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Month: May 2003

The Bleedin’ Obvious: Asylum seekers causing unrest

I find it faintly depressing that a committee of MPs can state the obvious and have it reported as news. The latest example of this is the new report into the asylum seekers problem. The report comes to the conclusion that people’s trust in the system has failed and it is becoming a cause of social unrest. It looks to me like they just locked the MPs in the House of Commons library for the last month, forcing them to read back issues of the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Of course there’s unrest. When thousands of people are pouring into the country in an uncontrolled way and promptly disappearing into the underworld or sucking millions of pounds from already over-stretched social services, people are going to be nervous. Whatever the left wing press would have us believe, this isn’t down to racism, it’s down to the perfectly natural desire not to share you home with strangers of dubious intent and not to be taken advantage of financially.

The major problem we have is that these problems will cause racism if they are left unaddressed. Some people will place the blame at the feet of those who deserve it: those government ministers who have not the backbone or political will to make hard choices and get things done. Other sections of society will blame the most visible targets: the asylum seekers themselves. That should not be allowed to happen.

The solution is simple, if expensive. Those who are genuine asylum seekers with a real need to stay in this country, should be welcomed warmly, given an intensive course in our language and culture and helped to find work. Those who fail to meet the criteria, and the criteria should be generous and accommodating, should be returned to their country of origin as soon as possible. The government needs to spend the money now to make this system work, knowing it will save it money in the long term. Right now, we’re treating everyone badly, genuine asylum seekers, bogus economic migrants and the British taxpayer.

Let’s hope this report both gives the government the will it needs to do the job and stops the left-wing press given them the excuses they need to dodge the issue.

Fight for your (digital) rights

I love it. Stave Ballmer, Microsoft’s head honcho these days, is desperately trying to persuade us that Digital Rights Management is, in fact, good for the consumer. This is, of course, nonsense but a simply marvellous read:

Consumers gain the most from the efforts of these pioneering entertainment companies. Online distribution offers a convenient way for people to access their favorite content wherever they are, at any time. But digital piracy is against consumers’ long-term interests; it undermines the economic incentives for artists and producers to continue creating and distributing the work we all enjoy. With rights-managed licensing, consumers can help sustain the flow of fresh creative work, confident that they have legitimately acquired rights to content that is authentic, of highest quality, and virus-free.

The point he misses, of course, is that DRM tends to assume that you’re going to commit a crime. The systems he’s advocating are roughly equivalent to a full body search every time you leave a record store. It’s not an attractive idea.
This brings me, in a roundabout way, to Apple’s new online music store. Bruce Baugh has written some very sensible comments on the matter and I do find myself agreeing with him. I’d rather not have DRM at all, but the solution set out in the store is far more akin to the security tagging and warning gates found in shops than the full body search being promoted elsewhere: unobtrusive and fair.

Now, if only Apple would make the store available in the UK…

Salam’s back (and me as well)

In case you haven’t noticed, Salam Pax, the now famous Iraqi blogger is back. Well, at least his posts are. His internet access appears to be marginal to non-existent, and he’s resorted to e-mailing a month’s worth of blogs to a friend in the US.

It looks like questions about his authenticity should be answered soon, too, as he relates a tale of being interviewed by a US journalist, as Wired points out.