Archive for the 'Freedom' Category

As it was in the beginning...

Sunday, February 4th, 2007
I've been looking back to the beginning of the Blair regime - that time of misplaced hope, 'glad, confident morning', etc. - and was struck by a number of things in the New Labour manifesto. This in particular now strikes a rather chilling note:
"New Labour is the political arm of none other than the British people as a whole."
I mean WTF? Isn't that the kind of thing totalitarian regimes say about themselves? At least we can't pretend we weren't told. Then there's already an indication of a desire to play fast and loose with the legal system:
" punishment for persistent young offenders by halving the time from arrest to sentencing"
Note the missing stage of trial and actually needing to be found guilty. As ever it's hard to believe so many of them are trained lawyers. Some stuff, though is almost comic in the mismatch between what they said and what they actually did:
"...In health policy, we will safeguard the basic principles of the NHS, which we founded, but will not return to the top-down management of the 1970s. So we will keep the planning and provision of healthcare separate, but put planning on a longer-term, decentralised and more co-operative basis. The key is to root out unnecessary administrative cost, and to spend money on the right things - frontline care..."
"...Over-centralisation of government and lack of accountability was a problem in governments of both left and right. Labour is committed to the democratic renewal of our country through decentralisation and the elimination of excessive government secrecy..."
But best of all is the list of 10 pledges, of which this is number nine:
"We will clean up politics, decentralise political power throughout the United Kingdom and put the funding of political parties on a proper and accountable basis."
Yeah, right. Maybe it was a typo and they meant 'We will clean up in politics".
Whilst shame keeps its watch, virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants. Edmund Burke

Be the Briton

Monday, November 13th, 2006
As the Government talks once again of defining (for its own purposes) that elusive concept, over at the Ministry of Truth, Unity is pondering the nature of Britishness
To become British, one simply needs to find one's sense of Britishness within oneself and not conform to the values and expectations of others, a solution that is, in all respects, consistent with the traditions of liberal individualism that the present government are seeking to do away with.
Yes, my apprentice. It is not enough to merely study Britishness. To become British one must find the inner Briton. Britain as neither a monarchy nor a democracy, but rather a state of mind. I suspect you could apply similar reasoning to any nationality, really, but it does seem particularly apposite in the case of this country. It's hard to reduce ideas of identity to a simple list of attributes, something that is more associated with nationalistic dictatorships than anything I'd recognise as a liberal democracy. Indeed I wonder if that is the attraction - government extending its role even over our very concept of ourselves. On the other hand, apparently there are always two things about any subject. So for me what are the two things about Britishness? What sums up that 'liberal individualism' that Unity correctly identifies as the core feature of being a Briton?
  1. Mind your own fucking business.
  2. I said, mind your own fucking business.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
One of the most important signs of the existence of a democracy is that when there is a knock at the door at 5 in the morning, one is completely certain that it is the milkman. Winston Churchill

The cult of death

Saturday, November 4th, 2006
I am probably going to be categorised as a 'climate change denier' - a phrase redolent of religious fanaticism - so let's get that out of the way to start with. Climate change is real - indeed changeability is surely one of the defining characteristics of the climate. It's almost as warm now as it was a thousand years ago, and three hundred years ago it was much colder. The question has never been whether the climate is changing, but rather to what extent, if any, human agency has an effect on the direction and magnitude of the change. Here, I am somewhat sceptical. Humans have always overestimated their importance and failed to grasp just how mind-bogglingly big the earth is. I'm fairly sure that the anthropogenic element in any warming is relatively minor, and that the vast majority of it is caused by natural factors outwith (if you will forgive the Scotticism) human control. What does interest me though, is the unabated enthusiasm a significant proportion of the human race seems to have for doomsday scenarios. Why do they find the prospect of death on an inconceivable scale so appealing? What is the attraction in seeing yourself as part of the last generation of the human race? Or is it (in their imaginations) only others that do the dying, while they emerge from the disaster either translated to a higher plane, or as the inheritors of a new (and somewhat emptier) planet? We have, of course, as a species been here many times before. The difference being that in the past it was difficult to reach substantial numbers of willing believers with your message of doom. In the past half century this has become increasingly easy. I suspect that this alone is sufficient to explain the growth from the 1960s onwards of groups predicting (always, for nothing really changes, wrongly) imminent catastrophe, whether from overpopulation, resource depletion, pollution, or - as now - climate change. While the imputed cause may change, the message is always the same: mankind is sinful and must be punished. Only the sins have changed to match our secular age from religious malfeasance to crimes against nature. Yet as protestors gather for a rally under the banner of 'Stop climate chaos', I want to issue a, probably forlorn, plea to them to look inside their minds and ask themselves why they are so filled with enthusiasm, why their faces glow with the light of fanaticism at the thought, or rather the conviction, that humanity faces a catastrophe. It seems that for many, this end is not to be feared, but rather embraced - they simply cannot wait for the promised catastrophe and the billions of deaths that will ensue. Mere change is not enough - it must be the end of the world.
They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. Edmund Burke

Be sure your sin will find you out

Friday, November 3rd, 2006
Via, this gave me the best laugh of the day. Ted Haggard, though. Sounds like a made up name, don't you think? Clearly, this is one of those stories that brings a warm glow to the heart of every right-thinking person. It almost doesn't matter if it's true, though it would be much more fun if it were. He really is one of those people for whom the word 'oleaginous' might have been specially-minted, oozing false sincerity and fellowship from every pore, while cheerfully condemning almost all of humanity to eternal torture and clearly relishing the prospect. It's not enough for him to be 'saved' - anyone who disagrees with him has to be 'damned' as well. Life's just a bugger sometimes, isn't it? *Not often I get to use a genuine biblical quote as a title
Self-respect: The secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious. HL Mencken

Burning issues

Saturday, October 28th, 2006
Once again we see that there is no idea for a new law so stupid that you can't get a policeman to speak up for it. So, burning a flag should be a criminal offence, should it? Not for any reason it would seem other than the usual politician's reason - passing a new law is a substitute for enforcing the laws we already have. I'm surprised to see the police going down the same political route. Actually, no, hang on. I'm not surprised to see the police taking the same easy option as New Labour have been taking for nearly a decade (and, to be honest, the Tories before them), since under the present government the police have become totally politicised. The useless prick who drew up these and other proposals is quoted as saying:
"There appears to be a growing public perception that policing of demonstrations is unduly lenient."
Perhaps he should have considered that the reason for this is that his force has singularly failed to enforce existing laws against some demonstrations (the defining characteristic of the leniently policed demonstrations will be left as an exercise for the reader). Resulting not, as any fule kno, from a lack of laws, but rather from a lack of will on the part of the Met hierarchy to do their duty and enforce the law impartially. Meanwhile, Lord Goldsmith is 'preparing a package of announcements'. That sort of thing always makes me shudder these days. What new repressive abomination are they dreaming up? Which further part of our liberty will be chipped away? Apparently 'Everything is on the table' so that 'We are hoping to announce a national strategy for dealing with these people in November.' Is it just me, or is there something chilling in the phrase 'these people'? Still, there's always a New Labour rent-a-mouth MP ready to do his arse-licking duty (some people really have both no brains and no shame). Step forward Shahid Malik - maybe there's a promotion in it for you. For fuck's sake - why not go the whole hog and and just ban dissent altogether? Oh hang on - they already did.
Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe. Edmund Burke

Crying Wolfgang

Monday, September 25th, 2006
I know it's always tempting to find conspiracy and outrage in everything that the Labour Party does, but surely the fact that a non-delegate, non-member of the NEC (as yet) only has a visitor pass to the conference is really a non-story?
Among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist. EdmundBurke

Doggerel Dave elsewhere

Thursday, September 21st, 2006
My alter ego, Doggerel Dave, has been active in the comments to Rachel's rhythmic, rhyming rant. I can't help myself - I just find it too easy and tempting, and my brain just works that way. Come and have a go yourself - let's face it, there's plenty of source material.
Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. Edmund Burke

Another rubbish idea

Monday, August 28th, 2006
This (and also here). Has anyone actually weighed up (sorry) whether all this recycling makes any kind of economic or environmental sense? Or is it just largely meaningless ritual activity? Meanwhile:
Mr Bettison, chairman of the LGA's environment board, said charging to collect non-recyclable rubbish would give people " a real carrot to recycle".
Sigh. That's a stick, not a carrot, you illiterate. I guess abuse of language must be built into some people's job descriptions.
A people may prefer a free government, but if by momentary discouragement or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or trust him with powers to subvert their institutions, in all these cases they are unfit for liberty. John Stuart Mill

Plus ca change

Monday, August 28th, 2006
well, I'm back. I've been in New Zealand for a month, and had fun rebuilding my computer after getting home (it's rather like my grandad's hammer now, as all that remains of the original is the box and the power supply - still cheaper than buying a new one to the extent I've treated myself to a 19-inch TFT screen, and I can now read text without squinting). In the interim nothing much seems to have changed, just more of the same old rubbish. The people who want to control every aspect of our lives (for our own good of course) are extending their tendrils of surveillance and instruction; and those who should be standing up to them are still shuffling their feet, looking at the ground and waiting for someone to tell them what to do. I must have missed the announcement that the terorists have won, though. Did it happen while I was away? Anyway, we're now officially told to be terrified all the time. And apparently the threat to our culture and way of life is so severe that the government have decided to lock out freedoms away and change our way of life to keep it safe. For as long as it takes. Now that all looks to me as John Reid, Princess Toni et al. just don't get it. But then, it's pretty clear that they never did.
It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. Thomas Jefferson

Passive smirking

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006
The EU today announced its intention to tackle what it described as the growing problem of the indirect effects of excessive humour across Europe. "While laughter has been long recognised as the best medicine, like all medical treatments it can be harmful if taken to excess. It is these extremes of comedy that we are concerned with, and in particular with the indirect effects, which we call 'passive smirking'. "We are not talking merely about the damage to self-esteem, and indeed the long-term psychological harm that can be caused by the humiliation of being the only one not to 'get' a joke. Of greater concern is the potential physical harm caused by laughing too much - we are all familiar with the saying 'it only hurts when I laugh'. It's no longer just a question of individual choice - telling a joke may have an effect on a whole theatre full of people, causing uncontrollable laughter. Studies show that more than one million work days were lost in 2004 as a result of muscle strain brought on by excessive laughter, and humour has been implicated in a number of choking accidents. "But we must also not forget the unpleasantness of having beer sprayed over one by a person overcome by the effects of too much humour; to say nothing of the economic costs in dry-cleaning." They also plan to look at the problems caused by humour on the internet. "People are worried about internet pornography. Yet the economic effects of too much humour are not insignificant. We estimate that across Europe one keyboard per second is being disabled by coffee or other beverages, solely as a consequence of internet-based humour. There is a clear case for action across the EU to harmonise the amount of humour available, and to place clear safety limits on the number and type of jokes to which EU citizens can be exposed." A spokesman for the Confederation of Comics, Stand-up Comedians and Radio Scriptwriters (COCSUCARS) condemned the plans. "When puns are outlawed, only outlaws will have puns," he said.
"We may indeed in counsel point to the higher road, but we cannot compel any free creature to walk upon it. That leadeth to tyranny, which disfigureth good and maketh it seem hateful." JRR Tolkien, Morgoth's Ring

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