Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blair's Britain, Part II

One evening this week, the motion detectors in the small yard at the rear of our town house in England set off warning bleeps inside. It had just gone dark. Mrs Paine looked through the blinds. Two shaven-headed young men, aged between 18 and 20, were leering at her, bathed in the bright light of our automatic security lamps. They gave her the finger, laughed and - thank goodness - vaulted the rear fence and ran away.

She called me in Russia. I suggested she called the police. She laughed. "They won't come for days. What's the point?" That was a sad thought, but I could only agree. In modern police thinking, the guys in our yard were "customers", not us. And calling them would have reduced the small chance of their doing anything useful by giving them more pointless form-filling.

What disturbed my wife most was that, in the seconds before our visitors noticed her, they seemed to be enjoying themselves; messing about and setting off the alarms (more audible, deliberately, outside than in) without any concern. Probably they were waiting to see if anyone reacted before forcing an entry. "They were laughing," she said, "I am frightened."

She has now rejoined me in Moscow. Our apartment here is guarded by private security men, paid for - and accountable to - the residents. Russia neither has Government for the underclass, nor a police sensitised to social issues.

Since, unlike fox-hunting or speeding, burglary is not considered a serious enough crime to be worth police time in Britain, it's as common an irritation to householders as a burst pipe or a lost roof tile. Every home we ever had in Britain, humble or more upmarket, has been burgled.

What makes the incident part of "Blair's Britain" is that these men didn't care about being seen. They thought it was funny. They were frightening because they were shameless. They know that Labour is the Government for the underclass; that the police don't even pretend to try to catch them. They feel utterly safe. We don't.

We don't need more laws. We don't need new initiatives. We don't need more statistics. We don't need more police powers. We need our police off their arses and out on the streets. We need police who understand who they REALLY work for. We need the laws we have always had rigorously enforced, and all "binge legislating" (as Andrew Marr tellingly described it) of recent years ignored until public order has been restored.

Public transport 'drink ban plan'

This story illustrates two points about Britain and British politics. What is it, to begin with, about the British and drink? Why should we be the only people in the world who can't be trusted to be sensible with the stuff? The answer is, of course, that we are no different than anyone else. It's not that we are less trustworthy, but that our Government is less trusting. Any parent of teenagers knows that there is no better way to stimulate bad behaviour than to expect it and clamp down on it before it begins.

The second point is about our approach to law enforcement. Some people frequently get drunk and behave badly. Most people don't. Bad people behave badly whether it's illegal or not. They will smuggle alcohol onto trains and planes and drink it, Michael Jackson-style, from Coke bottles. When they get nasty the bus drivers, trolley dollies and wagon dragons will pretend not to notice because, let's face it, they weren't hired to be police.

Good people, however, are easily controlled. So, says the Government, let's control them and be seen to be doing something. It may create thousands of unpleasant interactions between fundamentally nice travellers and fundamentally nice people serving them on buses, trains and planes, but no-one can say we didn't act.

Don't trust anyone to be personally responsible. Anticipate bad behaviour. When it happens, restrict the liberty of good people as well as bad, spreading resentment and rebellious attitudes. Avert your gaze from the really bad in case they get nasty. Repeat this pattern a thousand times and you have modern Britain, with its sociologist coppers and bullshitting politicians persecuting the respectable and chumming up with the underclass.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Public transport 'drink ban plan'

Friday, October 28, 2005

Putting it kindly, Blunkett is mad

Bloggers lack the benefit of the news media's specialised lawyers. Many seem to assume that it's safe to be outrageous, but some public figures are notably litigious. Defamation is an untrue statement about another which is likely to lower their reputation among "right thinking" members of the public. The best defence is "justification"; i.e. that the statement is true. Against politicians, the fallback defence is that, if untrue, the statement was "fair comment on a matter of public interest".

Even with constant legal advice on tap, the media lose a number of libel cases every year. They reserve funds for the purpose (in the case of Private Eye, that must be a major part of the budget), but bloggers could face losing their homes if they are sued successfully. They are publishing globally, so they may be liable under laws they don't know in countries they have never even visited. The pseudonyms under which many write would be no protection. ISPs or the companies providing their blog accounts could be ordered to disclose. Some are therefore notably brave, rather rash or - always the best defence in litigation - too poor to be worth suing.

David Blunkett is not a man averse to the courts. In clearing Tom Utley's opinion piece today the Telegraph's lawyers have shown courage and I respect them for it. I am not qualified to comment on David Blunkett's sanity, but feel free to state he is a man of little political judgement and less understanding. As Home Secretary, he was a threat to the nation's liberties, for which he appears to have little or no respect.

I liked Utley's word "mentionitis"; the need of a lover to mention his beloved. In my opinion, Blunkett's main beloved is Blunkett. Despite his protests against invasion of his privacy, the examples Tom Utley cites suggest to me that Blunkett's main psychological objective is to be noticed, rather than be ignored as his mediocrity so richly deserves.

Telegraph | Opinion | Putting it kindly, Blunkett is mad

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Home repossession orders soar by 66 per cent as debt mounts

It's horrible to think of people facing repossessions, but when we read that UK consumers owe "more than £1,000 billion, exceeding the debts of Africa and South America put together" what do we really expect? We knew we had 70% of Europe's consumer debt, but to learn we owe more than two continents combined really puts the problem in context.

House prices have been rising faster than earnings. Ultimately, that's not sustainable. The Economist estimated months ago that UK housing was 60% overvalued on average.

Labour's economic "success" is a mirage. The liberal reforms of the Thatcher years have been steadily eroded. We have not been getting richer as much as we have been spending borrowed money against overvalued assets. That gave us the appearance and perhaps even the feeling of success, but the reckoning was bound to come eventually. As belts tighten and retail-driven jobs are lost, the true costs of the burgeoning British state - 800,000 unproductive posts added since Gordon Brown took the financial reins - will become painfully apparent.

Telegraph | News | Home repossession orders soar by 66 per cent as debt mounts

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Labour has left a scar on the soul of Britain

Simon Heffer's article expresses exactly what I feel about Britain today. He may be slightly unfair in blaming Labour so directly. As he says, there are no grounds for optimism that a Conservative government would be any less invasive.

Generations of voters have lived with and now accept the dominant role of the state in everyday life. We have been "sovietised" to such an extent that only economic collapse will force us to the truth. That could take longer than I have left.

The current controversy over smoking bans is a case in point. Only the intensity of the repression is in dispute. Comments on the BBC website say facile things like "why shouldn't the majority view prevail?" Ordinary people are illiberal and intolerant, failing to understand that, in one way or another, we are all in minorities. If only those activities which are *always* conducted by a majority are free from State control, then we may as well appoint our commisars now.

As for the "secondary damage" argument - entirely unproved - so what if it's true? There is secondary damage from thousands of everyday activities. I hesitate to name them for fear of encouraging their suppression. Suffice to say that no man is an island. It is not possible to move through this life without impacting others. A little courtesy to those we inconvenience should be met with a little tolerance from them. We are all on one side or other of that equation in the course of every day. If we can't accommodate each other, we must let the State decide between us.

No-one forces non-smokers to go to smoking restaurants or pubs. If they *only* go to those with no-smoking policies, their majority status will soon ensure that most are non-smoking. Likewise, if staff choose not to work in smoky environments, most employers will have to accommodate them. We, as individuals, have been dealing with it for years. I have not been anywhere for some time without a smoke-free area. I have had to give up favourite restaurants because there is nowhere for a post-dinner cigar. I have not complained. I have accepted the proprietor's right to set the policy he thinks will appeal to his target customers and I have looked for other places. There is no need for the state to dictate terms.

I have come to the view that it isn't the government's fault that it interferes in every aspect of our life. We are a democracy and governments stay in power by - in general - giving people what they want. It is the fault of the uneducated, authoritarian majority which expects it of them. I am so far from being a "normal" Briton today, that I must retire to a different country, with a less-intrusive, or at least less well-organised, State.

Since any attempts by Blair to roll back even the most recent stupidities of Labour education policy are resisted fiercely by the Labour Left, there is no hope of better educated voters in my lifetime. Generations of comprehensive education have poisoned the wells to such an extent that we lack suitably-qualified people to teach maths, science and languages. Our schools, like our other public services, are Socialist "voter farms" where any teacher with a remotely liberal opinion would be afraid to express it.

I cannot see a way any way out but out. I have a few years yet to decide, as I work outside the UK. My only ground for optimism is that one candidate for Tory leader has a daughter named Liberty. Unless he's more radical than he seems, naming her Chastity may prove to have been no less nostalgic.

Telegraph | Opinion | Labour has left a scar on the soul of Britain

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fear and rumours grip Birmingham

Did the Asians of Birmingham arrive in England with more money than the immigrants from the West Indies? I don't think so. If they own the shops in the Lozells area, is it because they stole them? No, they have bought or rented them.

Do they get the chance to buy or rent because of "racism?" I don't think so. Do white racists discriminate between non-whites? I have never heard of such a thing.

As for Asians "working together" in the way complained of by black activists, the only evidence I have of that from my own experience, is the practice whereby an Asian seller of a business will lend his purchaser the money to buy. It is true that I have not seen that done across ethnic lines, but I think it could happen if the business terms were right. Even if it is only possible between Asians, because blacks don't trust each other enough, neither do whites. So that can hardly be the problem.

The obvious other type of "working together" (Asian family members sharing the risks and rewards of a business) is open to anyone. It is no-one else's fault if blacks (and whites) choose not to do it.

The attacks on Asian shopkeepers, if they were white on black, would be called "hate crimes". In this instance, the police are swift to deny that and to claim that they don't represent the true state of community relations in Lozells.

Racism or not, it seems to be a repetition of a pattern whereby disadvantaged communities in Britain perpetuate their own problems by externalising them; by blaming them on others. Why do blacks in Lozells not see the Asian shopkeepers as a positive example of what can be achieved by enterprise and effort? Why not try to emulate their success, rather than resent it? Sadly, one could ask many Scots, Welsh or English Northerners the same question. The "others" are a ready-made excuse, which obviates the need to try. One can luxuriate in the glorious status of oppressed minority, benefitting from every civilised person's respect and sympathy, without lifting a finger. You may be poor, but the Guardian loves you, and the National Theatre can be relied upon to glorify your noble poverty at regular intervals.

In a sense the white English are to blame for everyone else's problems. If they weren't there as an excuse (and if they had not legitimised that excuse by creating such institutions as the Commission for Racial Equality) these problems could not exist.

Until minorities understand that by using others as scapegoats they perpetuate their problems, nothing can change. Certainly, the scapegoats' bleating will not help. Perhaps a greater reluctance to be tethered and slashed might?

Already, one can detect a new aspiration in British society. To get the full benefits of membership, one must belong to an oppressed minority. Hence the increasing suggestion that to be assaulted, murdered or raped is worse if one belongs to a "minority" rather than being a horror which all humans can endure. Hence the growth in lobbying for this or that minority group. The truth is that we are all in a minority of one and our best chance of success is to work with people from other such minorities, in whatever way achieves the best results!

We have chosen to pretend that we live in the idealised multicultural harmony that we desire. The common areas in our ethnic Venn diagram comprise the most educated and civilised members of the different communities. They do the Guardian crossword together in the wine bar and reflect complacently on our society's achievements. Life in Lozells, and places like it, is not quite like that. But it could be, if people didn't destroy their potential by denying it exists; if they didn't excuse their failures by blaming them on others before even trying.

Facing facts, and speaking the truth to each other might be hard, but it could be our only way forward as a nation.

BBC NEWS | UK | Fear and rumours grip Birmingham

Monday, October 24, 2005

Blair faces new charge of cronyism over leaked plan to make Labour donors peers

Why does the Daily Telegraph use the gentle word "cronyism" rather than the more accurate word, corruption? Does anyone now remember how New Labour swept to power amid allegations of Tory "sleaze?"

Telegraph | News | Blair faces new charge of cronyism over leaked plan to make Labour donors peers

Sunday, October 23, 2005

To be English

How did our nationality become such a dilemma to us? We can understand and respect national pride in the French, the Scots or the Irish. We can even accept their taunts with good humour. So why can't we give what we get? Do we really think our Nation is worthy of less love or respect than others? I don't think so. In our hearts, though too "modern" to admit to it, I suspect most of us love our country as much as did our great hero whose death was commemorated this week.

The Act of Union was an expensive mistake. England has gained nothing from it but the brooding, resentful presence of Scots for whom their every misfortune is our fault. In a hopeless attempt to make the Union work, the English have suppressed their sense of national pride; have called themselves British (as few Scots ever did) and have tried vainly to win the love of their neighbours.

In an ideal world the people of our islands - including the island of Ireland - would be one nation. The differences between us are far, far slighter than the cultural forces which bind us. Peoples with the same language; people whose children learn the same nursery rhymes; people who laugh at the same jokes; people who can love the same poetry and art; people who have common approaches to liberty and rights, belong together. But if more than 200 years have not brought the Scots to that realisation, why waste money, energy and guilt on centuries more of unappreciated effort?

I have lived in two other countries. I came to love Poland. I want her to prosper and take pride in the sight of her goods on display in other nation's shop windows. My children grew up there. Most of my friends are Poles. If she is threatened, or criticised, I feel for her.

Now I live in Russia. Russia is harder to love (and less eager to be loved) but in two years I have come to respect and admire an enormously impressive culture. Russia has contributed nothing good to politics, economics or gastronomy, but she has made a peerless contribution to the arts.

Yet I have never felt more English than I do now. I have never cared more when England is threatened or criticised. I have never been more concerned about her future. I have never felt more resentful of the traitors who rule her, confound their knavish tricks.

I am concerned that some people who came to England full of claims have never learned to love her, or even respect her. Even some of their children and grandchildren feel, inexplicably, more loyalty to foreign ideologies, customs and traditions than to those of the great nation that has welcomed and nurtured them and twisted its own ideologies to accomodate them. No nation outside the Anglosphere has ever tried to modify its culture so as to absorb the influences of foreign immigrants. It was a brave experiment, and I am proud of the attempt, but it cannot yet be called a success.

If I can learn to love Poland in a decade, what is wrong with my country that some of these people can't learn to love it in three generations? What is wrong with my countrymen that when a few such maniacs commit suicidal and murderous attacks on our people, they look to blame each other?

England has rarely been ruled by her own. For centuries we laboured under rulers who despised us and delighted in tracing their ancestry to William the Conqueror. They owned the land and we worked it. At the time of the story portrayed in Braveheart, the kings of England and Scotland both saw themselves as Norman. The confrontation in Stirling Cathedral, so chauvinistically portrayed in the film, would have been a polite discussion in courtly French between two nobles who felt no more for the Scots or English than for their other cattle. They would have scorned to speak either Scots Gaelic or English. It's ludicrous that the heirs of those "cattle" should base animosity to each other on long-forgotten allegiances to such invaders.

Now the Scots ARE ruled by their own. They have their own parliament and they have ours too. They have all the top cabinet positions and they shape the United Kingdom's policies to Scotland's ends. They conspire, as they always did, with the French and their joint aim is as it ever was. England is once again ruled by foreigners while the practical English - as ever - focus on the arts, the sciences and the generation of wealth to be squandered by others.

When will England too be free? I am a cosmopolitan with friends from many nations. I do not need to despise them or their countries to feel in my bones that no nation has given the world more than mine. We deserve our place in the world, and to be proud of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Arthur's Seat: Kiss me, Hardy

How it would have been if Nelson had operated under modern regulations....

Arthur's Seat: Kiss me, Hardy

Friday, October 21, 2005

Councils could seize empty homes

Our government does not recognise the boundaries of its legitimate influence. If it wants more social housing, it can tax and spend on building some. Of course it has done so much taxing and spending already, that it knows it will be unpopular.

There is no way however that it should be entitled to use the property of others against their will. It already has compulsory purchase powers if it really wants to acquire property at fair value. Why should it have the right NOT to pay for it, but to use it anyway?

It is naff all to do with the State how our possessions are used. These proposals are outrageous.

BBC NEWS | UK | Councils could seize empty homes

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Race row disrupts Radio 4 debate

I have every sympathy with Joan Rivers. Accusations of racism are bandied about far too casually. It's a serious thing, to discriminate unfairly against a fellow human being for irrelevant reasons. It carries very serious opprobrium today and many of us are tired of some members of ethnic minorities who leap to blame every disappointment in their lives on the alleged "racism" of those around them. Lenny Henry satirises this beautifully with his "it's because I a black man, innnit" sketches.

It's not just blacks. Some of the Welsh have become so consumed with pathetic self-pity that they call the police if Ann Robinson or Tony Blair denigrate them. Irving Welsh wrote in the Guardian today about why Scotland has a murder rate three times higher than England. He managed, in a twisted way, to put part of the blame on the English and their "sense of superiority." This apparently makes the poor Scots so unhappy that they kill each other. Weird. I have never heard an Englishman denigrate a Scot, except in response to the most dire provocation. Nor have I heard an Englishman express his sense of superiority to the Scots, though I have often heard the reverse - and in the most blistering terms.

Get a life guys, for goodness sake. There must be some problems in the world for which the long-suffering English are NOT to blame, surely?

Libby Purves' response to this episode was pathetic. A lively debate about an important subject arose spontaneously and she behaved like an embarrassed hostess whose dinner guests were bickering. Her implied rebuke to both Rivers and Howe at the end was ridiculous.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | Race row disrupts Radio 4 debate

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

World is a safer place despite people's fears

Presumably the Government will now, on the basis of this research, scrap its programme of attacks on our ancient liberties, and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other scandalous legislation? After all, its justification for these measures has been that the world post-9/11 is a much more dangerous place than ever before. This research proves that is not true.

Telegraph | News | World is a safer place despite people's fears

ID cards vote: Labour majority cut | the Daily Mail

I wonder why the Daily Mail feels the need to put the "right" in "right to travel" in quotation marks. Those of us who will not submit to the assault of having the state take 13 biometrics in order to tag us and track us like cattle, will not be able to renew our passports. That feels like a loss of liberty to me.

ID cards vote: Labour majority cut | the Daily Mail

Labour survives ID card rebellion

Labour survives. Not our freedoms though. The truth was spoken in the Commons, but still the whipped curs ran through the lobby. They should be ashamed.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour survives ID card rebellion

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Poor children may be bused to school in wealthy areas

Modern debating techniques, Part II:

"It is not some kind of social diktat or American-style enforced de-segregation"

This proposal is EXACTLY that, so the spokesman begins by denying it, thus (he hopes) taking the sting out of the criticism.

Between the ages of 11 and 13, I was bused from one village to another in the first years of comprehensive education. The schools in our poor rural area were not deemed large enough to provide the right "mix" of pupils. I remember sleepily waiting at dark bus stops early in the morning. My wife - from the same area - remembers riots and bullying on her bus, which often led to the driver turning everyone off to walk miles. The idea was quietly dropped after a few years. Now it's back in another guise, and only the local bus companies will benefit.

British education is in a mess because of social engineering, not for lack of it. Kelly is rearranging deck chairs in true New Labour style. She will do anything but admit that Labour's educational theories (and the Conservatives failure to resist them) caused the horrors of "bog standard" comprehensives and destroyed social mobility in Britain.

Labour activists will delight in depressing house prices around less bad State schools, smashing home owners' small dreams. Those who do their best for their families are again penalised for their temerity.

New Labour is in power, not because of the ever-shrinking working class, but because it has successfully deceived more gullible members of the middle class. Kelly should remember that.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Holy war looms over Disney's Narnia epic

Allah forbid that a Christmas movie should have a Christian sub-text. How crazy is this story? Islamic evangelism is rife in Britain, but there is a "row" when Disney releases the "Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"? I can't imagine where the "row" was. In the offices of the Guardian, perhaps?

The Narnia stories are great books for children and I hope the producers of the films have done them justice.

The Observer | UK News | Holy war looms over Disney's Narnia epic

Saturday, October 15, 2005

If the Tories have a drug problem, it's their addiction to past quarrels

At a business conference a few years ago, a group of 10 friends sat around a dinner table. We were all about David Cameron's age, but from several countries. The conversation turned to drug use at university. One after another told stories of "bongs" and "grass" and more. I found myself admitting I was the only one who had never used a controlled substance.

I believe that drug use is much more pervasive than figures suggest. Many millions of Britons "do drugs" at weekends. Not all of them are addicts. Not all of them will be. I suspect that if any exposure to illegal substances is a bar to leading a political party, the pool of available talent will be much reduced.

There's no reason to be interested in whether Cameron did drugs. There's every reason to wonder why the media are pressing him so hard, when they are not asking Tony Blair. How has the British media been hijacked?

Telegraph | Opinion | If the Tories have a drug problem, it's their addiction to past quarrels

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dishonest debating tactics

Armando Ianucci makes an interesting point about how modern debate is conducted. He hits the target with his example of Tony Blair ritually acknowledging the importance of civil rights before proposing the destruction of more of them.

I experience the same irritations in business life. Colleagues who know full well they are a waste of time begin wasting my time by saying, "I know you are busy and I don't want to waste your time, but..."

Ianucci is right in identifying this as a confession, but his proposed "swift kick in the loins" is not really a practical response. I confess that I don't know any better countermeasures to such dishonest tactics. In consequence I spend too much of my life politely allowing my time to be wasted. Any suggestions?

Telegraph | Opinion | Notebook

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Parents: we are not the law

I can only applaud. That I should feel the need to do so when, anywhere else in the world, this article would be no more than plain common-sense, says a lot about New Britain.

spiked-liberties | Column | Parents: we are not the law

Innocent in London

I am behindhand in finding this story and blogging it. However, this diary of an innocent man arrested in London on suspicion of terrorism is an important document. I hope I can lead more people to it.

Innocent in London

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

BBC seeks increase to licence fee

There is no reason for the BBC's licence fee to increase above the rate of inflation. In fact, there is no real justification for the licence fee at all.

The BBC no longer fulfils its historic role as an independent public service broadcaster. It long ago went down-market to compete head on with the commercial stations. In fact ITV now produces better drama.

The BBC also appears to have given over editorial control of news coverage to the Government. Since the Dr David Kelly affair, its outlets have toadied disgracefully. Sadly, there is no guarantee that financial independence would end that behaviour. Murdoch's media also appear to have been pimped.

It is time either for the BBC to be granted independence and allowed to advertise, or to be closed down entirely.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | BBC seeks increase to licence fee

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lords line up to debate right to die

The libertarian position on this should be clear enough. It's your life. If you want to die that's up to you. However, you cannot compel anyone else to kill you or assist you to die.

The problems are also clear enough. If euthanasia or assisted suicide is permitted, it will often be faked so that people can inherit wealth or be rid of a burden. The law should protect the weak by requiring a clear written expression of will in the presence of an independent witness. Relatives will disagree and the document will be important in any subsequent litigation.

If a doctor is prepared, subject to such a clear expression of will, to provide the means for a suicide, that is probably the best solution. Assisted suicide is not the same as asking a doctor to kill, which would be a problem for many; not only on ethical grounds but because the doctor risks involvement in legal disputes.

Assisted suicide does not help those who are physically incapable even of taking pills unassisted. Nor does it help those whose condition has deteriorated until they are mentally incapable of expressing their wish to die. Again, even if a doctor can be found to carry out the killing, it should only be lawful if there is a clear legal expression of the patient's intentions, made before he became incapable. So-called "living wills" can deal with this issue.

I have no doubt that, even with all necessary legal protections, many old people will die against their will if these measures are introduced. We are all too ready to convince ourselves of the truth of things that suit us. Auntie Flo's death will seem a mercy to those who stand to inherit. No caring heir will let paperwork stand in the way. Muddled old ladies will sign unknowing. Signatures will be lovingly forged.

Baroness Warnock thinks the old have a duty to die rather than be a burden to their families. If this view gains credence, the dangers are obvious. Elderly people may feel pressured to "do the right thing" by their families. If your son is massively in debt and the costs of your care are a burden; if your daughter cannot earn to support her family because she is your carer, how will you feel if the idea of euthanasia is raised? How will the State's rules on consuming your estate to pay for your care affect your view? Will you feel pressured to die early so as to save those costs and leave more to your indebted children? Many old people are a burden to the State, rather than their offspring. It would not be long before someone argued a similar duty to the taxpayer. Voluntary euthanasia could soon become involuntary, whether because of social pressures or even legal requirements.

This is one of those issues where it's easy to devise simple rules. However, the complexities of life are such that there are bound to be unforseen outcomes. While the libertarian position is clear, any changes to the law on this subject should be made with extreme caution. The Government's usual style of "legislate today, think tomorrow" will not do. Cheap headlines about "mercy killings" and heart-rending "human interest" stories on the subject, could lead to thousands of murders.

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Lords line up to debate right to die

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hoon indicates possible compromise over anti-terror laws

The Labour Party's leaders have become masterful at manipulating public perceptions. In the current "debate" (if such it can be called when HM Opposition is silent) they first proposed the ludicrous new crime of "glorifying terrorism". Critics ridiculed it. They "backed down". See? They are "listening".

Then the debate moved to the three months' period of detention without trial (and without charge). Labour's people hint they will "compromise". The Lib Dems, the only politicians engaging in the debate, signal they will not budge. They are quite right to say so, but they have fallen into a negotiating trap. Labour will say the Lib Dems are unreasonable and uncompromising, someone from the leaderless Tories will agree and suggest a compromise, and the current 14 day period for police to make a case or release a suspect will be extended, if not to 3 months, then to 2. Next year Labour will propose 12 months - and so it goes on.

The public senses the rhythms of these debates, but does not follow the details. Labour is well-tuned to the rhythms and exploits them beautifully. No-one even asks the question "...but isn't 14 days already too long for an innocent man to be held against his will without the blessing of the courts..?" No-one even considers how such powers could be abused.

Under the proposed new regime, annoy your local police and you could find yourself repeatedly held in custody for two months and 29 days on suspicion. You won't be able to challenge the police in court. You won't be entitled to know on what suspicion you were held. You will never be able to challenge a policeman again, no matter what he is doing to you or your family.

Is that an unreasonable and disloyal scenario? Is it unfair to our gallant police? I think that's what you would have told me if I had predicted that an 82-year old member of the Labour Party would be prevented from entering the party's conference under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I think that's what you would have told me if I had predicted that an innocent young man whose actions gave no reasonable grounds for suspicion would be shot 7 times in the head by muddled flatfoots on the London Underground, on the basis of an over-the-shoulder glimpse by a colleague taking a leak in the bushes outside a block of flats.

Compromise between good and evil is evil. Labour's massive assault on our civil liberties is evil.

Telegraph | News | Hoon indicates possible compromise over anti-terror laws

Gypsy row AM faces censure

How can a political assembly debate issues if certain points of view are suppressed? I don't know if this Conservative member of the Welsh Assembly is prejudiced against Gypsies or not. Certainly the comments reported here are entirely innocuous. Try substituting "Welsh" or "English" for "gypsy travellers" and they remain entirely true. They are so innocuous, one wonders why he even bothered to make them. That they should provoke disciplinary proceedings is entirely bizarre.

Until I read something more damning, I shall assume that he has said nothing worse. His enemies would surely not be quoting such mild remarks if they had anything better.

We are living through a witch hunt in this country. The mad puritans who would forbid all dissent are our enemies; traitors to everything that makes our country worthy of affection and respect.

BBC NEWS | Wales | Gypsy row AM faces censure

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Climate change strategy meeting

Professor Bjorn Lomborg, a professor of statistics and a former Greenpeace member, writes in his book "The Sceptical Environmentalist" of the "litany" of received ideas about the environment. These are ideas which are now politically-correct and beyond debate. Global warming is one of them.

Because the belief is quasi-religious, at least in its intensity, people don't catch themselves using it in contradictory ways. They sub-consciously edit evidence, noting anything that suggests global warming and ignoring anything that contradicts it.

Most data used by the environmental movement is simply taken from too short a period. Often the start and end points have been selected to support a particular view. Lomberg's book contains several interesting graphs which show all known historical data, with the misleading section selected by environmentalists highlighted. Some people in the movement, no doubt with honourable intent, are deliberately presenting propaganda as science.

Nobody knows whether the "hole in the ozone layer" is new, or whether it has always been there. The variations detected since we noticed it may well be natural.

Chester (then Deva) was one of the great wine-exporting ports of the Roman Empire. Long before the Industrial Revolution, the North of England was warm enough to grow wine. On the other hand, we have historical records of weather so cold in England that "ice fairs" were held on the Thames. Why do we now believe that the weather of modern times is "normal" and any climate change must be Nature's punishment for our wickedness?

If we take a really long-term perspective, we are actually in the middle of an Ice Age. The whole of human civilisation has risen (and may well fall) during what is technically an "interglacial interval".

Global warming is a theory, and not a very good one. Of course we must monitor climate changes and consider their implications. Of course we should use non-renewable resources carefully to make sure they last until there are viable alternatives. I am puritanical enough to object to waste in principle, without needed an all-embracing ideology to legitimise my view. However, there was human society before refined oil and deo volenti there will be human society after it. There is no reason to suppose (still less to advocate) that the latter should resemble the former.

The environmental movement (and I speak as one with a monthly standing order to FoE) draws attention to important issues but it often overstates its case. Many activists are single issue fanatics. Others are Luddite technophobes, Wordsworthian romantics or reborn Puritans. Some advocate reducing the population of the USA by 85% to make its economy ecologically "sustainable", for example. Their dreams of a simpler, more "natural", society can only be achieved by the forceful exercise of absolute power. Very few of us will choose to give up the technologies which have extended our lives and made them richer.

I don't think most environmentalists are fascists. However, they do provide power-hungry politicians with lots of "right on" excuses for state interference in everyday life. That's why the politicians like to say "we are all environmentalists now". That's why we cannot accept the environmental "litany" without debate.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Climate change strategy meeting

Monday, October 03, 2005

Compulsory pensions? He kept that quiet

Amid all the coverage of Labour's jackboot conference policing methods, and in my indignation at Tony Blair's unsatisfied urges to destroy liberty, I missed this one. So, it seems, did almost everyone else.

Are we really so easily fooled by the misuse of language? "Moving beyond voluntarism" is an amazing euphemism for "compulsion", isn't it?

Telegraph | Opinion | Compulsory pensions? He kept that quiet