Getting really cross

“Sell everything you own and buy yellow precious metal, fashioned in the form of one vertical long stick crossed with a horizontal shorter stick. And wear it publicly at all times, as a sign of your devotion to me. Blessed are the jewellery wearers for they shall inherit media attention” Book of Ratner ch19.v4

(As Jesus directed his followers in a previously little-known apocryphal bible book covering the Jewellery Company Years)

Determined cross wearers Shirley Chaplin and Nadia Eweida (a former nurse and a former British Airways worker) have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights

Shirley Chaplin and Nadia Eweida take cross fight to Europe.
Shirley Chaplin said “hiding” her cross was akin to denying her faith
(headlines on the BBC report)

I can’t see that it matters what styles of jewellery people wear. I think that their employers have behaved insanely (although I bet they were a real trial to employ). Although, if you know that a job has a uniform and you refuse to stick to the uniform rules, you shouldn’t really take that job.

The problem is that the cross ladies picked this fight on purpose. To bolster the picture of the UK’s imaginary condition of “discrimination against Christians”.

Christian Concern website (find it yourself, if you want, I’m not keen to post a link) is always willing to place itself at the centre of any case that it can use to promote the fantasy that we live in a parallel universe in which European Christians are beingpersecuted.

Increasing numbers of Christians have been penalised for their faith in the public sphere, often due to equalities legislation and the promotion of homosexual rights. Some Christians have been threatened with disciplinary action, suspended, and even sacked for refusing to act against their consciences. At Christian Concern we vigorously resist any restrictions on freedom of speech and expression for Christians.(from Christian Concern)

What? Equalities legislation and homosexual rights are a threat to Christians?

Passing blithely over the irony that people who feel threatened by human rights legislation are resorting to the European Court of Human Rights for redress, do they claim that they are being compelled to become homosexual in order to get human rights? No, I think I get it, maybe they claim the right to persecute gay people is the human right that they are in danger of losing?

Christians have been sacked for refusing to act against their consciences? I would have much sympathy – nay, admiration – if their consciences were telling them they had to resist the government’s ongoing programme to attack the poor and the NHS or if they were campaigning against wars or using their resources to feed the hungry and house the homeless…

But their Christian consciences aren’t stirred by such insignificant social issues. Their moral sense is roused by rules about wearing jewellery in work.

And their consciences can only be accommodated by following the Book of Ratner and wearing jewellery with malice aforethought.

Oh, and spending vast resources on getting their own way through the courts. What would Jesus Do? Well, the same, obviously. I believe he was working on his latest designer jewellery collection for Argos when he was crucified. He thought the cross shape would be really great for the brand.

Told you so..

Today’s Guardian has a piece looking at the effects of the French burqa ban. In a nutshell:

France’s burqa ban: women are ‘effectively under house arrest’
Since France introduced its burqa ban in April there have been violent attacks on women wearing the niqab and, this week, the first fines could be handed down. But a legal challenge to this hard line may yet expose the French state as a laughing stock.

I have to show off about my predictive skills here, although anyone with at a week’s experience of living on this planet could have predicted the outcome.

But still, in June 2009, I said…

Some members of the public will demand police action against women wearing burqas. At the very least, insulting women as they go about their daily lives will become more, not less, common. Burqa-wearers will be afraid to appear in the street.

…Exactly the consequences that today’s Guardian report talks about…

There’s some shame for atheists in this story

Secular France has a complicated relationship with the veil. In 2004, all religious symbols including the headscarf were banned in schools. Even among Sarkozy’s opponents there are very few feminists or socialist politicians who would defend the right to wear niqab in a country where secularism is one of the few issues that still unites a fragmented left. Barely a handful of people came to Notre Dame cathedral to protest against the law in April. (from the Guardian)

I refuse to see how interfering with women’s chosen modes of dress “for their own good” can be in any way feminist.

It makes me really uncomfortable to see secularism used as a smokescreen for racism.

I thought I was at least in favour of the French banning all religious symbols in schools but I’ve started to even reconsider that, when I look at it logically. I hardly think it’s a battle worth fighting. It’s basically unenforceable without causing religious believers to become even more entrenched in their sense of having a beleaguered cultural identity.

How do you define a religious symbol in order to ban it? What are the boundaries of religion?

What about an innocent wearing a piece of jewelry with a Chinese Buddhist symbol? The English youths tattooed with Maori warrior symbols for gods they’ve never heard of and couldn’t pronounce even for real money?

Does it only count if you know what the symbols mean? In that case, most wearers of religious insignia would be OK.

What if you know what the symbols mean but just don’t believe in them? (I’m looking at you, all you people with silver rings carrying Egyptian ankhs.) You might have bought a tourist T-shirt printed with a scene from the Sistine Chapel. You might be wearing a reversed cross as a fashion item. You might even be wearing a religious item ironically (like the plastic rosaries incomprehensibly fashionable a couple of years ago)

More seriously, what about dreadlocks? They can be read in dozens of different ways. Locks have religious significance for some rastas. They also have several forms of cultural resonance for many people wearing them who wouldn’t subscribe to the religion – from people who see them as symbols of African heritage to eco-warriors. Some people wear them for purely aesthetic and fashion reasons. Are they banned in French schools? Would they be acceptable for people who could prove they didn’t follow the religion?

However you follow through these ideas, they become nonsense.

If secularist are to subscribe to the idea of banning religious artefacts worn on the body, how can we be sure that any given object doesn’t have religious significance?

By the way, this might be the time to mention that I have recently joined a religion which venerates the holy lounge suit. We are a small religion but utterly fanatical. All men in our faith are required to wear a lounge suit, with the tie of the Eternal Cosmos wrapped around the neck in a complicated knot that represents the interconnectedness of all life.

I sincerely trust that this doesn’t cause more than minor inconvenience in the French parliament.

Dale Farm (not the yoghurt)

Tomorrow there will probably be a mass eviction of 86 traveller families at Dale Farm, Basildon, despite the opposition of bodies like Amnesty International and the UN’s expert on minority rights.
This eviction will apparently cost £18 million. Not a misprint. £209,302 plus change for every family evicted. About ten year’s wages at £20k, which is well above minimum wage. Financial crisis, my bum. There seems to plenty of spare public money for racial harassment. (Which, as far as I understand it, makes Basildon Council an international rogue council and potentially fair game for some sort of international invasion task force.)
If the historical parallels of where the new Euroracism seems to be heading aren’t clear enough, look at jewify.com. They’ve had the brilliant idea of rewriting newspaper pages and headlines by replacing words like “gypsy” and “traveller” with the word “Jew”.
Just look at the headline examples on the home page. I hope your blood runs cold.

Xtreme bingo

Get your playing card for the great new game of “Domestic Extremist Bingo” from the Guardian Online.

Not sure how to claim your prize, sorry, but there seems to be a £9 million jackpot up for grabs.

So get marking those cards.

No prizes for spotting comedian Mark Thomas in there, either. But you can have him as your starter, so you don’t have to actually see him at a protest to cross him off your scorecard.

Breaking news:
Sorry kids, it looks as if the Information Commissioner has finally tried to spoil your fun. By actually spotting the outrageous nature of the information in this Guardian story .

European court 1 UK Home Office 0

The European Court of Human Rights (made up of 17 senior judges – 17, count them- from all over Europe) has ruled that the UK’s determination to keep hold of any DNA it can get its hands on is a breach of human rights.

The whole judgement is magisterially sweet, as reported by the BBC. It’s not on the EC Court of Human Rights’ site yet but you can see some of the details of the case there.

Otimo. Bravo. Wunderbar. Bellissimo. (I’ve run out of pan-European superlatives and have already stretched linguistic capacity too far for these to be exactly right. You get the idea anyway)

It’s a bit embarrassing that the UK has to rely on the House of Lords to throw out 42 detention plans or the European human rights court to challenge creeping authoritarian. But, as a country, we have become so pathetic that we need any help we can get.

An Olympic Sized Lesson

Some sad news today, with a bit of a reflection on the current fear-based legislative ideas that grips the west.

From the BBC:

Sixteen Chinese policemen have been killed in an attack on a border post near Kashgar city in the western region of Xinjiang, state media say.
Two men drove a lorry into a group of jogging policemen before attacking them with explosives and knives, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is sad news and my condolences to the families of all those involved (on the massive off-chance Chinese people can even read this blog).

It shows that the evil of terrorism is truly a global problem. Oddly, China is on record as having an astoundingly appaling human-rights record. It has laws that would make almost anyone in the “free” west blink twice. It has oppressive laws controling how its citizens can (and can’t) behave, forced ID controls and monitors the activities (on and off-line) of its population.

In short, China has the anti-terrorist powers that most western governments would die for.

Did it prevent this attack? Obviously not. Is there any reason to think that people in China are safer from [terrorists|murders|paedophiles|insert bugbear of choice] than any western nation? Well, no.

If anything, history shows that the more oppressed a population becomes, the greater the “revolutionary” response — oddly the US is both an example of this and the figure-head of the New World Order. Terrorists (revolutionaries) find fertile breeding ground where one segment of society feels it is being treated unjustly and no amount of monitoring, surveillance, torture (etc) will prevent this. The current War on Terror is especially ironic as the “terrorists” hate the west because of our freedoms. In our goal to prevent them turning us into oppressive nations we are becoming an oppressive nation.

Well done us.

Is there a solution? If there is, I don’t have it. In the UK terrorism is outlawed by criminal law. Terrorism is a crime. Can a 100% crime-free utopia exist?

For me, the only reasonable solution is to accept the fact there will always be some level of crime (murder, terrorism, burglary etc) and find a situation where we can minimise its impact without destroying the freedoms we once considered universal and self-evident.

Is that difficult?

Welcome to Babylon

It’s pretty insulting to tell a musician that their music is an instrument of torture. Not that many musicians seem to care. Metallica (crappy band, of old-Napster-destroying memory) are quite unconcerned that their music was a Gitmo standby.

Unfortunately, some artists are not offended by their work being used to torture. “If the Iraqis aren’t used to freedom, then I’m glad to be part of their exposure,” James Hetfield, co-founder of Metallica, has said. As for his music being torture, he laughed: “We’ve been punishing our parents, our wives, our loved ones with this music for ever. Why should the Iraqis be any different?”(from Clive Clifford Smith in the Guardian 19th June 2008)

So respect is due to David Gray for speaking out about the use of his “Babylon” track. He, at least, doesn’t find what the US call “torture lite” particularly amusing:

“That is torture,” the singer-songwriter told Radio Four’s World Tonight programme……
..”No-one wants to even think about it or discuss the fact that we’ve gone above and beyond all legal process and we’re torturing people,” he added.

The Guardian piece had a few words from someone on the receiving end of torture-lite. (Is that almost the most chilling phrase you’ve ever heard)

Despite this, to date, the Pentagon’s semanticists have achieved their purpose, and many people think that torture by music is little more than a rather irritating enforced encounter with someone else’s iPod. Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who is still held in Guantánamo Bay, knows a bit about such torture. The CIA rendered him to Morocco, where his torturers repeatedly took a razor blade to his penis throughout an 18-month ordeal.
When I later sat across from him in the cell, he described how psyops methods were worse than this. He could anticipate physical pain, he said, and know that it would eventually end. But the experience of slipping into madness as a result of torture by music was something quite different.
“Imagine you are given a choice,” he said. “Lose your sight or lose your mind.”

David Gray pointed out that there might be legal implications in using music tracks without permission:

The singer wonders whether governments who use music as a torture technique without asking permission from the artists involved could face legal action. “In order to play something publicly, you have to have legal permission and you have to apply for that.(Guardian)

Just saying… VirginMedia have responded to pressure from the BPI by sending out threatening letters to customers suspected of sharing music illegally. Shouldn’t these copyright protection agencies be suing the US government, instead, if it turns out that they haven’t applied for permission, or paid for the rights, to broadcast music in their Gitmo free concerts?

Also on the endlessly enraging topic of torture, immense respect is also due to Christopher Hitchens for undergoing the euphemistically named “waterboarding” and reporting on how bad it was, even for a volunteer who knew he wouldn’t die and could go home at the end of the experience. (Hat tip to Quintessential Rambling for the link to this story.)

“Waterboarding” sounds so much like a fun new extreme sport, whereas those old-fashioned words like torture sound so cold and depressing. “Torture-lite” sounds so ironic and post modern, as if it’s not really torture at all. Something like being stuck in traffic on a really hot day. It seems that Newspeak can change anything from “morally abhorrent” to “familiar and acceptable.”

(There’s a good thought-provoking video of Stephen Pinker’s talk at the RSA, about how we use language – including the uses of euphemism.)

Victims not Experts

Refusing to register with the BBC to leave a comment, I will vent my frustrations here (although I doubt the BBC care about a backlink from this blog!).

It is common in the real world, and the mainstream media’s representation of it, to succumb to the false authority fallacy. The BBC has another “news” item which does this in a dramatic manner. Seriously, today has convinced me that 24 hour news will be the end of the world.

In a piece titled “Longer detention ‘may save lives’” the BBC begin with:

As the debate rages over the length of time terror suspects can be detained without charge, three people whose lives were changed forever in 2005 by the 7 July London bombings explain why they are backing an extension.

Now, what is “newsworthy” about this completely eludes me, but even the most cursory reading shows the problem with attributing authority falsely. The three people the BBC have dragged out are victims of a terrible terrorist attack, they are not experts on the law or social policy. They have no greater insight to the event, or its repercussions than anyone else. The BBC may as well have dragged three random people off the street and asked them for all the weight the opinions should carry.

And here lies the problem. The opinions of the victims carries more weight because we, as a society, are now used to the false authority. We listen to ageing pop stars when they talk about global economics, we listen to Christian clergy when they talk about housing and so on. We have been force fed the false authority to such a degree it is almost assumed. Modern victims seem to feel they have a right to tell people how to sort problems out based solely on the experience which made them a victim. It is madness. It is scary madness because this drives public policy. Very scary madness.

As I have made this into a post rather than a comment, I feel I should highlight some of the bits I have big issues with. As an example, when talking about the proposals to increase the time an innocent person (well, I suppose they are guilty of looking Islamic in a western nation) can be detained without charge to 56 days, they have this to say:

“If it’s going to help prevent another 7/7, then I have to support it.” [ROB WEBB - BROTHER OF VICTIM, LAURA]

“We believed 90 days was right so I would certainly be in favour of 56 days,” [JUNE TAYLOR - MOTHER OF VICTIM, CARRIE]

He wants the law changed to allow terror suspects to be held for as long as is necessary, so long as detention is dealt with responsibly and is under judicial review. [MICHAEL HENNING - BOMB SURVIVOR]

Great comments, really. They show why laws should not be written by people who are traumatised by loss.

Rob Webb hits the nail on the head, “if” is the critical part of it though. The changes to the law would not have prevented the 7 July bombings. They would not have prevented the recent London and Glasgow attempts.

Worryingly, they are quite likely to further alienate the segment of the population in which the terrorists move and recruit. This will, in the words of the Treason laws, have the effect of providing support and succour to the enemy. Is that really what these people want?

All three say largely the same things about how detaining people for up to 90 days is OK as it may save lives – with references to the tabloid favourite about the courts putting the suspects human rights before those of innocent people. This is complete tosh. It really is nonsense. The rights of the suspect are the exact same as the rights of the innocent person. If you take away the rights of the suspect (remembering they are innocent at this time, over three quarters of terrorism suspects have been released without charge…), you are taking them away from everyone. White or black. Christian or Muslim (or atheist).

Rob Webb also states (and this is another tabloid ranting point):

“In the balance of fairness, I would rather be completely unfair to them, than for a completely innocent person to be murdered on the public transport network.”

(In this context I think “them” means terrorist suspects rather than Asians in general)

This really does show why victims are not experts. I wonder what peoples reactions would be if the people who were most in danger from this new legislation were not a minority group? Would Mr Webb be happy to do 56 days in detention (Interment by another name) and then released without charge? That is effectively what this legislation calls for — just because at the moment “we” don’t feel that it will target us does not make that the case.

[tags]Comment Week, BBC, False Authority, Law, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Fallacy, Society, Culture, Logic, Reason, Sane, Traumatic, Loss, Revenge, Minorities, Islam, Christianity, UK[/tags]

Why it is important…

Over the last few months, I have ranted a few times about how I think that civil liberties in the UK (and to an extent the world over, but I don’t have first hand experience of that) are being eroded as a result of general fear and the media’s incessant pressure to convince people we live in dangerous times.

I also rant about this quite a bit in the real world where, the same as online, I am often faced with arguments which basically say there is nothing to worry about, the security forces are trustworthy and only guilty people need to have anything to hide. These arguments are basically false but it can be difficult to refute them, examples like the Guildford Four or Birmingham Six are distant memories now.

Recently, the latest spate of inept terrorists appear to have provided the impetus for the Home Secretary to be looking at reforms to the UK’s anti-terrorist related laws. As well as on this blog, even sites such as the Register have demonstrated some concern in both the driving force, and the results of this new fear-based-law society.

I have spoken in the past about the problems of detaining an innocent person for two months without even having enough evidence to charge them, and this remains (in my mind at least) still the critical issue over the whole deal. Taking someones life away from them, putting them in a cell and controlling their life is a punishment. Despite what the tabloids may try to make people think, it is not an easy time nor is it a “holiday” camp. Given that most UK prisoners are Christians (interesting considering…) someone detained as a suspected Islamic terrorist is at much greater risk of mistreatment by fellows inmates if they are detained with the general population, or they end up being put in solitary confinement for their own protection. Either way it amounts to a serious punishment that would normally require you were convicted of a criminal offence first (and a reasonably serious one to amount to two months detention).

It would be nice if we could be sure that the police forces across the UK would only enact this legislation on the most solid intelligence possible, and this is certainly what is claimed by the ministers and officials pushing for it. The problem is, this really is not the case. The police have no public accountability (for reasons I agree with) over their intelligence and neither the police nor the security forces are subject to any form of censure should they get it wrong. There is no real incentive for the police to adhere to this high standard — in fact, given the way figures are presented with the totals being more important then the amounts presented for trial, it seems the opposite is true.

A recent example of this has been bouncing through the news since the London/Glasgow terrorist event. One of the key suspects was an Indian born Doctor who was arrested in Australia based on UK police information. Dr Haneef has been identified repeatedly in the tabloids as a terrorist (suspect with lesser emphasis) over the past few weeks and the police were doing their utmost to have him sent back over here (in an ironic reverse deportation) so he could be detained under anti-terror legislation — this would have meant the police could detain him for 28 days under current laws, before having to bring charges.

So that the Australians would co-operate and deport Dr Haneef, the police shared a fair bit of their intelligence with them and this is a good thing. I am not pro-terrorist. As a result of this, the Australians detained Dr Haneef for several weeks and tried to bring a case against him.

Sadly, it appears the intelligence indicating he was linked to the terrorists is heavily flawed. The BBC reports:

Prosecutors had claimed that the doctor’s mobile phone SIM card had been found in the burning car that crashed into Glasgow international airport on 30 June.

But it later emerged the card had actually been found in a flat in Liverpool, some 300km (185 miles) from Glasgow, where his second cousin lived.

Blimey. Call me old fashioned but that is a serious mistake to make and, as the prosecutors were willing to present it as evidence when it was so wildly incorrect, it is worrying — it means they didn’t know their “evidence” was faulty. This is not a problem with intelligence, it is evidence. It seems that the police were unable to establish if they had gathered a vital piece of evidence at the crime scene or in a different country. That worries me. A lot. The BBC continues:

Australia’s most senior police officer, Commissioner Mick Keelty, said UK police had provided the inaccurate information.

“Haneef attempted to leave the country. If we had let him go, we would have been accused of letting a terrorist escape our shores,” he said.

The charges against Dr Haneef were dropped after Australia’s chief prosecutor said there had been mistakes made in the investigation, and because of a lack of evidence.

(read more on the BBCs article titled “Why the Haneef case disintegrated“) Sadly, it is probable that we only know of this because the case was handled by a foreign police force. If Dr Haneef had been detained in the UK, he could have been held for 28 days before any case was even made and if it collapsed in that time, there would be no public information as to what went wrong. Basically, Dr Haneef would have spent a month in jail because the police thought his SIM card was somewhere it wasn’t. Most of the current vitriol against the police over this case is aimed at the Australian police, but does anyone think the UK (or pretty much any other western nation) police are all that different?

I have said before that the main reason there is so much apathy over this is that it seems to target minorities, and that alone is a sign that we should all be concerned about the steady erosion of basic civil liberties. While, for now, it may seem like only the brown skinned ones with beards, funny accents and unpronounceable names are being singled out, once the right has been legally removed it is gone for everyone — Hindu, Atheist, Moslem, Jain or Christian alike (and it brings to mind Pastor Martin Niemöller‘s famous poem).

That is why I think it is really, really, important. [tags]Civil Liberties, Hindu, Atheist, Moslem, Jain, Australia, Christian, Dr Haneef, Anti-Terror Legislation, Laws, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Jail, Intelligence, Detention,Pastor Martin Niemöller, SIM Cards, Evidence, Trial,Terrorist,Terror,The Register, Society, Culture, Fear, Terrorism, Tabloids, Media[/tags]

Landlords – Public Enemy Number 1

Again, this is a long, non-Atheist, rant. If you are reading on the magnificent Planet Atheism, or have come to the blog looking for philosophical insights into religion, please feel free to skip.

Depending on which sections of the UK media you have access to, you could be mistaken for thinking that, recently, buy to let landlords are the Earthly incarnation of evil itself and that any day now George Bush will declare war on them. As always, this is especially prevalent in the “left” media (what remains of it) but it has echoes all over. An example, is this weeks “Guardian Money” pages which has a massive spread about the evils of Buy-To-Let, along with a page of letters from readers who also think landlords are the definition of scum. The joys of the internet mean you can now read this online.

Highrise StockholmPersonally, I think it is all nonsense. I am pleased about this, as I have noticed a slight left-wing tendency in my previous posts, so hopefully this will bring me back to the centre :-D .

Blocks of Flats in StockholmThe basic premise, in this article anyway, is that buy-to-let landlords have little regard for the local “community” and allow their properties to fall into disrepair. The secondary premise, and the main reason people hate buy-to-let-landlords in general, is that people who can afford to buy multiple houses are pushing house prices up, beyond the reach of any first time buyer. This is (sort of) supported by the data which shows the average UK house price is now around seven to nine times the average UK salary.

Before I attack some of the nonsense in these premises, I must declare an interest. I own a house which is rented out. I bought the house knowing I was unlikely to live in it for many a year and I still don’t live in it. I don’t even live in the same country the house is in. As a result, I do worry that legislation which affects buy to let landlords will affect me, and this gives me a fairly strong opinion – I may not be fully objective…

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Catholic church doing what it does best

The Vatican has told people not to give money to Amnesty International. You might assume the Catholic Church was disturbed that charity money might be flowing in other directions than into its own overstuffed coffers but no, it’s more than that.

Amnesty seems to have said abortion was OK in cases of rape or incest. Hardly a “woman’s right to choose” argument. More of a “victim’s right not to spend the rest of their life paying the price for someone else’s crime” argument. I’d be very surprised if you can find more than one in a hundred non-Catholics in Western Europe who would disagree with Amnesty on that, no matter how “pro-life” they were otherwise.

According to the BBC, Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

‘s president, Cardinal Renato Martino, described abortion as “murder”.
“And to justify it selectively, in the event of rape, that is to define an innocent child in the belly of its mother as an enemy, as ‘something one can destroy’,” the cardinal said.

Let’s forget the mother for a moment – let’s think of the “innocent child”. What child would benefit from having a mother who doesn’t want him or her? What child would want to find out his or her father is a rapist? In any case, who is going to feed, clothe and nurture this child?

The Church? Well, it has orphanages or it can sometimes find adoptive “good Catholic” parents.. (If it weren’t for the horror stories about how some nuns and priests have abused the children in their “care”, you might almost think this would be the preferable option to being brought into a life where your parents favoured guilt-inducing ritual sufficiently for church adopotion agencies to accept them. Ah, they definitely wouldn’t be gay though. Well that’s a relief, then. Although it seems that you could never be sure the local priest wasn’t a paedophile…)

Hang on a minute, I momentarily imagined that trying to fight against torture and political imprisonment and so one might represent the Christian values that they tell us atheists we lack. No, clearly, the rights of the foetus, however created, outweigh the human rights of living men, women and children.

The wonders of commenters

As always, after reading an inflammatory post somewhere like the BBC or the Times, reading through the comments is even more entertaining, if equally infuriating. It shows that while there are significant number of people who realise the implications of the policies (i.e. they agree with me, that’s all I ask … :-D ), there are a lot live up to the life rather than liberty mantra. As always the tried and tested “If it keeps us safe it is good” routines are brought out with sickening regularity.

Take this little chestnut from “Don Roberts, London” for example:

We live in world full of people who are determined to destroy our way of life and impose their own set of values, prejudices and beliefs on us not to mention kill as many of us as possible. I just wonder how those who freely oppose tough legislation would like to live under such people. Any law abiding citizen of this country should have nothing to fear from such legislation. If the price of our freedom is a little inconvenience, that has to be preferable to mass murder on our streets.

Where do I start with this… The first sentence is just a statement of the (apparently) obvious and bears little or no relation to what comes next. If this is true, it is true with or without the proposed legislation. The next sentence is funny. It is saying the poster wonders how those who oppose draconian, authoritarian states would like to live under a draconian, authoritarian state. Madness.

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The New State Of Fear

Long rant – not really atheist if you want to skip it!

Today’s headlines on the BBC news page are a touch disconcerting, even though they are pretty predictable. At the moment, the lead article is headlined “Brown plans new anti-terror laws” which shows that Gordon Brown is intending to take the reins of government with a firm hand. Sadly, this firm hand seems unconcerned with what is good for the nation, society or pretty much anything other than stealing the Conservatives thunder on the “Tough on Crime” issues.

Terrorism is a wonderful bugbear for UK political parties. We have lived with the constant spectre of terrorist attacks for longer than I have been alive now – I remember from my youth regular news items about bombings in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Guildford and the like. Every Christmas there was a new IRA terror campaign aimed at scaring people away from the shops. Litter bins were removed from public places. The troubles across the water in Northern Ireland were an order of magnitude greater, to the point at which attacks which only killed a few people were two routine to mention on the news.

During the years of the troubles (probably counted as late 1960s to the end of the millennium), all the UK political parties thought they knew how best to deal with the terrorist threat. There were more than just the IRA though, numerous Marxist, socialist, or other crackpot groups with some form of agenda had a go – the IRA (or Provisional IRA to be more accurate) were just better at it and got more publicity. Many methods were tried – increased military presence in Northern Ireland, decreased military presence, negotiations, “tough tactics” and even internment with out trial. Generally, most were unsuccessful and what seems to have been the most historically successful tactic seems to have been public acceptance. When the terrorists stopped getting media coverage they had to resort to more “spectacular” outrages, this had the knock on effect of removing the grass roots support they had in the past and eventually they began to run out of steam. Obviously, the US deciding to declare War on Terror probably played a large part, but by 2001 it was nearly over.

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