THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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January 2010

Does The Guardian know the truth?

Charlotte Raven: Should I take my own life? | Society | The Guardian.

The linked article in The Guardian is a very sad piece. The author has Huntington's, an incurable degenerative disease perhaps best know for afflicting the character Dr Remy "Thirteen" Hadley in the wonderful American TV drama "House". The symptoms might, as she writes, have been devised by an evil genius in a comic strip:

What could be more testing than an illness that impairs quickly but takes decades to kill – or more cruel than one that robs you of your ability to communicate while leaving your capacity to understand intact?
She speculates as to how things might go wrong for her and her family as the disease takes its terrible course and discusses, very rationally, the pros and cons of suicide. My religious readers may be shocked by her reasoning. I confess that am not.

The Left in Britain are very big on the right to die. On occasion, they have even floated the idea of a duty to die. So it's not surprising to find a piece like this in their house journal. I was startled however by two bullet points that could surely never appear in that statist rag in any other context;
  • Without autonomy and the capacity for self-­determination, life is meaningless. Merely ­existing isn't enough.
  • Dependency is degrading.

I could not agree more. However, if The Guardian truly agreed, how different would its editorial policy have to be? 

There is no scope for public spending cuts (continued)

Ed Balls accused of wasting £1bn on red tape | Education |

£1.1 billion could be saved, say the Liberal Democrats, by scrapping Ed Balls' Children, Schools and Families Bill. This piece of draft legislation has the remarkable distinction of threatening to introduce a regulation (namely a licence to teach), which even the ineffably left-wing National Union of Teachers regards as an

"...entirely unnecessary, pointless hurdle..."

It is also the bill that introduces powers, as abhorrent as they are unnecessary, to force home-schooled children into public education where the state disapproves of the parents' teaching. Clearly, that must be a major priority for a state currently engaged in beggaring generations yet unborn with massive public borrowing. Well worth diverting resources from front-line services (and future taxpayers' pockets) don't you think? Not everyone does, apparently. A letter in today's Guardian describes clause 1 of the bill, with a charming combination of naiveté and understatement, as;

" unacceptable imposition of state control over families..."

As part of Labour's brass-necked campaign to sound tough on public spending Mr Balls has recently suggested that the education system could save £750 million by turning off lights and heating in schools. Dare one suggest that, in straitened economic circumstances, it could do that in addition to scrapping his Bill? For that matter, if Mr Balls really cares about the public purse, perhaps he could get a proper job and pay some more taxes from generated, not confiscated, wealth?

Another step toward the abyss

Heathrow robbery trial breaks with 400-year tradition of trial by jury | UK news | The Guardian.

I despair. The right to trial by jury has protected Englishmen from an over-mighty state since long before democracy was born. Combined with the Great Writ of habeas corpus, it meant you could not be detained without trial and that your trial must be by 12 independent jurors. For most of the last 400 years, those jurors were required to decide unanimously that you were guilty. If they couldn't, you were acquitted. The odds were loaded against the state and in favour of the citizen. Guilty men went free, that's true. But (though nothing human is perfect) the odds of an innocent man being convicted were reassuringly small.

In the last century, in the wake of jury-nobbling scandals, majority verdicts were introduced. Even then, some thought that the state should do more to protect jurors, rather than implicitly accept that criminals could intimidate them. The efficiency of the justice system was put before the ancient rights of free Englishmen. Those who saw it as "a slippery slope" were dismissed as old fashioned.

Now, jury nobbling is again the excuse, but this time to hold trials with no jury at all. Again, those who object are dismissed either as friends of organised crime or as old buffers. Let's not forget however that the jury was designed to prevent it from being nobbled - by the state. The odds of 12 good men and true all being subverted by plain bribery, or by nods and winks or hopes of preferment from the government, were calculated as being too small to worry about. To put it at its lowest, it was assumed that a random sample of 12 Englishmen would contain at least one who couldn't be bought. It's not the highest of national praise, but it's practical.

As for criminals doing the nobbling, that is clearly a smaller problem. Even the mightiest of them does not have anything like the state's resources for corruption or intimidation. That's not to say the problem should not be addressed. Such conduct undermines justice and should therefore be a very serious crime. I suggest that jury-nobbling should carry double the combined maximum sentences for the offences under trial. Even a crime lord will find it a big ask to get men not themselves on trial to risk that.

What are the odds of a fair trial after repeated mistrials for alleged jury-nobbling? The judge hearing the case without a jury, so far from knowing nothing of their criminal history, knows full well that they are considered to be dangerous organised criminals capable of bribing or intimidating a jury. Is he likely to approach the case with an open mind?

Once one such trial has ended in a successful conviction (and the convicted men prove to have been just such thugs) how often will it be argued that there is a risk of the jury being nobbled? After all, there is always such a risk. When Mrs P. served as a juror, the accused's family hung about in the court car park smirking meaningfully as they noted jurors' car registration numbers. The jurors simply decided to arrive by public transport. They went on to convict. I would not be surprised if the family's conduct helped the prosecution. Nobbling is often as likely to misfire as not.

We can be sure that this current trial has been hand-picked to support the government's view that jury trial is not an essential right. I will be astonished if it ends in an acquittal. Then we will proceed yet further down that slippery slope. Such trials will become more and more frequent. One day a future Home Secretary will stand smilingly to tell the Commons that so many trials are conducted "efficiently" without a jury that the cost can be saved for all trials.

Personally, if forced to the choice, I would prefer the right to trial by jury to the right to vote. My lone voice against the pathetic multitudes who cling to Nanny's teat is as nothing. 400 years of history have proved, however, that when the state has the wrong victim in its sights (intentionally or otherwise) a jury is a free man's best hope. One day my dissent from the consensus that economic value grows on state trees will, I am sure, become a crime. At my trial, I would like a jury of my fellow citizens to look me in the eye before condemning me.

Never forget which political party brought you this tragic day. If the next Conservative government does not immediately restore your absolute right to jury trial, never forget that either.

Criminal dissent?

- Bishop Hill blog - ++++Statement from Norfolk Police++++.

It seems the debate on climate change really is over. Tasked with investigating the breach of security at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit ("climategate") the Norfolk Constabulary has involved "officers from the National Domestic Extremism Team."

As GOT explains, taking up the story:

If you go on to the National Domestic Extremism website, they proudly display an explanation of what constitutes 'domestic extremism':

"The terms are generally used to describe the activity, individuals or campaign groups that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process."

This unit was originally set up to monitior the activities of "animal rights" fanatics who were conducting criminal campaigns of violent intimidation. What a very sad example of "mission creep." When one considers the sometimes noble history of the British Left in campaigning for issues "outside of the normal democratic process", how particularly sad that its erstwhile flagship party should be in charge of such activities.

The majority of British people believe that climate change is real, but is not necessarily caused by man. As Dan Hannan observed, "it would be ridiculous to believe in climate stasis." I suspect the majority would also applaud an unknown whistle-blower or even an external hacker who exposed the dishonest activities of the Climate Research Unit. Thanks to that unknown person, we know about the manipulation of research data and the denial of data access to other scientists for review. Worst of all, we know that the CRU destroyed much original data, which can now never be verified. Yet our authorities response is to tackle the "extremism" of the campaigners, not that of the scientists. Am I alone, regardless of the scientific truth of climate change, in finding that disturbing?

In the present economic climate, many young people are contemplating, faute de mieux, careers in the public sector. There are of course many respectable occupations in public service. The only advice I can give to such young people is that state or state-sponsored organisations involved in the formulation, promotion, implementation or enforcement of policy are no longer respectable. The moral compass of the British Establishment - always somewhat wonky - is now definitively broken.

Young people considering such careers are setting out on a path that may lead them, at the least, to moral compromise. I am afraid it could lead them to much worse. I remember my own desperate urge at that age to achieve adult independence. I understand the pressures they are under to begin their careers in a terrible market, but entering the service of repression is never the right path. These are times to test young souls and I feel for them.

As right honourably hung for a sheep as a lamb?

MPs facing police over expenses look to ancient Bill of Rights for protection - Telegraph.

Their distinguished counsel will, I am sure, have told them this is a long shot. They have nothing to lose in running it though. Certainly not the respect of the electorate. Perhaps they even have in mind to maximise the embarrassment of the Government in election year, in the hope that a deal can be struck behind closed doors? I suspect even this brazen regime would find that too hard. Besides, they are using the Labour Party's lawyers. Such a tactic would involve a major conflict of interest.

I estimate that as many as one-third of our MPs would now be facing criminal charges if they had filed their expense claims (under similar rules) to a private company. If even those few who were most brazen; claiming for non-existent mortgages, (allegedly) forging VAT receipts etc., were to be let off the hook surely even our docile electorate would riot?

I confidently predict these "honourable" gentlemen are going to gaol as token sacrifices to legality. There is honour among thieves politicians however. Watch out for the jobs they find when they have served their brief, cushy sentences. I suspect their sacrifice will be rewarded with juicer opportunities than are usually on offer to ex-offenders.

What a libertarian society might look like

SUBROSA: Kindness.

Read the left-wing blogs and you will be struck by the strangeness of their ideas about libertarianism. They assume for example that because libertarians are concerned about the corrosive effects of welfarism, we are cold and heartless. For example, here is "Flying Rodent" commenting recently on this post at Pickled Politics:

I have two major problems with libertarianism, especially in its hysteric internet form. Mainly that’s because, historically, libertarians almost always side with the interests of “the individual” – by which they mean “the wealthy” rather than everyone. Look at their attitude to charities, if you want an example – they claim to only despise “fake charities,” but clearly hate the entire concept of charity itself.

It would be entirely fair to reduce the blogging libertarian’s philosophy to a mortal dread that somebody, somewhere is nibbling on a hunk of government cheese at their expense. This does not bode well for anyone with an interest in equality.

Forget for a second the straw men in his arguments. He conflates "the individual" with "the wealthy" and projects that onto his enemies. His view that libertarians hate charity itself merely reveals that, for such people, the cuckoo of welfarism has pushed all other ideas of community out of the nest. One of the saddest effects of the welfare state has been to make "charity" such a dirty word that it was easy for government to subvert it.

This clip (H/T Subrosa) shows a genuinely charitable response to a neighbour in trouble. No caring socialists or rich internet libertarians were harmed in the making of this film.

“Hate speech” is ok, if it’s right on

Why is the Left so obsessed with “hate speech” and “hate crime?” If I am injured, I want justice, whether my attacker was motivated by hate or merely indifferent to my plight. If my goods are stolen, I don’t care if the thief was driven by envy, hatred or greed. I just want my stuff back and the thief out of circulation. If anything, while most of us would prefer to be loved, surely hatred is better than indifference?

So what is it with the Left and “hate?”

The Labour Party is having tactical discussions at present about Gordon Brown’s recommencement of hostilities (as if there was ever a truce) in the “class war.” The Blairites may point out (sensibly) that it is a turn off for floating voters, but class war is no mere option for Labour. Trust someone who grew up in the Labour heartlands; it is no aberration - it is its vile beating heart. Never an hour went by in my Northern school without some snide class-based remark from pupils or teachers. The enemy was invisible (there were no “toffs” in our bog-standard comp, comrade) but the hatred was relentless. It bound the tribe together. Denouncing someone as a “toff” was enough to make him or her an enemy. No further discussion was needed. I was caught up in this hatred myself for some years. Only gradually did the obvious strike me. It is no more logical to be proud of one accident of birth than another. Proletariat-worship is - ironically - a weird kind of feudalism.

It’s quite simple really and dangerously so. Without the bourgeoisie (the baddies) there is no justification for the violent dominance of the proletariat (the goodies). Just like those action movies that begin with the hero’s wife/girlfriend/children being killed/raped/mistreated by the “bad guys,” it’s a plot device to justify the vicious excitement that follows. Just as the dehumanisation of the “capitalists” - their conversion into stereotypical hate figures - makes them like robots or aliens in a sci-fi movie or video game. You can attack them gleefully, without shame or remorse because they are "other." It’s all deliciously tribal. Post-Soviet Socialism has consisted largely of a search for new hate figures; racists, homophobes, islamophobes, AGW deniers, smokers etc.

Hatred is actually the Left’s vice. It's hard, in a chicken and egg sort of way, to know which came first. I suspect that the malicious are actively drawn to left-wing thinking by the endless opportunities for hatred - of class enemies, of class traitors, of scabs, of blacklegs, of anyone - in short - outside the hate-defined tribe. Hatred unifies, purifies and creates all-important solidarity. Perhaps it is simply seen as a weapon too valuable to be available to the enemy?

When negotiating an agreement, the parties spend a lot of time worrying about how the “other side” might do them down. Their respective advisers get a lot of insights into human insecurities. One of the clearest lessons my 27 years as a commercial lawyer have taught me is that people fear most the wrongs they are themselves most likely to commit.

If you want to know what to fear from a man, look at what he fears in others.