The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Archive for August, 2006

If Cameron offers you Nuspeak …

Posted by rantingkraut on August 30, 2006


The Tories are asking their members to vote on a revised version Cameron’s “Built to Last” agenda (pdf document) – his re-statement of the parties Aims and Values. Cameron claims that the party’s principles haven’t changed, in which case there is a lot to explain in the “Built to Last” declaration.

First of all, there is no mentioning in the entire document that the role of the state should be limited by individual rights. There are some passages which vaguely hint in that direction, but there is no firm commitment. Consider two examples:

1. Under point 7, there is a recognition that persuasion is sometimes more useful than force. This is very different from accepting that the areas where the government can legitimately use force are at all limited, it is merely an assertion that the use of force may sometimes not yield the desired results, not that there could be anything morally wrong with it.

2. Under point 6. Cameron demands a new Bill of rights which “balances freedoms with responsibilities”. By the traditional understanding of individual rights, these rights should automatically balanced by the responsibility to respect others’ equal rights as well as the responsibility for ones own actions. If this should be clear, why is responsibility even mentioned as a balancing factor? The answer lies in a rather subtle aspect of grammar. Cameron refers to freedoms, not freedom or liberty. The plural noun may well be indicative of an agenda of arbitrarily selected positive freedoms –as opposed the general negative right to be left alone—and an equally arbitrary set imposed responsibilities. What should be expected then is that the balancing factor of ‘responsibility’ will simply serve as a catch-all criterion to justify further erosions of individual liberty.

A second, and possibly more important, reason to reject “Built to Last” is the language adopted. Cameron has taken to the kind of imprecise waffle which sounds pleasant to the widest possible audience while implying a minimum of commitments. There are some concrete promises –such as the one for abolishing ID cards if they are introduced—but by and large the important message is in what is not said.

Point 2 contains a reference to “enabling the voluntary sector to create a national programme for young people to support their personal development and promote a sense of social responsibility …”. This sounds harmless, but those who listened to Cameron carefully, will have noticed that what he intends is a civilian version of compulsory national service, a kind of UK version of the Reichsarbeitsdienst.

And so it goes on. There is a promise (under point 7) to oppose a “European Constitution that would create a single European superstate.” Would a less ambitious European Constitution be opposed? Would there be a referendum on it?

Where clarifications are made, they are often surprising: Point 8 opens with a bold statement in favour of meritocracy only to specify, in the small print, that today meritocracy means we need ethnic and gender quotas.

So here is the main reason to reject this document: by accepting “Built to Last” the conservatives would accept the kind of dishonest, spin driven politics introduced by Blair’s New Labour. One thing a democracy needs is parties which openly say what they stand for. The one thing we can all do without is yet more deceptive rhetoric. So, if someone offers you Nuspeak, just say no!

Posted in UK politics | Comments Off on If Cameron offers you Nuspeak …


Posted by rantingkraut on August 27, 2006

The BBC today reports on plans for usage related waste disposal charges. Not that there is anything wrong in principle with usage related charges as opposed to flat-fees. There a number of problems in this case though. First, it appears that any change in local services charges will be seen as an opportunity for a tax increase.

IPPR director Nick Pearce said that for the new system to be fair, rubbish collection would have to be removed from the council tax.

Nice idea Nick, but I believe that when I see it. Second, new labour seems to see any green issue as another opportunity to impose yet more ridiculous and intrusive measures:

Electronic spy ‘bugs’ have been secretly planted in hundreds of thousands of household wheelie bins.

The gadgets – mostly installed by companies based in Germany – transmit information about the contents of the bins to a central database which then keeps records on the waste disposal habits of each individual address.

Already some 500,000 bins in council districts across England have been fitted with the bugs – with nearly all areas expected to follow suit within the next couple of years.

The mail article quoted above is headlined “Germans plant bugs in our wheelie bins”. This is silly at first sight: Germans are barking mad about recycling and the bugs are manufactured in Germany, but the decision to use them has been taken by elected UK authorities –or has it? The BBC reports:

The “pay as you throw” system is also backed by the Local Government Association (LGA) which has warned that council tax bills will have to rise if councils have to pay big EU fines because of poor recycling rates.

The LGA said councils faced fines of up to £150 per tonne of rubbish if they failed to meet targets under the EU landfill directive.

And this is the problem. We are essentially looking at a domestic policy problem with no repercussions on the rest of Europe and yet elected regional authorities are forced to take this measure because of an EU directive. Why?

Add to this the ongoing controversies about just how useful recycling really is and you may not mind spending the next 30 minutes watching this.

Posted in Regulation, Strange happenings | 1 Comment »

Under Suspicion

Posted by rantingkraut on August 20, 2006

Flight security was high on the news agenda this week –with some unusual stories. First with reports of passengers insisting on the removal of two fellow passengers who were thought to behave suspiciously. And then, there was this 12 year old who almost managed to dodge his fare.

Of course, I don’t know how well founded the suspicions against those two unfortunate travellers were. I can see why they would be annoyed in the extreme (as I would be). But unjustified as the suspicions may have been, they have given us the wonderful opportunity to juxtapose these two passages from the BBC news page:

Mr Mahmood (…) called for air passengers to understand that once people were allowed through security “they should be OK”.

David Reynolds, from the British Airline Pilots Association, said there were “very tight procedures” in place to ensure only the “right sort of people” boarded flights.

and, as quoted earlier:

An airline boss has admitted to “multiple failures” after a boy managed to board one of its planes without tickets during the security alert.

The 12-year-old, believed to be from Penrith in Cumbria, was found on Monday’s 0600 BST Monarch flight from Gatwick Airport before it took off.

Priceless! And, didn’t Richard Reed, the shoe bomber, make it through airport security?

Posted in In The News, Strange happenings | Comments Off on Under Suspicion

Appeasement Doesn’t Work

Posted by rantingkraut on August 18, 2006

Another terrorist assault has failed -this time in Germany. It wasn’t foiled by the police though: the failure merely resulted from the incompetence of the terrorists. As in Madrid, the bombs were apparently planned to detonate on trains. If anyone needed proof that not going to war in Iraq does not safe a country from terrorism, here it is.

Posted in Islamism, Middle East | Comments Off on Appeasement Doesn’t Work

Going on a Holiday by Mistake

Posted by rantingkraut on August 16, 2006

In Aviation, the law of diminishing marginal returns seems to manifest itself as the law of diminishing marginal security. Whatever the guys at might think, banning firearms from carry on luggage possibly improved aviation security and scanning luggage for guns and machetes will have made a further contribution. I am prepared to believe that excluding knifes led to some modest safety gains, but I do have my doubts about the importance of outlawing such dangerous items as toothpicks and nail-clips.
There comes a point when ever more laborious check-in rituals consume disproportionate amounts of time and other resources, while failing to improve overall control of the boarding process. And just in case anyone missed the point, we recently had an enterprising brat to remind us:

An airline boss has admitted to “multiple failures” after a boy managed to board one of its planes without tickets during the security alert. The 12-year-old, believed to be from Penrith in Cumbria, was found on Monday’s 0600 BST Monarch flight from Gatwick Airport before it took off.

Posted in Regulation, Strange happenings | 1 Comment »

Surrendering Without a Fight

Posted by rantingkraut on August 16, 2006

Another gem from Henryk Broder:

Objectively speaking, the row over the Muhammad caricatures was a storm in a tea cup. Subjectively, it was a demonstration of power and in the context of the “Clash of Civilisations” it had the quality of a test run. The Muslims showed how fast and effectively they could mobilise the masses. The west has shown that it has nothing to put up against this –nothing but fear, cowardice and concern for its trade balance. So now the Islamists know that they are fighting a paper tiger whose roar comes from a pre-recorded tape.


More than 30 years ago, the Danish lawyer and amateur politician Mogens Glistrup had an idea which made him famous overnight: in order to save taxes, the Danish army should be disbanded. In its stead, an answer-phone should be placed in the Danish defence ministry to announce: “we surrender!”. Such a measure would not only save money but also human lives. Having contested the 1973 elections with this programme, Glistrup’s Progress Party became the second strongest party in the Danish parliament.


Glistrup was far ahead of his time. Now would be the right moment to switch on that answer machine.


Posted in Islamism, quotes | Comments Off on Surrendering Without a Fight

Taking a Mile

Posted by rantingkraut on August 15, 2006

Having been given an inch when the Blair regime introduced on the spot fines for minor offences, the Police are asking for more. According to a report in the Guardian today, the requested new powers would enable the police to arbitrarily exclude people from public areas as well as ordering them not to associate in public.

Such a measure would simply continue Blair’s pet project of abolishing such old fashioned nuisances as due process and the presumption of innocence. Shami Chakrabati predictably objects, but mainly seems concerned about the implications for police efficiency:

I think that you can alienate people from the police and make the police’s job even harder if they are perceived to be dishing out summary justice on the street.

Posted in Civil Liberties | Comments Off on Taking a Mile

Judged by the Colour of their Skin

Posted by rantingkraut on August 14, 2006

The BBC’s recently appointed ‘Diversity Czar’ Mary Fitzpatrick is apparently complaining that there are too many Honkies reporting for the BBC, in particular when reports are sent from Africa. It was vital she claimed ”… that BBC news reflected the audience that it was serving“.

She added: “I would prefer to see somebody who understands that culture, understands what’s going on and can say, ‘Look with me because I am part of this’. It feels more authoritative and more involved.

Now I would have thought that being a good reporter, striving to give an objective account of the facts, would have been desirable –at least when simple reporting rather than commentary and analysis is concerned. So it may just be that ‘being part of this’ and being involved doesn’t always help.

Yet even if one believes that cultural insider trading is as important as Ms Fitzpatrick claims, the argument remains muddled. Remember that Ms. Fitzpatrick wants the BBC to be demographically representative of its target audience. She also wants it to be representative of the region that is being reported from –in particular if that region is Africa.

In good logic, she can therefore only want one of two things: either she wants the BBC to concentrate on an African audience or she should want it to stop reporting from Africa. There is simply no other way to square this circle, unless the UK’s ethnic make up becomes a lot more like Africa’s.

We should congratulate the BBC for one thing though: Czar is just about the right job title for Ms Fitzpatrick’s position and attitude: if history is anything to go by, the Czar is an arrogant dictator whose head will eventually roll.

Posted in In The News | Comments Off on Judged by the Colour of their Skin

Dave & Tony for Change

Posted by rantingkraut on August 11, 2006

There is an amusing video of David Cameron and Tony Blair preaching ‘change’ to their parties and saying little besides. Just why the fcuk should any audience be willing to accept ‘change’ as a political objective? Why in particular without being told who should change into what. To see what a useless criterion ‘change’ is simply remember that food changes on its way through the digestive system –we all know what comes out at the end.

Posted in Meaning of Life | Comments Off on Dave & Tony for Change

Tough on the causes of terrorism?

Posted by rantingkraut on August 10, 2006

On Monday (7 August 2006) the BBC gave quite a high profile to a speech by Tarique Ghaffur at the National Black Police Association’s conference in Manchester. In it, Ghaffur called for an investigation into racial profiling. This is a question which may well deserve some attention.

More inappropriate where his remarks on what he seemed to think were the causes of terrorism and Islamist radicalism. In a passage highlighted on BBC online, we are told that Islamists are victims[1]:

Young people have developed a strong sense of connection with Islam. The cumulative effect of Islamophobia, both internationally and nationally, linked to social exclusion, has created a generation of angry young people who are vulnerable to exploitation.

Islamophobia – fear of Islam- is not altogether incomprehensible given that terrorism against civilians has been almost monopolized by activists from this religion. It is not clear though, why anger at this should motivate adherence to radical Islam. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Islamism | Comments Off on Tough on the causes of terrorism?