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They call me Black Stacey

As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated for a while, as I’ve been in the poorest country outside of Africa (*) with only a mobile phone for connectivity. And while my mobile phone is more of a mini-laptop, it’s not really conducive to full-on blogging.

And while I haven’t checked rates, I’m fairly sure GPRS roaming charges in the few bits of the country where GPRS works are a billion dollars per kB…

So my online presence has been confined to Twittering (I hate ‘tweet’ as a verb to describe anything other than bird noises). You can see the latest updates on the left of the scren, or you can follow me by clicking the link there.

When I get back I’m planning to blog on:
* amusing historic leaders of Hispaniola
* French versus English colonialism
* How nearly all the mistakes made in decolonisation were visible 150 years before in Haiti
* the Citadel and King Henry Christopher
* NGOcracy and the new colonialism – not a bad thing
* the death of solitude

That’s mostly so I remember and feel obliged to actually write at least some of them, although do feel free to critique and throw peanuts based on the titles…

* my phone suggested ‘outside of France’ as an autocomplete here, which is inaccurate but bizarrely appropriate.

Yes, it’s another exciting round of Easy Answers To Simple Questions


do you think it just slightly possible that [Polly Toynbee’s] attitude, and that of her fellow [Guardian] commentators, might possibly have led to [advertisers] feeling—during these turbulent times, when costs need to be cut—that GMG, whose employees constantly attack said companies, can just fucking whistle for their business?

No. I would happily stake my life on the fact that absolutely none of the companies withdrawing advertising from GMG’s local papers have done so on the basis of the Guardian’s left-wing editorial stance. For one, that would obviously be insane; for two, the DMGT and Johnstone local titles are doing just as badly as GMG’s.

A note to excitable conspiracy theorists

No-notice, turn-up-and-go international travel out of the UK will not, ever, be banned.

Rather than reading incoherent rants in half-witted newspapers and drawing conclusions from the information they leave out, read the actual details of the eBorders scheme:

[Passenger] data are only mandatory when they are requested to be provided at the time when passengers are on board in preparation for departure and it is no longer possible for further passengers or crew to join the service. When it is requested before that time it only needs to be provided to the extent to which it is known to the carrier.

In other words, the 24-hour rule for data communication only applies to data that the carrier happens to have, and there is no requirement at all to collect data right up until the point where everyone has boarded the plane, train or boat in question and it’s about to set off. The e-Borders programme will do absolutely nothing to restrict people’s freedom to travel – it just means that information on where they’ve been will be passed onto the government afterwards.

In defence of ad-hominem

One of the most tedious aspects of online debate is that, as soon as you call someone an idiot, or suggest that their argument is of the kind that would disgrace a retarded chimpanzee, they accuse you of arguing ‘ad-hominem’, which they believe to be a terrible thing.

As the holder of a philosophy degree from a mildly respected institution, I can confirm that this is bollocks.

There is a fallacy in argument called the ‘ad-hominem fallacy‘. It applies to irrelevant personal insults (or compliments) – “yes, Dave Smith is in favour of cutting the speed limit, but he drowns kittens in a sack so we shouldn’t”.

However, this is seldom the way the term is used online: normally, it’s used against two entirely legitimate forms of criticism.

1) If you make a revolting argument and I call it revolting, that’s legitimate comment, not ad-hominem (if you make a revolting argument and I call you fat and ugly, that would have been ad-hominem.)

2) If your background suggests strong and unreasoned partisanship for a particular cause, then it’s more reasonable for me to doubt the factual underpinnings of your case (clearly, not the logic of whether your conclusions flow through your premises) than for an impartial observer.

Since all real-life argument outside of thought experiment relies on accepting some evidence that you’re unable to verify yourself, this means that it’s reasonable to form different opinions on the same argument presented by two different people.

For example, imagine a discussion on lowering the age of consent, as presented by a) a well-respected child psychologist b) a notorious paedophile…

Some factual statements

Note: see update at the bottom

I’m holding points 1-8 to be non-controversial; let me know if you, err, controvert them.

1) Rape is very bad.
2) Long-term psychological, bullying abuse is very bad.
3) Violence per se is bad, but not very bad.
4) Nearly all raping is done by men, mostly against women.
5) Nearly all violence is done by men, mostly against men.
6) When men commit long-term psychological bullying abuse, they tend to use violence as the primary tool.
7) When women commit long-term psychological bullying abuse, they tend to use words and non-violent actions as the primary tools.
8) While bruises are worse than cutting words, the thing that actually matters in both cases is the emotional bullying.

So what? Well, if you’re concerned about physical violence, then that’s not primarily an anti-women thing, because men mostly do it to other men. And if you’re talking about emotional bullying, nor is that, because women do it to men just as much as men do it to women (non-violently, mostly, but that isn’t the point, as we’ve already accepted that domestic bullying is a completely different category from ‘normal’ violence). So what on earth are campaigns like OneTen about?

Q: why the fuck can’t we just campaign against abuse, and against beatings, and against the two when they overlap, without it becoming some kind of bizarre Spare Rib-y crusade against the wickedness of chaps and in favour of the epic brilliance of the ladies?

Update: I think I’ve worked out, at least in my own head, what bothers me about the campaign, and yet why the last post probably does miss a point about the specific evils of male-on-female violence:

1) Women are more likely than men, by an enormous margin, to be seriously physically assaulted or murdered by their partners. The proportion of women to whom this happens is well below one in ten, but it is well above one in a hundred, which makes it one of the most prevalent forms of serious violence.

This is a terrible thing, rightwing twats who seek to talk it down should be reviled at all times, and we should all do whatever we can to oppose it, to punish the people who perpetuate it, and to marginalise the people who tolerate it. It *is* fundamentally a feminist, male vs female issue, and a the-law-taking-things-seriously issue, and needs to be resolved.

2) a lot of relationships between men and women, men and men, and women and women – probably around one in 10 in a given year, probably more than that over a lifetime – are emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. There is a fairly even gender split between men and women both in terms of who the victims are and who the aggressors are.

This is a bad thing, but it’s basically the ’shitty’ end of the relationship scale; for as long as people are sometimes good and sometimes bad and fall in and out of love with each other, it’s going to be hard to alleviate. Better communication, better counselling, better social education would have some impact on this, but it’s not going to go away and there’s only a limited amount any of us can do about it.

Those who will not see

I’ve got a post up at Liberal Conspiracy on the EU’s new ECRIS system.

Under ECRIS, local criminal records agencies will categorise crimes and sentences against particular headings (so 0801 is murder; 0403 is trafficking people for their organs; while on the sentencing side 1002 is life imprisonment and 3017 is confiscation of your hunting license), to make international criminal record searches a bit easier.

So when the German police arrest a Frenchman for pimping, instead of waiting for the French to fax through something that needs translating on his record, they’ll be able to see that the bloke was previously sent to a mental institution and had his hunting licence taken away for organ trafficking (or whatever).

Pretty much the entire libertarian blogosphere seems to think this is an outrageous plot to create, err, something or other, not quite sure what, but definitely evil. See the comments and links on the LC post.

The debate at DK, although not terribly edifying either, has produced one of the best lines I’ve read recently:

I didn’t know incest between consenting adults is legal in France. And there was me thinking Papa and Nicole were playing a very risky game.

Worse than Nicholas

I really like Mock The Week; it’s one of my favourite TV shows. Frankie Boyle is perhaps the best comic of the last 30 years; Dara O’Briain is hard to spell but excellent; Hugh Dennis was the funniest one in the Mary Whitehouse Experience and remains so; Russell Howard is remarkably entertaining for a small child; and guest panelists ranging from David Mitchell through Rich Hall to Jo Brand add sparkling wit and entertaining excellence.

But Andy Parsons is the most unfunny, dislikeable, tedious wanker ever to have appeared on the television. Why is this thick, irritating eejit allowed anywhere near humans, never mind what would be, apart from his own revolting visage and distressing voice, the best show on television?

Seriously. What the fuck is this man doing being rated by anybody, ever?

If you like Andy Parsons, please say so in the comments. If, more likely, you don’t, then please repost this on your blog if you’re a massive geek, or forward this to your mates if you aren’t. I’m desperate to know who finds him funny, or why the hell he’s on telly if – as I suspect – nobody does.