Postal Voting Par Avion

After giving the matter much thought, some weeks ago I decided to apply for a postal vote so I could vote in the general election in the constituency of Cardiff West where I still (for the time being) have a house. I couldn’t vote in person owing to work commitments in Ireland on Thursday 12th December. Teaching term doesn’t end in Maynooth until 20th.

The postal ballot paper was sent to my address in Cardiff because I wasn’t confident in the post between the UK and Ireland. (It takes over a month for my copy of Physics World to reach Ireland. Last night I flew from Dublin to complete it and this morning I put it in the mail, so it should arrive in time to be counted.

In case you’re interested, I voted for Kevin Brennan (Welsh Labour).

I fear this will turn out to be a futile gesture, and that this election will put liar and charlatan Boris Johnson in Downing Street with a significant majority. The prospect of a government headed by this creature appals me, as does the thought that so many people don’t care that he’s so demonstrably dishonest and untrustworthy. As far as I see it, anyone who votes for the modern Conservative Party must be either a simpleton or a sociopath. Or possibly both.

Update: relevant advice from today’s Financial Times:

(It’s actually about dealing with cold callers, but is in my opinion more widely applicable..)

41 Responses to “Postal Voting Par Avion”

  1. I share and understand your frustration. I especially share your frustration given that I left Ireland 25 years ago to live in the UK but don’t have the option at the moment to escape the clutches of that buffoon.

    And, as you know, I’m not the least argumentative individual.

    But…

    As far as I see it, anyone who votes for the modern Conservative Party must be either a simpleton or a sociopath. Or possibly both.

    This gets us less than nowhere. Telling those who don’t share our politics that they’re stupid and/or evil may well rack up a few more “likes” and “follows” among our tribe on social media but it’s not going to convince anyone. And we’re not going to change anything unless we can sway opinions in the right — sorry, left — direction.

    Not every Tory voter is evil. Not every Leave voter is scum of the earth. That “People’s Front of Judaea/Judaean People’s Front” in-fighting that characterises the left is born of an obsession with purity-checking and assuming we always have the moral high ground. Even if we do, telling those who don’t share our voting convictions that they’re sociopathic is not just useless, it’s entirely counter-productive.

    Until the left becomes a lot more cognisant of “optics”, PR, and messaging, we’re not going to convince anyone.

    • …and, indeed, as George Monbiot consistently pointed out in the run-up to the referendum (and long before), there were good reasons for those of us on the left to seriously consider a leave vote.

      • telescoper Says:

        This election is about far more than leaving the European Union. I didn’t mention the EU at all in the post. The Leave Campaign was just the start of a right-wing onslaught, not the end. It is a tragedy that so many on the left couldn’t see it, but they’re now going to find out.

      • As I mentioned in my post entitled “The Quotation Fallacy” at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/, George Monbiot also has the following to say about the constant assaults on reason, intellect and integrity as well as the dilutions of idea and substance, which are brazenly stoked by the chronic inducements of consumerist ethos, pop culture and tabloid mentality in the unrelenting cult of celebrity and hero-worship saturating the mass media and contemporary living:

        One of the curiosities of our age is the way in which celebrity culture comes to dominate every aspect of public life. Even the review pages of the newspapers sometimes look like a highfalutin version of gossip magazines. Were we to judge them by the maxim “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”, they would not emerge well. Biography dominates, ideas often seem to come last. Brilliant writers like Sylvia Plath become better known for their lives than their work: turning her into the Princess Diana of literature does neither her nor her readers any favours.

        Even when ideas are given prominence, they no longer have standing in their own right; their salience depends on their authorship. Take, for example, the psychology professor Steven Pinker, who attracts the kind of breathless adulation that would seem more appropriate in the pages of Hello magazine.

    • telescoper Says:

      My statement was about people prepared to vote for a proven liar. People who simply don’t care about honesty or truth. We see exactly the same thing with Trump supporters now and in various episodes throughout history.

      It’s not really about politics or voting convictions. It’s much more fundamental than that and it won’t be defeated by “optics”.

      I notice that you appear to attribute a number of other opinions to me that I didn’t express.

      • Peter,

        The precise quote from your post is As far as I see it, anyone who votes for the modern Conservative Party must be either a simpleton or a sociopath. Or possibly both.

        That’s entirely about politics and voting convictions. “Anyone who votes for…”

        It would be ironic (given my Judaean People’s Front comments) if you and I, who share the same politics and worldview to a very large extent, ended up arguing re. the semantics here.

        A *lot* of people are convinced by Johnson. As you surmise, probably the majority of those who vote are convinced by Johnson, for whatever reason. That may make them gullible in our eyes but it doesn’t mean that they’re either “a simpleton or a sociopath”.

        And if we’re not going to convince those who vote for Trump and Johnson by “optics” and messages that resonate, just how do we do it? Or do we throw the towel in, demonise The Other, and retire to our separate camps/FB pages…?

      • telescoper Says:

        As far as I see it, there are two possibilities.
        1. Knowing Johnson’s lies are lies and not caring anyway.
        2. Believing Johnson’s lies are true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
        If there is another alternative I’d like to know what it is.

        In the interest of full disclosure the first draft of my post did not say “simpleton or sociopath” but simply “knobhead”.

      • To answer your question, we can do it by empathy, inclusion, (de)conversion, understanding, compromise, and some wit and humour with double or multiple meanings, such as the one at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/best-quotation-to-win-an-exclusive-loyal-contract-to-make-pig-boss-company-great-again/

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I think there’s a difference between disparaging the opinions and actions of a group of people with whom you disagree, and disparaging their characters. When the dust settles on the politics of the UK since 2016 we are all going to have to get on with one another.

      • “When the dust settles on the politics of the UK since 2016 we are all going to have to get on with one another.”

        As Ben Franklin said, hang together or hang separately.

    • While you have some valid points, I think that a bigger problem is the so-called left (i.e. the woke crowd) having nothing better to do than criticize the real, old-school left, usually for relatively harmless stuff.

      • I didn’t have time to post an example. Here is one from today. (There are new ones every day.) Read it and weep.

        https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2019/12/10/is-white-empiricism-destroying-physics/

        This is up there with the infamous “the Principia is a rape manual” bullshit. Yes, crazy people can be found in many places, and one shouldn’t waste too much time tilting at windmills, but when such drivel appears in otherwise non-crackpot journals, academia has a responsibility to maintain its own high standards. Being a member of groups historically oppressed should not lead to a carte blanche to spout drivel without having to deal with criticism. In fact, I would argue that such actions hurt such historically oppressed groups rather than help them.

      • Even if we definitely disagree about religion, and probably about proportional representation, I’m sure that Anton will agree with me on this one.

      • Here is one of the many comments on the post linked to above.

        The sad thing is that such absurd claims, which are so absurd that many think that they must be pranks or hoaxes, distract from the real problems which should be solved.

        I heard many times how academia has learned from the Sokal Hoax, and how the type of fashionable nonsense Sokal and Bricmont discussed in their book was now passé. Everyone learned their lesson and it was anyway blown out of proportion. Such postmodernism does not really exist and so on, and if you criticize it, you really just hate pinkos, women, feminists and cute kitten. Incidentally, the same type of defense that is now popular with the woke.

        And yet, here we are. The conflation of everything shows such an astonishing lack of clear-thinking, that I am genuinely surprised how this writer could work in an academic culture at all. When postmodernists first seized Einstein relativity, it was already ludicrous, and when debunked, the standard excuse was the usage was merely metaphorical. And yet here we are. Again.

        She mixes together observations about the cosmos submitted in papers with personal experiences perhaps shared over twitter. Objects with a referent or at least with measurable properties, which can be observed, are conflated with non-repeatable experiences that become a thing as patterns (where it’s difficult to even agree on the exact parameters of the pattern). Process (how to observe, e.g. with a telescope on Hawaii) are conflated with knowledge. Map is territory. You have to search for a long time to find other examples of such poor reasoning. Especially astounding as the author is apparently capable to follow what’s going on String Theory (does Michio Kaku contribute to “white empiricism”).

        What this shows, and what Clear Peer Review showed for a while is that not much has changed in certain corners of academia. It’s depressing that such people and their institutions pose as “social justice” activism, when they might as well be funded by donors close to the Republican party, measured by the damage they deal to actually worthy concerns and causes.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Of course I agree with you. It’s got into mathematics too, which is more surprising or less surprising according to your view of the universality of mathematics through abstraction, and its construction via internal consistency rather than consistency with observation.

        The Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee (ESAC) has determined that math is subjective and racist. In a draft for its Math Ethnic Studies framework, the ESAC writes that Western mathematics is “used to disenfranchise people and communities of color.”

        https://freepressers.com/articles/math-is-racist-according-to-seattle-public-schools?

        On the contrary, math is used to empower such communities by giving them the best mathematical tools that other communities have made available – and guess what, we don’t grumble that it is cultural appropriation either. If Rochelle Gutierrez doesn’t want it, she doesn’t have to have it. Here she is lecturing on her ideas:

        At 40 minutes she shows a slide saying that one should “Refuse to privilege abstraction over context”. That undoes the first of the great ancient Greek mathematical insights, the idea of abstract number. Pure “three”, as what three sheep in a field, three boats in a harbour, etc, have in common. By doing this you can adapt the abstract mathematics to a huge variety of situations.

        The other Greek development was the idea of step-by-step proof of a result from axioms. This idea is valuable for checking an intuition and for teaching the subject. It greatly facilitated mathematical development – as in Euclid’s Elements – because results could be built upon systematically. When this idea was shown to Chinese court mathematicians a few hundred years ago (by the Jesuits, in fact), it impressed them instantly and deeply.

        You can get away with the sort of bullshit we are concerned with right up to the moment you have to tackle a real problem in the real world. So what is Pi equal to outside Western civ?

      • I also learned that “people of colour” no longer refers to people with skin darker than the average true Scotsman, but anyone from any “group” other than the “default” groups. 😐

      • I’m not making this stuff up. “Principia rape manual” has more than a quarter of a million hits on Google; at least the first few are relevant.

        Then there is “the speed of light is privileged” and “feminist glaciology” (at first, I thought that the latter one was satire).

        And, of course, fluid mechanics is more difficult that the physics of rigid bodies (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more) because all those old white cis straight dudes are afraid of menstruation. Really. (That example is also real.)

        This would be funny if it weren’t sad for the following reason: those who should be convinced of things like equal opportunity, letting consenting adults do what they want with one another, judging people only be relevant criteria, and other things which progress has brought us in the last several decades and one reason why I prefer to live in Europe than, say, Saudi Arabia, can be turned off by such logic which is obviously absurd even to a KKK redneck.

        I would like to see more of the left and other liberal-minded people calling such folks out.

      • be relevant criteria —> by relevant criteria

      • http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/classical

        I think that the author must be reading the comments here.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Whether or not this is a war inside the Left, much more traction would be gained if mathematicians and physicists who were female and/or from minority communities were to stand up for real physics and mathematics.

        This is going to turn into a very serious war against our subjects within the universities in a couple of decades.

      • I agree. Unfortunately, these days you don’t really have to be a leftist to be considered a member of the left; you just have to self-identify as such. 🙂

        The only post-modern “I am what I think” case which seems to have been taken down by criticism from within, so to speak, seems to have been that of Rachel Dolezal.

      • One can debate about whether it is worth the trouble to explain jokes, but regarding the SMBC comic linked to above: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2019/12/12/letter-to-nature-denounces-the-term-quantum-supremacy-as-racist/

      • Shock! Horror! Does this mean that The Supremes were racists?

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        This is a clash of worldviews between the postmodern Left and the older, ‘modern’ (in the formal philosophical sense) Left. Peter has commented on schisms within the Left here before and I believe this is the root of it. The silence of the modernists in the face of the postmodernists in relation to science is, I suspect, due to two reasons: complacency (“science is objective, innit”) and distaste for finding oneself in agreement with the Right.

        I believe that modernists won’t win the clash of worldviews. That is because, ultimately, the modernist view that science deals with objective truth derived from the religious worldview in which science matured: the view that the world we observe is real because it was created by an omnipotent deity. If you think that that is an arbitrary huge jump, notice that according to certain eastern monist views espoused by entire human cultures all differentiation between things is mere illusion. Science could never have got going where that was believed. Secular modernists, being secular, can’t appeal to the doctrine of creation, and in postmodernism they are up against a monist view.

        But science might be able to hold its own in the coming university wars by invoking pragmatism, ie it underpins technology, which everybody agrees is useful.

        Quite possibly we shall see ,more places like Caltech and MIT that are science-only, while some universities become places of exclusively postmodernist studies – which I am fully prepared to call crap.

      • “distaste for finding oneself in agreement with the Right”

        This is certainly an important point, the the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend fallacy: some leftists will not oppose anything opposed by those on the right, even though said opposition might actually be correct in some cases or, more often, the right have other reasons for their opposition.

        You’ve mentioned Western religion being important for science before. Not all non-Western cultures are monist. Some have creation myths not that far removed from that of the Bible (indeed, the Bible incorporated some of them), yet science really developed only once. I suspect that there are complex and contingent reasons.

        In any case, it is possible to do science without being religious.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I of course agree that it is possible to do science without being religious. I am talking about the roots of the Western scientific tradition and whether it is ultimately possible to defend that tradition without acknowledging those roots.

        Not all non-Western cultures are monist. Some have creation myths not that far removed from that of the Bible (indeed, the Bible incorporated some of them)

        It might be more accurate to say that these and the Bible’s creation account have common ancestry.

  2. This election is about far more than leaving the European Union. I didn’t mention the EU at all in the post. The Leave Campaign was just the start of a right-wing onslaught, not the end. It is a tragedy that so many on the left couldn’t see it, but they’re now going to find out.

    On this, I largely agree. My only quibble would be that I don’t think the Leave Campaign was the start of a right-wing onslaught. I think that particular juggernaut was trundling along long before the Leave Campaign via, for one thing, the austerity programme. (And the Lib Dems should forever hang their heads in shame for facilitating it).

  3. Closing paragraphs of Frankie Boyle’s latest in today’s Guardian are rather pertinent…

    “I don’t want to end on a note of pessimism. Instead, I’d like to share with you my two favourite quotes. The first, is a really famous one. Kurt Vonnegut asked his adult son what he thought the meaning of life was, and his son replied: “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

    The second is what David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, said about the ending of the final episode:

    “Well, what Tony should have been thinking, I guess, and what we all should be thinking – although we can’t live that way – is that life is really short. And there are good times in it and there are bad times in it. And that we don’t know why we’re here, but we do know that 20 miles up it’s freezing cold, it’s a freezing cold universe, but here we have this thing called love, which is our only defence, really, against all that cold, and that it’s a very brief interval and that, when it’s over, I think you’re probably always blindsided by it.”

    Twenty miles up, it’s a freezing cold universe, we only have the human connections we make here, nothing is permanent, and love is our only defence. I suggest we all vote accordingly, and try to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

    • “Well, it’s nothing very special. Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

      Bonus points if you recognize the quote.

  4. Many of those prepared to vote Conservative don’t believe Johnson, and are ready to accept that things are about to get worse,. However, they believe that Corbyn will be even worse. The drip-drip poison of much of the mainstream media, together with a reluctance to look objectively at Labour’s manifesto, has closed their minds to voting Labour. There’s no easy answer to it.

    • Here, we see yet again the disadvantages of a two-party system.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        There isn’t a two-party “system,” as anybody can found a party. The system is representation by constituency plus a first-past-the-post system in each constituency.

        I am interested in the logic by which that system leads to two dominant parties, as is observationally the case. Labour supplanted Liberal as the major alternative to Tory in the first three decades of the 20th century.

        More generally, I am interested in what features of voting systems give rise to two dominant parties. I am not considering what system “should” be enacted, but how systems function in practice.

      • There isn’t a two-party “system,” as anybody can found a party. The system is representation by constituency plus a first-past-the-post system in each constituency.

        True, but in practice small parties get vastly underrepresented in Parliament, and a party with a substantial fraction of people voting for it might get no seats at all, so the representation is highly non-linear. This means that many people vote for the lesser of two evils rather than the party they really would like to vote for, so in essence it is a two-party system. It certainly isn’t proportional representation. I find it hard to call any system where x% of the vote doesn’t result in x% of the seats democratic.

        I am interested in the logic by which that system leads to two dominant parties, as is observationally the case. Labour supplanted Liberal as the major alternative to Tory in the first three decades of the 20th century.

        As you note, it can happen. In the US, a third party, the Republicans, replaced the Whigs (who had replaced the Federalists). But it happens rarely and still isn’t representative.

        Why it happens is clear: people don’t want to risk wasting their vote. I think that in PR systems where there is a minimum percentage (even if that is just enough for 1 seat), that there should be alternate votes: I vote for x, but if x doesn’t have enough to cross the threshold, then I vote for y. One could just rank all parties in order of preference and have an instant runoff.

      • Many or most countries in Europe with PR have settled down to about 6 major parties, each with 10–20 per cent of the vote: “conservative”, “social democrats”, “classical liberal”, “greens”, “communists”, “extreme right-wing”. What is strange about Germany is that, until recently, there was no extreme right-wing party in the parliament. These tend to cover most bases.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Why it happens is clear: people don’t want to risk wasting their vote.

        Please fill in the gaps!

      • It should be obvious, at least when people have some idea of how the election will turn out, which is essentially always the case due to opinion polls and so on: with a first-past-the-post system, usually only two, at most three, perhaps only one, party has a significant chance of being elected. A party favoured by, say, 8 per cent of the electorate has no chance. So supporters of such a party have a choice: vote for it, and essentially waste their vote, or vote for the best (in the sense of least bad) candidate who has a chance.

      • ” I think that in PR systems where there is a minimum percentage (even if that is just enough for 1 seat), that there should be alternate votes: I vote for x, but if x doesn’t have enough to cross the threshold, then I vote for y. One could just rank all parties in order of preference and have an instant runoff.”

        Just to be clear, this would be a refinement of a good system. PR as usually practiced is hugely better than first-past-the-post.

      • “usually only two, at most three, perhaps only one, party has a significant chance of being elected”

        In a given constituency.

        Of course, once one has constituencies, there is the danger of gerrymandering. In fact, there is no objective way to proportion a country into constituencies.

  5. Morning, Peter.

    Re. the update…

    Sometimes “playing nicely” has much more influence than one might expect. The following is taken from a NYT review of Eli Saslow’s “Rising Out of Hatred”, which I can’t recommend enough (both the book and the review)…

    “Today, in the upside-down world that is Trump’s America, where anything seems possible and nothing is off limits, we’re seeing the emergence of a new type of redemption story: that of the white supremacist turned antiracist crusader. In defiance of antifa radicals who support “punching Nazis” to shut them up, and free-speech absolutists who think it’s enough to ignore them and hope they’ll go away, “formers,” as many ex-white supremacists call themselves, teach us from their own experiences about the complicated roles empathy and exclusion play in conversion; about the addictive nature of hate; about how encounters with “others” can be transformative. “

    (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/books/review/eli-saslow-rising-out-of-hatred.html)

    And if empathy and constructive encounters with “The Other” can influence members of the far-right to this extent, moderate Tory voters might even respond favourably to being credited with some intelligence and moral fibre.

  6. […] everyone with whom we disagree politically is, as some would have it, a sociopath or a simpleton (https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/postal-voting-par-avion/). It is refreshing to see that Jeff — whose politics, like my own, are very firmly left of […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: