Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A personal message to Blogger.

My blog looks just how I want it thanks, so please feel free to stop waving your new design thingy at me. But if you'd really like to help please give me an option of turning off the fucking autosave that sits there waiting for every alteration, even if it's just a full stop or a comma, and then saving the post. The reason this gets on my tits is that on more than one occasion I've lost large chunks of posts and because the fucking thing saves afterwards, immediately afterwards for Chris't fucking sake, I can't cmd+z to get it back again. And yes, this has just happened again.

So fucking sort it or the puppies will start to die.

Quote of the Day.

Kids today know so little about history that they probably couldn't even tell you what year Abraham Lincoln defeated Napoleon during the Battle of World War I.
I'm sure David Camermong knows the feeling.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Illiberal democrat.

Not for the first time I'm going to reach for my dictionary and check the definition of the word 'liberal'.
liberal |ˈlib(ə)rəl|adjectiveopen to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values they have more liberal views toward marriage and divorce than some people.• favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms liberal citizenship laws.• (in a political context) favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform a liberal democratic state.• ( Liberal) of or characteristic of Liberals or a Liberal Party.• ( Liberal) (in the UK) of or relating to the Liberal Democrat Party the Liberal leader.• Theology regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change.[ attrib. (of education) concerned mainly with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training.(esp. of an interpretation of a law) broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal or exact they could have given the 1968 Act a more liberal interpretation.given, used, or occurring in generous amounts liberal amounts of wine had been consumed.• (of a person) giving generously Sam was too liberal with the wine.nouna person of liberal views.• ( Liberal) a supporter or member of a Liberal Party.DERIVATIVESliberalism |-ˌlizəm| nounliberalist |-rəlist| nounliberalistic |ˌlib(ə)rəˈlistik| adjectiveliberally adverbliberalness nounORIGIN Middle English : via Old French fromLatin liberalis, from liber ‘free (man).’ The original sense was [suitable for a free man,]hence [suitable for a gentleman] (one not tied to a trade), surviving in liberal arts. Another early sense [generous] ( compare with sense 4) gave rise to an obsolete meaning [free from restraint,] leading to sense 1 (late 18th cent.).
Okay, got all that? I'm thinking in particular about the second bit of definition 1, the one that mentions favouring maximum individual liberty, and how political parties with the word liberal in their name seem so often to oppose individual liberty. So without further ado let's introduce today's antonym of the word liberal, Vince Cable, (i)Liberal Democrat and Business Secretary of Her Maj's Cobbleition. Vince, (i)Liberal kind of guy that he is, wants to force private banks to lend more money to businesses whether they want to or not, and will withhold their bonuses if they don't play ball.

And the fucker dares to call himself a liberal?
... it is the green paper from Mr Cable’s Department for Business that could prove most controversial. It is clear that the Business Secretary has run out of patience with banks. “I don’t think the banks get it,” he said yesterday. We are very worried about their behaviour. They are not acting in the national interest.
I don't think you get it, Vince, you fucknuts. Private companies don't have any responsibility to act in the national interest. They're only supposed to act in their own interests, and by extension those of their customers and shareholders. If the national interests coincide with those then great, but if not that's not their problem because they're private companies, see?
“At the moment we are talking to them in an amicable way and we are monitoring them, but if this doesn’t work there are combinations of carrots and sticks that can be employed.
“What we would question is whether banks should be paying out dividends and bonuses when that money could be used to … support small business lending.”
What I would question is how someone with so poor a grasp of business can be the fucking Business Secretary. Look, Vince, where do you think the money for bonuses comes from? I'll help you out here, when a business makes more money than it needs to spend it's what we call a profit, and sometimes what a company does is give a proportion of those profits to the people who helped make the money. Banks make profits by, among other things, loaning money to people who can pay it all back with interest. However, it's important to understand that they make losses by loaning money to people who can't fucking pay it back at all.

Does that last bit ring any bells, Vince? Because it should do. Loaning money that couldn't be repaid was pretty much what got the banks into the shit in the first place. Poor bastards got it in the neck for lending money and everyone demanded they stop, and when they did the same bastards demand they start lending again. And were the banks that did this encouraged to do so by government policy? Well, fuck me, so they were if the New York Times in 1999 is anything to go by.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates...
Of course we'll never know but it seems at least possible that without the massive market distortion of several decades of subprime lending underwritten by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac - ultimately the US taxpayer, natch, but eventually knocked on to nearly every other shitehole's taxpayers too - the banks that every politician in the fucking world is blaming for their reckless lending might have been a bit more discerning.

Tell me, Vince, apart from lending to businesses rather than wannabe homeowners how is what you're doing any different? Oh, of course. You want to just force them to do it, don't you?

And don't go thinking Vince only plans to do this with the banks that Gordon and his badger browed sock puppet bought. Oh no, he means all of them.
Mr Cable will threaten to impose a new code on all banks rather than opt for a voluntary one applying only to those banks majority-owned by the state.
Surely it would be in the national interest to help reduce the numbers of vehicles with dodgy shockers, two village brakes and bald tyres, so will the Transport Secretary be threatening Kwik-Fit if they don't repair enough cars? He may be a Tory but mostly they're no less illiberal than Vince, and just because Kwik-Fit is a private company, so what? Vince, liberal chap that he is, has decided that government can tell private companies how to run themselves, all in the national interest.

At least the bastard isn't enjoying himself.
“Government is not fun,” he said. “It is a huge responsibility because the decisions we are taking affect people’s lives.”
Of course, but Vince is going so much further. He's not advocating things that affect people's lives, which in itself would be bad enough. He's talking about interfering directly and running things that have absolutely nothing to do with the government. Nice to see it didn't take too long for me to start really despising at least some members of the Cobbleition.

Fuck you, Vince, you appalling cunt. Fuck you and fuck your corruption of the word 'Liberal'.

Bonfire of the calamities #1

Oh noes, cries The Indy, who will monitor the curriculum now?
The war on quangos has already claimed three education bodies – with the prospect of a fourth in the near future.

Although few tears have been shed for the demise of Becta, a body which advised schools on new technology, plans to scrap the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), the profession's regulatory body, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority, which monitors the national curriculum, have provoked more controversy.
Presupposing there is a need for a National Curriculum, because if there isn't why would you need a body top monitor it? Even that assumes that teachers, department heads and head teachers can't do that in their own schools at least as effectively.

As for the GTCE, if teachers want it there's nothing to stop them setting it up, running it and, most importantly, funding it themselves. As with all quangos the ones that have value will be able to sell their services to the relevant sector, and if they can't then clearly they weren't offering any value in the fist place and should never have been funded by anyone, much less the taxpayer. Again, the GTCE's regulatory functions should be put in other hands, either head teachers or the Department for Education.

But it gets even better. See why The Indy think it should be kept.
The loss of the GCTE [sic] leaves teaching without a body to hold disciplinary hearings that can lead to the striking-off of incompetent teachers. Earlier this month, it was criticised in a BBC Panorama programme for holding too few disciplinary hearings, rather than too many.
Er... you don't think that maybe the fact that it almost never performed this function might perhaps be part of the reason for getting rid of it? You don't think that maybe it would be simpler and more efficient to have this function performed elsewhere?
...the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has yet to announce how essential work done by these bodies should be handled.
Ooooooh, Sir, I know, Sir... Sir... Sir... it's head teachers again, isn't it, Sir?

Christ, it's not fucking rocket science. Just tell the heads they can actually run their schools again now, and more than that, make it clear that they're expected to.

Things I still don't get about Australia - No. 27

Having just touched on petrol stations, I don't get why petrol prices here go up and down over the course of a week regardless of what oil prices are like. It's expensive to buy at the weekend and cheaper in the middle of the week. Hmmm. Maybe what I'm actually asking is why it happens here but not in the UK.

Green in more ways than one.

It's not just trade unions (see last post) that seem to be possessed of more righteous outrage than sense. Greenpeace activists have also been busy apparently setting their cause back, in their case by shutting down BP petrol stations by flipping the emergency switches.
Greenpeace claimed it shut off fuel supplies at around 50 service stations in central London this morning.
"We've shut down all of BP's stations in London to give the new boss a chance to come up with a better plan. They're desperate for us to believe they're going 'beyond petroleum'. Well now's the time to prove it."
Oh, very fucking well done. You should be so fucking proud of yourselves there. I have no interest in and little love for BP and I tend to buy fuel at Caltex or Shell for reasons of both price and convenience.

I find it difficult to believe that nobody at Greenpest is aware that many petrol stations in the UK, perhaps the majority are franchises and so Greenpest's actions will hurt small businesses before Big Oil. Perhaps they do know but just don't care, and frankly I'd find that perfectly believable. I also find it hard to believe that it hasn't occurred to anyone at Greenpest that while it will hurt BP indirectly because those franchises that are not selling BP fuel today will of course be ordering less BP fuel as a result, hurting a company that's got an enormous fucking oil spill to clean up might not be a terribly good idea in the first place. Yes, the amount of money involved compared both to BP's worldwide turnover and the cleanup bill they're facing for the Gulf leak is, if you'll excuse the expression, a drop in the ocean, but for want of a nail and all that. If you cost BP ten grand this week and in turn that meant the company taking an extra day to clean its shit up would it have been worth it? Or would it have been better to encourage them to make more money so they can afford to clean up faster? Again, perhaps this has actually occurred to Greenpest and they just don't care, and again I find that depressingly easy to believe. Gestures are so often more important than effect when it comes to modern environmentalism.

Oh, and on top of everything else I'm not sure the Greenpest bellends can count. I've just looked on BP's website for the number of petrol stations they have in the London area and I counted 33, and that's counting two at London Gatwick Airport where, since it's in the middle of fucking West Sussex, the word London really ought to appear in inverted commas and with a big, fuck off, winking smiley next to it. So either Greenpest managed to shut down more BP stations in London than BP actually have or they hit a few others to make the numbers up and because why not.

And to think I used to give money to these twats.

United we fail - UPDATED

Unite, are they completely batshit insane or what? I ask only because I thought trade unions were supposed to look out for their members interests and from where I'm sitting it seems like Unite is determined to cost some of their members their jobs by destroying the company that employs them. Not content with costing British Airways, which was already losing money hand over fist anyway, even more money by going on strike they're now demanding that strikers are given cheap flights. It is, according to Unite, yet another 'human right'.
Unite said on Monday that it planned a legal challenge over the decision by BA chief executive Willie Walsh to strip striking crew of their travel privileges – allowing them flights anywhere on the BA network for just a tenth of the usual fare.
"After careful consideration, Unite believes that management's action breaches European human rights legislation," said the union, claiming 6,000 crew were affected.
If that's true, and to be honest I wouldn't bet against it, it just proves how fucking mad the whole rights industry, which is what it's become, has got. For Christ's sake, they're on fucking strike. That's perfectly fine - stupid, perhaps, but fine - so what the fuck do they expect to happen? I'm all for the right to strike, which really is a human right. When you boil it down it's nothing more or less than the right to withdraw your labour, and if that doesn't qualify as a human right I don't know why. But I'm also for the right of employers to react in the way that's in their interests. That's a human right too, and it ought to be anything up to and including finding someone else to do the work that the strikers won't. The law currently protects strikers from that, which seems to give them rather more in the way of rights than their employer and its shareholders, and yet even that's not enough for the cabin crew. They want their cheap jollies protected too.
BA hit back saying: "Staff travel is a non-contractual perk. Cabin crew knew if they took part in strike action they would lose their travel perks. We will defend our position vigorously."
A perk, got it? It's not a fucking right and it's not like losing salary or bonuses that you're contractually entitled to, it's just a fucking perk. To put this into perspective it's no different to all the companies that I've worked for that bought tea and coffee for the staff - it was never in the contracts that tea and coffee would be provided, it was just something they did as a little extra. Everyone would have moaned if they'd been told that for whatever reason they'd have to start buying their own but it wasn't a fucking right that we'd suddenly be deprived of any more than telling even the most over compensated employees that are still taking industrial action over needed economies that they're no longer entitled to a perk that more supportive employees can still enjoy. Tough shit, folks. If you don't like it go work for someone else, or start your own airline and see how long you can make it survive running things your way.

Now I do realise that part of the argument is that BA want to move the goalposts and effectively renegotiate the contracts with the cabin crew, or some of them at least. I can understand that this is a bit shit of them and that the people affected are going to be upset by this. But if what I've read is accurate those people are the most generously remunerated in their industry and the company they work for is losing money. Do they have a right to slay the goose because it can no longer lay golden eggs and they're not satisfied with having to adjust to silver eggs instead?

Declaration of interest: I have flown twice with BA and both times I hated the experience. The flights were both late, one went to the wrong airport leaving me a very long coach trip to where I'd parked, the staff seemed completely unable to give the remotest shit and everything seemed too much trouble, and basically everything seemed to be designed to feel as if we passengers were getting in the way. The attitude seemed to be that they'd be able to run a really good airline if they didn't have to deal with any customers and I'm glad my employer at the time had paid because I'd have been fucking livid if it had been my own money. On top of all that they stabbed a knife into the heart of the Concorde, the only thing that could possibly have persuaded me to part with my own money to fly with them. But most of all it was the cabin crew, the very fuckers who are now on strike, that pissed me off.

Actually on reflection, screw it. Why not give them their cheap flights? Why not let them strike on full pay too? If they want to take their shithouse airline and fuck it into an early grave along with their own jobs, more fucking power to them. Good luck getting Sir Richard to hire you, you worthless bunch of fuckmonkeys.

UPDATE - Over at Julia's Chalcedon makes an excellent point in the comments:
It can't be a human right otherwise it would apply to us all...
Quite. If BA's lawyers can't make that simple argument stick in court there's something very wrong with the law as written.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Compulsory voting.

Some people are keen on the idea of compulsory voting, and since it's compulsory here it's no shock that that includes a number of Australians I know. They'll tell you that it keeps the politicians honest and engages the voting public. I'll tell you that I'm pretty sure that's complete bullshit. I've said on this blog more than once, and explained at length here, that far from keeping them honest compulsory voting removes any incentive the bastards have to at least look like they're worth voting for and removes the option of expressing contempt for the whole sorry pack of them by staying away. What's becoming the traditional low turnout in the UK is an indicator of how people feel about the political class, and it's one that Australian politicians are shielded from by the guarantee of almost a 100% turnout every time. As for any idea that it engages the voting public... well, let me tell you how engaged the voting public here are right now, with the federal election just weeks away. Aussies might feel all superior because more Brits vote for Big Brother than bother to vote in elections, but this week a TV debate between quasi-PM cum Woody Woodpecker stunt double Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony 'Budgie Smuggler' Abbott that had been scheduled for Sunday night had to be put back an hour. You'd be forgiven for thinking that with the voting public so engaged by means of being forced to vote that it can only have been something truly earth shattering to put the debate back. Had Parkes Observatory detected an asteroid on a direct course to hit Toorak? Did New Zealand declare war on us? Was UDI declared in the Northern Territory? No, my friends, it was even bigger than that. The debate had to be put back because it clashed with the grand final of Masterchef Australia.

Engages the public, my left bollock.

Inequality before the law.

One of the good things the Cobbleition would have achieved if they'd had the balls to go through with it would have been to extend anonymity in rape cases to the accused. I never got around to blogging on their various plans but this was something which I thought was good for justice and the principle of being equal before the law. I'm quite happy that rape victims, practically uniquely among accusers, remain anonymous and I have no problem with the name of a convicted rapist being made public. I can even accept the argument that accusers should remain anonymous even if no conviction results because it might discourage other victims from going to the police. What I do not accept, given that false accusations are extremely damaging and, as the Ambush Predator frequently points out, not actually that rare*, is that this anonymity should not also apply to the defendant.

All that makes the news that the Cobbleition have U-turned on the issue more than a little disappointing, though perhaps not surprising.
The controversial pledge to "extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants" was a surprise inclusion in the power-sharing agreement binding the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats together after the general election.
It faced an immediate storm of protest from MPs across all main parties including Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader.
Obviously Harritwit Harm-men would object, but since she'd probably be happy to change the law so rape defendants were guilty 'til proven innocent that was sufficiently predictable that the proposal should have had 'Oh, do fuck off, Harriet' at the bottom from day one.
Miss Harman's campaign against changing the law was joined by leading female Labour MPs including Yvette Cooper and Caroline Flint, both former ministers.
And your fellow Harpies. What's slightly surprising is that enough MPs from all parties agree to make The Elder Twin put his tiny balls away and give up on the idea, including some on the other side of the House.
Female Tory MPs including Louise Bagshawe, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry have also voiced concerns.
So the support for the status quo and the continued opportunity for malicious women to ruin lives of innocent men goes along gender lines. How fucking depressing. Why are so many sensible women, Mrs Exile and the Ambush Predator to name but two, able to see how that this is intrinsically unfair but the Political Sisterhood of all parties can't? Christ, even pricks like Keith bloody Vaz can see why it's needed.
However, other MPs claim the law must be changed. Keith Vaz, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs select committee, has said that men can have their "whole lives destroyed" by false accusations.
I never thought the day would come where I'd be metaphorically shoulder to shoulder with Keith Vaz, but here it is.

Look, if it was an extremely rare event, as I once thought it was, then I'd agree - leave things as they are. But you only have to click that link above and cout how many examples JuliaM has found. Presumably like most of us JuliaM is a part time blogger but she's written using her 'lying about rape' tag more than forty times. As I said above, by all means publish a rapist's name on conviction, even put it on every front page along with the bastard's photo if you like, though bear in mind that some false accusations have lead to convictions that had to be overturned later. Still, naming people on conviction is something that probably nearly everyone can agree on. But if we're to believe in the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven then surely, when the mere accusation of rape has such power to to damage a person's life, surely we have to give them anonymity until and unless they are actually convicted. Let's be blunt about this: if it's a case of mistaken identity then the defendant is going to be almost as much a victim himself, and if there was never actually a rape to begin with then the defendant is in fact the only victim.

Equality before the law? My steaming arse.

* Coincidentally she's blogged another one only today.

Jon Venables.

Was Venables deliberately trying to get sent back to prison? Here's the thing: it's reported that he rings his probation officer to say he thinks his real identity has become known, and then invites the PO to his home and chooses the point at which the guy is going to arrive as just the time for some PC maintenance, which consists of an attempt to remove the computer's hard drive with a knife and a tin opener. A tin opener? Jeez, aside from the point that what's a couple of minute's work with a screwdriver is probably a half hour fail with a tin opener, talk about drawing attention to yourself.

Maybe the obvious answer is the correct one, which is that he's not only a nonce but a rather stupid one at that. But maybe he's one of these people who can't handle life outside and, having failed to get re-imprisoned for fighting and taking drugs decided to play a card that was absolutely guaranteed to send him back inside. That he's reported to be relieved to be in prison again makes me think this possibility can't be dismissed. So assuming that may be the case, and even if it isn't assuming instead that he's simply a drug snorting, fighty, child killer who likes kiddie porn, we could expect him to get a fairly hefty sentence, right? If the offences simply indicate what sort of character he is then society deserves to have him locked away for a decent amount of time, and if it's his way of trying to get back inside where he feels more comfortable it seems simpler to oblige him. Either way, a fairly long sentence makes sense, yes?

Two years.


Saturday, 24 July 2010

We know where you are.

Friends who know I use a Mac often believe I'm a closet Apple fanboy despite the fact that I will bitch and bag Apple at the drop of a hat, and those among them who have an iPhone and are deeply, deeply in love with it are incredulous that I haven't got one and don't intend to get one. Well, confession time - I did once want one but because I was having a row with Apple Australia at the time I was damned if I was going to give them another cent, and settled on a boggo Nokia instead. 'Oh, but it's so handy to get GPS,' they say. 'Bollocks,' I reply. For the price of an iPhone I could have my Nokia and a separate GPS and a brand new Melway for when the GPS instructions turn out to be wrong. And not only that, I wouldn't have to worry about making  a tinfoil hat so that Apple couldn't see my thoughts, or failing that see where I am.
A thief, Horatio Toure, who stole an Apple iPhone from its owner’s hands was arrested by American police within minutes after being tracked by global positioning system (GPS) software.
The 31 year-old snatched the highly-sought after phone from the hands of a software company employee who was testing a new application in San Francisco earlier this week.
But the hapless thief was arrested by police just nine minutes later after the iPhone tracked his every move.
Now, granted this was new software being tested and which happened to be on at the time, and Apple have said that if he'd turned the phone off it would have been game over as far as nicking him so quickly was concerned. But it occurs to me that with a bit of code here and there surely it would be possible to have a phone that turns itself on at regular intervals to give a little 'Here I Am' wave in the direction of Cupertino, or whoever pays them for that information. To be honest I really can't think of any reason why they would do that, but if it can be done then it is a concern. The fact that Apple are so bloodyminded about running anything other than their own or their approved software on their products and how dickish they are with licensing doesn't make me more confident.

I'm sure some people will look at this and think 'wow, what a great advert for an iPhone'. I think 'wow, I'm so glad I didn't buy one.' Paranoid? No, not really, but that's at least partly because I'm happy to use an obsolete 'dumb' phone, and you know what? It makes phone calls just fine.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Who is Cory Doctorow?

Via Bill Sticker, who writes like David Foster Wallace, Wlliam Gibson, James Joyce and Lovecraft, it seems from my longer rantings that mostly I write like Cory Doctorow. And since I have no idea who Cory Doctorow is I don't know whether to be pleased, embarrassed, offended, flattered or what.

'Earth Hour' on March 26 2009.

I write like
Arthur C. Clarke
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!
Hmmm, okay, not unhappy with that, even if I can't see what made it like Arthur C. Clarke. I'll dig out Rendezvous with Rama tomorrow and see if there's a whole chapter of venom and swearing that I've forgotten about.

'Aiming at the wrong targets' on March 18 2009.

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!
Again, not unhappy with that, though I'm still not sure why. I can't see anything in there about gun laws in R'lyeh or how control advocates are the tentacled spawn of Yog-Sothoth.

'Off with their heads' on May 24 2009.

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

'Spot the difference' on October 6 2009 produced my first Cory Doctorow...

I write like
Cory Doctorow
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!
... as did 'A response to David Davis' on October 23 2009.

However, 'Bilked of Rights' on January 4 2010 got me this badge.

I write like
Charles Dickens
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!
Charles Dickens? Seriously? "It was the best of times, and what cocksocket was responsible for fucking that up for everyone?" Er, no, sorry. Just can't see it.

'Living with the threat of terrorism - compare and contrast' on January 5 2010 got me back to Cory.

I write like
Cory Doctorow
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!
As did 'Voting for change' on February 12th, and 'Getting the vote out' on May 4th. Oddly they were the first and last of a three part rant, and the middle part, 'House of Frauds' on March 18th, had gone all Chthonian again.

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

More Enraged Pom than Mad Arab - that which is not absofuckinglutely furious can eternal lie, etc etc. But I'm still wondering about Cory Doctorow. I think I'll get Mrs Exile to Google him and see if she says he writes like me. Since I pasted a section from Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror and it said it was like James Joyce I probably shouldn't get my hopes up.

Omission statement.

Having mentioned the Dave and Nick Repeal Show in the last post and having seen a reminder of a much better one over at Douglas Carswell's blog I suddenly realised that I've known about it for a while and never put a link to it here. Time to fix that.

Set phasers to facepalm.

Once again free speech in Britain gets a hefty kick in the balls, particularly in Cardiff as it's decided that anyone sufficiently delusional and thin skinned gets protection from anything they don't want to hear, even when they're clearly as mad as a bag of monkeys.
John Dixon, a Cardiff councillor, is being investigated for allegedly breaching the code of conduct for local authority members which demands they "show respect and consideration for others".
A complaint was made to the Welsh ombudsman by a member of the Church of Scientology in December last year about comments Mr Dixon made on his Twitter page that June.
On a visit to London, to buy a wedding ring, the Liberal Democrat councillor tweeted: "I didn't know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off."
I think that's pretty funny, actually. But even if I was a Scientoolallygist and was offended by that remark in a country that values free speech it would be tough shit. Unfortunately it seems it's not quite so straightforward in this case.
Following an investigation by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Mr Dixon was referred to Cardiff Council's standards and ethics committee.
The committee will receive the ombudsman's report next week and Mr Dixon could face sanctions of up to a six-month suspension after a hearing in the autumn.
So because he tweets that Scientology is stupid a ward is likely to go unrepresented at council for six months. Yeah, great idea.


And what's brought this about? One complaint. One. And, oh fuck me all the way to the mothership and back, look who it's from (my bold).
The complaint was made by John Wood, a member of the Church of Scientology, who lives near the Head Quarters in East Grinstead. He said: "People are free to say what they like but I felt that as a person in a position of public office that he had to be violating some kind of code of conduct."
AAAAAAAAAAHHHRG! Christ, but it winds me up every fucking time I see someone professing even tenuous support for free speech and then adding the word 'but' followed by the list of restrictions they want placed on speech. Listen, Thetan John, you utter cock dribble, free speech is free and restricted speech is not free - it's as simple as that no matter what fucking planet you think you're from. And for fuck's sake, you're not even saying why you think he can't say what he likes, you're just hoping that "some kind of code of conduct" is there for you to whip him with. Well, I'm not a councillor so I'm going to say what I think, which is that you are stupid. Galactic scale stupid, in fact. And thin skinned. And authoritarian (no, John, Authoritaria is not a planet). And a weapons grade cunt.

Nanu nanu, and very possibly shazbut as well.

Unfortunately for Cllr Dixon there apparently is some sort of code of conduct for stupid, thin skinned, illiberal cunts to bash him with. In fact it's worse than that because there's also a fucking law. Despite the fact that Scientology is not even recognised as a religion in the UK it's got the same protections as one.
... in March last year the Crown Prosecution Service decided that anyone who attacks Scientology can be prosecuted under faith hate laws.
The move provides the controversial Church of Scientology the same protection as other mainstream religions.
Now actually this shows a wider problem, because something as nebulous as faith hate laws are not compatible with free speech, and probably not even compatible with giving all religions equal protection. And since there's a bunch of other hate crimes on the books to cover everything else from sex to skin colour we fast ending up with everyone who believes anything at all being at risk of having offended someone else. Christian, Jewish or Muslim? Well, if you really take your respective holy texts seriously and are prepared to say so then you're probably hating homosexuals a little bit. And if you're gay and wish to express your opinion that said holy texts were the writings of madmen and control freaks you've just let us know that you have a tiny bit of hate at least a significant number of the 3+ billion followers of those religions. You may think you feel nothing of the kind, but the righteous say you're not allowed to offend anyone even if you are entitled to your beliefs. The fact that those of us who really believe in free speech find this state of affairs deeply offensive is of no fucking interest whatsoever to the pricks who come up with this shite.

We can but hope the Dave and Nick Repeal Show includes the shredding of these ridiculous laws, though I'm not wildly optimistic. In the meantime there are only two little rays of sunshine (unless they're tractor beams sent by Thetan John's mother ship). First is that Cllr Dixon is taking it all in his stride.
He wrote on his personal account on Tuesday: "Am I going to get into more trouble for saying that, right now, I'm bigger than Xenu, do you think?"
It's not often I feel like standing up to applaud a LibDem, but this guy deserves it. And the second ray os sunshine is that The Daily Mash were never going to let this story go unmashed.
More than 200 Flat Earthologists complained after Cllr John Dixon posted a Twitter message referring to the Earth as a 'globe'.


Wayne Hayes, a Level 19 Flat Earthologist from East Grinstead, said: "Dixon's remarks are just typical of the prejudice we face on a daily basis just because we refuse to bow down to the dogma of scientific proof.

"He should be fed to the Great Salamander of Xenu or at the very least taken to the edge of the world and pushed off.

"We'll see who's stupid then."
Gold. Just gold.

What I'm missing out on by being a non-drinker.

I'd be a thinner, more intelligent, poison proof sex-machine who's also resistant to head and bodily injuries. Apparently.

So, Alcohol Concern, go fuck yourselves sideways on a beer keg.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Senseless censor.

From Wikipedia:
The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of causing the information to be publicized widely and to a greater extent than would have occurred if no censorship had been attempted. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, following a 2003 incident in which her attempts to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.
It's often been the case that attempts to ban something give it a greater attraction than if it had been ignored. "Don't climb on to the worktop and take biscuits from the tin," we're told as children, but until the fact that there was a tin of biscuits was brought to our attention we'd have been happy to go play in the garden or watch TV. Later on we find new restrictions and prohibitions, and naturally many attempt to beat them by drinking, smoking and screwing before they're of legal age and then trying to find some pot. This is only natural since the reasons given for the prohibition can be unconvincing and so the only way people can understand the need for the rule is to break it and see what all the fuss is about. Therefore if you want teenagers to smoke or drink and to develop a little black market in fake ID just tell them they can't 'til they're 18, if you want more people to become interested in drugs just tell them that drugs are completely forbidden, and if you want to ensure maximum publicity for some otherwise fairly uninteresting publication you should emulate Barbara Streisand and do your absolute level best to censor it.

Now Babs may have inadvertently put her name to this in 2003, but it's much older. I've never read Lady Chatterley's Lover but I'm told by someone who has that it's not exactly a page-turner, so I can't help but wonder if a few sex scenes and a smattering of Anglo-Saxon (including at least one word already published centuries before by Chaucer) was enough to create such widespread interest. Or was it that anything that had been banned for three decades had to be something really juicy? During my childhood there was Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, which might well have been good enough to be a hit anyway but was absolutely guaranteed success when the BBC refused to air first the video and then the song, and then Spycatcher, which was easily the most boring book I have ever attempted to read (I gave up about a quarter of the way in, and that was the second try). I know many people who've tried and some who actually made it all the way through but very few who actually enjoyed it, yet it sold by the pallet load thanks to the vast amount of free publicity it got courtesy of the government's desire to prevent it being sold at all. Streisand Effect? It could as easily have been called the Spycatcher Effect or the Frankie Effect.

So with all that in mind you might think that censors would be wary of using their power to ban and prohibit for fear of generating wider interest in something that would largely pass unnoticed. Well, you probably wouldn't think that because Babs Streisand and her lawyers hadn't learned, the fucktroons that banned Spycatcher hadn't learned, the BBC censors that banned Relax hadn't learned, and so on and so on. Censors never learn, especially the Australian censors, so actually it should be no surprise at all that they're at it again. Having temporarily run out of computer games to ruin they've turned their attention to the movies and banned a film called LA Zombie.

And its director is absolutely delighted.
"My first thought was 'Eureka!'" director Bruce LaBruce said, speaking from his home in Toronto.

"I’ll never understand how censors don’t see that the more they try to suppress a film, the more people will want to see it. It gives me a profile I didn’t have yesterday."
Oh, has it ever. This movie is a low budget zombie gay porn flick - to call it 'niche' is probably an understatement. Almost certainly it would have lacked sufficiently broad appeal to have got more than a passing mention in most larger newspapers, yet the idiot censors have ensured that it's newsworthy enough to be given centre attention in The Age and second item on the entertainment section of Google News (click both to enlarge).

Without the helpful hand of censorship LA Zombie would never have got that sort of attention, and not being a fan of zombie movies or gay porn I for one would almost certainly have never heard of it, which would have been no loss as it sounds shit.
Made for "less than $US100,000" in Los Angeles last year, LA Zombie was devised as "a reaction against torture porn" says La Bruce. "People come back to life [in my film], it’s a metaphor for healing."
Really? The synopsis on Wikipedia says that the central character is a nutter who thinks he's an alien zombie and who attempts to reanimate the dead by shagging them up the shit chute. And that's a metaphor for healing, is it? Yeah, okay, right.

LaBruce admitted that his film did have explicit scenes of sex and violence, but said the version that was banned from the festival was a "soft core" version, where "it’s obviously a fake prosthetic. It’s a bizarre-looking thing with a scorpion’s stinger, it’s clearly not a human penis."
That's big of you.

No, wrong word. Not big. Er... generous. Shit, no. Still sounds a bit like we're talking about dicks. Must keep the censors happy. Oh, damn... censors! That sounds like we're talking about dicks as well, which we sort of are.

Seriously, this film didn't need to be banned. I'm a pretty normal person and I'm no more likely to be corrupted by it than I was to learn the innermost secrets of the British Secret Service by wading through something as coma-inducing as fucking Spycatcher. Have the courage to treat people as adults and allow them to choose for themselves what they want to see, and you may be pleasantly surprised how many won't bother to seek out what you were tempted to ban. Or carry on using taxpayers' money to generate vast amounts of free publicity for crap that would have sunk without trace had it been left alone. Your choice, though if you carry on the way you have been you should expect people to be provocative on purpose just so they don't have to bother with an advertising budget. Don't believe me, oh censortive souls? Then consider this:
The director denied he’d deliberately sought censorship when making LA Zombie... "I wasn’t expecting it with this one," he said. "My film Otto screened in Melbourne and that also had a zombie penetrating another zombie."
Even if you accept LaBruce's denial that he wanted this to happen, and the fact that he's used the opportunity to plug another one of his movies means we should probably take it with a large pinch of salt, it seems possible that he's thought about it before. "I wasn't expecting it with this one." If it's occurred to one then it will certainly have occurred to many more, so it's now down to the censors to decide whether or not the best method of censorship in the future is in fact not to censor at all. But if I was a betting man I'd put money on them ignoring the evidence and carrying on banning and restricting and cutting and prohibiting just as they and their kind always have. It's not just that at heart they're paternalists who really do believe they know what's best for many millions of individual people, and know it far better than those individuals know it themselves. It's also that a censor who censors things by not censoring them isn't likely to be kept on the payroll for very long.

Prohibito ergo sum, but probably also prohibito ergo sum pensus.*


* Latin classes were twenty odd years ago and I dropped it as soon as I could. If I've mangled that I can only say that it's because I don't care enough to have researched it properly.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Burqa bans, redux.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has been reported as having said that wearing a burqa can be empowering, which hasn't won her many fans.
The remarks by Caroline Spelman, who as Environment Secretary is the second most powerful woman in the Cabinet, were described as “moronic” and “bizarre”. She is also likely to face anger from backbench Tory MPs, some of whom have called for the wearing of burkas to be banned outside the private home.
Oh, great. A bunch of backbench fucktards who think that letting people make fewer choices for themselves increases their freedom. What wonderful quality the Tory party have managed to recruit.
Critics of the ban have argued that while they do not like to see women covering their faces, particularly if forced to do so by male relatives, legislation is heavy-handed and contrary to the principle of freedom of expression.
Quite. Write it down a cricket bat and twat those backbench Tories across the eyes with it.
But Mrs Spelman suggested that wearing the burka could be seen as a feminist statement.
She claimed that a visit to Afghanistan had persuaded her that “the burka confers dignity”.
Oh dear. No, Caroline, I'm not sure it does, and I'm not sure you get it. Wearing one doesn't give a woman dignity, which is somewhat subjective anyway, and is not a feminist statement. However, a woman telling the government to fuck off and mind its own business because she's capable of deciding for herself can be, though it's important not to confuse that independence of thought with simply dressing up like a cross between Demis Roussos and a Ninja.
“I’ve been out to Afghanistan and I think I understand much better as a result … why a lot of Muslim women want to wear the burka."
Oh, this is going to be good.
“For them, the burka confers dignity, it’s their choice, they choose to go out dressed in a burka."
Some, perhaps, but I suspect we're hiding from something here, aren't we, Caroline? Many of them want to wear it because they'll get the shit kicked out of them, or worse, if they don't. I'm all for women who genuinely want to put the bloody thing on being free to do so, but let's not fucking kid ourselves.

Still, I'll give her this, she's not a complete fucking idiot.
"I understand that it is a different culture from mine but the fact is in this country women want to be free to choose … whether or not to go out in the morning wearing a burka.”
I'm not sure if by "this country" she was referring to the UK but I'm going to assume she is, and if so she's at least got this right. Women do want to be able to choose, and most will choose not to wear it. Banning it might help a few, always assuming the men in their families don't simply keep them inside, but, as I've blogged before, what it will certainly do is take the freedom of choice away from all women. That, I'm afraid, makes the state no better than the misogynists who'd prefer women to be veiled in case the sight of a female face makes them overcome with the need for a wank or whatever it is they're worried about.

And then along comes Nigel Farage, echoing the backbench Tories.
But Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independent Party, said: “Wearing a burka seriously diminishes a woman’s life chances in 21st century Britain – to describe it as somehow empowering is simply moronic.
“It was a thoroughly extraordinary and deeply ignorant comment for Caroline Spelman, a Government minister, to make.”
Again, and in words of as few syllables as I can, you can't increase freedom by legislating making laws to ban things. Bans always mean less freedom, not more. Why is it so hard to get this across? Why do intelligent people who oppose the smoking ban on the very reasonable grounds that responsible adults should be allowed to choose find it so difficult to apply the same rationale to a form of clothing they really dislike? Yes, I'd love it if every woman currently made to wear a burqa cast them off at the same time and showed their pride in their bodies and their contempt for the men that hid them under tarpaulins by doing, well, something like this.

But just as you can lead a horse to water but can't force it to drink it's impossible to empower women, or men for that matter, or make them free by forcing them to conform to your definitions of empowerment and freedom. That's not empowerment or freedom, it's just a more refined form of tyranny. And as far as I'm concerned you can fucking keep it.

Making AV work... for politicians.

I've made no secret that I'm a bit of a fan of AV type voting systems, although I've never had first hand experience of voting in one. Yet. Australia, as I've mentioned before, uses Preference Voting* to elect federal MPs to the equivalent of the Commons, the House of Representatives, which is close enough to AV for the point I want to make. This is that I've now become aware of a problem with these sort of systems, and that is the temptation for parties to do back room deals for second preferences before the bloody election is even held.
The Greens and Labor today confirmed a preference deal at the forthcoming election.

The arrangement will see Labor receive Greens' preferences in more than 50 marginal seats while the Greens will receive Labor's Senate preferences in every state and territory.

Only a handful of seats are not included in the deal and preferences will be negotiated at a local level in these seats between Labor and the Greens.
Now I was always aware that this can and does happen since it's pretty much how the coalition here functions. The National Party and the Liberal Party have an understanding that generally they won't put up candidates in each other's territory, and so non-Labor voters in rural Australia will end up voting for the Nats while their urban and suburban counterparts will put a 1 next to a Liberal candidate. Now obviously there's nothing to stop this happening in a First Past the Post system, and in fact it can and does. Remember back in the 1997 UK election when Labour and the LibDems both dropped out of the Tatton seat to give BBC journo and "anti-sleaze candidate" Martin Bell a free shot at Neil Hamilton? But this is more akin to official party guidelines on tactical voting. Parties here send out a "How To Vote" guide (I'm not sure why but I was surprised that there was a page on Wikipedia for it) with all the other shit that they send, and this consists of telling you what order you should rank candidates in.
Conscious that some Greens at grass-roots level will not support the deal, Senator Brown stressed that preference deals were not binding and voters were free to direct preferences as they wished.

"You can make up your mind up about where you’re going to put your number one vote, and I hope that’s for the Greens, and then you make your mind up about who you put second and who you put third," he said.
Okay, Bob, so there's nothing to stop a potential Green voter putting 2, 3 and 4 etc where they like, though I notice you're not mentioning how the deal's real advantage for your party is the chance of an extra Green Senator.

But I'm really looking at how this might apply to a future UK situation where AV or something very much like it has replaced FPTP. Now, again this is already possible in FPTP, and there have been plenty of moves among LibDems and Labour people in the UK to encourage tactical voting to keep 'the hated Tories out' (the usual mantra - I've never been able to vote tactically to keep all three out, but I fucking would if I could). But I can't help but wonder if this kind of voting system, and any where second choice votes are up for grabs, encourages this kind of thing. Would AV be suicide for the Tories by creating a system where Labour encourages people to send second preferences the way of the LibDems and vice versa? Or, if the unholy alliance of the Twins actually holds together well for five years, will they choose to freeze out Labour the same way? And is either good for democracy (yes, I know the D-word has plenty of issues of its own)?

Ultimately, do you want politicians to start lecturing you on your second preferences on top of everything else they're already telling you to do? I reckon I can live with it, though ask me again after I've lived through a few more elections here, but if you don't then best you keep this in mind when the UK has it's referendum.

* I do have a problem with voting being compulsory, and I've made no secret of that either, and I'm also not keen on having to rank all candidates on the ballot paper. What if I despise all but one of them? I either spoil the paper or leave it incomplete, either of which is a non-vote, or I accept that my second preference is going to someone I really don't want to vote for. As I said back in May an Optional Preferences, as used for Queensland's state parliament elections, would be better. And for Christ's sake it has to be voluntary or there's no incentive for the bastards to make themselves worth voting for.

Mixing issues.

Over at The Age Dick Gross asks a strange question:
What do heroin and female genital mutilation have in common?
Since I've strong opinions on both the answer had to be worth a read, even if I was a little worried about what it would turn out to be.
Not much at first blush but they share one controversial attribute – both heroin and female genital mutilation are the subject of ferocious harm minimisation debates.

When we despise something, we generally react with prohibition. But there are certain practices that do not lend themselves to prohibition and so a ban causes more damage than good.
True. Go on.
Prohibitionists inevitably command the high moral ground in any debate about something we detest. On issues from crime to drugs to Paleolithic religious practices, critics line up to compete about who can get the most cross. Prohibition is simple. It most directly expresses outrage and opposition. When we find something repugnant, outrage is what we really want to see expressed in public discourse. So we see bidding wars on who can evince the most anger:

"I hate (crime/drugs/object of detestation)."

"I don't just hate (object of detestation), I deplore (object of detestation) and I believe all purveyors of (object of detestation) should be jailed."

"That's nothing. I believe anyone caught anywhere near (object of detestation) should be impaled."

"That's nothing. I despise (object of detestation) so much that I reckon (insert your own dire consequence)."

You get the picture. The vilification of the heroin or mutilation or whatever is so pronounced that no rational argument is easy or even possible.
Sorry to interrupt but a rational argument against prohibition of [insert issue here] may well be possible. The problem is simply that many people don't want to listen rationally.
If there is evidence that prohibition has failed or even exacerbated harm, that evidence does not receive sustaining oxygen as the vigilantes pounce to condemn not only the problem but those who might promote a non-punitive response. So we see with heroin, where murderous harm comes not so much from the drug but from the prohibition that condemns users to unsupported pariah status and makes their suppliers move into the violent shadows of criminality. The flow of blood in Mexico's borderlands is a hideous example of the counterproductive effects of a crap form of regulation.
Couldn't agree more, DG, but surely you aren't going to claim the same applies to female circumcision? Well, sorta kinda.
There, my self-protective rave is out of the way. I cannot abide even the thought of female genital mutilation (FGM). Genital cutting is something I would wish on no one (although I have been cut myself without memorable trauma).
Glad to hear that you are opposed to the practice, even though your own experience didn't damage you. However, couple of points there. First, presuming that you're referring to the ritual circumcision of Jewish male babies, naturally you can't miss what for all practical purposes you never had, so providing the op isn't stuffed up - which can and does happen now and then - of course it's done you no harm. But does that justify the process? Would you approve of cosmetic procedures such as tattoos or piercings on a week old infant on the basis that it's safe and will not have, to use your words, memorable trauma? The fact is that there will be memorable trauma for an unfortunate few and the rest of you can never know if you've lost out. Only men who have been circumcised as consenting adults can answer that, not those who were forced to undergo the procedure as un-consenting infants. The second, and far more obvious point, is that there is a large difference between male and female circumcision, and your experience as a circumcised male may not be analogous.

And that's not the only problem I have with Gross's thinking on this.
... please open your mind if you can. Notwithstanding the revulsion we all feel at the reports we read of this barbarism, there might be a solution other than prohibition. It takes a certain courage to move beyond simplistic prohibition in the interests of the victims.

I have been involved in several harm minimisation proposals, from heroin use to street sex work. I have lost most of these battles for many reasons. But it seems to me that people generally prefer a punitive approach on these issues. Evidence-based solutions, such as safe injecting rooms and safe precincts for street sex workers, are thrown aside in horror and in error. However, we must seek the best for the victims, regardless of our desire to magic away evil in the world.
Oh dear. Yes, a lot of people do prefer, even demand, prohibition and punitive action to, well, not to put too fine a point on it, to a few minutes of rational fucking thought. And yes, this is why most governments in western nations still stick to the tried and tested policy of prohibiting drugs, despite the fact that the results of the trying and testing is decades of epic failure and that every dinner party argument suggested to support prohibition applies as much to the glass of wine the prohibitionist usually has in front of them. And yes, all this leads to evidence based solutions being ignored. I'm with you on all of that.

But, and it's a bloody monster of a but, does all that apply as well to female genital mutilation (I'm no more a fan of using an acronym to hide the 'mutilation' elephant in the room than I am a fan of the practice itself)? I'd say it doesn't and for the same reason as some of the commenters over at The Age, which is that there's a world of difference between accepting that prohibition of drugs does more harm than good and applying the same reasoning to setting about a child's crotch with sharp implements. That difference hinges on two things: the presence of an identifiable victim and the fact that their consent has not only not been given but it hasn't even been sought.

I've tried for several hours to make this point in the comments at The Age but the bloody thing's playing up, so I'm going to give up and paste what I've tried to post there here instead.
There's a huge difference between the argument for ending drug prohibition and that of allowing limited female genital mutilation. It's not just a case that both would reduce harm, which might well be true, and so therefore we should no longer punish either. I can see the pragmatic argument but I feel it misses another aspect entirely. Taking heroin or any other drug is, in itself, a victimless crime. There may be associated crime (at least some of which would probably vanish with legalisation), as there is with alcohol, but if you want to stick coke up your nose or heroin in your veins why should it not be your choice providing you can do so without harming or stealing from anyone else, just like it is with booze? Does that apply to female genital mutilation? In short, no. Taking drugs is a victimless crime, or at least it could be if legalised. That Dick Gross talks of moving "beyond simplistic prohibition in the interests of the victims" concedes that FGM is *not* a victimless crime. And it's hard to see how it could ever become a victimless crime when no matter how much it's minimised it necessarily means an intimate and medically unnecessary procedure on someone without their consented. In that respect the discussions of female genital mutilation and drugs are not at all comparable. The last point that DG makes, that prohibition will fail, is a strawman. DG's correct but continued prohibition of rape and child abuse won't eradicate those either. Should we then agree - with great reluctance, natch - to copping a quick feel and other minor sexual assaults, and stuff the rights of those victims, if in turn rape etc was reduced? It'd be no different to allowing little nicks of infant girls' genitals.
It may be true that this small concession will lead to a diminishing of this hideous practise, and incidentally I'm with Dick Gross that it's at least as much cultural as religious (as shown by its occurrence in some Christian nations) but the price would be to sanction many generations of victims to come. Even if it could be reduced to something as harmless (arguably and usually) as circumcision of male infants, is that a price we should pay? Or should we treat it as what it is - an unnecessary assault on a child too young and helpless to give consent or offer resistance, and worthy of a very hefty prison sentence?

I don't think I need to repeat myself to say where I stand.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Oh no, not another one.

For expat Brits living in parts of Australia elections have become like buses - you wait bloody ages and then two or three come along at once. Having just got over the excitement of spoiling my ballot paper by proxy in May's UK general election I can look forward to the new thrill of choosing between similarly unpalatable alternatives in two more elections here in Oz (unless the Liberal Democrats, who are unlike their UK namesakes by being both liberal and democratic, happen to field candidates round here).

Naturally the PM's job is going to end up being either an illiberal madman from the Liberal party or the redhead from Wales. Both their parties have compelling reasons why I'd rather not vote for them, but despite that either might end up with my second preference anyway simply because of the possibility that the iLiberal or the ALP candidates might not be the least attractive candidates. And of course Australia famously has compulsory voting, so we'll be fined for not showing up.

Whoopie-fucking-doo. Excuse me while I go and savagely bang my head on the patio for a bit.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Facebook grows a set.

'Facebook is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful, however that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening.''
Good for them but it's funny, isn't it? Sometimes companies like Facebook find it easy enough to get all worked up about free speech and tell governments to stuff off, and I'm right alongside them when they do. But the same companies will freak out and cave in when confronted by a small number of complaints from misogynists, prudes and tittyphobes who object to photos of slightly too anatomically correct dolls or new mothers breastfeeding their babies. This might make sense if most of the whiners were paying to book their faces, but it's a free service so what are they losing if the tittyphobes all sod off somewhere else?

Personally I carry no brief for Raoul Moat or anyone else who goes around shooting unarmed people in revenge for perceived wrongs, and I'm generally inclined to support the police when they're not harassing innocent photographers and chasing victimless crimes that help the clear up rates but are in reality, as the Guide says, mostly harmless. But I accept that not everyone will be of the same opinion and they have as much right to express their thoughts as I do mine. Equally I feel that photographs of breastfeeding mothers can occupy a spectrum from yawn inducing cack that only their family members will be interested in all the way to moving and beautiful (and in keeping with the H2G2 theme I really don't give a pair of foetid dingo kidneys about nipples on dolls). Why can't the tittyphobes and prudes take the same attitude and either stop whining about images that offend them (and almost nobody else) or stop fucking looking at them? For that matter, why can't the Elder Twin start living up to some of these ideals about freedom he espouses from time to time?

Freedom, as I've said before, tends to be pretty black and white, and freedom of speech is no exception. You are free to say what you think or you are not - it's that fucking simple. You are certainly free to say that something someone else has said offends you but that doesn't give you the right to shut them up. It's at the top of the page: there is no right not to be offended. If you can't deal with that without demanding other people's freedom is restricted to suit you and your tastes I'd suggest you go live in a cave somewhere where you can't see or hear the rest of the world not agreeing with you. That goes double if you're a tittyphobe and treble if you're a politician sucking up to tabloid readers.
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