Get with the envy

Ooh, aren’t Sussex Police smart. They must read The Economist. Because over Christmas, said publication published a long and interesting article about Darwinism, which featured the following paragraph.

Conversely, the Darwinian explanation of continued support for socialism—in the teeth of evidence that it results in low economic growth—is that even though making the rich poorer would not make the poor richer in financial terms, it would change the hierarchy in ways that people at the bottom would like. When researchers ask people whether they would rather be relatively richer than their peers even if that means they are absolutely worse off, the answer is yes. (Would you rather earn $100,000 when all your friends earn $50,000, or $150,000 when everybody else earns $300,000?) The reason socialism does not work in practice is that this is not a question that most people ask themselves. What they ask is how to earn $300,000 when all around them people are earning $50,000.

Please note the bit in italics: it says that, at heart, a lot of people get rather miffed by the fact that others get more money than them. And that they’ll be as happy if said others get torn down as they would be if they themselves made more money.

And why do I think that Sussex police have been paying attention to this? Because of this scheme.

A police campaign targeting people living lavish lifestyles on the proceeds of crime and money laundering has begun in Sussex.

Crimestoppers and Sussex Police joined forces for the campaign called “Too Much Bling, Give Us a Ring”.

People are urged to report their suspicions about apparently wealthy people with no legitimate income.

In other words: if you think that people have too much money, tell the police.

Apparently having money is now grounds for suspicion.

Of this, I am not a fan…

Well, isn’t that sneaky…

I don’t think that it’d be much of a surprise if I came right out and said that I don’t think politicians should be allowed to hide all the ways they swindle money from us. In fact, I’m fairly sure that I’ve said just that in the past.

If, in other words, they have acted in a way totally contrary to the idea that citizens should have a right to privacy, why the fuck should they be allowed one? I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask…

So I think that most (both?) of my readers could guess how I’d feel about this behaviour.

Ministers proposed [exempting MPs from the Freedom of Information Act] after Commons authorities lost a legal battle with journalists over access to information about MPs’ taxpayer-funded second homes. It will put MPs in a special category as the only public servants not required to disclose their expenses and has been supported by backbenchers on both sides of the House.

Ministers have been urging this because apparently it puts the lives of MPs at risk if too much is known about where they live. And, if this were the case, then that might be a valid point. However, this exemption would cover their spending (at our expense) on flat screen televisions and luxury furniture, and none of that counts as ‘security’, except in as far as it may prevent an angry mob arriving at each of the homes in question and politely asking for our elected representatives to stop pissing so much of our money up against the wall, thankyouverymuch.

So I’ve politely written to my elected representative (through this little tool) to inform them of:

  1. the dastardly way in which this is being put to Parliament – it was announced shortly after the Heathrow runway decision, in the transparent expectation that it would be sneaked through before any fuss could be made about it;
  2. the fact that there is (some) opposition within Parliament;
  3. the fact that anyone voting for this amendment will find that it’s noted in big letters on their page on one of the more popular parliamentary voting record sites;
  4. the fact that voting against this amendment is clearly the right thing to do.

I figure that maybe one or two of my readers might feel that there’s something to points 1 – 4 above, and thus might want to write to their own representative. G’wan, you know it’s the right thing to do

[begin conman mode] Trust me [/end]

Groucho Marx famously said that he wouldn’t join a club that would have him as a member.

I think that I wouldn’t fully trust an organisation that would trust me. Which is a large part of the reason that I don’t trust the state; I know how easy it was for me to be in a position where I could have accessed quite personal information for everyone in Norn Iron, and I have little to no faith that things are any more secure in the rest of the UK.

But then, sez you, the delightful and upstanding Mr Hillan is no threat, and would never abuse that position. And it’s true, I am delighful and upstanding, and I am no threat, and I didn’t abuse that position.

Other people, it would seem, aren’t quite as honest.

A London policeman who attempted to blackmail sex offenders and drug dealers has been jailed for six years.

PC Amerdeep Singh Johal, 29, was arrested by anti-corruption cops from Scotland Yard in July 2007. Johal was employed in checking names and address on the police database, called Crimint, on behalf of beat cops.

He abused the role to contact 11 convicted offenders and threaten to spill the beans on their crimes unless he was given “hush money”. Johal requested between £29,000 and £31,000 for his silence, threatening to tell work colleagues or neighbours of convicted sex offenders about their crimes. In one instance Johal demanded £89,000 as a “goodwill gesture”.

This one was caught; how many do you think have not been?

It gets worse, of course. There are occasional murderers that nanny lets have access to her databases.

Which means that No2ID aren’t scaremongering, they’re merely pointing out likelihoods.

I do so love that word

What word do you think that would be?

I’ll save you the effort, because it might take you a while to get it:

mandatory (m?n’d?-tôr’?, -t?r’?) adj.

1. Required or commanded by authority; obligatory: Attendance at the meeting is mandatory.
2. Of, having the nature of, or containing a mandate.
3. Holding a League of Nations mandate over a territory.

It’s the required or commanded by authority that I have an issue with, because saying mandatory is used as a nice way of saying we’ll fuck you over if you don’t do what we ‘helpfully suggest’. It’s another way of saying that your mind is not your own, and you body certainly isn’t – it’s a way of saying that authority is better trusted with your being.

>It’s irrational, I know, to be so annoyed by that one word. ‘Compulsory’ doesn’t annoy me as much, but it’s used in the same way. Just another sign that I’m not exactly rational about the things that annoy me. What a surprise…

Back to form

Hey, I said that there was a need for balance, didn’t I? Which means that there must and shall be some negative to counteract yesterdays positives.

And negatives don’t come much more negative than Jacqui Smith.

“We will look carefully at the ruling but what I want is to safeguard the world-leading position that we have in the use of DNA,” she told BBC News.

Ah yes, safeguarding the world-leading position of the UK on DNA. World leading in that Zimbabwe, China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and all those other lovely countries would love to be able to get as many people onto a database of criminal suspects as the UK has. World leading in that it’s easier to kill someone and get off on appeal than it is to get off the database after being stopped for being a passenger in a car that was being driven by someone who looked like a known criminal.

If that’s the kind of example that we’re setting to the world, then the world is in a bad way. But we’re in a worse way…

And wouldn’t that be annoying?

You know how it is these days; you can’t go for a night out without having some bloody campaign do its best to scare the beejaysus out of you.

You walk past the smokers, with pictures of diseased lungs on their cigarette packs.

You go for a piss, and some helpful soul has put up pictures of stab wounds on the wall in front of you.

You pick up a bottle of beer, and some nannying bastard has put a threat to your general well being on the side of it.

Not content with this, some organisations want to go just a little bit further.

Police in Edinburgh are to pester locals with Bluetooth messages asking them how they plan to get home, in the hope of making them think before getting behind the wheel drunk.

The news comes courtesy of The Scotsman, which reports that Bluetooth nodes will be placed near drinking hotspots (otherwise known as Scotland, in our experience) and transmit text and images to nearby phones. This would include the campaign message: “Who’s taking you home tonight? Bus, taxi, police, paramedic?”

The campaign is aimed at 17 to 24-year-olds and the hope is that this demographic is more mobile-equipped than others, though one might imagine they’re also more likely to have set their phones to non-discoverable mode before venturing out. Of course, the message won’t be limited to those who’ve been drinking – anyone driving past and completely sober will be equally vulnerable to being distracted by an incoming message.

I do so dislike these sorts of things. Doing their best to interfere with the enjoyment of everybody with the stated aim of scaring a few people who are silly enough to leave their phone broadcasting on Bluetooth for all and sundry to try and hijack…

Nannu really does like to annoy, doesn’t she.

Isn’t that just dandy…

It’s an interesting indictment of the wonderful system that we have these days that the highest ranking head to fall after the human tragedy of Baby P didn’t fall after the council oversaw the death of a child. It didn’t fall after the scourging in the media. It didn’t fall after the silly Facebook groups and the protests.

No, it fell twelve hours after it came out that Haringey lied to Ofsted.

Ofsted’s head, Christine Gilbert, admitted at the weekend that Haringey had misled its inspectors by providing inaccurate data on its child protection services.

She said that officials in Haringey were able to “hide behind” misleading data last year to earn a good rating from inspectors only weeks after Baby P’s death.

Coincidence? Or a sign that the biggest crimes in the eyes of the state are the crimes against the accountants of the state? Not against people, but against numbers. Sure people are just the ultimate renewable resource; precious numbers and gold star ratings are much more important…

Missing the definition of the word

Note to thon Blunkett twat: if you have to be made, bribed or coerced into volunteering, then you are not volunteering. You are being dragooned.

It’s a simple difference, I feel, but then when did ex-government ministers ever get their heads round the meanings of words? They can’t even get their head round the idea that none of us like them or trust them as far as they could be thrown. By an enfeebled dwarf. With one arm.

Everyone between the ages of 16 and 25 should do at least six months of “intensive” voluntary work, former home secretary David Blunkett has said.

The Labour MP said such a scheme would foster a “sense of belonging” among young people.

Obviously there is the a certainty that I’m about to FAIL under Godwin, but seriously, is Blunkett suggesting a sort of Hitler-Jugend for the 21st century? Where low key public works are carried out by uniformed and unpaid kids, just to get them used to doing what they are told to by officials of the state?

Because that was the sort of thing that he was talking about on the radio interview I heard: enforcing hand washing at the doors of hospitals and that.

But it’s all OK, he realises that young people can’t be forced to do it:

When asked whether the scheme should become a form of compulsory national service Mr Blunkett replied: “It’s been reinforced to me in the last year that you can’t have volunteering unless it’s voluntary.”

Instead, he called for a system of incentives to attract young people.

A SYSTEM OF INCENTIVES = BRIBERY. Which means that it’s not volunteering either, it’s employment.

Jaysus. Will that daft twunt never learn?

There’s a surprise…

When large parts of the UK populace is concerned about their data being shared across government departments, most of whom have no need to see it and even fewer of whom have any right to see it, what does Her Majesty’s Government do?

Yes, you guessed it: they hold a review.

And then they use that review to give themselves the power to ride roughshod over the few protections in place. Because, y’know, sometimes just popping everyone’s details onto a CD and throwing them in the post because a different department asked nicely isn’t sharing enough.

Good job we don’t trust the government with any sensitive data, isn’t it? Oh wait, that would be a lie. Because we’re told many times that if we don’t share all with the government, then we’re liable to be punished. Nice.

Not that I’m a tad annoyed. No, not I…

Well, that’s a scary phrase

I dunno… You read a little article about the sad fact that lots of pubs are closing, and some bastarding Liberal Democrat comes out with one of the most illiberal things I’ve heard in a long time.

“Whenever a pub is proposed to go to a different use, be closed or demolished, the local community needs to be consulted.

“At the end of the day, who owns the pub? Legally it’s the pub operating company or the landlord. But morally, surely, a community, a village owns a pub that’s been there for hundreds of years.”

‘moral ownership’? What the fiddling fuck? Let me guess, that’s like the ‘moral ownership’ of a conservation area – where some local busybody can make sure that nothing they don’t like is built, but without compensating those who are losing actual money because of their interference.

Legal ownership means that if the owner wants out, they can get out. If they want to turn their pub into a giant jungle gym, they should be able to. If they want to tear out the bar and replace it with pictures of a 1947 Ford, they should be able to. If they want to close it and turn it into flats, then it’s a shame but they should be able to.

Under this proposal, will the community also own the corner shop? Or the tea shop at the corner? Both are important for a village, to be sure. Why not go the whole hog and collectivise the businesses in every village, just to ensure that nothing closes.

Of course, there may be some kulaks who disagree with having their legal property appropriated by a village council, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few skulls, can you?

Fuckin’ Liberal Democrats. We should really sic trading standards on them…

Wouldn’t it be sweet

Home Office Muppet in Chief Smith is once again on a little anti-citizen jaunt.

This time, she may have picked on the wrong group of people. Because the biggest reason that the Labour party isn’t yet bankrupt is because the unions give it a massive subsidy. And now, it’s a union that’s fighting back.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) is meeting this weekend to decide what action to take over the government’s decision to force airside staff at two airports to carry ID cards.

Now pilots themselves – who presumably have to pack plenty of ID already, as well as a shiny hat – have voiced their opposition to the plan.

A spokesman for Balpa said: “The government should think again on this. We’re talking to other airside unions and many agree with us that it is unfair, especially because Parliament originally passed this legislation on the basis that it would be voluntary but now it is compulsory for some groups to carry a card.”

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. As people may have noticed, I’ll take any allies that I can when it comes to getting rid of the god-awful ID scheme, and the sweetness would be almost painful if it was the unions that finally brought it down.

Plus, the strategies behind ID cards, and the lies that were told to get it passed (see the bold bit above), are becoming more obvious. Hell, Jacqui Smith just can’t stop herself lying about it. This isn’t a pilot, it’s a slow rollout. There’s no compulsory card, it’s all entirely voluntary. There are people begging, begging, for cards, no really there are.

The more the lies are shown, and the more the costs are shown to be both unnecessary and growing exponentially, the better. And if it takes some pesky unions (and pilots) to do the showing, the better. That’s what I say, anyway…

Running with a theme

So far this week, I’ve mused about police states, dictators, UK government over-reaching and UK government ineptitude.

So, what to write about this morning, eh? I dunno, how about UK government censorship. That should do the trick…

Britain’s security agencies and police would be given unprecedented and legally binding powers to ban the media from reporting matters of national security, under proposals being discussed in Whitehall.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary watchdog of the intelligence and security agencies which has a cross-party membership from both Houses, wants to press ministers to introduce legislation that would prevent news outlets from reporting stories deemed by the Government to be against the interests of national security.

The committee also wants to censor reporting of police operations that are deemed to have implications for national security. The ISC is to recommend in its next report, out at the end of the year, that a commission be set up to look into its plans, according to senior Whitehall sources.

Now, you might expect that I’d go off on a foul mouth rant about this. Legalised censorship, I might say, at the whim of a nameless, faceless bureaucrat; I might ask why justice would need to be done in secret; almost by definition justice carried out secretly is less just than that carried out in the open. Hell, I might even ponder the possibility of abuse by people wanting to cover up mistakes.

However, I don’t think I’ll do that.

Instead, I think I’ll mention the simple fact that all the above is happening now anyway; nameless and faceless bureaucrats are ‘asking’ newspapers and TV stations not to cover certain things, and those certain things aren’t covered. There’s no oversight, and there’s no accountability. There’s little in the way of consistency either; I suspect the application of a DA-notice is as dependent on who is manning a certain shift as it is on any official guidance.

Given that, you might expect that I’d actually be for this proposed commission1. It could possibly tighten up the rules, and make the system less open to abuse.

However, you’d be wrong on that front. If I had any faith at all that any change would could be for the better, then I might support it. But every law that this government has brought in to tighten up rules, lessen opportunities for abuse and all that, it’s actually made more loopholes, more generalisations, and more opportunities for abuse.

So we’re being let down by the current system. But I fear that any new system would be much worse, and much harder to get rid of…

1 – How very New Labour – when in doubt as to how something will be received by the public, instigate a commission to look into it. And the slip a law doing exactly what you wanted to do in the first place through parliament, if precedent is anything to go by…

Worrying trends

Some interesting things that the agents of the state have been getting up to recently:

And that’s just stuff I read yesterday. Who knows what the bastards will get up to today, eh?

Not a worthy aim

For the last fucking time: just because it would make things easier for the police doesn’t mean that a thing should be done.

Pub happy hours should be banned and supermarkets stopped from selling alcohol at a loss in order to combat drink-fuelled disorder, MPs have said.

The Home Affairs select committee said reckless drinking was placing a heavy burden on police resources.

Making rules that adversely affect the vast majority of the population to make the job of the police a little bit easier is not a course of action that should be considered in a free state. If the country is being run for the convenience of the police, then you’re taking it towards that wonderful concept, a ‘police state’.

It’s even worse when I don’t even think that most police would agree with the argument, because rare is the policeman that I know of that hasn’t taken advantage of cheep drink at some point or the other. Then again, the same holds for politicians, and they’re the ones leading this charge…

Alternate Realities

Quick question for you: in what world does Jacqui Smith live?

I only ask because of the strange stuff emerging from her mouth yesterday.

Jacqui Smith says public demand means people will be able to pre-register for an ID card within the next few months.

The cards will be available for all from 2012 but she said: “I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don’t want to wait that long.”


Ms Smith, you must be very selective about who you surround yourself with. To keep bumping into the same 9% of the population so is a statistical miracle unless there’s some selective memory going on…

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure that I’ll say it again: I really don’t know know why the government is pushing ID cards so much just now. Yes, obviously there’s a nice statist benefit to tagging the entire population, but why now? ID cards are a few people are a little keen on, a few more people will put up with, a lot of people won’t like, and a dedicated core of people will say UP WITH THIS WE WILL NOT PUT.

You won’t get people out on the streets protesting for ID cards; you won’t get a whole hell of a lot of people wanting to be in on the first wave of card holders. But you will get many people who will follow the sterling example of Mr Reynolds. And they will say the following:

I refuse to carry any national ID card that is based around a national database and would rather go to prison than submit to this attack on my privacy and security. They will have to get my biometric data* by force and I will shred any ID card of this type that I am sent.

Luckily enough, I’ve already got me a passport for a foreign land, should I need it…

By the way, speaking of Jacqui Smith, I do so hope that they make a set of gloves with her prints on them. That way she’ll be a suspect for how ever many thousands of suspicious acts. Mwhahahahahahahaha.

I’d tweak a couple of details

In the immortal words of jingoists everywhere: they don’t like it up them.

Prospective MPs may no longer have to give their full address when standing for office, under plans being considered by the government.

In May the High Court ordered addresses to be published with expenses claims, but MPs voted to keep them private.

Yes, and they jolly well should be allowed to keep their details private. A reasonable expectation of privacy is the right of every citizen of the country, not just the MPs.

If, however, said MPs have been acting against that expectation of privacy, then I see no reason why they should be allowed to have some themselves. So there should be some checking.

If an MP has voted for the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, they lose their right to privacy.

If an MP has voted for the Terrorism Act, in any of its recent guises, they lose their right to privacy.

If an MP has voted for the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, they lose their right to privacy.

If an MP has voted for the Proceeds of Crime Act, they lose their right to privacy.

If an MP has voted for the Identity Cards Act, they lose their right to privacy.

(There are others Acts of Parliament that should cost MPs their right to privacy (like most of the Budgets of recent years, what with the financial spying authorised by them), but the ones above are the biggies. Hell, if I had my druthers they’d cost the offending MPs a hell of a lot more than their right to privacy. Their citizenship should be fucking revoked for a start…)

If, in other words, they have acted in a way totally contrary to the idea that citizens should have a right to privacy, why the fuck should they be allowed one? I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask…

Invalidating my usual arguments

I had a look at this story yesterday, and it got my goat.

Foreign drivers owe a London council more than £4.5m in parking fines, it has emerged, with owners of luxury “super cars” the worst culprits.

Westminster Council said parking fines on more than 80% of foreign-owned cars and motorbikes were unpaid, as it cannot trace their owners overseas.

They include a Rolls Royce Phantom owner who owes £3,000 in fines.

The council wants the legal right to access overseas driver and vehicle registration data.

And then this morning, my thoughts yesterday got my goat.

You see, yesterday I thought I had the perfect rationale for not giving the council this power. Obviously, my rationale would be that less power in the hands of government (local or national) is always a good thing, but I thought that even those who didn’t see this basic truth would be swayed by my initial argument.

This argument was basic: the only way to reasonably get the ability to get information on foreign cars would be to share information about UK cars with foreigners. And what with the somewhat shaky reputation of some foreign legal systems, that’s effectively just handing over all that information to fraudsters and other not-nice people.

A masterful argument, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’d have been celebrated the world over had I gone with it.

However, the second thoughts this morning were much less celebratory. Why the fuck are we to worry about the corruption, ineptitude and all round rubbishness of foreign governments when the councils here are using anti-terror powers to spy on applicants for schools; when the central government loses confidential information on literally half the country; when the DVLA sells your private data to anyone who can mock up a parking related letterhead?

We used to have something of a reputation for being civilised and not that rubbish at governance. Now we come of unfavourably in comparisons with the traditional punchlines to international corrupt government jokes.

When did that happen?

Not getting the fucking point

A little more about Geoff Hoon’s daftness yesterday.

But first, a little bit of background from

civil liberty
–noun Usually, civil liberties.
1. the freedom of a citizen to exercise customary rights, as of speech or assembly, without unwarranted or arbitrary interference by the government.
2. such a right as guaranteed by the laws of a country, as in the U.S. by the Bill of Rights.

In other words, civil liberties are our rights not to have things done to us by the state. We have a right not to be killed by the state (unlessin’ there’s a death penalty, and then not before a trial); we have a right not to be reduced to barcodes; we have a right not to be jailed for speaking our minds.1

Geoffrey William Hoon, Secretary of State for Transport, clearly doesn’t get the simple definition of the words, nor does he get their meaning. More of his interview from last night has been pointed out by el Reg:

Ignoring Jacqui Smith’s call for “a well-informed debate, characterised by openness, rather than mere opinion, by reason and reasonableness” in her Tuesday speech, Hoon continued last night: “And if they’re going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we don’t have the power to deal with that then you’re giving a licence to terrorists to kill people.

“The biggest civil liberty of all is not to be killed by a terrorist,” the minister concluded, finger wagging.

Unless the terrorist is an agent of the state2 then that emboldened sentence is meaningless. The actions of a terrorist do not impinge on our civil liberties at all; it’s not something that they do. They can impinge on some of our rights, yes; the right to life, the right to freedom of speech, that sort of thing. but when they do so it’s a crime, and they can be punished for it.

It’s only when governments use fear of those crimes to use the law to interfere with our right to life, or our right to freedom of movement, or our right to freedom of speech, that it becomes a civil liberties issue.

Not that I’d expect someone in the current cabinet to be able to see such nuances…

1 – Note, please, that the current government has violated all of these in one way or another.

2 – I’m paranoid, but I’m not that paranoid…

Fucking twunt

Geoff Hoon joins the list of people who have long been thought of as inept, but now are shown to be actively malevolent.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has said the government is prepared to go “quite a long way” with civil liberties to “stop terrorists killing people”.

He was responding to criticism of plans for a database of mobile and web records, saying it was needed because terrorists used such communications.

The government today announced the regulation of breathing; the location of all lungs would be recorded at all times, as would the amount of air either entering or leaving those lungs. Transport Secretary Geoff Goon said that this was needed because terrorists use breathing to carry out their nefarious activities.

Mr Hoon: just saying that terrists use something isn’t enough justification to make the rest of us suspects for using the same thing, dickwad. And the sooner that you, and all your little megalomaniac friends in the Cabinet, figure that out, the less the rest of us will have to bitchshap you in future life.

See? We’re providing you with helpful advice here. It’s a service…

Well, that was fast…

What I had to say, day before yesterday:

Of course, there’ll be a massive terrorist plot in the near future that requires this new legislation. It’ll be hyped beyond; the fleet will be sortied, the troops will be in the street again, Brown will sit in COBRA and look stern, and the new legislation will be passed without much of a debate.

Then, and only then, will the courts have their day, and it will be discovered that the massive threat was, in fact, two seven year old boys called Mark and Tom. Who owned spud guns and were going to give those pesky Injuns a good thrashing…

What the ‘Security Minister’ said, yesterday:

“The threat is huge. The threat dipped slightly and is now rising again with the context of severe, large complex plots, because we unravelled one the damage it caused to al-Qaeda actually faded slightly.

“They are now building up again. There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this.”

Well, wasn’t that nice?

Now, do you think that the ‘large complex plot’ that was unravelled was the one where the government couldn’t prove their case? Or was it the one which failed because the people behind it were so stupid that they couldn’t make an explosive from an explosive substance and fire?

Either way, ‘large complex plot’ would not be the descriptions I’d use. Certainly neither would have justified the steps that we’re told are essential, despite the way that we’re being told that bajillions of lives were at risk. So when dear Lord West tells us that BIGGER and BETTER and MORE SCARIER threats are out there, I find myself not very frightened at all.

Especially since Lord West has something of a track record with apparently not believing the words that are currently coming out of his mouth…