Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Freedom

Internet Surveillance: Yes, It’s Another Round of Big Government Bingo!

OK, so far, I’ve got:

  • “combating terrorism”
  • “need to take action”
  • “serious crime”
  • “potential for saving lives”

I’ve also picked up the ‘ratchet effect’ bonus point for:

  • “There is nothing new about this….updating existing regulations.”

And for triple points the perennial:

  • “paedophile”

Of course, it’s another broken manifesto promise and another desperate attempt to pander to a perceived Daily Mail constituency (the last six years of courting the Guardian having gone so well). Today it’s the proposals to force ISPs to install equipment to monitor everyone’s internet traffic (to conform, it appears, to EU desires). It’s OK, though, they won’t be storing the contents of your emails (yet) and they will need a court order to undertake the interceptions (for now).

Indeed almost every sentence that is spoken or written in defence of the plans can be suffixed with the words ‘yet’ or ‘for now’ without negating what has been said.

I suppose we should congratulate the Home Office for so effectively house-training the Home Secretary and her team.

However, judging by the comment ratings over at the Mail, this isn’t going down too well even there.

So let us, just for the record, run through the usual rebuttals, as they cannot be repeated too often.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.” If I’ve done nothing wrong, why should I have to prove it? Innocent until proven guilty and all that? It’s one thing to be questioned by a police officer if I was at the scene of a crime, or close to a suspect, but to have my everyday movements monitored on the assumption, or just in case I am a criminal? Oh, and don’t patronise me by comforting me that court orders will be required before all this happens; how many such orders ever get refused?

“If you’ve nothing to hide…” another variation on the above. You may not think you’ve anything to hide today, but we live under a law that criminalises free – albeit very distasteful – speech and is open about introducing retrospective legislation.

“It’s for the children.” Yes, they have actually mentioned paedophiles in all this, because they’re on every street corner, you know, and no-one has ever been picked up and prosecuted after surfing or downloading such material. That famous episode of Brass Eye episode wasn’t satire, it was a prediction.

It’s all OK, though, because there will be some vague form of independent oversight, and it’s not going to be a central database (yet). So that’s alright then, we can trust the government’s word on that can’t we?




Squatting is Theft, Even When the State’s Doing It

Squatters in Copenhagen demonstrating for more...

Astoundingly deep political philosophy you have there.

Judge Fiona Henderson is not fit to sit in a court.

That’s a strong statement, I know, from a conservative. All judges are human, and so make mistakes from time to time. However, when a judge seems to have almost no understanding of the basic tenets of freedom and rule of law that they are supposed to be safeguarding, then I have to conclude that they have gone off the reservation, and should either be re-captured or shot* for the good of innocent members of the public.

Squatters should be encouraged because they bring empty homes back into use, a judge said yesterday.

Fiona Henderson ruled they were not criminals and there was no evidence they carried out more anti-social behaviour than rent-paying tenants.

Not anti-social. I see … because theft (even if it is only a civil offence at present – is in no way anti-social of course.

Her judgment is a blow to the thousands every year who see their homes invaded – and struggle through the courts to win them back

Yet the judge dismissed claims that squatting victims faced high costs and that those occupying council or housing association properties were queue jumpers.

I pity anyone who came before her claiming any loss of income, since the latter clearly doesn’t count as a “cost” in Henderson-world.

She ordered a list of empty homes in North London to be made public to the Advisory Service for Squatters, an East London-based organisation known as the ‘estate agency for squatters’.

Let’s be clear. Squatting is illegal (in Scotland, rightly) and will soon be so in England (rightly). That’s because it is depriving someone of their property, even if only for a limited period. The judges’ ruling prompted a discussion on LBC radio yesterday where a number of former squatters justified their actions, saying that the year or so they spent squatting enabled them to save up a deposit for a place of their own.

No, you morally deficient ignorami, you stole the money for your deposit since you were living rent-free without the consent of your unwilling landlord.

Naturally, as so often when either illegal or morally questionable acts are committed, the left are ready to justify it with either pseudo-philosophical claptrap, or blatant class hatred, all underpinned by a convenient disregard for property rights. Property is theft, innit? These houses are laying around not being used, so why not?

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Dresden: Here We Go Again

The Express reports:

RAF veterans were furious last night after German politicians called for Britain to scrap plans for a £3.5million memorial to Bomber Command.

The row broke out as the mayor of Dresden arrived in the UK to open an exhibition showing the devastation caused by the blitzing of her city and London and Coventry during the Second World War.

Dresden Liberal party councillor Holger Zastrow said: “This memorial injures the feelings of Dresdeners and is utterly tasteless.”

And Bild ran a story yesterday with the English headline: “Please Say No”.

It was almost a matter of hours after the Dresden raids that political correctness, 1945-style, raised its head. Many people who had supported Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris’ strategy of bombing German cities suddenly took a step back and hung Bomber Command out to dry. The overall campaign that Harris (and his US counterparts) undertook became the only major theatre of the war not to have been recognised with a campaign medal. The efforts of 125,000 airmen and their supporting crews had clearly helped to bring about the defeat of the Nazis – as the atom bombs would do for the equally brutal Japanese Empire in the Pacific months later (and followed by similar hand-wringing). Yet it even went unmarked by a memorial to the near half of that number who never came back.

That is soon to change, thankfully, with the plans for the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park.

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Clamping Down on Freedom

So the new look One Show had a scoop last night with the news that the new Freedom Bill will include a provision to make illegal the clamping and towing away of cars parked on private property. Cue much rejoicing at all these cowboy clampers and evil landowners getting their just desserts.

It has been followed up widely elsewhere this morning:

Wheel-clamping on private land by “cowboy” clampers is to be banned, ministers will say.

Lynne Featherstone, the Home Office minister, will announce plans to curb the activities of clampers in England and Wales.

Ms Featherstone will say the rules should be brought into line with those in Scotland, where clamping on private land was banned after a judge said it amounted to ‘extortion’ and ‘theft’.

The Daily Telegraph understands she will to speak to the Justice Ministry in Northern Ireland about banning the practice there too.

Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat minister in the Home Office, said a ban on their activities was “very good news”.

She said: “I am delighted that our Government have made the decision to ban it outright. It is a ban and thank goodness.”

Ms Featherstone said that proposals to ban clamping on private land, such as company or supermarket car parks, would be included in a new Freedom Bill to be introduced in November.

The legislation will also include measures to stop companies towing away parked cars on private land without permission.

Now, where do I start?

One problem that we saw frequently under the last administration was the problem of lazy government. Featherstone was saying this morning that governments have tried to tackle the problem of “cowboy clampers” but have failed. Well then they haven’t tried hard enough. Banning clamping and towing-away will not just tackle the cowboys, but also the many reputable companies that operate in a perfectly reasonable way. Regulation (covering, say, signage, maximum fines, etc) would take a little more thought and time, but would be the more common sense approach.

Whatever, it all makes good headlines, eh?

Private landowners (or “greedy landlords” depending on your point of view) can just use barriers or fencing to protect their land, said Featherstone. Fine Lynne, but what if someone outstays their ticket, or happens to “tailgate” their way into a car park or finds some other means of entry? If someone trespasses on my land, surely I have the right to use reasonable means to eject them?

The second problem here is that “Liberal” Democrats and other modern liberals have forgotten what freedom and liberty should be about. It doesn’t mean that you can do what you like (such as parking on some else’s land without, or beyond, their permission). It means you can do what you like as long as it doesn’t restrict someone else’s freedom. Unfortunately, too often the right to own property, and the freedom to enjoy that property is being steadily eroded.

This clouded view of “freedom” is highlighted in that way this measure is to be introduced. The purpose of the Freedom Bill, one might have naively thought, is about reducing the number of laws and rules that the state has imposed on us, not adding new ones; indeed the “Your Freedom” website enthusiastically asks us “which laws and regulations you think we should get rid of”. Yet just as modern Liberals don’t “get” liberty, so the freedom bill has been twisted far beyond its prospectus. Today, the likes of Lynne Featherstone seem to have got their way in ensuring that the freedom to enjoy property has taken yet another knock.

This leads me to a final irony, which is that it will only apply to private land. I find it as odd as the smoking ban applying to private premises but not the street. In this case, there is the obvious question of why it’s OK for local authorities to use clamping and towing away, but not private landowners. Of course, it’s because councils are regulated. That’s right: regulated in, not banned from, using such measures.

In other news, further down the running order, a senior doctor has suggested decriminalising drug use. Manufacturers of barge-poles report a spike in demand.

I Agree, Sort Of

Philip Hollobone, formerly a local councillor before he came down in the world and was elected to Parliament, has stated that he would refuse to see a constituent at his surgery who was wearing a full face veil.

On this I agree with him, though not quite for the same reasons. I’m not convinced that being unsure that the constituent is who they say they are is a sufficiently strong reason for refusing an appointment, but as a remark on the spur of the moment we shouldn’t assume that it is his sole objection.

No, I think he would be right to refuse on the same grounds that Jack Straw was right. Most communication is non-verbal, as we know, and a great deal of that non-verbal communication comes from the face. It is perfectly proper for anyone to raise an objection if one party is voluntarily placing such an obstacle in the way of that communication.

But what about the right to pursue one’s chosen religion? The key word there is “chosen”: if one chooses a particular belief system then they are choosing to place artificial restrictions on themselves (fine) and sometimes others (not necessarily fine). As it is, there are plenty of Muslim women who find no need to wear a face veil. (Even so, I don’t support a blanket ban on burqas or full veils.)

In an age of so many forms of communication, Mr Hollobone is not denying his services to a constituent and thus not stopping her from pursuing her own interpretation of her own religion.

Yet of course we are seeing the outrage from “Muslim groups” and potentially the media circus that Paul Goodman warns of over on ConservativeHome. But bear in mind just who these groups represent, and who, if anyone, actually elected them. Then compare that to the 23,247 who supported Philip.

Ban [insert party, faith or views of choice]!

Teaching unions are still demanding that BNP members be banned from the teaching profession.

Teachers will be allowed to keep their membership of the BNP and the National Front after a Government review ruled that there was no justification for banning them from joining extremist organisations.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teaching union, rejected Mr Smith’s claim that it is possible for teachers to join organisations that promote racism without being racist themselves.

It seems that the unions do not think that some of their ranks can be professional enough to leave their political views at the school gates, and will discriminate against ethnic minority pupils. They also seem to think that stopping someone paying a subscription to a particular political party will erase such non-conformist views from their minds. (Yes, I think the ban on police officers joining the BNP, while it may be well intentioned, is pointless.)

So, will they next be demanding that, say, teachers holding hardline socialist views are ejected because they will discriminate against middle class kids?

No, thought not.

Stephen Gately, Jan Moir and That Slippery Slope

Many will remember the article by Jan Moir that was published about the death of Stephen Gately. A not insignificant 25,000 people complained to the Press Complaints Commission about it. Now, the verdict has been passed:

The press watchdog has decided not to uphold a complaint about a newspaper comment piece on the death last year of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.
Ms Moir’s article was published the day before the gay singer’s funeral. It discussed his lifestyle and suggested the cause of his death had not been natural.
Ms Moir said Gately’s death struck a blow to the “happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”.

This was the right decision, however inappropriate or distasteful the comments*. The old maxim applies: “I disagree with what you say, but defend your right to say it”.

Ben Summerskill from Stonewall, interviewed on the Today programme this morning, seems to think differently. He disagreed with the IPCC ruling and suggested that more needed to be done to deal with such situations. He has, unfortunately, fallen into the familiar trap whereby someone sees that a self-regulatory mechanism doesn’t produce a result he agrees with, therefore “self-regulation isn’t working”. He expanded on the point thus (not verbatim – working from memory):

We don’t let investment banks say “don’t worry about the audit, we’ll self regulate” or to mining companies “don’t worry about health and safety” we’ll self regulate”

If investment banks aren’t audited, then a lot of money is at stake (including, somewhere down the line, yours and mine). Health and safety can literally be a matter of life, death or limb. Jan Moir’s ill-advised comments were simply upsetting.

The problem here, and I think it was cited this morning, is that offensive comments about black or Jewish people are now covered by criminal law. Well, in my view, hate speech legislation has already gone too far. It provides for someone to be jailed because they expressed a viewpoint the government and legislature disagree with. Of course, the line must be drawn somewhere, but we had perfectly sensible, tried and tested rules covering incitement to violence, slander and libel for many years before hate speech laws came about. Too many have died for the right of free speech for it to be compromised just because someone’s feelings were hurt.

The fact is that to put regulation of the press on a legislative footing will not be putting us onto a slippery slope … we are already on that slope. Even so, that doesn’t mean that we should dig the ski poles in and give ourselves an extra push.

* Update: I think I should clarify – it wouldn’t necessarily have been wrong, given the independent nature of the PCC, to have decided the other way, but on balance I think the decision was right. Jan Moir was suitably castigated following publication, and apologised afterwards. End of.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Talks Rubbish

I appreciate that headline ranks alongside “Pope Is Revealed as Catholic Shock” but sometimes the obvious does need to be stated.

YA-B was at it yesterday in the Evening Standard, talking about how undemocratic it is to allow a democratically elected party to air their views on television. Of course, it’s about the BNP and their appearance next week on Question Time.

Firstly, let me get the obligatory caveat out of the way: I do not support the BNP … abhorrent views … you know how it goes.

Right. Let’s have a look at Yasmin’s pearls of wisdom. I don’t have the time for a full fisking, and I suspect neither have you, so let’s pick out the highlights:

“The excuse used [for allowing them on] is that more than 900,000 people voted for the party during June’s European elections and the bulldoggish Griffin is now an MEP.”

It’s not an excuse Yasmin, it’s a reason. It’s called democracy. The annoying thing about democracy is that sometimes you don’t get the result you’d like. Take 1997 for example (of course, you wouldn’t).

“Yet this week two young BNP officials – who were allowed by the BBC to remain anonymous and unidentified as such – were brought on to Radio 1 to racially insult the footballer Ashley Cole – and they were not challenged once.”

Sometimes the examples of (left-wing) BBC bias are just sloppy journalism, and so it was, I suspect, with the “pro-BNP BBC bias” (it’s laughable just saying it) in that interview.

“Democracy, is it? To open the most respected TV programme in the land to those who would deny millions of us our democratic rights?”

Yes. Whereas you implicitly deny those 900,000 misguided souls who voted for the BNP their democratic right to see and hear from the second-raters they gave their support to.

“Jack Straw, Chris Huhne and Bonnie Greer should not have agreed to appear with any BNP representative on the show.”

Why? Because “no-platforming” them has worked so well up to now?

“For rational and reasonable arguments with bigots are wasted breath.”

Something we agree on. That’s worrying.

“I tried last Friday to argue passionately on BBC Radio 2 with UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom, who cheerfully calls his Asian contacts “Pakis” ….”

I was listening to that very programme. What struck me, apart from the cringe-worthy Godfrey Bloom, was Yasmin’s story about how she and a friend had got lost in a village in the countryside. After knocking on a few doors for help, unsuccessfully (the occupants were out), she found herself questioned by the police – presumably because someone had noticed strangers acting suspiciously. In Yasmin’s eyes, though, it was because this predominantly white village was naturally stuffed full of racists who had reported them for being non-white (or, to use her words “Pakis and terrorists”). Without a hint of irony, she was using the story as an illustration of racial prejudice (but not hers).

“Who next to debate with the great and good? A Ku Klux Klan leader? Holocaust denier David Irving? It would make a terrifically edgy programme.”

People like Irving need pity or ridicule, not a prison sentence. Far from being an edgy programme, I think it would give most decent people a good laugh.

There Is Hope Yet

So mob rule has, for the time being at least, been thwarted. Geert Wilders, whilst admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, has successfully overturned the ban on entry to the UK that Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, had imposed on him.

Wilders wants to screen his film “Fitna”, which is less than complimentary about the Koran.

The Home Office is disappointed, reports the Telegraph:

“The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence.”

I seem to recall, though, that the veiled threats seemed to come from closer to home. Lord Ahmed, as far as I can see, is still to comment.

Lord Ahmed on Life and Liberty

The former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is living under police protection in London at the moment. This has caused some upset, not least among a Labour Muslim peer:

Musharraf’s presence in London stokes unrest, says Labour peer

Police protection for Pervez Musharraf, the former President of Pakistan who is living in London, should be cancelled amid fears that his presence will stoke unrest within the Muslim community, a Labour peer told The Times last night.

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham has written to the Home Secretary urging him to stop spending taxpayers’ money on protection by Scotland Yard for the exiled leader.

So which is Lord Ahmed’s primary concern: the implied waste of taxpayers’ money (which would be a first for a Labour politician), or the unrest that Musharraf’s presence is causing “within the Muslim community”? This might be a silly question, but how would not providing police protection deal with Musharraf’s presence? I am not pretending that the ex-dictator is in the Mother Theresa league of those who have done good for the world, but the truth is there are some people around who would like to despatch Musharraf to meet Allah face to face, somewhat earlier than might be otherwise expected.

As for Lord Ahmed … now, where have we heard that name before? Oh yes. He was the one who accused Salman Rushdie of having blood on his hands. According to Ahmed’s logic, Rushdie wrote stuff that upset some Muslims – so upset were they that they did violence. So, it’s Rushdie’s fault.

He was also the one who threatened to have 10,000 Muslims march on parliament to stop Geert Wilders from speaking. In Ahmed-world, if there’s someone who says things you don’t agree with, it’s OK to threaten them with who-knows-what from a baying fanatical mob. The government, displaying the sort of backbone that didn’t win us Waterloo, gave in.

Now he wants the government to be complicit in the possible murder of Pervez Musharraf because otherwise some members of the “Muslim community” might get grumpy.

I hope Mr Musharraf has kept his will up to date.