Notes from the North

Just time for a quick post today. I’m in Copenhagen for a short meeting entitled “Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics from the LHC to Planck“. The meeting only lasts today and tomorrow morning, but it’s been a lot of fun so far and has offered me the chance to chat with a lot of people I don’t often get the chance to talk to.

I suppose the only thing from the meeting I really want to mention in this short post is the  current status of Planck, which is currently about a million km from Earth. Both instruments (the High Frequency Instrument HFI and Low Frequency Instrument LFI) are still performing fine and the satellite,  having now been injected into its rather large orbit around L2, is  cooling down to its operating temperature. So far so good. There will be more tests at the beginning of July, after which it will start its real business of scanning the sky to make maps of the primordial temperature  fluctuations.

Today I gave my (usual) talk about cosmic anomalies (which I’ve blogged about before), but there were also interesting talks about possible interpretation of the positron excess observed in the direction of the Galactic Centre,  on a model of anisotropic dark energy  and a wacky contribution by Igor Novikov about semi-traversible wormholes.

Meanwhile, over lunch and dinner the various European participants of the meeting mulled over the results from the elections to the European parliament which completed yesterday.

The results generally showed a move to the right across Europe. In the United Kingdom this also happened, as the Labour Party’s share of the vote collapsed to just under 16%. I’m not going to shed any tears for them, but I am shamed to admit that my country will now be represented in the European Parliament by two members of the British National Party – a bunch of neo-Nazi thugs who are doing the best they can for their own ends to exploit peoples’ discontent with the mainstream parties. Fortunately their share of the vote (about 6%, on a very low turnout) remained relatively small and was, in fact, less than that of the Green Party. Nevertheless with the 65th anniversary of D-Day only a few days ago, it is depressing that so many people have forgotten the sacrifices that previous generations made to save this country from exactly that  kind of fascist. I hope this disaster is not repeated at the next general election. This kind of monstrosity makes the arcane world of cosmology suddenly seem so irrelevant.

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21 Responses to “Notes from the North”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Let’s remember that Nazi stood for National SOCIALIST and that most of the people who died would, supposing they shared the views of their contemporaries who survived, be disgusted with the changes made to this country under New Labour. The big parties should credit the British people with voting for distasteful alternatives only because nobody else is taking their concerns seriously. That’s not the economy but the loss of democratic accountability to Brussels, laws circumscribing hard-won centuries-old freedoms, and something called multiculturalism which irrationally acknowledges a cultural identity for everybody except the hosts of the experiment.

    Anton

  2. The BNP actually lost support (about 135,000 votes). The Tories and UKIP were about the same, the Lib Dems went back a bit, possibly because in 2004 there was an anti-war protest vote. The BNP got seats because Labour’s vote collapsed. They got in not because of a surge of support from people deciding they wanted to vote for them, they got in because Labour voters were apathetic.

    Anton, on multiculturalism, are you saying that there is no acknowledgement in the UK of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish/Ulster Scots cultural identity?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Anton, the people who voted BNP deserve no credit whatsoever for their choices. However dismal the mainstream parties may be, only the ignorant or the bigoted could vote for such a hateful organisation. There are other ways to show disapproval, and there were certainly other parties to vote for.

  4. I know one shouldn’t feed the trolls, but perhaps Anton is providing us with a teaching moment: the appearance of ‘socialism’ in the name of the Nazi Party is a misappropriation; the Social Democratic Party were the (dominant) socialist force in the Weimar Republic, and virulently opposed to the nationalists. The Nazis were no more representative of socialism than the DPRK is democratic; in any event, I think a reasonable case could be made for your typing the word ‘National’ with the shift key held down instead.

    Also, why don’t I take the opportunity to link to Henry Farell’s Bluffer’s Guide the European Parliament, which provides lots of useful context for these elections in a very few paragraphs.

  5. telescoper Says:

    Anton,

    I think New Labour has precious little to do with socialism either. It’s far to the right of previous conservative governments on many issues. The problem with New Labour is that it doesn’t appear to stand for anything apart from being in control.

    The people who died during the second world war handed down to us a priceless inheritance which we have been busy squandering for the past 65-70 years. We all like to blame someone else for the decline of the United Kingdom (New Labour, Thatcher, Brussels, immingrants..) rather than do anything positive about it. New Labour only got elected because it wasn’t the Conservative Party, not for anything it could offer that was really new.

    I think it’s time for big changes before we sink further into the pit.

    Peter

  6. Anton Garrett Says:

    I agree with Peter that Labour won power in 1997 on an anti-Tory vote rather than a pro-Labour vote. The converse is likely to happen at the next election. It is depressing that people are driven to vote mainly against something rather than for something. And I therefore agree, deeply, that it is easier to blame someone else than to do something about it. Rubber hits the road when we discuss *what* to do, of course.

    Set aside Hitler’s foreign policy and racism and ask yourself how socialist were his other policies, which are those that actually impinged on the majority of Germans in the 1930s. I am happy to debate that with Berian (if it’s OK with Peter), but I would ask people not to descend to insults such as “troll”.

    To Anon of 1223, June 9th: You wrote: “the people who voted BNP deserve no credit whatsoever for their choices. However dismal the mainstream parties may be, only the ignorant or the bigoted could vote for such a hateful organisation”. Check my quote – by “credit” I meant that the mainstream parties should credit those who voted BNP as not all a bunch of nutters who deck their bedrooms with swastikas. Remember that people vote for a candidate in the light of the alternatives on offer. I almost agree with you that only the ignorant or bigoted would vote BNP at the last elections. To those categories I would add the desperate. As for me, it is what the BNP don’t say in public, rather than what they do say, that causes me not to think of voting for them.

    Niall – I live in England and am English and when I wrote that
    multiculturalism “irrationally acknowledges a cultural identity for everybody except the hosts of the experiment” I was referring to my own experience. I welcome the notion of Scottish, Welsh identity etc and wish to assert, without the sentimentality of much patriotism or the bellicosity of much nationalism, that there is also an English identity. It would be nice if we could “celebrate diversity” – I agree with the multiculti people about that – but I want to be in on the party, not excluded from it.

    Anton

  7. While Nazism had similarities to extreme Stallinist-Marxism (authoritarianism, state involvement in the economy) it is dramatically different from social democracy and christian socialism which have been the dominant socialist movements in the UK. Yes New Labour have made a number of dreadful choices wrt civil liberties but I see this more as blind populism than some inheritance from Hitler or Stallin.

    On multiculturalism, when I go to England it is still England. I agree with David Starkey (I feel dirty saying that) that England as a large, powerful country should be confident in itself to not have to have a national day and not have to have government acknowledgement of its culture. The Scottish parliament have tried to acknowledge Scottish culture with Tartan Day and a holiday on St Andrews day and frankly, it’s an embarrassment.

  8. Anton Garrett Says:

    Niall – in what way is removal of civil liberties “populism”? I don’t understand.

    I too agree with Starkey. As to whether England is still England – try comparing it across time rather than space. It’s changed a lot postwar, especially (and not for the better) under New Labour.

    Anton

  9. Hi Anton: the obnoxiousness of my earlier comment is pretty unbecoming; I think the shock of seeing so many capital letters so early in the morning was too much for me, but a reason is not an excuse, so: I beg your pardon.

    I do stand by the point I was trying to make. It doesn’t seem reasonable for one to set aside the authoritarian components of the National Socialist platform, as they came to dominate so completely any sincere economic vision that may have existed to begin with. Could one modern analogy (without any authoritarian connotations) be the Scottish Nationalists, who explicitly encourage identification with the cause of Scottish independence? It doesn’t seem sensible to evaluate them as a left-wing force just because their economic policies, which are explicitly subservient to the independence movement, happen to swing that way.

    But even if one does push that to the side, it is not clear how much the economic policies practiced by Hitler once he came to power were actually socialist rather than reaction to the peculiar unstable equilibrium that was Weimar Germany and the transition to a war footing. I would be pleased to have my (Wikipedia + epsilon) knowledge of this extended, but it seems at least possible that policies enabling high workforce participation, for instance, were enacted with military rather than egalitarian goals in mind.

    That there is little in common with socialism as practiced in the early twentieth century and the varied connotations of the word today seems to be the point Niall is making too. As I say, I’d be pleased to learn more.

    Peter: were there any especially interesting talks at the meeting that you could relate in more detail? I hope folks weren’t just giving form presentations.

  10. Anton Garrett Says:

    No hard feelings Berian. I’ll reply later – am off for the day. Incidentally I got to know a *rightwing* ScotNat when I lived in Glasgow.
    Anton

  11. By blind populism I mean that Labour have tried to play to public fears over crime and terrorism by introducing such things as the DNA database or ID cards. I doubt these are part of some ideological view but more trying to look tough in the eyes of the public.

    Also I should add that one difference between National Socialism and Marxism is that in Marxism a dictatorship is a temporary stage before the goal of true communism* (where there is no state), in Nazism a dictatorship is the goal

    It should also be noted that most of the socialist structures in the UK (NHS, welfare state, nationalised industry) came after the election of the Atlee government (be those who fought in the war) and grew naturally out of the wartime collective effort,

    *In practice this is not the case and a dictatorship of the proletariat has never given up power to a truely classless, stateless society.

  12. Anton Garrett Says:

    Ah, I see. I wish it were blind populism! I agree that this is not a conscious attempt to usher in totalitarianism; I think it is a government of foolish, selfish and ill-educated people who are giving freedom away lightly in order to solve problems they perceive without any thought for the consequences. Ironically, most of them were the loudest to squeal “censorship!” whenever they didn’t instantly get what they wanted as student radicals in the 1960s and ’70s.

    “In Marxism a dictatorship is a temporary stage before the goal of true communism (where there is no state)”. Indeed. Communism has now been tried in dozens of countries over nine decades, and the Centre has yet to wither in any of them. Time to admit the project is a failure?

    Communism and socialism have identical ends, just different means to reach them. Read the 19th century founding documents of each to see that – this is what the fuss was about when Tony Blair caused Labour to ditch “Clause 4” in the 1990s. Communism aims to get to utopia by violent revolution, socialism by universal suffrage since the working class are in the majority. Hitler was a Socialist in the 19th century sense – a National Socialist. So it is no coincidence that communism in Russia, and National Socialism in Germany, had similarities, ie dictators who made their subjects’ lives a misery.

    I agree that “Christian socialism” is not the same as (secular) socialism. Britain had a stronger Christian influence than the continent and I think its socialism cared more in practical ways to alleviate the lot of unskilled and semi-skilled labour. The difference between old Labour and New Labour is probably the withering of the influence in that party of Christian-inspired morality.

    Anton

  13. “Britain had a stronger Christian influence than the continent”

    Hmm, stronger than fascist Italy? Britain had a stronger christian influence than Spain or Portugal? Germany and Austria were very Christian as well.

    I think you might like to revise that statement as I don’t think the evidence supports it unless you mean something different.

  14. Anton Garrett Says:

    Kav: There is no such thing as a Christian country, only Christian individuals. Of course there are countries with a significant presence of Christians, but real Christianity is a grassroots movement, not a political movement, ie it is bottom-up not top-down. That is because real Christianity is about changing hearts and you don’t do that by political coercion. (Of course in a democracy Christians are entitled to lobby for laws that others disagree with; that is a separate issue.)

    Anybody can call themselves Christian, but in the end it is God who decides who is sincere and who is just saying the words. You can get some idea by comparing people’s lives against that of Jesus of Nazareth. He helped (and warned) many but coerced nobody.

    Perhaps you can guess that I am in a church that has no State links.

    Anton

  15. Starting to drift way off topic but just to clarify, I was not stating that the countries were Christian, rather that a large proportion of the population self identified as regular church goers and christians. Nothing to do with Christianity being linked to a political movement.

  16. Anton Garrett Says:

    Kav: Clear criteria for who is a Christian are set out in the New Testament, which all denominations have signed up to. Non-Christians are likely to be misled as to these criteria by the antics of self-proclaimed Christians such as the Inquisitors, who tortured people and dared to claim they acted in the name of Christ. They are in for a shock when they finally meet him, but they can’t say they weren’t warned.
    Anton

  17. Anton, I think we are talking past each other here. You asserted that

    “I agree that “Christian socialism” is not the same as (secular) socialism. Britain had a stronger Christian influence than the continent and I think its socialism cared more in practical ways to alleviate the lot of unskilled and semi-skilled labour.”

    My point was to say that a lot of people in Europe identified themselves as Christian (and I didn’t mean to go back very far in time, just to the beginning of the last century and the century before). I think you mean that they did not practice what they preached (as it were) whereas in Britain they did?

    This is a powerful assertion and I see no evidence for it. In fact I don’t think Britain has a particularly great history in terms of Christian charity, given the way we dealt with our poor and destitute (not to discount the fine work carried out by some charities), which often involved sweeping them under the carpet into the workhouse (finally abolished in 1930) a truly un-Christian institution.

  18. […] In the Dark A blog about the Universe, and all that surrounds it « Notes from the North […]

  19. Anton Garrett Says:

    Kav: You ask: “I think you mean that they did not practice what they preached (as it were) whereas in Britain they did?”

    Sort of. I can’t reply Yes for the reasons you correctly state, ie most of the Victorian working class lived in poverty to the point of misery, whereas a genuine “Christian country” in which everyone loved their neighbours would be a paradise. But I can reply “More so”. For example, Britain was the first country to voluntarily abolish the horror of slavery in its lands and the impetus for this came wholly from Christians. There is no scope for triumphalism in merely righting a wrong, but the fact is still historically noteworthy.

    The true church – regardless of denomination, and meaning the collective of those who live like Jesus, coming to people’s aid in practical ways, standing firm against evil whatever it takes, and not retaliating against people – has always been a minority. But in Victorian Britain it was influential enough to make changes like that. Thank God.

    Anton

  20. Thomas D Says:

    I think anyone who wants to have a debate about the meaning of Nazi or ‘neo-Nazi’ and starts a sentence with

    “Set aside Hitler’s foreign policy and racism…”

    is either deeply deranged or deeply unserious. The only reason why Anton knows Hitler even existed is because of what he euphemistically calls ‘foreign policy’ and ‘racism’. If it were true that the really dangerous aspect of Hitler was economic policy, how curious that both Britain and Israel adopted pretty much socialist policies in the late 40’s. Was the NHS Hitler’s greatest achievement?

  21. Anton Garrett Says:

    Thomas,

    I am entitled to ask whether Hitler’s economic policies were socialist in the generally accepted meaning of that word without detouring into his odious racism and bellicose foreign policy. You seem to agree that his economics were socialist.

    I’m sorry that I did not denounce Hitler’s other deeds in capital letters large enough to satisfy you. You should not draw any implication from that.

    Anton

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