Ministers object to normal treatment

You have to feel sorry for members of the government and their allies. I mean, how dare they be treated like mere mortals, when they are so obviously in need of special treatment – like being assumed innocent until proven otherwise.

In an interesting example of double standards, the former home secretary lashed out at the police for their heavy handed tactics: (from the guardian)

David Blunkett, the former home secretary, yesterday led a cross-party attack on the police for what he described as “overkill” in arresting the shadow home office minister, Damian Green, after he published Home Office documents allegedly leaked by a civil servant.

As fresh details emerged of a nine-hour police operation against Green, whose parliamentary computer was seized and whose wife was forced to witness a search of their London home, Blunkett questioned police tactics.

Drawing a parallel with police behaviour in the cash-for-honours affair, in which a former Downing Street aide was arrested in a dawn raid, he spoke of “the danger of overkill, of treating every case as though we are dealing with a suspicious character”.

Woo, cry me a river Mr Blunkett. The irony here is astounding.

Lets look at this: The police were investigating a possible crime and as part of this they seized items of evidence (computer) and conducted a warranted search of the home address. Gosh. I have a suspicion that in London alone this will have happened 100 times that day. Nationally, there will be over a thousand people who have “witnessed a search of their house” – most will turn out to be innocent. Interestingly, despite the claim in the paper, his wife wasn’t forced to watch – she could have left them to it.

In a nutshell, this is routine police work. Thanks to Mr Blunkett’s drive to increase the draconian powers of the police this is happening to people all over the country every day. We are closer and closer to being “guilty until proven innocent” and it is (largely) down to things that happened on Mr Blunkett’s watch. That he can now whine about overkill almost defies belief. That this gibberish has news coverage is equally bizarre.

Equally weird is the subheading that “Brown and Smith were not consulted” – why should they be? Police investigate illegal activity daily. That is their job. If they had to consult the PM before every police investigation it would truly grind to a halt (and the Bill would be a lot less interesting).

The actual case in question here is of so little interest it has hardly generated any news coverage. For example, the only reference to it in this particular article is:

The police inquiry began when the Cabinet Office made a complaint to the Met about the leaking of confidential information from the Home Office.

Yawn. It happens all the time so who cares. Politicians have become so slippery in their urge to court tabloid popularity they think nothing about “Leaking” things on purpose, so should we really get upset when it happens without their explicit approval?

The reality of daily life for normal people is that if the police think you have committed a crime (or are planning to, or thinking about, or know someone who has, or look like someone who has, or live near someone who has) then a dawn raid, followed by a house search and computer seizure is a constant possibility. This is the world Blunkett et al created (and Cameron will only perpetuate), why are they upset to live in it?

Traffic safety or surveillance?

Any road user in the UK will know about the hordes of traffic cameras all over the country. These wonderful things are supposed to be there to prevent people from speeding – basically they are set up to trigger if you go past at a speed that is above the limit for that stretch of road. If you speed past one, it takes your photo and you get fine & penalty points through the post.

I am not going to use this post to complain about how they don’t actually prevent speeding and are little more than income generation for the local council. That is a rant for another day.

This rant is about the nature of the cameras themselves.

The idea as sold to the population is that this is not “surveillance” of the public (Thor knows we have enough CCTV for that) and photographs of vehicles would only be taken if they exceeded a certain speed (generally the speed limit +10%). However, a comical item on the BBC seems to show a difference.

Leaving aside the whining, simpsonesque “wont anybody think of the children” rant, the concern I have is why on Earth did this camera take a picture of a vehicle that wasn’t speeding? Why was a speed camera recording images of a non-speeding vehicle so the police could dream up other charges?

Welcome to 1984… (again)

Sleepwalking into Surveillance

A few years ago, the UK “information commissioner” Richard Thomas warned that the UK could “sleepwalk into a surveillance society” as result of the measures being brought into place (BBC). It seems he was mistaken with this, and the reality is the UK will run headlong into the surveillance society while willingly blinded to the loss of our civil liberties and freedoms.

The news today has been largely dominated by the decision to allow the Metropolitan Police access to a real-time feed from London’s congestion charge cameras. The BBC headlines it:

Road pricing cameras could be used by police to track drivers’ movements in England and Wales under new proposals.

Now this is a fairly innocuous way of presenting the information, and you would be forgiven for thinking it was perfectly normal and a reasonable measure to prevent crime. Sadly, this isn’t the case. For a start, allowing this breaches the law (Data Protection Act demands information only be used for the purposes for which it is collected) so we get caught in the problem of breaking the law to uphold the law.

More importantly (and with due concern over “slippery slope” arguments) this is a worrying sign that governments feel in no way compelled to keep to promises made by previous offices. When Congestion Charging was forced upon the public it was made clear that this would never become a “covert” surveillance method. Yet less than a decade later it is.

We hear similar promises regarding the collection of a national DNA database, of ID Cards and the like. Is it possible to have a more obvious example of why it is important that every right lost is only done so after serious, open and careful deliberation? Even now, the news was heavy with more weasel words from various groups about how important it was that the police have access to this data to help “save lives.”

As a summary of what I feel were key issues today we have:

On Tuesday, the Home Office announced that anti-terror officers in London would be exempted from parts of the Data Protection Act.

Again, we get caught in that wonderful problem of allowing law enforcement to break the law. Not only do these people want to arrest innocent people and detain them almost indefinitely (as long as it takes to make a case against them – what madness), not only are they almost completely immune from public oversight, but what leftovers of the law they do have to follow is now being removed. For a moment, I had a flashback to the late first century Roman Empire and the Praetorian Guard… When my children are adults, will the country be run by the Metropolitan Police?

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the change was needed to deal with the “enduring vehicle-borne terrorist threat to London”.

The words “Yeah, Whatever” spring to mind here. This is the great monster under the bed in recent years. Every bit of law has to be shown to help fight terrorism and if it does, the public will love it no matter how insane it is. The implication from the Home Secretary’s words here is that if the police had full access, they would have prevented the failed bombing attempts recently. For this to have any validity you have to make some assumptions, the most basic of which is that the potential bombers were already high enough on the “radar” to make the police concerned when they entered the congestion zone. I doubt they were but it is possible.

If they were, however, there already exists sufficient legislation and capability for the police to remotely monitor their movements. This would be perfectly legal. The question remains, what aspect of the current law failed? Politicians (and the tabloids) love scary phrases which say nothing but imply so much that people fall over themselves to agree. For example, look at this:

A Home Office spokesman hit back at claims the documents reveal a disregard for public concern over civil liberties.

“The experience of the last few weeks has shown that this is a necessary tool to combat the threat of alleged vehicle-born terrorism.

See what I mean. A tool combat a threat of alleged vehicle born terrorism. An empty phrase – this way the “spokesman” can’t be caught out in the future when people challenge specifics, but it carries enough menace that some people are falling over themselves to support the idea. Even though this is the “tip of the iceberg” in real terms:

…But internal documents mistakenly circulated around Westminster by the Home Office contain details of a more wide-ranging plan to track journeys throughout England and Wales. …

Mistakenly circulated… Basically this means they didn’t want people to know this, even though they were planning it. So much for an accountable government. This is equally worrying when local councils are being “blackmailed into introducing road pricing” which presumably would be monitored by ANPR cameras…

As I said at the start, we aren’t sleepwalking into a surveillance society, we are sprinting.

[tags]Society,Culture, Law, Terrorism, Terror, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, DPA, Data Protection Act,Philosophy, Surveillance, Big Brother[/tags]

New TV low

Endemol has excelled even its own proud record of providing “entertainment” in the true tradition of the Roman arena.

It’s about to produce a reality show on Dutch tv where three people who need transplants will compete for the kidney of a dying person.

What can you say? What fun. Life for one winner. Death for 1 person for sure and possible death for the 2 losers. Continue reading

Great anti-Celebrity Big Brother invective

Apparently having become obsessed with the Celebrity Big Brother racism (Help me, please, quickly), in common with the rest of the country, I have been really impressed by the capacity of bloggers to express creative rage.

Here are a couple of quotes from blogs that I enjoyed for the viciousness of their invective.

Seriously though, a ‘Lord of the Flies’-style gang of filthy dimwitted scrubbers, jealously attacking a successful and beautiful Indian woman over her ‘filthy’ eating habits (i.e. eating with her fingers), calling her ‘the Indian’ and telling her to “get back to the slums”, to “fuck off home” on the grounds that “she can’t even speak English properly” : THIS is something that a national television channel is airing, and defending as NOT being racist? (from

I want to expand on this point, since this year the cruelty behind reality television has been clearly demonstrated by the racist remarks directed at Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood actress whose main crimes appear to be “being a bit snooty” (no surprise, she’s the only person left in who’s actually famous somewhere in the world), “eating with her fingers” (apparently the complainants have never eaten a burger in their life), “talking in a funny voice” (according to a Scouser and Jade Goody) and being a “Paki bitch” (in the charming words of Goody’s boyfriend Jack Whohe? There has been some debate over whether he actually said “Paki”, incidentally – the first word was bleeped out. Channel 4 somewhat unconvincingly maintain the bleeped word was “cunt” ( The rest of this blog article is dead funny and true.

There were lots of other good rants, mostly by people who don’t actually watch Big Brother, but that category must include most of the non-medicated population between the ages of 18 and 85.

Casual racism exposed

The uproar over Celebrity Brother is fascinating in itself. It’s obviously succeeded in dragging back attention to a tv show that can yield several degress of watchability to the test card.

THere was a great blog from TW here about the Big Brother fiasco.  ( It says it all but I still feel like adding my proverbial tuppenorth.

I have actually watched one of these programmes. It does indeed reek of casual mindless racism. I  also watched a very old Celebrity Big Brother series (both in someone else’s house, I insist on adding, for the salke of my self-respect) in which  Chris Eubank, a black boxer,  was subjected to the same sort of behaviour, from people who were at least less blatantly moronic as these appalling women, no apparent outcry. Chris eubank was the first person ever to  to be evicted from CBB.

Ironically, in both cases the contestants who were subjected to this racially based exclusion behaved with an almost incredible degree of  forbearance. Chris Eubank seemed the only person in his house with any idea of a separation between a stage persona and a therapy session. He was calm and witty at all times. He wore silly outfits as a public-pleasing act. It didn’t work. He was obviously too sane for the house and must have struck a nerve with the largely moronic sector of the public who actually spend money on voting for these things.

These bitchy “celeb” women are not just morons. They were clearly threatened by a woman who is naturally beautiful,  seems normally intelligent. and appears to have done something (acting) to become a “celeb.”  The attackers have no claim on being known other than to have  copped off with a footballer to win a beauty contest or to have exhibit ed their awe-inspiring stupidity on national television.

However, their attitudes are not unique. Jade Goody’s boyfriend was  casually racist enough for a dozen wags in the bit that i had the misfortune to watch.  He didn’t even have the excuse of being a comically outclassed female.

I take issue with any approach that involves pretending that this casual racism is unique to these people and that hiding it will make it go away. If anything, this trash tv has done a service by showing the truly repulsive inature of British racism, which is unfortunately not confined to the people at the back of the queue when the mental and spititual gifts were being given out.

The very media that are now pillorying  a few backward  girls for giving the game away are the ones that are creating a climate of division. A trawl through the BBC’s own blog site about a woman wearing a burkha left me stunned with shock at the casually racist content of almost all the posts. 

Clearly our anti-racism strategies aren’t working. With apologies for pontificating, I’ll take this up in the next blog.

Racism on Big Brother

Loathe though I am to say anything about Big Brother, and I certainly don’t watch it, it has managed to force it’s way onto the nightly news as the “headline” item.

The crux as I see it, is that three or four of the morons Celebrity housemates have been racially abusing the Indian housemate. The news on now is talking about record number of complaints, questions asked at parlimentary question time and apparent outrage in India. (Read more on the BBC site)


This is undiluted madness. Yes, some of the retards in the house are racist. The clip the news has shown is (famous for little more than having an IQ on a par with a rotting tomato) hurling some abuse at Shilpa Shetty. Now, I am sure there are some people who live under a rock and I am sorry to have spoilt their impressions of the world, but there are racist people around. Most of them (sadly, not all) are the under-educated, low IQ denizens of high density housing estates. She fits this category perfectly and the only reason this embarrassment for the human race has ever come close to being a celebrity is because she has willingly demonstrated her idiocy on national television in the past.

One of the comments on the BBC amused me:

Housemates Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O’Meara have been seen making fun of Shetty’s accent.

Now anyone who has heard any of those three talk would be able to see the pure, unadulterated, irony in that alone.

Now this upset about racism, in itself, is not madness. If the programme offends you then don’t watch it. I doubt any one who is not already racist will be tempted to follow Ms Goody down that path because of the shining example she sets children. If anything from the bits the news has shown, the way Ms Shetty has handled the abuse is far more likely to work wonders in combating racism. The news clips have shown Ms Shetty in a very positive manner, she appears to always be calm, collected and rational – not to mention head and shoulders above her opponents in the intelligence stakes.

But, as with all things today, politicians are in on the act. As a result, common sense takes a little holiday and people start calling for madness. Throw in some Indian subcontinent rabble rousing and you get pictures of Indian protesters burning effigies (no idea what they are supposed to be of – they were all on fire).

The things which interest me are the demands that Channel 4 should have edited out the racism. Why? If Ms Shetty has to suffer it, why should her honourable behaviour be hidden from the audience? This would also have had the effect of masking the racist idiocy displayed by her detractors, meaning when it comes to the vote, the public would not be aware of how truly scum-like they are. Imagine the impact and opinion on Ms Shetty if, upon her release, she realised that this abuse had been hidden and one of her detractors was the winner! This is the problem with “reality TV” – it is sometimes too much reality for people. I suspect they only want the reality to be heavily sanitised where they only get the results of specially selected “zany” characters. Shame on the viewers.

More worrying are the politicians comments. Take this from the redoubtable Gordon Brown (as reported on the BBC site):

Mr Brown said that the issue had been raised repeatedly during his trip to the country, adding: “I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn.”

I am concerned about this. It is not just Mr Brown who talks like this but pretty much all of them on both sides of the house. The emphasis always seems to be the country should be seen as one which is fair and tolerant. This heads back to the cries for censoring the outbursts. This strikes me as just trying to sweep the problem under the carpet. Let people admit that there are racist idiots in the UK and we can investigate how to deal with them and educate them. If we hide it and keep up the pretence that Britain is all nice and fluffy the problem will never go away.

On a similar vein, there are calls to boycott Carphone Warehouse (sponsors) and the program and the channel etc. All this is because people are suddenly ashamed to have to admit to the scum in their midst. I say dont boycott Carphone Warhouse (I mean, it’s not as if they chose the contestants) but certainly exercise your right to choice when it comes to the failed celebrities. If anything, say thank you C4 / Endemol / Big Brother / Carphone Warehouse for making “us” aware that these three failures were as racist as they are.