Saturday, January 7, 2012

Careful, Nick : automatic recourse to 'moderation' might just lead you to Calamity

I just happened to stumble across an excellent blogpost the other day detailing the most common logical fallacies. The examples used to illustrate each fallacy all relate to the bogus arguments deployed by proponents of a legal ban on sex work and/or pornography, but it was a very timely find given Nick Clegg's bizarre attempt to paint the huge number of people who believe in either independence or the status quo as 'extremists' -

"Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems vision of Home Rule represented the views of the Scottish people and argued that those who were for independence, or keeping the current constitutional settlement, were extremists.

“All the evidence suggests that is the mainstream of opinion and the extremists are those who either think that we need to yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow, or those who say there should be no further change at all,” Mr Clegg said."

One of the fallacies explained in the blogpost is "Middle ground: the belief that the truth must be somewhere in the middle". Off the top of my head, here's an example...

Proposition 1 - Nick Clegg should be sentenced to thirty years' hard labour for fraudulently securing votes on the promise that the Liberal Democrats would vote against an increase in tuition fees.

Proposition 2 - Nick Clegg should be spared jail for fraudulently securing votes on the promise that the Liberal Democrats would vote against an increase in tuition fees, but should certainly be expected to resign forthwith.

Proposition 3 - Nick Clegg should be forgiven for fradulently securing votes on the promise that the Liberal Democrats would vote against an increase in tuition fees, and allowed to remain as Lib Dem leader for now.

In this instance, hard labour and forgiveness are clearly the 'extreme' options, which leaves resignation as the only moderate, reasonable, sensible course of action. And as Clegg is apparently keen to pray in aid the relative popularity of each constitutional option, it should also be noted that calls for his resignation represent 'mainstream opinion' in Scotland. Open and shut case, methinks - anyone who doesn't think Nick Clegg should resign immediately is clearly an extremist on a par with Nick Griffin.

Incidentally, I was intrigued to see in the Scotsman article that Clegg defines himself (rather like Ken Macintosh) as a 'devolutionist, not a unionist'. But at the Political Innovation conference just over a year ago, I clearly remember Caron Lindsay repeatedly insisting that the Lib Dems are a 'federalist, not a unionist' party. Whatever happened to that? Federalism and devolution are qualitatively very different concepts - albeit both very much unionist ones in the literal sense of the word.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dragon-fire and moon-howlers

This blog is in severe danger of turning into @Admin4TheYoonYoon Tweet-Watch, but here goes anyway...

Tom Harris : Comment 22 under Michael Kelly's Scotsman article really makes you feel positive about Nats: "GTF back to Ireland"

Joan McAlpine : Poison is endemic on internet. I get plenty of it from unionists whether Lab, Con or Lib Dem.

Tom Harris : Yes, Joan - the biggest problem is with unionists' comments on newspaper sites...Good grief.

Well, as it happens, Tom, I'm in a rather good position to comment on this subject, because I'm a Nationalist whose name is Kelly (for good measure my middle name is Michael) and I have been repeatedly and 'robustly' informed by a delightful unionist poster over a period of months that I cannot possibly be a Scot, on the grounds that my ancestry is Irish/American/French-Canadian. The 'name' of the poster in question is Moniker of Monza, and he posts at Political Betting. There are dozens of his ilk at that site, and elsewhere online. So don't try telling me there isn't a massive 'CyberYoonYoonist' problem.

Oh, and the fact that I don't know the real names of any of those CYYs brings me neatly onto this -

Tom Harris : Calling all Nat moon-howlers: You want to be another "Braveheart"? Well "brave" doesn't equate to writing poison under a pseudonym.

A sentiment with which I can just spot the one minor problem, Tom - namely, why have you posted your 'less constructive' Labour Hame pieces under the pseudonym 'Admin'? Or at least that was your practice until the leadership campaign was safely lost. Is 'bravery' a quality that only Nats should ever be expected to aspire to?

To turn to the Michael Kelly article itself...well, perhaps the best way of summing it up is that it bears an uncanny similarity to the irate letters Norman Hogg used to write to Scotland on Sunday circa 1995, and even in those days it was like entering a time-warp. Exhibit A -

"He [Salmond] remembers taking Mrs Thatcher on, while the rest of us recall that it was the SNP that started the Thatcher era. By bringing down the Callaghan government in 1979, the SNP forced a general election at the time most propitious to the Tories, and thereafter they ruled the UK for the next 18 years."

My money's on 2543 (for the year that Labour will finally dispense with that particular chip on their shoulder). But let's run through the actual sequence of events yet again for Kelly's benefit. The facts are these - the SNP propped up an extraordinarily unpopular Labour government for years in the late 1970s, and did so because they believed that Callaghan was acting in good faith on Home Rule. But after Scotland voted Yes to devolution in March 1979, Callaghan refused to honour that mandate. So what exactly was the SNP supposed to do - carry on propping up a lame duck government in exchange for absolutely nothing? It's true that they didn't achieve anything by bringing the government down, but neither would they have achieved anything by taking the alternative course - there would still have been no Scottish Assembly, and Mrs Thatcher's rise to power would in all probability have been delayed by only a matter of weeks (five months at the absolute outside). The idea that Labour could have overturned a 20+ point deficit if only they'd been given an extra few weeks is risible in the extreme.

Besides which, it wasn't the SNP that brought Mrs Thatcher to power. It was the people of the UK who did so by voting for her in a general election. The most sacred belief of unionists like Michael Kelly is that the will of the people of the whole UK must hold sway in Scotland - this is known as 'maturity'. Callaghan's defeat in a vote of no confidence (in which Labour folk-hero Gerry Fitt's abstention was just as decisive as the SNP's votes, let's not forget) merely facilitated and mildly accelerated the process of the UK electorate choosing a government that was more to their taste. So why isn't Kelly able to celebrate that? Isn't the fact that he feels unable to do so (especially after thirty-three years, for heaven's sake!) a rather strong indication that he is on the wrong side of the constitutional debate?

"And he [Salmond] is trying his best to fix both the timing and wording of the referendum question – the former on the grounds that he promised it would be held late in this parliament: a promise for which there is as little evidence as for a dragon’s fiery breath."

You mean, apart from the footage from the leaders' debates, and from several high-profile interviews? If both I and Hugh Henry imagined all that, then clearly we both believe in dragons.

"However, the Thatcher stopper deserves credit for being so honest in the assessment of his role. It is further to his credit that he kept quiet about his heroics for so many years, allowing us to believe that it was Tony Blair and New Labour that finally lanced the Tory boil."

Please don't try to change the subject, Michael - Alex Salmond was talking about his role in the downfall of Thatcher in 1990, not the Tory government in 1997. And if we're being strictly accurate, she was actually brought down by fellow Tories. Indeed, there's more than a grain of truth in the old joke that the Tories won the 1992 election because they'd succeeded in doing what Labour had tried and failed to do for over a decade - remove Margaret Thatcher from office.

* * *

I must say I disagree with Subrosa on her call for an entirely new national anthem to replace Flower of Scotland. It seems to me there's a disconnect between the people and elites (including the SNP elite) on this subject - the people have already made their choice of anthem, but the elite simply can't leave it alone. My guess is that if a new song was commissioned, it would be a repeat of what happened in Russia following the collapse of communism - the public wouldn't take the new anthem to their hearts, and we'd have to revert to the old one again after a few years.

It's true, though, that the use of Flower of Scotland at sporting events needs a bit of imagination - it should be played fast, and definitely not by a pipe band.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Elgin has more in common with Southend-on-Sea than with Yetts o' Muckhart : FACT

Just a very quick query for our old friend @Admin4TheYoonYoon. I'm struggling to reconcile the logic of these two recent tweets -

"But the point of my original comment was that to win *in the UK* we need to win the support of former Thatcher voters."

"Indeed. But since Scotland and England aren't that different, the Union is a good idea."

Righty-ho. So if Scotland and England aren't that different, why do Labour need Thatcher voters to win in the UK, but not in Scotland? Indeed, given that Admin endlessly scoffs at the notion that Scotland might, in some specific ways, have more in common with Scandinavia than with the south of England, could he explain why social democratic parties certainly wouldn't need the support of Thatcherites to win in a hypothetical Scandinavian political union, but do in the British political union?

Tom's final pearl of wisdom for the evening was this -

"Glaswegians have more in common with Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool than they do with Edinburgh or Aberdeen."

No need to back that up, Tom, the assertion will do fine. Actually, in the light of Labour Hame's side-splitting spoof New Year's message from Alex Salmond ("Wha's like us? Absolutely no-one"), perhaps someone should pen an @Admin4TheYoonYoon message in which he explains that not only does Scotland have more in common with England in every conceivable area of policy or culture than with any other nation on earth, but that every individual town or village in Scotland has more in common with a hamlet in Shropshire than with any other location in Scotland itself.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vote for Ron?

In theory I have the right to vote in the forthcoming US presidential primaries, although it remains to be seen whether I'll actually be able to exercise that right, because on previous occasions my requests for a ballot paper have only met with a 70-75% success rate. However, assuming I do get the opportunity, I'll be in the novel position of deciding who to vote for in the Republican primary - there's absolutely no point in participating in the Democratic ballot, because for better or worse it's a foregone conclusion that Barack Obama will be the candidate. So here's the dilemma : how do I go about deciding who is the least worst of all the extreme right-wing candidates vying for the presumptuous post of Global Emperor? Or should I even be trying to decide that? Should I instead vote for the most extreme candidate of the lot, to maximise Obama's chances of being re-elected?

Before my New Year's Resolution to stop posting at PB, I explained my dilemma over there. The poster Edmund of Tokyo had some very solid practical advice - I should plump for Rick Perry, because he has the dual attributes of being fundamentally unelectable, but also not the sort of chap who would blow up the world in the unlikely event that he is elected. This is a persuasive argument, but I'm actually coming round to the peculiar idea that I might vote for Ron Paul instead. I say 'peculiar' because in many ways he stands for all the things I most detest - abolition of what little there is of a welfare state in the US, completely unfettered gun ownership rights, etc, etc. But the beauty of a Paul candidacy would be the long-overdue airing of certain issues that will otherwise remain buried, ie. does the US have any right to maintain a global empire in the 21st Century? Is it really OK for it to carry out extra-judicial killings on other countries' sovereign territory? Should it stop and question its uncritical support for Israel once in a while?

And if the calamity happened and Paul actually was elected President, one point of reassurance is that he would have a relatively free hand to pursue his constructive agenda in the foreign policy sphere, but to some extent might be hampered by Congress in his attempts to leave the poor to starve.

All of this may be totally academic, of course, because if Mitt Romney wins the Iowa Caucuses today (Tuesday), the momentum behind him would probably be unstoppable, and the contest would be over before it really started.

NOTE : 'Vote for Ron' is slang for voting for no-one, or for 'none of the above' (RON stands for 're-open nominations').