Blind Cyclists Union
Theresa May says judges must “follow or take into account” the views of Parliament

No, actually, Theresa, you ignorant authoritarian harpy, they must not.  Parliament has precisely one method by which to communicate its views to the judiciary, legislation. 

And that’s something for which we should be thankful, because the situation in which the rule of law can be overturned at the whim of a politician is called tyranny, and tyranny gargles massive goat balls.

There is a reason, you know, why we keep these things separate.

The paradoxical divisiveness of collectivism, as illustrated by the @HackneyAbbott hoo ha

Or, as I was originally going to call it “Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we set out to involuntarily collectivise arbitrary groups of people by unthinkingly applying stereotypical class labels, thus obliterating any sense of the individual and replacing it with a vague and usually unwarranted generalisation”.  I think you can see why I changed my mind.

Anyhoo, so, Dianne Abbot said a racist thing, viz

And it is racist, defining a group of people by their skin color and then denigrating them based on it is about as functional a definition of racism as you can get, and that’s what she did.  Like all examples of its kind, such a statement betrays a profound laziness of thought, and a complete failure of logic.  Just to start with, if we take as given (for the sake of argument) that “all colonialists were ‘white people’” it is not possible to derive, using logic, that “all ‘white people’ were colonialists”.  It simply doesn’t follow.  It also treats ‘white people’ (and I’m using the scare quotes there, because seriously, what the fuck is a ‘white person’ ? How precisely can we even define that ?) as though they were some separate, distinct entity to all not white people, and all of one mind about everything, which is very clearly not the case.

The funny thing is that this comment was in response to Bim Adewunmi’s assertion that the media using the terms “black community” and “black community leaders” was illustrative of “generally lazy thinking” (with which I naturally agree, given the above) a point she makes very well in her Guardian piece from yesterday, which well worth a read.

Abbot’s remark, of course, not only illustrates that laziness of thought that so exercises Bim Adewunmi and I, but is also an illustration of precisely the tactics that Abbot claims to be railing against.  This ought not to come as surprise though, as our Diane is a Marxist, and the very first sentence of the very first chapter (excluding the preamble) of Marx and Engels’ manifesto shows that, for all its leanings towards collectivism, Marxism is a political philosophy that draws its power base from dividing people and labelling them, and the rest of the first chapter belabours this point ad nauseum.

Because, of course, in order to collectivise some group, you have to define them, and to do that  (sociologically speaking, rather than strictly mathematically), to define an ‘us’, you must also define a ‘them’. Proletariat and bourgeois, working class and middle class, single working class mums and, presumably, everyone who isn’t. Disabled and not disabled. And so on. And then you tell such groups that you represent their interests and they become part of your power base.

And never, at any point, do we get the true collective where everyone is ‘us’. Naturally, because then there would be no one to agitate against, and therefore no source of political power.

And of course, it’s not just the Marxian political types who do this.  Contemporary politics is disgustingly tribal, and each tribe has its own particular shibboleths to wield. The more conservative types are fond of using any number of variations on family and community that are no less lazy, misconceived and oppressive.

Suffice to say that whenever anyone seeks to label you in some arbitrary manner, be it by skin color, some antediluvian notion of social class, marital status, financial or employment position, ability, etc, and then claims to somehow represent your interests or express your opinions, even if you happen to agree with them, it isn’t, usually, your interests that they have in mind. It is theirs.

I make no exceptions to this even for people who one might otherwise believe to be well meaning.  I well recall a couple of years back when the RNIB took offence at some remark Clarkson made about Gordon Brown and decided to make a noise in the press about how it was offensive to ‘the visually impaired’.  This is a perfect example, because I recall thinking that the remark was quite funny, and yet there go the RNIB chucking a label around and claiming to represent all the people to whom it applies.  And there they go chucking their weight around as though all those who fall into their set definition are as one mind and happy for the RNIB to speak on their behalf. Not so.

Even if this kind of thing is done unthinkingly, defining somebody’s identity and opinions for them, and then using the projected entity to use as leverage as part of a political power base is not something that well meaning people ought to do.

#OccupyLSX - It’s not the lobbying, dumbasses

So the Occupy crowd come up with with what even the Graun goes over the top a bit in declaring ‘an agenda’. The camp’n’dancers themselves more modestly refer to it as “Initial statement of Corporations Policy Group ratified by Occupy London’s General Assembly” which raises expectations much less. Just as well really.  The occupy-ers have apparently been criticised (so says the Graun) for taking so long to come up with anything, but it takes time to start with the premis that ‘capitalism, man, it’s bad, yeah ?’ and come up with any actual coherent arguments.  Marx spent years at it and still did an appalling job.

For the most part the preamble is the usual mishmash of Chomksyite anti corporate psycho-babble (what happened to you Noam ? I bloody loved you when you were the man for language development), which when couched in less hysterical terms I might find my self much in agreement with.  Unsurprisingly for the current ‘radical’ political climate, this all contains the implicit assumption that the state is best placed to decide how money should be spent, along with the rookie mistake of anthropomorphising corporations - buying into the convenient legal fiction that a corporate is an actual entity, essentially.  Chomsky is partly to blame for this, which is sad, because he should damn well know better.

Anyway, whatever, corporatism is bad yes, collecting more tax is not the way to fix that, no.  But that’s not what caught my eye, and it’s far better dealt with elsewhere. No, it was this bit (their emphasis) :

Corporate lobbying subverts our democracy. Last year corporations spent £2 billion influencing the British government. We believe exploitative corporate lobbying has no place in a democratic society. Legislation to ensure full and public transparency of all corporate lobbying activities must be put in place. This should be overseen by a credible and independent body, directly accountable to the people.

This is a smorgasbord of misconceptions, each built upon the other.  No, corporate lobbying does not, in fact, subvert our democracy.  The effectiveness of corporate lobbying of politicians is a symptom of the fact that we don’t have any.   If we had anything remotely approaching an actual democracy, rather then the vastly cut down version of representative democracy that we do have, corporations would be lobbying the demos.  It is the concentration of power that is the disease, lobbying is only one of the symptoms.

Then again, if we did truly have a democracy, surely those who operate and work for corporations are just as entitled to a voice as anyone else ?  That’s kind of what democracy is for, surely ?  Perhaps that’s where “we believe exploitative corporate lobbying has no place in a democratic society” comes from ?  This is ambiguos, are we to take it that all corporate lobbying is exploitative or that that only exploitative corporate lobbying is to be verboten ?  Enquiring minds need to know.  Because if it’s the latter, the question arises over who, precisely, and by what measure, is to decide what qualifies as exploitative ?

There’s also this focus on corporations.  Perhaps this is understandable, since this is the statement from the Corporations Policy Group, but it isn’t just corporations that lobby politicians.  So do a variety of ‘NGOs’ from consumer associations and charities through to activist groups and trade unions. And me, on occasion, along with everyone else who ever writes to their MP or puts their name to a Downing Street e-petition.

It’s the last bit though that is just so naive it makes me ache for my innocent youth. 

Legislation to ensure full and public transparency of all corporate lobbying activities must be put in place. This should be overseen by a credible and independent body, directly accountable to the people.

That sounds great.  Except for two or three things. Transparency is a good thing, there is no argument about that conceptually.  However, the idea that enforcing transparency on the lobbying process will in any way be restorative (or creative) of democracy rests upon two equally naive assumptions. First, it requires that you assume that the politicians have some sense of shame about engaging with lobbyists.  This might seem as though it should be axiomatic when you’re sitting in the middle of a protest camp, but it really isn’t.  The assumption is that politicians somehow believe that treating with lobbyists is wrong, and they will stop it if you can see them.  They don’t, and they won’t.

Secondly, it requires that both politicians and lobbyists are honest and will play by the rules. They aren’t, and they won’t.  ”Ah ha!” I hear you cry, “but you see, that’s where the transparency comes in, isn’t it ?”.  No.  Where the transparency comes in is in fooling you that you can see the levers of power, when in fact they are being manipulated under the table where you can’t see them. And as far as a credible, accountable body, the fact that this issue exists at all, due to the inability to hold government to account, should be a big clue as to the likely efficacy of such an endeavour.

I don’t say that more transparency is not welcome, but it is no panacea.  the only way to stop those levers from being manipulated is to remove them.

Sad to say, that for an organisation that claims to be radical, and which claims in one of its press releases that its aim is

 to challenge social and economic injustice in the global fight for real democracy

there seems to have been very little thought put into what ‘real democracy’ might look like, other than ‘like what we have now but with more taxes and less rich people’, nor to address the central democratic injustice, that of the huge power wielded by the state over the masses.  Or, if there has been, it hasn’t been communicated very well, as ever, I stand to be corrected.

Dehumanising the public sector - cui bono ? (h/t @henrypath)

Some might be surprised to find that I broadly agree with this. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of lefty baiting as much as the next swivel eyed libertarian blogger, but there is something discomforting in the constant repetition of what @henrypath quite rightly identifies as a ‘trope’.

The basic argument is two pronged, the first part, as stated above is that the public sector isn’t productive and/or doesn’t create wealth.  When it is aired, it is also usually accompanied by the assertion that public sector employees don’t really pay taxes. 

The reason that this qualifies as a trope is that it starts from a reasonable - almost irrefutable - premis, but the conclusion that is drawn, as stated, requires one to have some very specific definitions of the precise words used.  Lets take a look at the basic premis first, for which we’ll turn to Claude Frederic Bastiat (‘That which is seen and that which is not seen’, Bastiat Collection, Mises Institute, pp25, pdf)

A hundred thousand men, costing the taxpayers a hundred million of money, live and bring to the purveyors as much as a hundred million can supply. This is that which is seen.

But, a hundred million taken from the pockets of the taxpayers, ceases to maintain these taxpayers and their purveyors, as far as a hundred million reaches. This is that which is not seen. Now make your calculations. Add it all up, and tell me what profit there is for the masses?

What indeed. That really is the important question.  I doubt that it is a controversial assertion that the public sector as a whole is a net consumer of tax revenue. This is, of course, what leads to the accompanying assertion that public sector workers don’t pay tax, which I’ll return to in a moment.

The question, then, in economic rather than ideological terms, is : what does the public sector subsequently do with the tax revenue it consumes ?  The simple assertion that everything the public sector does is non productive or non wealth creating relies very heavily on precisely how we define those particular terms.  A quick and easy litmus test is the following - which of those things that the public sector does would we not wish to have at all if there were no such thing as the public sector ?  Would we wish to be without, say, healthcare ?  Education ? Some form of justice system ?  Would we, in the absence of the public sector, expect or desire private actors to provide the same goods or services ?

Ideologically speaking, one may or may not be in favour of having the state involved in the provision and/or financing of these things, or have some particular view as to the desirable extent of such, but this is a completely separate matter than whether the things in themselves have any intrinsic value.  Leaving aside arguments about public or social goods that I don’t really have the economic chops to get into, it is practically axiomatic across the political spectrum that education is a precursor to wealth generation, for instance.

Quickly back to the ‘not tax payers’ argument, this is really quite insidious, not least because it appears to proceed from a particularly unpleasant premis which is that those who pay no tax should somehow have less ‘rights’ than those who do.  People who wield this particular argument seem to have differing opinions on precisely which rights ought to be curtailed, up to and including the right to hold and express an opinion.

It is true, as Bastiat pointed out centuries ago, that the public sector is a net consumer of tax revenue, yes.  And of course, the argument proceeds from this to say that therefore the salaries of those who work in it, derived as they are from those tax revenues, cannot through their taxation provide an increase in that revenue.  This is true, as far as it goes, but it’s pretty meaningless.  If I were to engage a private tutor, for example, they would be a net consumer of the monies I was paying to them.  They’d be unlikely to give me any of it back at all, in fact.  It’s a category mistake, really, to identify the individual public sector worker with the state.  All the more unforgivable, in fact, as this argument is usually levelled by people who lean (or claim to lean)  more towards individualism than collectivism.

An individual performs some labour for which they are paid, HMRC takes away some of the money they were paid, under threat of force.  Just the same as everyone else.  If that individual goes to work in the private sector or the public sector, the same happens, there is no change. As the verificationists would have it, there is no difference that doesn’t make a difference, and being employed by any particular entity makes precisely bugger all difference to this process.

I don’t like the arguments as put forward, as I have explained above at tedious length, because they are dehumanising, and nothing good ever starts that way. The people who work in the public sector are just that, people, and they damn well deserve to be treated as such.  

Now for the other end of the stick.  There is much muttering going on around and about the internet that these are somehow ‘propaganda’.  I doubt it somehow, it’s probably just people being dicks.  Not exactly uncommon on the internet.  Mea most certainly culpa maxima. That aside, hearing the people who would defend the public sector and the unions arguing that any propaganda directed against them is evil makes me laugh until I hurt. Anyone who’d like to see what propaganda looks like can click on the big protest image above and have a look at some of the signs being lofted by the participants in the last set of public sector union strikes.  If it is indeed true that propaganda is bad, then why is it (and why has it historically been) such a a favoured tool of the political left ?

I’ll leave the last word to M. Bastiat

All I say is—if you wish to create an office, prove its utility. Show that its value to John Q. Citizen, by the services which it performs for him, is equal to what it costs him.

But, apart from this intrinsic utility, do not bring forward as an argument the benefit that it confers upon the official, his family, and his providers; do not assert that it encourages labor.

Fifteen reasons why the word ‘anarchist’ has increasingly become synonymous with the word ‘arsehole’

Some anarchists, who possibly aren’t arseholes.

There’s more than fifteen, really, but lets start with these, spewed into twitter by ‘anarchist’ @AKblackandred.  In fairness, not all of them are utterly vile, so I’ve highlighted my favourites.

Before I move on, a point-by-point explanation of just exactly why scabbing is a bad thing. Pay close attention if afflicted by liberalism.

1) A strike is the withdrawal of labour with the aim of stopping production. Breaking a strike, by definition, undermines that aim.

2) It is in the striking workers’ interests to get as many people to strike as possible. A lot of time is spent campaigning to this end.

3) A picket line is the final point of persuasion, where strikers hope to turn people away from work on the day of the strike itself.

4) It is in the bosses’ interests to get as many people to scab as possible. A lot of time is spent campaigning to this end.

5) Mainly,this means propaganda aimed at the workers. But it can also mean drafting in people from outside specifically to break the strike.

6) In the past, the police and armed forces have been used to open picket lines for scabs. Strikers have been shot and killed in the past.

7) At the same time, the strikers were putting everything on the line. Those who didn’t stand with them were seen as betrayers.

8) Further, it is often the case that those who scab still get the benefit if a strike is won but with no sacrifice. Increasing animosity.

9) Communities and families have been divided, not by the term scab, but by a minority refusing to stand with their fellows in solidarity.

10) Today, the anti-union laws have crippled unions, broken down solidarity and substantively weakened the working class.

11) As such, it is more important than ever that we rebuild the bonds of solidarity and relearn our power as a class.

12) We cannot do that by forgetting that those who cross picket lines act only in the interests of the bosses and undermine the strikers.

13) We cannot do that by pretending that choosing not to strike is somehow being neutral, not taking sides in a dispute.

14) We cannot do that by forgetting that we are fighting a class war, and that our conditions worsen because the bosses are winning.

15) So, if you cross a picket line and break a scab, you’re betraying your fellow workers. You are a scab. Fucking deal with it.

I’ll get the patronising ad-hom out of the way first, and wonder if our Phil is old enough, or grew up in the right kind of places, to have witnessed the visceral reality of this kind of dehumanising, totalitarian, collectivist horribleness. I’m old enough, just, to remember the word scab being daubed on people’s houses. And to remember  the threats, physical intimidation and violent coercion by the ‘workers’ movements against those workers - and their wives and children -  who had the temerity to disagree with them.  Maybe, maybe not. The sort of flippancy deployed here makes me think probably not, but I’ve sat in enough working men’s clubs to know that there are those who are still proud of their role in that, so you can never tell.

As to the rest of it, well, I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on the collectivist strains of anarchism, but even allowing for my patchy knowledge and the likely oversimplification of the relevant Wikipedia entry, they share - or ought to - a dislike for authority and coercion in human relations.  It seems odd therefore that one who claims such a political affiliation should seek to be able to chose on anther’s behalf the ‘class’ to which that other belongs and to then to define whether that other has betrayed the implied values that he ascribes to that class.

Not much fucking respect for people’s autonomy there, is there really ? That’s the problem with the more militant forms of collectivism right there, of course, you don’t get to chose whether you’re a member of the collective or not, but the normative standards of the collective will be applied to you, and if you fail to follow them you can be held up to have ‘betrayed’ them.

This sits badly with the kinds of rhetoric that seek to pit the ‘workers’ against the ‘bosses’ in that it is essentially both authoritarian and coercive in nature, the collective becomes ‘the boss’.  The state in miniature effectively. An odd position, perhaps, for a movement that claims, by almost all accounts, to be set resolutely against state authority and hierarchy of any kind.

Then again, there is the continuing dissonance in the presence of anarchist voices amongst the chorus of those insisting that the state - which they claim to disdain - should do more.

MEP wants to fit a black box recorder to your PCs, phones. For the children.

Some brief background, I first came across this story in my slashdot email this morning. The slashdot story is based on a piece on a website called activepolitic, which itself seems to be based on a spotty Google translation of a piece on Swedish site ‘europapotrlaen.se’.

The key assertion in all these pieces is that Italian MEP Tiziano Motti is currently proposing a scheme to the EU parliament by which everything a citizen of an EU state does online is authenticated, monitored and logged by means of a ‘black box’ system to be installed on every internet connected device.

Worth pointing out at this stage that I’ve been unable to find any mention of this via the Europa website (your Gateway to the European Union!), Motti’s European Parliament listing page, or even his own website. So I’m not quite clear yet on whether this is something that has been scheduled for debate, is intended to be scheduled for debate, or is/has been put before the parliament in one of the many and various ways that such things can come to pass, but I do intend to find out and will post an update if I can clear things up a little.

However, I was able to contact Marcin de Kaminski, one of the sources mentioned in the activepolitics piece, who very helpfully supplied this google docs link to the text of the proposal authored by Motti.

It makes for chilling reading, and as such I’m not going to extract from it too heavily, it really is something which needs to be appreciated - if that’s the correct term for the feeling of crawling horror that will steal over you as you read it - in its totality.

The document provides at least some background context as to what Motti is doing

Recognising the limits of the current technological instruments, Hon. Motti commissioned a feasibility study for the implementation of a model to make the issue of paedo-pornographic material on the web instantly traceable, through the identification of the connected users, and to monitor the uploading of illegal contents.

So presumably what we’re seeing is the result of this feasibility study.  

Motti, in describing his intentions, is keen to let you know that this project (his emphasis)

does not in any way aim to create a digital “Big Brother”, on the contrary it is designed principally to re-establish the necessary monitoring and control of the digital world within a safe and standardised, democratically shared environment which is based on the principles of equity, reliability, neutrality, the protection of human rights and fundamental liberties, and which is not used for improper purposes

He then goes on to outline a system for which the term “Big Brother” is hardly a sufficiently derogatory description. As one might expect, it starts with having to unambiguously identify yourself before going online.  In this case you will cryptographically authenticate yourself with a ‘Guarantor’. The guarantor is a fundamental element of this model of control, and is what is known in cryptography terms as a ‘Trusted Third Party’ or ‘TTP’.

In Motti’s model, this TTP will be 

a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which acts as a “super-partes witness”

The two other ‘stakeholders’ who will be party to this and all other online transactions being the user and what the document describes as “the investigative agencies in charge of fighting crime” (henceforth abbreviated as LEA for Law Enforcement Agencies)

[ If you’re of a certain age and inclination, this will no doubt conjure up memories of the US NSA’s rather poorly received ’clipper chip' initiative. This is worse. ]

Once you’ve authenticated your identity to the guarantor, the ‘black box’ software will record everything you do online, every page you visit, every search you make, every file you download, everything you post to Facebook, every conversation you have in an online chat room or forum. It will cryptographically sign these logs, encrypt them and send them to the guarantor.

As part of this process, the key used to encipher the logs will be split into three parts using an algorithm known as ‘Shamir’s Secret Sharing Scheme’ or ‘SSSS’.  One part is retained by the user, one part goes to the guarantor and one to the LEA.

As any crypto geek - or indeed anyone who reads the linked wikipedia article - can tell you, when a key is split in this way, you only need two parts of it in order to reassemble the whole thing. This is presumably what Motti means when he suggests that this system is democratic, that is the ‘vote’ of the LEA and the TTP is enough to open up your logs and have a look whether you agree or not.

In summary then, this system requires you to prove your identity and then continuously log everything you do online with a third party, said logs being accessible without any consent on your part.  This process is unashamedly referred to throughout the document as ‘evidence gathering’.

This would be voluntary. At first. Except where it wouldn’t be …

In an initial phase it is suggested to introduce the Logbox system on a voluntary basis against incentives (e.g. fiscal, economic, insurance, legal, etc.), except in some of the more sensitive cases such as financial transactions, relations with the public administration, processing of information in compliance with European or national legislation concerning privacy, web surfing by minors and so on.

In the medium term, the system should become a standard, and web surfing should be inhibited by any device that is not compatible with the LogBox infrastructure and which has not authenticated its transactions with the Guarantor (not the ISP or other non-neutral subjects).

But all that - of course - is by no means the limit of Motti’s ambitions. The document contains a chilling indication of the scope of his vision. 

Later the system could also, where suitably integrated with event management and intrusion detection systems, contribute to the implementation of a capillary, reliable early warning system to fight illegal activities, assuming a pro-active role in the defence of the Internet as a whole and of the single nodes that it comprises.

Which sounds awfully like Motti would like all of this to tie in with a real time monitoring system.

The justification for this rests upon the two now tediously familiar pillars of child protection and the ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ principle. The first of these, as I never tire of pointing out, was a favourite rhetorical tool of one A Hitler, the second has been debunked repeatedly, but let’s look at a single real world example.

On the 25th of January 2009, it was legal in the UK to possess an image of consenting adults participating in certain forms of sadomasochistic sex acts. Not to everyone’s taste, but legal.

On the 26th of January 2009, section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 came into force, and it was not. What a difference a day makes. In this case, the difference between ‘nothing to hide’ and ‘three years in prison’.

Motti describes his proposed system as a

Copernican revolution in the method of monitoring and logging

Those are not the words that I would choose, but then again, recall that Motti considers that a system which identifies, monitors and records your every action, for your own good “does not in any way aim to create a digital ‘Big Brother’”.

Draft Defamation Bill - Blogger witch hunt begins in earnest

A day, such as today, of utter cuntistry would be, as former Labour spinweasel Jo Moore would have said, a good day to bury news.

I’m quite sure however that it is the purest form of coincidence that today, the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill scrunched up it’s collective parliamentary sphincter and squeezed out its first report.

Just to get a taste of what’s to come, here’s the first sentence from the summary.

The Government’s draft Bill proposes worthwhile reforms of defamation law, notably in effectively removing trial by jury, with its associated high costs, and in providing better protection for publishers by introducing the new single publication rule.

Justice is expensive, so let’s not do it.  Not a great start to be sure.

But fear not, here’s a quote from the ‘Core Principles’ section

Freedom of expression/protection of reputation: some aspects of current law and procedure should provide greater protection to freedom of expression. This is a key foundation of any free society 

The more cynical among you may be thinking that this is basically politician speak for “Imagine your freedom. Now imagine it in a cellar. Now imagine I’m Josef Fritzel”, and you know what? You wouldn’t be far off, at that.

Here’s what the committee recommends in the case of someone alleging defamation by someone on the internet who is not anonymous.

a)  Where a complaint is received about allegedly defamatory material that is written by an identifiable author, the host or service provider must publish promptly a notice of complaint alongside that material. If the host or provider does not do so, it can only rely on the standard defences available to a primary publisher, if sued for defamation. The notice reduces the sting of the alleged libel but protects free speech by not requiring the host or service provider to remove what has been said; and

b)  If the complainant wishes, the complainant may apply to a court for a take-down order. The host or service provider should inform the author about the application and both sides should be able to submit brief paper-based submissions. A judge will then read the submissions and make a decision promptly. Any order for take-down must then be implemented by the host or service provider immediately, or they risk facing a defamation claim as the publisher of the relevant statement. The timescale would be short and the costs for the complainant would be modest.

So far, so fuck you, but unfortunately this is very much in line with the precedent established in the now infamous Godfrey v Demon Internet libel case, and so far never overturned - though the wikipedia article hints that it may fall over on an HRA challenge - which established that your service provider can be held accountable for what you say, and by accountable, I mean like unlimited libel damages. There’s a good write up of some of the issues here, if you want some of the background, suffice to say that this fun fun bit of legal shenanigans already makes it pretty easy for your shit to be disappeared from the net, because your ISP/web host isn’t going to take the risk. If I’m reading the above right, it seems that the draft bill mitigates this somewhat if your ISP/host/provider of whatever publishes a notice saying that your ass is about to be sued.

I’m not even going to get into the technical or jurisdictional stuff, because what’s important here is the contrast between content with an identifiable author and content without such, viz :

We recommend that any material written by an unidentified person should be taken down by the host or service provider upon receipt of complaint, unless the author promptly responds positively to a request to identify themselves, in which case a notice of complaint should be attached. If the internet service provider believes that there are significant reasons of public interest that justify publishing the unidentified material—for example, if a whistle-blower is the source—it should have the right to apply to a judge for an exemption from the take-down procedure and secure a “leave-up” order. We do not believe that the host or service provider should be liable for anonymous material provided it has complied with the above requirements

So, say something bad about someone anonymously and all they have to do to get rid of it is issue a complaint to your service provider and unless you are prepared to reveal your identity, it disappears. Oh, unless of course your service provider decides to pony up some money for lawyers on your behalf.

I don’t want to get into a rant about the value of anonymity here, there’s plenty of that elsewhere and it’s a many faceted argument, but lest anyone be in any doubt that this represents an attempt to write into law the ability to silence the anonymous voice, here’s another quote

Specifically we expect, and wish to promote, a cultural shift towards a general recognition that unidentified postings are not to be treated as true, reliable or trustworthy. The desired outcome to be achieved—albeit not immediately—should be that they are ignored or not regarded as credible unless the author is willing to justify or defend what they have written by disclosing his or her identity.

Nudge nudge. Dog fuckers.

Binge drinking MPs ? No, Dr Wollaston, it’s not a shock

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, alleged that a “shocking” number of MPs have “no idea” what they are voting for in the Commons as they just follow the orders of their leaders.

No ! You don’t say ?

“Who would go to see a surgeon who had just drunk a bottle of wine at lunchtime?”

Well, no one, but then again, performing surgery requires judgement and fine motor skills. Voting the way the party whips tells you requires neither.

“But we fully accept that MPs are perfectly capable of performing as MPs despite some of them drinking really quite heavily.”

Presumably by ‘we’, she means ‘other MPs’. I can’t say I’m feeling much acceptance myself.  My last but one employment contract had a specific clause in it which made even entering the building after drinking potential grounds for dismissal.

Thanks to the continual lobbying of the likes of Dr Wollaston (who is the GP kind of doctor, not the Phd kind of doctor) the days when it was acceptable to have even a single drink at lunchtime are long gone for most employees.

Dr Wollaston called for such behaviour to be “challenged”. She said: “It’s really shocking that so many MPs have no idea what they are voting for when they walk through the doors of the lobbies. I think we need to change the culture in Westminster.”

Disgusting, yes. Utterly hypocritical, certainly. Further proof - as if more were needed - that the westminster village is completely divorced from reality, definitely.

But shocking ? To be shocking it would have to a surprise. We’d have to be labouring under the misapprehension that our elected representatives were actually representing us and not their parties, that they were somehow employing their critical faculties to the issues before them rather than existing simply as number swelling bench fodder. We’d also have to assume they weren’t massively hypocritical cock sockets. Surely even the most naive among the electorate have had such illusions shattered by now.

So shocking, no, not so much.

#cpc11 : Something, something, something, family values

It is well known that I am no fan of the Labour party, who have, in my lifetime, gone from being a party of gruff shouting ‘working class’ people, stubbornly convinced of their own righteousness and unable to conceive of why they aren’t at the top of the perceived (by them, via the medium of the huge chips on their shoulders) social order, to a party of shrill, shouting, ‘middle class’ people, stubbornly convinced of their own righteousness and unable to conceive of why they aren’t at the top of the perceived (by them, via the medium of the huge chips on their shoulders) social order.

This of course roughly follows the social mobility trajectory of the times, often vocally denied by the very people who benefitted from it most. My paternal grandfather, for instance, was a miner from age 14 until retirement, my maternal grandmother was actually a servant. I am a computer programmer and my sister is a fellow of the royal society, go figure.

This leads some people to consider that I must therefore be a fanboy for the Conservatives, because to those of a Labourish bent, anyone who disagrees with them must prima facie be a raving right wing Tory.

But this simply isn’t the case. I think the title of this post sums up fairly neatly what I hear coming from the conservatives.  They very idea of an ideology which, by it’s very nature, does not seek to run joyously into the future, embracing new ways of living and of doing and gleefully shouting “Right then! What are we going to do today ?”, but seeks to hold on to “traditional values” simply for the sake of doing so, which, Canute like, seeks to stem to the very tide of cultural evolution and change which makes us human, makes us adaptable, makes us rich, is anathema to me.

I’m aware that due to my utter disdain for the Labour party and many of its appendages, mouthpieces and fellow travellers, I have picked up quite a few twitter followers who are, in fact, Conservatives. If any of you are reading this and thinking “Hey! That’s not me! That’s not what my ideology is all about!” then I’m extremely glad for you, but you’re in the wrong party.

Since it’s conference season, we don’t have to look hard for some spectacular examples of this in action, and this one is tied up with my other favourite thing to hate about the tories, the godawful, patronising, paternalistically authoritarian, pseudo victorian moralising about families and marriage. As. Per. Fucking. Usual.

Mr Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will issue a clear statement designed to ensure that the Prime Minister holds good to his commitment to give married couples a tax break.

He will say: “This isn’t about Government interfering in family life; it’s about Government recognising that stable two parent families are vital for the creation of a strong society. It’s about parents taking responsibility for their children.

Yes, you blue bell end, it is about government interfering. It is about the government deciding that there is one single state authorised type of familial grouping that will be officially recognised, approved of, and financially incentivised.

Regardless of one’s particular opinions about the institution of marriage, whether you regard it simply as a contract or harbour some bronze age belief about its sanctity before the grand sky fairy and his psychotic bewinged minions, it is quite simply not for the state to decide what social structures people should choose.  It is, quite simply, none of the state’s fucking business.

Simply treating people as individuals would probably do the trick. Labour party policy on tax credits was widely (and correctly) decried as incentivising parents not to live together due to the calculation of working tax credits as per couple, rather than per individual.

Note though, that is simply ‘couple’, not ‘married couple’.  If this is the injustice IDS is seeking to reverse, then the word married has no place whatever in the discussion of either the problem, nor the solution.  It is only there because the pious traditionalists amongst the Tory demograph can’t conceive of any other family grouping that doesn’t offend their twattish moral sensibility.

Shit like this, and the frankly Orwellian ’nudge unit’, demonstrate that the Conservatives are no less horrifyingly statist and authoritarian than the Labour party, and no less bound to their own particular brand of breathless, moronic,  moralising. 

Like I always say, same shit, different tie color.

Once upon a time, being Left-wing meant exposing the structural problems with capitalism and putting forward some solutions for fixing or overhauling them. Today, if Occupy Wall Street is anything to go by, it simply means getting all super-moralistic about evil bankers and corporate bigwigs, who apparently are responsible for every ill in the world. Forget analyses of society or programmes for change – these occupiers just want to get their rocks off by pointing a collective finger at billionaires while screaming “Waaaah!”.

It’s more like a two-minute hate than a principled campaign, more a tantrum than a protest, the aim of which is to assuage the inchoate moralistic fury of the sons and daughters of the East Coast bourgeoisie who look at mass America and its inhabitants and feel nothing but pity and disgust.

These campaigners are nothing like workers’ movements of old, which brought together principled men and women in a campaign for change; instead they have merely elevated the teenage screech of “I hate you and I wish you were dead!” into a political rallying cry. No wonder the vast majority of Americans are blocking their ears.

The teenage moralism of the Occupy Wall Street hipsters almost makes me ashamed to be Left-wing - Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, writing in the Telegraph.
To Govern Is To Choose

So said David Cameron in an interview I was unfortunate enough to catch this morning. He is of course quoting Nigel Lawson, the full quote, according to the magical steam powered interweb, being

To govern is to choose. To appear to be unable to choose is to appear to be unable to govern.

Lawson was almost certainly paraphrasing De Gaulle, who himself said 

To govern is always to choose among disadvantages

Inveterate politicians to a man, they all rather fail to notice what’s actually wrong with that, which is that, simply, to govern is to choose for others. That being, fundamentally, the source of political power, the glittering prize that the feces flinging fuckmonkeys that polite society dubs ‘politicians’ scrabble over one another to attain.

De Gaulle, being French, may himself have been channelling the French ‘revolutionary’ Honoré Gabriel Riqueti who put it rather more honestly

To administer is to govern: to govern is to reign. That is the essence of the problem.

Quite.

Ass backwards politics by the Labour party

@paulwaugh draws attention to this piece over at Labour Uncut blog by Dan Hodge (who he?). It’s a readable enough bit of Red Ed bashing, but naif that I am, my brain started to make poorly bad noises when it encountered this paragraph

Opposition isn’t easy, but it is simple.

You begin by deciding where you want to position yourself politically. You then develop a policy framework to support that positioning. And finally you construct a philosophical and intellectual narrative to define your programme as you sell it to the electorate.

Personally, I’d have thought that one would start with the philosophical and intellectual exercise, then form one’s policy in support of that, and who gives a fuck where that ‘positions you politically’.

But that would be principled, and this is the opposite. This is pure brand management. Decide what you want to say you’ll do, then construct a line of bullshit so that the electorate will think it is justified.  Winning is all that is important.

It’s a pretty good explanation of the entire political system, in fact, and certainly nothing new. But I am surprised to find it quite so brazenly expressed where the proletariat can see it.

The vast influence of the state on the shape and, inevitably, the behaviour of the modern Western economy is thus clear for all to see. It overshadows any single company, indeed any single sector (including banking), like an elephant standing over a flea.

But the sheer folly of describing the economic status quo as anything remotely approaching the neo-liberal, free-market, capitalist ideal is easily demonstrated by a whole host of other things too: the vast network of taxation and regulation, limiting and obstructing business at every turn, first among them.

The CommentatorGuardian columnists are wrong. This is a crisis of social democracy not neo-liberalism.
Comp Sci GCSEs : The right thing, for the wrong reasons

Teenagers could be taught to write their own software programs at GCSE as part of a major overhaul of the UK schools’ IT curriculum.

Reports El Reg, and as it happens, I am broadly in favour of this, though not for the reasons given by David Willets, who is clearly a moron.

I want to see the ability to create software, to write programmes, that is one of the key functional skills for the 21st century

No, David, it is not.  For the man on the Clapham omnibus, the ability to write software is no more fundamental than the ability to create omnibuses (omnibii ?).

What is fundamental is the ability to actually operate software, this is becoming almost as fundamental as the ability to read to write, which is why, in fact, we teach precisely those skills in the current ICT curriculum.

Now it’s fair to say that the ICT curriculum has come under some serious criticism from many people over the years, including me.  In fact, including me when I eschewed it as a choice of GCSE subject and instead took an RSA course in touch typing. I could already do all the things the IT GCSE would have taught me and more besides, but an improved typing speed was actually much more useful to me in programming terms.

The IT (I have an irrational and pathological hatred of the public sector’s addition of a third letter to the acronym) curriculum has been fair butchered up over the years, largely as a result of trying to shoehorn more techy stuff into it, which is the wrong approach.

You see, using IT, practicing IT - e.g. as a corporate IT person, network admin, etc - and being a programmer are all vastly different things.  There has, in fact, been something of a spat between the ‘IT industry’ (don’t get me started!) and the many and various institutions that teach the disparate subjects that comprise what a layman would lump together as ‘IT’.  It’s more abstract at this level, with lots of people complaining about the watering down of computer science courses into what are effectively computer programming courses, churning out more Java programmers, and indeed about the choice of Java itself as a teaching language.  You can catch the tip of this iceberg of geek bitchery by looking through back issues of Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery, if you’re so inclined.

So apparently, someone somewhere in the bowels of the state education machinery has recognised that the subjects are fundamentally different and decided to provide the option to learn about software creation separately from software use.  This is A Good Thing.

There’s some slightly more in depth info over at silicon.com, here.

That those in the education hot seat are prepared to experiment with the curriculum, rather than regarding it as some monolithic sacred cow, is also very welcome.

Jeremy Hunt: “I will force firms to volunteer”

He didn’t actually say that of course

Voluntary agreements could be set up to help provide solutions to online copyright infringement, but if they cannot be established the Government will propose new measures under law, Hunt said.

This is practically standard for governments when dealing with the telecoms industry, particularly when it comes to issues that heave perilously close to censorship.

This is, for instance, how we ended up with the UK’s child porn blocking system.

Government comes to telcos with a shopping list of “voluntary” agreements they’d like to see and says “hey, why don’t you all volunteer to do these things, and if you don’t, we’ll legislate them into law and force you to do them.”

This, of course, is simply coercion.  I have always presumed that successive governments have done this because it saves them from ending up with legislation that could possibly be described as draconian.  That’s certainly the case nowadays, where anything that even smells of ‘censoring the internet’ draws screams of horror from all quarters. Something which truly gladdens my heart.

And government can then point at the telcos and say “it was them, they did it, it’s an industry thing, nothing to do with us.”  And pretend their hands are clean.

The telcos bend over for it of course.  Because the only thing worse than a voluntary framework forced upon you by the government is ending up with some half baked piece of poorly framed legislation hanging around your neck and a bunch of government regulators crawling up your arse.