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What is this man smoking? I want some. March 28, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in "Politician he speak with forked tongue", ID Cards & the Surveillance State.
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Andy Burnham today, quoted by The Guardian [1]:

"I take the view that it is part of being a good citizen, proving who you are, day in day out."

… and Andy Burnham two days ago, in his own letter to the Observer:

"The scheme will not track your life's activities. ID cards will be used when it is important to verify identity. That is not an everyday occurrence for the majority …"

God give me strength. I'm losing track of the number of pointless and contradictory statements this twonk[2] has come out with. I could start a whole new blog just to chronicle the bumbling antics of the Safety Elephant's[3] comedy sidekick.

———
[1] Original source was Radio 4's Today Programme: Real Audio link here. Relevant stuff is around 20' in)
[2] As a pedantic so-so, I believe that if I'm going to publicly call politicians silly names, then I should at least prove that I know what they mean. This also makes me feel pleasantly superior, as nobody in the current government seems to have a bloody clue what they're talking about themselves.
[3] Speaking of silly names, I wish to God I could lay claim to that particular epithet, but I can't. Google "Charles Clarke Safety Elephant", and see what I mean.

Pipe Dreams March 25, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in Comment & Opinion.
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"Protests have spread through the UK in recent weeks. Demonstrations on Thursday were estimated to have attracted between 220,000 and 450,000 people.

A few hundred protestors clashed with police in central London, prompting police to block two bridges over the Thames.

Last night, hotel owners around the South Bank were said to have boarded up their windows as armoured vehicles patrolled the streets in anticipation of more trouble."

Sorry. After getting everyone's hopes up for a moment, I must confess that far from this being a report about the Brits actually standing up for themselves for once, it is in fact a slightly doctored quote from today's print edition of the Daily Telegraph (page 2; News Bulletin). For "UK" read France; for "London" read Paris; for "Thames" read Seine; for "South Bank" read Left Bank.

Whilst like most of us I prefer peaceful protest and straightforward non-cooperation rather than a riot, it saddens me greatly that thousands of French citizens are prepared to protest wildly at the drop of a hat about anything that happens to hack them off, yet the vast majority of Brits seem prepared to sleep right through the whole edifice of their democracy being dismantled by the Labour Party.

Although I do believe that political awareness (and dissatisfaction) in the UK is growing – in large measure because of exposure on the web – I still have my doubts that at present velocity there will be enough groundswell to rise up in time and stop insidious, repressive, and downright dictatorial legislation such as the ID Card Bill and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill becoming law.

Wake up, Britain, and smell the coffee. Damn it, your country needs you!

The Fish Rots from the Head March 25, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in Comment & Opinion.
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"For the good of the Labour Party, for the good of the country, and for the good of the whole bloody world, Tony Blair must not leave Downing St voluntarily… and if he does, he must be forced to resign in shame. (And before anybody makes any smart-arse remarks about intervention, I would remind them that this measure is far from pre-emptive.)

Why? Because someone has to be called to account or the next batch of power-mad bastards – here or abroad – will think they can get away with exactly the same thing."

Tim at Bloggerheads, who neatly summarises everything that is wrong in Westminster's ivory tower. Why Blair must be removed, now.

The Clarke & Burnham Show March 16, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in "Politician he speak with forked tongue", ID Cards & the Surveillance State.
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Next to Home Secretary Charles Clarke, Andy Burnham has to be the most blinkered politician I have ever had the mispleasure of hearing speak.

This afternoon, as the government voted yet again to force compulsory cards on the British people when they renew their passports, Mr Burnham shouted across the House of Commons (shouted, note) that foreign travel was “voluntary”.

Really? Is it voluntary if you have to work abroad, or conduct business? If you have to visit relatives abroad? If you have to travel abroad for urgent medical treatment because the screwed up NHS can’t find you a bed for another three years?

Home Secretary Charles Clarke (whose blinkers have been publicly displayed so often that there’s no necessity to mention them again here) has already stated that “nobody has to have a passport”.

So, it’s perfectly OK by him that the millions of British citizens should be forced to remain prisoners in their own country, because they are unhappy and uncomfortable with his plans to steamroller them into submitting to full fingerprinting, iris scanning and photographing for the purposes of his National Identity Register? I would remind pro-ID readers that it’s not ID cards themselves which are the problem here, it’s the NIR. No other country in the world links its ID cards to a massive central database which the government intends to use primarily for crime-fighting purposes. Claims that it is intended for any other purpose, such as the government’s frequent claim that it will “give the citizen more control over his own identity” (!!) are utter guff. No other country, which we call “civilised”, automatically assumes all its citizens are criminals and terrorists unless those citizens can eliminate this automatic suspicion by producing a plastic licence, a permit to be alive and at liberty in their own country. The all-encompassing, all-seeing, all-enabling National Identity Register fundamentally reverses the principle that a citizen remains free, innocent and unfettered until proven guilty. Under the NIR the people will be made subject to the will of the system, rather than any system of good governance serving the people.

And Mr Clarke and Mr Burnham believe that it’s perfectly acceptable. That it’s absolutely OK that people who don’t want to submit to this Orwellian nightmare, should be prevented from travelling anywhere.

Oh! So sorry, I appear to have misunderstood: of course nobody is “prevented” from travelling anywhere, they “make the choice” not to do so. They “volunteer” not to do so.

Perhaps this political double-act (which would be a comedy one if its effect were not so tragic for the fundamental liberties of the British people) should do some homework and consider the following definitions.

1. Coerce. To force to act or think in a certain way by use of pressure, threats, or intimidation; compel.

2. Choice. The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.

3. Voluntary. Acting or done willingly and without constraint or expectation of reward. [my emphasis]

(Definitions: Dictionary.com)

Central biometric database: if even the Japanese won’t do it … March 16, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in ID Cards & the Surveillance State.
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I’ve uncovered A 2004 press release from the Japanese “BTM” bank (opens as a PDF), intending to ramp up its bank card and add biometrics to it (“palm vein recognition”, in this instance).

“When using an ATM, the identity of Super IC Card holders will be verified through biometrics recognition, in addition to the regular PIN number. Personal identification using biometric recognition will also be implemented at the service counters of our branches … In recognizing the importance of protecting customers’ personal information, the biometric data will be stored inside of the IC chip forming part of the card and BTM will not hold the biometric data.

(my emphasis)

Two points which establish parity of this example with our proposed ID cards:
1) Identity to be verified through biometric data & PIN
2) Biometric recognition implemented at service counters

However, the bank recognises that security could be compromised by holding the personal data itself, so all biometric information will remain only on the card.

This is a Japanese bank, which was technically advanced enough to already be implementing biometric cards in 2004. If they are not prepared to keep customers’ biometric data centrally in case of a security breach, when they have perhaps only a few million customers, and only a few of them might offer their biometric data, then how are we supposed to believe the promises of the (proven technologically incompetent) British Government, who purport to be able to keep safe in perpetuity the full biometric and personal data for 42 million adults?

Furthermore (back to BTM again),

“In the unlikely event of deposits losses arising from theft and/or falsification of a customer’s bank passbook or banking card, BTM will provide compensation of up to Y100m. (Prior registration for biometric recognition will be required for such compensation).”

Note here,
1) Biometric registration is a requirement for receipt of compensation
2) The level of compensation offered is huge (100 million Yen – roughly £487,000)

Which implies that they are supremely confident in their biometric security.

If the British Government are equally as sure of the security of their scheme, which has far greater implications for the citizen than the theft of money from a bank account, then they should offer at least an equivalent amount of compensation to every citizen who is forcibly enrolled into the NIR.

If they refuse to offer this compensation then clearly they are not confident that the scheme is safe, and should think again about its forced implementation.

Lynne Jones MP demolishes misleading pro-ID card statements March 13, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in "Politician he speak with forked tongue".
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Call For Home Secretary To Apologise For Misleading House On ID Cards

“Ahead of tomorrow’s debate in the House of Commons on ID Cards, Lynne Jones MP has today written to Andy Burnham MP, Under Secretary of State at the Home Office …

In her letter, Lynne Jones unpicks the Junior Minister’s letter point by point and calls for answers on key outstanding questions. She also suggests the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, should apologise for misleading the House during the last debate, when he claimed the United States would be having a scheme akin to the UK’s National Identity Register with 13 biometrics…”

(Read more at epolitix)

Minister talks out of arse shock March 12, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in "Politician he speak with forked tongue".
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UK foreign office minister Kim Howells has admitted the situation in Iraq is “a mess” but said Iraq’s prospects were better than media reports suggested. (Source: BBC)

… He said Iraq was undergoing a “very, very painful process”

Well that’s one way to describe it.

… “People describe Iraq as a mess,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But it is a mess that can’t launch an attack now on Iran; a mess that won’t be able to march into Kuwait; it’s a mess that can’t develop nuclear weapons. So yes it’s a mess but it’s starting to look like the sort of mess that most of us live in.”

So according to this representative of the UK Foreign Office, it’s perfectly acceptable to pre-emptively fuck up another country if there’s even the slightest possibility that the man in charge of it might cause trouble for someone else’s. In which case, none of us should have any compunction about immediately “liberating” the U.S. from Mr Bush. And what’s this about Iraq’s ability to “launch an attack on Iran”? With what? Pencils fired from peashooters? Because there’s precious little evidence that Iraq actually possessed any WMDs at the time America and the UK decided to take an armed holiday there. Oh, of course, thanks for reminding me, there was always the chance that Iraq might have developed some nasties. That makes fucking up the country and creating a civil war perfectly alright, then.

Personally, I muse on the possibility that Mr Bush was worried that Iraq might get the chance to bomb Iran into the dirt before he did, and so decided to take out the competition.

Over to Mr Howells again:

“So yes it’s a mess but it’s starting to look like the sort of mess that most of us live in.”

Excuse me? Besides events like those of July 7th and the related case of Mr de Menezes, most of us stand rather less chance of being shot or blown apart on a daily basis than do the citizens of Iraq. (Yes Mr Howells, dozens of innocent people die there daily. Your blithe dismissal of their sufferings as “a mess”, and daring to compare their wretched situation to anything relatively minor which we put up with here, is nauseating to say the least).

I wonder as an afterthought, by “mess”, whether Mr Howells is actually or partially referring to Iraq’s new “democracy”? In which case, given the shambolic example which is our own democracy, systematically destroyed at the hands of the same government which invaded Iraq, I’d rather be inclined to agree with him.

Rotten to the core March 11, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in Financial shenanigans.
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Bush Advisor charged with thefts
Prescott employee and wife jailed for £800,000 swindle

Strange, I’m beginning to see a common thread here … nah, obviously I have an overworked imagination.

By the tax demand divided March 5, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in Treatment of the proles.
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Right at the start of this post I should clarify that in general I don’t condone people evading taxes.

However I do believe that the government’s latest public ad-campaign, asking people to shop individuals whom they believe aren’t tax-registered, should be seen for what, essentially, it is: another government-sanctioned excuse to foster distrust and suspicion for your neighbour; and an encouragement for people to arbitrarily interfere in other people’s lives “for the good of the state”. Not satisfied at the unprecedented snooping powers it is already in the process of awarding to itself (for example, 24/7 vehicle tracking, a database of all children, and intended compulsory ID card data collection for every citizen), the government is now telling the population at large that it’s perfectly OK to be as nosy and intrusive as it is.

Tax-dodgers aren’t just seen as financial miscreants any more; now they’re portrayed as subversives. Faceless, fugitive people who should be turned in to the authorities at the first instance. Perhaps that’s damn right, you might think, especially if you diligently pay your own dues. However, what I’m getting at is that tax evasion is not terrorism. It’s grossly unfair on the rest of us, certainly, but it’s no more than an administrative matter. People don’t die because of someone else’s tax evasion. And tax evasion has occurred since the year dot, since the very first landowner imposed tithes on his serfs, and a few of those serfs flicked said landlord the finger and hid their produce in a barn until his tithe collectors had gone. It’s not a new thing, and it will never be eradicated. And although it doesn’t help the economy in the long run, after being a problem for every king and government for hundreds of years, tax evasion won’t suddenly bring the country to its knees next week.

So why now? Why does tax evasion, a centuries’ old problem, suddenly merit million pound ad campaigns (using our tax money, ironically) and the eager bestowal of the government’s blessing on the populace to interfere, amateur sleuth style, in everybody else’s business? Bearing in mind that amateur sleuths frequently have incorrect information, are totally untrained, and are very often wrong. And why the hell can’t the government just get on with it and deal with the problem itself? Why share out the dirty laundry with everyone else? Isn’t tax collection one of the basics in an elected government’s remit? (Although, whether the Labour Party actually has a valid electoral mandate to be in power is another matter.)

Personally, I think it is just another ugly facet of the sort of society that we are being led blindly into. Fear is the catchword of the decade: not just deliberately inculcated fear of Nanny State’s wrath, but fear of each other, fear of anyone who doesn’t conform, or is perceived not to conform. Non-conformity has always been seen as a threat by insecure establishments, whether that be usurper kings, the Church of England (viz. the persecution of Catholics and others), or a tyrant in Ancient Greece. New Labour is just another example. It has defecated in its own bed and is running scared, and the only way it believes it can save itself is to strike down anyone who doesn’t fit. We’ve already seen as much by the ejection of a heckler at its party conference. Whether your transgression is tax evasion, pursuing your love of hunting, reading names of war dead outside Downing Street or (horror of horrors!) publicly disagreeing with Labour Party policies, if you don’t conform you are a Threat and must be eliminated (and better that everyone else be terrified into thinking you’re a threat too; fear being tyranny’s weapon of choice).

Machivelli is oft quoted these days in connection to New Labour, and indeed they cling tightly to the idea that if you put your enemies (read: the British people) against each other, then you get an easier ride. Without wanting to come across as a rabid idealist, I genuinely believe we should be encouraged to communicate with each other, to build a society based on trust, respect, inclusion, and plain common-sense human honour. Instead, this government tells us to isolate, cast out, shun, abhor. To look over our shoulders and suspect that everyone around us might be someone to be isolated, cast out, shunned and abhorred.

Given the climate of fear and suspicion being deliberately fostered in this country by our own government, frankly I think tax evasion is the very last of our worries.

Hoon: ban Lords from challenging controversial Bills March 5, 2006

Posted by lifejacket in "Politician he speak with forked tongue".
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“Britain’s peers would be legally forbidden from challenging controversial legislation, such as the ID cards Bill and the ban on glorifying terrorism, under a radical constitutional reform proposed by Geoff Hoon… [source]

That wall over there is becoming pretty knocked about, as I’m continually forced to violently bang my head against it.

The persistence of this government and its lackeys to treat the democratic process (including the House of Lords) as merely an irritating inconvenience is utterly mind-blowing.

But how can I even be surprised? Destroying democracy, under cover of the innocuous label of “reform” is clearly the cornerstone of New Labour’s pet vision of a total dictatorship a fully-empowered executive, answerable to noone and untroubled by such fleabite considerations as popular opinion, citizens’ rights, civil liberties, and that laughable old gag that the government exists to serve the people.

Wat Tyler, where are you when we need you?