Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making

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This crazy story about a university claiming that posters in a window “break the law” is a good example of how chaotic and inconsistent law-making can lead to a denial of liberty. Quick thread. #

I’ve been doing some reading on the ‘chilling effect’ recently. It’s usually used with regards to freedom of expression, but it’s a term imported from US legal thought, and can be applied to any kind of liberty or lawful activity. #

Supreme Court Justice William Brennan warned of how a ‘chill’ can be “generated by vagueness, overbreadth and unbridled discretion” of laws/state powers used to curb speech. (Dissent in Walker v City of Birmingham, 388 US 307 in 1967) # Continue reading “Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making”

Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC

I have some mild coronavirus-like symptoms. Its probably nothing, but now everyone in our household needs a test. Life and work are on hold while we struggle to get an appointment, and then wait for the results.

Yesterday morning I spoke to Vanessa Feltz on the BBC Radio London Breakfast show about my frustrations. You can listen below or on SoundCloud. The full show is available on BBC Sounds for 30 days.
Continue reading “Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC”

Journalists Under Attack

I’m incredibly busy with a couple of major things at the moment made more difficult by the lockdown.

(No, not A Thousand And One Recaps — that’s ticking along just fine).

As a result of my distractions, have not had time to post about the appalling UK coronavirus death rate, the preposterous lockdown sabotage by Dominic Cummings, the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, or the atrocious glorification of violence by Donald Trump that has finally caused Twitter to place warnings next to his Tweets.

My silence on all these issues is not to be taken as due to a lack of opinion, or sufficient emotion about each of them. I just don’t have time.

Continue reading “Journalists Under Attack”

Will the #COVID19 Antibody Test Break Our Discipline and Make Things Worse?

We’re all in this together. But what happens when we’re not?

Earlier this week I posted a tweet that got plenty of attention.

When the COVID-19 antibody test becomes available, it will split the country – and the world – into two types of person: those who are immune to the virus, and those who are still susceptible.

In the long term, when we have established ‘herd immunity,’ this won’t matter.1 But in the short term it could prove incredibly divisive, and cause the disintegration of solidarity and co-operation that our country has demonstrated so far.

Continue reading “Will the #COVID19 Antibody Test Break Our Discipline and Make Things Worse?”

When Defending Human Rights, We Must Tell Pragmatic Stories That Appeal To Self Interest

The idea of human rights being valuable in themselves doesn’t wash with a lot of people. Instead, they want to see a practical benefit to rights. Seeing horrible people benefit from the same rights as the rest of us undermines people’s support for such rights.

I worry about this a lot.

This attitude is particularly apparent this week due to the horrific knife attack in Streatham, which mirrored the awful murders at the Fishmonger’s Hall in December. In both cases the perpetrator had been released from prison following a conviction for terrorism, and so now there is discussion about retrospectively changing the release and parole procedures for such criminals. Continue reading “When Defending Human Rights, We Must Tell Pragmatic Stories That Appeal To Self Interest”