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

Leery about Leveson

It's too soon to react properly to the Leveson Report, as has been graphically illustrated by the meanderings of people trying to do so on TV in the past hour. Two thousand pages of judicial prose are hard to digest. He has played a canny political game. By declaring he will take no further part in the debate to come he has cleverly ensured his reputation for posterity. Any bad things that happen in his wake will be the fault of others. As he said, the ball is back in the politicians' court.

As he was only asked to review the dying, if not yet quite dead, duck of the mainstream media, the main effect of his efforts will be to widen the already hilarious gap between what newspapers publish and what is available on the internet. That will weaken the credibility of the print media, and its demise will be accelerated in consequence. That worries me. The idea that the only professional news-gatherers in the world of journalism will be those in the broadcast media is a dire prospect. Newsnight, anyone?

The BBC is already the most influential news medium in Britain. If its undue influence is further bolstered, then let's at least drop the myth of its impartiality. Let it be set free to be openly the Pravda of British broadcasting and let Murdoch launch Fox News UK. Let a hundred schools of thought contend and let the public be the judge.

The idea that a press Code should be enforced by a regulator independent of both the industry and the state sounds great, but OfCom - the body Leveson suggests should "validate" the regulatory regime is a state agency staffed by well-paid and self-interested bureaucrats. People will angle for such jobs and obtaining the favour of politicians will be far more relevant to them than that of editors. Corruption will creep in, as it must in all bodies funded by force. The "great and the good" will dominate. If OfCom has any scope to "de-validate" the regulator or veto individual appointments to its review panel, directly or indirectly, then it will pretty soon be pulling strings behind the scenes. In a very British way, of course - with a nod and a wink over a G&T.

My only immediate criticism of the specifics of Leveson's report is that I am alarmed by his idea of what might be a meaningful incentive to newspaper owners to sign up for "voluntary" regulation. The only suggestion I have heard from him in this respect is for aggravated or punitive damages in libel cases where the relevant publication had not submitted to the Code. That's a frighteningly subtle suggestion. After all, most of us will be outside the Code. I heard someone from the Huffington Post (I think) on Sky News express total confidence that blogging is safe from all this, because internet publication is, or can be, extra-territorial (like this blog, hosted in the US and protected by the First Amendment). But our defamation law has extra-territorial reach, as witness those men of power who visit our courts specifically to use it to silence their critics. Guido Fawkes' blog is offshore but Paul Staines can be sued for libel in England so long as it can be read here. Foreign courts (including those in the US) will enforce any judgements against him under international treaties, without question.

If aggravated damages for libel by "outlaw" publications become the norm, can anyone seriously imagine that the social media will long remain aloof? Guido's readership, after all, is already far greater than that of all the political journals in Britain combined. It's likely to grow far more as the chilling effect of the new code takes effect. Indeed, I suspect he will be the only real winner from Leveson as fear of big fines further emblandens the mainstream press and as politicians obliged to disclose their every contact with journalists turn to him (as some already do) to publish the leaks and smears that are the tools of their revolting trade.

How politicians act on Leveson's recommendations, given that he has trodden such a delicate political line, is now far more important than the detail of his report. We must be alert to their games. Leveson hasn't killed free speech in Britain, but that's not to say they won't use his magnum opus as cover to do so.

The Free Society: Punishing the poor, the moderate and the sensible

The Free Society: Punishing the poor, the moderate and the sensible.
Over at the Free Society blog, economist Eamonn Butler states what used to be the bleeding obvious before welfarism rotted the national brain. As to his immediate point, he is quite right that the only people whose behaviour will be affected by minimum prices are those whose behaviour is not a problem. Drunks will prioritise alcohol purchases over more important ones, just as drug addicts do. And we all know what happens when you price their preferred purchase at a level that leaves them without other choices; crime. 

What struck me most strongly was his headline. Isn't "Punishing the poor, the moderate and the sensible" the true, if undeclared, manifesto of all the UK's mainstream, statist parties?

A dangerous day

Today is a dangerous day for freedom. Lord Leveson's report has been read overnight by the politicians and civil servants and will be revealed to us this afternoon. All we know is that it's 2,000 pages long and composed by, and under the advice, of people who trust the state more than they trust Rupert Murdoch.

I am not sure any sensible person should trust either, but here's a suggestion as to someone we should definitely distrust; anyone who says freedom (the absence of external restraint) can strengthened by regulation (external restraint). All such people are - at best - dishonest. They are not confined to the overtly authoritarian Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

Listen for their characteristic siren call today. They are your enemies.

More children should be in care, say MPs

BBC News - More children should be in care, say MPs

Where do the men and women responsible for the institutional child abuse that is state "care" for children get their arrogance? Even leaving aside the extreme examples of the North Wales childrens homes or those in Islington under Margaret Hodge, people who, confronted with allegations of abuse, call in the police to find - not the abuser - but the whistleblower are not my first choice to look after vulnerable, unfortunate kids.

We do not need state employees selecting foster parents or other carers for their political views. Still less do we need them (as has been alleged in the comments here) threatening employees that if they so much as mention grooming by Asian men they will be dismissed for racism. The abuse of 'kuffar' girls by Pakistani gangs in the North-West went undetected for so long precisely because of such leftist wickedness by state employees.

And before I am accused of racism, let me remark that it took the appointment of a Muslim head of the local Crown Prosecution Service to overturn the previous decisions not to prosecute. Most Muslims in the area are just as shocked as you or me by what happened. They are no more to blame for those crimes than they are for the episodic nonsense (no doubt soon to be revived) of Christmas celebrations being banned as potentially offensive. Those at fault in such cases - from the vile to the trivial - are the politically-correct Left, most of whom are white and middle class.

With such people as the odious Joyce Thacker in charge of social services across the country, I have no doubt that the Rotheram case is quite usual. Few such stories make the papers (usually to be scorned as Mail-reader bigotry) but does anyone doubt that behind the scenes all children in care are subject to indoctrination; probably not all as subtle as rejecting foster parents who vote for the wrong party? God knows my own experiences in a state school in the Labour North did not expose me to any ideas beyond the leftist spectrum. There was the same smug assumption of moral superiority as can be detected in Rotheram council.

Let charity live again in Britain. Give meaning back to the word "care". Close all social services because, as bodies funded by force, they are intrinsically immoral.

Just what is the point of the Conservative Party?

I know many of my liberty-minded friends have little time for Liberty (fka the National Council for Civil Liberties). At times in its history it has been little better than a leftist front falsely associating highly illiberal people with the idea of freedom. Sometimes, however, it gets it right and though sometimes I have to hold my nose to be so, I am a member.

Yesterday I received a mailing from Shami Chakrabarti asking for money (they always ask for money) and urging me to write to my MP about the Communications Data Bill

The Government plans to instruct private companies to collect and store our "communications data". That means records of emails, web activity, texts and phone calls - for the entire population. The reasons for storing the data are very broadly defined. Access could be granted to hundreds of public bodies for reasons that have nothing to do with fighting crime.

This amounts to mass, blanket surveillance of the population - outsourced to the private sector. 

Yes, the Snooper's Charter - seen off during the last Labour government - is back. Compare and contrast the government's stance on our privacy with its approach to its own - as witness the dishonestly-named Justice and Security Bill which will create secret trials in the land of habeas corpus and Magna Carta.

I now have to ask myself what exactly is the point of the Conservative Party? It, and its coalition partners, promised they would roll back Labour's assault on civil liberty. These latest proposals suggest otherwise.

Thank you, Dr. Ron Paul


Few men have done their fellow countrymen greater service than Dr. Ron Paul. In making his farewell speech to Congress, he articulated his vision and expressed his hope that, despite all his worst predictions having come true, the next generation will rebuild America. Apart from his repeating the common misconception that the Great Writ of habeas corpus originated with Magna Carta, I can find no fault with what he said.

You can watch the video or, if you find his oratory a little lacking (he's a gynecologist, not a lawyer), you can read his speech here. Either way, I urge you to take the time for, though he would laugh at the idea, this is an important man. 

Violence, or rather the avoidance of it, is at the heart of his thinking;

The immoral use of force is the source of man’s political problems. Sadly, many religious groups, secular organizations, and psychopathic authoritarians endorse government initiated force to change the world. Even when the desired goals are well-intentioned—or especially when well-intentioned—the results are dismal. The good results sought never materialize. The new problems created require even more government force as a solution. The net result is institutionalizing government initiated violence and morally justifying it on humanitarian grounds.

This is the same fundamental reason our government uses force for invading other countries at will, central economic planning at home, and the regulation of personal liberty and habits of our citizens.

It is rather strange, that unless one has a criminal mind and no respect for other people and their property, no one claims it’s permissible to go into one’s neighbor’s house and tell them how to behave, what they can eat, smoke and drink or how to spend their money.

Yet, rarely is it asked why it is morally acceptable that a stranger with a badge and a gun can do the same thing in the name of law and order. 

This is only his final speech in Congress. We shall hear more from him yet. He may even run for Governor of Texas in 2014. But it's not too soon to thank him for all the unsung work he has put in for what - for most of his life - has seemed the lost cause of liberty. I also thank the people of the great state of Texas who have given him the opportunity to defend the US Constitution to Congress (and by extension the principles of liberty it enshrines to the world) for twenty-three years out of the last thirty-six.

h/t Nourishing Obscurity

I, Pencil

I, Pencil | A Project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Anyone who thinks politicians can ever make things better should consider this; everything they do obstructs the beautiful process illustrated in this movie. A process that is breathtakingly complex, even in relation to one of mankind's "simplest" products. So they had better have a damn good reason for every such obstruction. Not just one they can "sell" to the lazy, the greedy and the downright wicked in return for votes.

And when they are not immoral, they are incompetent

This is a direct quote from a note sent today to all the students on a post-graduate course at a particular English university. It is from the programme director of the course, who teaches English.

Can I also empaphise the imporatnce of arriving at lectures and seminars so that you are ready to start on time. Arriving late can cause disruption and distraction. It is customery and curtious to offer an apology and reason to your teacher.

I do not dissent from his sentiments. Punctuality is a much-neglected form of politeness. However, it seems England's academics are as relaxed about spelling as they are militant about politics. But then, their organisations are largely funded by force, so why should they care about quality?

Sometimes, Auntie, "sorry" doesn't cut it

BBC News - BBC apologises for Newsnight child abuse report.

Has there ever been a better demonstration of the BBC's political bias than this story of sexual abuse in North Wales children's homes? It happened, years ago, in a solid Labour area. I grew up there. I was standing at a bar in Clwyd (as it then was) on the night Mrs Thatcher won her first General Election. A local cried out in genuine disbelief;

"How can she have won? I have never even met a bloody Tory!"  

It's therefore a scandal of the Left. Children in the care of socialist public authorities were abused due to the actions of some public employees and the negligence of others. That's why it was barely mentioned by the BBC for decades. Given the opportunity to accuse one enemy of the Left, however, and - decades old though it was - suddenly it was the top of the BBC news.