John Walker's Electronic House


Bath MP Don Foster’s Abhorrent Voting Record, And How He Defends It

by on Jan.15, 2013, under Rants

I’m not one for regrets. I try not to dwell on mistakes made in the past, but instead focus on not making the same mistakes in future. But there’s one regret I can’t shake: I encouraged others to vote for Don Foster in Bath, and the Liberal Democrats elsewhere, at the last General Election.

At the time it felt like the right thing to do. Foster had a really fantastic voting record, and behaved like a man with integrity. He campaigned on issues he cared about, and he took a splendidly enlightened view of censorship and invasive laws. I was pleased to give him my vote, and I argued to others why I thought they should to. And now I can only see myself as complicit in the despicable results of that election, in the duplicity of the Liberal Democrats, and most of all, in the voting record of Foster since the election.

When I voted for him, my vote was carried over into every vote he’s cast since May 2010, of which all but six have been in line with the Conservatives. He’s rebelled a paltry six times, twice on matters of civil servant pay, and four times on what times Parliament should meet. He has not rebelled or abstained on a single vile policy that has gone through, endorsing the wretched cuts and evil targeting of the poor and disabled – those who Foster had purported to support before this government. His toadying has been horrendous to watch, and seen him rising the ranks of the Lib Dems over the last couple of years, as he appears to abandon all his previous principles. It’s been a miserable and humiliating sight, and one for which I hold myself responsible. Realistically, I couldn’t have known, but that doesn’t change where I put my X, and where I encouraged others to put theirs.

Last week I wrote to Foster to express my horror at his voting for the 1% cap on annual benefit rises – a real-terms cut in benefits for the poorest and most needy, as inflation rises far beyond the insulting increases. I’ve written to Foster before since the election, and in response have had the most dismissive responses imaginable, ignoring anything I’ve said, and instead listing Lib Dem “achievements” as if they mean anything in the face of their swathes of failures. The reply to my latest communication was the same, but this time so much more insidiously awful. I really can’t tell if Foster has successfully deluded himself into believing that the microscopic differences his party have made to Tory policy are really of great significance, and thus his voting in favour of the outcome is a noble act on his part, of if he is simply a cruel and terrible man who cares not at all for the poorest and most vulnerable. It’s so sad to find myself hoping for the former, hoping for a deluded quisling MP.

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Why You Shouldn’t Use Yodel For Parcel Delivery

by on Dec.18, 2012, under Rants

Warning: whinging.

For the longest time I’ve assumed that Citylink are the worst delivery company in Britain. But Yodel are looking like real contenders for the title. While almost all delivery companies are obtuse, unhelpful, and make resolving issues as difficult as possible, none compare to the heavy iron walls that surround Yodel.

I have a delivery due, it was meant to arrive some time last week. On Friday I dared to leave the house for an hour, and of course they attempted to deliver then – clearly not their fault. I received a card through the door (thus immediately giving them an advantage over Citylink, you could argue), which had been filled in to tell me it was the “1st of 3 attempts”. I should turn over the card for more details – this instruction had been hand-ticked twice.

The back of the card was completely unmarked. No offer to reattempt to deliver was ticked, nor was the suggestion that I’d need to collect it from their delivery office. So, er, great.

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The Bible On Women In Church – An Update

by on Nov.24, 2012, under Rants, The Rest

As was likely, after I wrote my piece on Paul’s thoughts on women in the church, and the twisting of those words to oppress women for millennia since, a few people have suggested some possible errors. I want nothing less than to spread any misinformation, so wanted to update with things I’ve learned since. The rather crucial thing to know is: the facts remain the case. The arguments against women in leadership in the church remain, as I said, theological rubbish.

I should also add that I’m not a scholar. I’m a games journalist. I do have a (first class!) degree in Youth, Community Work & Applied Theology, and while it taught me some basics, it wasn’t exactly hardcore theological studies. I come to this as an amateur, relying on the works of experts, and as such will of course make mistakes, or at least not have learned enough so far.

Thing is: Paul was, unequivocally, in favour of women in leadership, and those who use his words to prevent this are deliberately perverting the clear and unambiguous message that’s prevalent in all of his writing. As I said before, you don’t need to worry about any Greek interpretation, or get into any arguments about the meanings of specific words, to reach this conclusion. Paul openly and deliberately refers to women as apostles, deacons, church leaders, and heads of families running churches. What’s interesting is that from further study, it seems Paul was even more overtly criticising misogynist oppression in the church than I’d ever realised.

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Why The Argument Against Women In Church Leadership Is Theological Rubbish

by on Nov.21, 2012, under Rants

Update: After some questions and criticisms, I’ve studied more since writing the below, and have summarised it all here. However, please note that while some of the Greek interpretation has been updated in my later post, the core of what I have written here remains the case. See both posts for a better, overall picture.

The words of the bigoted and scared sing in my ears, as I listen to the arguments of those against female bishops in the Church Of England (CofE). And since writing that sentence, the vote is lost. Women will still not be recognised as equal in the church. While I’ve not been involved with a CofE church for around eight years now, instead a part of an Evangelical free church, I still feel a heavy weight when I listen to this institution toying with continuing one of its number of bigotries. This debate, ahead of the vote to see whether women were allowed to assume the role of bishoping, is a peculiar one to hear in 2012.

On one side were those arguing for equality for women, to let women hold the same roles in the church as men. On the other side were those arguing that women should be under the subjugation of men, that men are who God wants to be in charge, and that women do not hold the same rights as men within the Church Of England. It’s not too often that you get to hear an argument where such overt and proud bigotry is argued so openly and so shamelessly. But even that aside, what’s most frustrating about this discussion is that the argument made by one side – tonight’s winning side – is quite simply, and utterly demonstrably, entirely wrong. Factually wrong.

The argument is that the Bible tells us that women should not be allowed to lead a church, that men are to have authority over women. Bible quotes are given to demonstrate this, and indeed, pick up any modern English translation of the bible and there you will find those very phrases. You certainly can see why people might be wont to think it is not. The bigotry against women is not only passionately argued in our churches, but it appears to be written down in our bibles. But these translations might not be correct. This, I think, provides a reasonable understanding for why the ordinary church goer might think that this is at least what the bible says, whether or not they believe it is reasonable. But it is no excuse for the educated church leaders currently arguing against women’s equal rights.

Two verses are used most frequently in these arguments, at least by those who – thank goodness – don’t to try to wield the poetic imagery at the beginning of Genesis. They are (using the NIV version, because it’s universal, rather than preferable):

1 Timothy 2.12 – I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.

1 Conrinthians 14.34 – Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says… It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

They seem pretty cut and dry, right? But neither appears to be what is written in the original Greek text. Both, I think, have been deliberately mistranslated in an effort to oppress women.

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The BBC Is Not “In Crisis”, And The BBC Needs To Stop Saying It Is

by on Nov.10, 2012, under Rants

There was a superb moment on US network MSNBC’s news/entertainment programme, The Rachel Maddow Show, this week, where Maddow delivered a polemic disabusing the conspiratorial position of Republicans and Republican commentators. It went like this:

The point she captures is so simple, and so obvious upon hearing – that so long as one half of political representation is obsessed with conspiracies, lies and misdirection, it entirely fails to serve the reality of the country it purports to represent. And this notion reflects directly onto how so many scandals are covered in the UK press, and by the government.

The BBC is not in crisis. That Newsnight failed to broadcast an investigation into Jimmy Savile is very problematic. Revealing the systematic failure to protect the vulnerable in hospitals, care homes, and indeed BBC premises, seems an important story that merits coverage. While Savile is dead, and thus his exposure was not going to protect anyone else from him, the systems he was able to exploit remain in place until highlighted. That there are now multiple enquiries taking place into how such abuse was possible is, I think, proof enough that the report at the very least merited further investigation, and not being spiked. And if there were internal cover-ups at the BBC, then it’s important this be exposed and dealt with.

That Newsnight then broadcast an interview with an individual claiming a senior Conservative politician had sexually abused him, without identifying the former politician, is not the BBC in crisis either. It’s a mistake. In light of the Savile story, Newsnight was in an odd position. They’re being loudly castigated for failing to report the actions of a dead child abuser, and now have testimonial about a live one. They had to be considering the reaction had they not reported this one as well. However, it’s pretty bewildering that with the situation being what it was, the reporter didn’t think to load a picture of the former MP in question on their phone and show it to the interviewee. I hope, as a result of all this, Newsnight will ensure reporters do some pretty basic checks in future. But the BBC is not in crisis. Newsnight’s in a mess, and some of it may be to do with any number of the layers of management on which the bloated corporation spends far too much of its money. But the BBC remains the most extraordinary broadcaster in the world.

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Guest Post: Robert Florence On The Eurogamer Incident

by on Oct.26, 2012, under Rants

Below is a guest post from Robert Florence, comedian, RPS columnist, and author of the Eurogamer article at the centre of the scandal of the past couple of days.

Okay. I feel I have to say something about all this mess. It’s difficult to know what to say, and how to say it, because there are good people I don’t want to put under any more pressure. I’ll be brief.

First of all, I think it’s important to explain how my Eurogamer piece came to be. On Wednesday morning I sat down to write a column about that fascinating image of Geoff Keighley beside a table of snacks. When I opened up Twitter I saw that there were some games writers having an argument. Another games scene drama. This time it was about games journalists tweeting promotional hashtags to win prizes – something I think is wrong. I saw a parallel between games writers’ casual acceptance that they can happily take a role in these silly PR stunts and Keighley’s weird buffet. That was why those particular games writers, Dave Cook and Lauren Wainwright, were referenced in my column. On another day, it could have been another two games writers, another drama. But on Wednesday, unfortunately for many of us, Lauren Wainwright had made a public tweet about those gifted PS3s.

I want to clarify here that at no point in my column did I suggest that either Dave Cook or Lauren Wainwright were corrupt. Their public tweets were purely evidence that games writers rarely question what their relationship with PR should be. In Lauren’s case I made the point that her suggestion that it’s fine for a games writer to tweet a promotional hashtag for personal gain could make everything she tweets and writes suspect. I was saying – “Folks, be careful what you say. You might make yourself look bad.” There was nothing libellous in that column.

Yesterday, Eurogamer removed a section of my column. Tom Bramwell, my editor, is a good man. Believe me when I tell you that the 24 hours that followed the publication of my column were horrendous for Tom. In all my time writing for Eurogamer, Tom Bramwell has never asked me to change a word. Even when I wrote about Eurogamer’s acceptance of Booth Babes at the Eurogamer Expo, Tom Bramwell had my back. When Tom emailed me telling me that the column was going to be amended, that it HAD to be amended, you can believe that it wasn’t a decision he took lightly. I can’t share everything about my exchanges with Tom, but I ask that you don’t see him as a villain in this. His attempts to defend my position were, if anything, heroic.

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A Bit Of Perspective

by on Oct.25, 2012, under Rants

People like a fuss.

Clearly I’ve been provoking a lot of that fuss in having written frankly about the last two days’ activities, but things have gotten a touch out of hand. So…

First thing I want to make clear: My concern and the anger behind my two posts has not been based on the actions of one or two people, but on wide circles of the UK games journalist/PR industry and their behaviour in reaction to the events. The shock, disgust, flippancy, sarcasm and straw-manning that has been exhibited from so many who don’t want questions asked, don’t want certain behaviours challenged, and don’t want their boats rocked. It’s abysmal, and it’s what drove me to write about it.

This afternoon’s post was more immediately about Lauren Wainwright’s successful censoring of Robert Florence’s article, and my fury at a journalist who would seek to use legal threats to silence another. But further, it was once again about so many in the business leaping to defend her, throwing around unsubstantiated allegations of libel where there was none, and besmirching a journalist who asked awkward questions to defend another who deserved awkward questions to be asked of her. The cowardice implicit in this is like a plague in the industry, and it deserves to be called out.

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An Utter Disgrace

by on Oct.25, 2012, under Rants

Yesterday, astonishingly, a number of games journalists defended advertising a game on their Twitter feeds in order to win themselves a PS3. This caused a reaction from others, me included, and I was quickly told to shut up and stop interfering by a number of those I had thought were colleagues. Robert Florence wrote an excellent article about this on Eurogamer, in which he quoted a couple of these people, and then pointed out the potential damage such statements could make to someone’s reputation.

He pointed out that when someone vociferously defends a journalist’s right to advertise a game for personal gain, and also has her Twitter homepage emblazoned in images from the forthcoming Tomb Raider game, it could make others ask questions. Never mind that it’s obviously massively stupid and inappropriate for a games journalist to smother an unreleased game all over their personal page – he simply pointed out that in doing so while so enthusiastically arguing that other forms of advertising are fine, people could conflate the two. That would be an entirely reasonable point. You’d think.

However, that point has now been removed, following a complaint from writer Lauren Wainwright, one of the people quoted in Rab’s article.

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Games Journalists, And The Perception Of Corruption

by on Oct.24, 2012, under Rants

I want to get some thoughts down on paperscreen, and then out in public, about the recent brouhaha over games journalists’ behaviour and integrity, and the conflicts I see with the Games Media Awards. I also want to still have some friends in this industry, but sometimes the two don’t go hand in hand.

I also want to be clear that I don’t think any of these matters are clear-cut or simple, and that I certainly don’t consider myself to be a paragon, above all the accusations of corruption, or the activities that some consider compromising. So I want to explain the compromises I experience, too.

And incredibly importantly, I want to point out that the vast majority of the time, no matter which site or magazine you read, the chances are what you’re reading is un-bought, uncorrupted opinion. That’s the norm. Issues are the exception. Frankly, anything else would require more organisation and effort than most editors have the time or energy for. And of the very many games journalists I know, I know of not one who’s ever done anything openly corrupt, or written an influenced review. Most people, and most content, is exactly as you’d hope it was.

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And Unpaid “Internships” Aren’t Okay Either

by on Feb.06, 2012, under Rants

Oh my goodness, I’m boiling over with rage. Yet another gaming site is trying to deceive young writers into believing their work is worthless, and the only way they can get anywhere in this job is to work for free. (You can read my previous rant here.)

Pocket Gamer, who until now I’d always naively thought of as quite a cheery site, are offering three month unpaid “internships”. Which means they take their writing, publish it on their advertising-emblazoned site, and then keep all the money that article generates for themselves. The author gets the magical treat of “experience”, and we’re all to thank the publisher for their charitable efforts.

What’s made me quite so angry this evening is the realisation that I would FAR prefer the editors/publishers of such a site just admit that they’re taking advantage of a culture where young writers are easy to screw over. But instead we get told these ridiculous stories about how it’s for the exploited writer’s own benefit, that it’s to help them, and most of all, that they’d never get paid work without doing unpaid first.

That is a LIE. An absolute lie. And it’s a ridiculous one at that. Never mind that most the writers I know never did any prolonged stints of unpaid work. Never mind that I wrote for PC Gamer for a decade, and saw lots of young writers with no paid experience being given a chance with paid-for work in the magazine. Never mind that RPS hired the extraordinary Adam Smith despite his never having had any published games journalism experience at all. Nor that we’re not requiring it for our next hire. But because the lie is usually backed up with the stupidest logic imaginable. “I did unpaid work to get into this industry, and I’d never have got here if I hadn’t.”

Presumably people willing to make this argument are also aware of every other of the billions upon trillions of alternate paths their lives could have taken should they have turned left at the lights rather than right, or left the house on time rather than five minutes late. The capacity to contain the eventualities of every possible version of their existence must be the thing that exhausts them enough to be of a frame of mind where they believe published writers shouldn’t get paid. It’s such a monumentally lazy thing to say, to believe that because they did one thing – that they were personally exploited – that no other pathway was open to them. It’s illogical nonsense, and that it’s people’s best defense for the morally bankrupt practice is a touch problematic.

It’s not ambiguous. If your website makes money, and you publish someone’s article, you pay them for it. Otherwise you’re making money from their work and giving them nothing, which is exploitation.

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