UK Liberty

Free speech not only threatened by governments

Posted in freedom of speech by ukliberty on February 9, 2009

… but also people and organisations.

Recent example: LBC vs. Ben Goldacre.

LBC have instructed their lawyers to contact me.

Two days ago I posted about a 7th Jan 2009 broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves. This is important because it can cost lives, and you can read about the media’s MMR hoax here.

To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted therelevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.

LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright, that I must take it down immediately, that I must inform them when I have done so, and that they “reserve their rights”. …

Please contact Ben if you are a media lawyer and able to offer your services for free.

It seems wrong that a person may broadcast dangerous nonsense but her employer is free to chill criticism of it.

(also see NHS Blog Doc and this interesting opinion.)

Interesting by the way that the comments about this on her blog have disappeared.  But someone has saved them

Update

Story hits the Times – David Aaronovitch:

Goldacre was so annoyed about the January 7 edition of Barnett’s show, dealing, among other things, with MMR and vaccination, that he posted the whole of it as a clip on his own website, where it acted as a sort of audio chamber of horrors to appal his readers. A few days later the lawyers for LBC contacted Goldacre and told him that he was infringing their copyright and must remove the clip forthwith, or else.

Goldacre was now anger squared. “This is not about LBC or Jeni Barnett,” he wrote. “This is about one perfect, instructive, illustrative example of a whole genre of irresponsible journalism that drove the media’s anti-vaccine campaign for ten solid years, with serious consequences for public health.”

Update 2

More from Ben Goldacre.

I thought since a few days have passed that I should let you know what’s happening with the slightly ridiculous LBC situation. If you skip to the bottom you will find a discussion on some mischievous activism which I think has great potential. 

Since LBC unwisely threw their legal weight around to prevent you from being able to freely experience and ponder that astonishing 44 minute tirade against MMR, the inevitable has happened. The audio has been posted on a huge number of websites around the world, over 120 blogs so far are linking to the story, and more importantly, hundreds of thousands of people are talking and reading about the ignorance that Jeni Barnett exemplified in that worrying broadcast. It has been covered in the Times, and an Early Day Motion is being set down in parliament. …

ID’s a farce

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on February 9, 2009

The Register:

The British Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has spent £4.7bn ($6.6bn) on its new biometric ID card system. But it has not established a timeline for a card-reader rollout.

Without the necessary card readers, the biometric information such as fingerprint scans stored in the cards is inaccessible and therefore useless for ID verification. …

According to [Meg] Hiller, “There’s no prospect in the immediate future for the government directing anybody that you have to buy those things [readers] because we would be placing a burden on these organisations.

“The manufacturers of the machines have also got to decide whether it is worth their while to produce them.”

Timely to note again that there is a difference between the estimate of setting up and running the scheme at the Home Office / IPS (this figure roughly equal to £5bn) and the final cost of the scheme to the country. If the costs of the readers are not included in the estimate but displaced to the organisations that may purchase them, those costs willof course eventually be born by the taxpayer / customer, who doesn’t know that readers will cost from three to five figures each, and therefore – depending on how many organisations purchase the readers to take part in this idiocy – discover a much larger bill.

Moron knife stats

Posted in Uncategorized by ukliberty on February 9, 2009

Mark Easton, again, on more information coming out about those dodgy stats:

The row over the release of unchecked knife crime stats by the Home office last December (see earlier posts here and here) has taken an extraordinary new twist today with the government’s account of what happened looking increasingly shaky. …

Man who raises reasonable point castigated by politicians

Posted in politicians on liberty by ukliberty on February 9, 2009

Press Association:

Taking Ecstasy is no worse than riding a horse, the Government’s top drug adviser has claimed.

Writing in a medical journal, Professor David Nutt said taking the drug was no more dangerous than what he called “equasy”, or people’s addiction to horse riding.

He is the chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). …

The BBC:

The home secretary has told MPs she was “surprised” and “disappointed” by a drugs adviser likening the dangers of ecstasy to the dangers of horse riding.

Jacqui Smith said Prof David Nutt had “trivialised” the dangers of the drug.

She said she had told him he had gone beyond his role as head of the Advisory Council on Drugs Misuse.

Ms Smith said Prof Nutt had apologised to her and she had asked him to do the same to families whose lives have been damaged by ecstasy use. …

Speaking during Home Office questions in the House of Commons, Ms Smith said: “I’ve spoken to him this morning about his comments. I’ve told him that I was surprised and profoundly disappointed by the article reported.”

She added: “I’m sure most people would simply not accept the link that he makes up in his article between horse riding and illegal drug taking.

“For me that makes light of a serious problem, trivialises the dangers of drugs, shows insensitivity to the families of victims of ecstasy and sends the wrong message to young people about the dangers of drugs.”

Professor Nutt’s point was this:

This attitude [tolerating more than 100 deaths a year linked to horse-riding, but not tolerating 30 deaths a year linked to Ecstasy use] raises the critical question of why society tolerates – indeed encourages – certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others such as drug use.”

What is so unreasonable about that? 

Interesting in this context to note that we tolerate alcohol abuse, although it costs us £20bn a year in treating alcohol related illnesses and social costs, such as violence on Friday nights after closing time, but we don’t tolerate smoking, which costs us about £2.7bn. 

Politicians such as Jacqui Smith, however, would rather appear “tough on drugs”, because it is a guaranteed vote-winner, than do something helpful, which may or may not be.

Not all politicians are the same – by chance I encountered Paul Flynn MP’s blog:

Professor Nutt will be talking to the Commons Drugs Mis-Use group on Tuesday at 4.00 pm. His argument is worth making. Groundless prejudice must be challenged. But the ACMD are spitting in the wind. The Government will not act rationally. They will again seek to incite a few tabloid headlines by being tough on good sense.

The drug classifications only matter in that courts can impose ridiculously harsh sentences. No one agonises on categories when deciding which drug to use.

Juggling categories achieves nothing. It is distraction from genuine reforms and an excuse for not thinking.

Well said, although I disagree with “Juggling categories achieves nothing” – it achieves votes.  They hope.

Update

Good stuff from Anne Perkins in the Guardian and Steven Poole at Unspeak.

Yet another database

Posted in control freakery, database state, surveillance society by ukliberty on February 9, 2009

The BBC:

The government is compiling a database to track and store the international travel records of millions of Britons.

Computerised records of all 250 million journeys made by individuals in and out of the UK each year will be kept for up to 10 years. …

I (among others) have warned about this before.

And why are they doing this?

Minister of Database State for borders and immigration, and former TV producer, Phil Woolas said the government was determined to ensure the UK’s border remained one of the toughest in the world.

“Our hi-tech electronic borders system will allow us to count all passengers in and out of the UK and [it] targets those who aren’t willing to play by our rules,” he said.

“Already e-Borders has screened over 75 million passengers against immigration, customs and police watch-lists, leading to over 2,700 arrests for crimes such as murder, rape and assault.”

Note the word arrests.  He provides no detail about convictions.  But does he need to?

Is it worth doing all this to arrest 0.0036% of passengers?