Sunday, December 20, 2009

Biting The Hand That Feeds

Did anyone else in addition to Clameur de Haro pick up on the snide little dig from the Jersey Evening [sic] Post’s Elaine Byrne in her reporting of the winners of the Christmas Lottery?
In her “you have to be in the finance industry to win anything in Jersey” intro, La Byrne couldn’t resist, could she, doing a little resentful biting of the hand that feeds, conveniently forgetting which sector of the economy it is that predominantly generates the tax revenues needed to fund public services. Perhaps she needs reminding that governments on their own can provide nothing without first extracting the financial wherewithal from private citizens and firms through taxation.
Possibly she’s one of those who likes to propagate the myth that Jersey suffers from a class divide between the finance sector and the rest. Unfortunately, this fallacy is more widely held than it should be.
What it does is to deflect attention from the real class divide in Jersey, which is the divide between those employed in the public sector – enjoying salaries in many cases on a par with private sector counterparts carrying more responsibility, plus the added benefits of job protection, security of employment and taxpayer-funded pension arrangements which the private sector can only dream about – and those in the productive, wealth-generating private sector of the economy struggling to cope with the downturn, and having to accept pay cuts and job losses as the price of survival.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Clameur de Haro’s Weekend Music R&R # 5

To apologise for the lack of these in the past 3 weeks or so, it’s two for the price of one this weekend – although partly also because they’re both sub-3 minute clips, and you do all deserve your money’s worth, after all………
On to a bit of a boogie-woogie theme this week, jazz manifestation of the genre first. CdeH used whenever possible to listen to the late Humphrey Lyttelton’s prog on steam radio sampling all the jazz greats of times past, and came to appreciate the jazz boogie-woogie piano virtuosity particularly of Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. So when he ran across this clip of Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson performing (he thinks) Boogie Woogie Dream, it went straight to the top of the playlist. Despite being a tad grainy, the relaxed attitudes contrasting with the superb synchronised playing just takes the breath away.
Then, transposing the boogie-woogie theme to the present, it’s across the years, across the Atlantic, and across the genres, to Johan Blohm, keyboardist with Swedish rock-blues-boogie band The Refreshments. Apparently they’re huge in Sweden, and often have that phenomenal guitarist Albert Lee, late of Hogan’s Heroes and Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band to name but two, guesting on the live gigs. Johan Blohm seems to get billed as “the greatest rock’n’roll boogie-woogie piano player in the world”, but for once (and even though he seems singularly unfazed by it) the hype might just be accurate……..
Even CdeH’s tin musical ear can detect the connection between the two performances, across many years and one ocean. Enjoy…….
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Over The Top With Swine Flu Vaccination?

Clameur de Haro was quite surprised last weekend when one of his close friends, a fellow-guest enjoying a relaxed informal supper with several other mutual friends, launched into a fairly trenchant criticism of the swine flu vaccination policy. CeH's friend is usually rather more inclined than is CdeH to give our politicos, their advisers, and those who do their bidding the benefit of the doubt, so this critique was doubly interesting to listen to, coming from the source it did.
Its substance was that the States in general, and the Medical Officer of Health in particular, have essentially gone over the top in the extent to which the swine flu scare has been talked up, almost to the point of causing a degree of anxiety among putatively vulnerable sections of the population which cannot be wholly justified, either by the incidence of infection, or its severity if actually contracted - and that there has of course been a considerable public expense incurred.
Not being in one of the allegedly-at-risk categories, Clameur de Haro hadn't previously given this too much thought, beyond a vague feeling of uneasiness that the whole thing seemed to be being promoted with the kind of almost evangelical zeal and "the nanny-state knows best" authoritarianism redolent of some of the more infamous scare campaigns of recent years which turned out eventually to be largely just that - a scare. Whatever happened to bird flu and SARS, which were similarly talked up as a serious threat?
So it was with more than a passing interest that CdeH read press reports this week to the effect that Roche, the manufacturer of oseltamivir (Tamiflu), has been accused by no less august a publication than the British Medical Journal of making it impossible for scientists to assess how well it works by withholding evidence the company has gained from trials.
Of particular significance, it seemed to Clameur de Haro, was this -
"A major review of what data there is in the public domain has found no evidence Tamiflu can prevent healthy people with flu from suffering complications such as pneumonia.
Tamiflu may shorten the bout of illness by a day or so, the investigators say, but it is impossible to know whether it prevents severe disease because the published data is insufficient. Roche has failed to make some of the studies carried out on the drug publicly available, the scientists say.
Freemantle (Professor Nick Freemantle, Birmingham University) said he saw "very little evidence to support the widespread use of oseltamivir in the otherwise healthy population who are developing signs of influenza-like illness." He added: "We have remarkably few resources in this country to spend on pharmaceuticals on health, and it is surprising to see such widespread use of oseltamivir".
Freemantle went on to suggest that the large stockpiles amassed by the UK health authorities may have had more than a little to do with the frequency and extent of distribution/vaccination, irrespective of the questionable effectiveness of the drug.
So, in the Jersey context, the questions arise - if there really has been precious little data on the effectiveness of oseltamivir/Tamiflu in preventing severe disease: if in many cases the swine flu infection itself really turns out to be either barely distinguishable from, or not much more onerous than, "normal" flu: and if there really is no conclusive evidence found that it prevents healthy people contracting flu from suffering complications: just what on earth have the Jersey health authorities been doing in playing up both the risks and the alleged benefits (including the constant flow of press releases suggesting dangers and remedials of almost epidemic proportions), and putting into action an vaccination programme compulsory in all but name across large swathes of the population? Is it also a case of a large stockpile having been amassed, and therefore having to be used to justify it?
Some answers from the Health Minister, please.
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Can We Now Drop the ID Cards Lunacy Once And For All?

According to the TeleBarclaygraph this morning, Chancellor of the Exchequer Fiscally Incontinent & Incompetent Glove-Puppet-In-Chief Alistair Darling has dropped a strong hint that the national ID cards proposal is going to be dropped.
Which is excellent news, if true, although, as quickly picked up by several UK libertarian bloggers, the key issue here surely is not so much the "...biometric passports can do the same job..." issue, as the continuation of the all-encompassing state database comprising the iniquitous National Identity Register.
With the need now to re-cast next year's budget expenses downwards in the wake of Deputy Sean Power's successful heading off of more taxes on Middle Jersey, perhaps the Treasury Minister could take the opportunity to pronounce the authoritarian and illiberal idea of any ID card system or centralised identity database for Jersey to be totally and absolutely dead for any time in the foreseeable future.
Confirmation please, Minister.
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Internet Journalism, New Media, and Political Reporting

Challenging the Mainstream Media’s Self-Assumed Monopoly
Clameur de Haro's fellow-blogger Jersey 24/7 commented recently on the threat which the traditional press feels is posed generally by the growth in internet journalism, and particularly, the blogosphere: and J-24/7 quite correctly links this to the concerns of Jersey’s political bloggers that the local “accredited” press are trying to stifle the development of the medium.
As political bloggers we have a great opportunity to put our collective case across at the moment, because after the recent kerfuffle about rights of access for the reporting (and in particular, the filming) of Scrutiny hearings, the Media Working Party set up under the chairmanship of Senator Ben Shenton has issued a call for evidence (“Publicising the States and Scrutiny”). In particular it asks -
Do you have an opinion on the use of blog sites?
Who do you believe to be ‘the media’?
and its terms of reference require it, after considering “…..the distinction, if any, between ‘bloggers’ and the ‘official’ press…”, to come to a definition of “the media”.
Clameur de Haro’s view is that no coherent definition of the media in 2010 can possibly exclude the political blogosphere: and that regular local political bloggers have just as much right as the MSM to attend and report events like Scrutiny hearings, should receive formal press accreditation to do so, and should be included in the definition of “the media”.
There’s very little doubt that the MSM in general and the Dead Tree Press in particular see the growth of the local political blogosphere as an unwelcome development at best and a threat at worst, and would like to negate it or marginalise it so as to protect its near-monopoly of political reporting and comment. The Jersey Evening [sic] Post kicked off its campaign of objection - in what it presumably thought was a subtle way - with Christine Herbert’s op-ed piece in last Saturday’s edition (still not posted online yet, incidentally – now there’s web-savvy for you….).
Writing about blogs, Ms Herbert professed herself to be “….a firm believer in the freedom of speech – and in the freedom of information” – but here comes the qualification “when it is fair and in the public interest”. That’s exactly the point, Ms Herbert, which you signally didn’t go on to address. Before the development of internet journalism, it was the MSM which exclusively determined what was “fair” or “in the public interest” and either allowed or denied the public access to it: the MSM no longer has that monopoly, and like all monopolists whose position is challenged, it doesn’t like it.
She went on to say “Sadly, blogs in general are often little more than a licence to bully and victimise without fear of retribution”. In some cases that’s correct, but as Mr David Rotherham pointed out in a splendid riposte a couple of days later (curiously, also not viewable online), many concern themselves with the same kind of issues and material as the Dead Tree Press (sometimes rather more analytically), and no-one is forced to read a bad blog among the many alternatives available.
Ms Herbert continued “The information contained on the internet is often untruthful and lacks the kind of rigour and responsibility that more formal forms of communication have been subject to for many years”. Well, that’s sometimes true – but just a few lines above her blogging-related comments, when talking about the finance industry’s marketing initiatives in the Middle East, Ms Herbert referred overwhelmingly to Dubai, and used the phrase “families who had made their money from the liquid gold known as oil”. CdeH hopes that she has by now had it pointed out to her that Dubai has virtually no oil of its own, and that most of the UAE’s oil reserves are those of Abu Dhabi – as most bloggers of CdeH’s acquaintance well know. Not an especially momentous error, perhaps, and it doesn’t destroy the sense of the piece, but it shows that lack of journalistic rigour isn’t by any means exclusive to specifically internet journalism.
But the JEP isn’t alone: dislike of the accelerating development of new political media runs across most of the MSM, which increasingly floats reasons of public propriety as an unconvincing camouflage for its innate protectionism.
Mr Peter Wilby, the former editor of the New Statesman, referring to MEP Daniel Hannan’s monstering of Gordon Brown in the European Parliament which became such a hit on YouTube, is on record as saying “The online success of Daniel Hannan’s speech…………proves what we knew: the internet lacks quality control”. Echoes of Ms Christine Herbert there, methinks.
To quote Daniel Hannan (and with a large H/T to J-24/7 for directing CdeH to it) in reply -
“Yup. That’s the thing about the internet: it turns the quality filters off. Until very recently, few of us could get political news direct from source. It had to be interpreted for us by a BBC man with a microphone or a newspaper’s political correspondent. Now, though, people can make their own minds up. The message has been disintermediated. What Mr Wilby seems to mean when he complains that the internet “lacks quality control” is not that my speech was ungrammatical or shoddily constructed, but that its content was disagreeable. The quality filters he evidently has in mind would screen out points of view that he considers unacceptable”.
Or to quote Douglas Carswell MP -
“….the web should put a smile on our face – it provided the means to change. The web will do to the princely quangocrats and the priesthood of professional politicians who preside over us what the printing press did to their forebears. It’ll smash concentrations of power in our political system – just as it’s doing in retail and the media. Barriers to entry in politics will go. Clear distinctions between amateur and professional will blur. A few years ago, (Polly) Toynbee and co formed an unchallenged aristocracy of commentators. Today, often to their consternation, they have to keep up with the likes of Guido Fawkes and a democratised commentariat.”
Messrs Hannan and Carswell express the MSM’s (and the JEP’s) fears in a nutshell, Clameur de Haro suspects. The fundamental point – and benefit - of internet journalism is precisely, as Mr Hannan puts it, that it does disintermediate the message: so that the MSM is no longer the only interpreter, the only route and the only filter through which the public has to accept its news and comment without an alternative source.
So the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and the game and its rules have irrevocably changed. And we’re starting to see instances of governments and organisations admitting this fact, recognising that the definition of “the media” has broken open and widened for all time, accepting that it’s better to acknowledge and provide for this rather than try and ignore it or thwart it, and changing their media practices to acknowledge the role and reach of the new, “social” media.
As recently as 16 November, for example, the UK announced a review of the government briefing / parliamentary lobby system to end the predominance of Dead Tree Press journalists in the lobby and accommodate in future all forms of new media in briefings about government and parliamentary business. And on 07 December, NATO held its first ever briefing for political bloggers, inviting several authors from the UK political blogosphere to NATO HQ in Brussels for a day-long briefing with senior personnel, mostly about Afghanistan.
Jersey’s government needs to make sure that it’s not left behind the curve on this subject, by resisting the likely blandishments and objections from the MSM and embracing both the distribution and reporting possibilities that Jersey’s new media and its practitioners open up.
Admitting local political bloggers to the hitherto closely-guarded and jealously-protected ranks of the accredited media is vital to increased transparency (which politicians are fond of talking about), because it enables the message to be taken directly to the electorate without it being subject to the necessarily one-dimensional filter of the monopoly MSM’s interpretation of it. CdeH suspects, for example, that two or three local bloggers, irrespective of their individual political leanings, might well make a considerably better fist of reporting Scrutiny hearings and the like than JEP reporters subjected to firstly, space constraints imposed by the need to sell advertising space and secondly the whims and prejudices of the sub-editor.
So Clameur de Haro is inclined to spend a little time during those dog days between Christmas and New Year preparing a submission to the Media Working Party arguing strongly for the local blogosphere to be regarded unequivocally as an integral part of the media and accredited as such, with all the privileges – and responsibilities – of access which that entails. Comments, ideas, and contributions from fellow-bloggers welcome.
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Monday, December 07, 2009

The Inconvenient Truths About “An Inconvenient Truth”

Hearty congratulations and support from Clameur de Haro to Deputy Phil Rondel, who in the States last Tuesday warned the increasingly supine Minister for Education Sport & Culture, James Reed, that “An Inconvenient Truth”, that provenly inaccurate, meretricious farrago of cod science produced by that execrable peddler of false green eco-wackery propaganda Al Gore, should not be shown in Jersey schools.
Mr Rondel’s reported comment about the judicial objections to its showing in UK schools, while correct, doesn’t go halfway towards describing the full extent of the criticism heaped on it from the Bench.
In 2007, Mr Justice Burton, sitting in the Administrative Division of the High Court, ruled that showing the film, without both correction of its errors and presentation of the alternative hypothesis, breached the 1996 Education Act and constituted political indoctrination. Not only did nine inaccuracies specifically have to be drawn to the attention of school audiences, but more importantly, not all of the film’s inaccuracies were considered, as Burton J requested only a sample for the purposes of considering the case.
Clameur de Haro’s readers can see here the summary of the judgement, and the links to the ancillary submissions. They really should be read, in full, to derive a complete picture of the extent of the errors and fallacies peddled as incontrovertible truth.
Since that time, even more, and serious, flaws, both scientific and in biased selectivity of data, have come to light. To recount just a few -
Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph, on which Gore relied so much, was confirmed and subsequently accepted even by the IPCC as being a fraud: firstly omitting, then dramatically under-representing the Mediaeval Warming Period, and secondly being based on a computer algorithm which generated the desired headline-grabbing hockey stick result no matter what data was fed into the algorithm.
In claiming far more frequent use of the Thames Flood Barrier and increased flooding on the East Coast of England (due, naturally, to global warming [sic]), Gore presented flood instance statistics going back to 1930. Highly selective, and suspiciously so – had he gone back just two years earlier, to 1928, he would have had to include the worst Thames flood on record, which occurred during a period of cooling temperatures, and he neglected to mention that the East Coast of England has been geologically sinking at the rate of several inches a year, both from general slow subsidence and the extraction of water from naturally-formed underground reservoirs.
His apocalyptic predictions for the melting of the entire Antarctic ice sheet turned out to have been predicated only on data for the c.7% of the entire Antarctic land mass constituted by the Antarctic Peninsula, but which Gore then extrapolated to apply to the whole. The Antarctic Peninsula is now considered to merit a different climate classification from the rest of the continent under the Köppen climate classification system, due to the influence which the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has on it, while the main ice sheet of the entire Antarctic Continent, accounting for something in excess of 80% of all the world’s ice, is both thickening and cooling.
The best summary of all the main scientific errors and all the flawed conclusions can be found in this paper, entitled “35 Inconvenient Truths – The Errors in Al Gore’s Movie” prepared for the Science and Public Policy Institute. It too should also be read, in full, by anyone with even the remotest connection to the possibility that Gore’s discredited fallacy-fest should be foisted on to impressionable young minds as though it was established and undisputed fact, and without any qualification.
According to the Jersey Evening [sic] Post’s report, Mr Reed responded with nothing more than a typically weasel-worded reply to the effect that he would pass on Mr Rondel’s concerns to his department.
That is just not good enough. Mr Reed is, whether he likes it or not, the repository of both a statutory duty and a moral responsibility to deliver an education system to the Island’s children free from the blatantly biased and inaccurate propaganda of the type of which Gore’s film is such a baleful example. And with the scandal of Climategate and the revelations of data manipulation and concealment in the Climate Research Unit currently breaking all around us (has he not heard of this?), for him not to undertake to give it his urgent personal attention and ensure that the film is not shown in schools without further reference back, is little short of a grave dereliction of duty.
At one time Clameur de Haro was disposed to think quite favourably of Mr Reed, but no more. Recent events, in particular his reactions to the suspensions/discipline issue, his denial of falling primary school standards, and his falling in with the majority criminality-excusing view on the withdrawal of anonymity from young violent offenders, give the distinct impression of a minister who has gone native and become house-trained, and a minister who has quite visibly been captured by the triumvirate of producer interests which dominate the education industry – his department’s civil servants, the teaching unions, and the fashionable educational theorists - so his reaction is, regrettably, not surprising. He is beginning to look ineffective, and out of his depth.
So – once again – plaudits to Deputy Rondel for raising this issue: Clameur de Haro pleads with him not to let the matter rest.
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A Dearth of Hard Facts In The Charities Furore

The aspect which seems to Clameur de Haro to have been completely overlooked in the recent furore about Mr Edward Trevor’s ill-judged utterances on charity collecting is whether or not there is factual substance to his remarks, however inelegantly expressed, about the precise sources of HIV/AIDS infection in the Western world.
Mr Trevor did not, to put it mildly, express himself well in any event: but in conflating the issue of infection source with the issue of who should or should not be collecting for which particular charity in alleged competition with the Joint Charities Christmas Appeal, he was incredibly foolish, and thereby opened himself up to the emotion-based and fact-free criticism which duly ensued.
It sheds however an interesting light that, during the time which has elapsed since all the criticism about the tenor of Mr Trevor’s comments, and in all the personal odium heaped upon him, there has been no discernable rebuttal, based on established statistics, of his factual claims.
Deconstructing those from his opinions, what he claimed, if the reports in the Jersey Evening [sic] Post and its transcript of his BBC Radio Jersey interview were to be believed, was that the primary causal sources of HIV/AIDS in Western countries are, with the exception of blood transfusions, behaviours over which the individual is able to exercise control or choice.
This is, or ought to be, a simple issue of fact, easily verified from readily available statistical sources, and publishable. Yet on this purely factual issue, there has been silence – including from ACET itself, which might reasonably have been expected in the circumstances to have issued an unequivocal factual rebuttal, and which would have been far more persuasive.
If accurate statistics showed that the primary cause of acquiring HIV/AIDS in the Western world is involuntary or accidental, and is unrelated to self-directed behaviours, then the criticisms of Mr Trevor would have been factually vindicated. If however, Mr Trevor’s claims turned out to be factually accurate, that may well be uncomfortable reading or listening for some, but should not on its own be sufficient reason for the virulent abuse hurled at him.
That abuse seems to have been motivated primarily, not just because of his opinions differing from those of his detractors, but due to those opinions being outside the spectrum of permitted thought as defined by the bien-pensant cultural left, a point which was picked up by several of the more astute on-line commenters to the JEP.
This is the true danger of political correctness (or Frankfurt School cultural marxism to give it its more descriptive and accurate name), the top-down imposition of curtailment and restriction of freedom of thought and speech by which whole areas of opinion are sought to be rendered incapable or forbidden of expression.
For the JEP to aver that Mr Trevor’s remarks were “unacceptable” is profoundly disturbing, for a responsible media outlet should not be, or be perceived to be, curtailing legitimate freedom of speech in this (or indeed in any) way. Equally, the statement attributed to Mrs Rosemary Ruddy of ACET, that Mr Trevor’s views were “untenable”, is plainly nonsense, since all any view held is by definition tenable, however repugnant it may be and however much it may offend the recipient.
HIV/AIDS, however acquired, is an unfortunate fact of life, and ACET is a valuable charity, dispensing advice and support in an admirably non-judgmental way: Jersey is undoubtedly the better for existence. But Clameur de Haro wonders if the lady doth perhaps protest too much? He trusts that the executive director of a HIV/AIDS charity in particular, in describing as “untenable” views such as those unwisely articulated by Mr Trevor, would not seek to use the dubious techniques of political correctness to divert attention from statistical facts which many might prefer not to acknowledge and which might risk – however unjustifiably – mitigating against the valuable service which ACET provides.
Mrs Ruddy, together with Mr Trevor’s numerous other detractors, might have been better advised to counter his ill-advised and poorly expressed remarks with statistical data proving them to be, quite simply, untrue, rather than with opprobrium heavy on opinion but light on hard fact from impeccable, and verifiable, sources. Presumably ACET possesses this information - it might still at this stage put the matter to rest by publishing the hard statistical data on the actual sources of infection in Western countries, and the extent to which there is, or is not, a correlation with multi-partner sexual activity, so that the public could with hindsight better judge the extent of Mr Trevor’s transgression.
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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Stuart Syvret – A Sick Joke

So, observes, Clameur de Haro, t’would seem that Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus, aka Stuart Syvret, phoned in to School last week claiming that he has a sick note from Matron, and needs to be excused from games.
Such is Mr Syvret’s (totally misplaced) opinion of his own pre-eminent intellectual brilliance, and such his contrasting opinion of the congenital stupidity of virtually everyone else, that he probably genuinely assumes that no-one at all is astute enough to spot this ploy for what it presumably is – an attempt to avoid suspension on the grounds of his continued absence from Assembly proceedings and the consequential discontinuation of his eligibility to receive remuneration.
Perhaps his erstwhile host and like-minded oddball Mr John Hemmjng needs to buy more vegetable oil to power his car, and is demanding some contribution to offset his continuing hospitality.
Those who seek to support Mr Syvret in this enterprise do us, and indeed themselves, no favours whatsoever. In the light of recent revelations and judicial opinions, plenty of people would say that Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus is indisputably sick – although not, perhaps, in any medical sense.
Long may he find a return incompatible with his health [sic]. Long may he continue to benefit our polity by his non-participation in it – lock, stock, and delicate medical condition.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Treating the Teenage Thugs With Kid Gloves – Yet Again

In this blogpost back in mid-October, Clameur de Haro railed against the iniquity of giving a 16 year old thug with an appalling litany of violent crime, theft and anti-social behaviour to his name the protection of legal anonymity because of his age, thus preventing him being identified and shamed – although CdeH doubts, sadly, that the notion of shame at committing wrongdoing to others would have figured very much in the largely non-judgmental, morally relativist instruction he probably received in Jersey’s cultural-left dominated schools system.
So CdeH was heartened therefore, a few days after that mid-October post, by Deputy Trevor Pitman’s proposition to give the juvenile courts the power to curtail or set aside the protection of age-related anonymity in cases of serious assault, and to establish a legislative presumption in favour of naming - and was then subsequently even more heartened on receiving e-mails from more than one member of the Council of Ministers, saying that they welcomed and intended to support the Pitman proposition.
Amendments proposed since then both by Senator Ben Shenton and by Mr Pitman himself would restrict the liability to be named to offenders aged 16 or over, and would add other serious crimes to the list of offences where withdrawal of anonymity was applicable.
Accepting both the Shenton and Pitman amendments would mean, therefore, removing the restriction on naming, and the protection of anonymity, in cases of conviction for serious assault, murder, manslaughter, rape, or robbery, where the offender was aged 16 or over. Hardly unreasonable, Clameur de Haro would have thought, given the extent of public concern at rising levels of serious and violent crime among a determinedly recidivist section of the Island’s sub-18 youth.
Disappointingly however, CoM members are now resiling from this commitment, backed up by the Home Affairs and Education, Sport & Culture Scrutiny Panel.
The Panel oscillates between wanting to consider this issue, not in isolation but as part of a wider, more holistic approach to juvenile justice generally (translation: kicking it into the long grass and forgetting about it) and wanting to deflect the focus on to the question of parental responsibility.
But Mr Pitman is right when he says that many parents try extremely hard to keep their wayward offspring on the straight and narrow, and deserve more support. The Panel would perhaps be better employed in recommending strategies to bolster such responsible parental authority and supporting the exercise of it in any event, irrespective of any temporary and specific focus on the subject of juvenile justice - because all too often, as several of CdeH’s acquaintances have found to their dismay, the default setting of too many social services practitioners is almost always to take the child’s part against its parents and undermine parental authority.
The objections of the Ministers as articulated by the Minister for Health & Social Services are predictably, but no less disappointingly for that, based on the twin incubuses of firstly, the warped interpretations of the malevolently omnipresent international human rights industry, and secondly the predominantly child-centred, rose-tinted approach to juvenile criminality and justice which bears such a heavy responsibility for the explosion of juvenile crime over the last 30 years.
If the prescriptions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are an obstacle because Jersey’s Children’s Law does not contain the equivalent UK legislation’s distinction between a child (under the age of 14 years) and a young person (under the age of 18 years), then the remedy is surely to introduce a similar distinction into Jersey law, not for the community to wring its collective hands and say nothing can be done. Let’s not forget that the Convention was drafted in the mid-1990s, when perceptions of maturity and responsibility for criminal actions were different from those now applying.
As regards assumed conflict with the ECHR and Jersey’s 2000 Human Rights Law, that objection may not last if the incoming Cameron administration in the UK stands by its presently indicated commitment to repeal the Human Rights Act in its current too-pervasive and pernicious form, in favour of a statute less favourable to miscreants and charlatans but still protective of the rights and freedoms that the original ECHR was intended to safeguard.
We can be sure that the “all-children-are-angels” and “crime-caused-solely-by-social-conditions” lobbies would be gratifyingly discomforted were Jersey to say that, in the case of persistent violent offenders over 16, identification would not be restricted, and that the right of the overwhelmingly law-abiding public to be aware of the threat posed by repeat-offender young violent criminals in their midst justifies a derogation from the more undesirable consequences of international obligations in these circumstances. Perhaps, for once, we should just try it, rather than presuming we have no alternative to mistakenly treating repeated young violent criminals with a lack of resolve in many cases will send merely a signal of either only mild disapproval or weakness.
The Minister for Health & Social Services, interestingly, recommends both that the debate be deferred, and that the proposition be rejected – in successive paragraphs. The confusion inherent in this is consistent with the arguments advanced in the main body of her comments which (where they do not merely parrot the views of the HA & ESC Scrutiny Panel and the Law Officers), rely heavily on the discredited philosophies of seeking to understand and excuse criminality rather than dealing with it.
Although Clameur de Haro is no hanger’n’flogger, and although the range of subjects on which Clameur de Haro and Deputy Pitman would share the same opinion is probably, to say the least, somewhat limited, the Deputy has undoubtedly got it right on this one, and is more in tune with the mood of an anxious and frustrated public than his opponents. As he says when he advocates -
“……the norm becoming that those young people who choose to engage in vicious attacks that go as far as to put another’s very life at risk can expect to see their identity held up for all the community to see. Government simply must show itself to be in charge and finally act. The public expect no less.”,
this is -
“……an issue wholly side-stepped by the authorities who should have been seeking answers to the problem…”.
Remember, if you’re 16, then you’re old enough to have a motorcycle licence. Old enough to get married. Old enough to leave school and get a job. Old enough to join the Forces. Old enough to vote. You are not a child, whatever the legal definition.
The Pitman/Shenton proposals and amendments in tandem do not mean hanging children of 10 for sheep-stealing, although from some of the comments made, you could be forgiven for thinking they do. They would mean merely removing the restriction on naming, and the protection of anonymity, in cases of conviction for serious assault, murder, manslaughter, rape, or robbery, where the offender was aged 16 or over. That is an eminently sensible compromise, and all States Members should support it.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Question - Anthropogenic Global Warming: Myth or Reality? Answer - Myth

Clameur de Haro has been travelling extensively to both London and Brussels of late, but was fortunate on Thursday November 12 to attend the lecture and subsequent debate in Westminster organised by The Spectator entitled “Global Warming: Myth or Reality?”. The principal speaker was Professor Ian Plimer, Professor of Geology at the University of Adelaide and Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, prominent anthropogenic climate change sceptic, and author of the recently-published book “Heaven and Earth”, which brilliantly contrasts the proven science on climatic and geological changes to the Earth throughout its existence with the current green politics of climate alarmism propaganda.
One notable absentee, though, was Guardianista eco-prophet and all-round militant enviro-Greenie, George (“the science is settled”) Monbiot, who, although invited, tellingly declined to come and engage in debate with a proper scientist.
In a masterful presentation, Prof. Plimer depicted the huge geological and climatic changes which have been a constant feature of up to 4½ billion years of Earth history. He explained how massive changes had taken place in the constituents of the atmosphere, driven by factors as diverse as: life itself, the introduction of oxygen to the atmosphere, the exchanges of gases between the atmosphere and the oceans, and tectonic plate movement causing massive changes in ocean currents (including the isolation of Antarctica, allowing for permanent glaciation on that continent), and how all these have changed climate throughout the Earth’s existence.
Emphasising that the Earth has in fact had prolonged periods when it was much, much colder than today, he described six major glaciations / Ice Ages, and pointed out that during no fewer than five of them, levels of atmospheric CO2, including during the cooling phases, were actually higher - as much as 10 times higher - than today, while at other times it was much warmer than today, with the whole Earth, poles as well, enjoying tropical conditions – not surprising, as the Earth is fundamentally a warm, wet, greenhouse, volcanic planet.
Professor Plimer went on to show that, despite the fact that the extent of cooling experienced since just 1998 has significantly negated the rise in temperatures over the previous 30 years (with the fall from January 2007 to January 2008 being the steepest one-year fall since 1880), despite the fact that present temperatures are 7°C below most of the last 500 million years, and despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 is only one ten-thousandth more than it was in 1750, the IPCC tells us that an increase of merely 2°C would be disastrous, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect, ocean acidification, the dissolution of all crustacea in the oceans, and the death of coral – and all because of man-made CO2.
As he stated, what the militant enviro-Greenie / warmist-alarmist religion cannot explain is why none of these disasters seems to have occurred at earlier periods of Earth history when the Earth was much warmer, and the atmosphere was much, much richer in CO2. As Professor Plimer pointed out, far from being a pollutant, CO2 is an entirely natural trace gas in the atmosphere, which is essential to life, and to plant growth: today’s atmosphere is in fact relatively impoverished in CO2 compared to most of the Earth’s history. Higher levels of CO2 would increase both rates of biomass generation and crop yields, and as Professor Plimer also pointed out, throughout human history, warming periods have coincided with increasing food production, life expectancy and prosperity, while cold periods have produced conflict-causing population migrations, poverty and famine.
Professor Plimer admitted that the causes of climate change over geological history are not entirely well understood, but that the main factors appear to be solar irradiance and variations or oscillations in the Earth’s orbit leading to long-term climate cycles, other astronomical factors including gas and dust in space, super-volcanic activity, changes in cloud cover and cloud formation possibly linked to cosmic ray activity, and tectonic plate movement leading to major changes in ocean currents. In the face of all these factors, he said, the idea of fixating on one single trace gas in the atmosphere essential for life, then accusing it and finding it guilty of total responsibility for climate change, is an absurdity bordering on madness.
On one point though, Clameur de Haro disagreed with Professor Plimer. The latter urged the audience to eschew the linguistic tactics so enthusiastically espoused by the militant enviro-Greenie / warmist-alarmist religion who talk about “fighting climate change” or “the war on CO2 emissions”; in his view the language of war has in his view no place in science, because science is simply a process of discovery, with one hypothesis being replaced by another as refuting evidence becomes incontrovertible.
Clameur de Haro would agree with this if science was the only, or even the main factor in the climate change debate as put forward by the warmist enviro-doomsters. But it isn’t. The debate from their side is much more about the opportunity to impose collectivist politics, socialist economics and the inherently flawed Greenist religion which the affectations of concerned environmentalism conveniently conceal.
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Friday, November 06, 2009

Clameur de Haro’s Friday Music R&R # 4

A slight change of mood this week to something a little more eclectic and relaxing, perhaps.
They have gone their separate ways to a great extent in recent years, but in the 1970s and 1980s, if you wanted to hear some of the finest classical guitar renditions around, you didn’t have to look much further than John Williams and Julian Bream.
Clameur de Haro has been lucky enough to see recitals by both of them, individually and together. This clip is of them as a duo performing Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”.
Superb. Enjoy your weekend.
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Wimberley Runs Up The Red Flag

Clameur de Haro was not remotely surprised to see the traditional banner of redistributive tax-and-spend socialism unequivocally hoisted to the Daniel Wimberley masthead this week. In his letter on Tuesday to the Jersey Evening [sic] Post about the Angry Men, Mr Wimberley rehearsed all the predictable mantras associated with the philosophy.
We had, most notably, the attempted excoriation of what he terms as the low-tax, low-spend ideology implemented over the past three decades, and which according to him must be resisted. Apart from providing an explicit statement of his predatory stance on public sector finances, it is also less than accurate.
Does Mr Wimberley really believe that we have had a low-spend government? If only we had been so blessed - we might not be in the position that we now are. The problems we face at present are in very great measure due to the runaway, uncontrolled public spending and public sector growth that we have seen in the last ten years, and the inability or unwillingness of most politicians to tackle it.
He then follows the usual scare tactics of the political left by implying that the Angry Men favour curtailing public expenditure by abandoning respite care for the disabled, the Town Park, and the problems of Bellozanne, and essential infrastructure maintenance. But nowhere in Mr Trower’s conversation with the JEP’s Ben Queree is any of this even hinted at.
What Mr Trower and his colleagues quite rightly protest against is the sheer size, reach, dubious utility and uncontrolled expense of much of the bureaucratic empire, allied to inadequate financial and budgetary discipline – and the inclination to tax in order to fund it, rather than address the underlying problem. Remember the contract for the incinerator, Mr Wimberley? Advocates of a smaller, leaner, less activist but more efficient government have been saying for years that the public sector does too much that is unnecessary, and does it at far greater cost than necessary.
Mr Wimberley appears to recoil in horror that States’ departments were forced to make efficiency savings in order to limit the necessity for taxation increases. Obviously he adheres to the collectivist assumption that public spending is somehow a good in itself, and finds the notion that individuals should be able to retain more of their own money as heresy.
He needs to be reminded that the state, and the public sector, has no resources of its own other than what it confiscates from individuals and firms by way of taxation. As Ludwig Von Mises put it -
“At the bottom of the interventionist argument there is always the idea that the government or the state is an entity outside and above the social process of production - that it owns something which is not derived from taxing its subjects - and that it can spend this mythical something for definite purposes.
This is the Santa Claus fable raised by Keynes to the dignity of an economic doctrine and enthusiastically endorsed by all those who expect personal advantage from government spending.
As against these popular fallacies there is need to emphasize the truism that a government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens - and that its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens’ spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity.”
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Stuart Syvret Loses The Plot

Clameur de Haro has just been watching the extended Channel TV interview with Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus, courageously upholding his fight for Truth and Justice (yawn) in the Big Smoke.
Most of the local media are, understandably, focussing on the Persecuted One himself, so let’s shine a brief light on his current host, the LibDem MP for Birmingham Yardley, John Hemming.
Hemming is, to put it mildly, something of a serial oddball, noted more than anything else for the number and frequency of his extra-marital dalliances (his wife puts the number of such instances at 26), and for being memorably described by The Times as “an eccentric who left colleagues aghast” when he modestly put himself forward for the LibDem leadership early in 2006. Among his other accomplishments [sic] are being a founder-member of the Phoenix consortium which pulled the wool over the government’s eyes over the purchase of Rover Cars for £10 and then made a hash of running it, and being described in the Birmingham electoral fraud case as a “dreadful witness”, possessed of “an inability to give a straight answer to a straight question”, and whose evidence was “largely inadmissible hearsay”.
All of which probably goes a long way to explaining why he is the refuge-provider of choice for our own home-grown serial oddball.
However, Hemming has been astute enough to trouser about £394,000 from the UK taxpayer in MPs expenses over the past three years, including designating his flat in Covent Garden as his second home, charging £80 for a hotel “when locked out of flat (lost keys)”, charging £681 for bedding, and trying to charge £1,499 for a television. So Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus has some way to go yet in learning how to live off the state while doing not very much.
Syvret has comprehensively lost the plot. Pressed several times by the CTV interviewer as to why he continued to draw his States Member’s salary while absenting himself, Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus maintained that he is doing “important political work” on behalf of his constituents. Well, although CdeH would never vote for Syvret in a thousand years, he is, he supposes, one of the Persecuted One’s constituents, so it needs to be stated clearly and unequivocally “Not on my behalf, you aren’t”. And judging from the vox-pops and comments on media websites, most people agree.
Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus professes, and clearly still believes, that he was ousted for making claims about excessive punishments at a childrens’ institution and institutionalised corruption. He cannot accept that he was, quite simply, voted from ministerial office, by a majority of the Island’s democratically elected legislature, in open debate, because of his manifest refusal (or, in the opinion of a very great number of residents, because of his congenital inability) to conduct himself in ministerial office, or indeed any public office, with the remotest degree of civility and balance.
He is a man who labels democratically-reached decisions as “disastrous and incompetent” because they do not accord with his own views; a man who considers as evil and enemies those who are merely opponents; a man who insists that political setbacks must be by definition the result of “right-wing” or “establishment” conspiracies; a man who assumes the inevitable synchronicity of his own views with the (presumed by him) will of the people; and a man who embraces gesture politics in preference to mature, civilised, reasoned debate.
The self-delusion about self-protective exile and the claim for political asylum are risible. Long may he stay away from our shores: and continuance of his member’s salary may in fact be a small price to pay for the benefits to the Island’s polity of his non-participation in it. Clameur de Haro occasionally takes issue with the content of Jersey Evening Post [sic] editorials, but credit where credit’s due - Chris Bright’s recent “..not much point going into hiding if nobody is actually looking for you” was masterful.
Endnote: Hemming also takes pride on having converted his car to run on vegetable oil. He’s been refused permission to store all the vegetable oil in the precincts of Parliament, so now apparently, cans of the stuff are required to travel around with him. If I were you, Stuart, I’d keep well away from the chopping board and the kitchen mixer when stocks are running low………
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Stuart Syvret - Lost In Translation

In a comment a week or so ago to one of Clameur de Haro’s blogposts, Nick Palmer asks -
What do you think of this below? Borrowed from SSS's blog
Allen Knechschaffenen
An alle Himmel schreib ich's an,
die diesen Ball umspannen:
Nicht der Tyrann ist ein schimpflciher Mann,
aber der Knecht des Tyrannen.
Christian Morgenstern
Other things have mitigated against a response before now (for which apologies, Nick), but CdeH thinks that it mostly points up just how advisable it is to take the precaution of doing a bit of checking before going for a straight copy’n’paste job on anything at all from the tortuous mental meanderings of Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus.
The quote was no doubt meant to impress readers – at which it might have succeeded more had it and the purported translation both been accurate.
First of all, the German for a slave/servant/labourer is “der Knecht”, and for slavery or servitude “die Knechtschaft”, so there are at the very least one or two “t”s missing from the first line (although in fairness, not from the fifth). And though it’s admittedly been a while since Clameur de Haro studied German to the level he once did, he’s dubious that even “Knechtschaftenen” would be the correct plural form for slaves or servitors.
The reference to “we should abuse” in the fourth line of the translation is a bit tenuous. The original’s tense is the present tense, rather than the conditional tense, for a start, and the adjective “schimpflich” (even without the transposition of letters) does mean “insulting”, but more in the context of humiliation or disgrace rather than abuse, for which the more usual verb is “mißbrauchen”. The fourth/fifth line is therefore probably more accurately rendered as “It is not the tyrant who is disgraced? / humiliated?, but the slave of the tyrants…”.
So overall, in (eventual) answer to your question, Nick, ich befürchte daß, wie gewöhnlich, der Zwerg mit die abartige Fantasie sich geirrt hat. Er soll vielleicht ein bißchen mehr vorsicht sein.
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The Nature of Libertarianism

Discussions with blog commenters and non-commenting e-mailers alike, about recent blogposts on The Political Compass – where CdeH sits well into the economically neo-liberal / socially libertarian quadrant - and the labels attaching to various positions on the economic and social spectrums, prompt Clameur de Haro to elaborate at greater length on the “libertarian” label.
It’s a label frequently directed towards him, and usually from the Green Left, from where it’s intended to be pejorative much more often than not. So, and especially from the CdeH viewpoint that differences on the left-to-right economic scale have become secondary to the truly great political divide of our times, namely that between those who favour collectivism and those who favour individual freedom, it’s apposite to elucidate the libertarian philosophy in a bit more detail.
For that, it’s hard to improve on this recent exposition by the American libertarian writer (and blogger) Bella Gerens.
Picking some randomer from some other part of the political spectrum who advocates a single vaguely libertarian idea in isolation and therefore calling him a libertarian, does not, in fact, make him a libertarian.
Meanwhile, spouting your interpretation of libertarianism as only “Hands off my Lexus, you socialist taxer/green hippy”, or only “freedom from taxation” does not, in fact, mean that is what libertarianism is. I don’t even own a Lexus, and the tax I personally pay is not overly onerous.
The truth is that advocates of freedom are found all over the political spectrum, but the only true libertarians are the ones who advocate it at all times, in all circumstances, from the bedroom to the wallet – who believe that ‘freedom from’ is the only state of being consistent with the dignity and majesty of humankind.
‘Freedom from’ is the most important part of that ideology. Freedom from coercion: freedom from interference: freedom from oppression.
‘Freedom to’ is where the misunderstandings enter.
People on the authoritarian right choose to think that libertarians are advocating freedom to burgle, rob, rape, murder – because they choose to read ‘freedom’ to mean ‘freedom to do whatever you please.’ People on all of the left choose to think libertarians are advocating exploitation, pollution, callousness, and the primacy of making (and keeping) money above all else – because they also choose to read ‘freedom’ to mean ‘freedom to do whatever you please.’
And both sides think that libertarians consider the laws we have prohibiting these activities to be a restriction on freedom.
When will they realise that they don’t understand?
Libertarians believe you should be free from coercion – and also that you must not coerce anyone else.
Libertarians believe you should be free from interference – and also that you must not interfere with anyone else.
Libertarians believe you should be free from oppression – and also that you must not oppress anyone else.
Because these are to be universal freedoms: what you do not wish done to you, you must not do to anyone else.
For the libertarian, there is no ‘freedom to.’ Freedom represents an absence, the absence of force and fraud. It does not represent a licence to do anything, or a right or entitlement, except the absolute human right not to be forced or defrauded.
"Freedom to’ is where conflict enters the system. ‘Freedom to’ often becomes assumed to be a right: a right to a family, a right to cheap healthcare, a right to a job, a right not to starve. In this way non-libertarians argue that poverty constitutes a lack of freedom, because poor people are not, to use the most extreme example, free to eat. And so, a non-libertarian may say, their right to eat must override someone else’s freedom from coercion.
A libertarian may say: “are the poor victims of coercion, interference, or oppression?” If so, it must stop – and then they may be able and allowed to provide themselves with food. Thus not only are the freedoms of the poor restored, they are helped without obviating anyone else’s freedoms.
No conflict exists; the principles of freedom are not only maintained, they are extended.
And for holding this principle, for advocating it, and for trying to practise it in their daily lives, libertarians are vilified as believing only “Hands off my Lexus, you socialist taxer/green hippy”. Libertarians, who are concerned primarily with the heights of dignity and achievement all humans could reach, if only they were freed from coercion, interference, and oppression, are called ’selfish’ and ‘misanthropic.’
It’s hard to see how self-professed Green-Leftists can position themselves as being inclined towards libertarianism socially.
Greenism is fundamentally an authoritarian and egalitarian-collectivist creed. In the name of an allegedly overarching necessity - nothing less than the preservation of our planet – Enviro-Leftists demand that governments coerce and forcefully organise all populations into collective compliance with their will. The very salvation of the Earth itself is only possible, they say, if their remedies are applied through the force of the authoritarian state. We must all, they insist, henceforth live, work, play, travel, dress, eat, and house ourselves only as they order us to if we are to survive. Never has there been such a gift of an excuse as that comprised by enviro-fanaticism for collectivists in power to coerce, oppress and interfere with the rest of us.
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Monday, November 02, 2009

More Selectively Alarmist Statistics About Climate Change

According to the latest report from Save The Children, up to 250,000 children “could” die in the next year from the effects of climate change: so of course its Policy Director has predictably called for stringent measures to “tackle climate change” at the upcoming Copenhagen GreenMarxFest Conference. It sounds (and it would be) a horrifying number, but, as so often in the smoke and mirrors world of climate alarmism, all is not necessarily as it seems.

Note, first of all the use of that word “could”, which usually, in the context of climate change statistics, means that the quoted figure is actually (1) the most extreme extrapolation of (2) the largest value in (3) the highest range of all possible outcomes. M’Noble Lord Stern of course is the supreme exponent of this statistical technique scare tactic and led the way with it in 2006.

Sadly, between 10 and 11 million child deaths occur annually. Research by both The Lancet and the World Health Organisation, shows that more than 70% of those, that’s 7 million at least, come from just six causes: pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, neo-natal sepsis, premature delivery or asphyxia at birth. UNICEF has calculated that malaria alone kills about 3000 per day just in sub-Saharan Africa, which adds up to approximately 1 million each year.

It’s been demonstrated time and time again that we could all but eliminate malaria and deliver clean water for drinking and cooking to every single person on this planet: and that we could do it for a tiny fraction of the trillions that the Green Religionists demand Western liberal democracies allocate to hobbling their free-market, enterprise economies and imposing state-authoritarian restrictions on freedom, all in a paroxysm of guilt and in the name of “fighting climate change”.

No doubt the 2 million or so children who will die from malaria and diarrhoea in 2010 will do so comforted by the knowledge that 20,000 assorted charlatans, dupes, freeloaders and hangers-on spent much of December 2009 expending much hot air in diligently considering their plight.
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Don’t Put Your Data With The State, Mrs Worthington!

Several more examples of firstly, the way in which the authoritarian state continues to acquire data of questionable legality on law-abiding citizens, and secondly, a cavalier attitude by corporates and public sector bodies alike to data protection, and the security and privacy of individuals’ personal data, came to Clameur de Haro’s attention in the past week.
In the financial world, Zurich Insurance finally admitted losing the personal account details for over half a million people, more than a year ago. The personal details of no fewer than 51, 000 British customers were among data backed up on a tape which was on its way to a South African data storage centre when it was lost in August 2008.
That’s bad enough, but at least people can choose to place their business with an alternative provider and not with Zurich if they feel its custodianship of their personal details is negligent or deficient. Unfortunately no such choice arises in the case of data required to be held by public sector or government agencies. 

The Home Office, in a written answer to a Parliamentary question, admitted that the estimated number of people whose DNA profile is stored by the government has, for the first time, gone through 5m, with some 5,094,568 individuals now thought to be represented on the National DNA Database: on an estimated replication rate of about 13.8 per cent, this means that the number of actual DNA profiles is 5,910,172 - about one for every ten people in Britain.
This unrestricted growth of what is, on a per capita basis, the world's largest repository of human DNA information has continued despite the New Labour regime’s defeat at the hands of the European Court of Human Rights last December, when the ECHR ruled that the policy of retaining – permanently - the DNA profile of every single person ever even arrested (not charged or convicted) in relation to any offence, no matter how comparatively trivial, was manifestly illegal. So far the New Labour regime has taken no action to comply with the ruling.

The UK Information Commissioner revealed (tellingly, only as a result of a demand under Freedom of Information legislation) that there are more data loss reports being submitted to him from companies and governments than ever before – 356 for the period November 2008 to September 2009, compared with 190 in the equivalent period in the previous year. The biggest cause of loss, in 198 incidents, was lost or stolen hardware, usually laptops and memory sticks, while 78 were due to data disclosed in error, typically discs or memory sticks being mis-addressed.

The most recent figures released by the Commissioner in normal course (October 2008) also showed that, of 277 incidents since HMRC lost the entire UK child benefit recipients database a year earlier, no fewer than 197 came from the public sector.
Then it emerged that the UK's Rural Payments Agency (RPA), five months ago, lost tapes which contained the payment details of more than 100,000 farmers in the UK. The agency told DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), but DEFRA told nobody else, and certainly not the farmers affected.
DEFRA appears to be trying to finger IBM for the loss. Apparently, 39 backup tapes were transferred by the RPA from its Reading offices to Newcastle, following which the tapes then “went missing”: 37 were subsequently found, but not the other two. DEFRA is alleging that the tapes were simply placed on the wrong shelf by the IBM staff who actually operate the RPA data centre in Newcastle.

The last definite record of the tapes' existence was in June 2008: it was only in May 2009, according to the report seen by CdeH, that IBM staff realised the tapes were missing and reported the loss to the RPA, who then told DEFRA. DEFRA has suggested “that it is likely that the lost tapes have been destroyed without anybody realising”. Vaporisation perhaps? Spontaneous self-combustion, maybe?
While bad, none of this should have been too serious in practical effect however, because the tapes and the data on them would have been encrypted and passworded, surely? Er………no, ‘fraid not, this is a government department we’re talking about, after all.
DEFRA has tried saying that all this doesn’t matter, because “extremely specialised equipment” would be needed to extract the data off the tapes. Clameur de Haro’s techie adviser, when asked about this, just laughed – seemingly, said “extremely specialised equipment” basically consists of a tape drive and backup software, the kind of equipment stocked by every tape-using IT store and freely purchasable over the internet.
This may all seem a bit remote from Jersey – but just how comfortable can we be that, somewhere within the vast edifice of personal data held by the States, there isn’t a similarly cavalier approach to data security, or worse, a similar debacle already perpetrated but being feverishly concealed from public view?
Meanwhile, the only sensible approach seems to be to give the state as little personal data as possible.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Clameur de Haro’s Friday Music R&R # 3

This Friday, another time-defying classic from those alternative giants of Southern Rock – Little Feat, pounding out Oh Atlanta! in the studios of radio station WLIR-FM, at Hempstead, Long Island, NY, in September 1974.
Despite drummer Richie Hayward having to take time out since August to fight the Big C, and founder and inspiration Lowell George no longer being with us, Feat, believe it or not, are still going, still playing, and still touring to huge and enthusiastic audiences, with Fred Tackett’s and Paul Barrere’s guitar interplay and Bill Payne’s keyboarding as good as ever it was. Clameur de Haro somehow doubts that we’ll be able to say that in 35 years’ time about most of the sugar-plastic pap currently filling the airwaves.
CdeH found it hard to choose between this clip for Oh Atlanta! and one from the Grugahalle, in Essen, Germany, in 1977, but feels that the 1974 one just about shades it.

Not bad audio quality for a clip now 35 years old. And not a bad way to start the weekend…….

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The Tyranny of the Ignorant

Clameur de Haro was amused to read today that Mr Simon Cowell (whom he respects as an entrepreneur astute enough to identify a market opportunity and then create wealth out of the resultant product – but er………………not as a judge of artistic talent) has threatened to quit our fair shores in high dudgeon should the Twins Jedward win the current series of The X-Factor. “This really wouldn’t be in the script” he is alleged to have said. "If they win, it will be a complete and utter disaster".
Ignoring the hyperbole, and the implied admission that there is a pre-determined “script”, CdeH is quite tempted this weekend to watch the show, just this once, solely for the pleasure of joining the growing movement to deliver an Agincourt Salute to the phalanx of up-my-own-fundament judges by derailing said predetermined script – just as millions did, to the consternation of the panel of equally up-my-own-fundament judges, by persistently refusing to eject John Sergeant from Strictly.
However, there is, sadly, a serious side to this knockabout. Clameur de Haro is no fan of either show, which he regards as the two supreme examples of the dumbed-down saccharine pap, deliberately and cynically targeted at the unquestioning and the undiscriminating, in the cultural and political elites’ present-day replication of the Romans’ “bread and circuses” policy.
CdeH’s fellow blogger Behind Blue Eyes put this, and the causes and implications of it, superbly in this recent post.
Many dystopian novels have, as part of their premise, a tyrannical government that hides from public view information and opinions that could embarrass the authorities. In Fahrenheit 451, an elite squad of “firemen” go around burning down any house down which is discovered to contain books. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the newspaper archives are altered retrospectively to ensure the state’s narrative is maintained.
Some say that in the information age such restrictions could never be enforced. In reality, the government does not need to go to any effort to hide the truth or subversive texts. All it has to do it ensure that sufficient numbers of people are not interested in the world around them.
Make sure enough people get a s**t education so that they grow up lacking curiosity in the way things work, are comfortable with their mundane existences, and that mass entertainment is sufficiently banal to stop them from opening their eyes and engaging their brains. As long as the number of people who can be bothered to keep themselves informed and are experienced enough to be able to form their own opinion is kept small enough, who cares what those people think?
If you want “power” in this country, you don’t need to have the best thought-out policies: you don’t need to be the brightest mind. This is socialism’s legacy: a nation where the majority are so ill-educated that they haven’t even heard of the classics, where vast swathes of society don’t have to engage their brain to feed and clothe themselves, where generations of parents don’t feel the need to encourage their children to explore the world.
This country is no longer run by a patrician elite, but by a cynical class of populist authoritarians who pander to every ignorant desire of the largest minority. Britain is a tyranny of the ignorant.
Clameur de Haro has on occasions been incredulous at the extent to which some of his acquaintance, by no means unintelligent people, deliberately eschew the acquisition of knowledge about, and the habit of questioning, what goes on the wider cultural, economic and political worlds outside their immediate occupational and domestic environments.
Of course, the right to choose to remain ignorant or unaware is an indivisible concomitant of a free society, but it is in the ways such as Behind Blue Eyes describes that we as a society unwittingly acquiesce in allowing our independence and our freedoms to be gradually eroded, one by one.
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