Not Saussure

August 31, 2006

Weltanschauung

Filed under: Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 9:34 pm

Via The Devil’s Kitchen.  Alarmingly, DK and I appear to share a remarkably similar worldview.

Your World View
You are a happy, well-balanced person who likes people and is liked by others.
You question whether many conventional views on morality are valid under all circumstances.
You are essentially a content person.

Sometimes, you consider yourself a little superior.
You are moral by your own standards.
You believe that morality is what best suits the occasion.

What Is Your World View?

Piss up…brewery…

Filed under: Politics, press, UK, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 9:07 pm

Boing Boing: UK government censors YouTube vid it posted itself

The UK cabinet office has censored a video that another branch of government had previously posted off of YouTube — ironically, the video was about how the government could be more coordinated:

A video called Transformational Government can no longer be viewed on the site, instead users get a box of red text stating: “This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner COI Television because its content was used without permission.”COI Television is actually part of the Cabinet Office and the further irony of the video being about transformational government was not lost on one critic.

A spokesman for independent body Public Sector Forums, told silicon.com: “The COI is part of the Cabinet Office. So it looks like the Cabinet Office’s initiative has fallen at the first hurdle and ironically, it’s thanks to a lack of joined-upness between parts of its own ministry.”

I don’t think there’s any comment one make on that.

ASBOs for fetuses?

Filed under: ASBOs for fetuses, civil liberties, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 6:05 pm

BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair to tackle ‘menace’ children
Teenage mums and problem families could be forced to take government help to stop their toddlers becoming a future “menace to society”, says Tony Blair.

The prime minister it was possible to identify children who were likely to develop into troublemakers even before they were born.

There could be sanctions for parents who refused to take advice, he said.

What was he smoking during that Caribbean holiday? He’s clearly brought some back for his aides, whatever it is, since the story continues, ‘His aides say people are more interested in problems like anti-social behaviour than in talk about when the prime minister will quit.’ Well, unless they mean — which I don’t think they do — the behaviour of some of his ministers, do they really think that people are saying, ‘Oh, I’m not bothered about when St Tone’s quitting; it’s feral toddlers that really bother me’.

Since ‘Mr Blair did not specify exactly what changes he was preparing to make or how they would work’, I suspect that this is another ‘We’ll frogmarch drunks to the nearest cashpoint machine’ wheeze, dreamed up precisely because he wishes people would stop going on about when he’s leaving.

Database Privacy (if you’re a celeb’s child)

Filed under: civil liberties, ID cards, Politics, UK, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 4:59 pm

Mr Eugenides is rightly annoyed by a report in today’s Telegraph about how

Children of celebrities will be given special safeguards in a new database that will store details of every child in England and Wales, it was disclosed yesterday.

Ministers said the contentious two-tier level of privacy will protect children of the rich and famous from intrusion.

Addresses and telephone numbers of celebrities will be removed from the database if, for example, their children are deemed at risk of kidnap.

The announcement was made by Lord Adonis (what a name!), in a debate in the Lords; his department clarified:

“Lord Adonis was making a general statement that children of violent parents, while their name will still be on the register, may have their address removed, or a child of a parent with celebrity status will have their address removed. The police may decide it is appropriate.

“There will be extremely strict controls. No one other than practitioners will be able to access any information which will be minimal and is about allowing practitioners to make contact with each other when necessary.”

Sorry, folks, but that ain’t good enough.   Either the database is secure or it’s not.   If the ‘extremely strict controls’ are effective so that only practitioners can access it, and since we presumably trust these practitioners not to sell the data to the tabloids or to kidnappers, then where’s the problem?    If it’s not secure enough for little Leo Blair’s or little Cruz Beckham’s data, then it’s not secure enough for anyone.

What they really mean, of course, is that the system isn’t secure and that they’re worried — rightly — that considerable embarassment could be caused all round when it gets out that  answers to questions concerning some celeb’s child such as  ‘”Is the parent providing a positive role model?”, as well as sensitive information such as a parent’s mental health,’ not to mention the fact that the child isn’t eating five portions of fruit and veg a day, prove unsatisfactory.

And, since the system isn’t secure, why on earth do they keep on protesting that the ID card database is going to be so bullet-proof?   Or, to put it another way, since our Government would never dream of lying about a thing like this, they clearly do know how to build a secure database but have chosen not to use this unhackable system for the Children’s Database.

News Of The Screws seeks hookers (only Bulgarians need apply)

Filed under: EU, Politics, press, UK — notsaussure @ 3:16 pm

Not sure how true this is, but the Bulgarian Standart newspaper (not a paper I often read, to be sure, but it seems like a reasonably serious publication) reports that the News Of The World is trying to import Bulgarian hookers; not, I fear, as a special offer to readers not, I’m sure, as an executive perk, but to be sure that they’ve got at least one about whose exploits they can write when Bulgaria and Rumania join the EU and their nationals enjoy visa-free travel to other member states.

Features – British Tabloid Hires Prostitute for Black PR Against Bulgaria – Standart
The British tabloid News of the World wants to hire a Bulgarian prostitute wishing to leave for the UK after the accession of her country to the EU and the lifting of the visa regime. A team from this newspaper plans to write a series of materials about her in Bulgaria as well as articles about her future “deeds” in Britain. They have even planned to escort her when she, according to the editorial script, catches the first flight to London in the early morning of January the 1st, 2007.

They’ve also apparently been trying to find someone there to fake up a British Passport for them.

Hmm. Quite apart from the little matter of the false instrument (the fake passport) my learned friends suggest that what we have here is — assuming the young lady continues to work as a prostitute at the News of the World’s behest when she gets here — is an offence against Section 57 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation) and, quite possibly, Section 53 (Controlling prostitution for gain); the Act’s definition of ‘gain’ in this context is a wide one, and would certainly catch both the reporter’s earnings from this little wheeze and any brownie points he gained with his editor (or, as the Act puts it, ‘the goodwill of any person which is or appears likely, in time, to bring financial advantage’).

I must say that either the NOW can’t have much faith either in their predictions of our being swamped by Bulgarian hookers or in their investigative reporters’ talents if they think it’s necessary to go to the trouble and expense of recruiting the girls in advance rather than simply cruising round Shepherd’s Market when the hacks get back from their Christmas hols, but I suppose they know best.

Maybe they recall all their hoards of Slovakian gypsies who didn’t materialise in May 2004, despite all the dire warnings, and want to make sure they aren’t caught short again.

Honestly, after the debacle of the fake sheik (see also video here) and his red mercury, you’d have thought they’d give this sort of thing a rest.

Meanwhile, back at the Palace of Westminster…

it seems some more of Rupert Murchoch’s whores HMG are considering a work permit scheme for would-be immigrants from Bulgaria and Rumania. Leaving aside speculation about Mr Murdoch’s young ladies from Bulgaria will ‘show they have the skills needed to get the new work permits’, this is about as counter-productive as you can get. As David Rennie argued in the Telegraph the other week (see also his blog piece), there is no legal way to keep EU citizens en masse, be they from Belgium or Bulgaria, out of other EU countries. As he explains in the blog,

To simplify, any EU citizen with a passport has the right to enter any other EU nation and stay there for up to three months, no questions asked.

And if you are self-employed, a student, or a pensioner with your own means of financial support, you can stay as long as you like. Just ask the hundreds of thousands of Brits living in Spain, or settling into retirement in France.

In other words, once Romania and Bulgaria enter the EU as early as next January, the Government could stop people from Romania coming in to work legally, but it could not stop them coming in.

Given that average incomes in Romania are a tenth those of the UK, it is not rocket science to guess that opening borders to such poor people, while banning them from legal work, is going to have at least one result: a huge expansion of the black economy.

And, as he goes on to explain in his newspaper article,

Whitehall officials say stoutly that they have the power to impose limits on Romanian and Bulgarian “access to the UK labour market”. But what does that actually mean? It basically means the Government could create some new offences, specially to cover Romanians and Bulgarians: working without a work permit, or employing someone from those two nations without a permit.

Given that we cannot close our borders, and average household incomes in Romania and Bulgaria are a tenth of those in Britain, it is not hard to guess one major outcome of creating such new offences: thousands will come anyway, but this time as criminals.

As a convinced free-marketeer, I must admit to moral qualms about welcoming people to live in my country, then turning them into criminals, just because they want to work for a living.

But if moral arguments do not work, try self-interest. Expanding Britain’s black economy is not a good idea. It would be bad for the health of society. It would reduce tax revenues, and hurt British workers, too. As long as east Europeans are working legally, their broad pay and conditions can only fall so far. Once people are on the black, employers can treat them as near-slputsaves, putting far more pressure on legal workers.

I agree. By giving in to the tabloids’ frenzy about Bulgarians — or, as The Guardian’s un-named cabinet source puts it, allowing politics to over-ride economics (and common sense) — the government are creating the very thing they claim they hope to avoid. (Not for the first time, of course — wasn’t Iraq supposed to make us safer from terrorism?).

August 30, 2006

Ban on violent internet porn?

Filed under: civil liberties, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 7:41 pm

Today’s news that ‘A mother whose daughter died at the hands of a man obsessed with violent internet porn has won her fight for a ban on possessing such images’ should, I suppose, come as no surprise. It must be difficult to refuse such a request from the mother of a daughter whose murder she blames on such images, particularly if you’re a government looking for something to be seen to be doing about a problem. The proposition comes with the added advantage that it won’t inconvenience that many people and those it does are far less likely to complain than were fox-hunters or target shooters.

But is it a good idea? A ban on child pornography I can understand, since making it involves a serious sexual assault on a child. But unless we’re talking about snuff movies, the scenes depicted are going to be triumphs of the film-maker’s talents of illusion, involving consenting adults.

I can understand Mrs Longhurst’s, the mother’s, attitude, since her daughter was killed by someone apparently obsessed with images of erotic strangulation, and I can understand why a government minister might find it easier to assure the grieving mother that ‘We’ll do something about it’ than to explain to her that the relationship between the violent images and her daughter’s murder isn’t necessarily causal.

Indeed, the available evidence probably suggests it isn’t; certainly such images must have become far more readily available over the last 10 or 15 years, with the growing availability of the internet. Has there been a corresponding increase in sadistic sexual assaults? I doubt it.

As far as I’m concerned, government has no business stopping people from doing what they want to, no matter how odd or distasteful it might seem to others, unless there’s a good reason to stop them. If they’re seriously worried about impressionable or disturbed people emulating behaviour they see in pictures or films, I can think of several far more urgent targets for legislative attention.

The idea, promulgated in no end of films I remember from my childhood, that you can hit someone over the head with a blunt instrument, knock him out and that he’ll normally get up 10 minutes later with nothing worse than a headache is pretty pervasive and pernicious, as is the notion you can ‘shoot to wing’ someone or that, if you so do and hit him anywhere with a high velocity rifle, he’ll likely survive the experience. High speed car chases are another one; I dare say a fair number of young joy-riders have ended up in hospital or worse because car chases look fun on the TV, but anyone planning on banning Bullitt?

Incidentally, I was only listening with half an ear, but the minister (Vernon Coaker?) who was on The World At One justifying this proposal seemed to make even less sense than junior Home Office ministers normally do. He seemed first to be arguing that this was clearing up an anomaly since it’s already illegal to make and distribute such images, which is all very well, but I’m not wholly convinced that they only sensible response, on realising that the Obscene Publication Acts of 1959 and 1964 do not adequately meet conditions in 2006, is to extend them in this way.

Furthermore, he seemed to be hailing this decision as a triumph of ‘consultation’, in that he’d consulted Mrs Longhurst and her supporters and this proposal was what they wanted.

Well, errm, yes.   Possibily next he’ll consult the Vegetarian Society and see what they think about vegetarianism.

Footnote: Chicken Yoghurt has some good remarks, as always, on this government’s idea of  consultation.

Bastard!

Filed under: civil liberties, Politics, UK, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 2:36 am

Looks like I spoke too soon about Mr Mohammad, the chap cleared of making a souvenier video that might be useful to terrorists. There was me thinking that his problems would be over now that he’d been acquitted by a jury, but I should have remembered that an ex-Communist like Dr Reid isn’t going to let a little bourgeois formality like that get in the way of anything. After all, it’s the good doctor who’s determined to deport the luckless Mr Y, who was cleared of his part in the ricin plot that didn’t happen, to Algeria, where he faces a death penalty passed in absentia (but which the Algerians have promised not to implement, which is nice of them).

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Iraqi cleared of making terror targets video may face control order

An Iraqi asylum seeker who was cleared yesterday of making a video identifying potential terrorist targets in London faces being issued with a government control order, the Guardian has learned.Rauf Abdullah Mohammad, 26, sunk his head into his hands as he was found not guilty at Woolwich crown court of four terrorism charges related to making the tape. The crown had alleged the video was a film of “high-profile targets” made to help Islamist terrorists plot and commit an attack on the capital.

But the jury, with their not guilty verdicts, appeared to accept Mr Mohammad’s case that the hour-long film was a souvenir of his time in London.

However, the implacable Dr Reid isn’t going to accept it. Having failed to deport the chap, and now having failed to convict him of anything, he’s cranking up for a control order:

It emerged during the trial that the Home Office had attempted to deport Mr Mohammad, who first applied for asylum in the UK in 2000 after fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime. The government sought his deportation, claiming he had returned to Iraq following Saddam’s fall to support the insurgency in his homeland. When he later came back to the UK, it claimed he was meeting like-minded insurgents in Britain, all allegations denied by Mr Mohammad. With his acquittal yesterday, the Home Office cannot order his deportation on the basis of a criminal conviction, but it appears the government may continue to maintain a close watch over Mr Mohammad. Sources told the Guardian that contingency plans were in place and an assessment would be made to see if a control order was necessary following his acquittal.

The use of control orders, which were introduced in 2005 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, has proved hugely controversial. The orders, involving curfews which can amount to virtual house arrest, can last indefinitely and the subject does not have to be accused of any specific crime or be told why he or she is under suspicion.

One can only hope that, should this threat materialise, Mr Mohammad will appeal against the order; the last time control orders came before the Court of Appeal the case was heard by The Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and the President of the Queens Bench Division sitting together (that is, about as senior as you can get), and they savaged them.

August 29, 2006

BBC NEWS | UK | Man cleared in ‘terror film’ case

Filed under: civil liberties, Iran, UK, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 10:35 pm

BBC NEWS | UK | Man cleared in ‘terror film’ case

A minicab driver has been cleared of making or possessing a video of potential terrorist targets in London.

His film, shot at night, featured “high profile” sights including Big Ben, the London Eye and Park Lane hotels.

Iraqi Rauf Mohammed, 26, told Woolwich Crown Court the video had been shot as a tourist souvenir.

Mr Mohammed, of Forest Gate, east London, also said footage of him saying leaders, including Tony Blair, should be “slayed” had been meant as a joke.

Mr Mohammed’s relief at his acquittal may be tempered, of course, by irritation that he’s spent the last nine months in Belmarsh following his arrest in November last year.

While it’s always dangerous to go by news reports of court proceedings — no matter how detailed, they can only give a tiny fraction of what’s actually said in court — the evidence against him does seem to have been pretty flimsy, given that the prosecution, as they would have to in any criminal case, needed to make the jury sure that Mr Mohammed’s video was, in fact, for the use of terrorists rather than just a record him and his chum fooling about. If saying that Tony Blair should be shot is suspicious behaviour, then God help us. I’d have taken it as evidence, if anything, that Mr Mohammed’s integrating pretty well with much public opinion.

What seems to have caused the authorities no little concern, however, is a somewhat vague report prepared by the Intelligence folks on Mr Mohammed’s visit to his native Iraq:

The jury was told Mr Mohammed had been kept under surveillance by MI5 after arriving back in the UK in 2004 from a visit to Iraq.

According to a subsequent Home Office assessment, he had taken part in “anti-coalition activity” in Iraq and continued to “actively support” the insurgency.

But Mr Mohammed, who had been in the UK since 2000, told the jury the authorities had not provided an explanation of how they linked him to the insurgency or detailed any alleged activities.

He said he had not been involved in politics or any groups in London.

The jury seem to have been unconvinced by this assessment of Mr Mohammed’s activities; possibly they thought it’s not the first dodgy dossier we’ve seen out of Iraq.

Despite his spending the best part of a year on remand, Mr Mohammed may take some comfort that his fate was ultimately decided by a jury of the sort of ordinary people who, we’re so often told by the tabloids and the politicians, are fed up with these civil libertarian notions of due process and the presumption of innocence. Had it been left to Dr Reid, and had it been in his power, Mr Mohammed would almost certainly have languished in Belmarsh indefinitely on suspicion.

Holiday in Iraq for sun, sand … and burnt-out tanks

Filed under: Iraq, Politics, UK, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 2:47 pm

Holiday in Iraq for sun, sand … and burnt-out tanks | News | This is London

A report recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, Sector Mapping Report: Tourism And Culture, drawn up by British consultancy firm Scott Wilson in 2004 at the request of the British Government and at a cost to the taxpayer of £80,000, contains a section the heading War Tourism. Scott Wilson opine that

This would involve presentation of the country’s recent history and, while there is a distinct need to improve the country’s general environment, it may be necessary and indeed beneficial to place battlefield debris strategically, such that it can be enjoyed by those groups wishing to see for themselves the location of recent battles.

Comics

Filed under: Politics, press, Uncategorized, usa — notsaussure @ 1:02 pm

Smith Magazine reports both that Slate is serialising The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation and that, specially for wingnuts, there’s a right-wing dystopian comic-book fantasy, And Liberality For All, which attempts to answer the question:

What if today’s anti-war Liberals were in charge of the American government and had been since 9/11? What would that society look like in the year 2021? What would be the results of fighting “a more sensitive war on terror” and looking to the corrupt United Nations to solve all of America’s problems? In Liberality For All , you will sees a vision of that future… a Leftist dominated nightmare where there is only one justified type of war…the war against Conservatives and their ideals.

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