More Than Just Survival

March 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The worst part of this story is that those involved quite probably believe that they’re acting in the best interests of the child involved. The poor kid is in a vegetative state and is not going to recover, yet ‘Priests for Life’ have spent hundreds of thousands on a medical airlift to keep him on a ventilator at a new facility – the hope is that he can die at home over the course of six months or so. The absolute best case scenario is that the child in question has such severe neurological damage that he has no self-awareness – the time, money and emotional stress has all been for nothing, but at least the boy’s problems have long since ended. The much, much worse possibility is that he is still self-aware, and is trapped in a body that can still feel pain but cannot communicate with the outside world; if that’s the case, then the parents, and the priests, are fighting for the right to prolong a child’s suffering unnecessarily.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with death. Sure, a happy, healthy life is the preferable option, but if that’s no longer on the table then painful, forced survival simply for survival’s sake benefits nobody.


March 13th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

In the UK, the courts are ordering secret injunctions to prevent the press from discussing certain topics, sealed to the extent that even their existence is not supposed to be a matter of public record. In the US, the courts are awarding career-destroying damages against a blogger who simply told the truth.

So, what now? How are we supposed to deal with governments who allow this kind of behaviour? They’ve been legitimately voted in, so apparently the public condones their actions. We’re seeing in Wisconsin that protest does no good. Short of declaring my house an independent state, I’m genuinely at a loss for what to do next.

For Your Own Safety

March 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002, the standard assumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is reversed – the police may confiscate your property and it is up to you to prove that it was obtained legally before it is returned. It is a law which I fervently disagree with in principle, but what is truly astounding is that the police claim not to be using it to engage in ‘fishing expeditions’ when, even with the reversed burden of proof, a recently reported raid resulted in 80% of the seized property being returned (at great inconvenience and expense to the legitimate owners) and a conviction rate of less than 1%.

Think about those numbers. Of just under 3500 secure storage boxes searched by the police, only 30 people were found to have committed any crime; about 2800 people had to spend months dealing with the police, who were working on the legal assumption that they were criminals, to retrieve their own, legally obtained property; the remaining 650 or so people have not been convicted of any crime, yet have been deprived of cash, jewellery, and so forth. At best, the police were right, and those in the latter group really were criminals – if that’s the case, then I would question what kind of intelligence they were working on that led to the mistaken confiscation of property from the other 2800, and how they possibly think it’s justified to root through the private possessions of that vast majority in an effort to root out a few who broke the law. This is the best possible case, and that vast majority suffered great inconvenience and, quite probably, a significant financial loss. In the worst case, the 80% majority still suffered the same, but the 19% who never got their property returned were truly innocent, and have lost thousands for no good reason.

At the very least, an apology wouldn’t kill them.

Defending Those I Despise

March 2nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

An oddly appropriate trifecta of stories on my BBC feed today: the right thing for the courts to do, the wrong thing to do, and the consequences of the wrong thing being taken to extremes.

Just to be perfectly clear: the Westboro Baptist Church are a group of bigoted morons who seem to do nothing but harm. The woman who mocked a blind policeman about the attack which disabled him deserves nothing but the deepest contempt. The fact remains, though, that free speech is a protected right for all people. Not just those who we agree with, or even those who the vast majority agree with, but everybody.

Arresting someone on spurious charges is never acceptable, even if she demonstrated herself to be a small minded, offensive moron. Doing so because she behaved in such a way to a police officer is, in a way, worse – not only is it punishing someone for exercising their fundamentally protected right to speech (although she did do so in a profoundly unpleasant manner), it’s punishing her for behaving in such a way specifically to someone in power. A seemingly small thing, perhaps, especially when the vast majority (myself included) would feel the immediate urge to retaliate for her behaviour, but that’s the point: small things are the way that major abuses of power work their way in. If the police can’t be trusted to remain impartial, or, even worse, if the legal system expressly codifies greater protections for certain groups (as in the Pakistan blasphemy situation), the rule of law breaks down – why would anyone accept a system which protects others more than themself, after all?

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