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Airline security is the last refuge of the scoundrel

I love aviation. Genuinely, I really enjoy flying in a plane… well, the first eight hours, after that I get a bit bored. If Boeing and Rolls-Royce hadn’t made the 747-400, then I’d be happier (BA’s flagship flight in 1984 was London-Bombay-Madras-Singapore-Perth-Sydney. That strikes me as far more fun than London-Singapore-Sydney, especially if you stop off for 24 hours till the next flight everywhere en route…).

One of the many things that I love about aviation is how exceptionally safe it is. Not just safe from accidental death or injury, although it is, but also safe from crime of all kinds.

…and this is why, as someone who is obliged to fly an awful lot, I hate the scaremongers, bureaucrats and right-w(h)ingers who’ve turned it from a jolly and harmless experience into an exercise in annoyance and humiliation.

From a comment I’ve just made elsewhere, aimed at a worthless idiot [*]:

When I go to an airport, my first experience is with the jolly character on bag-drop, who’s employed by the company I’ve paid for my flight, who treats me with respect and who I repect. My third experience is in the lounge, where I get treated with respect and where I respect the staff.

However, the second experience, and the one which makes aviation-in-general vile, is with a bunch of utter twats employed by BAA/some goverment twattery to pretend that plane-terrorism is relevant, who don’t give a monkey’s about the people paying their wages, because they’re under some kind of insane delusion that their job involves something other than being nice to the people who you deal with.

And it’s made significantly more distressing by the fact that – because you and your lot have no power or chance of success in real life – we actually have to defer to you and treat you like gods in aeroplane life. “Oh, my airline security hero. I can’t believe I committed the heinous sin of smuggling 125ml of aftershave through your holy checkpoint. If I effuse myself at your feet will you please not send me to the back of the queue?”. So even though we know the whole rigmarole is completely useless – and either so do you, or you’re sufficiently idiotic to be subject for remedial treatment – we still have to pretend that you deserve respect.

(I’m struggling to think of people who demand, literally at gunpoint, respect from those who they’re subjugating solely using their power. Muggers and rapists are the only ones I can think of; perhaps our readers are more imaginative?)

Bonus points to the first idiot to lie that terrorism is a serious concern, rather than something made up to annoy us [**].

[*] yes, like a boncentration bamp buard, he was just doing his shitty, worthless job.

[**] a good friend of mine found himself in Boston Airport in 2002. There was a sign up saying “it is illegal to mock the security arrangements in this airport”. If you actually feel you have to to make mockery illegal, then you’re the loser and I’m on the other guy’s side. See also “Tango and contact lens solution can make a bomb“. Yes, the chaps who tried to make a bomb of Tango and Alcon are bad, but no different from a witch-doctor trying to make me die with curses and evil eyes…

Collation of thoughts

I’ve got a new post up on LC. I don’t post enough on LC; I should post more on LC. See also: posts here.

I’ve had some positive comments on the LC post from people I respect, both over there and on Twitter. Given that unlike my usual LC work, this wasn’t a ‘using hard data to bust myths’ article but just a ‘thought-dump in something vaguely resembling readable English because we needed someone to write something quick-sharp’ article, this was quite pleasing. At least, until I remembered that “reasonable opinions in readable English” don’t win columnist gigs…

Anyway. In response to the comments on the LC piece, I came up with a couple of digressions that I thought were worth repeating here:

Not that the US is liberal, but there is a generally understood rights+votes model of governance called ‘liberal democracy’, which pretty much consists of (US + EU + might-as-well-be-EU-but-don’t-want-to-lose-their-fish/oil/gold + trying to be EU + Commonwealth), but which doesn’t encompass everywhere that has the occasional vote to choose which dictator will torture you on a whim.

(yes, South America is a mild exception, but ‘if you stop voting in right-wing dictators then secret agents from a Liberal Democracy will turn up and assassinate people until you start again’ deals with that one).

Also, why (ideological aims aside), even though the current crop of Labour MPs appear to be worse at Parliament’s legislative duties than their Tory and Lib Dem counterparts, this is structural more than anything else:

If you’re a Tory MP in the current parliament, you’ve either been there forever, or you’ve managed to land a safe seat by serious politicing in the wilderness years when others were busy management-consulting, PR-ing, etc. If you’re a Lib Dem MP in any parliament, you’ve either been a Liberal since Gladstone, you’ve managed to land an incumbent-if-hardly-safe LD seat through serious politicing throughout, or you’ve been selected for a by-election to show the nation that the Lib Dems are Serious People.

On the other hand, while a lot of long-serving Labour MPs live up to the duties expected of them (my MP, Jeremy Corbyn, is so good at this that I’m going to vote for him next time despite my utter distaste for the national party – because there is absolutely no way that anyone else standing in Islington North will be a greater asset to Parliament than him. This is how you, dear reader, should choose your MP. Similarly, when my MP was Beverly Hughes, I didn’t vote for her even though at the time I supported the national government), most of the 1997 intake were daft hacks who didn’t even expect they’d get in, and most of the subsequent intakes have been subservient hangers-on.

Hence, it’s pretty much certain that after the next election, in terms of general competence and respect for parliamentary procedure rather than sheer political allegiance, that there’ll be an awful lot more dreadful Tory MPs than now, and that there’ll be far fewer dreadful Labour MPs.

15% of people inexplicably weird

Rather depressingly:

Fifty-six per cent of the public agree that “the greatest victims of discrimination in Britain these days are often ordinary white men”

Now, this is obviously false, and anyone who believes it is either deluded, moronic or both. If you’re a selfish white male, however, it’s at least rational to express the belief in the hope that if the myth becomes accepted, it’ll be easier for you to maintain your privileges.

However, only 41% of the population are white British males. So, even assuming that all white males are either selfish or idiots, 15% of the remaining population are so brainwashed that they actually believe this nonsense against their own best interests.

Which is pretty much as clear a demonstration as you’re going to get anywhere that The Patriarchy is still thoroughly in charge and thoroughly shaping political and news agendas.

Ah well. On the plus side, whilst it’d be nice to live in a fair and equal society where attempts to address injustice weren’t met with ridiculous whining from the privileged that conned a sizeable proportion of the oppressed, at least the current setup makes my life easier and more comfortable…

(via Liberal Conspiracy, which points out that at least Twitter users are less halfwitted and bigoted than average. Well, duh.)

Being away

I’m sitting in the 18th floor of a tower block somewhere subtropical, overlooking the sea. Currently I’m inside, but with the large bay windows open, getting some evening sunshine – I may shortly head out to the terrace for full-on last rays action. On the minus side, I’ve been working today, but it hasn’t been absolute hell. Almost pleasant, even.

Meanwhile, back in Britain… I hear the weather has been OK, in the sense of ‘only quite cold and only a bit rainy’. I hear the entire world and their dog has gone into spasms of lunacy after a daft fat bigot got vaguely humiliated on a TV show, but also picked up a few new idiot fans (even though a similar-looking bigot with the same views is accepted and awarded as a national newspaper columnist with barely any fuss from anyone).

On that one, I’m glad I wasn’t around for the debate. As far as I can make out, the assembled Great And Good [*] made a stupid and ignorant man look stupid, ignorant but also victimised, whilst actually agreeing with his fundamental thesis (“immigration is terribly bad and BNP voters are right to be concerned about it, so we’ll make our already-lunatic-hard restrictions even tougher”).

It’s another reminder of how, if you’re a socially liberal supporter of a market-driven economy with around-OECD-average levels of taxation and regulation [**], free migration and free speech, who also thinks that UAF are a daft bunch of tossers, British politics at the moment is a bit depressing.

The fact that the mainstream parties are engaged in a deeply stupid (tough on crime, tough on immigration, ‘too many human rights’, ‘we must cut the deficit now’) consensus on most issues is hardly surprising. The fact that the far Right are scumbags is pretty much definitional. But what else is there? The Greens don’t believe in markets and are more or less the opposite of liberal; the left-of-Labour narrative hasn’t yet been set but is unlikely to focus on social liberalism (if it did, I’d excuse the economics); and to the extent that the Lib Dems have expressed an opinion on anything, they’re mainstream-consensus.

And I’m frankly bored of London, bored of long work-weeks and infinite stress from above and below, bored of endless overpriced drinks in the same pubs, bored of the Tube, bored of mornings, bored of blogging (see: number of posts on this blog that aren’t Twitter roundups).

The sun’s setting. I’ll head outside. It’ll be pleasant. It’ll be different. It’ll be warm.

I could stay here.

[*] yes, I’m aware of the irony in using the words ‘great’ and ‘good’ to refer to Jack Straw.

[**] including banking regulation. The reason we and the US are so screwed right now is due to underregulation in the banking system; it has absolutely no bearing on the vast majority of companies that aren’t banks, and using it as an argument against market capitalism is Just Silly. Using it as an argument against dogmatic US Republican-style deregulation is exactly right, and should be done, but even the current Tory leadership isn’t daft enough to advocate that.

…and while I’m on the ‘tort law’ topic

What’s the point of injunctions in cases of breach of civil law?

If someone breaks the criminal law, they should be punished. That’s why we have criminal courts.

But if someone’s planning to do something which might, if they do it, be against civil law, what on earth is the justification for turning *that* into a criminal, enforceable offence?

Concretely: if I call Robert Maxwell a fat, thieving, lying crook, then it’s fair enough that he should be allowed his day in court where I have to prove that he is a fat, thieving, lying crook [*].

But how in hell is it fair, just or rational that if Robert Maxwell hears that I’m planning on calling him a fat, thieving, lying crook, that he’s allowed to find a judge who’ll ban me from doing so on pain of criminal penalties?

[*] yes, again with the libel law reform. No, I don’t think that I *actually* ought to have to prove that, I think he should either prove the opposite in court or persuade interested parties that I’m not worth listening to: but I’m willing to concede all kinds of vile concessions against free speech for the purpose of debate.

Libel law reform

It’s clear from this week’s events, and indeed to everyone with access to either eyes or a braille reader, that English libel law is a disgrace that needs reformed.

As far as I can make out, the only objection to libel law reform is that in countries like the US with a sensible (i.e. unenforceable unless you’re a previously unheard-of member of the public or the libel is obviously malicious) libel system, mad buggers can get away with describing anyone vaguely heard-of as a demented antisemite/Islamophobe/etc.

I’ve yet, however, to hear any reason why this matters.

If you’re a serious commentator, some mad bugger describing you as an antisemite doesn’t make any odds at all. Similarly, if you’re a serious commentator, describing random selections of people as Islamophobes is likely to get you relegated to the “not serious commentator” pile in short order.

(and as someone who’s been maliciously libelled, whilst almost certainly counting as a public figure for US purposes, I can honestly say that the concept of using English libel law against the nutter in question was about the least appealing option in either my or my solicitor’s arsenal, despite the fact that we were both very clear I had a case and would have won).

But let’s assume, against all actual evidence, that libel laws provide some protection to the truth or to Brave Individuals Being Victimised By A Cruel System: in that case, let’s 1) provide legal aid to libel victims and aggressors [*], 2) cap all costs awards to a legal aid payscale. I can’t think of any way, even in the bizarre parallel world where serious people believe that Private Eye is a threat and James Goldsmith is a victim, that this would cause Terrible Injustice, and it means that the occasional poor (in both senses) sod smeared by the tabloids actually has a chance of redress. What’s not to like?

[*] the beauty of this system is that it’s entirely down to the reader to determine who’s whom, and hence doesn’t matter. Obviously I’m Arkell vs Pressdram on this.

Banditry fail

Yes, I know – it’s a poor show when the blog consists entirely of Twitter updates, and they consist entirely of Saturday night-Sunday morning tweets. And it’s not even primarily riotous-living-based.

Is it total disillusionment with political bunfighting? Is it working really hard? Is it writer’s block? Yes to all three, combined with the fact that the thoughts I have had are all expressible in sub-140 characters…

Anyway. If you want to see a very old New Orleans Creole lady put Jamie Oliver firmly in his place, go to 04:40 here. It’s 4OD so you’ll have to wait a minute or so for the annoying adverts up front, but it’s worth it.