Friday, March 16, 2012

Same-sex marriage, and deep comfort

Subrosa wrote a piece the other day expressing scepticism about gay marriage. There are a few key points I want to take issue with -

"...the subject of same sex marriage continues to feature prominently in the media. It can't be because it features highly on the radar or most of us who are far more concerned with the economy and making ends meet. Who are pulling the strings here in order to change society so radically?"

If that means a change in the law will only benefit a small minority, that's absolutely true, but it's also absolutely the best reason for ensuring that we accord it the highest priority. Equality before the law for supposedly 'low-importance' individuals and minority groups is the very bedrock of true liberal democracy.

And of course 'change society so radically' is a false premise. It's a small change that will make a huge difference to those people whose relationships are finally recognised as having equal validity and value to everyone else's, but will make diddly-squat difference (whether good or bad) to the lives of the heterosexual majority.

"It would seem there is a tiny, but highly vocal, SSM minority in society which insists upon having the best of all worlds and to hell with the consequences. They don't speak for the many thousands of people who quietly live with a same sex partner and who are very uncomfortable with the gay lobby's insistence that they should be legally entitled to possess a marriage certificate."

Is there any particular reason for believing that's true, other than that Subrosa feels her assessment is the sensible and correct one, and therefore there "must" be many thousands of gay couples who silently agree with her? I don't doubt that there are a variety of views on this subject among gay people. I have a friend in a same-sex relationship who, in spite of supporting equal marriage rights, is nevertheless ambivalent about becoming part of a 'heterosexual institution' for which she has some distaste. There may, on the opposite extreme, be some gay people who hold socially conservative views, and believe that their own relationships (while valid) shouldn't be accorded the same legal status as heterosexual relationships. But where the principle of equality is at stake, the people we should be most concerned about are those who are being actively discriminated against - those who actually want to get married, but can't.

And then there's the flip-side of Subrosa's coin - what about the many millions of heterosexual couples who are 'deeply comfortable' with the idea of sharing the institution of marriage with people of a different sexual orientation? Indeed, what about those heterosexual couples who may be deeply uncomfortable with the institution of marriage in its current discriminatory form? Shouldn't we be taking some heed of them as well?

"Marriage has mattered little to me but I felt - and still do - that it was important from the view of protecting children. My generation always regarded marriage as the only way in which to legitimise children and I, along with others over the centuries, took my responsibilities seriously."

If the subtext here is that marriage should not be an option in any relationship that is bound to remain child-free (leaving aside the obvious possibility of adoption), then a great many heterosexual weddings shouldn't be happening, either because the woman is beyond child-rearing age, or because one or other partner is infertile. In truth, there is no rational reason for thinking that a marginally greater number of child-free marriages will result in marriage doing any better or worse a job at protecting children than it currently does.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The "non-aligned" forum Political Betting once again shows its true colours, as I become the second SNP poster to be banned in the space of 24 hours for "insolence"

Well, I've had another eventful few days over at On Saturday morning, I was subjected to a series of highly personalised rants from "Jack W", one of the site's supposed "treasures", who can therefore do no wrong. Rumour has it that he is the alter ego of a former high-profile parliamentarian (probably a Tory, reading between the lines). A handful of the PB "inner circle" are in on the secret of his identity, and titter along sycophantically to his "hysterical" conceits about being 109 years old and a Jacobite. It's been evident for some time that my political views have been getting on his nerves, and his irritation finally exploded in the following fashion -

"Utter bilge.

Your initial statement was tripe and your attempts to bolster your non existant case is risable. Your froth and bluster might work with some PBers but this Scot isn't taken in by your lame arguments."

"You should learn from "tim" that repeating lame arguments doesn't make them any truer.

Once again you try to hijack Scottishness and then attempt to favour only posters as a Scot who suit you.

I'm an old hand here and those old hands are Scottish to their old bones and my hand will indeed "choose".

I choose the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

"Firstly I'm most certainly not your "mate".

Secondly, what you don't like is being challenged for over-hyping the SNP position by a fellow Scot.

Lastly it would take more than the pin pricks of inane "debate" with you to "unsettle" me. Yet again you substantially over-hype your own significance to me .... that is nil.

Oh .... I forgot my manners - Good morning."

(Incidentally, the pretext for this diatribe was two patently ludicrous and malicious misrepresentations of what I had said - namely that I supposedly claimed to speak on behalf of "all of Scotland", and that I had claimed that the total percentage of seats won by the SNP last year was on a par with Tony Blair's record hauls in 1997 and 2001. His excuse for the first misrepresentation was that I had used the word "we" in response to him, but he didn't have the slightest reason for thinking that "we" referred to Scotland, and it must have been obvious to any reasonable person from the context that it wasn't intended to. On the second count, I had of course been comparing the Blair landslides to the SNP's vote share, not seat totals, which would have been a silly comparison given that Holyrood is elected by PR and Westminster is not.)

Now you might naively think that the owner of a forum who was in any way concerned about contributors making personalised attacks on others would be unlikely to react to that outburst by calling it a "wonderful bitch-slap", but that was exactly what Mike Smithson chose to do. Fair enough, of course, just so long as consistency is applied, and posters of all political hues are allowed the same latitude in the free speech stakes.

But wait, what's this? On Sunday morning, SNP poster Stuart Dickson was astonished to receive an email "warning" him for making personal attacks on other posters on the overnight thread. He in fact had made no comments at all on that thread, as he had gone to bed early. The only explanation I can think of is that the warning related to a single comment earlier in the day in which Stuart had poked fun at the Tory posters HD2 and Fitalass. That comment was mild compared with JackW's "bitch-slap", but nevertheless in a stirring display of consistency it was instantly deleted by a moderator, as opposed to being applauded as "wonderful" by the editor, and "liked" by no fewer than 27 adoring members of the PB Tory Herd.

On Monday, events took an even more farcical turn. Stuart mischievously pointed out that the PB Tory Herd were being slow to pay any attention to the latest Angus Reid poll showing a handsome Labour lead, and that this was somewhat mysterious given that Angus Reid had been the Herd's favourite pollster back in the days when the company used to show higher Tory leads than anyone else. Smithson, in an apparent attempt to bolster his legend as being scrupulously independent from the Herd, reacted with undisguised fury and ordered Stuart to "stop sniping". Stuart's response was the following ten words -

"Pure comedy gold. Your lack of self-awareness is stunning"

And for that he was summarily banned from the site for a second time on the grounds of "insolence" (the previous banning, which occurred for no reason that anyone could discern, lasted two years). As he pointed out to me later - "On the PB scale of rudeness and insolence, I'd reckon that reaches about 3 out of 10." I can certainly vouch for the truth of that, having on a daily basis been subjected to mindless personal abuse (including many suggestions that I am mentally unstable) with absolutely no protection in sight from the moderators.

At the same time as banning Stuart, Smithson also announced that the use of the term "Herd" to characterise the stifling Tory group-think on PB would henceforth be disallowed. Again, an SNP poster seemed to be the main target of this ruling, because Smithson pointed out that Mick Pork would now be required to change his tagline "Not Of The Herd". Mick instantly complied by changing it to "Nick Clegg is crap". Smithson was incandescent by this point and told Mick : "If you want to post here you do not stick two fingers up at me. Understand." Yes, who could conceivably think that a political forum's "non-aligned" status is in any way compromised by the editor regarding an attack on the Deputy Prime Minister as an attack on him personally?! As a last resort Mick changed his strapline to "kittens are nice", in honour of the untouchable cat-loving queen of the PB Tory bullies, Ms Plato.

Upon learning of Stuart's fate, I went on the site to observe that this development should finally lay to rest any suggestions that those of us who have pointed out that PB has a politically biased moderation policy are in any sense being "paranoid". Ms. Plato retorted : "Have you being banned, James? Or other SNP posters?" I explained to her that in fact a second SNP poster (our very own Ezio) had indeed been the subject of a longterm ban, again for no apparent reason, and that while I hadn't been banned yet, the way things were going it could well be only a matter of time.

Well, how prophetic those words proved. I was banned today, without warning or explanation, when I simply responded to other people's attacks on Stuart, who for obvious reasons was not there to defend himself. I'm going to reproduce the entire exchange here, because of the risk that it will now be deleted and subsequently misrepresented -

Me : FPT, Gwynfa : "Such very, very extensive users of the site must surely have made significant financial contributions to its running costs via the Donate button, right ?

Don't tell us, I think we can all guess the answer to that question!

If I had been very rude to a host, I'd be turning up the next day on the doorstep, apologetic, and with a good bottle of Penderyn. It seems appropriate that Stuart should contribute to our hosts running costs, as way of apology?"

You must be bloody joking - as we're forever told that this site is loss-making, then I'd have thought that every active user is vital to bringing in advertising revenue. In other words, why we've been contributing to the running costs for free and subjecting ourselves to torrents of mindless abuse along the way is something of a mystery.

But if the management ever feel like doing the decent thing and compensating us, that'll be grand.

As for Stuart and "rudeness", it was in the opposite direction. Mike sent him an email "warning" him for making attacks on other posters in "overnight comments", which as Stuart pointed out was physically impossible because he had made no comments at all overnight. He was then banned, without even the courtesy of being notified, for making a tame ten-word reply (which would make a mildly angry Nick Palmer look like the Antichrist) to a provocative comment from Mike.

In contrast to his thread-headers, Mike routinely makes scathing political comments in his posts, both towards parties, politicians and fellow posters.That's absolutely fine, but if he does that and then throws his toys out of the pram when he gets a little bit of the same thrown back at him now and again...well, I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

Alan Brooke made the comparison with Anthony Wells yesterday - totally missing the point that while AW has a more stringent moderation policy, he is also unfailingly courteous and does not make deliberately provocative and partisan comments which he then expects to be 'reply-proof'.

So, yes, if financial compensation for rudeness is the order of the day, then Mike has Stuart's contact details, and I'm more than happy to supply the 'wonderful' Jack W with mine.

Chris g00 : Get over it. You are cluttering up the threads with your constant whinging, if you don't like it, go away.

Me : If other posters don't want people to put the other side of the story, they should stop posting on the subject themselves.

That was a direct reply to Gwynfa - take it up with him if it's making you feel grumpy.

Socrates : James, with all respect, you really need to learn when to let a subject drop.

Me : And with an absolutely equal dose of respect, the reply I gave to Chris g00 applies equally to you. My post was a direct reply to Gwynfa - if you want the subject dropped, take it up with him, and the countless others who are choosing to continue criticising someone who isn't here to defend himself.

Mick Pork : Telling James when he should stop posting on a subject was not required to say the least.

You may not have noticed that he and I are getting more than enough of that already since some gleefully want to keep trying get other posters banned, exiled or just go away now that they think it's working.

I was referring to those who are still doing it even on this thread and not you in particular.

Moses : Jeez! come back after a few hours and he is still bloody whining.

Enough already! What part of "The referees's decision is final" don't you actually get?. You don't like it then pick up your caber and feck off.

Me : What part of "take it up with Gwynfa" don't you actually get?

And since "f*** off if you don't like it" seems to be the vogue comment of the day, might I gently suggest that the same advice applies to you if you find my "whining" so objectionable?

Mike Smithson : The reason you could find no comments from Mr. Dickson on that overnight thread was that the offending contributions had been deleted.

Me : Mike, did you actually read Stuart's reply to your email? The reason that the comments were not there was not because they had been deleted, but because he went to bed at 9pm and did not post on the overnight thread.

If there were any "offending" comments (and I strongly suspect there was only one that related to HD2 and Fitalass) they must have been much earlier in the day.

The final comment was never actually published - when I attempted to post it I discovered I had been banned. So that's that.

As he can no longer defend himself on PB itself (and I gather he may not go back even when his seemingly temporary ban is lifted), I'll leave the last word to Stuart Dickson. I hope he won't mind me using a small excerpt from an email he forwarded to me yesterday -

"I have been treated disgracefully. I know that Mark Senior had a hand in my first ban, although a reason (public or private) has never been forthcoming.

The latest ban is even more inexplicable, considering the vicious personal attacks that Mike not only allows, but even encourages, day in day out. My rudeness was miniscule in comparison with things one reads every day on Mike's threads.

I actually concur with something Plato said yesterday: she asked James why he legitimises PB by contributing to it? I strongly suspect that PB will self-destroy itself anyway when the post-coalition Con/LD hatefest begins, and I suspect any bystanders to that main event will experience the full wrath of Mike, at the smallest excuse...

It was fun while it lasted, but Mike bears a huge proportion of the blame for the destruction of his own creation/monster. My sympathy for him, considering that he happily houses some of the biggest bullies, thugs and idiots in the blogosphere, is limited."

Forget the polls - a Labour councillor has met FOUR PEOPLE who oppose independence

I really feel moved this morning to draw attention to a rare sighting of the Great Crested Braveheart (rare in these parts, I mean - one or two other blogs are more fortunate).

"Don't know about the poll, but I have been approached on 4 seperate occassions in the last month by, generally non political, people asking if this "independence thing" was really going to happen and how could it be stopped. Straws in the wind but would seem to indicate that, when people start to think about it, "independence" doesn't float their boat."

For the avoidance of doubt, what appears to be happening here is that Alex Gallagher, the North Ayrshire Labour Councillor (Ward 8 - North Coast and Cumbraes), is telling us that the fact that he has met four people who agree with him about the horrors of independence is of far more interest and significance than the results of a scientifically-conducted opinion poll.

Oh-kaaay. Councillor Gallagher, with all due respect, we already know that there are 'real people' out there who don't much care for the idea of independence. If there weren't, this referendum would be a bit of a doddle, wouldn't it? By a rough extrapolation from the opinion polls, there must be something in the region of a million-and-a-half adults in Scotland who currently oppose independence, so the revelation that at least four of them live in North Coast and Cumbraes is somewhat less than earth-shattering. Indeed, the way they framed the questions "is it really going to happen?" and "how can it be stopped?" leads me to suspect that they're the sort of people who have been opposed to independence for considerably longer than the 'thinking time' of the last few weeks, and have only become actively concerned now because the penny has finally dropped that this referendum is actually going to happen, and could conceivably be won by the Yes side. So not exactly the sort who were ever going to have their "boat floated" by Alex Salmond. I wouldn't faint with amazement to learn that SNP councillors have also been spontaneously approached by members of the public asking "is it really going to happen?", and "how can we make sure it happens?" People with that line of thinking generally aren't going to look to a dyed-in-the-wool unionist councillor as their first port of call for answers.

But I don't want to totally destroy Councillor Gallagher's illusions. I dare say that as long as he encounters at least three voters on his travels who quite like Ed Miliband's haircut, that'll be proof enough that his "bullseye!" sycophancy towards the Great Leader's utterances commands overwhelming public support.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Admin's golden alternative to a Scottish passport

This was Tom Harris' summary of Alex Salmond's speech on Saturday :

"To the homeless, the unemployed, the hungry, the vulnerable, I say this: the SNP will give you a Scottish passport!"

Hmmm. Even if that really was all that the SNP were offering, it would be considerably more use to the homeless, the unemployed, the hungry and the vulnerable than the Tory government Tom has given to them by way of an alternative. (And in so many ways it was a personal gift.)

Even if we didn't have a Tory government, what would Tom be offering the vulnerable? Triangulation. A reborn Blairite Labour party aping the Tories to win right-wing votes in the southeast of England, by slashing benefits, embracing weapons of mass destruction, blaming teenage single mothers for their own predicament, and glorifying greed in all its many and varied forms. That's what "grown-up" politicians do, apparently, because that's the only way to get elected in the UK.

Now, can you see any way in which a "Scottish passport" might just possibly free the vulnerable from that false choice? Nope, I'm well and truly stumped.