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Archive for the ‘plutocracy’ Category

Booth Hails Scottish Penal Reform (or Crime and (Lack Of) Punishment)

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Cherie Booth QC (Mrs. Tony Blair) has praised Scottish penal reform. MS. Booth chaired the Commission on English Prisons, in which she singled out aspects of Scotland’s prison system for praise.

The gist seems to be that short prison sentences don’t work, so don’t hand out short prison sentences. I agree. What I do not agree with is the conclusion that those who would have been dealt with by shorter sentences should be dealt with by using community punishments; unpaid work, tagging, probation and ASBO’s. The sort of ‘punishments’ criminals laugh at and see as nothing more than a minor intrusion into their lives- when they can be bothered to follow the orders.

I say give ’em longer sentences- and make sure the prisons are so uncomfortable most won’t want to go back.

I’m not suggesting we stop attempts to rehabilitate through education and training. But those that opt to train or learn should not see it as a soft option to working. Those that have no inclination to learn should be made to work and work hard. The work must be constructive- none of your rock breaking and moving rocks from one side of the yard for no other purpose than to make an inmate work hard.

The workshops to which prisoners are assigned or volunteer should be run on an industrial basis where the products can be sold at a profit, thus contributing to the costs of running the prison system. One might even consider paying a proper wage the bulk of which could be sent to families and thus remove the need to pay benefits.

Governments can use statistics to tell us prisons don’t work. They can produce statistics to show community sentencing reduces offending and re-offending. But statistics can be manipulated. (“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts’ for support rather than illumination.”-Andrew Lang (1844-1912)) Many of the people who make penal reform decisions are statistically less likely to be the victim of ‘low level’ crime. The sort of crime we or our friends and relatives and our communities become victims of every day. Most of the people I know are in agreement. Prisons should be harsher and sentences longer. Most of what I read and see in the media from ordinary folk is in agreement. Prisons should be a place to which offenders do not wish to return. In our presumed democracy (which is actually a plutocracy) why are the minority sitting on these quangos and our supposed representatives able to ignore the wishes of the majority and continue the liberalist policies of community sentencing?

We might see some change when MP’s and the wealthy are regularly the victims of burglary. When it is their sons who are meaninglessly attacked in the street and their daughters are assaulted.

Along with these proposed changes I believe there must also be a change of social and economic policy. While there will always be those who prefer to take rather than earn, we must ensure that ordinary people have well paid secure jobs. The balance should be quick, easy money with the risk of severe penalties and a real chance of being caught against a respectable well paid job with security. Most reasonable thinking people would choose the latter.

With these social and economic changes we should encourage employers to take on released prisoners if they have shown a commitment to change. Jobs to take when they leave prison not straight back on the dole, with the temptation to reoffend.

We need a complete rethink, accepting parts of the old penal system were reasonable and effective and that parts of the modern system are equally reasonable and effective. But neither system has a monopoly on effectiveness and we must accept that no system ever will. As with most things, we can only hope for the best penal system while we retain our humanity when dealing with those for whom we may temporarily wish to suspend that humanity and at the same time punish and rehabilitate effectively.


Written by Smiling Carcass

05/07/2009 at 1:22 PM

The Failing of Democracy through the Expenses Scandal

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The elections are over and we see New Labour thoroughly thrashed in the European and local elections. And once again we see the gullibility of the electorate and the big flaw in democracy,

Starting at the beginning, we saw the Telegraph exposing the expenses scandal. What few people noticed was the Goebbels style propaganda coup- where the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth was told. But that truth was represented in such a way that the reporters and the newspaper editor knew would manipulate public opinion.

In the first week of the exposé we heard about the New Labour politicians (I use the term loosely!) inventive claims. Now as you will probably know from previous posts I am no lover of New Labour, or for that matter any of the three ‘front runners’ of the political spectrum. But why the emphasis on New Labour? Anybody with a modicum of intelligence would immediately realise politicians from all parties would have their snouts in the trough. In fact, I suspect there is almost a club culture where experienced politicians educate their newly elected brethren in creative claiming. The second week we began to see politicians from other parties exposed. Yet still most of the anger was directed at the Labour Party.

Most people might reasonably suppose that this is because they are the Government and as such carry the onus of responsibility. Yet this or some similar situation has probably existed since our modern parliament was conceived.

Let me explain by example. Hopefully, it will show how the truth can be manipulated and the next time a scandal is exposed or a headline misleads, you might be able to better understand the machinations of the media and how they manipulate us using psychological techniques- propaganda. In the early 1970’s Ted Heaths’ Tory government was brought down by two miner’s strikes, one of which included the mass picketing of the Saltley coking plant.

I know it well. I was born almost next door in Cranby Street. At the time I still lived in Birmingham. We had the Evening Mail delivered every evening and one of the front-page headlines read “Policeman Hurt on Picket Line”. This had the immediate effect of inflaming emotions and angering the average man in the street- even those who while not wholeheartedly supporting the miners might have felt some sympathy for their plight. It turned borderline opinion against the miners. How dare they picket and attack our policemen?

My father, on reading the headline but before reading the article immediately began a diatribe condemning all miners and trade unionists and suggesting they should be shot. I suspect this was the reaction of most people not educated in the expertise of manipulative journalism.

Reading on, the piece described how a policeman, not even on the picket line had been walking towards the coking plant and as he crossed the road, slipped on the kerb and twisted his ankle. This made no difference to most people. The emotions had been aroused by the headline and opinion had been formulated that all pickets were violent and that they had attacked the clumsy policeman.

One might argue that without the pickets there would be no need for him to have been there and he wouldn’t have been hurt. Fair enough, that is an opinion. But why didn’t the Mail report it so? Because it would not have been inflammatory. No, the Mail knew what it was doing and knew that regardless of the following story opinion would be formed by the headline and some would believe what they wanted to believe and ignore what was contrary to that belief.

And the same is true of the Telegraphs series of revelations. People read that Labour politicians were on the take. It was fed to them for a week and irrespective of subsequent revelations, the mould was set and New Labour was the cause and propagator of every conceivable ill.

Then came the elections. And what do the electorate do? Either didn’t vote or chose a protest vote for an independent or minority party, the main result of which let the Tories in all over the country.

This is one of the big flaws in democracy. People using their vote as a form of protest. A free, secret vote is a very precious thing, hard won by the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary people. It should be used according to ones conscience and beliefs, not to stick it to a party that has offended – particularly when that party is not guilty in isolation, but part of a much wider conspiracy. And if you think that voting for an independent that is free of corruption is the answer, they are no purer in thought or deed than the politicians we have ousted. Granted, they are unlikely to stick their noses in the expenses trough, but how many politicians who have been caught with their fingers in the till do you think would risk continuing to deceive? And then there are those who remembered the New Labour corruption and voted Tory, forgetting they too were guilty as charged thanks to manipulative reporting.

So the protest vote has done little for British politics apart from confer power by default. It has done nothing for democracy besides expose one of its weaknesses.

It probably means that by the middle of 2010 we will have a Tory government who will win by a massive majority. They will believe, as in the 1980’s that they have the mandate of the people and will convince enough of us that their economic strategies are essential for the good of the country and eventually we will all benefit. In fact the wealthy will get wealthier and the poor will get poorer and we will be repeatedly told by the White Queen ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
(Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871))

Written by Smiling Carcass

14/06/2009 at 7:02 PM

Democracy is the New ‘Opium of the People’

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Re democracy; there is no democracy. Democracy is an illusion perpetuated by those that exploit its alleged freedoms. Changing electoral policy, demanding greater accountability will not give us democracy. While we have capitalism and power and wealth in the hands of the few, we shall remain a plutocracy. If you’re happy with that, go ahead and ‘tweak’ the system. If not, civil disobedience and non-violent revolution suggest the way forward.

Written by Smiling Carcass

28/05/2009 at 10:29 AM

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