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Compliments from a Tory?

November 23rd, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 35 Comments · Politics

I think it was meant to be a snide remark from Councillor Crow at tonight’s extraordinary council meeting about council housing transfer, but really its a compliment.

He was referring to the packed and vocal public gallery and said that not everyone was a council tenant and that he had never seen so many ex-Labour councillors and past and future Labour candidates there.

Isn’t that a good thing? It shows we are interested and involved and not just waiting for an election to come along and wake us from hibernation.

As an aside, the Tory propaganda for the last year has been that the issue of whether council houses transfer or not affects everyone and not just the tenants who will be taking part in the ballot. Having spent many months telling us that we will all be affected why shouldn’t we turn up to see what is going on?

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35 Comments so far ↓

  • Gordon Seekings

    What I found very disapointing at the meeting was the level of personal abuse hurled from some individuals in the public gallery at Councillors with views different from their own. It was not very clever as it detracted from the debate, did nothing to advance the cause they believe in and is actually counter productive in getting the results they wanted.

    Oh, and you may be interested to know that Crawley Labour party’s website on this subject managed to get it wrong on the voting of the Lib Dem group. It claims they voted against the stock revaluation clause when they actually voted for it. The website also manages to make some really stupid claims about future tenants moving into the present Crawley BC houses with damaged ceilings, doors and walls.

    The website also says that there will now be a limit on on the types of repairs than can be requested. Pardon me but I thought that was already the case?

    But still, that’s the level of political debate amongst some sections of your party Skuds – all posturing and nothing positive. :-((

    Personally I think that irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the vote Crawley BC tenants will vote to stay with the Council. On a very serious point here lets raise the political debate quality a bit and discuss how your party would cover what will potentially be a £10m deficit problem. So far no Labour member I know has answered that question so can you? I am genuinly interested in knowing the answer – and I am more than ready to put my vote behind any sensible suggestion.

  • Skuds

    I know what you mean. I can remember some of the more lively planning meetings in my time there, and it can be counter-productive. Objectively I do not think it is a good thing, but having sat in the Hawth and K2 and watched an unruly mob at the travellers meetings I did enjoy seeing the Cons on the receiving end for a change.

    I left fairly early (Torchwood was on TV) so may have missed the worst of it. Mind you, from what I saw at least some personal abuse may have been deserved. That Burgess woman really did not seem to have a clue about her own portfolio combined with a patronising aura which is not going to endear her to anyone.

    We have a website? I heard it was being re-done but have not visited yet. I did get an e-mail from Owen about how the votes went, but I got confused halfway through.

    I think you are right that the tenants will vote against transfer, despite a persuasive offer document. (a mixture of outright bribery and downright scaremongering is always persuasive) So the question is not whether to cover a deficit but how to cover a deficit.

    Now thats not a question I can answer. During my time on the council I never got too involved in the housing finance side. I know that ignorance doesn’t usually stop anyone offering a strong opinion, in fact the greater the ignorance the stronger the opinion in many cases, but I’m feeling a bit maverick in that regard.

    I’m sure there is an answer, but equally sure it will not be found as a result of the sort of debate I saw last night.

    You were very nearly in a position to hold the balance of power in the council in May. If TP had drawn his lot differently the ball would have been very firmly in your court. What would you have done? Or is that an extremely unfair question? It could have been worse – I could have asked whether you are disappointed or secretly relieved to not have the decisive votes 🙂

  • Richard

    Conflicting political idealogy at work. Pure obfuscation by NewLaborCons, and the usual fence-sitting by LibDems.

    Not a good environment for objective debate.

    HTF can the voter make an informed choice !

  • Gordon Seekings

    Doesn’t suprise me that Richrd says the Lib Dems are fence sitting. The only point on this I think needs to be made is that life is not “Black & White” but “Shades of Grey”. Skuds and myself have over the years agreed on some things, both been not sure on others, and been totally opposed on others. It’s called a healthy democracy.

    Skuds – I respect your honesty when you say “So the question is not whether to cover a deficit but how to cover a deficit. Now thats not a question I can answer”. So, if you cannot answer it can Jayne? Both of you I understand have been selected to be candidates at next year’s local elections – and this is a question that the tenants are already asking.

    I have given an answer by the way I voted (whether you agreed with it or not) but what would your party do if they had the responsibilty as the majority group for covering the financial gap?

    So far as the reference to what I would have done if in a position of holding the power balance the answer is simple – it would depend on the circumstances at the time. The obvious one is the mathematics of the Council; the main issues needing a resolution; the personalities of the Councillors elected and whether a working arrangement could be set up between all the parties (which to a certain extent would depend on the levels of trust between the leading players in each of the political parties).

    On this latter point you know as well as I do that, notwithstanding the present housing debate, the vast majority of issues are not contentious across parties but more on the best way of actioning an agreed policy direction.

    My gut instinct is that what would have emerged last May – and could do so next May – is an issue by issue discussion with all the parties forced to agree a consensus. I submit that this would be healthy for Crawley as it would ensure the more lunatic suggestions made by Councillors/Officers could be squeezed out of the system without the degeneration to abuse that happens so often now at Full Council.

  • Richard

    Yes, Gordon, and look what “Shades of Mediocrity” – sorry, “Grey” – we’ve ended up with : a plutocracy (not your “democracy”) where we all dance to the tune of “stupid white men in suits”.

    Gordon, was the Liberal, William Beveridge, a “shade of grey” ? Well, if he was he’d now put us all in the political shade.

    Skuds, was the Labour, Aneurin Bevan, a “shade of grey”? Methinks not, especially with Council Housing, the NHS and the like.

    Your “Shades of Grey” have allowed an out-of-control PM take us to war with a Royal Prerogative under his arm. Your “Shades of Grey” allowed school kitchens to be ripped out, playing field to be built on, the ethos of the NHS and Council Housing to be dismantled – the list is as long as my arm.

    So. please, don’t give that ‘black-white-grey’ rubbish – I’ve heard it all before, and it’s useless language if we are to survive and thrive in the 21st century…

    Ah, that’s better, now I’ve got that off my chest – thanks Gordon !

  • Skuds

    Lets be realistic. I am working on the assumption that I will not be elected next year, anything I think is really moot, especially as my ward only has about 3 council tenants in it, if that. Jayne is more likely to be elected but if so probably would be in opposition.

    Of course, by May the result of the ballot will be known so the conditional aspect goes away. Unless the Cons decide to postpone it further and at greater expense again.

    I would not presume to speak on Jayne’s behalf, but I hope she will concentrate more on representational aspects as a ward councillor initially while she learns all about the more involved aspects – probably a good approach for any new councillor unless they have studied government structures before. Lets face it her previous job was as a support officer advising people on benefit claims and housing problems so that is her strength.

    Having seen her correcting Crawley Council housing department staff on matters of housing legislation on behalf of her clients I am quite looking forward to seeing her do the same thing for constituents. I don’t think the housing department will know what hit them 🙂

    In the meantime I would expect her to support whatever the group’s policy is, and for her influence on the group’s policy to increase over time.

    Not being in any sort of position I do have the luxury of not having to pretend to have an opinion/answer on every issue. I know its a bit of a cop-out, but I have not seen the budget and haven’t thought about the problem.

    Any deficit would have been reduced if the consultation had not been so expensive in the first place, and then delayed to increase the cost. Small beer in the overall figures though, and I know we started it off – doesn’t mean I am happy with it though.

    Unfortunately most things I would like to see are not within the power of the council to do so its pointless complaining that the problem would be a lot smaller if we hadn’t sold off so many houses in the first place, for example (As pointless as carping on about this government’s policy on redistributing housing receipts or ducking the whole traveller issue by blaming it on the trespass laws)

    Doing everything possible to put a brake on right-to-buy sales would help, but I don’t know how much can be done in that area.

    What you say about most issues not being contentious has some bearing. Until the ballot takes place nobody is going to be able to discuss what happens afterwards with any degree of objectivity or pragmatism.

    The Tories will not discuss deficits objectively as they they want transfer to happen. All forecasts have a degree of tolerance to them and it will suit their purposes to always quote the most pessimistic end of the scale to support the threat part of their tactics. If the tenants vote “No” and they have to deal with it they will have to deal with a real problem and not the worst-case scenario.

    Once that happens I think the service priority working group is going to be the critical part of the council, but before that can do its job the important decision will be in setting the council tax. Will that be set at a level determined by financial needs or at one determined on a purely ideological basis?

  • Richard

    And while you do that, the ‘black and white’ BNP put candidates in all Crawley wards in May (eg Northgate and Ifield), and threaten to grab the lion’s share of the vote…

  • Bob Lanzer

    I would just to like to comment that Conservatives are not supporting transfer as a matter of principle. Rather it is a logical reaction to the financial regime imposed by central government coupled with the obligation to meet Decent Homes Standard and discharge the other responsibilities expected of a good landlord.

    A funding deficit in the range £12m to £17m is projected over five years if tenants vote to retain. The £12m is £2m higher than that previously quoted and this is because of declining right-to-buy sales. One of the reasons for this is that the maximum £38,000 discount continues to decline as a proportion of rising sale prices. We could expect the decline in RTB sales to continue as even the historically long period of low interest rates has not countered the downturn.

    We have tended to quote £12m as a headline deficit figure, i.e. the low end rather than the high end of the scale. However this is only the situation over five years. Projections over 30 years suggest a funding gap of some £70m. We have to think even further ahead than this as landlord obligations referred to above continue in perpetuity.

    Retention of the housing stock additionally forgoes a one-off net usable capital receipt estimated at £30m.

    The size of the funding gap is very serious – almost an unimaginable sum of money. With that background, we have sought to identify savings to bridge the gap so that in the event of retention, we can continue the best possible level of investment in the housing stock.

    A number of options for savings from HRA (Housing Revenue Account) services were identified for further analysis to be presented to the Council’s Executive in January 2007. It is important to note that this is in parallel with efforts to identify savings in GF (General Fund (non-housing)) services. There is a thorough budget strategy being applied to this purpose. It would be unreasonable to confine the analysis of savings options to either HRA or GF services alone.

    For example, there is debate around the point that only tenants have a vote in the transfer process. Reasonable arguments can be put for and against this position. We are talking about tenants’ homes so the choice should be theirs alone. At the same time, the impacts could extend way beyond HRA sevices but some 80% of GF service users are disenfranchised.

    It is important for a Council to state its intentions, as best it knows them, before a ballot occurs. This approach can be represented in different ways but if you know that you are considering savings in certain HRA and GF services, it does seem right to let people know rather than leave them in a position of ignorance. I would not like to be voting in a ballot without some indication of likely outcomes.

  • Danivon

    There are various problems with your assertions, Bob.

    1) The estimates of a £12-17 Million shortfall are based on an overestimate of the amount of work done. This calls for over half of all kitchens to be replaced in 5 years, when most tenants do not have a need, or desire, to upgrade. Automatic replacement of old boilers which are actually still in working order is also inefficient (yeah, the new boiler may be a bit greener, but the energy and materials to make it, the earlier need to replace that new one?)

    2) When the Council has about £100M in the bank, and plenty of saleable land (which may not be worth £160M, but is not worth nothing either), any shortfall is not out of the reach of the finances. Most other District Councils can only dream of such reserves.

    3) The series of cuts that your group proposed and will not save vast amounts of money, but will make life more difficult for many tenants. Shame on the 14 Tories who continued to back putting up the cost of Lifeline to vulnerable tenants. Shame on the three who only abstained (two – Weatherly and Walker – only did so after it was clear that the vote was lost).

    4) Whatever the Council proposals are, a future RHL has no covenant on them to agree to them. While initially Homes for Crawley may reverse your proposed cuts, there is nothing to stop them from re-imposing them (oh, you could try to sue, but I’d not want to pay that legal bill). It would be ripe for the picking by a national or regional HA (and the trustees would be bound to act in the interests of the organisation, not the tenants should such an offer come in). Rents would increase faster than under the Council.

    Bringing in the question of whether the taxpayer should get a say is also disengenuous. If you weren’t bundling the garages in with the deal (at, it seems an assumption of not only a higher unit value, but a higher rentable value per square foot), the impact would be less – consider the loss of revenue from all those garages!!

    Until we see the budget, I’ll refrain from assuming that a Tory council will make cuts regardless, and blame the tenants if they vote ‘No’. We’ll see how people respond, shall we?

  • Skuds

    Having lived in Wandsworth during the 1980s it will take a lot to persuade me that the Tories have anything but a deep-rooted dislike of the very concept of council housing – typified by the whole right-to-buy programme which some of us still consider to be an act of gerrymandering on a scale even Shirley Porter would be pround of.

    isn’t the HRA ring-fenced? In the past surpluses from housing income have subsidised the rest of the council but that was stopped by law a while ago. Doesn’t the ring-fencing also prevent the general fund having to subsidise housing?

    Of course, any expenditure on bringing homes up to a decent homes standard comes out of capital funds and not revenue accounts anyway. Spend £12m of that and you lose the interest on that money, granted, but isn’t that lost interest dwarfed by the lost income from garages?

    The garages sound like a nice little business!

    Where would the £30 million one-off capital receipt come from? This new housing association does not exist. When it is created it will pay £30 million to CBC. Where does it get the £30 million from in the first place? And the rest of the ‘float’ it will need to operate with?

    For me the most important fact is that if the vote is for transfer the process is not reversible. It is a one-way street, and I think people are wary of voting for permanent, irreversible change.

  • Gordon Seekings

    Richard back on November 24th said “Gordon, was the Liberal, William Beveridge, a “shade of grey” ? Well, if he was he’d now put us all in the political shade. Skuds, was the Labour, Aneurin Bevan, a “shade of grey”? Methinks not, especially with Council Housing, the NHS and the like. Your “Shades of Grey” have allowed an out-of-control PM take us to war with a Royal Prerogative under his arm.”

    You have chosen examples that prove the opposite of your case.

    Liberal MP Beveridge’s report was the foundation stone that set up the NHS when Labour came to power post-war. The report of Beveridge was the logical extension of what the Conservative (and ex-Liberal and earlier ex-Conservative) Prime Minister Churchill had supported during the war. Beveridge’s report was based on the earlier work of the then Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George in setting up the state Pension scheme – and that itself was built on the work of many social and philanthropic groups including Labour’s Fabian Society.

    As far as Aneurin Bevan’s wish to build houses (Council or otherwise) was concerned that was built on the stated aims of all the political parties during the war of buiding “homes for heroes”. That may have been a post WW1 1920/1930’s phrase but it resonated with the mainstream political parties who wanted to ensure that this time it became a reality. Lloyd George with the Liberals “Yellow book” had shown in the early 1930’s how this could be done and this work was an extension of the work of the Birmingham Radicals of the late 1800’s and the great reforming Liberal government of 1906. Don’t forget as well that MacMillan’s first Conservative party manifesto after he became leader had one major difference in it than the recent Labour ones – it wanted to build more Social Housing……:-(

    As far as going to war is concerned with Tony Bliar I think he’s still looking for weapons of mass destruction – and the reason is that his “absolute power” enabled him to do so. That is because there is less backbone in Labour MP’s/Councillors these days than there was in Harold Wilson’s time.

    Look at Crawley Borough Council’s present Labour group on just two of the major issues of the day – the Iraq conflict and the Council House opt-out (or whatever you want to call it). Both of these are policies that are being enacted in their name and no matter how they argue it that is the case. It would only take something like 100 Labour Councillors (out of about the 4,500 I think they have) and half a dozen or so MP’s from areas like Crawley to say they were going to resign the Labour whip on these issues for the Labour government to change direction on these subjects PDQ.

    After all it’s when the Conservative Councillors/MP’s started threatening to do this over the Poll Tax that Maggie Thatcher’s days became numbered.

  • Richard

    Gordon, you say “there is less backbone in Labour MPs/Councillors these days”.

    I agree, but “less backbone” isn’t just the exclusive preserve of New Labor these days.

    For me, another word for “less backbone” is “spineless” – a lukewarm shade of grey.

    Most wartime Conservative, Labour and Liberal politicians had “backbone” – survival depended on it. There was also a huge moral integrity and consensus of care – survival depended on that too. Beveridge and Bevan are good examples.

    Today, most politicians are morally bankrupt and spineless – political survival depends on such things – as well as being a chameleon-coloured shade of grey. There is little moral integrity and the consensus of care (especially towards those less fortunate) has disappeared. We’ve simply lost the moral plot.

    The ‘Council Housing’ issue just shows how far we’ve lost the plot.

  • Gordon Seekings

    Richard – define what you mean by “We’ve simply lost the moral plot.”

    Do you mean my morality, or Skuds’, or Bob Lanzar’, or anyone else that’s posted in this thread? Or do you mean your own morality that may or may not be the same as others?

    100 years ago living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage was considered to be immoral and yet it was done. Do you mean personal morality or if you only mean a moral political stance then what’s your basis for it?

    I am anti-the Iraq conflict and was proud to be on the millon people march to protest that in London. Are people who also opposed the war but did not attend have less moral backbone (many like my wife were actually at work that day)? Do the people who supported it then but oppose it now have more or less backbone than me? They hav at least had the courage to admit they were wrong. Do those who still support the conflict now have more backbone because they are in a shrinking minority?

    Richard – please explain what you actually mean without resorting to soundbites.

  • Richard

    Gordon – please explain what you actually mean by “soundbites”, without resorting to what I would consider your soundbites.

    I have no wish to play with words – this is not a game of semantics – and if it becomes that, I’m not playing.

    “Moral” I mean in the collective sense – and very much includes me. For example, the decision to axe hot meals to primary-aged children in West Sussex, and then make 550 dinner ladies redundant, and then rip out the kitchens without following proper procedure etc was IMMORAL.

    The fact that councillors (and others) did ‘sweet FA’ in opposing the WSCC decision shows the extent of our lack of collective morality.

    I use ‘the frog and hot water’ analogy. If you put a frog in a pan of boiling hot water it will jump out immediately. If you put the frog in a pan of cold water, and gradually heat it up, the frog will not jump out and it will boil to death.

    If you axed hot meals after the war, vast amounts of people would be morally enraged – it would never have happened, and would never have been allowed to happen (ie the frog would jump out immediately).

    If you axed hot meals now (which WSCC did in 1999), most people don’t care – so bad things happen (the frog boils to death).

    What I’m trying to day is that it is a gradual moral disintegration – so much so that we now have allowed our PM to take us into a catastrophic immoral war, dismembered the NHS etc etc.

    Yes, we are all guilty – and that’s why I say we have ‘lost the moral plot’.

  • Danivon

    In other words, Richard, ‘immoral’ is ‘that with which I disagree’, which is fine, but not particularly useful.

    People did oppose the WSCC decision, but what could they ultimately do? chain themselves to the stoves? People did oppose the war, but opinion polls in March 2003 actually showed that more supported than opposed the invasion, so what can we do in a democracy about that?

    As it is, many pre war politicans were pretty ambivalent about Hitler until he started invading places (and even then, after he’d invaded a couple), some even praised him or Mussolini (as Churchill did at one point). The government sat back and let Spain fall to the fascists. Where was your famous ‘moral backbone’ then, eh?

    Sounds like a ‘Golden Age fallacy’ to me – the idea that things where much better in days we can’t actually remember, simply because we’ve forgotten the bad things.

    The NHS was a horrible compromise in 1948, one which is still imperfect. Rationing was maintained far too long. The State in the 40s and 50s had massive amounts of power over the individual, not all of it benign. And our politicians not only approved, but actively engaged in this. Why do you think your beloved Orwell wrote ‘1984’ in the first place?

  • Richard

    “Immoral is that with which I disagree” would be a valid statement if ‘everything is relative – especially morality’ (eg A Relativist Philosophy).

    Morality is often ‘relative’; but more often than not, it is not (eg A Realist Philosophy).

    In these cases of Hot Meals, Iraq War, NHS, or whatever, these were MORAL decisions made by fallible human beings. For me, some of these decisions were monstrous, obscene and grotesque – morally wrong.

    I don’t give a ‘monkey’s fig’ whether opinion polls supported the war,for example. 70 million Germans supported Hitler in 1937 – one of Europe’s great democracies. Just because lots of people support a decision doesn’t make it right.

    I suspect most people today adopt a ‘Relativist Philosophy’ (whether they know it or not), so is it any wonder there is much linguistic sophistry ?!

  • Danivon

    So, where does ‘absolute’ morality come from? If you are religious, I guess you can fall back on the old ‘God told us’, which is fine (although we know that he tells different people different things at different times).

    Otherwise, where? And why is it that morality does change – 200 years ago slavery was condoned, even on moral grounds by some. While we all agree that killing in wrong, we still have plenty of countries which have a death penalty, and even more that accept ‘self defence’, both are based on moral arguments.

    70 million Germans did NOT support Hitler. At the very most, about 1/3 German voters ticked the NSDAP box, and while support grew, Hitler did not achieve 100% popularity (except, of course, in fake or coerced polls perhaps).

  • Skuds

    I am impressed that anyone can have such certainty about topics like absolute and relative morality when those who have studied it for years are unable to come to any agreement.

    I think there is a feeling with most people in the world that morality and ethics should be absolute – but according to their own codes and everyone else should fall in line. In practical terms that makes it relative.

    Danivon is right that what is right and wrong changes over time, but should add that it changes over distance as well. Half my life has been spent doing things which would be considered immoral by the Taliban (and the other half doing things which would be considered immoral by my mother – boom! boom!)

    I do not believe that any code of absolute morals would ever be accepted. The support of a majority does not make something morally right, and therefore the disapproval of the majority does not necesarily make something morally wrong.

    JS Mill had a good attempt at trying to formulate some sort of absolute moral code in On Liberty. The trouble is that even if everyone agreed with the basic premise of the greatest good for the greatest number of people they would not agree on how to measure goodness – just think of all the things the Victorians decided were good for criminals, paupers, children, women, etc.

    On the plus side, we may not have embraced Mills’ ideas entirely as a nation, but at least they informed the Labour movement when it was getting started.

    Another consideration is that technological or social progress can take a particular decision out of the realms of morality and into mere practicality. Taking school meals for example, if society reached the point where all parents fed their children properly at breakfast and dinner it could be argued that a hot lunch was not necessary and whether to have them or not would be a purely practical matter.

    Just don’t try to take that as a statement for or against school lunches in any particular situation – I am just trying to expand a philosophical point. That is why proper discussion of ethics is almost impossible these days: you can’t try to talk hypothetically or use reductio ad absurdam techniques without some smart alec taking it out of context.

  • Richard

    I’m amazed at your ignorance of basic philosophy – remember your moral philosophy of Objective and Subjective Values.

    Even Marc Hauser has written a book called ‘Moral Minds’, which sets out a Chomskyian idea that morals are ‘hard-wired’ into the ‘system’, rather like grammar.

    I know you like accusing me of being ‘black and white’ about morality (eg “absolute morality” etc), but to do that is to misunderstand my endless quest – that is, to seek the least implausible explanations of the critical problems humanity must solve – and quickly.

    As I see it, philosophers et al have explained morality in terms of Objective (eg Realist) and Subjective (eg ‘Relativist’) Ethics. Personally, I think there is a ‘bridge’ between the two – as expressed in Joad’s Transcendence Immanence Theory.

    But there is little point in pursuing this here, because it appears there is not even a basic knowledge of moral philosophy being displayed, and not even a basic appreciation of the value of philosophy – thinking about thinking.

    And that’s the only way we are going to solve our problems – thinking clearly for ourselves – something which politicians seem very reluctant to do, especially in Crawley 🙂

  • Skuds

    I take it you are defining ignorance of basic philosphy to mean reading Plato, Sartre and JS Mill instead of Chomsky?

  • Gordon Seekings

    Skuds – nice to see you quote J S MIll. Check out for a bit I wrote for the 200th anniversary of his birth last May. There’s also a picture of him there and some more of his contributions in the quote sections of the website on the LH side.

  • Richard

    Most ideas of Western philosophy are mere footnotes to Plato, in my view, so yes – Plato and the Neo-Platonists.

    As for JS Mill, it comes as no surprise that he appear a ‘hero’ of sorts, especially to politicians of the Seekings-ilk.

    ‘Utilitarianism’ – which sums up the Lib Dems perfectly, and symbolises the absurd mess we are in – locally, nationally and globally 🙂

  • Skuds

    Gordon – you spelled “freedom” wrong on your website 🙂

  • Gordon Seekings

    Bugger – error now corrected. Trust you to spot it though! 🙂 🙂

  • Skuds

    It was constructive criticism. I didn’t even comment on your blatant attempt to drive your visitor stats up into double figures for the week 😉

  • Danivon

    Cool. Some guy applies Chomsky’s (wrong, or least highly discredited) theories about ‘hardwired grammer’ to morality, and that Joad guy wrote a book – so the rest of Western Philosophy can be rendered useless.

    Shame. Descartes was quite cool.

  • Gordon Seekings

    Skuds I can assure you that it wasn’t an attempt to drive up the web stats (as if!). But if the website visitors goes into double figures I worry as most of the time it’s in TREBLE figures……

    Ok, so a large number of hits are from the USofA and France as it seems in both locations some learning institution has spotted that the site has more than a usual amount of political quotes. The number of times each week one specific quote is used to get to the site is quite remarkable – and then that quote is not searched for again for months but another one does fill the breach the following week.

  • Richard

    Well thank you, Owen, for completely misinterpreting what I was trying to say – but I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone who thinks (subjectively) that Chomsky’s theories are “wrong”, and assumes therefore he is objectively and universally right in that opinion 🙂

    Descartes was indeed quite “cool”, especially when he split us into Mind and Body – but unfortunately then managed to give Mankind another apparently insoluble philosophical problem of trying to explain the dual connection between the two.

    Monsieur Descartes tried to explain the connection with reference to a ‘pineal gland’, which then made people realise that he wasn’t that “cool” !

    Anyone who asks the question “why”, automatically becomes a philosopher – whether they know it or not.

    Why, Owen, do you talk such nonsense, when it is clear you have such an intelligent head on your shoulders…

    Before you react in an apoplexy of rage – I’m only teasing – I think 🙂

  • Skuds

    I wouldn’t knock Descartes for incorrect speculations on natural science – Plato would probably have believed that the world was made up from the four elements of fire, air, water and earth but it didn’t make him any less wise in matters of reasoning.

    Now Gordon… is there an officiallt recognised smiley to depict the act of reeling in a fishing line? 🙂

  • Richard

    Not a bad point about Plato, Skuds, I’ll give you that. In Galileo’s time, people had to make a big adjustment to their thinking when it was speculated that the earth went round the sun, instead of the other way round.

    It makes me wonder what similar big adjustment of thinking we are going to have to make in the future…

  • Danivon

    Sorry, Richard, but from my university days, I remember Chomsky and liguistics. It all works fine in theory until you start actually trying to tie it to the way that people actually communicate, which was the area that I was actually studying (in particular ways for an artificial natural language processor to adequately interpret human language). The ‘hard-wired grammar’ theory begs a pretty serious question:

    Where did it come from?

    Descartes was, perhaps, misguided, but he was certainly thinking about thinking, and he was only able to go by the medical and scientific knowledge of the day. Newton was a complete genius, even if he did believe in magic. His Alchemy and bizarre ideas about God in no way detract from his work on optics, any more than the fact that we now know that it is the brain that does our thinking (mainly) discredits old Rene.

  • Skuds

    Its called a paradigm shift Richard, as I’m sure you know. I can only just cope with the conceptual change from buying whole albums of music to downloading individual tracks, so major changes in world outlok are going to be hard for me!

    As for Galileo, I am pretty sure that most educated people at the time already believed in the Earth going round the Sun – Copernicus published his book before Galileo was even born, and even then he was pushing at an open door.

  • Richard

    Skuds, be careful, you are saying things which make it appear there is value and benefit in clearly thinking for yourself – that could be perceived as a threat to your party whip 🙂

    Danivon, you say “‘hard-wired grammar’ theory begs a pretty serious question :


    A six-sided patterned snowflake also “begs a pretty serious question” :


    Our own existence and consciousness also “begs a pretty serious question” :


    You haven’t a clue – neither have I – but we seem to have the ability to ask the questions, and to seek the answers.

    How ? Why ?

  • Danivon

    Well, we do know that the angle of the alignment of atoms in a water molecule is 120 degrees, and that crystals of all kinds tend to form shapes reflecting the original point of formation.

    As for how we managed to start off with grammar before we evolved labels, who could know, other than, of course, Noam.

  • Richard

    What I am trying to say, Owen, is that everything starts as a human problem requiring a solution – and that solution is always a theory of some kind.

    Because we are fallible human beings, our theories are fallible – never 100% right. Newton’s theories were pretty good, and lasted years – but they were superseded by better theories, such as Einstein’s

    Re : Chomsky “The Einstein of Modern Linguistics” – there was a problem which couldn’t be solved eg how does a child learn language, and its grammatical complexities, at such a phenomenal speed – whether they be English, Japanese, or Whoever ?

    The existing theories about language were inadequate to explain that (solve the problem), so Chomsky came up with a less implausible theory, which many think have a greater ‘ring of truth’. I’m sure a better theory will come along…

    The renowned philosopher of science, Karl Popper, put this as a simple scientific formula (his ‘Scientific Method) :

    P1 -> TS1 -> EE1 -> P2 -> TS2 -> EE2 -> P3 ->

    where P1 is the initial Problem -> TS1 is the Trial Solution (Theory)to the Problem -> EE1 is Error Elimination (eliminating the errors to the Trial Solution/Theory) and P2 is the new Problem, TS2 is the new Trial Solution (new Theory) – and so on…I’m sure you get the drift.

    So, Owen, instead of sitting on some old comfortable bed of 19/20th century dogma and political idealogy (theory), which is proving useless in solving our problems in the 21st century, how about creating something new and useful – you’ve clearly got the brains for it.