Archive for March, 2006

Letter from America

Friday, March 31st, 2006

25th March 2005
I won’t pretend that I don’t want to seem melodramatic. But I want to echo Thomas Paine and say these are the times that try men’s souls. I am here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a state which is itself one of the fruits of early American imperialism. Yet when I consider developments in the UK and in the USA, it is surprising how often I am brought back to the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the writers who inspired them.

It is all too tempting to see the American rebels as just that – American. Yet they based the justification of their revolt on the liberties and rights they felt they possessed as Britons. And in the face of those liberties and rights being ignored or overridden, they reacted as Britons would – they rebelled against the King’s Government.

So now we find ourselves in the USA faced with laws, in the form of the Patriot Act (and what a despicable give-away name that is), that are prima facie unconstitutional, yet somehow unchallenged as the pygmies who comprise the political elite fear to appear ‘weak’; and in the UK with laws that effectively strip away all the protections of the citizen against the might of the state apparatus, and laws that aim to enhance the power of the executive to a level unknown in the whole of British history.

In a sense it is impossible to be melodramatic about this – the reality outstrips any hyperbole I might attempt. But in defence of our liberty, for ourselves and for our children, we need to affirm, in Jefferson’s (still striking) words, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”; that no government can have any legitimacy which seeks to undermine, limit or curtail these rights; and that whether these acts are motivated by ignorance or malice, we will be swift to condemn and slow to forgive.

We are a free people. The state should be our servant not our master. Britons, strike home!*

*Tim sums the reasons up as ever more thoroughly and intelligently than I ever can.

Update: I am now in California and Internet-connected again. In the meantime, the House of Lords appear to have fallen for a trick that a school-child would have seen through. It’s the database, you fools. Sigh.

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

(T)Ruth will out

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Just exactly how greedy are New Labour ministers? And why do so many of them (and their partners / spouses / significant others / hangers-on) seem to see political office as nothing more than a means of personal enrichment?

Thanks to A Logical Voice for the link.

[Edit] Forgot to add a quote :

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.
Woodrow Wilson

Render unto Caesar…

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

So finally they admit it (while no doubt hoping to bury it) – rendition flights did land in the UK. And the careful language that was noted in the non-denial denials (‘”We have found no evidence of detainees being rendered through the UK or overseas territory since 11 September 2001,” said Mr Straw’) proves to be just as expected. Of course you found no evidence you devious cretin – you never looked for any. And as for “we understand our obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture”, I can only say that the egregious Mr Straw (and who says names are not destiny?) and the Foreign Office seem to have a very idiosyncratic conception of what those obligations are.

Meanwhile, surely this means that ‘Buff’ Hoon has been caught lying to Parliament? It’s hard to see how else you could categorise the statement (which as far as I can see was made to MPs) that “the government had since provided the full facts and had nothing to hide”.

So when the leaked memo said there ‘could be more’ than the 2 flights in 1998 they weren’t joking. At least 73 more in fact. I suppose it isn’t suprising that people who can overlook the odd extra £14 million in the accounts (or not notice that a £400,000 mortgage has been paid off) could easily miss 73 flights taking people off to be tortured abroad. Quite understandable.

Given the way this sort of thing tends to dribble out, it does make you wonder how many more than 73 there have really been.

‘Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’
- George Orwell (1903 – 1950)

Cash for coronets

Friday, March 17th, 2006

It seems that not telling colleagues and partners about whacking great sums of money you’ve received (whether by gift, loan or bribe) is quite the pattern in the modern (how they love that word) Labour Party*. But peerages aren’t for sale, oh dear me, no. Of course not. And I am just back from a trip to Alpha Centauri.

Oh and by the way, isn’t there a bit of a contradiction between “Mr Blair also said that he wanted to renounce the right personally to nominate people for honours” and “Mr Blair would also retain the right to nominate a small number of peers“. Errrm, call me an old-fashioned logician, but I don’t see how you square that circle. Has he really reached the stage when he can’t even tell when he’s lying in public?

*It does make one wonder about Jack Dromey’s qualifications as party treasurer if he didn’t notice an extra £14 million in the accounts.

The king has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent Swarms of Officers to harass our People and eat out their substance.
U.S. Declaration of Independence

Let the train take the strain

Friday, March 17th, 2006

Apropos of nothing at all, a trip to Penrith looks surprisingly appealing…

The place to be?

The right most valued by all civilized men is the right to be left alone.
Justice Louis Brandeis

Disparate Housewives

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Some people apparently find nothing unusual in a £344,000 gift.

Others meanwhile – well, I don’t need to spell it out.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.
Abraham Lincoln

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