liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So, can anyone explain to me why people are acting as if a Conservative majority at the upcoming election would be tantamount to the apocalypse? Misogynist ravings about Thatcher don't count as an argument for me, especially given that she hasn't had significant political power for twenty years.

In my opinion, Labour have made a lot of things worse since 1997. Not least causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq, which I really wish were a bigger issue in this election. And somehow, we have a discourse where any time someone criticizes Labour, they add the disclaimer "but of course, the Tories would have been far worse". To me this means that educated, engaged people who might otherwise be swing voters are essentially handing Labour a perpetual mandate, and that worries me.

I'm generally economically right wing and socially liberal, if that helps.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I was tangentially involved in a consultation between Staffordshire police and the local interfaith group regarding the police response to the EDL protest here at the weekend. Kudos to the police for even bothering to have such a consultation; admittedly the kind of people who attend interfaith groups set up for police-community liaison are not exactly representative of the general population of Muslims, but I definitely approve of a serious initiative to learn what affected communities want rather than imposing policing on them top-down. Plus, the police attitude was incredibly sensible: they knew that the EDL were looking for trouble, and were working hard to avoid being provoked into fights, but were prepared to intervene against any actual violent incidents.

They were operating from the standpoint that these people have a right to peaceful protest even about distasteful topics. (They very much don't have a right to vandalize mosques and other Muslim-owned property, much less to attack anyone.) But yeah, I can definitely support the philosophical position that free speech isn't much use if only warm fluffy liberal speech counts. I could only wish that the police were equally committed to peaceful protest rights when the protests in question are against corporate interests (cf environmental and anti-globalization demos) rather than vulnerable immigrant communities, but that's another thing. They did the right thing in Stoke on Saturday. Official numbers say 2500 protesters, apparently bussed in from all over the country and mostly not local, and to have a protest that size, by a group who are setting out to cause trouble, and end up with nothing worse than a handful of arrests for minor property damage and public order stuff, is a very positive outcome.

This isn't an abstract issue for me, by the way; I am absolutely terrified by a neo-fascist protest on that scale in my town. And not in the least reassured when they claim that they "only" hate Muslims and not "established" (ie white-skinned) immigrant groups. Neither am I reassured by the fact that it's "only" a few thousand extremists, which is a small proportion of the population of the UK. A few thousand people still outnumber me! Even so, I do think the police made the right decision in allowing the protest to go ahead and handling it with the lightest possible touch.

about that free speech issue )

[personal profile] auntysarah makes a very similar point about the "free speech" rights of transphobic fuckwit Julie Bindel. She has the right to express transphobic views; she absolutely does not have the right to impose those views on a venue where trans and other Queer people gather to feel safe and comfortable. She doesn't have the right to use her freedom of speech to encourage violence against trans people. There is no free speech requirement for all organizations everywhere to invite her to speak in order to provide "balance" between her hatred and more tolerant attitudes. She doesn't have the right to a complete exemption from criticism when she says hateful things; calling her a bigot doesn't obstruct her freedom of speech. She doesn't have the right to receive awards for her contribution to society when her negative actions so much outweigh her positive achievements. And if I refuse to buy newspapers which publish her hateful, transphobic journalism, I am not restricting her free speech; she has the right to say whatever she likes, but she does not have the right to my money to support her having a prominent, national platform for her views.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
It's very interesting being a foreigner and watching the electoral campaigns. The thing is, I don't have any preconceived notions about what the various parties stand for, so I get the emotional impact of the advertising more or less undiluted. Pretty much every party has a poster campaign consisting of large images of their candidates with some kind of slogan, but they convey very different impressions.

effects of advertising )

The thing is that we've been hearing reports that some of the Moderates' posters are getting defaced by people scrawling "JEW" across them. In Sweden the political left tends to be very anti-Israel, whereas the Moderates have a vocally pro-Israel wing and even their mainstream party line is at least vaguely sympathetic to the Israeli state. None of their candidates actually are Jewish, but apparently antisemitic slurs are a way of expressing frustration at the unpopular current government. It's happening in the parts of town with high immigrant populations, but I don't infer from this that (presumed Muslim) immigrants are responsible; areas with lots of immigrants tend to contain lots of poor and disaffected ethnic Swedes as well.

It's of course an unfortunate historical accident that the Swedish word for "Jew" happens to be identical to the German word. And I personally think it's most likely that these "attacks" are being perpetrated by kids who feel angry and want to get a reaction, rather than an organized anti-Jewish campaign. But there are an awful lot of people in the Jewish community who are very triggered by seeing JUDE ✡ all over the place.

Actually, I found the Moderates' posters disturbing already, even without the graffiti. They're over-photoshopped, in some attempt to make the candidates look flawless. But the effect is to create a wall of very blonde faces, with perfect smiles and unblemished skin, and a slightly robotic air. They're very blonde because, well, it's Sweden, the majority of people and the very great majority of the kind of people who are in a position to become major politicians are blonde. Just, on the irrational level where I'm receiving political messages this election, it's creepy.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So [livejournal.com profile] siderea is writing a thesis on the history of gay people's experiences of psychiatry. She has posted a summary of her research on the removal of homosexuality from being classified as a mental illness. Go and read it.

This reminds me of the people who talked about [livejournal.com profile] papersky's Small change books and said, gosh, how awful it would have been if we lived in an alternative history where fascists ruled Britain and made homosexuality illegal... It's easy to forget this sort of history, partly because as the old joke goes, most gay people have straight parents, so there isn't a cultural continuity. And partly because it's human nature to be squeamish about remembering just how badly groups of people have been treated in the recent past.

On the positive side, the story is an example of a successful fight against injustice, and we can definitely take joy in how much better things are for gay people today than 40 years ago. Still a long way to go, though, and forgetting the past isn't helping.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So, there's a US election coming up. I have not said anything about it, because I generally believe that the citizens of a sovereign democracy have the right to choose their leaders without interference from ignorant foreigners. At this point, though, I've lost faith that the US is going to hold free and fair elections and abide by the result.

So, here's my political comment for my American friends: if the election doesn't work out, and if things get to the point where you don't feel safe in your country any more, I will help you get out as best as I can. I'm envisioning things like lending money, offering a temporary place to live, helping deal with the bureaucracy of immigration, standing as a sponsor if that looks like it might help... hell, if that's what it takes I'll marry you.

I very much hope it won't get that bad, and I don't think it's highly probable. Still. If my help can make the difference between getting out soon enough and leaving it too late, know that you have someone to turn to.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Author: Salman Rushdie

Details: (c) Salman Rushdie 2005; Pub Vintage 2006; ISBN 0-099-42188-7

Verdict: Shalimar the clown is powerfully written but depressing.

Reasons for reading it: I'm a big fan of Rushdie anyway, and this book got some good press when it came out.

How it came into my hands: Useful Cambridge charity shops. And it turns out the copy I picked up is signed, which isn't a big deal, but rather pleasing to have a book signed by an author I so admire.

detailed review )

While I'm on the subject, can somebody explain to me why the media (not just the mainstream US media, but most of the world media that's on my radar, and most of the so-called independent media and blogs) is devoting so much verbiage to gosspping about the Palin family soap opera, and paying almost no attention to the sudden upswing in American military action in Pakistan? Priorities!
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I have been going back and forth about whether I should say anything about the recent stuff about antisemitism in the LJ fandom community which turned into a huge sprawling kraken of nastiness. I kind of wasn't going to, because I'm not really in fandom, so why should I get involved and attract a portion of the horribleness to myself? Still, browsing stuff the other day I came across a really powerful essay on the topic by [livejournal.com profile] synecdochic. [livejournal.com profile] synecdochic is a Big Name Fan who is also a pro writer, and knows LJ better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. And she gets to the heart of this issue, expressing it in far better terms than I could ever manage.

background on LJ fandom from an outsider's perspective )

There's the level of antisemitism which involves calling Jewish people nasty names. Yes, this did happen in the course of the controversy. And no, LJ is not the only place where that goes on. But there's also the level of antisemitism which is resentment that Jews get all these imagined advantages as a result of sympathy for what happened in the Holocaust. I only wish I could say that statement is an exaggeration or a caricature, but people seriously and literally complain about this. Some facts, then:

The Holocaust continues to affect people now. People who personally have to live with the traumas, people who lost their entire families, people who have been forced to spend their whole lives in countries where they don't feel at home, people who have been brought up by traumatized parents. I can't even begin to describe the cultural losses which make the whole Jewish world immeasurably poorer, even without the direct personal effects. It is by no means ancient history, and it's incredibly insulting to tell those affected to "move on" or "stop whining".

Antisemitism still exists today. Some of it comes from those who explicitly identify as neo-Nazis (yes, they're still around too!) but a lot doesn't. There are plenty of Jewish people who are not personally much affected by antisemitism, but that doesn't make it ok that many people are. And it's not just nasty words in LiveJournal kerfuffles; it's the whole sordid story of institutional and personal discrimination, vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, and even personal violence all the way up to racist murder. Let me spell this out: someone I know personally was killed for antisemitic reasons in 2003. It happened in Germany under the auspices of an American organization, which is by way of saying that antisemitism isn't confined to far-off barbaric countries any more than it is confined to ancient history.

Antisemitism isn't wrong only because the poor Jews suffered in the Holocaust. Antisemitism is wrong because it's racist and cruel. When people protest about antisemitism, they're not asking for Jews to be given special consideration because of what happened in history, they're asking for Jews to have the basic right to go through their lives without fear and abuse.

Yes, there are some Jews who are unpleasant or evil people. That doesn't justify antisemitism. Fighting antisemitism doesn't mean nobody is ever allowed to criticize anyone Jewish, as racists often allege. Fighting antisemitism is purely and simply part of the fight for justice. It might not be your fight, and that's fine; there is so much suffering and injustice in the world that everybody has to pick which causes they are most dedicated to. But it's still wrong to obstruct those who do support Jewish causes by complaining that it's not fair that Jews get all these "special" protections.

I assume all these things are pretty obvious to anyone likely to read this. But since they are not as obvious as they should be in the general world, I think it's a good idea to reiterate them. Anyway, read [livejournal.com profile] synecdochic's piece (and if you have the stamina, the intelligent but long discussion of it). She also has some good stuff about the rhetorical uses and abuses of the concept of Nazism, the misapplication of Godwin's law and the like.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
OK, I really need to get on with work, not joining in the fun and multi-valent discussion on my dating post. But I want to start unpacking the tangle in this thread, starting from [livejournal.com profile] pw201's comment that violence against women is so often taboo (even among men who might be violent to other men, I think) that I was shocked to learn that women genuinely feel they might be at risk of it.

So far two women have commented that violence against women absolutely isn't taboo, and three men have maintained that it is, and lots of people haven't seen the discussion because it's buried at the bottom of a long and collapsed thread.

violence and sexual violence behind the cut, but please read if you can )

So in short, my question is, if violence against women is such a taboo, why is it that so many women get attacked?

I've set comments to partial screening here because sometimes this kind of discussion attracts trolls. If you have something intelligent to contribute but you're not on my flist, be patient, I'll unscreen your comment as soon as I get to it. I do also expect people to engage sensitively; bear in mind that just on a statistical basis there are probably women reading this who have been raped in the past, so it's not just an abstract hypothetical issue to play intellectual games with.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I don't normally get involved in American politics, but I think these need further publicity.

Two heinous examples of abuse of statistics for political ends, via [livejournal.com profile] lyssiae:

- The left have been leaning heavily on a study showing that abortions increased since Bush was elected in 2001. Turns out that more comprehensive studies contradict this (rather startling!) conclusion.

Mind you, for a political movement who seem to elevate preventing abortions above all other possible aims, and seem happy to do so almost at any cost, a 1% annual decrease, in line with a 20-year downward trend, is not particularly impressive. Still, it's a very good example of what can happen when a small, limited study is over-hyped beyond what the data can support.

- But propaganda from the right about same-sex fostering and parenting just beggars belief.

I think [livejournal.com profile] zestyping's article really speaks for itself; there's not much I can add. Read the link and be appalled.

Explanation of the post subject: my brothers had a teacher in primary school who tried to quote Disraeli's famous saw and accidentally said lies, damned lies and dishwashers. Since then, dishwashers has been a term in my family meaning spurious statistics, or deliberate misuse of statistics to deceive.

Today is Lag b'Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer). Yay! That makes four complete weeks and five days of the Omer.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I woke up this morning to news of the Labour victory. Well, to be honest, I knew when I went to sleep last night that Labour were going to win, and really, I was pretty certain when I voted at 9 o'clock yesterday morning that Labour were going to win. And it's not exactly like I'd be dancing in the streets if the shambolic, unelectable band of racist scum calling themselves the Conservative party had defied all expectations by winning this election.

But what really socked me when I was woken by the radio this morning was hearing that George Galloway has taken Oona King's seat. Most politicians are lying, toadying, power-hungry demagogues; it's depressing, but that's human nature. However, Oona King is, I believe, a genuinely good person, and George Galloway is, frankly, actively evil. King is quite a bit to the left of Blair, so if the consituency wanted a socialist, why not a sane, dedicated, principled socialist rather than a nutter?

I'm just hoping that the people who voted for him were unaware of his violently antisemitic views. It's not something he emphasized in his campaign, unlike in the 70s when he was elected in Dundee on an overtly antisemitic platform, and very nearly drove the century-old Jewish community out of Dundee altogether, as well as inciting violence and nastiness which continues to this day. Perhaps people voted for him as a protest against the Blair government and the Iraq war. I can sympathize to a point. But, you know, people, he was thrown out of the Labour party for what amounted to treason. Not treason against the Labour party, actual treason against this country where he is now an MP again. Ugh.

All I can say is, at this moment I'm extremely glad that I have skills and qualifications which should make it easy for me to live anywhere in the world. And if [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel wants to hold forth about why democracy is a poor method of government, or indeed why Montreal is a wonderful place, at this particular moment I'm likely to be more than usually susceptible to such arguments.

Today is the 12th day, making one week and five days of the Omer.

Trivia

Apr. 18th, 2005 11:40 pm
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So, according to that political survey thingy that's doing the rounds, I'm at (-4.8, 1.6), defined as 'fairly internationalist and rehabilitationist' and 'fairly free-market and pro-war'.

That I'm west of all the Tories and 90% of everybody doesn't surprise me at all, because I would definitely define myself as internationalist and rehabilitationist. That I'm north of the central axis is a little less expected; I think I must be something of an anomaly compared to their sample population because I am significantly anti-war, particularly anti the current Iraq war, but at the same time I'm pretty capitalist and pro free-market. (For the old political compass thing, I score as right-wing on economic grounds but left-wing on social grounds, a reason why the political compass appealed to me as I am happy to see those two axes separated.)

The other point of this post is to mention that I've reviewed Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
In March this year, Jerry Duggan was killed after admitting to being Jewish in a hostile environment. I heard about this because Jerry was a friend of my brother Screwy. Yesterday, The Times published an account of the inquest, which quashed the suggestion that Jerry's death was a suicide. There is also some analysis in the same paper. The inquest was also reported recently in The Guardian.

There is more background on Jerry's murder in this article in The Guardian of a few months ago.

I'm letting the articles speak for themselves, because last time I tried to comment on this horror I ended up being rather vehement at [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, and generally degenerated into incoherent rage.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I don't intend to get political here. But I just wanted to pass on something that my brother Screwy pointed out a while ago in similar circumstances to today's. Next time you hear a politician saying
if we stop the peace process we give the terrorists what they want

(Tony Blair, today), be aware that he's talking nonsense.

If people are still getting killed, there is no peace process. You can't just go about saying, we will never let terrorists get in the way of the peace process; the "peace process" doesn't exist in the abstract. This is not peace; calling it peace is the worst kind of doublespeak.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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