First Ade then Paul – Podcast News

It’s been slowly boiling away and now the first serving of our new podcast is available. Each week Paul Hayes and myself will bring you gossip and scaremongering from the world of politics and tech.

First Ade then Paul – Satire for Solipsists

Episode #001 Snitch in the Machine: Our daring heroes boldly discuss the Psychoactive Substances Bill & security flaws in the Internet of Things

In A Brief Defence Of Guns…

In the spirit of Christmas and good cheer, I’d like to take a moment to speak about guns and people killing each other. Obviously this is a difficult topic; the recent events in the USA are abhorrent and have shocked the world, but a little should be said about gun law across the pond and the reaction that has taken place this side of it.

Whenever there is a mass shooting in the States the British public and press responds with overwhelming condemnation of American gun-law. Unlike them, Britain is united in its distaste for gun-ownership. The debate by gun prohibitionists was won in these Isles long ago, so regardless of whether a person leans to the left or the right they are likely to view the idea of owning a semi-automatic rifle as being pretty close to insanity. Because of this, intentionally or not, a faint air of smugness creeps into the commentary, a repetitive assertion that, “Of course we don’t get shootings like that here. We’re not stupid enough to legalise guns.”

But amidst all this mutual back-slapping, I’d like to defend that group that seems most alien to us in Britain, the American pro-gun lobby.

If a debate is to be had about something, it is because that thing is a trade-off. Debate exists when there are pros and cons; if a measure had only pros it would have been universally embraced, if it only had cons it would have been immediately dismissed. In Britain we seem to assume that gun ownership is all cons, but that flies in the face of reason. There must be some upside to keep the debate going, even if that upside has long ago vanished from our own shores.

I would suggest that that upside is dignity. There is a statistic that is often used by anti-gun groups: that those who carry a gun are more likely to get shot than those who don’t. To focus in on this is to ignore the wider implications. The reason why they are more likely to get shot is because they are more likely to fight back. Both types of person are attacked in this comparison, it’s just one meekly hands over their wallet and the other tries their luck. Obviously those who try their luck are more likely to get hurt, but they are also more likely to leave the situation with a higher degree of dignity. They made the choice and were willing to risk the injury for the right to defend themselves.

In Britain this is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, because we have had such a vast cultural shift away from the right to self-defence and intervention. Undoubtedly many will find the assertion of peacefully handing over a wallet dignified in itself, but this goes to show how greatly we have become conditioned to submit to authorities other than ourselves. Without the means and right to defend ourselves, we have become more reliant on the police and thus ended personal responsibility.

So despite the horrendous atrocities that take place in the USA I can understand why they are reluctant to hand in their weapons. Once given up, a nation begins a slippery slide into passivity and submissiveness that is remarkably difficult to undo. We in the UK have already been through that process, until now we’ve reached the stage where the very notion of self-defence seems abhorrent. I hope the Americans do not fall into the same trap.

Breaking The Taboo

Thanks to the brave folks in Washington and Colorado, the campaign to end the disastrous war on drugs is gaining momentum. A new documentary will be released on 7 December (on Youtube) that promises to explore this fake war. Looks to be interesting, they have scored some very high profile interviews.

Ecstasy Drug Trial

For those who missed it last month, Channel 4 conducted an investigation into the effects of ecstasy (MDMA) on the brain. 25 participants were each given placebo and MDMA doses whilst their brains were scanned. Afterwards each participant (one of which was Keith Allan!) was interviewed about their experience.

Whilst the show was painfully aware of its precarious position, namely trying to remain disapproving of a drug they were revealing to be relatively harmless, it did throw light on a topic often steeped in shadow. Professor Nutt was a particular joy to watch, especially after his unjust treatment by Alan Johnson in the last Labour government.

Click the link and have a watch:

At the end of the show they announced that a further study has been commissioned to look at the effects of ecstasy on PTSD, but for those of us who believe in legalisation, we were left swinging in the wind.

Why is a drug with such few long term effects illegal, whilst alcohol (a ruthless, addictive, deeply harmful drug) not only remains legal but is socially encouraged? The only arguments seem to be weak protests about feeling depressed for a few days after use, though Professor Nutt stressed that this was actually down to exhaustion from activities conducted whilst on the drug, rather than the drug itself.

MDMA is a very cheap drug to produce. In times of economic hardship it is reckless to leave such an enormous source of revenue in the hands of criminal organisations. Legalise it, test it, tax it. The status quo puts users at risk – and worse! – leaves the government out of pocket!

The Dangers of Peripheral Thinking

As the riots come to a close and looters sink back into the shadows, the political classes breathe a sigh of relief, but also begin tooling up for their own particular street fight. Quite rightly people want answers. How could this happen? How could a rich and prosperous nation suddenly plunge into violent chaos? Very few pundits will now cite the late Mr Duggun as anything other than a momentary catalyst for the violence, the real cause had been there all along.

Both the Left and the Right will try and use these events (quite genuinely in their eyes) to justify their own pre-existing views. The Right will claim that the problem is bad parents, lack of morals, a culture of glorified violence; indeed, Cameron has already begun making these noises, marking a distinct lurch to the right for his party and perhaps sounding the death knell for Ken Clarke’s ‘liberal’ conservatism. The Left, on the other hand, are quick to blame the events on the upper echelons of society: the government’s cuts, large corporations, the destruction of communities, economic policy failing to create jobs, and cuts to the EMA.

Already conservative quarters of the public are calling for benefits to be removed from any who took part in the riots, and not just that, but having subsidised housing removed from their families too. Now, after hasty hearings, prison sentences are being handed out for petty thefts such as stealing a scoop of ice-cream. Now, whilst these are indeed crimes that should be punished, the question must be asked, would these sentences have been handed out if those scoops were stolen a month ago? The answer is almost certainly no, and if that is indeed the answer these people are not being punished for their crimes, but the crimes of others. That is not how the rule of law should work. It is not logical.

The Left, on the other-hand, are just as misguided as their right-wing counterparts. In their eyes this is the natural comeuppance of cutting public spending and low employment prospects. Leading leftie Ken Livingstone was quick to imply that the riots were a result of the governments economic choices.

But this is as foolish thinking as the conservative line. If the ‘poor’ (such a folly to use generalised terms, but please forgive it in this case) are so lead to misdeeds by their circumstance, shouldn’t the rich also be excused? If a rioter can blame his actions on the banker, can’t the banker blame his selfish actions on a spoilt upbringing? In such a world no-one is ever responsible for their actions, they are merely products of their lives up to that point, robots pre-programmed and innocent.

However, this is not the argument the Left makes; their one is far more sinister. Rather than embrace the behaviourist argument and excuse everyone of their actions (by denying free-will) they allow the blame to shift from the rioters, but NOT from the government/financial sector/corporations. By doing so they are implying that somehow those in wealth are more capable of choosing between right and wrong than those denied such privilege. The logical conclusion is startling: that the rich are free-thinking human beings and the poor are somehow less. They are wild beasts simply responding to their environment and are incapable of understanding what they’re doing. This is a similar attitude we take to dogs. It is ironic that the Right, in all their ignorant fury, give more dignity to the rioters than the Left do.

It seems the gut-reaction of those on either side of the political spectrum is to use the riots to somehow blame those they always wanted to blame. It is the responsibility of logical libertarians to remain strong in the face of such dangerous peripheral thinking. The crimes committed over the past month were committed by those who did them, no-one else. And those crimes were the same then as they were at any other time; a victim of arson in 2009 has as much right to justice as a victim of arson in 2011.

A State is a club into which we pay taxes and get services in return. A legitimately elected government should be able to cut spending and not see its citizens turn on each other. People are responsible for their own lives.

In short: the State is the State. It’s not your mum.

The Case For AV Part 2: AV Around The World

The Alternative Vote was designed in 1871 by William Robert Ware, though similar electoral systems had been suggested throughout the 1800’s. The first recorded use of such a system was in Queensland, Australia in 1893, and was adopted nationally in 1918 in response to the conservative vote being split between two parties, giving significant wins to the less popular Labour.

Today, AV serves as a go-between the archaic First Past The Post and Proportional Systems, it maintains the link between MP and constituency, whilst striving to secure an MP that best represents the whole of the voters.

Globally, AV is used in the general elections of Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea notoriously switching to AV after a disastrous experiment with First Past The Post). However, AV is not limited to just these countries; it is used in the electoral systems of Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, devolved parliaments in the UK, party leadership elections in the UK, and the United States.

Throughout the world, where AV has been introduced negative campaigning has been reduced. As John Russo, Oakland City Attorney, argued about the introduction of AV in San Francisco, “[AV] is an antidote to the disease of negative campaigning..”

The worldwide use of AV doesn’t end there, as a variant of AV called “The Two Round System” is used to elect the presidents of many countries including France, Poland, Portugal, Finland and Austria.

The “No To AV” campaign would have us believe that AV is a peculiar oddity ignored by most of the world, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is ‘First Past The Post’, initially exported by colonialism that is now being rejected for its obvious flaws and polarising effect.

AV has been tested internationally and found to have a beneficial effect upon the electoral system, especially in those dogged by negative and confrontational politics. It is these detrimental attributes that plague our system, and make it a prime candidate for reform and a reform long overdue.

The Case For AV Part 1: Removing the Rot

Imagine the scene: ten friends gather together for a game of cards, one suggests that they get some cheese and biscuits. After some initial discussion (and much agreement that the idea is splendid) they put it to a vote. Mary and George vote for Goats Cheese, Sabine and Harold vote for Cheddar, Betty and Barry vote for Applewood, Margaret votes for Brie, whilst Terry, Gordon and Samantha aren’t hungry and vote for no food at all.

The results are as follows:

Goats Cheese: 2
Chedder: 2
Applewood: 2
Brie: 1
Nothing: 3

If this were a general election in the UK, the vote for ‘nothing’ would win. First past the post is a one-round election which gives victory to whichever candidate receives the most votes. Sounds fair, right?

Wrong. Take a look at the results above. Another way of displaying the results could be thus:

Cheese and biscuits: 7
Nothing: 3

The overwhelming majority wanted cheese and biscuits, the problem was that their vote was split when it came to the fine details. Quite understandably they had opinions more complex than simply wanting cheese, they had preferences for specific cultivations, but through the distortions of the voting system, the majority was denied their consensus (cheese) simply because they wanted to express their precise opinion.

This is the problem the Alternative Vote system tries to address. It is not a proportional system, such grand reforms are beyond us for they would surely destroy the grip of the two main parties (you can’t get turkeys to vote for Christmas), but AV is a much better system than first past the post,

Nothing corrupts democracy more than a first past the post electoral system. This is because it erodes the point of elections: a moment in time when the people express their will on how they should be governed. This no longer happens in the UK. Instead, once every four years or so, the British public turn out to vote AGAINST policies, rather than for them. Doubt it? Take a look at any campaign literature in the run up to a General Election: ‘Only Labour can defeat the Tories here!’ ‘The Tories don’t have a chance, only the Liberal Democrats can stop Labour!’ and the such.

Our elections have become riddled with tactical voting as voters no longer believe in voting for the party they’d like, only to stop the party they despise. This approach soon infects the whole way they approach politics, always believing the worst and focusing on negative opposition.

And thus we find ourselves in the cynical mess we’re in today.

Tactical voting is not going to disappear in any non-proportional system, but AV gives the voter a chance to express a positive before they resort to the negative. This simple expression may not change who gets elected, but it does change the way we interact with politics. When entering a polling booth, the voter should think about what they WANT, not just what they hate, and AV would facilitate this.

Labour and the Conservative party fear such a change. They have thrived on nothing more than not being the other, encouraging hatred of their opposition, whilst bringing policies to within a wafer of each other to fight for those few voters disinterested enough not to buy into the hatred.

This homogenising of politics only reinforces apathy and negative voting. The only way to break it, is to change the system, and this is our only chance. In this series of articles I will look at the various aspects of the Alternative Vote, from cost to impact upon our parliament.

In Part 2, ‘AV around the world: A Tried and Tested System’.

Top 5 No2AV Lies

No2AV Campaign Poster, image by incurable_hippie

No2AV Campaign Poster, image by incurable_hippie

The latest poll has support for AV dwindle to 42% whilst the No vote takes the lead with 58%. So far it’s a victory for big money and dirty tactics, but Paddy Ashdown has had enough; he’s mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore!

Prompted by the deluge of lies and smears from the No 2AV Camp and an increasingly personalised campaign (“Say No To President Clegg” reads one No2AV Advert), Ashdown has struck out at the Prime Minister, demanding he disassociate himself from the campaign.

In honour of Ashdown’s stand, here’s a list of the top 5 blatant lies the No2AV camp have farted into our lives:

5. AV Leads To More Coalitions

Utter tosh! Australia uses AV in their general elections and has had less coalitions than us. All analysis of previous elections shows that the results wouldn’t have been swayed towards coalitions (assuming the same voter intentions).

4. AV Is Too Complicated For Voters To Understand

Nonsense! If you are drawn to more than one candidate, you rank them in order of preference. I know some people can be thick, but not THAT thick. It is a list. Just how stupid do these Conservatives think the electorate are? No wonder they aren’t bothering to argue the issue using facts, they seem to believe the public are made up of grunting farmyard animals that can only respond to images of sick babies and sad soldiers.

3. AV Would Lead To BNP MPs

Crap! AV means that an MP needs to reach 50% support in the constituency (or the greatest once all preferences are taken into account) to be elected. Now Baroness Warsi might be thinking to herself that the BNP are a good choice for her second preference, but it might surprise her to find she is in the minority. The BNP oppose AV, because they know they don’t have a chance in hell of securing a majority in a constituency.

2. AV Destroys The Principle Of One Person One Vote

Bullshit! Every vote in counted the same number of times. Once a round is over and a candidate eliminated, every vote is recounted ignoring the eliminated candidate. Just because your candidate hasn’t been eliminated yet, doesn’t mean your vote wasn’t included in that round.

1. AV Is Expensive

Complete and total fucking lie. The No to AV camp have decided that to be able to handle voters writing lists, we would need expensive vote counting machines. It doesn’t seem to matter that this isn’t the intention, nor that no other AV electoral system have had to use them. No. All that matters is that the No2AV Camp have imagined a figure, and that’s what they’re sticking to. What shits. What grubby little lying scumbags.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats shouldn’t quit the coalition over losing the referendum, they should threaten to quit if Cameron doesn’t put a stop to this. Losing based upon facts is fine, losing because of this shit undermines the very concept of democracy.

5 Tips The Government Won’t Try

In a time when public finances are being cut to pay off an enormous deficit, here’s five methods the government could use to ease the process (yet are too chickenshit to try):

5.Scrap Trident

A suggestion hotly debated in the general election. Scrapping Trident would save billions of pounds that could be put to better use elsewhere. Even if that money never left the defence budget, it could still be put to better effect equipping departments we actually use. Trident if a very expensive symbol, and as long as we foster a good relationship with the USA, we don’t need it.

4.Relax Copyright Law

Currently the government is looking to strengthen copyright law. The way they figure it, piracy should be cracked down on because of the loss in revenue piracy causes. This is a short-term view. True, relaxed copyright law does eat into the earnings of those already established, yet it also stimulates creativity in the those just starting out. Rather than trying to roll back the clock on the internet, the government should be trying to adjust to the times, reappraising how money can be generated from an industry out of date.

3.Legalise Prostitution

The oldest profession in the world holds that title for a reason: it withstands boom and bust. Legalising would not only protect the vulnerable, reduce sex crime and create a healthier society, but it would generate much needed tax revenue and employment. The persecution of this profession is finally coming to an end as people realise policy can’t be dictated by an out of date morality corrupted by religious dogma. We are not a Christian nation, but a secular one, and the laws should reflect this.

2.Reassess the nature of Justice

Prison is increasingly becoming an institution difficult to justify. There seems to be three motivations for incarceration: punishment, rehabilitation and isolation. Isolation (to protect the public by keeping the guilty person locked away) is the only one of the three that prison actually comes close to satisfying, and with rising prison numbers and authorities under pressure to release prisoners early, not even then. We need a complete reappraisal of what we want our justice system to achieve, with punishment, rehabilitation and isolation separated into different sentences, rather than lumped together into one. Only then will our justice system start to see re-offending rates drop and prison numbers reduce.

1.Legalise Drugs

Yup, you guessed it. The big one. Legalise drugs, destroy the black market and create a thriving industry. The economic impact of this would be huge, reducing crime, preventing illness, stabilising Afghanistan and reinvigorating schools. Departments such as Defence, Justice and Health would make huge savings, and the treasury would receive record tax revenue in return. This one is so obvious that it is astonishing we aren’t considering it. The only thing that prevents this rational policy is overwhelming public opposition, but as the Coalition has shown us, that isn’t always a impassable obstacle.

Flawed Opposition

The Government’s plan to sell off some of Britain’s publicly owned forests has been scrapped under immense pressure from the public, universal condemnation and a plethora of celebrity opposition. Call it a u-turn or ‘listening to the public’, the result is the same: the government backed down.

A victory for the public? The first of many changes brought about by people-power?

First, lets examine why the government backed down on this policy and not the more controversial education bill. Ironically the cuts to higher education, scrapping of the EMA and raising of fees was labeled ‘ideological’, whilst the selling of the forests was seen as a quick attempt to raise cash. In actual fact the reverse was true. The education bill was a compromise in cash-strapped times. Ideologically both parties would have been more comfortable defending another policy; unfortunately this was the only real option.

The selling of the forests, unlike the education bill, was ideological. The proposal wouldn’t have raised money, reports suggest the government could have even lost money (albeit by an almost negligible amount). The reason for the change was the ideological belief that power should be devolved away from the state, that if you give responsibility to the citizen (rather than dictated from Whitehall) you get a better return for your investment. Everything would remain broadly the same, just run by local businesses and charities; forests and wildlife protected with legislation, except without the government bureaucracy.

The government backed down on this proposal because they could. It was a policy based upon principal rather than necessity and for that reason was expendable.

But what was so monstrous about this proposal? What was getting so many people so incredibly furious? The answer is the mythical bit where the forests would be closed to the public, chopped down, burnt, or whatever other random fears formed in the cynical public’s mind. All nonsense of course, but once the rumor-mill gets going, there’s no stopping it.

So was it a victory for the public? In one sense, yes it was. The public let their views be known and a bill was defeated. The problem is the bill the public were objecting to wasn’t the one being proposed. They were objecting to a bill that never existed, a figment of the collective imagination, and in the process an opportunity to improve the well-being of our forests (by putting them in more capable hands) was missed. It is a dangerous precedent that could mark the end for many of this government’s more radical reforms, whether they are good for the public or not.