Monday, 25 February 2013

Wherein I Am Helped Along In My Hatred

I thought about commenting on this story when it first got going.  The refusal of the Republicans to re-up the Violence Against Women Act was so perfect an example of how unmoored they have become from the basic business of not making their country worse, it seemed worth noting, particularly since fully half of their by now inevitable tantrum simply involved not wanting lesbians and transgender[1] women to count as, you know, actual women.

What made me hold back in the end were the Republican's objections to the way the bill deals with the rape of Native American women upon tribal land. Because I didn't understand them.  Not in the standard Republican way of not understanding why they were being such horrible, horrible people.  In the way that I don't actually know how the tribal legal system (or legal systems, more likely) actually function, how they interact with the American system, and without reading the specific provisions in the bill regarding how the transferal of legal authority was going to be handled - and almost certainly I'd need some legal schooling about what I'd read even if I'd tried - I can't be sure the Republicans didn't have a point about the how, as oppose to the why

The fact that a white guy can drive onto a reservation, rape a woman there, and there be any question as to whether the worthless fucker will be thrown into jail is obviously outrageous.  The fact that the Republicans show no evidence that they could give two shits about this is equally obvious.  But precisely because I'm so heavily inclined to assume the worse of Republican legislators, I could only offer my suspicions here, not a clear-cut condemnation.

How fortunate for my biases and prejudices then that the Republicans have handily re-written the bill themselves, and cut out all reference to lesbian and transgender women. They've chopped out the provisions for tribal courts as well, of course, but as I say, I'm not qualified to judge that, merely to stare with narrowed eyes at Eric "Most Punchable Creature Ever" Cantor and "hmmm" suspiciously.

With the LGBT provisions excised, however, the Republicans are making a stronger statement than before.  They are not merely objecting to those provisions, they've removed them in order to make a law they think worth passing.  Because - and let's be clear - violence against women is only a problem when that woman was born with a vagina, and into which she only wants a penis inserted.  Because - and let's be clear - the standard Republican position is that a person's right to not be beaten up is directly proportional to how much that person lives in a way Republicans approve of, and Republicans can think about without feeling all icky.

Because wealthy white heterosexual cis Christian male is the origin point of the entire spectrum of humanity, and the straight women are lucky enough to have a law that protects them even if they're black or poor.

Some days it is very difficult to believe the arc of history bends towards anything but our self-immolation.  Some days it is very difficult to believe it won't be deserved.

[1] A word blogspot doesn't think exists, by the way, which pisses me off too.

Sorkin Who? or Show Me The Moneyball!

Statistics and Sorkin?  There was no way I wasn't going to get round to seeing this.

Except... it's not very Sorkiny, is it? Maybe it's Zaillian's influence - an entirely solid writer, but not a particularly flashy pen - but Moneyball's dialogue manages to be economical and engaging, but never particularly rhythmic or funny.  Not that the film's trying to be funny, in fairness, but the end result would be difficult to recognise as involving Sorkin had his name not been in the credits. Even the occasional scene that bears a familiar Sorkin structure - the multiple rapid-fire calls to baseball managers Beane and Brand make as they shuffle players around and off the board being the most obvious one - seem strangely muted.  This might just be a function of Miller's direction, of course.  That said, Sorkin's writing has been getting increasingly austere of late in any case; you can draw a straight line through Studio 60... to Charlie Wilson's War to The Social Network to The Newsroom, with the former being indistinguishable from The West Wing except in whether anybody liked it, and each successive product drifting further and further from rapid-fire banter spat out in corridors.

Which is a shame, because as Sorkin himself has claimed, he's neither a top tier dramatist nor a top tier comedy writer, and his writing works as well as it does because of how good he is at mixing the two. Studio 60...'s biggest failing was both that the set-up relied to much on the comedy, and that his resulting instinct to up the drama didn't work at all in context, particularly after the West Wing (the question of how things would have turned out if you swapped Studio 60... and Sportsnight around in the chronology is an interesting one).  I don't know if the critical and commercial failure of Studio 60... (which continues to be underrated; it's not great, but it's frequently pretty good) led to a deliberate shift in tone - one which did no damage to The Social Network, but made The Newsroom feel a little too cold and distant at times - but there seems to be no sign of it stopping, and it ends up hurting Moneyball.

Or so it seems to me.  Perhaps I'm just ill-suited to judge the film, having little interest in baseball and plenty of interest in the sort of statistical juggling employed by Brand.  Emphasising the former and skirting around the particulars of the latter is unquestionably the right choice for the film to have made, and exactly the wrong way round for me to really appreciate it.  Like a foot fetishist watching Top Heavy Sluts 4, I understand utterly why the camera is focusing in the area it is, but I which they'd point us downward a little more often.

(Spoilers - by which I mean mention of historical events - below the fold)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Will Chuck Get Chucked?

This letter (via Balloon Juice) has to be the funniest thing I've read in weeks.  For those who haven't come across this issue, President Obama is trying to get himself a new Secretary of Defence, and a significant minority of Republican Senators are throwing a fit over his selection.

What makes this so interesting is that the candidate, Chuck Hagel, is a Republican.  This has pissed off a lot of Democrats, who've argued - not unreasonably - that replacing Obama's first Republican Secretary of Defence with another Republican Secretary of Defence rather cements the idea that Democrats don't have what it takes to handle the defence of the country.  Personally, I think that argument carries more than a little weight, though it may be I'm still pissed off from the amount of airtime Republicans were given in 2009 to bitch that Obama's cabinet was only one-third Republican and thus insufficiently bipartisan.  You get no prizes for guessing what proportion of Bush's cabinet was Democratic, nor for guessing exactly how much time the cowardly hand-wringers on TV spent worrying about bipartisanship back then.

At the very least, though, you'd think Republican Senators would think twice before arguing a former Republican Senator was egregiously unqualified for a government post.  Of course, thinking twice requires thinking once.

Hagel's confirmation hearing and the following Armed Services committee meeting in themselves pretty bleakly comic.  Watching that many American politicians argue another American politician isn't fit for an American political post because he doesn't love Israel enough is funny anyway, but seeing a Republican Senator channelling Tailgunner Joe (step 1: make some shit up about someone; step 2: insist it must be true if that someone can't - or won't jump through the hoops you insist are necessary to  - prove it isn't) was funnier still.  It didn't get to truly hilarious levels though until it transpired that one of the main props of the GOPs hissy-fit marquee - that it was rumoured someone heard someone else say that someone implied maybe that Hagel had received money from a group called "Friends of Hamas" -  came from a reporter making up a ludicrous-sounding political group for comic effect, which the entire American conservative noise machine then swallowed whole. 

(Clearly Friedman should have shot for the stars, here.  Why go with "Friends of Hamas" when he could have gone with "Supporters of Dead Babies as Entrees" or "Self-Fellating Hitler Worshippers"?  I don't believe either of those are too crazy for to run with as genuine organisations, actually, but if you're surrounded with idiots you may as well have fun with it.)

All of this associated insanity - the unbearable idea that a man who was once mean to Israel and who's not willing to turn over the entirety of his financial returns so Ted Cruz can check nothing in the credit column is written in Arabic - led to Hagel being filibustered last week.  That doesn't mean he won't be Secretary of Defence, it just means these Republicans can stomp their feet and scream at clouds on national TV for another week.  Hagel is pretty much a lock, unless his haters can pull something extraordinary out of the bag.  Like, perhaps... a strongly worded letter?

Nothing like this has ever been done to a candidate for this post before.  Pretty much nothing like this has ever been done to any cabinet candidate before, it generally being agreed upon that a president should get to pick who works directly for him.  Which is why this line got me laughing so hard:
It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position.
Get it?  Never before has such an insane baseless vendetta been kicked off by such whining, camera-hungry posing cranks, so clearly Hagel is going to have to go.  Could the President start taking his responsibilities more seriously, please, and find an eminently qualified Republican politician who no-one's ever joked about?  Preferably one with Netenyahu on speed-dial, kthanxbye?

Someone suggested the other way that the entirety of the Republican congressional delegation has become so utterly unmoored from reality Obama could get everything he wanted immediately by just going on television and saying he's desperate to get the exact opposite.  At this point, I'm starting to think that's more than plausible.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

...And You Shall Know Us By Our Trail Of Ads

I don't think Kevin Drum would object too much to me calling him something of an old fuddy-duddy in some respects.  He's done valuable work over the last few years keeping his "You kids get off of my lawn!" outbursts to a minimum, and recognising his lapses when they happen.

So when I read this (very short) post, I wondered if there was a generational thing at play, or whether I'm in a minority overall.  Am I the only person who loves trailers at the cinema?  I've always thought of them as lovely little bite size pieces of entertainment that are almost always more fun than whatever I end up watching after them in any case.  The suggestion we might get more before a film strikes me as kind of nifty - up to a certain point, at least, and that point is definitely higher than seven.

Is anyone else with me on this?  Or does everyone else wish they could fast-forward the trailers, like on a DVD?

What David Brooks Can't Do (Because He's Staggeringly Ignorant)

In the name of all things good and true, New York Times, will you keep fucking idiots like David Brooks out of my wheelhouse?  It's just embarrassing, is what it is.

One would have thought that after Brooks went on national TV to explain how Nate Silver's election model was an example of cupidity and intellectual overreach, only for said model to end up not so much correct as spot on to a legitimately terrifying extent, he'd have the good sense to shut his pie-hole regarding the nature of data manipulation.

But no!  Not this man!  Not this man who's teaching a university class on humility and making his students read his own fucking book on humility (next semester: Silvio Berlusconi will show up to fuck as many co-eds as necessary before they understand the importance of virginity).  Once again it's critically important that someone - who always happens to be David Brooks - must stand up and argue that only the arrogant believe the discipline they've dedicated their lives to can do what they say it does.  One might think the true arrogance lies in a man with no detailed knowledge of a field lecturing us on what that field's limitations are, but since Brooks is an expert on humility, you'd look pretty stupid trying to point that out to him. It's not like humility is an easy concept to grasp without training, after all; it's not statistical analysis or anything.

I could rebut "What Data Can't Do" point by point, starting with the idea that the human mind is bad at maths because you can't calculate an irrational number in your head - roughly equivalent to arguing the human mind is bad at language because lot's of people can't spell chrysanthemum - and moving on to more serious points, such as his entire paragraph on data haystacks is countered using exactly five words: "Bonferroni correction, you smug prick".

Mainly, though, it's not worth the effort, because Brooks thinking regarding statistics suffers from the same problem as his thinking on everything else; a tireless desire to paint intellectual laziness as a principled position. At least 80% of the Brooks pieces I've read (and I admit that's not a huge sample, life being too short and all) are based on or at least involve the same maddening logical fallacy: "I don't know how you would do this so I don't believe it can be done". That in itself, of course, is just a gussied-up version of "I don't have the knowledge needed to rebut this argument I dislike, so I'll insist you don't have the knowledge either".  Brooks course on humility sounds like the worst use of university time since my alma mater let Tony Blair in to get bloodstains all over our new building, but if he wanted to teach a course in using ignorance as a weapon, I'd sign up for it like a shot.

The aforementioned haranguing of Nate Silver (in which Brooks referred to him and statisticians like him as "wizards" living in "silly-land") is just the most obvious example of this particular brand of strategic ignorance, but his latest article comes close.  Brooks knows sweet fuck-all about how to construct, test, improve and implement a statistical model (seriously, he doesn't think we have ways of dealing with the lack of a control group?), but that doesn't mean he should have to feel uncomfortable slapping together the thoughts he came up with in the shower and showing it in exchange for money to millions of people, many of whom could have put him right in seconds had he asked.

How fucking humble of him.

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Tale Of Cocktails #38

Indian Summer
2 oz Kahlua
1 oz vodka
1 oz gin
2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz tonic water
Taste: 6
Look: 7      
Cost: 8
Name: 8
Prep: 8
Alcohol: 4
Overall: 6.8

Preparation: Stir all non-fizzy ingredients with ice.  Strain and pour into a wine glass. Top up with tonic water.
General Comments: This was one of those rare occasions when I tasted something utterly without precedent.  Not in the sense of it being incomparably good, that's not it at all.  Just something I'm completely incapable of likening to anything else.  The last time I remember trying a drink so far outside what I could comprehend, it was root beer, and even that is basically Dr Pepper mixed with mouthwash.  I'd probably have to go all the way back into my childhood and that time I mixed milk with Ribena for a comparative paradigm shift.

How does one describe the indescribable? Well, all five elements can be tasted, so there's that.  Beyond that, it's basically fizzy alcoholic coffee with pineapple, only with some presumptive effect against malarial infection.  I don't even know whether I like it or not.  But it's certainly something I recommend everyone try at least once.  Genuinely new forms of taste-bud stimulation are hard to come by.

(I also quite like the idea that when things got particularly hot in colonial India the accepted solution was to add a South American fruit, a Mexican liqueur, and a Russian spirit to one's gin and tonic.  That sounds like an awful lot of effort to go to on the Subcontinent in July, but then I guess the Venn diagram of those preparing this drink and those drinking this drink had a pretty much empty intersection.)

Friday, 15 February 2013

Friday Talisman: Parselmouth

On today's paint bench we have the Warlock.

This is the first time I've seriously deviated from the colours suggested by the character card (other than painting the merchant black in the interests of diversity).  I actually quite like the "official" scheme:

but the model itself is just so obviously Voldemort there seemed no point in fighting it.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The "Hoth Debacle" Debacle

Well, there was no chance I wasn't going to have some fun with this: Spencer Ackerman's argument for why the Battle of Hoth makes even the Battle of Endor look good for the Imperials.

I'm sorry, but Ackerman is all kinds of wrong here.  Wrong in how he analyses the encounter on Hoth, and wrong in how he implies it was somehow a worse performance than was seen on Endor soon after.

And now, like a Dagobah swamp-monster, let's get into the weeds.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

SpaceSquid vs. The X-Men #44: Chinese Puzzle Boy

Update: Somehow I managed to get my Xorn's the wrong way round (ironic, given my argument that this isn't as complicated a continuity snarl as people say). I've fixed the mistake now. We regret the error.

This seems to have become an unfortunately recurring theme in these posts, but yes, I've been dragging my feet over this one as well.  At least with Kuan-Yin Xorn, people can guess about what about the character has caused such a long delay.  You'll almost certainly guess wrong, but you can at least give it a go.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Ball & Sebastian

A little background with this Friday's video.  Depending on how far their viral videos have spread, Hey Ocean are either a little known indie band you may end up thanking for showing to you, or cresting a wave of mainstream breakout that will make me seem tragically late to the party, like always.

I'm willing to take the risk, though, because this album is lovely.  In a lot of ways it reminds me of Belle & Sebastian, and not just because they have a guitarist who's capable of an absolutely flawless Stevie Jackson impression ("Jolene").  "Bicycle" could easily have shown up on Dear Catastrophe Waitress or The Life Pursuit, but mainly the similarity comes from the fact that, like Stuart Murdoch before her, lead singer Ashleigh Ball seems to have drawn a chalk circle around herself and announced "Beyond this point, good songs CANNOT go."

The best that can be said of any song not sung by Ball here is that it doesn't completely destroy the wave of euphoria Ball creates.  I'm not sure she's quite at early Murdoch levels of skill, or at least not consistently, but "You Make Me Wanna Dance" and "Big Blue Wave" are impossibly wonderful - especially when the listener is as curmudgeonly and suspicious of happy abandon as this one is.  It's made all the better by the fact that unlike Murdoch, who I don't think would be too upset by the idea that his singing talents don't stretch much beyond avoiding screwing up the awesome stuff he writes, Ball's got a hell of a voice (check out the throat-shredding force of "Change").

And if all that isn't enough, there's also a loose Feeling Strangely Fine style thread to Ball's songs, albeit one that charts a rather less linear relationship than did Semisonic's best album.  We start off with a simple declaration of intent in "If I Were A Ship", the fist glorious realisation that a new relationship is about to take off in "Make A New Dance Up", and the growing sense of a genuine long-term connection in "Big Blue Wave".  Tragically, things take a turn for the worse as "New Love" takes a lover to task for emotional distance, "Bicycle" tells us of a man's decision to flee the confines of commitment, and "Change" presents an ultimatum to a self-absorbed self-destructive fool who's in real danger of losing the one ally he still has.  It's not so much a story from first love to final break up as it is from first love to a succession of fights, break-ups and patchy repair jobs, until the final encounter of "Last Mistake" sees the narrator have one last one night stand with her former lover, before leaving forever whilst he still sleeps. The disc that began with the line "If I were a ship, I'd sail to your shore" ends with "I left before he was awake", which is a hell of a gut-punch from a band whose sporadic video releases suggest unassailable optimism and joie de vivre.

So, eight wonderful songs with a loose theme running through them, bulked up with four songs you can always skip if you want to (though "Give" has its moments, I suppose, mainly at the end when Ball shows up to improve the proceedings like she always does), and an instrumental that doesn't really do any harm. Highly recommended.  Also, if at all possible, try and get the special edition. "Liar" is pretty throwaway, and "Be My Baby" a pretty but entirely throwaway cover, but "Maps" is a delight, exactly the kind of song cynical TV executives stick on the end of an episode to give the closing scenes a poignancy they couldn't earn on their own.

Oh, and I promised you a video.  Here you go.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

D CDs #490: Pavlov's Vista

I've been talking about the relationship between music made by black people and music made by white people - mainly in relation to how I consume them - for a while in this series.  Given that this is a blues rock record, it's probably not surprising that this is going to come up again.  There's only so much I can say on the matter, though, so let's put it to bed here.

I read somewhere once that it's very difficult for children to appreciate scenery.  I don't know how true that is - certainly it describes my own youth very well - but the theory goes like this: when an adult gazes out upon a panoramic vista, it's not the actual aesthetics of the scene that gives them pleasure, it's the positive emotions associated with the act.  Have a happy holiday in the same or similar scenery enough times, and eventually the emotional memories develop a visual trigger.  What you see looks like places you were happy, so you're happy.

Like I say, I don't know how true it is, but I'm pretty sure that explains my own attitude to scenery, which I developed an appreciation of seemingly later in life than my contemporaries possibly because I hated going on holiday as a child (to this day I don't consider it an unambiguous positive to "get away from it all"; a lot of what I'm being asked to get away from I actually kinda like).  Whether it's a viable theory or not, though, my reasons for bringing it up here shouldn't be too tough to fathom.

For the purposes of this line of thought, the most important track on Tres Hombres is "La Grange"[1], which kicks off with 35 seconds of a blues rhythm so pure ZZ Top got sued over it, and mumbling, rolling vocals that to this English white boy at least seem to intentionally ape those of a black vocalist.

And, you know, it's nice.  Perfectly presentable.  But it's something I appreciate, rather than feel.  Then, at second number 36, the filthy guitar kicks in, with the adrenaline immediately behind.

The transition highlights both what the ZZ Top boys owe to blues, and what they've added.  What they've added, mainly, is grime and attitude.  Not more attitude, just a different one.  For all that the blues are obviously rooted in the describing of human misery, plenty of blues singers evidence a boisterousness and showman's self-confidence when performing.  ZZ Top, on the other hand, just drip with nonchalant redneck menace.

Take "Master of Sparks", for example.  That's a fairly simple song, like most on offer here, only the strangely spectral slide guitar that runs behind the band's umpteenth chugging riff really separates it from the most basic arrangement imaginable. The lyrics, though, tell a tale about a man encouraged by his redneck friends to get inside a wire cage which is then tossed off a moving truck, causing so many sparks to fly that the narrator starts to cook alive inside his prison. For better or worse, it seems to me hard to sniff that off as being swiped from the other side of the racial aisle.  Getting inside a metal cage and deliberately burning/lacerating yourself just seems to much of a white trash idea.

So is it this attitude that's making the difference, or the sound of guitars that might as well be being picked with rusty buzzsaw teeth?  Or is it just, in the end, that my thirty three years on this earth have attuned me to this approach to the blues, and not any other?  When my brain starts to shudder as the intro of "La Grange", or the very moment the strutting triumph of "Move Me On Down The Line" starts up (the track, incidentally, that's arguably the most rock and least blues of these ten slices of blues rock), am I doing anything more than linking up to a history of listening to other white men snarling over meaty riffs?

Yeah, yeah, I know.  How many roads must a man walk down?  How can a mind analyse itself, any more than an engineer can disassemble themselves and root around in the remains?  We acknowledge these mysteries, and we move on.  Like, for example, to note that Tres Hombres manages to wring a surprising amount of variation out of a very limited template, even if that variation comes in part from simply moving the slider between near-pure rock (the aforementioned "Move Me On Down The Line", the deliciously grime-streaked and defiant duet of "Beer Drinkers & Hell-Raisers") and near-pure blues/soul ("Hot Blue and Righteous", soulful album closer "Have You Heard"), rather than anything so adventurous as more than two riffs a song.  It's not perfect - I can't see why anyone would miss "Precious and Grace" if it magically disappeared, and by Sheik the repetitive nature of the enterprise is beginning to become a little too noticeable - but at ten songs and just over half an hour in length, it can't seriously be described as wearing out its welcome, and parts of it are very welcome indeed.

Eight tentacles, and I promise I'll find a new angle next time.

[1] Which is about the same Texas bordello featured in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas", which is useful pub quiz trivia knowledge, if nothing else.  How to link Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, and ZZ Top.  Kevin Bacon has nothing on me.

The New Game Sweeping The Nation: Redux

After tearing into the Tories last night for failing to manage higher than a 48.3% level of support for gay marriage, it occurred to me that given my volunteer work for and donations to the Liberal Democrats, I shouldn't hide from the fact that they haven't come out of this squeaky clean either.  Yes, the goldbirds came out top of the three major parties in percentage terms, managing 91.7% support to Labour's 90.4%, there were still four hold outs.

So far, the ratio is two cowards ("This will affect the family structure in vague and unidentifiable ways!") to one c**t ("Civil partnerships should be enough because this straight guy says so!"), with the remaining reasoning falling into the "can't seem to find one on Google" category.

So, you know, damn fine work, Liberal Democrats!  A new day of political dominance is surely just around the corner, now that you can roll out a killer new slogan: "Left to our own devices, only one twelfth of us are ghastly reactionary bellends!"

It's no "New Labour, New Danger", maybe, and it'll only work if David Ward keeps his mouth shut from now on, but it's not like anything else is going to work either. Once you've rendered one's party utterly radioactive at the worst possible time, you may as well have some fun whilst the racists run past your poll numbers, waving at you cheerfully.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The New Game Sweeping The Nation

Just because today's vote in Westminster coming out solidly in favour of gay marriage wasn't much of a surprise, it doesn't mean we can't rub the Tories' faces in the bubbling effluence of their cultural irrelevance. 

And what better way to do it than to play my new game: "Coward or C**t"?  The rules are very simple.  I'll give you a comment made by a Tory in today's pre-vote debate, and you decide: is the speaker a coward or a c**t?

Here's an easy one to get us started. Edward Leigh, for Gainsborough:
We should be in the business of protecting cherished institutions and our cultural heritage otherwise what, I ask, is a Conservative party for?
Points for honesty, at least. What, indeed, is the Conservative Party for, if not to cling to the memory of a bygone golden age that, to the extent it existed at all, only did so for rich white straight guys.

Next up: Sir Roger Gale:
I do not subscribe to it myself but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this; if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or their relationships, and that means brother and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters as well. 
Shorter Gale: I'm not saying it'd be a good idea to downgrade atheists' marriages and legalise incestuous union. I'm just saying that's better than letting gays marry.

How about Nadine Dorris? She calls in to let us know:
In a heterosexual marriage a couple can divorce for adultery, and adultery is if you have sex with a member of the opposite sex. In a heterosexual marriage a couple vow to forsake all others ... A gay couple have no obligation to make that vow [to faithfulness] because they do not have to forsake all others because they cannot divorce for adultery. There is no requirement of faithfulness. And if there is no requirement of faithfulness, what is a marriage? 
In truth, it genuinely is problematic that the law only recognises marital infidelity if it crosses gender lines.  So, clearly, the only solution to this problem is to forbid people of the same gender to marry.  If only MPs had the collective ability to modify and repeal law.

Peter Bone, for Wellinborough (for whom this is the saddest day of his life, apparently):
Why should all of us, with our individual consequences, decide how this matter is determined? Why is my view, or the leader of my party’s, more important than the person in the Dog and Duck? Why don’t we put this off to 2017, and then all of the nation can decide on it, not just here tonight?
Translation: nothing makes me sadder than the idea that minorities might be granted rights before the majority is generously prepared to hand them over.

Cheryl Gillan, former Welsh secretary, as described by the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow:
[Gillan] said that more people would support the bill if they were certain that religious freedoms were protected But she said she was concerned on this point. "With great sadness" she would be voting against the bill, she said.
Shorter Gillan: the only way to protect religious freedom is to insist it continues to be illegal for the Quakers to marry single-sex couples.

What do we think, people?  Is this miserable parade of fools and liars simply too afraid of voter backlash to admit their own talking points are pure bull?  Or are they so chock-full of their own magnificent cuntiness that they can't hear themselves spew idiocy over the background hum of their maggot-ridden viciousness.

(Alas, I seem to misplaced my favourite comment of the bunch, in which an MP argued too much time had been taken away from "more important" matters in debating this bill, and they would therefore vote no, because if you don't want an issue to take up time the best thing to do is guarantee it's revisited again in a couple of years.)

Friday, 1 February 2013

No Matter How Cynical You Are, It's Always Worse Than You Think

Sometimes it's hard to remember that there are things in the world that are genuinely getting better.  We're getting close to forcing another two hideous life-threatening diseases to go the way of smallpox, for example.

Also, 2013 has already been a banner year for those who want to see racism stamped out.  Not because Obama got his second inaugural, really, so much as Israel have promised to stop secretly injecting Jewish Ethiopian immigrants with contraceptive drugs.

It thrills me to learn that 2013 is a year in which a western-backed democracy will not lie to newly arrived black citizens - citizens who share the religion that forms the basis of the state's entire existence - by insisting upon medical injections which are actually designed to limit their population growth.

The fact that 2012 was not such a year is, of course, utterly reprehensible.

I await with interest the response of the bobbleheads in the American media. Will they a) ignore this, b) claim only an anti-Semite would object to European Jews forcibly rendering African Jews infertile [1], or c) claim that everything would've been fine if the IHM had just focused on those damn dirty Palestinians instead?

I'm pretty sure the answer is a), but whatever one's personal feelings regarding the Knesset's approach to international relations, only an idiot would bet that no-one in the US chattering classes won't be willing to defend this to the hilt.

(You'd also be unlikely to lose money betting at least one defender will be the kind of rabid evangelical who under any other circumstances would have hoped the hypodermic needle injected at both ends.   As far as I can tell, the general opinion of the US far-far-far right is that Israel must be given exactly what they want whenever they want it, so that the Christians can get hold of it once AIDS wipes out all the Jews in the world. America can be a complicated place.)

I get tired of all the people who insist on comparing Israeli treatment of Palestinians with Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews, not least because the horrible living conditions of many Palestinians is something to be discussed in absolute terms, not comparative ones, and you're not going to get anywhere with a country born from the fires of the Holocaust by trying to bring up the Nazis for the sake of scoring rhetorical points.

All that said, though, it might also be helpful if the Israeli government could refrain from describing illegal African immigrants as threatening "our existence as a Jewish and Democratic state" whilst sterilising some of those that have every legal right to live there. It should be harder to make the obvious analogies than this.

[1] Some people online are arguing what boils down to "at least this wasn't permanent sterilisation!".   I'd argue the point is moot when you're regularly insisting on repeat injections (referred to as "innoculations" by the medics involved).  The idea that a government that secretly prevents you from having kids until it changes its mind is meaningfully different from one that secretly prevents you from having kids even if the next guys want you to seems pretty shaky.  It would after all be hard to defend the government being able to impose lifelong imprisonment without a trial or chance of appeal on the grounds that at least no-one's being executed.