Lovely Wuverly Fluffy Compassionate Conservatism

David Cameron is walking a tight rope between shedding the “nasty party” image while still holding on to the nasty bastards who only vote Tory for that reason.

So it shouldn’t be too surprising that lovely wuverly fluffy compassionate Conservative David Cameron said something so boneheaded on burglary in the wake of the jailing and subsequent release of Munir Hussein.

The moment a burglar steps over your threshold, and invades your property, with all the threat that gives to you, your family and your livelihood, I think they leave their human rights outside

At the time Sunny Hundal argued that he thought the law stood fine as it was but sympathised with Conservative attempts to strengthen it in favour of householders who have their house broken into. Ultimately he supported his friend’s mantra ‘If you don’t want your ass kicked then don’t break into my house.’

Luckily for Mr Hundal, his friend and all of us there is no human right which prevents your arse getting kicked if you break into someone’s house.

Now whether or not there is a human right to not be tortured is a not matter for debate. The idea that you can forsake this right for entering someone’s house is not on the table either. We would in theory give legal privilege to the sort of vile crimes Claude described last week, and no civilised society should do that.

Human rights are not conditional and this is why your arse is not sacred and it is why talk of having them “left outside” is so ridiculous. But bless those devoted Tweeters that try to stay on message – they only end up slipping to Reductio ad absurdum.

Perhaps it is cruel to focus on Nadine Dorries – perhaps she is a fish and the barrel is rational debate – but she is a well supported and popular MP and this is the shallow level on which she wants to discuss law and order.

How the Tories maintain their grip on that issue is beyond me.

Coercing Saddam and lessons for Iran

There are two ways to force someone to do something they don’t want.

You can use violence to make them do that thing, or you can credibly threaten violence on them. For this post, we must assume Meatloaf would do “that” if coerced violently or with the threat of violence.

In modern international relations the latter is usually preferred. But soft coercion did not work in 2003 despite the overwhelming military superiority that the US military had over the Iraqi forces.

Defining “work” is of course difficult. In March 2003 on the eve of war, Saddam remained belligerent, he continued to deny full UN access to his now obviously non-existent weapon’s facilities.

I suppose, we can inadequately define work as the supplication of Saddam to the will of the international community.

Saddam did not back down and this poses problems for people who think that people are rational. His conduct appears to reinforce the image of him as a psychopath.

However, the above formulation misses something important. Saddam’s belligerence was not irrational. The capacity to threaten violence is only available if you also have the capacity to refrain from violence.

Leading up to the war the bellicose pronouncements of those working in Bush’s regime and the man himself made it seem that war with Iraq was inevitable.

Saddam calculated that the US had “lost” the ability to refrain from violence. He  believed that if he submitted himself to all the demands of the US he would still not be able to avoid war.

This meant the US had lost the ability to coerce him with the threat of violence and the march to war became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Iran sadly springs to mind at this moment. It is clear that the world would be a better place with almost any other regime sitting in Tehran and the US has made it abundantly clear it shares this view.

The fall of the Shah in Iran was clearly one of the worst foreign policy events for the US since the end of the second world war. But if influencing Iran is your aim then it is vital to learn this lesson from Iraq.

War may be the continuation of politics by other means but it must never be an aim in itself. Blair may claim that invading Iraq has lessened the threat from Iran, but if the war drums begin to beat in the same way some years from now Iran may reason that it cannot avoid a fight and plunge the middle easy into another unnecessary war.

Don’t talk to Frank

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the stance on the legality of recreational drugs that Left Outside has taken, and it is a view that I share.

The separation of drugs and politics is something that this country has never managed, and the problems that stem from the production, sale, and use of recreational drugs are not going to go away with the Government’s continued stubborn and misinformed approach to addressing this country’s drug “problem.”

The arguments for and against the prohibition of drugs is not something I’m going to address today. What I wish to address is a byproduct of this.

There exists a large pool of people who wish to experiment and who are less informed about their choices than they would be were drugs not illegal. By letting politics override science people are less able to make informed choices about how recreational drug use may affect them.

To illustrate this cast your eyes over an independently researched rankings table on 20 commonly used, legal and illegal substances based on factors such as dependency, physical harm and social harm; and refresh your memory by reading how the Government responds when science proves a political decision to be wrong.

A major result of this politics vs. science face off has been the recent demise of MDMA – the chemical compound used to make ecstasy pills, but in recent years, more commonly sold as a powder. The ‘word on the street’ is that control over the import of piperonylmethylketone (PMK) – A synthesized oil from the bark of the sassafras tree used as the raw material for MDMA in key rainforest regions in south-east Asia has left a lot of demand unsatisfied and caused the rise of other experimental drugs to try and fill the void.

Without spending too much time questioning the reasoning for demonizing one of the less harmful recreational drugs (other than to draw your attention to “this slightly dated study from 2000”,  and “Professor Nutt’s comments about ecstasy being less dangerous than horse riding”), I can’t help but wonder what they’re trying to achieve.

If they were really trying to “protect” the public, easily available purity testing machines for ecstasy pills would be commonplace in clubs, stories about ecstasy related deaths would have focused on how factors such as over-hydration were causing them rather than the effects of the chemical itself, and more research into experimental drugs that are becoming more widespread would be invested, rather than to demonize and illegalise them straight away.

The newest name on the scene is Mephedrone. Legally sold on many websites as a “plant food” and marked “not fit for human consumption” it can be ordered, sent via recorded delivery and consumed, legally and hassle free in a matter of a couple of days. The rise of this new drug, coupled with the demise of MDMA has lead to a huge surge in popularity before much is known about this new phenomenon.

Although it has hit the headlines with negative press, and it seems attempts to criminalize the substance are being rushed through as quickly as possible, the demand doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A point addressed by the self-proclaimed “world’s biggest dance music and clubbing magazine,” Mixmag in their interesting recent survey of drug-taking habits amongst their readers, who arguably form one of the largest pools of recreational drug users in the country.

The tagline given to Mephedrone is “The UK’s favourite new drug.” Acknowledging the issue of how little research has been done it aims to bring a bit more information to the people who are likely to be using it by taking an impartial and honest approach to reporting the results. Government advisor Les Iversen, indicating that there is “no data on toxicity that I could find,” meaning Mephedrone users have no guidance on correct dosage or safety, so surveys like this serve a real  purpose.

It understands that people are likely take it regardless of any scaremongering and that the best approach to ensure the safety of potential users is to provide them with the information to make an informed decision, not to belittle them with inaccurate scaremongering tactics – a stance that Government Ministers could learn from!

Mixmag’s results are as follows (I have tried in vain to find out how many participants were involved in the survey, but have resigned myself to taking comfort in the fact that it describes itself as the biggest survey of young people’s drug-taking habits in the world):

  • Of participants in the survey, 41.7% have tried Mephedrone, 33.6% in the previous month.
  • Of those users, 44% took Mephedrone no more than once every three months, but 14.5% used it at least weekly
  • The most common usage was between ½ and 1 gram in a session.

In researching the potentially harmful physical effects, the survey ascertained that amongst users:

  • 67% felt excessive sweating
  • 51% felt headaches
  • 43% experienced palpitations
  • 27% experienced nausea
  • 15% experienced cold or blue fingers

(For further results on other recreational drugs, flick through the issue next time you pass a WH Smiths – its luminous yellow front cover is quite hard to miss!)

By providing commendable, impartial results from people who have actually taken the drug we are able to receive a greater picture of its effects. By targeting a community with less of a stigma relating to recreational drugs use we are also able to get a more honest and accurate representation of the drugs and their effects.

If the British Government really wishes to “protect” potential drug users and eradicate the criminal issues resulting from the production and sale of illicit substances, then this surely has to be the best approach. I am not in a position to condone the safety of Mephedrone, as there is a clear lack of research regarding it. But to prohibit it before this research has been done would not offer any protection to potential users.

The rise (and likely fall) of Mephedrone may open the door to potentially more harmful research chemicals being taken recreationally. Butylone, Methylone and Methyltryptamine are all chemicals we know very little of but in the absence of Mephedrone, could also rise to prominence. We can go on banning forever, but new drugs will go one popping up like mushrooms.

Rather than condescending approaches such as the advertising campaign of Talk to Frank, which subtly demonizes drug use, more attention needs to be drawn to resources such as this Mixmag study, and websites such as the excellent Erowid who are willing to inform and educate the majority of people who want to know how certain chemicals may affect their body and state of mind.

If access to such information is denied for political purposes as opposed to health and social purposes, then we will continue to see high-profile deaths and further dangers to potential users. It is only when the policy makers decide that scaremongering, demonization and a constant barrage of propaganda doesn’t work on the majority of people who may chose to experiment with recreational drugs.

The public deserves honest and impartial advice regarding these substances so that any issues resulting from drug use can begin to be addressed, and a progressive, accurate and honest approach to the dangers of drugs can begin to be made.

I’ve just read James Dellingpole for the first time: He is clearly insane

Wow, I mean just wow.

I’ve recently been blogging on blogging  anonymously and one of my defences for doing so is that I was not one of those unpleasant people on the internet. I think I’m a fairly pleasant guy.

I do not use the internet to harass, bully or attack without provocation neither do I act like what is colloquially known round my way as “a prick” as I feel its not fair to do so from behind a veil of anonymity.

I assume James Dellingpole feels the same, of course rather than refrain from behaving reprehensibly, he just publishes under his own name and behaves abominably.

Yesterday I read Unity’s evisceration of Dellingpole’s recent behaviour which was brought to all of our attention by George Monbiot.

On Sunday Dellingpole published an e-mail which had been received from a Tory PPC from a constituent.

This appeared to be a normal cut and paste job which MPs and PPCs must receive in large numbers but which still represent their constituent’s concerns. Nothing controversial here, a little inconveniencing, but then they are/want to be our MPs.

This missive concerned climate change, something which should strike most as a subject which it is eminently sensible for future MPs to be quizzed on. However Dellingpole sees it as…

…an orchestrated campaign by a green pressure group to get sympathetic individuals in over 200 constituencies to send letters to their local Tory candidate testing him on his environmental correctness.

I called this “eco-bullying” and “stalking”, as I believe it is. Of course free individuals are perfectly entitled to write to their prospective parliamentary candidate on whatever subject they wish. I have no objection to that. What I do very much object to is concerted campaigns by pressure groups. Since my moles at Tory HQ tell me lots of very similar letters to the one I quoted were received by Tory candidates all over Britain, using similar phrasing, I don’t think this was an accident.

As I said, wow.

On Sunday, Dellingpole then went on to publish the e-mail that he had been passed including the senders name and home address.

This not only massively unprofessional, it is borderline criminal. It is also a huge encroachment on someone’s reasonably expected confidential correspondence. When he was called out by George Monbiot this is how he responded.

George Monbiot is cwoss. Weally, WEALLY cwoss. And I don’t blame him one bit. God it must be an awful thing when you’ve squandered half your career acting as cheerleader for a cause which, on closer examination, turns out to have been a complete load of cobblers…

Again, wow.

Dellingpole pulled the piece when it was obvious he and Edwin Northover – the PPC in question – would have some serious questions to answer.

In today’s post he “graciously” says that he is  “sincerely, totally and unreservedly sorry”.

In the same post, quoted above, he called the same man he was apologising to an eco-bully and stalker.

Once again, wow.

Perhaps he really is sorry. I’ll let you judge his level of contrition with a screengrab of the “tags” for the story.

Wow…

(Hat Tipped to eagle eyed tweeter Tim Ireland)

Linky Love: 28th January 2010

1) Unity uncovers exactly how unpleasant James Dellingpole (and possibly Tory PCC Edwin Northover) is:

On Sunday, Delingpole posted this on his blog at the Telegraph:

The Warmists are looking increasingly foolish and wrong. But they aren’t going to go down without a fight. Consider, Exhibit A, this nauseating email currently being sent out to Conservative candidates. It seems that in the last week a couple of hundred Tory candidates have received variations on the theme below. Note that these emails do not come from a named organisation but from individual voters in each of the different prospective parliamentary candidates’ constituencies.

The text of the email in question, which he also posted, goes like this… Not only does that look to be a perfectly polite and reasonable enquiry but it looks, to me at least, very much like the kind of  simple fill-in-the-blanks form email that’s pretty much a staple tool of internet-based campaigning.

In other words, it about as far from ’stalking’ – the term Delingpole used in the title of his post – as its possible to get.

From here, I’ll let Monbiot pick up the story:

It looks to me like a polite enquiry from someone concerned about climate change. Delingpole, however, saw it as a “nauseating email” which must have come from a “disgusting eco-fascist organisation”, though he didn’t know which organisation this might be. His post was headlined “Conservative candidates stalked by eco bullies”. Much worse, he published the man’s name and home address.

[…]

One commenter wrote: “I tried to telephone *** *** on the number helpfully posted in this blog, but he’s out until tomorrow. Perhaps he is out ‘tackling climate change’? – anyway his missus didn’t seem to know where he was.”

2) Paul Cotterill compares the most recent Labour and Tory recessions:

Here’s the ONS graph showing three different recessions:

And here’s the ONS graph showing unemployment rates over the same time elapses:

Taken together these show that under the Tories in the 1980s unemployment went on rising for a further 4 and a half years AFTER the end of recession (in fact Chris Huhne said it rose for six years, so he may be using different data, but the point is the same).

This time around, the unemployment rate has already started to fall, though of course it may rise again (and the growth of part-time employment has also helped.

But why did this continued rise happen under the Tories? Well…

3) Hopi Sen asks if it is time to allow broadcasters to be biased:

In a world where free to view TV has three dedicated roulette channels showing each night, it cannot be argued that there are enormous barriers to entry to TV production.

Nor, can it be argued that only a few media operators can access the Radio or TV markets. There are currently 250 stations on DAB alone, with more available in different digital media to come. This is a world where almost anyone who can find an audience can run a station.

At the same time, changing media channels means it will soon be impossible for a national body to regulate people’s watching habits in any meaningful sense.

If I wanted to start “Socialist Workers Party Radio” once I had the production facilities and the marketing budget, all I am really waiting for is a way of reaching listeners that compares to traditional FM radio.  If Wi-Fi radio were to take off in any meaningful fashion, you’d be ready to go. All you’d be hoping for is that your audience would not be pitiful – and that’s your problem, not the government’s.

At the same time, if Rupert Murdoch wished to take Sky News down the route of Fox news (which is wildly profitable in a very competitive market), then I find it hard to argue that he should face restraints that don’t apply in either the print or internet media markets.

4) Will Straw exposes Ken Clarke’s attempt to rewrite history:

On Channel 4 News last night, Ken Clarke categorically denied that he had ever called for a VAT cut. But Left Foot Forward can this morning reveal that in the autumn of 2008, Clarke called repeatedly for a VAT cut before and after it was announced in the pre-Budget report by Alistair Darling.

[…]

On November 11, 2008, following an interview on BBC News, Clarke was quoted in his local paper, the Nottingham Evening Post, in an article titled “Clarke suggests VAT cut”:

[…]

Later that month in an interview to The Times, Clarke clearly calls for a VAT cut:

The Government should, he says, consider cutting VAT to 15 per cent in the Pre-Budget Report on Monday – an idea that is certainly not Tory party policy….

5) MacGuffin exposes another fake PC Gawn Maad story:

It was the lead story on the Mail website this morning:

Employer told not to post advert for ‘reliable’ workers because it discriminates against ‘unreliable’ applicants

[…]

It was on the front page of the Express and it also made the Star and Telegraph, although all four stories are suspiciously similar, with the same quotes in much the same order.

And as the first screenshot shows, the Mail story was gaining (unmoderated) comments by the hundred, almost all of them proclaiming it’s ‘political correctness gone mad’.

But is it? [I’ll give this one away, the answer is no]

Employer told not to post advert for ‘reliable’ workers because it discriminates against ‘unreliable’ applicants

Blogging Resources: Front Pages

Often around the blogosphere and t’interwebs you will see the day’s Newspaper Front Pages inserted into posts and pages.

I always wondered exactly where they came from because they add that special authenticity and immediacy that makes blogging so worthwhile.

After a brief exchange with MacGuffin of Tabloid Watch he informed me that Sky News always host the day’s Front Pages. This is a great resource and one I’ll be taking advantage of.

But the papers are uploaded under a different url each day. This means there is no one page to bookmark for ease of use. That is why I’ve made this.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbo=1&tbs=qdr%3Ad&q=site%3Anews.sky.com+newspapers+front+pages&aq=f&aqi=&oq=

C’est très joli, non?

Like a tired old donkey its looks are unimportant because it is very useful. This asks google to search http://news.sky.com for “National Front Page” and then only display the last 24 hours of results.

Doing so know brings up some fluff further down, but pride of place at the top isa link to – I hope you’ll permit a ta-da! – The Front Pages for January 27th 2010.

I thought this might be useful for bloggers out there like me, who were in the dark until now.

What a proper paper looks like

PANIC! FURY! Someone is doing stuff. Probably Bad! This is what a shit paper looks like