Friday, June 30, 2006

Detained Iraqis 'were planning terrorist attacks' - Britain - Times Online

If these accusations are true, then they should be substantiated and the men convicted and jailed. If they cannot be substantiated - i.e. they are based on the same reliable "intelligence" that brought us imaginary WMD in Iraq, an imaginary bomb belt on Jean Charles de Menezes and imaginary chemical weapons in Forest Gate - then the government should shut up.

The men are innocent until proven guilty and the ministers making these serious allegations are abusing their public position.

To attack the judiciary in this way for enforcing the law is very dangerous. Our judges are not perfect, but they are currently the last line of defence we have against the burgeoning British police state.

Detained Iraqis 'were planning terrorist attacks' - Britain - Times Online

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Is Megan's Law a vigilantes' charter? - Law - Times Online

The answer to the question in the headline is - of course - in the text of the story.

This is a difficult issue for a libertarian. I don't believe the State has the right - generally - to conceal information from the public. It exists to serve the public and whatever its servants know, they know on the public's behalf. However, the State also has a duty to protect the privacy of private individuals. You would not want your tax return published online as "public information", would you?

Here, I think the press is focussing on the wrong issue. The question is not "would you want to know if a sex offender was living near your children?". Knowledge is power and the obvious answer is "yes". There is also an argument that the "Megan's Law" approach is only achieving, in a modern mobile society, what used to occur naturally when people lived in more stable communities. The local paedophiles were known and children were warned against them by families and neighbours. Their proclivities were to some extent controlled by the knowledge that the community was watching them and, yes, might take matters into its own hands if children were harmed. Why should this not happen now?

A more difficult question is whether, having paid his debt to society by doing jail time, someone who committed an offence should still be regarded as an "offender". If a convicted, time-served, paedophile is so dangerous that his neighbours need to know his history, then he should not have been released. If he is safe enough to be released, then his privacy can safely be respected so as to maximise his chances of rehabilitation.

The real issue is the correct sentencing and/or treatment of paedophiles, which is itself a difficult issue.

We are all (or most of us outside Opus Dei, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Nigerian Anglicans) reconciled to the idea that a homosexual is no more "to blame" for his sexual orientation than a heterosexual. He is what he is and must be able to live his life on the same terms as anyone else - i.e. free to live as he chooses, provided his choices do no harm to others.

A paedophile has no more choice in his sexual orientation than a homosexual. The problem is that living his sexual life as he chooses cannot be done without harm, as he desires children too young to make sexual choices. In a sense though, criminal punishment is as absurd for him as it always was for homosexuals. [I can already hear my more conventionally right-wing readers going ballistic at this point].

A paedophile who cannot contain his sexual urges is in need of treatment. The closure of secure psychiatric hospitals under the guise of "care in the community" has in practice filled our jails with men and women who would previously have been their inmates. I suspect that many paedophiles fall into the same category. How much more humane would it be for a paedophile with uncontrollable urges to be "sectioned" or to admit himself for treatment, than to leave him to cope alone, to the endangerment of the children around him.

I also question whether the current witch-hunt about "child pornography" is entirely constructive. Of course anything which involves harming children in the making of it should be a crime. But Japanese style manga cartoons, or realistic CGI imagery - however disgusting it might seem to non-paedophiles - should probably be available to help them deal with their sexuality in a way that does not harm children.

This is a subject it would be much easier not to write about. Anything one does write can be misinterpreted. I am not sure, however, that the tone of the present debate is likely to lead to our children being safer. Surely that - not the expression of our revulsion - is the real issue?

Is Megan's Law a vigilantes' charter? - Law - Times Online

BBC NEWS | UK | Judge quashes anti-terror orders

How sad that we need European law to protect us against detention without trial.

BBC NEWS | UK | Judge quashes anti-terror orders

Monday, June 26, 2006

Comments on: The Metropolitan Police

This links to an exchange of comments at "Opinionated Voice", on a post where the blogger, a young Muslim named Jamal, asked the reasonable question

"Why is it that when the Metropolitan Police receives dodgy evidence an immense operation is launched and a suspect gets shot, but when correct evidence is received it gets ignored?"

Comments on: The Metropolitan Police

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Observer | UK News | Fears over faults in NHS patient records system

No surprise here. Was there ever a Government IT project that EITHER came in under budget OR worked, still less both?

In France, patients keep their own records in a folder and take them to the doctor or hospital when they visit. How hard is that? People care about their own health more than any doctor (and if they don't, well that's their problem). No I.T. costs. No "clinical risk" from computer errors - and no risk of confidential records being made available against the wishes of patients.

The only argument against is that it would provide no opportunities for corrupt patronage.

The Observer | UK News | Fears over faults in NHS patient records system

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Time to slaughter the sacred cow?

My "smash the goldfish bowls" experiment has not been a success. The only "hostile" bloggers seriously to engage were Matt over at "The Dirty Leftie", and Jamal at “Opinionated Voice”. I thank them for their cooperation. I direct my contempt at the cowardly leftist bloggers who simply deleted my critical comments; restoring their blogs to ideological sterility. May they continue to swim alone in their little goldfish bowl blogs. Come the Revolution, they already know how to censor.

One always learns something from even the most naieve experiments. Matt made a simply stunning statement in response to one of my comments on his blog. I didn't respond at the time, because I was staggered and needed time to think about it. In response to one of my critiques - and as a throw-away aside to his main argument - he said: -

"you seem to be the first person I have met who is criticising the NHS and the rescue of the coal, steel and gas industries which .... were loss making private companies; companies which were almost essential for this country’s prosperity, but only salvagable through national subsidies."

Let me leave nationalisation for another day. I was shocked that Matt had “never met” anyone who criticised the NHS. Perhaps that is because its opponents are afraid to speak? So mighty a sacred cow has it become.

When Labour wins an election, Britain’s Conservatives quietly hope that it will reform the NHS, as perhaps only it could. Blair seemed the best hope of that, but has failed ignominiously. If not the Labour Party’s voters, then its membership either believe in it, know no better, or fear worse. Yet the NHS (I think of it as the NDS, or "National Death Service") is an unmitigated disaster.

My firm employs lots of East European lawyers. We bring them to London from time to time for secondments or training. One of them, a Pole, was unfortunate enough to need medical care during his stay. He was shocked. He could not believe that facilities in what he considered a rich country, were no better than they had been in the Communist Poland of his youth.

Another colleague, a Brit working in Moscow, was turned away from her local NHS hospital during her holiday at home last Christmas. She was seen by what Dr Crippen over at NHS Blog Doctor wittily calls a “nurse quacktitioner”, who turned her away with painkillers. Lots of painkillers. I advised her to return to Moscow and visit the medical centre we use here. She was promptly hospitalised, given life-saving treatment for a congested lung and air-ambulanced home to recuperate. The NHS had almost claimed another victim.

A female relative was admitted to hospital after a mild heart attack. She discharged herself in fear of her life after being put on a mixed “barracks” ward with a mad tramp who exposed himself constantly in a bed only a couple of feet away. He was so filthy and so belligerent that she preferred (fortunately that proved not to be the outcome) “ die in her own bed...”

Another relative, a nurse for decades, recently worked her last day on an NHS ward. She had become afraid of the situations she was frequently exposed to, such as being the sole person in charge of a large barracks ward full of acutely-ill patients. Despite doubling the NHS budget, New Labour has presided over (she tells me) a decline in actual medical workers. All the money has gone on “jobs for the Red boys” so that now there is one hopeless, Labour-voting, administrator per bed. What they do all day is a mystery to the medical and nursing staff.

There are too few nurses, and the shortage has been compounded by "training" many of them as “quacktitioners” to cover up the shortage of qualified doctors. Of the nurses left to nurse, many (she says) speak English so poorly that they don’t understand their patients - with predictable consequences. Sitting through the night as the sole nurse in charge of people she knew she couldn’t help in the event of the serious trouble that could be expected at any moment, she decided she could not live with the risks. When a patient died of this systematic and deliberate neglect, she would have felt (albeit unreasonably) responsible. She felt she might not be able to live with herself thereafter, so she quit.

Another family member was in hospital after a heart attack. I witnessed an exchange with his consultant. He was walking by and when my the patient called to him, he didn’t come over; he just stopped dead in the middle of the barracks ward. At the top of his voice, he answered questions with ill-disguised impatience, with the whole ward listening. There was no privacy; no respect. The patient was just another piece of meat to this apparatchik. This is of course the precise conduct any follower of Adam Smith would predict from a member of a monopoly producer cooperative - or a c**t. Being the former almost inevitably turns you into the latter.

Yet another family member was admitted to the local NHS pain-station for an operation last year. His mobility is limited and he is in constant pain. He is self-employed and therefore works with gritted teeth, but if he were an employee he would no doubt be “on the sick.” The operation would allow him to work without pain and he had been waiting - as must be expected in any system based on rationing - for some time. The surgeon opened him up, decided the problem was not as bad as he thought and discharged him untreated. The prognosis? Fifteen years of pain, mitigated by painkillers, before the knee was “bad enough” to be worth treating under NHS guidelines. When he presents again in 15 years (his career over) he will be told he’s too old to be a priority and left in pain, untreated, until death.

I could go on. You may think I already have. All these stories are recent and from my own direct experience. The fact is that, in the pantheon of Socialist achievement, the NHS is less akin to the Soviet Space programme, and more akin to the Gulag Archipelago. It is probably the only healthcare system in history to be so squalid and badly run as to generate its own new diseases. It is a chain of filthy islands of humiliation, pain and neglect. It should be replaced with a system where the State owns no hospitals and employs no doctors or nurses, but merely pays all or part of the premium (for those who can’t afford it) under a compulsory insurance scheme provided by competing private companies.

The NHS is not a national treasure, but a national humiliation. If it is a sacred cow, then it is time that it was slaughtered.

There you go, Matt. Now you have heard it criticised.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blair says 'decent majority' must have justice - Law - Times Online

Like so much of what this meretricious politician says, this sounds fine - perhaps even reasonable. "Balance" is a good thing, so a "rebalancing' must be positive, right? We are in the 21st Century, so anything from previous centuries must be old-fashioned, right? Old-fashioned things like "innocent until proven guilty", for example?

"Criminals" don't deserve our sympathy, but an accused person in court is not a criminal; he or she is a suspected criminal. It's not the same thing at all. We all have the choice as to whether to commit crimes. We don't have the choice as to whether we are suspected of them. The accused in the dock could be any of us, at any time.

I only spent a short time as a criminal defence lawyer, but it was long enough even for a naieve young man to detect that policemen and prosecutors are human and therefore fallible. Many accused people should never have been in court in the first place, so flimsy was the case against them. If people are acquitted for lack of evidence, it's not the courts that are at fault. Perhaps it is the way that the bulk of police time is spent providing the government with statistics, rather than gathering evidence? Perhaps the Government might like to consider getting the army of Home Office fuckwits bureaucrats off the backs of police constables?

I blogged about the Stagg case yesterday. That hapless loser was the victim of a witch-hunt. The dismissal of his case was presented as just the sort of "injustice" that Blair was speaking about today. But he was innocent. And it took a brave judge, fearlessly independent, to protect him from the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the tabloid editors and the rest of the brainless mob baying for his innocent blood.

Whatever happened to the wisdom and kindness of "There, but for the grace of God, go I"?

Blair says 'decent majority' must have justice - Law - Times Online

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Telegraph | Opinion | Colin Stagg shows why trial by judge, not by media, is right

This story perfectly illustrates our problems in modern Britain. A situation like ours today does not develop overnight. The stiff upper lip, the "sang froid", the calm and rational approach to life has died. We could see that at the time of Princess Diana's funeral. The ignorant sentimentality of the mob has taken over everywhere. Tony Blair's fake emotional choking when speaking of the dead Princess was masterful, if despicable, politics. The whole nation now seems to live on the Oprah Winfrey show, in a state of permanent emotion and irrationality.

In such an atmosphere, Government and police abase themselves at the feet of the tabloid journalists who write to the heart, not the head, and justice goes to hell.

Colin Stagg's life was ruined, but so have been the lives of many others - innocent men and women suspected of terrorism for example. Arrested under ludicrous new laws enacted to appease tabloid editors in a spirit of "something must be done" or "there ougther be a law against it, guv", they have for the most part been released without charge. Released only after being held far too long without justification, into a community so emotional (and so ignorant of the basic principles of a liberal society) as to believe that "there is no smoke without fire"

It's ironic that Stagg was a Wiccan. We are living in an age of witch hunts.

Telegraph | Opinion | Colin Stagg shows why trial by judge, not by media, is right

Monday, June 19, 2006

Discriminate for Muslims, police urged

In the present dangerous situation for our country, I cannot think of anything more calculated to worsen our position than Trevor Phillips' proposal for yet more "positive discrimination". He has called for "debate". Please let him have it.

How many more of these ex-university politicians, still living the closed, unreal life of the student union, will inflict chaos on us? Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, Tony Blair and now Trevor Phillips all experienced their defining moments in the fake world of student politics.

Clarke is a contemporary of mine and I saw him in action, hair and beard modelled on Marx, chairing National Union of Students conferences as the leader of a "Broad Left" alliance of assorted Communists and other Lefties. That was the time when their key policy was "no platform for fascists and racists" - a fundamentally anti-free speech idea, designed to split the well-meaning from their liberal values.

Phillips is cut from the same cloth. He has no grasp of the thinking of ordinary people going about their business. Like the others, he has no substantial experience of the real world. He has gone almost directly from the unreal corridors of "play power" in the student union to the equally aloof corridors of real power.

The approach of such people - constantly seeking to tinker in order to manipulate thought, not actions - has generated genuine, active racial hatred (and hatred of gays) where there was none. People who might have made an off-colour remark or two, but would never have done any harm, are now genuinely, even passionately resentful of the privileges being granted to favoured minorities seen as clients of the Left.

We all now know that the lives of heterosexual men are worth - in sentencing terms - about half as much as the life of a homosexual man. Should Phillips have his way, if the sons of non-Muslims wish to join the police they may expect to be discriminated against on entry, constantly accused of racism and held back for promotion by comparison with Muslim colleagues.

Fighting largely imaginary fire with real fire will burn the people who do it. Resentment is rising in Britain. If people from less-favoured communities are subject to mistaken police raids, or even shot seven times in the head on the Tube, the government does not give a damn. If a Muslim or a gay experiences such a misfortune, we can expect riots on the streets, exhortations to bloody violence and an Establishment leaping to attention to twist the fabric of our society to suit a favoured minority.

I despise the so-called "Far Right". They are, as Norman Tebbitt recently explained, not "right wing" at all. They are vile Statists, just as determined to concentrate political power at the centre and interfere in individuals' lives as the left. They are just as determined to control "the means of production" and direct it politically. Their ideology is odiously based on favouring some racial groups over others, just as that of the Left is on favouring particular social groups over others. They are all enemies of freedom and equally to be despised.

The excesses of the socialists are now in danger of driving ordinary people into the arms of the fascists. Mr. Phillips should come down from his ebony tower and meet with the ordinary people of Britain before he drives them towards his most extreme enemies.

Discriminate for Muslims, police urged - Britain - Times Online

US 'issued alert' on 7/7 bomber in 2003

Can the heads of Britain's intelligence services fail to resign, if this story proves to be true?

US 'issued alert' on 7/7 bomber in 2003 - Britain - Times Online

Mentos & Diet Coke; who knew?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Opinionated Voice - Another Political Goldfish Bowl

Have a look. Very interesting stuff about the treatment of Muslims - most of it entirely unmoderated by exposure to other points of view. Head over there and chip in.

Opinionated Voice

The Housing (Empty Dwelling Management Orders) (Prescribed Exceptions and Requirements) (England) Order 2006

Lots of bloggers are writing indignantly about this Order. What is it exactly, and what does it actually say? The links in the heading and below go to the official text, but I will try to talk you through it.

It is already law. It came into force on 6th April 2006. It is a "statutory instrument" which is a form of "delegated legislation." Delegated legislation is made by a Minister without Parliamentary debate or positive approval, under specific powers in an Act of Parliament. Sometimes Acts which give ministers such power are called "primary legislation" or "enabling acts" and such delegated legislation is called "secondary legislation".

In my opinion, there is far too much secondary legislation. I think it is irresponsible of our MPs to entrust so much power and discretion to ministers. It is one more way in which they are failing in their duties to us. They are failing to scrutinise new laws adequately and allowing the Executive to get away with too much.

Ministers adore secondary legislation. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, for example, would be the enabling Act to end all enabling Acts. Ministers would have general widespread powers to make secondary legislation, without the need for a specific enabling Act. Adolf Hitler pushed through just such a law in his first months in power.

This secondary legislation, however, is quite inoffensive. It only sets out the "prescribed exceptions" to the power to make Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO's) and the "prescribed requirements" to be complied with by a local authority asking a tribunal to make an EDMO. The indignation now being expressed should properly have been heard when The Housing Act 2004 was passed. It is an index of the mediocrity of HM Opposition and the British Press that there was no uproar then.

Once you accept the horror of the EDMO concept, Ruth Kelly's exemptions look OK on the face of them. As you would expect, they cover all the Labour Party's client groups (e.g. people absent "for the purpose of receiving personal care by reason of old age, disablement, illness, past or present alcohol or drug dependence or past or present mental disorder"). However, there are a lot of people who could be at risk. Those who have not got around to selling a house they have inherited, for example. That's the one the press has picked up on. Another group could be expatriates or servicemen abroad who have bought a house to return to, but did not live there before they left.

Fortunately, my wife has established her permanent residence in our UK home, although she spends a lot of time with me in Russia as a visitor. If she had not done that, or if (God forbid) she were to die, my home and principal investment would be at risk as our present house in the UK is not the one we lived in before we left to work abroad.

The prescribed requirements are again (if you accept the pernicious principle of the Act) sensible. The local authority must produce evidence of "reasonable efforts" to inform the owner of the possible EDMO, and of all their attempts to persuade him to arrange for his property to be occupied " required by the Act..." (damn their impertinence!).

All this shows that the current fuss over the Order is two years too late. All the bad stuff is in the Act. Follow the link to that and have a crack at reading sections 133 to 138 if you are interested (and don't forget to read Schedule 7, as I did - when first writing this post - until corrected by a comment from the man behind the idea of the EDMO).

The wording of section 138 on compensation for third parties is particularly interesting. It says a tribunal "may" order compensation to anyone whose property rights have been affected, but the principles of such compensation are not defined and it is entirely in the tribunal's discretion. I am not at all sure that adjoining owners will be compensated or that, if they are, the compensation will reflect their real loss. I would have to do more research on the composition of the relevant tribunal to take a firmer view on that (and this blogging thing is only a hobby done in snatched moments of a busy life, you know).

Whether or not you have a defence or a claim for compensation, you will be put to a lot of trouble and cost if your local Labour busybodies (dear God, please assure me no Tories or Liberals would do something so disgusting) decide to try to seize your house. The more such laws are passed, the greater the "chilling" effect on free expression. More and more people are too much at the State's mercy in many such arbitrary ways, for them to oppose the Government with the vigour that its status as the nastiest of the modern era deserves.

Local authorities can already expropriate ("compulsorily purchase") property for public purposes. I see no reason why they shouldn't do this in the case of "abandoned" housing in order to use it for social housing. If they did so, however, they would have to go through a complicated process and pay compensation for the full value of the property. An EDMO is a power not forcibly to buy at market value (which is bad enough) but to take and use your property for a period, against your will. Your capital is tied up, deployed for government use. They will account to you for net income, but their duty of care to maximise that it far from clear and they can deduct costs (including administrative costs) which as inefficient public authorities will be high (and may even be loaded unfairly). Besides, if you decided (for whatever reason) that you didn't want income [see examples in comments], who is the local authority to second guess you?

Consider also the plight of the neighbours. For whatever reason, they will have social housing tenants inserted amongst them. My wife and I considered buying a modest apartment in London a while back, to which we would have retired. Almost every apartment in the building was empty, having been bought as a London "pied a terre" by various wealthy foreigners. Were the local authority to seize all the empty apartments and turn them into social housing (a) our lives would have become intolerable, (b) the value of our home would have plummeted and (c) our chances of selling out would have been nil. Maybe or maybe not the tribunal would accept their defence that they were second homes. Maybe or maybe not they or their representatives would be on hand to respond to notices.

Compare and contrast to a compulsory purchase solution, whereby at least we would have been out on the market with the full value of our home looking for somewhere else. The power to make EDMO's is wrong in principle and capable of abuse in discriminatory ways. When Tony Blair's home was vacant because he couldn't find a tenant, he was reasonably sure that his mate Prescott (whose pile of garbage all this is) would not use his powers against him. I am not sure than any opponent of the government, or of a Labour authority, can feel so safe.

If Britain were to experience a housing market crash on the scale of that at the end of the Eighties' boom (and I don't see why it shouldn't) a lot of people might have to relocate for work but be unable to sell their homes because of "negative equity". Six month delays in such circumstances are quite likely. The only way a mortgage company can protect itself in such circumstances (for it is also screwed if an EDMO is imposed on a property subject to its mortgage) is to go into possession - i.e. enforce the mortgage. Even if an owner has a temporary relocation package which allows him to service his debt on a vacant house, the building society or bank may be forced to seize the property to avoid the risk of an EDMO. It will be more difficult for British expatriates to buy houses to which to retire, because their mortgage lenders will (if well advised) be concerned about EDMO risk.

As a matter of principle, I object to government using other people's property in this (or any other way). If there is a genuine social need to be met in housing, government and local authorities have many ways to meet that need. It is typically nasty and dictatorial of New Labour to try to interfere in the use of peoples' private property in this way. What is mine, is mine. If I choose to use it, not use it, or burn it down, that should be bugger all to do with the State.

The Opposition cannot be blamed for having failed to prevent this law from being passed. Under our Constitution, the winner takes all. But they are highly to blame for having failed even to make it a matter of public debate then, and for continuing to ignore it now.

Unfortunately, Dapper Dave is busy "triangulating" non-traditional Tory supporters, such as the homeless and Labour councillors. To defend the sacred rights of Englishmen to their private property is just too Old Tory for him.

The Housing (Empty Dwelling Management Orders) (Prescribed Exceptions and Requirements) (England) Order 2006

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Burning our money: £45bn On Underperformance

Wat Tyler's "Burning our Money" is one of the very best British blogs. I have never understood why the British media don't do "what the government does with your money" slots, as routinely happens in the US. Wat fills that gap.

Today, he demonstrates statistically what a balls-up comprehensive education has been. As a victim, I can only say "hear, hear". No nation is so rich in talent as to squander it on the scale Britain does.

Burning our money: £45bn On Underperformance

Friday, June 16, 2006

More from the goldfish bowls

The experiment continues. This from the civilised (if occasionally rather touchy) debate at the Dirty Leftie's blog.

"I apologise unreservedly if I seemed condescending. I am trying to stimulate debate. I really do appreciate your politeness in not deleting comments (as most Left-wing bloggers do) and I did not intend to abuse it. I would sincerely like to get Britain’s political bloggers out of their goldfish bowls and into a real debate.

Yes, I have heard of Market Socialism - my turn to be condescended to, I guess. I work in it. I live and work in Russia, but most of my deals are structured offshore financial transactions under English Law.

I have observed in 25 years as a business lawyer the level of detailed regulation which is required to suppress market-driven conduct of which Socialists do not approve. I have observed that the best brains in any Market Socialist economy are ranged on the one side in the Finance and Economics Ministries and on the other side in the upper echelons of the accountancy and legal professions. People who could otherwise be genuinely creative spend their lives engaged in sterile, unproductive - albeit fun- combat.

It’s a great game. If you are a tax lawyer, the government gives you a whole new playset every year. It’s more fun than Sudoku, and it pays. But it creates no wealth - whether for individuals or for society. All of us, whether Socialists or Capitalists, need wealth to be produced. Surely we only differ as to how and for whom?

Year on year, the volume of regulation rises. Year on year, the means of circumventing the regulations become more elaborate and expensive. This diversion of talent is one of the reasons I would almost prefer the honesty of a command economy to this approach. A command economy is at least theoretically capable of rational regulation in the best interests of all (although history shows it always degenerates into Prescottism - by which I mean the allocation of wealth and privilege on a political not an economic basis).

“Democratic Socialism” inevitably creates an unholy muddle of regulations, precisely because of the need to sell them to an electorate. To maintain itself in office while increasing regulation to “stifle” the market, a Democratic Socialist government needs to promote hostility to and mistrust of business.

That is the problem. Private business creates the wealth for the Social Democratic programme, but the negative propaganda required to keep Social Democrats in power militates against more citizens becoming business-people. It actually encourages more and more talent into the regulatory agencies of the State. Perhaps the brightest pupil recently to leave my childrens’ school now works alongside Gordon Brown. She had talent, creativity and energy. But she will never produce anything of value, economic or social. What a waste. But what a very logical choice for her and an encouraging one for you. She is a bright young woman who anticipates decades of Socialist market-stifling. It’s obviously more fun to be stifler than stiflee! Replicate that decision a few thousand times and you have a future in which the best talent is unproductive.

It may be a contentious statement, but I would argue quite seriously that Chinese Communism provides -at present - a more business-friendly environment than British Democratic Socialism. [Before you throw the iPod sweatshops in my face (and I have to throw the Morecambe Bay cocklers in yours) please understand that I don’t approve of either system.]

I accept that you do not seek “to impose this system”, but this system is experienced in practice as a series of impositions. Of course, business people suck up to Social Democrat governments in the hope of mitigating their horrors or perverting their powers for gain, but it would be a very foolish person (Tony Blair, Gordon Brown?) who actually believed the flattery.

The only positive benefit a Socialist government can bring a business is by creating “barriers to entry” which restrict competition and therefore shaft the consumer. We should expect the business environment in Britain to become closer and closer to that of France, as big business and government increasingly live in each other’s pockets exchanging corrupt advantages to the detriment of the ordinary citizen.

Democratic Socialism as opposed to Communism (the only difference, as Marx saw it, was the route by which the objective was reached) depends on a majority of the population agreeing forcibly to modify the behaviours of a minority; the very minority which has the skill, enthusiasm and appetite for risk to create wealth.

Much regulation misunderstands the nature of the relevant business. For example, lawyers, most of whom spend most of their professional energy helping businesses to comply with laws, are required now to “shop” clients whom they suspect may have broken some. In consequence, clients are now careful to edit information provided to their lawyers. This prevents the lawyers from advising correctly on compliance. Therefore more business people are criminalised. Another example of the law of unintended consequences, one of only two universal laws.

I really would be interested in your replies to my earlier questions about how to make markets work under Socialism. They were not facetious. I am really interested to know how you would get me out of bed in the morning if I was paid as much to stay there. “Standing up or lying down, it’s six zloties an hour” was a proverb in Socialist Poland, as was “If you don’t steal from the State, you steal from your family.”

Go for it. Maybe you will convert me. I was an active Communist in my youth (hard though I find it now to imagine what was going through my mind), so I have an established vulnerability."

Because equality is obviously Disgusting

Because equality is obviously Disgusting

The "smash the goldfish bowls" experiment continues. I have found some polite Leftists who don't delete non-Leftie comments. Why not wander over and join the debate. It's really quite interesting.

Because equality is obviously Disgusting

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Forest Gate family breaks silence over terror raid - Britain - Times Online

How, precisely, does the conduct of the police during this raid differ from that of a Gestapo or a KGB?

Since reading this account, I have been asking myself how I should have behaved, if the police broke into my home in this way. I would previously have been inclined - if I heard someone break in - to investigate. That is what these two young men did - only for one of them to be shot without warning in circumstances where he could easily have died.

Should we then lie still in our beds if we hear such a disturbance, for fear that it may be Ian Blair's brave boys on an erroneous mission? What exactly does the Blair Police State require of us?

Forest Gate family breaks silence over terror raid - Britain - Times Online

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Yard told MI5 of terror tip doubt

Cases such as these are at the heart of the debate over the balance between "anti-terrorist powers" and civil liberties. Ignore for the moment the ludicrous whingeing of Muslim groups. Are police "targeting Muslims" in looking for terrorists? Oddly enough, since Islamic terror is the current threat, they are not looking for it amongst Buddhists. During the IRA's long campaign on the British mainland, they were not looking for terrorists among French expats in Britain either.

Each time there is such a raid, we should ask if the new powers were (a) used and (b) necessary. Certainly no new powers were necessary to raid and search this house if the police had reasonable cause to suspect that there was evidence of an offence. A search warrant would be readily granted. Reading between the lines it seems that MI5 signals intelligence (monitored phone calls or emails) may have been the reason to suspect the gentlemen in question. A judge could assess that intelligence in deciding whether to issue a warrant. No problem there.

The suspects were detained for longer than would previously been permitted, using new "anti-terrorist" powers. Without those powers, the police would have had to go back to a court to have the detention period extended and would have had to give reasons. It seems a reasonable safeguard that they should have to do so. When the suspects sue, they will have suffered greater losses and will no doubt win higher damages. I can't see (as it must have been obvious in a few hours that the intelligence behind the raid was clearly defective) that the new powers have achieved anything except greater losses to the taxpayer. The powers were used, but unnecessary.

The new anti-terror laws were irrelevant to the use of firearms in this incident. The police will not have (and should not have) any additional defences against criminal or civil cases brought by the man who was shot. Whether they are to blame or not remains to be seen, but the new laws will make no difference.

Questions should be asked about police tactics. In the confusion of a massive operation (250 officers for one terraced house?!), some kind of foul-up was likely. If the current legal and political situation had any influence at all, it was to create a febrile, almost hysterical, atmosphere in which injury or death was more likely.

All of this supports the theory that Tony Blair's anti-terrorism legislation was passed entirely for political effect. He wanted to be seen to "do something" but what he has done has either made no difference, or has had a negative effect.

The Observer | UK News | Yard told MI5 of terror tip doubt

Thursday, June 08, 2006

BBC NEWS | Politics | Cameron outlines new 'equality'

Equality is not, of course, always a bad thing. It is important that everyone has equal rights in law, for example. It is right that different ethnic groups, different age groups and that men and women have equal rights. It is a good thing to promote more equal opportunities in education (e.g. by giving poor children access to scholarships and by having sensible selective education which allows the talented poor to rise). But equality is not good in itself.

Every footballer should not have an equal right to play for Liverpool FC or for England (although I would personally be quite happy for Scotland's football squad to be selected at random on the principle that every Scot should have an equal opportunity to play). It would be entirely unjust for the less-talented, less experienced and/or less hard-working members of my team at work to be paid the same as the more talented, experienced or industrious. If I had to run my business on Socialist principles, I would quit - immediately.

Mr Cameron is really pushing the boundaries in his exercise to break the traditional Tory image. I don't have a problem with that. Nor do I have a problem with him associating the party with the idea of equality. It is a fact that a free market not only (by efficient use of capital) tends to produce higher average incomes, it also tends to produce a narrower range of lifestyle disparity than a centrally-planned economy. The notional income of a Communist apparatchik may have been officially the same (ignoring the secret envelopes of cash), but his access to a whole range of privileges and luxuries ensured that he was part of a very-well served elite. That elite enjoyed power over fellow citizens (consider Beria and the "flower game") that money could never buy.

To bring it closer to home, John Prescott enjoys - as a political prize - a lifestyle his talents could never have earned him in the real world. The Prescott vision is not of greater equality, but of inequality organised upon lines that allow him to win.

I am disappointed though that Mr Cameron mentions redistributive taxation approvingly. It is right that those who earn more should pay more towards public services. It is also inevitable that social services and benefits favour the poor, so that there is an element of redistribution. But to make the act of redistribution a goal - a "good" in itself - is dangerous.

David Cameron is pleasing the press, raising his approval ratings and making Labour very nervous. He is also keeping Conservatives on the edge of their seats, as they wait to see what policies result from the broad matrix of principles he is slowly outlining.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Cameron outlines new 'equality'

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Political bubbles

There have been fewer entries on my blog in the past week, but I have been writing just as much. I noticed that there is a lot of political preaching in the blogosphere, but very little political debate. On Left-wing blogs, there are left-wingers reinforcing each others' views. On right-wing blogs, there are right-wingers reinforcing each others' views. The way blogging works seems to promote this. Bloggers link to the blogs they like; blogs which broadly agree with their own views. A graph showing the links between the political blogs would produce fascinating patterns. The effect is that I can write things which must be deeply provocative to bloggers of the authoritarian Left, but almost all comments are broadly supportive.

We are all preaching to the choir, when we would presumably like (and have much more fun) converting the heathen!

This should not have surprised me. Guardian readers live in a closed world. They read articles that reinforce the left-wing views that brought them there in the first place. They are an intolerant bunch and write stroppy letters to the editor should he dare to "give a platform" to those whose views are not the current party line. The right wing press reinforces the views of its readers too, though - control of speech and thought being regarded on the right as a bad thing - it is slightly more likely to "give a platform" to people who may cause their readers to choke on their corn flakes.

Despite advancing years and hard lessons in life, I am still enough of an idealist to believe that things can be better. But I can't see how they can get better without engagement between those of different political persuasions. I would like to see the blogosphere become a real forum for debate - to smash the goldfish bowls in which each blogger swims, more or less impressively. So, holding my nose firmly, I have begun to make a conscious effort to visit the blogs of the political left and to comment, critically but politely, on posts with which I disagree.

I will report on the experiment. So far I have only noticed one thing. Leftists delete comments they disagree with. Control of word and thought is required, if society is to be ordered other than by the invisible (and politically-neutral) hand of the market. Whether they acknowledge this - even to themselves - or not, their actions demonstrate clearly that they understand it instinctively! be continued.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Telegraph | News | London bombings 'wouldn't have happened without Iraq war'

I wonder if, in the history of chivalry, anyone was ever less worthy of the gentle name of "knight" than the odious, mealy-mouthed, weasel-worded Iqbal Sacranie? To say that the 7/7 bombings were "consequences" of the Alliance invasion of Iraq is, if not an exculpation, at least a mitigation of the murderers' acts. The invasion may or may not have been a well-judged part in the war on Islamic terror, but it provides no excuses for the 7/7 bombers - or any other terrorists.

He is free to speak as he pleases, but I am free to say that whoever recommended this man for a knighthood let his nation down.

Telegraph | News | London bombings 'wouldn't have happened without Iraq war'

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Can Britain be saved?

Mrs Paine is firmly of the opinion that Britain is a lost cause. She and I are old enough to remember the Labour Governments of the 1970's and the chaos they created. We are old enough to recall the humiliation of the IMF sending in the bailiff's men and ordering Labour to stop spending. We recall the hyper-inflation that wiped out our grandparents' savings (and our parents' debts).

We thanked our stars when Margaret Thatcher came along. She applied "good housekeeping" principles to the national economy, to extraordinary effect. At the time, the most extraordinary thing was to realise that generations of politicians had thought it ran on different principles (or - more likely - had not cared that it did not).

For a while, it seemed the nation had woken up from the 1940's fantasy that had seen two generations impoverish their descendants by creating a welfare state which doled out unfunded "benefits".

Yet for all the pain she put us through to restore economic sanity, we have reverted to pre-Thatcher type. The State consumes about the same proportion of resources as in 1978 and employs about the same percentage of our people. To the extent things are different, they are worse. At least some 1970's State employees produced something of value (steel, electricity, cars etc.) albeit very inefficiently. The present lot are mostly about as useful as fleas on a dog. And whoever heard of fleas so bloated and numerous that they weigh more than the dog itself?

It seems that we only went along with Thatcher because we had no choice. Deep in our hearts we still long (for all the evidence of the 20th Century's bloody experiment with Socialism) for a Socialist fairyland where we can spend what others self-sacrificingly earn.

Now, as then, every academic, every commentator, everybody the media might ever listen to, is a Socialist true-believer. To be right wing, as then, is so far out of fashion that even the Conservative leadership has to focus on "social issues". Just as Margaret herself spoke of the "social market economy" rather than the honest-to-Adam-Smith "market economy", so David Cameron speaks of "quality of life" (as if any such thing were in any Government's gift).

All this leads Mrs Paine to think that we are lost. We have learned nothing. We are economically illiterate and naive in the extreme. I refuse to give in to such pessimism. What was done once can be done again. We must learn from Margaret's errors to make sure that - this time - the rules of the game are changed permanently.

Margaret's main mistake was to believe in our institutions. At the helm of our dilapidated ship of state she was such a marvelous sailor that the old vessel answered her every command. But the seas were changing and a new vessel was needed. This she neglected entirely. She had a marvelous opportunity for root and branch constitutional reform. She missed it, and New Labour has corruptly warped our constitution to his own political ends.

A new Conservative Government has a huge task ahead of it. Fundamental reform is needed. We need a democratic upper house of Parliament, with full power to review and improve legislation. Our education system needs radical change, so as to be refocused on developing our brightest and best. Our benefits culture needs to be smashed and the underclass exposed to the realities of life. A massive prison-building programme is required in preparation for the most enormous crackdown on fraudsters - including all those millions "on the sick" indefinitely.

This will cost money. Maybe the Shadow Chancellor is right not to promise immediate tax cuts. But once the members of the criminal underclass have been given a stern lesson that the nation does not exist for their benefit, huge savings should begin to feed through.

It's a huge challenge, but no more difficult than the tasks Margaret Thatcher faced. If the Conservatives fail, then Mrs Paine is right and all sane men should abandon these islands.

Cohabitation rights

This "Q&A" item is a perfect example of the low standard of reporting at the BBC. It is written as if the proposed new "rights" would arise by magic and be of benefit to everyone. Logically, financial benefits have to be funded by someone. Logic is not the BBC's strong point. I suspect it is tested for at job interviews and that candidates exhibiting it are promptly eliminated.

This is also a perfect example of the difference between "rights" and "liberties". When someone enjoys a liberty, properly understood, it costs nothing significant to anyone else. My freedom to play my music loudly may inconvenience a neighbour, but only if it constitutes such a nuisance as to cause him real loss should the law intervene. "The freedom of your fist ends at my nose" is a traditional measure of libertarian boundaries. Applied to public smoking, for example, the test would require someone claiming to suffer from passive smoking to prove his loss. The outcome would be very different, given current science, from the "rights" to be smoke-free given by recent legislation. Rights usually cost either the money or the liberties of others (or both).

The proposed "right" of a cohabitor to "claim a share of property" for example, involves real loss to the person whose property is claimed. In awarding such "rights" the government will enable some individuals forcibly to extort the wealth of others. The comparison with marriage is illogical. Marriage is a contract. When you strip away the romantic trimmings, it is mainly to do with property. No-one going through the elaborate ceremony of marriage could fail to understand that they are exposing themselves to profound legal risks. These days, if they are so starry-eyed as not to understand, there are many embittered divorcees around to explain to them.

Letting someone live with you has no such legal connotations and none can be logically inferred.

If people want the legal consequences of marriage, let them marry. If they are not religious or don't wish to waste money, there are civil ceremonies which can be performed in as low a key as anyone could desire. If they have ideological objections to that then let them contract privately to share property, if that is their intention.

The Government has no business interfering in people's lives to reallocate wealth in ways neither intended nor desired.

BBC NEWS | UK | Q&A: Cohabitation rights