Saturday, August 6, 2011

The chick-lit substitute for Fox News viewers

As an antidote to my withdrawal symptoms from arguing with our friendly neighbourhood 'libertarians', here's a quote from a blogpost entitled 'Going Galt' -

"All you Leftists ask yourselves a question: What will you do when the folks who provide the things you need...all quit? How will you survive when you've strangled the last doctor, dentist and power company?

I know the answer, even if you've never considered the question. You don't care. You hate humanity, and you hate yourselves for being human. You'd rather die than see mankind prosper. That's why you embrace the suicidal insanity of Leftist policies. Your subconcious has followed them to their logical conclusion, and you know, deep down, that what I'm saying is true.

Stop being selfish, bitter little brats and join the rest of us in the world of thinking, reasoning adults. It beats the alternative your psychotic class envy and lust for power is going to lead us to."

Hmmm. You see, the credibility problem with this line of argument is that there are bona fide 'leftist' countries out there we can look at to see whether this "strangulation" of doctors and dentists has actually taken place. Cuba, for example, is noted for having rather a good health care system, considering how poor the country is in other ways. And Sweden's health care system seems to have just about survived several decades of that country's considerably more democratic 'leftist' model.

But by all means don't let reality get in the way of your Randian wish-fulfillment fantasy of tens of thousands of doctors and dentists suddenly "going Galt" just because Obama has dared to inch America from the hard right to the centre-right. Atlas Shrugged is like chick-lit for Fox News viewers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What democracy is not

The Tory MP Sir George Young commented on Channel 4 News last night that, while he was opposed to the restoration of the death penalty, it was important that the subject at least came back to parliament if it mattered to the public. At first that seemed a very compelling point, but now I've thought about it some more I'm not quite so convinced. Liberal democracy is about the will of the people - but only within certain parameters. There was nothing 'democratic' about the Nazi regime persecuting the Jews, for instance, even though the German public approved of it (up to a point) and had elected the regime partly for that reason.

The building blocks of true democracy are certain inalienable rights for minorities and individuals, most notably the right to life. In my view, Sir George might as well have said that it would be a healthy thing for parliament to debate a motion on reintroducing torture, or "repatriating" ethnic minorities - just to give "issues important to a section of the public" an airing. In many ways, I actually think Britain is a stronger democracy for the fact that a measure as retrograde as the reintroduction of the death penalty hasn't come back to the floor of the Commons for so long. It's a sign that the idea has been gradually taken less and less seriously as time has gone by. And let's face it, it would have become completely unthinkable by now if it hadn't been for the grotesque fact that one western "democracy" - just one - still routinely takes the lives of its own citizens, and that by an unfortunate chance that country happens to be the most powerful in the world.

In any case, Paul Flynn was spot on when he challenged Paul Staines on the same programme - if people really attach the overwhelming importance to this issue that Staines claims, there's a very simple and (relatively) respectable remedy. They can vote UKIP, and yet for the most part they choose not to. They presumably make that choice in the full knowledge that the Conservative party and all the other mainstream parties are hardly likely to break the habit of the last few decades and suddenly get the capital punishment bug back. So, however people respond to single-issue opinion polls, when push comes to shove they do in fact give their quiet, perhaps sullen, democratic assent to the more civilised criminal justice system we have today.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Too many legal guns in England and Wales? You'll feel better once you have some more.

Yet another virtuoso display of logical gymnastics from Mr Kevin Baker that must surely put him in firm contention for the US Olympic team. He cites the increase in the number of legally-owned weapons in England and Wales as 'evidence' of the foolishness of gun control. So just run this past me again - legalising more categories of weapon would decrease the number of legally-owned weapons? No, of course not. Even Baker himself would have to concede the blindingly-obvious - that whatever problems we may have now with an undesirably high number of legal weapons, that number would be much, much higher without legislative restrictions. So gun control does work to depress the number of legally-owned weapons. And why does that matter so much? Kevin, astoundingly, is rather keen to remind us of the reason himself -

"Forgotten Derrick Bird so soon?"

Er, no we haven't, Kevin. You, on the other hand, might wish to forget him rather urgently, because there must surely be a better advert for the legendary "responsibility of legal gun-owners" than the mass-murderer Mr Bird.

In a similar peculiar vein, Baker goes on to claim that gun control has somehow contributed to the problem of illegal weapons. Oh yes, of course it has, Kevin, it's well known that the UK has a much worse problem with illegal guns than countries with fewer legal restrictions on gun ownership, such as - to pluck an example out of thin air - the US.

He also makes bizarre reference to grenade attacks -

"There have been grenade attacks in the UK. In 2003 a 63 year-old woman lost a leg when a grenade was tossed into her Liverpool home, for example."

Are we supposed to conclude that "owning a gun for defensive purposes" would have given her premonitory powers that it was going to happen, enabling her to know exactly when to start firing wildly through her window?

Finally, if you're ever tempted to take one of Kevin's "rigorous statistical analyses" seriously ever again, you might want to consider this schoolboy howler -

"The population of England and Wales is a bit over 62 million"

No, it isn't, Kevin. That's the population of the whole United Kingdom, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Just goes to confirm what I've always said - to hell with guns, America needs to invest in some damn good geography teachers.

UPDATE : Having thought about this some more, there's another point that baffles me. After the Cumbrian massacre, Kevin and his Fan Club assured us that the only problem was not that Derrick Bird obtained his weapons legally, but instead that there weren't a whole lot of other gun owners out there in a position to leap into action when needed and shoot Bird on sight (after all, "when there are only seconds to spare, the police are only ever minutes away").

And yet we now learn from Kevin that gun control has been an abject failure because this country is supposedly awash with guns anyway, of both the legal and illegal variety. So, according to his very own logic, it appears that widespread gun ownership isn't much use at 'protecting' the public from the likes of Derrick Bird after all. But between you and me, I think most of us had worked that out already.

EXCLUSIVE : Labour Hame admin brands millions of Californians who don't want independence from the US "anti-Californian"

So the facts are these.  The Labour Hame admin makes clear that either a 'yes' or 'no' answer to his Californian question will be "acceptable".  I tell him my answer to his question is 'no'.  He then hurriedly revises his opinion of what constitutes an acceptable answer, telling me to try again in pursuit of the 'correct' answer.  I ask him to explain why he has just contradicted himself.  The response?

Silence.  Twenty-four hours of silence.

Well, this is deeply mysterious, but of course I know that it must be a mere oversight, and that it can't possibly be because he doesn't actually have any explanation to offer.  So I jog his memory with this playful tweet -

24 hours on, and still no reply to my question. Are we to infer that the answer is probably "Er..."?

This time, I do receive a 'response' of sorts, albeit one that shatters all my illusions about the admin's integrity -

Thank you for attempting to answer the latest Question to which the answer is "Er..." Sorry, but your answer was incorrect.

This, for the uninitiated, is known as a "non-answer in desperate pursuit of closure". But, alas, there can be no closure for our friend the admin, until he admits to us, and to his readers, and perhaps most importantly to himself a fact that is a simple matter of record - that one of his 'impossible questions to nationalists' has now been answered in full conformity with the specifications he set down for an "acceptable" answer. This was of course never supposed to happen, so we can all fully appreciate why it's a wee bit hard for him, but it has happened, and he needs to accept that reality in order to move on.

The only alternative is to pretend, as he has just done, that the answer 'no' to the questions "Should California secede from the Union, and are those Californians who wish to remain American guilty of being “anti-Californian”?" is in some way 'incorrect'. As Colin pointed out on an earlier thread, this by definition means he is saying that California should indeed secede from the US, and that tens of millions of Californians (basically all Californians) are "anti-Californian" for not favouring independence.

Now, I don't think you really do believe that, Admin. Let's be grown-up about this, eh?

Are you listening, Jimmy Wales? Yes, anti-Scottish racism is possible - and you have the word of an English court for that.

I must admit that I'm really, really impressed that a postman has been convicted by an English court of racially-aggravated criminal damage for calling Andy Murray a "useless Jock" in graffiti.  The usual complacent response if we complain about that kind of insult is that we need to locate our sense of humour, and of course the bizarre excuse for allowing Anne Robinson to get away with an anti-Welsh diatribe on TV was that Wales' status as one of the four countries of the UK ought to give Welsh people a resilience that other ethnic minorities don't have.

Spare a thought tonight for one man, though - Jimmy Wales, the founder and dictator of Wikipedia.  In all likelihood, he's currently spinning round and round, muttering "does not compute, does not compute, does not compute".  After all, it's less than a year since he loftily assured us that anti-Scottish racism was literally impossible on the grounds that "Scots are not a race", and decreed that part of the Wiki biography of Baroness Deech must therefore be purged to reflect that 'fact' -

"It is not appropriate to term the comments 'racist' - particularly without a source, as Scots are not a race, and the remarks were purely political and not about Scots as an ethnic group at all. I remain unconvinced that this incident is of any importance whatsoever outside of a narrow portion of the blogosphere."

He then went on to claim that Deech's anti-Scottish remarks on Any Questions? had been a "joke" - and in all apparent seriousness cited as 'evidence' the fact that some of the English audience-members had laughed!

* * *

I was also amused to read the story of the Swedish man who was arrested for illegal possession of nuclear material, and for trying to split atoms in his kitchen -

"Handl, 31, said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realise it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police."

The Kevin Baker Fan Club must be outraged by Handl's arrest, though - after all, we all know that it is far too dangerous for governments to have a monopoly on any weapon. We'd all be much, much safer if there were millions of private owners of nuclear material. And the idea that radioactive discharges would become more common is a myth - because of course if anyone was behaving irresponsibly, a good guy would soon nuke his house to snuff out the problem.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If you're a nationalist and are considering assisting Labour Hame with one of their 'questions' in future, you need to read this...

If you haven't been following my recent exchange with the Labour Hame duty officer on Twitter, this might be a useful moment to recap.  The story begins on the 24th of July when the tartan-clad Website of the People posed the latest in its series of 'fiendishly difficult' questions for nationalists -

Should California secede from the Union, and are those Californians who wish to remain American guilty of being “anti-Californian”?

Several highly pertinent and well-argued responses from nationalists were swiftly received, for the most part noting that it is entirely a matter for the Californian people to decide, and that there are in any case a number of huge differences between California and Scotland (cultural, historical, constitutional) that render such a comparison meaningless. Curiously, though, on Sunday, the admin of Labour Hame claimed that the question was still - like all the others before it - 'UNANSWERED'. So I posed an obvious question of my own, both here and on Twitter, leading to a little exchange that has been going on for a couple of days...

Me : What would it actually take to get @LabourHame to acknowledge that one of their questions has been answered?

Labour Hame : How about when it's answered? Or is that too complicated for you?

Me : Not at all, that's grand. In that case, can you explain in what sense the seven answers I quoted were not in fact answers?

Labour Hame : Were any of them "yes" or "no"?

Me : Yes, my own was. As you'd know if you'd followed the link in the tweet you were replying to.

(I then once again directed him to a post that repeated my own answer to the question : "yes, if it wants to, but not if it doesn't" to the first part of the question, and "no" to the second part.)

Me : So I take it we can now formally certify that question as 'ANSWERED'? If not, what's your latest excuse?

Labour Hame : Sorry, that doesn't qualify. Either "yes" or "no" is acceptable - no qualifications. Try again.

(Unwittingly, this was a very helpful response, because for the first time ever he had set out his specifications for what constituted a valid answer. Those specifications may have been monumentally silly, but they were extremely easy to satisfy, and it would be impossible for him to pretend later on that he hadn't set them. Or so you'd think.)

Me : OK, I've tried again. See here...

(I then directed him to a fresh post stating that my answer to the first part of the question was 'no', on the grounds that the constitutional future of California was entirely a matter for the Californian people to decide, and that there was ample evidence that they have absolutely no interest in independence whatsoever - in stark contrast to the people of Scotland. My answer to the second part of the question remained 'no'.)

Me : So is the question 'ANSWERED' now?

Labour Hame : Okay, here's a clue: the correct answer is the same answer to "Should Scotland secede from the UK?" Try one more time.

Me : And I quote - "Either 'yes' or 'no' is acceptable". My answer was "no". Kindly explain why you've just contradicted yourself?

You won't be surprised to hear that my last question can I put this...UNANSWERED, in spite of the fact that there have been a couple of tweets from Labour Hame's duty officer on Twitter since I posted it. You can rest assured that I'll be pressing him on the matter if I hear nothing soon. Perhaps the answer is "Er..."?

Apart from the hilarity of this contradiction, the desperate switch from "either 'yes' or 'no' will do" to "there is only one 'correct' answer, and 'no' isn't it" marks the end point of a truly epic piece of circular logic. The initial answers from nationalists explaining why the comparison between Scotland and California didn't work were all irrelevant, because only a 'yes' or 'no' answer was required. But when a 'yes' or 'no' answer was forthcoming, that still wasn't valid, because Scotland and California are apparently identical entities, and if the answer is 'yes' for one, it must also be 'yes' for the other. OK, so perhaps you should have listened to the patient explanations that were so helpfully forthcoming about why Scotland and California are not, in fact, identical entities? Oh no, that'll never do, we just wanted a 'yes' or 'no' answer. And so it goes on into infinity.

I'd suggest this is a valuable lesson for any future question from the admin of Labour Hame - even if you answer it in precisely the way he claims he wants you to answer it, that still won't constitute an answer. And perhaps the next time we ask "why wasn't that an answer?", the response will be "because you're a nationalist, and I've just discovered a new law of physics that renders it impossible for nationalists to answer any question to my satisfaction".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The excuses are dwindling...

Another day brings the excitement of another reply from Labour Hame's duty officer on Twitter -

"Sorry, that doesn't qualify. Either "yes" or "no" is acceptable - no qualifications. Try again."

Oh dear, oh dear, you've walked into this one, sunshine. OK, I will try again.

The answer to the first part of the question, "should California secede from the US?" is -


(The reason is that, as I made clear in my previous answer, it is entirely a matter for the people of California to decide for themselves, and there is ample evidence that, in sharp contrast to Scotland, there is absolutely no public interest in independence.)

The answer to the second part of the question, "are Californians who want to remain American anti-Californian?", is -


I await with baited breath the reason why even one word "yes" or "no" answers with no qualifications still do not constitute proper answers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Intake of breath - are we making progress?

A quick follow-up to the last post in which I challenged Labour Hame's duty officer on Twitter about why none of the seven answers to his question that I quoted actually constituted an answer. Thrillingly, I've now received a response...

"Were any of them "yes" or "no"?"

Well, as luck would have it, one of those seven answers was my own, and it was this -

"Yes, if it wants to, but not if it doesn't" to the first part of the question on whether California should secede from the US...

...and "No" to the second part on whether those Californians who want to remain American are anti-Californian.

So are we inching closer to a historic concession from the tartan-clad Website of the People? I'm about to send a reply on Twitter with a link to here - I'll keep you posted. Oooh, the suspense...

Is the answer to this question going to be "Er...", or "la, la, la, la, I'm not listening"?

Well, this is a novelty - because I tweeted the abbreviated title of my last post but one, ie. "What would it actually take to get @LabourHame to acknowledge that one of their questions has been answered?", I actually got a response from the horse's mouth -

"How about when it's answered? Or is that too complicated for you?"

Hmmm. This is not exactly dispelling the image of the admin of Labour Hame tied to a chair and having the word "URUGUAY!!!!!" screamed into his ear, but still failing to hear a thing. All the same, I took him at his word and asked the obvious follow-up question -

"Not at all, that's grand. In that case, can you explain in what sense the seven answers I quoted were not in fact answers?"

I await a response with baited breath. Although of course what I'm really wondering is whether the answer to my question is going to be "Er..." or "la, la, la, la, I'm not listening".

My money's on the latter, but then I'm a cynic.

Make your fallout room NOW

The dregs of my exchange with the Kevin Baker Fan Club are still carrying on back at the original thread, and it suddenly occurred to me what it was Baker's fatuous suggestion of how the Norwegian victims could supposedly have saved themselves reminded me of. It's Protect and Survive - the infamous series of Public Information films to end all Public Information films, that would have been shown on TV had there been a significant and imminent danger of nuclear war. They contain a series of incredibly complex and faintly ludicrous instructions about how people should spend every waking moment before the potential Soviet attack "making sure everything is ready for you and your family". It was of course the ultimate distraction technique on behalf of the government - the problem we face is not the weapons, or our trigger-happy attitude to using those weapons, the only problem is your own lack of readiness. You see, thermonuclear war needn't be the big deal everyone thinks it is - it's perfectly survivable as long as you're prepared. So if you get killed, it's nothing to do with our recklessness as a government, it's entirely your fault for not choosing the correct "fallout room", fortifying your "inner refuge" with the requisite number of hardcover books, having sufficient supplies of tuna to last for at least fourteen days, and having enough batteries to listen to the BBC Wartime Service on your trusty transistor radio.

And so it is with the Kevin Baker Fan Club. A psycopath kills dozens with legally-obtained weapons? Oh, it's not the weapons or the laws we should be looking at, that's a peripheral issue. The only problem was that Norway failed to introduce a National Indoctrination Programme advising young men that in such a situation they are required to calmly attract the gunman's attention by running towards him and pelting him with rocks. You see, widespread gun ownership is no big deal, and gun massacres are perfectly survivable. If you don't survive them, it's largely your own fault.

In truth, of course, while some people would have survived a nuclear attack, that would have been principally down to the luck of their location as much as anything. For most people, the advice in Protect and Survive would have been utterly useless. All that the absurd perception that an individual could "take responsibility for his own survival" achieved was to give certain people an alibi for not focusing on what should have been the first and only priority - making sure the unthinkable never happened in the first place. I'd suggest the same truth applies to potential gun massacres of the type we've just seen. Whatever Kevin and co might like us to believe, it's really not OK if these weapons are everywhere - some attacks are not survivable, however much responsibility we all take for our own personal safety.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

As a matter of interest, what would it actually take to get the "admin" of Labour Hame to acknowledge that one of his questions has been answered?

You might recall that a few days ago, Labour Hame posed another one of its 'devilishly difficult' questions for nationalists -

"Should California secede from the Union, and are those Californians who wish to remain American guilty of being “anti-Californian”?"

As is always the case, the question quickly received a series of thoughtful and comprehensive answers. Here is just a selection...

Richard Lucas : "...the US has its constitutional arrrangements that seem to suit most Californians, a sizeable percentage of the people of Scotland have some doubts about the current UK situation."

Observer : "You know people don’t think that Scotland should secede just on a whim, & that the pattern should be repeated globally, just on a whim. There are very good reasons why people think that Scotland should secede...I do read posts from cybernats claiming that unionists are anti-Scottish. That is rubbish."

Rory : "The question itself is one that should only really be asked of the Californian people. If they believe that they can create a fairer, happier, more sustainable society by seceding from the US, then surely it would be the right thing to do.

I don’t really see what the second part of the question aims to achieve – it uses a stereotype of nationalism that most right-minded pro-independence thinkers would avoid like the plague. The vast majority of those who wish to remain part of the UK are not anti-Scottish, they simply have different priorities or ideas about what kind of country they want to live in.

The comparison of Scotland with California is also pretty misleading. California is a state, with far more autonomy from federal government than Scotland has from Westminster, and the logical progression from the anti-independence argument implied by this question is a fully federal UK, which I don’t think many unionists particularly want. The question therefore undermines its own agenda."

Paul : "The future of the California should be a matter for the people of California, and the future of Scotland should be a matter for the people of Scotland."

Michelle : "Those who support independence do not label those who believe positively in the UK as anti-Scottish. Nothing wrong with believing in an independent UK over an independent Scotland."

Indy : "Short answer to that – it is up to the Californians."

And of course there was my own succinct answer of "yes, if it wants to, but not if it doesn't" to the first part of the question, and "no" to the second part. And heaven only knows how many other excellent answers failed to make it past the website's random moderation "policy".

Yet, curiously, we learn today from the admin that this question, like all the others before it, remains "unanswered". It begins to call to mind the Spitting Image sketch from 1992 about an experiment to discover "what it takes to get people not to vote Tory", in which a voter is tortured in a succession of increasingly gruesome ways by members of the Tory cabinet, but keeps cheerfully saying "no, I don't think you really meant that, I'm quite prepared to give you another chance". In that spirit, we could perhaps try tying the admin of Labour Hame to a chair, and scream in his ear the answers to his questions...

"Is today Sunday?"


"What's your favourite type of mushroom?"


"Who won the first World Cup in 1930?"


Some minutes later...

"OK, did you hear our answers this time?"

"Didnae hear a thing, pal."