Category Archives: Politics

My response to the Privacy and Security inquiry

I found out only today that The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is soliciting evidence for its Privacy and Security Inquiry. As this is one of the most important issues facing the UK at the moment, I made time to write a response, and if you’re British then I encourage you to do so as well. See also this excellent response from Glyn Moody.

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Welcome to Britain, where you’re legally innocent until suspected

I am seriously running out of words to describe the arrogance and xenophobia of this government. From today’s Guardian:

Nick Clegg has signed up to a plan drawn up by Theresa May to strip foreign-born terror suspects of British citizenship – a move that would render them stateless – if they are judged to present a threat to national security.

(For non-British readers: Theresa May is the Home Secretary of our current coalition government. Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister, and is supposed to bring a Liberal Democrat perspective to the Conservative-dominated government.)

So the new plan is: if you’re suspected of terrorism, you lose your citizenship. But only, of course, if you’re one of those nasty immigrants. Nice proper British people can’t be expected to have such rules imposed on them!

In other words, if you’re a naturalised foreigner in Britain, you can now be guilty until proven innocent (or, I guess, even after you’re proved innocent, so long as someone’s decided they still suspect you).

The meta-problem here is that every hostile, tiny-minded move by the likes of Theresa May shifts the Overton Window for how much xenophobia is acceptable. And it’s clear that it’s becoming very fashionable. This is the real threat of the racist UKIP party: not that they will gain power, but that the Conservatives, who are supposed to be a mainstream party, and falling over themselves to match UKIP’s hostile rhetoric and policies.

As Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said:

Terror suspects should be charged and tried. First politicians avoided trials for foreign nationals; now they seek the same for their own citizens.

This move is as irresponsible as it is unjust. It would allow British governments to […] punish potential innocent political dissenters without charge or trial. There is the edge of populist madness and then the abyss.

Apparently Liberal Democrat sources close to Nick Clegg said: “it would apply to no more than a handful of people who are deemed to present a serious terror threat.” Yeah, that’s how it always starts. Next thing you know, it’s ten-hour detentions for David Miranda. “Terrorism” legislation always creeps. Always. Every time. Have we learned nothing?

Sure enough, one of the first comments on the Guardian article says “The same should be done for those involved in rape, sexual assault and prostitution of children and for serious rapes”. So this person is suggesting that people suspected of these crimes should lose their citizenship. It’s really beyond parody, isn’t it?

And here’s what hurts most (again from the Guardian article): “Liberal Democrat sources said Clegg, the deputy prime minister, was supporting the proposal on the grounds of national security”. It’s reached the point now where I expect contempt for civil rights from our Conservatives. What I didn’t expect was for the Liberal Democrats to be cheering along. Really, when even the Good Guys are evil, who is left to vote for?

Seriously, people. I know it’s a cliché, but it has to be asked: is this what we fought two world wars for?


Snowden-haters are on the wrong side of history

In the autumn on 1963, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, worried at Martin Luther King’s growing influence, began tapping his phones and bugging his hotel rooms. They hoped to discredit him by gaining evidence that he was a communist, but found no such evidence. But they did find evidence that he was having affairs. The FBI gathered what they considered to be the most incriminating clips, and in November 1964 they anonymously sent tapes to him along with a letter telling him to commit suicide:

White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don’t have one at this time anywhere near your equal. […] You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that. […] you don’t believe in any personal moral principles.

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Saying goodbye to Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of years now, first as @SauropodMike and more recently as @MikeTaylor. I have to admit, it’s hugely surpassed my expectations. I thought it was a medium for the trivial, but instead I’ve found a wealth of pithy observations, witty asides and links to all sorts of fascinating longer reads.


So now I’m leaving it.

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What should I be using for email?

Since June 2009 I’ve been using Gmail for my email, and I have to admit it’s been great. Really convenient, excellent searching facilities, available from anywhere. In terms of ease of use it’s a huge step forward from my old approach, using GNU Emacs’s “vm” package and manually syncing mailboxes between my desktop and laptop as necessary.


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Dear America: you are insane

US schools weigh bulletproof uniforms: ‘It’s no different than a seatbelt in a car’.

That is all.


A brief comment on Margaret Thatcher

Following the death of Margaret Thatcher, I am seeing a lot of comments like this one from David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham. I find them baffling. At the risk of Godwin’s wrath, let’s try an experimental rewording:

Regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with his analysis, he certainly stood up for what he believed in – he certainly got something done. He had guts and conviction – qualities which are much needed today.

Nobody needs to tell me how divisive his politics were on the ground. Poland in 1939 was often not a fun place to be. Yet nobody can deny that he had a vision, as well as the strength and courage to see that vision become a reality. Those qualities are to be admired, regardless of the disagreements we may rightly have with the effects of his policies on the people we stand up for.

Am I saying that Margaret Thatcher was as bad as Hitler? No I am not. But I fail to see how the appalling destruction brought about by her policies is to be overlooked because she stuck to her guns. And if we are going to give her a free pass for that reason, it seems only fair to do the same for Hitler.

Update (three hours layer)

As usual, Andrew Rilstone has said it better (and more briefly) than me: