It seems that someone supports Boris’s proposal to make people guilty until proven innocent:

Britain’s most senior police chief has called for wide-ranging new powers to tackle homegrown terrorism, including a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits Syria without prior notice should be treated as a terror suspect.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, chief constable of the Metropolitan police, also called for a return of control orders and said Britons who wage jihad in Syria or Iraq should be stripped of their passports.

When did we become a country where it’s acceptable for senior police officers, speaking in an official capacity, to call for fundamental changes in the law? And what made Bernard Hogan-Howe think it would be a good idea to do this on the same day he had to apologise for the Met breaking it’s own rules in using CS gas against lawful protesters?

But at least we have Police and Crime Commissioners to hold a senior officer like Hogan-Howe accountable. Except London doesn’t have a PCC, instead the Met are held accountable by the Mayor. Yes, the same Mayor Hogan-Howe has just been publicly supporting the proposals of…

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Worth Reading 125: InterCity

American police are more trigger happy than British criminals – “Americans are three times more likely to be killed by a police officer with a gun than someone in Britain is by a criminal with one.”
‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative – An essay from the Hugo-winning writer Kameron Hurley. “Half the world is full of women, but it’s rare to hear a narrative that doesn’t speak of women as the people who have things done to them instead of the people who do things. More often, women are talked about as a man’s daughter. A man’s wife.”
Ferguson: A String of Betrayals – Interesting background on how Ferguson, Missouri got to be the way it was before Michael Brown’s shooting, and how that drove the protests afterwards.
Whatever happened to the big issues? – asks David Boyle
Everything you know about Hamas is wrong – Tim Holmes looks beyond the media simplifications.

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Worth Reading 106: Housing agreements

There is no alternative – Henry Farrell on the post-democratic age.
Review: Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS – A fascinating philosophical viewpoint on the dynamics of the latest episode from Ro Smith.
An Unearthly Child – And a scientific viewpoint on the first one from Iain Coleman on his new blog.
Nevermind the £53 p/w. How would IDS cope with the system? – Would he even be able to get his £53 a week after dealing with the bureaucracy?
I Went Stop And Searching In Soho With The London Met – Out with sniffer dogs on a Saturday night. The comments from the police officers involved are very interesting.

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I spent several cold hours out in Colchester last Saturday night as part of the Castle Ward night of action. Since I’ve been a councillor, I’ve been out in the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights several times to see what happens there, and I know that the issue of the night-time economy is something that generates lots of opinions in lots of different quarters, so here’s a few of my thoughts on it.

These are based mainly on my experience and knowledge of Colchester and they’re not intended to be definitive pronouncements – I’d welcome any comments or discussion people want to add in the comments. There’s a whole lot of other issues tied up in the night-time economy, but I can’t going into full detail on everything, because this is a blog post and not a book!

Read the rest of this entry

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As today’s the day when England and Wales go to the polls to elect police commissioners, I thought it was about time I set out my thoughts on them, if only so I don’t look too far behind the curve. I’m not going to give you any advice on how to vote, or whether to vote or how to actively not vote, as I feel those few people who do still read this blog are clued up enough to work that out for themselves.

Since the first modern police forces in this country were founded there have been debates about just how they should be run and controlled. Are they a local or a national responsibility? Should they be wholly autonomous and only answerable to the Crown, controlled by local politicians, some balance between those options or something entirely different?

One interesting thing about commissioners is that for all the talk of them being a radical change in the governance of the police, they don’t make much difference in the overall balance of power, with the police caught between local priorities and Home Office dictats. Commissioners aren’t about changing where the power is held, just who holds it in one place – and even then, the old Police Authority regenerates itself into a Police and Crime Panel which will still hold some powers.

For me, the introduction of police commissioners was the solution to a problem that very few people even thought existed. There probably is a need – especially in the light of recent revelations on a variety of issues from Hillsborough to Savile – for a large-scale debate on just what sort of police force we want and how it should be run. However, that debate needed to happen before someone came up with the answer ‘one run by locally elected commissioners’. Instead, we’re now being asked to have our say on police and crime priorities in our area (or whatever it is the posters say) but without actually being given the option to say ‘hold on, we don’t want to run it this way’.

I think this can be seen as one of the lengthening list of things the Liberal Democrats have got wrong in Parliament. If the Tories were determined to push on with this – and they did have it in their manifesto, so there was some vague mandate for it – we should have made them at the very least subject to the same restrictions as elected mayors. They should only be introduced in areas that actively wanted one and voted yes in a referendum for it. Indeed, like the city mayor referendums, those could have been held in May, and the areas that voted yes could then be holding their elections now. As it is, they were instead imposed on everyone (in England and Wales, at least) without ascertaining if there was any real desire or enthusiasm for them.

Like elected mayors, these elections were meant to encourage high-profile independents to stand, but that hasn’t really happened. Mayoral candidates at least had the option to become known in a distinct area, and it’s worth noting that the independents who did win mayoral elections were people who’d become well known in that area beforehand – Ken Livingstone, Ray Mallon, Frank Branston etc. However, the size of the constituency for police commissioner elections means that nowhere has a high-profile independent candidate known across the area. Indeed, there are very few high-profile party-political candidates running.

My prediction is that today will see a very low turnout, possibly around 20%. The problem is that not only is it an election that no one really wanted, there’s been very little campaigning for it, and there’ll be little in the way of polling day operations in many places. People won’t get the little nudges and reminders to vote the way they do in normal elections, and while they may fully well be intending to vote, a lot of them won’t realise until they pick up a newspaper or watch TV on Friday and realise they meant to vote the day before.

As an example, the only leaflet I’ve seen in this election is the official one that came a few weeks ago (surrounded by other junk mail that was delivered at the same time, so in many houses it would have gone straight in the bin). No one’s delivered anything near me, let alone attempted any canvassing and I haven’t seen a single poster on my travels about Colchester. (I was in York earlier this week and the situation was the same there too)

What we’re seeing is the result of the belief that democracy is merely about voting. That forgets that it should be a process in which you engage with the people and create an informed electorate. Instead, we’ve got an electorate that’s being asked to vote for a post they don’t understand the need for or the role of – and one they certainly haven’t asked for – after a campaign that’s told them little about what the different candidates will do if elected. The choice everywhere appears to be between candidates who’ll work to cut crime while listening to people or their rivals who’ll listen to people while working to cut crime (with the occasional pseudo-fascist candidate who’ll work to cut certain types of crime while only listening to certain types of people). Still, let’s just be glad they weren’t introduced twenty years ago with Jimmy Savile standing in West Yorkshire.

This is voting for the sake of voting, an election being held purely as a ritual to summon the great god of Accountability, without anyone ever bothering to think about just what being accountable really needs.

One prediction I will make: these will be the first and last set of police commissioner elections. Sometime before 2016, the positions will be quietly wound up into the Police and Crime Panels, which will start looking just like the old Police Authorities did. It’ll be a brave step backwards into the future of accountability, no doubt.

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Worth Reading 76: Independence Year

Andrew Gilligan and Matthew Brown – Continuing the story of the PCC candidate linked to American neocons I linked to last week, here’s the tale of how a Daily Telegraph journalist based a story entirely on the proclamations of a fantasist.
Jill Dando, John Yates and Operation Oxborough – Was Jill Dando’s privacy being invaded before she was murdered, and who was responsible?
The Disappearance of the Colonists on LV-426 is Something God Intended to Happen – “Life is what’s important to me. The lives we can save, right here and now. The little, baby alien lives. I believe they begin the moment the egg reacts to the heat of the nearby host and the implanter life form hatches.”
Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war – Fifty years ago, a Russian submarine captain made a decision not to fire a nuclear torpedo. Thanks to him and others, the place where I live isn’t part of the East Anglian Fallout Zone.
Will the United States or the United Kingdom play a role in supporting any Israeli military strike against Iran in the six months following the 2012 US presidential election? – A somewhat reassuring brief from Open Briefing, arguing that the US and UK won’t be backing any Israeli action in the short term. I’ve been following Open Briefing for a while, and it has some interesting reports and briefings, so I would recommend it.

And while you’re here, vote for brainnnsssss:

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That’s 26 out of the way, and so the next post will come from America in seven years time, and all links will be hammed up by Eric Roberts first.

How We Train Our Cops To Fear Islam – From the US, but a frightening article about how freelance ‘anti-terrorism’ consultants are training cops with some disturbing messages (via)
A Wikipedia Editor Looks at the Bible – Can the contradictions in the Bible be explained as the result of an edit war? (via)
If you want to speak at a council meeting, get elected – I’m not linking to this because I agree with it, but because it’s Peter Cuthbertson in full-on pompousness like the clone of Simon Heffer, and it reminds me of how blogging used to be in 2003.
Richard Peppiatt’s letter to Daily Star proprietor Richard Desmond – A Daily Star journalist explains just why he can’t work at the paper anymore.
Revolutionary roads – “Without true institutional change, kings and dictators can change their minds”

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