Archive for September 2011

Alcohol silliness in Scotland

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will be, from Saturday, dealing with the law of unexpected consequences with respect of their changes last year to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. The Alcohol Bill 2010 was aimed at banning the selling of alcoholic drinks at a discount and restricting alcohol advertising.

However, because it only applies in Scotland, online orders from companies who distribute from England are unaffected. One company who are therefore taking advantage of this is everyone’s favourite supermarket bogeyman, Tesco, who have sent out a marketing e-mail to customers saying:

“Great news! All orders placed at TescoWine by the case will still qualify for these discounts when applicable as your wine is dispatched to you from our distribution centre in Daventry, England.”

No doubt other supermarkets and online wine retailers will follow that lead, if they have not done so already.

Predictably the nu-puritans don’t like this with Jennifer Curran, from the fake charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, saying:

“Tesco’s move, which encourages the bulk-buying of alcohol, flies in the face of its claims to be a responsible retailer. This is a blatant attempt to get round the law.”

Blatant it might be but if your politicans are going to pass a law with such an obvious loophole then expect it to be used. Tesco are providing the method, the market will decide if it is worth their while or not.

The politicans also aren’t happy about it. A government spokesman said:

“Internet sales represent only a very small proportion of the alcohol sold in Scotland, but it is an area that we watch closely to see if further action is necessary.”

What further action you blithering morons? Do you seriously think you can stop this sort of thing from happening? If so, how? More regulation, perhaps this time concerning purchasing alcohol from other countries? Searching vehicles as they cross the border from England?

Answers on a postcard please to Alex Salmond…

What Charlie Stross did on his travels

For those who don’t know who he is, Charles (Charlie) Stross is an award winning British hard science fiction author (and thus a vaguely professional futurologist).

In August this year he spent some time in California, during which time he gave a keynote address to USENIX Security ’11 entitled ‘Network Security in the Medium Term: 2061–2561 AD‘.

Not just about network security, he takes the time to explain how he sees the world and the technology we currently know changing in the next 50 years, let alone the 500 after that.

The full text of his speech is available on his blog with audio and video available via the USENIX website.

I full recommend it if you are a fan of Stross and his works or wish to see what one person’s vision of the future is – especially as, at the lower boundary, almost everyone alive today who is under 40 will live to see how wrong (or right) he is.

For those who got through that and are still interested, he posted a follow-up on his blog a few days later wondering what the potential abundance of processing power we can expect to see in the even shorter term might mean.

Finally, for those who have made it this far, he did a reading from his latest book, Rule 34, to an audience in Cupertino. Afterwards he did a recorded Q&A with those who attended (split into three parts) and answers questions about current and emerging technologies, as well as being an author, amongst others.

A word of warning to those, like me, of a Libertarian bent: you may well find his opinion of us (which he describes in one section of part 2) a little annoying – but he is a socialist. :)

The Moral Underground

This item from The Poke came to my attention via twitter recently. From whom I forget now but I thought I would share it. Thus, without further ado, may I direct your attention to the Daily Mail tube map:

The Daily Mail: Moral Underground

Marriage revisited

The subject of marriage is once again in the spotlight after Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities (and not, as the Telegraph described her, ‘Equalities Minister’), used her speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference to announce:

We are a world leader for gay rights, but as this conference made clear last year with your call for equal marriage, there is still more that we must do.

That is why I am delighted to announce today that in March, this Government will begin a formal consultation on how to implement equal civil marriage for same sex couples.

And this would allow us to make any legislative changes necessary by the end of this Parliament.

Civil partnerships were a welcome first step – but as our constitution states, this party rejects prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

And I believe that to deny one group of people the same opportunities offered to another is not only discrimination, but is not fair.

Predictably this idea has gone down like the preverbal lead balloon with the Christian religious traditionalists/fundamentalists* with commentators such as the likes of His Grace frothing at the mouth and saying that religious marriage is nothing to do with politicians. Strangely I agree with him, but not, I think, for the same reasons as I would go further and say that the State has no place in deciding who can – or indeed cannot – marry.

However, as with so much these days, we are starting from a point in the UK where what should be a simple contract between the involved parties has instead been heavily influenced by both religion and State for many hundreds of years.

Wikipedia tells us that:

A requirement for banns of marriage was introduced to England and Wales by the Church in 1215. This required a public announcement of a forthcoming marriage, in the couple’s parish church, for three Sundays prior to the wedding and gave an opportunity for any objections to the marriage to be voiced (for example, that one of the parties was already married), but a failure to call banns did not affect the validity of the marriage.

Marriage licenses were introduced in the 14th century, to allow the usual notice period under banns to be waived, on payment of a fee and accompanied by a sworn declaration, that there was no canonical impediment to the marriage. Licenses were usually granted by an archbishop, bishop or archdeacon. There could be a number of reasons for a couple to obtain a license: they might wish to marry quickly (and avoid the three weeks’ delay by the calling of banns); they might wish to marry in a parish away from their home parish; or, because a license required payment, they might choose to obtain one as a status symbol.

There were two kinds of marriage licenses that could be issued: the usual was known as a common license and named one or two parishes where the wedding could take place, within the jurisdiction of the person who issued the license. The other was the special license, which could only be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury or his officials and allowed the marriage to take place in any church.

To obtain a marriage license, the couple or more usually the bridegroom, had to swear that there was no just cause or impediment why they should not marry. This was the marriage allegation. A bond was also lodged with the church authorities for a sum of money to be paid if it turned out that the marriage was contrary to Canon Law. The bishop kept the allegation and bond and issued the license to the groom, who then gave it to the vicar of the church, where they were to get married. There was no obligation, for the vicar to keep the license and many were simply destroyed. Hence, few historical examples of marriage licenses, in England and Wales, survive. However, the allegations and bonds were usually retained and are an important source for English genealogy.

Given the period of history in question, I suppose it is not a surprise that the Catholic Church attempted such a complete and total power grab. Prior to then marriage had been considered a private affair but once the Church had had its way it became a religious arrangement – the echos of which are still present today.

The Church though did not thoroughly subjugate the institution of marriage within England and Wales until 1753 when the State, perhaps pressured by the (by this time) Church of England (CoE), passed what is known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. This conjoining of the country’s two most powerful bureaucracies of the age formalised the previous arrangements for everyone except Jews and Quakers (although it stopped short of ensuring the legality of their ceremonies).

(As an interesting footnote, because the Act was not binding in Scotland, the rise of Gretna Green as a place of elopement can be traced to this Act. That and the building of a toll road which passed nearby.)

For the CoE though this enshrining of its wishes into Law can also be considered the high water mark in terms of their control over the institution of marriage.

Less than 100 years later, the Marriage Act of 1836 restored the ability of people to get married outside of the influence of the CoE, legalising civil marriages and allowing ministers from other Christian denominations to conduct legal marriages. The then Bishop of Exeter was so outraged by this idea that he denounced the bill in quite strong terms:

…a disgrace to British legislation. (It) is pretended to be called for to prevent clandestine marriages, but I think it will greatly facilitate such proceedings. Not solemnised by the church of England, may be celebrated without entering into a consecrated building, may be contracted by anybody, and will be equally valid, whether it takes place in the house of God, or in the house of a registering clerk, one of the lowest functionaries of the state. The parties may take one another for better and for worse, without calling God to witness their plighted troth. No blessing sought; no solemn vows of mutual fidelity; no religious solemnity whatever…

The follow up act of 1949, reconfirmed much of what already existed but banned under 16s from getting married. Thus the state of play today is that:

…a couple has a choice between being married in the Anglican Church, after the calling of banns or obtaining a license or else, they can give “Notice of Marriage” to a civil registrar. In this latter case, the notice is publicly posted for 15 days, after which a civil marriage can take place. Marriages may take place in churches other than Anglican churches, but these are governed by civil marriage law and notice must be given to the civil registrar in the same way. The marriage may then take place without a registrar being present, if the church itself is registered for marriages and the minister or priest is an Authorised Person for marriages.

(As an aside, did you know that it is illegal in the UK to marry between 1800 hrs and 0800 hrs? The Freedom Bill (remember that?) will, if it ever passes, remove this restriction.)

And there you have it, an institution which, for all practical purposes, dates back to when the first caveman hit the first cavewoman over the head with a club and carried her back to his cave is now all neatly controlled by the State with a bit of a sweetener to keep the official Christian sect of the country happy.

It is thus possible to see why the CoE, having once joined forces with the State when it was the bigger beast, now complains bitterly when its secular successor announces changes to the civil side of the equation as they realise that their bone will be taken away next. If the CoE really wants to retain what little power it has left in the matter then it should be actively campaigning for disestablishment. This would allow it to revert back to its original status as an outsider. However their attachment to the State is so great that I can’t honestly see it happening – which means that they are condemned to suffer along with the rest of us. Quite ironic really.

Meanwhile the fact that the controlling monolith is considering (assuming this consultation is anything other than a formality) opening up the definition of marriage is to be applauded. That it will still retain control afterwards is not.

What it should do is get out of the game altogether and leave it up to the individual to marry in whatever combination of numbers and/or genders that takes their fancy under whichever rules they do so choose. Together with disestablishment this would leave the CoE, as a private organisation, free to impose its own restrictions on those who wish to use its facilities and membership. Then, if members of the CoE object to a particular policy (such as banning gays or lesbians from having a religious wedding service) they are free do what has happened every other time there has been a fundamental policy disagreement within the Christian Church: Schism.

* delete as you consider appropriate

“Sugar and spice and all things nice…”

Well, well, who would have thought it? It turns out that the ball-breaking harridan Harriet Harman we all know and love hate is just a front put up by the real Harriet who is, apparently, so meek and mild that she needs protecting from all the nasty men.

I mean, what other conclusion can possibly be drawn from revelation that this year’s Labour Party conference will have a women only session entitled ‘What Women Want’?

Before you feel that I am being too harsh on Mrs Dromey (if that is at all possible) it is seems that it is not just poor Harriet who feels this way as the session came about after ‘what is described as an “uprising” by female members’.

The session will be led by the senior Labour female figures of Harman, Yvette Cooper (aka Mrs Balls), Baroness Royall and Baroness Scotland and whilst the agenda is as yet unknown they are canvassing opinion from the female membership and expect that:

There will be formal resolutions based on suggestions from female members, who are being invited to the platform to put their case on education, childcare, the economy and the NHS, as well as party rules.

Presumably because none of these issues matter at all to the male members of the Labour party?

It will not be entirely women only though as Labour leader Ed Milliband will be allowed in, with a source telling the Independent that “Ed will be there as an honorary woman”. What such an ‘honour’ says about Ed’s masculinity I leave to the speculation of reader…

Wacky Jacqui is still singing from the same hymn sheet

It is with great sadness that I have to report that the incompetent and dictatorial former Home Secretary ‘Jackboot’ Jacqui has once again managed to get herself noticed.

Yes, this depresses me dear reader probably as much as it does you.

On Thursday last our darling Jacqui appeared in front of the Parliamentary Public Inquiry into Online Child Protection. This inquiry is the bastard off spring of Claire Perry, last seen haunting these pages back in February when I wrote about the stupidity of internet censorship.

The inquiry was launched on August 24th this year and would, I’m sure, have made front page headlines in the MSM if it weren’t for the continuing economic malaise, the dethronement of Gaddafi and the resignation of Steve Jobs.

Still, for those who are interested, Perry helpfully puts the entire press release on her own website and includes an obligatory “won’t someone think of the children” quote:

Parents are understandably worried about the ease with which their children can view pornographic content on the Internet and this Inquiry will provide the ideal platform for all interested parties to discuss how best we can protect our children online.

To which the answer is still to put the computer in a family room and install parental controls. By the time they are using a smart phone with ‘net access and have got around your controls they will have either figured out or been told that tab A goes into slot B (as well as slots C and D), probably know more than you and shouldn’t care if they sometimes come across pornography. All the government intervention in the word won’t stop that so why bother? (Yes, that is a rhetorical question, Ed.)

Anyway, I’ve digressed. Easy enough to do given how much stupidity on is on display here.

The inquiry is taking evidence in two sessions, the first of which was on September 8th, and featured amongst its witnesses the aforementioned Mrs Timney.

In her evidence (MSM only, can’t find the official record) she suggested making it harder to access online pornography in the UK:

She proposed that if all adult content were only accessible to customers who specifically opted in to it through their internet service providers, then the adult industry might see its profits improved. Online porn has suffered economically in the wake of free YouTube-style sites.

Well I can spot two things wrong with that idea immediately:

  1. As a responsible adult it isn’t up to anyone else to decide what I choose to view online; and
  2. Whilst profits made by business concern you in so far as how much you can tax them (I’m ignoring the arguments on who actually pays the tax here, Tim!) regulating to try and save and industry that apparently needs to evolve in order to solve its piracy issues is a bloody stupid idea!

After giving evidence (if offering suggestions isn’t twisting the word too much) she said that a quid pro quo for government help (i.e. the stick) would be that the industry could help fund sex education programs.

Do we really need more sex ed programs? Or are you trying to suggest that the current ones are under-funded? I seem to recall being taught the birds and the bees at school once a year every year from 10 to 14. And my parents also made sure I knew about it. Given that the previous government certainly considered, if not actually implemented, the idea of teaching kids this from an ever younger age I’m not sure there is a child in the country who doesn’t know about what can go on between consenting individuals.

What purpose would more lessons have? Are they do take the shape of a teacher/adult telling the pupils ‘pornography is bad, yeah?’ because I’m fairly certain that that approach has never worked. Ever. Not for drugs, not for smokes, not for booze and not for sex.

So why bother with more of the same?

The Brown revelations summarised

Blair knew Brown was bonkers.

Campbell knew Brown was bonkers.

David Milliband knew Brown was bonkers.

Darling knew Brown was bonkers.

Most, if not all, of the parliamentary Labour party knew Brown was bonkers.

His aides knew Brown was bonkers.

The Lobby knew Brown was bonkers.

Not a single one of them however decided to speak on the record before or during his premiership.

Now some of them are saying so in print – but only because there is money to be made out of it.

Cowards. The lot of them.

Someone send The Telegraph a dictionary

On September 11, 2001, more than 100 unborn children were orphaned. Philip Sherwell talks to some of the mothers.

As Julia would say: /facepalm

Fight – Update

Now that the 1st September has been and gone I thought I’d see what happened, if anything, to the young man whom the Essex Police Foarce had arrested and the CPS charged over encouraging people to join in a water fight.

In an attempt to refresh my memory on the details I looked at the original webpage, only to discover that some silent amendments have taken place and that the paragraph in question now has no reference to the water fight. Indeed it now reads (changes highlighted):

A 20-year-old man from Colchester who allegedly sent messages from a Blackberry encouraging violent disorder been charged with encouraging or assisting in the commission of an indictable only offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007. He has been conditionally bailed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on September 1.

Have they changed it because of the mockery? Let’s look at the report in the local paper and see what happened:

In a separate case Tommy Tucker, 20, was remanded in custody after being accused of encouraging the commission of an indictable offence.

The court heard he is accused of sending two messages on Blackberry messenger between August 7 and 10 which were intercepted by police.

Tucker did not enter a plea and will appear before Chelmsford Crown Court on November 7.

Essex Police had originally said his offences were linked to an attempt to start a water fight.

The force now says it was a different person who encouraged the water fight and that suspect has now been released without charge.

Well, well. It appears that someone either relayed the whole information to the publicity public relations department or that said department got their knickers in a twist.

The one piece of good news to come out of this is that the individual who was trying to organise the water fight wasn’t charged. Perhaps some common sense does exist?