A German job centre has apologised for an ‘oversight’ after ordering a young woman to work in a brothel.
According to a report in the local Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, Christine Hirmer, 19, received a letter from the German Labour Office in Augsburg suggesting she apply for a position at an establishment called the ‘Colosseum.’
That’s the opening of this Independent piece. What do you think she was being asked to do? Become a prostitute?
Nope. To be a barmaid. Brothels are legal in Germany, as are their bars.
It’s a grossly misleading headline start to the story. Brothels are legal. Brothels should be legal. At stake are the lives of the women who would otherwise be haunting street corners. This story is motivated by puritanism.
Despite David Thompson’s very generous welcome back, I haven’t been posting as much as I would like. Much work, little time.
I’ll be posting, briefly, about this again soon, but I stopped blogging because I have a stalker, Darius Guppy. Nobody seems to know who he is any more, but at one time he was notorious, if only as a villainous friend of a famous person. It’s not very nice to be stalked, especially for people close to the subject who did nothing to deserve it – I did have a sordid involvement with this grubby little man more than twenty years ago so, to that extent, made my own bed. I made a promise in my private life not to mention Guppy in my posts and found, subsequently, that I couldn’t write at all. If something was off-limits, if I couldn’t be honest in one area, I didn’t want to do it at all.
Now Delerious (as he was nicknamed by the police who arrested him twenty-odd years ago) has issued a libel writ against me in South Africa. It’s an extraordinary thing. Of the three grounds, one involves comments made by someone else on someone else’s blog. Another is a matter of fair comment, the third concerns a conversation I had with Guppy in the Hilton Hotel on Bayswater Road, when he showed me some shipping documents. I suspect this latter is the main issue and find it hard to understand why he would make sure this episode reaches the largest possible audience.
But there we are: he is an idiot, after all, so I shouldn’t be surprised. The great thing is, I can blog again. After all, if silence doesn’t make him lose interest and wander off, there’s no point being silent. Instead, I’m reporting him to the police.
And work is getting under control, with some exciting product launches coming up later this month so I’ll have more time for posting.
President François Hollande’s 47-year old partner was slammed for eschewing her Left-wing principles in favour of unabashed champagne Socialism despite the threat of “thousands of job losses in the coming weeks” in companies ranging from Renault to Air France.
They haven’t been paying attention. This is what always happens. It’s not so much socialist hypocrisy (though that’s not unknown), it’s the effect of power and proxy wealth, the wealth of the state. Almost everybody is affected by it, John Prescott being a prime UK example.
It’s why socialist experiments invariably turn out to be as stratified as any seventeenth-century monarchy.
Edmund Standing is a conservative blogger and retired anti-fascist activist who also wrote from an atheist perspective. After a few months of quiet, he has revived his blog because he has re-found God. In one post, he linked to some of William Lane Craig’s arguments or, as Lane Craig would put it, proofs of the existence of God. One of these contains five proofs that God exists.
Lane Craig is a formidable Christian apologist who has debated with most of the new atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and the others. In live debate he tends to throw out about five such arguments in a Gish Gallop, but here we have them on the page to think about at more leisure.
The first runs as follows:
Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
The universe exists.
Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).
Obviously, the first thing an atheist can say, to the very first point, is “no it doesn’t”. An atheist could say “stuff pops in and out of existence in quantum foam – what causes that?”. An atheist could say “the idea of cause depends on the arrow of time, cause precedes effect, and the idea of the Big Bang is that time, as well as space, is curled up into a tiny point at the origin. There isn’t a ‘before’. It doesn’t even make sense”.
There’s quite a lot of following argument, but none addresses the simple: “no, it doesn’t”. The closest he comes is in response to a putative atheist argument that the universe is all there is so there couldn’t be anything to cause it. There’s nothing else. This is similar to something I said above about the Big Bang:
This line of reasoning is, however, obviously fallacious because it assumes that the universe is all there is, that if there were no universe there would be nothing. In other words, the objection assumes that atheism is true. The objector is thus begging the question in favor of atheism, arguing in a circle. The theist will agree that the explanation of the universe must be some (explanatorily) prior state of affairs in which the universe did not exist. But that state of affairs is God and his will, not nothingness.
What he misses is that both sides are begging the question, because of the way the question is phrased. Point 1 above might as well be re-worded to read “God exists”. Atheism plainly includes the idea that the universe might not have a cause.
And what of ’the necessity of its own nature’? What does that mean?
Things that exist necessarily exist by a necessity of their own nature. It’s impossible for them not to exist. Many mathematicians think that numbers, sets, and other mathematical entities exist in this way. They’re not caused to exist by something else; they just exist necessarily.
God’s like that:
Now if God exists, the explanation of God’s existence lies in the necessity of his own nature, since, as even the atheist recognizes, it’s impossible for God to have a cause.
This is from someone who is supposed to be reading and understanding atheist arguments. Not only does the atheist not recognise that, the atheist actually asks how come, if everything has to have a cause, God doesn’t? Doesn’t the idea of God just displace the problem of origin?
But consider the argument. God is like numbers or sets. They all exist because their own natures make it necessary. That’s something that can just be declared, without any substantiation. Are numbers not just a by-product of our brains’ aptitude for categorisation? Perhaps we categorise things that are on their own as 1 and have built on that? Since complex numbers have no physical analogue, like three sheep for 3, yet work with practical things like engineering, maybe we’re just catching glimpses of a completely unimagined reality. We don’t know.
Lane Craig doesn’t grok “I don’t know”. The basic atheist view is “I don’t know, but it’s not something that’s been revealed to anyone. We have to tease it out by looking at nature herself.”
I wish Standing every happiness in his newly re-found faith but, really, this is drivel.
Started by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, Artists Against Fracking is a group of artists, musicians, and filmmakers dedicated to bringing attention to the damages and environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing.
“Right now, some people are trying to make easy money, and meanwhile ruin this country’s future, by a thing called ‘fracking.” – Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon were compelled into action by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that fracking might soon begin in New York – directly impacting their home in upstate New York. In less than 10 days, they gathered nearly 150 fellow artists to join them in the founding of Artists Against Fracking in August 2012.
Today, at nearly 200 members Artists Against Fracking works to expose and stop the harmful and contaminating practice of fracking for natural gas and oil through mass awareness and peaceful democratic action. At its core, we believe that fracking for shale gas is a danger to New Yorkers. Inevitably, the process leads to the release of toxic chemicals — many of which are unknown and unreported — into our air and water.
I particularly commend the final sentence to you. Fracking releases ‘unknown’ chemicals.
Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.
This gets bandied about a lot by many on the tax-hard left, so there’s a dull inevitability about the fact that the Clement Attlee Foundation is a registered charity and, as they point out:
… if you’re a UK taxpayer GiftAid increases the value to us of your donation by 28p in every £1 at no cost to you.
That is, the UK tax man loses the income tax you paid on the money earned and donated.
It continues. I’ve added emphasis to parts of the following quote which is, I think, from the same 1920 Attlee book as the first:
In a civilised community, although it may be composed of self-reliant individuals, there will be some persons who will be unable at some period of their lives to look after themselves, and the question of what is to happen to them may be solved in three ways – they may be neglected, they may be cared for by the organised community as of right, or they may be left to the goodwill of individuals in the community. The first way is intolerable, and as for the third: Charity is only possible without loss of dignity between equals. A right established by law, such as that to an old age pension, is less galling than an allowance made by a rich man to a poor one, dependent on his view of the recipient’s character, and terminable at his caprice.
Attlee had a point. But he had a very different welfare state in mind than the one we’re facing now. His intention was for a safety net for people fallen temporarily (“at some period in their lives”) on hard times in a “civilised community” of “self-reliant individuals”.
UKIP would be happy with that. It’s not what the people who quote Attlee today have in mind. They seem to leave this bit out when picking their citations.
The Attlee Foundation does seem to be a good thing, though:
Our past projects include:
Housing for teenagers in London’s East End, similar to today’s foyer projects, and a halfway those leaving the housing
Opening a community centre and day care for drug users at a time when there was no government funded support for drug users. This was funded initially by the Leverhulme Trust and later a London borough. This project led to development of a drug-free hostel for the next stage of rehabilitation which became the first of many Phoenix Houses across the UK.
Providing eye camps in India and funding for an Indian doctor to study at Moorfields, in association with the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind.
Developing an adventure playground in the heart of London’s East End. After many years of successful operation we redeveloped the site to add the youth and community centre and sports pitches.
Attlee Means Business is an exciting project to develop entrepreneurial skills in young people in Tower Hamlets with support from City businesses. A programme of support over six workshops covering business basics and planning will be provided by City business volunteers with inspirational talks from successful business people and entrepreneurs. This project is funded jointly by City businesses and London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Cold? Loveless? And even if you have paid all your taxes gladly, is it a bad thing to want to do more?
Attlee can’t have thought so. The Foundation was established before his death, to carry on his work. By then, more than 40 years after he wrote his famous sentence, he had, presumably, changed his mind.
Ron Paul says, of the public debate following the most recent shooting in a school in the USA:
Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented. But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don’t obey laws.
But they don’t believe that, do they?
There’s a tendency, everywhere, to think that people who disagree with us are idiots. Comment threads on blogs mean I can’t deny some are, whatever the politics. But in the main they’re not. If they haven’t mixed with people who have other ideas, they can have unexamined opinions, but most people of an opposing view are reasonably rational about it. And that’s true whatever your politics are.
Nobody thinks that making guns illegal will mean every criminal meekly hands in their weapons. Gun control advocates think that reducing the availability of legal firearms will reduce the availability of illegal ones, that it will more or less eliminate very public mass murders – which do seem to be carried out with legally-held weapons.
There’s also an aesthetic. Some people viscerally detest the thought of people having guns. It presents a landscape they find appalling. That means it isn’t rational. Equally, other people pose with assault rifles and go to the shooting range, hunt, wear cammo clothing. That’s equally visceral and equally not rational.
Neither is irrational, they’re just not born of reason.
From what I can see, there’s a very irregular pattern in the world of gun ownership against factors of suicide, murder, other crime. This post isn’t about that evidence. As it happens, I tend towards thinking people should be able to own handguns, rifles and shotguns, but not assault rifles or ground-to-air missiles. But this isn’t a religious view, I’m open to persuasion.
This post is about not assuming, or pretending, that people who disagree with you are idiots. Because it gets in the way. We should want the best outcome, however that’s achieved.
Andrew Mitchell is in trouble for calling a police officer a ‘pleb’. He apparently swore as well, but the ‘p’ word is his real problem. Just this morning, on Radio 4′s Today program, we were reminded by a classical scholar that plebs were the non-aristocratic class of Ancient Rome, ruled over by patricians and aristocrats, in a culture quite unlike today’s democracies in which the government are the servants of the governed.
Mitchell’s disdain for the lower orders has no place in modern society. Nobody should show the ordinary people of Britain such contempt. Nobody.
Nobody, that is, except the Institute for Government and the Cabinet Secretary, Head of Britain’s Civil Service Sir Gus O’Donnell, on behalf of the entire arrogant, patrician edifice of government. Sir Gus writes, in the Foreword to the Institute’s publication ‘Mindspace’:
Influencing people’s behaviour is nothing new to Government, which has often used tools such as legislation, regulation or taxation to achieve desired policy outcomes. But many of the biggest policy challenges we are now facing – such as the increase in people with chronic health conditions – will only be resolved if we are successful in persuading people to change their behaviour, their lifestyles or their existing habits. Fortunately, over the last decade, our understanding of influences on behaviour has increased significantly and this points the way to new approaches and new solutions.
They think they should seek to change people’s behaviour in areas like diet and exercise because the plebs are too stupid and rudderless to manage their own choices.
MINDSPACE explores how behaviour change theory can help meet current policy challenges, such as how to:
ensure environmental sustainability.
Today’s policy makers are in the business of influencing behaviour – they need to understand the effects their policies may be having. The aim of MINDSPACE is to help them do this, and in doing so get better outcomes for the public and society.
Reducing crime is certainly part of the role of government. Tackling obesity isn’t. Environmental sustainability is a waffle term for imposing the preferences of a few, mainly aristocratic, cranks on the population at large*.
Quoting further from the main report:
David Hume argued that “all plans of government which suppose great reformation in the manners of mankind are plainly imaginary”.
Such sweeping scepticism is unfounded, since there have been many policy successes in changing behaviour: for example, reducing drink driving, preventing AIDS transmission and increasing seatbelt usage. Nevertheless, some behaviours - such as antisocial behaviour and lack of exercise – have remained resistant to policy interventions. We need to think in more integrated and innovative ways about how policymakers can intervene in ways that help people help themselves – and that also help society reduce inequalities in health and wellbeing that are avoidable and considered unfair.
The entire document reeks of patrician arrogance. It gets the relationship between citizens and government exactly wrong: it is we, the voters, who should get to influence the behaviour of governments by voting for the ones who promise to behave in ways we want.
Instead, professional politicians lie to gain power, then try to modify the beliefs, behaviour and allegiances of the plebs.
Mitchell was just too honest.
* You might enjoy Lobos Motl’s reply to the question “How to stop a star”. The question includes this gem:
One might say that, on time scales measured in trillions of years, the stars are an unsustainable use of the universe’s fuel.
This isn’t a historical problem. Democide, the mass murder of citizens by their own government, has continued into the twenty-first century. Democide relies on the transformation of people with political, national or ethnic differences into distorted boogymen whose imaginary evil provides – is the only thing that could provide – the necessary degree of justification required for the commission of righteous atrocities.
So this matters. This sort of inaccurate caricaturing of political opponents should be challenged wherever it’s seen. Most people are trying to do their best. Few greens or socialists want everyone shackled to human-drawn ploughs in agrarian communes (though after sufficient demonisation of the bourgeoisie that has happened); few conservatives or libertarians want to step over poor sick people in the street. Dehumanising people just because you disagree with them is dangerous and destructive.
And that is what both of the above tweets were doing.
Take the first. Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) founded the cross-party Centre for Social Justice in 2004 (current Chairman, Labour’s David Blunkett). He is passionate about the problems of Britain’s socially disadvantaged. Whether you agree with his policies is one thing, but the suggestion he would ever wish to destroy the welfare state is grotesque. Michael Gove, influenced by his own difficult start in life, is passionate about improving the educational chances of the poor. Again, you might disagree with his policies, but to suggest he wants to destroy the educational system – wants to destroy it – is a bizarre distortion of reality.
But what of people who did want to destroy welfare and education? Why, rounding them up, smashing their spectacles and making them do menial agricultural work could be a form of justice.
As for the second tweet, it turns out that Republican voters in the USA, a group that includes some people with strongly libertarian tendencies, give more of their time and money to charitable causes than do Democrat voters. It might be that some Objectivists associate weakness with altruism, but there aren’t many of those about, and Rand loathed libertarianism, holding it in contempt. Libertarians actually believe in self-ownership and in the principle that one should never initiate violence. All else stems from those principles. They can get a bit silly, and their isolationism is unattractive, to me, but they are not sociopaths.
Sociopaths, of course, are dangerous. We shouldn’t allow them unrestricted freedom. Maybe we could re-educate them in special camps?
Incidentally, there’s a context to that second tweet. Note the reference to Atheism Plus. This is a newish group that wants to combine atheism with far-left student politics. It has emerged from the extremely funny contemporary sceptical movement that grew up around Richard Dawkins, James Randi, PZ Myers and others – funny because the one thing you absolutely can’t be, if you want to be a part of it, is sceptical. There are a set of ideas that many of its most vocal figures are stridently adamant must be held. Indeed, Atheism Plus is a reaction to the fact that some atheists and sceptics disagree with some of the strident folks’ political opinions. More on this in another post but, for now, enjoy the spectacle of a sceptical movement splintering because some of its members are sceptical and the others don’t like that.
Back to the demonisation. Have you noticed that this relies on collectivism? Individuals don’t get demonised, it would be exhausting to single enough individual people out to wind up with a decent-sized massacre. Instead it’s Tories, Commies, Moslems, Christians, Jews, Catholics, brown people, white people, men, women – always groups. Always Jews too, but that’s another story.
Individualism – originally a synonym for Liberalism – is being attacked in both those tweets. Both IDS and Gove are driven by determination not to treat people as members of a disposable group, not to accept that there’s a natural underclass that will always need to be supported by the rest of society.
They don’t want an affluent, powerful public sector managing the throwing of money at permanent failure, glowing with the warmth of the bloated self-esteem that comes from – or perhaps leads to – imagining anyone who disagrees with what you’re doing is simply evil, that they can’t have a reasoned and possibly reasonable political position.
Atheism Plus says of itself (link above):
Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community.
The bigotries mentioned all depend on collectivisation. If people are treated simply as individuals without group membership, by the state, then no such discrimination can be possible. Instead, Atheism Plus, though at an early stage, seems to be from the political wing that is most obsessive about group membership, some even on a par with racial separatists.
Bigotry comes from these divisions, it isn’t solved by them. Bigotry was on display in the tweets I started with. The civilised approach to differences of opinion is to debate them, not to attack, unjustly, inaccurately, people who hold different views.