When bigotry isn't   (22.9.12)

Last week, Nick Clegg almost called some opponents of equal marriage "bigots". In the end, the word was dropped. In response, Stuart Pierce wrote (caution: Daily Mail)

The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines bigoted as: ‘Unreasonably prejudiced and intolerant.’ In other words, Nick Clegg.

Pierce seeks to establish a false symmetry between the "bigotry" of equal marriage opponents, which he denies, and that of Nick Clegg, which he alleges.

I think there's one thing worth pointing out in response to this pretension of balance. When equal marriage is advocated, no change is proposed to the marriage rights of heterosexuals. They will still be able to marry in exactly the same way as before. When, however, equal marriage is opposed, gay couples are denied an important civil liberty, as well as the opportunity to make a public commitment on the same terms as everyone else.

The claim that extending marriage to gay people is a form of "intolerance" or "bigotry" is, therefore, demonstrably absurd -- and a sign of intellectual desperation on the part of those who make it.

The Last Time I Saw Richard   (19.9.12)

This is the final track on Joni Mitchell's Blue, and one if its finest. On the album it's a lonely, regretful and bare soliliquy, accompanied only by Mitchell on the piano. It concludes with one of the most poignant final chords of any record.

Here, though, is a live performance she gave in 1974. It's light, whimsical, and strong; perhaps benevolent time had begun to heal a painful separation. Next time, I'll move on to another great Joni Mitchell album, Hejira (1976). You can buy Blue here.

The Last Time I Saw Richard by Joni Mitchell on Grooveshark

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68,
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe
You laugh, he said you think you're immune, go look at your eyes
They're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realise they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer, and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said "Drink up now it's gettin' on time to close."
"Richard, you haven't really changed," I said
It's just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head
You got tombs in your eyes, but the songs
You punched are dreaming
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet, love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a Coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright
I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want Nobody comin' over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin' behind bottles in dark cafes
Dark cafes
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings
And fly away
Only a phase, these dark cafe days

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Workplace discrimination   (14.9.12)

There's a nice point in tomorrow's Economist regarding workplace discrimination, and how it is one of the biggest issues for ethnic minority workers:

As for a substantive policy comparable to gay marriage, the issue that divides ethnic-minority people most clearly from the rest of the electorate is workplace discrimination. White people don’t think it happens, black and brown people do. Since there is plenty of evidence that black and brown people are right, the Tories should spend a little time thinking how, without tying business up in red tape, they might change behaviour. A name-and-shame policy, perhaps, for the businesses who regularly lose discrimination cases. If the Tories get the message right, they could make a lot more friends.

A Case of You   (8.9.12)

This is track 9 on Joni Mitchell's Blue. She plays the Appalachian dulcimer, while James Taylor (then her boyfriend) accompanies on guitar.

A Case of You by Joni Mitchell on Grooveshark

Just before our love got lost you said
"I am as constant as a northern star"
And I said "Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar"

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh Canada
With your face sketched on it twice
Oh you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet
oh I would still be on my feet

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
"Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said
"Go to him, stay with him if you can
But be prepared to bleed"

Oh but you are in my blood
You're my holy wine
You're so bitter, bitter and so sweet

Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

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Wet Williams   (8.9.12)

Rowan Williams says that the government has "embarrassed" the Church of England by consulting the public on gay marriage. I say that the church embarrassed itself by submitting a response to the consultation which incompetently engaged with the arguments it opposed.

As for embarrassments in general: it's only possible to embarrass an organisation if it's got something to be embarrassed about. That'd be the Church's record of lies, cowardice, and hypocrisy on the subject of homosexuality, then.

For some overdue theological integrity, I refer you to Jeffrey John.

Pardon, why not?   (2.9.12)

In February of this year I explained why I believe that the decision was wrong not to pardon Alan Turing (computer science pioneer, codebreaker, and consensual-gay-sex convict). At the time, Justice Minister Lord McNally stated that

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence". [...] However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.

I argued that "It is not about trying 'to put right what cannot be put right'; it is about acknowledging, here and now, that what happened to Turing was wrong". A few months after that decision, the Protection of Freedoms Act received royal assent. Part of that Act means that those with gay sex convictions can from next month apply to have them removed from the criminal records database (although presumably this does not amount to a judicial pardon).

So now, I ask the questions: if these convictions are to be deleted from criminal registers, why should these people not also receive a pardon? And if living convicts should receive a pardon, why not also deceased ones -- a good number of whom died through the state's abuse of its judicial apparatus?

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