THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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April 2012

Blogging will be light, emotion will be high

Blogging will be even lighter than is usual here at The Last Ditch for a while. I am going on a driving course at the Ferrari test track in Italy, where I shall learn to be worthier of Speranza. I had planned to make an expedition of it, driving solo to and from Maranello. Sadly that has had to be shelved, following an accident. Speranza is being ministered to tenderly by Mr Macari's body shop and will not be back on the road until 18th May.

Given that it was a low-speed shunt, the damage is surprisingly bad. My offside front wheel was somehow wrenched off in the collision, breaking the suspension and shattering the carbon ceramic brake disc. Still, bent metal can always be mended. Flesh is less forgiving, so I am content that only my pride (and my no claims bonus) is hurt.

I hope to get back to more regular blogging when I return.

It's our own fault, damn it.

Ambush Predator: London Olympics; Outdoing Beijing In Every Sense Of The Word….

Arguably Britain's greatest contribution to human civilisation is the "Great Writ" of habeas corpus. In our time, it has been shamefully abrogated. Yet only a few "cranks," "swivel-eyed loons" and "libertarians" care. The free press doesn't give a damn, because its readers care even less. Even a highly-intelligent, legally-qualified university chum I lunched with this week was unaware that there are men in this country held without charge; denied not only the right to a trial, but the right to know why they are detained.

JuliaM's linked article highlights once again just how ignorant our people are of the most basic concepts of liberty. That security guards should take it on themselves to interfere with people photographing Olympic sites from public ground is depressing but unsurprising. That their management and the police should back them is infuriating. Yet are those idiots actually to blame? There was a time when guards, management and policemen would have been disgusted to hear themselves utter such twaddle. There was a time when Englishmen and women on the receiving end of such 'Little Hitler' tactics would have named them as such in robust Anglo-Saxon terms. That time has gone. The English are a dwindled, pale, sickly version of our historic selves. We inhabit the ruins of the people we once were.

I was discussing this over dinner this week with Suboptimal Planet. I found myself advancing this depressing notion in explaining why I don't blog so frequently these days. I used to write enthusiastically in the hope of turning opinion against the politicians attacking civil liberties. I thought they were the problem and could be influenced. My enthusiasm is gone because I no longer blame them. I came back to England to find the country I knew had died. An ignorant, infantilised electorate expects government to act whenever it feels threatened. In the wake of 9/11 and 7/7 the most dangerous mob cry of all went up; "do something!" For the politicans not to change the law would have been seen -stupidly - as siding with the terrorists. Politicians competently using the massive resources they already had to bring terrorists to justice would have been seen as inaction.

If a people can't clearly articulate what they want, politicians should probably ignore them. But for the greater part of the British electorate, thinking about what should be done is simply not their job. They cry like babies for the state to act and expect politicians to respond in some soothing way. The politicians who are to blame are those who created the Welfare State and raised this expectation of protection from cradle to grave. They are, sadly, beyond useful reproach. The current bunch are as helpless as they are hopeless. Perhaps a leader of Thatcher's charisma could turn the tide. But in all our centuries of history we have been blessed with only one of that calibre. We would be very lucky to get another in our lifetime.

In economics there is a doctrine of "moral jeopardy", whereby actors (such as banks) take too much risk precisely because they confidently anticipate being bailed out when things go wrong. Perhaps there is also a political moral jeopardy in the electorate's crazed but confident expectation that, whatever threats materialise, the state will avert them? Perhaps the growth of the welfare state in our country and elsewhere has made electorates themselves the problem?

If the people of a democracy are the issue, however, there can surely be little hope. There may be nothing for the wise to do but quietly stockpile resources useful in times of anarchy and wait for civilisation to collapse under the weight of insane expectation. That's not a cheerful prospect and I would love to hear a better. Tell me, please, how we get from from here to a new birth of freedom.

A new political party for libertarians?

Are you interested in getting involved? | A new political party for libertarians.

After the unhappy outcome of the last attempt, many of you will be as nervous as I am about trying again. Still, until we organise ourselves to get the message out, libertarianism in Britain will remain forever on the fringe. It's pretty clear after all that the Conservative Party's libertarian tendencies, pace Dan Hannan and Steve Baker, are dead forever.

The linked site has been set up by Gavin Webb - the only councillor the old Libertarian Party ever had - as a place where people can register their interest in forming a new party. I cannot help but sigh at the thought of having two parties - we will look like 'splittist' lefties - but it's worth thinking about.

Please register your interest. You are committing yourself to nothing but will help Gavin assess the possibilities.

A Mirror to our times

Anders Breivik trial: Killer makes fascist salute as he arrives to face charges over Norway massacre - Mirror Online

Just a tiny point of information for the Daily Mirror. Breivik may, or may not, be a fascist but that's not a fascist salute.
Perhaps the error is understandable though. It has, after all, been given before by many others whose attitudes to free speech and other liberties were indistinguishable from those of fascists.
Many of them supported at some level by the Daily Mirror.


Just saying...

Of angels, pinheads and snake-oil

Harry's Place » Judge at Passover: “nobody” saw Raed Salah blood libel sermon as harmful.

Harry's Place is an interesting site, full of diverse opinions around a narrow point of view. Its strapline ("Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear") appeals to me, but little else does. Frankly, though I hope I am wrong, I suspect most Harry's Placers don't think liberty does mean anything much - at least not where free speech is concerned.

The linked article is a classic example of the tone of the site. It is a po-faced discussion about, essentially, whether a poem was anti-semitic or not. Now savour for a moment the emotional responses that produces in you. Anti-semitism is a disgusting notion, yes? You feel angry at the thought of it and yearn in your gut to suppress it. Now that you think about it, you probably feel the same about racism and other idiotic means to make the ignorant feel strong, don't you? Thus far I commend you.

In the wake of that horror that was the Shoah, our grandfathers and fathers - feeling, perhaps for the first time, the revulsion you just experienced - became fair game for those selling the very snake oil of thought control that had been the Nazis' key product. In many countries (notably Germany) the first response to an evil regime that had penalised people for contrary opinions and banned books hostile to their world view was to penalise people for contrary opinions and to ban books hostile to their world view.

If only nasty people like Wagner had not held such horrible views, reasoned the snake oil salesmen, nasty people like Hitler could never have acted on them. Anti-semitism became, not a disgusting doctrine espoused by idiots, but in some places a crime and in others a civil wrong. Thus an "industry" (if work without positive result can be dignified with that name) was born.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that Hitler, by his nature, was not much interested in the rights or wrongs of popular thought. The real problem with the Holocaust (and I really can hardly credit that I feel the need to write this) was not the nasty thoughts but the nasty actions.

I am surrounded by people who think my self-made well-offness makes me a host to be bled by parasites. Does that hurt me? Not a bit. Just across my borough border is an enclave of Middle Eastern types who think me an inferior being; an infidel or kufar. Does this bother me? Not a lot. Those views, to the extent I hear them, are useful data to be stored for reference. For example, when choosing whom to invite to my home. Only if the holders of these wicked opinions ACT upon them, shall I care.

This commonsensical approach used to be that of all free societies. But no longer. Someone asked me recently what I had noticed most on my return to the UK after 20 years abroad. I replied, to stunned silence, that "the police now seem more interested in what people say than in what they do."

Call me old-fashioned, but if a drunk reveals the depth of his foolishness on Twitter (or on its analogue predecessor, the lavatory wall) I don't think he should be banged up. In the far less likely event that he plucked up the courage actually to assault someone he doesn't like then I think he should be banged up and the key thrown away, regardless of his ideological motivations (or lack of them).

I am not crusty enough to think everything old-fashioned is right, but I am also not daft enough to think that everything old-fashioned is wrong. If our laws were fashioned more oldly, I think we would find a good reason to deport Raed Salah - and many of his noxious ilk. It is their new-fashioned form, based on a recipe including lots of snake oil, that reduces some of us to analysing crap poetry in search of bad reasons.

Of petrol, pasties and the rape of Liberty

I have taken a break from the world for a week. I cruised the single-track roads and waiting smilingly in the passing places of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. I drank whisky, ate poor food and looked at magnificent scenery. I pictured my ancestors (for, despite Salmond's history-pokery, we are all one people) cruising those sea lochs in renamed Viking longboats and scratching a living from a landscape the fertility of which varies inversely with the beauty of the shapes into which it is arranged. It was great.

I did cast an eye over an occasional newspaper. Some fusspot civil libertarians were jeopardising the nation's safety, apparently, but the main issue of the hour was whether or not our political leaders really DO like cheap pasties from some out-of-control Geordie pie-shop. Oh, and whether it had been sensible for some politician to give filling stations the excuse to rack up the price of my motor car's food.

Then I got home and read the blogs. No wonder the politicians constantly hatch schemes to bring citizen journalists under the same 'regulation' as the dying, old-fashioned, corrupt press. The pie shop barely rated a mention and the bloggers were largely unmoved by the 'petrol shortage'. What warped priorities are these?

In opposition, where soon they will repose again, the Coalition was - if not red-hot - at least pinkly-flushed about civil liberties. Labour's refreshingly honest, open, totalitarian-with-a-brave faced-schemes to monitor all citizens at all times lest they act in their own interests were, then, unacceptable. Like most honest citizens who ask little more than to be able to keep the bulk of the proceeds of their own labours and to be free to spend their lives as they wish, both the 'Conservatives' and the 'Liberal Democrats' (note the use of quotation marks as wash-tongs to hold soiled concepts at arm's length) were agin 'em. Trust the people, they cried, in the hope of reciprocation.

But now they are in power and the world is a different place. Or at least the British state is, now that its chain of command ends with them. The French have their own notion of what is the 'English vice' but we are self-aware enough to know that it is, and has always been, hypocrisy. We (not just the English ourelves but the whole Anglo-Saxon world that bears our DNA) are hypocrites to a man.

Who would have guessed that these pink-faced products of old money were the most vicious Englishmen of all? Let's have the other lot back. At least while they rape our liberties, they won't pretend to love them. Such is the fun to be had - once in power - in bossing others around that there apears to be no option to elect any that DO love our liberties.

In the meantime, here are some of the more sterling attempts to do what I should perhaps have been doing when I was having fun. If you don't want to live in a world where the Greggs' pasty is at the centre of political life, I suggest you visit these sites and bookmark or RSS them. Oh, and the picture of my favourite view in the world is to soothe you as you read this stuff.

Big Brother is back

There's something secret

Listen you ignorant trollop

Email and web snooping is unworkable

Meet the new boss

This guy thinks 1984 is an instruction manual

OK, so this is not an April Fool

Tell me this is an April Fool, please

Someone loves Big Brother

Internet privacy - a draft letter to your MP

Digital Dave is watching you

What Davy said, in opposition

Watching your fall

and the BBC's take on it (more regulations needed to regulate the regulators)