Category Archives: tory scum

We need to act now for abortion rights before the DUP tear them away

As you may have heard, one of the first things on the agenda of the unholy Tory-DUP alliance, may well be an attack on abortion rights. This is chilling news: even if it is a reduction of time limit, this opens the door to further chipping away abortion rights.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal. Women are convicted for self-administering medical abortions–which they have to do because they have no legal access to services. They must travel to England at a cost of thousands of pounds for an abortion–and they do. Homes are raided by police in case women have abortion pills, with raids even occurring on International Women’s Day!

This is what the DUP want for everyone with a uterus in the rest of the UK, and they are now in a position to try to make this happen.

And so, we need to get mobilising now to ensure that our abortion rights are not in any way reduced. In fact, as an additional finger to the DUP, we could use the opportunity of a vote on abortion rights to further strengthen what exists in the country as a whole.

There’s two particular legal quirks which make abortion rights in Northern Ireland almost non-existent, and also very fragile in the rest of the UK. In the whole of the UK, abortion is illegal under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). Yes, I did mean to type “the whole of the UK”. Abortion is technically illegal on every part of this rainy fascism archipelago, under a law that is over a century and a half old. In England, Scotland and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) sets out specific circumstances under which abortions will not be prosecuted. This means that as long as an abortion is playing by the rules from the 1967 Act, it’s still a criminal offence, but not going to mean you or your doctor will be prosecuted for it.

In Northern Ireland, the Abortion Act (1967) does not apply, most abortions are still a criminal offence which you and your doctor can still be prosecuted for, and could be imprisoned for. The Northern Ireland situation is particularly horrific. Labour’s manifesto promised to make the Abortion Act apply in the country. This is a good place to start, but the criminal situation of abortion in the whole of the UK is in itself dangerous, particularly if there are anti-abortion womb-botherers pulling the strings of government.

So, if the DUP want a vote on abortion rights, there’s no time like the present to begin organising for fairer, safer abortion rights for anyone with a uterus in the whole of the UK. It’s time to talk about two key issues, make these problems visible. It’s also a good time to our MPs to table these as amendments if this vote does indeed come to pass:

I’ve written to my MP, telling him to protect existing abortion rights, extend them to Northern Ireland, and remove any threat of criminalisation. Please write to your MP, using this as a template. You can get your MP’s contact details here. Remember to include your full name and address in your correspondence.

Subject: Protect abortion rights in the UK

Dear [their name]

As you may be aware, part of the deal between the DUP and the Conservatives could include a vote on the abortion time limit. Should such a vote occur, I strongly urge you to vote against it. I believe that a vote to reduce the time limit on abortions would open the door to further restrictions on abortion rights. Furthermore, less than 2% of abortions carried out occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and many of those that do occur because some abnormalities can only be detected at 20 weeks. It is therefore vital that access to this medical procedure is still available for anyone who needs it.

Should a vote on abortion rights occur, I further urge you to table certain amendments addressing key abortion rights issues.

  1. Applying the Abortion Act (1967) to Northern Ireland, in order to give those living in NI access to the same abortion rights as in the rest of the UK, rather than being forced to travel to England at great expense, or having to take criminal action. This discrepancy is unfair, and has been addressed in the 2017 Labour manifesto an inequality to be righted.
  2. Decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK. The Abortion Act (1967) does not legalise abortion, merely set out circumstances where abortions will not be prosecuted.

Please use your position to protect the limited abortion rights that we have, and extend them to further protect constituents like me, at risk of falling pregnant and wishing to end the pregnancy.

Free free to personalise, with why the issue matters to you, personally, as their constituent. If your MP writes back to you telling you that actually they don’t mind these inequalities, then here’s a few template letters for your reply.

We also need to support activists in Ireland and Northern Ireland alike, like the Repeal the 8th campaign, Alliance for Choice,  Belfast Feminist Network, as well as support groups such as Abortion Support Network, who provide support for travelling to England for abortions–if you’re in NI or Ireland and need an abortion, they can help you.

I wasn’t expecting to have to fight this battle again, so quickly. But I’m ready, and I stand with Northern Ireland and Ireland, and I resist any attack on our uteruses.

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How to vote the Tories out: a newbies’ guide to tactical voting

Hello. You’re here because you don’t want a Tory government in the future. Maybe you’re disabled. Maybe you’re young. Maybe you’re elderly. Maybe you’re queer, or a person of colour, or poor. Maybe you’re more than one of these things. And maybe you want a fighting chance of surviving and living a good life. We know this can’t happen under the Tories. And so it’s time to exercise our pitifully feeble democratic rights and vote the fuckers out. Unfortunately, it’s not just as simple as voting Labour and enjoying the perks, and at the very least surviving. This is because the Westminster election system is, to put it kindly, a hot mess.

What’s up with our screwy electoral system?

In the UK, in Westminster, we’re don’t directly elect a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is chosen by MPs. There are 650 seats for MPs in Westminster, with each MP for a seat chosen based on a majority of votes in their constituency. If any party gets more than half of the seats, it’s pretty easy to choose the Prime Minister: they’ll pick the leader of the party that controls more than half the seats, and nobody can do anything about voting that down.

It gets a bit more complicated if no party gets more than half of the seats. This is called a hung parliament. The last time we had this was in 2010. When there’s a hung parliament, parties need to hastily make back room deals with each other, exchanging favours so there’ll be more than half of Parliament voting for the same person as PM. There’s plenty of potential things that could be promised in these deals. In 2010, the Tories made a deal with the Lib Dems to make the Tory leader Prime Minister, in exchange for the Lib Dems occupying some roles in government.

In short, it’s the MPs that vote for the Prime Minister, not you. So to get the Tories out, what we need to shoot for is for Labour to control more than half the seats in Parliament, or for parties who aren’t the Tories to control more than half the seats in Parliament. The latter is perhaps the easier goal, again, because of our screwy electoral system where some votes matter more than others in a postcode lottery.

Why do some votes matter more than others?

Each constituency in the UK is made up of a roughly-similar-population geographical area, created by tradition, guesswork, a little bit of cheating from whoever is in government, and a healthy dash of dabbling with the occult.

In some areas, you’ll find people who would pretty much vote for a dead pig’s head if it was wearing a blue ribbon. In other areas, you’d find people who would basically vote for a jar of quince jam were it wearing a red ribbon. In these areas, which are known as safe seats, your vote doesn’t really carry much weight. Whatever you do, chances are you’ll end up with that jam jar or dead pig’s head.

In other seats, it gets a bit more exciting. These seats are called marginals, and they are much more likely to change hands. These seats are essentially kingmakers: they decide the difference, and, at the end of the day, the MPs elected there decide who’s Prime Minister. Last election, the most marginal seat was Gower, in Wales, where the Tory candidate won by just 27 votes. If just 30 more Labour voters had turned up on that day, the seat would have been controlled by Labour, not the Tories. So if you live in one of these seats, your vote is worth a lot more.

This electoral system, you might note, is massively unfair, given that some votes matter a lot more than others, depending where you live. Politicians aren’t particularly interested in changing it, as it makes their lives easier: they can target more resources in the marginal seats rather than having to bother appealing to everyone.

However, things can change, and a safe seat can become less safe, or even eventually change hands. This happened to the Lib Dems in the 2015 election, for example. They’d controlled many seats for years, and voters ended up having had enough for them: so Tories, Labour and the SNP nicked most of their seats right out from under their noses.

So, what’s tactical voting?

Tactical voting means that sometimes you’ll need to vote for the candidate most likely to win, rather than the candidate you actually want to vote for. It usually depends where you live. So, for example, some of you might live in an area where Labour don’t stand a chance of beating the Tories, but the Lib Dems might. Others might live in an area where the Lib Dems don’t stand a chance of beating the Tories, but Labour might (though I don’t much expect many Lib Dem voters will be reading my blog). Some of you might live in an area where Labour don’t stand a chance of beating the Tories, but the SNP do.

In short, you might have to make some concessions to your principles, if you want to vote the Tories out. You might need to vote in favour of an independence referendum that probably won’t happen, or for a homophobic bottom-feeder party, or for leather-patched courgette-grower.

So, in terms of voting the Tories out, here’s how we do it.

Step 1: find out what constituency you’re voting in

Your constituency will be written on your poll card. Or, if you don’t have it to hand, you can do it online, by putting in your postcode.

Step 2: find out who stands a chance in the area

There are automated online tools for figuring out your tactical voting needs, but most of these seem to have a bias towards the Lib Dems in Labour-Lib Dem marginals, and this is a problem, given the Lib Dems would likely form another coalition with the Tories so you’ve achieved the opposite of getting the Tories out. My advice is to not vote Lib Dem unless you’re in a Tory-Lib Dem marginal, and here’s why you shouldn’t be voting Lib Dem.

Besides, it’s easy to find out what sort of seat you live in, and slightly more fun.

Google [your constituency name] constituency wikipedia. The wikipedia page for each constituency gives tables with recent election results. If you look over recent years, you’ll see how much impact your vote would have, and whether you’re in a marginal or a safe seat.

Here’s an example of a safe seat: Maidenhead

As you can see, Theresa May got 65.8% of the vote. The Labour candidate, the next biggest party, was almost 30,000 votes behind her. If you live in Maidenhead, it fucking sucks to be you.

Meanwhile, here’s a marginal seat:

Croydon Central

As you can see, most people in the area are voting either Tory or Labour, and the gap between the parties is small: there’s less than 200 votes in it! If you live in a seat that looks like this, your vote matters an awful lot, and you could make it so there’s one less Tory in parliament.

Some marginals will have a larger gap: there might be a distance of 1000, or even 5,000 votes. These still matter.

Step 3: pick who to tactically vote for!

The simple rule for tactical voting is VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES.

As I said earlier, sometimes tactical voting means you don’t get to vote for who you’d actually like to vote for. In the country as a whole, the party which is most likely to have a majority government to oust the Tories is Labour. They’ll be the party who aren’t the Tories who will have the most seats.

Now, if you’re in a safe seat like Maidenhead, you’re mostly fuck out of luck. The best you can do is try to close the gap and scare your Tory MP. It’s unlikely to unseat the incumbent, but it might remind them that they’re not completely untouchable. If you live in a Labour safe seat, like I do, you’ve got free rein, really. You can vote for who you want to vote for. I’m currently debating with myself whether to vote Labour, which will further bolster the vote share; vote Green, because the candidate is really nice and I feel like if I want to point out to my (right-ish Labour apparatchik) MP that they’d better fucking well tack left; or whether to spoil my ballot because, after all, I am an anarchist and this pitiful excuse for a democracy is truly pitiful. I want the Tories out, and my vote doesn’t mean much in getting that outcome.

If you live in a marginal seat, then VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES.

So, for example, in the Croydon Central example above, to get the Tories out, you have to vote Labour.

Sometimes the marginals might already be held by a party who aren’t the Tories, like in the example below:

Hampstead and Kilburn

There’s a little over 1,000 votes between Labour and the Tories. If you want to keep the Tories out, you need to turn up and vote Labour.

Some of you might live in seats where it could change hands between the Tories and Lib Dems, like in the example below:

Eastbourne

I’ve included the 2010 results too, because as you can see, it’s changed hands in the past. In a seat like Eastbourne, you need to suck up your principles and vote for the biggest party who aren’t the Tories. In this case, it’s the Lib Dems.

Sometimes, the party that might beat the Tories could be the SNP, like in the example below:

Untitled

The gap in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk is small, with the SNP having just 328 more votes than the Tories. So if you live here and want to keep the Tories out of your seat, you’d need to vote SNP.

And finally, let’s use a special example of South Thanet, where the general rule of VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES kind of collapses. South Thanet has been a Tory seat since 2010, and because there’s barely any immigration in the area, voters are more susceptible to fibs about migration. So, in the 2015 election, the Tories won, but UKIP came second. Fucking well don’t vote UKIP under any circumstances, but also don’t vote Tory either. The UKIP vote is likely to collapse, and they’re fascists. So the biggest party that isn’t the Tories is Labour, who came second in 2010, and held the seat before that.

Step 4, the most important step: ACTUALLY SHOW UP ON THE DAY AND VOTE

This is all a fun little intellectual exercise if you don’t turn up and vote on June 8th–this Thursday.

The polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm, so there’s time for you to fit voting in around your day. Polling stations are wheelchair accessible, and it’s OK to bring your kids. If you bring a dog, expect to have it photographed to bring joy to the world. Get in touch with your friends and families who aren’t authoritarian racists to remind them to vote, too.

You’ll be given directions to your polling station on your poll card. If you’ve lost your poll card, it doesn’t matter: you can find your polling station online. The map online is better, too.

You don’t need your poll card to vote, it just makes it a bit easier for the clerks at the polling station. When you get to the polling station, tell them your name and address, and they’ll give you your ballot.

And then it’s showtime.

Vote for your local biggest party who aren’t the Tories. 

It’s a long shot, but it’s entirely possible to kick the Tories out of office with a decent turnout and some smart voting.

VOTE FOR YOUR LOCAL BIGGEST PARTY WHO AREN’T THE TORIES.

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Your especial dislike of Diane Abbott is irrational (and probably racist)

Diane Abbott has once again been The Worst™, having done something a lot of other politicians do and… actually I’m not 100% sure what it was this time, but I think it was a bad TV interview. And, from all sides of the political spectrum, there’s scaremongering about the fact that there’s a possibility she could become Home Secretary.

Some people are openly misogynoiristic about Abbott, and that’s grim. But at least it’s honest. The rest, who like to think of themselves as Nice People™ leap through hoops to try to justify their dislike of this politician, and their irrational opposition to a black woman occupying one of the great offices of state.

It starts with “but she’s not qualified to be Home Secretary!”. That’s an interesting assertion to make. Taking less than thirty seconds on google reveals that her CV presents her as more qualified than most previous Home Secretaries or shadows. Abbott’s career before politics included two very notable roles. She was a civil servant in the Home Office–which is significantly more direct experience of working in the Home Office than most of the others who have held the office. Later, she worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties, which is again a crucial home affairs role. As an MP, Abbott has served on committees pertinent to home affairs. And her track record is reasonably good: even the goddamn Spectator recognised her speech opposing the New Labour government on civil liberties issues with an award for speech of the year! Her voting record on home affairs is all right, and if you’re a Lib Dem who wants to root for a party with a chance of getting into government, she’d probably be your best bet for Home Secretary, because she’s not bad at all on the civil liberties front.

Like I said, this took me all of thirty seconds on google to find. So ask yourself, why didn’t you take those thirty seconds to check? Why did you just assume Abbott was unqualified for the role?

Rather than interrogating themselves at this juncture, usually the goalposts get shifted to “but Diane Abbott isn’t great at TV interviews.” This one is particularly nonsensical coming from Tory voters, in the midst of a campaign riddled with Tory car crash TV interviews, and Lib Dems, whose leader has done a pisspoor job of portraying himself as Not A Homophobe. It’s also not like Labour are particularly excellent at TV interviews either. In short, this is because the TV interview format is generally not designed to make the politician look good. Nobody’s above the car crash interview, and when it’s a politician you like, you’ll generally either ignore it, or claim that it’s media bias. Funnily, such defences never seem to come for Abbott, and it’s assumed she’s given a harder time because she deserves it, because apparently the media and journalists are always flying above racism and misogyny.

This, incidentally, is the same sort of thing that happens with the equally-irrational “but she sent her kids to private school!” Yes, she did. So have other politicians. She’s not even the only one on the Labour front bench who has. Is it good? No. Is she alone in that? Of course not.

So, once we’ve hit the unfair singling out, shit starts to get abstract, and what we usually end up with is a mumbled, vague “her manner isn’t good.” If we interrogate this, it’s almost always one of a few things. Which are almost always rooted in racist stereotypes.

“She’s angry!” Such a common misogynoiristic stereotype, it’s got its own wikipedia page.

“She plays the race card too much!” Again, a pretty common racist stereotype, and not evidenced, considering she’d been an MP for 30 years before she finally spoke out about personal abuse she’d received.

“She doesn’t look like a politician!” Ask yourself. What does a politician look like to you? The answer is, invariably, a possibly-shinyfaced pigfucking public school boy. A white man in a suit. You might extend your vision of a politician to a white man out of a suit. Or a white woman in a suit. Or a black man in a suit. But for some reason, the black woman doesn’t look like a politician to you, with her wig and her black skin, her tendency to sound like she’s black and from London, as opposed to Rodean. Abbott isn’t the only black woman MP to “not look like a politician”. Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, and a black woman, was once mistaken for a cleaner by a fellow MP. And remember how you just assumed Abbott wasn’t qualified for the job?

“I… I just don’t like her.” Fair enough. Maybe you grew up in a vacuum, and your brain just irrationally fixated on this particular MP with your especial dislike.

We’re bombarded with messaging, daily, about what a politician should look like and be like. We’re also bombarded with negative messaging about black women. It sinks in. And it sinks in, even, to people who don’t think of themselves as racist, don’t think of themselves as carrying misogynoir within themselves. But that’s impossibly unlikely, and you’ll only unlearn and unpick it if you start from the statistically-likely assumption that it’s there, in yourself and in other people.

The truth is, Diane Abbott isn’t any less competent than any other politician–in fact, she’s more competent than many. She’s no more awful than any other politician–all of whom are a bad bunch, and she’s one of the ones I have least of an axe to grind with. She’s not bringing the negative media attention on herself, it’s that the media themselves have an issue with a black woman in a position of power; don’t forget they’re very much owned by racist white men. Ask yourself: why are your expectations of Diane Abbott higher than they are for any of your white male politicians? It’s not Diane Abbott rubbing you up the wrong way, it’s that you’re rubbing yourself.

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Taking Back Cuntrol: a post-Brexit marmite made from vaginal yeast

Content note: this post is about food

A few weeks ago Britain had its first taste of food shortages after it voted to crash its economy. Unilever briefly stopped supplying Tesco due to a dispute about prices. Around the same time, disgraced former former minister Liam Fox, who is currently in charge of figuring out post-Brexit trade, issued a call for innovative jams to become one of Britain’s chief exports.

In this climate, I decided there was no time like the present to start making a yeast extract from my vaginal sourdough starter: again, it’s my damn scientific mind, which sparked previous weird experiments. It took me a while, but the results were quite promising, and if Liam Fox won’t eat it, it just shows he has no confidence whatsoever in Brexit. Or British Values, because I’m sure making my own cunt marmite when there was a shortage is the epitome of that make-do-and-mend Blitz Spirit.

So, the headline: yes, it’s possible to make a quite tasty yeast extract spread from vaginal yeast, but my god, it’s a massive *puts on sunglasses* faff.

could

Now, the full recipe is currently available to patrons only, although will be made public in a little over a month. For as little as $1, you can read the recipe now, completely free from the trappings of recipe stories on blogs. When I make it public, there’ll be a lot of scrolling.

Let’s begin at the end, when I finally ate the damn stuff. What did it taste like?Final product

Answer: not like marmite, but tasty anyway. It was sort of sweet, like chutney, with a strong umami edge: not as strongly umami as marmite, but more like the more delicate flavour of vegemite. The closest thing I could compare it to is brown sauce. I had very low expectations for the project, with my bar set at “Troll Everyone” with bonus outcomes being “Actually Produce Something Edible” and the most unreachable desirable outcome being “Edible And Actually Quite Nice”. Somehow, I succeeded in the Edible And Actually Quite Nice, with nobody being more surprised than me.

And why was I surprised? Because it started life as this:

yeast

That right there is some of my sourdough starter (to which, you’ll remember, I added some vaginal juices when I first started growing it), modified to make it more liquid and therefore frothier. Literally nobody, as far as I could discover, has ever made yeast extract from sourdough starter, so I was having to improvise the whole thing from start to finish. Recipes tended to call for either bakers’ yeast or brewers’ yeast. Having neither, I settled for making something which had a consistency somewhere between the two of them. It took a couple of days to get the yeast ready.

Yeast extract is made by autolysing yeast. In lay terms, this means forcing the yeast to eat itself and then enjoying the delicious, tasty by-product of its own self-destruction. It’s probably a pretty decent metaphor for the Tories, which is another reason why Liam Fox should definitely eat my vagemite, unless he’s too chicken.

In practical terms, autolysis is triggered by incubating the yeast at a precise temperature, or under a precise pressure, or a little bit of both. It’s also helped along by salt.

If you’re making yeast extract in a factory, you’ll need specialist equipment to put it under pressure, keep it at a very precise temperature, getting the pressure right, and so on and so forth. Hell, if you’re making it at home, you probably need some specialist equipment: some recipes call for a pressure cooker, while others call for a hob where you have a decent amount of control over the temperature. I have neither of these things, but I jury-rigged a very high-tech incubation chamber anyway.

15 hours in

The full recipe explains exactly how I autolysed yeast without any specialist equipment, and it actually did work, to my utmost shock. The picture above shows the yeast after the incubation. The dark band is the yeast extract itself. That’s what yeast extract is: a dark liquid that comes off of autolysis of yeast.

I incubated it in total for about 26 hours: I’d intended to do 24 hours, but I was playing a really awesome game called Night Witches with pals, so I was out for a bit longer. Strongly recommend playing Night Witches, by the way, if you like any of the following things: communism, planes, women’s history, yelling DAKA DAKA MOTHERFUCKER at imaginary Nazis.

A few hours into the incubation, it started smelling a bit like marmite. 15 hours in, and it definitely smelled like marmite. Once the incubation was done and I strained it, I sneaked a taste of the yeast extract, and it tasted… not like marmite, nor vegemite, but maybe the cheap off-brand yeast extracts you might end up accidentally buying.

I left it to separate further for a couple of days, and then my next task was to reduce it down from a liquid to something with a consistency of marmite, and to flavour it. While you can eat yeast extract on its own, and you can buy that from health food shops, it’s pretty horrible, so you need to flavour it. Even proper marmite is flavoured a bit.

I used the water from boiling vegetables to flavour mine. Specifically, I boiled up two carrots, a small pumpkin, some baby pickled onions and a normal onion. This probably explains why it has that sweet edge to it, because carrots and pumpkin are both quite sweet, and maybe my tastebuds are weird, but I also think baby pickled onions are sweet. Incidentally, I only used pumpkin because the recipe I’d seen called for turnips, and they didn’t have any in the shop, but they had loads of pumpkins. Here’s what it looked like when I multitasked reducing the yeast extract and boiling veg:

reducing

I then plonked the vegetable water into the pan with the yeast extract, and let that reduce. While it was still liquid, it would have made a passable gravy.

not gravy

Sadly, I had to keep on reducing. And I reduced and reduced, until eventually, after a week, I managed to produce… probably about 3 tablespoons of vagemite.

finished

I let it cool, and then I ate it. I ate the whole fucking lot of it, because it was surprisingly nice. It seems like sourdough starter doesn’t produce quite as much yeast extract as more conventional yeasts, so if I were to do it again, for, say, when Liam Fox eats it to prove he has confidence in Brexit, I’d probably use a lot more sourdough starter than I did here.

I think it would probably go quite nicely with a sharp, mature cheddar in a sandwich, or perhaps in a savoury cheesecake made with quark.

So what have I proved here? That, in the event of a second marmite shortage as prices rise after Brexit, you can make it at home reasonably cheaply, but it won’t particularly taste the same. That it’s probably much better mass-producing the stuff. That it is a lot of fucking effort to make marmite, but it is possible. That you can make it out of sourdough starter and it doesn’t–as all the forums said while dismissing the idea–taste in the least bit funky. That Liam Fox is a fucking wanker… but I didn’t need to take a week of fiddling about with yeast to know that.

Full recipe:

Stage 1: Getting the yeast into the right consistency and frothiness
As far as I could tell, I needed the yeast to be thinner and frothier than its usual state as a 50% hydration starter. This phase took approximately 36 hours.
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup dried sourdough starter flakes (to dry, paint your starter on a bit of greaseproof paper, allow it to dry, and flake it off. It’s good to keep some dry flakes in reserve in case you kill your starter through neglect, like I did with my first one)
  • Probably about 1.5 litres water
  • Probably about 2 1/2- 3 cups plain flour
-Place the sourdough flakes in the bottom of a large measuring jug. Cover with lukewarm water, poured to the 400ml mark. Leave to sit, stirring occasionally, until dissolved. This takes about 3 hours. 
-Feed with 1/2 cup of plain flour and 1/2 cup water.-Cover but do not seal, e.g. with kitchen roll. 
-Feed with 1/2 cup plain flour and 1/2 cup water twice a day (morning and evening), discarding some when the jug gets a bit full, until you have a frothy, viscous liquid.
Stage 2: Incubating the yeast
Yeast extract is made by autolysing yeast. To autolyse it, we need to incubate it, and add some salt to help the autolysis. This stage takes a little over 24 hours
Ingredients:
  • 1 litre of the modified sourdough starter produced in stage 1.
  • A pinch of salt
Equipment:
  • An oven that can do low temperatures
  • A large glass bowl
  • A plate
  • A thermometer
  • Cheesecloth (I used an old dress I never wear)
  • A smaller bowl
-Check the oven temperature by filling the glass bowl with water and popping it in and occasionally checking its temperature. The goal is 44°C, though if you have an electric oven like I do, there’ll be a little variance as it switches on and off. Aim for 44°C on average.
-Once the oven is the right temperature, discard the water. Pour 1 litre of modified sourdough starter into the bowl, mix with a pinch of salt, and cover with the plate. Place in the oven.-Check temperature of the starter periodically. Aim for 44°C.
-Incubate for at least 24 hours. You’ll see it starting to separate, forming layers. This is good. This is what you want. 
-At the end of the day, the average temperature of my incubated yeast was actually more like 46°C across whole 26 hours it was in incubation (it was in there for longer because I went off to play games with friends, not for any important scientific reason). This is fine. I checked the internet, and really, as long as it stays under 50°C, it’s not going to go Horribly Wrong.
 -Strain the yeast through the cheesecloth, into the smaller bowl. You want to keep the more liquid, darker portion, and chuck the lighter, thicker portion. The liquid IS the yeast extract. You could eat it on its own. I probably wouldn’t. 
-Cover and leave for a few days. It will separate a lot more. Strain it through the cheesecloth again when you’re ready to reduce it. 
Stage 3: Flavouring and reducing
Finally, what we need to do is turn the yeast extract from a liquid into something with a consistency that we can spread on toast, and add some flavourings. Shop-bought yeast extracts often use delicious additives. Mine is all vegetables, and 100% vegan (consensually-harvested human vaginal is entirely within the principles of veganism). This phase takes about 2 hours, including cooling time.
Ingredients:
  • However much yeast extract you made in stage 2
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 small pumpkin, diced
  • 8 baby pickled onions, cut in half
-Put the yeast extract in a flat pan. Reduce at a VERY low heat. Do not allow it to caramelise. It will take about 45 minutes to reduce it from a liquid to a kind of gel.
-At the same time, cover the vegetables in water and boil for an hour. Don’t add new water when some of it goes away. By the end of the hour, you should have about a pint of vegetable-water.
-Add the vegetable-water to the yeast extract in the flat pan (you can do what you like with the veg itself). 
-Reduce at a low heat. This will likely take roughly half an hour to 45 minutes. -Allow to cool, and then it’s ready to eat!
Please note that what’s produced here doesn’t taste like marmite. It’s a sort of sweet and umami taste, more like brown sauce, or how chutney should taste. It’s surprisingly nice, but it definitely isn’t marmite.
If you want to be lazy, you can not bother with the first two stages, and buy some unflavoured yeast extract from a health-food shop and add the vegetable-water to that. I imagine that’d probably be OK. Maybe.  
  

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Shockingly bad science journalism in the Guardian

Content note: this post discusses mental illness, mentions self harm, suicide and sexual violence

It’s been a while since I’ve considered the Guardian a decent source of news, but sometimes things get egregious. Yesterday, an article entitled “Mental illness soars among young women in England – survey” was put out, and their reporting… wasn’t very good.

A study was released finding that young women aged 16-24 are at very high risk for mental illness, with more than a quarter of the group experiencing a condition, and almost 20% screening positive for PTSD symptoms. This has all risen since 2007: not just for young women, but across genders and age groups. What, according to the Guardian’s heavy focus of the article, is to blame?

Social media, apparently.

The Guardian’s reporting focuses heavily on how social media is to blame, selectively quoting researchers mentioning social media to the extent that I would love to see what questions they were asked (my personal favourite: “There are some studies that have found those who spend time on the internet or using social media are more likely to [experience] depression, but correlation doesn’t imply causality.”)

Then there’s the case study telling her story of her experience with PTSD and triggers. She talks a lot about film and TV, and the stress of university, and yet somehow her case study is titled “Social media makes it harder to tune out things that are traumatic”. She mentions it briefly in the last paragraph–while still mostly focusing on film and TV!

Now, the reason the Guardian’s twisting of this survey for their own ends is so particularly problematic is the importance of the research. You can download the whole report here, or read a summary here.

It’s quite a well-done survey, a very robust look at mental illness in England, and laying groups who are most at risk. You know me, and how quibbly I can get about published research. This one is actually good. However, it’s worth noting something they didn’t measure in the survey: social media use. This means, of course, it’s absolutely impossible to draw conclusions from the data about social media and mental illness from this research. The survey authors mention that their young cohort is the first to come of age in the social media age, which is true to a certain extent, although I am in an older cohort and came of age in a world where I constantly chatted to friends online, whether I knew them in the meatspace or not. Again, it would be nice if they’d consistently measured online behaviour across studies.

I’ll quote one of the other key research findings here, because again it’s crucial and if you read the Guardian you’d never know about them.

Most mental disorders were more common in people living alone, in poor physical health, and not employed. Claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit aimed at those unable to work due to poor health or disability, experienced particularly high rates of all the disorders assessed.

So. Let’s speculate with the results then. What else happened between 2007 and 2014 that might have had a negative impact on people, especially those who are on disability benefits.

I’ll give you a clue. It happened quite soon after 2007, and the young cohort would have come of age into this, as well as more people using Facebook.

One more clue: it rhymes with wobal winancial wisis wand wausterity.

These are young people who have grown into a world with no prospects, with a hugely gendered impact. Of course, once again, it’s just speculation, but it’s slightly more robust speculation than the Guardian’s because they measured benefit receipt and employment status.

As women, a lot of us would have chorused “no shit, Sherlock” upon seeing the results, and seeing how gendered the results are. We deal with more, and it’s even worse if we’re poor.

The Guardian has a bit of a hateboner for social media, and, unfortunately, this has completely blurred its analysis and reporting of what is an important survey that actually found some interesting trends over time, as well as a bleak snapshot of the current realities.


Schools collecting immigration data is racist. Boycott this data collection.

This year’s schools census has sneakily added something in, something which may at first seem relatively innocuous, but on closer inspection is very frightening indeed. This year’s schools census is collecting data on children’s country of birth.

In an environment where racist violence is on the rise, it is not safe for such identifiable information about children as young as 2 to be accessible to anyone. Schools census data has already been given to the Home Office (who could gleefully enact state violence on children and their families), or to police (who gleefully help out)… or even to right-wing newspapers like the Daily Telegraph. This is not a safe use of the data of already-vulnerable children, and can only expose these kids to further harm.

Already, this vicious data collection exercise has led to schools enacting racism. Some schools have targeted non-white children, ordering them to provide passport information. Not only is this jawdroppingly racist, but it’s horribly unnecessary: passport information or birth certificates aren’t necessary.

In fact, none of this exercise is compulsory in the slightest.

Schools are not obliged to supply this information, simply attempt to collect it. And parents and students are in no way obliged to provide this data.

The Against Borders for Children campaign is calling for families and schools alike to refuse to provide this information, and therefore protect children.

If you are a parent, or a school-age student, you can refuse to supply the information. This is your right, and there will be no punishment. Parents have until 5th October to inform schools that they will not be supplying the information, and the ABC campaign has a template letter you can use.

Even if your family has been in the UK since before Stonehenge went up, refuse to supply this information: your refusal to comply protects children who need protecting.

If you teach, you can make sure your students are aware of their rights, and work within your school to suggest that collecting this data is not prioritised. You can also raise these talking points with your colleagues.

If you’re working in collecting the data–for example, doing IT at a school–you can enter all the data as “not known”.

All of this is perfectly legal, and will not in any way affect your school’s funding.

And even if you are entirely, personally unaffected by this–I know I don’t have my own horse in this race!–you can still help protect children by raising awareness of this issue. Talk about it. Share leaflets. Write to your MP.

Make this attempt to push boundaries in collecting data on children the complete failure and embarrassment it deserves to me. No child is illegal, and racist harassment must stay out of our schools.


Is Theresa May A Feminist Icon? Listen to KILLJOY FM for why she really, really isn’t

My friend, feminist extraordinaire Ray Filar, has started a really good radio show, and they were kind enough to invite me on the inaugural episode, where we discussed the question, is Theresa May a feminist icon? Me, Ray, and migrant rights activist Antonia Bright of Movement For Justice all agree that she isn’t, and frankly an hour wasn’t long enough to cover all the reasons why (although we made some headway). Take a bit of time to listen to our conversation, covering May’s violences against migrant women, complicity in austerity, why “blue feminism” is a shivering pile of turds, and what feminism needs to be doing instead of cheering on a monster.

Content note: the discussion covers detention, FGM, violence against women and domestic violence.

Listen to KILLJOY FM every Wednesday on Resonance FM, online or on 104.4 in London.

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