Thursday, November 29, 2012

Time to apply the Stalin Test once more?

So very shortly some Judge, who obviously is more clever than all of us because he's a Judge, will publish his report into the press and media.

You'll remember that this Inquiry came about because some journalists at some papers allegedly cracked the voice mail messages of people in order to get stories.

You'll also remember that those journalists are now before the courts because in allegedly doing what is alleged they potentially broke already existing criminal laws. 

However, as this is Britain, and we rather like spending masses of public money on tea and biscuit chats with judges and lawyers, we decided to have an inquiry because "something must be done" in relation to these newspapers even though we're clearly already doing something about it in the criminal courts.

Of course we mustn't prejudge the Judge, but that hasn't stopped people doing so. On the one hand you have the newspapers and media promoting the notion that free speech and a free press is about to come to an end if we have some sort of formal press regulation in statute.

On the other hand you have those, such as witness to the inquiry and lawyer/blogger, David Allen-Green, arguing, and I paraphrase here, that the newspaper are alarmist fucking morons who don't understand the law and the difference between "statutory" and "state control" where the former probably isn't that bad anyway.

Personally, I have a different view in the middle of these two polar opposites. 

You see, David Allen-Green is right when he mocks the newspapers for arguing that free speech is coming to end. He's also right to point out that "statutory" is not the same thing as "state control". However, where he's errr'd, in my view, is his blind faith in the 'law' and its principles. Its not his fault of course, he's a lawyer after all, but that faith and consequential use of semantic definitional wordplay has, I think, blinded him to the question of "potentiality".

Yes its true that newspapers will not stop publishing post-Leveson. Yes its true that free speech is not over if the press finds itself formally regulated above and beyond the laws they, and all us, are already subject too e.g the Computer Misuse Act, the Official Secrets Act, and contempt of court. However, as with any legal changes that infringe on an element of freedom, we must view it in the while context of that which already exists and its potential as a tool in the future.

Its not the first time I've said what I'm about say, and I doubt it will be the last, but when it comes to statutory regulation of the press we really have to filter it through the Stalin Test. We must ask ourselves, would Stalin have liked what we're proposing? At this point I must stress that if the answer is yes it does not follow that the proposal is 'Stalinist', far from it in fact.

The purpose of the question is to ask ourselves what the potential future enabling power of our actions might be.

In fact, we don't have to use Stalin. We could as easily use someone closer to home, our own authoritarian and totalitarian dictator, Oliver Cromwell and his puritanical zeal. Would he like the idea of statutory regulation of the press?

You see, if the Judge decides to propose press regulation, and if the Government decides to enforce said proposal, then whilst we're more likely to see a flying pig than see freedom of speech disappear, what we will have is another building block in place that a potential future loony dictator could use to achieve that very thing.

Like so many small and tiny infringements of liberty that we have seen in the past 20 years it will be just another that has the potential to go horrendously wrong.

I'm not trying to be alarmist here. I'm not saying that we are sleepwalking into totalitarianism. All I am saying is that we are blindly building many small and seemingly unconnected parts that, when brought together, could quite easily be the enabling tools of a totalitarian state should someone come along that machinates their way into power to use them as such.

We've heard a lot from people in favour of such statutory regulations on the press. They tell us that it is an absolute necessity to do this. I would remind them, and I've said this before too, of the warning of Pitt the Younger, that "necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

Right now we live in a democratic country. We vote, and we can, at least every few years, remove the Government and put in a new one. As you mull over whether you agree with the statutory regulation of the press remember this, it might not always be that way, and if it isn't do you think such regulation will be a friend or enemy of any future tyrant?

Image via www.davejunia.com

Thursday, November 22, 2012

@NadineDorriesMP is out of there... some after-thoughts

So Nadine Dorries is finally out the jungle and more than likely right now relaxing in warm dry bed somewhere having eaten a luxurious meal on the ITV account.

The furore has not of course died down, especially for the outraged plebs (tm A. Mitchell) who range from the always angry Daily Mail readers, to Guardian loving lefties, to her own personal Internet Hate Club (membership of which requires one to consider anything the woman does or utters to be wrong simply because it was said or done by her and boy oh boy we will retweet it across our little echo chamber until the cows come home).

So now, as the dust still flies and is yet to settle let's take a little look at some of that outrage.

Before we begin kids let's first lay some cards on the table. I know Nadine. I have her mobile number. She lives near me. I even had dinner at her house once in the kitchen - this was the house that had an aerial shot printed in the Telegraph and looked like a mansion, although in reality it was actually a small end of terrace but we shan't let reality get in the way of a good story.

Given all of this you may choose to read this thinking any one of the following:

  1. As Nadine is a 'mate' everything that follows should be dismissed out of hand. Dizzy's circumstances of association mean that his argument is wrong, period.
  2. This is all spin on behalf of Nadine and probably orchestrated by her.
  3. This is just a blog post that is Dizzy's personal opinions on some of the things thaat have been written and said.
Good? Understood? Excellent! So, there are quite a few absurdities that exist around this little tale in my view, so here are the ones I can think of right now:

1: Nadine 'abandoned' her constituents - Really? Seriously? If you believe this then you have, iny view, a very odd idea on what abandonment amounts too. For a start an MP has staff and you'd have to be a raving moron to not realise that it is the staff that do all the hard work.

Whether that is research in the Parliamentary office, or casework in the constituency office, there is far more than just the MP. How do think Ministers cope with ministerial work and their constituency? I realise it sounds very outrageous when wrapped in phrases like abandonment but such terms negate the reality of what MPs actually do and how a constituency works.

Do we see reams of column inches when MPs go on free foreign visits in Parliamentary time because their members of All-Parliamentary groups interested in chocolate, beer or cheese? Of course we don't. Perhaps we should but then most people don't hear about these groups or read the Register of Interests or Hansard, so they don't know.

2: Ah yes... But Nadine's constituency office sucks when she's here so her lack of presence makes it worse! - Let me get this straight. She sucks and her office sucks but you want the level of suckage to be less but still sucky? OK.. whatever floats your boat I guess.

3: Nadine should be recalled sign our petition! - there is no recall law so good luck with that, and even there was your petition is signed by people who are not even her constituents. What's more the fact it has less than 1000 signatures is, ironically enough, evidence of just how little people care for politics something that Nadine (believe her or not) said was her motivation for going on the show in the first place.

4: Nadine has held Parliament in contempt by buggering off to the jungle! - Isn't it funny how those MPs who rarely show up but don't get coverage are not vilified in the same terms? I'm not saying that two wrongs make a right rather I'm observing the inconsistency with which such charges are levelled.

Of course there is something more going on here, and that's the rather lofty ivory tower view of Parliament and MPs. The implication that to go on a popular TV show is somehow base and demeaning to the position of MP in society. Its little more than that inverted snobbery on the part of her detractors outside Parliament and ridiculous self-important arrogance on the part of those inside.

Its kind of funny in a way that the very people outraged by the so-called demeaning populist nature of the show have not realised that by doing so they're insulting millions of people watching and also the people who have gone on it. After all, if it's demeaning in somewhere for an MP that the implication is that MPs are somehow more important than the rest of us, that they should be held up on a pedestal, something which is patently bollocks.

The manner in which such attacks have come from all sides of the political spectrum through commentary actually tells you more about the intellectual snobbery of the people saying it than it does about the target of such attacks. From the Right the charges come from arrogant stuck-up numpties who think that culture that is not "high" is worthless. From the Left the charges come from people who make claims to love the working classes, the so-called 99%, whilst simultaneously implying that those very people are fools for watching such palpable crap.

The reality of this latest reality show tale seems to have a few obvious conclusions to me.

Firstly, that the outrage of Nadine's appearance of the show is held within the echo chamber of those who have some inkling of an interest in politics already and they make up a small minority; second, that there is a general misunderstanding of what actual practical day-today political work consists of for an MP; and thirdly that there is a rather odd view amongst the aforementioned politically-interested seem to have a view that politicians are more important than ordinary people and ergo should not attempt to engage in acts that might attempt to engage ordinary people if those acts are deemed by the same high-minded people to be populist and low.

* Please note that comments may take some time to be published because I'm busy elsewhere. No one is being censored, and if you leave a comment saying "why has my comment not been published  Scared?" I will publish it and mock you for being a conspiracy theory loving loony.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This blog uses cookies

Apparently, it is a legal requirement that I tell you that this blog uses cookies. They're essentially used by the site for hit rate tracking purposes and also by third party sites like the ones feeding the adverts and allowing comments to be left. I think I may also need a privacy policy so I guess I should write one. That is all.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Roy Hodgson - damned whatever he does

Who'd be the England manager huh?

Option 1: Take Rio Ferdinand and John Terry to the Euros
Reaction: You're accused of lacking sensitivity for taking Terry given his forthcoming trial for alleged racist comments against Rio Ferdinand's brother. Whilst on the other hand find yourself being praised for caring more about what is right for England's chances and believing that people paid in excess of £30,000 per week are and ought to be consummate professionals.
Result: Media storm in which you are in the wrong.

Option 2: Take John Terry to the Euros and not Rio Ferdinand
Reaction: On the one hand you stand accused of failing to think about England's chances seriously and it's implied you have not taken Rio Ferdinand because you yourself are somehow racist, and on the other that you were wrongly concerned about the dynamic of the players working together given the trial for alleged racist comments because they're paid in excess of £30,000 per week so are, and ought to be, consummate professionals.
Result: Media storm in which you are in the wrong.

Option 3: Take Rio Ferdinand to the Euros and not John Terry
Reaction: On the one hand you stand accused of failing to think about England's chances seriously and it's implied you have not taken John Terry because you've kowtowed to "political correctness" at the expense of taking the very best players. On the other hand you're falsely believing that people paid in excess of £30,000 per week are, and ought to be, consummate professionals.
Result: Media storm in which you are in the wrong.

Option 4: Don't take either John Terry or Rio Ferdinand to the Euros
Reaction: You're pillioried nationally for not having a clue about football, not caring about England's chances. Kowtowing to "political correctness" whilst simultaneously being racist, and also not realising that people paid in excess of £30,000 per week are, and ought to be, consummate professionals.
Result: Media storm in which you are in the wrong.

Arguably more an illustration of what is so ridiculously wrong with the media in the country than anything some stuck-up Lord and a public inquiry for political obsessives will ever discover.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A shocking state of affairs!

It appears theres been a few comments in threads and on Twitter in recent days asking me if I'be decided to blog again because of a sudden upsurge in post frequency. The simple answer to that is that I never decided to stop really. Ive just been busy.

I'm still busy to be honest but sometimes there's a need to use this medium over the limited alternative of Twitter, so you can all look forward to some light fisking over the summer of some of the new shining lights of the more obsessive political blogosphere.

Anyhow, on to important business. Its come to my attention that there's been some sort of public inquiry going on over the last few months that's got many people very excited about very mundane everyday things it seems.

For example, it has come to light that people in business have, in the past, spoken to politicians about their business interests. Sometimes these very senior corporate people have even had dinner with very senior politicians! It's corruption of the highest order!

Only yesterday it came to light for example, that the Government has had 23 separate meetings with Google since June 2010. This was revealed by the Daily Mail who quite rightly said that the Google were over-stepping the mark with this relationship.

One presumes Daily Mail said this because they felt like a cheated wife as their 34 meetings with the Government in the same period were not as exclusive as they liked - not that those meetings were anything like the same as the Google meetings, Google are "bloody foreigners" after all.

There's also the small issue that a certain person from the media business is going to be charged, not with voicemail interception but rather perverting the course of justice. A juicy show trail is coming, and we shall all stand and shout hatred at our telescreens throughout, of that I have no doubt.

As it happens, I find myself wondering what the point of a trail even is. After all, the person has already been found guilty have they not by the aforementioned obsessives. Commentary, and the infamous "court of public opinion" has already made clear that they are, without doubt, absolutely, up to their neck in shit, and part of a large mafia type organisation.

Yes, I really did say Mafia-type organisation. True there have bene no killing, no horses heads or any such thing like that, instead this has been much much worse. These people have shared Rioja together! The Ndrangheta have nothing on this lot - you mark my words.

Anyhow, off you all run, it's Sunday, the sun will soon be shining.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Denis Macshane calls his constituents uncultured - probably

This one amused me this morning. Nothing like insulting the (more than likely) vast majority of the people that voted for you huh?


phil·is·tine/ˈfiləˌstēn/

Noun:
A member of a non-Semitic (perhaps originally Anatolian) people of southern Palestine in ancient times.
A person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.
Or perhaps he was saying only Semites are well read?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chris Heaton-Harris - centrist credentials laid bare

A shocking tale of unsoundness from the weekend comes from Chris Heaton-Harris, the MP for Daventry.


You can't get anymore middle-of-the-road than that right?

Let's hope he wasn't tweeting whilst driving though (or in a Nissan Micra or I might have to throw something at something).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Leveson website fail

Bless those little judicial web monkeys - their varnish web accelerator isn't going very fast this morning if you want to read the written evidence submissions.

So if you want read Rebekah Brooks' words you're going to have to wait until someone technical wakes up. Once that happened you are then free to be outraged at the shocking news a CEO from a large corporate company spoke to politicians about decisions that impacted on their business.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Blocking porn: just another step on the road to slavery

Here's a question for the boys (and possibly girls), do you remeber whne you saw your first bit of porn? Depending on your age it was either a dodgy magazine, an equally dodgy video (where you had to fiddle withthe vertical hold and skip past the bits where the tape had stretched due constant pausing and rewinding), or it was some flash movie online. You were probably also a teenager I imagine.

Today though, we live in terrible and desperate times when it comes to porn. As anyone reading the populist press will be aware, or anyone watching certain pious Tories wishing to impose their values on others, ever child is pretty much having porn pumped into their line vision whilst they're eyelids are pinned open. Every night they go to their bedrooms with their laptop, webcam, a packet of ham and snorkel like Jay in the Inbetweeners (I'll let you fill in the gapos if you've not seen it) and engage in the most base debauchery.

Our children are literally one step away from being rapists... well that's the general implication anyway, and so something must be done, and that something is to introduce blocking of all porn online and make people wear badges that say "I like to watch porn on'tinternet" if they errr "like to watch porn on'tinternet".

OK, so they're not really going to make them wear badges, but if it were to happen they might as well, because you're going to have to request that you want the "good stuff". The thing is, this is a monumentally stupid and ridiculous idea for so many reasons.

  • Exaggeration of the problem: I've already alluded to this, but does anyone seriously beleive that all the kids are busy "banging one out" to hardcore porn online every night? "Banging one out" maybe, that's natural after all, but I've not really seen much more than selectively chosen anecdotes, and how they're any different to the glorious VHS days is beyond me.
  • Learning the wrong things about sex: This is the classic old chestnut that suggests if you see porn as a kid you're going to think it's perfectly normal for a girl to let you cum on her face, engage in anal sex and/or whatever other weird thing floats your boat. That argument has been around longer than Internet porn. It didn't come to fruition then, it's unlikely to now, mainly because of the reality of the previous point.
  • You'll end up blocking legitimate content: The reality is, unless we go down the route of "legislative approved website" (more on that in a bit), you're inevitably going to block some content that is not porn however good you think the code logic might be. The classic example is the URL containing the word "scunthorpe".
  • You'll end up not blocking illegitimate content: This is the same as the previous point in reverse obviously. I for example can recall a certain high street mobile phone retailer who's corporate network blocked the Agent Provocateur website (because staff shouldn't be looking at lingerie models) but didn't block the lingerie section of the M&S website.
  • "They're" going to have to watch you: Not that they;re not watching already some might say, but honestly, if you're going to block content that means you have inspect traffic and that means you have watch what everyone is doing. Blocked content is little more than full-scale tracking via the backdoor.
  • False sense of security: This flows from the previous two points. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Once you make the claim to "block" something and then you inevitably fail to do so, it is only a matter of time before some company gets sued with the claim that have not protected the children. The real failure here though will be those who think that the promise to block is in anyway cast-iron and so palm off their personal responsibility towards what their children see to the Government and the law.
  • The DH Lawrence Conundrum: Way back in the mists of time there was a book called The Rainbow. It had sex in it. It had lots of sex in it, and boy did it upset some people. So much so in fact that it was banned and all copies burned out of necessity to protect the masses from such filth.
  • Do you want Government approved websites?: Go to China. Seriously, if we, as a supposed liberal democracy, take the first step on the road to blocked Internet access by default then we might as pack up the whole thing now, scrap elections and install a Politburo. Sounds alarmist I know, but this all comes down to what I and other call the Stalin Test. It's an easy game to play. When making a judgement about liberty infringement ask yourself the questions: "Would Stalin have liked this? Would Stalin have found it useful?". If the answer is yes then it's worth pausing. Remember, just because you trust today's politicians doesn't mean you should assume the trust and good faith of tomorrows. Building the infrastructure to enable an oppressed state only requires an enabling act to bring into being.
In the words of Pitt the Younger: "necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

FactCheck: The "No More Lies" Boris Attack Video (light fisking)

Oh dear, an allegedly "non-aligned" group have released an attack video against Boris Johnson according to Liberal Conspiracy.



Now I love a good bit of negative campaigning but this one is pretty shoddy I have to say. True it's get the tone and music ambience right when portraying its theme of "lies" by Johnson, but it does have a few glaring flaws.

  • All its data used to contradict the quotes are unattributed. They should have had some tiny point font to at least show where the figures were coming from.
  • The first charge is on Police numbers. Boris says "under this mayoralty there will be no cuts in the Police. The video says he is lying and there are 2,132 fewer Police since March 2010. Note the choice of the date? What we have here, ironically enough, is the maxim that there are "lies, damned lies and statistics". You see, as pointed out by Full Fact,
The MPA figures show that, when Mr. Johnson entered office in May 2008, police officer numbers stood at 31,398 (for the 2007-08 financial year). In 2008-09 this number rose by 1,145. In 2009-10 numbers further rose by 717, although in 2010-11 they fell by 801.

Along with projections from a 'Policing London Business Plan' published in March, the numbers are graphed as follows:

The approximate number of officers expected for the 2011-12 financial year is put at 32,510, which will also be at the end of Mr. Johnson's term in office. Compared to his inheritance of 31,398, this would mean police officer numbers will have increased by 1,112 under Mr. Johnson's premiership.
  • Next up we have "crime". Boris says "crime is down in London". The video says he's lying and says "knife crime is up". This is bit like a farmer saying "the yield of apples from the orchard is down" and a farm hand saying "you liar, the number of apples on this one tree has gone up". You know what? Crime overall in London might be up, Boris may indeed be lying. However if you're going to accuse him of doing so at least use the right data to make your point!
  • On to the congestion charge. Boris says he would not allow it to go up. They say he increased it by 25%. This is the one true thing so far. He increased it by £2, from £8 to £10. My guess is that this is why the producers claim to be "unaligned", you see, it would look a bit silly from a green point of view if they aligned themselves and were then arguing against a rise of something that is in line with general environmental policies.
  • Affordable homes is next. Boris says there will be "50,000 affordable homes by May next year". He doesn't say what year. The video says there have only been "56 affordable home started building between April and September". They don't say what April and September. Let's take a quick look at a random council though. According to the Royal Borough of Greewnich's affordable housing and regeneration web pages, "some 1,198 new homes were built last year". Where exactly did this random "56" number come from then?
  • Finally we have transport fares. Boris, being interviewed specifcally about bendy-buses and their replacement, he is asked if he can financially make that change. He says "I think we can... and I think we can do it without increasing fares for London". The video then points out that fares have gone up a whopping 47% - that's about 50p for most bus journey's incidentally, but saying it in percentage terms sounds much worse but I digress. You see, the video makers have buggered up again here. Instead of finding a generic clip of Boris saying that he will not increase fares period, they've found one where he says he doesn't think he needs to increase fares for a specific project to be possible. That doesn't mean he can't increase fares for other things, much as the previous Mayor increased fares multiple times for multiple things.

So there we have it. An attack video about "lies" that amusingly enough is mostly full of errr... lies. Five specific claims, and only one that can in anyway be described as accurate.

Actually, I'm being unfair, they're not so much lies as statements that, more often than not, are juxtaposed against other statements that are about different things.

I think the more appropriate word might be disingenuous, and that is why the BBC, LBC and the Evening Standard, who Sunny laments, have not pushed such things, because if they did, they'd be hauled over the coals for it.

Verdict: Must try harder


 

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