Category Archives: Rants

I gave a speech

Pretty much what I said above… I gave a speech at a college in West Bromwich this week. It was about politics in general and the green party. I figured I’d blog it, as i worked quite hard on it by my standards.

Here it is:

Afternoon. My name’s Ben, and I’m the coordinator of Sandwell Green Party, and I’m here today with Rob, who is the chair of the West Midlands Green Party, and so is annoyingly more important, smarter and better looking than me. My job basically means I organise what we do locally, and do all the jobs nobody else wants to do. We’ll get onto this in the Q and A, if you’re interested, but doing a lot of work for the Green Party for no money has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I’ll be kicking off, talking about the scale of the problems we face, and some of the high level solutions to this, then Rob will take over and talk about some of the more detailed solutions we think might solve problems here.
And thank you for choosing to spend your lunchtime listening to us. I am just about young enough that I remember being at college, and I’m not sure I was quite as mature and diligent as you. Well… I’m certain I wasn’t, and I’m more than a little jealous of the better future you’ll have ahead of you for it.
Except… I’m not confident you’ll have a better future. You’re a generation who, if lucky enough to go to uni, will leave with an average £44,000 of debt. You may have to grow up never owning your own home. You’ll pay a small fortune for a sandwich – well, even more of a fortune, I’ve eaten in a Starbucks too – because intensive farming will have rendered our land unfarmable, and besides, we all voted to close our borders to anyone who might actually work on our farms anyway. And that’s before I even to get to the Greens specialist subject of climate change, and the devastation it will cause if we don’t address this LAST WEEK!
By the way, don’t worry – I’m not going to stay this gloomy for the full 40 minutes. But I kind of feel that we need to point out the huge challenges that face us. These challenges are here for a few reasons, which I would like to outline before we get to the less miserable bit. Because I’d like to say here that there are answers. There aren’t easy answers, unless you want to blame someone who doesn’t share your skin colour or religion, but there are answers, and that’s what inspires me to do what I do.
So, why are we in the mess we’re in?
The main answer I have is our system rewards short term thinking. All the problems above started, at the very least, before you were born. Some of them before I was. Some of the BEFORE EVEN YOUR TUTORS WERE BORN. Pollution started in the Industrial Revolution, in the 19th century. House prices started going stupid in the 1980’s. Free university ended in the late 1990’s – it did me over too!
Our system is such that it doesn’t pay for our MPs to think of the consequences of their policies. Our media sees a problem and wants it solved yesterday, and politicians agree to this, rarely, if ever, thinking of the long term consequences of acting too quickly.
And the causes of this go back even further. We haven’t seriously reformed our political system since the 17th century. And don’t get me wrong… it was brilliant then. But since then, pretty much every country, save for maybe North Korea has overtaken us. The House of Lords, which is completely unelected, is the second largest government chamber in the world, after Communist China.
Our antiquated first past the post system means that the Conservatives only need 35,000 votes to win a seat, Labour need 40,000, Lib Dems 300,000, and Greens over 1,000,000. And yet we have it better than UKIP, who got one seat for nearly 4m votes. Whatever your feelings about Mr Farage, that isn’t fair. Power is kept amongst a select few, making them unaccountable, and significantly more vulnerable to corruption.
To move this closer to our own doorstep – do any of you know the make up of our local council?  Of 72 seats, 71 are held by Labour. Regardless of how you feel about them, they hold 97% of the seats, despite only getting 58% of the votes . This means the views of two out of every five people who vote in Sandwell don’t count, and nobody represents them.
And the combination of these two things means that politicians play only to win. We only elect one chamber, and that only once every five years. As a result, politicians will say pretty much anything to get in at election time – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, because by the time it breaks, there will have been another election, and a whole new bunch of short term promises to keep or break. Most other countries – even America, the land of the Trump, have two chambers, and staggered elections so that this isn’t completely changed every five years, and there is at least some long term thinking.
Even more countries across Europe have a much fairer form of democracy, normally a form of Proportional Representation. I know I’m talking to smart people here , but I’ll very quickly explain that PR awards seats based on vote share, so that all votes, or at least most votes count. If the Angry As Hell At Adults For Not Getting That We’re Old Enough To Set Our Own Rules, Now Stop Ruining My Life Mum Party gets 30% of the vote, they’ll get 30% of the say in Government. This means more people’s views get represented. It means smaller groups don’t get ignored. And that’s brilliant.
Better still, it makes it a lot more likely that every law gets properly challenged – when you create a fake majority, they can essentially pass any law they like, irrespective of how stupid it is. This is how we end up with poorly planned policies and pointless wars. By making larger parties rely on other parties to pass laws, they iron out the sort of short term thinking that has led to so many of our problems today. It’s of little surprise, to me at least, that Germany has one of the strongest economies (and best rent prices) in Europe, and also has a proportional system.
None of this has destroyed our country. Yet. We are still one of the world’s leading democracies. But we have fallen three places in the Global Democracy rankings in recent years. We’ve taken a huge risk in leaving the EU (I’m not discussing the rights and wrongs of this here. I only have 15 minutes) and our democracy will now have to stand alone. With the problems I have listed above, we will surely sink unless we take action now. And to do this, we will need practical LONG TERM solutions.
Finally, and I almost don’t want to say this – because it feels like I’m saying what you want to hear – but we believe that you should have the vote from 16. Any decision politicians make are going to affect you more than they’re going to affect me, and a lot more than they’ll affect you’re Nan, so why shouldn’t you have a say? Simply put, you can join the army, you can have a kid, you can get a job and pay tax. Surely you should have a say in what happens when you do those things?
I suppose the main thing all of this has in common, is that our system is built so that those who have power do everything they can to hold onto that power. This is the main problem anyone who wants change faces. But this is also where the solution lies.
Because we do actually live in a democracy. And that means that people have the final say. When I joined the Green Party, a bit over two years ago, I didn’t think I could change anything. I just thought I’d pay membership once a year, and hope that paid for someone else to do some work.
Then I went to a meeting, and everyone was nice. Then someone convinced me to leaflet. Then to run for election (I lost), then to manage our local elections, to help on campaigns for renter’s rights, refugees, clean energy…
I quickly realised that if you get up and just do a little work in your spare time (I do have an actual job outside this) you can actually make real change happen. I had the good luck to meet our previous leader, Natalie Bennett, and she said what is probably the most powerful thing that sums up why I’ve found this work so rewarding. She said that there is one big lie that lets things go wrong. And that is that politics is something that’s done to you. And this isn’t true. Politics is something YOU DO.
I’d go so far as to say it’s your job as a citizen to do it. A small group of well organised people getting out there and trying to change things, can change things. Almost every good change through history from the abolition of slavery to breaking Trump’s travel ban most likely started with a few people, in a room, saying… “Wow… this looks difficult… LET’S DO IT ANYWAY. (I know that’s how the Trump one happened, the activists behind it have given interviews).
So if you take one thing from my bit today, it’s that if you see an injustice, a problem, anything that irks you… you’re probably the right person to fix it. Politics isn’t for any one group of people, and you aren’t excluded from it. And if giving up my lunch break to chat to you today gets even one of you out there deciding to change things… Well… It’ll be worth the cost of that overpriced Starbucks sarnie.
Now, I will be the first person to say that you should never trust an adult who is sure they know the answers. However, I believe we have a strong set of possible solutions to the problems facing us today, in the policies that we in the Green Party fight over every conference. So I would like to hand over to Rob now, who will talk to you about these.

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Spare Ribs and Pickled Cabbage, failure, and selective blogging

By its very nature, blogging about food encourages a degree of selectivity. You want people to see your successes, as the great food you make encourages people to come back, and aspire to make it themselves.

However, I think this may also be the reason I was afraid to do so for so long, thinking there’s no way I could match up to these fantastic amateur cooks and food writers, who never mess up.

So in order to encourage any enthusiastic readers who have considered blogging about food but haven’t, I MASSIVELY BALLSED UP DINNER TONIGHT.

It was a Tom Kerridge recipe. The sausage I used in the pickled cabbage turned to slurry and caused it to retain the heat of a million suns. As a result, there is no skin in my mouth anymore.

The ribs, while the meat was well cooked, were pretty bland, and could have done with a little more sweetness. Although this may be related to the burnt off taste buds.

The spuds were okay.  Also, the whole meal is kind of fifty shades of grey and brown. It looks like a bloody XBOX game.

So. In short. You will fail a lot. It will be your own fault. And normally you’ll pretend it didn’t happen. But it does. Own those failures. I now know I like my ribs stickier and sweeter, cheap black pudding disintegrates at heat and that you can’t mess up new potatoes with oil and rosemary! Next time I’ll make it beautiful.

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Election 2015- some thoughts from 4.30am

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1. Oh dear.

2. Looking good for the Greens though.

3. If Labour had offered something better than Tory lite we’d be looking at a different result. I might not have even become a Green in that instance. So thanks for no longer representing us, red team.

4. Scottish passport anyone?

5. While a Conservative majority is a bad thing, I do happen to be white, not young, middle class, able bodied, in secure employment and shortly to become a homeowner, so in terms of its effect on my actual life, I think it’s only that my job is in the public sector that is of major concern. However, I try to vote for 60m people (or For the Common Good, if that’s your thing!), and this scares me for any BAME, young, poor, disabled, insecure and  renting people.

6. It’s going to be deeply uncomfortable for the Tories next time, when they have to admit that the economy has shrunk by one whole Scotland.

7. And finally, this one means a lot to me. UKIP will be losing a lot of support soon. All it would take would be continued work by the Green Party to let them know there’s a home for the disaffected, who feel that red and blue alike have shat on them too many times, and that they offer a real program of change to help everyone, rather than hatred towards the foreign. This gives me hope. And yes. I am saying the majority of kippers seem like decent people. Campaigning over the last month has shown me that I too, was a bigot and had written off a lot of people as I disagreed with their party. I was wrong.

8. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t laughing my arse off when Farage lost. Eventually, all clowns slip on that banana peel.

9. ‘Cons’, in French, means cunts. Quite literally, cunts are still running the world.

10. RIP Lib Dems. Although as this happens, Charles Kennedy has lost his seat. I liked that chap. Otherwise, I’m still aggreived that they tricked me last time around.

11. Tory minority government, reliant on the SNP. This could be funny at least.

Why I am a Green

With apologies to my regular readers, who do not come here for the politics!

I miss the days when newspapers would outline who they are supporting and why, instead of screaming ad hominem abuse at the party they don’t, with little regard to the truth, or whether this might be the reason nobody buys their dead trees any more. As blogging, if you want it to be, represents a part of how people get their news in this day and age, here is my own editorial, on why I shall be voting the way I am, and why I believe you should too.

I will try to be positive about the other parties involved. I am running as a council candidate for the Green Party, and in doing so have met various other candidates in my area, all of whom have been thoroughly decent people, and all of whom believe that their party has the best ways to provide real change for their constituents. However, where I feel our systems and methods are broken, I make no apology for my cynicism and loathing.

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The 10:1 ratio

This is probably the one policy idea I like the most, but this has had very little airing, in spite of it being a real piece of common sense thinking.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “A rising tide lifts all ships”? Since the global economic crisis of 2008, has this felt even a tiny bit true? The very richest in our society have doubled their wealth since 2009, according to The Rich List in the Sunday Times this weekend (no link, because paywall), and now own the same wealth as the poorest 40% of the country. No other party appears to have a viable solution to this, but the Green Manifesto suggests regulating business pay, so that the highest paid member of any business can make only 10 times what their lowest paid member of staff makes. If you can afford to increase your own pay to £300,000 a year, your business must be doing well enough that the keyboard jockeys, cleaners and salespeople can be paid £30,000.

There is an argument that this would be anti-competitive, and would prevent us from hiring the best talent. However, this ‘talent’ of which we speak appears to be those executives that first created this mess, and again, it only spreads the success throughout the business, and encourages talent at all levels. When you look at the businesses that have remained successful over the past 7 years, businesses like John Le
wis stand out, where the staff have a genuine investment in the business, rather than an investment in their payslip.

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The End of the ‘Whip’ system and our broken parliamentary system

This is probably one of the most broken things in our political system, and because of our drab two-and-a-half party system, it appears almost unavoidable unless progressive parties with a real will to change the system come in, it will ever remain so.

Currently, parties appoint organisers, known as ‘whips’ to ensure that their motions pass in the House of Commons. Their job, by fair means or foul, is to ensure that members of their party ‘toe the party line’, and don’t rebel based on their own, or their constituents ethics. Indeed, it has long been accepted that an act of rebellion against your party can get you removed from a committee you care about, or have your private transgressions leaked to the press.

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Caroline Lucas, in her book, Honourable Friends?, writes at length about the ridiculousness of this system, and that MP’s are often shepherded through a vote without even knowing what they are voting for! Really, with a system like this, can we really view our parliament as a democracy at all, when nothing is discussed, and the opinions of the voters are worthless for all but five weeks every five years?

The Green Party believes in reforming this antiquated and undemocratic system, and in allowing it’s members to apply their own judgement, and the feelings of their constituents when voting. If a vote fails as a result, this means that the law needs more work, not that the party is weak.

The Party of the Poor

And by poor, I mean anybody outside of the top 2% of the UK’s richest. It amazes me that in this era of unprecedented austerity, you are 1800 times more likely to be prosecuted for £100 of benefit fraud than £100,000 of tax evasion by HMRC. That while cuts affecting the poor were passed night by night in Commons, that the champagne bill, subsidised by the taxpayer, rose to £35,000 from the previous year (do you even make that annually?). That it appears to be more acceptable to pass cuts that have led to disabled people dying, than it is to make 3% of our society pay tax on their inheritances?

The Green Party is the only party seeking to both raise taxes on the ultra rich, and close tax loopholes so that they can’t sneak out of paying them. They’re the only English party who are against austerity, as it is currently defined (“please eat less cake paupers, we important chaps at the top want more cake” works as a definition for me). They’re the only party that recognise that the majority of immigrants that come to our country raise taxes and work in the same proportion as any native citizen. They’re the only party speaking sense, in spite of a negative media, to try and apply common sense to solve emotive issues and remove vested interests.

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The Obvious One

We have real policies that won’t just mitigate climate change, that boring but very real threat, but that will boost our economy while doing so. I’ve seen the very real positive effects on employment that a wind farm near my hometown has caused, after the largest employer in the area decided to relocate thousands of jobs.

Combine the extra jobs with the very boring word in a common phrase, renewable energy. It’s renewable. We don’t use up wind, or light, or tides. They just keep on coming. Over time, the laws of economies of scale, and supply and demand mean that this could have a genuine effect on those utility bills that we all love to hate.

We also don’t have to source them from Russia or Saudi Arabia, where our reliance creates very wealthy people, who are buying up all of Central London, leaving it boring, and also, let’s be honest, funding terrorism, whether state sponsored or otherwise.

Unfortunately, this is neither interesting or exciting enough to win votes. It’s a long term plan that could just be the most important dull thing we manage as a society.

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So that’s it. They are the main reasons I feel I must vote Green, and be a member of this party. I hope that I have managed to convince you too. But even more than this, if you are planning to vote for a minority party this election, but are scared you’ll let in the party you don’t want, don’t. a greater worry is that by tactically voting for one of these, you will continue to give these parties legitimacy by not voting for what you want, which is the purpose of our democracy. You’re not wrong. The system is.

And if you happen to live in the Cradley Heath and Old Hill ward, you’ll make me really happy!

If you are interested, you can join, volunteer, or just hear more about the Green Party here

Music Monday Mixtape- Misanthropy (It’s in the air for you and me)

I have spent the last week or so bemoaning the lack of a new band for me to love. I have several handfuls of new hip-hop and pop to love, but in terms of actual bands, there has been nothing. The early noughties trend for copying something from about 20 years ago, and wearing really tight Top Man clothing being the only qualifier for success seems to have spread throughout the indie scene, metastasizing, killing the scene and leaving only a bland husk for the last remaining idiots to gnaw at the remains of.

The fact that the two great hopes this year, Royal Blood and Future Islands, can both be summed up by saying a band name with the word average before it (average Led Zeppelin and average Depeche Mode) pretty much says it all. In fairness, they’re both great live, so there is at least that to enjoy, but even that would be better if they had a single song worth listening to.

Do I sound bitter today? Well, listening to albums by both of these acts have robbed me of four hours I could have spent listening to much better things. Yes four hours, I was naïve and hopeful enough to give each album a second chance. More fool me. Amusingly, the best indie record released this year was a pop song released as part of the soundtrack to The Lego Movie…

This got me thinking about what it is I actually want from my rock and indie bands. Looking over a swathe of my favourite artists, I have come to the horrible realisation that I do love a good old fashioned misanthrope, and no band seems to have the guts to try being anything but some remote notion of cool, anymore. While most of them are capable of a fun and optimistic song too, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Pulp, Half Man Half Biscuit, and a good many more are at their best when laying waste to the human race. The aim on this one is to have a clear Side A and Side B, with one side dedicated to grumbling and misery, and the other optimism and happiness and such. But with the same bands on each side. Anyway, here it is, enjoy. Thank you bye now!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava’s Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

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Continue reading Music Monday Mixtape- Misanthropy (It’s in the air for you and me)

‘Cleansing the stock’ and other ways governments talk about human beings

‘Cleansing the stock’ and other ways governments talk about human beings- George Monbiot

Most of me hates a world where this foul, euphemistic language can be used to hide the sick intent of our governments. But a small part of me finds some of the more tasteless ones funny.

Shake ‘n’ bake, as a term for using the chemical weapon white phosphorous to flush people out of buildings to blow them up tickled me. Evil but possessed of a certain vicious wit. And bug splats for the innocent people caught in drone strikes.

By the way, that’s our team, the ‘good guys’ in this war using chemical weapons. We should be so proud.

Why are we all so squeamish about eating doggies?

As the title suggests, the following post contains both distressing images and some controversial points of view, which are not necessarily in line with my own, but exaggerated to make a point. You have been warned, and there is little point in reading something just to get offended and upset. Indeed, if this upsets you, why not use that upset, and donate to PETA, or decide to eat less and better sourced meat? Still not discouraged? Read away.

Last week there was a documentary on Channel 4, about the market for kidnapped dogs sold for meat in Vietnam. Having spent a week in Hanoi, eating delicious meat from roadside stalls and such, this turned up the worrying thought that maybe… just maybe… that wasn’t beef.

My wife’s reaction to this was (quite rightly, when you see the conditions they are kept in) revulsion and horror. About 75% of mine was too, for I am human, but there was a part of me that was a little thrilled to think I might have tried this forbidden meat*. Not in the manner they had been treated here, but still- what would it taste like, what would it go well with?

Are you disgusted by this? Horrified? Let me ask you a question.

Would you eat hand reared, organic, free range, humanely slaughtered dog?

Continue reading Why are we all so squeamish about eating doggies?

Equal Payback Project- 3.5 Billion Women Should be a Whole Lot Angrier

This is a new crowdfunding campaign to raise $29 trillion dollars over the next month, and pay every woman in America the lost difference in wages compared to men, over their lifetime. America is one of the better countries for equality. Women are paid 78c for every dollar a man makes.

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I genuinely hope this works. I know it won’t. Anyway, from my limited experience (being married) women seem to work harder, and be better able to cope with the level of multitasking modern work requires. Face it, the days where being able to lift and hunt good for tribe being a good criteria are done. Regardless, equality is in everyone’s interest. In the years before women were commonplace in all workplaces, how many Marie Curies, Benazir Bhuttos, and Kim Deals had we missed out on?

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But I don’t know how women aren’t burning down our cities over this. It’s the 21st century. What are we playing at? As an entire species, we could do better.

Goodbye Nick Griffin

So, Nick Griffin has been kicked out of the BNP. With that wonky eye he was never really a great advertisement for the genetic superiority of white people.

I want to celebrate, but with more than one mainstream party looking to opt out of human rights law, wittering on about English laws for English people, our continuance of bombing brown people in faraway lands and increased demonisation of the poor and marginalised my only thought is this;

What if he’s gone because he’s already won?

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CPC14, UKIP, and resignation.

The Tory Party conference is over for the week. On a personal note, it’s nice that public transport and my mobile internet will return to normal.

I can normally summon a degree of anger about these things, but after five years, and with the threat of five more on the horizon, I can barely raise my pulse to resigned indignation.

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I’ve noticed that they never adjust the middle band of income tax. Always the bottom, which is a good thing, and the top, which is foolish. To return to an argument I have previously made, the change in the top rate of income tax will enable the few in that band to purchase more property, exacerbating our false dawn recovery, while ensuring its eventual collapse by pricing even more people out of the market. Fiddling while Rome burns.

Of the defectors to UKIP, the friendly face of bigotry, my memory is long enough that I can barely tell the difference. Conservatism relies on a kind of borrowed nostalgia for a time and a country which never existed, and it appears these conservatives are wishing they could be in the Tory party of the late 80’s or early 90’s, when you could hate gay people, or of the late 60’s and early 70’s, when you could hate the brown people who created our national cuisine, confusingly titled ‘Indian’, and wax lyrical about the speeches of Enoch Powell. This is all that UKIP stand for. If you can stand without spines, as this party makes the BNP look good by comparison. They are at least willing to say they’re racist.

The one good thing that has come of the last few days is the Cassetteboy cut up of David Cameron, which is hilarious. Though to finish on a funny but accurately downbeat note, here is a quote from Peter Cook:

“The heyday of satire was Weimar Germany, and look how it stopped Hitler!”