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I’m lucky enough to live reasonably close to Lacock Abbey, home of the co-inventor of modern photography, William Henry Fox Talbot. Last year, during a visit, we found that Justin Quinnell was running a pinhole photography workshop that involved making cameras out of old beer cans (and taking pictures with them). We also made beer can cameras using fogged photographic paper to take six-month exposures, though sadly my camera failed to survive its time on the Bristol philosophy department roof. There’s lots of interest on Justin’s site. Here’s Justin’s YouTube instructions for how to make your own, delivered in his unique pedagogical style. A lot of fun, for children of all ages!
Back in May, to squeals from some commenters, I observed that “within less than a week of coming to power, the new British government has made financial threats or legislative proposals with the following effects:
- to intimidate independent journalism
- to make legal strike action impossible
- to criminalize dissent
- to increase state surveillance of citizens
- to block access to legal remedies against the abuse of state power .”
To this list we can now add
- to deprive its principal electoral opponents of their finances
- to cripple public-sector union finances
- to strip the electoral roll of non-Tory voters and to ensure boundary changes that under-represent economically deprived areas
In short, the British government is acting so as to make it as hard as possible for opponents of its intended changes to the state to oppose them by voice, by collective action, by exercising legal rights and in the political arena. Taken together, the systematic and comprehensive attention the Conservatives are giving to closing off avenues of opposition leaves the UK drifting in the direction of those states that are nominally democratic, but where the political system strongly favours the incumbent, states such as Russia, Hungary, Turkey. Hyperbole?
David Frum is a US pundit, who writes on US politics. So, being based elsewhere, I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to him. Unfortunately, today, somebody drew my attention to this article in the Atlantic in which he argues, as a prelude to some boilerplate anti-immigrant conservative points, that the people who are crossing the Mediterranean are economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. Although there’s a rather dismissive mention of Syrians at the beginning of the piece “just 30 per cent” (30 per cent of a large number is a lot of people), the message of the piece is clear. Frum calls in aid the Canadian journalist Doug Saunders, who knows his stuff and usually writes sensibly on immigration matters.
The first few hours the atmosphere was hearty
With fireworks, fun, and games of every kind;
All were enjoying it, no one was blind;
Brilliant the speeches improvised, the dances,
And brilliant, too, the technical advances.
Today, alas, that happy crowded floor
Looks very different: many are in tears:
Some have retired to bed and locked the door;
And some swing madly from the chandeliers;
Some have passed out entirely in the rears;
Some have been sick in corners; the sobering few
Are trying hard to think of something new.
(From WH Auden, A Letter to Lord Byron)
One of the consequences of the Conservative victory in the recent UK general election was that there will be an in-out referendum of the UK’s membership of the EU at some point in the next couple of years (details yet to be finalized). How should people who think of themselves as being on the left, egalitarian, liberal, progressive vote?
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