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Gallowglass
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27 Aug 2011, 10:36 am

Britain must resist Tea Party thinking As unreason triumphs in the US, a similar paranoia and refusal to accept scientific fact threaten to invade British politics
Polly Toynbee guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 August 2011 22.00 BST Article history
Andrew Turnbull has argued that the science of climate change 'is nowhere near as conclusive as it is presented'.

Tea Party madness has brought the US to the brink of economic mayhem, risking taking much of the world with it. In the face of obdurate unreason, the president of hyper-reasonableness was forced to surrender. The economic credibility of the country that holds the global reserve currency has wobbled. The political credibility of the world's beacon of democracy has failed in the face of an insurgency of unreason. Facts, evidence, probability, possibility – none of that matters to a movement founded on ferocious fantasy.

The founding fathers built a constitution of checks and balances believing reasonable men would agree; how could they foresee Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or Glenn Beck? To the British eye, America was always dangerously prone to waves of populism and McCarthyite panics. The country has reached a deadlock that may set it on a faster road to decline as absolute intransigence creates a constitution that no longer functions. Why bother with the great show of presidential elections when presidents are denied the power to match their pomp? The politics of miasma, where words matter more than facts and actions, lets the Tea Party demand the impossible – debt reduction with tax cuts, spending cuts without touching the gargantuan defence budget. Obama believed against all the evidence that his opponents would see reason. That's not who they are.

I worked in Washington during Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon; even in that national trauma there was not this unbridgeable detestation between the red and the blue. What happened? The rise of the Tea Party owes a great deal to Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV, the foghorn of extremism that changed the nature of political discourse. Trouncing the competition, its propagandising for Tea Party views misinforms the electorate on just about everything: it is rivetingly frightening viewing. It makes our own politics look civil, our commentating measured, our right wing moderate. But there is little doubt that had News International not fallen so spectacularly from grace, the Murdochs would have intimidated British politicians into changing our laws to allow unbridled political bias in broadcasting. Fox-style television would have battered its way into our living rooms, bringing us Tea Party politics too.

Whatever you think of the Tory party, it is not shot through with US craziness, not on stem cell research and gay marriage, or even really on abortion – though they will toughen its conditions. Steve Hilton's cunning plan to abolish all consumer, employment and maternity rights got a dusty answer, while his green passions are at least tolerated. Most Tories are driven by Thatcherism, with its shrink-the-state, on-your-bike thirst for deregulation. But although Oliver Letwin's parents were Ayn Rand disciples, the American right's call of the wild is no closer to Tory core sentiment than is Labour's ritualistic singing of the Red Flag once a year. Britain is more rightwing than mainstream Europe, our media more strident, but we haven't crossed the Atlantic – yet.

But American intellectual fashions waft our way: a taste of the Tea Party arrives on these shores in the peculiar paranoia of the climate-change deniers. You may dismiss some as fruitcakes or oil company lobbyists, but when Andrew Turnbull, former head of the civil service, reveals that he is of their number, it should alarm us.

Professor Steve Jones's report on BBC science coverage raised the difficult question of impartiality: should the BBC stand impartially between sense and nonsense, between flat- and round-earthers? On the MMR/autism dispute and GM crops the BBC gave a "false balance" between minority views and the consensus of most scientists. Jones suggests that the great weight of international scientific opinion agreeing that warming is caused by human agency means the BBC need no longer quote balancing deniers when only "the pretence of debate remains". Instead, move on to the real debates on how best to mitigate it. Mail and Telegraph commentators called this the "quasi-Stalinist thought police". For some reason they consider "the warmists" a leftwing conspiracy, though why is never clear. Lord Turnbull, writing in the Sunday Times, challenged Jones using every weary denier's argument: didn't Galileo and Darwin oppose the science of their day? I won't rehearse the paranoia of the deniers who think the world is against them: yes, it is.

On matters of fact, those of us who are not scientists can only listen to what scientists say and trust such an overwhelming global consensus. As cabinet secretary, Turnbull would have had to appraise evidence on myriad subjects of which he could know little: relying on best expertise is the only rational approach. So in what part of his psyche resided the Tea Party idea that scientific facts don't matter? Our senior civil service prides itself on drawing on the finest Oxbridge minds because they should be trained in evidence-based thinking. Turnbull was in charge of the civil service at the start of the Iraq war: on his watch the evidence in the notorious dossier was used to dragoon public support.

Reason should rule, but none of us is as rational as we pretend, each inhabiting our imaginations more than we do the real world, with opinions driven by beliefs, passions, convictions, hopes, fears and a hundred contradictory thoughts and impulses. But to make sense of the world, there is an obligation to seek out evidence and trust to expertise. Where it conflicts, we fight our political corners.

But science is different. Chief scientist John Beddington said in a forthright speech this year that we should become "Grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and scientific method". Repudiating evidence is Tea Party thinking – and we would do well to challenge its every manifestation in this country, above all in the seats of power.



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27 Aug 2011, 10:44 am

Bristish extremism is far more polite, reserved and understated than the American variety.

Cameron and friends are already set to discretely consign at least 2 million people to a new serf class through workfare, relocate all forms of poverty and disadvantage into a northwestern ghetto and turn residential care for the disabled into virtual prisons with no independent spending money while enthusiastically promoting a glorious new dawn of voluntary euthanasia.

But, be thankful for small mercies, at least they have NO INTENTION of being vulgar and American about it.

:(



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27 Aug 2011, 1:44 pm

Gallowglass wrote:
Britain must resist Tea Party thinking As unreason triumphs in the US, a similar paranoia and refusal to accept scientific fact threaten to invade British politics
Polly Toynbee guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 August 2011 22.00 BST Article history
Andrew Turnbull has argued that the science of climate change 'is nowhere near as conclusive as it is presented'.

    Tea Party madness has brought the US to the brink of economic mayhem, risking taking much of the world with it. In the face of obdurate unreason, the president of hyper-reasonableness was forced to surrender. The economic credibility of the country that holds the global reserve currency has wobbled. The political credibility of the world's beacon of democracy has failed in the face of an insurgency of unreason. Facts, evidence, probability, possibility – none of that matters to a movement founded on ferocious fantasy.

The founding fathers built a constitution of checks and balances believing reasonable men would agree; how could they foresee Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or Glenn Beck? To the British eye, America was always dangerously prone to waves of populism and McCarthyite panics. The country has reached a deadlock that may set it on a faster road to decline as absolute intransigence creates a constitution that no longer functions. Why bother with the great show of presidential elections when presidents are denied the power to match their pomp? The politics of miasma, where words matter more than facts and actions, lets the Tea Party demand the impossible – debt reduction with tax cuts, spending cuts without touching the gargantuan defence budget. Obama believed against all the evidence that his opponents would see reason. That's not who they are.



People think the more boldly they write, and the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. Just because you say so doesn't make it so. The world was on edge following the downgrading of America due to the massive debt it is perceived to amass over the next decade. The author had an entire article to make the point of the devastating policies of the Tea Party (as if it is a collective movement with a leader) and could not flesh at least one out.

he talks about checks and balances one moment and then gets upset that everyone just doesn't go along with the president whose been subdued by congress. He wouldn't be saying this if it were Bush in office... you must have principle regardless of who is in office, either the president should have the ultimate say regardless of who is in office or congress (the people) should have the ultimate say regardless of what party rules congress, or be honest enough to say that it is a tug-of-war and sometimes either wins a few or loses a few.

To want to raise taxes back to Clinton era rates should also be accompanied by the request to reduce public spending back to clinton era levels, but that would be called draconian, cruel, cold. Though... things weren't that bad in the late 90's. I mean I get the spirit of the article, the libertarian streak of the crazy GOP sucks. But would you rather deal with the Neo-cons or Paleocons???? I thought you guys would see eye-to-eye on a more subdued America that looked inwards and spent less versus an expansionist state pursuing an activist foreign policy.


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27 Aug 2011, 1:48 pm

Polly Toynbee is a total loon. No-one (apart from the mad Labour bubble and some of the political set) sensible listens to her in Britain.



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27 Aug 2011, 1:55 pm

Zeraeph wrote:
Cameron and friends are already set to discretely consign at least 2 million people to a new serf class through workfare, relocate all forms of poverty and disadvantage into a northwestern ghetto and turn residential care for the disabled into virtual prisons with no independent spending money while enthusiastically promoting a glorious new dawn of voluntary euthanasia.

:(


And this is why no-one ever listens to the left. This is not what is happening at all. Workfare has long been mooted and it does look dodgy, but again it looks as though they haven't a clue what they're doing.

"Relocate all forms of poverty and disadvantage into a northwestern ghetto?" - what on Earth is this?



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27 Aug 2011, 2:28 pm

My awareness of UK politics is sketchier than my extremely sketchy near-consciousness of American politics, but I did spent a few fairly comfortable years there.

Last I saw, the UK was rather like an American college town, with the whole town and gown phenomenon in place and a rather stronger tendency to trust the Gilded who trust the lab coat and chalky jacket brigade.

What IS tea party thinking, anyway? Our esteemed initiator seems to have a sense of something strong and unified - the best I get from here is a sense of chaotic muddle unified only by frustration. Be that as it may:

"this unbridgeable detestation between the red and the blue. " Passing very lightly over my personal distaste for the red/blue labelling, I do not see that this is as Gallowglass claims clearly the fault of foxy tea party rabble rousing. Sure, there is rabble rousing from that side, and it is deplorable. But the rabble rousing from the other side is at least as rabid, if modulated by the awareness of having the media. AND it well predates Fox. Which to this day I have barely heard / seen, by the way - like Shakspeare it is more quoted than observed around here. Years ago, one of my colleagues out of the blue was frothing at the mouth at the thought of Past Robertson possibly becoming a political power.

The folks who, living in Podunk, read the New York Times and the folks who have their realtives ship clippings about the home football team to Lagos where they are working for the oil company do not like one another. They do not understand one another. They look down on one another. And that is available for the media to exploit to make politics more fun.

"On matters of fact, those of us who are not scientists can only listen to what scientists say and trust such an overwhelming global consensus."

Look, mate - what you were doing during Watergate season I know not, but what I was doing the year I met Margaret Thatcher [not that she knows she met me - I barely found out I met her] was my same olad same old academic slog, my life from birth through several deaths till the present. I KNOW academics, KNOW scientists, KNOW the personalities and pressures and politics. If a scientist I know and trust tells me that Thomas More had Muscular Dystrophy, or that Fringillidae are know for their unique digestive system, I will tend to accept that without further investigation. If a scientist appears on a news program talking about how he has discovered that Halley's comet is infested with sand fleas, I will think twice.

And even if on a particular issue the science is impeccable, and there is a genuine causal connection between eating whale blubber and blubbering about the plight of Wales, I will be very slow to assume that any suggested correction is going to work.

Causation in science is often barbed - you cannot get out by reversing.



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27 Aug 2011, 2:31 pm

Philologos wrote:
Last I saw, the UK was rather like an American college town, with the whole town and gown phenomenon in place and a rather stronger tendency to trust the Gilded who trust the lab coat and chalky jacket brigade.


Sprechen Sie Englisch?



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27 Aug 2011, 2:59 pm

Tequila wrote:
Philologos wrote:
Last I saw, the UK was rather like an American college town, with the whole town and gown phenomenon in place and a rather stronger tendency to trust the Gilded who trust the lab coat and chalky jacket brigade.


Sprechen Sie Englisch?


I can and often do speak and write a heavily Academic variety of Yankish, and have communicated with Texans, Californians, New Englanders and AngloCanadians, as well as Australians, South Africans, a New Zealander or two, and in particular Scots, Irish [both Northern and other], Welsh and Old Englanders from various parts of the country [not to mention affiliates from the empire] without moving outside the bounds of my home speech habits. My colleagues at the University of London included an unassimilated and unapologetic Yorkshirewoman and a Scotsman from the less urban wilds of the northeast.

Admittedly, communication with any human being goes downhill rapidly the further you get from the inner circle, which however has to not NOT with grammar, lexicon, or even phonology, but with content, the thoughts and thought patterns.

Thus: It is not me clear are you querying the form of my statement, which uses only morphemes and structures common to nearly all varieties of English, its content [which is a factual statement of my perception; you may of course deny that the UK of 1960 - 1980 shared features with American college towns but dare not dispute that I saw it so], or the use of certain idioms like "the town and gown phenomenon" which of coursde I could And would explain on request.



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27 Aug 2011, 3:14 pm

Philologos wrote:
Or the use of certain idioms like "the town and gown phenomenon" which of coursde I could And would explain on request.


This. Also, don't forget that Britain has radically changed as a country to what you remember. The amount of British expats you hear coming back to the UK and seeing the country with total shock and disgust should lay testament to that.

I think you should come back. I think it would be a life-changing experience, innit.

Wanna buy a looted telly, mate?

Quote:
Admittedly, communication with any human being goes downhill rapidly the further you get from the inner circle, which however has to not NOT with grammar, lexicon, or even phonology, but with content, the thoughts and thought patterns.


Can you explain this statement? Are you trying to tell me that only the people involved with the running of the state have anything worth saying?



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27 Aug 2011, 3:38 pm

Tequila wrote:
This. Also, don't forget that Britain has radically changed as a country to what you remember. The amount of British expats you hear coming back to the UK and seeing the country with total shock and disgust should lay testament to that.


"Town and gown" comes out of the Oxbridge experience - you have the university - gowned - operating as a Vatican city inside what still - butchers, greengrocers, plumbers, roadmenders, and the poor police - has to try to operate like its own city. College towns I know, the regulars and the academic community barely mix and are quite tension-full

Tequila wrote:
I think you should come back. I think it would be a life-changing experience, innit.

Wanna buy a looted telly, mate?
- HAD a telly - it was even licensed [kind of guy I am] I was back for a meeting in the 911 year - 2001 was that or 2002? Yes - a few visible changes, some scary, and what I hear not going UPhill. Still that September [mine was one of the first fligjhts out of New York after the exercise] Marks and Sparks in Oxford could still provide a handy snack. Your area is one I'm mostly blank on - one awful visit to Blackpool.

Quote:
Admittedly, communication with any human being goes downhill rapidly the further you get from the inner circle, which however has to not NOT with grammar, lexicon, or even phonology, but with content, the thoughts and thought patterns.


Can you explain this statement? Are you trying to tell me that only the people involved with the running of the state have anything worth saying?[/quote]

Nay, nay - hardly. The idiots who run the state have NOTHING worth saying.

This is strictly me related. There are about 10 souls in the Inner Circle - the people I Know I can communicate with comfortably and effectively. Most people, the more we talk the less we understand one another. I just do not think like a majority person.



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27 Aug 2011, 3:52 pm

Philologos wrote:
"Town and gown" comes out of the Oxbridge experience - you have the university - gowned - operating as a Vatican city inside what still - butchers, greengrocers, plumbers, roadmenders, and the poor police - has to try to operate like its own city. College towns I know, the regulars and the academic community barely mix and are quite tension-full


The huge majority of the UK really is nothing like this whatsoever. I sentence you to a week in Rochdale. Do you want the kevlar or not? And remember to say your 'allah akhbars'.

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HAD a telly - it was even licensed [kind of guy I am]


So I can't interest you in a flatscreen to watch your Jeremy Kyle on? I need my five gramme of heroin, innit.

Quote:
I was back for a meeting in the 911 year - 2001 was that or 2002?


September 11, 2001. I'll tell you what I was doing on that day as well, if you please. I was watching Guest House Paradiso, a trade I had got off a DVD forum. When I had finished watching the film for the first time, I turned the TV on and saw the news rolling live of the plane going into the World Trade Center.

Quote:
Yes - a few visible changes, some scary, and what I hear not going UPhill.


You really have a very, very sheltered idea of what the UK is like. I suggest you take in the average British town centre on a Friday or Saturday night

Quote:
Still that September [mine was one of the first fligjhts out of New York after the exercise] Marks and Sparks in Oxford could still provide a handy snack. Your area is one I'm mostly blank on - one awful visit to Blackpool.


(guffaws)

Why do you think we avoid the place, mate? The place is a haven for alcoholics, thugs, criminals and Glaswegians. Who are generally one or more of the other three. ;)

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Nay, nay - hardly. The idiots who run the state have NOTHING worth saying.


As we all know. :)



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27 Aug 2011, 3:59 pm

Zeraeph wrote:
Bristish extremism is far more polite, reserved and understated than the American variety.

Cameron and friends are already set to discretely consign at least 2 million people to a new serf class through workfare, relocate all forms of poverty and disadvantage into a northwestern ghetto and turn residential care for the disabled into virtual prisons with no independent spending money while enthusiastically promoting a glorious new dawn of voluntary euthanasia.

But, be thankful for small mercies, at least they have NO INTENTION of being vulgar and American about it.

:(


Last I saw Britoners were burning down their own neighborhoods. So called "anarchists", literal neo-Nazis, and Islamists abound. Don't seem too polite to me. I'd take some grandma in a lawn chair with a Gadsden flag than some violent hooded mob anyday.

All this article comes off is some angry rant by some global warming fetishist who is mad that their dream of relevancy(no more government grants, no global government, no total state control of the economy) is withering on the vine. Government science is bad science and almost always motivated by political and monetary reasons.



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27 Aug 2011, 4:26 pm

Jacoby wrote:
All this article comes off is some angry rant by some global warming fetishist who is mad that their dream of relevancy(no more government grants, no global government, no total state control of the economy) is withering on the vine.


It is. And their blessed, beloved EU is busy becoming more and more totalitarian and undemocratic by the day, ruining the economies of its member states in an attempt to keep ahold of their European Dream.

Bless.

As Pat Condell says: "At the risk of sounding like an extremist, there is nothing in Europe that couldn't be cured by more democracy."



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27 Aug 2011, 6:22 pm

The OP's article sounds more like a manic tirade against the tea party and global warming, but lacks any facts and figures to make their point. What is her area of expertise anyway? She clearly isn't a political analyst, she doesn't appear to be a journalist since she didn't find people that sounded knowledgeable on the issues (regardless of political affiliation), and she didn't sound like a climate scientist, so what is she? I've never heard of her before, but she simply sounds like someone who forgot to take her meds that morning before getting on a soapbox.

Tequila wrote:
As Pat Condell says: "At the risk of sounding like an extremist, there is nothing in Europe that couldn't be cured by more democracy."


See about getting some of the more conservative EU representatives to introduce the phrase "checks and balances" into the political discussion there. That ought to ruffle some feathers! :P


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27 Aug 2011, 7:25 pm

Tequila wrote:
Philologos wrote:
"Town and gown"


The huge majority of the UK really is nothing like this whatsoever. .


The comparison I saw - this is based on 1965-80 - mind you - was a gap / division betwewen the troops on the ground - Wee Coryl's working class / council flat relatives and their friends - and the officer's mess, most of my colleagues and their business-class / professional associates. Two rather distinct communities crammed into one island, very like the college towns in the US where I grew up and worked. That may have changed - there was for example one of Wee Coryl's cousins providing tech services for the film industry and agressively upwardly mobile, though still distinct from the professional group.

It has been 30 years - more than a lifetime for Number 1 Son - and the class structure or distribution may have changed.

Tequila wrote:

You really have a very, very sheltered idea of what the UK is like. I suggest you take in the average British town centre on a Friday or Saturday night


I have done British town centers [even centres!] on weekend nights - Christmas eve was the fun one. London, including Soho, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Corby, couple of others. But long time ago.