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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