THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
July 2013
Next month:
September 2013

August 2013

Barackading the Manning

Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison – live updates | World news |

The Guardian suddenly seems to be my newspaper. Soon I will have to take back all those Guardian reader and Guardianista jibes over the years. Or perhaps not. At the moment it's doing a good job of covering the civil liberties crisis in America and the British state's toadying complicity. 

For example, it's reporting the swingeing sentence on whistle-blower Bradley Manning. I think the ACLU best sums up my own opinion on the subject;
...a legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, the Icelandic MP associated with Wikileaks, makes the killer point though; has been held accountable for the criminality exposed in the documents for which Manning is standing trial - except him.
As modern statists continue to replace the rule of law with the rule of men that's not exactly surprising. Those walking free committed their crimes in the service of the state so of course they will not be prosecuted.

If the rule of law applied; if there was a brave prosecutor to say "Be you never so high, the law is above you" then the story would be different, but that's not the reality of the post 9/11 West. Manning's punishment is not for any harm he may have done to intelligence assets, but for letting the supposed owners of the state in question - the American people - know what it was doing in their name. So much for accountability.

Stories such as this that give the lie to the statists' deliberate blurring of the distinction between people, nation and state. Any notion that "the state is us" is ridiculous. It's a massive power centre that is supposed to be accountable to us, but which lashes out violently at any of its people naieve enough to behave as if that's true. Recently, the British state has even been caught boasting to the American state about how unaccountable its agents are. 

I suspect there has also been a pretty good (and incredibly hypocritical, given the American state's usual posture on sexual diversity) attempt to smear him. He has been made out to be a social cripple, a sexual deviant and a general nut job. This is what any of us can expect if we incur the wrath of the servants who think they are our masters. Is it any wonder I erupt when purveyors of horrific tosh emerge from behind the skirting boards to tell us these gangsters have "far more moral legitimacy" than private citizens?

Bradley Manning is a good servant of the American people. He was a bad servant of the American state. He knew the risks he took in blowing the whistle and he blew it anyway. Don't let a state that tells you - when it suits its purpose - that your colour, creed or sexual orientation are irrelevant then use sexual and other smears to mask the courage of what he did.

In which I praise a Guardian journalist

So the innocent have nothing to fear? After David Miranda we now know where this leads | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian.

The Guardianisti are the very people most likely to say that the innocent have nothing to fear. They are the very people most likely to sneer at those who think a state, however social-democratic, is a dangerous behemoth to be feared by the people in its path. Yet here, in the face of challenges to The Guardian's own conduct, is Simon Jenkins - one of their very own - expressing (even while taking an arrogant side-swipe at us out of habit) our views. These are views that most of its journalists and most of its readers on most other days would denounce as 'paranoid', 'right-wing' or - worst of all - 'libertarian'.

God help us, the dear dear man is even repudiating Godwin's Law; the politically-correct online paradigm designed to prevent an opponent of state power referring to the vilest historical example of misconduct by an elected government.
I hesitate to draw parallels with history, but I wonder how those now running the surveillance state – and their appeasers – would have behaved under the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. We hear today so many phrases we have heard before. The innocent have nothing to fear. Our critics merely comfort the enemy. You cannot be too safe. Loyalty is all. As one official said in wielding his legal stick over the Guardian: "You have had your debate. There's no need to write any more." Yes, there bloody well is.
In assisting the US government to silence those exposing its organisation of Stasi-like surveillance of its own people, the mask of the benevolent British state has slipped. It has put the frighteners on someone working informally for the leading press organ of the British Left.

He's an unlikely hero, our whimpering, compliant David. He's unworthy of his Biblical namesake, that's for sure. Faced with Goliath, he didn't reach for his slingshot. He handed over his gear, disclosed his passwords and fled gratefully when released. He didn't ensure that the state's hired thugs did their worst, alas. But, pathetic as he is, he's useful and - for these purposes - he's ours. And so, for the moment, is Jenkins. I can ignore his swiping at bloggers or his praise for the Left's broadcasting and online "news" arm, for so long as he writes such stuff as this;
GCHQ could boast to its American counterpart of its "light oversight regime compared to the US". Parliamentary and legal control is a charade, a patsy of the secrecy lobby. 
These are rare, wonderful days for British civil libertarians. Bask in them, by all means, but please take full advantage of this unusually sunny climate as it will not last long. If you blog, comment on blogs, belong to a political party or pressure group, chat about politics with your mates down the boozer, tweet or whatever, please spread the word. Please support straightforwardly Mr Jenkins' unaccustomed attack on state malevolence.

And whatever else you do please save a link to his article somewhere safe. You will be able to use it again and again in years to come to silence those slimy submissives to state power who claim you have nothing to expect but pleasure from their thrillingly strong Mistress.

My enemy's enemy is my friend - at least for now

BBC News - David Miranda 'feels invaded' after password disclosure.

For once, civil libertarians in Britain have had a spot of luck. Can you imagine what the coverage of this incident would be like if News International journalists were involved? Or if data had been seized in this outrageous manner from a political blogger? 

The BBC is a consistent opponent of free speech. Remember Leveson? It consistently span in favour of New Labour's trampling on liberty under the pretext of "anti-terrorism". It consistently sneers at bloggers who criticise and try to expose the malign behaviours of social democratic governments. Yet here it is inadvertently reporting objectively on the effects of its own authoritarian astroturfing. 

Let's be careful not to gloat too much, or visibly to enjoy the discomfiture of the Leftists as they are hoist by their own petard. They may be demons doing the Lord's work by accident, but their unaccustomed behaviour should be cheered. Nor should we miss the opportunity to link to BBC or Guardian pieces persuasive to the muddled masses who trust Auntie Beeb - even if we normally only link to them for fisking.

Emerging from behind the skirting boards...

Greenwald: If you choose to make enemies, what do you expect? | Trending Central.
Get your thinking gear around this horrific tosh (emphasis added);
As the elected representatives of the people, a government has far more moral legitimacy and indeed necessity than a newspaper like the Guardian, its hacks, or their self-aggrandising source networks. If people like Assange, Snowden and Greenwald were truly democrats, they would realise this. But the liberal intelligentsia’s worst kept secret is that they would far prefer governments run by themselves, for themselves, and without challenge.
This is all not to say that whistle-blowing as an activity should instantly be derided, or that governments should routinely target ‘journalists’, but in effect, the answer to this all is quite simple: if you choose to make an enemy of people (because governments are compromised (sic) of nothing less) then it is incomprehensible how you could expect no backlash.
Institutions have rights to defend themselves too, and while a nine hour detention of Greenwald’s partner may well be childish and crude, it is relatively easy to see how such a move is simply a ‘tit-for-tat’ gesture. If Greenwald and his army of outraged cyber-warriors expect ‘better’ from governments, then they forget what governments really are. People, elected by people, who behave and act like people.
Usually when you make an enemy of someone, there are proportionate consequences. Get over it.
Even the editor of the Guardian - usually one of liberty's most pernicious enemies - has a better grasp of ethics than this. 

I have no idea who is behind "Trending Central" but there could scarcely be a better example of the craven submissiveness longed for by authoritarian governments. Our liberty is in danger not just because of the evil of those attracted to "power" but because of the craven submissiveness of people like the author of this nonsense. He seems to believe that everything a government does, however morally despicable, is justifiable because it stands for "the people".

Only Godwin's Law forbids me from mentioning the best example of an elected government from whom "better" might reasonably have been expected. The British Government did not act for me in putting the frighteners on this Fleet Street Irregular. It did not, and rarely ever does, act in my name.

In which I praise the editor of The Guardian

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face | Alan Rusbridger | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Well said, Mr Rusbridger. I hope that your article will be seen as final proof that civil liberties are not a Right vs Left issue. I would love to see the Left back on side. The likes of John Mortimer, a lifelong Labour man, used to be far more reliable on liberty in the pre-Blair days than many on the Right.

Sadly, given time, your article is more likely to provide final proof that the Left has the same feeble grasp on the law of unintended consequences as it does on the law of supply and demand. All limitations on free speech are to be resisted and - where possible - rolled back, so you might like to rein in your journalists' daily output of new demands to restrict it.

As a footnote, I am pleased to see that "professional status" doesn't matter any more, now that a "Fleet Street irregular" has been intimidated at Heathrow Airport. Journalists are, like policemen, people doing for money what all of us should do as a civic duty. Now you have grasped that, I look forward to an end to Guardian journalists sneering at bloggers from their imagined dizzy heights. 

In a civilised world, the validity of a person's views or actions has nothing to do with their status. Grasp that one, and not only will The Guardian's predeliction for ad hominem come to an end, but you will also be looking for a lot of new material to replace your coverage of the national victimhood poker tournament.

An answer to my question

On Politics « Samizdata.
Perry Metzger over at the inestimable Samizdata seems to have answered the question I posed recently about whether I should join the Conservative Party as a libertarian entryist;
The underlying problem is that people do not yet widely understand that the higher the political office, the more likely it is that the electoral contest is between two sociopathic con men.
As he says, eloquently;
Political parties generally disgust me, being organized for much the same purpose as a gang of looters or a crime syndicate, and if only they could all go out of business and their members be sent to prison where they belong I would be pleased beyond measure.
I apologise for my weakness in being tempted to the dark side.

Live free or die

New Hampshire BearCat Opposed; Marine Colonel Peter Martino Claims 'We're Building A Domestic Army' (VIDEO) (UPDATED).
It's been a while since I had the energy to post more than once in a day, but I can't resist commenting on this gem. Please compare and contrast this gentleman's cheerfully robust approach with the limp response of British citizens to state salami-slicing of our liberty. Here speaks a free man.
He is Pete Martino, a retired colonel in the US Marines. He was speaking at a council meeting in Concord, New Hampshire on a proposal to equip the police there with an armoured vehicle. This story has already hit the news because the local police chief named legitimate protest groups as reasons he might need such equipment. Fortunately, someone leaked his proposal document to a civil liberties organisation. Col. Martino is articulate, frank and funny. I loved his comment that he told his kids 
...there's always free cheese in the mousetrap...
That's a lesson our entitlement-crazed fellow-citizens could usefully learn.

Those who mock American democracy because of the low turnouts in Presidential elections should note the active local democracy here. Would any British council or any other organ of the state hold a hearing like this on a line item of public expenditure? Please note however the left-liberal Huffington Post's attempt to discredit Col. Martino by pointing out that had been fired by a British defence contractor. Apparently he spoke out on its underbidding for a US embassy security assignment for which it was allegedly not equipped.

If only more of us had 'form' for such principled behaviour. Without courageous whistle-blowers such as Bradley ManningEdward Snowden and whoever leaked the Concord armored car proposal, America's current civil liberties debate would not be taking place. It is certainly shocking that the US government has been caught out implementing nation-wide surveillance on the scale of East Germany's Stasi. It is certainly shocking that, if Col. Martino is right, it is trying to circumvent the US Constitution's rule against troop deployments on US soil. But at least, thanks to the whistle-blowers, there's a discussion. If America goes down the road to a police state, its people will have approved it.  Will the same be true in Britain?

If we are ever to speak as freely again as Col. Martino does here, a useful first step would be to afford total legal protection to whistle-blowers. Revealing a crime or abuse of state power should never have negative consequences. That would put us ahead of the USA on civil liberties and might begin to reverse our long slide into authoritarianism.

How the British state wastes your money

BBC News - Domestic abuse victim admits harassment charge.

His "ex" tries to contact him on his release from prison. The women he abused so violently as to land him there. Does she call him repeatedly? Does she camp out on his doorstep and refuse to go away? No, she messages him on Facebook.

He complains to the police and the matter ends up in court. Why? He could unfriend her. He could hide her messages. She presented no threat to him. Quite the contrary. How can her actions possibly justify spending taxpayers' money on a court hearing? Who, for that matter, told this man that the state is there to screen his messages and deal with the dramas arising from his relationships? Why did he not end up in court for wasting police time (and our money)?

I cannot understand how anyone can justify this level of state involvement in personal lives. Nor how such matters can be given such serious attention by the police when none of the crimes against me were given any of their time at all - beyond issuing a crime number for my insurance.

The British State is run for the benefit of the dregs of our society. We respectable citizens are nothing to it but the source of its funds. Let's not debate how libertarian our ideal society would be when surely we can all agree that a state policing the Facebook messaging of its underclass is in serious need of scaling back.

Reader poll

I am toying with the idea of re-joining the Conservative Party; an organisation for which I have very little current sympathy. It is a violent, statist party; interested far more in power than justice, honour or integrity. I have no doubt that I would feel rather soiled to be in its ranks.

David Cameron has systematically repudiated everything that ever passed for a principle among British Conservatives without winning a single vote from the Guardianisti and Mirroristi he was trying to triangulate. In consequence, his party's membership is now dangerously low. It could perhaps be taken over by people who are genuine believers in free markets and individual liberty; the very things Conservative politicians like to bandy about dishonestly in sound bites!

It is currently engaged in concealing its own membership numbers, which are widely believed to have fallen below 100,000. This is a number so low as possibly to comprise only those old biddies too confused to cancel their standing order! For a party that was once a mighty multi-million election-winning machine this is a humiliating fall from grace. Is it too fanciful to hope that from the ashes of British Conservatism the phoenix of British Liberty could rise? Perhaps so, but is it more fanciful than any other scenario you can plausibly devise?

To the extent they are aware of us at all most British electors see Libertarians as (in the American idiom) "Republicans on dope". Maybe it's time to get our hands dirty in an organisation they may not love but have at least actually heard of?

Thoughts for and against please?

A sad anniversary

It is two years today since Mrs Paine died. I visited her memorial this morning and reflected a little on that sad time. I don't think I fully appreciated then, in my grief, just how blessed I was to be so well supported by family, friends and even by my readers here. I was not able to give much attention at the time to all the kind comments you made on my post announcing her passing, but I can assure you I have read them often since and taken comfort from them. When statists say that people of our persuasion are unkind and uncaring, I know better. Thank you.