Archive for October 2009
I’m not going to discuss the resignation of Professor Nutt or government policy. But drugs- including alcohol – have a devastating effect on families. Alcohol is governed by licensing laws with consequences, which could include loss of livelihood if contravened. Drugs however are illegal and therefore unlicensed. It seems that licensing the use of and distribution of illegal drugs might be the way to go. It surely must be worth a trial period. Remove the indirect dangers such as thuggish distributers who work outside the law, impure drugs whose ‘fillers’ (the substances various levels of distribution ‘cut’ the product with to increase profits) which are often more dangerous than the drug. Remove the ‘street cred’ value and restrict the usage to adults and we might clean up the drug scene, improve society in general and reduce crime.
The problem with this approach is it won’t work. Minors will find ways to access drugs. Adults will supply them. There will still be an illegal trade to avoid the excise duty any government will surely apply.
It is my opinion that the only answer is zero tolerance. Prosecute whether in possession of a gram or a kilogram. Change the law so that possession is not the only criterion by which a user/supplier can be prosecuted. Chemical testing to establish contact with drugs should be used. Make the consequences severe.
I understand the argument that prohibition doesn’t work and often quoted is the US Volstead Act (prohibition). But this did not work for two reasons. First, it was an attempt to prohibit the use of an already legal and socially accepted intoxicant. Second, the Act only prohibited the distribution of alcohol. It did not prohibit the use or sale of alcohol.
I also advocate the removal of classification of drugs. A gram of heroin or a pound of cannabis should be treated equally under the law. Sentencing should be adjusted according to mitigating circumstances, not that this is bad because it’s heroin or not so bad because it’s cannabis.
It is certain current legislation is not working. Equally, educating on the dangers of drugs alone is inadequate. Telling people a drug is dangerous creates an atmosphere of disbelief when drug users can be seen to suffer few ill effects from their habit in the short term.
Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. The only certainty is that something must be done.
Liberty and Anti-Slavery International are asking for laws to protect workers, particularly migrant workers from exploitation- effectively slavery. Interesting that one of their suggestions is ‘a second offence of forced labour, [punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.]’
Isn’t that what the Government has just imposed on single parents of young children?
The UK is to introduce laws forcing ISP’s to cut off internet access to illegal file sharers. This will be a last resort after warning letters and a first stage of reducing internet speeds.
Here’s what I say. For years the big players in music and film have charged excessively for music and video. CD’s doubled the price of an album, even though they were cheaper to produce. DVD’s are much cheaper to produce than video tapes yet the cost is similar, if not more. They have trouble getting the providers of illegal content, so focus the laws on the users. And now the technology is available for the ordinary user to bypass the artificially high prices, they are crying it ain’t fair.
Sell your content at a realistic price that actually reflects production costs and most of us will be happy to pay. You don’t like being ripped off. Neither do we.
Now, apart from the moral and legal implications, there are the technical facts. It is already easy to encrypt downloads. There are already networks that give anonymity.
So how do they propose enforcing the law? If your data is encrypted, you must be downloading illegally? If you download large files you must be doing something illegal?
Well no, this cannot be the criteria for deciding guilt. Many legitimate programs are now hundreds of megabytes. Cloud computing means people back up huge amounts of data to the web. Online gaming eats at bandwidth. And many homes have multiple computers (We have four and my son plays online games on his Xbox for many hours a week.) It seems we are being given the technology but governments are intervening to restrict its (legal) use.
And besides, if I get a letter from my ISP, before there is any penalty I can switch ISP and wait my first letter from them.
This has not been thought through. Whatever technology is used to try to catch file sharers, a way round it will soon be found. Just look at how quickly video encryption was cracked. And as I already said if the criteria are to be large downloads or encrypted data, then they lose the moral high ground. The innocent will be presumed guilty. Especially in a household of four where only one illegally downloads, yet all have their internet access cut.
The only fair way is a change in social attitudes away from glorifying huge profits at the expense of the consumer to reasonable profits and reasonable prices that by their nature discourage theft. Why would I want to wait two or more hours to download a film at the risk of prosecution if I can go down the video store and buy it for £5, and be watching it in 20 minutes or less?
Which introduces another, often ignored point. Piracy actually encourages sales rather than reducing them. Because many people who download music and video from illegal sites often go on to buy the original content. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but they do actually want to own the original in its nice packaging and on a CD or DVD that will not deteriorate over time. But they do not want to risk £10 or £20 on an original they might not enjoy. Back to price again! So they download an album and if they like it, they buy it.
The government now wants to give careers advice and introduce university to 7 year olds.
What a ridiculous idea. Children need to be allowed to be children. Better focus on discipline and teaching children to be able to read, write and do basic mathematics before moving to high school. That is the place to introduce them to careers advice and the aspiration of university.
But if we look closely, this is just another ‘seen to be doing something’ scheme by the government which I believe will do little for children, education or employment.
Indeed, I suggest it may have the opposite effect, that of reducing aspirations because children feel pressurised and ‘switch off’.
Considering, also that there just is not and probably never again will be such a thing as full employment, we are setting up young children to fail, the effects of which could be devastating both at a personal and socio-economic level.
And what do we tell the children who we convince university is the career path for them, those this idea is focused toward from deprived backgrounds, when they find they cannot afford to go to university?
Once again I see a proposal that on the face of it appears to be advantageous to the disadvantaged, but the result will be the opposite. The education and aspirations of those people will be reduced, leaving an underclass that can more easily be controlled.
I suggest to the government another way, if better education and greater aspiration is the aim. First, we invest in real jobs that produce goods people want. Pay a decent wage and allow employees the right to negotiate better conditions. Then we will find more children in families where the mother can afford to stay at home to raise children. We will have a generation of children growing up in a working household and will see that as the norm, rather than benefits and low esteem.
And you never know, contrary to popular belief that high wages cause inflation and cripple the economy, all this extra money to spend and being spent might actually stimulate and strengthen the economy, truly bringing prosperity to all.
This government has been one of the most intrusive, legislative and paranoid in the history of Britain. Emails and phone calls monitored, credit and debit card transactions logged, CCTV in every town and city and now they want to try to discover who you might be sleeping with. Yes, the 2011 census will want to know about overnight visitors.
I cannot think of any realistic assumptions one could deduce from having this information. What possible relevance can a mate staying over have? Or a girlfriend who missed the last bus? Or you daughters school friend, a casual pick-up or a regular Saturday night visitor?
What are we going to hear? That there is a massive trend toward homosexuality because many males had male friends stay overnight? Or that benefits cuts can be justified because you have had an unemployed friend stay one night, so why not all week?
And even if a plausible case for having this information was made, how will they know we are telling the truth? It might be possible with a family member, but can they know that a friend stayed if you say they did not? It throws the whole census into disrepute, making the figures and assumptions there from meaningless.
It can only be assumed this is dataveillance for its own sake or for some nefarious government purpose.
And I thought 1984 was 25 years ago.
That just convinces me he wants the job. He is, after all a politician and when such a plain statement is made, with no ambiguity one has to assume the opposite.
He goes on to say that Tony Blair is the best man to be the first EU president. Here, I agree with him. If he does the same job as EU president as he did as British Prime Minister, he’ll split the EU, seeing it a multi-tier state ruined and bankrupt. Then the British can get back to governing Britain.
Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions says the Human Rights Act (HRA) works. He says it is not biased in favour of the criminal.
Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve’s plans to abolish the HRA and replace it with the British Bill of Rights (BBR).
Well, firstly Mr. Starmer should know that any law that is perceived by the public to be biased or otherwise not in the public interest is by definition an unfair law. It doesn’t matter if the law is fair in practice. The perception of bias is enough to warrant a re-assessment of the law.
Repealing and introducing a new, fairer law that gives and is perceived to give a balance in favour of the victim rather than the criminal is the right thing to do. I personally, and suspect most ordinary people aren’t greatly interested if a criminal’s rights are infringed. Criminals should not expect the same protection under the law, save that they receive a fair trial.
I am more than a little worried, however that the idea is a Tory one. It does make me wonder just what are they up to? It would be fairly easy to introduce draconian legislation we all agree with concerning criminals but that also criminalises the innocent.
Like the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. You might just get it!