Monthly Archives: April 2009

Cameron Eats Foot In Public

No-one cares. Quoted all over the shop, Cameron referred to the first government loss of an Opposition Day debate since the era of Callahan as;

“A historic day where parliament took the right decision.”

Er, Dave, you might want to re-consider the implications of suggesting that Parliament taking the right decision becomes intrinsically historic. It makes you sound a bit, well, wet. Seriously, did someone steal the smart biscuits and feed them all to Nick Clegg? I’ve liked the Liberal Democrats for years, and voted for them several times (the first major British political event I was aware of was the early 80s party merger). But the last couple of days it almost looked like we were back to the days in 2003 where Labour were the government and the Lib Dems were the only viable opposition voice. After a storming performance at PMQs which had even the repugnant right [1] scoring Clegg better than Cameron, we then have Cameron playing third violin to Clegg’s leadership and Joanna Lumley’s dress on the steps outside. Add in the recent coup of Vince Cable getting Frank Field to take on his own government over the economy, and it’s been a pretty good day for the only remaining left-of-centre party with a real voice in Westminster.

If people aren’t careful the Liberals might finally get the kind of press and pundit attention which swings a vote. Keep it up, Mr. Clegg! But be sure you know where you’ve put it, or you’ll get yourself in trouble.

[1] I’ve been looking for a counter to ‘loony left’ for a while, as I didn’t feel it reasonable that alliteration should be a restricted service.

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JQP in brief

Partly in an attempt to get my head off the G20 debacle I’ve got a couple of things I think need more eyes on them.

1. Craig Murray needs attention

I really cannot understand why no newspaper or TV channel has covered what is quite a startling development in a prominent continuing story on the use of torture in the War on Terror.

I had hoped that my evidence yesterday would be a significant step in ending the policy of obtaining intelligence from torture, and of bringing to account the ministers who approved it. But without any sign of public or media interest, the politicians will feel they can safely ignore the truth I told.

You can find video of his evidence here. The Yanks add some hope that if Cheney and co. keep pushing the President, we might yet see some court cases out of this thing.

2. Expect a bearded volcano

ESR in ‘pisses off Richard Stallman’ shocker. It must be five years since we had one of these. More seriously, Raymond is making some good points, particularly about the self-belief of OSS. The confidence we had in the early nineties which let us take on the closed software community came in part from GPL, but there’s a critical mass point that I think tilted with Darwin.

3. New blogger worth looking at

I have no gun (good sentiment!) writes eloquently about lesbianism, with earlier articles including one about casual sexual assault which are well worth a look. Fledgling bloggers live and die by their comment count, so let the lady know someone’s listening.

4. IMPish sense of humour

This consultation covers an important topic that affects us all. The capability to use communications data to protect the public is being eroded by new technology. In seeking to maintain that capability, the Government must strike the right balance between public safety and privacy.

First they came for the geeks, and no-one cared because they were not a geek. Then they came for our MySpace useage patterns… We fought them over RIPA and partly won, but they’re at it again. Translated out of govspeak this says that TIA-style traffic- and user-profiling based on mining ISP signalling data and log archives is necessary to protect us from … well, they really have no comment on that except TERRORISTS! LOOK, OVER THERE! oh, sorry, it’s swine flu this week, my mistake.

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Culpability VI: Law or Order?

Having gone truncheons to tasers in a generation, I also have to wonder what purpose the current Police Service has been built for? […] It looks like we have been built to violently confront and overcome people. I am not saying that is our mindset, but it is without doubt what we are equipped to do. Once people get over the quasi military kit, we are mostly approachable and pleasant people, it’s just that we dress like Imperial Stormtroopers.
                — NightJack, Winner of the Orwell Prize for Blogs, 2009

I’m going to repeat, at this stage, something I’ve said a few times through this fiasco but which I don’t think can be repeated often enough. I am not angry with constables as a class. I think there are some specific individuals who broke the law (the chairman of the IPCC agrees with me, btw) and need to be tried and jailed. I think that there is a policy from the highest levels which is flawed, arrogant, short-sighted and dangerous; but I do not and will not blame coppers for how they’re trained, briefed or ordered. The blame for those things lies squarely and solely with senior officers, the ACPO and the last four governments.

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Culpability V: That which is seen

“Police brutality is not new”, say the right-wing blogs. Well, no. “Police brutality is worse elsewhere”, say the trolls. Well, yes; so what? We’ve been doing this Enlightenment thing longer than any other continuous democracy: we’ve had more chances to learn from our mistakes, and therefore we as a people cannot be excused from civilisation because we forgot to do our homework. So if police brutality is neither new, nor local, what has changed in the last ten years? After all, the police started a riot at Gleneagles and then violently subdued it, and there was none of this fuss.

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Culpability IV: Punishment and Crime

Assaulting officerspolice_medic_and_his_big_stick1Victim

The previous two posts have laid out a disturbing impression of police policy and culture. The culture and direction from senior officers is explicitly encouraging the avoidance of accountability, which is scandalous in armoured riot troops. Officers are systematically misusing the law, engaging in deliberate intimidation through the assumption that the public can’t follow the law, and engaging in both disingenuous and frankly laughable attempts to turn the innocent into an excuse for violence. These things are true of British policing across the country, all the way from football fans in Manchester to middle-class anglers in the Home Counties. The question I want to examine based on the Climate Camp report is whether there’s more to it than that when it comes to the policing of dissent specifically.

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Culpability III: Proof of Intent

There was a man in trouble in 2001 called Richard Clarke. He was Clinton’s head of cyber-security and anti-terror, and the Bush regime hadn’t got round to replacing him yet. That meant he was an outsider in the neo-con halls of power during several very sensitive, euphoric days for the staffers there. He reported that he was on his way to the Oval Office when he encountered a Bush staffer coming the other way, and looking equally pre-occupied. The staffer had a conversation with him, in which a reference was made to shopping lists: “Every list every agency has had on a shelf these last ten years [ The Clinton presidency. — Ed ] is getting dusted off. We can get anything we want!” [1]

What they got was the Patriot Act.

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Culpability II: Long arm, no face

It has been apparent since the second of April that the rioting police in the Square Mile had hoist themselves upon their own petard. I heard a man had died circa one in the morning, via a mobile phone conversation one of my housemates had with our on-scene source. By the time the Guardian broke the first video of Tomlinson’s death, we had already heard rumours of police obscuring their faces and deliberately obfuscating their ID numbers. The video confirmed that it was one of these bizarrely secretive officers who had assaulted Mr. Tomlinson. I was not alone in wondering if the lack of easy accountability had contributed to the apparent culture of excess in the Met and their TSG units.

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