I don’t want to fall out of the habit of updating this blog, so I thought I’d mention something that just struck me, about the police caution, which if Wikipedia can be relied upon, is approximately

‘You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but I must warn you that if you fail to mention any fact which you rely on in your defence in court, your failure to take this opportunity to mention it may be treated in court as supporting any relevant evidence against you. If you do wish to say anything, what you say may be given in evidence.’

The problem is, as we have seen from the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb’ affair, what happens if the police, as they seem to do most of the time, are unable to recollect  what a suspect has said accurately, if at all?

My solution to this – and I think at this point it really would fix more problems than it creates – would be for police to record all interactions with people who have been cautioned, if not the public in general. Who can doubt that they would then be far more careful about sticking to the letter of the law? The only practical drawback is that they would likely stay away from the public altogether, but that’s an indictment of poor training, if anything.

A wired up society may be the only defence we have now from sliding into tyranny.

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As promised:
(I once moderated, along with treborc, the forums made available for discussion about Public Whip, which was primarily about putting House of Commons data on votes and the like into a form palatable to the public. When the founders, Francis Irving and Julian Todd, finding their hands full with other projects, handed control of it to Katy Bairstow and Richard Chiswell, the latter pair were effusive about how they would ‘improve’ PW, and immediately closed down the forum, citing security concerns over ‘leaky’ emails. Since then, they appear to have sat on their backsides, again, citing the fact that no-one appears to wish to pay them to work on the site improvements. They won’t even approve my comments now, so here it is instead. In a rush, so I’ll add tags tomorrow)

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

My reply (‘You must be a democrat’) is no longer appearing as ‘awaiting moderation’, so you must have read it and deleted it. So here’s the ‘more to follow’, since it’s apparently required, and will end up on my own blog, and linked to via Twitter, if you don’t permit it here…

First off, while I hate to break up your pity party, I should point out that I haven’t said anything to offend you yet. I asked what *would* be more offensive, future tense. you might think it’s a fine line, but it very definitely *is* a line, and you’re wasting your energy on pre-ire.

‘Perhaps you’ve had some experience in this field?’ What are you, twelve? I’m quite prepared to accept that it was just naivite or incompetence, or a combination thereof that led you to take on something you were in no position to handle. There’s no shame (well, not much) in admitting it. Actually, I guess your reputation could take a bit of a knock, the way news spreads on the internet. Well, you made your bed…

Carry on being ‘fed’ up with my comments. You take the rough with the smooth when you take on a public site. I made it clear that the forum was what mattered in my view, and that code was Greek to me, but you still insist on conflating the two issues, like an Assange-bashing Guardian journo. I could create a (non-leaky) Public Whip forum in minutes. It’s debatable if anyone would post on it, but if they did, I suspect it would be to speculate on when they might see any sign of this great gold-plating you speak of?

If you can’t get the money, and you’re not prepared to work for free, as I presume Julian and Francis did, just admit you bit off more than you could chew, but *don’t* try to shift the blame on to somebody else. Clean up your own mess.

Or try suing me..?

Hearing on the radio this morning that the US Boy Scouts (well, the people in charge, I guess) have chosen to retain the ban on homosexuals being scouts or leaders, I have to say that despite the furore it inevitably caused among gay activists, there didn’t seem to me to be much choice, really. I mean, it makes as much sense to not have gay men in charge of boy scouts as it would to not have heterosexual men in charge of girl scouts. We should be able to distinguish homosexuality from paedophilia, but it seems we can’t.

Ditto, most people wouldn’t be happy about straight boys and girls sharing camping and toilet facilities, so homosexuality raises a thorny logistical problem. The armed forces solution of ‘Don’t ask’ hardly applies to hormonally challenged young people, so it’s not so different from the ‘marriage’ issue. This is far and away from what Fritz Schumacher would call a ‘convergent problem’.

And I guess I’d be on a hiding to nothing if I ticked the category of ‘Bigotry’ as well…

Listening to the deputy speaker in Parliament coming close to losing his rag the other day, due to the barracking of MPs over Libor, I couldn’t help thinking again that one of the most urgently needed reforms in the chamber is to allow television cameras to wander around the room freely, so that we could finally see who the main culprits are. Attention-seekers as many of them may well be, audio-visual evidence of their behaviour would soon be used by their constituents, if not the speaker’s office, to rein them in.

There is another effective alternative, though. A collar, akin to the ones used with dogs, which could deliver a mild(ish) electric charge whenever noise levels in the chamber exceeded a certain level (I wouldn’t be surprised, after all, if the levels are harmful to the ear).

If that seems a little draconian, there are more humane variations on the same theme. Some of them would probably relish a ten minute blanket time-out, say, for excessive noise, but if one takes the total amount of time an MP spends in the chamber while a rumpus is going on, and uses it as a psephological ‘handicap’ during election time, they could become very meek indeed. True, the ones with large majorities might feel they have less to fear, but their handicaps could be modified to address that.

It would be worth publicising this initiative just to wipe the smug looks off their faces for a moment. 

Come on, speaker’s staff, make it happen…

“I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to ‘make light’ of this situation, but I’m not going to in this statement as this is obviously a serious matter.

“I met with a financial adviser and he said to me ‘Do you want to pay less tax? It’s totally legal’. I said ‘Yes’.

“I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgment. Although I’ve been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), I’m no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly. Apologies to everyone. Jimmy Carr”

This is the ‘apology’ made by Jimmy Carr on his Twitter account after a furore errupted over his tax dealings. Actually, I should say ‘the comedian Jimmy Carr’, because that’s good etiquette when posting about public affairs, not to assume everybody knows who Jimmy Carr is now.

Readers will surely know that Carr was using a Jersey-based tax firm to pay only 1% tax, and that this is a Bad Thing. David Cameron… soz, the prime Minster David Cameron, publicly ticked Carr off for it, a large part of the media condemned him as if he’s broken the law, like Fred The Shred (did he actually break the law either?), and now Jimmy Carr has said sorry.

The thing that bites my buns is that we can be fairly certain that Carr isn’t particularly sorry, and why should he be? It’s not something I recognise as in his personality to bow and scrape for forgiveness, and a phrase like ‘terrible error of judgement’ suggests he’s hamming it up a bit.

A much more sensible explanation for his mea culpa is that Carr, unlike a bank manager or a Formula 1 driver, relies on the good will of the public for his living. If enough of them stop going to his gigs, or buying his DVDs, the loss of earnings will offset even a 1% tax scheme. This apology was the smartest thing he could do in the circumstances. The smartest thing we can do is appreciate that this doesn’t mean anyone is genuinely abashed about avoiding tax.

If anything, being berated by a politician for something that is entirely legal makes it look even more acceptable, if not a lucrative boost for Jimmy Carr’s profile.

What with the BTNP AGM being put back to May 30th, I suppose I should avoid burning my bridges with a frank (but fair) analysis of the partnership’s progress over the last year or so, in the hope of better things for June.

Instead, I thought I’d put down some thoughts that have sprang to mind, specifically the definition of a ‘troll’. In the simplest terms, a troll is someone whose views you don’t like. Perhaps better to say, ‘whose expressed views you don’t like’, because people sometimes, a lot of the time, think these views are contrived for the purpose of making the person who expresses them unlikable.

But a troll, clearly, is also someone who (whom?) the people applying the label have chosen to de-humanise, often describing such an individual as ‘it’. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, this is what the Nazis did to their victims, what most people bent on asserting their absolute will on others do, in fact. It wouldn’t be necessary, after all, if all that was required was to ignore people that are believed to be wind-up merchants (WUMs).

In my time on TiG’s new website, where posters are required to register an account, which can be ‘disabled’ if a poster breaks one or more of some occasionally excessively strict rules (especially the one about questioning censorship… whoops, moderation), I have, for the record, been ‘Joe K’, ‘Tony J’, ‘TrollhunterX’, and ‘L’escalier’. Also ‘Bartred_NP’, but that’s a slightly different matter. I’m not the only person to find themselves falling foul of TiG’s rules, and many other people have re-registered in defiance of these rules. The length some of them have lasted, in spite of, in some instances, quite appallingly vituperative behaviour, is either a testament to the staff’s realisation that they are really just spitting into the wind, or to the generally low level of reported comments, or both.

What the average onlooker should appreciate, though, is that a) TiG have brought a lot of this on themselves, and b) that ‘this’ isn’t really that big a big deal. Most of it is ‘genial spam’. If some of it goes too far, there is the ‘report’ button, not ‘This is (flame) war!’

So, whatever the paper is like at the moment, the web site is healthy. Don’t knock it, maaan.

And if anyone wants a punch-up, do it here…

Any thoughts/theories/rants welcome 🙂