Thursday, October 28, 2004

ASBOs in the eye of the beholders

Recommended reading for Mr Blunkett: The BBC asks readers, "Do anti-social behaviour orders work?" and, for once, gets a pretty consistent stretch of answers...

Update: Also worth checking out is the Q & A session with Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty. She deals quite calmly and sensibly with some of the issues and opinions for and against ASBOs, for example:

"My family has suffered for 18 months from young youths who have threatened to damage my property and shout verbal abuse. I believe that more power should be given to the police and courts. Do you agree? (Keith Bennett)

"When there are serious problems of crime and what’s now being called anti-social behaviour, the easiest thing for a Home Secretary to do is to say, I’m going to tackle this by creating more powers by legislating again and that is why we’ve had 30 criminal justice Bills in the last 10 years.

I’m afraid that the tough truth is that more and more criminal offences, wider and wider police powers do not in themselves solve deep-seated problems of crime and anti-social behaviour. You can solve perhaps a bit more by having more financial resources to put into policing and also to put into tackling the causes of crime, like high unemployment in certain areas, drug addiction, poor housing and so on. But just legislating is the cheapest thing in the world, the easiest thing in the world and it doesn’t necessarily always do any real good.

New 'yob' targets to be unveiled

According to the BBC, the Home Office is pressing forwards with its widespread, "tough-on-crime, tough-on-10-year-old-kids" ASBO plans around the country, bringing in specialised experts as promised.

But do they really work at all? Or are we just trying to get our population to behave through heavy-handed threat of incarceration and violence?

Minister Hazel Blears also revealed this week that "about a third" of Asbos were breached - with some people jailed and others not. (And how come this appears as the last 2 lines in the BBC article? Aren't statistics like this important any more?)

BBC Magazine highlight some of the more original uses for ASBOs so far, confirming the question: Are we merely using draconian legal measures to replace our lack of social cohesion and our ability to raise the next generation sensibly?

Or, to put it another way, are we now so isolated from each other that our only recourse is a political+enforcement one? Are we no longer in a position to recognise, deal with and prevent the very real problems arising directly around us? If so, why not? If the factors that traditionally stop us from tearing each other apart are failing, what's to say that ASBOs are a decent, long-term solution?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What do *you* think?

According to their press release, the Home Office have issued a couple of documents today, including their response to the HAC (40 pages), and a Summary of Consultation Findings (104 pages).

The Summary of Findings looks interesting. I note initially that while the government are quick to tout the popularity of the old "Entitlement Cards" as a solid backing for progressing with a scheme ("The purpose of the consultation exercise was to elicit views on the draft legislation, rather than on the principle of introducing identity cards, which has already been shown to have widespread public support."), they note that the consultation itself should be viewed from a much more skewed viewpoint:

"It is worth bearing in mind that responses to consultation exercises are by definition self-selecting rather than representative. People tend to be motivated to write in because they are opposed to the proposals under consultation."

This may be worth bearing in mind when the consultation figures seem to conflict with recent research. Compare:

Consultation Responses

Opposed: 48%
In favour: 31%
Supportive in principle, with reservations: 8%
Neutral: 13%

General Correspondence received during the consultation period

Opposed: 21%
In favour: 31%
Neutral: 48%

Hmm, hardly an overwhelming majority in favour, I'd say...

I've yet to go into further detail about the document, but it seems that the general public are often as confused as the government over exactly what ID cards are for, although the consultation hints that really, it's for everything it could possibly be for.

I encourage all to read.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Shields up

Blunketty Goodness is to respond to the Home Affairs Committee report on ID Cards, tomorrow. Will we get more details on the proposal? Will Dave and Tony have figured out just what the whole thing is for yet? Who knows, but the Register put together an incisive preview of the whole thing.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The making of the terror myth

The Guardian are giving some coverage to the upcoming BBC2 documentary, The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. Made by the guy behind "The Century of the Self", this 3-parter looks at the web spun by politics and media alike around that "war" on terror thing that seems to be all the rage right now. It promises to take the various concepts sold to us such as dirty bombs and Al-Quaeda, and actually go so far as to -gasp- doubt their effectiveness and even their existence. Appalling statistics that many of us are already aware of will help watchers to further question the endless stream of "facts" that we get presented with every day.

Let's just hope it gets picked up on more than "Century of the Self" did...

Update: Gah, did I really forget to add the time it was on? OK, Wednesday, 9pm, BBC2. There.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Who am I?

The Register lays the smackdown on our favourite Blonkett's recent speech at the Labour Conference. Read to the bottom of the article to gain wondrous insight into just what joy the card scheme can bring into your life. Mmmm... "to promote our citizenship, to value the fact that ... taking on citizenship is a tremendous step as part of our mutuality, as communities and a nation."

That's why I feel so despondent about the UK then - it's all because I don't have a card so I have no idea who I am. yeah, that'll be it.

I may read through his speech once I have a nice, calming cup of tea in hand. Such drastic measures must be taken these days, in order to avoid being eternally irritated by the endless spewstreams of drivel being forced upon me by the Home Office. Still, venting it constrictively into the various HO consultations might help.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Are *you* funding terror?

Three more arrested for planning to fund terrorism, with the police (I assume) alleging that they ... "entered into, or became concerned in, an arrangement as a result of which money or other property was made available, or was to be made available to another, and knew or had reasonable cause to suspect, that it will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism."

Now, I'd not read that before. But it seems like you could arrest a lot of people based on this, especially considering that the public have been alerted to the fact that buying pirated films funds terrorism - can I demand that those buying dodgy DVDs at a local market be carted off and orange-suited?

Furthermore, given that terrorists seem to have a penchant for e-mail scams, it makes sense then that they also indulge in the lucrative sale of items via spam e-mail. I therefore have reason to suspect that anyone falling prey and purchasing a few boxes of Viagra surreptitously is probably doing their bit to make the world a more dangerous place. Lock em up!

Alas, neither Gordorn Brown nor the treasury itself provides ready lists of likely funding sources, so it may take a little research before I can be sure that I'm only spending my money at fully-Govt-certified non-terrorist-lovin' outlets. Thankfully my paranoia has increased (or, perhaps, been cultivated) to the point where I can now wholeheartedly gaze suspiciously at those that have most to gain from anti-terrorist measures, and prevent myself from passing financial resources in their direction, just in case.

After all, in this dark, dark day and age, all suspicion is reasonable.