2014-11-14

Handing out invites

This is a random offer, for anyone who accidentally finds this blog post before the end of NaNoWriMo.

I have some beta invite codes for Amazon WriteOn. Let me know if you want one; the only condition is you promise to review one of the stories I have up there.

I can also possibly give out invites to ello, in case anyone is interested. I don't know how many of them I can do, so we'll see.

Just leave a comment letting me know how to get the codes to you securely. This may involve DM on twitter or something. The details don't matter.

2014-09-19

I was Wrong

This is depressing to face up to and depressing to write, but it has to be done. I was wrong about the Scottish independence referendum.

I don't think I was wrong to want rid of Trident and the House of Lords. I don't think I was wrong to want a proportionally elected national parliament with powers limited by a modern written constitution. I don't think I was wrong to think Scotland would in many ways be a better place for the majority of people living there if all its decisions were in the hands of a parliament elected by those people, rather than all the important ones being decided elsewhere for the benefit of interests that don't align very closely with mine. I stand by that.

But I was wrong. I was wrong that any of the above would be relevant to the outcome.

I was wrong to hope that a cynically negative campaign might fail, when I should have known better, having seen it done to the Labour party in general elections before. That was particularly stupid of me.

I was wrong to be carried away by positive visions of what could be, and let wishful thinking distort my perception of the situation: this was objectively a long shot, and it's rare for entrenched political power allied with corporate interests to lose this kind of game.

Now what?

We've been offered a timetable for Westminster to decide what new powers the Scottish parliament should be given. But I was never in this for the Scottish parliament to have more powers; I wanted government to have less power, or at least for that power to be more accountable. That isn't on offer as far as I can tell, but you never know, I could be completely wrong about that too. Let's hope so.

But either way, I'm done with this.

2014-09-10

This is not an election

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, M'lord
the defendants here are charged with war crimes, child abuse and fraud
their plea was "better together"; instead of evidence
they have issued threats, and waved a flag
then rested their defence.
You are here to weigh their words, and place your trust
(falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus)
The question on the paper at your hand
is worded unconventionally, but understand
it's Guilty or Not Guilty, the choice to be
whether the criminals, or you, go free.


2014-08-24

Why we need a constitution

I have been watching the #yesbecause tag on twitter (and yeah, once I got started I had quite a few things to contribute myself).

But one thing that needed a bit more expansion is why we need a written constitution. It would be nice if the UK was offering one, but since they aren't, an independent Scotland is the only way to get one.

It seems a little dry and abstract, not something that you would be aware of every day, but to me it's really important.

Let's look at what government is for at all. Done well, a government is just a mechanism of coordination, so that the things for which there is a broad consensus can be organised by paid experts, and this can all be paid for by collecting taxes (again, at a level that the population consent to, overall).

Here's the thing: we know this can go wrong. There are several failure modes, and so many historical examples of it going wrong (or being constructed on entirely different principles such as absolute monarchy or single-party state that don't even value the consent of the population), that it's only right to ask how we can make this giant, complicated machine less dangerous.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, right? Yes, but some of the people are dicks all of the time, and all of the people are dicks some of the time. The saving grace is that all of the people are not dicks all of the time.  Bad economic ideas, political dogmas, bogeyman scares, ranting demagogues and general self-interest-driven bullshit by corporate butt-lickers have temporary force: a time window during which they can do the most damage, after which they fall gradually to examination of the facts.

The role of the constitution is to preserve a few well-chosen limitations on government power while these childhood illnesses pass, after which hopefully at least one generation of the people get immune to them.

You wouldn't live in a house wired with no circuit breakers, next to a nuclear reactor without control rods, or take a cruise on a ship with no lifeboats. Why the fuck would you want to live in a country with no constitutional protection for free speech and due process?

In my opinion, those are the limitations that we most need to impose on our government. That they cannot silence dissent, or cover up wrongdoing. This is the internet age, in which the truth can chase a lie around the world, catch it, and give it a damn good kicking before breakfast.

The reason we need to make this a constitutional protection rather than a mere law, is that we need to make it take so long to remove the safety measures that people have plenty of time to catch the bastards at it and kick them out.

Looking at how quickly and eagerly the House of Commons passed the "emergency" DRIP bill (which they had had plenty of time to debate if they had wanted to) I saw two things:
  1. There is no effective opposition party at Westminster. The main opposition party, Labour, voted with the government. This is one basic failure mode of a democracy, where it effectively becomes a one-party state for issues touching on state power itself. Minority parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green stood against DRIP, along with a very few principled objectors from the other parties, but it wasn't enough.
  2. If it had required a supermajority of say 75% of MPs and one full term's notice for consultation to amend a constitutional prohibition on mass warrantless surveillance of the population, this would not have happened.
That was a bit longer than I could fit in a tweet, but as they say, I didn't have time to make it shorter.