Archive for the ‘Ranty McRantypants’ Category

Regarding the latest kerfuffle

Author: Dave Crisp

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

– Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Those who cannot remember the past are, famously, doomed to repeat it. And the easiest way to ensure that the past is forgotten is, as Orwell said, to change the language used to describe it.

The fact that the N word is – quite rightly – taboo in modern society does not alter the fact that, at the time and in the place Huckleberry Finn was set, it was rare to hear a white man use any other term to describe the African-American race. To pretend otherwise is not only to do a great disservice to a man who chose every word he wrote with the utmost care and precision, it is to censor history itself.

The right thing to do would be to use it as a lead in to an intelligent discussion of the history of racism and how it still affects people today. Instead, this new edition sweeps the whole issue under the carpet.

I am fuming about this.

The Reeds of Runnymede

Author: Dave Crisp

It always bothers me when I discover that I, a chemist with no legal training whatsoever, know more about the law than the people whose job it theoretically is to make it.

Thursday night’s Adjournment Debate in the Commons concerned possible amendments to the regal succession rules, specifically ending the current bias towards male children and the ban on marrying Roman Catholics. I doubt that there are many people who think either of these a bad idea, but the Minister whose job it was to reply gave the standard response that they always use: It would involve amending half a dozen fairly entrenched laws, most significantly the Act of Settlement 1701, and that in order to avoid a split in the crowns, they would need to be passed simultaneously not just in the UK but also in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and ten or so other places.

Personally, I don’t see the problem with splitting the crowns: the Monarchy in Australia isn’t going to long outlast Lizzie anyway, and it wouldn’t surprise me if most of the others follow suit.. But that’s not what this rant is about. What it’s about is that, in the middle of the debate, MP Chris Bryant said (quoting from Hansard, and referring to the Coalition Government’s plans to introduce elections for the Second Chamber):

Chris Bryant: As I said, posh tosh. The Minister is going to cite arguments that the civil servants around the corner will have prepared for him about how awfully difficult this is and how many pieces of legislation are involved, but if he is going to reform the House of Lords he is going to have to start with Magna Carta, and that is going considerably further back than the Act of Settlement.

With all due respect to the Honourable Gentleman: No. Just … No. What I tell you three times is true: No. Reform of the House of Lords will not require any amendment to Magna Carta whatsoever, because virtually none of Magna Carta is actually still legally in effect.

Now, perhaps the first problem is that when a Lawyer says “Magna Carta” they’re not referring to the same document everyone else is. Most people, on hearing those words, think immediately of the document forced on King John by a gaggle of rebellious barons and ecclesiastics at Runnymede in June 1215. However, as important and iconic as that moment was in the development of English law, that version of the charter did not outlast the year. In fact, John was willfully disregarding it within three months, and any legal effect it had ceased entirely when he died in 1216, leaving his nine-year-old son Henry III as his heir.

Luckily, about half of the original Magna Carta dealt with specific grievances the barons had against John that were simply no longer relevant once he was no longer around. When Henry III emerged from the care of the regency council in 1225, he voluntarily issued a revised version of the charter, omitting the sections that were no longer relevant (it shrank from 61 clauses to 37) and rewording some of the others. When Edward Longshanks succeeded Henry in 1272, he confirmed the 1225 text, and in 1297 had Parliament permanently enact it in to law as part of a statute called Confirmatio Cartorum. It is this law, containing the shorter 1225 text rather than the original 1215 version, that the few remaining effective provisions of the Charter hail from.

However, like I said, there aren’t many. Important as the Charter is, most of it was actually rather vaguely worded and was superseded over the years by other laws that stated the same things in more concrete terms; and by the accession of Victoria it was effectively obsolete. Two-thirds of it was repealed during the 1860’s, and all but three of the remaining clauses followed suit in 1969. The three remaining clauses read (in translation):

  • I. FIRST, We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for Us and our Heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the Freemen of our Realm, for Us and our Heirs for ever, these Liberties under-written, to have and to hold to them and their Heirs, of Us and our Heirs for ever.
  • IX. THE City of London shall have all the old Liberties and Customs which it hath been used to have. Moreover We will and grant, that all other Cities, Boroughs, Towns, and the Barons of the Five Ports, as with all other Ports, shall have all their Liberties and free Customs.
  • XXIX. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right

So, the only things that are still guaranteed by Magna Carta are: The freedom of the Church, the ancient Liberties of the City of London and the Cinque Ports, and due process of law. Nothing in there about the composition of Parliament whatsoever.

Honestly, what do we pay these people for?

The clue is in the name

Author: Dave Crisp

There is a reason why they’re called “killer” whales, you know.

In which PETA goes way too far

Author: Dave Crisp

This made me want to vomit. Which, in all honesty, is probably what PETA intended; except I want to do it OVER them.

Luckily, the ASA saw sense and banned it. Still, ughhhhh….

Amazon shenanigans

Author: Dave Crisp

Want to know why a sixth of Amazon’s catalog vanished over the weekend?


Scott Westerfield


What an almighty clusterfuck.

Scalzi, of course, has the best quote:

Amazon apparently forgot that when it moved against Macmillan, it also moved against Macmillan’s authors. Macmillan may be a faceless, soulless baby-consuming corporate entity with no feelings or emotions, but authors have both of those, and are also twitchy neurotic messes who obsess about their sales, a fact which Amazon should be well aware of because we check our Amazon numbers four hundred times a day, and a one-star Amazon review causes us to crush up six Zoloft and snort them into our nasal cavities, because waiting for the pills to digest would just take too long.

Java stupidity

Author: Dave Crisp

Warning: what follows is a rant about a very minor technical point of the Java programming language. Click through only if you really want to.


This is just disgusting. Any UK people reading this, learn what TOR is and how to use it.

As for me, I’ll just be sitting here and waiting for the one-eyed Scottish idiot to announce the establishment of MiniLuv.

Headdesk of the month

Author: Dave Crisp

You would think that the director of counter-terrorist operations at MI5 would know not to get out of a car in Downing Street with a top-secret document containing details of an ongoing investigation on display to the waiting press cameras, wouldn’t you?

Epic. Fail.

As expected, the British Tabloid Press is all over the latest scandal to rock our unelected Prime Minister’s government. Mention the word “porn” and their reaction is utterly predictable. Le Sigh.

Just in case the point isn’t getting through, though: the real issue here is not that the Home Secretary’s husband watched a couple of pornos on pay-per-view. Whether you agree with the morality of it or not, that’s something they need to work out between them. For all we know, she might be perfectly okay with it.

The issue is that he then charged the cost of those videos to his wife’s expense account. And that’s not the worst abuse of the rules the couple has committed, far from it.

I swear, the sooner Gordon is out of office, the better. I just hope that the Labour party realises that soon enough before the next election that we won’t have to put up with five years of David fucking Cameron.

On Homophobia and Hypocrisy

Author: Dave Crisp

An Article in yesterday’s Independent talks about an apparent rise in homophobic crime in the UK, and how it is being under-reported, both by victims and the media. It makes some interesting points, and yet there is an unavoidable air of hypocrisy about it, as the first story mentioned in the article more than adequately demonstrates.

Unless you either live in Liverpool or follow the British gay media, you’ll almost certainly be unaware of this story,  so I’ll summarise. On July 25 last year, Michael Causer — a 19-year-old trainee hairdresser who by all accounts never did any harm to anyone — was beaten into a coma in broad daylight by two other teenagers, in an attack seemingly motivated purely by homophobia. He died nine days later, without having regained consciousness. One of his attackers has today been sentenced to life in prison for his part in the crime.

Although the story was well-covered by the Pink Paper and other similar news sources, several of which drew the obvious comparison to the death of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming ten years ago (and if you don’t know about that, then run to your local DVD store and rent The Laramie Project right now); the only mainstream news source to cover the story in any detail was the Liverpool Echo, which has a very limited circulation outside Merseyside. Mike was white, didn’t live in London, and wasn’t shot or stabbed, so the major news sources simply didn’t care enough to give it the column inches it deserved, and most of them covered it with the equivalent of a one-paragraph article on page seven, if at all. The earliest mention I can find of the story in the Independent’s own archives is a name-check in an article written five months later about the city’s slowly-developing gay scene.

And so, British Media, I say to you: this is not good enough. If you want to really make a difference, then don’t sweep stuff like this under the carpet. Be outraged when gay kids are beaten to death in the street, and just maybe enough other people, people who otherwise might not have even heard about it will be outraged that this sort of thing stops happening.  Stop bewailing the mote in thy brother’s eye, and instead do something about the beam in thine own.