Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ramblings about personal privacy

I wish to offer a definitions of one aspect of privacy in order that I can try and explain some ideas on the nature of personal privacy without tying myself in knots. I'd also appreciate some comments about this, should anybody wish to offer their ideas on personal privacy.

The definition I'll put forward may as well be called 'It's none of your business' Privacy. I hold that this is the basic definition of privacy that most people carry with them on a day to day basis. To give an example, the reason why we don't condone government tracking of individuals on CCTV is not that we don't recognise the potential benefits of this monitoring, but that the government has no business tracking individuals without just cause. It's a basic level of privacy which is pretty easy to grasp; as far as we can be said to have 'freedom to' this is it - it is private if it doesn't effect anyone else, and because it doesn't effect any else, it shouldn't be available to anyone else.

The interesting thing about this type of privacy is that we are quite willing to have it broken. We do accept that banks have a right to monitor our spending for our mutual financial security, and we also accept that should it become necessary, such information should be turned over to the relevant authorities - obvious example being the police should our finances come into question.

The real issue of privacy therefore is when this definition is surpassed. Such examples follow on from the previous definition in that it indicates a breach of the trust we place in organisations to hold our data, or pay too much attention to our everyday lives. To continue from the analogy above, it's fine for our bank to monitor our spending habits, but it becomes a breach of privacy should the bank pass this information on to a market research company - it's none of their business to have access to that data.

This seems to be becoming a more and more important definition as our personal information become more readily available from many different sources. Individually, we are quite happy for different organisations to have access to some parts of our data, but collating this information without just cause is a breach of privacy. It's not that we don't want the information out there, but that it shouldn't be misused.

To give a contemporary example, take ID cards. It's not that the information contained in the card will be 'new' information - it is only a collection of information held elsewhere after all. The real issue is that there is no reason for this information to be collated in one place, no need for one organisation to have easy access to all the data. It's not their business to have this information, so it shouldn't be accepted.

Anyway, there's lots to say about privacy and I've only touched the surface because my mind keeps going off an tangents and it's difficult to keep things coherent. I'm particularly interested in where consent comes into the whole thing and whether the fact that we tacitly consent to being filmed on CCTV or logged at ATMs is really enough to justify some of the uses of the information that then occur. I really dislike the 'if you've got nothing to hide' argument, which prompts me to think that there is something inherently wrong with our being tracked, although as it doesn't really affect our privacy unless it's abused, is it really an issue?

But then do we really know what happens to most of the data collected about us? Maybe the real issue is clarity, and privacy would be a much easier issue to discuss if we actually knew what was and what wasn't known about our private lives.

Any takers?

God calls Paddy God

Haven't waded through the lists yet, but checking a few news sources I saw the LibDem newsfeed had this one up; Liberal Democrats : Ashdown heads political honours:
Ashdown heads political honours
31 December 2005

Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, until recently the UN's High Representative in Bosnia, has become Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) of the Order of St Michael and Saint George in the New Year Honours list.

Lord Ashdown, who led the Liberal Democrats from 1988 to 1999, recently stood down as the UN's chief administrator in Bosnia after three years.

Lord Ashdown and his team have been praised for their dynamic and reforming leadership in Bosnia, which has recovered sufficiently to be considered for European Union membership.
According to Tim, that means:
This is about the time to trot out the old joke about the gradations in the Order of St. Michael and St George. Commander of (CMG) means "Call me God", Knight Commander (KCMG) means "Kindly Call me God" and Grand Commander(GCMG) means "God Calls me God".
Lest we forget, this is the man who effectively built the LibDems from scratch into the machine Kennedy inherited, and before that served as, well, a "diplomat", and before that was in the unit that the US Navy SEALS are scared of would like to be. Not everyone likes him, but he's top on my list of "Best PMs we never had", and is likely to remain there for a long time...

Friday, December 30, 2005

I can't spell. At all.

Right, awhileback I started tagging stuff because it was easy and I was hoping it would give an easy blogsearch method. Naturally, Google's built in blogsearch doesn't pick up on the tags properly. Completely forgot that Technorati does. So, I go look at my profile, add in the journal, and then note that there's a weird looking tag... Technorati Tag: Philosphy. Oops. Not once, but twice, I've misspelled it. Gah! The scary thing is, knock out my username in the search, and it's not an uncommon mistake. d'oh! More post editing for me to do. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Update (Sat 31st 0730): This page itself just got a google hit, the search? philosphy. I give up on spelling correctly, you get more google referrals from typos...

The Times on blogging; point missed?

The Times had a nice article on blogging last Friday, I found it rather a link on Perfect's linklog. It's not directly about blogging, it's about blogging in Iran. I would say it's a nice piece, and overall it is, but, well, a few stupidities stand out.
Farsi is the 28th most spoken language in the world, but it now ties with French as the second most used language in the blogosphere
So, blogs are popular in Iran then? More than anywhere outside the anglophone world? OK, good point.
Internet usage is growing faster in Iran than anywhere in the Muslim Middle East, and there are now more blogs in Farsi than in German, Italian, Spanish, Russian or Chinese.
Um, Ben? You've made that point two paragraphs up. Nice to see you being consistent, but isn't it sloppy writing to make the same point twice?
Like all blogs they can also be self-indulgent, inaccurate, inarticulate and boring
Why yes, yes they can. Some blogs are inaccurate and boring. Same as some newspaper columnists, for example. However, in that entire paragraph, that's the only judgement you make on blogs. They can be innaccurate, inarticulate, self-indulgent and boring. But, like all media forms, they can also be articulate, well informed, accurate and interesting. You have to filter them, and figure out the difference between the two.

In a similar way to how your avarage punter chooses the newspaper they read. There are good blogs, and awful ones, inane ones, personal ones and intensely political ones. The beauty is, we can write when we feel like, about what we feel like, and we don't need to filter our writing to suit the owner of the paper. Of course, Mr Murdoch wouldn't ever influence your editorial opinion, would he Ben?

We know the MSN is catching on. It's a shame though that, for the most part, they still don't wuite get the point. Freedom of expression, without censorship, and with the ability to push the boundaries. For example, D-notices are voluntarily enforced by the newspaper establishment, which up until a few years ago, meant we simply didn't learn about the story. Now? It's not just Iranians taking advantage of freedom of expression.

Craig Murray silenced? Feed mirrored on Livejournal

After my post yesterday, it appears most of the UK and now US political blogs are picking up the story, and it's also made the Independent (albeit without the details, they're reporting the fuss, not the actual documents). However, Craig Murray's site is down, and according to Tim, it's not server overload.

In the meantime, as his site syndication feed is full not partial, Livejournal has the entire post in its archive . It'll be there for 2 weeks. Let's see what the next reaction is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lenin publishes Murray letters

Lenin is risking jail in publishing some of the documents the FCO is trying to suppress about HMGs use of information gained through torture. The evidence he posts is pretty conclusive.
Two documents in particular are being suppressed, because the FCO has instructed Mr Murray not to include them in his new book and to hand over all copies - fortunately, however, they have already made their way into the public domain by some means. And I, of course, have received no instructions from any official. Here they are
I don't know how long he'll be able to keep it online, I'm not 100% sure what he's doing is a crime (not a lawyer after all), but, well, go look anyway.

Bob Geldof?

Really? I mean, who is that supposed to help? It sure doesn't look good for the image of Bob Geldof to be associated with a conservative, predominantly right-wing party having been so venomously anti-capitalist in the past, and it doesn't exactly look brilliant for the Tories, who surely know look to be jumping on the cool band wagon supplied by 'hipster' Dave.

There must be people better suited to helping the Tories develop sound policy on global policy - people, say, who have done real research into it or dealt with the issue in the past. Hell, there might even be some Tories around who remember dealing with it last time they were in power. Bob Geldof is an important mouthpiece for the cause, that's for sure, but that doesn't mean he really understands the issue any more than anybody else.

And anyway, is Geldof not somewhat of a busted flush after the lacklustre legacy of Live 8? The biggest of the big promises certainly didn't happen to the extent that Geldof and co. assured us they would, and by and the large the event slipped into the ether with barely an acknowledging nod from those with the power to really change anything. It's not like I'm the first person to notice that or anything either - criticism of Geldof has been pretty widespread almost everywhere in some form or another.

Note to the Tories - New, Fresh, Cool - all good. Grasping - not so good. They'll be wearing personalised baseball caps next...

Lib Dems for Boris Johnson?

Must check DeadBrain more often...
Lib Dems for Boris Johnson:
"I'm appealing to all LibDem voters, councillors and MPs because I'm eccentric and I wear sandals."

A failure in leadership and planning

Don't tend to write about Iraq on here. Not because I don't care, not because I don't have an opinion, not because I don't know much about it; I do, for all of the above. But because it's happened, it's an ongoing mess, and we simply have to accept that our ofrces are stuck there, and hope that, in the long term, things work out. For that to happen, of course, we'd need a political leadership that is prepared to admit to reality.

I opposed the war. Not because war is bad (I supported the Afghan intervention -something I'd been pushing for since before the Taliban took power, long before they became entrenched or gave support to AQ- and had been argueing for a Yugoslav intervention since it sparked off in Slovenia). Not because I felt the war was an imperialistic exercise in pursuit of oil (it was, in a way, but that isn't why it happened), but because it was being done at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, by the wrong people and without any follow up plan. Curious Hamster has an exceptional post up detailing his opinions, and it simply has to be promoted (I went there via DK):
With intelligent well informed leaders and thorough and careful planning, the coalition might have had a chance at achieving some of the goals they set out for Iraq in March 2003. But it was clear in early 2003 that there was a distinct lack of thorough and careful planning and that the coalition were going to make a frightful mess of the occupation as a result. It was clear that the coalition had no plans for peace in Iraq but only plans for war. It was clear that a section of Iraqi society would attempt to achieve a religious Shiite dominated government and it was clear that Iran would attempt to support them in that endeavour. It was clear that the coalition had not planned for this. In those circumstances, what's happening in Iraq today was inevitable. It needn't have been.

The leaders who got it so wrong need to be held to account.
He's right. Hussein was an evil nasty tyrant who should have been removed from power years ago. But by going in without a longterm plan, without the support of opposition movements in Iraq, without any real understanding of the situation on the ground within the populace, we (as in The West) have created a mess that will take years to recover from.

The important thing, now, is to learn from the mistakes, to move on wiser, and determined that, if we intervene overseas again (and, like I've said above, I'm no isolationist), we do so for the right reasons, with local support, and with a plan post 'victory'. Bush had none of these things. Blair, at least, always tried to also bring out the 'nasty tyrant' argument as well as the false WMDs. At times, it is necessary to intervene to stop a greater evil. But if it happens, that evil must both be widely acknowledged, fully understood, and other options have to have been exhausted. In the US, there are moves to impeach Bush being discussed by some. That's an issue for the Americans to resolve themselves.

For me, it's just another reason to dislike the NuLab spin machine that's in power, lest we forget, with the lowest vote share and lowest turnout out since 1945.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Peter Hain - Terrorist?

This had never occured to me:
The convicted terrorist Peter Hain is annoyed that the Tories are opposing Labour's amnesty to some terrorists. We're entitled to opposition support," pouted Mr Hain, before stamping his little feet and threatening to take his ball home. Mr Hain wants to push through complete forgiveness for on-the-run bombers who did their dirty deeds before April 1998. They won't have to appear in court, they won't have to acknowledge their crimes. The Conservatives might wish to point to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which offered an amnesty from prosecution to people who told the complete truth about their part in that country's civil war. But Mr Hain doesn't like to be reminded about South Africa, because he led the small group of renegades who stopped the South African cricket tour in 1970, and was convicted of various public order offences. Under the laws that his party has passed, this would be a terrorist act.
Wonder if anyone has pointed that out to him directly?

Multiculturalism - a definition I like

Was planning to do a post on mis uses of the term 'multiculturalism' (by both sides), but Robert Sharp has done a pretty good one already:
Communities living side-by-side, not integrating, becoming ghettos, that in turn become no-go areas for the police and ordinary citizens. Cultures and ethnicities living side-by-side without integration or communication is not what I would call multiculturalism… just antagonism. Multiculturalism has to imply a certain degree of integration, assimilation, and above all, a process of change for it to be something to value.
To me, multiculturalism is the ability to have a friend who's muslim, another who's jewish and to chase after a girl whose grandmother came from Africa. We learn from those who move here, just as they learn from us, we take on board the bits we like, condemn the bits we dislike (forced marriages anyone?) and the new communities do the same with us. Eventually, they merge together, so differences in religion mean as little to us as the differences in denomination now do mostly everywhere (except Northen Ireland of course).

This vegetarian isn't likely to be buying a kebad any time soon, but my local Thai place does a damn fine tofu based thing I can't pronounce. I like that. Still can't figure out how to cook the stuff though...

Best of the comments pt#1 -Blair the nanny

Well, I've been thinking of something to write all day, and fiddling with the template a bit. Opening up a random post to see what it looked like, I found this from Gary:
There are three reasons why Blair will pursue his authoritarian path. They combine to form a deadly cocktail.

The first is simply that Blair is playing to the crowd. The second is that much of that crowd is Sun- and Daily Mail-reading - and they aren't overly concerned with niceties. In their minds, whenever a piece of non-English, anti-freedom legislation is considered, they know exactly who they want it applied to - nasty terrorists and their mouthpieces, mainly - they assume that's only who it will be applied to and they have little or no conception of how such legislation can then be used against almost anybody else for almost any reason.

Hence, we get an old man barred from a Labour conference for which he has a legal pass using the Prevention of terrorism Act. Nobody who wants to see these nasty terrorists being banged up without mercy foresaw that the same legislation could be used against OAPs. Unfortunately, they will not learn from this and carry on demanding ever 'tougher' laws to deal with their favourite bogey men.

The third reason Blair does this is simple. Along with his fellow leftists he belives that society is perfectable - a delusion that conservatives scoff at - but it's only perfectable by, of course, a managerialist, central government whose influence reaches down into the very stuff of our lives. The left do not believe society can manage itself. They have a blue-print of what should be; their task is to turn should into is.

The Labour virus must get into our every cell to achieve this because it's only when all human action is in keeping with their grand design can they finally consider themselves to be successful. Laws must reach further into our lives and affect what we say, what we do and, ultimately, how we think.
So I figured that, when I'm just not in the mood to rant, I could go back, find a good comment, and respond to it with an analysis or a fisking (I'm a bit behind on responding to some of the longer comments anyway). However, on this point, I disagree with Gary only on one point.

This nanny-state managerialism he points has as point 3 isn't a symptom of the 'left' in general, if it were, it would apply to me, which, well, it doesn't. It's a symptom of the division of the left I talked about here and here, the authoritarian left. In many ways, they share traits with elements of the Tory party; the part that Cameron dissasociates himself with, the part that goes for the populist easy options, or appeals to 'Victorian values' or 'traditional morals'. The part that doesn't want to live and let live, and is up in arms over civil partnerships and the rest because it's "an attack on marriage". It's not just the Left that has it's nannies Gary, it's both the main parties, and, to their shame, the LibDems sometimes make appeals to them as well.

For a politician, appeals to populist authoritarianism are the easy way out, you get a good headline; frequently in the Sun or the Mail, and you hope to win votes. Explaining yourself, debating the issues, compromising around the best solution; those are challenges, difficult, they don't make good headlines. All the parties are prone to it, but Labour appears to be making it a matter of policy.

I honestly believe the majority of the electorate dislike such approaches, the disillusionment many have with politics is partially caused by the petty point scoring and headline grabbing statements. I hope that bloggers can, through their ability to react quickly to news and discuss problems and ideas across blogs and comments, at least highlight this tendency. If, between us, we also promote the existence and cheer on those politicians that also seek to engage, debate, reason and not react, then we may, just possibly, have something tangible to add to British politics.

Here's hoping, anyway. Gary? This leftist doesn't believe society is perfectible. But he does believe it could be a lot better than it currently is.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Google referrals (redux)

I just had another look at the referral logs. Most of our Google and MSN hits are for stuff related to the blog and the topic. Most of them. They're normally pretty distinct one offs for various different things. But there's one that keeps cropping up, discussed here. It's a pretty popular google hit, and we're fairly highly ranked because of it, just because of the way I worded the title. I just went back and edited the post, in a fit of generosity, pointing people at Andrew Rilstone, because, well, he writes about that place a lot. Note I'm not naming it on this post.

Just goes to show that you can get page views for the weirdest off the cuff comments. Maybe I should move industries, become an SEO, I'm better at it than most pros I've had contact with. Ah well. G'night all.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Arse. Bloody keyboard shortcuts ate my England post

I just lost a huge, almost finished post on constitutional reform, the England problem, devolution and other issues. I'd put in links, to my previous posts and elsewhere, and even typed up some definitions from some reference books I'd dug out. Then I accidentally hit ctrl+w instead of shift+w. Firefox, of course, closes the window when you do that.


It was turning into quite a good post as well. So, short recap. 'Athelstan'? I looked up the definition of statist in my Oxford Concise. In the words of Inigo Montoya, you keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means. I've made it very clear in the three months blogging here that I'm a decentraliser, an opponent of state control, in favour of individual choices. I utterly oppose the NuLab nanny state centralising statists.

I happen to disagree with you on a solution to a problem that we both recognise. But if instead of engaging in rational debate you want to simply throw insults around, then fine. I'll debate with those you agree with that actually want to engage in a discussion.

To Gareth/JohnJo; the post that got eaten contained a summary of my views on solving the England issue. Not all of them, not fully explained, but the summary was long enough. I also explained a little about the rationale behind the blog and why I can't just concentrate on devolution on it's own, it's all linked to the other problems with the current British constitution, some created by NuLab, others in existence for years.

But, essentially, my main target is the nanny state tendencies of NuLab, and building an anti-Labour coalition to get them out at the next election. That's what I'm primarily always going to blog about.

Yes, the current devolution settlement is anything but a settlement. Yes, Prescott is the worst person in the world to be trying to fix it. Yes, I want to discuss it, I want to put forward ideas. But as part of a larger settlement, a big issue solution. Oppose NuLabour first. Ensure that we don't stop the world and get off second. Sort the constitution out third. I can rage against Labour. I frequently do. I can rant and reason in favour of international engagement and building partnerships and consensus. But constitutional reform?

That requires a more refined approach, a reasoned discussion. I need to be in the mood. Blogging is a hobby, a catharsis. When NuLab makes me angry, I blog easily. When I want to really make a case, I can do it. Today, I was in the mood to explain some of my reasons for looking for a different answer.

Oh yeah; I have problems taking anything at all completely seriously, even things I care passionately about. The name of the blog is part of that sense of humour, I tend to use little-englander as a shortcut for the "disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" type, that doesn't like anything they don't understand. To me, the 'little england' mentality is an island state anti foreigner approach. It's nothing, really, to do with the idea of an English Parliament, although some little englanders are undoubtedly also in favour of english nationalism, of a distinctly non-civic nature. As always, the ranting bigots do 'their' cause more a disservice than any argument against it ever can.

Bloody keyboard shortcuts. Ah well. Another time. G'night all, Happy Yuletide.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Selection in education

A few blogs have been talking selection policis for schools recently, and, as a former grammar school kid living in an area that still uses grammar schools, I thought I'd give an opinion. It may surprise the flag wavers in favour of them to know that I think they're a bloody stupid idea. Meaders has the right idea;Dead Men Left: "Destroy every fucking grammar school in the country":
This missing 75% is rather strange: where are all those former secondary modern pupils demanding a return to selection? If, as the meritocrats claim, the 11-plus is so clearly a superior system, why are not more of these (doubtless) happy, contented failures, secure in their particular places, beseeching the government to deliver more grammar schools?
Grammar schools give a false perception of success. They select at 11, and get good results at 16. Those results look good, of course, because the kids they've got in there are judged, by one form of measure, to be smarter, so naturally they'll do 'well'. At least, at academic subjects. They also create a false view that only academic success is important; I'm pretty good academically (lazy bastard, but pretty good), but absolutely useless when it comes to, for example, fixing a car.

Students at a grammar are filtered towards academia, thou shalt attend University. Even if its innapropriate or you'd be better at a more practical skill. Those that 'fail' their 11+ are encouraged, and expected, to go on to those 'vocational' courses, even if they would actually be better served on an academic course. I got worse GCSE results than my younger sister two years later, but she 'failed' her 11+. My school pushed me to A levels, and then on to a crappy degree (despite being obviously wrong for me at the time, it was good for their statistics you see; they don't record first term drop outs, only that you got a place at university). Her school pushed her to train to be a secretary. Naturally, she's worked hard, and now earns much more than I, despite the incomplete education, but she is now hitting a glass ceiling wherein lack of a degree is causing her problems. Grammar schools fail people. Secondary moderns fail people. One size fits all comprehensives fail people if they insist on mixed ability classes.

I'm always bothered when people push for parental 'choice' in education. If you live in an area such as I do, you don't really have much choice, there are a small number of local schools. Add in selection, then the choice is even less, you go where you're accepted. What's wrong with the idea that all schools should be good schools?

What's wrong with the idea that someone good at maths may be poor at English, and therefore streaming and ability sets worked by subject may be a necessary tool?

Why do we value the academic over the mechanic, the lawyer over the plumber? And why do people seek to constantly bring back a system that palpably isn't good for anyone involved except those that are academic and pass the 11+?

Elephant accused of indecent haste?

Here's a turn up for the books; an elephant going to quickly. Charles Clarke is getting flack from the Association of Polica Authorities because he wants them to write detailed plans in response to another NuLab centralising scheme at pretty short notice.They really are not happy:
"Police authorities have unanimously rejected the home secretary's plans to force these proposals through with indecent haste, and we believe there are also credible alternative options which should be considered very seriously."
Some of them are happy to merge (fair enough, Suffolk and Norfolk are currently separate, but would happily work together, living under Devon and Cornwall for most of my life, two counties working together isn't too big), others specifically want to stay as they are (50% of those so far stating a preference). But, essentially, they want them to merge because:
Mr Clarke believes the force mergers will lead to more efficient police forcing, helping to combat terrorism and organised crime.
Hmm, prevent serious organised crime and terrorism. Is that the sort of serious organised crime that causes people to be arrested for reading?

There's a good argument to be made that big problems need combined resources. Fine, let them combine resources, let them work together. But don't merge them completely; the whole point of British policing is it's local, not national. Centralise those bits that need it, but leave the local forces as they are. Those that are too small may need to merge, but others are about right currently.

New Labour: centralising everything for your 'safety' and 'security'.

LibDem expulsion? A brief little fisking...

Not my favoured form of blogging, but that nice Mr Tim posted a link to this post by one Neil Craig, who is complaining that he's been expelled by the Scottish Lib Dems. Except, um, he hasn't:
Yesterday I received the following letter, without any warning whatsoever
Mr Craig? I've read through bits of your frontpage, and I've read the letter you've put up. You can read, I hope? You're able to tell the difference between one action and another? Oh good.

Y'see, you're complaining that you've had "no warning". Except, the thing is, the letter is the warning. Is it not clear enough for you? You haven't been purged, yet. You've been asked to explain yourself. Here, I'll quote the relevent bit for you:
I am required to inform you of the decision and advise you that you are entitled to send me a submission in writing as to why the Executive Committee should not proceed at its next meeting to expel you.
That's written in legalese, otherwise known as formal English. It means that they're going to hold a vote as to whether you're allowed to stay in the party, in which you're allowed to state your reasons why you should be. That's called due process Mr Craig, democratic parties are allowed to follow it. Here's another bit for you:
At its meeting on 21st January the Executive Committee will hold a secret ballot which will require a 2/3rds majority to terminate your membership
A two thirds majority. You need to persuade just over one third of the exec that you should be allowed to stay a member. Are you able to do that? Are you going to try? They're giving you the chance, they're giving you warning.

But, before you do Mr Craig, can I ask why you want to be a member of the LibDems? Just curious, it's just that you've referred to the man who effectively made the modern party, without whom it wouldn't exist, let alone by a party of govt in Scotland, as "Nazi Ashdown", which is a strange thing to do, to my mind. Is it because of his stand in favour of intervention to stop the violence in the former Yugoslavia? It seems to be a pet bug bear of yours. I'd love to quote his memoirs at you, but they appear to be on loan to someone at the moment, they should be sat with Major's on my bookshelf. But, y'see, I distinctly remember him being pretty condemnatory of Mr Tudjman on a number of occasions, I don't think he was a particular fan of the Croat leadership at the time of the conflicts either. In fact, I do recall he argued for an intervention to stop all the conflict at the time, all the cleansings. But, given that you've publicly called the founder of the modern party a nazi, I wonder why you're a member?

I'm not one, you don't need to be. But if you are, couldn't you manage to write them a little letter explaining why you actually do broadly support the principles of the party? You seem to like writing letters to newspapers, why not defend your opinions within the executive, elected by the members of the party, which is wondering why you're a member? If they do take the decision to expell you, then you can, perhaps, complain vituperatively. As it is, you've simply been asked to defend your public statements because, on the face of it, some of them do seem
illiberal & irreconcilable with membership of the Party
Feel free to tell me what I'm missing though. No one is seeking to muzzle you, just ask you to leave or explain why you're not illiberal.

As an aside? Can I introduce you to the concept of copyright laws and publishing? You do seem to like quoting entire articles at once. Not the done thing old chap, you're supposed to link to them, and quote extracts to comment on. Quoting entire articles isn't really on. Besides, it makes scrolling past them rather annoying to the reader if they've already read it, or follow the link you provide and read it on the source site.

Good, um, luck, writing that letter to the Executive, I'm sure you can put forward a good enough case to persuade them you're not an absolute fool with beliefs opposed to the principles of the party. That is the case, right?

I did say I'm no good at this sort of thing, right? Good.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

strange stuff: Not Little England's case for the EU

OK, many many posts on Europe in a row not good for my sanity, but it's only fair to link to Chris' critique of part of my ideas. However, I'm not sure Chris has understood exactly what I'm getting at, probably as I haven't explained myself properly. It's not opposition to China specifically, nor Russia, India or the US. It's the recognition that over the next 50 years, these will be the dominant power blocks. It's going to be either this, multipolar world, or a unipolar world, with the US as the dominant hyperpower. I'm not sure what is the most likely of the two, but I am pretty sure one or the other is very likely compared to other possible futures.

Without the EU, we'd have no choice but to join the Anglosphere and promote the idea of the US as hyperpower, making a unipolar world more likely. With the EU, we have a different option. It's not perfect, but at least we're a fairly big player within it, at least we're actually listened to, and not just a junior partner, a 'poodle' to use the current vernacular.

The other part of Chris' analysis is about Chirac. Can we all, across the blogosphere agree that we just don't like the man? He won his election by default, he's not popular in France and is increasingly marginalised. So, while this:
In the words of Jacques Chirac:
"Reasons of international balance justify strengthening links between Europe and China, I’d even say between Europe, Russia and China."
So one of the current leaders of the EU, and a good representaive of a strong current within it's rulign structures, want's an EU that is the exact opposite
of what Mat is proposing
Is true, but it's only one perspective. Chirac's vision is losing ground; 'New Europe', the people Thatcher et al worked hard (and rightly so) to get in, aren't particular fans of Chirac's social model, nor necessarily agree with his worldview. However, Chirac does have a point.

China is not a nice place, it doesn't have a nice government, and the Chinese Firewall is just nasty. But things are changing in China, things are improving, and, as in the UK in the 19th Century, the growth of an urban middle class will, eventually (I hope), bring democratic changes. Is France's playing of realpolitic necessarily moral or correct? No.

But it is undertandable. The whole point of a multipolar world is that with multiple powers, changing alliances of mutual advantage are necessary. The EU, with China and Russia, can balance American hegemonic tendencies (and if anyone doubts that elements within the US administration has hegemonic tendencies, I give you PNAC), but it doesn't mean a permanent alliance with the illiberal powers; it means we have other options ither than simply allying ourselves with one power. The Americans know there are other options.

So, essentially, the EU is a chance to be a global player, and Britain has the opportunity to be a leading light within the EU. If we want a say in the globalised world, we need to be allied with or part of a big player. I, personally, prefer to be part of the EU, and reform its problems. If you prefer the Anglosphere, fine, I respectfully disagree. But I can't see any other player in town. If you do, please feel free to let me know...

Guido and the Monkey?

Oh my. Everyone's favourite Parliament insiders working together?

Europe: The reasons why

I was going to write up my reasons for wanting a Europe of some form exist. My reasons for wanting Britain to be a significant, constructive part of the reform process. As I started, I got a comment notification. John's pretty much done it for me:
In a century's time the world's big powers are likely to be huge states like the US, China and India. Britain alone will have little economic or political clout in a world that works on that scale - how could it? Keeping all national sovereignty at Westminster will count for little the UK is too feeble to do anything with that sovereignty.

By pooling sovereignty in certain areas - particularly economically - with our allies, we could make ourselves stronger: we won't always get our way, but when we do it'll count for more.

That doesn't mean that Europe as it stands is perfect; in fact, it's mainly bloody awful. The CAP; the lack of democratic legitimacy; the lack of R&D spending; the fact that several of the continent's largest economies are spluttering. All these things and plenty more need fixing.

But if Britain is to retain any influence in world affairs it will be as part of a larger block. I think it's better to make the effort to get Europe right, despite the continuing incompetence of President Chirac, rather than just accepting our fate in obscurity.
Which is pretty much my position.

The world is globalising, and the big power blocks will dominate. Big corporations, frequently with anti-competetive practices, are beginning to be more than sub-state players. Flawed though they were, problematic theough they were, the recent trade talks in which the EU spoke as one group are a good example of how it's useful; the EU, speaking together, represents a significant chunk of the world economy; it has clout. The sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It's flawed, it needs fixing, but it's essential if we're to retain any sovereignty over our economic future.

Blair's failure over Europe

I had one of those rare moments yesterday. I was sat in a friends shop chatting and listening to the radio news. A familiar voice came on, and I found myself agreeing with every word. Then I realised it was Blair. The great shame of the UK electoral system is it denies the UKIP tendency seats at Westminster, letting Blair off the hook when it comes to genuinely putting the case within Parliament. The Tories aren't in favour of withdrawal, even with Cameron, and none of the other parties really challenge him. Hearing him ripping into Farage was brilliant. It's just such a damn shame that Blair gave up on Europe so early in his term (you know, back when he was popular and some of us believed in him?).

Meh, enough from me, John at Atlantic Rift has an excellent post up on the reasons Blair gave up on making the case, as usual, it's because he didn't want to alienate the media:
The Labour party, dealing with the realities of government and still having their own doubts, quietly abandoned the cause. There’s little chance of the Conservatives, now led by a nice cuddly Eurosceptic rather than a scary foaming mouthed one, taking up the slack. And the Liberal Democrats are still in no danger of getting into government.

The splendid isolationism of Farage and his ilk doesn't represent Britain's interests - but while Blair will not explain to the public why, he shouldn't be surprised that they can so dominate debate.
Britain's place is within Europe. It has to be. Our press doesn't want to admit it (in fact, Murdoch seems very much in favour of the only sensible alternative, that of an Anglosphere dominated by the Yanks), and our politicians aren't making the case. The opposed are winning by default. Political cowardice of the highest order, but then, populism means saying what they want to hear, not saying what they need to hear, doesn't it Tony?

Blair's school report

The Snow in Summer is running David's Diary since Dave's election as leader, in part 3 he's got hold of Blair's end of term report:
History: Blair's place in this class is secure, much as he wishes to change it. A-.

Geography: There's much to commend Blair's in-depth study of Eastern Europe, and his proposals for reconstruction are worth consideration. When he applies himself to the rest of the syllabus, he will do tremendously. B

German: Good progress, especially given the turmoil in the department this term. Blair has warmed to new tutor, Frau Merkel. B

French: M Chirac does not see how Blair can ever become any good in this foreign language. He does not understand the first principles. D-
Go read the rest...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More on killing badgers

As a follow up from Paul's post about the proposed badger cull earlier, one of my local MPs has got some answers back from the govt, in the form of Paul's local MP, about the whole thing. Steen appears to want culling to continue, but as Paul argued the evidence doesn't point that was currently:
From the beginning of 2002 until the end of 2004, 1,876 badgers were cultured for bovine TB as part of the seven counties road traffic accident survey. 324 badgers were found to be positive.

Protected status does not prohibit the culling of badgers in appropriate circumstances, so its removal is not a consideration at this time.
Not sure where I stand on the issue, but it's good to know people are actually looking at the evidence.

Complete aside, all of this comes from the incredibly useful, and to see the three local MPs showing up in my feedreader of choice when they do something in Parliament is a great service. Many thanks to MySociety et al for doing the hard work.

Which reminds me; I personally use Livejournal as my feed aggregator, the benefits of a paid account means I can add as many feeds as I like to their sydication set up. If there are any non-paid LJ users reading this that would like feeds set up, as long as it's either a British Blog or of vague political interest, I'll be happy to do so; comment here with the feed address and your LJ username and/or email address, or mail me at the usual address. For those non-LJers wondering why I don't use a 'proper' feed reader, it's because I'm on a dial up connection, and feedreaders can be incredibly slow as they fetch feeds, LJ has already fetched them for me, and I can read the feed from any online PC anywhere in the world very easily.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blogging elsewhere, life in the bay

By way of local boy Mr Worstall I find that, having not bothered witht he paper today, I've missed an article on blogging by his good self, in which, amongst other things, he links to local blogger David, not at all political, but, well, a good read, especially if you're local:
Bus driver

Not, you might think, the most enthralling of subjects, the things that happen on the No 12 bus from Newton Abbot to Brixham. Yet these little vignettes from the driver make fascinating reading as insights into someone else's daily life. He carries a camera as well and posts the occasional photos of what he passes on the daily rounds. It might be because I was born there but it's the via Torquay part of the route that makes it. He has a thing for photos of illegally parked coaches too. Who knew of the undeclared war between the two tribes?
This reminded me to both invite David to join the new blog and also note that following our most convivial meet in the pub, Chris from Strange_Stuff and I have set up a new, local news and events blog for the area, Only just really set it up, so not sure exactly what direction to take it, but it seems like a plan; it'll also give me a place to vent my spleen at the local Daily Mail owned paper, which I'm not a particular fan of. If there are any other local readers who may want to contribute the occasional piece, do let us know, matbowles [at] gmail [dot] com as usual.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cameron 4 Lib Dems? Ye gods...

By way of Robin at Perfect, I had a look at the LDYS response to Cameron's recruitment site. I despair. Really, I do. Guys? I'm not a techie, I have problems with anything beyond basic html when I've got a reference guide, but that's awful. I could knock up better in about half an hour using M$ Notepad alone.
  • Google has nothing to work with
  • there's no 'alt' text on the image
  • there's no 'title' text on the image
  • there are no meta tags for search engines
  • there's no text for search engines...
Can one of the LibDem readers of this blog go fix it for them? I'll be sat at my desk hitting it repeatedly with my forehead. Good idea, but so badly done they may as well not have bothered.

Update: by way of comments, I'm pointed at which is much better, and rather amusing:
Ten reasons to vote for us (because we can count past six)

Update 2: Given the large number of referrals I'm getting from a private LibDem forum, I'm guessing someone has read this. Given that most of the problems have been fixed in a rather inelegant way, I'm guessing someone listened to my request. As pointed out in the comments, it would be much better to reformat the page so it's actually a proper page rather than text in a .jpg, dial-up users (like me) would like it as well. Still, the humour is good if nothing else.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

British Politics: The Future

So, Dave wants me to join him does he? I appear to be his target audience, a sometime LibDem who believes it's more important to defeat NuLab than to continue the old rivalries. He's saying the right things, I remain to be convinced if he's doing them. But, well, I'm not convinced that joining his party is for me. Scratch that, I refuse to consider it. He wants an end to petty point scoring in politics? Fine, let's talk. Openly, honestly, and with a perspective on both history, the future and on how things work.
I say to Liberal Democrats everywhere: we, like you, are on the side of the local community, and want to give local people more power and control over how their services are run, how their neighbourhoods are policed, and their priorities are delivered."
My post yesterday described the ideas of broad church politics, and pressed the point that each of the three main parties are electoral coalitions designed to maximise the vote share of those with broadly similar ideas. It seems to have gone down rather well in diverse quarters. What it didn't do is really explain why these coalitions form, nor analyse the electoral advantage that such alliances can create.

During the French 4th Republic (post WWII, pre-De Gaulle), philosopher and thinker Maurice Duverger formulated what has become known as Duverger's Law:
(1) a majority vote on one ballot is conducive to a two-party system; (2) proportional representation is conducive to a multiparty system
My opinions on electoral reform are already well stated, but this isn't about electoral reform, we know we're not going to get it for Westminster unless the Govt of the day truly believes in it. Blair promised a referendum, but, like many of his promises, well, he lied. In order to defeat NuLab, we need to defeat them using the current electoral system. I can't find a full copy of Duverger's original peace online, and it's a few years since I read it, but the essence of his argument (and he was arguing for FPTP and against the (even worse) system France was then using. Essentially, under Simple Majority/FPTP, in each given electoral district, it is a natural tendency for party support to crystallise amongst voters in favour of the top two parties. When commentators talk of 'tactical voting', they are actually referring to this process. Except in the rare three (or in Scotland four)-way marginals, support for the third and below parties withers down to simply the core, committed rump. This can be seen in areas like Torbay, where the Labour party has almost no presence, and in large swathes of northern England and Scotland where the Conservatives have no chance; in many inner cities, it is the LibDems challenging Labour, and in the shires, the LibDems were the challengers that unseated the Tories. Given the nature of the beast, the system contains a systemic bias against the Tories, but this bias is artificial, it is created by the system, created by Duverger's Law.

I identified yesterday that politics really goes 4 ways, not two. Yet we have three parties, each a coalition that exists for electoral advantage. Yet when one is entrenched, as Labour currently is, the only way to defeat it is for the other two to combine, as Labour and the LibDems did in 1997 and again in 2001. Another point made by Duverger is that
During a time of realignment, the first past the post system can create a wholly false picture of the balance of power between the parties
What was the 1980s if not a period of realignment? The SDP/Liberal Alliance was an attempt to break the mold. It failed, but as it was largely a split between the Left, with the arguments still being about economics, it gave the Right the ability to cement their hold with a minority of the support. In 1992, Major fought a very close campaign, yet it was acknowledged in most parts that a vote for the LibDems was a vote against Major, by default, for the change, for Kinnock. Blair's victory in 1997 was in large part due to the crystallisation that Duveger predicted; we knew who the enemy was, we studied the numbers in each constituency, we voted for the candidate most likely to defeat our then enemy. In Torbay, that was for Adrian Sanders, in Exeter, for Ben Bradshaw. Blair's NuLab has effectively destroyed that coalition. They've made themselves the enemy.

Cameron proclaims he looks to a liberal future; as I observed, it's to his electoral advantage to do so, he can't fight NuLab on the territory they've now made their own, that of the populist authoritarianism that was once the feature of Tory party conference speeches. So he's moved the gravity of his party towards the libertarian wing, always there, always quiet. It was the Conservative government that eroded local government in the 1980s, that centralised power into Whitehall because at least Whitehall was run by "people like us". Now, of course, they regret that policy, and seek to reverse it.

As Snafu observed on Once More back in October:
whilst the electoral system remains unreformed, there is very little chance of the Conservatives ever returning to Government. Labour forever!
He's right. Cameron wants me to join his party. Not going to happen, I'm on the bottom left of the Compass (which, despite popular opinion, has a long tradition, I first saw it referenced by Bob Worcester of Mori on a TV show I watched during my GCSEs years ago), and while I can respect the world view of the bottom right, I don't share it. Duverger asserts that in each district we need one candidate to defeat Labour. Not, as Cameron would have it, that we should all form one big party.

To defeat Labour, in those seats where Labour is in power, the anti-Labour parties must either openly or tacitly allow the best placed opponent to win. This does not necessarily require that they form a formal coalition or alliance, in fact, in those seats where Labour hasn't a chance, it's essential for democracy that the 'partners' duke it out; Torbay would be a battleground where no such alliance was possible. It's only in Labour held seats we need worry, or in seats Labour could capture from one of the other two. Working together, the liberal majority can defeat the authoritarian tendency. The Tories need to prove they are genuine. They need to not let the populists gain any ground. The LibDems need to grow up and act like a sensible party, and acknowledge that, no matter how nice we think Charlie is, they're not able, under any electoral system, to win on their own, especially with Dave taking the Right wing of their natural territory. It's not like the Liberals of old haven't worked with Tories in the past, whate were Churchill and Beveridge after all?

After that? If they defeat Labour? Well, that's a post for another day.

The Police reforms: give your views

It's not often I disagree with Nosemonkey, but I'll take issue with this statement:
This should technically just be for Londoners, as I am, although nowhere does it seem to say this. I'll leave it up to you provincials/non-Brits to decide for yourselves whether you should take part as well.
I've made my decision.
  1. I visit London regularly, it's the national capitol
  2. At some point I plan to move there, and have many friends already living there
  3. Where the Met leads, the rest of the country follows

The Met wants to know what sort of police service we should have. Go read his post, then fill out the form he links to. Tell them what you think. It's not just for Londoners, it's for everyone in the UK. We visit there, and our police will follow the lead of the Met if it's percieved to have worked.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Boris on the LibDems; methinks he misses the point

On a purely entertaining level, I like Boris. On a political level, sometimes I read him and agree with every word, othertimes I disagree vehemently. Sometimes, like today, I chuckle at his attempt to play partizan, and note that he, like many others, completely misses the point:
I am slapping a preservation order on Charlie Kennedy, and listing him as a Grade One landmark of our culture

Are the LibDems left wing? Right wing? In the mythical "centre ground"? Boris thinks that the party having disagreements over policy is evidence of doublethink. No, not really Boris, it's evidence of the party being a broad church coalition. Remember them? That's what both Labour and the Conservative (and Unionist) party are, broad churches. A cross section of views and viewpoints, each from a part of the spectrum, and banding together for electoral advantage and common support. 'Better them than that lot' we hear Old Labour say. In 1997, I agreed with them. Now?

The old arguments used to be about ecomomic policy;throughout the C20, socialism, mixed, free market, capitalism, regulation, privatisation, nationalisation. That was what mattered; what you though on these mattered placed you on the economic spectrum, everything else was secondary. The Left and the Right fought, and all else, including the Radical, the Green and the Libertarian were marginalised, ignored or absorbed into the Big Two. The old Left Right argument has been displaced in modern discourse. It's no longer about economics, we talk about it, but broadly, consensus has been reached. Broadly. We quibble over details; how much tax, how free the market, to regulate or not. Anyone heard a call to nationalise recently? Thought not.

We have a much bigger argument to resolve, it's far more important. You're reading this blog, you already know the answer, and you pretty much already know what side most bloggers are on. The big issue now, as Strange Stuff observed a few days back, isn't economics. It's liberty. The state versus the individual. Where do you stand, do we need a strong state to "protect" us, or do we want the freedom to live our own lives, to take risk of our own, to debate, to dissent, to campaign? If you're reading this, you already know which side of the divide I'm on.

So, back to the broad churches. The Tory party was broadly Right, it included Libertarians and Patricians, authoritarian moralists and individualist free thinkers. The vital part was you believed in private ownership and economic freedoms. The Labour party was broadly Left. It believed in welfare provision, redistribution, workers rights and a lessening of the power of capitol. It included those who wished to decentralise and those who wished to nationalise. Statists and individualists, in both parties.

The LibDems were always a broad church as well. But it was a broad church, not on left vs right terms, but on up versus down terms. I'm assuming any reader of this blog already knows of the Political Compass, but essentially it splits viewpoints on a 4-way section, with economics left to right, state versus individual up to down. If the state is at the top, the individual at the bottom, Tories like Boris (and, it appears, Cameron) are on the Right, but in the bottom quadrant. Other Tories are in the top right quadrant. For many, many years, Labour occupied the left two quadrants. Unfortunately for the nation, under Blair's NuLab, it's been forced up. And up, and up. In fact, it's now almost at the top, and moved into the centre. NuLab isn't on the Left anymore, it's on the Top. Over at Devil's Kitchen awhileback, a typically hyperbolic analysis of this move was published. NuLab is no longer on the Left, it has instead occupied the ground of the Populist Authoritarian. The LibDems have always been opposed to Authoritarianism. The Tory party has it's authoritarians, its hangers, floggers and moralist puritans. Old Labour always had a few who disliked the State, and sought to limit its power.

The LibDems have recruited activists, campaigners and politicians who, in previous times, would have been in one of the Big Two. They're a broad church of the liberal Bottom. Are there moves within the party to move it "to the Right", to ally with Cameron et al? Is the party splitting on these issues, the Left vs Right? From an outsiders perspective, I see it not. It is natural that the Tory party has moved to the grounds it can oppose Blair from, the Bottom. It is to be expected that when they finally start looking, they find LibDems on the Right of the party that they get on with and agree with. They've always been there, it's not a new thing. It's the Tory party that is moving, embracing it's Libertarian wing. The LibDems remain a broad church, able to critique the NuLab from both the Left and the Right. But always from the Bottom. A position most Bloggers seem to also occupy, regardless of whether they be Left or Right. The LibDems have their faults, but there shoul be no surprise that a party that still subscribes to free debate and membership involvement disagrees with itself openly.

There should also be no surprise from the Tories to find that, when they move their centre of gravity down to oppose the Authoritarians, they find their new territory already occupied. I know what the LibDems stand for. Given my liberal-left position, I broadly support it. I just wish they were a little better at getting the point across.

Left vs Right no longer matters, it's all about Up vs Down. For the first time in my life, I'm on the same side of the big argument as a whole bunch of Tories. I haven't moved, neither, really, have they. This Govt has changed British politics. Their current policies are a basic affront to the freedoms of England, the principles of Britain. Is it any wonder a new front is opening up, in which those who oppose it are finding they can make common ground?

Update: Follow up post here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

New logo - trial design

Courtesy of a good friend of mine with more design talent than me, I have a little logo at the top. That's version one, but even as a draft I like it. My brief was the English flag, the Scots flag and the Welsh Dragon, he did the rest. I like it, I think any flag with a dragon on looks good, right? I'm working on the rest of the template, but for now, I need to sleep. Thanks Mark, very much appreciated.

Revoke your British Citizenship on a whim?

From Chris at Strange Stuff gives a link to Spyblog:
It is hard to keep up with all of the authoritarian crap being spawned by New Labour. SpyBlog has found another, the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill which gives the Home Secretary the power to revoke the british citizenship of anybody that he chooses, for whatever reason he chooses.
It's not quite anyone, it's anyone that can have other citizenship. So I'd be safe, but anyone with the potential to claim citizenship elsewhere could have it removed. Like someone born to Japanese parents in Britain and lived here all their life, just for example.

Why? How does this help us? If it was someone that moved here as an adult, then, well, perhaps. But as drafted it's people born here. So much for civic nationalism. They want to control everything don't they? Gah!

What on Earth is a City Region?

Linking to this at CEP more as a memorandum than anything else:
The New Local Government Network has released its recommendations for the reorgansiation of local government based on its City Regions Commission, the report includes a call for government to pass greater power and strategic responsibilities to new local authority alliances, based on England's city regions.
It's certain that something needs to be done on "The England Question". The status quo is not an option given devolution elsewhere, Prescott managed to pretty much destroy the idea of Regions in the minds of most (hint John, when you really believe in something, which you seemed to, then try and a) persuade them us a good idea, b) make sure it's not a useless White Elephant and c) explain yourself - ah, therein lies the problem, sorry, forgot), and I really worry an English Parliament would, eventually, destabilise the Union. Personally, I like being English and British, and it is as Britain that we punch above our weight in the world.

A long overdue write up of my full ideas on this is still, well, overdue. I need, I think, to break it down into chunks. In the meantime, I need to read through the latest scheme to solve the problem and figure out if it's any good. Doubt it, but, well, a sceptical open mind remains in place. Not tonight though, sleep needed. Go read the links Gareth put up and tell me/him your opinions, one way or another. There's a chance it may be a good idea, despite coming from NuLab. I'll try to force myself to remember that when reading it, it's so easy to condemn everything they do these days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What else don't we need to know?

So, we don't need another enquiry, they cost too much, we know what happened already do we? What's wrong Tony, worried you won't be able to set this one up as a whitewash like the last one? Whenever the subject of the 7th July attacks comes up, I go check a particular blog to see if the story is covered. It is, so, once again, while she doesn't speak for all the victims, she speaks for herself, and says it better than I can:
Every time I fight to get on a tube, or a bus, I know I and the people travelling with me are targets. It never gets any better. Each day a nail bomb doesn't explode, but then each day I think the probability counter re-sets, the likelihood increases. Bang, screams, death, maiming. Not today. Tomorrow?

We all have questions about 7th July, let them be answered independently, with dignity and clarity.
Enquiries are needed to get the facts and evidence into the open. What are you hiding Tony? What might an enquiry turn up you don't want us to know?

I demand a Public Enquiry. You should too.

Methinks they do protest too much

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt has more on Maya Evans, this time on Charlie Falconer's attempted defense of the legislation this morning on Today. How did Falconer get his job?:
he got it for not nicking Tony's milk and doing the washing up when it was his turn? Sweet.
Devil's Kitchen has a nice summary of Falconer's argument:
Lord Falconer of Enemas with Concentrated Sulphuric Acid: "I'm sorry, but that simply isn't the case. Black is white."
.Her own MP tried to defend the legislation in a letter to the Independent on Monday:
Sir: I am really sorry that my constituent Maya Evans was convicted under Section 122 of the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (report, 8 December) ... with the current terrorist threat it would be easy to mask a terrorist atrocity under the guise of a legitimate demonstration. The easy solution would have been to simply ban such protest ... but that was not the Government's intention ... Section 122 of the Act makes protests within 1km of Parliament illegal unless authorised by the police ... the police are required to give that authorisation unless public safety or national security is compromised. Thus protests such as that of Maya Evans can be accommodated ... it should be noted that Miss Evans's fellow demonstrator Mr Rai did give such notice and was not prosecuted .... Ms Evans's prosecution is unfortunate and appears to have been somewhat zealous, but to suggest it is an attack on free speech is bizarre. Such a right must be, and indeed is, protected by this legislation.


To which a good response in the next days paper was printed:
Sir: As the person arrested with Maya Evans, I am really sorry that my MP Michael Foster has misled himself so seriously as to the facts of her case, and as to the new law (letters, 12 December).

I was the organiser of the ceremony at which Maya was arrested, and, as Mr Foster acknowledges, I did give notice to the police of the event. However, this notice was for the event as a whole, and on behalf of all those who might attend, including Maya. So therefore Maya had no need legally to give such notice as an individual participant.
Obviously, not read the court transcripts (tempted, but, well, time is at a premium currently).

Can we get them out of office somehow? Anyhow?

Badger badger badger badger

Sorry, this isn't the usual theme of the blog, but I think it highlights some of the strangeness of Little England.

There has been a huge debate going on in Devon and Cornwall over the last few months and years about TB in cattle and the links between TB in cattle and TB in badgers. It is a debate intensified by the fact that local MP Ben Bradshaw is a DEFRA minister and at least in part responsible for any government decisions made on the outcome.

For as long as I can remember, local farmers have been blaming the spread of TB on badgers, and, whilst it seems fair to say that badgers do spread TB, the effects of cattle movement and, recently Foot and Mouth (under 'Reasons for Doubt') have also had a large part to play.

So what do the farmers want? A cull on badgers, obviously. Now I cant help but think that that's jumping the gun a little, going on assumptions rather than fact and blaming anything other than their own actions for the spread of TB. Thankfully, the government hasn't rushed to any firm conclusions - it is due to produce it's report tomorrow.

Today, however, a report from the journal Nature has suggested, (even in it's abstract) that the cull of badgers over the past 30 years
indicate that localized badger culling not only fails to control but also seems to increase TB incidence in cattle.

So, in true, illogical, small-minded little England style, what does the NFU regional representative say on BBC Spotlight (Devon and Cornwall regional news) tonight? He says, and I paraphrase for lack of eidetic memory
As the report highlights the fact that localised badger culling doesn't work, we must kill badgers on a bigger scale. By killing all the badgers, we stop TB.

I mean, this must be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard - if it doesn't work in a local area, the same problems will occur in any bigger area that isn't the whole of the country, surely? And how exactly does he propose to kill all the badgers anyway? I think they tried that with rabbits and didn't get too far...

To top it all off, he then goes on to admit that there are other methods that farmers could be doing to try and stop TB, but that they weren't willing to do them without co-operation from the government. This would be the co-operation that the government is withholding until it has found out whether it actually reduces TB in cattle. I mean, you just can't win.

The thing is, the link between badgers and TB, true, false or somehwere in the middle, has become so firmly engrained in the minds of farmers (well, at least those constantly interviewed on the local news, anyway) that they aren't going to be happy with anything less than a total cull - and that includes reputable publications like Nature telling them that they're wrong.

Chomsky is the modern Orwell

Just because I know a few readers are fans of one, the other or both. Nosemonkey started a discussion on a Guardian article on Chomsky, discussion starts, Orwell gets mentioned:
Chomsky reminds me a lot of Orwell
Then Jamie at Blood and Treasure decides a discussion of Orwell is needed as well. Oh, and Phil of Actually Existing has another blog, Apparently, that he's put some more up on.

That's it, light blogging for me today, some personal stuff going on. One observation, now I've got the statcounter installed (thanks for the suggestion Nosemonkey), for my fellow bloggers? Tags. Use em. Oh, and interesting post titles, some of Paul's are getting some pretty good referrals. I'm doing this for the fun of it, so watching the referrals is just geeky amusement in and of itself. Of course, the cathartic ranting can be good at times.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Blair on taking more innocent peoples money

Remember that "innocent until proven guilty thing"? Blair, it seems, doesn't believe in it anymore. Talk Politics has more on the subject, but essentially Blair wants the power to take money from people before they're convicted:
There is a slight constitutional problem with this suggestion posed by the English Bill of Rights of 1689 which reads:
Blair doesn't think due process is needed any more, he doesn't think it's working:
He told BBC News: "You cannot deal with this type of crime by ordinary methods or by ordinary court processes. I genuinely believe that. I have tried it, it doesn't work."
Um, Tony? If it's not working, it's your fault! You can't blame the Tories anymore, you can't blame the people you took over from. You've had 8 years to get it to work, that's your job.

So, instead of making the system, as duly constituted in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, work, he wants to rip it up and start again. Year Zero anyone?

AM's prison claim over ID cards

We have another decent convert to the cause, and this one is getting us some publicity. Leanne Wood AM has signed the current No2ID pledge:
A Plaid Cymru Assembly Member has said she is prepared to go to jail rather than carry the proposed new ID card.

Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood AM has signed up to a campaign in protest at the UK Government plans.
OK, most of use have known about this one for ages, but getting coverage of the anti campaign, especially when Home Office Ministers are this blinkered:
On November 17th 2005, Home Office Minister Andy Burnham appeared on the BBC's World at One radio programme to defend the government's ID card proposals. During the interview he said "I don't hear too many people questioning the principle of whether we should have an ID card scheme."
She's for Plaid, but I can deal with that, she, like many of us out here in the blogging world, has promised to go to jail if the damn things become compulsory. I keep telling people that not all politicians are unprincipled gits. Some of them aren't.

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The Cameron 'reforms'

So, Dave (or is it DC now, I've lost track) wants to make Parliament more representative.:
"Until we're represented by men and women in the country, regardless of race or creed, we won't be half the party we could be," he said in a speech on candidate selection in Leeds.

He said his "positive action" plan was not about "crazed political correctness", but would guarantee more women and ethnic minorities in winnable seats.
Of course he does. In order to do it, he's going to take control from the centre and govern his pary by diktat. Hmm, hasn't that been tried before?

There's a simple way to get more women in Parliament Dave. It'll get more minorities in there as well. And, added bonus here, it will give the voters real control over who they vote for and who represents them. What's this Mat, I hear you say, what's this simple system?

Change the electoral system. (Oh, c'mon, who didn't see that one coming?).

So, why does this help. Well, until Labour changed the system in 1947, not all constituencies were single member as they are now. Barbara Castle who, whatever you think of her politics, was certainly a very capable and succesful politician, said that she was convinced the main reason she was selected as a candidate in Blackburn was because they already had a decent male candidate, and thus the selectors didn't object as strongly to having a female as a candidate as well. There is, unfortunately, an ingrained picture of what an MP should look like. White, middle class male in a suit, respectable family man. y'know, like that nice Mr Blair, or even that even nicer Mr Cameron.

Across the board single member constituencies, a reasonably new innovation in British politics given its long history, have meant that selectors, consciously or unconsciously, choose candidates close to their ideal. Voters are denied choices within the party they prefer, and a large number of politicians are thus identikit men in suits. Not all, of course, but the overwhelming majority. I object to all female shortlists. I object to centralised planning. I object to party diktat and enforced "reform".

However, I do believe that Parliament is unrepresentative, and the system denies voters real choice. Ireland has a much better electoral system, it's shared by Australia, gives the voters real power and allows better representation of all groups and opinions. I dislike the centralising that Simple Majority creates, I dislike the standardisation that Simple Majority creates. I strongly dislike 'safe' seats, overwhelming majorities, differential turnout, party 'machines' deciding who represents us.

Go on Dave, you know you want to admit it. Simple Majority is failing your party, it's failing Parliament, it's failing the country. Adopt Single Transferable Vote with multi-member constiuencies. It'll solve all your problems, without the need to issue diktats, and give the voters real choice. You do want that, really, don't you? Give the voters a genuine choice?

Hmm... time will tell.