Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

We have software to place signatures on documents. The stupidity of this is beyond comprehension.

I can ‘sign’ a contract by dropping a transparent PNG on it, but I can’t sign it with my GPG key. “We’ve always done it like this, so we can keep doing so” is cargo cult security. Let’s stop this bullshit.

This post is signed by Elvis. It must therefore be written by Elvis.

On the Overground: I am currently being greatly entertained by idiots claiming to be in a “TfL pilot scheme” and thus not needing a ticket. Almost glad I didn’t bring my headphones because of the drama.

Thanks to technology, we have created a whole class of people whose first concern when faced with anything is “how can we make this more social?” So we’re getting everything with ‘social’ attached. Social shopping, social reading, social learning. Since when was that a good thing?

I mean, when I’m taking a shit, I don’t want to be “social” about it. When I’m reading a book, I don’t want tweets popping up and annoying the fuck out of me. If I’m writing or programming, I want everyone to leave me alone. “Please shut up and go away” is a recurring theme in my daily thoughts.

I have a whole load of browser plugins installed specifically to make my experience of using the web less social. Perhaps we should have a “solitary media” movement to fight back against all things “social”.

I’ve just seen someone earnestly use the phrase “Farage fever”. I think I may have been teleported to a region of space-time where I’m the only sane person. It’s a worryingly familiar feeling.

Stonewall don't represent me

I was tweeting a bit about this earlier, but I need a larger canvas (and preferably one I own).

I’ve had it with Stonewall. Stonewall are a charity here in Britain that campaign for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality. Which is a good thing. Unfortunately, they say and do stupid things fairly often.

The first issue with Stonewall is they fail on trans issues. Now, to be fair to them, their constitutional remit is only to deal with lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) issues rather than issues affecting the trans community. In a “different strokes for different folks” way, I can sort of appreciate this. There are issues which affect LGB people primarily that don’t necessarily affect trans people so much and there are trans issues that are unique to people in that community.

But the reality of the situation is that while Stonewall don’t deal with trans issues, trans people are widely regarded to be part of the community of people who affiliate under the ever widening umbrella. Trans people are members of the community whether Stonewall like it or not.

Maybe it would be okay for Stonewall to not be trans-inclusive if they were at least respectful of trans people. But they aren’t. Stonewall distribute a short anti-homophobia film called Fit. According to Natacha Kennedy the film

does not actually include any trans children or young people, preferring instead to talk about trans people indirectly. In the film the term “tranny” is said to be “short for transgender”. If Stonewall had consulted a couple of trans people they would have been left in no doubt that “tranny” is not short for transgender. It is the insult menacingly hurled at us in the street, along with thinly veiled threats. This rather wooden, one-dimensional portrayal of transgender people contrasts with the film’s rich, deep and varied portrayal of LGB children.

This is pretty basic stuff. It doesn’t exactly take a genius to work out that putting out a film that uses the word “tranny” earnestly to refer to transgender people is fucking stupid.

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot: a transgender rights campaign were to distribute a video with the intention that is intended to be used in schools to fight transphobia and it briefly and in passing noted that “shitstabber” was a perfectly fine term to use for gay men. There’d be outrage. But when Stonewall fuck over trans people? Eh.

There are other examples of Stonewall sucking at trans-related issues like them giving awards to transphobic journalists.

I’d like to say “all of which would be fine but”, but I can’t. It’s not fine that they suck at handling trans issues. It’s fucking ludicrous that in 2014, the main gay rights charity and lobbying group still hasn’t come to grips with the fact that transgender people exist.

Instead then, I’ll say: what has kept me from going from critical to all-out condemnatory on Stonewall is that they do some good work on LGB issues. They may suck at trans issues, but at least they are fighting for LGB people. And as one of them, I should be happy that they are doing that, right?

Well, here’s the thing: they suck at that too.

Where do we start? How about a nice little minor issue like… they didn’t support same-sex marriage.

Yes. Britain’s leading gay rights campaigning charity didn’t think getting gay people the legal right to get married was something worth fighting for.

It took Stonewall an exceptionally long time to get on board with supporting the campaign. The hard work was done by dozens of other groups and individuals like the grassroots C4EM, by Peter Tatchell’s Foundation and many more.

Why is this? Very cynical people have suggested that it might have something to do with the way that former Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill is very much affiliated with the Labour Party, and Labour introduced civil partnerships, and it was the Coalition that was going to push marriage. Stonewall’s unwillingness to support the campaign for marriage rights gave a helpful card to the anti-gay folk to basically say “well, even Stonewall are against it”. The institutional power of Stonewall makes it so plenty of politicians think Stonewall represents the interests of LGB(and T?) people.

In a campaign to increase rights and respect for LGBT people, partisanship shouldn’t get in the way. We shouldn’t have a situation where the party bringing in the legislation that is going to benefit the cause of equality is a reason for or against it. You can not like the Conservative Party all you like—and I’ve got my own personal list of reasons—but you have to give the Coalition their dues for passing the marriage bill.

Except, according to Stonewall, you should congratulate them for the passage of the marriage bill. After it came into effect, Stonewall were tweeting and posting about how wonderful they’d been in getting it passed. The chutzpah of it was truly spectacular.

There have been other things. A particular bugbear of mine is Stonewall’s campaign with mobile company O2. Stonewall released a guide to protecting LGB teenagers on the interwebs with O2. In this, it told parents of said teenagers to report their own children to the police if they found evidence on their child’s phone they had been sexting. Just think about that: your parents find not only that you’ve been gay sexting but have you carted off to the cop shop for it.

Worst. Coming out. Ever.

And to do it with O2 of all companies—the same O2 that block the Wikipedia articles on “gay”, “lesbian” and “transgender” in the filter category LIFESTYLES. When Pat Robertson attacks the “gay lifestyle”, we laugh at him. When O2 categorise being gay as a “lifestyle”, Stonewall partner with them on a project to tell scared parents to have their gay kids arrested for sexting. Absolutely ridiculous.

And this week, the new acting chief exec at Stonewall, Ruth Hunt gave us very good reasons to think that nothing over at Stonewall Towers has changed. We can thank an editorial—improbably published on the Telegraph website of all places—titled Why Stonewall isn’t joining the Dorchester boycott.

The Dorchester boycott, incidentally, is a boycott of Dorchester Hotels which are owned by the Sultan of Brunei. This is as a response to Brunei’s imposition of harsh sharia-based law including stoning of gay people.

In the piece, Hunt has this corker of a sentence:

We’re renowned for our pragmatism and our belief that talking is usually more effective than protests - however satisfying protests may be, in the short term they’re often most rewarding to the individuals taking part.

It struck me: here’s where Stonewall is getting it so wrong.

The reason Stonewall is called Stonewall is precisely because its historical namesake didn’t follow this tactic.

If Stonewall the charity had been at the riots at the Stonewall Inn, they’d be trying to talk calmly to the police rather than taking off their stilettos and beating the cops around the head with them. The thing which started the modern gay rights movement wasn’t people being respectful and not making a fuss, it was brave and courageous people standing up and taking a risk. It was people with nothing left to lose risking being beaten up by cops or homophobic thugs or both.

As it was with the Stonewall rioters and the Gay Liberationists in the sixties and seventies, so it was with the courageous activists in the eighties and early nineties who—with nothing left to lose—set up ACT-UP and Queer Nation and fought for action on HIV/AIDS. What got anti-retrovirals into the hands of people dying with AIDS? Groups like ACT-UP acting up rather than just chit-chatting.

The reason we can live outside the closet and not be chemically castrated by the state, treated under barbaric reparative therapy regimes and chucked in jail for gross indecency is because courageous people protested, fought the police, and marched with pride rather than hid in fear. If we’d all followed Ruth Hunt’s advice, there would be no modern gay rights movement.

Ruth Hunt runs a charity named after a riot and she doesn’t believe in protest. She’s either ignorant of the very basics of the history of the movement she—by dint of her position—now helps lead, or she’s suffering some extraordinary cognitive dissonance.

I get not liking protests. I don’t like protests. I’ve been to a small number and… they’re not for me. I’m a writer not a fighter. My idea of political activism is poring over a long boring policy document and unpicking the gnarly details, the crazy assumptions and the fallacious reasoning. I’m so much better at pedantic philosophical wonkery than I am at placards and shouting. I’m not a “radical queer” by any stretch of the imagination: I don’t think we need a revolution.

But even to a liberal wonky type like me, Hunt’s response to the Brunei/Dorchester boycott shows Stonewall to be so mediocre and so inadequate to their mission, I can’t help but say “enough”.

Stonewall don’t speak for me or a lot of other LGB people I know, let alone T. We need a new national LGBT (and, yes, fully trans-inclusive) campaigning group. It doesn’t have to be radical. It doesn’t have to “kick the shit out of the system”, as Vito Russo put it. But it needs to have enough courage in its convictions to stand up for the people it claims to represent, and have enough vision to see beyond partisan hackery and beyond the self-interest of being nice to your corporate backers to what it is worth standing up for.

It needs to reflexively and institutionally know that transphobia is harmful and wrong and to act in a way that matches this. It needs to not have to be told that Internet censorship will harm young LGBT people seeking anonymous help on the internet. It needs to not have to think about it when presented with the opportunity of getting same-sex marriage. It needs to be fit for purpose because Stonewall isn’t.

We can do better than this. If we care about improving the lives of LGBT people around the world, we have to collectively do better than Stonewall.

Anglicanism: the loveless communion can't go on forever

Big news from the religion front. The Archbishop of Canterbury said some nice things to PinkNews including saying that it’s “great” that gay couples can now get married.

Which any intelligent, reasonable person would see as basically him trying to do some conciliation to the liberal wing of the CofE. The least drama-inducing way of interpreting his remark is that he’s happy that same-sex couples can get married, even though he’s opposed to same-sex marriage. Which is a nice enough sentiment.

But this is religion, not known for being an arena where intelligent and reasonable people dominate the dialogue. People are throwing a bit of a fit about it.

As an atheist who couldn’t give a flying fuck whether the Church of England approves of gay marriage or whether it prefers Marmite or jam on its toast or whatever else it gets steamed up about every week or so, the whole thing is tremendously entertaining to watch.

The Anglican Communion has become a loveless marriage. They are going to split up eventually. Watching them trying desperately to keep their shit show on the road is very entertaining if you are a particularly cynical person. Christ, it’s barely 11am in London and I already want to get drunk.

Say what you will about Indian politics, I can’t imagine Gordon Brown or David Cameron ever saying that an election “deepened the foundations of our democratic polity”, especially after they just lost it.

God gave you free will so you can follow the plan he decided for you long before your birth exactly to the letter. Because that’s freedom.

Spotify’s Web Player is infuriating. I have the desktop application installed. I click a link to It takes me to the web player rather than the desktop app. I have to log into the web player, then tell the web player to open the the links in the desktop version. I don’t remain logged into the web player, because I use the desktop version.

Quite how a company like Spotify can screw up such a simple thing is fairly astounding.

Very sad to hear that David Armstrong has died. I’ve written most of the Wikipedia article about him and he’s one of my favourite philosophical writers: technically impressive but clear, comprehensive in scope and always insightful.

Amanda Marcotte: “The idea that there could be a pope who is not clinging to a harshly medieval point of view but ready to move into the modern world is so appealing that of course we’re going to grasp onto any evidence, no matter how tenuous, that suggests that Pope Francis might be the one. Unfortunately, we’re kidding ourselves.”

Guess what? Francis’ actions don’t line up with his pious words. All of which will be ignored because progressive liberal types treat Francis as Tinker Bell.