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* Posts by Jez Burns

32 posts • joined 7 Mar 2009

Tell Facebook who's the greatest: YOU are!

Jez Burns

"The pioneers of social media used it to exclude opinions they didn't like - quite proudly demonstrating their intolerance and control-freakery."

Sounds interesting but I missed that one. Could you expand on it?

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Register readers mostly too ashamed to cop to hideous hoard horrors

Jez Burns
Unhappy

Cable hell

Each time I dispose of an old SCSI or Parallel cable, another two spring into existence to take its place. I've just given up now and made them a home.

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Massive study concludes: 'Global warming is real'

Jez Burns
FAIL

Why would this deal any kind of 'blow' to AGW sceptics? The idea that those sceptical of claims of a 'catastrophic' 4-6 degree potential increase of global average temperature over the coming century as a result of anthropogenic CO2 emissions would hold that global temperatures have remained static since the 'little ice age', or that they have not increased, is a fiction designed to smear their credibility. Whenever sceptics have pointed this out, they have been tediously and meaninglessly accused of 'moving the goalposts' (as if this whole issue was some kind of football match).

Sceptics would raise as a concern the lack of correlation between satellite measurements of tropospheric temperature and the land-based temperature datasets, shared by the Hadley Centre, NOAA, NASA GISS and indeed BEST (who have at least tried to factor measurement uncertainty into their statistical models). The urban heat island effect may not have been dealt with properly in any of these datasets (due to vague classification and oversimplification of definitions of 'urban' and 'rural'), which could account for the discrepancy. Or perhaps satellite sensors are inadequate for measuring surface temperature? As a common or garden sceptic with no axe to grind, I would like to know without being shouted down by some imbecile for exercising my scepticism, or treated like I was engaged in some sort of competition for righteousness.

Sceptics would generally argue that there is no observational evidence of a meaningful correlation between PPM fluctuations in CO2 levels and global average temperatures in the industrial era. They would argue that global average temperature is an irrelevant metric in any case (especially as around one third of the raw data used to compile the global average shows no trend, or a decreasing trend in temperature in different regions). They would argue that averaging the output of computer models pre-loaded with assumed temperature 'forcing' parameters for factors such as CO2, ozone, solar activity, soot and so on that are based on a combination of dubious paleo-climate reconstructions, curve fitting to known temperature trends, or output of other computer models is an absurd exercise in circular reasoning, and has no predictive value whatsoever. They would point to the failure of all climate models used by the IPCC to date to reflect reality as confirmation of this view.

They would argue many other things, none of which are remotely addressed, or dealt a 'blow' by the BEST study. I continue to be sceptical and interested - not in 'denial' of anything (including the possibility of AGW), just suspicious and vigilant when it comes to arguments launched from a platform of mindless cheerleading, alarmism, unquestioning acceptance of authority, refusal to address legitimate questions, bizarre lumping together of scientific and political belief and the kind of mischaracterisation of critics seen in the headline of this article.

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Apple plan to rate shops etc by number of iPhones visiting

Jez Burns

Good question..

I'd like to know the answer too. Also why should I have to turn off a useful feature just to retain my privacy? How easy / hard will it be to opt out, and what does 'opting out' entail? Does it mean the data will not be gathered, or just that gathered data will not be used for marketing? Quibbles about privacy and anonymity, see my post below..

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Jez Burns
Unhappy

Working for Apple?

Of course this is all to enhance the user experience, create synergy between brands blah blah blah... nothing to do with making a shitpile of cash for a company who already have more in the bank than the US government.

I don't care if this is anonymised - they don't seem to grasp that this isn't the issue. There is A) the principle that once you kick the privacy door off its latch, it's very easy to boot it wide open. B) The fact that I don't want to work for fucking Apple. By helping to make them money through the sale of my usage / location information, I feel like I'm being co-opted. They already treat other businesses (like the music, publishing and software industries), as cash cows to be milked until they dry out. It's starting to appear this isn't enough for them and their grubby fingers are making a grab for their own users.

I'm an iPhone user, and I think it's a great product, but it's heading for the bin if this crap continues.

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Fukushima: Situation improving all the time

Jez Burns

BBC coverage

I couldn't believe the lack of clarity and the constant tone of paranoia in the BBC coverage of this crisis either. I wouldn't normally bother getting annoyed about this kind of thing enough to write 'Tumbridge Wells' style complaints, but I get the feeling the mainstream media are desperate to milk this for all it's worth, and cause mass fear and anxiety in the process. I sent this to them, but I somehow doubt it'll get published:

"What is wrong with you (the BBC)? There is no information in your reports, just knee-jerk scientifically illiterate alarmism, unfounded and disproportionate insinuations about possible food and water contamination (presenting normal safety precautions as warnings of impending doom), and lazy speculation dressed up as reporting, achieved by linguistically conflating the terrible tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami with the real, but hardly catastrophic crisis at Fukushima. I get the impression the BBC and other news organisations are tangibly disappointed by the lack of human culpability in the earthquake and tsunami, and are almost willing there to be a real nuclear disaster in order to obtain some juicy hand-wringing headlines and prance around like some sort of vindicated Cassandra, able to point a finger of blame for the whole natural disaster at mankind. Please compare the lazy and ill-informed BBC coverage of this incident with the sober, scientific, informative and rational coverage from The Register and hang your heads in shame."

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One third of Russians say Sun revolves round Earth

Jez Burns

It's who you ask?

And in other startling news, over 97.4% of priests surveyed - who are active publishers in theology - expressed a belief in God.

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DARPA inks 5-year-mission solar strato-wingship deal

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

Primary objective:

To unsettle the enemy by beaming Joe Satriani style twin-axe power-rock over a 200 mile radius..

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Boffins authenticate Apple 'Antennagate'

Jez Burns
Go

Far from a lemon IMHO

I read everything I could, thought about it for ages, checked one out and bought it. I have no particular devotion to Apple, use some of their gear but readily accept the flaws and the good points, just like anything else. IMHO Apple's response to the antenna issue has been arrogant and appalling, and has left them rightly open to a massive amount of criticism. When I bought the phone I knew all about the antenna issues, but had no idea, thanks to Apple's obfuscation and out-of-control rumours and speculation everywhere, whether it would be a big or a small problem.

I live in the Midland's countryside with weak 3g reception. I found immediately that bridging the gap between the two antennas caused a massive signal drop. If I moved my finger so much as a couple of millimetres away from the antenna gap, the signal was restored. This in my mind rules out general RF interference from the body as the problem- it really is an antenna bridging issue.

On the other hand, I've found it pretty easy not to hold the phone in a way that would bridge the two antennas (I wouldn't hold the phone that way anyway, other than browsing / text messaging). I've also ordered a case, which I would use in any event as the phone would almost certainly smash if dropped on a hard surface.

In every other respect, I've been utterly blown away by the phone - particularly good points for me are the speed and the display which are both amazing. The reception, when held 'normally' is pretty good. It's horses for courses really - if you're not prepared to be restricted in the way you hold the phone, or to get a case for it, I wouldn't bother buying one. For me, this isn't a problem, and in every other respect the phone is about as far from a lemon as you can get. It's a shame really, as Apple deserve a lot of credit for pushing the boundaries so far.

Please don't flame me! I have no axe to grind, I'm utterly unbiased and technologically literate - this is just my opinion and I'm hoping it might clear things up for anyone else considering buying one..

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Twitter bomb joker found guilty

Jez Burns

Stuff

Two notable things about this case - firstly that Paul Chambers wasn't convicted of a terrorism offence, therefore it couldn't be argued that he caused any security scare or disruption, or that his message was taken as a gesture of intent to bomb an airport. If he was, he could have argued his case and won. The fact that he was convicted under the 2003 Communications act makes the decision even more sinister. Secondly, he was tried by magistrates rather than a judge and jury. Magistrates have become the PCOS's of the judicial system. They are by and large untrained, legally illiterate political appointees, frightened to come to any decision that might upset the state or media.

It is no accident that the Government who passed the nasty Communications Act (amongst many other equally oppressive laws) is the same one that has put in a concerted effort to abolish jury trials and massively increase the recruitment of magistrates. Real judges, the High Court and House of Lords (despite the bad press they all get) have been fighting a quiet, dignified but ultimately losing battle against abuse of power by the state for years.

If the State, and by extension it's burgeoning bloc of patrons in the Police, CPS or Judiciary want to bring you down, the whole system is geared towards allowing them to do so. Chamber's conviction is likely to be quashed on appeal. In the meantime, hopefully a change of UK Government might help redress the damage that has been done to civil liberties over the last decade.

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Aussie smoko-proofing drug prevents ill effects of cigs

Jez Burns

"should do the decent thing and remove themselves from society sooner rather than later"

Nice to see people like you hiding under a cloak of anonymity whilst spouting vapid, mean and generally twatty groupthink bullshit like this. You really are a coward.

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Atheists smite online God poll

Jez Burns
Happy

@Graham Bartlett

Amen to that!

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State attorney nabbed in car with stripper, Viagra and sex toys

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

Just in case..

"a Viagra pill and several sex toys". Corning said he had them with him "just in case".

His father had said "Son, these might just save your life one day.."

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Increase in comms snooping? You ain't seen nothing yet

Jez Burns

@minionzero

Great post! What is really worrying is that the Government (from the PM to Whitehall to the police) don't even feel under any obligation to explain the motives for their spying- anti terrorist, criminal or other. If you refuse to justify something, perhaps it is because you can't. They have at no point been given permission by society to take unfettered surveillance powers, yet seem to take it for granted that this is what they are entitled to, without question or scrutiny. This level of arrogance is astonishing and unsettling. They seem to treat the 'civilian' population as children, perhaps knowing that in doing so, we will behave like good children, believing unquestioningly what we are told, accepting unlimited intrusion into our lives and being seen and not heard.

There has never been any clear evidence that this level of surveillance is an anti-terrorist measure. The last few anti-terrorist operations (and you have to assume they have been conducted with heavy surveillance) have not exactly been a roaring success, with entirely innocent people being arrested without any evidence, then gagged with Control Orders or threatened deportation when it looks like any embarrassing truth might be revealed. Of course, any fight against potential domestic bombers is an crucial one, but it has yet to be shown that powers beyond those already available to the police and Government (and I remember terrorist atrocities being far more common in the '80s) are necessary or even helpful.

This feeling is strengthened when even the Government's own anti-terror justifications for increased surveillance come across as lame and half-hearted, falling back on 'anti-fraud', 'anti-gang', 'anti-criminal' soundbites, peppered with logical fallacy when held up to scrutiny.

We can only conclude in the absence of any other evidence that a policy of blanket surveillance and interception is being pursued by those in power for its own sake, not as a means to any useful end. That they (Government and civil service) believe they have an automatic right to power and a monopoly on control. Anything that happens outside that control (such as internet communication) angers and terrifies them.

Then again, maybe it's always been like this, and the growth of the internet and mass communication has merely given us the illusion of freedom when in reality it has never really existed.

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Bezos begs forgiveness for Amazon's Big Brother moment

Jez Burns

Re: On the doubleplusgood side

Were you reading the special version with the big letters and pictures? It's, like, so not the Matrix is it?

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Boffin predicts pee-powered cars

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

One of the

coolest things I've ever heard.

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German old timers torture financial adviser

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

Film rights?

I'd pitch it as "Cocoon meets Reservoir Dogs"

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The Moon? We're going nowhere, says NASA official

Jez Burns

@John Smith

"(note in accountancy land a mis-entry of 1 too high in 1 account matched by 1 too low in another equals a discrepancy of 2)"

Really interesting- didn't know that, thanks! Any indication whether in NASA's case this was too high or too low?

@Stuart Halliday

Yeah, not to mention how lucky they were not to get fried in solar ratiation. Perhaps back in the day, any risks were worth taking to get ahead of the Commies?

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Branson breaks ground on US rocketplane spaceport

Jez Burns
Alert

Billionaire builds playground / theme park for the super-rich..

Hasn't he seen Jurrassic Park, West World etcetera? This is bound to end in tears.

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So what we do when ID Cards 1.0 finally dies?

Jez Burns
Unhappy

@Bronek Kozicki

Your arguments in favour of an ID card system (simply to allow proof of address) are totally redundant. The idealised system you propose is not the one being considered by the UK government, which is an ID card tied into a necessarily monolithic database system with access necessarily granted to tens of thousands of anonymous officials. Even if it was, the positive aspects you set out do not even touch on the potential negatives. It is facile to bring other countries with an ID card system in place into the argument. For one, they do not have the same system in place as that proposed by the UK Government. Secondly, where is the evidence that the ID system of other countries is not already open to abuse / being abused. Thirdly, the implementation of a massive database backend, which is the true point of contention in the ID cards debate appears to be a Europe-wide, not just UK-centric plan. Citizens of EU countries, with or without ID cards should be equally concerned. If they are not, then like you, they are being breathtakingly complacent.Citizens of EU countries, with or without ID cards should be equally concerned. If they are not, then like you, they are being breathtakingly complacent towards their privacy and liberties.

Having said that, maybe you are a part of a minority who find the prospect of state intrusion and control of your life comforting?

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Jez Burns
Happy

@David Bell

When I was a teenager (around 15), me and my mates came up with a cunning and foolproof way of obtaining beer and cigarettes, which would outfox any ID scheme imaginable. We'd simply bribe an adult to purchase them for us in return for a cut of the booty.

Actually, scratch that. I propose implanting an RFID chip into the hand of anyone under the age of 18 that can pass information to an RFID chip implanted in the fabric of any beer can / cigarette packet, bongo mag etc. These can both then register with terminals hidden in pub tables, park benches, bus stops, which will alert the authorities in the case of minors making use of such contraband. Of course, any such scheme could be entirely voluntary- if you don't have the ID chip you just can't purchase any unsavoury items. The chip will only activate in the case of interaction with said goods, so privacy will not be an issue.

Underage drinking never really did me any harm anyway, it just led to a well developed sense of paranoia. The prison doctors said I might be eligible for a liver transplant in a couple of years anyway, so all good!

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Jez Burns
Thumb Down

Gets one point, misses a more important one

This is a really interesting and informative article, and one that for a change addresses the technical rather than simply the moral issues of the ID card. So maybe it's inappropriate to start banging on about this side of the debate in a comment here, but are the two actually separable? Is it not possible that the architects of the ID card scheme are perfectly aware of the possibility of retaining a degree of privacy for the holder with clever use of software, but that this is actually undesirable for the state looking to implement it? Every UK Govt proposal relating to the ID scheme appears to confirm that the ID card (and more importantly, associated database system) has one simple function- to eradicate privacy altogether. The concept of privacy itself is an anathema to a state looking for micro-management of a population, scared to death by the shadows of terrorism and uncontrollable individualistic behaviour. If you doubt this, just listen to what the architects of the scheme say:

""The realm of intelligence operations is of course a zone to which the ethical rules that we might hope to govern private conduct as individuals in society cannot fully apply"

Quotation taken from Register article: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/17/damian_green_imp/

Granted, this refers to Government communications monitoring, but what is an ID card, linked to a system of databases, if not communications monitoring?

My worry is that more sensible proposals for the implementation of ID technology such as this, while coming with the best of intentions, will merely give the state an excuse to sweep any moral objections to the scheme under the carpet. Once established it will be very easy to do away with any built-in privacy protection and steam ahead with the scheme as it was originally intended- to use an automated process to red-flag and monitor any citizen who has the potential to step 'out of line'. What line, the state is free to decide at any given time.

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Imagine! Government to legislate against badness

Jez Burns
Happy

@Shakje

I don't think any of the people posting here seriously believe the Government intend to lock up parents for spending all their money on beer rather than their kids. They are mostly pointing out the ludicrousness of a government producing empty and nonsensical legislation which could never be enforced, just to pass on a 'message'. As for it not being something negative, check out my post above for ideas about how it could be exactly that..

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Jez Burns
Thumb Down

Do they really care?

Nice to see Government get back to joyriding constitutional law again. Can we have some more child poverty databases too so we can feel good looking at made-up statistics on a computer screen? It would be interesting to see the full costs of this Government's vanity legislation over the past ten years - meaningless drivel that is contradictory, unintelligible, and clogs up the entire legal system as judges try (in the best cases) to make sense of it, or (in the worst cases) to protect the weakest in society from being completely shat on *. I would guess the costs of this Government's endless legislation spew would run to hundreds of millions of pounds. Of course, we wouldn't want this money to go on things like feeding and clothing children, rebuilding sink estates to give people somewhere dignified to live, or a decent education system. We'd far rather see government sponsored infomercials, databases and long-term-child-unwealth-delivery-monitoring-and-classification quangos.

And what of the impact of this Government's more recent fiddle with the legislature on child poverty- abolishing legal aid for defendants in criminal cases? "It's means tested" they wail. Is £3000 per year income really above the poverty line? It is the poorest in society who are most likely to find themselves in court for a crime they did not commit, especially when you have a police force cut to the bone by obsessive target hunting and a Government who do not understand, or care about the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty', who are both happy to see innocent people punished just to bolster the stats. You now pay your legal fees even if you are acquitted of a crime. I repeat, even if you are found innocent. If you are poor, whether or not you have children living below the poverty line, thanks to this Government, you have the choice of accepting prison, or parting with money you do not have if you are accused of a crime.

In short, this Government could not give a piss about child poverty. They just want to look good, and make their political opponents look bad through Orwellian logic. By opposing ridiculous and ineffectual legislation like this, you are naturally in favor of child poverty. I am obviously in favor of kicking puppies, as I would oppose any new puppy-kicking directive.

I hope the public will finally start to pay some attention to what these arseholes are really doing to the legal system.

* custodial sentences for some repeat ASBO breakers are indeterminate- you are released from prison when the review board says you can be released. Unfortunately the review board can't handle their case load, and if it wasn't for judges refusing to hand down disproportionate punishments for minor crimes, tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of kids would be rotting in prison. Another thing not a lot of people know.

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Jacqui's secret plan to 'Master the Internet'

Jez Burns
Thumb Down

Why shouldn't we know?

"GCHQ does not discuss 'how' we use data, as this may lead to revelations about our capability which damage national security."

This is sounding more and more like the Stasi every day. I have never been paranoiac, and like most other people, I have "nothing to hide". My opposition to state funded surveillance and control systems has been based on indignation at the invasion of my privacy, and a natural suspicion of the state's nannying tendencies rather than outright worry. This is starting to change now. The state are giving themselves totalitarian powers, totally unchecked, uncriticised and seemingly immune from any kind of scrutiny.

Perhaps elected members of the Labour government never completely lost their student Marxist tendencies, or maybe they are so pliant and stupid they have allowed a civil service 'shadow government' to take root while they fiddle their expense claims. Do the government (elected and unelected) really believe they are doing the right thing- driven to a flailing panic by the prospect of another terrorist act on their 'watch'? Or are they striving to build up a detailed picture of our lives and habits, to tag and label us so that we can be more easily manipulated- individually told a different lie in order to control mass public opinion. So we can be marked as 'undesirables' - denied public sector jobs, medical support, the right to free movement if we disagree with them? So we can be 'disappeared' if we speak out? Or is this simply the socialist dream of reducing society to an easily manageable dataset- the dream that starved 30 million people to death in communist Russia before the advent of computers?

The thing is, whatever our speculation, we don't know, we are not being told, and we are not even allowed to debate the issue with people who are making decisions on our behalf. We don't even know who these people are! Because of this, we are right to be suspicious and to assume the worst- that the door to Room 101 is being booted wide open.

The anti-terrorist arguments for implementation of this kind of surveillance are appealing on the face of it. Once you look deeper into how it actually works, they are laughable. See this article by Ben Goldacre:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/28/surveillance-ben-goldacre

So this leaves us with the argument that this kind of surveillance can monitor and curtail criminal activity. No one would argue that locking up gangsters and pedophiles is a bad thing, but is existing legislation and technology really insufficient to do this? Even with the most sophisticated surveillance equipment, you will still suffer from shortage of human recourses, lazyness and ineptitude that marks the worst aspects of policing in the UK. Watch a couple of episodes of 'The Wire' - criminals adapt, and can easily change their communications methods to sidestep the authorities. Even if there is some value to paying Lockheed Martin millions of pounds to install equipment to spy on us, is the price of sacrificing our privacy, freedom and security from a brutal totalitarian government in the future (it has happened many times over elsewhere in the world) really worth paying? Does this kind of reaction not put the 'terror' in terrorism, and perfectly achieve the aims of militants - to disrupt and scare us into some kind of capitulation to their ideology?

We can ask these questions until we are blue in the face, but the people making the decisions will not give us an answer. They don't even appear to be listening. They will not discuss their methods on the grounds of national security.

They will not even give us their definition of 'national security'. Since when has internal criminal activity been a matter of national security? Probably since leaking embarrassing facts about government ineptitude did. Why is debate about the Criminal Justice System that affects all of us suddenly forbidden? Who has something to hide?

If the government and civil service do, it is our job to prize the information from them. This site is read by intelligent and IT literate people who have real insight into the systems being implemented. The more we can share about what we know, the more answers we can hopefully get.

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Tory 'terror' affair shows danger of ubiquitous surveillance

Jez Burns
Coat

Correction

Case mentioned in paragraph 6 happened in Nottingham, not Manchester- sorry!

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Jez Burns
Happy

@Graham

You're welcome! I think I need a lie down now..

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Jez Burns
Stop

Reasonableness?

As in the kind of reasonableness that allows you to baton an innocent man over the head whilst he walks home from work, giving him a fatal heart attack? The kind of reasonableness that leads you to arrest people for taking photographs of historic buildings and trains?

The kind that allows you to shoot an innocent man repeatedly in the head, claiming him to be a 'terrorist suspect', having followed him for miles and allowing him to board a tube train? The kind that leads you to subsequently photoshop his face for the media in order to make him look more 'Asian', and to smear him as a cocaine addict in order to imply that somehow, he got what he deserved?

The kind of reasonableness that gives you cause to shoot an unarmed man in the shoulder in his own home, branding him a terrorist, then upon finding no evidence to support this assertion, to attempt to slur him with false accusations of internet perversion and money laundering?

The kind of reasonableness that allows you to fake a dossier of evidence claiming that we are all thirty minutes away from being destroyed by chemical and biological weapons launched by a rogue middle east state, leading to an illegal attack on said state costing tens of thousands of lives, many of innocent men women and children. The kind of reasonableness that allows you to then cover up advice given by your own attorney general prior to launching said war that any such action would be a breach of international law.

The kind of reasonableness that allows you to harass a local newspaper journalist with evidence pointing towards corruption in your police force, to the point of confiscating her equipment and reading her private and privileged communications under some spurious constitutional law introduced by the back-door by a political party only interested in protecting its flimsy reputation?

The kind of reasonableness that allows your policemen to career into the body of a teenage girl whilst driving at over 60mph in Manchester city centre, knocking her 100ft away from the collision, causing her severe brain-damage, then to claim in a civil suit (having slipped out of criminal charges) that she deserved it because she had been out drinking 'under-age'? The kind that allows you to disappear CCTV footage of the incident from the area, then to lie to a court when footage is found that it would cost too much to transfer the tapes?

The kind of reasonableness that allows local councils to use anti-terror legislation to spy on residents for wheelie-bin misuse?

This is the reasonableness of the corrupt, lazy, lying, self-serving, power-grabbing bastards that make up the police, government and 'security services' in the UK. These are the people we are supposed to trust with details of our communications, our movements, our relationships, our beliefs, our sexual habits, our shopping habits, our history and our identity. We are supposed to believe that contrary to all previous evidence, these details won't be mishandled, misused, lost, leaked, faked, abused, compiled, graded, sold and otherwise abused- as the people in charge of them are essentially ‘reasonable’, and therefore not required to be subject to any safeguards or restrictions?

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Report: Legalising drugs would save UK plc huge packet

Jez Burns

Eyes are wide open I reckon..

@ Alexander

All fair points, but I'm still not convinced the criminalisation of drugs does anything to help anyone. This argument doesn't come from any kind of drugs are good / bad viewpoint- that's a totally different issue. My point is that criminalising drugs creates an underground industry that sucks people in and keeps them there. Legalising drugs would put an end to this industry, bring addicts out into the open, give them some dignity and allow them to function like anyone else.

I'd like to see evidence that any other criminal enterprise has anywhere near the same influence on society as the drug trade. By it's nature, this industry is a pyramid scheme of huge proportions, needing to constantly enlarge and pull in more and more dealers and addicts to keep itself going. Sure, a lot of criminals higher up the pyramid would go into other enterprises (hopefully eliminating each other in competition), but I can't think of any other illegal industry where the numbers of people affected are anywhere near so large.

The fact that your mate managed to get hold of the drugs that wrecked his life, regardless of the fact that they were illegal kind of proves my point. It makes absolutely no difference that drugs are illegal- if people want to use them, they will. They'll just spend more money on more dangerous products, and sink themselves further into a hole.

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Jez Burns
Flame

Elephant in the room.

Another aspect of drug policy that been sidelined in these studies is that of addiction. Government policy has always assumed that addiction is a purely chemical thing, ignoring the contributing social and financial factors which are hugely exacerbated by the current stance on drugs. Simply put, the majority of heroin or crack addicts lead crap and monotonous lives, caught in a poverty trap caused largely by the need to fund their drug habit. If you have absolutely nothing else in your life, getting out of your head is an attractive prospect- it offers relief from boredom and an escape from reality. No amount of treatment for chemical addiction (the severity of the effects of which are usually exaggerated) will usually change this- class A drugs offer fairly effective pain relief for a painful life.

You absolutely cannot prevent people from obtaining illegal drugs however. I live in a fairly typical small UK Market town, from which I could obtain heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, dope, amphetamines, crack and pretty much anything else without much effort. The only effect of the 'war on drugs' is that it puts the business in the hands of nasty, violent gangsters, introduces massive inconsistency in the quality and strength of the products available (leading to poisoning and overdoses), and most importantly to the point I'm trying to make, forces up the street price, keeping addicts in the poverty trap which leads them to drug addiction in the first place. Moreover, the kudos and perceived profitability of the drug trade attracts disenfranchised kids to the gangs in their drove. Government drug policy is the glue that holds these gangs together.

Legalising drugs and making them available via the NHS for a fee probably wouldn't end the illegal drug trade, but it would fatally cripple drug gangs once drug users became aware that a cheaper, purer and safer alternative was available. Perhaps the payoff could be encouraging users to enroll in some kind of education, training and rehabilitation programme which could be funded from NHS drug profits. That's if such a rehibilitation programme would even be necessary. Solvents are legal, highly addictive, highly potent and cheap, yet their abuse is not particularly widespread, and generally frowned on by all sections of society.

Sadly no change is likely to happen while the political and media elite bask in hypocritical self-righteousness and moral cowardice, often at the same time as swilling G&Ts and shovelling cocaine up their noses.

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Facebook mimics Google's 'poor man's email'

Jez Burns
Happy

@matt Nida

Brilliant point! Maybe there were also 'comment caves' where dissatisfied troglodytes could etch their furious ramblings into the wall with a blunt spear..

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