Monthly Archives: July 2010

Nick Clegg’s Letter to Justin Sane (from a kinder, gentler liberal conservative)

Nick Clegg - ArchMage of Political Reform and Scourge of Inequality

Me? Gay!? Have you seen my wife's yams!? Ohhhh yeah...

Dear Punk Rock star,

I’m just kidding, but if I can claim to have any influence over this government I may as well call you that. I like your attitude. I like your songs. I’ve been a really big fan since I can’t remember when. Well, since last week. But if you look at my speeches over the previous years, you’ll see that I never explicitly said I wasn’t a fan.

See, there are some times when I feel really alone, cause I don’t really have any friends in my party and I don’t fit in at work. David Davis called me part of a “Brokeback Coalition” in front of the Financial Times, so now the Labour Party puts me down by saying I’m gay. But I don’t care because I have nothing against homosexuals and David Davis is an arsehole!

I think the personal opinions I express are important (though NOT representative of the views of the government – Dave). Thanks a lot. Keep fighting – but not too much or we’ll have to get the police to move you along.

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister and Saviour of Our Civil Liberties)

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The Tories twisted view of crime (or the only thing worth fearing is fear itself – and Tory policy)

So, yet another set of crime statistics are released showing crime has fallen since Labour came to power in 1997. Not just a little, but by a whopping 43%. And what has been the public reaction to this piece of reassuring news?

Let’s take a look at a fairly representative comment on the Daily Mail:

Of course, the statistics are wrong! After all, didn’t David Cameron stand up during Prime Minister’s Questions the other day and say with a straight face that violent crime had “nearly doubled” under Labour?

Is it possible that David Cameron, the Tories and the majority of Daily Mail readers are all deluded idiots, clinging on to a world view that is scarily out of touch with reality? Yes.

The fact is the British Crime Survey (BCS) does not base its results on police records. Its researchers speak directly to the public and so it covers both reported and unreported crime. The claim then that this decrease is only due to people “not bothering” to report crimes is absolutely absurd.

Furthermore, the statistics quoted by David Cameron are the police-recorded crime figures. These do indeed show an increase in certain crimes under Labour, but are considered a far less reliable measurement because methods in how police record crime vary over time. They’re also affected by factors such as government initiatives that lead to a higher number of people reporting crimes they otherwise wouldn’t have. That’s right. Despite the wailing of the Daily Mail masses, public experience of crime has dramatically fallen while reported crime has gone up. The exact opposite of what they believe to be true!

But back to Cameron, who really should know better. He’s deliberately cherry-picking a different set of measurements to pander to people’s fears and try to create the illusion of a crimewave – the “broken Britain” of his dreams.

Such casual cynicism is bad enough, but there is a distinctly sinister side to this story that goes beyond just another case of bullshitting politicians speaking bullshit.

According to the BCS, the only category that has shown an increase has been sexual offences. This particular offence is based on reported crime figures from the police and has seen a 6% rise compared to last year. This includes a 15% rise in rapes against women.

So, while the Tories aim to cut police numbers and roll back crime prevention measures, such as CCTV and speed cameras, the most significant piece of crime legislation suggested so far has been to grant anonymity to men accused of rape! Even Tory MPs (the female ones, at least) object to this on the grounds that it sends a negative message about women who accuse men of rape, and campaigning groups claim that such a move would deter victims of sexual abuse from identifying their attackers.

Why have the Tories chosen rape to introduce laws that will protect the accused? Let’s check in on another fairly representative comment from the Daily Mail:

We can mock the Daily Mail for its shoddy journalism and laugh at its readers for their ignorance, but when the government appears to echo such sick sentiments and actually believe it as well, you start to realise that the “nasty party” is even worse than you ever imagined…

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Both sides continue to claim victory as the Climate Change Deniers take on the Extremists in the match of the century

There’s everything to play for in the climate change arena as both sides continue to claim victory in a contest that looks set to drag on even longer than the Holland v. Spain world cup final.

The latest drama started back in 2009, when the captain of the Deniers, Lord Christopher Monckton (Nobel Peace Prize winner and unicorn), pulled off a convincing early shot with a flamboyant speech, which supporters maintain landed over the goal line. Although far from decisive, such forceful attacks by the Denier’s veteran leader boosted his side’s confidence and they continued to have the upper hand, leaving their opponents, the Climate Change Extremists, scrambling in disarray.

Yet despite this, the Deniers’ energetic, well-organised offensive failed to find the back of the net again, and again, and again.

The Extremist counterattack was slow but impactful, led by the relatively unknown super-sub, John Abraham. Studiously working his way up the pitch, Abraham tackled the cumbersome Monckton and exposed the weakness of the Denier’s defence. Storming towards an open goal and supported by the Extremist’s pugnacious striker, George Monbiot, it looked like victory was within easy reach. A clumsy attempted tackle by Monckton within the penalty area was easily shrugged off by Abraham and the ball sailed into the back of the net…

But the clear win desperately sought by the Extremists looked uncertain as Monckton angrily appealed to the referee, accusing Abraham of committing a foul. The crowd is left bewildered by Monckton’s 466-point argument, while Monbiot protests that the old Lord is merely time wasting.

Extra time looks a given at this point, which will surely favour the Deniers. Both sides are increasingly hungry for that decisive goal, but with the Deniers repeatedly moving the goalposts and the Extremists mostly getting on with doing important science stuff, the only outcome that looks near certain is the gradual destruction of our environment.

This just in: earlier this evening, it looked as though Denier fullback James Delingpole, whose previous contribution to the game largely consisted of hacking ineffectually at the opposing players and getting a yellow card for excessive stupidity, may have scored an own goal. This was overlooked, however, as nobody could tell whether or not he was playing the same game as everyone else.

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Amazongate: why it matters (as seen through a bullshit filter)

This post is a rewritten version of Delingpole’s latest, as filtered for bullshit. I don’t know if the recent implosion of “Amazongate” has affected him, or if his traffic’s dropped, because this screed is even more pathetic than usual.

In the war for spreading doubt about the near-universally accepted science of AGW, the resoundingly debunked “scandals” of Amazongate and Climategate (none of which actually challenged the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change) were the best attacks deniers could muster.

They cling to these shallow “victories” because the last three or four months have seen every assault on climate science the deniers could muster collapse under scrutiny. Despite their efforts, due to the scientific consensus and extensive evidence of climate change (as well as a more general need for energy security), Britain is investing £50 billion into a Green Investment Bank, which will create almost a quarter of a million jobs, generate much-needed energy and pump money back into the economy.

And what has been the deniers reward for their constant efforts? Their complaints have triggered a string of official inquiries, including three into Climategate, a Penn State one into Michael Mann, a Dutch one into the IPCC, plus the Press Complaints Commission one which led to a climbdown by the Sunday Times over its reporting of Amazongate – every one has exonerated the climate scientists involved and the science of global warming remains unchallenged.

It’s no wonder that promoters of AGW can claim to have right and truth on their side, and that their enemies are just vexatious kooks with no evidence to support their outrageous claims against decent hardworking honest scientists like Michael Mann and Phil Jones.

However, it is a big mistake to think deniers will go quietly.

They honestly believe virtually every respected institution in the world is involved in a climate change conspiracy.

They honestly believe that in a straightforward battle between truth and lies, the deniers have the facts on their side.

Unfortunately, it is likely they will continue to have success in the battle for hearts and minds. In the case of the Amazongate saga, they know that the minutiae is complex, involved and slightly dull. They know that their readers think it is complex, involved and slightly dull, which is why they won’t bother going into detail. They will link to other voices in the denier echo chamber who repeat the same debunked claims, sometimes with passion and sometimes with what appears to be sciencey sounding language.

However, they know their followers won’t go to the effort of reading all those other articles. They only use these other sources to give the impression of credibility before spouting their misleading (and sometimes outright dishonest) claims.

This is why they can say black is white with impunity and confidence.

They will say the Amazongate retraction by the Sunday Times is the result of activism on behalf of the AGW conspiracy and the pro-Warmist bias of the Press Complaints Commission (of all things!). They will, without irony, accuse climate change scientists of employing the same tactics deniers have been using for years.

Why do they do this? If the close of Delingpole’s article is any indication, narcissism is just one of the psychological problems motivating the leaders of the denier movement. As this special report in a May issue of New Scientist explains:

[Seth Kalichman, social psychologist at the University of Connecitcut] believes the instigators of denialist movements have more serious psychological problems than most of their followers. “They display all the features of paranoid personality disorder”, he says, including anger, intolerance of criticism, and what psychiatrists call a grandiose sense of their own importance. “Ultimately, their denialism is a mental health problem. That is why these movements all have the same features, especially the underlying conspiracy theory.”

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What kind of new lifestyle awaits the British public at the end of this Tory/Lib Dem detox?

I was unfortunate enough to read this pile of garbage by Matthew d’Ancona in today’s Evening Standard. It’s an oddly toothless piece considering it covered almost an entire page (that’s valuable advertising space), seemingly designed to push several of the coalition’s favourite narratives. My favourite has to be where d’Ancona casually, slavishly, refers to 10-20% cuts in defence and education as “efficiencies”. And thus develops a fresh piece of unspeak.

Trust me, the vast majority of d’Ancona’s commentary is crap and not worth even a quick scan. However, one remark did get me thinking:

Tell somebody he has to scale back his mortgage, his family’s food bill, his spending on his car, his holiday budget by 10 per cent, and he will wince. Tell him that he has to slash 40 per cent from his monthly spending and he will have to change everything about the way he and his family live.

What d’Ancona’s inadvertently getting at is that, thanks to our government’s excessive cuts, we’re soon to experience a dramatic change in our “national lifestyle”. Sounds quite exciting in a “change we can believe in” kind of way. Who reading this hasn’t pledged to reinvent themselves at some point in their lives?

The scary thing, however, is that nobody seems to have a clue what this new “us” looks like.

To use a personal analogy, so favoured by coalition politicians, if you make big, restrictive changes in your life you usually have some sort of desirable end result in mind. Partly to help encourage you through the difficult times, but also to help you structure and plan what to keep and what to cut.

For example, if you’ve lost your job, you’d do well to cut down on booze, fags, satellite TV and might consider selling the Xbox. On the other hand, you’d be foolish to cut spending on transport, broadband and may even want to invest in some shirts from Peacocks. Similarly, any company wouldn’t dream of “efficiency” savings or, let’s be more accurate here, huge fucking cuts, without some sort of strategy.

This is what bothers me the most about the Tory/Lib Dem hack-frenzy; there’s no clear direction. Like crime scene investigators we’re slowly discovering the victims of the coalition massacre piece by bloody piece, but we don’t really know the killers’ motives.

There’s a vague understanding, evident in the articles of certain columnists, that a crippled public sector is a desirable thing. It’s generally assumed that this is the Tories ideological intention, but this wasn’t communicated to the electorate by David Cameron before the election, this wasn’t what Nick Clegg promised his voters, and this still hasn’t been addressed since the formation of the ConDem alliance. Also, what does a small state actually MEAN!?

Ok, we’re being told that nobody wants to do this and it’s unavoidable. For the sake of argument, let’s say this is true. That still doesn’t make the need for a strategy any less valid. There must still be some sort of end result in mind that’s guiding these cuts. Or is it simply a case of hack away what you can?

I would speculate that the Tories have plans so hideous they intend to keep it silent or risk terrifying the voters. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen from the ‘new politics’ so far, I don’t think even they really know what they’re doing.

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Liberal sellouts need to STFU – now is not the right time for prison reform

Predictable reactions all round to Ken Clarke’s “surprising” and “radical” declaration that the government should revisit 20 year old Tory thinking and significantly lower the prison population. Right-wingers who bought into Cameron’s ridiculous “broken Britain” narrative can justifiably complain that they didn’t vote Conservative to be softer on crime than Labour. Meanwhile, lefties are practically salivating over the apparently progressive bone thrown by this, thus far, unsurprisingly regressive coalition. Amusingly, Lib Dem supporters are attempting to claim this as a further example of their laughably minimal impact on this unholy union of the damned (and damning). A theory that was expertly and succinctly countered by Sickboy47 in a comment on the Guardian:

Keeping up the trend of predictability, Jack Straw, writing (to his eternal shame) in the Daily Mail, continues Labour’s mission to alienate the progressive types they occasionally claim to represent, by aggressively defending the y-axis shaking increase in prison population under his watch.

It’s all a bit of a mess – and worth pointing out that Ken Clarke has yet to offer any specific policies. The problem is also predictable: a total lack of joined-up thinking.

The problem faced by the hoodie-hugging liberals is the clear evidence that crime has fallen hugely since Labour came to power. Whether massively or minimally responsible for this decrease, it does take the edge off the “prison doesn’t work” argument. Working around this, Sunny Hundal from Liberal Conspiracy writes that “rising prosperity cuts crime, not putting more people in prison”. As rising prosperity is relative, I’d be interested to see a historical comparison between personal wealth and crime to see if there’s real-life evidence to support this theory.

Still, I’m inclined to accept the essence of what Sunny’s saying: less poverty, better opportunities and greater equality keeps our streets safer – albeit with the caveat that while slowly creating this utopian society, putting more criminals into prison also helps.

Which brings me to my point, and the reason why I think the sanctimonious liberal lambs, with their shrill bleating of “evidence-baaaaased policy!”, are misguided, short-sighted and more ideological than analytical.

Thanks in no small part to the Liberal Democrats, we’re soon to be entering an awful and avoidable age of “austerity”, in which the poorest are likely to face the worst of it. Even assuming we avoid a double-dip recession, the rising prosperity Sunny Hundal posits as the cause of falling crime has ended. In fact, things may even get worse. The evidence does not say that fewer people going to prison is a solution in itself. The answer is a lot more complicated, involving education, rehabilitation and support. All of which costs money the coalition are either unable or unwilling to invest. I haven’t heard or read a single sensible debate on prison reform that doesn’t position the progressive argument in these terms. As Conor McGinn from the excellent Left Foot Forward also explains (although not in these terms), it’s pointless to attempt to reform the prison system in a half-arsed way.

Now, I know the buzzword of the year amongst Liberals is the need to “compromise”, which, in the glossary of the New Politics (TM), is defined as sacrificing all your long-cherished principles in exchange for over-exaggerated concessions that, in reality, have been so watered-down they are either ineffectual or achieve the opposite of what was originally envisioned (e.g. raising the income tax threshold and electoral reform). I hope in this case, they see that half-measures could weaken the case for effective prison reform in the future. Sadly, Clegg, friends and followers are so desperate for any perceived victories I fear they’ll be on it like a bunch of pricks on a pin cushion.

Prison reform is much needed, but will be a tough sell to the public. Executed intelligently, reform could transform our society and change the way we view criminality. Executed poorly, it could further entrench the “bang ‘em up”, Daily Mail mentality.

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