Thursday, 30 July 2009

Debbie Purdy Wins Case on Assisted Suicide

Debbie Purdy has been fighting for legal calcification on the law of assisted suicide, in order to know when a person might face prosecution. She has multiple sclerosis and wants to end her life in Switzerland, yet she's concerned that her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her. Her case was put to the Law Lords today and the five Lords unanimously ruled in her favour.

A victory for common sense, decency and humanity. As I've wrote before on this blog, where is the compassion in families facing the prospect of prosecution, when a clear definition of the law would end it? Laws should of course protect vulnerable people, but there is a difference between inciting people into suicide and someone making a rational choice to end their own life, essentially for them it's an informed decision on the quality of their life.

Assisted suicide is a deeply personal decision and one that represents much more than a choice, it represents your right to your life and your body being your own, not the states, yours. It is long overdue that this should be debated in parliament, as that should be a human right. I hope this will be a spring board for that debate.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Tuition Fees - Lame Duck Government

As part of the deal stuck with Labour backbenchers when tuition fees were raised in 2004, they were to be reviewed this year. Labour have now announced that review though it won't conclude until after the next election, I'm shocked.

Other than striking me as incredibly cowardly, given they introduced these fees in the first place. It also makes you wonder what's the point of them continuing this charade of governing? When every controversial decision won't happen until after the election. What are they doing then?

Certainly not governing. They're just drawing out the time and hanging onto power for the sake of it. Do they really expect to continue doing this for the next 10 months? Putting things off until Brown graces the country with an election. I guess so.

Birther Movement USA

I first heard about this conspiracy theory that Obama isn't an US citizen shortly after he was elected, it appears this as now gathered momentum. Producing a Hawaii birth certificate and birth notices in the Honolulu press, has done nothing to dampen the idea that Obama is not American.

It seems amazing, of all the criticisms that can be made, yet I'm sure it has nothing to do with his colour. I wonder if after they've whipped themselves into a frenzy over this, whether Obama will release the original birth certificate. I hope so, though it won't make them look any sillier than they do already.

To think people wonder why his opinion polls are so high, Republicans make him look good.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Dishonesty Test

Researchers are conducting an on-line experiment which looks at how subjective honesty can be. The research is to determine if there is a common standard of what is honest and dishonest behaviour, this is because in law there is no clear definition, consequently juries will judge based on their own perspective.

The test is on their website, the site also has confessions from people on it, which range from amusing to completely shocking. It's strange the things that play on peoples mind years after.

Artist Jasper Joffe to Sell Life Possessions

This is an interesting idea. The artist Jasper Joffe is to sell everything he owns at an exhibition of his possessions. It does however pose the question is it art? The way he's describing it sounds more like he's short of cash and needs some money. Yet whatever his personal reasons, it provokes a challenge to the viewer - would you do it?

That's important in art to engage people. It's not conventional art nor is it amazing or aesthetic, but does art need to be? This notion that art is a painting or sculpture is restrictive, art can be a concept, an idea, a thought, a feeling, either conveyed by the artist or by the viewer. It isn't a solely a medium.

So could I do it? There are things I couldn't contemplate selling, others that fall more into the back drop of my life I could. Yet that wouldn't be as freeing, as it's a leap of faith. One that would leave me hanging off the edge of the cliff with my computer in hand, screaming for someone to save it. I fail.

Could you sell your life possessions?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Norwich North By-Election

Looking over the voting figures for Norwich North the most eye catching is UKIP's result, mainly because it's puzzling. Is the EU issue a bigger one than is being assumed? There are other possible reasons for the vote, a protest, still too soon after the EU election. Yet something doesn't seem right about it, UKIP's national policies are perceived as being singularly focused on the EU, with all it entails; immigration, budget, federalism etc.

Could we be seeing the stirring of what's in effect happened to New Labour, they moved to the right to increase votes and left behind part of their voting base. Is this the craving for more of the right in politics? It could of course diffuse when Labour are out of power, yet if it doesn't New Conservatism has the potential to do the damage New Labour did.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Left Wing Politics - Where Art Thou?

There has been a lot of debate triggered by James Purnell's born again leftie campaign, which asks the question - What does it mean to be on the Left today?

Defining politics like this is really subjective, as it's not what is the left, but what do you hope for. Yet an answer is needed, as in politics there's more than one way of approaching a problem and how to solve it. In order to have that debate left and right are like wings on a plane, dependent on each other.

Clearly the left needs to redefine who they represent, class is not defined in the way it once was, it's a lot more ambiguous. So who should the left aspire to speak up for? My Grandfather always voted Labour, as he said they were the voice of the people. In such a consumer driven society those people should be everyone. As though a left wing economy will never happen in Britain and nor should it, trying to be fair and protecting people can. Regulation shouldn't be considered a dirty word with the right intention.

Equality of course is important to the left, yet it isn't just about minorities or income, but also the way power is distributed and that has to be from the top down. Currently equality is being tackled by growing the state and legislating, punish people for their deeds not their beliefs. As authoritarian is not what the left should be.

Yet under New Labour it has become just that, along with close minded, unfair, unequal and unjust. All the things that the left should rally against. Perhaps therefore the answer to Purnell's question is just simply - unrepresented.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Brown - Winston Churchill?

Benedict Brogan writes in his article on the holiday reading of Cameron and Brown:
Mr Brown is currently obsessed with Winston Churchill, and how to avoid his fate. Those around the Prime Minister describe how he is preoccupied by the idea of a war-time leader who guided the nation to safety through dark times, only to be thanked with a thumping defeat.
Indeed, never in the field of human economics, was so much money owed, by so many, because of so few.

General Election Tory Landslide PR

Robert Smithson on Political Betting has a very interesting post on a new election modelling system he has design. Which instead of applying a national swing to all 646 seats universally, the model is based on more local data that takes into account safe seats. With the current polls figures that gives Conservatives a majority of 148.

That raises both eyebrows, with that sort of majority the government doesn't have to listen to anyone. We will be in the same position we are now, as to reduce that amount of seats another party will have to get a landslide, or it will lessen over several terms in government to a level that can be defeated.

That's a ridiculous situation to be in. It's not democracy when you go from one extreme situation to another. I've always been slightly torn on the idea of proportional representation (PR), yet if these figures are right, I can't think of a clearer need for PR.

The main disadvantage said of PR is that it will weaken the government, yet that's exactly what we need. I don't imagine it will drastically change the political landscape in Britain, fringe parties do tend to be very singular in their message. That won't appeal to voters unless they want to make a protest, most people will vote as they've always have done, to form a government.

It's more important that with the two main parties both being a source of disenchantment for many and voter turn out dropping, that something changes. The first pass the post system doesn't offer change, just switching back and forth between parties, that increasing people don't vote for.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Prostitution Legalise it?

I was reading this news article about the police trying to shut down some flats that were being used by prostitutes. The local residents stepped in to support the women, who say it is 10 times safer than working on the streets. Has the time come to ask the question whether prostitution* should be legalise?

Currently under the law in the UK** prostitution is not illegal, however the laws surrounding it are - soliciting (advertising sexual services), streetwalking, brothels (where more than one person sells sex in an apartment) and kerb crawling.

Though I'm sure for many the idea of selling sex is unthinkable, but for some it's a choice and others it's not, either due to being sold into it or circumstances they find themselves in. The police need to target the real crime, exploitation and human trafficking. Yet while prostitution is illegal and underground this can't be done effectively, nor can the situation be improved for the people that work within it.

Prostitution will never go away, laws vilifying it always has and always will just push it out of sight and is that really the right thing to do? For me omitting people from society rather than helping them is far worst than paying for sex ever will be. As it's easier to start again or get help when you are apart of society than on the fringe of it.

By decriminalising brothels or empowering the sex workers with rights. We give them access to full and equal protection under the law. Most importantly we get people off the streets where they are most vulnerable, as how can you report a crime when you are criminalised? Essentially there needs to be a shift so that laws focus on protecting people, not the state passing moral judgement. If an individual wants to judge, go ahead, yet that should not be the role of the state in 21st century.

*I use prostitution as a board term for ease.
** Different laws apply in Scotland.

Monday, 20 July 2009

A Mountain of Bad News Was Buried Today

26 ministerial statements were released today, timed so the government won't be able to face difficult questions in parliament. I don't even know where to begin with this, it's just uncensored ineptness. On the plus side we are all less likely to be killed by terrorists, after the terrorism warning level was downgraded.

Damian McBride Says . . . .

Gordon Brown was so angry at the time he could hardly speak. (read story)

He must be in a perpetual state of anger then.

I truly don't understand the running life of this story, why is it so shocking that politicians use underhand methods. After years of spin from No 10, is anyone really surprised? Or do I just have a high level of cynicism.

Man on the Moon 40 Years

40 years today Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, though there are still quite a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding whether it happened. The only concern for me is that the space ship looked like something I made out of tinfoil as a child. It does raise an eyebrow, though also makes the achievement all the more amazing. NASA has continued to surpass itself, yet it will be the words "one small step for man, one giant leap for man kind" that they will be synonymous with.

What could we do now that would have the same impact? At a rare public reunion of the Apollo 11 crew they've called for a manned Mission to Mars, that sounds pretty close.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Lords "Reform" = Don't Vote Labour

lord of reform
As part of New Labour's "root and branch" reform, Lords will be given the ability to resign and stand as MPs. Not get fired for abusing their position, taking bribes or money undue to them, just resign if they want to be a MP and do it. You would be forgiven for thinking the purpose of reform is addressing accountability, both within the House of Commons and Lords. In practice it clearly doesn't work like that.

Speculation has already started as to whether Mandelson will step down to become a MP again. Which is based on the presumption that he's still electable. Yet there are bigger issues with Labours "reform" than a potential Mandelson comeback. Such as where is the reform?

Though Brown said he would clean up parliament he obliviously doesn't want to give away any advantage he has left. Therefore if we want a parliament that holds the government to account and is accountable itself, we need to use our vote to shape that. So how do we do that?

Democracy is a wonderful thing yet alas it makes change painful slow, with the options we have in front of us, tactical voting is the best option. Tories clearly look to be the winners at this election, what's in dispute is who's in opposition. Lib Dems are averaging at 20% in the current polls, Labour 24%. If Liberals became the opposition party it would fire a shot across the bow of parliament and change the political landscape within it.

As an opposition party they would keep reform on the agenda and challenge the Tories conservatism. What would be the point of New Labour, who are just authoritarian Tories that spend more on public services being in opposition? It changes nothing and equals voting for the status quo. This forth coming election presents the opportunity for us to reform parliament, since they won't.

Oops . . . . .

Gerald Scarfe is on form in the Times to.

Checklist for a Fascist State

In light of this article on imprisonment without trial or charge for months. I went looking for a Fascist state checklist. How does our government score?

Continuing nationalism, such as flying the national flag everywhere and taking pride in the national identity.

Ignoring "Human Rights" ethics.

Martialling the electorate by identifying "enemies" and scapegoating sections or particular groups.

Influence of the military - measured by how much is spent on defence against how much is spent on "social" programmes.

Media control, whether by "direct" control or with control in the hands of "sympathisers".

National security having a high profile in policy.

Government is overtly religiously linked to a particular faith.

Protection of Corporate Interests.

Overt sexism, measured as "masculine supremacy" and "oppression of women".

Trade Union activity is restricted or controlled.

Denigration of Intelligentsia and or/ restriction or control of higher education.

Emphasis on Crime and Punishment, measured as how harshly the criminal is punished and how much effort goes to "reforming" the criminal.

Corruption and cronyism, again looking at who gets what job, is connected to who and how the appointment is made.

Fraudulent elections - measured by the level of smear campaigning against opposition members and parties, dirty tricks and ballot box rigging to name but a few "tricks".

Score - 8/14

Like a teenager attempting to grow one, stubble but not quite a bushy moustache.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Police Raid 'Rave'

This is just incredible, four police cars, a riot van and a police helicopter were sent to shut down an "illegal rave". If of course you consider a rave; 15 people legally in private field, toasting a 30th birthday, while eating burgers and not playing music, all at the late hour of 4 o'clock. How did the police know about this "rave", it was posted on Facebook as an "all-night" party. Or advertised on the internet as a "rave" as the police maintain, a police spokesperson said:
Had it gone ahead, it is likely that far more of our resources would have been used to police the event and there would have been considerable disruption to neighbouring properties.
Indeed a proportional response. Never mind the fact they pre emptive decided that the "ravers" were guilty and it was illegal. Call me old fashioned but no one had complained, you presume that they had no consideration for others and it was 4 pm, if you're going to act, shouldn't it be a response to something illegal.

Friday, 17 July 2009

LIFE Goes Inside Today's KKK

There are some amazing yet chilling pictures in Life from photographer Anthony Karen. He has documented the modern-day Klan. Perhaps it's somewhat native of me, but I had the perception that the KKK didn't exist as an organisation any more. Yet from the pictures there's a whole new generation, it's quite chilling how many kids and how young the people are.

I've not seen pictures of the KKK for awhile, you forget how awful the image of them are, there are few things that can symbolise prejudice like the hooded figure of the Klan.

You can see the full gallery here.

Barnett Formula Again and Again

Poor Lord Barnett again and again he and committees say the Barnett Formula is unfair, yet nothing happens. It's like the words are said in space, where no one can hear you speak. Another committee, this time the Lords have said the Barnett formula is "arbitrary and unfair".

Their proposal for a new Barnett formula is for it to link spending and need. Money going where it is most needed seems a fair proposal. There are however bigger elephants in the room that addressing this will draw attention to and for Labour this a really rocky road. Most of their support now lies in Scotland and Wales. Addressing this will leave the SNP wanting more and raise the question of where does England fit into this? Which could end up cutting Labour off from it's support base.

I don't have any problem with devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it makes sense to address regional differences. I do however have an issue with devolution not applying to England. That issue is MPs voting on bills that will not effect any one in their constituencies, or as it's known the West Lothian question. My objection to it is simply that who are MPs accountable to and who are they voting for, if not their constituency?

There's no simple answer to what happens next to Britain, but it needs to be asked. Labours devolution was ill thought out and badly implemented. It's created resentment and is becoming a glaring oblivious issue, yet they just leave resentment building as they bury their heads in the sand. Their inaction is dividing Britain and all for the sake of themselves.

Helicopters, Helicopters,Helicopters

The argument over the lack of helicopters in Afghanistan continues to rage on. Brown insists there are enough, almost everyone else disagrees. Yet at it's heart this isn't really about the helicopters, it's about the fact everyone knows Brown as Chancellor cut the Defence budget, everyone knows that troops were not equipped properly. This helicopter argument presents an opportunity to attack him on two accountants. Firstly it is beyond wrong to put peoples life's at risk for the sake of money and secondly people are frustrated with this war in the Middle East.

What really perplexes me about this is, why on earth would he be obstinate on something clearly morally wrong, what he does achieve? It's like standing on Custer's hill saying I see no Indians. He's on the wrong side of the British sense of fair play, again.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Blair for President of Europe?

Baroness Kinnock and the British government are backing Blair for the possible EU presidency. Like every EU leader they're acting like the Lisbon Treaty is already a done deal. I guess you should never let democracy get in the way of ambition.

But is Blair in the running? President Sarkozy was a Blair backer, though Germany have never been keen and they are the leaders that will have the most say. Yet there are other factors at play here, they risk alienating Britain further by supporting him. EU scepticism is already going to be an issue the moment Britain gets a vote on any EU treaty. With the strong possibility of a Euro-sceptic government being elected, they will want to be political in their choice, as it could hamper future treaties.

Blair also carries a lot of baggage, he doesn't have the all clear politically. If he becomes EU President they risk associating and tarnishing the EU with it. He will also be seen as a back door for American involvement in Europe, that has always been a contentious issue. Stirrings of it were seen at the G20 with references to those "Anglo-Saxons" from Sarkozy and Obama being shot down for voicing support for Turkey's EU membership.

Thus I don't think he is in the running for people other than his supporters here in Britain and papers that like to participate in scaremongering. Too many factors have changed since he left office, politically he is a terrible choice and a potential liability.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Social Care - "New and Improved"

Three new options are being proposed by the government for social care. Andy "I can't believe this guy is in charge of the NHS" Burnham said:
For too long politicians have avoided this issue. We have an opportunity to grasp the nettle and confront the debate. If we fail to do that we face the prospect of a diminishing quality of care being provided.
What have they been doing then for 12 years? Oh that's right, turning social care into a disgraceful scandal. More than £23,00 in your home or savings, tough luck, sell your home and spend your savings. Work all your life to pay for your death, disgusting. He should go to a piss stinking care home before speaking of the "prospect" of diminishing care.

What does this say about our society when we can't care properly for the most vulnerable. The shameful audacity of it, how do these people sleep at night?

Trident Scrap it?

The Guardian conducted a poll on Trident, 54% said they would prefer to abandon nuclear weapons and 42% back renewal. That's a far higher percentage than you would imagine, deterrents have always had the majority of public support. Though it would need to be much higher than that to disarm.

My own view is within the 54%, yet I recognise that there is a psychological aspect to this, most pro nuclear arguments start with "what if". That is a valid argument as no one can answer "what if", but in 2009 it would take the complete failure of every political leader and the international community at large, for a nuclear weapon to be considered the only option left and for one to be used.

The biggest point and purpose to Trident has and always will be the political status having nuclear weapons present. Nick Clegg is the only politician being sensible about it, a review of our defence at large is needed in 2009 as this isn't the Cold War any more, would money be better spent on other equipment. Given the largest issue we face is terrorism, how will a nuclear weapon stop or deter that. If a terrorist managed to set off a dirty bomb in London, do we respond by dropping a nuke on . . . . . . where do we drop one? Terrorists aren't just sitting around a camp fire in a remote location, do we punish the country of their nationality? What if it's Britain?

Trident isn't the only option and maintaining the status quo for the sake of it or politics, isn't the right thing to do. What would be is making sure we are able and equipped to tackle defence in 2000s not 1980s. If a nuclear deterrent is necessary to do that, then so be it, but at least question and debate it, not as a political decision but defensive one.

New Labour Groupthink

I was reading article on PsyBlog about fighting groupthink with dissent. Essentially for a group to be effective there must be a critical voice within, otherwise it becomes self for filling and enforcing.

I've commented on Brown being in this position several times on this blog. If you don't have people around you to challenge your views and ideas, you create artificial world around yourself. That's not productive as no one is right 100% of the time. It's also good to have to defend and refine your views, as you can discover weakness in them and sometimes realise you are missing a point or the point.

There is a wonderful article by Jenni Russell about Labour's views on public services. She writes on the NHS:
people don't emerge from the system thinking how brilliant and well resourced it is. They come out grateful for having survived it, and conscious of how anxious and threatened they felt within it. They care less about gleaming new buildings than about the human relationships that take place within them – and those have been made less warm, less good and less likely to flourish precisely because of the reforms that Labour has pursued.
Their steadfast views on public services are a good example of groupthink. They sat in a room looking at figures, everyone congratulating themselves on what a good job they've done. Using statistics to prove there points and enforce them. No one challenging the idea of box ticking, bureaucracy and the effect that's had on people and services. So they've kept on doing it.

What disappoints me and really angers me about this is, what a waste, a completely wasted 12 years. They could have done anything yet look where we are, it's even worst than it was in 1997. Now what was their pledge again?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Gordon's Women

The Labour ladies have turned on Brown again, this time in "Gordon's Women" on radio 4. The programme explores whether or not Gordon has a problem working with women. I don't think it's a solely a female issue, Brown's problem is working with people that criticise him in general. This has increased as he's become more vulnerable, illustrated by his cabinet reshuffle being basically an act of putting up the barricades.

Opinion in the programme was divided, yet it's public opinion that matters. Does the term "window dressing" resonate with female voters? Deborah Matison, who studies public opinion for Gordon Brown didn't seem to think so, she said:
Women voters see him as a strong reliable sort of guy.
I'm not so sure she's really tapping into public opinion there, I think I would be inclined to call her bluff.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Afghanistan Mission - British Troops

In light of the tragic rise in British deaths, Afghanistan has moved back into the headlines. Questions surrounding equipment and the mission's point are being raised. The government have said that troops are on the offensive, the Taliban will be defeated and they are well equipped. I can't judge if that's true, though the mission's point and plan does raise serious questions.

Armies by their nature are a destructive force and sometimes you do need to destroy, yet you need a constructive force to, they speak of destroying the Taliban, but what gets built after that? When you are fighting an ideology, you don't just destroy it by killing people. It's Afghanistan's government that will be the constructive force here, as it will be the state that controls the army, schools, police and hospitals. It is the state who will create an ideology for people to believe in. An army alone can never do that.

David Miliband has defended the UK military presence saying Afghanistan is "a launch pad for attacks" by terrorists. 7/7 was perpetrated by British Muslims, terrorists don't need to go to Afghanistan to launch an attack. Our foreign policy always has and always will effect terrorism within our shore lines, just as our national policy does. This never was, nor will it be, the Waterloo of terrorism, it's wrong to portray it as such.

People often compare the conflict in the Middle East to the Second World War, though I disagree with the parallel, there is something to learn from it. The allies never just focused on the conflict, but had a narrative, a start, middle and end plan. We have become entrenched in Afghanistan and we will never be able to leave if our plan doesn't include doing so. This conflict will just become Vietnam, though I could say it's already becoming that. There's still a prospect of something constructive coming from this, if the plan wasn't so destructive driven.

O/T Torchwood - Children of Earth - Spoliers

It was an emotional roller-coaster with moments of brilliance and sadly written with skill I've not seen Russell T Davies apply to Doctor Who. The kids being taken away by the army was some of the best drama I've seen on the BBC in years. It was all too real as those trucks and buses pulled into the school. While the teachers were powerless to do anything but just insist that the soldiers don’t have the right to take the kids.

Finding out the 456 motives - drug dealing on an intergalactic scale - was a bit strange, part of me sniggered and part thought it was twisted. It does open up some big plot holes though, why did they come to earth in the 60s for the children? They couldn't have known the kids were drugs, were they just sniffing around for a dealer. Which lends to questioning why the government just shut out Torchwood from the start? There was a collective shrug as they resigned themselves to doing whatever the 456 said.

Overall I do feel torn in my reaction, as it's Torchwood, someone from the team is meant to pull the short straw and sleep with the bald three headed telekinetic chicken with a mucus problem. No one expects an Eastenders Christmas special, it was drama with a bit of sci-fi, instead of what it's been for the last two years, sci-fi with a bit of drama. If Torchwood didn't have a history this would have been brilliant, instead it's a little disappointing and really depressing.

Is this the end of Torchwood? Certainly as we know it, perhaps that won't turn out to be a bad thing, if they introduce some of the characters from this series.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Question Time - Teenage Kicks

Question Time was a teenager special and David Dimbleby seemed to dress up for the occasion. More overwhelming than his tie however was Andy Burnham's incredibly vacant comments, "freedom is not absolute", wonderful to think he's in charge of the NHS. Firm understanding of law, democracy and common sense showing there. Freedom should be absolute, those little things like a fair trial, not being detained without charge, the right to protest, are the minimal you should expect as a human being from a democracy.

The panel had a 18-year-old student, Suzanne Burlton, it was nice to hear the comments of a generation that has in effect grown up under New Labour. Given they haven't known a government other than a Labour one, there was a real sense that this wasn't the direction they wanted the country to go in, which is very reassuring.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

G8 To Save The World

I always find these silly "G" title names over the top, it suggests more than it delivers. This gathering of G's are to save the world from climate change. No doubt it will be reported as historic, just as every G summit has.

Climate change is one of those terms that splits people into believers and non-believers. Yet that is a straw man argument. The real question is can we continue to live in the unsustainable way that we are? Just one example would be oil, it's called non-renewable energy for a reason, what happens when it runs out? If the threat of climate change is what gets us to address sustainable living, then call me a believer.

For some perspective, there's an interesting article on Mental Floss about how long the US supplies would last without oil imports:
The United States currently consumes more than 20 million barrels a day—more than any other country in the world. Factoring in the 5 million barrels a day that we currently produce at home, the Department of Energy estimates that the SPR could support America for 58 days.
It would obliviously in reality be shorter than that as people would panic buy. Britain's consumption of oil isn't as much, about 1.763 million barrels a day, we aren't in such a dependent situation as we produce 1.69 million. Yet when it all starts to run out prices will rise and everything that's transported will rise with it - food, goods, travel, imports and exports. We are all united in being screwed.

Which is why the G8 is important, we need to be making progress. The usual deadlock between the developed and the developing world has appeared over emissions targets. Though this year there is speculation of a fund to spend on green technology. Which is a good idea, sharing and working together on technological developments will be the way out of this. As everyone won't just simplify their life styles.

Tory and Lib Dem plans On ID Cards

Create your own barcode at barcode art - I'm only worth $4.39

John Lettice at the Register has an article on what the opposition parties stance is, not just on the ID cards but National ID Register, see my previous post for more information on this. To summarise John's article:

Lib Dems and Tories will scrap the ID Card and register, along with both wanting to retain only the data needed, they're against storing data centrally on a creepy megabase. Where they seem uncertain is whether to have fingerprints on passports to secure against fraud. Essentially as long as Labour don't win a forth term, it's all gone along with all the money they've wasted on this inept policy.

Amazing really, when Labour talk of cuts and how many police officers, doctors or nurses that would be, how many does £200 million equal?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Griffin Get Tough on Immigrants-Sink Their Boats

What's next throw in some chum?

Fourth Plinth in London

Antony Gormley's latest public work is to hand over the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square to 2,400 individuals to stand on for an hour at a time. They can do whatever they want, as long as it's legal.

It's living monument at best and a freak show at worst, it's anarchy, it's democratic, it's wonderful. Art is a lot of things, but essentially a form of communication and self expression shared. The plinth will have 2,400 different expressions and experiences, in a city so anonymous it's really nice to find out something about the people you sit next to on the tube.

It does pose the question though - what would you do on the plinth?

They have a live web cam setup, where you can view the current person and hear the heckling of the crowds, I love British cynicism!

David Davies Calls Government on Torture

David Davis in a statement to the House of Commons last night said that the intelligence services had been "outsourcing torture". He stated information that previously had been suppressed through the process of secret court hearings, putting it into the public domain in the way this government have constantly tried to stop. His statement was about the case of Rangzieb Ahmed:
Rangzieb Ahmed should have been arrested by the UK in 2006, but he was not. The authorities knew that he intended to travel to Pakistan, so they should have prevented that; instead, they suggested that the ISI arrest him. They knew that he would be tortured, and they arranged to construct a list of questions and supply it to the ISI.
Rangzieb Ahmed is a convicted terrorist, I in no way, shape or form defend that. Yet the dismissive rhetorical surrounding this that he deserved to be tortured is disgraceful. It's not about revenge, tic for tac or who's better at torture, it's about doing what's right. It was right to convict him using the law, it was not right to outsource torture and jeopardize the prosecution in doing so. No evidence gained under torture is admissible in a British court, in fact in any court who's country signed the Geneva Convention.

It's easy to be reactionary about terrorists, but I rather Britain didn't become no better than them. I don't want to live in a bomb scared waste land any more than an idealogical equivalent of that. I welcome Davies calls for an inquiry as we need to address this, it has a huge effect on how we use intelligence, address terrorism and our foreign policy. Pretending otherwise helps no one.

The Guardian have over viewed what is know about Britain's role to date, for those unfamiliar with the story.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

No 10's Garden Room Girls

The Garden Room Girls are an elite band of secretaries that work for the prime minster. The BBC have interviewed some of them, Ann Finchett recalls:
Her clearest memories are of working for Winston Churchill, who would often dictate while he lay in bed. "He had a budgerigar which used to fly about his bedroom," remembers Ann. The bird would land in her lap and start nibbling the edges of the paper. "I often wondered what ministers made of the letters they used to get with bits taken out of them."
That's wonderful, I love those sort of details in history, it seems less distant and remote.

For those interested the documentary will be on BBC radio 4.

Is There Such a Thing as a Peaceful Protest?

I was reading an article on the G20 police tactics, one of the commentators said - There is no such thing as a peaceful protest any more - I was about to just dismiss the statement having attended some, yet they are becoming more direct and volatile, why? There are obliviously two sides to this directness from the police and the protester.

Some demonstrators have become more direct because they are not being listened to, some have always been more direct, others which accounts for the majority just want a voice. People do not take to the streets without a message or criticism, ignoring it leads people to raise their voice to be heard, as you leave them little choice to do otherwise.

The police directness has largely stemmed from being armed with anti terror legislation which is too broadly defined, thus it often includes and criminalises the public: police photographers take pictures of the crowd, people are arrested under anti terror laws rather than public disorder, activist groups have police informers now and all this information is then stored on databases. Which just insights distrust and a mass of people can turn aggressive very quickly if they feel threaten.

Trust on both sides has eroded to the point that you're just waiting for something to happen, like an "us and them" mentality. There is no clear line now between right and wrong, terrorist laws have made it so subjective, it's become a trump card for everything. A balance need to be restored for trust to build upon, as it's become like the only people who are subject to law are the public.

The report out today says police tactics need a national overhaul, I would say mentality needs the overhaul. Protests would be less volatile if laws that put too much power in the hands of the police, without the accountability needed were addressed. No one is guarding the guards.

Ronnie Biggs Vs Jack Strawman

So let me get this straight, Ronnie Biggs is an unrepentant danger to society, but those 935 convicts consisting of some murderers and sex offenders were fine for parole. You know the same 935 the police can't find now.

I'm not passionate about Ronnie Biggs parole, yet clearly it's easy to make an example of him and for what? Those sex offenders and murders pose more of a risk to people, so why not be at least proportional. He stole money, wasn't the man who struck down the train driver and he stuck his fingers up at the establishment. That's not the same as killing or raping someone. He was sentenced 30 years for robbery, rapists get less than that, along with parole. That doesn't seem just to me.