Sunday, 24 January 2010

Democracy at work?

Earlier this month I posted on Lord Moynehan’s proposed bill to give the police the power to raid homes in order to search for so-called "performance enhancing drugs". Allegedly to prevent cheating at the 2012 Olympics.

I took my own advice and wrote to Eric Pickles Chairman of the Conservative Party and Conservative MP to voice my concerns. Nothing like going to the top.

He replied fairly promptly and actually answered the basic thrust of my letter, so good for him in that. The relevant section of his reply was as follows:

“I understand your concerns about this issue. Whilst I believe these measures are necessary to safeguard against the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport, it is important that they are not used unfairly against members of the public who have been prescribed these drugs for genuine medical purposes.

Please rest assured that my colleagues and I will press the Government to ensure that these powers are used for their intended purpose.”

Do you know... I really don’t think he did understand half my concerns about the issue based on his response.

Sports are a game. There may be money tied up in them, a lot in some cases - and prestige, but they are in the end still a game.

What’s more they are essentially a private arrangement between individuals, or groups of individuals, who agree a set of rules they will abide by. It may even go so far as being a contract, but that is still essentially between the individuals involved.

If someone cheats on those rules then it is a matter for all the other participants and the organisers. The governing bodies of the sports. The rest of us may form opinions about what was done and the people who did it, but that is it.

Even if the state decides to organise a sporting event it is still essentially a private matter.

I, like the overwhelming majority or citizens, have entered into no agreements. I am not involved in it, except possibly to be inconvenienced by it when travelling and directly, or indirectly, involuntarily having to pay towards it.

Also possibly watching a fraction of it on TV, after having paid again to do that too, either by means of the UK TV tax, or directly to one of the other content providers.

I don’t care particularly strongly about the games, not nearly so much as I do about how much I pay in tax. They let them use advanced materials and equipment in some events.

If they gave athletes carte blanche to use performance enhancing drugs as much as they liked the performances might even be more entertaining. They would certainly be on a guaranteed level playing field then… except some would not have so much money to put into training and equipment or time. Maybe they should insist on equal funding as well.

The thing is the staggering majority of us are not a part of it or involved in it in any realistic sense any more than we would be involved in horticulture if we had a day out and visited a country fair that had a vegetable growing competition.

It is simply wrong for the state to pass any law relating to the rules of a private competition. Would the government seriously consider making a law to ban overacting on the football pitch? Giving the police the power to curtail a footballer’s thespian leanings?

You can hear the catch slogan now… “Two to five for taking a dive? – It’s the LAW”

So… no Mr Pickles. If you believe for a second the measures are necessary then you clearly feel the state has far more right to interfere with my liberty than I do.

The state has no business whatsoever attempting to safeguard against the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

It is interesting to note the measures are proposed by an unelected Tory Lord who is completely unaccountable to the electorate. And that Mr Pickles, occupying a safe Tory seat as he does, is effectively only practically accountable to the Tory hierarchy.

The legislation in it’s very conception is anti democratic and authoritarian.

As for his assertion that “I will press the Government to ensure that these powers are used for their intended purpose”, at best I fear this simply demonstrates grossly misplaced optimism on his part.

We are all well aware that very little recent legislation that has been passed granting powers to the police of councils or virtually any public body has actually been used as they were allegedly intended. In practically all cases there has been creep. As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject and my letter to Mr Pickles.

So from his letter it seems he has a touchingly misplaced faith at variance with the observed facts that this legislation will, unlike most other recent legislation not be abused by those executing it. Plus a certain authoritarian belief that the state has a God given right to be intrude where it should not even be considering intruding.

Is it worth telling him do you think?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Bookie always wins

Here is an excellent example of why, when I was young, my Mother always advised me never to bet my money.

The house always wins.

This is the cautionary tale of hapless punter Cliff Bryant who trustingly placed an accumulator bet with British Bookmaker Ladbrokes that snow would fall on 24 towns and cities across the north of England on Christmas Day.

Well as it happened he was right, but like one or two insurance companies Ladbrokes were reluctant to pay out when they realised it would cost them £7.1 million - So they found a handy technical reason to avoid it and refused.

They were happy enough to take the bet, but when it came time to actually pay up they said they had accepted the bet by – get this ‘mistake’ and so would not be honouring the bet. Apparently it was somehow against their rules, even though they did take the bet.

Magnanimously they are willing to refund the punter back his original stake.

Curiously and it seems foolishly I had expected better of Bookmakers than politicians. I had thought they might actually honour their promises.

Now it seems to me that if they had honoured the bet it would have been a massive boost for their credibility and good publicity. Probably over a year it would have netted them what it cost and more.

As it is they now have a reputation of not honouring their bets, of welching - and who would trust someone with a bet who has so spectacularly shown they don’t always honour their bets?

So, next time you are thinking about placing a ‘fun’ bet, or any bet, especially with Ladbrokes, perhaps you would be better advised to think twice and spend your money on something you might actually get when you part with it.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

All wind and no Substance?

An article in the Sunday Telegraph (Jan 10th) by Cristopher Booker made almost as a throw away aside, an excellent point about the relative merits of various forms of alternative energy.

Now before I go further I should make my own views on the matter clear. I believe the UK should have, as a matter of national policy, complete energy independence. Further I believe it makes sense that this should be as clean as possible. This reguardless as to weather the theory of man made global warming is right or not.

Mr Booker’s point concerned power generation by wind turbines. He pointed out that the recent cold snap had effectively been largely windless. The point being that wind generation is not necessarily to be relied upon. Even over an area as large as the UK you can suffer a massive drop off of the power wind generators are capable of delivering.

One wonders why those who promote wind turbines so often quote near maximum out put in their figures, it would be more honest and accurate to quote averages, andy one who ever tried to fly a kite as a child knows that some days you can and some days you can’t.

If we had been reliant on wind power this winter we would have been in deep trouble.

So what can be relied upon to deliver power?

Well there are the tides. They are driven by the sun and moon and unless there were a disaster of unimaginable proportions are regular and utterly reliable.

Then there is nuclear energy. This is the route the French took decades ago, French steely self interest being less inclined to wilt before short sighted nimbi left/green luddite foot dragging.

It is interesting to note that the main reason our power generation capacity is not effectively carbon free right now is because of the Greens.

That is why not only are we not carbon free - we are in danger of soon being in a position of being unable to service our full power needs. We already have to buy nuclear generated electrical power from France.

I have said before. Surely we can use existing defunct deep coal mines to sequester spent nuclear material?

What is to prevent us building nuclear power facilities underground near the top of such mines and sequestering the spent fuel deep in the geologically stable depths of the mines. If there were ever a leak it would be contained underground and no spent fuel would need to travel overland.

It is also worth noting that recent evidence suggests that low levels of radiation may be far less dangerous than originally supposed at the dawn of the atomic age, even Green Patriarch and possibly now former poster boyJames Lovelock is now in favour of generating electricity by means of nuclear energy

With enough spare power capacity the possibility opens up of generating hydrogen from seawater in sufficient quantities to substitute it for petrol in internal combustion engines. The technology to burn Hydrogen in an internal combustion engine is relatively simple and could easily be adopted.

The only emissions from vehicles running on hydrogen would be water vapour then those inclined to hate 4WD vehicles would need to find some other excuse to do so. I suspect we can be assured they would do so.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Another brick in the wall

Here is yet another truly sinister piece of proposed UK legislation and it goes to show that it is not just Labour who has little concern for citizens rights.

Tory Lord Moynihan has drawn up a draft Bill to give the police powers to search for performance enhancing drugs.

His ostensible reason, he claims, is to help prevent Olympic athletes cheating with performance enhancing drugs come the 2012 Olympics.

This sounds almost acceptable - if you are the sort of person who does not bother to to think to closely about these things.

The first thing to consider about any legislation is how it might go wrong because it has been poorly drafted.

It is unlikely the bill will be able to distinguish between ordinary citizens and athletes, let alone Olympians.

Also this relates not to so-called illegal drugs whatever you consider the merits or otherwise of prohibition. This relates to drugs which it may be perfectly legal to posess, may even be medically necessary for some conditions, but that also may enhance athletic performance.

My elderly mother is on steroids of some sort. She is therefore certainly in possession of what might be considered “performance enhancing drugs”.

The second thing is to ignore the claimed reason for it and consider what powers it will actually give to the state and it’s increasingly politicised police ‘service’.

You can be absolutely certain, whatever the ostensible reason for the additional powers, the police, or anyone else given them, will be using them to the fullest extent that is possible.

If you doubt this you only have to look at the lawful, but effectively misuse, of legislation that has resulted in the police harassing innocent photographers.

Or the violent ejection of an elderly Labour Party conference attendee from Conference when he made the mistake of criticising the Government.

Or the hundreds of incidences of local councils misusing anti terrorist legislation to spy on people’s refuse bin use, or where they live.

So what will this proposed piece of authoritarian legislation do? Apparently it will allow the police to raid a place of residence, for no better reason than to seize perfectly legal (if performance enhancing) drugs.

Another significant chunk of your and my right to live unmolested by an increasingly authoritarian state being gradually and stealthily stolen away while you don’t notice - and it is just too much bother to make a fuss over such a small thing.

Why this time? For the truly world shattering and absolute necessity to make it a little bit more difficult to cheat at sports. Even if it were instead supposed to save lives it might be a price too high to pay

You should be concerned. Don’t just sit there. Take 5 minutes to actually do something. Complain to your MP. It is easy and completely free, just go to the ‘They work for you’ site. Enter your post code plus a few details and the site will forward your note to your MP.

If you can’t think of how to put your objection then just paste this in:

Dear Sir/Madam/etc.,

I am writing to you as my MP, my representative in Parliament to make you aware of my strong objections to Lord Moynihan’s draft bill that proposes to give the police powers to search residences for, otherwise legal drugs, that enhance athletic performance in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

Even with safeguards this legislation poses a great risk to our rights and liberties. It is a case of the proverbial hammer being used to crack the nut. All in the name of sports.

Many people require these so-called “performance enhancing” drugs on a daily basis for their health. Such legislation could theoretically mean police would have the power to search the homes of many people who have nothing to do with the Olympics.

We have seen a number of recent instances where other supposedly laudable, but draconian, legislation has effectively been trivially misused in ways we were assured would never occur when the legislation was passed, take the matter of councils spying in on household refuse for but one instance. I am sure like the rest of us you must be well aware of others.

If these powers are granted they will inevitably be used and more.

Can you please advise me, in clear language, weather you intend to represent me, my views and oppose this legislation, or not.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to your reply.

yours faithfully

#your name here#

Quote of the day

"The Framers of the Bill of Rights did not purport to "create" rights. Rather, they designed the Bill of Rights to prohibit our Government from infringing rights and liberties presumed to be preexisting."

William J. Brennan, Jr

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."

Abraham Lincoln

Monday, 4 January 2010

I told you so

I don't generally crow about "I'told you sos", but it seems the UK has just had the coldest December in 30 years. Now it is January and the Met Office are now predicting yet more snow and sub-zero temperatures. More Severe Weather warnings have been issued.

This is a world away from from the mild winter predicted earlier.

One suspects the sharp contrast between the long term forecasts and the actual weather we get may be driven by more a tendancy to slant long term forecasts towards the warmest possible outcome, based on a conviction of the reality of global warming and maybe a problem with connecting possible climate change with actual climate.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Well it's the new year - Happy New Year one and all!

Traditionally the new year is a time when we make resolutions - and generally fail to keep them :-)

Why do we do this?

It probably stems from that feeling of renewal, the fresh start. The old year is tired and worn out. It may be it went well, it may be it was a dissapointment, it may have been average with both good and bad.

Henry Ward Beecher said: "Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past."

However 2009 was we draw an artificial line in the... snow? Ahead there are no footprints, what is in front is virgin, unspoiled territory waiting for us.

The moving finger has not writ... yet. We can have a hand in what is writ if we care to. That is the sense that drives us to make resolutions.

The fact is that is true... every... single... day.

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your lives, It will be true of each new dawn we see. Always there is - potential. The trick is to remember it and not loose the wonder and the will.