et cetera

AUGUST 7th-8th 2011
Here is a really good article on the Tottenham Riot. Be sure to read it all. Don't look for a single explanation as this is not even an accumulation of factors on which there is agreement. What you see and feel and think depends who you are, where you have been and what you have lived through. It started in the immediate term with the death of a man in a confrontation with the police. A man thought of by those who knew him  as 'a really nce guy'. He straddled a cultural divide which, under less stressful circumstances, could be sustaned in peaceful coexistence. He was at times a peacemaker. Maybe an enforcer? No evidence. [see note Aug 9th]

But in Britain we have a long history of consigning the business of enforcement, should it become unavoidable, to the police. Underneath the surface in an area where a number of laws have been allowed to be ignored unless the breaking of them was overt there is always a game of cat-and-mouse. But it is less of a game when the chips are down and the economic background puts the pressure on all sides.

We then have the added issue of respect. Respect for the law, respect for the individual, respect for the history and provenance of each. Multiculturalism requires peaceful coexistence, but the problem is it cannot be symmetrical in a society where there is an established national culture. The police are accused by some of  'not talking' with the people of Tottenham. Relations are good, say some; but another says "The police never talk to us, they ignore us, they don't think we're human in this area," It is easy to see how sometimes keeping your distance is a way of keeping the peace, but over time it will lead to that perception by each side. The accusation of inhumanity is hurled back by those who believe it was first directed at them.

We expect a lot of our police. Until recently they were never armed because they never had to be, even in a world where, after WW2, millions were familiar and even expert in the use of firearms, of which there were many all over the country. Now it is not the arms they fear but the minds and motives of their fellow citizens, regardless of colour, culture or nationality, who carry them.

Tottenham is not the only place where the potential for these events is latent. Some good will eventually come out of them but there is a fair amount of harm to set aganst that before any positive balance is likely to be appreciated.

Since writing the above, riots and looting and arson has broken out in Lewisham, Hackney, Croydon and elsewhere.

The PM, the Mayor and the Home Secretary have abandoned their summer holidays. The police are stretched because the public are unable to counter attcks as vicious as this.

25 police hospitalised, 215 people arrested over 2 days and the number still rising.

It is political correectness that has prevented us from admitting that there is a minority, but a growing minority of young people who have had a lousy upbringing, a useless education, and no re-inforced natural merit of any sort that qualifies them as worthy of the term civilized. They have no understanding of history or science or the thread by which our civilization hangs. The civilized who have to live in the same surroundings are losing hope that they can be protected from them.

I expected all this to happen in the 1950s but the growth of the European and US economies allowed all realities to be 'rolled over' by growth and technological toys. But now the toys have been put in the hands of the morons, we have a problem bigger than I imagined in the last century. All the criminals and bruisers in the UK can be encouraged to turn up for a riot without needing to be identified. Do the math. They have been given the technology. They can outwit the police until they are all locked up and we don't have the places to lock them up, the staff to do it or the people to rehabilitate them. Then you will get an idea of what will happen if political correctness rules. All privileges should be conditional. There are no such things as rights without conditions. If we do not impose them, Nature does.

There is a slight misunderstanding still as to the cause of all this. It is not immediate poverty, but poverty of some communities over the past decades leading to poor schools, poor parenting, bad education, failed education leading to a life of crime and drugs as the only way to live. A spell in prison does not help to make for good parenting and the thing goes from bad to worse. It was all 'swept under the carpet' from 1960 onward and has blown up now due to a simultaneous and totally predictable emergence of crises in every area of life. 

All this is the fault of our own society, our governments, and the self-promoting, self-styling, self-reproducing pseudo-intellectuals who have dominated the scene while ignoring the awful state of our prisons and the absence of discipline at home and in schools. There is no way out unless we are able to build secure establishments in which all the young offenders can be forcibly rehabilitated by incredibly talented, inspiring teachers. Where the hell will all that come from when we can't even find the staff we need do the job in the ordinary schools we have?

Logic dictates the young offenders of the past few days should be given a simple choice: behave, clear up the mess and then take any job or education offered or be executed. If you accept, but misbehave criminally again in the next five years, first you will be sterilised, for a second offence executed. I suggest the guillotine, in public, should concentrate minds, and all children who misbehave at school at the age of 10 should be made to attend the executions. Fat chance of course. What we call our 'humanity' overrules our logic. But it is our failure to understand our humanity that causes it to malfunction. Dysfunctional humanity under pressure tends to inhumanity. No doubt some smart-ass on the Web will amuse themselves by taking the first part of this paragraph on its own, out of context, to prove I am a fascist. It is precisely to avoid fascism or totalitarian solutions disguised as 'people-power' that we have to avoid the route that, otherwise, logic will dictate and necessity will sanction, as it has throughout history all over the world

The fact that the criminals are a product of our own collective stupidity and incompetence doe not absolve us from using whatever means are required to protect peaceful citizens and property. I see that at last the police have decided to use plastic bullets if necessary. Anyone wearing a mask should be disabled instantly by one means or another in a riot situation.

Note [see Para 1 Aug 7th] it now appears the gun held by the man whose death from a police firearm started the Tottenham events had not been fired. It will be interesting to know what the Operation Trident crew were after - maybe it was just that gun.

AUGUST 19th 2011
I think we can say that both the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London have lost a deal of credibility even with those who thought they had some over the past week. Naturally it is a fine line between behaving in a way to promote calm and confidence, and moving smartly when the circumstances demand. But I have never had any evidence to indicate that either of these two men, even though they have what are loosely called 'leadership qualities' and can do the stand-up business, the PR and the b***sh*t, have any real understanding or knowledge of how our planet, our species and our society actually functions. Mind you, I am not sure it would help if they did, as it would probably have precluded them from ever running for office in the first place.

On the practical side, even mentioning water-cannon in the context of the riots we have had is utterly absurd. Neither can the 'massive police presence' which Keith Vaz says is the only way to prevent this happening again cannot possibly be maintained unless the usual services provide by the police elsewhere are seriously cut back, and that will not lead to a background situation any less likely to avoid unrest. Neither can vigilante or home-guard groups gather everywhere an attack might be threatened. Today I ereceived the following from three different sources. I have removed the names as the emails were not published outside a list of recipients.

"The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained."

This was drilled in to us when I joined in 1964!

The first and foremost duty of a government is to protect the security and well being of its people, in the face of threats from criminals at home and threats from abroad.

There were nine basic principles of civil policing introduced in the UK by Sir Robert Peel when founding the Metropolitan Police in 1829. These principles insisted that the police did not oppress the people, but policed with the consent of the people, a totally different principle from policing on the continent of Europe, where the police were the militia, principally designed to keep the people in check.

 Principle 7 of Sir Robert’s 9 principles stated:

“Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition

 that the police are the public and the public are the police,

 the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention

 to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence”.

This begs the question, therefore, that if the government and the police are unable or unwilling to discharge their duties to protect life and property, bestowed upon them by the people, the people have the right to uphold the LAW themselves, not to become vigilantes, by as is inaccurately described as “taking the law into their own hands”, but by ACTUALLY taking the law into their on hands, by taking on the duties which were delegated to paid members of the public to carry out, i.e. the police, but where such paid members have signally failed to carry out their duties to protect the people.

Such action would have to be proportionate and reasonable, just as when protecting oneself from a burglar in  one’s home.

The government has the option of doing what its predecessor did during the General Strike of 1926, when it swore in large numbers of the public as Special Constables.

I wrote the following in reply:

It's a little more complicated than that. Special Constables, vigilante groups or any such collective defence groups will face the same or worse difficulties as the police. We are dealing with a combination of alienation and access to ways and means on the one hand, and extreme vulnerability on the other, in a background of law not built on familiarity with either to this degree.

Modern technology in the form of the Internet and mobile device technology has been put freely in the hands of all citizens without, in important instances, any conditions concerning identity, qualifications, education or enforceable terms of use. This has been done on the grounds that discrimination of any sort was either impossible, impractical or politically incorrect. In 1984 when I applied for a Network User Identity on Transpac in France I was visited by an official from the PTT who stayed for an hour before he decided how he could fill in the form so that I could have one.

Any group intent on criminal activity that can draw on an otherwise unemployed pool throughout the UK can use the technology at their disposal to assemble secretly (until almost on the spot) and overwhelm any local environment unless it is defended in advance by forces that are numerically and qualitatively superior. Defence on such a scale is impossible, for the police alone or even the police plus local civilians.

We have to go down a different road altogether.

We do not have the means to arrest, imprison and rehabilitate before release the growing numbers of those who are already, either through a failed upbringing or experience in prison which has by now prejudiced their chance of a non-criminal career. In other words, we cannot proceed forward from here without draconian measures which have been judged as politically unacceptable. We therefore have to retreat in the matter of civil liberties.

However, the withdrawal of privileges does not fit well with the improvement of opportunity for the already underprivileged. Camila Batmanghelidjh (love that name!) has made very telling points on the background to these events, so let us look at the objections to one of her observations. Camila said: "These [alienated or criminal] individuals decided they are responsible for their own [opportunistic] survival because the established community is perceived to provide nothing."

Simon Tuffin in a letter to the Independent wrote: "Oh? I always perceived that a free education, free healthcare, social services, child benefit, housing benefit and unemployment benefit were all things that 'the established community' provided for the less fortunate"

Note word 'perceived' in each of the above. Perception is all we have, as individuals. It can be informed to a greater or lesser degree. The established community has indeed provided those things for free, but unless they are also of the required quality they are either useless or counter-productive. Unless the education is not only disciplined and well directed at those most in need of it, the other freely supplied forms of assistance will not be beneficial to society. They can only be of benefit to society if they are a safety-net for a diminishing minority. Furthermore, even a good education will not now guarantee employment in a commercial environment that has been based for decades on either reducing human resources or outsourcing them to countries where wages are lower.

If we are to avoid the draconian route (there was no sheep-stealing in Hyde Park 150 years ago because you were hung for it), then we have to retreat in matters of both civil liberties on the one hand, and educational methods and content on the other. Furthermore, we need to know who is who. If anyone is to be allowed access to public communications systems, they need to have a declared, established identity. Secret and private communications systems will have to be carefully licensed and approved with proper safeguards. Prisons and reform schools will have to be invested in as an extreme priority to make them effective and no longer universities of crime. Discipline must be returned to the classroom in all schools.

Those who shot down the idea of ID cards had little idea what they were doing. Those who found flaws in parts of the technology were missing the point. Those who say Chinese users of the Internet must be allowed anonymity and therefore anyone must have the same privilege are nowhere near an understanding of anything at all. Proper, evolving ID systems are the key to freedom and the future.

The alternative to my suggestions is to take the US route to the future, or back-to-the-future more likely. There is no harm in community defence, special constables etc.etc. - they may be needed and appropriate in some instances; but don't think for a moment that will deal with what is coming.

AUGUST 11th 2011
The police admitted they got their riot tactics wrong, the prime minister has said, as he announced measures to help homeowners and businesses.

What neither the police nor Mr Cameron seem to understand sufficiently is human nature. Maybe they have never watched Derren Brown as he tries to explain to us there is a lot most people need to learn about thenselves. Most of us do not have anything approaching what we think of as free will, and those who know how to use modern media and communications devices on the vulnerable, and pose as authority figures, can build a mob that will do anything, anywhere. Only a small percentage of their target audience need to react fully to be a crowd when they assemble at the meeting point. They will then follow the example set by a prepared hard core, no matter how appalling. The limits will depend on the individual, it is true, and those who would never knowingly kill except in self defence will not do so under these circumstances; but even that can be arranged.

For over half a century I have to read "nobody could possibly have predicted...."    when only the ignorant could possibly have failed to see not only the events but the timing staring them in the face. As for the MPs who insist that the police should intervene no matter how violent the opposition, they should bear in mind that the hard core within the rioters are indeed hard. To deal with them requires more than skills and 'training'. It requires numerical and technical superiority in the whole theatre of the event.

AUGUST 14th 2010

To understand the backround of these riots I suggest you read (from start to finish) the extensive article FIXING BROKEN BRITAIN by Harriet Sergent in the News Review section of today's Sunday Times. That lady knows what she is talking about. Few do. I tried to find it on the web so I could put a link to it, but the SEARCH facility on the Times on-line appaears to be quite useless. I paid a subscription to this too. What a racket, you still have to buy the damned paper.

AUGUST 17th 2011
Prime Minister David Cameron has defended courts for handing out "tough" sentences for those involved in the riots across England.
A comment reads:
Young people who grow up in hopeless, broken families don't care about riot victims or injured police and they don't care about "tough" punishments or prison. You can't hurt these young people with victorian, short-sighted "short-sharp" retribution, it doesn't work, it never has, ask Maggie Thatcher, it only makes things worse. Give young people a reason to be proud of themselves and their country.
Another reads:
These people deserve all they get. They acted with complete disregard for anyone else other than themselves. They commited a crime they should be punished and 4 years in jail seems very just to me. We need to harden up and be tough with these people.

What are we to conclude? These are the facts.

Prison is a necessity for those who are found guilty of serious or persistent crime and consititute an ongoing serious risk to society.
Prisons such as we have in most cases, and prison sentences per se, are not the best form of punishment for those not a danger and whose lives it will damage more than mend, improve or prepare for social inclusion. Prison may nevertheless be the only choice if there are more offenders than there are other appropriate punishments available.

Read the above repeatedly if it is not understood the first time.

The problem is, therefore, to find better forms of punishment (from the mild to the severe) that both deter others (though as we see many are only deterred if they already have values and possibilities they wish to conserve) and do not not leave the offender less able to be a good citizen at the end of it.

Mr Cameron just leaves this problem to the courts!  But the courts have their hands tied by the law as set out by parliament over the years, on the one hand, and public opinion to the extent that a judge's choice and the way it is received by the public the court is trying to protect has to retain the respect of a majority for the rule of law.

Using an individual to make an example, to 'send a message', is not always justice for that individual. Harsh sentences in the case of these disturbances should be for serious crimes. Inciting violence on the web IS a serious crime. But the harsh sentence for those people should not necessarily be prison if they have a home to go to, a job to do, children to support etc.

All forms of harsh sentence other than prison have been removed from the justice system. We need to carefully consider the reason for this. One is that however harsh a prison sentence it relieves the public from any feelings of guilt. Out of sight, out of mind, they have no idea what a prisoner is either suffering or inflicting on others. The public hypocrisy is staggering in its proportions. Some think prison is cushy - ironically it can be for the ones for whom it should not be. Some think prison is hell - and it is for those who least deserve it as well as some who may. In this way the public never witness the punishment, and the convicted are never seen to be punished. Easy. Leave it to the system, keep it out of politics, it is not our responsibility.

One thing is certain, politicians who leave the judgement to courts and punishment to the prisons do so at their peril unless they realise they are responsible for what options the courts may have, and what goes on in the best, and the worst, of our prisons. Mr Cameron's problem is not that he is an Old Etonian, it is more likely to be his career path since he left. He acts for the best, he stands up to be counted, but his rhetoric glosses over the true grit in the tough truths like George Bush glossed over the agonies of postwar Iraq (and I speak as one who approved of the removal of Saddam Hussein).

AUGUST 19th 2011
As I hoped, some appeals against unjust and inappropriate sentences will succeed.
A judge has released a woman who was jailed for accepting looted shorts in what is thought to be the first appeal against a sentence over the unrest.
Receiving stolen goods is a crime, but future trouble of this sort will NOT be avoided by making draconian examples of people who were not instigators or participants. Immense harm can be done by this sort of use of the justice system. Justice cannot always be administered. Justice is often rough out of necessity. But this particular sentence was, for paradoxical reasons, less appropriate because the original theft was part of looting that took place during a riot, not more. Had the final recipient been part of a duo of thieves, asleep in bed while her partner was on larceny duty, it would have been merited. As it is, the non-custodial sentence is the right one.

AUGUST 25th 2011
The first signs of an analysis of the failure to pre-empt or prevent the Tottenham riot are now emerging. Looking at the disagreement on the 'facts' and what information was available in advance we can only conclude that communications from the ground level to the higer levels of police management are obviously in a lamentable state, whichever interpretation of reality is correct. On this score, the police management stands condemned by itself. Both what they did, and what they failed to do, actually led inevitably to the riot and the failure to manage it optimally once it had started, even if some of the simplistic criticisms are not valid.

SEPTEMBER 6th 2011

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has blamed the "broken penal system" for the riots that erupted across England last month.

Writing in the Guardian, he said the "hardcore" of those involved were known criminals whose behaviour had not been changed by previous punishments.

OCTOBER 1st 2011
An insight into the judges' views

NOVEMBER 28th 2011
A lack of confidence in the police response to the initial riots in London in August led to further disturbances across England, a report has concluded.