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The pussification of schools #6

Cracked! missed one on their recent list of the 5 Biggest Pussifications of Schools, and while it’s probably not unique to this place the recent example comes from a school just south of Melbourne.

No touching.

Parents claim they were not told directly of the new rule, which extended a ban on contact sports …

Yes, they’d already gone that far, and that depressingly common policy is touched on in Cracked’s number four Biggest Pussification.

… to a ban on any physical contact at all, such as playing “tiggy”, hugging or giving each other high-fives.

Aside from the fact that this comes hot on the heels of a anti-bullying TV ad campaign that shows school kids shaking hands (for some bizarre reason it’s a weird handshake that’s not shown directly because it’s ‘just for kids’, but what can be seen looks less Masonic and more like the kind of gang style handshake done by wiggas) it’s pretty clear that this lame brained rule hasn’t been well thought out at all. Because it effectively bans simple expressions of friendship and support.

One parent, Tracey, said her son was winded on the playground yesterday and, when his friend tried to console him by putting his arm around his shoulder, the friend was told his actions were against the rules.

The friend then had to walk around with the teacher on playground duty for the rest of lunch as punishment, Tracey told radio 3AW.

And that’s not even the right-on silliness apex.

Another parent, John, said his children were told they could not high-five each other.

Seriously? Christ!

“I have a couple of children, and they have been told that if they high-five one another that’s instant detention, and if they do it three times they will be expelled,” John said.

“I mean, what are they actually trying to teach?”

One child was reportedly told that if students wanted to high-five, it would have to be an “air high-five”.

Yes, well, the problem there is that I suspect an air high five is not actually a real thing but some bollocks made up by someone on the school’s staff who’s heard of air kissing. What an ‘air high five’ really is is known as being left hanging.

Now it should be said that the school claims that this is only temporary…

Principal Judy Beckworth said it was “not actually a policy, it’s a practice that we’ve adopted in the short-term as a no-contact games week”.

… though having a no-contact games week doesn’t actually sound a hell of a lot more sensible to me, and especially not in a country that invented a football code so manly and tough that rugby players struggle and a competitor once found himself, and I’m not making this up, nailed to the pitch with his own leg bones. No contact games week? Pffffffft. Serious pussification of school right there.

“In response to an increased number of recent student injuries, including a broken collarbone, wrists and concussion, we decided to have a ‘no contact games week’ at our school,” Ms Beckworth said.

“Parents, teachers and I were concerned about the increasing number of students injuring themselves recently by playing roughly in the playground during games like chasey, tiggy, football and basketball.

“We are very serious about student safety and that’s why we decided to do this.”

And? Such is school life, though I spent years playing school rugby without ever knowing anyone to break a bone or get a concussion or in fact get anything worse than the odd bruise or cut. And I don’t mean anyone in my class or year, I mean anyone in the entire school while I was there. Maybe there was and I didn’t know that the kid two years below me that I didn’t even know by name was suddenly wearing a cast because of an unlucky tackle on the rugby field, but if so there was no mention made, no big hooha and no non-contact games rule even thought of, let alone imposed. I can’t help but wonder if the apparent rarity of injuries was just that we were getting better tuition and supervision on how to play contact sports without seriously risking ourselves or other players, and I also wonder if a high number of injuries – if it really is high – at Mount Martha Primary indicates that that’s not happening.

Not that everyone’s on message with that excuse anyway.

… one parent, Nicole, claimed that the school was backpedalling because some parents were told by the school that the new rule would be in place for a minimum of three weeks, which would be extended if the children did not behave themselves.

They’re kids, for heaven’s sake. It’s practically inevitable that one of them will forget or have a dummy spit and go too far and provide the excuse for the extension. In fact if you’re counting high fives, hand shakes and hugs then they probably already have.

[Ms Beckworth] did not believe the school’s response was an overreaction.

“When you have students badly injuring themselves, it would be unacceptable for me not to take action,” she said.

Oh, Jesus. Look, it’d be unacceptable for you to ignore it, but an event does not necessarily demand action. By all means recheck to assure yourselves that you’re already doing your best and take action if you realise that you’re not, but for Christ’s sake include a sanity check to make sure you’re not going too far. If kids are getting bollocked for putting their arms around a friend’s shoulders to comfort them then I’d suggest that second bit is being overlooked.

The only bits about this whole story that hasn’t gutshot my faith in humanity and set my misanthropy gauge spinning into self destruction again are the newspaper poll result that overwhelmingly showed that people thought the school had gone too far, and the admirable reaction of the children themselves.

The Year 6 students at Mount Martha Primary School were so disgusted by the new rule that they staged a sit-down protest on the school oval at lunch yesterday before they were moved to the school gym and given a dressing down…

I only hope that that spark of dissent in the face of unreasonable restrictions isn’t completely crushed out of them by the time they’re adults.

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No good deed goes unpunished

“If the boy responsible doesn’t own up then the whole class, and I do mean the whole class, will stay behind after school.”

I have no idea if teachers can still do this but if not I’m guessing that those of us past out mid 30s can probably remember hearing it at least once, and unless we happened to be the boy – or for the sake of equality, the girl – responsible we probably thought that it was bloody unfair. We mightn’t have even seen the boy/girl/hermaphrodite/person of indeterminate gender responsible for doing whatever it was doing it whenever they did and be as much in the dark about it as the teacher, so why this great love of collective punishment? As an adult I’ve come to suspect that it’s because trying to shame a confession out of someone, or failing that to get others to point the finger, is just a hell of a lot easier than the alternative and that often there won’t even be an alternative. Does that justify collective punishment in classrooms? I’m not sure but I’ll leave that as a question for parents with school age children to ponder, assuming, as I said before, that it’s even allowed these days.

But I am sure that when it’s a situation between adults and the state collective punishment is highly undesirable.

“If the person responsible doesn’t own up then the whole neighbourhood, and I do mean the entire postcode, will be put under house arrest.”

We’d go crazy if they said that, wouldn’t we? Well, I hope we would but seeing as how if you changed ‘house arrest’ to ‘fingerprinted and DNA swabbed’ a lot of people would nod approvingly perhaps not. Certainly there’s not enough objection to collective punishment in this part of the world when it comes to motoring offences and car confiscation, which as I’ve mentioned here before frequently punish the innocent owner of a vehicle as well as the person who committed an offence while driving it. Whether it’s because more vehicles get loaned to untrustworthy dickheads in the Perth area or whether it’s because the WA media have just picked up on this earlier I don’t know, but most of the examples of excessive punishment of innocents, i.e. confiscating the car for a period of weeks, seem to be in West Oz, while here in the eastern states it usually seems to be a couple of days. But just in case anyone in this bottom right hand corner of the country thinks that’s the worst that can happen we’ve just had a good reminder from Victoria Police that they can impound a car for something the owner didn’t do for just as long as their west coast colleagues can.

And yes, they bloody well are prepared to do it.

A man caught speeding through streets in Melbourne’s busy inner east this morning told police he was running late for an exam.

Police said the 21-year-old man was speeding along Swan Street in Richmond, ran a red light at Lennox Street and went through a pedestrian crossing before attempting to avoid police near Docker Street around 9.30am.

The Altona Meadows man was picked up travelling more than 100km/h in a 40 zone.

[…]

His friend’s car will be impounded for 30 days and he will also need to pay $689 towing and storage costs.

I don’t want to give the impression that I excuse this kind of driving because I don’t. Many people in Melbourne will know Swan Street and anyone else can tell with a quick look at Google Maps that it’s not really a 100+ km/h (62+ mph in old money) road – it’s a tram route, there are often parked cars narrowing the road to just one lane each way (shared with the trams) and there are lots of shops, often with delivery vehicles coming and going (the Street View image shows this pretty clearly). Personally I’m not sure 40 km/h isn’t a tad on the low side and doubt it’s significantly safer than the old 50 limit it used to have, but it’s not somewhere I’d feel safe doing 100 even if it was the middle of the night and the road was empty. If he really was going that fast, and since the driver in one of the WA cases was eventually acquitted I’m going to stress ‘if’, then he’s a complete dickhead that I can’t raise much sympathy for. No, nobody got hurt and as far as the speeding bit goes it is, as is the norm with speeding, a victimless crime. It’s the driving like a tool part that puts people at risk and which, rather than speeding, The Age says he’s being charged with:

The man is expected to be charged on summons for driving in a manner dangerous, speed dangerous and evade police.

Ignoring the fact that the subbies must napping on job when let that sentence though, if what’s been reported is accurate I have no sympathy with the guy at all, and if I was on the jury and felt the evidence supported it I’d say guilty of driving like a dickhead, and possibly speed dangerous and evade police to boot. But I can sympathise with his mate who has lost the use of his car for a month no matter what happens now. Even if the driver pays the storage costs and then goes to court and proves that he wasn’t speeding it doesn’t help because the case won’t be heard until months after the owner gets his car back, so the result of the court case will be moot. Win, lose or mistrial the owner of the car, who, since lending your property to a tool isn’t a crime, will not himself be in court having not been charged with anything, gets punished anyway. And I have no idea if a successfully defended case would mean that the police are required to compensate the whoever ended up paying that $689 storage charge. I’d bloody hope so but I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that they weren’t.

Some people would say that’s too bad and just the risk you run when you lend your car to an idiot, but how is an individual supposed to know the person borrowing it is going to do something idiotic? People are neither mind readers nor fortune tellers. You might balk at giving your keys to a young or inexperienced driver or someone with a heap of points, but at the end of the day if you were to lend your car to me, a driver of twenty years with a clean licence, you’d still be trusting me to behave with it. If I betray that trust you’ve already been wronged, so why does the law feel the need to punish you even more by depriving you of your property that had been used in a way you weren’t aware of and did not consent to? Do a mate a favour and if he abuses your faith in him then law comes round and stamps on your face. Hardly justice, is it?

This is a terrible kind of collective punishment, far worse than knowingly punishing innocents because establishing the identity of the guilty is too difficult or impossible because the identity of the alleged offender is known from the outset and because even for them the presumption of innocence is reversed – supposedly unthinkable where the English legal system has been a significant influence, but all too common when it comes to traffic offences which are typically victimless crimes. And worst of all it’s a wrong that Victoria’s Liberal In Name Only government appears not to have the slightest interest in putting right.

I wouldn’t call it a police state, but…

… but things do seem to be tilted in their favour sometimes, as two stories this week about policing in different parts of Oz illustrate.

First, over in the west, yet another example of the law punishing the innocent and guilty alike when it comes to impounding cars for speeding, though in effect the innocent party receives the bulk of the punishment by being deprived of their property while the driver cops a fine and is at liberty to carry on driving their own car.

A Mercedes-Benz dealership employee has been left red-faced and on foot after having a work car impounded for 28 days for speeding.

The 26-year-old woman was allegedly caught doing 105km/h in a 50km/h zone in East Waikiki, Western Australia, driving a near new Mercedes-Benz C250 Avantgarde. […]

The woman reportedly had permission to drive the car, but not that quick. The driver has been summonsed for reckless driving.

Western Australia’s laws are particularly tough on hoons, with police able to impound vehicles for up to 28 days for speeding offences, even if the car isn’t owned by the driver.

Western Australia’s laws are not unique in the country as far as I know, and I’ve certainly seen similar things happen to so-called ‘hoon’ drivers in their mums’ cars here in Victoria on those Police, Film Crew, Dickhead Driver type TV shows that fill TV slots for no better reason than being dirt cheap to make. What seems to set WA apart is that states such as Victoria that happily confiscate cars despite them not belonging to the offender mostly do so for a couple of days, while over in the west the rozzers feel no guilt at all about adhering to the letter of a bad law and sitting on an innocent third party’s property for a whole month, despite them not even being present when the alleged offence occurs. They do this when the driver protests his innocence and announces their intention to fight the charge in court, which turns the notion of innocence until guilt is proven on its head and must be a bit embarrassing for the cops when the driver is then found not guilty.* They do it when it rapidly becomes clear that the driver didn’t have permission to be in the car in the first place. And it turns out that they do it when it’s a demo vehicle belonging to a dealership, and they do it even if it happens to be the dealership’s only demo vehicle for that model. Oh, and by the way, they’ve also had cars stolen while in police care recently.

In all these cases apart from the one stolen from the towing yard the person or body with legal title to the confiscated cars was not the driver and wasn’t even present when the alleged offence – and since at least one case has been successfully defended we really must say alleged offence – occurred, yet all have been punished by the confiscation of their property. And as the case that was successfully challenged makes apparent, if it turns out that the police got it wrong it’s all too late because the car will have been given back long before and there’s no way to retroactively un-confiscate it. Even if they go out and hire another car for you for a month you can’t drive two at a time anyway. There’s simply no getting round the fact that the law has punished innocents, and it doesn’t seem eager to fix that.

Police Minister Rob Johnson says the car dealer who had his Mini Cooper S impounded yesterday after a test driver was allegedly clocked at 170kmh was not let down by the law.

[…]

Mr Brandon said the legislation had punished his company for something they did not do.

”We feel a bit hard done by,” Mr Brandon said.

“Unfortunately we lent a car to someone and they behaved badly and now we have had it confiscated with no great loss to him (test driver).”

He lodged an appeal against the confiscation but it was rejected by police.

Mr Johnson said he sympathised with Mr Brandon but insisted the law had not let him down.

“I accept this is a very difficult situation and I sympathise with Darrin,” Mr Johnson said.

“Let’s not lose focus here. Mr Brandon hasn’t been let down by the law, he’s been let down by someone who chose to drive one of his cars in a dangerous and reckless way.”

Don’t see the police minister explaining how Mr Brandon or his company is responsible for someone else ‘who chose to drive one of his cars in a dangerous and reckless way’ but there you go. That was the attitude of WA’s Liberal run government and it’s police minister in 2010 and presumably still is since neither have changed and the election’s not due ’til next year.

As I mentioned, this is not unique to the sand grubbers and happens over here in the eastern states as well, and that’s another worry for victorians because it turns out that the police have another little advantage when it comes to walloping motorists. You know how police are supposed to follow certain rules when it comes to gathering evidence, like not beating the ‘truth’ out of suspects or manufacturing evidence? In most places one of those rules is that evidence gathered illegally isn’t admissible, and as far as I knew that’s the case here too. It’s not to make police work harder than it needs to be or to make it more difficult to lock up criminals, or rather it is but the intent is to make it less likely that innocent people are punished as a result of police cocking things up and arresting the wrong people – and if you don’t think that’s a valid concern can I suggest you re-read the first half of the post dealing with the punishment of innocent parties.

So imagine my surprise when it turned out this week that setting up a speed trap in an illegal location doesn’t invalidate the fines. Surprise? Sorry, I meant concern.

A speed camera operator will be slapped with a fine after parking illegally to catch speeding motorists in Belmont.

But despite doing the wrong thing, speeding fines will still be issued to anyone nabbed by the vehicle.

Ross Kroger snapped the snapper after coming across the vehicle in Roslyn Rd last week, parked so far out from the kerb it was blocking the bicycle lane.

[…]

The photographs were referred by the Geelong Advertiser to the Victoria Police traffic camera office for review.

The office found the operator had parked the car out from the kerb to avoid reflections, which can distort speed camera results, but admitted the car contravened the road rules and issued a $73 parking infringement notice to the operator.

Anyone caught by the camera doing less than 10km/h over the speed limit can expect to be fined more than twice that amount.

Fine, you might say. The operator’s getting a parking ticket and where he parked doesn’t change the fact that people who got tickets were speeding, so what’s your problem here, Angry? Well, leaving aside concerns with various handheld speed measuring devices and the ability of some to get speed readings from stationary objects (not least because I have no idea which one was being used and whether such concerns apply), my problem here is with the principle of police gathering evidence correctly and in a way which is unimpeachable. Not because I want criminals and bad drivers – and I mean the real dickheads, not merely people who are more than 2km/h over and can afford a fine – to get away with it but because we all should want to be sure that in their eagerness to get the right man the police aren’t sometimes getting the wrong one as well.

And this business with speeding fines from an illegally sited camera isn’t just thin end of the wedge-ism on my part – even before this we’d already seen a fatter part of the wedge when, as I blogged at the Orphanage in March, it turned out that thousands of search warrants in Victoria had been issued on improperly sworn affidavits and were therefore invalid. Didn’t stop them being executed and people arrested, charged and jailed as a result of some of them, and when it emerged that Victorian officers had been making a complete Horlicks of this for years what was the reaction of the state government? Well, much the same as with that speed camera really (my bold).

ROBERT CLARK, VICTORIAN ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We simply cannot afford to have cases being delayed, growing demands on the court system, and potentially serious offenders walking free from court simply because police or others have failed to comply with proper procedural formalities.

Translation: they dunnit, we knowit, so screwit. And with that attitude it requires a a lot of faith in the reliability of a service that’s admitted many of its officers couldn’t follow procedure in getting affidavits to keep innocent people from being arrested and and punished by accident. More faith than I have, to be perfectly honest.

Anything you say will be taken down, ripped up and shoved
down your scrawny little throat until you choke to death.

Funny, isn’t it? Plenty of people in the UK worry about arming the cops there. I live somewhere where we see routinely and openly armed police on the streets every day and the guns aren’t the part that worry me about policing. The worst they can do with those is… well, okay, the worst is actually shooting you dead but at least they still get in a colossal amount of shit for shooting innocent citizens. But what really worries me is that more than ever the activities of the police, and not just Victoria’s, need to be beyond reproach, and yet the rules that are supposed to hold them to account seem to be flexible. And I feel we should want to avoid moving goalposts in any area of policing if we also want to avoid the day when they don’t into a colossal amount of shit for shooting innocent citizens.

* Actually this is just me speculating. For all I know they don’t give a rip and it may be more accurate to say that they bloody well ought to be embarrassed.

Bashing the bishop

I re-published Tuesday’s piece on censorship over at the Orphanage, where Woman on a Raft left this pertinent update in the comments:

Popcorn. It turns out that the group who were supposed to have complained did not, and have said so huffily. Apparently one of their number complained in a personal capacity about a separate advert in a magazine.

It is not at all clear what is going on at the ASA but they are supposed to have a competent lawyer in charge of their complaints division, instead of which it looks like they can’t even collate a complaint, read their own code or write a letter without misrepresenting their status.

Checking the Archbishop Cranmer blog it turned out that the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group had quickly announced that while one of their members had been in touch with the ASA it was in a private capacity and not on behalf of the JGLG, though they note on their website that calling for an investigation is not the same as calling for censorship. That may be true in a technical sense but if the motive is a belief that what was said should not have been said because it offended and the complaint is made to a body with the legal power to censor then censorship can easily be the end result. This is possible only because free speech, despite any claims to the contrary, does not really exist in most nominally free nations, the UK very much included.

In the meantime, the moral guardians of ASA have apparently got back in touch with His Grace:

Can’t say I’m honestly surprised by any of that apart from the fact they responded as quickly as they did. It’s speculation until His Grace’s next post but I’m expecting a lot of waffle, bullshit and intimidating references to obscure legislation that according to them gives them power over what can be put on a web page by a UK blogger.

I wonder if WoaR has got any of that popcorn left.

Guilty ’til proven innocent (again)

Via email from Sadbutmadlad, quoted en bloc:

This is an email sent to all my contacts. I have your email address because we have been in touch at some point in the past, maybe brief, maybe dim and distant. My apologies if you have received this and no longer wish to keep in touch with me, just let me know and I’ll remove your address from my contact list.

So why have I written this email? Because Graham Mitchell, a fellow blogger and press photographer has been arrested under the European Arrest Warrant for a crime that he was acquitted of 20 years ago. He was not just found innocent on some technicality, he was found totally innocent of the crime because the victim identified other people as his attackers. However though he was free after spending 54 weeks in prison (in a story covered by the Daily Mail at the time) some 20 years later, the Portuguese authorities have found some reason (which even his lawyer can’t fathom out) to re-arrest him. Due to the Portuguese not filling out the EAW form properly he has been allowed bail, but only after he spent a short time in Wandsworth prison as a category A prisoner. He could be going to Portugal at any time, to spend weeks, possibly months in prison while waiting for his case to wend it way through the Portuguese legal system. All to be found not guilty again.

His story has been written about on http://www.annaraccoon.com where I urge you to go and read it. If you feel as strongly as I do, please pass on the link to all your contacts. Please tweet it and put it on your facebook wall as well.

The direct link to the story is http://www.annaraccoon.com/madeleine-mccann/portuguese-men-o-law/

If you’re wondering why Madeleine Mccann is in the URL above it is because it involves the same police who investigated her case so brilliantly – not! So you can see why Graham is very likely not to get a fair trail.

Do please go over to Anna Raccoon’s and read the whole thing. There’s also an update in which Anna notes that the warrant for Graham Mitchell’s arrest says that he’s wanted for murder despite the fact that the victim is alive and well, albeit paralysed from the waist down since the incident, and playing basketball. Oh, and also despite the fact that this not dead murder victim said that Mitchell was not his attacker at the original trial.

And remember that all this is possible because, thanks to the terms the UK government agreed to, any police force in the EU may issue an arrest warrant on their terms for anyone in the UK, even for things that are not even a crime under British laws, and they’re under no obligation to provide any prima facie evidence that the crime was committed, much less of the guilt of the subject of the warrant. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when they don’t. While its tempting to excoriate the previous government and its remnants on the Labour benches for this it should be borne in mind that the Cobbleition parties have not only shown approval of the EAW by failing to scrap it, they’ve gone so far as to extend the powers of other member nations’ police forces over people living in the UK by signing up to the European Investigation Order – another example of all parties in Westminster being as bad as each other.

With this in mind the obvious advice to anyone who’s ever had any run ins with any police force anywhere in the EU, even if they were subsequently found to be completely innocent of any wrongdoing, is to get out of Europe and stay out. A second option might be to begin creating a network of underground railroads so people accused of crimes they didn’t do can escape to somewhere freer. The way things are going in the EU that might turn out to be China.

Another downside of summary justice

I’ve blogged a few times on how Australian police forces have the power to impose summary justice on drivers at the side of the road in the form of impounding vehicles, and that my concern isn’t so much that I think it’s being abused as that it’s fundamentally a recipe for injustice due to its inflexibility. If vehicle is seen doing, or in practice is merely believed to have been doing,  X, Y or Z then it’s impounded for N days no matter what, even if the person whose car it is and who’s therefore being punished was not actually the driver. Hence we have the Perth doctor who lost the use of his Lambo for a month after police stopped and impounded it for speeding despite not even being in the car at the time, never mind driving it, and despite the driver later being found not guilty of the offence; we have the Mercedes dealership who lost one of their loan vehicles to Victoria police for a couple of days after they took it away from Lewis Hamilton for being a tyre smoking dickhead outside the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit two years ago, again without anyone representing the car’s owner being present let alone in control of it; and we have the Perth Mum whose car was impounded for a month after her son was caught driving it, yet again without her even being in the car let alone at the wheel.

This is sort of more of the same, but with a couple of important differences. First is that in this case Tom O’Sullivan, the person driving at the time the car was impounded, was the owner, which means that at least they weren’t punishing someone who wasn’t even there again. Sure, it’s still an over the top punishment to lose your car for all that time for “undue and excessive noise” (Seriously? Not even speeding, just “noise”? What’s wrong with a defect notice?) and there’s that thing missing from the process… oh, what’s it called again, now? It’s on the tip of my tongue…Kang Oh yes, a fucking trial. Anyhow, that’s by the by. The point is that in this case the person who was driving is the one on the receiving end, disproportionate or not.

But then there’s the second big difference, which is that in all likelihood Tom O’Sullivan will never see his car again because it was stolen from the impound yard. And to add insult to injury it took them a fortnight to tell him.

Police waited two weeks to tell the owner of an expensive high-performance car impounded under anti-hoon laws that his vehicle had been stolen from a towing yard.

Embarrassed police told PerthNow there had been a “communication breakdown” between themselves and AAAC, the private company it contracts to tow and store seized vehicles.

[…]

It was not until February 29 that Mr O’Sullivan received a call from East Cannington Police Station to say his car had been stolen from an impound yard at Kewdale on February 17.

How much communication is even needed here? Ring ring, hello officer, one of the cars we tow away and store for you has been stolen, please tell the owner … ring ring, I’ve very sorry sir, but there’s been a break in at the impound yard and your car was stolen. Two phone calls. Two! Okay, that’s a bare minimum but it’s hard to believe that it could take two bloody weeks to have broken the bad news to this poor guy.

“The keys to every car are in the impound shed are kept on the car…..they simply jumped the fence, walked in played with the electric gate and drove my clubby out the door.”

Or maybe not so hard to believe.

Police said it was the first time such an incident had occurred.

If the keys have been in the cars all this time that sounds like you’ve got luck to thank for that.

“This is a one off and very sophisticated operation possibly done by professional people,” Inspector Bill Munnee said.

Yes, jumping a fence, starting a car with its regular ignition key, opening the gate and driving away sounds like the level of sophistication that would have given even Danny Ocean a migraine.

Needless to say Tom O’Sullivan is less than ecstatic and wants compensation from WA Police. And fair enough – he’s insured but why should he have to eat the increased excess given it was in someone else’s care at the time? For that matter his insurance company could be forgiven for wondering why the police and/or the towing company shouldn’t pay all the costs if it’s true about leaving the keys with the vehicles.

But I think Tom O’Sullivan is missing a trick here. I think he should also be asking for the undue or excessive noise charge to be dropped and any fine he paid to be returned along with any compensation. Because I think it’s possible the police haven’t just lost his impounded vehicle, you see. They may also have lost their evidence that there was a reason to impound the car in the first place.

Well, that didn’t take long

I’ve been meaning to get round to blogging on the actions of John Pike, the American cop who calmly sprayed capsicum directly in the faces of some of Occupy protestors sitting peacefully in a row offering no resistance. On the one hand I’m not a huge supporter of the Occupy mob and think that many of them are aiming at the wrong target (business rather than government) and protesting something that doesn’t truly exist (the free market). It all rather smacks of the anarchists for a bigger government protests in London last year. However, free speech and association and all that, as enshrined by our American cousins in their Bill of Rights, which makes it troubling that it was in America – Land of the Free, etc – in which a cop unloaded a canister full of capsicum spray right in the faces of some protestors sitting Gandhi style, unresisting and offering no violence.

However, not for the first time events have overtaken my blogging efforts and John Pike, whose identity and contact details quickly made their way online, has now become an internet meme. Those UK readers who are old enough to remember Tony Hart’s gallery music can start humming it now.*

Do-duh-do-duh-do-duh-dooo, do-duh-doo-dooo, do-duh-do-doo-doo-doooo…

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

But my personal favourites this week are these three, by John Pike, 39, John Pike aged 39, and finally 39 year old John Pike, all of the University of California, Davis, police department.

Clever reference

A meme within a meme

No comment necessary

* For the benefit of non Brits the late Tony Hart presented a couple of art TV shows for kids when I was little, at least one of which had a gallery segment of drawings and paintings sent in by kids and which was accompanied by that piece of music. The bastards never showed any of mine.

Happy sights, happy thoughts

Click for linky

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not gloating. Well, to be honest actually I am gloating a bit, but not all that much. That partly because it’s not happened yet and we should keep the champagne on ice until it does, and partly because I’m not philosophically opposed to the idea of single currencies or federalisation as such. I think living in a federation of competing states (with a small ‘s’) has got a lot to be said for it providing they really are competing to attract citizens, and as far as I’m concerned people can do business in Altairian Dollars, Flanian Pobble Beads or the Triganic Pu, or even a single currency with a stupid name if they want, as long as both parties agree to it. What I find so objectionable about both the Euro and about EU federalism is the attempts to impose both on half a billion people whether they want them or not, and the lack of any real efforts to make either really worth wanting much.

The only note of caution I’d sound, and this is aside the view of the experts that the whole process is likely to be painful and bloody even for nations not directly connected, is that I suspect the death of the Euro will lay the grounds for the next battle. “We know what went wrong,” they’ll say. “We should have done it like the Americans did when the USA was born: political union first and monetary union second.” Prepare yourselves, Europeans, because this might not be the beginning of the end, but just the end of the beginning.

Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala we can’t hear you

Via the von Mises blog, the latest move in Europe to solve the continent’s economic problems: ban credit ratings agencies from downgrading member states’ credit ratings.

The European Commission on Tuesday (15 November) is to unveil proposals to clamp down on the credit-ratings industry, seen as one of the key villains in the eurozone debt crisis melodrama.

Internal market commissioner Michel Barnier is to propose a series of measures including a ‘blackout’ in the rating of troubled states in an attempt to limit the ratcheting up of market instability the EU executive accuses the sector of being responsible for when it has delivered downgrades to the credit ratings of countries.

The draft law would allow the EU to temporarily ban companies such as Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s from issuing ratings changes if regulators assess that such moves would exacerbate market volatility.

Nice to see such great value being placed on free speech in the EU. If it might harm the project, even if it’s an honest opinion, you can’t say it. End of. As was said at von Mises, this is simply shooting the messenger. In fact it smacks of such desperation that I’m surprised that the messenger isn’t already saying, ‘Look, fuck that, I’m not going anywhere near the place and I’d advise anyone else with a vestige of sanity not to go anywhere near it either.’

‘Kinell.

There are no winners, only victims of the security state

Via Longrider at his own place and at the Orphanage a couple of days ago, news that Muslims Against Something That Ended In The Thirteenth Century were leant on by Her Majesty’s Home Secretary and Official Speech Permission Granter, Teresa Maybe, is being banned for being not nice enough. Longrider points out an obvious problem, though clearly not so obvious that Teresa Maybe was able to see it.

Home Secretary Theresa May is banning Muslims Against Crusades, a group planning an anti-Armistice Day protest.

Despicable though this group is, abhorrent as its message may be, their liberties are our liberties and holding a protest no matter how distasteful, is a basic civil liberty. In banning them, May hands them a victory without them lifting a finger, she does their work for them far better than they ever could.

Agreed, and via Trooper Thompson I see that this has been followed by a mass arrest of English Defence League members, for… well, since the now banned Muslims Against Historical Catholicism weren’t there as planned absolutely nothing at all as far as I can see.

Scotland Yard said the group were detained “to prevent a breach of the peace” at a pub near the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Doesn’t this seem a bit like crushing your car to prevent speeding? Technically they can probably do this if this is anything to go by.

A breach of the peace is not in itself a criminal offence, but the police and any other person have a power of arrest where there are reasonable grounds for believing a breach of the peace is taking place or is imminent. The Court of Appeal defined a breach of the peace as being ‘an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence, his property, or is likely to cause such harm being done’ – see R v Howell. This power of arrest will, of course, be closely scrutinised in connection with [The European Convention on Human Rights] Article 5 (the right to liberty and security), Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression) and Article 11 (the right to freedom of assembly and association).

And of course the ECHR being the pale imitation of a Bill of Rights that it is, doesn’t really seem to prevent this either. Article 5 guarantees no deprivation of liberty except for various reasons including (my bold)…

“c. the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;”

… while Articles 10 and 11 both say freedom of speech and association respectively is guaranteed unless it’s felt necessary to restrict it. These are the worst kind of rights: positive rights, permissions to do things as long as someone says you’re allowed. They aren’t liberties, they’re just lip service to the idea of liberty. So with the ECHR being as much against you as for you, all the police need in order to arrest people who’ve done nothing for nothing is a semi-plausible story that it was “reasonably considered necessary” to prevent something they might have been going to do.

So this is liberty in modern Britain. Where NuLab started the Cobbleition has carried on, and in order to prevent you from damaging it your freedom is taken and locked in a cage. But at least they’re doing to everybody, so that’s alright, isn’t it?

In short: fuck, no!

Tip of the Akubra also to Quiet_Man in the comments at Trooper Thompson’s for the Telegraph link.

Guilty ’til proven innocent

I was going to blog on the arrest (with free strip search thrown in) in Germany of Tracey Molamphy on a charge she knew nothing about relating to an incident involving someone she was with more than 12 years earlier, but SadbutMadLad has already done a thorough job on it over at The Raccoon Arms.

Was she unlawfully arrested? No, because the EAW is law. Was she unfairly treated by the German police? No, they were following their lawful procedures. So if everything was above board and followed the law what was wrong? The fact that no evidence needs to be shown to back up the extradition request.

The only thing I’ll add is that thanks to the European Arrest Warrant and its provision for detention with absolutely no prima facie evidence, and of course the feckless politicians who signed the UK up to it, that nasty little phrase ‘Guilty ’til proven innocent’ effectively applies to everyone living in the UK. For that matter it applies to everyone else in the world who might visit any part of Europe – if a British citizen can be picked up in Germany over an incident in Portugal then there’s no reason why an American or an Aussie or a Japanese tourist visiting London couldn’t be arrested over a years old accusation they no nothing about in a completely different part of Europe. Any protection that might be afforded by a statute of limitations will depend on which country issued the warrant since many don’t have one.

‘Kinell!

Permission must be sought for everything

I’ve occasionally had to defend Oz against charges that it’s turned into a nightmare bureaucracy cum fascist society where everything is either banned, compulsory or requires prior application in triplicate for the relevant licence. One day, maybe, but not yet. And mostly it’s just duplicate. Nor is it noticably worse than the UK (and lacking both the pernicious influence of the unelected EU as well as the UK’s various mini-enabling Acts that allow the British government to do suspend virtually any law it wants I’d say it’s still quite a lot better) when it turns out that you need to ask permission to ask for donations for a good cause. And if you don’t, then you’re banned from tin rattling.* This isn’t a problem for the various fake charities which have found that they don’t need to ask permission when they get your money direct from the government, but it is a problem for some that do that rather old fashioned thing of soliciting voluntary donations. Like the Royal British Legion, for instance.

Birmingham City Council has changed its application system to allow only one charity to collect in the street at once, meaning the day before Remembrance Sunday there shall be no poppy sellers in the second city.
[…]
Homeless charity Shelter had submitted an earlier application which meant the legion would have to forgo collections in New Street and High Street on 11 November.

Still, the 11th this year is on a Friday, right? So they’ll still be able to sell some poppies on Saturday before Remembrance Sunday passes and there’s no point. Er, no.

And the legion is not permitted to collect anywhere in the city on 12 November.

So no collecting in the main shopping areas on the Friday because someone else has first dibs and no collecting anywhere in the whole city on Saturday. What the fuck, Birmingham? Seriously, and on more than one level, what? The? Fuck?

Look, first off if are you seriously saying that in Britain’s second biggest city there’s only room for one lot of charity collectors to work at a time? I can’t see any reason why Shelter and the Legion couldn’t get on the phone and arrange where their respective collectors would set up so as not to tread on each other’s toes, and to avoid saturating the area with collectors at the risk of having shoppers pissed off with charities generally and not donating to either of them. I’m sure the local management of both charities could thrash something out in less time than it takes me to type this blog post.

Secondly, if there is to be a system where only one lot can be allowed to operate on a given day and it’s to be the one who booked first then I have to ask if Birmingham City Council is unaware of the significance of the 11th of November (11/11/11 this year, which might play with minds and generate an extra few quid if they’re actually out there selling poppies) and of what the Royal British Legion do. And most importantly when during the year their traditional fund raising drive takes place. They may not have actually booked but please don’t say that nobody there thought that there’d be a poppy appeal in early November. My contempt is already high and that would send it off the scale.

And thirdly, who the fuck are the council to decide these things anyway? Charity collectors can be a pain in the arse, though nothing like as annoying as the fake charities who get money even from people who are completely opposed to what they do, but we’re all adults. We can say no to collectors. We can, if push comes to shove, tell them to naff off. Charities in the main – and again we’re not talking so much about the fake ones here – understand this and realise that it’s not in their interests to annoy potential donors my harassing them, so if they overdo things it’s the charities themselves who lose out. It does not need a system of permission slips from the local council, who seem unable to state exactly what the restrictions are anyway.

A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “Between 29th October and 13th November, The Royal British Legion has permission to make charitable collections across the whole, or the major part of Birmingham every day. This includes the city centre on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.”
[…]
Chairman of the licensing committee Bruce Lines, who raised the issue at a council meeting on Tuesday, said: “Unfortunately they are unable to overturn that decision as it would be unlawful.”
He said the legion had to take responsibility for not making an earlier application. The legion said there had been no formal deadline.
“They have got 10 consecutive days to work in the city centre, and it’s only on a few days when they are excluded from a couple of streets,” Mr Lines added.

So which is it, fellas? Carte blanche between 29th October and 13th November, which is a sixteen day period, or the ten consecutive days mentioned by Mr Lines? Have any of you even looked at a calendar to work out what the fuck you’re talking about? Incidentally, Birmingham City Council is almost a miniature of Westminster, being a Con/LibDem coalition with a Tory leader and a LibDem deputy, and it speaks volumes about them when I find myself agreeing with the Labour oppo.

Opposition Labour leader Sir Albert Bore said: “I am calling on the officers, the Tory and Lib Dem leaders and everyone else involved to join with me in making sure this problem is sorted, that common sense prevails and that the British Legion get a satisfactory outcome.”

Indeed, and common sense would suggest that charities and the public be left to get on and sort it out themselves, in the knowledge that real charities lack the power to help themselves to the taxpayers’ wallets and must therefore work to maintain good relations with the public if they want donations to continue. They know that they’ll kill a town if they flood it so it’s in their interests not to, and those that do annoy people will be punished by getting more polite and not so polite refusals. I repeat, it does not need the council writing permission slips and creating stupid rules just because they can.

A spokesperson for the Birmingham Royal British Legion said: “We are disappointed to be not to be able to collect in parts of the city on some of the days because it is 11/11/11 this year.”
The Poppy Appeal is officially started in London one week prior to Remembrance Sunday, which falls this year on 13 November, giving fundraisers one week to make street collections, although tins can be left in stores earlier.
Oxfam said it has waived its right to collect in Birmingham city centre on 5 November to allow the legion to collect on that day instead.
However city council licensing restrictions remain in place for Armistice Day on 11 November and Remembrance Sunday on 12 November.
Unfortunately they are unable to overturn that decision as it would be unlawful.”

Well, here’s a thought: what if the Legion’s poppy sellers just rocked up anyway? I suspect the answer is absolutely nothing. I’m not advocating breaking the law as such, but just making an observation. If the Legion called their bluff what are Birmingham City Council going to do? Have ageing war veterans arrested for selling poppies? Confiscate their tins and trays? Form a line of PCSOs to block the public from approaching? Make the Legion pay fines from out of the donations people have made to help soldiers and their families?

You know what? I’d pay money to see them try.

* Though actually rattling collecting tins is illegal anyway. A ‘public menace’ apparently, as the British Legion again found out a couple of years back. Clipboard wielding chuggers don’t count for some reason, and are at liberty to ambush you in an attempt to get you to commit to a tenner every month by direct debit, but the old boys selling poppies for whatever people feel obliged to pay, which may be 10p until the same time next year, are supposed to stand mutely by and hope to catch the eyes of passersby. What a country!

Australia’s Carbon Taxed National Anthem

SING!

http://static.4shared.com/flash/player.swf

Australians all let us revolt,

For we are carbon free;

We’ve iron ore and coal and more,

But live in poverty.
Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts,

To use we do not dare;

In history’s page, we’re now stone age

What chance Australia fair?

In worried strains then let us ask,

What chance Australia fair?

H/T to the Real World Libertarian.

On the subject of smoking…

… I noticed just now while putting up a picture gadget to promote the the Wozza-Thompson e-petition to review the smoking ban that the number of signatures has roughly quadrupled in the day and a half or so since I added mine. Good start, and let’s all liberty loving types, whether we’re non-smokers or smokers, do what we can to keep that ball rolling. As I explained the other day, if you don’t smoke but you drink then you’re next, if you’re a bit on the tubby side then you’re right after the drinkers, and if you’re neither you have a little bit of breathing space but you’d be very foolish indeed to believe that you’re not on the list for something. Those jackboots of intolerance are marching towards you too, and if you can’t hear them yet I assure you that you will eventually.

‘Courageous’, but not in the way that they mean

The plain fag packets law has crept a little closer.

Australia’s parliament has passed two bills moving the nation closer to becoming the first to introduce plain cigarette packaging in a move Health Minister Nicola Roxon Thursday called “courageous”.

Well, Nics, if by ‘courageous’ you’re referring to the benefit the illegal tobacco trade will reap because those who counterfeit packaging will have an easier time while those who’ve always supplied their baccy in plain packaging, all of whom will be hoping to increase their profits and none of whom will pay a cent in tax, then yes, it’s very brave indeed. You might go so far as to say it shows enormous balls.

But somehow I don’t think she does mean that at all, which makes it less about having balls and more about talking balls.

The plans, which are being closely watched by other countries considering similar policies, have enraged the tobacco giants, who say there is no evidence plain packaging will reduce smoking rates.
They are also concerned it would reduce their profits and see counterfeit products flood the market.
But Roxon said they would have to live with it.

As will you, Nics, as will you. And not only Nicola Roxon but all the rest of us non-smokers too. You see, the tobacco industry currently puts several billion dollars into the Treasury in tobacco taxes. Now I know that the anti-smoking lobbyist drones claim that smoking kills 15,000 a year and cost $31 billion – one was wheeled out to do so for the linked article – but this is a claim that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If tobacco costs really were greater than tax revenue by a factor of five or more it’s simply inconceivable that the government are not banning smoking outright, and if they believe it then the decision to piss about with plain packaging is financially moronic. I very much doubt they’re quite that stupid, so I suspect it’s far more likely they’re trying to have their cake and eat it because they don’t actually believe the $31 billion figure themselves. And they shouldn’t, as Christopher Snowdon of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist explains (my emphasis).

Let’s first consider that there are believed to be 15,000 smoking related deaths in Australia every year. If the “medical burden” is $31 billion a year, this means that each person receives over $2,000,000 of treatment. This sounds just a little bit implausible and should have seemed so to the journalist as she typed it out.

And of course it turns out that is not the medical burden. The study that came up that figure accepted—totally contrary to what the hapless hack said—that tobacco taxes exceed the cost to the taxpayerof treating smoking-related diseases:

“Tobacco tax revenue in 2004/05 exceeded tobacco-attributable costs borne by the public sector by over $3.5 billion. Of this surplus $2.7 billion accrued to the Commonwealth and around $800 million to state governments.” (p. 72)

This same study did indeed come up with a figure of $31 billion, but it did so by including ‘costs’ that no reasonable person would consider to be costs. Lost productivity both at work and at home gave them an extra $8 billion (p. 64). Aside from the obvious problem of coming up with a suitable cash equivalent for domestic work, all lost productivity figures are questionable because they rely on an assumption that an individual is capable of a set amount of work in a lifetime and that he/she has a duty to fulfill that quota, otherwise they are somehow costing other people money. It’s as if someone dies and you have to go round and clean their house for the next ten years. It’s a nonsense.

Still more dubious is the remaining $19.5 billion which is made up of ‘intangible’ costs (p. 65). This relies on the entirely arbitrary valuation of a life at $2 million, or a loss of one year’s living of $53,267. This kind of psychological evaluation is practically meaningless and has no place in economics. You might as well say that the value of life is priceless and, therefore, the costs of smoking (or alcohol, or drugs) is infinite.

So the aim of this policy, like most so-called anti-smoking policies the world over, is to keep the Strength Through Joy mob happy by bullying the smokers while at the same time not doing anything that risks too much of the government’s tax revenue take. Let’s not kid ourselves here, if a $4 billion fall in tax revenue is newsworthy and had the finance minister in front of the cameras to talk about it, losing the baccy tax surplus, which is on the order, would give the government headaches.

Worse, the whole $7 bn or so per year would be lost while the costs wouldn’t go actually away. They wouldn’t go away immediately because if what they claim about the health effects is true even if everyone stopped there’d be people getting smoke related illnesses for years later, and in reality they wouldn’t go away at all for precisely the same reason we still have to pay for the health effects of pot, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, crystal meth, etc. – because people who really want to smoke will be doing it off the grid with tobacco they either buy illegally or produce themselves. Look, cannabis is banned and Aussies are supposedly among the highest users of pot in the world (no pun intended, that’s really how it was put) so the health system has all of the costs while the trade provides not a single cent of tax revenue.

As I said earlier, the government may be stupid but it isn’t quite that stupid, and so I’m sure it has no desire at all for the same thing to happen with tobacco. However, I think the current Aussie government is in danger of inadvertently pushing things that way anyway by policies that blur the difference between regulated and quality controlled tobacco and the illegal, untaxed, unregulated competition. Ironically I think that might not be bad news for Australia’s smokers since I believe more will be encouraged to smoke the much cheaper illegal products – I emphasise that I’m not advocating it, just predicting that it will happen.

That’s not courageous but stupid, handing over more control of yet another desirable product to criminals, just as was once done with alcohol in the US and as is the case with all the illegal recreational drugs that people still want to use today and which have never had any trouble keeping existing customers or finding new ones. Not the intent, to be sure, but the fact that Nicola Roxon didn’t refute this but instead said the tobacco companies will have to live with it means they are aware of the possibility. And yes, I do believe that governments can be that stupid.