Saturday, August 13, 2011

Retribution against the rioters? You must be joking - I'm a taxpayer.

Just a brief thought for the day : it now looks quite possible that parliament will debate the draconian idea of withdrawing benefits from those convicted of looting, after the e-petition demanding that no taxpayers' money should be spent on the rioters passed the 'magic number' of 100,000 signatures (ie. less than 0.2% of the UK population). But it strikes me that an awful lot of those 100,000 people would probably also demand that those found guilty should spend a significant period of time in prison - which would, of course, entail 'putting them up' at taxpayers' expense.

Perhaps we should instead begin by working out what our objective in punishing criminals actually is, and then we can devise a more coherent way forward. Do we want retribution at any cost, or do we want to claw back every last penny of public money from the "unworthy"? We really can't do both.

And dare I mention the dirty word 'rehabilitation' at this point...?

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's the way 'e tells 'em...

If you're feeling brave enough, let me take you by the hand and lead you away from the comforting inanity of Labour Hame, and back to the scary right-wing swamp that is Political Betting in its current state. Now, long-term readers of this blog may recall me referring in the past to 'Chris g00', one of the thoroughbred PB nutjobs. He once 'interrogated' me for hours, nay days, on why the SNP had "reneged" on its 2003 manifesto promise to hold an independence referendum. The answer was of course remarkably straightforward, ie. "the SNP lost the 2003 election", and as you'll appreciate it didn't change much no matter how many different ways he found of posing the question. But the poor chap was genuinely labouring under the misapprehension that he had me on the ropes, and repeatedly returned to the subject whenever he spotted me posting on the site in an effort to "embarrass" me. This delusional pattern has repeated itself in a number of slightly different forms ever since. But last night really took the biscuit, not least for the fact that one or two of the ostensibly saner Tory contributers to PB (including the Deputy Editor, no less) piled in on Mr g00's behalf, apparently unaware or unconcerned that they had become cheerleaders for a familiar and truly cretinous repertoire.

It started when g00 made this comment -

"Black youths beating English youths right now on virginmedia channel 525"

I immediately asked him if by "English" he really meant "white" - ie. was it impossible for black people to be English in his eyes? A different poster called 'Notme' immediately jumped in and claimed that English was indeed an exclusively ethnic identity, and that black people could be British, but not English. He even made the extraordinary claim that the English are "the indigenous ethnic group of these islands", before swiftly spotting the difficulty of trying to persuade a Scotsman to accept such a nonsensical line of argument.

And then Mr. g00 returned to the fray. He triumphantly informed me that he had not in fact been making a comment about black youths beating white youths in English cities, but had instead been making a joke about the Nigerian under-20 football team beating England.

Boom boom.

Now of course, this changed absolutely nothing - the 'humour' in his thoroughly tasteless joke hinged entirely on an assumed clear distinction between 'English' people and 'black' people. If you don't feel there's such a distinction, the joke would never occur to you in the first place, and if you didn't expect to share that world view with others you wouldn't tell them the joke, because it wouldn't work. But in classic g00 fashion, all that mattered to him was that I had "fallen into his trap", and my queries about how the joke could possibly work (as he claimed) on an entirely "non-racial basis" were swatted away with the observation that I was continuing to dig a hole for myself and it was all highly entertaining. He promised to gloat about his little triumph at regular intervals over the coming days (just as he had done with my "inability to explain why the SNP had reneged on its 2003 manifesto pledges") - but then put that wizard plan on hold for a little while in favour of some shuteye.

Things then took a distinctly ugly turn as a number of g00's fellow Tory posters refused to countenance even the vaguest possibility that one of their own had told a tasteless joke, and claimed that the real issue was my own lack of a sense of humour. One of them eventually tried to "pull rank" on me by declaring that he was an Asian, that he found the joke funny, and that I should therefore "get over myself". I replied that his opinion of the joke was a matter for him, just as it would be if he also found Bernard Manning a riot. I was then informed that simply by mentioning the words "Bernard Manning" I had implied that the poster in question was a "coconut" and an "Uncle Tom". At some point "implied" mutated into "said", and by the morning it was an accepted truth among the PB Tory fraternity that I had not merely "called" an Asian poster a coconut, but that I had "racially insulted him". Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, the ever-delightful Mr g00 awoke from his slumber, determined to keep his promise to show me up at every opportunity for having fallen into his 'hilarious' trap.

Well, naturally I'm not a shrinking violet in such situations, so whenever he posted something like this...

"I don’t need to try, given posters on left and right all found fault with your response. Not a single person decided that on balance you had a point, and as I said the conversation ended with most calling you humourless, and two believing you racially offensive. Not bad for a nights work."

...I immediately fired back with something like this...

"Rubbish. Every single person who disagreed with me was a Tory, apart from one very brief and indirect comment from Nick Palmer which didn’t even mention me.

The classic PB syndrome : my Tory chums all agree with me, therefore I’ve been proved right."

And unsurprisingly his chums (the usual headbanger tendency) continued to support him, and I responded to them in robust fashion as well. But what really shocked me (although it shouldn't have done) was this spectacularly ill-judged and one-sided intervention from PB's Deputy Editor David Herdson, which had the distinct feel of a semi-official reprimand about it -

"You made yourself look silly last night when most people were sensibly asleep. You’re now making yourself look silly this morning and spamming up the thread.

You’re right in your assertions about the joke. Given, however, that you were the one who misinterpreted it on racial and ethnic lines, despite all the evidence being there to work out what it was talking about, I’d suggest you have a deep look at your own instincts as regards race and identity."

This point is so misconceived on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to start. It was literally impossible to 'misinterpret' the joke on racial or ethnic lines because there is no joke without the assumption that 'black' and 'English' are mutually-exclusive concepts. It works by assuming the listener will instantly accept that "black youths beating English youths" is a perfectly natural description of what has been happening on recent nights in many cities. If that acceptance is forthcoming, then it indeed probably is a sign that the listener needs to "look deeply at his instincts regarding race and identity". But did I instinctively accept that description as natural? No, Mr Herdson, what I instead did was challenge it - immediately. And in any case the purpose of the joke's punchline is not to spark a period of mature reflection on the part of the listener about any racist instincts which have just been exposed - the 'humour' instead lies in a kind of pleasurable complicity between the teller of the joke and the recipient, ie. "we both know what you were thinking, and why you were thinking it".

Dear God. Only in PB World could it be the person who challenged the racist premise of a joke who needs to "examine their instincts", rather than the person who told the joke or the people who found it funny. And only in PB World could it be the person who rebuts Mr g00's endless cretinous gloating that receives the semi-official reprimand for "spamming up the thread", rather than Mr g00 himself. I'm pleased to say that one or two posters did eventually offer a degree of support for the points I made, but all in all this episode is yet another sad example of what has gone so terribly wrong with that once fine website.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A statement from the Irish Prime Minister on the British Isles riots

This just in from Enda Kenny -

"The events of the last few days have collectively shamed us as an island people. It has been suggested to me that we in Ireland should in some way distance ourselves from what has been happening in order to protect our tourist industry, and indeed some have even suggested that events which are confined to English cities are self-evidently nothing to do with Ireland. I find that as incomprehensible as I do disgusting and petty-minded.

Yes, the riots may be confined to the territory of England, but the underlying causes are not. Are cities an "English" or a British Isles phenomenon? The latter, obviously, and moreover they are an exclusively British Isles phenomenon. There are no cities in France, or in Panama, or in Indonesia. Are inner cities and disaffected inner city youth "English" or British Isles phenomena? The latter, clearly, and moreover they are exclusively British Isles phenomena. There are no inner cities or disaffected inner city youth in Germany, the United States or Russia. Are social divisions, unemployment, poverty, hopelessness, criminality, greed, etc. "English" or British Isles phenomena? The latter (duh), and moreover they are exclusively British Isles phenomena. There is no social division, unemployment, poverty, hopelessness, criminality or greed in South Africa, Turkey or Brazil. These are very specifically British Isles sicknesses, and to try to somehow get Ireland an exemption card from them is to run away from our very character as a people.

Last month we showed our solidarity with the people of Norway by saying "we are all Norwegians now", but that is simply insufficient for a tragedy that involves our fellow islanders. What we must say this time is not "we are English", but that we are Irish, and that these are Irish riots. The fact that they aren't taking place on Irish soil and don't involve Irish people is a mere technical detail. And am I prepared to sacrifice the Irish tourism industry to speak that truth? You bet I am. British Isles solidarity demands nothing less, and I shall not be found wanting."

This has been an exclusive report from a parallel universe occasionally visited by contributers to the website Labour Hame.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vote for a blog that is fighting for the things that really matter now the midgies are back

If you've enjoyed this blog over the last twelve months, especially while it was covering the thrills and spills of the historic election campaign back in the spring, I wouldn't be at all put out if you consider it worthy of a vote in this year's Total Politics Blog Poll, which is now - slightly later than usual - open for business. Last time round, Scot Goes Pop finished a respectable 23rd in the Scottish section, and by the looks of things only just missed the cut for the top 300 political blogs in the UK as a whole. So it'll be interesting to see what happens this time - visitor numbers are certainly well up on last year, but I'd imagine that's the case for a lot of other Scottish blogs as well.

There's also an additional poll for individual bloggers this time round (ie. regardless of whether their writing is restricted to one blog or spread across several), so I suppose at this point I'll have to pray in aid my endless witterings on Political Betting! My only guest slot on Scottish Roundup to date was also within the last twelve months - I clearly remember that it was in the autumn, because it seemed to take me the whole autumn to finish it.

Voting is slightly easier this year - it's by online form rather than email, although you still have to provide a valid email address. There's also a rule that bloggers aren't allowed to publish a list of ten 'recommended' blogs that they think people should vote for.

So I won't do that, but I will just say good luck to everyone! Click here if you'd like to cast your votes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To what do I owe the honour this time?

I've just spotted another visit to this blog from Tucson, Arizona (ie. Mr Kevin Baker) on my stats. Now, of course we all know that the great man is ordinarily far too busy Crusading For Liberty to grace us lesser mortals with his presence, so the obvious question - to what do I owe the honour this time? A couple of weeks ago it was the Norwegian atrocity, this time it must be...of course, it's the riots in London. Presumably I'm supposed to have come to my senses by now and realised that things would be so much better if only the rioters had easy access to firearms.

And sure enough, here's the Baker post saying pretty much that. Jeez - is there any social ill that can't be instantly solved for us by an influx of these barbarous weapons?

Monday, August 8, 2011

George Foulkes, look away now...

Interesting to see that Yahoo 'Moneywise' has done a big splash investigating whether residents of Scotland or England get the best deal in a range of policy areas. Scotland comes out on top on three out of four counts - university fees, healthcare costs and transport costs. State benefits are declared a 'draw' - unsurprising, given that they aren't devolved!

Now, you all know the punchline here. The fact that the Scottish government is providing the public with a better financial deal is perfectly fine - but the problem is they're doing it deliberately...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Questions to which the answer is "what do you mean, 'Tom'? My name is ADMIN"

Day 5 of the Labour Hame Vigil, and still no hint of an explanation as to how the answer "no" could possibly have proved to be "incorrect" just a matter of hours after we were told "either 'yes' or 'no' is acceptable".  The wait continues. In the meantime, our old friend the admin is continuing his eager efforts to definitively "move on" from his embarrassment by posing yet another question -

Why are the SNP so reluctant to introduce even a modest measure of bus re-regulation?

This time I really will have to say 'pass', because bus regulation is not something I've ever given a lot of thought to, and I don't have any special insight into the SNP leadership's thinking on the matter. However, I'm quite sure other nationalists will have very full answers, which as usual will either be "not answers" or "incorrect". But, as ever, in posing the question, the admin has left himself and his comrades with a much trickier one to answer themselves -

If a modest measure of bus re-regulation is such an obviously sensible thing for a left-of-centre party to do, why didn't Labour do it during their rather long spell in government?

Just to make it even tougher for you, Admin, I must caution you that, while either a 'yes' or 'no' answer is acceptable, no qualifications will be permitted.