16 October 2007


Gorey untruths


Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth can only be shown in schools if accompanied by a government health warning, a High Court Judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Burton was passing judgement in a case brought by Stewart Dimmock; a school governor in Kent, who claimed that the film gave an unbalanced view of climate change and if governors allowed it to be shown, they would be in breach of their statutory obligation to protect children from one-sided political propaganda.
While refusing Mr Dimmock's application to have the film banned, the judge concluded that no fewer than nine of the film's "truths", including the claim that Hurricane Katrina was the result of global warming, were not supported by the scientific evidence.
Interestingly, Old Grumpy raised this very issue at a governors' meeting earlier this year after one of my fellow members offered to lend his copy of the film to the school.
As I recall, I was denounced as a global warming detractor - not quite so bad as "denier" (c.f. holocaust) - but not intended as a compliment, all the same.
I have written extensively on this subject (Global warming) (Overheated) (Overcooked) and it is heartening to find the High Court agreeing with much of what I have had to say.

On the fence


Following last week's piece on Pem Developments (Inside track), I have received two e-mails from readers in the Pembroke Dock area.
The first confirms what I already understood to be the case: that Pem has now completed the purchase of the Commodore/Port hotel.
But the second is much more interesting.
My correspondent tells me that a substantial steel security fence has now been constructed around the site.
Nothing remarkable about that you might think.
Not until you consider that the man supervising its erection was none other than our old friend Cllr Brian Hall, Dr Michael Ryan's co-conspirator in the plot to to fill their boots in Pembroke Dock contrary to Dr Ryan's written undertaking that any new company with which he was involved wouldn't trade in Pembrokeshire (Hall-Ryan).
What is amazing is that, five years on, despite this piece of treachery, Dr Ryan is still picking up £450-a-day as the county council's economic development consultant.
The words "buried" and "bodies" spring to mind.

Party hacks


Another e-mailer tells me that former county council chairman Steve Watkins has been on a visit to the Czech Republic on behalf of the National Park.
Cllr Watkins, who once described himself as "a lifelong socialist" in a letter to the Western Telegraph, seems to have had a change of heart because he says that, under the former communist (socialist?) regime: "The very basics of life particularly professional and academic life depended on being a Party member, and third-rate Party hacks controlled everything, under the baleful gaze of the secret police".
Give or take the odd secret policeman, that seems like the perfect description - especially the bit about third-rate party hacks - of the county council under the Independent Political (sic) Group of which he is a leading member.
As far as I'm aware, Cllr Watkins has never raised any objections to the fact that the third-raters' third-rater Cllr Alwyn "Monster Muncher" Luke (see Master forger) is chairman of the scrutiny committee charged with overseeing the education system; SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education); and corporate governance committee, as well as being the council's representative on the Committee for Nuclear Free Local Authorities.

Unreliable evidence


Interestingly, Cllr Watkins name cropped up during the Adjudication Panel for Wales hearing into my complaint against Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse.
Apparently, Cllr Watkins had provided the defence with a letter in which he expressed the opinion that Cllr Allen-Mirehouse had no interest to declare.
Why Cllr Watkins opinion on the subject should be given any weight is not altogether clear.
However, when National Park officer Ifor Jones was called to give evidence, Cllr Allen-Mirehouse's QC was keen to get him to confirm Cllr Watkin's credibility.
Naturally, the officer was reluctant to pass comment on the councillor's competence, though, after some prompting, he volunteered that Cllr Watkins was an experienced councillor.
When asked about Cllr Watkins' political affiliations, Mr Jones confirmed that he was an independent member.
So, as far as the tribunal was concerned, the letter was written by a member with no political connection to Cllr Allen-Mirehouse, whatsoever.
Which only goes to show that evidence that cannot be cross-examined isn't worth the paper it's written on.
Had the Ombudsman's barrister been able to participate (Two sides to every story) the tribunal might have learned that Cllrs Allen-Mirehouse and Watkins are both members of the Independent Political Group, of which Cllr Allen-Mirehouse is the deputy leader (Party animals).
Furthermore, last year the IPG appointed Cllr Watkins chairman of the county council and his very membership of the National Park committee, itself, is in the gift of the IPG's leader Cllr John Davies.

Ming's fallen dynasty


So, poor old Ming has been forced to fall on his sword.
I must admit to liking Ming, not the least because he has actually achieved something - international athlete and leading member of the Scottish bar - outside politics.
Unfortunately, the electorate appears to prefer smoothies like Blair and Cameron to people of substance.
However, his resignation opens the way for an interesting battle for the Lib Dems soul.
Will it become a traditional liberal party, as some of the Young Turks seem to favour, or will it continue its flirtation with the social democratic policies which were brought to the party by the "Gang of Four".
The source of the party's dilemma is to be found in the influential essay "Two concepts of liberty" by the philosopher Issiah Berlin.
Berlin identified two entirely different meanings for liberty which he called negative and positive freedom.
Negative freedom is the stuff of traditional liberalism and involves "freedom from" interference by others.
Positive freedom is couched in he socialist language of rights and involves the "freedom to" do certain things.
To give a trivial example: everyone is free to hop on a train and go to Edinburgh in the sense that there is no law against it.
But a socialist might argue that such a freedom is worthless to someone who can't afford the fare.
The argument becomes rather less trivial if you are unable to exercise your freedom to consult a doctor because you can't pay his fee.
The socialist argument against what is, in effect, rationing by price, is attractive until you consider that resources are finite and if you don't ration by price you have to find some other way to curb the potentially infinite demand for free goods and services.
Waiting lists, or denying patients certain expensive drugs, perhaps.
While I am attracted to the traditional liberal view of freedom, I have to concede that the socialist version has its merits.
That said, when someone describes themselves as a liberal, it is as well to enquire exactly what they mean.

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