far from denigrations and facile slogans. When people refuse to call a military coup d’État by its real name, and when most media avert their eyes, the hour for critical conscience has struck.

Of course some theories are absolutely hard to fathom, and may well be conspiracy theories, but when facts substantiate a theory, they most certainly should be given a hearing.

Image from here.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2013, egypt, Uncategorized