London Terror Attack 22/03/2017 #WeAreNotAfraid

London has always been attacked by terrorists. We know that. But this never has, nor ever will, stop us leading our lives freely. I can say hand-on-heart: WE ARE NOT AFRAID.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

The SNP are Opportunistic Scum @theSNP @NicolaSturgeon #IndyRef2

… the SNP and Scotland are not the same thing …

I am a unionist … but I am a democrat above all else … if Scotland wanted to leave the UK, then it is undeniably right that they should leave … Yet now demonstrably is not the time for another referendum.

I’ve lost all respect for the Scottish National Party. They are acting like opportunistic, hateful scum. None-the-less, I still 100% respect the idea of Scottish Independence; let’s not conflate the SNP and Scotland, as if they were the same thing, even though Sturgeon and her motley crew keep trying to blur the distinction.

I want to be clear about something.

Yes, I am a unionist and believe that the four nations of the UK are better off together. However, I am a democrat above all else. And even though it would break my heart, if Scotland wanted to leave the UK, then it is undeniably right that they should leave, although I would bid them adieu with a tear and a friendly handshake. See my posts about the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum for more about my views.

But now demonstrably is not the time for another referendum. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon talks about the “democratic outrage” of not being allowed to hold another independence reference by 2018-2019. But I think the only outrage is her behaviour and that of other SNP top brass.

Let’s get real.

  1. The official logic of a 2018-2019 Scottish Referendum is that Scotland will remain in the EU if it leaves the UK before the UK leaves the EU. However, this “logic” is horseshit and has been repeatedly shot down by everyone in the EU. The United Kingdom has membership of the EU, and Scotland would not inherit the UK’s membership. Therefore, Scotland would have to reapply to join the EU even if it seceded from the UK but the rest of the UK remained in!
  2. Scotland knew that there would be an EU referendum and therefore knew that if it voted to remain in the UK, there would be the very real possibility that that would mean leaving the EU. Therefore, material circumstances haven’t changed in quite the way the SNP claim.
  3. It is plainly absurd for any Scottish Independence Referendum to be held before (1) we had left the EU, and (2) before the dust had settled. The SNP said this referendum was once in a lifetime; what, the lifetime of a gerbil? Wait for the UK to leave, and for the dust to settle, and then the Westminster government should be totally open to a new referendum.
  4. I wonder, though, if the SNP would be pressing for a second referendum in 2018-2019 if Scotland had voted to leave the UK… you know, just to make sure — after all, Brexit means circumstances have changed…
  5. The UK got opt-outs, and Sweden et al joined way back when. Any new member of the EU would have to adopt the Euro. Sorry, but that’s a fact. An “independent” Scotland in the EU would also be in the Euro.
  6. I still cannot grasp the fundamental logic of the SNP position, in any case: being 8% of the population of the UK, with 9% of the seats in the Commons, and one of four member states, is worse than what would be 1% of the population of the EU, with around 1.6% of the seats, and one of 28 member states…!!? This smacks of serious anti-English bias in the SNP leadership (not amongst members, though, who are mostly just patriotic Scots, not English-haters).

In short, the Scots are a nation and not a county of England — as Alex Salmond absurdly recently claimed is the opinion of those against doing IndyRef2 in the SNP’s timeframe of 2018-2019. And thus, they have absolutely the moral right to another referendum. Luckily, the UK government is more enlightened than, say, the Spanish government, and we’re happy to give a binding referendum to Scotland. But this timeframe of 2018-2019 is absurd. It is political opportunism. Let’s wait until the next parliament. If there is wide enough support for another referendum, then let’s crack on with Indy Ref 2!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/JMGMGAzWY2_0pSOjbb.xWA–/aD0xMTUyO3c9MjA0ODtzbT0xO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/http://media.zenfs.com/en_uk/News/skynews/472583032-1-2048×1152-20160625-011514-005.jpg

Elected House of Lords? @electoralreform #electoralreform #lordsreform #sortition

The Electoral Reform Society and others claim that we need an elected upper house in order to be fully democratic. But I say that they have confused democracy with vote-ocracy.

Today’s papers are full of a periodic favourite: how the House of Lords needs to be reformed. Reports of one peer who left a taxi waiting whilst he went inside just to sign in for his £300 daily expenses only to then nip off again in his taxi (!) have (re)surfaced. The Electoral Reform Society, who I largely agree with and support, have called for an elected House of Lords.

But I disagree.

The House of Lords is a total mess. No doubt. Packed with cronies, those with conflicts of interest (taking EU pensions whilst voting on whether we should leave the EU!), and lazy sods who turn up for their dole. The place is an anachronism. And it’s a great pity that Labour could not finish the reform job they started in 1997; if they had prepared for government a bit more, maybe they would have.

But electing members of the Lords is not the solution. In fact, it would make things worse.

Why replicate the elected Commons? Why have yet more elected careerist politicians?

The Electoral Reform Society and others claim that we need an elected upper house in order to be fully democratic. But I say that they have confused democracy with vote-ocracy.

If not an elected Lords, then what?

The Lords is supposed to be a politically neutral, disinterested, body of wise counsellors, who have no vested interests, who are not career politicians, and who act as a sober check on any possible elected dictatorship of the Commons. But how to get such a House?

Clearly, elections corrupt the system and invariably lead to politicising. Not merely my words and thoughts, those of the founding fathers of the US. The ancient Athenians and Romans knew this, too, which is why leading figures were selected by sortition (out of a hat, as it were, like jurors are nowadays) and were limited to a single one-year term.

Thus, there are intricacies involved in reform, but I put forward the following as a sound basis.

  1. There should be far fewer Lords than there are MPs in the Commons. But currently there are 805 Lords and 650 MPs. I propose to cut the number of Lords to around half the number of MPs, let’s say around 300.
  2. Lords should not be elected (barring e.g. the Bishops), and should either serve life terms, very long one-off terms, or very short terms. Perhaps all three depending.
  3. Lords must forsake any political allegiance or conflicting interests as the Speaker of the Commons does.
  4. Around half or more (two-thirds? three-quarters?) of the Lords will be chosen by sortition (like jury duty) from a pool of eligible persons who have not opted out, representing equally the leading minds in all key disciplines such as science, technology, business, the arts, philanthropy, and so on. Such individuals should serve long single-terms/lifelong terms.
  5. Most of the left-over minority of the Lords should be chosen by nomination by the political parties in proportion to the seats they have in the Commons and for a single term, perhaps the length of the next parliament, no party in the Commons having fewer than one appointee in the Lord. For example, if 100 seats were to be made available this way, the Conservatives would nominate around 51 members, Labour around 36, the SNP around 8, the LibDems, UKIP, Greens and so on 1 each, all based on their current seats in the Commons.
  6. There should be an even smaller number (around half of the nominees) who are selected by sortition from the public at large, after having met various qualifications, and who should serve single one-year terms.
  7. The 26 Lords Spiritual should keep their seats.
  8. The 90 hereditary peers should keep their seats until they all die. Their seats will not be handed on. Eventually, there will be no hereditary peers left.

This sort of thing seems like a reasonable compromise which would achieve what we want of the Lords — and most importantly, doesn’t confuse vote-ocracy with democracy.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Review: Under the Shadow (2016) #100WordReview #Netflix @UTSFilm @KermodeMovie #UnderTheShadow

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Under the Shadow (2016) sees a mother struggle to maintain a normal family life in war-torn 1980s Tehran amidst Iraqi bombs and a mysterious evil presence.

BAFTA award-winning, foreign language, original setting, social commentary, Mark Kermode-approved: everything a latte-supping cosmopolitan liberal like myself loves. Yet this Iranian The Babadook doesn’t quite work.

Where Babadook was a nerve-shredding slowburn, Under the Shadow was just a patience-shredding slow. Babbadook‘s is-it-isn’t-it-real psychological terror has been replaced with going-nowhere social commentary on feminism in post-revolutionary Iran. A truly scary “monster” and creepy apartment building can’t hide the lack of focus or peril. Disappointing.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/18/Under_the_Shadow_%28poster%29.jpg

Random Images 31: Unicycle #Random #RandomImages

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image from boredpanda.com

6 Nations: 7 Nations #6Nations @The_Six_Nations

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Last year’s Six Nations was won before the final round. And so it really put the case forward for adding bonus points to the series. As you know, that has since happened. Another thought struck me, though. It’s a simple proposal. Tell me what you think.

  • The winner of next year’s Rugby Europe Championship is promoted to a new “Seven Nations” tournament.
  • Teams will then play three home and three away matches in the Seven Nations tournament, thereby making it more balanced.
  • The bottom-placed team in this new Seven Nations will have to play a play-off against the European Championship winner, maybe over two legs or maybe one leg in a neutral place, e.g., Twickenham; if the 7th placer wins, they stay up, if they lose, they go down and are replaced by the European Championship winner.

What are the advantages of this?

  1. There’s even more to play for in the Seven Nations as relegation becomes a factor.
  2. There’s even more to play for in the European Championship as promotion becomes a factor.
  3. It gives the smaller nations a chance to break into the big-time and thereby develop Rugby in those countries by playing against the top European sides.
  4. Teams do not automatically go up/down, and so we don’t have yo-yoing. Particularly, relegation is often seen an effective punishment for Italy — or would be for Georgia in an expanded Seven Nations format. The play-off means that the bottom team, probably now Georgia, will have to prove they are better than the Euro champ. Furthermore, Italy are unlikely to finish seventh any time soon, and thus are unlikely to be relegated.

Honestly, I think this, along with the new Bonus Points system, would mean perfection for Europe’s/the Northern Hemisphere’s premier tournament.

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1227/8086/files/blog_6_nations_logo.jpg

6 Nations: Bonus Points? #Rugby #6Nations

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I wrote this post on the 19th March 2016. Never got round to posting it! But glad to see I was right. I post it now for interest’s sake — and to clear the massive amount of post “drafts” I have pending!

*~*~*~*~*

I reckon it’s time for the Six Nations to introduce bonus points. This year [2016] was first ever when the winner (swing low, sweet chhariot! ;-D) won before last round of fixtures. Although I’m surprised that hasn’t happened before; with only four or five nations, it’s easy to see how things can go to the last round, but the more teams then the less chance of this happening. Maybe the tournament needs freshening up.

Bear in mind that, under a Bonus Point system, it is technically possible for the team that wins a grand slam to not win the championship:

Team A: 5 wins x 4 points = 20 pts

Team B: 4 wins with bonus point = 20 pts, and Bonus Points for tries scored and losing by less than seven = 2 = 22pts!

Unlikely, but mathematically possible. Maybe they can fix that with some kind of bonus points per team beaten.

[Note, they have brought in BPs and said that anyone completing the Gram Slam will get additional Bonus Points]

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1227/8086/files/blog_6_nations_logo.jpg?14195279269441489466

Project Polyglot Parry VI: Swedish Duolingo Accomplished! @duolingo #duolingo

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I’m a real language-lover. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to be fluent in several languages. Unfortunately, aged thirty and after many, many false starts, I’m still only fluent in English! But hitting thirty made me determined that I will achieve my life goals — including fluency in several languages.

To keep my language learning on track, I’ve been doing regular updates. Read all my Project Polyglot Parry posts here.

I’m very proud to say that I completed the English>Swedish tree in Duolingo on 29/10/16! 😀 They even gave me this handsome (virtual) trophy!

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My next goal is to complete the Duolingo English for Spanish speakers course. At my current rate of two-three sessions a day, I reckon I can finish the new tree by the end of March. And after that, I want to get to the maximum level possible on Duolingo in Spanish and Swedish: level 25 (that’ll take a while, though).

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

Random Images 30: arid aral @algore #ClimateChange #Random #RandomImages

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featured image By NordNordWest – Own work using:NASA imagesUnited States National Imagery and Mapping Agency datawww.unimaps.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3971789

 

How I Became a Star Trek Fan @startrekcbs #startrekdiscovery

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In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

Ever since I heard that a new Star Trek series (Star Trek: Discovery) was definitely for real actually happening, to be released this year, I’ve been super hyped and also a bit scared — what if it doesn’t live up to my hopes?

As you can tell, I’m a massive Trekkie… Or Trekker… whatever, I don’t care, but that’s for another post. In this post, wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

I was born in 1984. When I was a kid, back in the dark days when the UK only had four channels and we heard mythical stories about how in America they had FORTY, the replays of the original Trek were always on the telly at weekends. But I never paid attention. It was just another rubbishy show from the ’60s. It barely registered in my consciousness. I much preferred Land of the Giants(!)

Fast forward to age nine-ish. Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trek reboot, had been running for several years and still I didn’t  notice. And then one day, a season five episode came on: Cause and Effect. It involves the Starship Enterprise being stuck in a timeloop; the same catastrophe-tainted day keeps repeating itself. Think sci-fi horror version of Groundhog Day, or the film Triangle, but in space, and with dodgier make-up and production values.

I won’t ruin the episode for you. Check it out on Netflix! But it marks the sort of intelligent, mind-bending stories that were par for the course in Trek. Every time a new mindbender or time-travel flick comes out, like Looper, I love it. But I always refer people to Trek.

If you’re new to Star Trek, here’s a few more episodes you might want to take a look at (all currently available on Netflix):

  • The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 2): another great time-travel episode.
  • Hard Time (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 18): the psychology of guilt and suffering.
  • In The Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine, series 6 episode 19): the hardship of keeping your principles in war.
  • Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine, series 5 episode 6): a good example of the lighter-hearted side of Trek, which pays homage to the original series with some neat special effects.

Sadly, no matter how I wax lyrical about the virtues of Trek, nobody’s buying it. The rubber ears, the dodgy acting, the huge number of episodes where, yes, nothing really happens. Sadly, TV has moved on. There is no Trek that fits modern conventions. For example,  series are now limited to around ten episodes a season, there are no “one-off” episodes, and it’s all about moving the plot forward. The closest Trek came to this, and arguably it was instrumental in pre-empting the current trend, was the Dominion War story arc from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favourite incarnation of Trek, for what it’s worth).

But now with Star Trek: Discovery, I hope a new Trek for a new televisual era will be born, a Trek that captures the imagination of the young as much as the new Star Wars films have, as much as that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation captured mine some twenty plus years ago.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/QGsuM31IC-Q/hqdefault.jpg