Move to the Right – part le trois

Pardon the Franglais, but this post is about Europe and Scottish Independence.  Today a Conservative MP defected to UKIP, citing the unwillingness of the upper echelons of Government to change things in Europe.  In Move to the Right, parts 1 &  2, I wrote about the apparent drift to the right in Europe and, consequently, in Britain.  Now jump to the Scottish Independence campaign: if the rightward drift, the anti-European drift, continues and David Cameron’s tories get re-elected, they are committed to a referendum on continuing UK membership of the EU.  If the Scots want to stay in the EU they could nevertheless very easily be dragged out by the English anti-euroists.  The ‘No’ campaign claims there is too much risk and uncertainty in a vote for independence; what about the uncertaintly for Scotland’s largely europhile people?

What the tory part of the ‘No’ campaign haven’t grasped, in fact are congenitally unable to grasp, is that the more they threaten, cajaole and especially patronise, the Scots the more likely the undecided are to say “You know what pal, youse can get tae f**k.  It cannae be worse than having tae listen to your shite”.

What they could be saying is things like “Scotland is a nation already, a proud and distinct people we love and respect, but a nation is not the same as a country.  And what the Nationalists could remeber is that country is just a political contrivance, the geographic boundaries of which rarely, if ever (if ever) coincide with ethnic, cultural or national boundaries .



The poor grammar phantom strikes again….

Two recent events have generated many media reports exemplifying the continuing decline of our national language skills.  The fact that these errors appear across written and broadcast media suggests that the problem is widespread.  It is particularly irritating when the experienced journalists fronting news broadcasts read out the scripts put in front of them knowing that what they are saying makes no sense.  Surely they must know, at least by the second time of broadcasting, that there is something wrong?

The two events of which I write are the downing of flight MH17 (apparently by missile, when overflying a war zone at 33,000 feet) and the conflagration in Gaza.  In both cases there is dispute between the parties about who is to blame; the BBC and print media report “both sides blame each other.”

I think what they mean to say is that “each side blames the other” or, less elegantly, “both sides blame the other”.  What they have actually said is that each side blames itself as well as the other.  GRR.

Move to the right – part deux

My May 26th post, “Move to the right in threes”, was about the realignment of European politics following the Euro elections, in which the right of centre parties did very well.  I postulated then that the noticeable rightward shift held risks for us all, both at ‘home’ and in Europe.  Since then there has been a significant reshuffle of the UK government which, undeniably, removed a number of moderate or centre-ist politicians and replaced them with right-leaning and largely euro-sceptic ones.

Yesterday the right-wing and avowedly eurosceptic Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, declared he was, in effect, “coming in from the cold” and seeking a seat in Parliament at the next election.  It is completely reasonable to link these two events: can there be any doubt that after years of public prevarication and exile Boris has been encouraged to declare, both by the political environment and, probably, by the “men in grey suits” behind the Tory party?  He obviously feels the current of Conservatism is flowing in his direction and that his brand of right-wing Conservatism is in the ascendency.  It may well be this is part of a strategy to head off the threat from UKIP at the next election, less than a year away, and that once the Conservatives are returned with a working majority the government would return to the centre ground.  I doubt it.  I fear this reflects a more widespread shift to the right in our national life which will give comfort, if not licence, to darker forces and lead to intolerance and ugly and violent confrontations between extremes, with the rest of us caught between the hammer and anvil.

You only have to look at what has happened in Israel, and Russia, both supposedly parliamentary democracies, to see what happens when the rottweilers are unleashed, and their activities tolerated, as tools of policy (Palestine / Ukraine).  In Ukraine the so-called pro-Russian separatists are, in fact, seeking establishment of a kind of ultra-orthodox anti-gay, anti-muslim Christian theocracy.  It suits V. Putin to support them for regional strategic reasons but look at the consequences already – not least the murderous destruction of an airliner and 298 innocent lives.  In Israel, the governing balance of Orthodox vs Liberal has always been a problem.  In my opinion, despite being a parliamentary democracy, the State of Israel has never been able to separate military and executive power.  When every person must undergo military service, and maintain that as a reservist, how much more difficult is it to see gun-toting ultra-orthodox settlers as an abberation?  The lines between the governed and those who govern are blurred to the extent that a former Brigadier-General is able to openly suggest full-scale invasion and re-occupation of Palestine, and others to speak of “finishing the job”: not leaving even a child alive.  Historians know that this is precisly how Hitler came to power, and what that led to: an incremental moving of the boundary between the tolerable and intolerable until it became normal to burn shops, commit murder and, ultimately, exterminate.

I know this is a very long way from the tousle-haired Boris and his ambition to lead the Tories, but be in no doubt that even if he were the bumbling bufoon his image projects he does present a likeable personality that makes him very electable and one which the Conservative power- makers are happy to use .  He is a mask, maybe unwitting maybe not, of something more worrying and the socio-political background that is making it possible should be a concern to us all – oddly, especially to Jews who will again fall victim to the rise of the right and increasing anti-semitism.

Here we go again – the legacy of Lyme

I am still not well and I ask myself “Is it back?”

There is no doubt that, for me at least, one of the most damaging aspects of Lyme Disease is the mental scar it leaves.  I can only speak with authority about my own experience but I would bet my mortgage on this being a typical experience.  The simple truth is that there is no test to establish ongoing / residual / active infection so if you continue to have, or develop, symptoms suggestive of active Lyme Disease you have to engage with the medics all over again as if it were a new, first, infection.

Readers of my previous posts on this topic will know what a disagreable prospect that is.  Had I still been in my previous, Scottish, home I would have confidence that my enlightened and experienced GP would assess my complaints differently than my new, English, GP will do.  I am older than I was, and borderline (maybe just over the border) Type 2 Diabetic.  So my new GP will now view my symptoms through that filter and, to be fair, many of the symptoms that have appeared (or failed to resolve 100%) could be caused by, or exacerbated by, Diabetes.

For myself, as I have said in previous posts, I am very reluctant to believe that I still have Lyme Disease after a prolonged and intensive multi-antibiotic therapy, on the NHS, which most ‘Lymies’ can only dream about.  And yet the drift of research and clinical evidence suggests that Lyme may, indeed, survive such an onslaught.  A Scottish Lymie acquaintance of mine, Nicola Seal, has a blog    that records her own journey through initial infection, treatment, wellness, relapse and, hopefully, now recovery.  She had more treatment than I have, and still relapsed and, if you read her blog, you would see that she carries the same mental scars: no matter how much treatment, or how well she feels, there is that nagging uncertainty about the reality of that recovery.

So, here I am; I’ve been to the Doctor and she listened.  I suggested we reconsider a new round of triple antibiotic therapy, on the basis that if there is no improvement we stop, but she proposes to refer my resurgent symptoms to her “Lyme expert” while testing my glucose intolerance.  My anticipaton was that this “expert” would say that, after all that treatment, I can’t possibly have Lyme and bounce it back to my GP.  This turned out to be largely true, although she (the ‘expert’) did say there were uncertainties.  I got the usual “it might be PTLS, Post Lyme Treatment Syndrome, or any number of other things.  I got the “some people benefit from another round of Doxycycline, but that’s likely the anti-inflammatory effect of the drug which goes away if you stop”.  I’d heard that one before, from an Infectious Diseases Consultant in Inverness, so didn’t feel reassured.  It was also suggested that I might be referred to an neurologist in Bristol who, amongst other neurological condtions, would look for MS.  All of this response is of course clearly predicated on both the consultant and my GP believing  that Lyme Disease is not resistant to treatment and cannot recur without reinfection.  So, my waxing and waning, relatively mild, migratory symptoms: itching and tingling, joint pain, pain in the soles of my feet, muscle pain, muscle weakness, twitching, tendonitis, insomnia, fatigue / lack of stamina, temperature variations, cramp and word searching, are caused by something else!  First we have to eliminate Diabetes as a cause, despite the fact that I had all these symptoms years before Diabetes was even suspected and, more to the point, completely disappeared for months.  Not surprisingly I’m thinking of restarting my daily symptom diary, moribund for a year.  Here we go again.  Or not.

Russia and the Unpreparedness of NATO

David Cameron has just said that NATO is unprepared for a more challenging relationship with Russia.  Well, who’d have thought it?  What a surprise!  This is the same David Cameron who in only 5 years of government has presided over the evisceration of the UK armed forces.  He scrapped our (admittedly old, but serviceable) aircraft carriers, sold off our Harrier ‘jump jets’ and ordered a bunch of unproven (and so far undeliverable) American replacements for aircraft carriers that won’t be service-ready for another 5 years.  He cancelled Nimrod, leaving us entirely without a long-range anti-submarine or maritime patrol capability, disbanded whole battalions of army – citing the need to shape our armed forces to address the world as it had then become – with a benign and newly best-friendly Russia.  I seem to recall wiser counsel warning that things change very quickly in world politics, how right they were.  If NATO is unprepared for a confrontation with a Putin-led Russia, whose fault is it?  I’m no militarist but, really, Cameron must have a neck of solid brass!