“We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for. I knew a parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism. After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: ‘I will continue to deal with the cause, but of both their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s.’ This is what ecumenism of blood is.”

Pope Francis (via chrysostmom)

(via johnthelutheran)

Wuthering Heights


Because obviously what I need to be reading after a emotionally tough few days is a psychologically convoluted proto-Gothic novel, I’ve been re-reading ‘Wuthering Heights’.

I’d forgotten how brutal a book it is - I’d mistily remembered it as hysterical, perhaps, but the cruelty - emotional,…

Once again, I will not negotiate with terrorists.


Ok, let’s try this again.

This has nothing to do with games and is not a matter of legitimate public interest, but is simply a personal matter. I would hope and request that the games press be respectful of what IS a personal matter, and not news, and not about games. This is explicitly about…

Eurozone negotiations, 18th century style.

The chaplain then recounts the case of a Jaeger subaltern who was assailed “by an Englishman in his cups” with the declamation: “God damn you, Frenchy, you take our pay!” The outraged Hessian replied: “I am a German and you are a shit.” This was followed by an impromptu duel with hangers, (a kind of cutlass, rather than coat hangers, which was my first thought), in which the Englishman received a fatal wound. The chaplain records that General Howe pardoned the Jaeger officer and issued an order that “the English should treat the Germans as brothers.” This order began to have influence only when “our Germans, teachable as they are” had learned to “stammer a little English.” Apparently this was a prerequisite for the English to show them any affection.

From : ‘Steven Schwamenfeld.”The Foundation of British Strength: National Identity and the Common British Soldier.” Ph.D. diss., Florida State University 2007, p. 123-124

Poor Law, poor law.

You are a woman leaving, finally, an abusive man. You are either sent due to a lack of local provision or choose to go away from the area in which you have lived with your abusive partner. You enter the safe space of a women’s shelter. You begin to heal. If you’re very brave, and very lucky, he is convicted, and/or given a restraining order. If you’re even luckier, he respects its conditions. You heal well enough to go home. Despite not having much money, you are, thanks to changes over which you have no control, now responsible for paying at least some of your Council Tax. Fortunately, your council will still help though, surely, via a Council Tax Reduction? It’s at this point that some women discovered that no, their council would not offer them any help. It’s at this point they discovered that there was a financial penalty for having had the courage to leave. It’s at this point they discovered a new Poor Law.

Poor Laws were marked by their imposition of a residency test: if people were not ‘of the parish’ then they were not eligible for support, no matter how destitute. Sandwell Council introduced a residency condition in its Council Tax Support (CTS)scheme: people who hadn’t been resident in the area for two years would not be eligible. The under-provision of places in refuges is a discussion for another day, but it effects in this case mean that women who had to be sent out of area, either for their own safety or because a place wasn’t available in Sandwell, who then returned would find themselves ineligible for CTS. Equally, women who ended up in Sandwell having left another area due to domestic violence, wouldn’t be eligible either. Given the strong correlation between leaving a violent man and subsequent poverty, the consequence would be to make impoverished survivors of DV even poorer.

Enter, thankfully, the courts, who did not so much strike down Sandwell’s policy as shred it (details of the judgment here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2014/2617.html). To reduce the careful language of the judge to the demotic, Sandwell were told that their policy was a Big Fat Fail.

And that, one would think, would be that, surely? Well, no. For example, Basildon Council (who I suspect will not be alone) either can’t read, or haven’t noticed the Sandwell ruling - and their residency condition is seven years. Seven. Years: http://www.basildon.gov.uk/lcts To borrow the words of one well-respected legal blog: it is bonkers.

In these councils’ policies are revealed the way poor and vulnerable people are sent from pillar to post by the push me-pull you between local and central government policies. This government has encouraged the idea that people should be prepared to move house to find work, introduced a cap which means many benefit claimants will be forced to move because their housing benefit will no longer cover their rent, and introduced a bedroom tax (sorry, ceased to pay a spare room subsidy) which has the same effect whilst ALSO allowing councils to introduce residency conditions for CTS. Oh and cutting the grants made to councils,of course: one effect of which has been to reduce the provision of women’s refuges.

I haven’t been able to find a response by Eric Pickles,(Secretary of State for DCLG) to the Sandwell ruling: but being a sunny little optimist, I hope he would condemn what Sandwell did, and what Basildon is still doing. (Rather embarrassingly for Pickles, Basildon is a mere nine miles from his constituency - apparently his enthusiasm for localism doesn’t extend to noticing what’s going on in his own backyard, even when it pertains to his own department’s policies). However, whether he does or not, he cannot escape culpability. The policy decisions these two councils have made did not take place in a vacuum, but against a constant din of rhetoric from inter alia, the SoS and his media supporters about ending the ‘something for nothing’ culture, protecting hard-working families from being ripped off, and the need to ‘put our own people first’. That some councils have absorbed these messages and acted on them in ways which cause harm to the poorest and most vulnerable should come as no surprise. That it only took Sandwell thirty-nine minutes to agree to its new Poor Law is merely the rancid cherry on top.

(I was alerted to this mess, by the excellent Nearly Legal blogpost here: http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2014/08/just-bonkers-absolutely-bonkers/ - anyone interested in housing law should add the blog to their RSS as a matter of urgency).

(Thirty seconds after publishing, I was told that Tendring DC also have residency test. I am beginning to suspect there will be a fair few of these cases…)

The Way We Live Now. Again.

Having been thinking over the last few days about Putin, and Mark Harper’s (unconnected) re-emergence at the top of the political septic tank, led to my wondering what the nineteenth century term for ‘spiv’ was.  Naturally this sent me to Trollope’s ‘The Way We Live Now’, and this quote from him on the reasons for its writing:

Nevertheless a certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable. If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into Parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel.

It happened in the 19th century, the 20th century, it is happening again. We learn nothing it seems. Nothing at all.

Confused by the French language? This graph should help you



If your French A-Levels or GCSE mostly left you confused at when you were supposed to way “tu” or “vous”, this should make things a bit clearer:



A simple guide to tutoying vs vousvoying. 

A Fragile Empire and the Country Next Door

From Ben Judah’s excellent book on Putin’s Russia ‘Fragile Empire’:

"Russia has and will always be a great power".: these are the words with which Putin began his Presidency. But what kind of ‘great power’ cannot get what it wants - in Ukraine? This country (Ukraine), for Russians, is not really a country. Going there is not really abroad; being from there is not really being foreign. Russians are as intermarried with Ukrainians as the English are with the Scots; they feel like the Germans would towards a sovereign Bavaria - that it is something abhorrent, and surely temporary. There are as many born Ukrainians in the Kremlin as there are Scots in Westminster. Here in Kiev, in the beginning, was the baptism of the Rus - the common forefathers of both Russians and Ukrainians.

A hundred pages in, and I’m finding ‘Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin’ is a truly valuable, beautifully written book - Russia’s recent history is very much Not My Field, and this is an excellent introductory overview. Even if you just dip into it, the section on Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ provides a great contextual background against which to set recent events…

Poem: When Considering the Long, Long Journey of 28,000 Rubber Ducks

'To them who scorned the limits of bathtubs' … Kei Miller.

To them who knew to break free from dark hold of ships

who trusted their unsqueezed bodies instead to the Atlantic;

to them who scorned the limits of bathtubs,

refused to join a chorus of rub-a-dub;

to them who’ve always known their own high tunes,

hitched rides on the manacled backs of blues,

who’ve been sailing now since 1992; to them

that pass in squeakless silence over the Titanic,

float in and out of salty vortexes; to them

who grace the shores of hot and frozen continents,

who instruct us yearly on the movement of currents;

to those bright yellow dots that crest the waves

like spots of praise: hail.

Allies, damned allies, and statistics.

Statistics are a microscope through which we can look at the world in cold detail: but whilst their utility is undeniable, they can obscure as well as illuminate. Rather like a coloured lens affecting what we see, an ideological slant can lead to interpretative bias, however good our stated intentions.

Recent examples of this are Ally Fogg’s recent post #ViolenceisViolence on the violence suffered by men (here) and his post on HuffPo here. Both posts are in response to this video showing differing reactions to violence dependent on the gender of the perpetrator:

Before diving headlong into some data, let us clearly define our terms. In the ONS definition, domestic violence has a narrower definition than domestic abuse. This graph provides a handy visual representation:Figure 4.6:  Type of partner abuse experienced by partner abuse victims in the last year, by sex, 2012/13 CSEW(1,2) The two terms are not interchangeable - domestic abuse covers the entire x- axis: domestic violence excludes non-physical abuse. As the title suggests, Mankind’s video focuses on the physical, but over and over, the statistics Ally cites refer to all abuse. The effect is to muddle the eye of the reader.

So, to the data: there are several sources for this, which rather unhelpfully from our viewpoint have different methodologies. This notwithstanding, the ONS is pellucidly clear in its Summary and throughout: “Women were more likely than men to have experienced intimate violence across all headline types of abuse asked about.” Note: they do not say the likelihoods are of a comparable magnitude.

Yet this is the argument, that over and over again, Ally, in his defence of Mankind Initiative’s video, tries with more or less subtlety, to push.

Ally says: “If you go to the Women’s Aid page of statistics, the very first fact stated there is that one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This statistic comes from the exact same ONS data set from where we get 40% of victims being male.” (Ally’s blog)

But, seeing as 40% of domestic violence victims in the UK are men…”(HuffPo)

Not only is that NOT the first fact stated on the Women’s Aid page (it’s “One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.”) but he has compared a statistic about domestic violence to one about domestic abuse, in order, it seems, to minimise the violence women suffer and exaggerate that suffered by men.

The time frames are also different: Ally cites Women’s Aid ‘in her lifetime’ - but the ONS data refers to reported incidents in the last year; the sample sizes are not the same: Women’s Aid’s statistic refers ALL women in the adult female population not the percentage of victims referred to by the ONS.

Ally and Mankind also leave unaddressed that men will be perpetrators of violence against men in relationships, as well as being victims (it’s worth noting that of all incidents of all kinds of violence in society, the majority are committed by men); domestic violence and abuse against men will not take place solely in heterosexual relationships (the same caveat, of course, applies to women).

His attempt to redefine domestic violence by volume of incidents a victim suffers is puzzling at best: to quote Mankind’s own slogan ‘ViolenceisViolence’ whether it’s once or a thousand times.

No serious advance made by feminism has been without a push-back from men unable to accept what is staring them in the face. In order to end male violence in society against women, we need to understand and name the problem. Male violence is still far too prevalent, it is still under-reported, it is still not regarded as the epidemic it is. Ally Fogg calls himself an ally to feminists. On the basis of his writing on this topic, I fear feminists should regard the proffered solidarity as provisional, at best.