(hat tip: DarkfireTaimatsu on FSTDT)
Other than being a bit to soft on fundies at the end, this seems pretty reasonable to me.
(hat tip: DarkfireTaimatsu on FSTDT)
Other than being a bit to soft on fundies at the end, this seems pretty reasonable to me.
If you hadn’t already noticed, I am a keen hobbyist photographer. I love going out with my family and taking pictures of everything around me. This is pretty harmless and it gives us nice pictures to hang on the walls or foist off on relatives in place of Christmas and Birthday presents. As a pastime, there could be much worse.
Being interested in photography, I always considered myself lucky that I was born in a democracy where people are basically free to indulge in their hobbies and predominantly interested in landscape photography where you dont have to ask someone to smile.
It seems, however, I was actually quite wrong and it is only my tendency for landscape shots that keeps me on the right side of the law. Despite our “evil freedoms” being abhorrent to the nutcases like Usama Bin Laden, we actually have a lot less than you would think. Actually, that isn’t true (yet) but I will come back to this.
Two news items from this weeks Amateur Photographer magazine give pause for thought about our “rights” and freedoms. The first is a worrying incident in the land of the free:
A TV crew filming a story about photographers being harassed at a US railway station were stopped by security and told to switch off their cameras. (…) Tom Fitzgerald, a reporter for Fox 5 television, was interviewing the chief spokesman for rail operator Amtrak when a security guard ordered the crew to stop filming. Ironically, the spokesman had apparently just confirmed to the reporter that photography was, in fact, allowed.
It continues to mention that this is not an isolated incident (flickr discussion) and the madness that “moves are afoot to introduce draft legislation designed to protect the rights of photographers to take pictures.”
It is doubly ironic that they tried to put paid to the film crew filming the company spokesman saying filming was allowed. What better example of corporate non-communication could there be?
The Amtrak Goons are insane, but are not alone. We have a similar problem in the UK:
Olympics 2012 bosses have apologised to photographers who complained about heavy-handed treatment by security guards at the East London construction site. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) came under fire after two amateur photographers complained following a confrontation outside the site on 3 May. Louis Berk and Steve Kessel say they were left feeling intimidated after guards demanded to see their identification. ODA spokeswoman Laura Voyle said the guards approached the photographers ‘to investigate a report that they had been seen within the Olympic Park boundary’. However, the pair insisted they had been on a ‘public pavement’ and had not ventured onto the Olympic site itself. (…) And [Olympics Security Manager] promised to conduct a ‘review of instructions on how they will deal with issues relating to photography’. (…) However, [Louis Berk] does not feel reassured, telling us: ‘What concerns me is that I still don’t know if the ODA realises that suspicion of taking photographs of their property from a ‘public place’ is not a cause for intervention by the guard force.’
There is more madness around the 2012 London Olympics but this highlights the current problem.
In a nutshell, both instances were the result of private Security Guards not being aware of the rules regarding their location. This is down to poor education by their employer. In the UK you can photograph almost anything (some locations are exempt under the 1911 Official Secrets Act) from a public place. If you can see it, you can photograph it. Kind of makes sense really. It is different if you are on private property, but 90% of the time the property owner will give permission. Again, it makes sense. I can only assume the law is similar in America.
What is worrying is that both instances show people have a default setting of STOPPING photography. I will be charitable and say neither organisation put out instructions to annoy members of the public (including tax payers who paid for the bloody Olympic-farce) so the security guards must have assumed the camera was a security threat. Over the last few months there have been lots of occasions where over zealous guardians have taken offence at people trying to take photographs, even in (weirdly) popular tourist destinations like Trafalgar Square. I have read claims that people were questioned because they could be “terrorists doing reconnaissance” (with an overt camera and tripod – good job Johnny Foreigner isn’t clever enough to use a mobile phone camera…) or other equally spurious risks (there were children present etc..).
The problem is, these fears (and certainly this one in particular) are nonsense. Bruce Schneier, BT’s chief security technology officer, recently wrote an excellent article for the Guardian where he dismisses most of these fears. The article is really, really worth reading even if you aren’t a photographer – there are many more “freedoms” at risk from our apathetic approach to them and “terrorism.” Schneier has an interesting theory that this madness where we fear long-lens cameras is because it is a “Movie Plot Threat.” Also worth reading.
Sadly, it may well be too little, too late for our society. We fear that the evil Islamic terrorists will destroy our culture, so to “beat” them we destroy it ourselves. Well done us.
The governments plans for 42 days detention of innocent people is unpopular and the government knows this. Unsurprisingly the opposition are currying public favour and seem set against the plans, but a few Conservatives remain true to their party’s ideas. Extended detention seems a very “Tory” policy so it is strange that the Labour party are trying to implement it and the Conservatives are against it but, I suppose, that is 21st century politics – no party has a policy any more they just want to get votes by any means…
Anyway, the irritating Ann Widdecombe seems willing to stick by her “Ideal” rather than curry public favour and she is going to vote for the inhumane six week imprisonment (with altered access to legal counsel as well) of innocent people. (Do I sound biased? I hope so).
Still, Widdecombe is not so principled that she can actually be honest with the public and, like most supporters of this madness, she wraps it up in false promises and an empty hope:
Widdecombe said that plans to extend the time terror suspects could be detained from 28 to 42 days would be acceptable if there was a “sunset” clause requiring the legislation to be renewed by MPs each year.
“My reasoning is very simple indeed: it’s that if we have a state of emergency then the government should be able to ask parliament for emergency powers, as we did for example over Northern Ireland … providing that the legislation does not remain on the statute books indefinitely until somebody gets around to repealing it,” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.
This infuriates me. The idea that a “sunset clause” would do anything other than give MPs something to vote on every 12 months is madness. If this shocking law makes it onto the statute books it will remain indefinitely.
If we are, as some mad people claim, in a “state of emergency,” how will we get out of it? Seriously?
Al Qaeda is not an organised terrorist group in the manner of the IRA so there will be no Good Friday Agreement. They are not a nation like Iraq/Iran so there will be no invasion then “end of combat operations” (however spurious a claim). Even if Osama Bin Laden surrenders or calls for peace, how will this affect the countless (or 200 if you believe the PM) other terrorist networks?
Our state of emergency, if one indeed exists, is permanent. The whole meaningless-ness of “War on Terror” means it falls into that never ending list of “wars” we fight since we became a peaceful nation. War on Crime, Drugs, Obesity, none will end. None can end until everyone is dead. Bringing specific “war-time” legislation on the basis of this is genuine, evil, madness.
More worryingly, go back to Widdecombe’s example. The government did, indeed, bring in special emergency powers as a result of the IRA bombing campaigns. Policemen in NI were allowed to carry weapons. Civil liberties were curtailed because of the conflict.
The conflict in NI is now officially over. The IRA / Sinn Fein want peace. The government says there is peace there now and Operation Banner is now over. However all the emergency legislation remains – in lots of cases it has got much, much stronger. The original 1974 reason for bringing in 7 days detention for terrorist suspects was the “difficulty” In prosecuting the IRA. This caused public outrage and was described as an “emergency measure” to offset the massive success the IRA were having – ten times as many died at their hands each year in the 1970s as have been killed by Islamic Terrorists in the UK, ever. It is also implicated in several wrongful prosecutions (eg Guilford Four). It seems the end of the state of emergency which allowed for 7 days detention has simply resulted in it increasing six fold.
The recent ordeal of the student who was detained for only a fraction of this time highlights how this is not something a civilised nation should ever do to its population. If I was detained for 6 weeks without charge I would certainly be close to confessing to things I have never done. Likewise, when I was released I would certainly hold a monumental grudge against the state that instituted such acts.
Another thing which really concerns me about this is: The politicians in support of this law, and the media, seem to carry the basic assumption that the person is guilty. The talk is about detaining the person while they gather enough evidence for a successful prosecution. No mention is made of the fact this person is innocent. No mention is made that an innocent person has been put in jail while the police look for evidence of guilt. We have actually gone to the stage of allowing the police to decide guilt on our behalf. Wonderful.
It is a good job we can trust the state to never make mistakes, never falsify claims and all public servants are so well behaved no one will ever misuse these powers. It is a good job because the state is certainly not answerable to the public in the Wonderful Britain of 1984 2008.
I suppose, if people were allowed to sue the government if they were detained for 42 days then not found guilty (or not charged) it would be a bit more reasonable. But, basically, you will spend six weeks at Her Majesty’s Pleasure what ever the outcome.
That can never be right.
It was a scenario that would have seemed like overkill in an Eastern European border post at the height of the Cold War. At least a dozen uniformed British Transport Police with dogs and backup vehicles in the average-sized mainline trainstation of an insignificant UK provincial city, at tea-time on a Sunday evening.
Doing stop and searches, apparently based on the hunches of the afore-mentioned sniffer dogs. Which apparently were experts in the fine old canine arts of sniffing out “drugs” or people who “look a bit
I listened to one father challenging a Transport policewoman about the fact that his teenage son’s details – name, address, date of birth, etc – had been collected to go in a database. …. Despite a search of all the lad’s pockets, socks and so on, not having turned up an aspirin, a knife, a gun or a handy pocket-sized stick of semtex.
The father pointed out that any other time the lad is stopped, the information that pops up will record him as the subject of a drugs/weapons/terror search. Thus setting him off on a path that leads to an identification as somehow having warranted this suspicion.
The policewoman said words to the effect that it was just tough. That’s just the way things are. And no, there was nothing he could do about it. The database entry stands. All the details collected from such stops go into the database of information on – well – close to everybody that they can get information from .
Blimey, I didn’t even realise that British Transport Police had rights of random stop and search. Let alone rights to gather information on people’s names addresses and travel plans. Oh, yes, RIPA. D’oh. It’s probably only an oversight that they didn’t demand DNA.
I am so innocent. Who would have thought that a teenager buying a train ticket, with his parents, could probably be an international drug dealer or a suicide bomber? Well, better to be safe than sorry. Silly me.
A huge policeman came to physically back up the policewoman, in case the father might actually raise his voice, cuss or commit some other subversive act.
At this point, I could see a potential for nothing good to come of it for anyone who wasn’t in uniform, so I sidled off in a cowardly manner…….
Oh how times have changed since the halcyon days of the first and second world wars (as well as the wonderful Cold War period). Following on from a line of thinking in my previous post, it seems there are some other generalisations you can make about societies that have experienced the horrors of war, and those that haven’t1.
It seems to me that in our current, peace-addled, societies if a month goes by without a government body declaring war on something the world will stop rotating. This week, New Scientist reports2 “Plans drawn up for a war on drink.” Wow. A real war on drink. Amazing. Will people get medals? When will the US invade the ocean? Comically, the online version tempers its headline somewhat, choosing to use the less comical “WHO considers global war on alcohol abuse.” I find the print version more honest though. (I will attack this at a later date)
Even ignoring the sheer comedy of a “war on drink” there are some telling aspects of modern, western, culture here. It seems every time there is a societal “problem” that a government (or international) organisation want to diminish, the only way it can get public attention is by declaring a war against it. In recent years we have mounted a war on poverty, obesity, hunger, want, crime, drugs and the ever comical war on terror. Are any of these real wars? Of course not. They are just victims of the increasing need to over-dramatise everything to get public attention.
Are they “winnable” wars? Again, no. Can they ever end? Still no.
And herein lies the problem I have with all this word-nonsense.
Westerners (at least English speakers) have a strange association with the term “war.” While it has become the norm for a war to be declared on everything and anything, we still have a lingering memory of what war really entails. This creates a strange situation where people will sacrifice their rights and liberties because “we are at war” without realising the term has simply been misused. Giving up an essential liberty for the “duration” of one of these insane wars is foolhardy – the war will never end so the liberty will never return. Even the War on Terror, which at least involves military action, is not a war the traditional sense of the word.
Compare our peace-loving present with the past of a mere 30 years ago. In the mid-1970s most people in the West could remember the War, lots had served in smaller wars (Korea, Vietnam, Borneo, Aden etc) and there was the ever present threat of a REAL BIG WAR with the USSR. Scary times. Genuinely scary.
Into this mix, we throw in a wide set of terrorist organisations who are bombing, shooting and kidnapping all over the place. Planes were regularly hijacked, visitors to the middle east had a 50:50 chance of being kidnapped each day and the IRA were doing their level best to turn the UK into one big fireball. Even Africa was in at least as much chaos as it is today – only instead of the locals killing each other it was mostly lunatics trying to be mercenary kings.
Throughout this crazy time did we have a war on Smoking? Drink? Obesity? Crime? Violence? Drugs? Nope. We didn’t even have a war on terror; western governments understood that declaring “war” on the terrorists gave them a status they didn’t deserve and changed how the state had to interact with them. One of the things the IRA/INLA hunger strikers were campaigning for was recognition of their struggle as being a war. Instead of starving to death, all they had to do was convert to Islam apparently.
What has changed over the world? So far, the Islamic terrorist threat has killed less British people than the IRA did in 1970 but we are a thousand times more frightened. Does this explain why we declare war on anything and everything?
It strikes me, that in the same manner people who have never experienced war sometimes long for it, a culture which has forgotten the horrors of war may start to long for it.
Worryingly, does this imply western society will, out of fear of the bogeyman, keep going to “war” on things until a real big war reminds everyone what they were trying to avoid? Crucially, when can we declare war on declaring war?
1: I am fully aware that these are generalisations. I am seeking to do no more, and no less, than discuss a trend. There will always be examples which flow counter to this and I wont lose any sleep over them.
2: Unfortunately you need to be a NS subscriber to get full access to this. Buy the magazine or trust me…
The tragedy of missing Madeleine McCann seems no closer to ending than it did three months ago. During this time the media personification of the parents has alternated between saint and sinner – sometimes seemingly at random. For the most of it, in Portugal, the McCann parents have been looked at as (at best) negligent parents while (again, for most of the time) in the UK the middle class, white, professional, religious status of the parents has ensured they have been seen as saints who are undergoing a terrible ordeal. This changed recently, when for a short period the tabloids smelt more blood and in the wonderful manner of the press changed allegiances, barely stopping short of calling for their execution (mentioned previously). Given the natural order of the universe, the “truth” probably lies somewhere between the two extremes and I certainly have my own personal opinion. I should stress at this stage that my opinion is based on nothing other than gut feeling and the information made available by the press, so I have no intention of going into detail about it.
Before I go on, I would also like to point out that one of the main search terms which is driving traffic here recently is a variation on the words “Kate McCann Guilty Violent Murderer.” Given that this is generating a LOT of traffic, I can only guess at public opinion on the matter.
I digress. Risking eternal disfavour by the Great Antero Vipunen, I actually read the Sun newspaper today. I know. I am sorry. I will try not to do it again. In it, good old Archbishop John Sentamu writes a piece titled: We Must Have Faith For Maddie
Despite the overt religious tones in which the the piece is written, this is a largely secular humanist bit of writing with the basic theme being that the presumption of innocence is the bedrock of the legal system. For example, he relates this parable:
In 359AD a trial took place where a local governor, Numerius of Narbonne, was accused of raiding his own coffers. There was little proof but that didnâ€™t stop the whispers and accusations. Still, the prosecutor was convinced the governor was guilty and said as much to the judge, the Roman Emperor Julian. At his trial, the governor denied the charges and the case was due to be dismissed.
The prosecutor was furious: â€œOh, illustrious Caesar,â€ he raged, â€œIf it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?â€ Emperor Julianâ€™s response has been repeated in countless trials for the past 1600 years: â€œIf it suffices to accuse, what then will become of the innocent?â€
And, for once, I find my self in total agreement with the Archbishop of York. Scary.
Sadly, despite the valid comments the Archbish makes and the fact the Sun newspaper of all papers prints it, there are a few things which still make me uncomfortable about it. I agree whole heartedly that as a society we should reinforce the automatic presumption of innocence.
Now, with this in mind, have a flick through the Sun news paper (or any media output over the last, say, day) and see how many examples there are where a person accused of a crime is assumed to be guilty. It is a regular occurrence. Take poor Robert Murat for example – due to his past he was largely assumed to be guilty of anything people wanted to accuse him of. He had no support from the various churches, he had no support from rich idiots. He had to defend himself against the court of public opinion.
Not so for the McCann parents. The cynic in me is screaming this is entirely down to their perceived image as “successful” white professionals – anything which implies this part of our society can harbour evil seems to damage the national psyche. In the same edition of the Sun which calls for the return of innocent until proven guilty, OJ Simpson is pretty much called a murderer several times. Is this hypocrisy?
Anyway, enough ranting about this obvious state of the world. Dr Sentamu concludes his article with something that produced mixed emotions:
Our focus must again be upon the love of the parents for their lost daughter, for their hope that they may one day be reunited with her and for their faith that she is still alive.
These must be our watchwords â€” faith, hope and love. For as St Paul once wrote, in the end it is these three which remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Wonderful words, and I too hope she is alive and unharmed. The adult in me is aware that this hope is pretty much doomed to be dashed against the rocks of reality, but I would like it to be so.
Sadly, and again this is cynic in me now, the plight of poor Maddie has shown that despite all the prayer in the world (and the wishes of his representative on Earth, the Pope), the Christian deity will not intervene to save even one life, nor will s/he take action to return a lost child to an apparently grieving family. From this I can only draw one of three conclusions:
It is up to you which option you go for, but I know which one I think is true…
[tags]McCann, Madeleine, Kate, Kate McCann, Maddie McCann, Sentamu, Archbishop of York, Society, Law, Rights, Liberties, Philosophy, Robert Murat, Gerry McCann, The Sun, Tabloids, Media, UK, Culture, Civil Rights, Trial, Crime, Murder, Dr John Sentamu, Church of England, Catholics, CofE, Roman Catholic, Pope, Portugal, Police, Atheism, Humanism, Faith, Hope[/tags]
Some people get all the luck and manage to cultivate their own crop of fundamentally hatstand commenters. I was reading the generally excellent Effect Measure blog over on scienceblogs today and I came across a post titled “Osama visits Bush in Oz, says it’s all a misunderstanding.” It is well worth a read but I know how you all like to stay here so I will summarise it.
Basically, the President of the US was on a visit to Australia. As you can imagine this resulted in all manner of high security perimeters being established and all manner of security guards employed to keep bad people away. A bunch of Australian comedians mocked up a Canadian diplomatic convoy, with one of their number dressed as Usma Bin Laden and made it through the outer perimeter – getting to the door of the hotel the President was staying in. It is only when the comedians pretty much out themselves that the police jump them and arrest everyone who moves.
All in all, this is mildly amusing – on a par with any other one of the stunt-comedy shows on TV at the moment. Still comical, but with a more serious twist, this shows that the vast sums of money (apparently $A165 million) spent on “security” are actually pointless. Yes these were comedians, but they did nothing a terrorist group couldn’t do and being able to drive a limo to the ground floor of a hotel is a good way of delivering several hundred pounds of explosive. (Brighton and the Hotel Europa provide UK based examples of hotels being hit). On this blog we have often ranted about the costs that the illusion of security are incurring and this is highlighted by these events. Every day we are being asked to sacrifice liberty, time and money for “security” measures which, in reality, are empty gestures.
Anyway, this is a side issue now. As always, the comments have gems. It seems that Effect Measure has a dedicated commenter who is so convinced about the inherent “rightness” of his beliefs that he will keep posting, no matter how incoherent or illogical the posts have become. This is some one who KNOWS they are right. Scary stuff. Why do we never get nutters like this commenting here?
The commenter in question here goes by the name “M Randolph Kruger” (which is strangely apt) and the first comment made opens with this line:
I likely would have just shot them and then said, “Its just a misunderstanding.”
And just think, people wonder why Americans kill so many people who are non-combatants or allied troops. It seems there is a significant proportion of the population there with a “shoot first so there is no need for questions” mentality. Wonderful, isn’t it? M Randolph Kruger continues:
I wonder of the Canucks think it was funny too?
Probably. Most Canadians I have met actually know what a sense of humour is.
In 1979 Revere while I was in San Antonio the base was locked down because of a credible threat against the airmen at the base. Along about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I think it was the first week of August a car carrying some long haired anti establishment types charged the gate. A stop sign went up, they accelerated. Warning shots were fired, they accelerated more, then they opened fire on the SP’s. Bad move. 30 seconds later the assailants were all dead. Over 1000 rounds were fired and the engine was shattered. So in todays world, especially at our embassies and restricted areas to shoot or not to shoot is the question. Screw it. Shoot them all and let God sort them out.
Now, I can only assume this is largely bravado rather than a real boast. Any modern, first world military which needs to expend over 1000 rounds of ammunition to stop one vehicle has many, many problems. As an example, Lee Clegg managed to do it with four rounds and also managed to kill the occupants. Are American service personnel really that badly trained? More importantly this smacks of a military which has lost its purpose in life. The armed forces are not there to protect themselves from the people, but to protect the people from external threats. Was the base so badly defended with physical security measures (ever heard of barriers and gates?) that the vehicle could not be stopped without such firepower and loss of life? Still, I suppose the sign of a healthy democracy is that people need to be scared of the men in uniform, carrying guns…
These guys think this is funny. Okay, hows this? Say Osama bin a Bomba or one of his cronies made it thru and to the proximity of the PM and the Prez and got them both. That makes Dick Cheney President of the United States. Feel better now?
Wow. Prime example of how the angry rightwingers nearly always miss the point by such a degree they end up arguing with themselves. This is brilliant. The whole funny part of the stunt was the apparent ease with which the security was circumvented. Still, it just shows that deep down the ranting-right want to agree with the people they despise…
My point? This is classic treat a war like its a police action stuff. This leaves the point of good sense and fun at the first checkpoint. They could have been killed. Might have to do that once or twice to make the point that it wont be tolerated.
I think MRK’s point is that MRK has no understanding what he is talking about, but needs to sound off on some right wing talking points. I struggled to follow the line of reasoning here, so I might be wrong. I have read this that MRK is saying people who take part in these stunts should be shot to show that the stunts wont be tolerated. The fact that the overall security is a farce is something which should be disguised so that the general public can sit happy. Is that right? What makes this even more ironic is that the security cordon were not able to identify the imposters in time to have shot them anyway. Shooting them after they get to the bomb detonation point is somewhat pointless. What really should have happened is the security actually earned its money and prevented the incursion.
Freddie Randolph Kruger concludes:
There is a LOT of chatter on the internet right now about an attack along or about next week. Specific target?
Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Say it over and over again. There is a LOT of chatter on the internet about alien abductions. There is a lot of chatter on the internet about Elvis being alive. Neither of them are real so why is this “chatter” more believable? It is interesting that MRK uses a term which TV (24, Alias, Spooks etc) and Film (Bourne, Bond et al) have implanted in the collective conciousness as being synonymous with “intelligence” and spy agencies. Chatter is people talking. It means nothing. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords.
For extra comedy points, MRK posted his “next week” dire warning on 6 Sep 07. Come 13 Sep we may know more…
Manhattan…. Keep it in mind about the above post. If they take New York, they take the country with it. It would knock the markets to the ground, it would flatten our economy with it.
Really? Well the last attack didn’t manage to take the country with it. What is special this time?
Should have shot the bastards…… Then they would have my opinion on being funny around the leaders of any country and that includes Clinton.
Aha, again we see a democracy where the people need to fear and bow to their leader. The leader is no longer “of the people, for the people” but in a special class above the people. In the presence of the glorious leader, the general public must learn to modify their behaviour.
M Randolph Kruger is a nutcase of the highest order. I could spend weeks taking his froth filled rants apart, bit by bit, but I will spare you for now. However, as it has been some time since I got to rant at length online, please excuse one more bit of snippets. This time from MRK’s later comment: (Replying to someone called Troff who has ripped him apart)
And it would seem that everyone there in Oz is in la-la land about this and that its no big deal. You dismiss the fact that if it hadnt been a “giggle group” attack that it could have indeed been a valid one Hell bent on taking out the PM and Bush. I think its absolute bullshit that these guys got this close and Troff I really dont care whether you think I am right or not. But I do expect that you would be somewhat open minded to the facts and that is that they could have been anarchists just as well. Full blown wars have broken out over this exact same thing Troff. Archduke Ferdinand ring a bell? Bush wasnt around then old son and thats a fact. I guess that WWI never happened.
What? No, I mean, really, what?
Following this line of “logic” (sneer quotes intended) gives me a headache. MRK is still 180 degrees away from getting the point and arguing with himself. It is bullshit that the comedians got that close, but the shame is not on them for doing it – it is on the “security” for charging millions for nothing. MRK really is missing this by such a wide margin, I have to wonder if he can tie his own shoelaces.
The bit about WWI really is insane.
Anyway, do you see what I mean? Why does this blog only ever seem to get sane comments? This MRK makes Raphael seem “normal.”
[tags]Nutter, Scienceblogs, Society, Australia, Terrorism, Culture, Security, Safety, America, Osma Bin Laden, Philosophy, Effect Measure, Democracy, Rights, Liberties, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Civil Disobedience, Rightwing Idiot, Rightwing, Military, Scaremongering, FUD, Fear, Terror[/tags]
At the risk of turning this blog into a never ending stream of rants about public perceptions of crime, it seems there are even more woo-like nonsensical things being pushed out by people (Hattip oustudent blog).
On the BBC “Have your say” pages there is an ongoing debate about crime, and public understanding of the levels of crime.
By and large, the comments speak volumes about a people who are so disconnected from reality, so twisted by media led scare stories, that they no longer have (if they even ever did) any objective view point on the world around them. As is always the case, lots of people who comment, have no idea what the topic they are commenting on is about but want to make a comment about how much they hate the government and everything wrong in the world is entirely the fault of Tony Blair for misleading the nation over Iraq. Even the rain is caused by that… Continue reading
Is there a difference between “Justice” and “Revenge?” How should a criminal justice system behave when it comes to punishing offenders? Difficult questions to really answer, but they are ones which need to be addressed.
This thought process has been sparked off by a post on the OUStudent blog about a news item on the BBC today. Titled “Criminal Justice in the News” and it does hit a few issues that I like to get on my high horse over
In the BBC news today there is an article titled “Death driver sentence ‘too short’” which begins with:
A widow is calling for a tougher jail term for the lorry driver who was responsible for her husband’s death.
Grandfather Peter Ellison, 62, of Carlton Husthwaite, near Thirsk, was killed when a lorry ploughed into his tractor on the A168 last September.
David Jackson, 56, of Kirkbymoorside, was jailed for nine months at Teesside Crown Court on 22 June after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.
Mr Ellison’s widow, Dorothy, wants the Attorney General to review the case.
It goes on to confirm that the Unduly Lenient Sentence team is considering referring this case to the appeals court and outlines the basic details of the case. While this is indeed a tragic incident, and you cant help but to feel sorry for the widow left behind, it raises the issue of “Justice” or “Revenge.” This is something, which to me, constantly hovers over pretty much every court case – rarely do victims think “justice has been done” unless the offender gets disproportionately punished – and its after effects are often the basis for all manner of political grandstanding (I wont start on how bad the Church can grandstand – that is a rant for another day).
The BBC article finishes with some telling remarks:
Mrs Ellison, who would have celebrated her 34th wedding anniversary last weekend, said: “It just seems like we are the victims really because he gets nine months and comes out and gets on with his life.
“We have lost somebody special and nine months just doesn’t seem fair.
“I know he didn’t do it deliberately, but to kill somebody and just get nine months, it’s an insult really.”
To me, this is a call for revenge rather than justice. Mrs Ellison is the victim, in that it was her husband who died (Murder is an odd situation in that the victims tend to be dead… 🙂 ), so all I can assume the first comment above means is she wants some one else to suffer more than she has. That is not justice.
Her second comment above is a sign of the hurt she is feeling, but the BBC (and radio news today) have spun it into something else. It is not fair that her husband died in the accident, but no amount of punishment of the driver will change the state of affairs. Her husband will remain dead. Nine months in Jail (away from his own family) and a criminal record is not a “light punishment” – this is a myth often pushed about by the Righteous Right-wing media, mostly people who have no concept of the effects of even relatively short periods of detention.
Crucially, it raises the question of how long would Mrs Ellison consider fair? Ten months? Nine Years? 99Â Years?
Her last sentence shows she understands the reality of the situation, but is still hurting. Mr Jackson did not set out to kill (mens rea remember) and it is accepted by the court his actions were not deliberately reckless. This leaves a big question mark over what Mrs Ellison is asking for here.
Every day people drive dangerously and recklessly. Some of these people have accidents which destroy property, some have accidents which injure people and some have accidents which kill. Should the punishment be based on the (almost random) consequences of the act, or the nature of the act itself?
Equally (if not more) importantly, is the “punishment” of criminals there to make them suffer or rehabilitate them and deter others? Are people deterred from having accidents by punishing those who have very serious accidents? I doubt it.
What would sentencing Mr Jackson to a longer prison sentence achieve?
[tags]Society, Culture, Law, Rights, Murder, Crime, Punishment, Social Rights, Social Values, BBC, News, Dangerous Driving[/tags]
Now, of late, the Guardian Money’s obsession with demonising “buy to let” landlords has been more than a little annoying. However in Saturday’s paper, the Capital Letters section had a bit which was quite interesting. Capital Letters is a sort of consumer rights thing, where people write in following problems with various companies and Tony Levene sorts things out for them. Very interesting reading most of the time.
Basically, this week, some one wrote in saying that HM Customs and Excise (Now properly known as HM Revenue and Customs) was threatening to take them to court over non-payment of taxes. The person was complaining because they did not owe any tax and they were on the PAYE scheme where tax is deducted from wages at source. The unfortunate correspondent had tried to convince HMRC about this but was unsuccessful. Continue reading
I was listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 today (yes, I know…) and as always his “phone in” show attracts odd, outspoken members of society, no matter how trivial the topic is. One of today’s odd topics was about the proposed legislation to force “rights of way” along coastal routes, even if the landowner objects. The Radio 2 website even has a “have your say” on the subject.
Now, I have very mixed opinions on this and would probably lump for maintaining the status quo – we currently have about 70% of the UK coast open for “ramblers,” the rest is in private or Ministry of Defence hands. That said, I can see the arguments put by some of the ramblers – and as a big fan of the countryside in general I think it would be nice if there were more places to go. Anyway, from this position of steadfast ambivalence, it amused me to see one of the arguments used on the show (repeatedly).
Basically put, there was an argument that as we are “born on an island” we have a “birthright” to walk the coast. Seriously. Well, when I say seriously, I mean it is not something I have made up for giggles here but I am not 100% sure how serious the people who said it were.
Sadly, the fact that no one seems to have picked up on this during the bits of the show I listened to and the fact people could actually use such a line of nonsense as an argument, highlights the downsides of the UK’s educational policies. Gone are learning classical philosophy and the origins of society. Now people think a “right” to do something comes with no burden of obligation and is identical to wanting to do something.
Unfortunately this watered down idea of what a “right” actually is, means people are less concerned when important rights are lost… So it looks like we will force landowners to allow access to their land at the same time we bring in ID papers, increased CCTV monitoring, longer detention without trial and so on.Â Well done Britain.
[tags]Education, Classics, Classical Studies, Philosophy, Culture, Society, UK, Coast, Landscapes, BBC, Radio 2, Jeremy Vine, Civil Rights, Rights[/tags]
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.
The 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…
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 … 😀 ), 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.
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.
Sorry for returning to the same topic so soon after my previous post, but as often happens, I posted in haste previously and further reading has brought out some more enlightenment. First off, a bit in the main post I neglected to comment upon before. Mr Illeborg wrote:
The veil, I was told by Karen Armstrong, when I interviewed her this winter, has for some Muslim women become a way of expressing anger over the war in Iraq and disquiet with western aggressors. There is not just one meaning to wearing a veil and Abdol-Hamid has herself chosen to wear it. This is something we must accept, even if we don’t like it.
Now this, to me, pretty much undermines the main premise that the hijab is an expression of religious belief and therefore wearing it is a “right” people have. Here it seems wearing it is nothing more than a statement of outrage over actions carried out by an unrelated nation. It seems to me the Special Pleading is going strong in this instance. If I decided that walking the streets naked, with blood splattered all over my face, was an expression of anger over the French Elections (as an example), would that be “something we must accept?” It certainly would not be a pleasant sight. (Reductio Ad Absurdum is a wonderful tool…)
In addition to this, as is always the case, the comments left by the “public” (yes, they are sneer quotes) is even more entertaining than the original article. It goes some what towards reassuring me I am not being seduced by the RightWing (the claims that the left are in bed with Islam shows how truly ludicrous right wingers can get, not to mention this bit of nonsense). It is nice that a lot of people realise the hijab is not mandated by Islamic doctrine and is a fairly modern implementation (which further undermines the argument it is an inviolable “expression of belief”).
As one comments points out, if your beliefs demanded you refused to shake hands with coloured people, would that be a defended “right” in the same manner? Or (different commenter) if your belief led to you wearing a white sheet and a pointy white hat with the eye holes cut out, would that be just as “right?”
Rights are special, important, things. Creating ones where no right exists just to be seen as reasonable and helping the “minorities” helps no one and does little more than dilute the status of rights.