Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rhoda Grant and 'entitlement'

I've just spotted an article in the Edinburgh Evening News from just over a week ago, about the owner of an escort agency who is facing a potential jail term, but who vehemently denies that his business has anything to do with prostitution.  It has the rare distinction of including a quote from Labour MSP Rhoda Grant on the sex industry that I actually agree with -

"Escort agencies call themselves something different but it is well understood what people are really buying. No one pays that amount of money for companionship."

I think that's probably right. I know of no credible evidence that any escort agency truly makes money on the basis of non-sexual companionship. Escorts are certainly able to refuse to have sex with any potential client they don't want to have sex with, but the flipside of that decision is that no payment will occur, because everyone knows the payment is either wholly or predominantly in exchange for sex. The idea that clients are only buying companionship is largely a fiction designed for PR purposes and legal cover.

So 1-0 to Rhoda. Unfortunately she then throws it all away with this piece of mind-bending gibberish -

"What he’s basically saying is these people [disabled and vulnerable men] are lesser human beings and not entitled to or able to find a real relationship. I know plenty of disabled people in loving relationships. To say to certain categories of people that they have to pay for sex or company is discrimination at its very worst."

Dear God. Who exactly is forcing anyone to pay for sex, or denying them the ability to have a sexual relationship by any other means? If there was a law to that effect, and Rhoda was spearheading the fight to repeal that law, I'd be right there in her corner. Unfortunately she's not doing that. The legislation that she's proposing will have absolutely no effect on the ability or otherwise of disabled and vulnerable men to successfully form 'real' relationships. But for those disabled and vulnerable men who fail to form such relationships and then seek consensual paid sex as an alternative, Rhoda's plan is to throw them into jail, and treat sex workers who pocket a considerable amount of cash as 'victims' of disabled and vulnerable men. She regards this, astonishingly, as an 'anti-discrimination' measure.

The other word that leaps out at me is 'entitled'. It's very hard to escape the conclusion that Rhoda is implying that disabled men are literally entitled to a 'real relationship' - which presumably suggests a relationship that is sexual, even if it has many other facets as well. If so, that's extraordinary. After all, the basic premise of those like Rhoda who want to criminalise the purchase of sex is that no-one has an entitlement to sex. That doesn't just refer to the blindingly obvious point that an individual does not have an entitlement to sex if no-one consents to have sex with them - it also means they do not have an entitlement to sex even if someone does consent, but does so in 'the wrong way', ie. in exchange for payment. And yet Rhoda suddenly seems to be going to completely the other extreme and declaring that not only does everyone have a right to sex, but also to a fully-fledged relationship to go along with it. How exactly does she propose to enforce that 'entitlement'?

OK, she doesn't. It's waffle.

A useful analogy is the medical supply of blood. A person might need/want a blood donation, but that does not mean they have any right to demand that others donate blood. If no blood is made available, there is no right to the blood of others, and everyone accepts that. By the same token, disabled or vulnerable people have absolutely no right to sex if others are unwilling to consent to it. But if people are willing to donate blood for whatever reason, would it still be justifiable for the state to ban the process on the grounds that "nobody has the right to others' blood"?

Of course it wouldn't. So why does Rhoda think it's any of of her business to prevent women having consensual sex with disabled men, just because she personally finds their reasons for doing so distasteful? We already know what her response would be - it's that women only need the money because of poverty. So yes, rather than criminalising vulnerable people, let's end poverty. That would mean the number of people prepared to have sex in exchange for money would decrease dramatically, and that would be a good thing. It would constitute an enhancement of freedom, because people would at last be freely choosing their ideal way of life, rather than freely choosing the 'least worst option' available. But it would also mean that the number of people willing to work as cleaners or shelf-stackers would decrease dramatically, for exactly the same reason. Would Rhoda and the Labour party (so wedded to the Blunkett doctrine that even the most menial and unpleasant work is good for the human spirit and somehow "heals the sick") join me in celebrating that enhancement of freedom? I somehow doubt it.

We've arrived at the curious position where Labour still believe in socialism, but only when they talk about sex work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Shock as Britain's leading cat forum bans badgers

As you might remember, I recently made a solemn promise to the moderators of a certain Tory-dominated "non-aligned" political website that if they continued deleting posts of mine for no good reason, I would simply repost them here. Regrettably, it's become necessary to make good on that promise for a second time -

Plato : I don't for a second believe in psychics, but having seen Derren Brown in action - I can fully understand why anyone who wasn't certain it was cobblers would be convinced. He's a master of the art of mentalism and if he chose to be a charlatan would no doubt have made an enormous fortune.

That he's also a very accomplished magician and artist just shows what creativity and a top drawer IQ can accomplish - he's a rare beast.

His stage shows are incredible. This is rather fun taster.

Me : "I don't for a second believe in psychics"

Phew. For a moment there I thought you said you don't believe in physics.

Plato : @PB Moderator

Can you confirm if I and another PBer aren't to discuss each others posts?

You said we weren't to do so several days ago, but I seem to be the only one complying with your request.

I'd appreciate a response as either someone is taking the p*** out of the site's rules or I'm getting rocks thrown at me when under the impression that I can't throw them back.

I have no interest in doing so as its very boring for everyone else - but if I choose to do so, I'd like to do it knowing I won't be banned.

Me : "You said we weren't to do so several days ago, but I seem to be the only one complying with your request."

I take it you are aware that the post you have just written (along with umpteen other near-identical ones) means that you are not in fact complying with that request? Perhaps you weren't. You are now.

* * *

After that exchange was deleted, I decided to give the moderation team an opportunity to demonstrate their even-handedness once more, by allowing me to post a badger video in response to Plato's Derren Brown videos. Alas, my seven or so attempts to get the badger video up were met with instant deletion, and I have now been banned from the site. So these are the current PB rules as far as I can discern them -

1) A Tory poster calling an SNP poster a Nazi, a w**ker, a t*at or a member of the Ku Klux Klan = excellent, highly encouraged.

2) An SNP poster using the words "pure comedy gold" = instant lifetime banning.

3) Derren Brown videos/cat videos/reviews of chick flicks = highly relevant to a political betting forum, enriching of discussion.

4) Badger videos = sling your hook, you Jock scum.

Donside stays onside with the SNP

So as it turned out, Duncan Hothersall's profound sense of gloom about Labour's prospects of winning a by-election in a traditional area of strength was fully justified -

SNP 42.0%
Labour 33.3%
Liberal Democrats 8.3%
Conservatives 7.7%
UKIP 4.8%
Greens 1.7%
National Front 1.0%
Scottish Christian Party 0.9%
SDA 0.1%

I'm old enough (and in fact anyone over the age of about four is old enough) to know that by-elections that are supposed to be routine can easily produce a jaw-dropping "where did that come from?" result on the night. The examples in recent years alone are plentiful - Glasgow East, Dunfermline and West Fife, Glenrothes, Bradford West. So in spite of the bookies' odds, I sat down to watch the result tonight with a certain amount of trepidation. I needn't have worried, though. The idea that this was some kind of moral victory for Labour is laughable. It's almost an iron law in politics - governments shed votes in by-elections, oppositions gain them. Labour in this instance even had the advantage of being a 'double opposition' - they are in opposition both at Westminster and in Holyrood. They were also fighting in territory that they comfortably held at the 2010 UK general election. In a nutshell, this is a by-election they should have been expecting to win with a bit to spare, not aiming to "get the SNP below 50%", as the sainted Ms Dugdale absurdly claimed at the start of proceedings tonight.

The SNP deserve huge credit for avoiding the mistake that Labour themselves have made on so many occasions in defending 'safe seats', by treating the by-election and the constituency with the full respect they deserved. A party that doesn't act like it 'owns' certain votes or is 'entitled' to them is a much more attractive proposition. This is a win that was hard-earned, and all the sweeter for it.

There was also a very interesting tidbit from Stewart Maxwell at the end of the night - apparently the full results of the SNP's canvassing of referendum voting intentions in Donside show Yes on 34% and No on 29%. On the face of it, that flatly contradicts Mark McDonald's supposed "bombshell admission" that most people in the constituency would vote No if the referendum was held now, but perhaps there was a follow-up question to undecided voters asking how they were leaning at present.

Now then. What you're about to read is something that UKIP's "Scottish leader" Lord Monckton actually said tonight on the BBC results programme. This is not a typo.

"UKIP are the most pro-European of all the Scottish parties."

As naturalistic sentences in the English language go, that's right up there with "Hitler was the most pro-Jewish of all the French dictators". Apparently, though, Monckton's appearance on the BBC was a model of sanity and factual accuracy compared to his contribution to the STV coverage just a few minutes earlier, which I sadly missed. Andrea Parma told me that Monckton had followed in Nigel Farage's admirable footsteps by making reference to an epochal "Stirling by-election", which most of us are mysteriously unable to recall. Is this the UKIP equivalent of holocaust denial - "the media are lying to you, resist the drugs, there WAS a Stirling by-election"?

I checked Twitter to see if I could find out what Monckton had actually said about "that night in Stirling", but alas, I couldn't spot any direct reference. What I did find, however, more than made up for it. I'm still struggling to regain my composure.

Kieran Andrews : #scotnight has the beginnings of the Ukip Scottish empire. Lord Monckton interview is extraordinary.

Kirsty Boyle : This dude Monckton is a Barry Humphries character isn't he?

Doug Daniel : Lord Monckton just claimed Alex Salmond was thrown out of the Labour party for being too left wing. Funniest thing ever?

Andy Neil : The interviewer on #scotnight trying to stifle laughter as Lord Monckton makes things up.

Christina McKelvie : Monckton!!! OMG!!!

Magnus Jamieson : Bahahahaha, hilarious from Monckton! Legitimately hilarious! @Radical_Indy "sent from SNP". Literally laughing out loud.

Jonathan Mackie : Hahahahah @stvclaire stunned into silence as Monckton claims Salmond was chucked out of Labour party.

Lallands Peat Worrier : Alex Salmond was thrown out of the Labour party for being too left wing, suggests Monckton. #counterfactualhistory

Andrew Drynan : Is Monckton even on this planet ???

Fraser / Friseal : Bernard Ponsonby’s raised eyebrows said it all about Lord Monckton there.

Sophia Pangloss : *actual fell aff ma settee there...*

Anne Don : Monckton states nationalists are racist, but he is "more Scottish than most Scots".

Rattlecans : They've actually let that Monckton dude on the telly! Whit?

Alasdair Stephen : Lord Monckton just revealed that Alex Salmond was expelled from Labour Party for being too left wing!

Norman McQuade : Can any political anoraks remember if Monckton is firstly earth born and secondly gave the Scotland on Sunday a piece yonks ago?

David Clegg : Did that Lord Monckton interview really happen?!!!!

Cath Ferguson : Yes. Lord Viscount Monckton whatever is apparently "more Scots" than the average Scot. Whatever that's supposed to mean.

Kirsty Boyle : Alex Salmond gave birth to an alien baby before leading the Tories #monckton #UKIPversionoffacts

Joseph MacFarlane : No justice if that Monckton interview doesn't go viral.

Gavin Newlands : Anybody think that Monckton has been on a tour of distilleries on polling day? #heishallucinating

Alan Mackie : After hearing Monckton on #scotnight - have changed my mind. UKIP should be welcomed if only for the entertainment of their comedy madness.

Magnus Jamieson : You cannot make up characters like Monckton. You just cannot. The Universe gifts them to us once a blue moon to reaffirm our humanity.

Jason Rose : Ah, Monckton. Many years ago I interviewed him from his hospital bed about a jigsaw he invented. Mad as a bag of spiders.

Jonny McFarlane : @stvclaire momentarily stunned by total recall special effect claiming Salmond was booted out of #labour for being a socialist!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wipe away those tears, folks - but yes, this might just be the last ever edition of the Daily Duncan

One good thing I would have said about controversial Labour activist Duncan Hothersall until a few short hours ago was that he didn't seem to be one of those people (naming no names, but James Mackenzie) who huffily march off with their ball at the first sign of anyone daring to disagree with them. Even after a fair number of sharp exchanges, Duncan still followed me on Twitter, and I still followed him. Refreshingly mature, I might (almost) have said.

Alas, it turns out that even a man of Duncan's renowned tolerance and saintly political ecumenicism has his breaking-point. At the end of the following exchange, I noticed all of a sudden that not only was Duncan no longer following me, but I was no longer following him. As I hadn't unfollowed him, that could only mean one thing - he had gone the whole hog and blocked me altogether. Take a look for yourself and see if you can decide which particular example of my vile Cybernat hate-speech may have tipped the balance, and made such a drastic step unavoidable.

On the whole, I'm sure Duncan will have very few regrets about blocking someone with alternative political views who is uncivil enough to actually answer back now and again. The only minor downside I can see for him is that he might find me slightly less accommodating the next time he curtly demands that I spare his blushes by removing a comment from this blog.

For my own part, I dare say I'll come to terms with this blow eventually. Call me paranoid, though, but I can't help feeling that it significantly increases the risk of me being blackballed at my hard-earned #Twinner initiation ceremony next year. I'll just have to hope they show some mercy, and break the bad news before inviting me to press my tongue against the underside of the Sacred Gerbil.

*  *  *

The SNP : @markmcdsnp will stand up against Labour/Tory council plans to close Bramble Brae and Middleton Park schools.

The SNP : @markmcdsnp said: "There is no educational justification whatever for the council's closure plans."

The SNP : @markmcdsnp said: "An SNP win on Thursday is vital if these excellent schools are to be saved"

The SNP : @markmcdsnp: “The closure plans are wrong on educational grounds, and must be opposed for the sake of the children"

Duncan Hothersall : SNP incredibly jumpy on #Donside. What's going on? Pre-poll nerves or opinion poll worries?

Scottish Labour : The track record of @markmcdsnp - as an MSP, Mark voted to cut £2 million from Aberdeen College cutting thousands of student places.

Scottish Labour : The track record of @markmcdsnp - as an MSP, Mark voted against a solution to stop Bedroom Tax evictions across Scotland #donside

Duncan Hothersall : The other parties are relentlessly attacking the SNP, says the SNP, in between relentless attacks on the other parties. :-)

Me : Scottish Labour do look a bit jumpy, though, Duncan. Just judging by their tweets. Bad private polls?

Duncan Hothersall : SNP are defending a 7,000 majority. Not jumpy to attack that.

Me : But Labour hold the equivalent seat(s) at Westminster, don't they? Shouldn't they at least have a 50/50 chance?

Duncan Hothersall : Even for you that's pathetic.

Me : Explain?

Duncan Hothersall : Well, you habitually pick fights on basis of feeble arguments, but this one takes the biscuit. Any clearer?

Me : "Picking a fight"? Who is the aggression coming from in this exchange? Why is my argument "feeble"?

Duncan Hothersall : Off you trot.

Me : I'll take that as a "no, I can't explain why I don't expect Labour to win in area of traditional strength".

Duncan Hothersall : Other than pointing out a 7,000 majority for the SNP. Making this not an area of current Labour strength.

Me : "Current" excludes the 2010 general election, which elected the UK government that currently rules over us?

Duncan Hothersall : If this were a Westminster by-election that might make sense, but it isn't, so it doesn't. Enough daft laddie nonsense from you.

Me : So you agree that Donside is an area of current Labour strength in Westminster terms? Shouldn't they be doing better?

Duncan Hothersall : You do know this isn't a Westminster by-election, yes? People vote differently in different types of election, yes? Basic stuff.

Me : As far as I can see, voters barely make that distinction at all in by-elections. Why do you expect Labour to lose?

Duncan Hothersall : Evidence of that assertion?

Me : It's an observation. Glasgow East didn't feel much like a Westminster contest, but it was. Only difference is UK-wide coverage.

Duncan Hothersall : So you have no evidence. You think the electorate are too stupid to know what sort of representative they are choosing? I don't.

Me : You think people are stupid enough to believe a great many things, Duncan, so why start underestimating them now?

Duncan Hothersall : (no reply, blocked me)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dubious legality and unpardonable folly

I agree with the general consensus that Road to Referendum has been an excellent series that has hopefully presaged the broadcast media upping their game in covering the referendum. However, there was a factual howler in the final episode last night that really troubled me. Iain Macwhirter's narration suggested that one reason the SNP had struggled in the 1999 Holyrood election was that Alex Salmond found himself completely out of step with public opinion over "the United Nations bombing of Serbia". In reality of course, not only was the bombing of Serbia categorically not a United Nations operation, it wasn't even authorised by the UN. That is precisely what Mr Salmond was getting at when he described the unilateral action by NATO as being of "dubious legality". There was never even the slightest chance of UN authorisation, because of the veto powers of both Russia and China on the Security Council.

Leaving aside the factual error, did Salmond's stance on Kosovo really cost the SNP the 1999 election? Hardly. In fact, it may even have gained them a few votes, because a substantial minority of the electorate were opposed to the war, and it's reasonable to suppose that those people may have been more passionate about the subject than the majority who were willing to give Blair and Clinton the benefit of the doubt. No, Macwhirter himself put his finger on the real explanation for the election result - there was sufficient goodwill at that time towards Donald Dewar and Tony Blair that it was Labour's election to lose. And they didn't do anything to lose it. If the SNP made any kind of tactical misstep, it was the Penny for Scotland campaign rather than anything to do with Kosovo.

* * *

You've got to hand it to the "UK" Independence Party - they really are a class act. Having launched their Aberdeen Donside by-election campaign in the entirely logical location of a pub 125 miles away in Edinburgh, they went on to send a letter to the deceased MSP they want to replace, requesting his vote. Now they've given us a potted history lesson on how the SNP ceased to be an "anti-English" party after winning a by-election in Stirling that never in fact took place, but which Nigel Farage is quite sure he once read about in a book.

In the highly unlikely event that UKIP do win tomorrow, presumably their chap will turn up at the Welsh Assembly and demand to be sworn in.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A value judgement

Kenny Farquharson on Twitter -

"What politicians like to describe as "Scottish values" are shared by tens of millions of English, Welsh and N Irish people."

So why do we keep voting overwhelmingly against the Tories, and ending up either with Tory governments elected by the rest of the UK, or with Labour governments that have had to tack so far to the right to appeal to Middle England that they are indistinguishable from Tory governments? Some people won't like to hear this, but if we measure values according to the governments and policies that people actually vote for, then "Scottish values" are probably shared more by the Nordic countries than they are by the south of England.

But I'll give you Wales, Kenny. Welsh and Scottish values are indeed very similar, as are the values held across large parts of northern England, and some pockets further south. But those areas just aren't strong enough in terms of population to swing the balance.