Two Down

So long Rand! So long Rick! Barely had the podcast been recorded when it was rendered out of date. Both Rand Paul and Rick Santorum have bowed out of the race for the White House, allowing their meagre support to flow to other more likely candidates. As a parting shot at Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Rick Santorum heaped praise on Marco Rubio (our podcasts predicted next president). No such indication from Rand as to where he’d like his voters to swing, but perhaps that’s because there really isn’t anyone else in the race quite like him…

Soft on Crime, Drugs and Thugs

You can tell when one of the main two political parties are in full electioneering mode, for the very worst instincts come to the fore. In the Conservatives this is all too obvious; warnings of chaos and imminent apocalypse dominate the airwaves. It is all rather reminiscent of their “Hung Parliament Party” election broadcast of 2010, an advert that warned voters that should they back Nick Clegg the result would wreck the economy and paralyse government. The message now is much the same, though the success of the lib-con coalition (in terms of delivering a stable working government) means that they can’t simply air the same ad twice, forcing them instead to play up the threat of the various coalitions that might form around Labour.

But these tactics are generally what you’d expect from the Conservative Party. Labour, on the other hand, is rather more split upon its darker impulses. Under Tony Blair’s leadership, with braying support from the likes of David Blunkett, the party embraced an authoritarian approach to law and order. In many ways this was successful; it kept the Tories at bay by heading off any attempts to flank them from the right, and was a quick and easy way to drum up an easy vote or two. However, in the long run it deeply worried those in the party who were concerned about civil rights, driving many out of the arms of Labour for good.

It has been many years since Tony Blair left the scene, but this authoritarian streak has yet to leave the Labour Party. In recent leaflets Labour has been resorting to the old tactic of painting the Liberal Democrats as a party soft on crime for their policy on treating drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one. Never mind just how backward and out-of-step with current thinking their criticisms are, it seems that this stance is a default one; a well of authoritarian scare-mongering that the Labour party cannot help but sup.

As shared by @MSmithsonPB

But whereas this tactic might have worked back in 1997, today it is likely to have the opposite effect. Liberalisation of drug laws used to be a policy only embraced by the hard-core of the Liberal Democrat party. Now it is conventional wisdom. Those soft lib dem voters are more likely to be sent back into the arms of the liberals by such scare-mongering than any other outcome Labour is hoping for.

It all reminds me of when I was living in the Windsor constituency in 2005. As you’d imagine, it’s a safe seat for the Conservatives, but still Adam Afriyie came knocking on my door, seeking my vote. Rather glad for the opportunity, I presented him with a Conservative leaflet that slammed the Lib Dems (their likely opponent) for their aim to legalise drugs. As it happened I’d been researching for a documentary about drug prohibition at the time and knew Lib Dem policy well; in fact I had written to them complaining that their policy didn’t go as far as legalisation.

“This is simply not true,” I told him, pointing to the outlandish claims. “Here you say that the Lib Dems would legalise Cannabis. That is not their policy.”

“But it is,” Afriyie persisted, “And if I can prove to you that the Liberal Democrats would legalise drugs, would that secure your vote for the Conservatives?”

Adam Afriyie, so caught up in his… well… conservative mentality, never once thought that his claims might backfire on him. It is this same lack of imagination undermining the Labour Party as it struggles to define itself. It seems to hark for the old days when it could safely rely on its liberal-left roots whilst presenting itself as authoritarian-right to grab swing voters.

Those days are long gone, the internet has put a stop to such tactics. The question is, will the Labour Party wake up to this fact in time to save itself?

Liberal Democrat Wishlist

As the slow news summer rumbles along, the broadcasters turn towards political posturing, preparing for an autumn conference season which will see the political parties position themselves for the run up to the next general election. This will be a new experience for us Brits. In the USA they are well used to electioneering gearing up pretty much as soon as one election draws to a close, and because they have fixed terms they know just when to start buying up ad space and hitting the streets. Well, now we have fixed terms too, and whereas before our politicians would have sat on their cash in a darkened room paranoid the Prime Minister would either call a snap election or delay it as long as humanly possible, now they know when. It’s May 2015 folks. Bring it on.
So looking forward to the Liberal Democrat conference (for those of you non-Brits, the Lib Dems are our centre party – Labour is the party of the left… or at least is supposed to be) here is my wish list of policies & attitudes I would like to see expressed.

A courageous infrastructure plan based on technology of the future rather than standard procedure of the past

HS2, whilst bringing us up to date with pretty much the rest of the developed world, is rather lacking in ambition. The Lib Dems also run the risk of beating the same green drum that’s been kicking around since the eighties, without realising that there is a brand-spanking new green fiddle that is well worth a play. Rather than trying to reduce petrol consumption (which will happen anyway due to rising prices) they should be proposing investment / subsidies for driverless cars. Driverless cars will change our economy and change the way we live our lives and we should be at the cutting edge rather than playing catch up.

An economic message that is Stage 2 rather than Plan B

The Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Tories. They supported a centre-right economic model. These are the facts and the Lib Dems have to live with them. There will be a strong urge within the party to distance themselves as far as possible from Osborne and whilst that desire is justified, it is not good politics. We already have one party howling in anguish at every announcement Osborne makes, we don’t need a second. The Liberal Democrats need to present to the electorate their own narrative of where to take the Coalition’s economic model, embracing the strengths whilst putting a unique centrist spin on its future. No matter how much people naively complain about all three parties converging on the same political space, in truth there is a vast gulf in the middle that a canny centrist party could exploit. It is better to talk about tax cuts for the poor than tax rises for the rich. They just need to quell the left to do it.

Take a lead from Uruguay and change the world

To hell with the Daily Mail. The Lib Dems need to come out in favour of legalising cannabis now. In ten years’ time it will be legal across the world and every party except UKIP will have accepted it. The Lib Dems need to take the lead and exploit this rare opportunity now, before the moment passes. Legalised cannabis means greater revenue in cash-strapped times, reduced burden on the justice department in an era of cuts and a healthier more educated public. It is a unique selling point that will differentiate the Lib Dems from the Tories and Labour. True, there will be voters who will never vote for a party who contemplates legalisation, but they would never vote Lib Dem anyway. But there will be plenty of swing voters and first time voters will be drawn be the prospect. I repeat: the time is now!

Embark on an aggressive fight back against authoritarian politics

Even under the coalition we have seen too many big-state solutions to social problems, from national security and terrorism to copyright infringement and pornography. It is time the Liberal Democrats distanced themselves from the Labour Party and Conservatives by pledging to repeal intrusive surveillance by the state and implementing safeguards against further such legislation in the future. Freedom is a notion that seems to be forgotten in modern British politics and it is time someone brought it back.

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!

And Blank It Shall Stay!

Bob Ainsworth, a Home Office Minister under Tony Blair, has called for a debate to be held on alternatives to prohibition. Appearing on The Daily Politics he talked candidly about his time in office; how he could only move policy slightly in the direction he wanted, regrettably being unable to voice his true views due to his party’s fear of media fury.

Once again we see that time and time again politicians are presented with the facts, only to turn away into ignorance out of fear of being crushed under the weight of public hostility.

Already the knives are being sharpened for poor Bob Ainsworth, who is showing considerable courage to put his hand up and say that he wasn’t doing his job properly and a new system of legalisation needs to be put in place. The Labour party has already distanced itself from him, branding Ainsworth as ‘irresponsible’. It seems Ed Miliband’s blank sheet of paper doesn’t extend to drugs policy.

It’s a pity for Labour, because adopting radical solutions to today’s problems could re-energise the party once more. Sadly Miliband doesn’t want to be brought into office on a wave of hope, but of anger, so instead of debating real issues he’ll continue exploiting peoples fears. How very sad.

Good for you Bob Ainsworth! If more of your party was like you then the Coalition really would be in danger. As it is, I fear your head is for the chop, like so many before you.

Yes we can! No you can’t!

I have to hand it to the democrats, they sure know how to stuff it all up. Just a mere two years ago Obama was swept to power with the democratic party holding both the senate and congress. It was assumed that we were facing a generation of democratic rule, with the republicans facing a long era lost in the wilderness. On the international stage, the election result was hailed as a breakthrough for sanity, with praises heaped upon the new administration. Indeed, Obama was even given a nobel peace price (seemingly for just not being Bush).

How times change. On Tuesday night the democrats got the biggest kicking seen in a generation. Broadcast around the world were images of dancing Republicans, celebrating their conquest of congress. Obama had been successfully been painted as an evil nazi communist muslim, and they were ready to “reclaim” America.

But rather than this being a proper movement, it is a confused mess. The republicans were reliant upon disaffected over-60’s who want more money for medicare, whilst also whipping up support with deficit reduction rhetoric. They claim to be libertarians, whilst embracing the religious right. They want the state out of their pockets, but still in their pants. What this amounts to is a confused mob, united whilst they are on the outside pissing in, but what on earth will happen now they have power?

America is in for a tough time. Obama faces a rabid congress whose sole aim is to de-construct everything he’s done over the past two years. He can either let them do so in exchange for moving forward with a mild and ineffective agenda, or he can fight them, causing gridlock and stagnation until 2012. Either way, not a lot is going to get done.

Two years. That’s all it took for the democrats to stuff it up. And just when the republicans looked like they couldn’t get any crazier, they run further into the hands of Sarah Palin, deluding themselves that the reason for losing the last election was the likeable moderate John McCain, rather than his lunatic running mate. I feel sorry for Americans, they electoral choice seems to be between the incompetent and the insane.

Oh, and the people of California voted against legalising cannabis. Tossers.

Midterm Blues

The economic downturn in the United States of America has sent the political spectrum swinging wildly. In government they have a left leaning President who has delivered on healthcare reform; something a large portion of the country thinks of as radical “socialism”.

Yet whilst the executive turns to big-state solutions, a libertarian wind is blowing to upset the political elite. This is no organised movement, however, and there are numerous eddies pulling this way and that, confusing any hope of a concise swing in the popular mind.

California has a huge budget deficit, and it is in this state that the libertarian movement has its strongest play. Today, whilst voting in the midterm elections, the citizens of California will vote on weather or not to legalise cannabis. It is estimated this will lead to savings/earnings of three billion dollars per year. It is of no surprise then, that this is the primary motivation for the sudden courage politicians have shown in supporting a “yes” vote.

If California legalises pot, then many other states could soon follow, the temptation of the massive savings, drops in crime, tax raised and health improvements could prove irresistible, especially with California pulling out into the lead above their neighbours. In turn, the rest of the world would be free to pursue their own legalisation agenda, something nations have been afraid to do previously, encase they were penalised by the USA.

If this is the small, yet hopeful breeze of libertarianism, the rise of the Tea (Taxed-Enough-Already) Party is the confused hurricane. They claim to be fighting for a smaller state against a government out of control and intent on meddling in peoples lives. Whilst that is an honourable endeavour, the conservative right has once again been manipulated by religion into sullying their own message with extremely un-libertarian goals of imposing their faith on others.

The political figure-head of the Tea Party is Sarah Palin, a woman widely mocked, yet who holds a talisman-like status amongst her followers. Tonight’s election results could see a great shift, not just from the democrats, but from traditional republicans into the hands of this new and dangerous force for ignorance.

More Home Office Madness

The Economist has reported on Transforms latest stage in their attempts to get the government to release its anti-drugs strategy information:

“After thinking about it for nearly two years and trying out various exemptions, the Home Office has refused to release a confidential assessment of its anti-drugs strategy requested by Transform. The reason is that next March the National Audit Office (NAO), a public-spending watchdog, is due to publish a report of its own on local efforts to combat drugs. The Home Office says that to have two reports about drugs out at the same time might confuse the public, and for this reason it is going to keep its report under wraps.”

I’m not going to go on about this. I simply want to draw attention to their argument:

The Home Office says that to have two reports about drugs out at the same time might confuse the public, and for this reason it is going to keep its report under wraps.

No, that still hasn’t done it. That argument is so moronic I’ll have to post it once more.

The Home Office says that to have two reports about drugs out at the same time might confuse the public.

What? ……. What?….. I’m sorry dear reader, but I am struggling to comprehend such a casual fob off. The Home Office clearly does not give a damn about fixing the UK’s drug problem and instead thinks the whole thing’s a joke. Next they’ll say, “er.. well… the dog ate the report..” and then hide under their desks, giggling.

Poor Transform, trying to fix things with logic. Don’t they understand there’s no place for that in our political system?