Tag Archives: UK

Lord Palmerston vs Pitt the Elder

The Tories have been playing a game that looks a lot like the bar room argument from an old Simpsons episode.

At Moe’s Tavern…

Barney: And I say, England’s greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston!
Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!!
Barney: Lord Palmerston!!!
Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!!!! [pokes Barney]
Barney: Okay, you asked for it, bud! [punches him out]
Moe: Yeah, that’s showing him, Barney! [scoffing] Pitt the Elder…
Barney: Lord Palmerston!!!! [punches Moe] (from www.snpp.com/episodes)

Except in the Tories’ case, it’s a survey on “greatest Tory ever” and the Conservative Party show less understanding of political reality than Barney and Moe.

(I won’t make any jokes like “the only good Tory is..” Some, eg David Davies, have even been known to do the right thing on occasion.)

Ironically, given the present global meltdown of the financial system, they chose Mrs Thatcher over alternative Tory leaders such as Churchill and Disraeli. Hmm. (Lord Palmerston was both a Tory (Conservative) and a Whig (Liberal) according to wikipedia, so maybe he doesn’t count. Pitt the Elder was a Whig so he definitely wouldn’t count anyway.)

You can’t just blame Margaret Thatcher – you can blame the idiots who fawned on her and voted for her, for a start. Mainly, you can blame the global tide of neo-liberal economic policies.

But it was her mission to dismantle most of what remained of the UK manufacturing sector, giving people the bizarre ideas that

  • as long as the rich are getting ever richer, the economy must be sound
  • messing about with money is a reliable basis on which to base a national economy
  • rising property prices are somehow putting wealth into the economy as a whole rather than making a few property speculators wealthy
  • private companies are so much more efficient than nationalised companies that the taxpayer will magically save money by letting private companies profit from providing public services
  • and plenty more than doesn’t stand the test of a moment’s consideration, if you factor in the awareness that markets fluctuate
  • but makes lots of sense if your backers are going to profit from your “reforms”

(Amazingly, the nuLab part of the Labour Party is also mesmerised by this tosh.)

It’s quite funny that the Tories are choosing the moment at which the mad vapour-industries of finance are self-destructing to align themselves with the personification of the stupidity that allowed these industries free rein. Not as funny as the Simpsons, admittedly. Moe and Barney could probably form a more effective government.

Judges, 1

Front page on today’s print Guardian was a story headed MI5 criticised for role in case of torture, rendition and secrecy about a judges’ ruling that some documents – as yet unspecified, as the ruling is secret – have to released for the man’s defence.

It’s hard to salvage any national pride from this disgusting story except:

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, the legal rights group also defending Mohamed, said: “The British government may have been accused of being Bush’s poodle, but the British courts remain bulldogs when it comes to human rights.”

Indeed. It’s wonderful that there are indeed still judges with respect for the rule of law.

However, the rest of the story makes me want to throw up. The details are so griim, I imagine that any man who reads it will be wincing.

It appears that Binyam Mohamed faces the death penalty, on the basis of admissions extracted under torture, in which the British government was, at the least, complicit. The Indepedent reported last year that there is photographic evidence of the torture.

Here’s David Miliband (whose father is currently spinning in his grave, methinks,)

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has provided the US with documents about the case, though the US has so far refused to release them. Miliband has declined to release further evidence about the case on grounds of national security, arguing that disclosure would harm Britain’s intelligence relationship with the US.

I fail to how “national security” would be threatened by the presentation of this evidence and the documents involved. Surely, this would only threaten our national belief in the veracity of the Foreign Office officials who’ve been assuring us that our hands are clean.

This story doesn’t appear on the BBC. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, because the BBC has reported the story in the past. But even the Daily Mail has a reasonable summary of the judges’ ruling, in a prominent place on their website. Even the Daily Mail.

The world news has been reporting terrorist atrocities all week. Some of these have taken place in exactly the sort of countries that use torture freely. Guess what? Torture doesn’t prevent terrorism. It breeds it.

And, to be honest, I could hardly think of more effective anti-western propaganda coup than the execution of people on the basis of admissions made under torture.

If you’ve got nothing to hide..

Two good (even entertaining, on a serious subject) articles in the Guardian: Jan Morris’s Davis fight is not just for liberty: It is for Britain’s soul. (This was published a couple of days ago but it’s well worth reading just to remind yourself that the whole world is not mad.)

She says that Britain is becoming divided into two camps – those who care about freedom and those who are happy to give it up:

of the contemporary two nations, it seems to me, by far the greater is giving up on liberty. Anyone can see that in Britain, 2008, individuality is being suppressed, so that year by year, generation by generation, the people are being bullied or brainwashed into docile conformity. What is more ominous is that so many want to be docile. They want to be supervised, cosseted, homogenised, obedient.

She suspects that even those of us who don’t want to be brainwashed are dreaming of autocratic powers to put paid to the current nonsense.

Already every free soul, I suspect, has sometimes wished that we had a benevolent dictator to sweep all the nonsense aside, the flabbiness and the conformity, the brainwash and all.

There is something in the point she is making – so many people are becoming so passive and fearful, it’s quite a temptation to think they don’t deserve any freedom.

Today, the intermittently-brilliant Marina Hyde also takes a strong stance against our incorporation into an authoritarian Truman Show world: This surveillance onslaught is draconian and creepy. She says that the level of surveillance for petty offences makes her ashamed to be British.

The past few years have thrown up dozens of instances which made one wince to be a citizen of this septic isle, but a personal low came with the discovery that 500,000 bins had been fitted with electronic tracking devices. Transponders in bins … Could any morning news item be more designed to force one back against the pillows, too embarrassed about one’s country to start the day? Yes, as it turned out…

(referring to the Poole Council’s surveillance of parents suspected of trying to get their kids in a specific school.)

She suggests that wearing a hood or hijab might become a necessity for anyone who wants any degree of privacy in public space.

Yet there does seem a vaguely depressing irony in governments insisting that constant surveillance is essential to prevent our being overrun by repressive regimes who’d make us all cover our heads and the like. It’s these initiatives that drive even the most pliant members of society to dream of taking just that precaution themselves, if only for a bit of privacy.

Of course these articles got a fair number of comments from people who could be replaced by the Twat-a-tron with no loss to the planet and a valuable net saving of air.

I’d repeat some of the more comedic ones here, if only I could see them again on the Guardian website… and if Firefox didn’t die every time I pay attention to its “unencrypted- information- being-sent” warning about the Guardian website and refuse to send whatever is harvested every time I open a page. I’ve looked at the Guardian’s privacy policy and it doesn’t say its cookies will dial home every time you look at a page.

It is still discrimination

As believers are sometimes noted saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The moral of this story should have been noted by the more than slightly foolish Harriet Harman. Today, the news has been full of her frankly crazy ideas about changing the law. The BBC leads with:

Equality minister Harriet Harman has set out plans to allow firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minority job candidates.

The spectre of positive discrimination raises its ugly head again… Confusingly, this is followed with:

She said firms should be able to choose a woman over a man of equal ability if they wanted to – or vice versa.

I am forced to admit the “vice versa” has me confused a touch, but I will try to come back to that.

The basic principle, as reported on the TV and Radio news, is that Ms Harman is keen to allow employers to discriminate against certain groups of our society. No matter how it is dressed up, discrimination is wrong. It is very wrong that some sectors of the UK workforce are dominated by one gender, one racial group, one religion (or whatever). No one (sane) would disagree with this. However, forcing discrimination in the other direction is not the solution. Nothing is better at creating a divisive society. Nothing undermines the “equal” in equal opportunities more. It is not a good idea.

To make matters worse, like the BBC allude, this is a pretty incoherent policy idea (The BBC have a Q&A that doesn’t really say anything it is that confusing). The comment by the diversity advisor for the CIPD pretty much sums it all up:

Not everyone thinks it will create a fairer workplace.
Some business groups say it could create a box-ticking culture.
“This [proposal] is pretty incoherent. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for this,” said Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

It will (and is) provide a massive PR victory for the rightwing pundits who cry that [insert ethnic group/gender of choice] are taking all “our” jobs (and I have never worked out who “us” are..). It will do nothing real to protect vulnerable groups. It is, basically, a perfect example of our current governments legislative policies.

Employers need to be free to chose the most suitable candidate. Most suitable for the job, not the one who is most suited to ensure their workforce is an accurate representation of the wider society. Either the law allows this or it forces an employer to favour one candidate over another based on something other than their ability to do the job.

That is discrimination. That is wrong.

Rights fading away

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.

Blog arrests

64 people have been arrested for blogging in the past 5 years, according to World Information Access report. The average jail time served was 15 months.

More than half the total came from China, Egypt and Iran, but the USA is in there with three and England, France and Canada can boast one blogger arrest each.

I understand most of the categories on a chart that’s made up of what appear to be casino chips, except for “other” and “violating cultural norms.” (Things like “using blog to organise political protest” speak for themselves.) The UK one is in the “violating cultural norms” category. Huh? Violating cultural norms? What on earth are they? Not saying “please” and “thank you”, not staying in line at the cash point, wearing brown shoes with a black suit?

Stopped in my tracks from an incipient rant about denial of freedom of expression when I see that the arrested UK blogger seems to be a turd in human form. The Luton and Dunstable On Sunday News says

Racial hatred arrest for internet blogger

So, I’m a bit torn. I get really irate about bigotry. On balance, though, I still think that these sorts of lunatics are a price we have to pay for “letting a thousand flowers bloom” on the Internet. It’s not as if they disappear when they can’t express themselves. It’s probably not even as if they’d get more than half a dozen hits a day. (Which is where I am sort of cheating, because I might feel more moved to think this was justified if he represented anyone but himself.)

But, what a buffoon.

His photo shows him standing next to a dummy in Crusader costume. I assume that he intends us to identify with the image of the Crusader (which would in itself show a truly pitiful grasp of medieval history) but I took it as him identifying with the dummy

Paul Ray, who uses the pseudonym Lionheart on his provocative online diary, was arrested two weeks ago after returning from South Carolina, America where he was seeking political asylum……..

“I was arrested on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred. They questioned me on parts of my blog. Compared to what’s happening out there I haven’t done that much.

“I’m a Christian – that’s my defence

Political asylum in America? I’ll have to use the LOL word, sorry.

And being a “Christian” is a “defence”? Excuse me while I LOL again. In this case, certainly he isn’t talking about the Christianity of Desmond Tutu or Martin Niemöller. He’s not even talking about the Christianity of the televangelists and creationists. He’s talking about the Christianity of the medieval crusader knights, which bears about as much relationship to a philosophical system as a light bulb does to an Ordnance Survey map of Luton.

All the same, it’s easy to defend the right of self-expression of people who oppose corruption or repression (most of the arrested bloggers.) It’s a lot tougher choice to defend the rights of fools and knaves, but it’s still probably necessary.

Internet ratings

Another hat tip to podnosh blog for another “educational” scoop, yet again proving the Charity Commission to be out of touch with the reality of learning.
[KENYON's FARM Free range eggs]
(Podnosh seems unselfishly willing to read the most turgid official publications or the FT, so the rest of us don’t have to. And to put the crucial bots of the content online, entertainingly)
[Muller Fruit corner blackberry and raspberry yoghurt]
The UK Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, is more familiar with the internet than the Charity Commission are. However, in many ways, that’s a pity, because he sees the web as yet another opportunity to control the manifestations of “culture.” He thinks the internet is out of control so web sites should be subject to controls similar to those applying to broadcast media.
[tomatoes]
He told the Financial Times that there is a need to stop product placement on the internet and to put sex/violence ratings on content in You-tube videos.
[Lurpak butter]
As if these aren’t either ludicrous (suggestion 1) or heinous (suggestion 2) enough, he used the “governance” word….
[mushrooms]
….And he showed his sense of humour is at a culturally-dangerous low level, when he reported a child’s joke and completely missed the comedy.
[okra][onion]

You do have to stop and think when you read a quote from a nine-year old boy in Tanya’s report about whether we are sufficiently controlling this online world in which our children are roaming. It’s funny but it does make a very important point. He said: “I’m worried I’ll get lost on the internet and find I’ve suddenly got a job in the army or something.”

[Vegemite - not a patch on Marmite, btw]
He said “It made me laugh and I’m glad it made you laugh too but I think it makes an important point” which was that children really are worried about the internet….. I kid you not.

(Maybe, when he was child, he was too scared of the video to post slices of toast through the VHS cassette orifice.)

[The Village bakery - Polski chleb/Polish bread]
The wit of a primary school kid goes over the Culture Secretary’s head. He assumes the kid’s in genuine fear at some level, because he doesn’t really understand the nature of a “joke.” (This is the Culture Secretary, remember.)

So it’s not surprising that he doesn’t know that nothing boosts a site’s attractiveness to teenagers like over-18 content ratings.
[Brazil nuts]
This blog has been brought to you by everything I’ve eaten in the past 6 hours.

Last irony on 42 days

BBC News24 interviewed the representatives of the “winners”, Keith Vaz and the leader of the parliamentary DUP.

Keith Vaz looked like someone who was eating a mouthful of shit while trying to cover up his innate gagging response. He claimed he would have voted against it, if not for the “concessions.” He’d better hope he gets paid back handsomely for his vote in the next reshuffle or he’ll have shown himself to have been spineless rather than merely careerist.

On the other hand, the DUP representative looked like the cat who’d just swallowed a bowlful of cream. (Possibly with a delicious dead mouse chaser.) He said the DUP voted with the government as a matter of principle. Oh yeah? He denied there was any sweetener for Northern Ireland. Although, if there just happened to be extra wodges of public money coming NI’s way, he would welcome it. He didn’t even try to keep from grinning.

(Vaz only stopped gagging to be caught in a snigger when the DUP guy said that, although their votes weren’t bought, the NI parliament would welcome any coincidental gift from the government.)

Government won by 9 votes. DUP miraculous conversions to Labour votes were … oh, let me see if I’ve got this right… Hmm that will be 9.

With supreme irony, he said the DUP voted with the government because the NI troubles meant they knew about terrorism. Well, almost certainly, they do. Most of us on the mainland find it very hard to distinguish between Unionist politicians and Protestant terrorists, for a start.

Maybe, I don’t understand this boring political stuff. But, this looks disturbingly like a government pushing through its 42-days TWAT measure by buying off a terrorist front organisation to defeat the opposition of 36 principled Labour MPs (and principled Tories and Liberal Democrats. Credit to all)

Tony Benn said that he’d never dreamed that he’d be present in Parliament to see the rights gained by Magna Carta being unmade.

Absolutely spot on, but, if he was less statesmanlike he might have added, “through an alliance that would fit seamlessly into a plot synopsis for Godfather IV.”

*****************************
I almost promise this will be the last on this fiasco. It has driven both T_W and me to distraction (along with Amnesty International, Liberty, the Tory and Liberal Shadow Home Secretaries, the thinking broadsghheet editirs, brave Labour MPs like Grogan and Abbott, long-time Labour stalwarts like Benn, old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all…) It’s probably going to be defeated in the House of Lords, anyway, but I will try not to not mention it until that happy day.

Miss Marple under threat

Blogging comedy gold uncovered. The slim grasp on reality that we associate with Wingnut Daily is yet again proved to be truly anorexic. According to worldnet daily

Picturesque villages now terror ‘hot spots’
Al-Qaida suspected of moving cells into British countryside

This article, which asks the (by definition) gullible reader to cough up $99 to read the full report, suggests that sleepy villages in the West Country and the Cotswolds are in imminent danger.

The British intelligence service MI5 has redrawn its electronic map of Britain’s “hot spots” terrorist targets – to include provincial university towns, colleges and picturesque villages close to high-security installations

Well, Worldnet Daily, maybe you need to grasp the most basic facts about English demographics. Picturesque Cotswold and West Country villages are incredibly expensive to live in, without offering many ways to make a living that bring even the minimum wage. (Sting and Madonna are the sort of people who can afford to buy houses there. These villages are “picturesque” and historic and remote, remember. The rest of us can only dream of living there.)

The handful of Muslims living in them are therefore very rich and generally, almost by definition, not keen on extremist politics and, well, suicide. They aren’t alienated and uneducated youths on the London-tube-bombings model.

And even if they were, they could hardly engage in plotting subterfuge without it being noticed by everybody in their villages. These are not inner-city neighbourhoods where you don’t recognise the person who lives next door. Like country people the world over, the local residents probably know which brand of toothpaste you use, after you’ve lived there a week. And, mass immigration having largely passed these villages by, they aren’t so used to Islamic residents that they wouldn’t pay obsessive attention to them.

And yes, there are high-security installations dotted around these areas. They are protected by security professionals. That’s why you can call them “high-security installations”, Wingnut Daily. The clue’s in the name.

These picturesque villages represent England to many people in the US, thanks to Miss Marple and several other fictional detectives. Books, movies and TV shows give the impression that Baltimore would be hard-pushed to rival the murder rate of the real-world versions of fictional villages like St Mary Mead and Midsomer Norton.

It almost pains me to have to report that this is fiction. You know, Worldnet Daily, “made-up stuff”. Like the idea that large numbers of crazy terrorists are operating in these places, unnoticed by the rest of the local population.

Real-politik

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, Keith Vaz cited a poll that showed that the 42 day detention madness was supported by 65% of the public. This poll was carried out for the Daily Telegraph However, this could hardly be seen as “good news” for the government, as it also showed only 26% support for Labour.

(Temporarily assuming, for the sake of argument, that a Telegraph poll is somehow likely to represent the truth…) surely, the vast majority of these pro-42 day people are planning to vote for the Tories. Are these Tory votes going to change to Labour over 42-day detention?

Obviously not, or they wouldn’t be saying they will vote Tory, at exactly the same time that they are saying that 42-detention is a great idea, would they?

Whereas, the main threat to Labour must surely be the fact that a fair part of its traditional voter base is decidedly unimpressed by the ongoing extension of illiberal measures to every area of life. I suspect that there are many Labour voters who can bring themselves to vote for the Liberal Democrats, if the LibDems make a principled stand on the issues of Liberalism and Democracy (that their party’s name is supposed to represent.) And there are many more Labour voters who will just refuse to vote …..

Throwing away Labour’s core supporters, with genius actions like compulsory ID, 10p extra tax on the poorest – with its fumbled half-recovery – is getting to be a Labour party habit. (*heavy sarcasm* Turning away from the unions as a funding source, in favour of secret business loans, was such a clever idea. It’s not as if businesses demand anything in return. )

Brown is nowhere near as unpleasant as Blair – he hasn’t invaded anywhere yet, for a start. He could make some efforts to get back the traditional voters by stopping going for the Daily Mail constituency. Read my lips: The imaginary army of disgruntled “ex-pat” right-wing nutters are never going to vote for you, fool.

Any Labour MPs that want to rebel against the vote, should remember that, although senior ministers can make their Parliamentary careers seem (temporarily) doomed if they don’t support it their traditional voters are the ones who can put them on the dole. Be selfish on this, MPS. Save yourselves, not Jacqui Smith’s face.

By the way, Andrew Marr made some excellent points in challenging the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. (MI5 don’t particularly want it; the complexity of a threat is not the same as the seriousness of a threat; the 42 day limit seems to have been chosen just because it’s the most they can get away with.)
The BBC even blogged its own show, which seems a mite self-congratulatory.

Identity Cards Will Cure All That Ails You

Well, first off, thanks to Alun sending me the link to the monstrously funny site called “spEak You’re bRanes” and the simply amazing Twat O Tron, I no longer have the faintest idea if the garbage posted on the BBC website’s have your say section is even slightly real. Worryingly, I think that the gibberish there is actually posted by real people. I say real people, but now I am convinced they are actually employees of the Home Secretary posting nonsense in a thinly disguised attempt to change public opinion. I would hate to think that people this stupid would be able to use a computer well enough to access the internet.

One of today’s talking points is the prospect of introducing Identity Cards to this once free nation. Weirdly the BBC seems to have used the wrong tense with the title, but it is called “Is the government creating a ‘surveillance society’?” and, boy, has it generated some nonsense.

Take this wonder from “Joy Pattinson” (claiming to be from Switzerland, but that just makes me think it is the Twat o Tron):

I have no confidence in this “government” whatsoever! They are unelected, uncouth and incompetent. But I am for ID cards 100% but think they should include everybody over the age of 12 with so much knife crimes in the UK. ID cards are in focus in other European countries and they are not considered security states. But I prefer to live in on with security and less personal freedom than the other way around. ID card protect the honest and legitimates. Those protesting are suspect! Joy

What? Seriously this idiot is claiming that carrying ID cards will prevent knife crime. How, Zeus only knows. I honestly cant even work out where to begin with this bit of nonsense. And, as a point of note, the Labour Party were elected to power in the UK, it is down to the party to decide on the leader of the government.

“John from Wilts” also produces a strangely “Twat-0-Tron”-esque comment with:

I have 2 ID cards both Spanish. One has my name and address on it and my Spanish NHS number and my fingerprint on the reverse. The 2nd card is my medical card with my NHS number and date of birth. Should I have an accident anywhere in Spain when the card is swiped it gives my doctors name my Consultorio (Surgery) and access to my medical records which would include any time spent in hospital and the treatment recieved. What fuss people make about ID cards here is entirely childish and petty.

Again we have another magical use for ID cards to save lives. Quite why some one from Wiltshire thinks a Spanish health service card is any use to them – or different from carrying your British NHS card – is beyond me. Does the NHS even have a system which would allow this?

Oddly, this wonderful life saving use of ID cards is not one they could be put to – so quite how John From Wilts thinks it is relevant is beyond me. Is this an opening shot in the inevitable mission creep ID cards are going to suffer from?

People who support ID cards have a list of things they think the ID card will protect them from. The fact that none of these match the government claims is ignored. Weirdly, the government itself seems unable to quantify what value ID cards will give to our society. What crimes in the (say) last 10 years would have been prevented by people carrying ID cards?

Still, despite this, there seem to be people capable of at least some higher brain functions who support ID cards.

Why?

AIG in the UK

The British can’t feel too smug in the face of American gullibility. Ken Ham is busy dipping into our own bottomless well of credulity, according to James Randerson in the Guardian. He’s been on a lecture tour of the UK and seems able to draw a few hundred people to a venue.

The operation in the UK is smaller but still significant, with an annual turnover of around £500,000. One report suggested it dispatches between 30,000 and 50,000 books, DVDs and videos each year.

Let’s hope that most of these DVDs and videos are pirate copies of “Lost” .
Or else that the word “dispatched” is being used in the sense of “disposed of humanely”. Landfill would be my first suggestion, although I know that’s not too ecologically friendly.

Agreeing with Peter Hitchens! Oh Noes!

By Zeus, it must be time for me to kill myself. I have obviously suffered some kind of brain injury and am clinging on to reality by the thinnest of threads. Today, not only did I actually buy the Mail on Sunday (*), but I found myself agreeing with the obnoxious Peter Hitchens’ commentary. I will report to the euthanasia centre forthwith.

In a piece titled “Nothing to hide, but plenty to fear from Ms ID Card“, Annoying Hitchens makes some actually good, valid points:

She says we “need” to “prove who we are”. But mainly we need to do this because the Government has spun a spider’s web of silly rules, which snags the law-abiding and spares real troublemakers.

I agree. Hitchens continues by identifying some of the future strictures ID cards will place upon us then the bit I agree with most:

These precautions are useless against real money-launderers, paedophiles, gangsters and terrorists, who laugh at them. But they make people like Ms Smith look and feel as if they are doing something.

This is the whole problem with the idea. The implementation of ID cards is useless for its stated aims — criminals will not be inconvenienced by them in anyway. It is a shame I agree with Hitchens on something, but for now I have just put it down to his rabid hatred of the Labour government — if ID cards had been a Conservative party idea, he would be behind them all the way.

Back on the subject of ID cards, proper though — another point I neglected last time I ranted is the madness that ID cards can work if less than every member of society carries one. As long as they are optional, they are pointless for pretty much any of the ideas Ms Smith suggests they could be used for. If an immigrant is challenged and they say “I am not an immigrant” what could the government do about it? As they claim to not be a non-EU migrant, they wouldn’t be expected to carry an ID card therefore you can’t demand to see their ID card…

What passes for Logic in Ms Smiths world amazes me.

(*) In my defence it did have a good “free” music CD, which is the real reason I bought it. Odin only knows why I actually opened the “newspaper” (in the loosest sense of the word) and read anything.

Why do some farmers hate Badgers?

Badgers are always the first up against the wall when there’s a hint of TB in cattle. The BBC reported today that “Science chief urges badger cull.”

This is despite there being plenty of evidence that killing badgers doesn’t even stop the spread of TB in cattle.

The most recent study by the Independent Scientific Group, published in June, also suggested badgers played a role in the spread of bTB, but warned that culling would have to be so extensive it would be uneconomical.
Meanwhile, conservation groups, including the Badger Trust, argue the disease can be contained by improving the cattle-testing regime and introducing tighter restrictions on cattle movements.
(Source: Another BBC post)

Killing badgers is not popular. In 2006, 96% of 47,000 people who responded to a government consultation were against it. Yet another pointless waste of money on a public consultation that is going to be ignored, then?

As the British Badger Trust says:

The badger is one of Britain’s best loved and iconic animals and as such is part of our National Heritage. They are a poignant symbol of the British countryside and a protected species.

A “protected species”, note.

In case, you assume that Britain is awash with wild mammals, especially badgers, it isn’t. The English countryside bears the scars of decades of agribiz and can barely furnish up a half-eaten water-vole for your environmental pleasure. The badger is one of the few surviving wild mammals of any size.

Barely anyone has ever seen a badger, outside of children’s book illustrations. There are a handful of badger refuges where you can watch them from a hide. I have seen a road-killed badger up close. Once. In almost the only area of England that is neither developed nor mountainous. (Probably not for long.)

Badgers are not just threatened by farmers who have somehow come to believe that their cattle can catch badger diseases.

There is also a “sport” (I use the term ironically) called badger baiting (the clue’s in the name) which involves sending dogs into badger setts and killing them. This is understandably illegal. Badger Watch has a News section that consists of recent prosecutions. So, how is it not criminal to consider gassing hundreds of badgers. Even the repellent humans who kill them for sport don’t kill more than one or two at a time. The cull is aimed at most of the findable badger population.

This isn’t a problem because badgers are really cute (although they are.) It’s a problem because it’s yet another misguided assault on an increasingly fragile ecosystem, driven by short-term economic goals, at a time when we are all supposed to be coming to recognise the interdependence of life in our increasingly fragile eco-systems.

There is an online parliamentary e-petition against culling. Please sign it if you live in the UK and you don’t support culling and you can bring yourself to believe there’s any point.