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The Flower

By Sara Scarlett
August 28th, 2010 at 8:24 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

Okay, so you’ll have to forgive the fact that this video was made by a bunch of Communists, but it’s still a good vid! Credit where credit is due – it’s probably one of the best anti-prohibition pieces I’ve seen in a long time. Enjoy:

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Smokers are now being attacked for being too good….

By Angela Harbutt
August 27th, 2010 at 1:36 pm | 8 Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom

smoking-makes-me-hornyYou really couldn’t make it up….

A “Research Study” (oh how I hate those words) in New Zealand has concluded that “The tobacco industry may be using websites such as YouTube to get around a ban on advertising cigarettes” (note the word “MAY” in that sentence).

How have they arrived at this conclusion? Well, the researchers searched for five tobacco brands on YouTube and analysed the first 20 pages of video clips containing any reference to the firms. They looked at 163 clips in total and concluded that “20 looked very professionally made” .

Evidence of well-made pro-tobacco videos onYouTube is, according to these people who really ought to get a proper job, “consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies,”

How disappointed must they have been? All that time slaving over a hot pc looking at shed loads of evil…. and their smoking gun (excuse the pun) is …….that 20 pro-smoking videos on YouTube look great ?

Who is to say that these brilliant videos were NOT made by a number of motivated, gifted individuals, with a video camera and/or some editing equipment, sharing their passion with the wider world? Why is it that the quality/brilliance of the videos is taken to mean that they are bound to have been made by the tobacco giants or their ad agencies…. Have these people not checked out just how many brilliantly made, professional looking, videos are being put out there on YouTube these days?

Of course not,  they are too busy looking for problems relating to tobacco. Get a life people.

It is no surprise to find of course that this, frankly laughable, report was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, and that one or more of the authors of this report has several anti-tobacco “reports” under their belt. Well that explains the conclusions….

Conclusions Pro-tobacco videos have a significant presence on YouTube, consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies. Since content may be removed from YouTube if it is found to breach copyright or if it contains offensive material, there is scope for the public and health organisations to request the removal of pro-tobacco content containing copyright or offensive material. Governments should also consider implementing Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requirements on the internet, to further reduce such pro-tobacco content.

Yep that’s it folks. A research study that proves nada – apart from the fact that a lot of people, passionate about smoking, make videos about their passion, and some are rather good at it shock horror – concludes that public health organisations should press YouTube to remove the videos on the grounds of copyright and/or offensiveness.

Copyright is the domain of the tobacco companies frankly. As for offensiveness… If it is genuinely offensive – oh I don’t know like forcing a puppy to smoke a cigarette for example – then I can see a reason for YouTube to remove it.. But if offensive is defined as those videos that  health quango’s don’t like – then I trust YouTube will tell them where to go.

But some good may come of this….. I am thinking of emailing the authors of the research study – Lucy Elkin’, knilu381@student.otago.ac.nz , Dr George Thomson george.thomson@otago.ac.nz, Dr Nick Wilson nick.wilson@otago.ac.nz – asking if they wouldn’t mind posting links to the 20 videos that looked “very professionally made” so that we cant put them up on LV.  Long live freedom of expression.

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John Rawls (1921-2004) A Theory of Justice (1971)

By Barry Stocker
August 27th, 2010 at 12:36 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in Liberal Philosophy

john-rawlsRawls was a philosophical specialist in political theory and ethics who spent most of his academic career at Harvard, where he was a colleague of Robert Nozick, author of Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974).  Nozick made capitalist libertarianism an object of study in academic political theory, and helped defined the argumentative methods used by many current political theorists.  Rawls’ work was even more influential, and Nozick’s book is itself, in part, a reaction to Rawls.

The publication of A Theory of Justice, together with related journal articles going back to the 1950s, transformed political theory, both with regard to methods of argument and in content.  Like Nozick, Rawls gave importance to formal work in economics and social science, and like Nozick he incorporated the argumentative methods of ‘analytical philosophy’ (the kind of philosophy which concentrates on analysing logical and conceptual distinctions).  This makes A Theory of Justice a demanding read, particularly considering that it is much longer than Anarchy, State and Utopia.

A Theory of Justice puts a commitment to liberty as the primary principle, and then equality second on the grounds that liberty is something shared equally.  Liberty refers to the equal rights of individuals to be free from coercion.  Rawls takes equality beyond simple equality of liberty to a preference for equality of goods of all kind.  There is an assumption that equality of liberty is connected with equality of income, wealth and general social position.  One reaction to this from classical liberals and libertarians, is to treat Rawls as the enemy, as the instigator of all levelling down, controlling statist bad things.  However, it’s important to understand that Rawls gets an equally outraged reaction from radical left people, who consider that he betrayed the supposed revolutionary socialist promise of the 1960s, and they strongly reject the way he puts liberty before equality.

As was mentioned in a post on Samuel Fleischacker, Hayek expresses strong approval of A Theory of Justice in Law, Legislation and Liberty , Volume 2, The Mirage of Social Justice (1976).  Since Hayek rejects the notion of social justice, it may seem strange that he approves of a book which advocates equality as part of a theory of justice.  The reason for this is that what Hayek notes, in Rawls, is that there no view expressed of how much economic equality there should be.  Nozick picks up on an opposite tendency, that it looks like Rawls wants the state to predetermine income distribution in a very designed fore-planned way.

The aspects of Rawls that Hayek and Nozick are concentrating on in are the ‘veil of ignorance’ and the ‘difference principle’.  The ‘veil of ignorance’ refers to Rawls’ thought experiment (a frequent means of argument in analytic philosophy) about the best way of designing the principles of a just society.  He suggests that the best way would be for a group to get together which would design the principles of a society without knowing what place they would have in that society, in particular they would not know about their income level.  This is a way in which Rawls tries to refine idea of a contractual basis for a society which John Locke used.

Rawls argues that the outcome of such a deliberation would be to accept principles that would favour the lowest income groups, because apparently reasonable people who do not know which income group they would be in will wish to maximise the position of the minimal position in that society.  This is know as the maxi-min principle, and it assumes that these hypothetical designers will choose to give the highest priority to minimising the risks, associated with being at the bottom of the society in terms of income.

This leads to the ‘difference principle’, the principle according to which income differences are only just if they benefit the poorest.  However, Rawls also recognises that the income of the poorest, along with the whole of society, benefit from competition in a market economy.  Given Rawls assumption that markets benefit the poorest, he has an argument against income redistribution if it undermines the incentives of a market economy, and therefore the long term growth of the economy.  Some have referred to ‘Rawlsekianism’, in which we  accept Rawls’ arguments for equality, but also accept Hayek’s argument that an open market economy is the best creator of wealth for all.  In that case, we might argue for equality of rights and esteem for all, in a society where income equalities which emerge from the market are left to the market.

It is clear that Rawls’ own preference was for a much more social democratic, even ‘market socialist’ outcome, but in A Theory of Justice, he is careful to restrict himself to principles we can use in evaluating different kinds of society, only excluding those which obviously violate basic individual liberties with regard to free speech, judicial process and so on.

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Alternative Vote referendum: The YES side is staring at defeat

By admin
August 22nd, 2010 at 11:10 pm | 75 Comments | Posted in AV referendum

Guest post by Mark Littlewood.

The news today that Matthew Elliott is to spearhead the NO campaign against the Alternative Vote should send shudders through the pro-electoral reform lobby. There is a very long way to go before next May’s referendum – and it is not yet a nailed on certainty that the referendum will even take place – but the early signs are very ominous for supporters of electoral reform. My judgement is that the NO side are now clear, although not overwhelming, favourites.

The YES side face a number of substantial strategic and tactical hurdles and it’s not yet obvious that any of these have been satisfactorily addressed. Or, in some cases, how they can be.

1. The referendum on AV is, of course, a compromise. It is virtually no one’s ideal electoral system. Most of those supporting a YES vote will actually be committed to a more proportional voting system – most commonly STV. This isn’t to say that Nick Clegg shouldn’t have settled for the coalition deal, but it does raise problems for electoral reformers. Inevitably, people campaign harder – and are willing to give more money – to something they really believe in rather than towards a second best option. I expect the NO side to easily raise and spend the £5m expenditure limit and to have an impressive network of activists – these guys really and passionately believe in First Past the Post.

2. Slow progress to date. It has been known for well over three months that there was going to be a referendum on AV (although admittedly not the timetable).Of course, these are the early stages of both campaigns – but looked at another way, we are already nearly a third of the way to polling day. Peter Facey – head honcho at Unlock Democracy – assures me that the YES side will have a website soon and that staff recruitment is already being organised. It can’t happen too soon. The websites of Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society are yet to focus on AV to the exclusion of other issues. The NO side isn’t much further advanced, of course. But in fairness they started with a much less impressive national infrastructure.

3. Matthew Elliott’s appointment. This is the single clearest sign yet that the NO lobby is going to be deadly serious and superbly organised. Matthew is one of the sharpest operators and most successful campaigners on the British political scene. Not only is he certain to be an effective leader of the NO side, the mere fact that he has taken the job is significant. He would not have done so without copper-bottomed guarantees about the level of political and financial support he can call upon. Contrary to popular belief, he is not a Conservative and he has a proven record as a coalition builder. Of all possible leaders of the NO campaign, Matthew Elliott is the most daunting possible opponent.

4. The YES side looks set to be run largely by Liberal Democrats. This needs to be avoided. The reason is very simple. On virtually all analyses of AV, the LibDems are set to gain the most – perhaps more than 30 seats. LibDem activists, members or politicians advocating a YES vote will find it very hard to dodge accusations of special pleading. At the very least, the YES campaign should be wholly independent of Cowley Street.

5. The polls show a clear movement of public opinion to the NO side. This doesn’t mean an awful lot at this stage, but it does mean something. The latest polls show the two sides neck and neck, which amounts to a measurable shift against AV in recent months. The polls also show that the elderly are more opposed than the young and, of course, the former have a measurably higher propensity to vote. If the drift away from the YES camp continues, so do the diminishing odds on a YES victory.

6. Body count. The Conservatives and many of the larger trade unions are going to put their weight behind a NO vote. The combination means there will be a strong grassroots presence for the NO campaign in virtually every area of the country. The Liberal Democrat party machine is tiny in comparison, with LibDem membership now averaging less than 100 per constituency – and party membership is heavily concentrated in a few dozen, maybe a hundred, seats. The great imponderable is how the Labour Party might jump, but even if they were united and enthusiastic YES supporters, I’d expect the NO campaign to have many more troops on the ground.

7. The NO campaign may be able to position itself as the anti-establishment, anti-politician option. Electoral reform is not a high priority for a large percentage of the electorate. Being asked to vote on what many will consider a fairly obscure and technical issue – especially during difficult economic times – could well encourage a two-fingered salute from many voters. Expect the NO side to consistently argue that the referendum is only taking place because the LibDems have demanded it in order to promote their own narrow electoral interest.

8. Because AV isn’t proportional, some of the key moral arguments are harder to put. For all the dreadful downsides of party list systems, at least the argument can be made that if you get 18% of the vote, you should get 18% of the seats. This is the sort of principle that voters can easily grasp. The NO side can even say that there might be a case for a proportional system, but that’s not what is on offer.

9. Because AV is fairly technical, the NO side just need to raise sufficient doubts, whereas the YES side need to actually prove a complex case. For example, I expect the NO campaign to argue that if you are a BNP voter, your vote will count twice (because it will be transferred) but if you vote Conservative or Labour it will only count once (because it often won’t be transferred). The argument is spurious, but is superficially powerful. The NO side will benefit from confusion and uncertainty. A confused and uncertain electorate can be expected to vote NO.

10. The newspapers are likely to be overwhelming opposed to AV. The Guardian and Independent will be in favour – and possibly the Mirror. Pretty much everyone else will be against and quite possibly, vociferously so. Newspapers have a declining influence and a declining readership, but in a campaign in which many people do not have a strong view either way, the editorial position of popular newspapers could potentially carry more sway than in a General Election.

I had often assumed that securing a referendum on electoral reform would be the hardest part of the task. Now I am considerably less sure. As things stand today, I think the NO side may well win.

Mark Littlewood was Director of Liberal Vision from September 2008-December 2009. He is now the Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs. He writes here in a personal capacity.

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It’s that time of year again: teen-lesbo-erotic A Level results day

By Julian Harris
August 19th, 2010 at 1:39 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Culture, Uncategorized

A-level results … congratulate the kids … record passes … record A grades … not enough University places … dumbing down … getting easier every year…

yadda…

yadda…

And yadda again.

But this year, thanks to the interweb, you need not even buy a copy of any of Fleet Street’s finest rags; for THIS WEBSITE has compiled all the best shots of busty, ecstatic 18 year olds clutching result papers while screaming and taking up the classic “about to hug” lesbo-erotic pose that excites so many old Torygraph-reading retired Colonels.

Here’s my favourite of all time:

alevels

Do you think it’s airbrushed? Should the shots include more boys?

H/T: Alec van Gelder.

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