Monday 26 November 2012

Wrong tactics by the Republicans

The most important election statistic was the large majority of women who sided with Obama. The percentage was 55%, well above the president’s margin of victory.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. The Republican Party continues to proclaim it is anti-big government, and yet certain radicals in the party continue to bang the drums against Roe v. Wade and gay marriage. They say the government must actively regulate our private lives in these areas.

The right of a woman to choose is etched into our society, and it is highly improbable that it will be overturned regardless of the future composition of the Supreme Court. For one thing, it will be impossible for Republicans to fill the court with anti-abortion judges over Democratic objections and in any case  women will "punish" Republicans who support radical nominees. It seems strange to me that anti-abortion Republicans continue to showcase this issue, as opposed to just expressing their preference. The impact is that the women’s vote is essentially written off, and so their presidential candidate rendered almost unelectable, even before the campaign begins.

Romney really could not win the 2012 election. The Republican Party must move away from its anti-social agenda and be more tolerant. Right wing fanatics make up a relatively small percentage of the Republican Party but their influence over the party’s platform is huge. It is clearly not a situation that the American electorate appreciates or even understands.

Obama should have been very beatable in 2012. He won a presidential election even though his policies were unpopular and his performance was dismal but the far right, the religious right, just had to tell the world how they felt on social issues.

Monday 19 November 2012

Is this the end of the line for the evangelical Christians?

Christian conservatives, for more than two decades an important factor in U.S. politics, are struggling with the election results that clearly indicate tide of public opinion - especially on gay issues - has shifted strongly against them.

Not only did they lose the presidency but they lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot. Add to that the defeat of anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates and successful attempts to legalize marijuana for recreational use in two states and the basis for their inner turmoil is obvious..

The President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said,  "It's not that our message - we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong - didn't get out. It did get out." ''It's that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions and has rejected them."

The election outcome was also bad news and a long-overdue wake up call for the, increasingly political, Catholic bishops. The bishops and Catholic conservative groups helped lead the fight against same-sex marriage in the four states where that issue was on the ballot. They also undertook a campaign that accused Obama of undermining religious liberty, since a provision in the health care overhaul required most employers to provide coverage for contraception.

The bishops seem unwilling to take the great leap out of the middle ages that most of us managed some time ago. It is good news that most electors ignore them but it is sad that this should in any way surprise the bishops.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Consistency and truth

Conservative politicians don't seem to have the same relationship with consistency and truth that most of us have. When facts - such as the low turnout in Thursday's elections - become inconvenient they are quite content to do a 180 degree flip on their public view. When Trade Unions hold ballots the Conservatives complain when a decision to strike is  made on the basis of a 30% response. But when some right-wing political hack with zero policing experience is elected by less than 15% of the voters in their minds everything is suddenly fine!

My impression that conservatives are the architects of their own misery only enhances my liberal glee. Cameron, the Old Etonian, is still blaming freeloading Brits who want a fairer share of the wealth of the country for many of the problems we are facing. The only explanation for his delusions is that the conservative controlled media and his campaign consultants, having lied for years about everything from global warming to the causes of the deficit, have started to believe their own propaganda . Whether conservatives will now learn their lesson and exhibit more skepticism about their self-selected facts remains to be seen.

My feeling is that this is most unlikely - for one very good reason. The conservative mindset and scientific method are poles apart and there’s no real reason to think conservatives are going to sharpen up on this now.

The religious right in the US isn't much better. Most of them don't seem to mind Romney’s nonstop lying, even though his constantly changing positions made it unclear where he would have stood if he ever made it to the presidency. I've heard it suggested that republicans, after years of training themselves to enjoy the garbage poured out by their media outlets such as Fox News, now rely on openly lying as a kind of comfort blanket.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

More on governors

I’m puzzled. It is quite rare for the position of Chair of Governors to be contested. It is almost unprecedented for a contested election to be anything than polite and almost self-deprecating. For a contested election in a school with multiple challenges to become even slightly acrimonious must be almost unprecedented. An unfavourable OFSTED report will inevitably result in the “the blame game” with lots of finger-pointing being directed, from both inside and outside of the school, towards the governors in general and the Chair and Vice-Chair in particular. All the more so if the Governing Body is identified as an area of significant weakness. And yet all this is happening not so far from where I’m writing this blog.

Taking on the role of the Chair of Governors of a school involves accepting that you will need to spend hundreds of hours per year on school business.  Many of these hours will need to be during the working day. And what do you get paid for all this unpaid work? Nothing, zilch, not a penny! In practice you will be out of pocket since most Chairs don’t claim for their travel costs or for office consumables like printer ink or paper.
Add to this the almost local lack of thanks or appreciation Chairs of Governors receive from the Local Authority and you can see that it doesn’t make for a very attractive employment package.

So why am I puzzled? I want to understand why there are some governors who want to be seen as leaders but either haven't got - or at least will not share - their vision for the future of the school they seek to serve. This is bound to make people question their motivation for seeking the top job.

Thursday 8 November 2012

A successful week

It has been a good week.

Top of the pile of course must be the US election where the odious Romney was defeated in an election that should have been his to win. I would say that the Republicans will now have to come to terms with the sad (for them) fact that the party in its current form is highly unlikely to ever win a Presidential election! Romney has been described as a man who "stood for nothing and everything at the same time." I don’t reckon he is nearly that good. Many within the religious right in the US come across as totally irrational and I find myself wanting to give them a good shake - by the neck! The "Just as long as I'm OK then sod the other fellow" philosophy seems to be their mantra, a curious approach for Christians to adopt I would have thought
This week I was elected Chair of Governors of a nearby school. Those of you with long memories might raise a quizzical eyebrow at this news but the truth of the matter was that I was needed, urgently, and at the ripe old age of 58 I probably still have a few more years of public service in me. I like to work on the basis of obtaining a consensus that all the members can at least live with and I was finding the confrontational approach of two of my younger colleagues tiresome in the extreme.

My third “victory” was to be accused of manipulating somebody. I agree that I have some vices but being manipulative isn’t one of them. Indeed if there is anybody less manipulative than me I have yet to meet them. What my accuser really meant was that I expressed some mild opposition to their principle that the weighing of heads is better than the counting of them and they didn’t like it.

Friday 2 November 2012


Acting as a mediator in a family or employment dispute is very much more difficult that you might imagine. Nevertheless it is something that I enjoy doing and it seems from the feedback I receive that I am at least tolerably good at it.

For the last six months I have attempting to resolve a whole series of disputes between a university student who lost both her parents in a road accident when she was in year 12 at school and her maternal grandparents. Most of the facts are not in dispute which would suggest that my job should have been fairly simple. Sadly nothing could have been further from the truth.

In truth neither side is very good at listening to what the “opposition” is saying. The Grandfather is very dismissive of any opinions put forward by his granddaughter or her solicitor and has fairly consistently refused to explain why he did some of his more questionable actions. For example he accepts that the day after his daughter and her husband were killed he went round to their house and removed money, some jewellery and also burnt “some papers”.  He has been given many opportunities to explain why he did this but I am fairly certain that even his own solicitor hasn’t been told the whole story.
Clearly when the case comes to court he will have no choice but to answer these questions so it isn’t clear to me what advantage he is seeking to gain from his current stubborn silence.