Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The US Army has finally abandoned the rather silly policy of preventing out homosexuals serving in the Armed forces. I was serving in the regular British army when the Ban on homosexuals was ended in the UK.

The platoon was formed up on the morning of the lifting of the ban, and the statement “…It is no longer acceptable to discriminate on the grounds of Race, Religion, or SEXUALITY…” was read out by the colour Serjeant. He then numbered the men off from the right in twos


…And so on

“Number ones turn to your left, twos to your right… LEFT and RIGHT TURN!…”

…Pause for effect…

“…Now give the man in front of you a nice big kiss…”.

Homosexuals in the British military is now a complete non-issue. As, I hope it will be for the USA.

Libertarianism: “Identitiy Politics for Selfish White Men”

Apparently Libertarianism is just identity politics of Selfish white men. The evidence ‘Left Outside’ uses for this absurd assertion is my last post, where I suggest that although I might disapprove of a T-Shirt bearing the slogan “I’m too pretty for homework so my brother has to do it for me”, I would be unlikely to do anything about it, because I don’t really give a shit. The hysterical reaction of the left to such things, I find faintly disturbing, and evidence of an intrusive, totalitarian mindset which seeks to impose it’s values on everyone.

Of course with a name like “left outside”, there is going to be economic lunacy in there too. Let’s just look at some of the more absurd statements in this post.

Jackart’s argument seemed to hinge on the idea that “Lefties” who are trying to make the world a slightly better place for women (and slightly worse for selfish, privileged men)…

Political freedom is not a Zero-Sum game.

Brian Caplan is one prominent Libertarian who has written very strongly in favour of late C19th America despite all the oppression of women and blacks and poor people and trade unionists.

Of course, it is possible to praise an economic system without supporting the entire social system. Praising, for example the competitive rail-road expansion in 19th Century America does not equate to support for slavery. Praising Enoch Powell’s legacy of economic thought does not imply support for “sending ’em all back” and so on. Brian Caplan isn’t a supporter of “oppression”. Play the ball, not the man.

Likewise a large and probably dominant strand of Libertarianism has adopted the Thatcherite slogan “Let Management Manage” which is nonsense. Getting bossed around at work feels often worse than being bossed around by the state…

…except that the state has a monopoly of legal violence and takes 50% of your earnings at gunpoint. You CAN leave a job. Of course if the lefties get their way, there won’t be any other jobs to go to. Workers “rights” merely make it more risky to hire someone, so there are fewer jobs around. You really want to empower the worker? A job-creating dynamic economy is much better than job protection. Employers need to treat their workers decently or they will walk. What this has to do with a T-shirt slogan, though is beyond me.

The left-outside’s post starts from the assumption that all such hysterical left-wing actions such as getting products of which some people disapprove off the market, are a good thing; making the world a “better place”. Individually, the may be right. Taken together, I fear such actions create an atmosphere of mutual suspicion, excess caution as people businesses refuse to take risks or make arguments for fear of offending noisy bullies. Left-wingers, obsessed by identity politics, shout down any dissenting voices. My point is that the world would be better if everyone just ignored behaviour by others that doesn’t directly affect them. Libertarianism is a mindset in which I don’t seek to impose my values on others, and simply ask the same courtesy in return.

The fact Left-Outside thinks this “selfish” is telling, and explains why socialism in action usually involves enormous piles of corpses. Link

Too Pretty for Homework…

I noticed a minor Twitter-storm recently. American retailer, JC Penny was selling a T-shirt, Which bore the Legend “I’m Too Pretty for Homework, so My Brother Has To Do It For Me.

Pretty crass. If I saw it, I would think that I wouldn’t want MY daughter wearing that, and I wouldn’t buy it. But then I believe in freedom. A lefty seeing the same thing has exactly the same reaction, but adds “… and I think NO-ONE should be ALLOWED to buy it either”

They then accuse the store of Gender Stereotyping and furiously dash off angry screeds, and then bask in the glow of VICTORY when JC Penny put the following up

“JCPenney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.”

I mean I sort-of agree, I sort of understand, but it just wouldn’t occur to me to give a shit enough to do anything about it beyond not buying it. This endless activism of the left, over mere trifles like t-shirt slogans strikes me as a bit hysterical, and it scares me, as it’s more evidence of the left ruling offside speech they deem wrong. Today, a mildly offensive kiddies t-shirt slogan. Tomorrow, criticism of the Sainted Obama. Am I wrong to think like this and fear their tactics?

The Banality of Evil

Hiding behind “lack of discretion to give warnings”, brave customs officials pounced on a wicked Farmer who mows a local football pitch once a fortnight. For free.

Because he’s a farmer, the fuel ALREADY IN THE TRACTOR’S TANK will be cheaper, low-duty red diesel. This however can, by law only be used for farming, or forestry purposes. So Mr Thorne is breaking the law, by mowing a football pitch, for free, once a fortnight, unless he siphons off the red Diesel in the tractor, replacing it with normal diesel to do the job.

I can understand if red diesel was being used for commercial lawn-mowing. I can understand why farmers are expected to put normal diesel in their cars. (Surely wouldn’t it be better to remove the whole invitation to fraud and oppressive inspection and enforcement by simply refunding farmers’ fuel duty, if such a subsidy is necessary?). however any law which says a farmer cannot use his vehicle, normally used for farming, for the benefit of the community without being fined £250, it is the law that is wrong, not the guy helping out Hartland Football Club.

The question I’d like to ask Bob Gaiger, the nasty, petty-minded little Gauleiter of an HMRC spokesman who pointed out, as if it were some kind of explanation, that revenue & customs officers “had no choice in the matter”, whether he thought this was an appropriate use of HMRC officers’ time. Who, pray, is he protecting by this zealous law-enforcement? If Government, as we are so often told, is there to help, protect and support the people (ha!), who benefits? Not the local kids, whose football pitch will no longer get mowed for free. Nor the revenue, whose officers will be paid more than the £250 it raised in fines. Certainly not Mr Thorne who’s just had his money taken from him otherwise his tractor would have been impounded.

Do you think a reasonable person (i.e. not a despicable little state apparatchik) thinks Gritting the roads for free is an acceptable use of Red Diesel? Who benefits from this? A local community in a remote rural area, down the bottom of the list of destinations for the Council-run gritters. Of course All it requires is that the law allow Farmers to use red diesel for non-profit, or occasional community support activity, so long as this is not the main use of the vehicle, and allow the Customs officials a bit of discretion in deciding who is taking the piss, and who is helping their local community.

Nothing annoys me more than officials’ overzealous enforcement of rules. This may give satisfaction to the kind of dull-minded inadequates who populate the civil service, but is exactly what makes people resent the state and it over intrusive interest in people’s lives. The same people who think that fining a farmer for mowing a football pitch are the same people who think locking up opposing politicians is “just doing their job” because the state says so. “Banality of Evil” is a phrase first used by Hannah Arendt of Adolf Eichmann, who wrote that states can achieve great evil only by normalising the actions which lead up to it. It’s a warning that just because something is written in Law, doesn’t make it right. The law has only a passing, tangential relationship with justice. Banal, unimaginative people in a sensible state like the UK may only be fining farmers a few quid for a minor transgression such as using red diesel to grit the roads or mow a sports pitch, but this is of negative utility. No-one benefits. Indeed a number of people’s lives are made a bit worse. Villagers who can’t get to town until the council get round to gritting the road near them, or a sports team whose game subs have to go on commercial lawn-mowing, not an end of season piss-up. The HMRC should not be in the business of preventing people helping out their neighbours. No-one should pretend that this is the same as the people who enforced the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi for example, but it’s on the same slope. Someone who is capable of enforcing such a manifest, if petty injustice, is capable of much, much worse.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so Bob Gaiger and your ilk: we have our eyes on you, you banal, unimaginative, vile, totalitarian squit.

Optimism, for now.

For the first time since the invasion of Iraq, I now see an end to the “war on terror” with Egypt holding out the hope of a free and democratic Middle East, which exports more than oil and suicide bombers. The peacful and enthusiastic attitude of the protesters in Tahir Square, even after the regime-sponsored thugs tried to provoke violence; the measured response of the Army all bode well for the future, and give the lie to the idea that democracy isn’t suited to the Arab street. It may mean the next revolution is Yemen, or that the next uprising in Iran may be successful and the last region of the world which resisted democracy starts the long march to free society.

Egypt now has a military interregnum, and many dissapointments may lay ahead – the military may not give up power, undemocratic forces may win a flawed election and so on. And even if a free democratic system takes root in Cairo, I would urge Egyptians to contain their expectations – democratic systems are not perfect, and do not in themselves lead to freedom and the rule of law, nor do they always lead to good government. What it does ensure is that tired, ineffectual or repressive regimes get booted out before they become a liability and stupid ideas such as socialism, get tested to destruction.

But whatever happens – there is now reason to be optimistic about the world right now, until politicians and religious leaders get together and screw it up for everyone, and for that optimism we can thank the Egyptian people.

Media & the Egyptian Revolution

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera, who, since they’ve (officially) been kicked out of the country are probably telling the truth. What’s interesting is the priorities of the other news organisations in reporting the story.

The BBC interview Polly Toynbee, who asks “where are the women’s voices?”. Meanwhile sky is reporting from the airport where the main story is: not as you might imagine, the imminent freedom of 80m Egyptians from a dictatorial police state, but the ordeal of some white people with horrible accents, whose holidays have been ruined and are now (Oh. My. God. It’s AWFUL) sleeping in the airport as they try to get home. Disgusted by the warped priorities on display, I turned back to Al Jazeera, where I saw hundreds of men & women, on the street chanting slogans. True, the women are not chucking rocks at the police in any great numbers, but they’re there. That answers La Toynbee’s stunningly ignorant and self-reverential question. The media organisations are projecting their warped idea of their viewers own obsessions onto the back-drop of an inspiring moment in history. Or maybe Sky is reporting from the Airport because it’s CHEAP? Who knows.

The channel to which I’ve been glued is Al Jazeera English, whose live feed on Friday night was particularly telling – state TV showing a calm Cairo on the right hand side of a split screen. Fires from burning police wagons and protesters cheering the deployment of the Army on the left, as the police, responsible for most of the deaths, are chased from the streets. I might not agree with the editorial line taken by Al Jazeera all the time, and in fact I would worry if I did. But the network is a force for good in a region with few media organisations the people can trust.

At 11pm on Sunday, the BBC rang me: “What’s going to happen to the oil price?”. “It’s going up”, I answer, “how far depends on the other dominoes to fall”. Egypt is responsible for 1% of world Oil production, 2% of refining capacity and the Suez canal & pipeline carries another 4% or so to the west. Operations of both are, so far at least, unaffected. One other country in the region is responsible for 14% of world production. And the question I’m asking myself is whether you or I would be willing to pay $200 per barrel or more (taking a tank of petrol well over £100) in return for the fall of the house of Saud? As predicted, let’s hope the dominoes keep falling. And one-day if these revolutions usher in democracy, politics with the middle east might not be all about oil & terrorists. At moments like this, optimism is not necessarily naivety.

Like the end of the Cold War?

Old Holborn‘s post on the Tunisian revolution is eloquent.

The uprising in Tunisia was caused by a simple act of desperation. An unemployed man, unable to earn money and not fed by the Welfare state decided he would sell vegetables to his fellow citizens. To the State, this was intolerable. No permit, no official permission to earn a living and stay alive. So the sheepdogs, the police, confiscated every single thing he owned.

Mohamed Bouazizi, realising he was never to be free in his own land, simply set fire to himself.

There have been self-imolations all over the Arab world – Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania following the event which set off the Tunisian revolution.

I do not know enough about these countries to add enlightening commentary and to my shame (and that of the Western media) I was unaware of developing events until some western Holiday-makers were caught up in the fighting, which shows a warped set of priorities. The desperation these people felt to take such an extreme course of action must have been extraordinary. People yearn to be free, and that is as true of the muslim world as it is of the West. Cultural relativists are little better than the dictators for whom they are apologists.

The sad fact is revolutions are easiest in the softer dictatorships which retain sufficient humanity to not wish to turn the guns on their people. The likes of Iran are all too willing to use grotesque force to keep their people in line. But just as the prison states of Eastern Europe fell, one by one, the Middle-Eastern tyrants responsible for so much pain and mayhem within their borders and around the world know that, unless they are very lucky, this is the fate that is awaiting them.

Targets & What they do to Priorities.

Pointed out by Mr. Eugenides who’s outsoursing some of his blogging to me. This is absolutely disgusting. So you’re not allowed to tell people to stop doing something illegal so that the police can high-five each other for catching them instead?

I’d ask you to consider this quote: A CPS spokeswoman said: “Cost is not a consideration in our decision to prosecute”. It is deemed entirely reasonable to waste a day of court time costing several tens of thousands of pounds to prosecute a man warning motorists of an upcoming speed trap.

As Mr E. Said. What a fucking country.

Update. He’s written it up at the kitchen

Direct Democracy

The responses to the proposal that the most popular petitions receive a debate in parliament, and the top petition gets drafted as a bill, have ranged from derisory to enthusiastic. Of course, as ever, this blog is way ahead of the Government, and I think my proposals are constitutionally more subtle than the flawed and toothless proposals from the coalition. Who’s for a petition to make me dictator? Why not? It worked for Caesar.

In general, I am in favour of direct democracy. Arguments based on the stupidity of the people and the commensurate benefits of representative democracy will fall on deaf ears here: the people will make fewer stupid decisions than their elected representatives, even if they are deaf to the appeals of libertarianism.

Whilst the proposal being debated in parliament will mean that the majority, Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister for example, will be voted down. However the same issues will reach the top, time after time. Europe, a perennial bug-bear of the no. 10 petition site will get its debate, and will be rejected. As will bringing back the death penalty. The smoking ban may far better, and the Hunting ban will be the subject of endless pro and anti petitions.

The threshold will be sufficiently low that pretty much any well financed pressure group will get its debate in parliament. And, since the direct democracy Rubicon has been crossed (can you imagine removing such a right?) the ratchet will only go one way. So whilst this proposal will change the square-root of bugger all, there may be more to come.

Expect lots more debates on Hunting with hounds, Europe; expect illiberal legislation like the smoking ban to face harder passages through parliament in future as organised opposition mobilises support (how many people care enough to actively SUPPORT a ban -most just acquiesce). Sneer if you like to, but this is a step in the right direction.

Activist state, concentrated harm.

Following on from yesterday’s post, in which I talked about the dispersed benefits of Libertarian policies, cutting special interests’ programs to the greater good of the economy and, indeed, liberty of the population. The costs of that policy are obvious: the people delivering and consuming the service provided, and these will scream loud and clear about the “Cut” to their “vital” service.

But there are concentrated harms in the statist policy closet too. Dick Puddlecote highlights a problem of an over mighty state: in the example a Teenage boy has it explained to him, calmly and professionally by a social-worker and the police that he can no longer stay with his father. The same boy would be subject to the law and found responsible were he to break it, but isn’t thought responsible enough to decide where to live. The police are clear: they will use violence if necessary to enforce the decree on the piece of paper. And they do. A lot of it. It gets quite disturbing from about 8 minutes in.

Now I am sure the police believe in this instance that they are doing a good job, and the social worker believes he’s helping people. But when the state is prepared to use this level of force to over-ride the free decisions of autonomous people who, it should be noted don’t appear to have broken the law, that is a “concentrated harm” of an over mighty activist state that seeks to interfere with your decisions and the way you live. That it does so “for your own good” is neither here nor there: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and for this family at the moment in question, it is hell – the father does well to stay as calm as he does.

How many Victoria Climbies or Peter Connellys are there? Or more importantly how many such cases do the intrusive Police/social-worker/local-authority care system prevent? Not all, obviously, because such an outcome is impossible. How many children are snatched from adequate and loving homes into an environment that is NOT conducive to a happy upbringing as a result of that system? How many parents are forced into the Kafkaesque nightmare of the family courts where the burden of proof is reversed and justice is anything but public? And more importantly is the cost – forcibly broken loving homes worth the attempt to save a few extra lives? You cannot stop all bad people doing terrible things – should we risk using the awesome power of the state to destroy the lives of innocent people in order to reduce the risk of a tiny number of terrible things?

When the left calls for more “investment” in social workers, the cost is not only borne by the taxpayer, the costs are borne by the families ripped apart as that social worker’s mistakes & misjudgements. This is not a criticism of social workers, but an observation that they are merely human, like the rest of us. If you put an army into a city, civilians get killed. The more soldiers, the more accidents. Why does the left not accept the parallel? That More social workers mean more interventions and therefore more mistakes, which higher staffing and lower case-loads do not and cannot eliminate.

Back to the boy (he’s 16*, young man, surely?) being snatched from a home just before Christmas. I have No idea of the back-story. I don’t know why the social-worker needed three police officers to invade this man’s home. I’ve no doubt there’s a mother, fighting for custody amid allegations and recrimnations. It’s none of my business. What’s more important. I don’t know why the police officer thought it unreasonable that he should be filmed. But nothing suggests that anyone’s being arrested for breaking the law, so why enforce the piece of paper with such alacrity? So there is a concentrated harm of the policy of allowing the state to interfere deeply in people’s lives right there.

Liberty is, in part the right to not have 4 agents of the state enter your home and remove your children in the week before Christmas when it is perfectly clear that the child in question is there of his own free will. This happens to hundreds of people daily and I’ve no doubt it does some good for some of the people involved, by allowing families to sort out issues or children be saved from abuse. But no-one it seems counts the cost. The enormous costs of an over-mighty state are not all economic.

*Update: It appears the boy is 12. Still responsible should he get caught breaking the law, but not responsible enough to decide where and with whom he lives. Perhaps you could argue it makes the court order more legitmate But it does make the violence deployed rather more shocking.