Monday, 23 March 2009

Interception Modernisation Programme

I just sent this letter to my eminently useful MP re the Interception Modernisation Programme:

"I am gravely concerned by the proposed expansion of governmental
surveillance to include not only records of telephone calls made,
emails sent and websites visited but to engage in mass surveillance of
social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace and record
each and every 'Twitter', 'poke' and instant message. 

Vernon Coaker
has stated that it is 'vital' for the government to have access to and
provision for the capturing and storing of said information in the
indefatigable fight against terrorism. The futility of said fight aside
- there will always be those who seek to disrupt societal mechanisms
and thus create terror; terrorism will persist as long as humanity does
- there are three main points which cause me particular disquietude: 

1) Firstly, the government's track record on protecting individual and
collective information is abysmal. Whether they themselves are
responsible for safeguarding said information or have extended that
privilege to a private company, there have been extraordinary breaches
in security, including but not limited to that of the armed forces,
child benefit recipients and the security services. Creating a database
to encompass the information sought by Coaker et al will require
extraordinary ingenuity; no such project has ever been attempted
before. Whilst such a database will be undoubtedly lucrative for its
architects and thus for the Treasury through direct taxation, the
taxpayer will suffer a further financial onus due to the fact that they
will be required to pay for said database, that which denies their
liberty and cannot make the commitment to safeguard their information

2) The government's proposal of anti-terror legislation known at
present as "Contest 2" which seeks to render certain views not as
extreme but as extremist creates a dangerous precedent for profiling
and 'fishing' expeditions despite assurances to the contrary. Worded
ambiguously and subject to endless interpretation, it contains elements
of sheer delusion which, if brought into law, make life potentially
more invidious not only for British-born and immigrant Muslims, but for
the rest of the population. I refer in particular to two clauses: that
it is forbidden to argue that Islam condemns homosexuality (which it
does, unequivocally and without reservation) and that they fail to
condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
former would prohibit academic endeavour in that mentioning Islamic
aversion to homosexuality would be a crime, which is prohibitive to
free thought and, through omission, teaching certain aspects of Islam; the latter is
particularly tendentious, because it suggests that Muslims will be
monitored - if not compelled - to condemn *actively* said killings.
Throw away statements, particularly those made via the medium of
Instant Messaging, could be used to prosecute an individual in a court
of law, create greater divisions within society (ghettoization) and
even precipitate a hitherto unmeditated violent response. Email
communications, particularly amongst individuals campaigning for social
change and justice re the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already
been monitored under RIPA, the government has acknowledged; were such a
communique to highlight the fact that statistically speaking many more
Iraqis than Allies have died, would it expose the writer to the full
wrath of an ambivalently-worded law? The two proposed bills in tandem
are potentially lethal;

3) Part III Article 14.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (1966) states that 'Everyone charged with a criminal
offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proven
guilty according to the law'. However, the Interception Modernisation
Programme makes the presumption that there is no innocence, and thus no
need even for charge; that an incontrovertible evil dwells deep within
the hearts of all men, that their being is founded not upon right
reason and will-to-good but upon the will-to-harm, to create chaos. In
a virtual world, as in a real one, a ceaseless search for wickedness
will be as fruitless as the search for the tails and horns of would-be
Hitlers. The truly wicked are as likely as not characterised by their
outward benignity, often their righteousness, heavy with the odour of
sanctity. There have been many attempts to qualify evil - and, under
this government, to quantify it; the outcome is one of resounding
failure. And in the aftermath of hundreds of badly designed, badly
phrased laws designed to curtail 'anti-social' behaviour, the State has
gradually engulfed society so that they have become one and the same
entity. The State dictates what people may think, feel, eat; say, do,
believe. Each day, another 'evil' is brought on to the statute books.
That which is deemed 'wrong', 'politically incorrect' is swelling
whilst the ability to catch the perpetrators of all these petty 'evils'
is shrinking. Whilst there may be true evil in this world - the
paedophile, the terrorist, those who would seek to break another's life
out of curiosity or for their own amusement - there is also the
infallible human will to good. It must not suppressed beneath the
weight of a tyrannical minority. We do not live in East Germany - yet.
The message 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' has become obsolete; it
would be better if it were replaced by 'coruptissima republica plurimae

I've also set up a Facebook group; please join and pass on the word.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

You Can't Have It Both Ways

There's an abundance of rage across the blogosphere this morning over the proposal for Department of Health 'moles' to try to change peoples' bad eating, drinking and lifestyle habits. Nanny State, Nanny Bullying and the usual cry of 'whodeyfinkdeyareven' are echoing throughout cyberspace. But what is the difference between this kind of meddling and advertising, the multi-billion pound industry based upon behavioural manipulation?
Every time someone sit down in front of their television, they are exposed to combinations of images and sounds that have been months and years in the making: twitched and teased this way and that in order to grab the attention and stick indelibly in the memory. They make their choices based on 'trusted brands' - which are trusted because someone on the television said that they were trustworthy. People take the advertisers' word for it: they would scoff at sticking their head in the end of a smoking cannon, but would eat a pot of teeming bacteria every day because someone said it was 'good' for them. 
Using markers like 'fact', 'clinically proven', 'people just like you', 'confidence' (not to mention many words and phrases that previously belonged to a religious vocabulary, such as 'faith', 'heaven', 'eden', 'paradise' and 'sin') the general public barks like a dog and rolls over when given certain cues. The level of intrusion into our thoughts and the manipulating of our habits, beliefs, preferences and choices is astounding.
Yet, somehow, this kind of Pavlovian engineering that was once used so successfully by Edward Bernays, father of modern advertising and Hitler's favourite bedside read, to convince the entire female population that smoking was cool is accepted on all levels: the subliminal and the overt. When the State attempts to butt in using similar techniques, it gets short shrift. I suspect that this underlying dichotomy springs from the fact that advertising happens in a supposedly 'free' market, and the State is seen as anything but; that advertising lulls us into a false sense of security because it is directed at 'us' and makes 'us' feel important, whereas the State only serves to make us feel powerless. But both have only a single goal in mind: to control your consciousness.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Bad Thinking

"David Cameron signalled that the rich would have to pay “their fair share” to rescue the economy from the mounting crisis in the public finances.
It was made clear that hundreds of thousands of top earners would face paying the new rate — which Labour will also introduce after the election if they hang on to power — if Mr Cameron enters Number 10."

Idiocy has won.
We live in a nation in which our government is not accountable to anyone and makes endless decisions concerning its own welfare which it cloaks in the language of 'transparency' and 'public interest'.
Now the nation is being told that it is the duty - a term which subsided into the bloody maw of political correctness along with the concepts of fairness and nationhood - to rescue the economy.
If those who have putatively been elected to public office are unable to safeguard the economy in the first place, why should the unelected general public be forced to pay for their mistakes?
It is clear that there is a pressing need  in the absence of governmental culpability to find a scapegoat. The next candidate is dangled in front of the mob for their delectation: the richest, who already pay the highest taxes, generate the most income for the economy and represent the finest entrepreneurial, intellectual and financial minds we possess, are somehow to blame and must make amends for their talents by giving away yet more of their money. They are being hanged on the scaffold of an ignorant public's censure, a 'general' public which is always casting around for others to condemn because it has not, itself, achieved their successes; and those who carry the hallmarks of success are inevitably the ones to suffer.
This is not to say that no-one has any 'duty' to society. It is saying that one's duty, being an innate will to good, is best enacted independently rather than being precipitated by a socialist-motivated state which demands money with menaces ('taxes') in order to carry out said good. (And those who would ask the delightfully naive questions 'who pays for the roads, if no-one pays taxes?' should rather look at our national debt: that is where most of the money goes.) In other words, one's duty is to society, not to the State: bracketing State and society together is a very dangerous thing, because it paves the way for totalitarianism - one way of approved thinking. The compulsion inherent in forcing people to do good for others also removes the equally innate will to be responsible for the other: the 'there but for the grace of God go I' gene, if you will.
Asserting a universal right to, say, abortion means that I will have to pay for abortion, whether I believe in a sacred right to life before birth or not; ditto war, ditto IVF for lesbian couples, ditto ID cards, ditto failed educational and health schemes; ditto free speech or its abolition, for the taxpayer pays for the mechanism that denies them the right to articulate their beliefs: Parliament. All of this is a hallmark of Labour's Big State. All of this has been paid for by the taxpayer despite their personal convictions: such is the hallmark of democracy, that it frustrates individuality through ensuring everyone is obliged to pay, literally and figuratively, for the outcome of others' beliefs and opinions to the detriment of their own.
And, because Labour has expanded the public sector to such an extent that it has been the only direct competitor of the private sector, growth has been stifled in other areas. Potential quashed. Now, the 'general' public is being asked to believe that it has a duty - a moral imperative in a state that would deny morals or imperatives - to make right the errors that have characterised the past twelve years. Cameron wishes to perpetuate the rot by targeting the few individuals who may potentially rejuvenate the country and encourage foreign investment. What is 'fair' about this scenario?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Liberty Means Responsibility. That Is Why Most Men Dread It

In what is for once a remarkably shrewd move on the part of the government, calls by Liam Donaldson to charge alcohol per unit have been rejected. Gordon Brown has realised belatedly that such a move on the heels of massive taxpayer liability for bank bailouts - from which it has in no way benefitted - would be the equivalent of coating himself in liver and diving into a pool of mastiffs. Various papers and internet fora are ponderously discussing how to be 'responsible' about drinking, as if it were that easy.
We always do things arse-about-face these days. Someone shoots up a school? Ban guns. Kids drink too much? Hike the price of alcohol. Rather than examining just why people are so unhappy, the powers-that-be believe that their censor-all curtail-all approach is going to make people happier, healthier and wealthier despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
The culprit is not just big government, however much we would like to pin 100% of the blame upon them. One would have to go back a hundred and fifty, two hundred years to locate the source of the problem. The first is that a universal franchise is prohibitive to freedom, has marginalized intellectual, moral and economic efforts and elevated the 'norm' to excellence: we are not getting better every day, but, on the contrary, more average. As the economist and political theoretician JA Schumpeter put it: 

'The democratic method is that institutional arrangement which realizes the common good by making the people itself decide issues through the election of individuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will... However, when we move still farther away from the private concerns of the family and the business office into those regions of national and international affairs that lack a direct and unmistakable link to those private concerns, individual volition, command of facts and method of inference soon cease to fulfill the requirements of the classical doctrine.' 

In other words, the reality of the 'real' world lived by the majority of citizens and that of philosopher kings in rapt contemplation of the Beautiful are so far removed that an across-the-board understanding of major events is well-nigh impossible. Moreover, the idea of a universal franchise is not one shared by all, contrary to idealistic theories of Utopia. Universal franchise becomes even less appealing in the face of mass immigration; and, in a bizarre twist, the native population in a reversion to the kind of feudalism of the aristocracy practised before 1832 rears its head and asserts its rights to its own land above that of any o(O)ther. Even those of the lower working class would wish to become honorary esquires, espousing their property rights; class barriers can never be broken down whilst there exist different tribes throughout the world; the statist flat-earth dream will never be realised as long as humanity persists.
The second great difficulty in overcoming the collectivist mindset is that people cannot determine their own fate if a) they do not know what or who they are because they have never been taught to think freely and b) hence do not have the capacity to envisage what that fate might be. There is no will of the voter that cannot be manipulated; politicians no longer stand on the soap boxes, they sell us the soap. Political decisions become the most aggressive of marketing campaigns, a mishmash of bar graphs and voter preference charts; the politicians and their policies cannot be separated out, so that one either votes for the 'popular choice' - the Diet Coke celebrity endorser, if you will - or stays silent. Still, it is small wonder that such a cynical attitude is taken towards matters literally of life and death when the standard business mantra is 'sell yourself', 'sell yourself' - kill your spirit, kill your spirit.
Our society is overdeveloped; there is too much crowding in upon us, too many ways to turn, and too much machinery in place to stifle any expression that cannot be fitted within a specific matrix. Everything is a 'brand', nothing has reality in itself and for itself: a style-over-content-world poised perilously on the crest of the wave. And that is why people drink and drink: they're not happy; their bodies are free, their minds are chained; and what on earth is there for them to look forward to? What is there for them to live for, save servitude?
Proudhon, one of the architects of anarchical libertarianism, feared the kind of world that was to come. Speaking of the impending onslaught of Fascism and Stalinism, he saw that the major threat lay in a 'compact democracy having the appearance of being founded on the dictatorship of the masses, but in which the masses have no more power than is necessary to ensure a general serfdom in accordance with the following precepts and principles borrowed from the old absolutism: indivisibility of public power, all-consuming centralization, systematic destruction of all individual, corporative and regional thought (regarded as disrupted), inquisitorial police...'
How familiar the words: how familiar the concepts. And a debate over 'responsible drinking', smugly moral as it may appear to those earnestly debating within the narrow framework allowed them by a government who wishes to give them the illusion of freedom, will no more create a healthy society than a sane one. 

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Stop Children, What's That Sound

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

It's time we...

But we won't, will we.

In a few weeks, the headlines have changed from 'Cameron Calls For Enquiry On Iraq War' to 'Hundreds Turn Out To Cheer Soldiers'. The images of devastated cities already reclaimed by the wilderness have given way those of to immaculately-outfitted battalions surrounded by Concerned Citizens. The St George flag is, of course, very much in evidence. Suddenly everyone's 'British' again.
The battle lines have been drawn in the sand; the positions have been staked out. You either belong to 'them' or to 'us'; mostly their 'them-ness' is predicated on the colour of their skin. Our 'us-ness' is bound up in the simple red cross on a white background. Nationalism, in sophisticated terms: tribalism in real, human ones. And it doesn't matter a damn that a triumvirate of the top university institutions have reported that young British Muslims are more likely to be tomorrow's human rights barristers or educational advocates or overseas advisors or politicians; that very few are radicalised or prepared to imagine committing terrorist acts. Once that battle line is crossed, 'they', the 'Other', will be hurt indiscriminately.
The government's been preparing for a 'summer of rage'. It took quite a while to get it into Joe Public's head that he's expected to run riot in the coming months. When he failed to respond to subtle teasers - riot squads being trained up in readiness for an event which so far was mythic - other incentives had to be offered up. Refusing to allow in Geert Wilders. British Jobs For British Workers. And now, Support Our Troops. No matter that the war is illegal; no matter that the troops are being used as cannon fodder in the ultimate colonialist money-making enterprise. They're fighting against people who are Not Like Us. 
Protectionism takes many forms. It's not just about monetary protection; it's a knee-jerk response to perceived outrages against an established culture. It doesn't matter whether someone who's Asian is British-born or not, whether they consider themselves British born or not, whether they're in the Armed Forces or protesting against them. They're just "different" and their "differences" are being escalated to a dangerous extent.
The familiarity of 'they dress different, eat funny, keep themselves to themselves, aren't very friendly, are they?, all about religion innit' surely cannot have passed people by entirely. From 1933 onwards such terms were used to deliberately drive a cultural wedge through the centre of German society: a society that at heart had always not-quite-trusted Judaism for lacking that fundamental je-ne-sais-quoi, that ethos that made a German a German and everyone else an outsider. 
I fear that we are too late: I fear that soon, twelve years of repression and hundreds of years of tribal malice will boil over and the 'Other' will be lying dead in the street, another victim of cultural animosity; that the 'Other' will be rounded up for its own good, that every 'Other' will made into a monster which must be erased from history - beginning, perhaps, with Pakistan and ending with Iran. And thirty years from now, people might feel shame for their actions, put up monuments, collect together pitiful survivor narratives, write books about it and teach a degree about it: about how it must never happen again. Until the next time.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Let Me Get This Straight....

Worcester's bid to twin itself with Gaza City as a "humanitarian gesture" has been turned down.
The city council had backed the plan by councillor Alan Amos, who said it aimed to link to the "people of Gaza" and not to support the Hamas leadership.
But Worcester Twinning Association said the proposal did not meet its criteria.
Twinning with the Middle Eastern city was not "the most appropriate or practical means" of meeting the people's humanitarian needs, it said.
Israel attacked the Gaza Strip in December in retaliation for rocket attacks. Aid groups have said this led to a humanitarian crisis in the region.
'Complex arrangements'
Neville Swanson, chairman of Worcester's Twinning Association, said it appreciated the council's desire to "express sympathy with the sufferings of the people".
But he added the voluntary association did not have the "resources or competences" to embark on complex arrangements "to set up a meaningful relationship with Gaza City" even if it was found that people in Gaza wished it.
Mr Swanson added the decision did not prevent the council from funding a formal link with Gaza City itself.
The twinning proposal had been criticised by Worcester MP Mike Foster who said the debate had been a waste of the council's time.
Mr Amos had rejected claims the move would support the Gaza Strip's Hamas leadership, which is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

So: ranting Luton Muslims bad, ranting Hamas good (no matter what they might say); 7/7 atrocities bad, rockets raining down on Sderot good; Muslims preaching against Iraq and Afghanistan war bad, Muslims preaching against Israel's existence good; 20% of UK Muslims in a recent survey saying its acceptable to slap your wife or daughter in public bad, Hamas creating a charter which explicitly calls for jihad, female suppression and Jew-killing good?
Glad we cleared that one up.

Curtain Call

Splendid news. Dolly Draper's been not only kicked off Twitter for abuse and a huge imbalance in his follower/following ratio, but he's been booted off his own website also. 
Now that he's got all this spare time on his hands, perhaps he'd like to go back to the States and study at - as opposed to in - Berkeley? 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

I Am Scared...

By this:

Unlock Democracy welcomes Compass call for Electoral Reform

Commenting on the publication of Compass's "No turning back: a manifesto for change," Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said:

"We warmly welcome Compass's call for electoral reform and view it highly significant that a respected and central part of the wider Labour Movement has come out in favour of this crucial reform.

"Far too many people within Labour still cling to the notion that politics must be tribalist and limited to two parties. This flies in the face of all the evidence which shows were are moving towards a multi-party system. Both Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are now in government, while the Liberal Democrats now have more MPs than at any time since the 1930s.

"The existing electoral system has failed to stop this fundamental shift but it does now threaten to make our political system increasingly unstable, unrepresentative and unresponsive. It needs to be put out of its misery and replaced with something fit for the 21st century.

"Compass should be congratulated for forcing this issue up the political agenda."

The full manifesto can be found here:

A multiparty system? How very 'democratic' of them. Means that you won't have the option of finding a party you can agree with; you'll have to agree with everyone and compromise incessantly and, in the end, be crushed entirely by herds of Averages because, after all, the 'greatest number' is the only number that counts.
In '70s America, the Communist party didn't bother fielding candidates because both parties had included all their principles in their agendas. Looks as though we're heading towards the same unitrack collectivist nightmare.

Education, Education, Education

From Times Online
March 7, 2009
Parents face prosecution over 'gay' education class protest
Sara Dixon

PARENTS who took their children out of school to prevent them being taught about lesbian, gay and transgender relationships are facing prosecution.

Around 30 pupils from an east London primary school were absent from a week of special lessons to highlight non-heterosexual partnerships.

To mark the event some students watched a special adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet retitled Romeo and Julian.

Stories covered in the lessons at George Tomlinson School included a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before falling in love with one of their brothers and the tale of Roy and Silo - two male penguins who fall in love.

The protesting parents said the content was more appropriate for secondary school pupils and now they face possible court action.

Some of the parents said they informed the Leytonstone school they were removing their children for the week.

Pervez Latif, whose children Saleh, ten, and Abdur-Rahim, nine, attend the school, said both Christian and Muslim parents objected to the theme linked to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month.

Mr Latif is quoted as saying: “I didn’t want my children to be learning about this.

“I wrote a letter to the chairman of the governors explaining that I would be taking my children out of school and he wrote back saying that there was no other option.”

He added parents were informed of the lessons by newsletter.

Sarah Saeed, 40, also took her eight-year-old daughter out of school during the week. She claims she told the school she would remove her daughter if they went ahead with their plans.

She is quoted as saying: “It is not an appropriate age for the children to be learning such matters.

“She has a 100 per cent attendance record otherwise. This is the only time and this is the only choice I had.”

Officials at Waltham Forest Council said there were unauthorised absences from George Tomlinson School when it covered topics relevant to lesbian, gay and transgender history.

They said action had been taken against the protesting parents but are currently refusing to say how they plan to punish them.

Mr Latif reportedly said his wife feared it could end with them having to defend their decision in court as their children are being treated as truants.

To deal with truant pupils Waltham Forest Council can make parents can sign a contract, impose fines or bring them to court.

A nice attempt to try to make this into a Muslim intolerance issue, rather than a righteous grievance on the part of parents who want to determine what moral issues their children learn about at school. Objecting to an entire week 'learning' about Romeo and Julian is now deemed a thoughtcrime. Reminds me of what Socrates tells Glaucon in The Republic:
'All citizens above the age of ten must be expelled from the city and deported somewhere into the country: and the children who are now free from the influence of the manners and habits of their parents must be taken over. They must be educated in the ways [of true philosophy], and, according to the laws, which we have described.'
Of course, the philosophers are not expelled: they remain to teach the children how they should be thinking, away from parental interference.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Privacy vs The "Right To Know"

Anna Raccoon posted an interesting and provocative comment over at her excellent blog about Ashley Cole's recent dalliance with a peroxided honey. Now, I can't stand 'celebrity' but I think everyone has the right to privacy; having said as much I got back the following gratuitously patronising and offensive comment from another blogger:

Mara MacSeoinin: ……………… ‘no-one has the ‘right to know’ what he may or may not do in his spare time. Whether someone earns a lot of money or a little isn’t really the point: I think we’d be much healthier as a nation if we returned to a ‘mind your own business’ ‘you mind yours and I’ll mind mine’ mindset.’

In a perfect and World with perfect people who do everything in a perfect way ………………. I think that it would be super to be able to choose only to be interested in the people we have preiously chosen to associate with …………. and forget all about becoming involved with the lives of others with whom we have nothing in common …………..

However ……………….. there are politicians and professors and nuclear scientists and pop stars and film stars and blue collar workers who surf the net for abusive images of children and the mutilation of animals and recipes for bomb-making and all kinds of other things that make the World very unsafe.

Unfortunately, humans are not designed to live in a World of isolationism and elitism.

I do not know which particular Planetary nation that Mara MacSeoinin is referring to in saying that ‘we’d be much healthier as a nation if we returned to a ‘mind your own business’ ‘you mind yours and I’ll mind mine’ mindset.’ And I would like a reference to that Planet or a reference to any Earth civilisation who lived in this curious way. I am most intrigued!

Here on Planet Earth there has never been a time in recorded history where such a ‘mindset’ has ever existed.

Humans are naturaly gregarious ………….. with the obvious exceptions ……………… and the very fact that they live on a Planet which is shared by all …………….. means that we have to know what other humans have in their hearts, their minds and all other areas of their lives.

I'm up for a little debate. What do you think? Is this an expansion of the 'if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear' ethos? Are we naturally nosey or inclined to be reticent? Do we have a 'right to know' things about others? And does a sordid private life make a public figure a candidate for evisceration if s/he are exemplary at what they do?

Libellous Lord Ahmed

From Pakistan's Associated Press:

LONDON, March 5 (APP)‑ A number of British politicians and members of the UK‑based Pakistan Diaspora pledged their complete and all outsupport for the incarcerated Lord Nazir Ahmed while lauding his contribution to the British society in the context of the community relations and his role at the international platform.
Mirpur‑born Labour Peer is presently undergoing a 12‑week jail sentence on account of dangerous driving that resulted in a fatal motorway accident near his home town of Rotherham, north‑east England in December 2007.
The support campaign was launched on Wednesday evening at East London district of Leyton where a number of speakers praised the services rendered by him and the great respect he has earned worldwide due to his continued commitment in seeking justice across the globe...
Another Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood in his message read out at the meeting said,” Lord Ahmed has been outstanding advocate for the Muslim community and has given confidence and inspiration to Muslims across the UK and the globe. From Palestine and Kashmir to Sudan and Kosovo he has spoken up for the underprivileged and the underrepresented.”
Lord Ahmed’s colleague Lord Patel and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi also spoke on the occasion and said the Labour Peer has earned respect due to the numerous actions he has done both nationally and internationally. Ms.Warsi said Lord Ahmed had always stood for principles and justice and who build bridges between the white and the non‑white British communities. Glasgow MP Muhammad Sarwar in his address said Lord Nazir has been sentenced on account of dangerous driving and no death charge has been levelled against him.
He said there was no truth in apprehension within the Muslim community that he would be stripped of his Lordship. He is a life peer and cannot be deprived of his honour.
Sarwar said according to the legal experts the custodial sentence awarded to Lord Ahmed was excessive and that he has valid grounds to appeal against the verdict.
Event organiser Barrister Abid Hussein thought that Lord Ahmed has been awarded excessive punishment as he had ruffled the feathers of the higher authorities because of his strong views and support on various social and political issues notably the 42‑day detention period, war on Iraq and his pro‑Palestinian stance.

I find this campaign very distasteful indeed; a human being lost his life through Ahmed's recklessness, and no amount of 'good works' can recompense the man, his family or the impact he may have had on society.
What gives me particular cause for concern is the final paragraph, the most pertinent part of which I have highlighted. If an appeal is to be brought against the judges who committed Ahmed to prison for the extremely lenient term of twelve weeks, it will set a dangerous precedent. The grounds (as far as I can see; there may be many more) upon which said appeal may be brought is by 
1) evoking Articles 5 (4) of the HRA: the right to contest the lawfulness of detention by citing that under 10.78 a magistrate may be liable if he has been deemed to have acted in 'bad faith'. 
2) If the Community-Cohesion-multicultural-equality-diversity bunch can argue that Ahmed was imprisoned not by virtue of the crime he committed but because of his political beliefs using HRA 15.163 citing cases such as Handyside v United Kingdom (1976) and 17.134 (political discrimination) and even argue a case for compensation (10.159). These examples are just off the top of my head...
If Ahmed is freed on these grounds and is able to gain compensation he will not only strike a seminal blow over the judiciary by the executive but set a precedent for thousands of cases to be retried on the grounds of 'bad faith' citing political motivation or personal discrimination against the convicted. 
It goes to show just what a hellish invention the HRA is: a nice idea in theory; in practice a nightmare.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Indignity of Indifference

I was ambling around the Web this morning and came across this chart which linked IQ to the various professions:

140 Top Civil Servants; Professors and Research Scientists.
130 Physicians and Surgeons; Lawyers; Engineers (Civil and Mechanical)
120 School Teachers; Pharmacists; Accountants; Nurses; Stenographers; Managers.
110 Foremen; Clerks; Telephone Operators; Salesmen; Policemen; Electricians.
100+ Machine Operators; Shopkeepers; Butchers; Welders; Sheet Metal Workers.
100- Warehousemen; Carpenters; Cooks and Bakers; Small Farmers; Truck and Van Drivers.
90 Laborers; Gardeners; Upholsterers; Farmhands; Miners; Factory Packers and Sorters.

Of course, the list is not rigorous; it's based upon statistical expectations and thus doesn't allow any deviation from the norm. (Stating that policemen tend to have an IQ of 110, for example, doesn't take into account that there numerous departments dealing with numerous issues within the police force, gaining superior roles requiring intellectual vigour upon promotion, etc.) Nor does it state what happens to those with IQs below 90, below 80 and indeed, below 70. 

But it really does make one wonder what the hell Labour's been playing at in trying to get 50% of kids into higher education.

Looking at figures borrowed from the same website:

IQ Description                   % of Population
130+ Very superior                2.2%
120-129 Superior                   6.7%
110-119 High average           16.1%
90-109 Average                    50%
80-89 Low average               16.1%
70-79 Borderline                  6.7%
Below 70                             Extremely low

So 25% is above average, 50% is average and 25% is below average. Which technically implies that 75% should be taking apprenticeships, earning City & Guilds, NVQs, language, technical and other qualifications, whilst the top 25% should be going to university.

This isn't elitist - although I do fervently believe in justified elitism; I think one should have something to strive for - but practical. If Labour really wanted to 'help' people, they would make the standard of primary and secondary education so superior that those gifted children who would typically fall through the net because of their social background would be identified and given the opportunity to go to university: the DH Lawrences of this country, if you will. Offering university as some kind of socialist 'sop' is immensely harmful and, in some cases - like the Surf Management course offered at Newquay which had to be dropped - grotesquely ridiculous.

I am reminded of what Karl Popper said about Utopia and the desperate need for prudence of action so as not to cause human misery on a grand scale:

"It is infinitely ... difficult to reason about an ideal society. Social life is so complicated that few men, or none at all, could judge a blueprint for social engineering on the grand scale; whether it would be practicable; whether it would result in a real improvement; what kind of suffering it may involve; and what may be the means for its realization... [The piecemeal politician] will be aware that perfection, if at all attainable, is far distant, and that every generation of men, and therefore also the living, have a claim; perhaps not so much a claim to be made happy, for there are no institutional means of making a man happy, but a claim not to be made unhappy, where it can be avoided."  (The Open Society and Its Enemies, pp 158-9)

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Rightness of Life

The Telegraph's blog today gives us George Pitcher's consensus on two elderly English people with terminal cancer who decided to go to Switzerland and end their lives with Dignitas's help. Pitcher claims that their actions were 'disgusting', 'selfish' and 'undignified'; rather than using palliative care and facing a painful end, they violated the true sanctity of existence with the evil collusion of others.

   "The usual support for such action runs that our lives are our own, to do with what we wish. But that is manifestly untrue. Our lives are only and entirely defined by our relationships with other people and the world in which we live. We don't "own" our lives in the way that we possess a car or a washing machine. We are gifted them and they only make sense in relation to people and the world around us. As a consequence, we are obliged to honour and respect not only our lives but our deaths too. To pop off to the shops and top ourselves when it is convenient, or if we can't face the future, is to dishonour both life and death,"

says Pitcher. I find this viewpoint not only tragic but fatally deluded; deluded to such an extent that Pitcher, through his reckless use of words, his faulty logic, risks making life precisely the opposite of precious: worthless.

'We don't "own" our lives... our lives are only [my ital.] defined by our relationships with other people and the world in which we live.'

If we do not "own" our lives, to whom do they belong? If we do not own them as the most real of material and spiritual things, how can we speak of the self? Of I? What meaning has 'this is my life!' in the face of such an extraordinary declaration? Of what value is self-possession or self-awareness? Arguing that human lives can only be seen in context with the Other, depicted through comparatives and superlatives, is to deny us the innate capacity for reason, for self-determination, for deciding right and wrong; for being the authors of our fate existing within the eternal rather than the immediate human condition. It is to allow society to determine what 'life' is, what 'existence' is: to render one helpless in the face of shifting public opinion and political whimsies. And if life is defined as not worth living by our neighbours and society, or if society is wiped away with the reckless abandon of a Utopian aesthetic who sees the world as an infallibly rotten, irredeemable thing that must be destroyed to be rebuilt, so goes with it 'life'. 
There persists in Pitcher's writing some trace of the idea that in great suffering lies redemption, that pain is the test of human character and to wish to abnegate it is to be somehow less than human. But, in contemplating suicide, the person is more wholly human, more intensely, violently aware of what 'I' and 'me' and 'life' and 'existence' mean than so many of those going through the motions of living. And, indeed, whilst it is impossible to say 'I' without having a consideration of 'Thou', once that relation is established there is no need for there to be a further consideration of Thou-ness when contemplating the 'I'. The relation has been established: the I-self is now independent and self-determining. As Deleuze has it: 

"given that there exist differences of nature between things of the same genus. That is, not only are no two things ever the same, the categories we use to identify individuals in the first place derive from differences. Apparent identities such as "X" are composed of endless series of differences, where "X" = "the difference between x and x'", and "x" = "the difference between..."

It is our individuality that must be cherished as well as our inter-personal relationships; to speak of them inter alia denies our fundamental freedom of self-possession.

How High Is Your IQ?

Most IQ tests focus upon mathematics-based questions, which, if you can't stand the stuff, give you a score equivalent to the kid in your class who stapled himself to the desk and then set fire to himself. However, there's a rather nice Vocabulary based IQ test out there. I like it. My score was 183...
If you have fifteen minutes to waste, try it out:

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Daily Roundup

Oh, will you just piss off already?

-When will Islam get the memo not only that homosexuality exists, but that you shouldn't be stoned to death if you happen to be gay? Let's put a group of LBGTs and hardline Muslim kids in a room and see what happens, shall we? That should be a fun multicultural and diverse lesson. After all, NuLab's all about social experimentation.

Undeterred, mass murderer, money maker and faith's new front man is going against everything his former National Socialist Party stood for and is pushing theology as THE way to go:

The rats leave the sinking ships: the fleas leave the rats; and the BoE is making money. Not in a good way.

Beating them at their own game: al-Bashir defies arrest warrant by the ICC and kicks out the aid agencies. Says it's all a ploy to get grubby Western mitts on Sudanese oil.

To all the deluded bleeding-heart wannabe-liberal misguided uninformed fools out there who supported Hamas recently - why didn't you send one Blue Peter badge per rocket fired into Israel, while you were at it? Now Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei is back on the case, things should really heat up! (Though not in a nuclear way...)

I've a migraine so that's it. Anything to add? Post below...

Enoch Powell: Liberal or Far Right?

A most interesting discussion over at ConHome on Enoch Powell. John Anslow posted this comment:
"Powell was one of most influential voices for the decriminalization of homosexuality, and also his opposition to capital and corporal punishment. His speech deploring the murder by warders of eleven Mau Mau terrorists was described by Dennis Healey as “the greatest parliamentary speech I ever heard”.

His “Water Towers” speech of 1961 began the process that led to the closure of the great mental institutions and the move towards Care in the Community.

His ideas on economics centred on the importance of free trade and its relationship to a free society; and he deplored the state interference that has always been a feature of far-right parties.

Even his love of country, demonstrated when he gave up a professorship at the University of Sydney immediately on the outbreak of the Second World War to enlist as a private soldier, ( “he …. fancied he could hear the boots of the German armies drilling through the earth and reaching him in Australia”) was expressed through his love of the poetry of A. E. Housman.

Powell was a complex man, and a great Englishman; one who deserves to be remembered with much greater respect than his legacy currently enjoys."

I am more of the opinion that Powell was much more far-Right; he's been misquoted about rivers of blood often enough, of course, but what clinches it for me is that he tried to push quite strenuously the idea of 'voluntary re-emigration'. Not a 'liberal' tactic.

Past Precedent

A lovely rebuttal to Harriet Harman courtesy of dear old Cicero:

Nihil est incertius vulgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominum, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum

Nothing is more unpredictable than the mob, nothing more obscure than public opinion, nothing more deceptive than the whole political system.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Daily Roundup

I'm doped up on codeine and only have a 5 minute attention span, so only 3 stories today - all of which display the government's  extraordinary levels of authoritarinism, hypocrisy, brashness and self-righteous militancy:

No PC Here Please, We're British

Dominic Grieve, on whom I've been fairly hard in the past - particularly over his weak response to the sheer horror of Part VIII Cl. 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill - came up with the following statement today on that gruesome bugbear, 'multiculturalism'. 
  •  "A decade of ranking people as members of neatly categorised ethnic, religious or social groups, rather than treating everyone as an individual in their own right; a decade of courting self-appointed heads of minority groups and pandering to special interest lobbies, ignoring the range of opinions and depth of diversity in modern Britain; and a decade of stifling difficult debate, under a blanket of political correctness, that marginalises those ill at ease with prevailing dogma or accepted ‘progressive’ wisdom.”
Categorising people is, of course, part of socialism: to make everyone 'equally represented' (and then to make an extraordinary leap in logic and say that if everyone's represented equally, they must therefore be equal. As Aristotle said, "Democracy arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal." But surely Grieve is wasting his breath; on the most basic of levels, to talk of multiculturalism is to identify immediately the difference between people. On the most sophisticated level, what has been used successfully over the past 12 years is what Michel Foucault identified as 'governmentality': the linking of modes of thought with governance so that the two become inseparable. That is the true 'genius' of Political Correctness; it is now impossible to talk about issues that affect or determine our notions of individuality and personal interrelations outside the political sphere. 
Over the past twelve years, hierarchical 'top-down power' has been widened to include other forms of social control: the use of marketing to influence social behaviours; indoctrination through an osmotic, rather than rote based educational system; re-education of those ill-disposed to be 'tolerant'. Those of my generation were brought up to debate contentious issues. Based on their life experiences thus far, will the current generation be able to argue about difficult concepts?

  • "The reluctance to exercise reasonable judgment and to criticise or challenge negative cultural imports into our country, including discriminatory practices against women and corrupt political and electoral practices, is one of the most troubling consequences of a culture that wishes to avoid offence and accusations of racism."

In other words, 'moral' issues - the mere mention of which is like dripping acid on to the ear of a hard core socialist and relativist - have gone to the wall. I do hope that the Conservatives intend to abolish the ECHRA: to condemn certain social practises such as those mentioned above will raise the cry of 'discrimination! Discrimination!' from those busily beating their illiterate wives and children like carpets. It is a relief, though, to have it almost acknowledged that one doesn't have to like something just because it's different. However...

  • "It is through contact and the constant exchange of views and opinions that we moderate each other’s attitudes and behaviour. Creating that contact, breaking down ghettos of the mind and instilling confidence in our ability to learn from each other are the essentials. Greater diversity within our society must be recognised and applauded. But it seems to me that the zealous regulation of conduct, the imposition of state-defined orthodoxy on public and private conscience and the overburdening of law and regulation, have the consequence of undermining that confidence and are deterring participation and engagement."

Socialists don't have consciences; if they did, they would not play God: they would permit others to have free will rather than doing their thinking for them. I don't like this sentiment of 'greater diversity'. Why must it be applauded? If I don't agree with some cultural practice am I going to be compelled to applaud it in the name of 'diversity'? Isn't that exactly what NuLab's about? Is that not, in effect, a further form of indoctrination? How is that at all freeing? The mere concept of 'diversity' - the most meaningless and yet most discriminatory nonsense phrase in the NuLab canon - sends a cold chill down my spine. And this snippet seems to suggest that one will be forced to enter into dialogue with the other whether one likes it or not.

  • “Multiculturalism was intended to create a more cohesive and friendlier society by facilitating bringing people together. But instead the laws and concepts underlying it seem to me to drive people apart endangering our traditional sense of community based on common values."

Multiculturalism was intended to create a New Jerusalem, a USA circa 1850-1950 in which everyone could have the dream ticket of capitalism. But whereas the US system did not tear down established class delineations and encouraged people to work their way up from humble immigrant to President, our top heavy benefits system and unconscionable derision of and hatred towards anything that smacks of the middle class - education, breeding, manners - leaves people with nowhere to go. How can you encourage social mobility (climbing) if the only ones who seem to get a leg up are footballers and 'reality' TV 'stars', and the proles whines that they should be entitled to the 'best' just because someone else has it? 
'Multiculturalism' can only work if we return to our essential pre-WWII values. That is, to be proud of our country, our achievements, our culture and our history; to welcome in others - as we always have - and enable them to integrate themselves into our culture whilst maintaining theirs. Read works like Hanif Kureshi's Buddha of Suburbia which illustrates just how both cultural identities are maintained and assimilated.

  • "In schools, the dumbing down of history has resulted in a system where the teaching of a narrative of British history has all but vanished. Instead of children being taught to have respect for past events and individuals who have shaped their lives, they are encouraged to be contemptuous of people who did not live up, in their own era, to the then unknown values of modern Britain. I am convinced that this approach has hindered more recent immigrants to this country developing a sense of belonging."

The dumbing-down of education full stop is to our great shame. And we can hardly be vile to immigrants who can't speak the language when 25% of kids under NuLab can't speak, read or write it either. Go into any town on a Friday night and see how much yoof jargon you can understand; you might as well be in a foreign country. We're around 20th on the list of international academic achievement, and I suspect we'd be a damn' sight lower if it weren't for our independent schools. Our country would be much better off if 90% of our schools were indeed independent and in competition with one another; if those academically inept were allowed to take 2 O-Levels - English and Mathematics - and dispense with education after that point, those wanting entry- to middle-clerical positions or to go on to A-Levels to take a further 5 tailored to their ability at 16, and those most able who want to go to university to take 3+ A-Levels at 18. But it is impossible to see how we can improve education in general and the teaching of History in particular as long as it is a crime - a BNP hate crime - to announce that one is proud of being British.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Brownian Motion

”If there is a fault, it is our collective responsibility. All of us have to have the humility to accept that over the last few years, things got out of alignment.”

So says Alistair Darling about Gordon Brown's mismanagement of - well - everything. On the cusp of his meeting with Obama, it must be the very last thing he wants to hear: the equivalent of my asking Idi Amin who catered his finger buffet and the answer being 'why, I did'. Such shameless hijacking when Brown is out of the country trying to make nice with the big boys suggests Brown will be out on his ear or appropriate body part in the next few weeks. Still, the Master of Delusion should take comfort that his predecessor, mass murderer and worshipper at the feet of Bernays, is making a six figure sum each year by preaching to the converted, mediating between hostile Middle Eastern forces ("now, Ari and Abdullah: shake hands and play nicely") and popping up at any international gathering which didn't tell the doormen to keep him out. 
All this double-dealing and newsthink really makes me inclined to run for political office - if I weren't flattened by M.E.; pretty hard to campaign when you're prostrate - because at least I admit when I'm wrong, own up to my mistakes and try to make things right by asking others what they would like, rather than what I think they'd like. I also don't think that I know 'best' on every occasion or have all the answers; to do so is to strangulate thought, stifle debate and snuff out potential. Heigh ho, there we go.

In the news today, we learn that extremist behaviour continues to dominate the headlines: the Sri Lankan cricket team was brutally ambushed in Pakistan. Which of course will have the effect of driving Pakistan further into the metaphorical wilderness. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those related to the victims and survivors; and to the Camerons, who are going through the inconceivable pain of having to bury their child today. 
Elsewhere, 'public opinion' (for that read 'Labour pundits') is still trying to find ways of clawing back Fred Goodwin's salary. DON'T. Not unless you want to set the precedent for irrevocably breaching and breaking Contract Law in England and thus creating utter anarchy. And they're trying to force Gail Trimble into a rematch because one of her team mates graduated last year. Well, she answered all the damn' questions, didn't she? Isn't this merely going to be an opportunity to rub her opponents' noses in it for the second time in a row? Still, I suppose the resultant low self-esteem will make psychiatrists richer which, after all, is what it's all about.

I mentioned a few days ago that Lockheed Martin has developed a kind of bionic exoskeleton to rival Raytheon mechwarrior gear. It's Iron Man come to life. Unfortunately, the 'public' doesn't have a chance to question the ethical implications of developing such devices, what will happen when the other side develops the same prototypes, and how this will impact on innocent civilians (charmingly called 'collateral' in wartime). Rather than any pretence of democracy of federalism operating in the present day, it seems more that we are in the merciless clutches of totalitarianism and oligopoly. Totalitaroligopoly. God help us.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Daily Roundup

Not that much today, as my joint pain is off the charts. Most links are to today's Telegraph. If I've forgotten anything, post below as per normal.

1) Law? Pah. Courts? Meh. A gratis Stolypin's necktie with every pension if you don't give it back even though it was approved by ministers because the government says the people's opinion is more important than the rule of law? Fred Goodwin, you have a choice of classic hemp or piano wire:

2) Ask not what the BNP can do for you, but for what you can do for the BNP:

3) Against all the evidence, Brown insists that the EU's just a-brimming over with brotherly love. I call that Munchausen's by proxy:

4) More money for Palestine, despite the fact that it gets the biggest cash handout on a daily basis in the world. This time the money will be going to - oops, my mistake - its usual pocket, Fatah, in a bid to ostracise Hamas. Ironic, when the Israeli government encouraged the establishment of Hamas as a counter to Fatah.

5) Obama's strikes on Pakistan continue, though you'd never know it. This is number 4.

6) Once Saudi and the UAE have got you jumping through hoops, your days as a world dominatrix are over:

7) It's Not News To Us: this piece was printed on an online Iranian site about three weeks ago. But it's easier to keep people hating Iran: draws their attention away from the Depression.

8) More young people are harming themselves than ever in jail. Presumably because leaving it for an open prison's not much of a prospect.

9) Expect the smashin' lootin' burnin' to resume: the mass murderer and war criminal Tony Blair popped over to Gaza for a cuppa today, dispensing healthy advice on how to create peace. Presumably by turning a country into a smoking ashtray and getting your friends lucrative building contracts. That's democracy, boys!

10) About time too: stem cell research based on skin cells, not potential human beings. Yet another essential moral issue the country wasn't consulted about.

Revolt Face

"The Prime Minister has said it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a court of law this contract but it's not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that's where the Government steps in," says Harriet Harman. The issue? No, not human rights violations; Fred Goodwin's pension.
I happen to think Goodwin a quite sizeable sewer. His execrable management of HBOS has contributed to the taxpayer's future impoverishment; they've had to bail him out, and are now paying for him to be comfortable whilst they're eating out of no-label cans by candlelight. But two facts remain: the pension was agreed with ministers and its details should never have been disclosed to the general public. Appealing to the mob, that 'court of public opinion' that elsewhere rushed out Saddam Hussein and hanged him without trial, that gloated as the tumbrils passed and the horrified heads of the nobility dangled before the bloodthirsty maw of the Revolution, is to place us firmly on the path to 1917 Russia. If public opinion had mattered so much, there would have been no Iraq war. If public opinion had mattered so much, the ID card initiative, ContactPoint, mass CCTV surveillance and a host of other initiatives would have been abandoned. If public opinion did indeed matter at all, Gordon Brown would have relinquished his position by now and the country have gone to the polling stations.
The frank acknowledgment that the law means nothing to the government sits uneasily with Jack Straw's importunate bleats in The Guardian: 'there was no golden age of liberty. Since 1997, we've done more than any government to extend freedoms than ever before'. One rule for them, one rule for us: a vague nod to parliamentary scrutiny for them, 18 million security cameras for us. It sits even more uneasily with Purnell's statement that 'minorities' (including women: half the human race, of which I am one) are going to get extra help during the downturn. If there were ever a rallying cry to the BNP standard, this is it. Throwing cash at some people to the exclusion of others is not going to encourage mutual peace and harmony. This policy represents yet another volte face on the DWPs recent shakeup of Incapacity Benefit - for which, in order to qualify, you have to be unkempt, unable to use a telephone book or remember an address: if you can do any of these things, you're faking it; another 'let's see if this works' social experiment on we the guinea pigs.
Goodwin is being canned for capitalising upon the credit crunch. What of Rupert Murdoch who boasted that he positioned NewsCorp to ride out a Depression a full year before it happened? Where is the government's condemnation of Murdoch's shark tactics? Or Mandelson's 'favours for friends' in relation to Heathrow's third runway?
Blatant hypocrisy aside, I would send out the strongest warning to Harman and her ilk not to attempt to appeal to the mob. The mob cares nothing for order; it revels in chaos. Let the mob run free and economic annihilation will follow; on its heels will come Hitler. The mob is indiscriminately destructive; it tears down and kills for the delight of it; it does come equipped with bolts of piano wire and does hang people from the nearest lamppost. And, whilst she and her Cabinet cower in her underground bunker as the force she has unleashed rampages overhead, it is the people she is supposed to protect who will suffer.
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison