The End of A ‘Belle Époque’. 1991-2016.

The interlocking webs of policy which ‘politics’ seeks to knit are complicated. Whole books can be written on how two individual policies interact. PhDs in Economics are awarded for small snapshots of the whole cloth. Most people don’t have the time to keep abreast of developments or read sufficient history to understand why some policies are bad. Thus, people use heuristics – rules of thumb – to make decisions  about that which they aren’t expert. “Is this person trustworthy” is a key issue, and we tend to overweight the opinion of those near us. “He is my brother, and I say he’s ok” says a friend, you are more likely to believe a mutual friend, than the opinion of a stranger on the same issue.

In the evolutionary past, such a question was a matter of life and death. People only really had to trust those with whom they shared a close genetic relationship. Since the development of agriculture, we’ve been steadily widening that circle of trust. The wider you spread that circle of trust, the richer your society will be. Even before it had a name, Free market economics allowed people to become blacksmiths, knowing others have water, food, shelter and so forth covered in return. More specialisation, greater productivity, means greater wealth.

Eventually, this requires trust in people we’ve not met. Towns’ food supplies require that farmers unknown and distant supply the basics of existence. Nowadays, It’s unlikely the west could quickly supply all available plenty currently manufactured in China. Nor could China supply quickly the complex components and tools shipped from Japan, Europe and USA. Both China, and “the west” are richer from the exchange. And yet, we still don’t trust “globalisation”.

Most persistent fallacies in political economics are the result of simple policies that appeal to some base heuristics, but which when applied to the larger and wider society, fail catastrophically. Thus egalitarianism in one form or another pops up every 3 generations or so and succeeds in making everyone equal, but some more equal than others, and even more, dead. Then nationalism comes along, and says it’s all [another, arbitrarily defined group of humans with slightly different modes of speech] fault, leading to more waste and piles of corpses. And even when the results aren’t catastrophic, we seek out the views of those who agree with us on say, Nationalism to inform our opinion on, say, whether or not people are responsible for climate change.

Which political tribes stumble into being right or wrong on any given issue appears arbitrary, because no-one’s asking for the evidence before they decide on the policy. Instead of asking “what’s right”, we’re asking what’s popular (amongst the coalition of tribes that voted for me) right now. That an opponent comes out with an identical policy, for different reasons is reason enough to oppose something, forgetting completely prior support for it. After all, whatever [another political tribe] thinks must be wrong, right.


The Labour party opposes ID cards. The Labour party has always opposed ID cards. The Tory party is for the Free market and was never in favour of the Corn Laws. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Perhaps if we could think for ourselves rather than just accepting tribal dogma, we’d get better governance. But none of us have the time. So “Democracy” is merely a means to give temporary permission to one coalition of tribes to push through dogmas over many issues, until either the population notices, or the coalition of tribes breaks up, and the electorate takes a punt on the other tribe’s prejudices for a bit, and then gets on with whatever they were doing before.

Society ultimately advances by eliminating prejudices it’s acceptable to hold thus widening the circle of trust, and increasing riches. By falling back on ancient heuristics to answer the wrong question (“who’s fault?” is the wrong question) 2016 democracy has delivered the worst political outcomes on a broad front, as a result of which, we are poorer, and more likely to start fighting as a result of the collapse in political trust we have seen over this year. The post Cold-War ‘Belle Époque’, which saw half of humanity, 3 billion people, lifted out of poverty, is over.

Idiots cheer.

A Conversation about Drugs with some Policemen.

I had a (social) conversation with some people who worked for Dibble at the weekend. Some were world-weary cynical beat officers, who ultimately agreed with me. The younger warranted officers, and those civilians (I hate it when the filth use that word) working for organisations like the Serious and Organised Crime Agency did not. The question was the war on Drugs, and for a couple of my friends, it is axiomatic that we need to start imprisoning people who take drugs as well as those who sell them – “like Singapore”, they said. One said “like Mao”. Scratch a policeman, you find a fascist who believes in the state’s right to make decisions for you. At least until they reach 40 and realise the futility of this approach in what is still, despite the Police’s best efforts, still a free society. My friend who wants to execute heroin addicts, is also a keen proponent of arming the police…

Let’s start with an assumption: We want to live in a free society. It would be possible to meaningfully interdict supply of narcotics and to discourage use with draconian law-enforcement, but to do so would be utterly incompatible with that free society.

From that flows the observation that we, as a society are unwilling to interdict supply of narcotics – the cost in lost trade, in law enforcement effort, in disruption to innocent people’s privacy and so forth are too high. We cannot therefore meaningfully interdict supply.

The result of this is that the trade in narcotics goes on. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, the profits of which fund organised crime, and which has poor customer service and lousy quality control. Manky, shared syringes and less than sterile smack lead to infections and that cadaverous heroin pallor. Cocaine is often cut with other stimulants, sugars, novocaine and cow-dewormer, which weakens the immune system. The problems stemming from this are due entirely to the illegal supply chain and would be mitigated by legalisation.

Gangs fighting over profits bring violence and death to the streets. This too is a problem of the criminal supply-chain and would be mitigated by legalisation. Acquisitive crime by users to fund their habit would be mitigated by a legal and controlled (and possibly medicalised for genuine addicts) supply chain.

The logic of prohibition stems from the observation that even pure Cocaine and Heroin are really bad for you, habit-forming and have potentially catastrophic effects on people’s lives, and should therefore be banned. The logical leap made in this reasoning is undone by the first assumption made in this piece. WE CANNOT MEANINGFULLY INTERDICT SUPPLY IN A FREE SOCIETY. Access to booze is more controlled than is the access to drugs, which are freely available once you have a dealer’s number. Dealers don’t care whether you’re 18, have a real problem controlling your intake, or are otherwise vulnerable, so long as you have the cash, of which, incidentally they care not its source.

People have always used psychopharmacological substances wherever they’re found, from Reindeer piss containing extract of Amanatia Muscaria to hemp, tobacco booze psilocybin mushrooms and coca, to get high. Even in the UK, anyone who wants illegal drugs can get them, whenever they want. So it doesn’t necessarily follow that there would be more users with a legal supply chain. And those who did use, would be using better, cleaner product with fewer side effects, and not enriching criminals while doing so. Indeed Marijuana, a drug with few social side effects would often be a substitute for alcohol leading to less violence in taxi-ranks at 3-am. So too the “party drugs” would mean less blood and vomit on the streets as the loved-up do less pagga than the pissed-up.

As for Heroin, it seems obvious to me that legalisation would reduce dependence: currently the Smack supply chain is a pyramid scheme – low level dealers do so to fund their supply, and so recruit their mates. No-one sets out to be a junkie, but many fall into it. Fewer would if other drugs were freely available. The explosion of problem heroin users happened AFTER the drug was made illegal. Before, Morphine addiction was known as the Soldiers’ disease as most picked up their habit in hospitals.

Ultimately a fully legal recreational pharmacy would probably see heroin and alcohol substituted for marijuana and cocaine. Two chemicals with low lethal doses will be substituted for two substances in the short term at least, it’s impossible to overdose to death. And instead of funding an army of Police and customs officials, and wasting scarce military resources on impoverishing Andean and Afghan farmers, we can tax the most profitable trade the world has ever known.

There are simply no sane arguments for continued prohibition of narcotic drugs, something even most police officers eventually work out.

Speeding and the Abuse of Statistics

Yesterday, I attended a speed awareness course. I was caught at 35 in a 30 zone (in my defence I was decelerating  and it was a genuine mistake). I was given the option of a £95 course instead of £60 and 3 points.

During the course, the instructor, a knowledgeable but catastrophically monotone former traffic cop asserted that the re offending rate for the speed course is better than that of the points and a fine. My inner stat geek started screaming: SELF-SELECTING SAMPLE. People offered the course have

  1. not offended in the three years previously
  2. been caught a small amount over the speed-limit
  3. be prepared to spend extra to avoid points therefore probably wealthier
  4. be willing to spend half a day taking the course.
All of these things suggest speed awareness courses are being given to people who already respect the rules of the road, and if the conversations with my fellow “delegates” (ffs) was representative, all were first-time offenders who reckoned their speeding was an error of judgement, not habitual. There were no “boy-racers”, and the only person undermining the instructor was me, because I am a contrary bastard and I don’t like the police and he didn’t appear to know the law surrounding cyclists very well.
Above all, I feel genuine stress when I see people abusing statistics. This seems only obvious to me. Is it?
Abuse of stats is a problem: People working in a business where success is measured by stats: speed-camera partnerships and associated road-safety wallahs are a good example, will use statistics to “prove” whatever they do is working. Without the cold, hard measure of cash, the temptation to abuse stats is enormous. People look for information confirming their biases. In this case that the course an instructor delivers, works as intended suits the interests of the people who work for AA Drivetech. The record of speed cameras in saving lives almost dissapears for example when you consider reversion to the mean. Thus we have a deeply unpopular policy sold on the basis of safety, yet with the suspicion that it’s about money.
As it happens, the I found the course is useful, and might even be useful to people who are more habitual speeders. I would not mind the course being COMPULSORY with a fine for more serious examples of speeding and repeat offending. Certainly I took away a few tips for safer driving from a bloke who knows what he’s talking about. Commentary driving as a means to combat boredom and fatigue for example. But I think the focus on speed and speed alone means the dick-head tail-gater who can only be caught by rear-facing cameras in non-police cars, or the dick-head (probably the same) who passes fast and close to cyclists, or the person overtaking round a blind bend, are NOT caught by speed-cameras. The police need to stop thinking speed cameras are all that matters. And they need to accept evidence from people who aren’t warranted officers.
This dick-head wasn’t speeding. But he WAS driving like a cock. And people like that only get caught when they hit someone. Road deaths have fallen over the years. Mainly because children are no longer allowed anywhere near roads until they’re in their mid-teens. Cyclists have all but disappeared and the car has become an armoured box so few die when they crash any more. 
Now cyclists are returning to the roads, we need to realise that driver attitude – the aggression of the white-van tailgater the Audi driver who simply must get in front at all costs, is what needs to be tackled if the long-term decline in fatalities is to continue. We must also build infrastructure which allows people to take a vehicle which isn’t a car in safety. Otherwise we’ve just chased the pedestrian and cyclist off the roads, and congratulated ourselves for increasing safety, and a nation of fat, sedentary, mollycoddled drivers. The driver has assumed he owned the road for too long. The roads must be taken from the driver and given back to people, whatever means of transport – shoe, bike, motorbike, horse or car, they choose for their journey.
My fellow delegates may have lacked the aggression of the true driving twat (those people aren’t given the option of the course), but they did all share the assumption that the car is vital, and there is no other option. That too needs to change. Let’s start building towns and cities around people, not cars. Finally we need to deal with driver behaviour that isn’t simply speed. Unfortunately, both of those seem to require more work and flexibility than the police or local authorities possess.


So… Chanel 4’s report on plebgate is devastating. None of the allegations made against Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell stood up. Not at the Gates of Downing Street, and not in any of the meetings he had subsequently with the police federation. It appears Andrew Mitchell’s account is more believable than that cooked up by police subsequently. He has been near-completely exonerated.

Furthermore, it’s apparent that senior ranks were in on the conspiracy.

The police lied, and conspired. And they thought they could get away with doing so, not against some kind of ‘usual suspect’ on the ‘swamp estate’ but against a Cabinet Minister. I can only surmise that the police federation saw an opportunity to discredit the Government as they implemented cuts to police numbers.

Think about that for a minute.

The police conspired to discredit a Government as they sought to implement policy.

This isn’t just about the police. The public sector, as a whole grew fat and complacent under Labour, and when the money ran out they thought it appropriate to lie to maintain their fat headcounts, salaries and pensions. This Government isn’t a “shambles” because it has the wrong policies, but because the public sector is actively resisting implementation of policies. This isn’t just a copper lying. It’s corruption bordering on treason.

My attitude to the police is ambiguous. I know several, some of whom I count as friends. They know my views. I have never trusted the police. But I do trust, by and large, individual police officers. The problem is that power corrupts, and the police have simply been given too much power. They are able to fabricate evidence in pocket-books in the expectation they’ll be believed. The proliferation of (effectively) strict-liability offences like Section 5 of the Public Order Act, means the Police will be believed, and Joe-citizen won’t be. The abandonment of the concept of an “arrestable offence” means you can be arrested merely for swearing at or near the police. The police log recorded “several members of the public nearby looked visibly shocked and alarmed”. This is just a standard trope, trotted out to justify an arrest under Section 5. It’s usually a lie, given to justify the police unnecessarily arresting someone who’s being uncooperative. It’s just too easy to arrest someone who irritates you for being lippy. The servant thus becomes the master, and the UK becomes a police state.

This ‘section 5 lie’ is used to arrest young men up and down the country every day. As the police deliberately wind them up, they can usually be persuaded to do something more serious. This incident is just the tip of the iceberg of casual lies the police use every day, for their convenience.

The vast majority of police, especially the older ones, seem genuinely willing help in a crisis. But there’s an arrogance, an unbecoming swagger about some of the younger officers I’ve met. They expect not just obedience, but deference, and threaten arrest for mere disagreement. They feel confident that the allegation of “swearing” justifies arrest under section 5. And without proof, who do you believe. Perhaps everyone should now take my lead and record every single conversation you ever have with the police. The police are not your friend. Though they remain, for now, trustworthy in a crisis and brave in the service of the public, they need to be brought down to earth.

Mitchell is right. The police do need to relearn their place.

Police: Not Even Pretending Any More

If anyone is in any doubt what’s wrong with the British Police, Inspector Gadget should dispel those doubts today. Institutionally, they have absolute contempt for the people they’re supposed to serve. This is why they should under no account be armed. The guns they do have should be removed. Use the Army when you need to shoot someone, because the police can’t be trusted to not shoot someone “armed” with a table-leg.

Contrary to Gadget’s claims that the police are “on the front-line, battling scum armed only with an aluminium stick” the truth is, the Policing in Britain is not a dangerous job. It doesn’t even make the top twenty. Fishermen, soldiers, scaffolders and Bicycle couriers all face a greater risk of death or serious injury. Arming the police would only result in more heavilly armed scallywags. Anyone think it’s a good idea?

Gadget’s response to Galloway’s win in the Bradford west by-election:

No one really minds when an extremist makes it to the local council, or as a one-term MP during an unpopular parliament. Their ability to influence events is minor; there are always other councillors or MP’s to provide a firewall.

His view is that democracy is OK, so long as it doesn’t take any important decisions. He goes on about “the swamp”, whines about the bureaucracy, disrespects his superiors and demonstrates contempt for both democracy and the chain of command, yet wants me to let him have a GUN? No WAY! Because I know who that gun will be pointed at, and it isn’t the armed scallywags from the Swamp estate (they’re too much work for our brave plod, when armed with just a machete). It will be me, next time I point out that “I didn’t actually swear there, officer. You imagined it, and I have video and audio to prove it. Would you like to hear then retract your allegation and threat of arrest?”

Yet the police still cruise around in their cars tooled up like the walter-mitty wannabe soldiers they really wish they were in their stupid, high-viz assault vests; yet refuse to investigate crimes adequately; blaming the CPS for their shitty “investigations”. They blame refusal to patrol “swamp estates” on lack of manpower, yet I see dozens cruising on foot in areas frequented by pretty tourists, harassing smokers for stepping over a line with a pint glass in their hands. Dozens waste whole days pointing speed guns at motorists, yet refuse to take action on clear video evidence of dangerous driving. Whatever the solution to crime and disorder in Britain right now, whatever the police are doing AIN’T IT. This is a complacent organisation riven with contempt for the people it’s supposed to serve, which has for decades been given too much power; power which has utterly corrupted them. Believe me, their contempt for the public is returned, in spades. The only people who still “support” the police, are those who’ve had no contact with ’em.

Elected police commissioners does not mean the “politicisation of the Police”. It means that someone chosen other than by a cozy meeting between establishment players nodded through by toothless local “democracy” will have actual power over the Police and their priorities. The people might actually get their voices heard when they feel totally let down because they know to whom to write. Galloway may be a rabble rousing dictator-and-terrorist apologist, but so’s Ken Livingstone and the Met police didn’t fall to pieces under him. Indeed, the police seem to prefer Livingstone with whom they seemed to find much in common, to the much more activist and liberal Boris. The police Nationwide are going to be accountable to people again – yes the people might elect Galloway to run a police force. He may even be good at it – the record will show. If he’s not, he gets booted out.

Stand by, Gadget, you anti-democratic cryptofacist. You may not like the decisions “the people” make. That’s the point. YOU are not, nor should you be, in charge. You are MY servant, and I am NOT accountable to you. Do you want to know what a country looks like when the police ARE in charge? Myanmar, Aparthied South Africa, The Soviet Union (Russia now?). They’re all shitholes. If the Police’re against something, it’s probably a good idea. QED.

The police are stupid, lower middle-class, pig-ignorant, doughnut-munching filth; a Provisional wing of the Daily Mail; at once bullying and ineffectual. The British police now wear black shirts. They’re not even pretending any more.

Riots. They happen from time to time.

When thinking about the recent riots to have engulfed the country, I tend to agree with the Left-wing analysis of why these kids are looting, but agree broadly with the moderate rights’s approach to dealing with it. First, lets be clear. This isn’t about race – there are no Asians rioting. Muslims are conspicuous by their absence from the rioting mobs, except as they defend their communities. The Asian community’s retention of values, however alien, means their young men don’t steal, don’t rob, don’t smash things up. This is about feral black and white youths who’ve lost any social guidance, from multi-generational welfare homes who are ultimately rioting because rioting’s fun. (No really, it is. Find a riot trained policeman and ask him why he volunteered…). They are rioting for stuff – the lawlessness is presenting economic opportunities for loot. They are therefore rioting because they can, and the consequences they will face, either from the police in terms of violence or the Judicial system, are not to be feared. They are rioting because they are utterly without any moral sense of right and wrong after decades of non-judgmental social workers indulging their behaviour, as left them with a sense of grievance (not your fault), but no means to do anything about it. There are no consequences on the job market for these kids. Few of the rioters will ever hold down any more than a precarious minimum-wage job. What’s a few weeks inside to a kid like this who still lives with his mum? Yes these kids are rioting for reasons of economic, moral and spiritual despair, lashing out incoherently against a society which has failed, then abandoned them.

Who is the bloke in the Chinos? We need to know.

So the left will focus on the social deprivation, the right on the moral despair and lax criminal justice. Just because there are economic elements to the despair, though, doesn’t mean the state should give ever more money. Likewise, though the manner of the protest, and any expression of it may be violent, nihilistic and incoherent, doesn’t mean society hasn’t failed these kids and failed them completely. The fact that society has failed them, through lack of opportunity, shitty schools and broken promises, however doesn’t excuse their actions, and punishment must be harsh as the law allows, and swift as possible.

The police just need slightly more robust rules of engagement. So the solution in the short term is to rapidly increase the costs of rioting, and that means letting the police, who have so far exercised impressive restraint and discipline, hit them a bit harder with sticks a little more freely. With such a loss of control, a steady escalation of force used is reasonable. A few injured rioters for which the police face no consequences as the higher command back their boys, would make the scrotes think again, and improve both the morale of the police and those who are paying them. Likewise those citizen patrols protecting their communities – from Turks, Sikhs and Milwall supporters people have turned out to say “enough, we’re going to defend ourselves” should be given support as there are just not enough Police to be everywhere. However, more excitable commentators have suggested shooting looters, and applying more draconian riot control methods. The solutions do NOT include bringing in the Army, fun though it would be to see the Parachute Regiment go all fighty on rioters. Nor are baton rounds, tear-gas and water cannon going to be much use. The disorder is too dispersed. Plus I quite like living in a country where these things are not allowed. The death penalty will NOT be applied to people who’ve just nicked some trainers from Foot-Locker.

So the stupid right is talking nonsense, but so’s the stupid left, who think state spending is a solution to everything. The solutions do NOT include rethinking “the cuts”. These kids are not rioting because the local youth-centre was shut. The people doing the rioting are the ones who burned down youth centres, not use it. Housing too is part of the left-wing solution. More council housing is the cry. But is it really sensible to herd the most despairing people into ghettos of “social” housing? Surely the state getting out of the housing business would mean fewer Broadwater farm estates in which rioters congregate. Subsidise private renting if you must, but demolish these concrete jungles. Part of the solution involves jobs, and that involves a dynamic economy. But as one heckler of Boris Johnson suggested raising the minimum wage, it’s clear the left doesn’t understand the economics of job creation. Cuts are necessary – vital – to create those jobs. But the primary barrier these young men face are not economic. Jobs for illiterate, uneducated, ill disciplined scrotes are going to be hard to create in any economic climate, but moral. Would YOU employ these feral youngsters? Anyone… anyone… Me neither. The solution is one of tough love, tougher policing and scrapping the economic barriers, such as a minimum wage and generous life-time benefits which prevent them getting jobs.

The longer-term solution is education – fewer failed schools; fewer illiterate, hopeless kids. Education is important, but it’s not money, it’s improving schools and markets are much better this than governments. Broadly the coalition’s academy program, and longer-term, a full-blooded free-school and voucher system will change the face of British education, especially for the poorest.

Broadly these reasons are economic and social. The rioters have so little stake in society they feel justified in smashing it up. There are few consequences that can be imposed to deter, and few opportunities to prevent disorder.

Finally, and most importantly. Riots happen, everywhere from time to time. They are much rarer in ethnically homogeneous Scandinavia or Japan, but not unknown. Riots are more common in big, ethnically diverse cities. Even in Canada or Australia -rich, but relatively low inequality countries, riots have happened – this isn’t about GINI coefficients. It’s about poor people without a stake in the society, lashing out. Toronto recently had hockey violence, Sydney ethnic violence. The Paris Banlieus often go up in flames as North African youths riot. Los Angeles, New York have all experienced race-riots in the last few decades. Riots once in a while are the price paid for freedoms. They can be avoided, mitigated or controlled, but not eliminated entirely.

So far in the UK summer of rage, 2011, four people have been killed, one of whom appears to have been involved in the riots and three run over protecting their community – I’m not going to comment on their cases, because I have no facts. Crucially none have been killed by the police, while (as of last night) over 100 police officers have been injured. These factors remove the opportunity for more martyrs, more violence, more protests, more repression. The Family of Mark Duggan have been dignified, and deserve answers. Again, best not to comment, as I have no facts, but they’re no catalyst for an even greater sense of grievance, for which we should thank them. The fact the police have been so restrained MAY have contributed to the odd burned out building, but it means the rioters are losing legitimacy, even amongst those who might have supported them had the police reacted differently. Ultimately “the moral is to the physical as three is to one”.

Riots happen, just like market crashes and for the same reasons – a herd mentality. The British police have handled themselves in an exemplary fashion. The British state, and British people are capable of cleaning up the mess. Life will go on. The important thing is to deal with the effects of riots, punish the perpetrators and help the victims rebuild their homes and businesses. Don’t let the bandwagon jumpers agitate for either a reversal of the necessary economic reforms or further curtailments of civil liberties, both of which ultimately will serve to further alienate and disadvantage the communities from which the rioters can’t escape.

Victim’s “Justice”

So a Private Investigator retained by the Whore’s Gazette listened into the Voice-mail messages. This included Slebs: (meh), Politicians (double Meh… indeed this is the very definition of “investigative journalism”). However they did not stick to people in the public eye who should know better; They listened into the voice mails of the (then) missing schoolgirl, Milli Dowler and some of the victims of the 7/7 Bombings, which is pretty despicable, especially as in the former case, it appeared the fact the messages were being opened misled the police and gave sadly false hope to the Dowler family. It goes without saying that this is pretty appalling behaviour, against a number of data-protection & misuse of information laws. It’s also potentially perverting the course of justice. This doesn’t need any extra legislation, or even an emergency debate in parliament (politicians’ phones were involved… they’re pissed off. Sod ’em) Just enforce the laws against the individual PI involved. As for Milliband Minor’s ridiculous demand for an enquiry into “media ethics” – I find the sight of people jumping onto a bandwaggon to serve their partisan interests at the cost of dealing with some real underlying issues, distasteful.

It’s worth pointing out though: This isn’t “HACKING” which involves listening to conversations, something a family member of a Tube-bombing victim openly implied this morning on the ‘Today’ program, without being corrected. If you don’t have a PIN number on your inbox, spend a couple of minutes NOW and put one on. Bingo: the News of the World can’t get at your messages.

It’s not just politicians milking this for all it’s worth. There are two factors at play. This is being given wall to wall coverage on the BBC (but not SKY), and all the papers (except News International titles) because the BBC and fleet-street want to bash their competitors, and especially don’t want News International to buy the portion of BSkyB it doesn’t already own. This is a brute commercial consideration: Newspapers are barely profitable, and struggling. Hurting a competitor might help a bit & sell some papers in the process. For the BBC, it’s defending it’s patch against an increasingly influential and aggressive SKY news. The DG has even put his name to a letter opposing the purchase, which rather put his organisation’s cards face-up on the table. The BBC is even alleging that Murdoch is not “fit & proper”, something which isn’t in the scope of the decision to allow SKY to buy BSkyB. It’s an abuse of its position for the tax (the license fee is a tax in all but name) funded BBC to report in such a self-serving way in a story with a such clear conflict of interest.

There is also a residual leftism of the organisation which would love to make the most of the resignation of Andy Coulson from David Cameron’s team. If you listened to the BBC this morning, you’d think he was still there spinning for the Government, instead of having already fallen on his sword over this issue five months ago. The guy’s already gone. It’s a non-issue for the Prime-Minister.

Finally, this is being run in the media together with the issue of the treatment of the Dowler family at the hands of the defence barrister, and of the issues this story raises, this is the most dangerous. “Victim’s justice” isn’t justice at all. I’m the first to call the police, and the entire criminal justice system “useless” but the fact remains a standard defence in court is “I didn’t do it” and therefore the implication is that someone else did. By introducing reasonable doubt, certainly guilty people have got off. But I’d rather 10 guilty men go free (and they do) than one innocent man go to gaol because the police were allowed to fix the usual suspects up, or the defence had its’s hands tied by laws which prevented relevant questions being asked. As far as sentencing goes the people who should have NO say in the punishment are the victims. The only people I can think of who are worse are politicians. Sentencing should be for the Judge who’s seen the evidence acting according to law and precedent.

Here’s a picture of a Gavel, to annoy ‘The Magistrate‘.

This rush to protect victims in court is going to lead (rightly) to challenges by guilty people on the basis that their defence was hamstrung and may lead to MORE guilty people getting away with it. This is nothing more than an assault on the presumption of innocence. If you’re in court, and expect to see a criminal put away for a long time, expect him to fight – there’s a chance the man in the dock DIDN’T do it. It’s up to the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Lazy investigations, sloppy legal work and all the hallmarks of state-run ANYTHING: time-serving incompetence, are responsible for more miscarriages of justice than overzealous defence barristers who remain a mere scapegoat for incompetent prosecutions.

Hard cases make bad law. One horrible case with a vile defendant should not remove the rights of people to defend themselves vigorously in court, and be presumed innocent until they’re proven guilty.

Heroes and Anti-Heroes.

In previous generations, Americans have enjoyed mafia anti-heroes, morally questionable wild-west lawmen & outlaws. They’ve celebrated the guy running from the law, they’ve thrilled at rule-breakers and loners who get the job done. Investigative journalists were once a staple hero of film and TV as they uncovered the truth about what those in power did to those without. Authority was always suspect.

America’s cool new fascism

What does the current output of america’s TV studios say about the country now there are more shows about people WITH power, doing unto those without. There seem to be a lot of shows about law-enforcement. From the sinister conflation of Policing and entertainment of Police! Stop! Kill! (or whatever), reaching it’s apotheosis with Steven Segal actually becoming a Lawman and the even more ridiculous Dog the bounty hunter which feature real-life shoot-outs.

Policing as entertainment is troubling enough, but it is the raft of interchangeable shows showcasing the myth of an alphabet soup of ultra-competent hi-tech law-enforcement agencies which trouble me the most. Does anyone imagine the world’s forensic labs are staffed by genius savants with a thirst for the truth a-la CSI? Or are they banging out DNA matches to order on a production line? ‘The Mentalist’ and ‘Lie to Me’ at least have interestingly flawed characters at the centre, but still essentially support the authoritarian submission to law-enforcers, who are ultra-competent, all-seeing and incorruptible. Then you have the deeply creepy NCIS, a spin-off from the equally suspect JAG in which military legal people are trying to be cool, whereas everyone knows everyone hates the monkeys. Even court-room drama, like Shark, is now more likely to see the prosecutor as the hero, not the defence lawyer, nor the guy uncovering mal-practice against the wishes of those in power. The investigative journalist is just as likely to be portrayed as a traitor than a hero these days. Finally you have the 192 episodes of 24, which serve together as an apology for the Bush/Obama policy of extra-judicial execution, rendition, torture and extra-legal detention. The metaphor of the ticking bomb made into highly a watchable televisual torture-fest.

The myth of the the ultra-competent, all-seeing intelligence agency able to swoop on “terrorists” who in these shows are rarely anything like the terrorists in real-life, and are instead generally painted as “the guy next door” serve to make people watching them comfortable with the idea of surveillance being for our own good because it helps the good guys catch the bad, who could be anyone, anywhere. This is a comforting myth to hideously overweight middle America that there are young, good-looking people protecting them while they sleep amongst their fast-food cartons in front of the telly.

The reality is a different. Forensic labs are understaffed, by underpaid biology graduates. Police are more interested in performance targets, overtime and the location of the nearest doughnut emporium than they are in ‘justice’. They are more than happy to fix-up the usual suspects if it means they get home in time for 24 on the telly. Intelligence agencies rely on guess-work and hearsay and certainly don’t have access to all the nation’s cctv from one central control room with inexplicable cool-blue underfloor lighting. Have you ever beein in a Government building that looks like CTC/LA from 24?. Intelligence operatives are not cool, they’re civil servants who are 43% fatter & uglier than the national average*. No-one ever, in any public-secotr organisation anywhere, has ever used a fucking Mac, let alone an iPad.

America is sleepwalking into facism. They already lock up 1% of their adult population, mostly for possession of small amounts of drugs, mainly of the kinds used by poor people. They are developing a surveillance culture as bad as our own, and as for bureaucracy – well you think Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs is bad? Wait till you try dealing with the US equivalent. This is all OK because thanks to the Black Propaganda of NCIS, 24 and the like, all that oppressive apparatus of the state is deployed for people’s “security”. If you can persuade them of the existence of bogeymen, they will pay and suffer intrusive surveillance to protect themselves from bogeymen.

Western power comes from wealth; our wealth comes directly from our liberty. Our freedom to think “how can I do this better” and freedom to apply those insights leads directly to economic growth. Freedom to question the Government’s policies and those acting in it’s name means an absence of piles of corpses in western political discourse. How long can this last? Timid and cowed people, brainwashed into not rocking the boat, not questioning why that camera is looking at me, nor why there’s armed men at the airport, are less likely to question their boss’s stupid man-management or the government’s latest plan to lock up ever more ‘bad people’, and shoot in the head those it can’t catch. Not only is everyone a’frit to go out but everyone’s doing as they’re told. No-one’s happy. And we get poorer. As we get poorer, we get weaker, magnifying the threats and yielding more excuses for repression.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, but it seems everyone’s watching the wrong shows.

*Some statistics may have been made up.

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

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.