Monday, March 22, 2021

Lockdown protests turn violent in Britain

There have been violent scenes in the British city of Bristol where protesters stormed a police station and abused police officers, two of whom were taken to hospital with broken bones.

Footage shows protesters attacking police, setting fire to a police vehicle, setting off fireworks on the street and rocking a police van with officers in it.

Officers wearing riot protection gear and carrying protective shields used batons and pepper spray against the rioters.

Police said several hundred people gathered outside the Bridewall police station in Bristol, in England’s south-west, after an earlier protest against a proposed new law aimed at expanding police powers to restrict demonstrations.

The laws have been proposed by the government to better control protests and clamp down on the deliberately disruptive tactics used by groups such as Extinction Rebellion. One of the law’s measures would impose up to 10 years’ jail for damaging a memorial, which follows the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol last year.

Some demonstrators carried placards with slogans such as “Kill the Bill”, “The Day Democracy Became Dictatorship” and “We Can’t Be Silenced That Easy”.

It follows an outcry in Britain over the heavy-handed police tactics used by the Metropolitan Police against women attending a vigil-turned-protest at Clapham Common in London’s south-west, in memory of Sarah Everard who was killed while walking home, allegedly by a serving police officer who will face trial charged with her kidnap and murder.

Gatherings are currently prohibited under restrictions imposed across the country for several months aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Superintendent Will White from Avon and Somerset Police said the peaceful protest against the law turned into a “violent disorder” because of the actions of a small minority who set fire to two police cars and damaged the building.

White said one officer suffered a broken arm and another broken ribs.

“These scenes are absolutely disgraceful ... officers have been subjected to considerable levels of abuse and violence,” White said.

“All those involved in this criminal behaviour will be identified and brought to justice.

There will be significant consequences for behaviour such as this,” he warned.

He said extra police from neighbouring forces were called in to help quell the riots.

Home Secretary Priti Patel who is ushering in the new law said the scenes in Bristol were “unacceptable.”

“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated,” Patel said in a tweet.

“Our police officers put themselves in harms way to protect us all. My thoughts this evening are with those police officers injured.”

The Labour opposition had planned to abstain on the bill when it is put before the Commons but following the backlash after the vigil for Sarah Everard said they would oppose the proposed law.

Labour figures rushed to condemn the violent scenes. Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol said while he also held “major concerns” about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the “lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the bill.”

“Smashing buildings in our city centre, vandalising vehicles, attacking our police will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the bill going through,” Rees said.

“On the contrary, the lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the bill.”

“It is totally wrong and counterproductive to respond to the government’s proposed draconian limits on protest through descending into violence against the police,” Lammy said.

The bill was proposed before the backlash over police’s tactics at Clapham and had been set to sail through the Commons with little attention, however has been under intense scrutiny since the events surrounding the Everard vigil.


In choosing their issues, Leftists choose those that offer the best opportunities to glorify themselves

An interview

The left today seems ever-more disconnected from voters. Its constant promotion of niche issues and identity politics is at odds with most people’s immediate priorities. How did a movement set up to represent working people become so distant from them? David Swift is a historian and the author of A Left for Itself: Left-Wing Hobbyists and Performative Radicalism. spiked caught up with him to discuss how the left lost its way.

spiked: What is the core thesis of your book?

David Swift: A lot of people on the left are not really involved in politics to advance the cause they care about. Instead, it is really about themselves. A lot of people’s politics isn’t so much about what they believe in or how they want the world to be. Instead, it reflects an element of themselves, in the same way that a football fan might appreciate their team or a drum-and-bass fan might appreciate that kind of music. It is actually more like a hobby, a pastime or a form of identity than politics as we normally understand it. And part of this is down to social media.

spiked: How has this manifested itself?

Swift: There has been a transition in the past 100 years away from trade unions, feminist groups, black and Asian groups and gay-rights groups all advancing their interests. Now, we have people who aren’t any of these things and aren’t fighting about these issues – instead, they are fighting about things that affect other people. Obviously, this can be a very good and honourable thing. But unfortunately it sometimes lends itself to performative radicalism.

For example, look at the Palestinian cause. That cause is very important. But a lot of British people who are not Muslims or Jews, and who have nothing to do with the Middle East, wonder why the left cares so much about it when there are so many other injustices all around the world.

Another example is trans rights. Obviously, trans people are subject to all kinds of bullying, hostility and violence, and that’s a very serious, important issue. But it’s something that affects so few people – and that is what makes it a perfect issue for this identity leftism.

You can absolutely support and do good work towards these issues, but you don’t need to base your entire social-media profile around the fact that you do.

spiked: How has this impacted on the left’s popularity?

Swift: There are all sorts of reasons for Labour’s malaise. And the 2019 General Election result was a long time coming for all kinds of different reasons. But look at the work of Deborah Mattinson, who does a lot of polling and focus groups. The sort of issues that came up among voters in her research about the Red Wall are revealing. There was a sense that the Labour Party didn’t really care about these people. It seemed to care more about people in distant countries and about niche issues. That really did cut through and it cost Labour a lot of votes.

It really relates to Brexit as well. Labour didn’t know what to do about it. In the end, it went for the new deal and second referendum pitch. That would have been tough to sell anyway. But it was made worse because, for so many Labour Leavers, the problem wasn’t just about Brexit. Brexit represented many other things, including the sense that there had been a shift among the activists and the senior Labour politicians towards niche political issues.

spiked: Why has this happened? Does it reflect changes in the makeup of the Labour Party itself?

Swift: There are plenty of working-class people who do care about Palestine and trans rights. But looking at the Labour Party now, there are far more people in it who are like me – though they may have working-class parents, they themselves have gone to university, live in big cities and work in particular sectors. And they have materially different concerns from the sort of people who were the base of the Labour Party a few decades ago. Because of that material difference – and also because of differences in education – these people are far more likely to be preoccupied with niche issues.

There has been a move away from the more purely material concerns, which traditionally dominated the Labour Party and the trade unions, towards identitarian concerns. But it’s not so much that people have become either more neoliberal or less socialist. It’s more that people don’t believe that the economic situation can ever really change. Because the limit of a lot of people’s economic ambition is piecemeal reform, they think they should aim for more achievable goals, such as ones relating to cultural issues.

spiked: Has the pandemic sparked any kind of shift?

Swift: When the pandemic started, some people argued it would kill identity politics and the culture wars, because the virus was so serious. Clearly, that didn’t happen. And to some extent, the fact that nearly everyone’s been locked down for so long, and that we haven’t been seeing friends and have been online more, has made people more and more angry and hardened pre-existing divides.

Hopefully – it’s far too early to say – Covid is the sort of issue that might spur on a belief in the possibility and desirability of important economic change. Polls and focus groups show people do not want to see a return to normal – they want to see this crisis count for something. Maybe it can actually make people think that another economy, even another world, is possible.

It’s helpful to think about the Marxist idea of the base and the superstructure. Marx argued that there is a socio-economic base formed by things like your job, whether you own property and how much you earn. And that feeds into the cultural, political superstructure – reflected in things like how you vote. I think there is something similar going on now. We are obsessing over the cultural side of things. People may claim they care about trans rights or Palestinians, but in a way they are using the material deprivation or vulnerability of those groups as ammunition for their political and cultural debates on Twitter.

The interesting thing about politics nowadays is that there is a disconnect between the reality of material deprivation and violence on the one hand, and the cultural debate on the other. It’ll be interesting to see whether this trend continues or if there is more of a focus on incomes, wealth and taxation in the wake of Covid. Maybe we can leave these other debates behind and focus more on what matters.


Violent inmates are MORE likely to reoffend after going through ‘rehabilitation’ programmes, reveals shock study kept secret by ministers for three years

Britain's most dangerous prisoners are more likely to reoffend when they leave jail if they are put on a high-profile rehabilitation programme, the Daily Mail can reveal.

A bombshell study reveals that offenders who went through the programme posed a greater risk than those who had not – and they went on to commit more crimes after their sentences ended.

Yet the Ministry of Justice, which commissioned the study, has still not published the report – nearly three years after it was finished.

And despite the findings, ministers have continued to use the programme with thousands of inmates.

Offenders put on the Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) Pathway include killers and rapists.

The official criteria for admission says entrants must have been convicted of a serious violent or sexual offence, and ‘assessed as presenting a high likelihood of violent offence repetition and high or very high risk of serious harm to others’.

They will also have been diagnosed with ‘a severe form or personality disorder’ linked to their offending, such as psychopathy.

The OPD pathway budget in 2016, the last year for which figures are available, was £64 million. That year, there were 16,000 inmates undertaking it.

Violent crime by previously convicted offenders has been rising steadily. Repeat offenders still on probation murdered 155 people in England and Wales in 2019 – almost a quarter of the 623 total, and more than double the figure of 74 in 2015.

The ministry spent almost £1 million on the OPD study, which was completed in 2018. It was led by Paul Moran, professor of psychiatry at Bristol University.

The killer who made ‘excellent progress’
One of the OPD Pathway’s most notorious ‘graduates’ is serial sex offender Leroy Campbell.

He raped and murdered nurse Lisa Skidmore, 37, then tried to kill her mother Margaret Skidmore, 80, and burn down her Wolverhampton house in 2016 – just four months after being released from a life sentence imposed in 2000.

Campbell had previous convictions for rape, burglary and drugs.

In 1983, he broke into a home for nurses, and came close to strangling a woman to death while attempting to rape her.

Probation officer Laurence Watkins told the inquest into Miss Skidmore’s death that Campbell had made ‘excellent progress’ on the pathway, and he had concluded he was ‘clearly motivated to lead a law-abiding life in the community’.

Others who were on the OPD pathway include killers Jason Gomez and Paul Wadkin, who stabbed fellow inmate Darren Flynn 190 times after a group therapy session at Kent’s Swaleside prison in 2015.

According to ministry documents, the study’s ‘overarching objective’ was ‘to assess effectiveness of the Pathway on reducing reoffending and improving psychological health’.

The ministry initially promised to release the report in early 2019, and then, last summer, by October.

Ministry sources say a firm publication date is still months away, claiming the report has to undergo ‘standard publication processes’. Only then can its ‘key findings be interpreted’.

But friends of Professor Moran said the report was approved and ‘signed off’ months ago.

Penal experts and senior MPs from both main parties last night described the failure to publish the report while continuing to use the programme as a ‘scandal’ that was putting the public at risk.

John Podmore, a former prison governor, said of the OPD and other psychology programmes: ‘They are a financial scandal, and a scandal in terms of their failure to protect the public.’

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy added: ‘The Government’s approach to rehabilitation is failing miserably. This report may shed light on why. The Government must immediately publish the study in full, without any spin.’

The failure to publish the OPD report echoes the scandal over the Sex Offender Treatment Programme, taken by tens of thousands of rapists and paedophiles.

In 2017, it was revealed that a ministry study found those treated were 25 per cent more likely to commit further sex crimes.

The findings emerged in 2012, but were kept secret for five years, while the programme continued to be used.

Professor Moran and his team followed 28,000 prisoners for six years, comparing those treated under the OPD pathway with those who were not.

The programme has several elements, including prison ‘therapeutic communities’, where prisoners spend hours every week talking about their crimes and problems, and classroom-based cognitive-behavioural psychological courses.

Its supporters say it takes a ‘holistic approach’, with a ‘focus on relationship building’ and dealing with previous trauma.

Early last year, Professor Moran gave a series of closed presentations to officials and mental health experts.

His audiences were told they could not record them or photograph his slides. He refused to comment when approached, but the Mail has pieced together his findings from several sources who were present.

Others who were on the OPD pathway include killers Jason Gomez and Paul Wadkin, who stabbed fellow inmate Darren Flynn 190 times after a group therapy session at Kent’s Swaleside prison in 2015

The future risk posed by offenders is assessed by psychologists and probation officers using the Offender Assessment System (OASyS).

Professor Moran revealed that when he compared the OASyS risk scores of his treatment and control groups before they were released, ‘the difference between the treatment and control groups is statistically significant – in favour of the control group’.

In other words, the risk of future reoffending among those who got OPD treatment was assessed as higher.

A whistleblower with access to the data confirmed that the report shows those who went through the programme committed more ‘proven offences’ after release.

Professor Moran did not offer an explanation as to why offenders on the programme did worse.

A separate study of a prison psychological course known as Resolve, given to medium and high-risk violent inmates, has shown that it makes no impact on whether they commit further violent crimes after release.

The OPD and Resolve schemes are two of more than 30 psychological programmes used in prisons. Most have never been evaluated to discover whether they reduce offending or make criminals worse.

They are merely ‘accredited’ – rubber-stamped by a panel appointed by the ministry. The panel’s membership, the criteria it uses, and its minutes are all secret.

High-profile repeat offenders include Leroy Campbell, who raped and murdered nurse Lisa Skidmore in 2016, four months after being released from a life sentence. His record included multiple rape convictions.

His murder trial heard that he spent time in a psychologically informed prison environment, an integral part of the OPD Pathway.

Graham Towl, professor of psychology at Durham University, who spent eight years as head of psychology for both the Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice, told the Mail that prison psychology programmes had become an ‘industry’.

He added: ‘It seems to have acquired cult-like characteristics, whereby any evidence or questioning of its efficacy is viewed as an act of disloyalty – hence the culture of secrecy.’

John Podmore, now a professor of applied social sciences at the University of Durham, said: ‘The whole system needs auditing. The public needs to see whether these programmes are making offenders worse, and that their money is being spent effectively.’

Tory MP Bob Neill, chairman of the Commons justice committee, said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by the failure to publish Professor Moran’s report.

He added: ‘Just as over the sex offender study, they appear not to have been transparent about a scheme that deals with very serious offenders.’

Penelope Gibbs, of penal reform charity Transform Justice, added: ‘The whole way that the Government designs, signs off and implements rehabilitation programmes is shrouded in mystery, but it is crystal clear that we don’t know whether most of them work.

‘It’s not obvious why their impact has not been assessed, nor why the finished OPD evaluation has not seen the light of day. But the credibility of the justice system relies on greater transparency.’

A government spokesman said: ‘The report’s initial findings are expected to be inconclusive and it would be wrong to draw any conclusions at this stage.

‘We will respond once the study has been published – but would not hesitate to pull funding immediately if [the programme] was found to be unfit for purpose.’


The Re-Opening in Texas Follows the Science: Economic Science

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to eliminate the state’s mask mandate and capacity restrictions on businesses, effective March 10, was condemned by critics as reckless. But the governor’s rollback better aligns Texas policy with science: economic science that is.

Epidemiologists don’t have a monopoly on advice regarding how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, epidemiology has nothing to say about how humans should evaluate the trade-offs between various activities they value and the level of health risk they’re willing to accept to engage in those activities. Economic science is the discipline that studies these competing values.

Governor Abbott’s decision doesn’t eliminate the need for individuals to balance health risks against the pleasure of dining out, attending a sporting event, or breathing without the annoyance of a mask, it ends the state’s monopoly over such choices.

Responding to Abbott’s announcement, President Joe Biden said, “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking....It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science.” The New York Times wrote that Abbott’s decision represented “a rushed return to normalcy, rather than a careful weighing of costs and benefits.” The reality is that costs and benefits will still be carefully weighed, but by individuals choosing for themselves rather than government forcing its choice on everyone.

According to Abbott, his decision was not meant to invalidate the “safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others... [and] the freedom to determine their own destiny."

Economists have long appreciated that most tradeoffs are best left for individuals to make for themselves. Individuals know their personal preferences better than anyone else and usually bear the burden of bad choices and reap the reward of good choices. The presence of COVID-19 doesn’t alter this basic insight.

The economic case for government mask mandates and business-occupancy limitations hinges on virus transmission “externalities,” or spillover effects. Such externalities occur when people weigh their own health risks against the benefits of engaging in desirable, even risky, activities without accounting for how their actions might affect others—in this case, infecting them with COVID-19.

Writing in the Southern Economic Journal, economists Peter Leeson and Louis Rouanet of George Mason University found that the size of the COVID-19 transmission externality is much smaller than most people realize, largely due to the vigilance of business owners, who understand that increased transmission to customers and employees will cause further damage to their firms.

Like most others, over the past year I’ve been in businesses that made me feel safe and satisfied, others in which I felt unsafe, and some in which I felt safe, but was annoyed with the hassle they made me endure to make others feel safe. Everyone differs in their preferences across these margins and it effects where they choose to dine, shop, and even work. That means many businesses’ revenues are directly tied to how well they negotiate these tradeoffs for their customers.

Not surprisingly, numerous Texas businesses already have indicated that they don’t intend to abandon their mask requirements or return to full capacity. Immediate examples include Target, which announced that masks will still be required in its Texas stores, and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, whose owner, Mark Cuban, said he has no plans to increase the 3,000-person capacity limit on attendance. As Bob Sambol, owner of Bob’s Steak & Chop House in Dallas, said, “I have a week, thank God” to decide. Trade-offs are never easy.

While businesses generally have been efficiently limiting the COVID-19 transmission spillover taking place on their premises, regulation of cross-site transmission remains the realm of governments. Unfortunately, as Peter Boettke (another George Mason University economist) and I recently argued in a symposium on the Political Economy of COVID-19, the type of command-and-control regulations most states have placed on businesses are an overly costly way to lessen spillover transmissions, since they indiscriminately curtail both highly valued activities and those of lesser value.

A better option is to follow Texas’s lead and let economic science, not politicians, guide us through the remainder of the pandemic.




No comments: