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Monday, February 13, 2006 

Crap followed by crap followed by crap followed by crap.

What a depressing week in politics this is going to be.

Before it even got started, we've had the pleasure of witnessing "our boys" beating the hell out of some Iraqi teenagers, as well as taking their anger out on a corpse. Cue the cliched responses: "bad apples" "small minority" "should in no way represent the whole army". Well, you don't say. But what is to be expected of an army that is now nearing its 3rd year of deployment in a country where they are becoming increasingly less welcome? Attacked by those who they have meant to have liberated, with shortages of kit and with many of their number, including the most high-up wholly unconvinced of the case for war, is it any surprise that some have lashed out? This isn't to excuse their behaviour. The real blame, however, should be placed at the feet of the politicians who still refuse to apologise or own up to so many of their mistakes. They made the decision to go war, the army has simply followed their orders. Instead the politicians promise that those responsible will be severely punished, while Blair still sits in 10 Downing Street, still trying to figure out his legacy.

Which brings us to the next depressing development. Not satisfied with the terrorism bill which is still going through parliament, good old Gordie Brown is here to frighten us yet again. This government isn't satisfied with the 28 days detention for terrorist suspects, oh no. Ignoring the will of parliament and the stuffing which 90 days got, Brown wants to more or less reintroduce the legislation again. Of course, this will please the likes of the Sun and some of the other tabloids greatly. Rebekah Wade will love the chance to accuse elected members of parliament of being traitors again, as that fills up a couple of pages with outraged rhetoric. He then goes on to talk about glorification and the ID card scheme, each with points that have been countered time and time again, but as this government knows, if you say something enough then the public will probably believe it:

"We need look no further than the incidents in London, with posters glorifying terrorism - which shocked the country - to see that the authorities might benefit from a clearer framework to intervene quickly when boundaries are crossed," he said.

Mr Brown said no one should be allowed to celebrate the London terror attacks "and walk away from the consequences".

"If we withdraw glorification from the definition of indirect incitement or from the grounds for proscribing organisations, this would send a signal that we could not reach a consensus on how serious this issue is," he said.

Except that the government has already said that the protestors would be caught under current laws. Except that Abu Hamza, the other reason for supporting the bill, was convicted under current laws. There is no justification whatsoever for the possibility of making certain comments or speeches illegal, as has been pointed out, that calling for the overthrow of such a government as Robert Mugabe's would be. You'd better forget about even thinking of supporting an armed insurgency, even if every single other method of toppling a tyrannical regime has failed. This is why the Lords threw out this far too widely drafted piece of legislation. It's why the Commons should do the same.

Onto ID Cards then:
In supporting ID cards Mr Brown said terror suspects frequently used multiple identities - such as one September 11 hijacker who used 30 false identities.

"Would most people not agree that if there are acceptable safeguards to protect civil liberties, there are advantages in a national identity scheme that could not just help us disrupt terrorists and criminals travelling on forged or stolen identities - but more fundamentally, protect each citizen's identity and prevent it being forged or stolen?" he asked.

Except that the US hijackers were all foreigners. Those who attacked Madrid and London were either homegrown or used their own identities, unlike the September 11th hijackers. Those in Spain still carried out the attack despite having identity cards. Even Charles Clarke has mentioned that ID cards would not have stopped the 7th of July attacks. Nevermind that most think ID cards would make it even more likely that identities could be stolen, let's trump the cards possible positives all the way up before we've even introduced the scheme. Just for good measure, let's throw in the views of Brian Gladman:

Brian Gladman, from Worcester, now a security consultant to US government agencies, said Mr Blair and the home secretary had got it wrong when they accused critics of producing "a technically incompetent report" on ID cards. They had accused the report's main author, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, Simon Davies, of bias because he is also a director of Privacy International, a human rights group that opposes ID cards.

Now Dr Gladman, who led research into protecting foreign spies from compromising the country's most secure communciations system, has written to Mr Blair saying he was the author of the sections of the report dealing with safety and security. He pointed out that the "technically incompetent" data was subject to review by the LSE before publication by two "independent information security experts, both of whom are internationally recognised for their expertise".

He warns the new database will "create safety and security risks for all those whose details are entered on the system".

In a damning blow to ministers' claims of bias, he tells Mr Blair "in case you think that I am an opponent of ID cards, I should point out that I support an irrevocably voluntary, self-funded ID card scheme".

He reveals he would rather pay fines than join a compulsory scheme, saying "it is shameful that those who are less well-off will be forced to put themselves at serious risk for a system that serves no purpose that cannot be achieved in other, more effective and less costly ways".

According to Blair though, the argument's already been won, so we might as well just give up now.

Then there's Brown's fantastic wheeze about veterans and getting cadets involved in schools:

In the wake of his speech in January calling for a "British Day", Mr Brown today demanded that a "National Veteran's Day" be designated where ex-soldiers in every constituency are honoured at local ceremonies.

Every ex-serviceman before 1960, including those who did national service, would now be entitled to a veteran's badge, he announced.

He also revealed he would be looking for private financing to back an extension of pilot schemes for cadet schemes, "especially in state schools."

Of course, this is by no means a lack of joined up thinking on the day on which the military is in the can because a few kicked the living shit out of some Iraqis. No, the military will shape our feckless feral youths up into a fine body of men, instead of hanging around on street corners and spitting at old people, they'll be helping them across the street and collecting for remembrance sunday. Notice that none of this money will come out of the treasury's funds, it'll probably come from our mercenary friends, or from the security organisations which supply all those bouncers at the weekend. As for a veteran's day, haven't we left this rather late? Isn't it time that we started to move on from the 2 world wars? By all means respect them and be glad of their sacrifice, as we are every November, but isn't what were up against now more pressing? No, of course not. The only battle now is that of which oil company can make the most profits, who can get rich quickest and how fast can ex-ministers jump into the nearest directorship. Capitalism has not only won, it's doing the equivalent of beating the corpse.

And if that's not enough to make you want to weep, you can also look forward to the vote on the possible smoking in public buildings ban tomorrow. Another attack on the rights of the individual to damage their own body, but this time it's wrapped in the health concern of others. Bar staff don't have a choice, they say. They do: don't work in a bar. I'm not even a smoker, yet this to me seems just like another attack on a persecuted enough already minority. If we're going to impose this, at the same time we should increase funding into programs to get people off the damn cancer sticks. It's good, but it could be better.

Which brings me to my final point. This country is not going to the dogs. Things aren't entirely rosy, but they aren't that bad. So why is it that politicians seem to be constantly only focusing on terrorism legislation, which now never seems to go away? Why are there threats around every corner, why are the youths so out of control that they need the military to make them good citizens? I would blame the tabloids, but I think it's more than that. This government, and politicians in general seem to be increasingly out of touch with what is actually going on. The focus groups don't tell the whole story. And if the Dunfermline by-election is anything to go by, the public are getting mighty sick of hearing about how everything needs constant reform and new legislation. The most depressing thing of all is that Gordon Brown, whom so many put their hopes on, is just as bad as Blair.

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Though I disagree with you on the smoking ban, the rest I completely concur with, and couldn't think of a better way to write it.

It truly is a depressing era for Britain, and you hit the nail on the head with "why is it that politicians seem to be constantly only focusing on terrorism legislation"? Terrorism is a bad things, and of course I have sympathy for those that were harmed and killed, but compared to people harmed by crime/poor medical care/everything else, it's a drop in the ocean. So why isn't the government spending time on these?

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