Monday, January 30, 2006

Here There Be Monsters

Missed this one when he first put it up, but it's not out of date, Tim Neale has an excellent post on fear, monsters, Blair and playground bullies:
As my life experience grew I began to put together a theory of people. I decided that those who try to rule by fear, the playground bullies, and pub thugs are often themselves ruled by fear. And if you cease to be afraid of them, like my childhood monsters they cease to be a problem... Tony Blair’s launch speech of his Respect Action Plan. “My view is very clear: their freedom to be safe from fear has to come first
Yup, I've been busy, Paul's posting more than me currently, I'll hopefully be back on steam tomorrow. Hopefully. But, as it's been at least a few days, and it's on topic to the post, why do we let this tired bully stay in office?
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Full of holes

So it looks likely that Special Branch forged some documents on the day of the shooting of John Charles de Menezes, in order to make it look as if they had not identified him as one of the suspected 21st of July attempted bombers.

Now this evidence is scooped in the News of the World, so I'm not willing to accept it at face value just yet, but if it is true, then it's yet another nail in the coffin of Ian Blair and his half-arsed attempt at running a police force. The family of Menezes have long maintained that there has been a cover-up over the shooting of their son - missing CCTV, overwritten logs, false testimony and so on, and quite frankly it's beginning to look like they might be right.

So how long it is going to be before we get the true story of what happened on the 22nd of July last year, and when we do, what measures are going to be put into place to make sure it never happens again. I find the parallels between the stories of illegal shootings in de Menezes' home country of Brazil, and the shooting in London last year to be deeply worrying, to wit we might expect such behaviour to go on in the wild streets of Rio de Janeiro, but not in supposedly sedate areas of London.

Can somebody please prove my fears wrong, and tell us the truth about what happened last year?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Legitimate Terrorists?

Here's a political dilemma for you - how do you react when a terrorist group actively engages in democratic politics, and actually gains power? This is, of course, the challenge facing Bush, Blair, the EU and the UN after Hamas' election victory in Palestine last week. Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks and months, some strange politics is likely to take place.

Of course, what everyone really wants is for Hamas to take it's new political role to heart, renounce violence and undertake a political end to the violence in Palestine. This is not going to happen. But whilst Hamas remain an armed group, actively using violence to free their country, can they really be compatible with western democracy in an age which considers dealing with terrorists to be political anathema?

The fact is though, Hamas has been democratically elected to 80 of Palestine's 132 parliamentary seats on a UK-shaming turnout of 77%, in an election praised by the UN for its fairness - indeed they have also stated that where the election was restricted, it was because of Israeli intervention, rather than anything to do with the Palestinians.

It strikes me, therefore, slightly unfair to call sour grapes on the election results after what appears to be a perfectly legitimate election in Palestine. You open yourself up to a democratic way of thinking, you accept the fact that it may not bring to power exactly who you were looking for. Yes, Hamas now need to work inside of politics, and I'm sure that continued use of violence wont help that; but at the same time they represent the will of their own people, who want to believe that Hamas really can make a difference, and the west must respect that point of view. For the US, the UK and the EU to say they wont deal with Hamas is basically saying to the Palestinian people "we don't care what you think, you got it wrong" and that's only likely to plunge the peace process even deeper into turmoil than it is right now.

Unfortunately, I cannot see how this situation will ever work itself out; Israel will almost certainly refuse to have relations with Hamas, even if the rest of the world does give them a chance. And Hamas, although they may scale down their physical attacks on Israel, will continue to call for the end of the Israeli state - not too useful when you then need to negotiate with a state who's legitimacy you do not accept.

And at the blunt end of all this will be (as ever) the Palestinian people, their voice now heard in the political arena, but then subsequently ignored. Democracy it may be, but fair it definitely isn't.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hughes: Who cares who he sleeps with?

Oh look, Simon's outed himself. Anyone care? OK, maybe the misleading interview he gave saying he "wasn't gay" (true) was a little badly thought through, but as pointed out in the comments on Jonny's Blog, he didn't actually lie. He's bisexual. So what?

I've a fair number of bi friends, including an ex I'm still fairly close to. I've never understood the "you're either gay or straight, make your mind up" idea, strikes me as utterly stupid. I've never been attracted to a bloke, but the idea that I definately never will be is to say I'll never ever change. People are people; surely if we're going to accept that people can do a job regardless of gender, we can accept that some people don't discriminate in other areas either?

Another non-news story dominating the MSM. Apparently the whale in the Thames was a huge issue as well. Iran's going to start trading oil in Euros, not a squeek from anyone. Some bloke says he's bi, headline news all over the place. I don't care who he sleeps with. I just think he'd make a crap leader; I thought that when he stood, hasn't changed me on that one.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google vs Freedom? Or media spin...

So...:
Google's launch of a new, self-censored search engine in China is a "black day" for freedom of expression, a leading international media watchdog says.
Bollox. Headline news on BBC news, a feature on PM, and a few little caveats. Google faces a choice
  1. Abandon the largest, and fastest growing, market in the world to its rivals
  2. operate within that market
Google is a commercial entreprise. "Do no evil" is a nice little slogan, but you can't do any good if you're not there. Not really a choice, really, if they abandon China, they abandon one third of the worlds population, and the remarkable growth in the Chinese economy is something no commercial operation can ignore.

So, having made that commercial decision, they then have to make another choice
  1. Operate illegally within the market, but according to 'principles', and be pretty sure you'll get shut down
  2. Operate within the legal framework as set out by the recognised (and therefore legitimate) government
Again, not much of a choice, if they don't follow Chinese regulations, they get shut down. So, having made these business decisions, they then have an ethical choice. Do they do as other operations, set up and pretend all is well? Or do they subvert those regulations?
"Google has no choice but to give up to the Party," said one posting on the popular information technology Web site PCONLINE, signed simply "AS."

Google's move was prompted by frequent disruptions of the Chinese-language version of its search engine registered under the company's dot-com address in the United States.

Government filtering has blocked access or created lengthy delays in response time.

Google's senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin defended the new site as better serving Chinese customers.

"In deciding how best to approach the Chinese -- or any -- market, we must balance our commitments to satisfy the interests of users, expand access to information, and respond to local conditions," McLaughlin said in an e-mailed statement, .

McLaughlin said search results would be removed based on local laws, regulations or policies.

"While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission," he said.

There was no indication that Google would disable access to its .com site within China.

McLaughlin said the company wouldn't host its e-mail or blogging services in China that can be mined for information about users, and would inform users if information had been deleted from searches. Such messages appeared in searches for Falun Gong and other sensitive topics.
They're being honest, and they'll tell the users that they're being censored. On every search that they are censored for. They'll also link to their main .com in the US, which users may or may not be able to access through the firewall.

Google has many, many faults. It's privacy policies and data hoarding tendencies are subject to significant criticisms. But this one? They made the only decision they could, and are keeping their Chinese users fully informed. Outside pressure isn't going to give the residents of China their freedom. It may help, but that's all. Internal pressure will do that; the UK democratised as its economy developed. Taiwan democratised as its economy developed. Every time Google.cn tells its users that they're being censored by the govt, the odds of change from within increase.

Criticise Google for the things it gets wrong. Not the things it gets right.

Radio 4 theme; sometimes MPs get it right...

Paxman:
"We've no idea what the head of Radio 4's playing at - we're thinking of using it every night,"
Don't watch TV, but hope they do. Heard it for the first time just before Xmas, insomnia kicked in. Immediately set around trying to get a copy , it's great. Mitchell:
"I find it a very uplifting and interesting theme - it makes you feel good about life and the country."
Damn right it does. savetheradio4theme.co.uk

Cancelling Home Truths I could handle, it's just not the same without Peel. But dumping the theme? Piss of.
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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Oaten and the rent boy

So, Mark Oaten resigns in a rent boy scandal after being confronted by the News of the World. First website to break the story? BBC? ITV? Sky? Nope, Iain Dale's blog.

But, in the big picture element? Anyone care? No, thought not, it's his private life, let him live it. Unfortunately, in this case, it would affect his job as a party spokesman, home affairs brief would cover the forthcoming NuLab prostitution crackdown (make the law harsher all round, but give a sop to us liberals by allowing small brothels, thereby giving the Mail something to fume about that isn't, actually, any help to the situation).

So, is this why he pulled out of the leadership? And is there any chance that UK politics can grow up? Anyone suspect this'll be the main news on the MSM for a few days, despite being, essentially, a non-event?

Welsh Politics - new blogging politician

Awhileback, I blogged about a Welsh AM signing up to the ID card pledge. Well, she's now got her own blog, Welsh Politics (via), and has also registered http://www.welshpolitics.com/ as a domain name (well done for getting that one in, I'd have thought something so obvious would've gone ages ago). Podcasting too. I have no doubt I'll disagree with her on issues (she's a Plaid member after all), but agree with her round up of the last week in many ways.

Another addition to the overcrowded blogroll; going to have to sort that out soon.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Tim Ireland: Criminal Mastermind

Arrest this man or the law's an arse. Oh, wait.

The law's an arse.

Child Protection link dump and follow up

OK, as Paul's pretty much already covered what I was going to here and here, I thought I'd simply put all the links I was going to use up for the sake of it. Like I said, child protection is part of my job. The thing about this that really gets to me is all the fuss about the known, reported and watched teachers with records. It's the unknown, unconvicted that are the danger.

So, Consider Phlebas:
"To deny the possibility of reform is to deny the possibility of agency, of control over the direction of a life, and, close as much of the coverage of such cases does come to doing that, surely if paedophiles did totally lack agency, we would treat them quite differently, as one would treat dangerous animals or the criminally insane."
The Mirror pretends it's the Sun and, from what I can see, libels the teacher in the initial 'scare' story, Stumbling and Mumbling has a sense of perspective:
Intelligent people are guided by facts. The fact – as far as we know – is that no child has been sexually attacked by a teacher who had a previous conviction or caution for a sexual offence. An intelligent person might, therefore, infer that there’s no problem.
Mary Riddell in the Observer points out that Kelly is crap:
She might have said that it is not fair or practical to turn into pariahs all the 29,000 people on the sex offenders' register. She might have pointed out the oddness of a list that lumps together rapists and 16-year-old boys who have sex with their slightly younger girlfriends. If none of these defences appealed, she could just have said sorry.
Uncle Steve agrees with her:
Ruth Kelly is the UK Education secretary, famous for being part of the "secretive ultra-strict and a bit bonkers" Catholic cult Opus Dei, which has systems for members to commit serious self-harm because they're not strict enough or pure enough and must chastise the flesh. She is therefore perfect to be in a position to influence the nation's children.
D'Ancona in the Telegraph takes a pop:
Ms Kelly's personal failure is quite clear: she had simply not grasped how deficient the system for vetting teachers was. Her authority is in tatters as a consequence
Nick Robinson puts some facts down pointing out that they were, actually, doing something about it already (although in this bloggers opinion they should have done something when Bichard published):
The Queen's Speech after the election promised that there would be legislation soon to implement the Bichard Inquiry's proposals to create a single vetting scheme. Consultation on the detail took place last year.
Brian Barder, in a typically long but well observed post, points out the failures and hysteria on all sides:
Various Parent-teacher Associations and their spokespersons are at fault for rushing in front of the television cameras with wild talk about British parents not being able to sleep at night for fear that their kids are being daily molested by fiends masquerading as teachers, with the knowing acquiescence of Ruth Kelly personally. Perfect examples of the irrationally risk-averse obsessions of our safety-first society.
Tony Hatfield on cautions and how they can, in his experience as a lawyer, be abused:
In order for cautions to be fairly administered, the accused person must clearly understand the consequences of accepting one. My experience suggests in many cases this may not be so.
And finally the Pub Philosopher wonders how many people looking for legitimate porn have possibly DL'd child porn instead:
the school uniform fetish as "one of the most widespread clothing-oriented fetishes worldwide".

So if thousands of people are into this stuff and start searching the net for it, could some of them come across a real child porn web-site by accident?
This is a serious issue, the registers and lists that exist are a nightmare to negotiate and difficult to understand. Three years in my job and I still learn more when I talk to a new office, social services person or similar. We need it to be rationalised in a sensible, thought out manner that allows children to be protected from known, genuine, threats. Not people cautioned for one indiscretion that are believed to be no threat and under observation. And most certainly not completely rehabilitated individuals who are no longer a threat in any way.

This Govt is media led and focus group driven. The idea that they could actually lead opinion, persuade their case and genuinely solve problems is, it appears, beyond most of them. Maybe it's because they're tired?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Busy: Do me a favour guys?

Google Bomb:
<a href="http://matgb.livejournal.com/77989.html" title="Google bomb">Google Bomb</a>
Edit: For Tim, Scandium Oxide

Sex offences: the fallout

As I discussed the other day, I'm very much not happy with the idea that anyone simply cautioned over sexual offences can then never work with children.

Today though, this has been confirmed by education minister Ruth Kelly, despite the fact that the 10 people cautioned but still allowed to work in schools were assessed to pose no threat to children.

I honestly cannot believe that this has happened. Surely, whenever an individual is accused of a crime, the case takes on a certain degree of uniqueness; in order for the case to be resolved fairly and correctly, it is imperative that the specific actions of the case are taken into account - mitigating circumstances, premeditation, provocation etc. etc. There is no black and white to this, there really isn't; each case must be looked at on an individual basis and appropriate steps taken according to its findings. If a person is deemed to be no threat to children, let them work with children, if they're not, make sure they don't get anywhere near them for as long as they are considered a threat.

What's happened now though is that if you're on the list, you're never getting off, and you're never teaching children again. You will not be treated individually over this, you are a Sex Offender and will be so for life. Does this happen to any other type of criminal, to the extent that the can never work in that field again? Is not the purpose of a sentence that once the time is served that person is considered absolved of their crimes?

And that's the criminals - those cautioned either face moving heaven and earth to clear their names, or having their lives ruined even though they technically remain innocent. (Of course, they may be quite, quite guilty, but without a trial, how is anyone supposed to know?)

Mat interjects via email with a good point that being cautioned means you're actually accepting guilt


I'm assuming that in many cases, especially sex offences, a person will quite happily accept a caution on the grounds it doesn't lead on to a court case and everything that goes with that. Being scared witless of being labelled a paedophile and having an easy get out clause is not exactly a good marker for justice.

And, of course, getting cautioned for something which you did do, doesn't necessarily mean you are then unfit to work with children. It all depends on the specifics, which this act is doing its level best to stifle.

I doubt this decision will be reversed; I suppose that any attempt, even in the calm light of hindsight, will be met by howls of 'think of the children', but I hope with all my heart that someone in power recognises this for the awful decision that it is. I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blair, double standards and consistency

In a discussion on the Harding thread, edjog and RM have come up with two good questions:
Mr Blair, isn't it the case that, were it not for subsection 14 of section 5 of [the Criminal Justice (Terrorism & Conspiracy) Act 1998], you yourself would be guilty of a Criminal Conspiracy to Torture?
and
With reference to Edjog's question above, can anyone enlighten me as to what The Dear Leader's position was over the Gibraltar nastiness a few years ago? The one where some SAS troopers were put on trial for slotting three IRA members they beleived were about to detonate a bomb in a crowded street.

In the light of his current views on Agents of the Crown killing people it might be interesting to read of his questions in the house and public speeches on the Gibraltar affair.

Nasty cynic that I am I am guessing he was dead against letting the soldiers off back then. Same as he used to campaign for CND and against continued membership of the EEC.

RM
I know little about the Act (Edjog has more here, and even less about Blair's stated positions at the time of the Death on the Rock affair.

On the grounds it's off the main page, I thought I'd post the comments here as the topic has drifted way off anyway; anyone know more, on either count?

Britain Day (redux)

Just some quick pointers, I've linked to him before, but Uncle Steve has an alternate take on Brown's little idea:
Steve's Politics update in 2 minutes!
Summarising the political issues of the day, so you don't have to do actual research.
Boring sounding politics issue of the day:
Not content with having people take a "Britishness test" to become a citizen, Gordon Brown wants us to celebrate a "British Day" as a national holiday similar to 4th July in the US. There are several problems with this:

The facts:
  • Yes, it's bollocks.
  • No, there's no hidden detail, it's just as bollocks as it sounds.
  • We don't need a day, and we'd be no good at celebrating it anyway.
  • It's actually impossible to celebrate, because Britain's national identity is not stuck in the 60's. What would you include as "British"? As the Guardian said, "'Girls Aloud' and 'Ant and Dec'?"

The Guardian: "After a traditional British breakfast of Danish bacon, French croissants, Florida orange juice, Australian-owned newspapers and Indian tea..."
He also has a follow up post where people are discussing what such a day would actually celebrate. The list currently includes the Domesday Book, Eddie Izzard, Sean Connery, Tea, Oscar Wilde and Douglas Adams. That's just me picking stuff at random. Worth a look if you've got some time to kill, 157 comments on the latter one and counting.

Paul's post on the subject is here, but, well, if you're reading British blogs generally you've likely already seen it heaped with bile in various places. Personally, I'm cynical, but think it's a good idea, just, well, Gordon Brown; maybe I'm too cynical, NuLab, Cool Britannia, another little ploy? One commenter has suggested July 7th, if it's going to happen then, well, why let Brown pick the date?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dear Mr Schwarzenegger

I would just like to congratulate you, Governor Schwarzenegger, on the execution of blind wheelchair user Clarence Ray. Well done Sir, you have truly removed from this planet a danger to society, so much of a danger, that Ray had to be lifted onto the gurney in order that guards could administer his lethal injection.

I understand that it is Californian Law that those convicted of sufficiently heinous crimes are put to death, and that a man responsible for orchestrating two deaths (one whilst inside prison) does qualify on those grounds. But I also understand that it is the duty of any rational human being to oppose any law they see to be wrong, and the death penalty is wrong. Always. Especially, like in previous cases, when the defendant has shown large amounts of remorse, and indeed campaigned to educate others not to make the mistake they did.

I would like to take this opportunity to implore you to use your position to influence those in real positions of power to take a lasting step to do away with this outdated and barbaric law. 13 US states have already done it, Turkey has already done it, fuck it Senegal has already done it - lean on those in the US who still support the death penalty to do away with it.

I understand the position you are in; you need to appear strong to keep up your tough guy image, and need to be seen to be active in Californian politics to fuel that Presidential bid you might make one day. I know you can't be seen to go back on any of your decisions either, hell, even if you did want to, you can't - the Austrians don't want you any more anyway. But really, it's not that difficult to come around to a reasonable way of thinking - the power of the decision that you hold in your hands would more than overcome the fact that you had changed your mind over it.

As an additional bonus, if you do sort this mess out, I might go and buy some of your DVDs. Sounds like a good deal, right?


Lib Dem bloggers; persuade me!

Update:

The prize for missing the point entirely goes to Dan in the comments. Oh, Dan? Pay attention, we're talking about the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals are an entirely different party with several councillors fairly close to where I live. This isn't about me you fool, this is about persuading people that party membership means something. I'm not, currently, sold on that one, and I'm not the only one. You haven't exactly inspired me either.

Original Post

OK, open challenge. I like being non-partizan and outside but, let's face it, on 80% of the issues that matter to me, I'm pretty close to the Lib Dems. Don't always agree with the exact policy, but the general principle is fine. And I suspect that if I were to look, I could find a member with almost identical opinions to me on most issues; not all at once, obviously, odds of there being two people with all over the place views like mine quite small*.

So, I have it on good authority (an email from Chris Rennard in my gmail account) that if I (re)join within the next 7 days, I can vote in this election. So, here's the challenges.
  1. Isn't joining a waste of my money?
  2. If I do join, who should I give my first and 2nd preferences for
And "he's such a really nice guy" is likely to dissuade me from voting for someone, I don't want nice, I want effective. I want to see them make their case, fight the fight, win the debates and assert their position.

Clarification

It's not "whther I should support the LibDems". It's not "whether I should vote for them". It's most certainly not whether I'm (L)liberal. It's whether I should join. Become partizan, an activist, not a commenter and watcher.

A government more authoritarian than Thatcher at her worst. A Tory party trying to steal the LibDem clothes but, it seems, missing the point entirely. I liked Charles, he's obviously a nice bloke. But, well, the needed (and expected) breakthrough in May 2005 didn't happen, the open goal over ID cards and the Terrorism Bill hasn't been exploited, the constructive/real opposition hasn't happened. I think, when it came down to it, that he wasn't up for the job, regardless of his alcoholism. Will any of the new bunch put the case the way they need to?

You have 7 days. Persuade me to join, put up decent arguments why I (and others) should. I'll link to good ones, or you can comment here. Why should I, and any other readers here or elsewhere, give a damn?

Oh, and if I do rejoin, do I have to associate myself with the ruling group on Torbay Council? The local paper may be Associated Newspapers and full of lies, but even they can't make people look that bad unless they really (really) are bad.


(*although if there is another libertarian socialist with anarchist tendencies who's sold on the principles of a market economy, let me know?)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Why Preferential systems beat run-off ballots

Or: how Chirac stole his election

So, Finland's going into run-off mode for their Presidential elections? (via Nosemonkey)

OK, that makes two countries that should know better saddled with a system of election that's almost as bad, and much more expensive than, Simple Majority (ie the UK/US system, First Past The Post/FPTP). Why do they do it? Well, in the French case, it's because, well, the French political parties don't get on, at all. And there are lots of them. And they keep merging, splitting, forming federations and then breaking up again. So when De Gaulle came to power, he implemented a system that encouraged them to at least try to get on, but also ensures that, unlike Simple Majority, the eventually elected person has more than 50% support and therefore genuinely represents their district. Sound good? The advantage of the British system (ie, small number of parties, clearly defined) but without the disadvantage (ie MPs with less than 50% support, 4-way marginals, etc).

Well, no. If you're going to have a run-off system (with multiple ballots), then you need to do what the Tories do with their leadership elections; keep eliminating people until there's only 2 left, then they have a final contest. Not bad for low cost elections, but bloody expensive for big ones, and if they're on a national scale? Forget it. So, why not have a compromise? Have an election, then if no one candidate gets 50%, eliminate all but the top two, who will then run off again. So, two rounds of voting total, allow as much representation and choice in the first round, then ensure that in the second round, the winner has genuine support. Great. The result of this?

Jacques Chirac.

That's right, our 'friend' Jacques (who I've yet to see anyone say anything nice about) is in power almost entirely because of a stuped electoral system. Y'see, unlike FPTP, this system allows fragmentation, because, well, you can always vote for a strong candidate in the second round, but show support for your preferred candidate in the first. Theoretically, it encourages parties to work together, but, well, sometimes things go wrong. I give you, the French Presidential Election of 2002.

President: 21 april and 5 may 2002 71.6 resp. 79.7%)% %



Jacques Chirac - Rally for the Republic19.982.2
Jean-Marie le Pen - National Front16.917.8
Lionel Jospin - Socialist Party16.2-
François Bayrou -Union for the French Democracy6.8-
Arlette Laguiller - Workers' Struggle5.7-
Jean-Pierre Chevènement - Republican Pole5.3-
Noël Mamère - The Greens5.2-
Olivier Besancenot - Revolutionary Communist League4.2-
Jean Saint-Josse -Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition4.2-
Alain Madelin - Liberal Democracy3.9-
Robert Hue - French Communist Party3.4-
Bruno Mégret - Republican National Movement2.3-
Christiane Taubira - Left Radical Party2.3-
Corinne Lepage - Citizenship Action Participation for the 21st Century1.9-
Christine Boutin - Forum of Social Republicans1.2-
Daniel Gluckstein - Workers' Party0.5-
source

Just look at all those parties!

You see what's happened? The French Left has fragmented, and the top two candidates both have less than 20% of the vote each. So now they go to a run off, and, of course, Le Pen (politely described as a 'fascist', 'racist', 'extremist' etc, and, well, less politely in terms such as 'rapid lunatic' and 'french') gets hammered in the run off. All well and good?

"Vote for a Crook, not a Fascist"

Yup, the French left was forced to hold their noses (not literally, unfortunately, it was suggested but it would have been illegal) and go in and vote for a man they despised, who's likely to be facing corruption charges when he leaves office after his time as Paris mayor, in order to defeat a man they (and, indeed most people) hate with a passion. Wonderful.

So, let's look at those numbers again. Chirac got 19.88%, standing for the mainstream French right (then the RPR), next up is Le Pen (16.86%). OK, they're the top two for the run off. Hmm, Blair's under attack in the UK for getting less then 40% of the popular vote in 2005, but Chirac and his opponent in the second round got less than 40% between them. Let's have a look further down.

Jospin, French Socialists, 16.18%. Silly socialists not running a good campaign. Well, at the time, he was Prime Minister, so an against the incumbent vote obviously had an effect. Next? The UDF, the Ken Clarkes of France, Euro Federalist but broadly right wing, 6.84%. You can pretty much add their votes to Chirac's, they sit with his party in the current Assembly and, well, a lot of them left to join his new party anyway. (Gotta love the French; what party are you in? "what week is it?") Next, Worker's Struggle on 5.72%. Yup, Trotskyists get 5.72% of the vote. Before you laugh, do remember that Labour got 27% in 1983, on what Benn described as a "truly socialist manifesto", so there are likely more 'real' socialists out there than we tend to acknowledge given our electoral system and NuLab's stealing the "centre ground". I digress. This lot would, probably, hold their nose for Jospin, and some of them probably should have voted for Jospin, doubt any would go for Le Pen.

So, we now have Chirac with 26.72%, Jospin with 21.90% and Le Pen with 16.86%

Next up, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, who, um, had been a socialist minister before declaring himself a 'miracle of the republic', followed by the Greens, who were allied with the Socialists at the time, so we'll give them both to Jospin (37.89%). Communist Revolutionary League? Wild stab in the dark, let's give them to Jospin as well, shall we? 35.85% Democratie Libérale? Well, they've now merged with Chirac's party, so that one's easy, Chirac goes up to 30.63% Jospin leads by nearly 5% now. French Communist Party. Hmm, stab in the dark, but I think they're on the left. Jospin goes to 39.22%. Mouvement National Republicain. Um, they're the bunch that split from Le Pen's party after a little tiff, so we'll give them to him, Le Pen now on 19.2%.

I've left one out it's Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition (yup, that's right, the French have their very own Countryside Alliance, only this lot run for office). They're 'of the right', so I'm giving them to Chirac, but it's possiible some may be LePenistas, can't tell, but given his vote went down in the second round, I don't think so; let's face it, I'd never heard of them before researching this lot. So, Chirac goes up to 34.86%

Chirac 34.86%, Jospin 39.22%, Le Pen 19.2%

Parti Radicale de Gauche, wild stab in the dark, Jospin, he climbs to 41.54%. Um, I have no idea about Corinne Lepage - Citizenship Action Participation for the 21st Century, and the only sources I can find are in French. Ah well, that's 1.9% unaccounted for. The next one, guess what? Forum of Social Republicans? Now, as far as I can see, part of Chirac's new party. Chirac 36.05% Parti de Travelleurs? More trotskyists, Jospin climbs to 42.01.

Final tally, Le Pen 19.20% Chirac 36.05%, Jospin 42.01%

Now, of course, this is just an abstraction, but it appears to me that Jospin is in the lead now, a party of the Left. Now, it's reasonably well established that the supposed "Far Right" aren't really right wing economically, the National Socialists were called that for a reason. So saying that Le Pen's vote would go to Chirac is wrong. Impossible to actually predict or analyse. Let's call it 50/50. Jospin now gets 51.61%

So, what is the point Mat, apart from boring us with numbers? Well, essentially, it's an exercise in how Chirac stole an election because the French Left let him (splitters) and no one expected Le Pen to do as well as he did.

Delayed run off elections where you dump more than one candidate at the same time encourage diversity in candidate base, but allow for daft result. Now, if, alternately, you number candidates in order of preference (what the Americans seem to like to call Instant Run Off, but the rest of the world calls Alternative Vote), you still get diversity in candidates (for when they just can't get on), but voters don't waste their vote, or risk splitting the vote to let the 'other' guy in.

It's this system the LibDems use to elect the party leader, the Australians use it for election to the lower house and many would like to see it implemented as soon as possible for Westminster. I'm actually within that number; AV now, to follow up with full STV with multi-member constituencies later once the boundaries are sorted out.

The moral of this story?

If changing your electoral system, don't copy the French; it can work (seems to be ok in Finland). The next time someone complains about the French govt, remember that even the French didn't want him in office. Oh, and while excessive party loyalty and partizanship is silly, split after split after split makes things even worse.

Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys? Nah, just Chirac staying in office for as long as he can to take advantage of Presidential immunity.


NB; I've referenced Wikipedia throughout, I'm aware of its foibles, but most of it I can backup elsewhere (or, indeed, you can if you feel the need); it's not always accurate, but it is comprehensive on most topics. If my maths is wrong, let me know, the cold has killed my concentration.

Award winning blog this

Bloody Devil AwardWell, of a sorts. Many thanks to DK for awarding us one of his coveted Bloody Devil Awards. It is of course for my post on Mr Harding, which has proven to be rather popular. While I don't always agree with DK (well, rarely agree let's face it), his attitude to blogging (namely let's not take ourselves too seriously and enjoy a good debate) is similar to mine, which is why I enjoy reading his stuff. Just goes to show that nice, sedate analysis of the issues doesn't go down half as well with you lot as random attacks on fellow bloggers. Hmmm...

Nah, I'll still stick mostly to my more sedate style. Mostly. His other awarded post, on Disreputable Lazy Aliens about the Craig Murray/Torture thing is also rather good (but readers should be warned of the language content, DK says my post ddin't involve enough swearing, something that cannot be said of edjog's). I'm working on a proper, sedate post on voting systems, Finland and everyone's favourite M. Chirac, the way I keep getting distracted by random flu symptoms it may take all night. Thanks DK; I promise to try and write something for you at some point tonight, if I don't collapse again (nothin' serious, honest, but, well, concentration is gone).

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lib Dems- internet failure

OK, I'm following the LibDem race closely (I always follow leadership elections closely, but this one has added comedy value). So, I'm looking at the respective websites.

This is what I see at Hughes site. If, of course, I simply didn't have flashblock installed, and instead didn't want Macromedia on my PC, I'd see less than that. No search engine text, no internal linking, no nothing. Flash driven sites are a bad idea. Someone care to expain this to our taxi driving barrister?
simonhughes4leader.co.uk

Simon could take a leaf from Ming's Campbellcampaign.org, he's done what any sensible candidate should do with a campaign site, he's used proven blogging software andcustomised it to look good. Oaten hasn't got a campaign site, but hs has a standard MP site, which is, well, basic and functional. Huhne has Chris2win.org which, while it does have small text size, makes standards compliance a feature and is resizeable. It looks dated in design (read: I think it's ugly), but it works and has content.

So, winner of campaign websites in order:
  1. Ming- nice, elegent, functional, not trying to reinvent the wheel
  2. Huhne- it's there, it works, it doesn't piss me off
  3. Oaten- it's not even there yet, but his personal page isn't ugly
  4. Hughes- It's flash driven, I can't link to individual pages, I can copy and paste text but I then can't source it, it annoys me, it's not standards complaint, it won't work in a text browser or on my phone browser (I just checked, Opera Mini, it reads this site and Europhobia fine, has a bit of problem with DK's graphics and loves the Guardian news site), it's just wrong.
Update: 25-2-06, follow up review of improvements here.

Can anyone tell that I'm a bit obsessive about decent web design? Why?

Because it's easy. I know this, because I can do it. If I can do it, as a hobby, then a professional politician with an expenses budget should be able to pay someone, or at least get a volunteer supporter to do it properly. Alternately, get some professional help from the Political Weblog Project, let's face it, when Boris runs for Tory leader? He's got his site up and running already, with a massive pagerank and web presence.

What do you reckon, any chance they'll catch up with the rest of us any time soon?

However, the LibDem bloggers are doing a good job of coverage, the aggregator, libdemblogs.co.uk is useful, with good links, and Liberal Review is doing a great set of round up posts, very informative, on top of that, my regularly read favourites The Apollo Project, Quaequamblog and Militant Moderate are giving good coverage, amongst many others. The Tory bloggers were good, but I was still finding my feet then, still hadn't found half the 'most read' blogs, now I'm wondering around the fringes and finding some excellent stuff.

Keep it up guys, just, well, tell Hughes and Oaten to get their acts together?

Update: Care to persuade me to join the party?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tony Blair is a liar

He's not just tired, but Chicken Yoghurt has it on very good authority that he's also a liar.

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An offer I couldn't refuse...

I find at times when blogging here that some topics just don't fit the raison d'etre of this blog. So when I got an email from DK asking if I'd like to contribute ocassionally? Well, why not?

I also updated the personal space blog, no particular reason, just something I figured ought to be used a bit more, it'll probably end up being a linklog but, well, I have no sense of control. Don't worry, not going to be blogging here less, just generally blogging more, I enjoy it too much.

A good day to be British?

So Gordon Brown is calling for a something like a Britain Day.

OK, so I'll stick my neck out and say that Gordon Brown has just had a good idea. Well, perhaps not the day itself, which will probably just devolve into 'going down the pub' day, but a good idea in that the fact that Brown is interested in talking about British identity and multiculturalism shows that at least he is concerned about the issue and might like to do something about it.

However, a Britain Day could be a good idea if we don't let it devolve into something pointless. There's a lot to celebrate about being British, and although I'm not exactly sure how you'd go about 'doing British things' on the day, I do approve of the idea of a coming together of cultures, which is essentially what being British is all about.

To those people who thing that we should just celebrate St George's Day, well fine, no-one's stopping you. But we live in Britain and are ruled politically as Britain, so any civic celebration should be about Britain as a whole. Trying to have a day which honours multiculturalism might seem a little empty if we then say it only applies for England and not for anybody else.

And of course, there always Europe Day (May 9th), for anybody who's feeling particularly cross-cultured. Must get around to buying that EU flag...

Huhne, Europe and the Constitution

Nosemonkey asked Chris Who-hne? to which I now have a proper answer as, unlike the estimable Mr Matthews, I've actually bought one of Huhne's books. BothSides of the Coin, the arguments for and against the Euro. Now, it's awhile since I read it, but essentially, it puts both sides very coherently and, um, Huhne's argument is the one that sold me in favour. He knows economics, and can write. It remains to be seen if he can win a leadership election though.

In other news, Nosemonkey also tells us that the Constitution may be back on again for debate. So he's put up a nice roundup of his posts on the subject over the last few years. As, essentially, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog if I hadn't first started reading his, it save me some effort if I just link to it and tell people to go read; some of the debates in the comments of some of his posts are illuminating, to say the least.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Brighton Regency Loony

Bloody Devil AwardOh dear. The British Blogosphere's favourite kicking ball is being even more obtuse than normal. For readers not aware, Neil Harding is a Labour supporting blogger in Brighton who has a tendency to disagree with, well, everyone, and thinks, as far as I can tell, that Tired Tony can do no wrong. His current crusade is on behalf of the (dis)Respect Agenda generally and summary confiscation as a specific. He has two posts on the subject, Why Tony is Right and Tony Blair and the respect agenda continued. The comments threads on both posts are impressively long, and, apart from Neil himself, no one has any support for his position. No, don't worry, I'm not posting this to support him. You see, it's so bad I thought I'd give him some more publicity.

I sometimes find in debates that the person that does the most damage to your position isn't the person opposed to it, but the misguided supporter who, well, doesn't quite get it and links everything together as one big overarching theme and assumes everyone opposed is inherently arguing from the same position with the same reasons. So, given the damage such people do to my positions on occasions, well, it's great to find Tony has a few on his side. Few? Sorry, I mean of course Neil. The One (Oh look, a Babylon 5 reference, sorry); to business. Here's a comment he made in his second post, in which he tries to dismiss the criticisms of all the commenters:
I have never said a 100 quid fine was negligible, but it is a low level punishment. There would still be a chance of appeal if someone was deeply aggrieved by it.
Well, yes Neil, it is low level. If you can afford it, and if it's deserved. Only, what if you can't afford it? What if you're having trouble servicing the credit card debts and are a little behind overall. What if you're entirely innocent and have been fined because someone didn't like you or the reasons you gave for something? (that, dear reader, is essentially Neil's position; if you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear, but if you can't prove it, then it's better an innocent be fined than a guilty person go free. Go read if you're not sure you believe the idiocy, I may be summarising badly).

After the fact appeal? I get fined, have to pay up (even if it means not being able to afford to eat until the next payday) and then have to take time off my paid employment to try and claim the money back at my own expense? Great. Thanks.
If you lot are against these measures, you are probably all against parking 'charges' and speeding fines as well.
"You lot"? Neil, my, um, friend (y'see that? I'm trying to be polite, aren't I nice?), in case you hadn't been paying attention, the commenters you've attracted come from all over the political spectrum, left, right, Labour supporting, Conservatives, UKIP, you even have a particularly eloquent South Africa resident. Generalising them all under the same bruch? A bit silly. Especially seing as it's completely ludicrous.

And there's a difference. I mentioned I'm a little skint, right? Parking fines. I forgot to pay a few of them, and the bailiffs are, almost literally, at the door. So I should, by your logic, be completely opposed to them, right? Ah, no. My fault, fair copp, guilty as sin. I agree with and support the idea of parking restrictions. The thing is, they're not sumary, they're not on the spot, they're not pay now, appeal later. If I felt I was innocent, or the fines were unjustified, I could appeal them. well, could have. I didn't, because they were justified.

They're not summary, they're appealable. So, what you have here Neil is a Straw Man; we argue against something, so you've taken it to a conclusion and you assume we therefore argue against all kinds of fines, even those that are legitimate. We don't. Well, I don't anyway. Can't speak for the rest, because, well, I'm not them.

Life isn't black and white Neil. There may be times where you and I may agree on something. Rest assured if that does happen, I will check my position thoroughly. The idea of agreeing with you on anything whatsoever is disquieting currently, but it may happen; indeed, it does, later in this post. Ouch. You can't lump everyone together and assume everyone takes the same position on everything. On this, for example, I agree with Devil's Kitchen, Longrider and Nosemonkey. Rule of thumb? If all three of them, as well as I, agree on something? It's a truth so self evident that only a blinkered idiot disagrees. Take off the blinkers Neil, wake up and smell reality.
This is because you are being selfish. I imagine every comment here as come from middle class people who don't live in areas blighted by anti-social behaviour.
Right. There you go again, assuming. Admittedly, I hadn't commented when you made this, but I know nothing about the others. I, um, live in central Torquay. Nice little tourist town? Yup, if you stick to the tourist bits, but it also has some bits that are fairly high on the social deprivation indexes. Guess what? I live in one of the worst bits, and, even better, it's just off the centre, and a route between some of the more popular drinking establishments. The car park just below my bedroom window has a tendency to attract some, um, interesting types. Never assume Neil, assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.

Now, as it happens, I did have a lower middle class upbringing. I live where I do through choice and financial necessity. But, well, I am fully aware of the effect of social deprivation, I see it every day.
Why is it ok to break speed limits when hundreds of people are killed every year as a result?
Again, assumption. Speeding fines to make people safe are ok. But fines don't, actually, slow people down. Traffic calming measures do that much better. Besides, you're continuing your straw man. Some speeding fines are correct and just (doing over 30 in a street containing a school on a school day deserves more than just a fine, for example), in other cases (75 on a motorway when it's perfectly safe?) the fines are simply coffer filling exercises. But then, even ACPO thinks motorway speed limits are wrong.

Got that Neil? We disagree with your position, with Blair's attempts to take the money of innocents. But we may disagree on speeding fines, or the level they should be set. The issues may, on the surface, be simliar, but the surface similarity, once scratched, is a figment of your imagination. Besides, with a speeding fine, I can appeal. I know this y'see, because I've had one of them as well! Paid it, naturally, I'm inherently an honest person, even if I do think a 30 mile an hour limit on a bypass dual carriageway with poor signposting is stupid.
Why shouldn't people who selfishly park in clogged town centres be subject to parking controls when they make the lives of the rest of us hell?
Neil? They should. Irrelevent to the point. Move along now, do grow up. (help me dear reader, I just agreed with Neil)
And why should principle come before the obvious in low level cases like this?
Principle? The principle here is innocent until proven guilty. I can accept a fine or appeal it. But that's not what you're actually arguing for.

Do keep up and see the difference between summary on the spot fines payable immediately and a choice between a fine to be paid or a not-guilty, take me to court response. They're not the same.
It is just not practical to use an expensive, time consuming legal system in cases as obvious as the 10,000 cash example.

I'm sorry if you are going to carry large sums of money like this late at night, you should have a legitimate reason. It is a small price to pay to ensure that low level crime is effectively controlled.
Well, maybe I should have a reason (I dream of that much cash currently, but there y'go). But, y'see, why should I have to justify to the state why I have the cash?

Maybe I own a business, maybe I'm buying a second hand car at a time convenient to me and the vendor, maybe I've just sold one. Maybe I'm off to see, perfectly legitimately, a high-class prostitute (Neil, in case you're not aware, prostitution remains legal in this country, it's soliciting and brothel keeping that isn't). Maybe I just want to carry cash around. Maybe I don't trust the banks.

Your example is ludicrous, but you've been given, in both comments threads, perfectly legitimate answers. I'm English (and British), and English criminal law assumes innocence and allows me privacy to carry out my business.

Why should I justify to the organs of the state why I'm carrying money? Why should I explain where I got my car from?

Neil, you think that paying a fine, even when innocent, is a minor inconvenience. A low level punishment. But you said that I shouldn't object to being fined, even if innocent, because it's for the greater good.

I object to on the spot summary judgements because I am innocent. Please, explain again, how fining the innocent improves their respect for society? How summary judgement improves social cohesion and support for the police?
It is in all our interests, by letting low level crime go unpunished, we let criminals progress to more dangerous crimes. Which is worse?

Someone give me a reason why someone would need to carry such large sums of money and not be able to give the police a legitimate reason. If you can't, you are just defending the rights of the drug dealers and thieves and what sort of principle is that?
No, we're not supporting the drug dealers and thieves, we're supporting the rights of the individual against a state that is attempting to overreach itself.

I believe in punishing low lever crime, which is why I strongly support Torbay councils recent improvements to traffic policing, for example. But, you see, you've missed a beat.

What you, and Tired Tony are arguing for, isn't punishing low-level crime. It's punishing innocent people before they're found guilty.

Here's a little lesson in constitutional history for you. I'm by no means an expert, but, well, I have studied it extensively. Bill of Rights, 1689, it's one of the founding documents underpinning our legal and constitution system, it's the justification for a Parliamentary Democracy.
#
# That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;
Change this basic principle, you change the basic underpinning that has worked in this country for over 300 years.

Your case, and that of Blair, is both fundamentally flawed and unproven. In addition, as proposed, it undermines the basic precepts upon which this country is established.

I'll be charitable, and assume you just don't know the history of this country. But, as I've observed, assumption is a bad thing. So the alternative is that you do know the history, but either don't understand it or reject it out of hand.

If you do wish to change the basic fundamentals of this country, feel free to say so, so we can have a proper debate. But your constructed straw man has been answered. By more than just me.

Oh, Neil? One last point. I'm quite open about my politics, I quite openly describe myself as a liberal socialist, and in 2001 voted for a current serving member of the NuLab govt when I lived in Exeter. Unlike you, however, I can see that Blair has abandoned all pretense at fulfilling the promises he was elected on, and has, instead, adopted an approach of populist authoritarianism (described by some as 'proto-fascistic'). He supports the power of the state to control the individual. I do not.



Update: This post has been awarded a 'Bloody Devil' for "people who fisk objects of public derision but who also pepper the post with gratuitous but intensely satisfying insults." Apparently it only just made the grade, "there's a distinct lack of swearing"; guilty on that one...

Burn the land...

For the record, Paul and I don't agree about everything. He doesn't like Firefly or Serenity. I, um, do. A lot. But given it's completely OT, I'll merely link to the excellent InkyCircus and join their suggestion that everyone should go buy the DVD. Hope that's ok with everyone.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

A cautionary tale

Ah, Ruth Kelly and sex offenders. Where to start with how much is wrong with what is going on at the minute?

Ok, wrong thing number one. The whole furore has come about because a man cautioned on suspicion of sex offences was later allowed to work in a school. So what happened to innocent until proven guilty eh? I mean, anyone convicted of sex offences will obviously never, ever, be allowed to teach again, and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near children full stop. They may reintegrate into society after many years, but even then an eye needs to be kept on them through fear of reoffending. But this person was not convicted, so, rightly, was not put on the oh-so-sinister sounding 'list 99' and was free to work with children.

Ok, looking at child porn is a bad thing, and I think that anybody looking at it should get more than a caution. But I'm also going to assume that there was a reasonably thorough investigation and the police either couldn't, or didn't see the need, to press with further charges. So really, that's that, case closed.

You might not like that (I don't like that), you might think it wrong for someone suspected of being a paedophile to work with children just in case, but frankly, the legal system does not work like that. You can't simply go around ruining people's lives by putting them on a checklist because 'they're a bit dodgy'. Yes, that's a bit of a poor solution, and does leave the door open for people to commit crimes that could have been prevented. But then you could stop a lot of crime by locking well-known thugs up too, but if you can't prove they're guilty, you can't lock them up. Future Crime, unfortunately, will stay in the realm of Minority Report for some time to come.

The second thing that is entirely wrong with the situation is that the government is to rush through new laws on sex offenders to plug the gap. Just what we need, more rushed laws, and rushed laws on such an emotive subject. That surely must go down as a recipe for disaster. Why can't the government weather the public relations storm and come up with a sensible solution to the problem, rather than jerking it's knee and papering over the cracks?

(The solution, by the way, isn't too far away from what we currently have. Most of the problem surrounding sex offenders is that people assume that the government should miraculously be able to stop all sex offenders from working in schools. That will never happen, just as stopping all crime will never happen. I actually think that if the government is holding back the names of a total of 10 people on the same list, that's not too bad across the whole nation. Please remember that this person only actually taught for eight days before it was flagged up by the police, so not too shabby all things considered)

And finally, Ruth Kelly. A purely personal thing actually, but Christ she annoys me. She seems totally incapable of dealing with, well, anything. Can we have someone else as education minister now please?

Mat's observations: in an attack of 'thinking alike', Paul's written this as I finished off assembling my links, so rather than two posts...

I work in the tourism industry, but a large part of my job involves concerns over child protection. It's a huge concern for me, so when Bichard proposed
the introduction of a national registration scheme as soon as next year.
back in June 2004, I was pretty pleased, as such a register would take a huge weight off my workload and let me concentrate on actually making money for my company. 6 months later he demanded an update and I agreed with him. A whole year after that? Kelly says she will try to get the recommendations implemented within 6 months. I agree with Paul, the idea that people can't be rehabilitated at all bothers me immensely.

Child Protection is part of my job, this Govt is failing to implement procedures that will (if done correctly) really help me out. Instead, it's rushing through stuff as part of a damage limitation exercise. It's not just Blair, the whole Govt is tired.

Update: Curious Hamster has more, and GenderGeek has a different, and interesting, take on the media fuss -Mat

Bloody Hobbes

Look, just because Blair's started quoting that bastard Hobbes' Leviathan, that's no excuse for him to crop up all over some of my favourite blogs. It was bad enough reading him the first time around. Blair has decided to adopt a policy of authoritarian populism, and is now quoting a renowned English philosopher to back it up. The small point that he's been answered pretty convincingly ever since the time of the Commonwealth seems to have eluded Our Dear Leader. I'll blame it on him being tired.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nanny staters trike again!

So...:
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt will vote for a complete ban on smoking in pubs and clubs in England when MPs vote on the plan
They've decided to have a free vote because a lot of backbench MPs and the NuLabber in charge want a complete ban. Speculation is it may pass because a lot of MPs on all sides want to protect us from ourselves.

Including, I'm now told, the Lib Dems, who have it as a manifesto pledge. Hmm...
Too many of our most worthy and well-meaning activists are Roundheads, while Liberal Democrats should be the Cavaliers of British politics. The party of John Stuart Mill has become prohibitionist. Transplanted to 1920s Chicago, it might easily pass a conference resolution banning alcohol'
Or, in this case, banning smoking in private property, even if everyone present is a smoker. It's for our own good donchaknow. I don't smoke. Filthy habit. But many of my friends do, and I chose whether to go to pubs with them that allow smoking or not. So, our MPs want a complete ban do they, including the Lib Dems? Forceful and Moderate thinks Ming may change that; perhaps he's not so merciless? He could always adopt the LDYS policy, which seems like a much more sensible compromise:
Conferences notes:

1. The policy passed at Federal Conference in Southport committing us to a ban on smoking in public places.
2. That we are a socially liberal Party.

Conference believes:

1. That passive smoking is dangerous and constitutes direct harm.
2. That people should have the freedom of choice to decide whether to enter a smoky environment.
3. That individuals should have the freedom to decide whether to allow smoking on their property.

Conference therefore proposes that:

1. Publicly and privately owned businesses and services should be able to apply for smoking licences. These would be similar in nature to alcohol licences and should be granted only if the owner can prove that their venue has adequate ventilation.
It appears some sort of control is inevitable, 'for our own good' of course. If there are going to be controls, why not allow businesses that want to allow smoking to continue to do so if the workers health is protected?

No, wait, that would be sensible. Bloody nanny staters. Still, at least Blair's position is clear:
as with previous issues which had had a free vote, the Prime Minister would not signal his position in advance because he believed it was important that people were not overly-influenced by his position...the PMOS said that this was an issue on which, as the Prime Minister had always said, there was a difficult balance to be struck. There was the balance between the rights of non-smokers and the rights of smokers. There were also practical issues.
Anyone know what Cameron's Conservatives plan to do on this one?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

English Icons - this blogger is confused

Ok, it seems that half the blogosphere, and at least two serious papers (Torygraph and Indy) are talking about the "new" website launched by the Dept of Culture (at a rather large cost from what I can tell considering, DK agrees) Icons of England.

From the bumpph, it's a lighthearted attempt to promote symbols of England. OK. It's new. Um, no. Y'see, I linked to an 'icon' nominated by a friend of a friend. He emailed me about it and asked me to vote for it (go on, what could be more English than Winnie The Pooh Illustrations by E H Shepard?). According to Gmail, I got the email [Date: 05-Oct-2005 21:48].

New? No. Relaunch, formal launch, slow news day, distraction? Maybe.

Of course, that our friendly Devil could probably have done the job for a 3rd of the cost and a healthy profit is irrelevent, right?


A roundup, or, a best of Paul's stuff

Right, when I decided I wanted to run a blog, I knew I'd need at least one other person involved in order to keep it going. Having a pretty good friend who I agree with on most issues, who happened to be completing his Masters Degree in Critical Global Studies (which is posh for Political Theory/Philosophy) and a good writer was fortuitous, getting him to agree to post stuff here was cool.

So, on the grounds that I post so often his stuff gets swamped (and sometimes people credit me for the entire blog anyway without noticing the byline), I though, given that I'm feeling all grotty with a cold, I'd do a summary for his stuff.

Generally, it's got a little more substance to it than my rants, which is what I wanted. Anyway, enough from me.

His first post was, understandably, on ID cards, something we both feel very strongly about. After that, we had the whole 'glorifying terrorism' debate with another bit of mis worded and badly designed legislation; how, exactly, do you glorify terrorism?

After that, a nice bit of theory; what is a nation state, and how can it react to the future? Oh, we then go into that nice little controversy, prisoners and voting. Can you believe he actually asked permission to post that? Not a popular view, perhaps, but if you're going to argue for civil liberties, why not argue for all of them? One of our more regularly read pages is next, Fair's fair? For some reason, people keep googling and getting that page. No idea if that's what they're looking at, but the idea of a flat tax is something to look at, even if it is to bebunk it.

I would describe this post, but, well, how about Paul on asylum and Zimbabwe?
It seems pretty clear to me that what people actually want is results, not white elephants or singled-out scapegoats to make everybody feel better. We shouldn't be faffing about with pointless new laws, we should be giving more funding to the police, we shouldn't be introducing ID cards, we should be hiring more police officers in the first place. And we definitely shouldn't be condemning people to torture or death by returning them to their unsafe place of origin just because 'we need to be doing something' about asylum.

How about torture?
So to think that we might allow evidence from tortured suspects, as long as it happened somewhere else, truly does make me laugh. It sounds like the worst kind of NIMBY-ism possible - 'Well, we'd love to do it, and we'll accept anything you get from it, but our electorate's a bit squeamish see. Perhaps if you could do it for us?'

Shoot to kill?
in a clear-cut scenario, I have no problem with the police using any force necessary to stop a suicide bomber intent on killing even more people. But in a situation such as that which happened in London earlier this year, the intelligence possed by the police was obviously not enough to justify the shooting of someone who 'was thought' to be a bomber.

But then again, there are no more terrorists, Mr Blair is protecting us, right? But then, threatening to lock everyone up will clearly work regardless, right? After all, the Burmese junta does it, amongst other things. After that, a post I specifically asked him for, as part of the "let's have an argument about Europe" thing, The Idea of Europe:
The idea of Demos is usually tied up with the German terms Gemeinschaft and Gessellschaft, which relate to differing ideas of community and community association.
See? Odds of me using words like that rather small, but it's nice to feel like you're learning something. So, on that note, his next significant post? A philosophical history of the right to protest, in which we get some constructive comments from Chris from The Stoa; I didn't actually know he teaches the subject at Oxford at the time, show's how much attention I was paying.

Next up? Well, showing his ability for getting much snappier post tiles than me, Badger badger badger badger. Beats more than half of mine hands down. His post on Bob Geldof is already well read, but the point remains true, and his Ramblings about personal privacy is a nice back up to the ID cards discussion.

In January, two posts so far, one on Gorgeous (for which I love the title) and one on Kennedy and the Lib Dems. He takes a much more cynical view than me on the future of the party, I'm pretty sure the party is an essential pivot within the UK polity, he sees it likely to fade into obscurity. They may well do so, but, well, we'll see.

Oh yeah, Paul? Thanks for everything so far, and on the grounds it appears I didn't at the time, many congratulations on your results, especially the distinction on the dissertation. To everyone else; no, I didn't tell him I was planning this one, I forgot on Sunday, he was helping me win at Scrabble. Don't ask me why we were playing scrabble...