miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
So Mike Fabricant* tweeted a tweet expressing his dislike for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in colourful and over the top terms. And Twitter exploded. And now he has reluctantly apologised, apparently under threat of having the whip withdrawn**.

I am very uncomfortable with this.

I quite regularly say that various people give me violent urges. I am - or was - under the impression that everybody knows I never actually would rip someone's head off and spit down their neck, or tear their arm off and beat them to death with the soggy end. Such "threats" are so clearly over the top and unlikely that it's obvious I am indulging in hyperbole, surely? We all remember the Twitter Joke Trial, right? We all thought it was dead obvious that Paul Chambers was only kidding. And I would say the same applies to Mr Fabricant's "threat" to punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat to save himself from brainsplosion. Mike Fabricant might be a total arsehole, but I think it's vanishingly unlikely that, were he booked to debate on TV with Yasmin, he would crush her windpipe in front of the cameras. If only for self preservation.

But even if he were likely to follow through on his "threat", I still don't think that's reason to stop him fom saying it. I would rather arseholes say arsehole-ish things so we can point and laugh at them*** and recognise them for the arseholes they are than that they silently think arsehole-ish things and we all think they are not really arseholes.

I am also deeply uncomfortable with him being forced to apologise under threat of being sacked. If he apologises of his own free will that shows he has learned that being an arsehole hurts people and hurting people is bad. If he is forced to apologise like a reluctant toddler, all that teaches him is that he can't express his views without suffering opprobrium, not that his views are the problem. If the Tory party think his tweet was unacceptable they should take some disciplinary action****, not threaten him with disciplinary action unless he makes an apology he clearly doesn't mean.

I am a big defender of freedom of speech because misogynists and racists and homophobes and transphobes are people I want to avoid*****, and to avoid them I need to know who they are. If we ban them from expressing their views then it makes them much harder to spot. I'd like misogynists and racists and homophobes and transphobes to feel perfectly free to spew as much bile as they like.

Of course I'd like it even more if society didn't reward them with airtime and newspaper columns and positions of power for being misogynists and racists and homophobes and transphobes, even while po-facedly shaking its head and making them fauxpologise, but I realise that's a pipe dream.



* you have NO idea how hard I have had to try to avoid childish purposeful misspelling of his name throughout this post
** according to Cathy Newman, anyway.
*** or shake our heads and tut disapprovingly, or whatever.
**** I am bang behind freedom of association, as well as freedom of speech, and if I were the Tory party I'd sack Fabricant for being an unrepentant arsehole, not make him pretend to repent like that makes everything OK.
***** Some days I have enough spoons to want to debate with them, but not today.
miss_s_b: (Default)
Our Environment Secretary thinks that if you "have to" destroy ancient woodland to build something, you can offset that by planting lots of trees elsewhere. This is so utterly wrong-headed I barely know where to begin. I mean the clue about the importance of biodiversity is in the name - bioDIVERSITY. IT'S NOT JUST TREES, OWEN. The fragile ecosystem of ancient woodland might have trees for its foundation, but it's insects, birds, fungi, ferns (oh God, you wouldn't believe how important ferns are), flowering and non-flowering plants... Some trees won't even grow unless a woodland has been established for a century. Some small mammals can only live in woodland where there is an established balance of the plant and insect food they need. All of these things depend on each other, and this cannot be replaced by a monocultural plantation of trees, however native those trees are.

This blinding stupidity on the part of our environment secretary is illustrative of a wider problem within the thinking of people who are not Liberal by inclination. Not just biodiversity, but diversity in all areas is seen as a box-ticking exercise. So to replace woodland you only need plant trees. Bollocks to the other forms of life, we've got trees, that's a woodland, right? To have diversity in the government you need more women. It doesn't matter if those women are from the same tiny, public-school-educated, Oxbridge upper class set as the men, cos they're WOMEN, right? Diversity means having x number of people from y groups which are considered underrepresented. So you need some women, a black person, a gay, maybe if you're REALLY right-on a trans+ person... but if you don't think like a Liberal the actual PEOPLE don't really matter as long as they fill a quota.

This is BULLSHIT, people. Utter, stinking, steaming bullshit.

Every single person is an individual. Sure, they might be a part of some group or other, but that does not mean they are representative of that group. And more often each person is a member of more than one group. If I am going to be a token on a diversity agenda, do I tick the box for woman, or LGBT, or Northern, or low income, or poly? Or, more likely, in the case of a box ticker, do I tick every single one of those boxes so they think they've filled their diversity quota and every single other person in the room can be a rich cis het white man?

I keep saying this, but I'm going to say it again: diversity is not an end in itself, it's a means to an end. Biodiversity in woodland is important because if you don't have it you have a monoculture, and monocultures are at massive risk from disease. Ash die back and Dutch Elm disease are but two examples. If your woodland is composed entirely of one type of tree and that tree gets a disease, the entire woodland dies and you get environmental collapse. If you want an example what a huge problem monocultures are, take a look at what will happen to the banana supply if the Cavendish banana fungus that has been spreading really takes hold... Similarly, if you don't have diversity in government, you get monocultural thinking. You get a breed of politicians who all look and think and speak the same, and that's very prone to the intellectual equivalent of a devastating disease.

We have had a political monoculture in this country for far too long and intellectual Dutch Elm disease has taken hold. Owen Paterson's bone-headed remarks about biodiversity merely illustrate this problem. We need to break the system open and acheive true diversity and then all the good that comes from that will follow. Hopefully that will include not having an environment sectratary as clueless as Owen Paterson ever again.
miss_s_b: (Default)
As blogged about by Zoe and Caron the latest wheeze to come out of the Cornerstone wing of the Tory party is for the rozzers to be able to put all sorts of restrictions on a person if they are found giving a child anything that relates to sexual activity or contains a reference to such activity. I thought I might come up with a list of examples of perfectly innocent things which a child of my daughter's age (10) might reasonably be given which relates to or contains reference to sexual activity.
  1. Pretty much any chart single - even stuff by wholesome boy bands.

  2. Books about impending puberty - such as the one Holly has which tells her which bits of her she might reasonably expect to grow and change over the next couple of years, and why this happens.

  3. A DVD of the children's movie "Hotel Transylvania", which I took Holly to see at the cinema. It has several references to sexual activity, and one character who finds it amusing to systematically sexually assault other characters.

  4. Anything explaining what child abuse is, or what to do if it happens to you.

  5. DVDs of any of the last several series of Doctor Who. Many many references to sexual activity, including the conception of one recurring character.
I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture. And all this is without even going into the fact that Holly is a big fan of Old Harry's Game (lots of references to sexual activity, albeit mostly in the "eewww humans do icky things" vein) and ancient horror movies from Hammer and Amicus (yeah, that's inherited).

The thing is, I'm probably not going to be subject to a sexual control order. I'm a reasonably respectable white person with a job (for a given definition of respectable, anyway), so I'm not on the list of usual suspects that the rozzers like to target with these sorts of things. But if you're lower down the pecking order than me, and the sort of person the police like to stop for, for example, bag checks anyway...

I do NOT like the police being given powers which are so open to abuse. Sure, most of the force are great guys and gals who are just doing their jobs. But enough of them are powermad little Constable Savages who like to exercise the power they have unfairly that this new power would cause untold misery to those who are already under the bootheel of oppression.

Down with this sort of thing.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
Andrew Hickey on twitter has predicted the following:
[I] expect Clegg will announce 'moderate' 'centrist' (i.e. horribly illiberal) 'compromise':
"There are those who think we need to ban the internet entirely. Others want to force you to watch porn. But Liberal Democrats in the positive centre just want to tattoo the foreheads of porn-watchers with 'I am a perv': a sensible compromise that, we feel, properly reflects the mainstream, centrist, liberal consensus"
Let's see how right he is, shall we?

My prediction is that while Andrew's tattoo suggestion is probably a bit unlikely, Clegg is clueless enough about the internet to think that there might be a workable compromise, when in reality the proposed filters will not do what they say they will, will block lots of things they say they won't (examples of things currently blocked by existing porn blocks: The open rights group; the guardian; anything LGBT+, including support sites for teenagers; text based fan fiction; and this blog), and will cause huge headaches for all concerned for years to come.

There is no easy off switch for harmful content. The only way to deal with harmful content is education: teach people what is and isn't harmful and how to cope with it; teach parents how to teach their children. But of course we can't trust people to do that, can we?
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
And thus I am taking some time away from the internet - twitter, blogs, the lot - until it calms down. I have no wish to get in between people gleefully installing Thatcher Memorial Dancefloors and people pompously taking the moral high ground and sneering. I'll wait till the next big news story is announced and the mayfly attention of the internet moves to that before I come back, just for my own sanity.

I suspect I'll be doing the same again as and when her funeral is announced, too.

Laters.
miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
Eric Pickles is apparently going on Desert Island Discs this week. We know this because he tweeted such, and asked for song suggestions. Leaving aside the fact that one is supposed to choose songs which have some special personal meaning, not crowdsoure it, many people have been making suggestions to him, some less polite than others. I can think of none more appropriate than this one, from my beloved father. I've bolded the most appropriat passage, in my view:
I am the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer
I am the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer
And what do I care if it makes them ill,
If it makes them terribly queer
I've a car, a yacht, and an aeroplane,
And I waters the workers' beer

Now when I waters the workers' beer,
I puts in strychnine
Some methylated spirits,
And a can of kerosine
Ah, but such a brew so terribly strong,
It would make them terribly queer
So I reaches my hand for the watering-can
And I waters the workers' beer

Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
When he's tired, thirsty and hot
And I sometimes have a drop myself,
From a very special pot
For a strong and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear
So I reaches my hand for the watering-can
And I waters the workers' beer


Now ladies fair, beyond compare,
Be you maiden or wife
Spare a thought for such a man
Who leads such a lonely life
For the water rates are frightfully high,
And the meths is terribly dear
And there ain't the profit there used to be
In watering workers' beer
Any of you lot got a better suggestion?
miss_s_b: (Who: SixAppeal)
Colin Baker is going to be on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. I hate that bloody show. I watched it when lovely Brian Paddick and lovely George Takei were on it, and I hated the show, I hated Ant and/or Dec and I hated the concept, even though those two guys were great.

This year Colin is going to be on it, so I thought "Oh bugger, I'm going to have to watch it again". But there's a complicating factor. Also appearing? Nadine Dorries. One of the very few people on this earth I cannot think of a civil thing to say about. If I watch it, I know I'm going to get the stressed Eric vein and homicidal urges. But there's Colin. Lovely, lovely Colin.

So, I turn to you, oh wise and all-knowing internets:

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 23

What should I do about I'm a Celebrity?

Watch it no matter how painful
0 (0.0%)

Watch the first episode and if it's too painful then stop
9 (39.1%)

For Christ's sake, are you insane? Why are you even considering watching it?
14 (60.9%)

miss_s_b: (Default)
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miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
Frankly, I don't give a fart in a high wind about the top rate of tax. If they reckon they can get more out of rich folks by taxing them in other ways than income then they probaly know what they're doing, and I'm never going to be a top rate tax payer, so I don't really care. What I DO care about is how they've funded the various tax cuts, including, I notice, a nice big cut in corporation tax for all those big companies who donate to the Tory party:
Duty on all tobacco products to rise by 5% above inflation from 18:00 today - the equivalent of 37p on a packet of cigarettes.

No change to existing plans on alcohol duty. [this means that beer duty will still rise at above inflation rates and that the supermarkets will still be at a massively unfair advantage compared to pubs]

New duty on gaming machines at a standard rate of 20% and a lower rate for low-prize machines of 5% of net takings. [because pubs make a little bit of profit on bandits, and we must find some new way to squeeze an industry before it dies completely]
Also random new taxes on "black beer" and angostura bitters (because that's going to raise literally, PENCE< the amount of it we sell in this country)

...

I reckon it's time to start jobhunting, don't you? I don't think my job is going to exist much longer.
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Default)
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... whose latest entry prompted me to remember this picture comparison from our local pub paper:

Eric Pickles Peter Griffin

Personally, I think it's an insult to Peter Griffin, and I really hate Family Guy. But then we're still picking up the pieces from Pickles' reign of terror in dear old Braddy, so...
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b: (Default)
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miss_s_b: (Default)
I'm fairly sure that David Cameron was only intending to be boorish, arrogant and dismissive to Angela Eagle yesterday, rather than sexist, and when he did his (rather poor and incomplete) Michael Winner impression I'm sure he thought he was being hilarious. He was certainly visibly nonplussed at the vehemence of the negative reaction he got. He may not even have realised the sexism inherent in the original commercial; this is a function of his vast privilege, being white, male, very rich, able-bodied, hetereosexual, etc. etc. etc. In just about every group where there are privileged and marginalised, Cameron falls on the former side. This makes it really hard for him to notice when he is being a total cock, as he was yesterday.

NewsThump, sharp as ever, have done a particularly good piece on this:
“David is trying to make himself seem more like one of the ‘people’, and that’s how the people speak, right? With a bit of casual racism and condescension to women?”

“He’s simply following in the footsteps of some of the greatest comedy minds our country has ever produced, like Michael Winner.”
Cameron probably thought he was being just like an ordinary person. The problem with that is, given his vast priveledge, he has no frame of reference with which to try to be like an ordinary person, other than what he has seen on the telly. And he thought that the Michael Winner insurance commercials were funny because he comes from the same hyper-rich white male social group as Winner; it simply hadn't occurred to him to think outside that group.

The trick to not being sexist (or racist or ablist, or whatever) is not to learn a list of set phrases that you're not allowed to say any more - for instance I am sure Cameron would not have told Angela Eagle not to worry her pretty little head about things because that is fairly well-known as a hair-trigger phrase now - but to actually think about what you are saying. Are you putting down someone who is already lower down the pecking order than you with what you are saying? If so, that's unnecessary, hurtful, and makes you look like a bit of a cock. The test is not do I think this is hurtful? but if I were the butt of this joke, and I have already spent my entire life being the butt of similar jokes, and I have much less power than the person making the joke, would I find it hurtful? If that sounds to you like I am over-egging the pudding a bit, examine your discomfort. Is it just because you don't want to think that you fall into the Offenders group rather than the Offended? Because I know for a damn straight fact I have been in both in my time...

If you offend somebody, what you do is apologise, say you didn't mean to offend them, and then use it as an opportunity to learn why what you have said is hurtful and offensive... It may turn out that the person has no reasonable reason to be offended, and I am fully behind the right to cause offence if it is necessary. But more likely, you will have said something thoughtlessly offensive without even realising it, and if you learn from it then you become a better person through more knowledge.

Of course, Cameron has compounded his error by refusing to apologise and using the I was only joking defence. As I have said before,
If you thoughtlessly (or even purposefully) say something sexist or racist or whateverist, and someone calls you out on it, and your instinctive response is to say "but I was only joking!", think what you are saying by saying that. You are saying "Not only do I reserve the right to be inconsiderate of your feelings, but when I hurt you, I will compound that by making out that you should expect to be an object of fun". How does that make things better? Why is it funny to pick on people who are weaker than you and then laugh about it? That's not humour, that's bullying.
Now, given Cameron's upbringing and education, and the fact that he has risen to the top after receiving them, it's not surprising that he's a thoughtless sexist bully.

Today is one of those days when I am really ashamed to be in the same coalition as him.



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miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
Our local Tories have put out a Leaflet. Here I present a photograph of a section of it:



Do any of those achievements look familiar to anyone?

On the one hand, owning coalition policy is probably a good thing for both sides. On the other, it'd be nice if just ONE of those was actually a Tory policy and not a Lib Dem one...

ETA: although I suppose the "tackling benfit fraud" one is worded in a Tory fashion.



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miss_s_b: DreamSheep/Matrix icon (DreamSheep: Matrix)
As Paul at Liberal Burblings puts it: His Daley Dozen will continue, his blog will still be there and he’ll be updating it with posts when he feels like it. Which is….er…..blogging. Oh, and he’ll still be tweeting – which is micro-blogging. So this is the dramatic flounce exit-that-isn't-really-an-exit which those of us who have been active on the internet since the early nineties are so wearily familiar with. He's going to be like Dorries, isn't he? One of those bloggers who pops up from time to time to whine on about how he hates blogging and bloggers are all stupid and evil, and what he does isn't blogging at all, no sirree...

The less frequent posting to The Tosser's blog is a bittersweet victory for those of us who love blogging, and unlike the lovely Justin I won't be getting the champagne out. It is clear from the content of Dale's post (which, as per my policy, I'm not going to link to) he is giving up blogging because his blog has acheived its aim, and got him a career as an overpaid, underbrained media darling. So we have yet another media personality for whom we can bewilderedly wonder how they got the job (like Claudia Winkleman on Film 2010, for example).

Like Paul, I was particularly amused by this bit: I hate the backbiting that goes along with (blogging).I hate the character assassination that is permanently present. I'm sure your many targets feel exactly the same Iain. The political blogosphere in the UK used to be a small and friendly place, with a collegiate atmosphere on all sides, and now it isn't. That the change seems to have been concurrent with the rise of Westminster bubble gossip bloggers like yourself is entirely coincidental, I'm sure.



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miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
So, as [personal profile] matgb and I both predicted, it was bad, but not as bad as it was being spun. Could it be that all the doom-mongering was to make us terrified so we'd be grateful for small crumbs of comfort? You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment. Nor, given his ongoing performance at the moment, could Alan Johnson. I've never seen a man so far out of his depth, even with the crib notes from Balls.

Glad to see science funding frozen, rather than cut (anyone else think that Vince ran this up the flagpole precisely because he knew what the reaction would be and then he could bat for science with the backing of the twitterati? Or am I just too cynical?). Other stuff needs examining in detail before I comment, I think.

If you'd like to examine the statement in detail yourself, it's here.



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miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
Ken Clarke is a long-time political operator, and as such has attracted many labels. The one currently doing the rounds is Liberal Tory, and this is the one being chucked about in the press as a reason why Lib Dems are/ought to be supporting him in his role as Justice Minister, and his proposed reforms to the justice system.

With all due respect to our journalistic cousins, I submit that this is the wrong reason to be supporting him. The reason we ought to be supporting him is not his political convictions and background. The reason we ought to be supporting him is that, alongside his many other experiences and qualifications, he is a QC. He knows the justice system, knows how it works (and doesn't), and has contacts in the profession from whom he can gain current insights.

If you're a Lib Dem, you should be a supporter of evidence-based policy making (as opposed to policy and ideology based evidence selection). Ken Clarke might be a Tory - and my belief is that if you're going to call him a Liberal Tory, he's a Liberal Tory, rather than a Liberal Whig who is in the Tory party - but he is a person who is well-qualified and experienced to make evidence-based judgements in the field of the justice system.

The fact that a lot of the judgements he is making are in accord with the sort of stuff I have believed since I did my law degree only make this easier for me.



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miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

My initial positive-feelings-tempered-with-caution towards the coalition, cemented when I voted for it at special conference, have been being slowly eroded over recent weeks.

This isn't because of any particular policy, or even a cumulative dripdrip of many policies. I, like David, recognise and accept that part of coalition is that you have to accept some stuff you don't like in exchange for the stuff you do, and so long as nobody's red lines are being crossed then working together is better than working apart. There are some policies which this government has brought to fruition which I like, some which I detest, and some which I am ambivalent about. I don't doubt that this would still be the case were my party in sole power - although perhaps the balance would be different - because this is always the case with any government of any colour.

No, what is upsetting me, to the point where this morning I shouted FOR FUCK'S SAKE at Our Glorious Leader when he was being interviewed on the radio this morning, is that we were promised a new politics. We were promised that consensus and compromise and behaving like grown ups was going to happen. We were promised that politicians would start to answer straight questions with straight answers, and stop avoiding the difficult topics. Perhaps naively, I took the coalition agreement and its transparent signs of negotiation and compromise as a positive sign that this was actually going to happen, unlike all the previous occasions when it has been promised. And for a few days, it looked like it was going to. But not any more. This morning on the Today programme, Nick singularly failed to give a straight answer to any of Humpty's questions. Yesterday at PMQs, Cameron indulged in shouted ad hominems and also failed to answer any questions properly. Instead of behaving like grown ups, our MPs are screaming at each other in the chamber MORE, and my party is complicit, in that it feels like we've decided which one of the big boys we are going to be the little crazy kid with the ideas to, and now we've joined their gang we're going to make the most of our opportunity to pick on the other gang instead of doing anything constructive.

This is what people hate about politics. The dissembling, the evasion, the defensiveness, the attacks on the opposition in lieu of accepting responsibility for your own decisions. They hate it.

In an attempt to be helpful, then, here are a few sample questions and answers which would not make me lose respect for my leader hand over fist, the way his performance this morning did:

Sample Question from Humpty: Why have you implemented X policy when you said before the election that X policy would be a disaster?
Bad Answer: Well, you know, I really want to talk about Y policy, Z statistics, and in fact anything other than X policy, because you're right, I hate X policy, and everybody knows it, but I don't want to admit that on the radio.
Good Answer: Before the election we were campaigning on the basis of the knowledge we had at the time. We know now that A, B, and C are much worse than we thought they were. This means that policy X, although we don't like it, is the only route we can take at the moment.
Better Answer: X policy is something that I have had to compromise on. This is the nature of coalition. The Tories have compromised on Q policy, and we have compromised on X policy. This is what happens when you negotiate with people, Humpty, you pillock.

Sample Question from Harperson: Will the right honourable gentleman admit that he has done some bad mean things that I don't like?
Bad answer: I haven't done as many bad things that you don't like as your government did bad things that I didn't like in the last thirteen years! ((For pity's sake, even my seven year old knows that I only did it once and Scott did it three times! is an excuse that won't wash with ANYONE)).
Good answer: I have done some bad mean things, it's true. But I was forced to do those bad mean things in order to avoid the horrific consequences of not doing them. When given a choice between two evils, I would rather choose the lesser than the greater, or dither and do nothing in the hope that it will all go away.

Question: Why are you trying to pretend that your budget doesn't hurt the poorest most when it manifestly does?
Bad Answer: WAAAAAAAAAAH THAT'S NOT TRUE AND ANYWAY IT'S ALL LABOUR'S FAULT!
Good answer:... Actually, there isn't a good answer for that; or rather if there is, I can't think of one. Why is our budget hitting the poorest hardest, Nick? I'd love to know. I mean, I suspect it's because we're in coalition with the Tories, and they have form for hammering the disadvantaged and the disabled, but I genuinely believed that we were going to try and stop them doing that... Please do something to restore my faith soon. Because right now, it's wavering.

ETA: Thank Cthulhu for Vince, who is being awesome on Question Time. Hope Nick is watching and taking notes on how to answer questions.



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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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