Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Y viva Espana

Well, it's time for me to go and take two weeks off to visit the land of the paella-eating surrender donkeys. I'm quite sure the events napkin will continue to unswivel while I'm gone with all the usual added commentary from members of the reality-based community and others as well.

But I won't care, because I'll either be in Barcelona, Madrid or sitting on a beach in Andalusia. Back November 2nd, see you then.

Clark County and all that

Now, there's been a lot of discussion recently about the Guardian's 'Letters to Clark County' thing, which much of the comment (see here and here, for example) weighing up the pros and cons, thinking of the effect and hesitantly coming down on the side of 'Jesus H Christ, what were the hell were you thinking? Are they putting crack in the water supply on Farringdon Road or something?' which is where I'd tentatively place myself as well, though I do have some sympathy for the camp who believe it's leftover brown acid from Woodstock rather than crack.

But rather than just give you my opinion, here's an Ohioan Democrat's view on the idea:
Note to the Guardian: please stop this. At least, if you're interested in winning the election for Kerry. Few people in Clark motherfuckin' County are interested in hearing from foreigners about how they should vote.

If you actually want to help Kerry, write to them about Bush. Tell them that they would be inconceivably stupid if they didn't vote for him. Tell them that you understand the limited intellect of Americans may not be able to handle reading and voting two weeks apart, but if they can, they should vote for George Bush, otherwise they are stupid.

But don't undertake a campaign of veiled condescension towards some of the most important voters in America. And if you do, just stick the knife in my eye now. Be merciful, you limey bastards.

Competition time

With even more Kilroy-centred ructions within UKIP, I think it might be time for some idle speculation in the comments - your topic of choice is: 'How long before Kilroy walks out on the party and sets up his own splinter group so he gets to be leader?'

Update: Anthony rounds up the last few months of swivel-eyed loondom and also notices that The Guardian has reported on Kilroy's legal threats to a website owner.

Monday, October 18, 2004

A strange thought

It's just occurred to me that somewhere in the US there's probably at least one person who's not just going to vote for Ralph Nader but is actually convinced that he's going to win the election.

To the scammer who emailed me today

It might make it easier to convince people you're really from eBay, and not a scammer, if your name on the email isn't 'The eBay Dilling Deptartment' (and that's exactly how it was spelt).

Reality is what you can get away with

Via a whole host of other bloggers, you really should go read this Ron Suskind piece in the New York Times (registration - or Bug Me Not - required). It's a rather scary look into the world around President Bush and the 'faith-based presidency'.

Pseudo-Derrida reincarnated already:
This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker. Nothing could be more vital, whether staying on message with the voters or the terrorists or a California congressman in a meeting about one of the world's most nagging problems. As Bush himself has said any number of times on the campaign trail, ''By remaining resolute and firm and strong, this world will be peaceful.''
And he who controls the present - well, who cares about the past or the future? They can't vote for us:
The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Like the cuckoo heralding spring

There are many signs that a General Election is coming - well-informed speculation by well-briefed columnists on dates, a suitably campaigning speech by the Prime Minister at their Party Conference, MPs not booking holidays for certain dates and one of the more recent traditions - the Leader of the Opposition calling for a debate of the party leaders. If I recall correctly, the next stage is a Downing Street spokesman saying that they'll certainly consider it, but one has to consider the practicalities followed by the leader of the third party demanding that they take part in any debate that occurs. Then, both the BBC and ITV announce that they'd be happy to broadcast it (at this point, the Dimbleby brothers both start dreaming about what their first question will be, while Jeremy Paxman and Jon Snow allow themselves a faint glimmer of hope that they'll get the call) and the leaders of several other parties insist that they should be allowed to participate - at this point, there may also be calls for separate debates in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

As the election gets closer, off-the-record briefings begin to appear in the newspapers where 'senior figures' worry that a leaders' debate will damage parliamentary democracy with lots of concern about 'Presidential government' and 'sidelining Parliament' while Downing Street publically hems and haws over details and practicalities - often the needs of other parties will be raised here, depending on the Leader of the Opposition's position on including them. Finally, the election will be called, the Leader of the Opposition will make one last call for a debate, Downing Street will say there is no time to organise one, and the whole thing will be forgotten about for four more years.

A divergent universe is a terrible thing to waste

Continuing the idea of reality outdoing parody, here's a challenge for my fellow devotees of alternate history. Imagine that you've decided for some reason or other to write a parody timeline that posits Gore winning the 2000 election, though written from the perspective of a devout Bush supporter. Think of the fun you can have ignoring all the historical facts and rules of common sense you'd normally apply when writing a timeline. Think of the crazy Gore stereotypes you can put into it without worrying if they bear any resemblance to reality. Think of the fun you can have torturing the English language to show how your imaginary author isn't really that good a writer.

Then go read this and weep.

Advice for voters

Discovered via Jesus' General, here's what someone's called one of the 'funniest and most expensive practical jokes in recent memory'.

The US State of Oregon - which, I believe, conducts all its elections by post - publishes a 'voters' guide' to be dsitributed to the electorate, which includes statements by the candidates for the various elections. However, as well as regular elections, Oregon also has various referendums (ballot measures) for people to decide on. Oregon citizens and organisations are entitled (for a fee of $500) to have statements in favour or opposition of these put into the voter guide.

One of this year's measures - Measure 36 - is to add to the state Consitution a declaration that marriage shall only be between a man and a woman (there are similar proposals in many other states as well). So M. Dennis Moore has spent $2000 having statements placed in the guide (the first three and the penultimate one) in favour of the amendment on behalf of the Traditional Prejudices Coalition, the Defence of Heterosexual Breeding Committee, the Beaver State Defence Of Beaver Coalition and God For Oregon Deity PAC (GOD-PAC) and Family Alliance of God. Some examples of his arguments, first remembering St Paul's statement that "It is well for a man not to touch a woman.... It is well ... to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." (I Corinthians 7:1, 8-9):
The sissy institution of marriage must not be perverted by sinners who are capable of abstaining! The sacred union of church and state must prohibit the immoral union of men and women capable of the discipline of sexual abstinence. We are not saved by either faith or good works. We are saved by religious-right legislation!
And if marriage should only be for procreation and in line with the Bible, he suggests a few more laws that Oregon may need:
The Bible says that marriage is for procreation. God made Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve made Cain and Abel, not an empty nest.

Marriage is for procreation. If you're not pro-Creation, you're anti-God. And once a marriage has been solemnized, sex is serious business. The solemnity of sex must not be abused for sinful pleasures. Sex is for procreation, not recreation. And marriage is for breeding purposes.

Therefore, it should be Oregon public policy that

Homosexuals may not marry.
Infertile persons may not marry.
Men with vasectomies may not marry.
Women with hysterectomies may not marry.
Post-menopausal women may not marry.
Persons planning to use birth control may not marry.
Non-virgins may not marry (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
Inter-racial couples may not marry (Deuteronomy 7:3).
And couples who fail to conceive within two years ought to have their marriage licenses revoked.
I just hope that people understand it's a joke - after all, there are still people out there discovering Landover Baptist and thinking it's a real church, so who knows how many people will think these arguments are serious?

I'm reminded of the time when a friend of mine stood as 'Your Maoist Candidate' (with the slogan 'It's time for a purge!' in an NUS Conference election (his speech included the classic line 'Conference, I've seen the future and you're going to be in it. You're going to be white, you're going to fluffy and you're going to go BAAAA whenever I tell you to!') That night, he was cornered in the bar by a real Maoist who'd failed to notice it was a joke and spent a lot of time telling him that he was just what NUS needed...

But that's the problem with extremists of all types - no matter how hard you try to parody them, their reality is so out of line with the vast majority of everyone else that they easily move beyond anything parodic we can create.

Textual analysis

Dave has some interesting speculation about that Spectator editorial, wondering if it was written by Mark Steyn. It's interesting to note that while Boris Johnson has taken responsibility for the article as the Spectator's editor, and many of the articles on it assume he's written it, he's not said as much himself and has used 'we' rather than 'I' when discussing the creation of the editorial.

One section that Dave doesn't mention, and I think is evidence for Steyn being the principal (if not sole) author of the editorial is this line:
The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989
There were actually 96 deaths at Hillsborough (a fact that can be discovered in about 2 seconds with Google) and it seems to me that only knowing that the death toll was in the high double figures is more consistent with Steyn, rather than Johnson or one of the British writes at the Spectator, being the author.