Sunday, 30 November 2008

Seen Elsewhere (27)

A quick look around the past week in the British blogosphere...

  • The arrest and detention of Tory front-bencher Damian Green was the event that set blogs aflame this week. Several, including Frank Fisher at CiF and Martin at The Devil's Kitchen described what happened as "Stalinist". Ross and Cassius described it as "sinister" for British politics,

  • Several commentators, including Ian Parker-Joseph and Charlotte Gore, highlighted the use of 'counter-terror' police to arrest Green. Unity, in a typically in-depth and reasonably even-handed piece for Liberal Conspiracy explained the 'quirk of history' reason for this, and that Green was not arrested under anti-terror laws. The Landed Underclass and Old Holborn express concern about the civil servant involved in the case, who is described as "being looked after by the Home Office at a secret location...".

  • Partisan and other political reactions to Green's arrest have abounded. As ever, Political Betting leads the way on that front. Mike Smithson considers how the story might benefit the Conservatives. Morus' 'special comment' in the style of Keith Olbermann, however, is this week's must-read there. Alex Masterley (Financial Crimes) and Guido Fawkes urge the police to widen their investigation, the latter providing some handy video evidence. John Demetriou sees it as something of a vindication of libertarian suspicion of the Government.

  • From the left, Sunny Hundal has a round-up of blogs highlighting Tory hypocrisy, and Hopi Sen criticises "over the top" reaction. Chicken Yoghurt attacks double standards with regard to police treatment of suspects, while Neil Harding compares Green's treatment with that of Lord Levy. Last but not least, Alex Wilcock (Love & Liberty) has an interesting Liberal point of view on the affair.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Quote of the Day

Polly Toynbee shows her true partisan colours in jaw-dropping style in today's Guardian column:

"Even if unemployment reaches 3 million, that still leaves 90% in secure jobs..." - Polly Toynbee

Monday, 24 November 2008

Video Of The Week (47)

Video of the Week 18/11 - 24/11: The BNP's Downfall

Parodies of this scene from the movie Downfall have been around on the internet a while, but never has the re-subtitling been more apt than this...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Seen Elsewhere (26)

A day early for the traditional round-up this week, because I'm travelling tomorrow (work-related) and won't be back 'til midweek...

  • The topic that has provoked the most comment this week on UK political blogs has probably been the leak of the BNP's membership list. It was the anti-fascist blog Lancaster UAF that broke the story on Tuesday morning. Tim Worstall picked up on it. Soon ethical debates regarding the use of the leaked data, like this one on Liberal Conspiracy, raged across the blogs. Jokes at Nick Griffin's expense, on the other hand, had near-universal appeal.

  • Proposed new legislation to criminalize buyers of sex, announced by Jacqui Smith this week, was widely condemned. The unfortunately monickered FatBigot covers most of the practical objections to the plans. Unity attacks the Home Office's argument for the legislation with typically impressive thoroughness. Tim Worstall fisks Julie Bindel's piece in favour of the proposals in Friday's Guardian.

  • It would seem to be de rigeur for libertarian bloggers to write an article at least every 3 months excoriating the failings of the welfare state, but it came as a great surprise to find such an article in the pages of the Guardian. JuliaM at Ambush Predator comments.

  • The ongoing economic downturn hangs over all of us like a grey cloud. Worse than the effects on businesses, job-seekers and home-owners, it seems to be bringing about a renewal in the fortunes of Gordon Brown. Political Betting discuss resultant rumours of a 2009 election. For the Union at LabourHome comments that "the public know leadership when they see it". Mark Wadsworth, however, begs to disagree: "The government has gone completely and utterly mad", he proclaims.
  • Daft story of the week: The controversy over 'two left feet' John Sergeant quitting BBC reality show 'Strictly Come Dancing'. But what do Sergeant and Boris Johnson have in common? Paulie at Never Trust A Hippy has the answer. The Heresiarch has a different perspective on the affair.

  • Finally, Trixy (More To Life Than Shoes) is a blogger in need. Devil's Kitchen has set up an appeal to help her raise £800 for specialist dental treatment.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Quote of the Day

"This refusal to think about the interaction between good intentions and perverse consequences has long been a blindness of the left." - Jenni Russell

What's she talking about? Go take a look - you might be surprised...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Bizarre YouTube Error Message

I was playing around with YouTube's new Audioswap feature on video upload when this most peculiar error message appeared.

"Something unexpected happened. Please smash head against keyboard. When done, you may run around in circles, wave your hands, and scream."


Video Of The Week (46)

Video of the Week 11/11 - 17/11: A Question of Love

Outspoken, opinionated and very much a Democrat, Keith Olbermann is celebrated by much of the American left. Here's a sterling example as to why - a "special comment" on the passing of Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, in California.

Presumed Consent Redux

I originally wrote this in January, but it has become topical again so I am re-posting it.

As predicted by Polly Toynbee in her column in today's Guardian, commentators are up in arms about Gordon Brown's backing of a proposal to move to a 'presumed consent' model for organ donation (Link). For once, I am on her side.

Donation rates in the UK are much lower than in other Western countries, and the gap between people who state that they would be willing to donate organs in a survey (~90%) and those who actually sign up to the register (around 24%) is tremendous. In an opt-in system such as we have at present in the UK, only those 24% could possibly donate, and in fact because registration is not legally valid (i.e. relatives can veto it) a smaller proportion still of the medically fit recently-deceased actually do so.

Most of the arguments against moving to the opt-out model hang on the concept of presumed consent. Typical of the expressions of discontent at the proposal is this statement by Joyce Robin of Patient Concern (quoted in the Times):

"They call it presumed consent, but it is no consent at all...They are relying on inertia and ignorance to get the results that they want."
The antipathy to the opt-out model at several libertarian blogs run along slightly different lines, focusing on the issue of ownership (e.g. Perry de Havilland's furious 'statement' at Samizdata).

Generally, I would see Gordon Brown and Polly Toynbee backing something as a fairly reliable indicator that it's not a good idea. But in this case I have to beg to differ. I do not comprehend the reasoning behind the strength of opposition to this proposal that I'm seeing. As far as I am concerned, everything she's said today just makes sense.

Once you're dead, you're dead and you don't need your organs any more; they may be of use to another individual (not the State. The State here is just the mechanism - it's not like ID cards!); many potential life-saving transplants aren't happening most likely because of inertia (perhaps up to 70%, see above); and it is possible to opt-out under the proposed system if you (or your relatives) sufficiently disagree with donation to do so.

The costs are zero (because the donor is dead - unlike in other potentially comparable situations, such as participation in medical research or uploading of confidential medical data to a centralised database). The potential benefits to others (transplant recipients) are direct and of course highly significant in terms of their lifespan and quality of life. I do not see any reason to believe (as posited by Longrider) that abuse would be any greater than under the current system, particularly since relatives will still be consulted (Link).

Finally, the argument regarding 'presumption' is lost on me also. The way things work at present, we are presumed to want our organs to rot when we die. This is simply a pragmatic switching of presumptions that will help overcome inertia.

People who disagree:

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Seen Elsewhere (25)

Just a quick, short round-up this week. 5 posts from blogs in the QT's Ten To Watch sidebar section plus one extra link.

  • TheFatBigot Opines on social workers and ideology in light of the Baby P case and a separate incident involving a 13-year old girl who chose to refuse a heart transplant.

  • If Sam Tarran Was In Charge - "The key to saving Britain is a primary school classroom."

  • Obnoxio The Clown puts across the right-wing argument against the welfare state with typical robustness.

  • Bob's Head Revisited started blogging in July, and is fast becoming one of my favourite blogs of all thanks to posts like this on 'equality at any cost'.

  • A blog I'd never heard of before Thursday has the post of the week and possibly the quote of the year. Dave Clemo reprints a robust response to Lynne Featherstone's Comment Is Free column.
"There is no hope for Britain. Civilisations don't die, they commit suicide. And before they commit suicide, they read and believe the Guardian."
- Osho (Comment Is Free) via Dave Clemo

  • Finally, Iain Dale on the Tories' need to get to grips with Gordon Brown's relentless partisanship.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Perhaps The Stupidest Suggestion Ever on CiF

Yesterday, I posted about 3 underlying principles of right-wing/libertarian thought, specifically that individual people are 'rational actors', are responsible for their own actions and determine their own destiny. I also inquired as to whether or not everyone to at least some degree shares these core convictions. If you have not read the post yet, it is here.

The reason I asked that question in the final paragraph is because some people really don't seem to be on the same wavelength at all. I was browsing through an old side blog I used to collect examples of amusing comments when I spotted a spectacular example of not getting it. Here it is (bolding mine):

"Frankly, I don't give a damn whether we lock more people up or not, but I want whatever is done to be effective. If that means that we pay potential criminals £30k per year not to reoffend, instead of paying £60k per year (probably a huge underestimate) to lock em up I'd rather pay the £30k." - gosling
Hands up who can spot what is wrong with this idea...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Right Intuition

I've written a few posts here previously querying the beliefs and motives underlying political positions - it's a topic I am intrigued by, but rambling on about collectivism and 'mediocracy' conspicuously failed to lead to improved understanding. So, I thought I'd try a different, more introspective tack this time.

So I asked myself: What are the core beliefs that underlie my own, right-libertarian world-view? And this is the answer I arrived at: Three principal convictions that guide the way I, and perhaps, speculating, other libertarians and conservatives, see the world.

The first of these is the most important, and the other two are derived from it. It is a basic theory of human nature. I'm going to refer to it as 'the Rationality Principle'. It states that:

People act out of rational self-interest
You might recognise this as the definition of economic man, or 'Homo economicus'.

The Homo economicus assumptions may be recognised as an extreme - a caricature if you will - but the underlying principle is what is important, and this is viewed as essentially correct and explanatory of how people interact and function in the world. One consequence of this principle is that, as one of my fellow right-libertarian bloggers is fond of saying, incentives matter; both negative (deterrents) and positive.

The first crucial derivation from this is the following, which I refer to as 'the Responsibility Principle'. It states that:
Individuals are responsible for their own actions (unless they are insane)

The second crucial derivation is clearly related to the above. It is 'the Self-determination Principle', and states that:
Individuals are the prime movers in the determination of their destiny

Now, these principles are not absolute, but they are visceral, core convictions that may be modified or qualified (but not overturned) through a process of intellectualising.

If you consider many of the typical arguments made by 'right-wingers', particularly libertarians, they can be considered in terms of at least one of these three principles. For instance, debates about crime and punishment typically see right-libertarians and conservatives proposing tougher sentences and demanding less leniency in court. The rationale for this follows the first 2 principles, specifically that 1) Incentives matter, and tough sentences will act as a deterrent to potential offenders in the future and 2) Criminals are responsible for their own actions; knew they were doing wrong; and committed the crime anyway, so they deserve punishment and no sympathy. The positions opposed most strongly by right-libertarians and conservatives, conversely, are often those which contradict the principles.

Arguments that put 'society' rather than the individual at the centre are not compatible with the principles and tend to be dismissed as 'collectivist' or 'socialist', but in reality they don't get through. It just doesn't make sense to someone like me, in possession of the 'libertarian worldview' based on these 3 principles, to talk that way. Arguments that consider people in terms of one or more of the groups/categories they can be assigned to instead of as discrete individuals, for instance the feminist side of the 'gender pay inequality' debate, ring similarly hollow.

Now, I expect one of two types of responses to this post. As I suggested before, I struggle to comprehend that anyone could not accord with the principles delineated above, even though they make propositions and take positions which appear to contradict them. Either 1) Everyone fundamentally accords with them - even if they give the impression that they don't in their rhetoric - and non-rightists are just prepared to go further in modifying them than libertarians are; 2) People with opposing political positions do have a profoundly different worldview. I am prepared to accept that either of these may be the case...

CiF Comment Of The Day

From here:

"I can't believe how many people think printing money is a good idea. Has the world gone mad, or is the greed of the boomer generation so entrenched that they will countenance anything, even the destruction of the economy, in the vain hope that they can continue to live beyond their means." - Council House Tory

Monday, 10 November 2008

Video Of The Week (45)

Video of the Week 04/11 - 10/11: Yes He Did!

Here's President-Elect Obama's acceptance speech...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Seen Elsewhere (24)

I have already covered the blog reaction to Obama's victory on November 4 here. Here's a round-up of posts on other topics, with a particular emphasis this week on the thoughts of liberal and libertarian bloggers...

Two posts this week are absolute must-reads. The first is a superb rant written by Leg-Iron of Underdogs Bite Upwards that has been re-posted on several other libertarian blogs. The second is Alix Mortimer's response to Hazel Blears' attack on 'cynical' blogs. If all Lib Dems were as switched-on as Alix and Charlotte Gore - whose response to the Blears attack is also well worth a read, I'd join the party in a heartbeat.

After the election, Hazel Blears' speech has not entirely unsurprisingly been the most widely covered topic. Matt Wardman has the text of the speech. Here's a Letter From A Tory in response. Labour supporting bloggers, such as Bob Piper were similarly unimpressed with Blears' short-sightedness.

Devil's Kitchen
and Tim Worstall both point out the elephant in the room, specifically that political engagement is hardly worthwhile when your politicians don't actually have the power to make significant changes. Mark Wadsworth provides an example of the problem.

Were Hazel Blears' words advance warning of more sinister developments ahead, asks Guy Herbert at Samizdata. The Tin Drummer gazes into his crystal ball, and The Heresiarch, The Thunder Dragon and Trixy consider her words in a greater context of the erosion of freedoms.

Some libertarian bloggers went for a walk in fancy dress Wednesday. You've perhaps guessed what happened next, but if not Citizen Stuart has the details. The next day, NO2ID scored a small victory, obtaining Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's fingerprints - Guido Fawkes has the details.

Another small victory for liberty and good sense that has gone largely unreported - the ban on top-up care in the NHS has at last been abolished. I guess the Government didn't want any more Linda O'Boyles on their conscience. At Comment Is Free, Mark Lawson is outraged at this affront to equality. Oh dear...

All is far from well, however. The Government's control freakery knows no bounds, it seems, as Longrider reports new guidelines on how to look after cats. Bob's Head Revisited comments on a survey that reports that 9 out of 10 people are 'happy'. Panopticon Britain discusses what makes him happy.

The Nameless One puts Labour's by-election win in perspective. Dan Vevers has an epic post on the folly of bank bailouts. Paul Lockett sets out a libertarian defence of the Human Rights Act. Finally, John Demetriou of B&D does something we should perhaps all do once in a while, and sets out just what the blog is about.

On Blogpower, Calum Carr takes a look at a town in which the colour green is 'notable by its absence'. Critical Faculty Dojo finds common ground with environmentalists, No Clue steers her readers far away from the ISP Pipex, and Pub Philosopher excoriates Halloween killjoys.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

President-Elect Obama

Yes He Did!

The Mirror, which 4 years ago famously responded to the re-election of George W Bush with by asking 'How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?', celebrates Obama's victory this morning... But how did the blogosphere react?

At Liberal Conspiracy, Aaron Heath live-blogged the proceedings in the US, Unity wraps it up: "Congratulations, and thank you America". He follows up today with a round-up of 'wingnut chatter', as conservatives begin to try and get a grip on what went wrong.

Iain Dale also live-blogged the election, and looks ahead to the possibilities and pitfalls of the presidency. Dizzy Thinks Obama won't be all that different from Bush. JuliaM anticipates "an interesting four years". Behind Blue Eyes hopes that the events in the US could help revitalise our own democracy. Bob Piper bemoans the lack of political hope here in the UK.

Sadie is pleased with the result but not entirely optimistic. Tom Harris is just pleased, as is Voltaire's Priest at Shiraz Socialist. Harry's Place has a round-up of reactions from the left. Lenin's Tomb discusses the management of expectations. There's not much sign of it on the blogs, but The Daily (Maybe) discusses the NObama left.

Perry at Samizdata isn't altogether depressed that the US has 'voted for statism'. Thaddeus at the same blog: The Republican party "is probably buggered". Roger Thornhill ponders what the big deal about 'change' is. The Nameless One discusses McCain's failure considers the possibilities that lie before Obama. Finally, A Very British Dude is nonplussed.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Video Of The Week (44)

Video of the Week 28/10 - 03/11: Palin Gets Punk'd

Canadian comedians The Masked Avengers show Brand & Ross how its done. They fooled VP candidate Sarah Palin into believing she was talking to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It really has to be heard to be believed...

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Seen Elsewhere (23)

We're just two days away from a day that, one way or the other, will go down in history. However, there's more under the sun than Obama vs McCain. What else has had people putting fingers to keyboard?

Well, of all things, the story that produced the most excitement on these small islands last week features 2 'comedians' and 1 retired actor. As Septic Isle explains, a broadcast that received just 2 complaints when originally aired turned into a national scandal after it hit the front page of the Daily Mail. Its a story tailor-made for John Demetriou and Anton Vowl to lay into, and they duly do so. On the other side of the argument, The Landed Underclass and Andrew Allison argue for abolition.

Relegated to second slot on the news by the above, the bloody war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dave Osler asks "what is to be done?". Johann Hari has visited the region and written about the horror he witnessed there, and Lenin (Lenin's Tomb) expands upon Hari's argument that Western demand for resources drives the conflict. Iain Dale calls for a boost to UN peace-keeping forces in the region.

Also kept off the front pages this week; the economic crisis. The Big Picture looks back over October 2008 from a financial point of view. One man who has done very well out of the events of the past month is Nouriel Roubini. Stephen Lendman (The Market Oracle) comments on his predictions of long-term recession. Patrick Vessey (LPUK blog) asks what would happen if interest rates were reduced to zero.

Finally, also at LPUK blog, Ian Parker-Joseph provides a comprehensive round-up as to why the UK is one of the 5 most surveilled countries in the world.