briarwood: (Dollhouse Echo Active)
Watching a news report about plans to raise the pension age for women. I've been hearing a lot about this lately, mostly from the unions, about how unfair this is.

The thing is, it's NOT unfair. It's completely fair that men and women should be treated as equals.

The problem I have with it is it's inconsistent. The differences between men and women on pensions are predicated on the assumption that women will be dependent on men. On the principle that women will work less in their lifetimes because they prefer "barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink" and it doesn't matter if they retire early because their pension savings will be miniscule anyway. They will survive old age on their husband's income.

On this one point, the Tories and LibDems want men and women to be equal and I'm all for it. I'm not particularly keen on getting old, but if I'm not lucky enough to die in my fifties I'll keep working until I can't. I have no intention of ever being dependent on a partner.

But every one of the rest of their "family" policies is designed to force women to be dependent on others. Tax breaks for married couples means tax breaks to encourage women to know their place. Plans to pursue "deadbeat dads" because heaven forbid a woman might want nothing to to with some abusive son of a bitch who happened to get her pregnant.

So, girls, know your place until the kids are grown up and gone, but then you've got to work until you drop to earn your right to a pittance in old age.
briarwood: Brokeback Mountain - Shirt (Brokeback Shirt)
I can't quite believe I'm doing this. Defending a Tory. But I've been reading crap about his comments on rape for two days, and I've got to get this out. Because Clarke is being misquoted and intentionally misunderstood, and that doesn't help the cause at all. What the (mostly) women attacking him need to realise is that this man, in his way, is on our side.

Cut for potential triggers )
briarwood: (No1 LDA Smile)
As always, I'm posting to beg you to vote if you've in the UK today. We have local elections in England and national elections in Wales and Scotland; I'm not sure about NI.

I won't urge you to vote for any particular party, but please do vote. Our ancestors fought hard to get us this right; many died for it. If you're a woman, like me, the fight was even harder. Even if it feels like a waste of time, even if you're as disillusioned with politics as so many are...please go out and vote today.

But we have another thing to vote on today: there's a referendum on changing the voting system from 'First past the post' to 'alternative vote'.

On this one, I have strong opinions. The truth about 'first past the post' is it effectively disenfranchises the majority of voters in this country. All my adult life, I have lived in 'safe' Labour constituencies. I've voted in every election, but my vote is worthless, because no matter how I voted, it couldn't change the outcome where I live.

This sounds perfectly fair - democracy in action: I'm outvoted - until you start adding up the figures. My current MP has a huge majority, but gets less than 50% of the vote each time. In other words, more people vote against him than for him, yet he has an absolutely secure seat in Westminster. And this pattern is repeated across the country. Only if you are lucky enough to live in a marginal constituency do you truly get a vote that counts, and that means that our democracy is inherently unequal.

I won't mince words about this. I believe in true proportional representation. One person, one vote and all votes should count equally. AV is not PR. AV 'cures' one unequal system by overpainting it with a different type of inequality, because the 'swing' power would shift toward people who vote for the least popular parties: their second and third preferences would be counted. But the current system is broken. The current system has to go.

AV is the only choice on the table and though it's not the best choice it is a good one. Please, please, please, support AV today, to save our democracy for tomorrow.
briarwood: (CrouchingTiger Jen)
Six more seats. Just six more need to declare not-Tory, and we've got a hung parliament.

The newspapers are doomsaying, but really, that's the best possible result. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are fit to govern and as amazing as a LibDem victory would be, it was never going to happen.

A hung parliament with Cameron as PM will give Labour a chance to make themselves electable again (though I doubt they can do it - it took 'em three lost elections last time) and will reign in the worst of what the Tories could do.

A hung parliament with Brown as PM...could be disastrous the next time we go to the polls, because it'll deliver a Tory landslide if he makes even one more mistake, but maybe that would get us our desperately needed electoral reform. Maybe.

And either scenario gives the LibDems a chance to prove they're worthy of power.

Either way...six more seats. I'm hopeful.

ETA: (9.40 am) 36 seats left to declare and the Conservatives need all of them for an overall majority. Just one more for any of the other parties...

ETA2: Yes! We got it!
briarwood: (UTS LifeYouDontHave)
It's election day, folks.

This is me urging the Brits who read this post to go out there and vote. I will not urge you to vote for the party of my choice, but please do vote.

I live in Newport, South Wales. In this town, there's a churchyard on a hill which holds an unknown number of bodies buried in secrecy one night: bodies of men and women who died in the fight to get us the right to mark a cross on a piece of paper today. I spent my childhood walking past a mosiac commemmorating that battle every weekend. That is why, no matter how much the sleaze and scandals disgust me, I will always exercise the right those unknown people fought for.

Our democracy is broken. It has been for a long time. I live in a Labour stronghold; there's very little chance of unseating my current MP. My vote won't change anything. If I vote Labour I just add to his majority; if I don't no one will notice when all is said and done. This is reflected in the local election campaign: other than Nick Clegg's visit last weekend (and a few lonely posters in windows) you wouldn't have known there was a campaign going on in Newport.

But in spite of all the talk about tactical voting in the past few days, if any party wins an overall majority in this election they will claim every one of those votes was a vote for their program, forgetting that for a big chunk of the electorate, it's more about rejecting the others. So I refuse to cast my largely pointless vote in support of parties I despise. A Conservative government would be a complete disaster in the current economic conditions. Voting Labour rewards incompetence and mandates their complete disregard of basic human rights.

Me? I'm voting to kick the whole rotten anthill over and start fresh with something new.
briarwood: (SPN Bobby Awesome)
Politics and Supernatural in one post. Why not? They're both about the devil, right?

About last night's big debate... )

...and about the latest Supernatural. )

This has been a stressful week. Most of it is work-stuff, so I can't really talk about it.

Home-wise, Mum's convinced something's died in our alleyway. (Uh...alleyway is what we call it, but it's not - it's a room. Kindof. It's the bit that leads into the back garden.) Anyhow, it's stuffed with sis's junk and our recycling bins and Mum insists she can smell something back there. I don't know how she can: the cigarette stink is all I can smell, but she's convinced. She wants to drag everything out of there to check. Read: she thinks I'm gonna do it, 'cause Gods forbid sis should have to move her lazy ass and shift her own junk. I have no problem with dragging everything out of the alley to reassure Mum, but if she thinks I'm gonna put it all back she can think again. It ain't my junk, and since it's been stuck there for several years now, in my opinion it belongs in a skip.

The only new film out this week seems to be Iron Man 2. Since I thought Iron Man 1 was, well, utterly dreadful, I am not particularly excited about this. Don't know if there's anything else I really want to see. It's A Wonderful Afterlife sounds really good in concept, but it also sounds like the central premise is girl-cannot-be-complete-without-a-husband...which I know will just piss me off. I don't need to be pissed off after the week I've had.

*sigh* I seem unable to post happy stuff. Going back in my hole now...
briarwood: (Brokeback Poster)
...but I won't cut, because this stuff matters.

Over the past decade and change of a Labour government, we've seen

* The gay age of consent lowered from 21 to parity with heterosexuals - 16.
* The repeal of Section 28 which forbade the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools (more about this below)
* Civil partnerships, allowing gay couples (nearly) all legal rights equal to marriage.
* Equality legislation which prevents suppliers of goods and services refusing gay customers on the grounds of sexuality.
* Equal opportunity legislation (albeit with exceptions for homophobic religious types) which prevents discrimination against gay people in employment.
* Homophobic violence defined as a hate crime.

Labour's record on gay rights is far from perfect, but it's freaking Wonderland compared to that of the Party of Section 28 Tories.

So much for history. What about the future policies? Well, here's a sample of Conservative thinking:

Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, believes B&B owners should be allowed to refuse service to gay people. Yes, that's right: back to the good old days of "No blacks, no Irish" signs in windows. Just, you know, not the racist kind. Note that as home secretary, he would be one of the three most powerful people in government, and responsible for matters of crime and justice.

Julian Lewis, another of the Conservative front bench team, recently stated he believes it was wrong to lower the homosexual age of consent to 16, in line with straights, because of AIDS. So...he thinks straight people can't get HIV from unprotected sex? Or, unprotected sex doesn't put straight teenagers at risk from other things? By that logic, the lesbian age of consent should be okay, right? Or maybe even lower? The man's ignorance is astounding. Rates of new HIV infections - in this country at least - are highest among drug users, not gay men. [ETA: Correction - my stats were a few years out of date. The 2008 statistics do tell a different, and worrying, story.] And STD infection rates are becoming scary among straight teens.

In Europe, the (British) Conservative party is allied with a far-right alliance which includes parties in other countries with explicitly anti-gay policies. While the Tory MEPs didn't actually vote against a motion condemning recent anti-gay legislation in Europe not a single Tory MEP supported it, either.

Cameron, the man who would be Prime Minister if his party wins next month's election, believes that equal rights for gay people are a matter of conscience. And lest you're thinking well, yes, it is understand that the "matter of conscience" thing means something very specific in parliament-speak: it means an issue deemed to be outside normal party policy, so party leaders allow members vote on these rare issues as they please, instead of following the party whip. To put that in perspective, the usual "matter of conscience" issues are the death penalty, assisted suicide and abortion. There is usually a general consensus between the parties that an issue is a "matter of conscience". But in this case, Cameron is the only party leader to see it that way. So, in other words, he's quite happy to support the homophobes within his own party (see above!) in their attempts to derail equality legislation.

What about the man himself? Cameron has been courting the "pink vote", but his own record tells a very different story. He voted to deny access to IVF to lesbian women who could not "prove" their children would have a "father figure". Yeah, you read that right. If lesbian women want to have children, Cameron believes they shouldn't be allowed to do it without the assistance of a man.

Cameron also voted against the repeal of Section 28. Section 28 was an odious piece of legislation, and one of the (few) unreservedly good things about the Labour years is that they got rid of it. This law forbade teachers from "promoting" homosexuality in schools. It was always nonsensical legislation: it's not like anyone was trying to recruit for the gay army before that. This odious law was interpreted to mean that schools could not appear to show any kind of support for gay students, they couldn't mention homosexuality in sex education, they couldn't lecture against homophobic bullying, they couldn't do anything to help kids who were confused about their sexuality. Any kind of LGBTT youth group was considered illegal. Regardless of the intent of the legislation (not that I believe for a second it was really about protecting children), this was its practical effect.

I went to school during the Section 28 era. Today, I have no problem identifying as gay; then, I had no idea that I was. But I was a fat kid with glasses and close to my best friend, so I was the target of a lot of homophobic bullying. By the time I was 14, I couldn't walk from one class to the next without someone hissing "lez" behind me. Someone started a completely false rumour that my friend and I had been caught in flagrante behind the school building. I didn't realise it at the time, but it became clear to me after I left school that this lie reached most of my teachers and they assumed it was true.

This culimated in my friend and I being sexually assaulted by a gang of other kids in a school bathroom. The details are not important, but please don't imagine anything too horrible. What is important, is that not a single one of those kids was punished by the school. To my knowledge, they weren't even reprimanded. And my friend and I, when we reported the incident, got no support at all from the school. Nil, zip, nada. Oh, someone let us sit in a private office while we pulled ourselves together. And then sent us both back to class.

I don't blame the teachers. I understand now, as I didn't then, that they couldn't have done anything else. Any teacher who treated us like human beings on that day would have been risking their job and their future career.

This was the effect of Section 28. This is the kind of thing David Cameron's vote endorses.

Everyone knows that politicians lie. But few of them lie as poorly as Cameron does when he attempts to present his party as a champion of equality.

Before I was old enough to vote, a very wise person told me, when in doubt, vote against. Sometimes it's not the proposals and philosophies you want to support that matter. It's the ones you don't. This is a prime example.

[ETA2: I'm not a journalist, m'kay. I'm happy for this post to be shared anywhere but it was written with people who know me in mind. For those who don't know me "gay" is just my umbrella term for LGBTTQI. It's just the word I've always used for myself because most of the alternatives are tainted by my experiences of bullying.]
briarwood: Brokeback Mountain - Shirt (Brokeback Shirt)
Way to miss the point! Jacqui Smith claims Iran is safe for "discreet" gays.

When I turned eighteen and got to cast my first real vote, I promised myself I would never, ever vote Tory. Bullshit like this is going to make me change my mind. Anything, anything to get these bastards out of power. I know the new bastards won't be an improvement. But this...

Let's be clear: Jacqui Smith is essentially saying that lesbian and gay people have no right to live as people. We have no right to have a relationship. We have no right to love, or to have gay friends, or to associate in any way with other gay people. We have no right to be "out".

We must live as if we were straight. We must marry, which means we must submit to sex against our desires. We must pretend, every day of our lives, so we won't be killed.

This, in her mind is the definition of "safe".

Well, fuck you.
briarwood: Gal Godot as Wonder Woman (Default)
sweetgirl7808 made some stunningly gorgeous snowy SPN icons here. Inspired by her work, I spent a couple of hours in photoshop figuring out how she did it. The result is my lovely new layout; I was going to make a Hogfather layout for December, but this is so much prettier. I don't have the margins quite right on the layout, but I'm working on it :-)

I bought a new slow cooker today. I love slow-cooked cassaroles and can't wait to try it out again. I was on my way home, lugging this huge box toward the bus station when a man stopped me. He said he was a reporter for the local paper - didn't show me any proof, but he was writing in shorthand. Not many men know that unless it's essential for their work. Anyhow, he was interviewing random people about this plan to ban plastic bags from the city centre. I told him what I thought, and that was that. So maybe I'm gonna get quoted! *shrug* The local paper is a rag with all the journalistic integrity of The Sun, so if he does quote me I'll be shocked if he does so accurately. But I'll be interested to see it.

This whole plastic bags thing is a tough issue. Yes, they are horrible. Yes, they fill up landfill and aren't generally biodegradable. Yes, there are too many of them around. But if we ban them altogether, what takes their place? In an ideal world, of course, we'd all use reusable bags, all the time. My Nan always shopped with this little string/net bag with leather handles. Empty it fit easily into a pocket, and full it held at least as much as the average plastic bag. But it had some downsides, like stuff getting wet, or small items falling through the holes. Also something like that kind of assumes all your shopping will fit in one bag: those were the days when most people used buses or shanks' pony to do the shopping. Nowadays most people use cars and buy a lot more in one go.

No, the problem is people are used to getting bags when they go shopping. So if we ban plastic bags, what will we use instead? Paper bags? If we made the same number of paper bags that we now use plastic, we'd be back to the bad old days of major deforestation. Not that deforestation ever really stopped, but think how much worse it could be. Demand would just be too high.

I think the best solution is to make people pay for their plastic bags. Or better still, make the stores pay to take them back. When I was little, we bought soft drinks in big glass bottles and the store would pay 10p for each bottle returned intact. Can't we adopt the same model for bags? They'd need to be heavier plastic than the ones the stores give away free at the moment, but if you were paid, say, 5p for every bag you returned to the store, and the store could then re-use them, there'd be a lot less in landfill, wouldn't there? It would take a major cultural change, but it would work.

Also in the news, I found this article today: Christian group demands prosecution of the BBC over Jerry Springer - the Opera. Essentially, they want to use UK blasphemy laws to bring a private prosecution because the BBC screened the show.

I never saw it, but I'm pretty sure from what I've read that the show would meet the criteria for a blasphemy prosecution. In the UK we don't have a right of free speech. We have a principle of free speech within a bunch of restrictions on what we can do with it. Similarly, we have freedom of the press, but with a bunch of caveats surrounding that, too. But the article - and the group it's all about - aren't arguing the law. They're arguing moral rights.

The article raises some interesting points. One of them relates to the play Behzti (Dishonour). They are comparing their objections to JSTO with the reaction of the Sikh community to that play. But there's a big, big difference. No court stopped the performances of Behzti (Dishonour): the theatre chose to pull the play after protests threatened to become violent. Also, I have no idea who wrote JSTO, but I'll bet he or she isn't a practicing Christian. Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, who wrote Behzti (Dishonour) was writing about her own culture. People objected not because it was racist, but because it wasn't.

They also compare it to the worldwide furore over the Danish anti-Islamic cartoons. Here, again, there's a point to be made. I believe those cartoons were intended to be offensive and degrading. They were no different from the Nazi cartoons of Jews, depicting Mohamed riding a bomb and suchlike. But you can't compare that to similar depictions of Christianity. We in the West have a long history of lampooning our religion through pictures. Good heavens, even some of the most famous religious artworks are inherently subversive.

Ultimately, however, I have to consider the source of these complaints. "Christian Voice" are not a Christian group. They're a gang of bigots using religion as an excuse to spread hatred. This is the group that the Co-operative bank told to take their business elsewhere, because they objected to the bank having a presence at Manchester Gay Pride. When they initially campaigned against the BBC's showing JSTO, their main objection was that Jesus was played by a black actor. As well as campaigning against the BBC for a single showing of JSTO, they campain against equal rights legislation, civil partnerships and gay right, women's rights, and so on. They are scum.

I am troubled. Because there is a line beyond which satire becomes deliberate insult, and religious groups do deserve some level of protection from that. I believe in freedom of speech, but not when it extends to spreading hatred. Not when it's used as an excuse to cause genuine harm. In this case, the messenger colours the message, but the message is partially sound. The challenge is to filter out the propaganda and find the specks of truth hiding in there.

Politics

May. 3rd, 2007 08:00 am
briarwood: Gal Godot as Wonder Woman (FGT 1 Sign)
Aaaand it's election day again.

The polling station wasn't open early enough for me to vote on my way to work, so I'll have to go this evening when Mum and Sis do. It's just about the only thing we tend to do as a family.

The bastards have moved our polling station though. It's not so bad for me, but it used to be an easy walk for Mum: we'd take the dog and make it sort of an event. Now it's miles away and impossible for her to do without a car. Lucky Sis drives. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks they've done this deliberately, to discourage people from voting. I'm actually not certain when the information was sent, as Mum always keeps our polling cards "in a safe place", but I found out about the change too late to apply for a postal ballot. I'll have to do that next time, for Mum if not for me.

The thing I dislike most about where I live is what a waste of time it is voting at all. This is one of the safest Labour seats in the country. It's some consolation that our local MP has his head screwed on right about most issues - he's at odds with the party quite a lot. Though I've butted heads with the guy about the insane NHS rules on treating HIV/AIDS in non-citizens - he just doesn't get it at all. But hell, that's just one issue.

But that doesn't matter 'cause this isn't a parliamentary election. So it doesn't matter how I vote. It won't count anyway. I don't think the Green Party are even fielding a candidate here. Plaid will; and the big three.

I'm still gonna vote, though. And to everyone reading this, if you're a Brit: go and vote today even if, like me, you think it's useless. Beacause the election turnout gets lower every time, so if enough people who think it's useless get off their asses and vote - it won't be useless any more!!!
briarwood: Gal Godot as Wonder Woman (V4Vendetta)

Forgive me, but I'm going to talk politics.

This week, MPs voted for a fully elected House of Lords. If it happens, this will be possibly the most significant reform of the political landscape in Britain since the execution of Charles II. And, seriously, the reform is way overdue.

I'm a republican. I oppose our monarchy and have for most of my life. I see no value in the House of Lords being filled with hereditary peers. An accident of birth should not confer political power.

I am also a secularist. My religious beliefs are my own, private. But I believe strongly in separation of religion and state. Religion should not be taught in schools, our head of state should not be titular head of any religion and I can see no value in allowing Anglican bishops seats in the House of Lords when the leaders of other faiths do not enjoy parallel privilege.

But I do not believe a fully elected second chamber is the answer. In fact, I'm convinced that it's a disaster waiting to happen.

The role of the Lords is to provide a check and balance for the elected House of Commons. During the last few years the Lords have been responsible for reigning in the worst of our Prime Minister's attempts to turn the UK into a police state. They were also responsible for watering down the anti-hunting bill so much that it's utterly toothless. In the first example, we see the Lords acting as a second chamber should, in the second, we see the privileged class hijacking legislation in order to retain its privileges.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. The only reason the Lords have been able to rein in Blair's so-called anti-terror laws is because they are an unelected body, accountable only to the Queen. If they were elected, they would be subject to the whims of their political parties, wealthy lobbyists, they would have to worry about getting re-elected...and who would be elected? Politicians, no one else. Even if this hypothetical reformed House of Lords were elected by a fair system of proportional representation (and I don't see our present government being that progressive), it would inevitably be dominated by the main political parties, and thus subject to the orders of the party leaders. We would, in short, end up with the equivalent of the USA's Senate - now that might work for them but it won't work in the UK without significant reform of the Commons as well.

The Lords also contains significant expertise. Our MPs are politicians and they draft legislation very poorly at times. They don't really think about the ramifications. The Lords do. The defeat of the worst measures contained in the Mental Health Bill are a prime example. I don't have a lot of time to watch the parliament channel these days, but if you do, try it for a while. Yeah, it's boring debate. But listen to the tone of the talk. The Commons is like a school playground with bullies and cliques and games of one-upmanship going on all the time. A Lords debate, by contrast tends to be measured, intelligent...and adult.

What is needed is a way to retain that intelligence and expertise in our Second Chamber of government, and yet somehow create a chamber with a genuine democratic mandate. I do not have a solution. But I'm convinced that a 100% elected Second Chamber will not serve the purpose.

Other articles:

My links are, inevitably, a skewed toward the reform side of the argument because the most intelligent comment on the subject has been on the Guardian site. I'll add to this list as I find more worth reading.

Roy Hattersley says he will join the Lords to fight for the House's destruction

David Ramsbotham defends the current system

Tony Benn says he would stand for election to a reformed House of Lords

Howard Jacobson on the dangers of elected power

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briarwood: Gal Godot as Wonder Woman (Default)Morgan Briarwood

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