Those who forget their history, etc.
Tony Blair's recent assaults on our civil liberties have finally got me reading a bit of political philosophy again. To wit, some pertinent quotes from John Stuart Mill:
On Liberty, Ch.II - "Let us suppose... that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to excercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it."
On Liberty, Ch.IV - "there are, in our own day, gross usurpations upon the liberty of private life actually practised, and still greater ones threatened with some expectation of success, and opinions propounded which assert an unlimited right in the public not only to prohibit by law everything which it thinks wrong, but in order to get at what it thinks wrong, to prohibit any number of things which it admits to be innocent...
"A theory of 'social rights' the like of which probably never before found its way into direct language: being nothing short of this - that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except perhaps that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for, the moment an opinion which I consider noxious passes any one's lips, it invades all the 'social rights' attributed to me by the Alliance."
Locke, Mill and Paine should be the major sources for anyone wishing to find eloquent expressions of precisely why what Blair is doing is wrong. Possibly even Burke:
"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little"
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle"
"The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts"
(Initially posted as a comment over at Great Britain, Not Little England
, where MatGB is pondering how to organise the resistance.)
A bit of over-the-top historical/constitutional pedantry
Talk Politics on top form once again, highlighting the details of deliberately confused legislation:
"The provisions which appeared in the first draft of the Bill, when glorification was a separate offence, which limit its applicability to terrorist attacks in the last twenty years plus anything before that put explicitly on a designated list by the Home Secretary is no longer part of the Bill - taken to the letter of the law, glorification covers any terrorist or terrorist act at any time in history or just terrorism in general."
There's a handy list including a number of the usual suspects - Nelson Mandela, George Washington etc. - who arguably used terrorist tactics (if terrorism is defined in the broad terms the government generally seems to prefer - namely "using violence to secure political ends"), just to undeline the insanity.
It's easy to forget, however, that two of the documents most frequently held up as the foundation of the modern British political system also arose from acts which could easily be defined as terrorist.
Magna Carta was signed on 15 June 1215 as a concession following a protracted (para-)military campaign, including surprise attacks on government buildings and the assasination of leading government figures. It has practically no legal standing these days, but many hold it up as the first document extolling the virtues of the rights of the people over the state (even though it was no such thing).
More damagingly, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was settled after a military force invited by a group of men who held no political office came to London and surrounded the Palace of Westminster until Parliament agreed to give the crown to William of Orange. A modern equivalent would be if a group of nutjob Islamic fundamentalists took it upon themselves to invite Osama Bin Laden to surround Westminster with his barmy army, intimidating our representatives into instigating Sharia law and declaring Osama to be king.
The handy thing is, as there's no accepted definition of terrorism, it would be entirely possible to argue (and a number of historians have) that the Glorious Revolution was a terrorist act. And please note the name. That's right, "Glorious" - glorifying terror if ever I saw it.
The post-1688 political settlement (which is in any case founded on an illegality, as the parliament which gave William the throne had no legal right to exist, and no legal right to depose James II) is usually summed up by the Bill of Rights (which, like Magna Carta has practically no impact on anything, other than as a nice(ish) ideal), but also includes the setting in stone of the concept of no one being above the law and the sovereignty of parliament.
Strictly speaking, as William III was illegally made king following his threat of force, he had no right to give away powers rightfully belonging to the crown, and none of the monarchs who followed him had any legitimacy to grant more powers either, as all of their powers as monarch were based upon an illegal power-grab founded on what was arguably an act of terrorism.
By merely being in office, Tony Blair is glorifying and legitimising terrorism. If he really meant what he says about clamping down on terrorist glorification, the current Royal Family would be booted out and the Stuart line restored in the shape of King Francis II
; parliament's powers would be greatly curtailed to remove all those it has gained since 1688; the Cabinet would be abolished along with the office of Prime Minister as the King returns to government by Privy Council; all crown lands sold or given away in the last 300 years (a sizable chunk of the country) would be returned to King Francis; all currency issued by the Bank of England would instantly be illegal for its glorification of a false monarch and for having not been issued by a legal Royal Mint; Scotland would become an independent nation once again as the Act of Union is inistantly abolished; the Elizabethan Corn Laws would return to replace the welfare state; and the majority of the population would lose its voting rights overnight as we return to male-only voting based on property qualifications.
If these things are not enacted as soon as the current Terrorism Bill passes its final vote, the government must prosecute itself for glorifying and condoning terrorism merely by existing.
Berlusconi + Mussolini, sitting in a tree...
A day after the good mini-Mussolini bit the dust, Silvio Berlusconi is seemingly making his fascistic, dictatorial aspirations clear as he announces his hope to team up with Il Duce's daughter Alessandra, leader of a group of batty far-right loons in the finest tradition of daddy's days, should he win the upcoming Italian general election.
"I'm sure that Ms Mussolini, as she assured me, will list only candidates for whose democratic values she can personally guarantee,"
Said the major media owner who has tried to weaken laws guaranteeing equal media access during election campaigns, the political leader who has tried to reform the country's constitution to focus more power on a single political leader, the man who has supported electoral reforms designed to give a winning coalition a bonus of 340 seats, even if they had but one vote more than their rivals, and designed to cut out independent candidates - like the nonpartisan leader of the main opposition coalition.Update: A top-notch Berlusconi battiness roundup.
Having problems finding a plumber? Well those kindly souls over in Brussels are trying to save you from your misery with the Services Directive, allowing the Daily Mail the joy of umpteen thousand headlines about German Garbage collectors stealing our wastepaper, unions and the like to moan about how the increased competition will drive down prices (like that's a bad thing?) and the wonderous workers of Whitehall to - as they do with every EU directive, a prime cause of anti-EU grumblings - implement the thing so bloody enthusiastically that it'll doubtless become law to have at least one hairdresser of Slavic descent in every salon in the land.
It's naturally all a lot more complicated than that and I'm merely being facetious as I'm still enraged by the Westminster votes of the last few days, so check out EUPolitix's handy guide so you can pretend to be all knowledgable when the result of the EU Parliament's vote comes through later today.
Update (11:45am): They've passed it.
Blair's egomania, part 34,763
Today at Prime Minister's Questions, responding to ex-Tory leader William Hague, Tony Blair said
"He and I stood in a democratic election in 2001 and I... remember the result"
The obvious implication, of course, is that in a democratic vote, the electorate chose Blair over Hague.
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but in the 2001 election, Tony Blair stood for election in Sedgefield, County Durham, William Hague in Richmond, Yorkshire. Only 22 miles away from each other, perhaps, but entirely different constituencies. Hague and Blair have never stood against each other in any election.
In other words, yet more proof - as if any were needed - that Blair doesn't understand the concept of the British system of representative democracy. Hence the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill
- wiping out the inconvenience of Parliamentary scrutiny once and for all. He genuinely thinks that everyone voting Labour was voting for him personally. He genuinely thinks that what he wants, he should get.
(Hey - it was in the manifesto, so ALL LABOUR MPs HAVE A DUTY TO VOTE FOR IT, as the manifesto is the Little Red Book
containing all the unbounded wisdom of Chairman Blair. Unless the thing that was in the manifesto has subsequently fallen out of favour with the leadership, like the partial smoking ban or commitment not to raise university tuition fees, in which case it shalt verrily be airbrushed
from the official history
of the glorious reich.)
Welcome to our Blairite New World, where smoking is banned
while greenhouse gas emissions rise
; where foxhunting is banned
but animal testing
booms; where reading the names of soldiers killed in an illegal war gets you arrested
, but calling for beheadings and terrorist attacks in response to some cartoons lets you wander free
; where every British citizen is tagged and tracked
while terrorists are ignored
That one little throw-away remark shows that Blair genuinely believes that he - personally - has a mandate for all his vastly contradictory policy decisions, and that his cult of personality
is progressing apace. It is also yet another example of why he won't step down until Gordon Brown has made himself sufficiently indistinguishable from the Dear Leader as to make any transition seamless.Kim Il-Blair
will be replaced by Kim Brown-Il
. That time is coming
, and when it does, the change will be all but imperceptible. It's time to get out, before they prevent us from doing even that
.Update: Unity at Talk Politics reads legislation so the press, public and politicians don't have to
(not that, it would appear, they do anyway):
"If you think the votes that will take place over the next two days on the Terrorism Bill are about the 'glorification of terrorism', then like the BBC in this report, you have got things very badly wrong... The main amendment to this section of the Bill that the government will be moving today seeks not to reintroduce the offence of glorifying terrorism but merely to remove a definition of 'indirect encouragement' inserted by the Lords... What we have here is quite simply a framework for law-maling by propaganda; an attempt to define the precise parameters of this offence by banging away at the public in the press with their preferred definition - which does include glorification - in the hope that when the time comes and a relevant case comes to court, jurors will have swallowed their bullshit wholesale and deliver a precedent that suits their purposes."Update 2: MPs are idiots
. Passed by 315 votes to 277. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH.
For all those maniacs who think the BBC is biased:
"World Television produces the fake news, but its efforts are entirely funded by the Foreign Office, which spent £340m on propaganda activities in the UK alone in 2001. A comprehensive post- 9/11 overhaul means that this figure has probably markedly increased since then..."For those who still care, this would be well worth digging into in more detail, perhaps starting with the propaganda channel's website. This isn't new, as this report from March last year shows. It is, however, yet another reason to send me apopleptic. My anger levels are at a genuinely violent level today - and following the precedent of yesterday's anti-smoking vote, I utterly demand that the government bans itself for the sake of my health.
Can Labour make the illiberal triple?
ID cards to be forced on us? Check.
Pointlessly over-riding the market in an utterly hypocritical PR move? Check.
Final step - attempt to introduce thoughtcrime.
Won't somebody rid me of this troublesome government?
Update: This. Update 2: Also this (mostly...), and this is pretty much perfect. Update 3: Also try this. Maybe it really is time to revive the Whig party...
MPs are bastards
Total ban on smoking in public places by 200-odd votes?
That's it, this country is beyond redemption.
Tony Blair achieves stage one in his attempt to force me to emigrate. Stage two to follow later today.
Of course, now that they're going to tie passports in to ID cards and force us all to have the buggers, I'd better get my act in gear and find a country without such mental authoritarians in charge (preferably one that allows me to smoke in pubs) to give me citizenship asap, or (thanks to the government's ever so generous concession to make it "volunatary") the only way to avoid having the barcode tattooed firmly on my forehead will be to find a remote part of Dartmoor and avoid all human contact for the rest of my days.
I think I'm probably rather too angry adequately to express just how much I despise this God-awful, craven, cowardly bastard of a government, and every single MP who voted in favour of that horrendously illiberal bill.
Update: Oh, and am I right in thinking that, following this question from Tory Ben Wallace, Charles Clarke has admitted that all a terrorist/dodgy criminal type need do is fly to Ireland, get a fake Irish passport and then hop on a boat to Liverpool before being allowed free travel throughout the UK? Or was Shadow Home Secretary David Davis correct in suggesting that, for the ID cards plan to work, the Irish government will also have to adopt the bloody things, re-introducing somewhat unfortunate similarities to the old colonial days?
Update 2: A Kate Hoey follow-up solicited the following from the Safety Elephant:
"Once it is compulsory to register, Irish citizens resident here would be obliged to register. The common travel area is unaffected in principle by that definition, although, as I told the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden, a series of practical questions arise that are subject to active discussion in those circumstances."So yes, it would appear that the Irish bypass will be well and truly open to all dodgy foreigners with bombs and the like.
Please also note the Freudian slip "once it is compulsary". It's only a matter of time, kids...
Ooooh - voting is open on Fistful's 2nd European Weblog Awards, and this place is up for Best Weblog, Best Political Weblog and Best UK Weblog. Hurrah!
Also rather satisfying is the fact that The Sharpener, like wot I was involved in setting up with Jarndyce, Justin and Nick, is also up for Best Weblog, Best Political Weblog, Best UK Weblog and Best New Weblog.
Go vote and stuff - or just browse through, as last time it was a great chance to find interesting new blogs.
Time to start updating blogrolls, folks - BlogCode is up and running, a handy new tool for finding blogs similar to those you like from Mr Ireland. Used in conjunction with Wikablog it could end up rather useful for discovering yet more ways to waste time reading the opinions of people you've never met on topics over which you have no control. Hurrah!
Gordon Brown: perpetuating myths, telling lies and flip-flopping
We all know Gordon's rather good at pretending the economy's doing better than it is; I must, however, admit to having been duped into thinking he was better than the usual Charles Clarke/David Blunkett/John Reid New Labour bullshitter. Apparently not:
"The chancellor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that ID cards were necessary in the fight against terrorism and would prevent identity fraud."
Utter crap, Gordon, and you know it. But hey, you're not unofficial joint Prime Minister
, are you? Oh no!
It's long been traditional for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make policy announcements in areas outside the Treasury's control:
"Mr Brown is set to announce a raft of new security measures, which are expected to include a public review which will focus on counter-terrorism and security."
Joy. Rapture. ANOTHER review of counter-terrorism nonsense being announced just before a major vote on ID cards, which the government is desperately trying to tie in to terrorism, despite all evidence to the contrary, and despite senior government ministers themselves having admitted that ID cards would have done little to prevent the 7th or 21st July attacks?
But wait, what's this? A day after the papers were full of Brown's denials that he's now jointly in charge of the country (despite not having been invited to this lofty position by Her Majesty, the only person with the power to do so), it seems he's changed his mind already
"the chancellor said he was taking decisions alongside Mr Blair on a range of issues including security, the environment and housing."
So which is it, Gordon? Are you unconsitutionally co-running the country or aren't you? Was Charles Clarke wrong when he admitted that ID cards wouldn't have prevented the 7th July attacks
, or are you wrong now? Are you deluded, misinformed, or simply stirring up shit when you bring up the "ricin plot" again, despite there having been no evidence it actually existed
Note to all those (including me at one point) who hoped Gordon would bring Labour back to being a party they could vote for again: not a chance. The guy's just as tainted as the rest of them. The only respectable Labourites are on the backbenches, and will be easily identifiable by voting against the government this evening.
Note to Labour party chairman Ian McCartney: you ask the right question
"If some Labour MPs are determined not to vote Labour in Parliament, how can we expect our supporters to be determined enough to vote Labour at the ballot box?"
But you come up with the wrong solution. The Labour rebels have no obligation to support the party leadership no matter what. They have no obligation slavishly to vote for every single policy in the breeze-block of a manifesto you churned out before the general election. They have an obligation purely to their constituents' best interests and wishes. The fact that they feel that their obligation to their constituents is in opposition to your party's policies indicates one thing only - Labour's leadership, apparently including the leadership in waiting, is in opposition to the best interests and wishes of the country.Update:
Talk Politics on why the ID Cards bill "compromises" are anything but
.Update 2: Bugger off, Brown
"Over the last few years the major terrorist suspects arrested, typically, have had up to 50 false identities each"
Yes, and they have, typically (the July lot were anything but), not been British nationals, so wouldn't be covered by the ID cards scheme anyway. And what's this nonsense?
"If we withdraw glorification from the definition of indirect incitement, or from the grounds for proscribing organisations, as is being proposed by opponents this week, this would send the wrong signal that we could not reach a consensus on how serious this issue of glorification is"
Erm... If we managed to covict Abu Hamza without the "glorification" nonsense, why is it necessary? We already have incitement laws. No more are needed.
In any case, if you bring in specific laws to clamp down on this particular aspect of free speech, all it will do is make them more careful not to say things that will lead to prison terms - cf. BNP leader Nick Griffin, who is far too canny to risk getting done for race hate following anti-racism legislation, so instead uses euphemism and innuendo. Allowing the buggers to "glorify" acts of terrorism simply allows them mre rope to hang themselves with, as they won't be as careful with their wording and, like Abu Hamza, are more likely to slip into outright incitement, on which they can be done.
It's the one year anniversary issue of the Britblog Roundup. Hurrah.
And in an utterly unscientific manner, one of mine got named joint post of the year - which considering the subject of mine and who the other one's from seems somewhat wrong... Either way, I imgine the cheque's in the post.
John Reid - heading 'em off at the pass...
As predicted, Defence Secretary John Reid's rather odd comments about how our brave boys should be cut some slack and
allowed to commit war crimes come in for less scrutiny in the face of a non-regular enemy were indeed attempting to form the course of debate prior to new allegations of abuse in Iraq.
"Soldiers are shown chasing youths involved in the disturbance, dragging four of them into the compound and beating them on various parts of the body with batons and kicking them, one in the genitals."
Let's face it, it's no Abu Ghraib, but it hardly comes at a good time, what with all the easily-manipulated muslims around the world already braying like maniacs over those cartoons. As the video was apparently taken two years ago, it's rather tricky to see quite how, in the current over-heated situation, the Screws can justify publishing the story. It's hardly going to calm things down, is it?
Does this mean that Reid was right when he said "let us be very slow to condemn our troops, our forces, and very quick to support them and understand them"? Well, to say "no" outright is an obvious nonsense.
To "understand" a wartime situation is tricky, but we've all seen enough war films to know that things can easily get out of hand, that a few people may get a kicking. In war there are different standards of morality - and a beating is, after all, preferable to a bullet.
Does that make whacking people with sticks and kicking them in the bollocks with steel toe-capped combat boots right? No. So those responsible should indeed be condemned.
But should our troops also be supported? Yes. Of course. They're in a crap situation, and the vast majority are undoubtedly trying their best to achieve the objective of a peaceful and stable Iraq.
The News of the World has just put our troops in danger. In a time of even more heightened tensions than we had already - which is no mean feat considering how fucked up the world's been for the last three years - they've just taken another hefty swipe at the hornets' nest.
And for what? A grainy video of the sort of beating which, though nasty, you could see in most provincial British town centres at 2am any Saturday morning. Not exactly systematic abuse in secret detention facilities, is it? Hardly the scoop of the year. Yet it could well get a bunch more British soldiers killed.
John Reid evidently had the tip-off, hence the nonsense he spouted earlier in the week. His attempt to excuse war crimes should be ignored and ridiculed for the uncivilised nonsense it is
. This should not be the time to excuse illegal actions.
Neither, however, is it the time to reveal relatively minor infractions. Should one single British soldier be killed or injured as a result of revenge attacks prompted by this story, The News of the World should be held responsible.
Though I am obviously fully in favour of complete freedom of the press, there are indeed - as people have been mistakenly arguing over this cartoon business for the last couple of weeks - occasions where publishing simply because you can is the wrong move.
No one could have predicted the massively over the top response to publishing those crappy cartoons. The News of the World was and is fully aware of the potential for a violent response in publishing this story. Yet they went ahead and ran it anyway, putting British troops in further danger, isolating them further from the average Iraqi. In a regular wartime situation, that could be considered tantamount to treason.