Sunday, 30 November 2008

Roll up, roll up!

In a newspaper interview clearly targeted at Private Eye’s Brownnoser of the Year award, the newly ennobled Lord Mandelson of Foye gushes that “Internationally people say to me, 'Your prime minister has been transformed. His standing has soared.' People really do look to him like some Moses figure who is going to lead them away from this economic mess to the promised land."

This likening of our dear Supreme Leader to an Old Testament prophet – and this one in particular – has occasioned some ribaldry on the blogosphere, where it’s been pointed out that Moses never actually reached the promised land, and one commentator expressed the wish that Gordo had never left the bulrushes in the first place. Anticant’s view is that Gordo doesn’t need to be Moses to get up our noses.

I’m not sure where Foye is - possibly a twee version of Fowey? - but in Lord M’s case a double ‘ll’ has obviously been omitted after the ‘o’. However, his eagerly awaited further interventions of this nature will at least boost what little Yuletide wassail we are able to muster this year.

And he has provided Anticant with a brilliant idea for a seasonal competition in which Burrow regulars and Arena visitors are invited to participate:


Anticant kicks off with Lord M himself as Joshua, because he sees himself as Gordo’s successor, destined to arrive at the promised land; Jacqui Smith as Salome, dancing before King Gordon with Damian Green’s head on a platter; and G.W. Bush as Belshazzar who ignored the writing on the wall and came a cropper.

Over to you!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Ignorance is bliss - official

According to the Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue, university-educated Catholics have sown scepticism, dissent and confusion within Holy Mother Church and are responsible for the decline in attendance at Mass. Instead of following the Church's teaching, they are 'hedonistic', 'selfish' and 'egocentric' said the Bishop, who added that higher education has its dark side 'due to original sin'. You can read his full rant here.

Prominent Catholics in public life include Tony Blair and Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, both of whom are Oxford graduates.

Bishop O'Donoghue was presumably 'educated' at some bog-standard Catholic seminary.

The former Professor of Divinity at Cambridge commented "What constructive purpose could possibly be served by such irresponsible and wholesale scapegoating of the educated, I have simply no idea".


Monday, 17 November 2008

A potty proposal


Our first woman Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has come up with a mind-bogglingly bizarre plan to criminalise paying for sex with a woman who is 'controlled for another person's gain'. This new offence will, according to the Guardian's political editor, "carry a hefty fine and criminal record, which could prevent those caught from getting jobs in sensitive occupations". The legislation will cover not only trafficked women ['sex slaves'] - who are indeed in need of effective state protection but all too often don't get it despite the stringent laws against such trafficking - but also those who have pimps or who are drug addicts prostituting themselves in order to pay off their dealers.

Unsurprisingly, such a broad definition is expected to include "the great majority of Britain's 80,000 sex workers" [source of figure unstated]. Ignorance of the woman's circumstances will not be a defence. The egregious Ms Smith has stated: "It won't be enough to say 'I didn't know'. What I hope people will say is, 'I am not going to take the risk if there is any concern that the woman hasn't made a free choice.' It would be quite difficult for a man paying for sex in the majority of cases not to fall under this particular offence." [my italics] But she is graciously refraining from imposing a universal ban on paid sex because some women argued that they did it out of choice "and it's not my job to criminalise that".

There you have it! Ms Smith and her advisers don't have the bottle to make prostitution illegal and have done with it - so they concoct a new failsafe catch-all crime which, like so many new offences introduced by this civil liberty-trashing New Labour government, removes the burden of proving guilt from where it properly belongs - the prosecution - and dumps the burden of proving his innocence upon the accused. So much for traditional British justice.

I have spent a large part of my life publicly arguing for freedom of choice in sexual behaviour between consenting partners, because it seems to me that nothing less accords with the dignity of the individual, however immoral or depraved some folk think their freely made choices are. I heartily agree with one of Margaret Thatcher's more sensible pronouncements, when she said: "Free choice is ultimately what life is about, what ethics is about. The whole of the case for freedom is a moral case because it involves choice. Do away with choice and you do away with human dignity."

A guiding light of my political philosophy has been John Stuart Mill's seminal essay On Liberty [1859] - now sadly neglected - in which he lays down the principle that 'the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way'; that 'each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily or mental or spiritual'; that 'mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest'; and that 'over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign'.

This was reinforced and brought up to date by the Wolfenden Committee's 1957 Report on Homosexuality and Prostitution which stressed the "decisive" importance of allowing individual freedom of choice and action in matters of private morality: "Unless a deliberate attempt is to be made by society, acting through the agency of the law, to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law's business." Now, it would appear, Ms Jacqui Smith and her New Labour cohorts are bent on making such an attempt.

In 1972 the then Chairman of the Sexual Law Reform Society, Bishop John A.T. Robinson, delivered a lecture on The Place of Law in the Field of Sex in which he affirmed that the true function of law in a democratic society was "not to prohibit but to protect, not to enforce morals but to safeguard persons, their privacies and freedoms". I remain convinced this is right: privacy, protection and consent are the key issues in this area of personal behaviour.

It is always difficult to defend as harmless private consenting activity which is deemed immoral, offensive, or anti-social by others. It is almost impossible to get a hearing for the - surely plausible - view that not all consenting relationships between those above and below the legal age of consent are exploitive or damaging. It is equally hard to get a hearing for the far from absurd contention that many - if not most - prostitutes, male as well as female, take up their profession freely and willingly and enjoy their work. Yet this is the finding of more than one research study, and I myself have known such prostitutes who do not operate at the seedy or criminal end of the business. Yet telling this to the likes of Jacqui Smith and ideologically anti-prostitution feminists is like shouting at a brick wall. Whether it is true or not, they simply do not want to know.

Civil liberties and personal freedom have taken worse knocks under this New Labour government than at any time I can remember. How long will the too patient public continue putting up with this constant erosion of freedoms we took for granted throughout the twentieth century? It will be interesting to see.

To conclude, let me recall the words of John Addington Symonds, celebrated Victorian literary critic and bisexual: "Good Lord! In what different orbits human souls can move. He talks of sex out of legal codes and blue books. I talk of it from human documents, myself, the people I have known, the adulterers and prostitutes of both sexes I have dealt with over bottles of wine and confidences."

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Atheist thought for the day

"Most atheists probably wouldn't give a flying teapot what anyone else believed were those beliefs not used as spurious justification for assuming positions of privilege, manipulating politics, obstructing science, discriminating against others, commandeering community schools, proselytising to the young and the vulnerable, lying about scientific theory, and generally trying to manipulate the lives of the willing and unwilling alike."

- MIKE LIM, writing in the National Secular Society's Newsline

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Religion gone rotten

Commenting on my previous post, Billy says: "I just dont get this singling out of homosexuals business".

It's quite simple, really. Homosexuals are, by and large, a peaceable, inoffensive lot who just wish to get on with their own lives as they choose and who are unlikely to get militantly aggressive even when viciously attacked.

An ideal target, in fact, for the pharisaical holier-than-thou "thank God/Allah we are not like THESE people" bigots of all religious stripes who seek a public platform on which to strut their superiority to the common herd.

I have been a lifelong campaigner for gay rights. Bitter experience has taught me that the "godly" are my mortal enemies. Not that I wish to have enemies, but all too often there is no choice.

In the 1950s and '60s, the most vocal opponents of decriminalising homosexual behaviour were religious. To be fair, we also received valuable support from some church people who had a more realistic sense of justice than most of their contemporaries. But they were in a minority.

In the 1970s and '80s there was a vicious backlash against gay people spearheaded by the odious Moral Re-Armament bigot Mary Whitehouse and her assorted allies. They were not in the least concerned with the truth - only with smearing those of us who worked for a more humane society with every lie they could concoct.

Now we have the African Anglican bishops who are so obsessed with fear and loathing of same-sex love that they threaten to split the Church of England over the issue, while the increasingly intimidated 'liberals' such as the pathetically casuistic Archbishop Rowan Williams bend over backwards to placate them instead of telling them to go take a running jump.

The Roman Catholics, as always, spout ignorant rubbish on the topic - see my previous post - while studiously ignoring the glaring fact that a great many of their priests are homosexual by temperament if not by practice. The Polish prime minister - presumably a devout Catholic - has said "if a person tries to infect others with homosexuality the state must intervene". Here in Britain, Catholics strive for exemption from equality legislation protecting people of homosexual temperament from discrimination.

In the United States, the paranoid, growingly strident "born again" cultural conservatives - for whom one birth was too many - use frantic opposition to gay rights to rally ignorantly pious voters in support of what they term "traditional American values". The recent success of California's 'Proposition Eight' banning gay marriage in that State was carried thanks largely to black Christians who turned out in force to vote for Obama, after a virulent campaign bankrolled by Mormons - who are dubiously Christian and most of whom don't live in California, anyway.

Homosexuality is, alas, also a burning issue - sometimes literally - in some Caribbean communities where 'rappers' incite their audiences to murderous action against "batty boys".

And now we have amongst us the Muslims, whose preachers and government ministers in Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia think nothing of advocating hanging, stoning, and torture for homosexuals, who are fiercely persecuted throughout the Arab world. The hypocrisy of all this is staggering, as in addition to their sexism and male chauvinism Arab men are notorious for their widepread indulgence in homosexual activity. In Britain, gay Muslims live in fear and are mostly unwilling to speak out about their predicament.

It is a strange paradox that a government which has passed several commendably liberalising measures favouring gay people - including the introduction of Civil Partnerships - is unwilling to stand up robustly against these various forms of anti-gay religious bigotry because of a spurious and increasingly discredited doctrine of 'multiculturalism' and 'respect' for beliefs paraded as "religious" regardless of their content and the social harm they do.

In the current uneasy climate of clashing values - a climate largely created by religious bigotry - the besetting sin of the British is a lazy toleration of intolerance.

It is time for us all to wake up and to start tackling this poison resolutely before it is too late.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Holy shower!

The Roman Catholic Church is to introduce psychological vetting to eliminate candidates for the priesthood who suffer from "deep seated homosexual tendencies", even if they are celibate, on the ground that their orientation disqualifies them from exercising "spiritual paternity" [here].

What arrogant, ignorant twaddle! Do those who promulgate such stuff really believe that there have never been gay priests - perhaps some Popes - who were competent spiritual pastors?

The Catholic Church, of course, is a law unto itself - a bigoted, narrow-minded cult whose twisted interpretation of Christianity is incomprehensible to those outside it - and, I suspect, to a lot of its sheeplike followers.

In this instance, they are behaving like those golf clubs of old who made an ostentatious virtue of excluding Jewish members, while covertly seeking the financial benefits they offered.

They remind me of Groucho Marx's celebrated observation "Who'd want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?"

Why any self-respecting gay person, Christian or otherwise, would want to touch the Catholic Church with a bargepole beats me.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Thought fo US election day

"Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other".

~ Oscar Ameringer