Jail a repugnant ass

… is an anagram of “Julian Assange, prat”. But let’s leave that to one side and concentrate on the issues.

Assange is many things. Self-important prick is just one of them. Sadly that’s not illegal in most jurisdictions. In Ecuador it even verges on the compulsory. For the sake of argument here, let’s boil it down to two things. He either is or is not one or more of the following:

1. A tireless crusader for truth and freedom.

2. A sex pest.

These are not incompatible: it is quite possible to be both. Both of these need to be settled in a court. So far he has, in chronological order, upset the Swedes over (2) and the Americans over (1). That is therefore the order in which the court hearings should be heard. He should therefore be bunged off to Sweden with no further delay the moment he sets foot beyond the Ecuadorian embassy.

His supporters say that the Swedes will in turn just bung him off to the USA and he will never see daylight again. There is no reason to assume this is so. At the moment we are the country most likely to roll belly-up when the Americans come seeking someone, and offer our virgin daughters into the bargains. He would be in much more danger if the Americans had asked us to deliver him. I suspect we would do so without a second’s thought. Other nations however have more balls. ‘Twas but yesterday that a New Zealand court, overhearing the extradition cause of another self-important prat, had the nerve to tell the Americans it wanted to see more evidence. There is no reason to assume Sweden won’t do likewise.

(If guilty then that self-important prat deserves extradition and jailing if anyone does, but – and this can’t be stated enough times – that is for the court to decide. Not the Americans. Because that is how justice works in civilised countries.)

The Swedes may or may not hand Assange over to the US once they’re done, but they will first put him on trial under their own judicial system, without any outside interference, as is the right of any civilised sovereign state, on the sex charge. What is the alternative? Sweden would have to tell the women accusing Assange that their woes aren’t important enough to register on the big picture. It would have to tell its own citizens that the politically expedient desires of another country overrule their own rights.

The Swedes won’t do that. Even we wouldn’t do that, and we’re the Americans’ bitch. We handed Christopher Tappin over without a fight because of our blatantly ridiculous and unfair extradition treaty – but if we had wanted Tappin for something unrelated, we would have dealt with it in our own courts first. That is how it works.

Assange will either then be found guilty, and face the appropriate Swedish penalty, or found innocent and released. Either way, the Swedes might then hand him over to the Americans, who will almost certainly send him to jail for a long, long time. That is a bridge to be crossed once he has had his day in court in Sweden. The justice system can’t be short circuited or double guessed because of what might happen. The only certainty at the moment is that he is accused of sex crimes and should stand trial for them. There is no acceptable alternative.

Unless you want to be the one to look any woman in the eye and tell her she’s not important enough to matter?

Ben the instrument of change

Following the last report about libel reform, I sent the webmaster atwww.libelreform.org an email explaining exactly why I wasn’t signing. And they’ve changed it. I can now sign (and have signed) the petition without also spamming Evan Harris.

Excuse me for feeling smug, but apart from once signing up to a demo at university that I never actually went on, this is about as activist as I’ve ever got, so I may milk it.

This is NOT how to campaign for sense in science

I’ve blogged previously about Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for libel, in a case that debases both science and the libel laws of our glorious land. So far, so good.

An update email from the campaign today asks me to sign a fresh online petition. “Sense About Science has joined forces with Index on Censorship and English PEN and their goal is to reach 100,000 or more signatories in order to help politicians appreciate the level of public support for libel reform.” Brill! Point me at it!

It’s at www.libelreform.org. Fired with enthusiasm I go there and hit the “Sign the petition” button. I fill in my details and hit the “Sign now” button to record my total opposition to the ludicrous law that lets dogma triumph over facts.

… And rather than feel a smug glow of righteousness, I get presented with a pre-filled in letter to my MP (his identity presumably gleaned from my post code). There is a note at the top saying “[Please put your address here – MPs often do not respond otherwise]”, and a button at the end saying “Send the message”. Nothing about the petition that I thought I was signing.

Hang on, hang on. This is not what I signed up for. (a) I don’t believe MPs pay any attention to a form letter, even if it has been individualised with the addresses of their constituents. And (b) how do they know I haven’t already written to Dr Harris? Maybe I don’t want to spam the poor man with duplicate messages. But actually signing the petition (if I haven’t already: there is nothing to say either way) seems to lie beyond that “Send the message” button.

So, no, I won’t, sorry. This is completely the wrong way to do it. This is a petition about transparency, for Pete’s sake. So be transparent! Have a button marked “sign the petition”, and have it sign the effing petition. Don’t lower yourself to the level of the opposition. Stop trying to be clever. Don’t try to orchestrate our campaigning for us.

The email also asked us to “please spread the word by blogging, twittering, Facebooking and emailing”. Glad to oblige.