Archive for the ‘Religion & Politics’ Category

Five reasons why a Trump presidency is not that bad

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

make-america-bake-again

If you were to read my Facebook feed, you would probably thing the apocalypse has genuinely happened. It may be easy to think so from the snow that appeared over night. However, I note that we are now a whole day later and all still alive. The reality is that a Trump presidency is not that bad. Here is why.

This is Brexit times 0.1

Brexit times ten? It might be for Trump? But for us this is nothing. Brexit has probably cost us a lot of money in the collapse of the pound and a weakened economy, and might lose us our European citizenship.

In comparison, this does not directly affect us. It will probably indirectly affect us, but that is no where near as bad as Brexit. The only person who has genuinely almost-died because of Brexit is the UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe.

Brexit is also forever. Trump will be gone in eight years. Probably four. Maybe less.

The president is not that powerful

The president of the United States is heavily constrained in what he can do. Powers are divided between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. All the president really does is set the direction.

You could argue that Trump has a bigger influence than normal given that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate as well. But you are forgetting that Republicans hate Trump just as much as anyone else does. He has about as much chance of getting his own people to enact his crazy policies as Jeremy Corbyn does.

Being a alleged rapist was never a blocker

People have said they have been appalled that someone like Trump could be elected given he is accused of sexual misconduct. They are right that this is disappointing, and I wish the world did not work this way.

However, unfortunately, Clinton’s own husband proves that you can be (re)elected president even after claims of sexual misconduct have been made against you. The world has not suddenly got worse; it was always this way.

Not has intelligence ever been a barrier to the White House. Remember this guy. The one who served for two terms.

george-bush-chimp

People have always voted for their own interests

Similarly, people have said they are shocked that someone who says racist and sexist things, like Trump does, could be elected. But people have always voted for their own interests.

When you make people feel guilty about the way they are voting, they do not stop voting that way. It is a secret ballot. The only thing you change is that they lie to pollsters when asked about it.

That is how we end up with Conservative governments, and Nigel Farage, and Brexit. People are selfish and vote on their selfish interests. They are not bad people, that is just what normal people do.

Trump won the election because he ran a better campaign. I saw the adverts they were using while watching an American stream of the NFL. Clinton’s adverts were awful. They were simply a character assassination of Trump.

Trump’s adverts are a million times better. They speak of “our movement” hook into people’s genuine fears about jobs, and a rich elite, and mass immigration, and presents a positive message of how to fix it.

People did not vote for Trump over Clinton because there is something wrong with humanity. They voted for him because he spoke to their interests and Clinton did not.

Trump is already showing signs of reconciliation

Trump’s polices are not that crazy. For example, he talks about banning all of the immigrants and building a wall, but that is actually a plagiarised British policy. Remember how we refused everyone in the Calais Jungle and actually started building a wall?

In fact Trump was a leftie liberal until he decided to run for the Republican party nomination.

But even so, his early speeches have already shown signs of wanting to reconcile differences and work together: it’s all part of making the deal.

The trouble with Corbyn voters

Saturday, October 1st, 2016 | Religion & Politics

momentum

Last month, Jeremy Corbyn won another significant victory in winning the Labour Party leadership election. He increased his share of the vote to 61.8%. This is especially notable because Labour banned any member who had joined in the past 9 months from voting. Therefore, his share of the vote is going to continue to increase for the next nine months as well.

The question still remains as to whether he can win a General Election. Clearly he is electable in almost every other situation. However, Labour trail in the General Election polls by a significant amount. How much of this is due to Corbyn and how much to the attitude of the rest of the Labour party is unclear, but it is difficult to extricate a party leader from responsibility.

Here is the problem though: I think people chose to vote Jeremy Corbyn because they wanted someone who was genuinely different. They were given the choice between electable business-as-usual candidates, and Corbyn, and they chose the latter. This is not unusual. Those of us who vote for the Liberal Democrats, Greens, or any of the minor parties, know the feeling of deciding to stick with your principles rather than compromising them for electoral glory. We would rather stand up for what we believe in than take a distant second best to have our candidate in Number 10.

My guess is that Corbyn has been elected a on a tide of this feeling. Many Corbyn voters believe he can win (his record in elections is now 11 for 11 undefeated), but perhaps many of them simply do not care whether he is electable or not. They are making a stand for working-class people, for the NHS and for traditional Labour values.

If this is the case, then there is no point putting up candidates like Owen Smith to try and win back the voters. They are not interested in whether Owen Smith has a more expensive suit or more-neatly trimmed beard. They are not in the market for a more-mainstream looking candidate. You cannot win them over with talk about election polls, because it is values they are interested in.

Nor will votes of no confidence, nor continued party scheming and in-fighting do any good. All of this is based on the idea that once Corbyn voters see the pragmatic option is a new leader, they will abandon their hero. But this premise could be entirely misleading. Instead, perhaps it is the case that after 20 years of New Labour, the membership has finally found the balls to stick up for traditional Labour values.

If so, campaigning against Corbyn is futile. Setting your own house on fire does not work when everyone else is willing to burn.

Immigration levels compared with Olympic medals

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Sport

Nothing to see here. Correlation does not imply causation.

immigrants-to-medals
Number of immigrants (millions), number of Rio 2016 Olympic medals at 1/4 scale

In fairness, if you line the countries up in population size, they come out in a pretty similar way. But it doesn’t fit quite as well as these figures do.

Unelectable: A History of Jeremy Corbyn at the Polls

Thursday, August 25th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

jeremy-corbyn

You won’t hear any protests from me when you call Jeremy Corbyn unelectable. What a joke the man is. He can’t afford a nice suit, and didn’t even have the decency to look flustered when asked to publish his tax return. What kind of politician is that?

That said, being skeptics, we like all that evidence and stuff. So I thought I would see if there is any evidence as to whether Jeremy is electable or not.

Year Election Result
1982 Islington North Labour Party candidate selection[1] Jeremy wins with 54% vote share
1983 General election[2] Jeremy wins with 40% vote share
1987 General election Jeremy wins with 50% vote share
1992 General election Jeremy wins with 57% vote share
1997 General election Jeremy wins with 69% vote share
2001 General election Jeremy wins with 62% vote share
2005 General election Jeremy wins with 51% vote share
2010 General election Jeremy wins with 55% vote share
2015 General election Jeremy wins with 60% vote share
2015 Labour Party leadership election[3] Jeremy wins with 60% vote share, in the first round of alternative voting

It probably comes down to personal opinion as to whether you think Jeremy Corbyn is electable or not. After all, it is all in the interpretation of the data. It’s just that, so far, he has won every single election he has ever contested in his entire political career, which started well before I was born.

Can restaurants discriminate when hiring staff?

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

restaurant-staff

Whenever I dine at one of the many fine Thai restaurants in Leeds I am always struck by the fact that the staff are all Thai people. Why is this? How does a restaurant get away with this? Surely it is discrimination to exclude all other races?

My assumption was that they got round the legislation by insisting on language skills. If you run a Thai restaurant, all you need to do is specify applicants must speak Thai, and without saying anything about race you have filtered almost everyone else out. I’ll come back to this point later.

Economist Steven Levitt suggests that it probably isn’t that much of a problem. There are lots of different restaurants from lots of different cultures, and so the fact that you are less likely to get a job at one restaurant is fine because you are more likely to get a job at another. If anyone loses out it is the majority population (British people in the UK) which you could argue is also less of a problem because many restaurants are not themed and minorities generally need more protection than majorities.

He also suggests that restaurants may not be directly discriminating at all. In the fictional Swedish-themed restaurant he and Stephen Dubner discuss, he says you could advertise for staff in Swedish magazines, and write the job advert in Swedish. In the restaurant Dubner visits to do some interviews, they say they also hire extensively from friends and family of existing staff. Thus the restaurants are not refusing to hire white people, they just don’t apply.

Levitt also notes that customers prefer authentic staff. Which is probably true right. It’s nice to go to a Chinese restaurant and have Chinese people working there. The experience loses something when someone clearly British is serving you. This is silly when you think about it though. This is just your waiter; they’re not the chef. They’re almost like dressing for the restaurant. And even if the chef was Chinese too, that doesn’t mean they are automatically a better Chinese food cook.

Dubner also gives the example of airline hostesses. Back in the day, airlines would specifically hire attractive, unmarried stewardesses, and after they married they were expected to give it up. This proved popular with their business clientele (middle-aged businessmen) but the court ruled against it saying part of fighting discrimination was challenging these ideas of preference. Just because we’re all a little bit wired to prefer authentic staff, doesn’t mean we should promote that as an acceptable social value.

Not to mention these groups are often lumped together: Mexican restaurants are often staffed with Spanish and Portuguese waiters, Indian restaurants are often staffed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Thai restaurants are often staffed by Vietnamese people.

Language could be a genuine reason. In a Latin restaurant that Dubner interviews, they say the orders are called out in Spanish in the kitchen, so you can make a case for requiring that. However, when speaking to an equality lawyer, they talked about a restaurant chain that was successfully sued because the plaintiff argued language requirements were just being used as a proxy for discrimination.

In summary, the answer is no. Restaurants cannot, and should not, discriminate to get authentic staff. However a combination of indirect discrimination and language requirements may allow restaurants to primarily hire such staff without any direct discrimination.

Farage at the European Parliament

Friday, July 1st, 2016 | Religion & Politics

farage-flag

This is Nigel Farage giving his victory speech at the European Parliament. I noticed that he had a flag on his desk. Nobody else has a flag. The European Parliament do not provide flags. Farage just brought his own flag in from home and put it on his desk.

His speech was silly and offensive. However, I laughed more than anything because it was so similar to another speech I had seen. This is Nigel Farage giving his victory speech at the European Parliament:

And here is Father Ted accepting a Golden Cleric award:

Don’t forget to vote

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 | Religion & Politics

mr-t-vote

Today is of course referendum day. Many of you have postal voted already, but for those voting in person, now is the time!

I am very much looking forward to today being over so that I can talk about something else! I have some great posts about Iceland coming up, starting Saturday.

Some reasons to vote

Sometimes it might feel like it is not worth voting. However, there are some great reasons to make the effort today.

First, the result is on a knife edge. It is predicted to be incredibly close; closer than any vote we have seen foe a long time. With such fine margins, you vote will make more of a difference than ever.

Second, everyone else is doing it. YouGov are predicting we could see one of the highest turnouts for any vote in the last few decades (save the Scottish referendum). As a society, we really are all making the effort to get out there and vote.

Third, the consequences of this are huge. It is not just five years of one set of politicians before we vote again. It would be a most uncomfortable feeling for the future of our society having gone the other way than you wanted it, without having a say in it. At least if you vote you can say “don’t blame me – I voted x!”

Still undecided?

If you are still not sure which way to vote in the referendum, that’s fine. But consider this: if we vote remain, we can always choose to leave at a later date. A vote for leave is far less reversible.

eu-referendum-flow-chart

What would Churchill do?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | Religion & Politics

brits-dont-quit

This poster caught my eye. It was used by the Remain campaign and it is easy to see why: Churchill is seen as a cornerstone of English patriotism and a hero, especially among Conservatives. If he had been here today, his view would be worth a lot.

But is it true? Was he a founder of the EU? Would he support it today?

In the case of whether he was a founder, it could be argued that he was. Here is what his Wikipedia page says:

In 1956, after retiring as Prime Minister, Churchill went to Aachen to receive the Charlemagne Prize for his contribution to European Unity.[278] Churchill is today listed as one of the “Founding fathers of the European Union”, a claim which in Boris Johnson’s view contains “a very large dollop of truth”.

In 1946, he used the term “United States of Europe” during a speech in Zurich. This shows his support for a more-united Europe was clear.

We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living.

This suggests he was clearly in favour of the EU. However, it is one quote that I have not included in the context of. Can we surmise, taking an overall view, that Churchill was in favour of the EU? To do that, we would need to weigh up all the evidence.

Journalist Jon Danzig has done just that. The conclusion? Churchill was not taken out of context in the above quote. He supported “the Union of Europe as a whole” and, if alive today, would almost certainly be voting Remain.

Best of the EU memes

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 | Religion & Politics

Here are some of my favourite memes from the past few days.

On our skills shortage

Damn those immigrants, coming over here, saving our lives.

11088106_10155495229450193_712918386_n

On the economy

One thing we have struggled to have is a evidence-based debate on the economy. The truth is, a lot of it is unclear. However, when we are talking about hard evidence, we do have this. The pound is already plummiting, just on the threat of Brexit.

13428498_10208226430812808_68781999493741233_n

On free European healthcare

13435327_1815012788720936_7154305292228995003_n

On scaremongering accusations

13445254_10153433628806920_967357770259024488_n

On the so=called breaking point

This one I did not enjoy. The whole affair has gone too far.

farage

My EU referendum video

Friday, June 17th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

I made a video about why I am voting Remain. It is unlikely to make the Oscars shortlist, but I hope it is at least honest.