Thursday, May 24, 2012

Did you know these little bits of history?

In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was
 either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed
him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others
showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not
based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs
 were to be painted. Arms and legs are 'limbs,' therefore painting them
would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, 'Okay, but it'll cost
you an arm and a leg.' (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult
 to paint)
As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year
(May and October) Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved
their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men
 could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so
to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the
shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and
 fluffy, hence the term 'big wig.' Today we often use the term 'here
comes the Big Wig' because someone appears to be or is powerful and
In the late 1700's, many houses consisted of a large room with only
 one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and
was used for dining. The 'head of the household' always sat in the
chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a
 guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair
during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in
charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the 'chair man.'
Today in business, we use the expression or title 'Chairman' or
 'Chairman of the Board..'
Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many
women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would
spread bee's wax over their facial skin to smooth out their
 complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began
to stare at another woman's face she was told, 'mind your own bee's
wax.' Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term
 'crack a smile'. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the
wax would melt . . . Therefore, the expression 'losing face.'
Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and
 dignified woman, as in 'straight laced'. . Wore a tightly tied lace.
Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax
levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the 'Ace
 of Spades.' To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards
instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were
thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't 'playing with a full
Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what
the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV's
or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns,
 pubs, and bars. They were told to 'go sip some ale' and listen to
people's conversations and political concerns.. Many assistants were
dispatched at different times. 'You go sip here' and 'You go sip
 there.' The two words 'go sip' were eventually combined when referring
to the local opinion and, thus we have the term 'gossip.'
At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and
 quart-sized containers. A bar maid's job was to keep an eye on the
customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention
and remember who was drinking in 'pints' and who was drinking in
 'quarts,' hence the term minding your 'P's and 'Q's
One more and betting you didn't know this!
In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters
carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It
 was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to
prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method
devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on
four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30
 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the
cannon. There was only one to prevent the bottom layer
from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a
metal plate called a 'Monkey' with 16 round indentations.
However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly
rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make 'Brass
Monkeys.' Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and
 much faster than iron when chilled.
Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass
indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come
right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, 'Cold enough to
 freeze the balls off a brass monkey.' (All this time, you thought that
was an improper expression, didn't you.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

European Parliament Elections - scrap the "Closed Lists"

Members of the European Parliament in Great Britain are elected using the closed list form of proportional representation (Northern Ireland has used the Single Transferable Vote since 1979).
There is nothing voters can do in a closed list system to pass individual judgement on MEPs they support or oppose.   In most regions the top candidates of Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP were more or less guaranteed election.   Even without fully anticipating the UKIP surge in the 2004 election, it was possible to identify 50 out of the 75 MEPs before a vote was cast.
Closed lists tend to reflect internal party preoccupations rather than the priorities of the electorate.   Because of the large size of each region, they tend to reward fame over ability to a greater extent than with selections for Commons constituencies.   Even when the parties use one member one vote, as they did for selecting candidates for the 2004 European Parliamentary elections, this would not be transparent to voters only to party activists.   Closed lists risk increasing party patronage and are less accountable and open to scrutiny.    Those chosen are accountable to the party rather than the electorate.
Northern Ireland used the Single Transferable Vote system of election to elect its three MEPs.   Turnout in Northern Ireland has been higher than in Great Britain in every European election since they began in 1979.   The Northern Ireland election showed significant advantages over closed lists in that voters chose between candidates and could be confident that their vote would not be wasted, either because their favourite candidate was elected easily or by backing a candidate who turned out to have little support in which case their second vote would count.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.   The turnout in the elections for the European Parliament in 1999 was 23.1% in Great Britain as against 57.7% in Northern Ireland.   The difference was not so great in 2004 being 38.2% against 51.7% but remember in Great Britain the local and European elections were held on the same day and postal voting was brought in on a massive scale.   It is time we had the same basis of election throughout the United Kingdom and that basis should be the Single Transferable Vote.
       The European parliament electoral system can be improved without losing its advantages.   Open lists and STV would both allow greater choice for voters, and STV would be much fairer to candidates without support from a major Party.   STV would be a better system for future European elections.
The present system of closed lists for the European parliament elections should be abolished.   It should be replaced by a STV system of election where each constituency elects three MEPs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Conservative Philosophy

Inherent in and at the core of the Conservative Party’s philosophy is a belief in:

An economy based on:
Free markets and trade
Private ownership and enterprise
Monetary and fiscal probity
Gainful employment
Minimum intervention by the State
Low taxation

A society based on:
Patriotism and duty
Reciprocal rights and responsibilities
Respect for law and order
Equal educational opportunities

This philosophy:
Accommodates the view that each human being is an individual, answerable to and for him or herself and also a responsible citizen of the community
Allows that there are bound to be social and economic inequalities in life and that the strong have a duty to help the weak and encourage them to help themselves
Leads to policies that are justified by common-sense rather than doctrinaire theory

A philosophy is more a statement of belief in the nature of things than one of intent or action which, respectively, are the foundations of strategy and policy.   The perceived aim of the Conservative Party is to build a democratic society that is both prosperous and at ease with itself.   To achieve this aim the following objectives must be pursued by the Party:
Maintain itself as a national organisation supported by a broad section of the population from all walks of life
Uphold the rule of law and order and the concept of equality of all before the law
Create favourable conditions for the creation of wealth and thereby to sustain high levels of employment and living standards
Promote free enterprise, maximise choice and minimise regulation
Provide or enable the provision of high quality services in fields where the State must provide them
Control public expenditure within a balanced budget and with low levels of taxation
A foreign policy which is conducive to our National interest.
Ensure the integrity and security of the realm