THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
December 2011
Next month:
February 2012

January 2012

Life is not fair to women: Discuss

Why does this issue matter to a libertarian? Because special pleading by lobby groups is a primary cause of unnecessary legislation. As law is an evil to be avoided unless the alternative is a greater evil, unnecessary legislation saps liberty;

Like most gender differences in outcomes, there only ever seems to be concern when women are under-represented in fields like politics, and never any concern when men are under-represented for outcomes like bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, doctor's degrees, graduate school enrollment, biology degrees, veterinary degrees, optometry degrees, pharmacy degrees, etc.  The only exceptions are when the outcomes are negative like prison populations, learning disabilities, occupational injuries and fatalities, motorcycle injuries and fatalities, suicides and drug addiction and then there is no concern about female under-representation. 

I suspect this point could be made to most Single Issue Fanatic minorities claiming that stats show life is not fair to them. But let our lady readers have first go before we broaden the discussion please...

Public Drunkenness and Pomposity

Public Drunkenness Can Never Be a Social Norm - Iain Dale - Dale & Co..

Apropos of my previous post and the widespread delusion that candid photography is against the law, Iain Dale is busy digging himself deeper into a hole after an ill-advised photographic tweet on his way home last night (click to enlarge).


I defend his freedom of speech, of course, but I think he should be happy the lady cannot be identified as the publication is arguably libellous.

As a libertarian, I think the laws of defamation fall under the category of "de trop", but for so long as they exist (and they have been around a long time) Iain needs, particularly as a professional communicator, to bear them in mind. Fortunately for him, the first time anyone would have chance to consider the effect on her reputation would be if she were rash enough to identify herself by suing. So she won't. Before she even considers it, she ought to read about the role of an ill-judged defamation suit in Oscar Wilde's downfall.

It's a surprising lapse for Iain who is famous for his media skills and a highly accomplished communicator (usually of not very much). An amusing Twitterstorm has ensued, as the professionally-offended on the Left take up chivalric cudgels while calling him a c**t and a w*****r without any sense of irony. They are also ranting on about the breach of this anonymous lady's privacy, which is nonsense. Firstly, she's still anonymous and secondly she was in a public place. Anywhere you can lawfully be looked at, you can generally be photographed. People take photos on trains all the time, and - although usually incidentally - there are almost always strangers in the frame.

For what it's worth, I think Mr Dale is guilty of bad manners and a surprising, for him, lack of media savvy. He says she was behaving badly, but the picture doesn't illustrate his point in any way. She could just be depressed or tired. As it comes down to his word, he should probably have left it at words.

Iain is in danger of being seen as using the hammer of his influence to crack the nut of his irritation with a minor disturbance to his peace (allegedly) caused by this woman. Sadly he comes off looking like a pompous prat. In his own interests he should have apologised immediately but having rashly mounted his high horse he's having trouble getting off. His lines of defence look tortured and weak (can he really not have realised the sexual connotations of 'slapper?') and are doing him no good.

The only benefit to his not apologising is that the stream of gleefully sanctimonious responses show the British Left up for the insufferable prigs they mostly are. Ironically, if this tweet represented his true character, it would be a trait Iain had in common with them.

Stick to your knitting madam

Sarah Duncan Knitwear - SDK - 01225 333730 -

If you are in the market for mumsy knitwear in Bath, might I respectfully suggest that you steer clear of this particular shop? The owner, as can be seen here, is a nasty piece of work. That she is a spectacularly bad, selfish and inconsiderate parker is bad enough but would not rate a mention. She is also however an outright opponent of civil liberties who claims to believe it's illegal to film anyone without their consent. How does she think the BBC films street scenes? Or maybe it's just her consent that's required? Or that of her loutish husband?

When a passer-by films the jam she's caused by parking her car so badly, she first demands he hand over his camera phone and then pursues him, threatening to perjure herself by making a false accusation of assault. And so it goes on, with her husband intervening aggressively;


"Who the **** do you think you are?"

she asks. I wish the guy filming had had the presence of mind to answer "a free man in a public place, who do you think you are?"

"I want to know who you are and where you live"

she continues. Well we don't want to know where you live, madam. You are welcome to your privacy. We are glad we know where your business is though; the better to avoid lining the pockets of such a disgrace to a free nation.

These people have no grasp of the notion of liberty. Yes, they are only 'little people' running a tiny business. They don't matter very much and ordinarily I would wish them the best. However, while they are clearly less important than the politicians constantly chipping away our freedom, they represent the despicable  "forbidden until authorised by law" mentality to which those politicians pander.

h/t Tim Worstall

If your body does not belong to you, what does?

VM -- Should Participation in Vaccine Clinical Trials be Mandated?, Jan 12 ... Virtual Mentor

I find it hard to believe this is genuine, but it seems to be. Already it seems mad progressives have 'progressed' from claiming ownership of your dead body, to discussing whether they can claim ownership of your live one. Did you ever read anything more chilling than the cold comparison between military conscription and being forced by law to submit to medical experiments;

In both conscription and obligatory trial participation, individuals have little or no choice regarding involvement and face inherent risks over which they have no control, all for the greater good of society.

Where does this 'society' evil end? And where do such people get their confidence that they are infallible judges of the 'greater good?'

h/t Trooper Thompson

Of panic and progressives

It seems Captain Schettino panicked. Who's to say you wouldn't? | Bruce Hood | Comment is free |

There's an interesting (and rather heated) discussion of the linked Guardian contribution to the discussion of Captain Schettino's conduct over at Harry's Place. Libby T asks the provocative and amusing question "Is there anything so craven that it won’t find an apologist at The Guardian?" Quite. However I find the original piece by Bruce Hood, an 'experimental psychologist' at the University of Bristol less revealing than the comments it provokes over at the Guardian's Comment is Free section. For example;

I can guarantee you: No little old lady is too sweet, no pregnant momma too rotund for me to trample them down on the run to the exits.

Progressives and their love of their fellow man, eh?

Actually that's rather a cheap shot and I should be ashamed of myself. In fairness, many others at Comment is Free make sensible and even noble points. Still it's educational to watch other Guardianisti try to fit this story, like every other, into their tired ideological templates. The trouble with making 'society' to blame for everything, it seems, is that you risk making excuses for anyone who fails to take personal responsibility. Rather like the progressives at work in our justice system, perhaps.

For myself, I am upset about a member of his crew comparing Captain Schettino's personal style of navigation to a 'Ferrari driver'. Harumph.

Why Wikipedia is dark today


We could all be dark if this legislation goes ahead. This is a classic example of Big Government treading on the people in the interests of Big Business. Please spread this video (or create your own content on your blog, Facebook page or Twitter) to get the message out. Wikipedia is showing us what our digital world could be like if SOPA and/or PIPA become law.

Lady Astor's Roller and other old stuff in my head

Rolls Royce used by Churchill restored to former glory after sitting in garage for decades (and it's now worth £250,000) | Mail Online.

Nothing to do with civil liberties, I know, but this article makes me smile for a petrol-headed reason. The car belonged to my great uncle and I knew it as a child. The article doesn't explain WHY the car was so cheap when he bought it. As he told the story in my presence years ago, it was donated to the Army for war use, but its fuel consumption precluded practical use. So as not to offend the Astor family, it was converted to a truck by cutting off that rear compartment in which I later slumbered. My great uncle bought in in that state, reasoning (as all around him scoffed at his idiocy) that "No-one will have scrapped part of Lady Astor's car."

Sure enough, after years of searching, the rear end showed up in a garage somewhere and he bought it equally cheaply. Reuniting the separated parts magically increased the car's worth (in the real estate business, that's called 'marriage value') and he then made money renting her out to TV and film companies. Those included (as mentioned in the article) the makers of my then favourite show, "The Avengers."

My great uncle was my grandfather's partner in building the company that - as a reward for their war service - an ungrateful nation stole from them in 1946. Their business became part of British Road Services (the trucking equivalent of British Rail) which was eventually privatised as the National Freight Consortium. After merging with Exel, it was ultimately acquired (ironically) by another state enterprise - Deutsche Post and is now part of its subsidiary DHL. It has all come a long way from a company founded on a small loan by my great grandfather (a publican) to his sons. Were it not for a ridiculous and now discredited (everywhere except in Guardianland) political theory, who knows where it might have taken my family?

My grandad and his brothers used that small loan to buy their first of several Sentinel steam trucks. My grandfather's first of many convictions for speeding involved breaking a 5mph limit in front of Chester Castle in just such a road-going locomotive. He was arrested by a policeman on a bicycle. I remember him telling me the story and regret that I forgot to ask him if the stoker was fined too on such occasions. The example of a Sentinel in the picture once belonged to my great uncle and I remember my grandfather regarding him as hopelessly sentimental for having it painted in the confiscated company's old colours. My grandad was not a man for regrets and had little patience with nostalgics.

My great uncle's son was the chap who took the teenaged me out for a ride in his Dino and therefore triggered the long chain of events that led to me buying my Ferrari. We are meeting up in the North at the end of this month for me to return that favour of 40 or so years ago by taking him for a ride.

So much for my happy, if possibly imprecise, memories. I assure those readers who are (inexplicably) not petrol or steam-heads, that normal service will now be resumed.

Addled thinking on allowing and approving

UK secretly allowed pirate ransoms | The Australian.

The linked story says a lot about how lost we are to liberty. The government, under various pretexts, monitors how we spend the small portion of our own money it does not wrench from us to squander. For example, I recently had to suffer the indignity of explaining to the lawyers acting on my home purchase where the money came from. The honest answer is "30 years of hard work." That, apparently, is way too suspicious.

The state has made secret policemen of our bank managers, accountants and (God forgive us) our lawyers. Many of you will feel this is a justified intrusion into liberty; necessary to defend us against terrorism and organised crime. I disagree, and this story illustrates why.

Stephen Askins, a maritime lawyer involved in more than 30 hostage and kidnap cases in Somalia, said that each ransom payment out of London had been approved by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), a Home Office police unit, and the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).

He said the law on money laundering required every company, lawyer and middleman involved in the payment of ransoms to declare them to the government.

Well, quite. But how do the press get from that to saying;

The government has secretly approved the payment of millions of pounds in ransom money to Somali pirates despite stating publicly that it opposes such deals.

How does Keith Vaz get from that to this;

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said he would be writing to the chief executive of Soca to demand an explanation. “I am very concerned that the public position of the government seems to be at odds with what it is doing privately. I’m very surprised to hear about this. Soca is designed to tackle organised crime, not to keep organised crime going,” he said.

Can no-one else see the difference between checking that a payment is not from the proceeds of crime and "approving" an innocent citizen's reluctant payment of his own money to criminals? Can no-one else see the difference between being unhappy about people having to do something and prohibiting them from doing it with the full force of the law? No? Well then you see why I don't want government involved at all in things that don't concern it. Once the government is in the picture, mini-minds such as Keith Vaz (and most British journalists), believe that all must do exactly as it orders.

The pirates are the criminals here, not the hapless business people ransoming back their own employees and vessels. If you were being mugged on the street, how would you feel if the government wanted to make your handing over your stuff illegal? Especially if the government in question had taken the muggers in question into custody and released them again as the Royal Navy did on government orders with the Somali pirates it captured?

If it were not for the offensively intrusive money laundering laws which make all transactors guilty until proven innocent, these transactions would take place entirely off the government's radar.

Rather like the piracy in fact.

An end to racism

The issue of the week in England was racism. The three stories that brought the topic to the fore were the trial of two of Stephen Lawrence's murderers, the eight match ban handed out to Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC by the FA and Diane Abbott's tweet denouncing all white people as pracitioners of 'divide and rule.' Together, they illustrate the mess we are now in on this subject.

Under the apartheid system in old South Africa, the Population Registration Act of 1950 required every citizen to be classified by race. This led to such nonsenses as the 'pencil test' (no, ladies, not that one). The fact that categorisation had to be done by such ridiculous means rather suggested to me at the time that - as well as being immoral - apartheid was plain stupid. I can't help feeling that the angels on pinhead-type discussions about whether Suaraz and Abbott are 'racists' suggest the same about anti-racist legislation in Britain.

Stephen Lawrence's murder was a terrible crime. Murder has always been regarded as a terrible crime under the laws of England. It was no more terrible however because he was killed for being black. To suggest otherwise, as his mother and the political parasites who have fed on her grief for a decade do, is racist. A human being had his life taken from him. All decent human beings should feel equally troubled by that. Those who are more troubled because he was black are just as racist as those who are less troubled.

Diane Abbott's stupid tweet has highlighted the hypocrisy of all those who make a good living out of 'diversity issues' and racism. In their eagerness to big up the issues - all the better to prosper from 'fighting' them - they become guilty of the 'crimes' they oppose. In post-apartheid South Africa, black and coloured people still have to be categorised, because under current law black people benefit more from 'positive discrimination' than coloureds. Some version of the pencil test is still being applied and there is a common saying among coloured people now that;

We were not white enough under apartheid, and we are not black enough under the ANC

Why care about these intellectual inconsistencies? Because, for one thing, the Lawrence media circus has cost the people of England - all of us, of whatever colour - one of our most important legal protections, the rule against double jeopardy. The loss of that protection is, quite simply, a greater tragedy either than the death of Stephen Lawrence was, or the escape without punishment of two of his murderers would have been. Blackstone's formulation that;

better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer

...seems to have lost its force in modern England. He would have been as horrified and afraid as I am at that. Why should I be the only libertarian blogger not to quote the famous lines from A Man for All Seasons in this connection?

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Even a libertarian state would be barely counterbalanced by other forces (e.g. churches, charities, corporations and professions) but a social democratic state is a gorilla in a flea circus. Civilisation requires that individuals be protected from such enormous force and the rule against double jeopardy was a key example of such a protection. A state able to persecute individuals by repeated prosecutions can weaponise the justice system for use against anyone who annoys it.

If you legislate against racism, you end up with inarticulate young men being pilloried for the stupid things they say in heat. You end up with Manchester United cheating at football. You end up with young people afraid to befriend black or Asian schoomates for fear that, should any argument arise, they can be demonised by the simple deployment of a fearful magic word. In short you end up with injustice. Not the odd example of a guilty man going free, but a systemic injustice that divides ethnic groups and, ironically, promotes racism. If Stephen Lawrence's death was worse because of the killers' motivation, then his murder is more important than mine would be. That is racism in itself and is likely (though it hasn't succeeded yet) to provoke racism in me.

I don't deny racism exists. I have seen and experienced it. It is a crassly stupid viewpoint and its expression is impolite at best. There is no place at my dinner table for anyone who espouses it. Nor however, is there any place there for thugs and hypocrites who seek to exploit it to make a parasitical living, to attack freedom of speech or to weaken the only form of equality for which I give a damn; equality before the law.

Picture credit (and I think it's a splendid picture, though the artist would probably disagree with every word above) Beth Consetta Rubel