So despite the lack of cabinet backing, and despite the public consultation going against the idea, David Blunkett is determined to press on with ID cards, and will now be giving it a test. So much for consultation – will anyone ever trust this government again? [Guardian Unlimited]
Not only has someone converted Wikipedia to a format for offline browsing on a handheld – the ultimate encyclopedia, really – but they’re included instructions on how to convert it yourself – so you can have the most up to date version at all times. There’s no reason why you can’t script this, either.
A head teacher just appeared on BBC News and, when talking about “poor” pupils claimed “even when they’re here, they’re mentally truanting.” Mental truancy? What the hell is he on about? What he means, of course, is not paying attention to the teacher – and in my book, what that means is the teacher isn’t actually good enough to get them to pay attention.
You know you’re dealing with a good company when even the point-one updates add lots of new features, and by that measure, Bare Bones is a very good company indeed. As the release notes reveal, there’s an awful lot in MailSmith 2.0.1, from SSL connection support to importing Eudora filters. I really recommend you give MailSmith a try – it’s a great product, a real email package designed by people who obviously stretched the capabilities of other email packages so much they just wrote their own.
I’m already a fan of MailSmith, Bare Bones’ email package – but there’s been one feature it’s been missing, the ability to filter on the basis of whether someone is in your Address Book – a feature that only Claris Emailer ever had, and that I loved. With version 2.0.1, MailSmith gains this and an even cooler feature – the ability to filter on the basis of whether someone is a member of a group in Address Book. This is great, as it means you can, for example, set up a filter that puts all mail from someone at a company, including home email addresses, into a specific folder.
Occasionally, a piece of argument comes along that almost begs to be taken apart. Usually, these kinds of arguments appear from the mouths of the undereducated, but in an essay on “A silver lining to unjust executions”, Dr. Walter Block, professor of economics at Loyola University in New Orleans proves that those who’ve done a PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) can be ignorant of what an argument actually is.
Block starts reasonably, with a description of the libertarian theory of punishment. In this, the foremost aim of punishment is to repay the victim of crime for the action of the criminal. All well and good, and – at least – based on some kind of logical framework. However, when Block expands this to the problem of how to repay a victim of murder, he makes a criminally basic logical error.
He starts well enough, with a thought experiment. Suppose there were a machine which took the life force of the murderer, and gave it to the victim, resurrecting them and killing the criminal. That would be a form of repayment, and hence justified under libertarian punishment principles. Again, so far, so reasoned.
He then makes his first error, jumping from this thought experiment to saying that it proves the death penalty is justified, even though no such machine exists. Unfortunately, this is not the case, because without such a machine, the death penalty does not repay the victim and thus does not satisfy libertarian principles of punishment. To deprive the criminal of something is not the same as to repay the victim. It is as if, for a theft, the criminal was required to work to make money to repay the victim, and then both victim and criminal had to watch the money destroyed. No repayment, no punishment should be the maxim of libertarian punishment – and the death penalty doesn’t cut it.
The next logical failure is in his discussion on justice and due process. Block claims that the execution of innocent men may have a silver lining as, in his words, “many of those on death row have murdered on numerous occasions, and were only caught, found guilty and sentenced for, one such crime.” Hence, even though innocent of the murder they are to be executed for, the other untried crimes deserve the death penalty. This is “a sort of justice”.
This argument fails on two points. First of all, Block’s justification of it is profoundly anti-liberty, as it rests on the idea that “justice” means something other than due process of law. Due process is an essential safeguard of the rights of the individual against a state, and to suggest that a violation of due process can be “good” in libertarian terms is simply wrong. In practical terms, justice simple is due process.
Secondly, there is Block’s reasoning method. He starts with the sound point that it is an action that’s good or bad, not the person that takes the action. A Nazi camp guard can save a life, a gang can stop another gang committed rape, and so on. From this, he makes the jump to saying that something good can come from an unjust act – in this case, a person being killed for a crime they did not commit. The problem with this is the two things are not equivalents: In the first case, we are saying a bad person can commit a good act, and in the second case, that a bad act can mean a good act. I would hope it’s clear why these are not the same things.
At the end, Block hedges his bets by claiming that “Criminals should be executed not for the murder of those they have not killed, but for their actual transgressions. However, honesty compels me to acquiesce in the notion that sometimes a sort of justice can occur even when this does not take place; when people innocent of a specific crime are executed for it nonetheless.” In other words, Block’s argument comes down to the statement that “the bad guy got what he deserved.” Such a ludicrously simple notion of justice is unjust, anti-libertarian, and ultimately stupid.
File under “no shit Sherlock”. According to a report on BBC News, a study has found that “a lack of affordable housing is creating an ‘underclass’ of people unable to afford their own homes in the UK”. In other words, the fact that house prices have consistently gone up by far more than wages has inevitably meant that more and more people simply cannot afford to buy.
This is the dirty little secret of the housing boom, and the only reason that it hasn’t been noticed before is that banks have kept stretching the amounts and terms of mortgages, in a kind of private market compensation.
The long term consequences are going to be brutal, and it’s something that no political party will want to tackle. There is going to be a larger and larger proportion of people in the UK who will never be able to afford to buy their own home, while those who bought early will be alright. The problem with this is, of course, that this government along with just about every other since Thatcher has sold the public two lies: That of “the right to buy” and that houses are investments, not places to live – that the simple act of buying a house can and will make you rich. Without a massive, public housing-for-rent programme, there’s going to be a lot of unhappy people in a few year’s time.[BBC News]
“Disarm the Police” is an essay on how the only people who shouldn’t carry arms are the police: that the citizenry should be armed but the police should not. It reads like one of the loopy bits of a Robert Heinlein novel, but it’s worth reading as a reminder that the far Right can never cease to amaze you.