Friday, January 08, 2010

Police concerns over private security patrols.

Apparently the socialist police are afraid of competition:

Note the stupid desperation of the objections:

1: At 2:13 Simon Reed, Vice Chairman of the Police Federation, asks "who are they accountable to?"

Answer: How do you mean? As a business, they are accountable to their customers. If customers are not happy with the quality of service they are getting for the price being charged, then they can stop paying and either go to a competitor or go without.

Or do you mean "accountable" in terms of "who are they accountable to if they commit crimes?" In which case the answer is, "you, you idiot!" If private security personel do illegal things, the police can investigate, and prosecute. The public police have not been abolished, you know!

In the mean time, to whom are you accountable, MR. Simon Reed? If the people who are forced to pay you are not happy with their service, they can't stop paying and go to a competitor, because then they will be arrested for non-payment of taxes. So what incentive do you have to do what those you claim to protect want? And how much more is that incentive than your incentive to do what the politicians and bureacrats that decide police budgets?

To whom are you accountable should you commit a crime, Mr. Simon Reed? When we get arrangements such as "sovereign immunity," and when royal honours are given to police that oversee operations that lead to innocent Brazilians getting shot 16 times in the head because they ran to catch a train, I suspect that the answer is "No-one."

2: At 2:49 Sir Ian Blair, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, declares that he doesn't see community safety as a commodity to be bought and sold. Well, people are buying it and others are selling it, so it plainly is, Sir Ian. Either you have blinkers on, or you really mean you don't think it ought to be a commodity to be bought and sold. Well, in that case, Sir Ian, don't buy or sell it. If you think it should be free to those who need it, give it away for free. Ah, wait, I see... what you really mean is that you don't think that those willing to use their property to buy it from those people willing to use their property to sell it, should be allowed to. Well, in that case, mind your own business: What people do with their person and property should be up to them, not up to you. Your job is to keep that person and property safe, not to force people to do with it what you want.

And that is the crux of the issue: In the end, you don't think community safety should be a commodity to be bought and sold... you think it should be something that people should be made to pay for, whether they want to pay or not, whether they think that what they are paying for is worth it or not, or else get thrown in prison. "Buy our protection, and nobody else's, or we are gonna come and get ya, and you won't like it" is what you really support, Sir Ian. They make films about that: Gangster flicks, about protection racketeering!

At 3:03 Sir Ian Blair worries that "this will end up" with policing going to the rich, and the poor going without... this is in a clip plainly filmed on what looks to be a fairly poor estate in Dalington, Durham, where private security is being supplied for £3.50 a week, less than a packet of fags (and most smokers don't buy just one pack a week)! Moreover, Sir Ian, like Simon Reed above, seems to think that if people are paying for the police protection they want from the supplier they want, then this means that the state police have ceased to exist, rather than merely having been supplemented. They haven't been. So if people cannot afford to pay £3-4 a week, they can simply call people like you, Sir Ian, and get policing! What the hell are you worried about!

In the mean time, of course, is the quality of protection that people in, say, South London estates recieve from the public police as good as that supplied to people who live, well, in places such as where Sir Ian lives? I seriously doubt it. I strongly suspect that the state supplies better policing to the non-poor than it does to the poor, just as it supplies the non-poor with better schools and healthcare.

Frankly, increased use of private security is a great thing, a move towards voluntary, peaceful provision of essential services, rather than the coercive compulsion of statism. Three cheers for it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Professionals Exceding their Remits?

What are doctors for?

Over New Years many of us decided to celebrate by loosening inhibitions. We imbibed large amounts of alcohol, probably to a point of technically poisoning ourselves, because we like the sensation of being drunk in good company and consider it worth the price and health risks.

How did the BBC celebrate? Well, five minutes into the new year they celebrated by publishing this article.

Rising alcohol addiction costs 'could cripple the NHS'

The cost of treating the growing number of people drinking heavily threatens to cripple NHS hospitals, warn experts.

If the trend continues the burden will be unsustainable, the Royal College of Physicians and NHS Confederation say.

With a quarter of England's population consuming hazardous amounts, alcohol addiction already costs the NHS more than £2.7 billion a year, they say.

Note "Royal College of Physicians" and "NHS Confederation." The article is citing one Professor Ian Gilmore. This chap has form on this sort of thing. He is one of those behind creating anti-drinking areas in towns and cities:

DRINKING blackspots will be subjected to prohibition-style laws under a radical proposal by the country’s top liver doctor.

The aim is to block alcohol sales in parts of the country where people’s health is being put at risk by drink.

The plan was put forward by Professor Ian Gilmore and it could see many inner city areas being turned into drink-free zones.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express, Prof Gilmore said: “Much of the focus of drink has been on its link with antisocial behaviour, crime and disorder but our concern is about the damaging consequences of drink to health.

“When I became a liver specialist 30 years ago, alcoholic liver disease was something we only saw in middle-aged and older people. Now we’re seeing people in their twenties with end-stage liver disease.

“We need to use all the tools we’ve got to try to tackle this problem.”

Prof Gilmore wants the law changed so councils could refuse a drink licence on health grounds.

Gilmore, of course, is not willing to leave things at imposing larger local government. He has also advocated increasing the powers of global government:

"We need an international framework convention for alcohol control, similar to that on tobacco, as soon as possible, to put into practice the evidence-based measures needed to reduce alcohol-related harm.

"These include increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its availability and banning advertising, and the action needs to start now."

He has also supported legislation imposing a minimum price of alcohol, too:

Prof Gilmore, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the move could reduce the numbers admitted for alcohol problems by around 100,000...

It is not apparent where he snatched this "100,000" figure from. Especially since "Writing in The Lancet, however, Prof Gilmore says that the price hike would cost the average person only 23p more per week." Given that his proposal is targetted at discounted drinks in supermarkets, which apparently cost less than 20p for a can of some piss weak lager, then this price hike is plainly tiny, and yet is supposed to save 100,000 lives!

In the referred to edition of the Lancet, it is reported that

One in 25 deaths across the world are linked to alcohol consumption, Canadian experts have suggested.

One in twenty-five deaths around the world? A world that has disease, starvation, and war, and yet one in twenty-five deaths is caused by alcohol?! Sound implausible much? Scaremongering much? Wait 'til you see the figures for Europe:

Europe had the highest proportion of deaths related to alcohol, with 1 in 10 deaths directly attributable.

Ten percent of all deaths directly attributable to alcohol?! This figure is soundly questioned over at Devil's Kitchen

10% of all deaths? Let's do a quick bag-of-an-envelope calculation, shall we?

According to the ONS, there were 509,090 deaths in England and Wales in 2008 and there were 6,541 deaths related to alcohol in England. That last figure doesn't include Wales so let's be generous and add a further 500 deaths for the sheep-worriers.

Which gives us a total number of about 7,000, or 1.38% of all deaths.

Of course, that doesn't give us the percentage for the whole of Europe, but seeing as we're supposedly some of the worst drinkers in Europe (another fucking lie), that should be considered a conservative estimate. Still nowhere near 10% though, is it? It's not even close to the 1 in 25—or 4%—claimed for the whole world, and for that global total you need to factor in a billion muslims who don't drink at all, plus God knows how many people who haven't got a pot to piss in, let alone a pub to get pissed in.

Gimore's most recent scare story is also ably refuted at Devil's Kitchen, along with all the most basic myths underscoring the neo-prohibitionist propaganda. That these are myths is not what I am concerned with here. What I am concerned with is the fact that doctors are proposing new legislation. Undoubtably they even write the new bills before offering them to civil servants to offer to MPs, too.

It is not your fucking job!

Likewise, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not just interested in shaping new legislation, but preserving old legislation:

The BMA has written to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) saying it is "deeply concerned" by proposals to allow the changes, which broadcasters say will bring up to £140m a year in extra revenue.

Ministers are facing fierce opposition from medical groups, teaching unions and children's charities over plans to relax the current Ofcom rules that prevent giving certain items or brand names high visibility.

"The BMA is deeply concerned about the decision to allow any form of product placement in relation to alcohol, gambling and foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) as this will reduce the protection of young people from harmful marketing influences and adversely impact on public health," says the organisation's submission.

"By its nature product placement allows marketing to be integrated into programmes, blurring the distinction between advertising and editorial, and is not always recognisable. Studies show that children are particularly susceptible to embedded brand messages and these operate at a subconscious level."

Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, announced plans last year to relax the rules in order to help commercial broadcasters weather the downturn in advertising.

This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg. We are familiar with other stories, too of course

Experts from the BMA's board of science branded controls on alcohol promotion “completely inadequate” and called for a ban on drink advertising and the introduction of minimum price levels.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said society was awash with pro-alcohol messaging targeted at young people: “Over the centuries alcohol has become established as the country's favourite drug.

“Young people are drinking more because the whole population is drinking more.

“In treating this we need to look beyond young people and at society as a whole.”

All this begs the question of what a doctor's remit is. What are doctors for? I shall submit this: Doctors are mechanics. Their job, and their only job, is to put people back together again when they fall apart or stop working, and possibly to offer some advice as to how they can avoid this, just as a mechanic's job is to put our car back together when it falls apart, and just as a mechanic may advise us as to how to avoid such problems in the future.

It is not my mechanic's job to decide how I should be allowed to drive my car. If I choose to drive it in a way that causes wear and tear on it, that damages it, that is my choice, because it is my car. If I choose to "drive" my body in a way that causes wear and tear on it, that is my choice, because it is my body. My mechanic can complain to me. He can continue offering advice. But, in the end, his job is simply to put my car back together when it breaks. This is precisely the same for doctors.

It is not your business how much I drink, Ian Gilmore. It is your job to fix my liver when my drinking breaks it. Stick to that.

Of course, I am forced to pay Gilmore to exceed his remit any way, as Devil's Kitchen writes:

Professor Ian Gilmore is, of course, not just "president of the Royal College of Physicians", oh no. He is also the Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance which is, of course, a fake charity of some magnitude.

Now, a quick search of for "Alcohol Health Alliance" throws up such definitely fake charities as Sustain, the Institute for Alcohol Studies and the Alliance House Foundation (formerly the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in All Intoxicating Liquors); all of these organisations are heavily funded by the state which means, of course, that the Alcohol Health Alliance is also heavily funded by the state.

As such, Professor Ian Gilmore is a mouthpiece for the government...

It is worth pointing out that nowhere in the Telegraph article is this information pointed out.

Now me—I'd say that taking the word of a man who is the Chair of an organisation, the members of which include the formerly-named "UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in All Intoxicating Liquors", without mentioning this little nugget of information—or massive fucking conflict of interest—is the act of a deeply stupid, tit-head, biased cub reporter.

So, perhaps Gilmore is not exceding his remit... if we consider that his job is not a doctor or surgeon. Instead, his job is to continue to get money, taken from tax payers under threat of punishment, to feather the nests of members of his groups, and the legislators and civil servants that implement the policies he and his dream up. He is perfectly within his remit if his job title is "government shill."

Drug Decriminalisation is Working in Portugal: Opponents and the UN admit it!

In light of the fact that Nigel Meek and the Society for Individual Freedom are planning to publish my most recent blog post on drugs in their journal The Individual, perhaps this could be considered a follow up.

In this country if the number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse rose, health workers in the ruling class, politicians, and all sorts of legal types would clamour for a tightening up of the laws, inevitably taking the form of greater penalties for possession (since it is easier to get arrest figures that way). And the public would lap it up.

Not in Portugal. Following an increase in drug related deaths and HIV contractions, the Portuguese government decided that the appropriate response was decriminalisation.

In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.

Note, decriminalisation, not legalisation, of course:

"Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week.

Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what's known as a "Dissuasion Commission," an administrative body created by the 2001 law.

Each three-person commission includes at least one lawyer or judge and one health care or social services worker. The panel has the option of recommending treatment, a small fine, or no sanction...

Drug legalization removes all criminal penalties for producing, selling and using drugs; no country has tried it. In contrast, decriminalization, as practiced in Portugal, eliminates jail time for drug users but maintains criminal penalties for dealers.

Of course, something closer to legalisation is what my previous blog post called for, since it was principally about getting the provision of drugs out of the hands of gangs by letting normal businesses sell it legally. However, the results in Portugal are still heartening.

Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006, according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.

Of course, libertarians are bound to want to say that decriminalisation has had positive results, so maybe a reader would suspect the authors of this report of bias. However, even skeptics seem positive about what has happened, or not happened, in Portugal:

Peter Reuter, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, says he's skeptical decriminalization was the sole reason drug use slid in Portugal, noting that another factor, especially among teens, was a global decline in marijuana use. By the same token, he notes that critics were wrong in their warnings that decriminalizing drugs would make Lisbon a drug mecca.

"Drug decriminalization did reach its primary goal in Portugal," of reducing the health consequences of drug use, he says, "and did not lead to Lisbon becoming a drug tourist destination."

Of course, while "Spain and Italy have also decriminalized personal use of drugs and Mexico's president has proposed doing the same," some people remain unable to learn lessons:

Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal "appears to be working." He adds that his office is putting more emphasis on improving health outcomes, such as reducing needle-borne infections, but that it does not explicitly support decriminalization, "because it smacks of legalization." ...

A spokesperson for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment, citing the pending Senate confirmation of the office's new director, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also declined to comment on the report.

Failing to explicitly support decriminalisation does not mean that many in that UN Office may support it anyway, of course, but the lack of any comment at all from the relevant US bodies (and, apparently, those in the UK) seems like somebody burying their head in the sand, in a determined effort to ignore anything that may harm their own mindset.