Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A blog post for anyone who prefers their pet kitten NOT to be armed with a Kalashnikov

Well, I had been starting to think that, with the European elections out of the way (in a very satisfactory manner), I might just let this blog fade away quietly into the sunset. But then last night I received a visit from the Ghost of Easter Past. Mr. Kevin Baker has a very serious itch, it seems, and he just needs to scratch it. Endlessly. Until the end of time. As it happens, I’m actually not proposing to join him on that voyage into infinity, but as I started to feel the danger of being drawn into yet another trainwreck of a comments thread, I thought it would at least make matters simpler to say my piece here.

A few months down the line, the obvious question I ponder when Kev dredges all this up yet again is, how on Earth did I ever get drawn into this? After all, gun control isn’t (or wasn’t) an issue I think about a great deal. In terms of issues which I could have imagined myself getting into conflict with American right-wingers over, the death penalty would have come top of the list by some distance. That is a subject I feel extremely passionately about and always have done. Indeed, I’m entitled to a vote in American federal elections and I always go out of my way to vote for candidates who are opposed to the death penalty (which led me, against almost every instinct in my body, to vote for Ralph Nader ahead of Barack Obama). If I see that a candidate is in favour of greater gun control, that’s certainly something that pleases me and makes them a more attractive option for me, but their views on that subject are not really a dealbreaker. Probably even their views on the Israel-Palestinian conflict would rank higher up the pecking-order than gun control.

So, given the low priority I instinctively accord the issue, how on earth did I end up (albeit briefly) in a ‘one-on-one debate’ about gun control with someone who seems to live and breathe nothing else?

The answer, of course, lies in my long-term fondness for the Rachel Lucas blog. Some of her political views are to the right of Genghis Khan, but her blog is unfailingly entertaining, and she is brilliantly witty. For the most part I was able to enjoy reading it without being tempted to enter the lion’s den by leaving a comment. The problem kicked in when she moved to the UK a few months ago. As always seems to happen with depictions of British life by Americans who live here (curiously this never happens with Australians or New Zealanders, or people from the Caribbean countries), everything I read seemed to have gone through some kind of weird distorting lens, and it just wasn’t describing a place I recognised. Probably this is something that happens to all of us when we are presented with an ‘alien culture’ – we just latch onto the few things we actually do recognise and are able to get our heads round, and use that information to try to make sense of the rest. Needless to say, the overall picture this leaves us with is hopelessly faulty. In Ms Lucas’ case, the information she was clinging to seemed to be coming largely from the type of people who leave comments after Telegraph or Daily Mail articles. This was leading her to excitedly ‘detect signs’ of a stirring in the British soul, that perhaps at some point during her stay here, she might even be witness to some kind of revolution, where the good people of Britain finally rise up, and demand an end to health care free at the point of need (‘socialised medicine’), human rights legislation, and the tyranny of a largely gun-free society. And of course, as someone who is plugged in to the rhythms of British society, the temptation was growing and growing just to gently say to her (for the sake of her avoiding inevitable disappointment as much as anything else!) “er, no. It just isn’t like that.”

Of course, all that the usual suspects at the Telegraph and Daily Mail actually tell us is that there are conservatives around (of both the small and large ‘c’ variety). And that there are ‘disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells’ around. But then there always have been. If these people haven’t managed to instigate a full-blown revolution at any point since 1945, it’s a touch optimistic to think it’s going to suddenly happen within the next year. (There was the ‘Thatcher revolution’ of course, but apparently even those sweeping changes weren’t enough to remove the ‘socialist’ label in Ms. Lucas’ eyes!)

So the temptation to point out these obvious truths eventually became too strong, and I left a comment. Fatefully, I did so after a post about a murder on the streets, the sole significance of which for Ms Lucas seemed to be that Britons were stupid and complacent for not realising that they could instantly solve such problems by having millions upon millions of legally-owned firearms sloshing around. Just like they have in America, where they have…er, a murder rate three times as high as we have here. Yep, that made sense. To be fair to Ms Lucas, she very charitably suggested the reasons for our stupidity and complacency were that we “are too damn nice”, and that we therefore “don’t like to make a stink”. (I’m sure certain members of the European Commission would be intrigued to hear that.) So I’m guessing that the majority of British people of both the left and the right would instantly understand why I regarded those remarks as provocative enough to finally say what I’d been half-wanting to say for quite some time – “no, you really just don’t get it”. I could have said that on any number of issues, but in the case of gun control the point is that we are, on the whole, rational people, we had a rational national debate after the Hungerford and Dunblane tragedies, and a considered, consensus view emerged on gun control legislation. It’s not an unwanted thing that is merely ‘tolerated’ (which ironically, is the case with so many other laws Ms Lucas could have chosen to mention).

What I didn’t realise is that contrary opinions on the Rachel Lucas blog are as common, or as welcome, as experts on the Geneva Conventions were in the inner reaches of the Bush administration. Soon I was fielding dozens of indignant objections, to which I had to come up with quick responses. Like most instinctive supporters of the consensus view on this matter in Britain, the arguments aren’t something I think about a great deal (because we don’t need to, the matter is settled). So I didn’t have a ton of ready-made statistics to fire back at people. But what most of us in Britain do nevertheless have is a kind of ‘race memory’ of the incidents that led us to where we are today, and that’s what I fell back on in response to the people who took issue with me. Of course, Dunblane and Hungerford are a big part of that race memory, but for most of us glimpses of what happens across the pond are a big part of it as well. For me, the most shocking incident I can remember was of an Aberdonian businessman who knocked on the door of a house in Texas seeking help. The homeowner decided on rather flimsy evidence that his home was under attack by burglars, took a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach, and shot the entirely innocent businessman dead. Shockingly, not only did the homeowner not face any legal proceedings, but he was in fact lauded by many as having done ‘exactly the right thing’. So in defence of my corner, I naturally raised this case as an example of just how cheap life becomes in a paranoid, gun-ridden society.

As I was going purely from my own memory of news reports from some fifteen years ago, I did search for information on the incident on an internet search engine to refresh my memory. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any trace (I assumed that was because 1994 was largely ‘pre-internet’). So instead I related the story as I remembered it. I was soon lambasted for leaving out details – the incident had taken place in the early hours of the morning, and the businessman had jumped over a fence to knock on the back door, having received no response at the front. Of course, none of these details make any material difference (ie. ‘it’s 4am, someone’s pounding on my back door, therefore he quite simply must die’). But the fact that I had ‘conveniently omitted’ these details was cited as evidence that I ‘was not arguing in good faith’. This was endlessly repeated in various forms (another favourite was ‘intellectual dishonesty’) as a kind of mantra afterwards, and indeed it was trotted out again a few hours ago at Kevin’s blog by the ever-reliable 24-carat slab of walking, talking Pure Offensiveness that is the poster ‘Unix-Jedi’. Or perhaps it was ‘Linoge’. One of those two, anyway.

It’s been a recurrent pattern ever since, particularly once I moved into the debate phase with Kevin. If ever I couldn’t instantly provide rebuttals based on a similar range of precise historical details, numbers, statistics that all the obsessive gun enthusiasts have at their fingertips, that was a sign of intellectual dishonesty on my part. But I’m not steeped in this issue, and I’m not interested in becoming so. What I can say – as I believe could most instinctive supporters of gun control in Britain – is ‘this is what I believe, this is why I believe it. I’m a rational person, and my rationality is no less deserving of respect on this issue just because I don’t happen to have fanatically devoted my entire life to it. And as a rational person, I’m also capable of recognising holes in your contrary argument, and here’s what they are’. That I believe is a perfectly defensible basis for someone who only takes an occasional interest in an issue to enter into a debate with a true obsessive. And let’s not forget Kevin’s (utterly insincere) words when he challenged me to a debate –

“No, James, it's not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing,’ it's about the philosophy.”

So, for my part, that suggested I was being invited to expound my ‘philosophy’, and that Kevin was not interested in declaring victory whatever I said. Curious, then, that when I did just that, I found myself being instantly taunted that I had ‘lost’ (ahem) the debate – because I had dared to concentrate on my ‘philosophy’ and hadn’t bothered to try to compete with Kevin on his reams of voodoo statistics. I did, of course, point out that statistics that powerfully counter Kevin’s own are extremely easy to locate, and the fact I wasn’t interested in that kind of sterile exchange couldn’t be taken as meaning those statistics don’t exist. But, of course, with the childish triumphalism I’ve come to know and expect, Kev and his band of not-so-merry-men pretended to take it precisely that way.

The irony is, of course, that Kev’s barrage of voodoo statistics really are a distraction, something that shields him from having to front up to the real issue – and that issue is precisely his ‘philosophy’. His blog is entitled 'The Smallest Minority’ – the minority referred to is the individual. The contention appears to be that no society can be considered truly free unless the freedoms of that smallest minority are fully protected. Taken to a logical extreme, this means that no individual should ever be subject to taxation (without taxation there is no infrastructure or support network of even the most rudimentary kind, but that’s OK because with absolute ‘freedom’ comes the absolute responsibility of the individual to fend for himself). That to me is a rather bigger, meatier issue than the question of whether the individual should be allowed to own luxury items like handguns. But, that’s the bit of individual freedom Kevin chooses to fetishise, and that’s his prerogative. So why, then, does so much of his argument rely on get-out clauses such as ‘oh well, if the guns weren’t there legally, they’d be there illegally, you can’t wish away guns’. The obvious implication of such an argument is that if you could wish away guns, it would be a desirable thing. Kevin does not believe that, and never will. So why isn’t Kevin content to argue on the strength of his positive philosophy on freedom, rather than resort to these (to put it kindly) more pragmatic arguments?

Not only does he rely on them, he’s built up a kind of fortress based on ‘evidence’ that all supposedly points to the same conclusion – that, conveniently, the sort of society his philosophy demands, will also be a safer society. To him, that fortress is impregnable. With astonishing (and admittedly highly amusing) conceit, he declares the matter proved beyond doubt, then sits back, admires his handiwork, and then plaintively asks “why isn’t being right good enough for us?”.

There’s a saying in scientific circles that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof'. The notion that a world in which the individual has an absolute right to own and carry firearms has been literally proved beyond doubt to be a safer world, is I would suggest precisely such an extraordinary claim. But unfortunately Kevin’s epic dissertations have failed to meet the standard of even ‘ordinary proof’. When I pointed out a few of the holes in his presentation of voodoo statistics (broadly the ‘correlation is not causation’ point) he and his supporters simply demanded to know where the statistical evidence was to underpin my own arguments. But the problem is, I hadn't actually at any point made the extraordinary claim that Kevin had made. I had simply set out my philosophy. Which is precisely what Kevin had requested that I do.

When I then pointed out this rather important distinction, Kevin was incredulous, and ever since has characterised what I said in the following terms (or a variation thereof) –

“In other words, ‘No fair using data against my emotions!'”

Simply won't wash, Kevin. Not even close.

So I return to the question of why Kevin prefers to hide behind his voodoo statistics, rather than make the positive case for his philosophy of individual liberty. I’d suggest it’s because if he did, he’d have to concede that even if there was compelling evidence that the price of his freedoms was a large number of avoidable deaths, he’d think that was a price worth paying. At the absolute minimum he knows there are specific circumstances in which it's almost unarguable that legal gun ownership has resulted in tragedy (Dunblane is such an incident). How can he present such a brutal, and frankly selfish philosophy to the world in completely unmediated form? He can't. For he also knows, that even in the US, the centre of gravity in public opinion is that there are some things that trump the absolute freedom of the individual. That’s why even in the ‘Land of the Free’, taxes must be paid, and clothes must be worn on the street. And I firmly believe that when it really comes down to it, the gift of life would always trump the individual’s right to own a luxury item.

NOTE : As always, I determine my own comments moderation policy and answer to no-one for it, a near-universal principle in the blogging world that is well-understood, except it seems by the KBFC. I will, however, repeat my previous offer – if anyone would be kind enough to explain the detailed circumstances in which this moronic catchphrase “Reasoned Discourse” came about, I will undertake to let your comment through. And in doing so, you might go a little way to dispelling my overwhelming impression that you have no interest in truly reaching out to, or communicating with anyone beyond your own closed little world, with all its little trademark in-jokes.


  1. The poor old septics, they stick their nose where it doesn't belong more often than Cyrano De Bergerac giving head.

  2. Ed "What the" HeckmanJuly 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

    If you didn't have detailed statistics available, why didn't you focus on logical and philosophical arguments instead? In fact, you claim here that you were more interested in a philosophical debate than an evidence based debate. I can understand that.

    Yet ironically, even though Kevin did not get to the philosophical case before you decided to leave the debate, I did. I even pointed you back to that philosophical argument twice in the recent thread. Yet you seem to be actively avoiding it.

    If you are seriously interesting in just discussing the philosophy, not the data, then why won't you address an actual philosophical argument?

  3. Ed, I did notice your comment last night, although it was hard not to be distracted by the never-ending drivel-fest put on by Unix-Jedi and Linoge (if we can find a way of converting twaddle into pure energy, those two will have solved the global warming crisis at a stroke).

    I don't, however, recall the points you made on the earlier discussion. Did you mention them on this blog as well on Kevin's? If not, I may well not have seen them, because by that stage I was having to field questions and diatribes from all directions right here (and unlike Kev, I don't have an android army to pick up the slack for me - I was trying to respond to goodness knows how many people single-handedly). A great many of the comments I was fielding did, indeed, go round on this endless cycle of 'you have claimed that Kevin's statistics are not good enough, so where are the statistics to buttress your claim?'. To which of course my answer was the same - unlike me, Kevin had made a truly extraordinary claim about what he was capable of proving with statistics, and therefore it was perfectly reasonable for me to point out the extent to which he had fallen short of justifying that extraordinary claim. And for all that you claim to be concerned with 'philosophical argument' rather than 'data', the comment you link to starts off by suggesting you have just as much of a problem getting your head round that idea as the others -

    "I don't even know how to summarize this! This is an impossible standard. In order to know 'what would have been', you would have to have some method of assessing alternative futures with perfect accuracy. Anyone have the gift of perfect prophecy, or maybe a time machine laying around?"

    You see you are actually completely missing the point here. I wasn't the one saying that I could see into the future with perfect accuracy. Kevin was. I was in fact pointing out (Donald Rumsfeld would be proud of me) that such things are fundamentally unknowable. Kevin's 'proof' was relying on assumptions about a particular variable (that gun crime would not have risen in the UK at the same or faster rate had the greater gun restrictions not been introduced) that were simply a wild guess driven by his ideology. It is indeed my belief - and I emphasise the word belief - that gun crime in the UK is either lower or at least no higher than it would have been without the post-Dunblane restrictions. But I would not have - and have not had - the conceit to say I can prove something like that beyond all doubt, because there are simply too many variables. But like Karl Marx, Kevin does make precisely those kind of claims, again and again. And I reiterate - extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. To the extent I was attempting to respond to Kevin's two epic dissertations in this 'debate' (which were 95% voodoo statistics, 4% offensive bile, and 1% 'philosophy'), it was inevitable I was going to have to make that point, and also identify where Kevin had fallen short of the standards of even ordinary proof.

    If you want to see how I did indeed 'focus on logical and philosophical arguments' before Kev launched into his barrage of voodoo statistics, and his supporters started insisting that nothing but a response in kind would do, I suggest you re-read my post "The only freedom I'll ever understand".

    I'll have to do the comment in two stages, as there's apparently a character limit of 4,096...

  4. Now, as a token of goodwill, I will attempt to respond to one or two bits of your 'philosophical argument', although I think if I attempted to respond to the whole thing line-by-line it would be the Ghost of Easter Future visiting me.

    "It's not exactly a luxury item if you actually need to use it, is it? You might say the same thing about my fire extinguishers. I don't need them now, and I certainly hope I never need them. But if I do, perchance, need to use one, there certainly won't be time to run to the local hardware store to get one."

    Back to the 'handguns are equivalent to fire extinguishers, wedding cakes, event planners, etc. etc.' stuff. The point is that fire extinguishers are genuinely defensive measures. They can be abused, certainly, but there are very few recorded incidents of massacres caused by legally-owned fire extinguishers (or perhaps the equivalent would be deadly fires caused by legally-owned fire extinguishers!). Another distinction is that guns used in self-defence often kill innocents, either because the person who believed themselves to be 'under attack' actually was not (ie. the Texan homeowner who killed the innocent Scottish businessman), or because under stress the gun is discharged with poor accuracy and innocent by-standers are killed. A true 'defensive' measure is one that cannot be easily abused for 'offensive' purposes, and one capable of carrying out its defensive function with a high degree of accuracy and efficiency. Legally-owned firearms do not meet either of those criteria.

  5. Ed "What the" HeckmanJuly 15, 2009 at 6:47 PM

    Mr. Kelly,

    I'm not going to respond to your first comment. The goal here is to focus on the logical philosophical argument, while your first comment is data focused.

    Your second comment is more philosophical, but you still didn't address the central logic. Nonetheless, there are important philosophical issues in your second comment:

    "Back to the 'handguns are equivalent to fire extinguishers, wedding cakes, event planners, etc. etc.' stuff."

    Where did I say "wedding cakes" or "event planners"? I didn't. Implying that I made an argument which I did not make is known as a Straw man fallacy. In other words, it is well known to logical error. In order for a logical argument to succeed (i.e., be correct) it must be correct every step of the way. Throwing in a logical fallacy breaks the chain of logic, and thus invalidates the argument.

    "The point is that fire extinguishers are genuinely defensive measures.

    That's true. However, my argument was entirely about immediacy of need—nothing more, nothing less. My argument was about having the right tool for a time critical job at the point where it is needed. (Wedding cakes and event planners have absolutely nothing to do with emergencies, which makes your use of them a category error.)

    Your argument seems to boil down to something like this: "Guns can be misused, therefore they cannot be used defensively." Is this accurate?

    If so, I have a simple question for you. What is it about the ability to misuse an object—in this case we're discussing guns, but there are innumerable other examples—makes it impossible to use the object to fulfill a valid need?

    While this is an interesting (and important) question, the answer does not have any real impact on the central philosophical argument which you still have not addressed. I'm reproducing it here for your convenience:

    Predicate 1: Everyone has the right to not be murdered.

    Predicate 2: Humans have a great deal of variability in their natural capabilities. These capabilities range from large, heavily muscled young men with excellent coordination to the bed-ridden.

    Predicate 3: Some humans with criminal inclinations fall into the more powerful range of human capabilities, with almost every criminal capable of locating potential victims with far lower physical capabilities, and they will do so. Human history is littered with examples of the strong preying upon the weak.

    Therefore, it is necessary for the weaker members of the human race to use tools to make themselves powerful enough to level the playing field so that the criminals do not have stronger capabilities.

    Predicate 4: Guns are currently the most effective tool for equalizing the ability to project force between human beings. Through the effective use of a gun, a frail old lady with a broken hip can fend off the attack of a 270 pound weight lifter should it be necessary.

    Predicate 5: Even if gun ownership is made illegal, the criminally minded generally have no compunctions about acquiring guns illegally in order to gain an additional advantage over their intended victims. Mr. Kelley made this point himself, therefore I presume I do not have to argue it further.

    Therefore: Laws against gun ownership only disarm the law abiding, while not preventing the criminal class from acquiring guns. As a result, gun bans increase the ability for criminals to attack their victims, violating the right established in Predicate 1, and is therefore immoral.

  6. “I'm not going to respond to your first comment. The goal here is to focus on the logical philosophical argument, while your first comment is data focused.”

    First of all, you define your goal, sunshine, and I’ll define mine. For you to attempt to define mine for me could be characterised as blog function fascism, and I’ve seen enough of that already from the KBFC. But given what you say, why on earth did you invite me to comment on a post in which your lengthy opening remarks were entirely focussed on attempting to discredit my well-founded objections to one particular element of Kevin’s ‘data’?

    “Where did I say ‘wedding cakes’ or ‘event planners’? I didn't.”

    Where did I say you had mentioned wedding cakes or event planners? I didn’t. As you are perfectly well aware, I was making ironic reference to the eclectic and increasingly bizarre range of objects suggested by your fellow posters as being ‘tools’ entirely on a par with deadly firearms. Pretending you do not understand this simply to attempt to score a rather unimpressive debating point is what is known as being a smartarse, from which we derive the well-known truism ‘nobody likes a smart-arse’.

    “My argument was entirely about immediacy of need — nothing more, nothing less. My argument was about having the right tool for a time critical job at the point where it is needed.”

    I have a severe problem with your persistent use of the word ‘need’. To legitimately claim that you ‘need’ something you have to demonstrate that the object in question would reliably and effectively fulfil the function required of it. You have failed to demonstrate this is the case with the ‘defensive function’ of guns. Under the stress of a sudden threat, there is a significant risk the gun-carrier may fail to use the gun correctly. In doing so there is a chance he or she may harm other innocent people, but perhaps an even greater problem is that it may distract from the use of more effective defensive measures (such as a quick escape, or a call for assistance). If, therefore, a gun has not been demonstrated to be a more effective defensive measure than other available options, and if indeed it may cause more harm than benefit, then it is absurd to suggest that you ‘need’ it as if that was simply a given.

    “Your argument seems to boil down to something like this: ‘Guns can be misused, therefore they cannot be used defensively.’ Is this accurate?”

    No, it is not. Because something can in principle be used in defensive fashion, it does not follow that no other factors can be taken into consideration in determining whether there is overall utility in such an item being legally available for mass public ownership. For you to imply that this does follow means you have committed what is known as a logical fallacy. But your own argument appears to be that guns can be used defensively, therefore everyone ‘needs’ them. Landmines can also be used ‘defensively’. Does everyone need those as well? After all, it’s a dangerous world out there. (Albeit admittedly it wouldn’t be quite so dangerous if there weren’t so many guns and landmines around in the first place.)

    Once again, I'll have to break my comment in two because of the character limit.

  7. Let’s move on to your final two ‘predicates’. By this stage your selection of language is what is known as grandiloquent.

    “Therefore, it is necessary for the weaker members of the human race to use tools to make themselves powerful enough to level the playing field so that the criminals do not have stronger capabilities. Predicate 4: Guns are currently the most effective tool for equalizing the ability to project force between human beings. Through the effective use of a gun, a frail old lady with a broken hip can fend off the attack of a 270 pound weight lifter should it be necessary.”

    I’ve dealt with similar arguments umpteen times on previous threads. I’ve already made the point that it has not been demonstrated (indeed in my view it is simply not the case) that these particular ‘tools’ successfully level that playing-field. But what about this hypothetical frail old lady? In a society with minimal gun ownership, she can live in the knowledge that the possibility of ever being confronted with a deadly firearm is remote. Not zero, but remote. In those circumstances, the most rational and proportionate ways of defending herself against the threats she is likely to face are relatively straightforward – alarm systems, panic buttons, police advice, secure locks and windows, etc, etc. Now let’s switch to a situation where legal gun ownership has made guns ubiquitous on every street. Suddenly the threat of being faced with a deadly firearm is very real, and the most rational and proportionate form of defence might well be not only to own a gun, but to go through the stress of being trained to use it effectively. Where is the freedom in a frail old lady with a broken hip feeling compelled to do that? Some cynics might suspect that the logic of your philosophy actually needs people to need guns.

    “Even if gun ownership is made illegal, the criminally minded generally have no compunctions about acquiring guns illegally in order to gain an additional advantage over their intended victims. Mr. Kelley (sic) made this point himself, therefore I presume I do not have to argue it further.”

    I’m afraid not the case. My key point was that whatever their ‘compunctions’, the ‘criminally-minded’ will be far more successful in finding these weapons in a society that has millions upon millions of 'legal' guns sloshing around. In fact that point is just so blindingly obvious I presume I do not need to argue it further?

  8. PS. Comedy alert - I've just spotted on another blog that a leading member of the KBFC has referred to me not only as a "smarmy, stiff-assed Brit", but also as (wait for it) a "Cockney bastard"!

    Now, let's review the evidence. This blog is called Scot Goes Pop. The clue's in the title, perhaps? Just goes to prove what I've always said - to hell with guns, America desperately needs to invest in some damn good geography teachers.

  9. Rather dismayed at the lack of frothing here Mr Kelly. I felt sure the streets and avenues of your blog would be awash with the freshly spilled blood of innocent posters, proffering such homilies as "Guns are bad, mmkay."

  10. Sorry for the poor show, Montague. (Although look on the bright side, at least it's not a post about curling.) I think the problem is that the dark hordes only descend when Saruman has given them a fairly firm shove in this direction. I did point out to Kevin in a comment on his own blog that his idea of 'pummelling someone into liquid form' (for the uninitiated, that's what he's done to me, apparently) seemed to be to provide me with free internet traffic in perpetuity, so perhaps that particular penny has finally dropped.

  11. I like curling, you cockney geezer you. I've pulled worse than Rhona Martin...well maybe not. I'm just fascinated with your mix of interests from curling to Eurovision via politics. It's great we need more of it!

  12. Thanks, Montague!

    And of course, like all cockneys, one of my other great passions in life is the music of Chas 'n' Dave. But I didn't want to push my luck quite that far.

  13. Might it be James, that it is in fact you who does not want to engage in actual discussion, hence your need to moderate and delete comments?

    Ah, the projection is strong with you.

  14. In that case, certainly no harm in letting your comments through, Mike - this must be one of about eight today and not the slightest trace of 'discussion' in any of them.

  15. Well someone who deletes and moderates comments is quite obviously doing so in order to either avoid having certain discussions, or control the discussion by editorial force when he cannot do so with intellect, logic, and rational counterpoints.

    Or at least that's been my experience with anti-gun folks (yourself included)

  16. Or of course it could have been for the reasons I actually gave. Radical thought, but it's always a possibility.

    Excluding spam, I reckon I've actually deleted fewer than ten comments in the last two years, so well done you.