ID cards: a price worth paying

Sorry, I’m back on ID cards again. But it’s Squander Two’s fault, because his excellent post on the subject got me thinking about one of Blair’s emailed arguments:

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

I’ve mentioned that survey before, but it’s worth coming back to. The key point:

Seven out of ten people believe that compulsory ID cards are “a price worth paying” to combat terrorism.

Now maybe I’m wrong – I can’t check, because the actual survey is a paid-only publication and I can’t see how the questions were worded – but assuming the above line is an accurate reflection of what people were asked, then it’s a leading question – it’s based on the very shaky assumption that ID cards do indeed combat terrorism. Based on the evidence so far, the survey could easily have asked this instead:

Compulsory ID cards won’t do anything to stop terrorism but could enable every little petty jobsworth to get on your tits, could make it considerably easier for criminals to steal your identity and could make it impossible for you to get benefits, to get healthcare, to travel or even to bank if some incompetent arse mucks up your entry on the database. Is that a price worth paying to prevent the government from looking stupid?

Sadly, they weren’t asked that, so the figure of 70% in favour of compulsory ID cards… hang on a minute, wasn’t this scheme supposed to be voluntary?… has to stand. So what else is A Price Worth Paying?

22% believe torturing terror suspects is a price worth paying.

35% believe that banning “some” peaceful protests and demos is a price worth paying.

45% believe that denying terror suspects trial by jury is a price worth paying.

79% believe that detention for weeks at a time without charge is a price worth paying.

Again, the questions were based on combatting terrorism, and as many others have pointed out the answers are based on the belief that these things would only affect other people, such as brown men with beards who look a bit shifty. I’d love to see how the people surveyed would have responded to this, which is essentially the same questions put in a slightly different way:

If you were peacefully protesting against a government policy and you were told such demonstrations were illegal, arrested, detained without charge, kept incommunicado for weeks, forced to endure physical and mental torture and finally released without apology or compensation, knowing that the state will watch you as a suspected terrorist for the rest of your days, and you were told that, hey, it’s a price worth paying… would you agree?

Far fetched? Not when we can falsely accuse people of training 9/11 hijackers, stick them in Belmarsh for five months and let them out again without any compensation, even though they’ve lost their job and suffered god knows what inside:

The Home Office argues that since Mr Raissi has neither been charged with an offence nor “completely exonerated” he does not qualify [for compensation].

That “completely exonerated” dig is telling – remember that Mr Raissi hasn’t been charged, so he’s innocent until proven guilty. As Steven Poole writes in his book, Unspeak:

You might still think it desirable that anyone accused of a crime in Britain should be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The widespread usage of the phrase “terrorist suspects”, on the contrary, presumes guilt. It derives from, and feeds back into, an alarming assumption that the lamentably old-fashioned ideal of presumed innocence is no longer appropriate to modern times. It is at one with the fine contemporary tradition of contempt for the courts evinced by Labour home secretaries. After the four co-defendants of Kamal Bourgass in the “ricin plot” trial were unanimously acquitted, and a further prosecution collapsed, Charles Clarke said: “We will obviously keep a very close eye on the eight men being freed today, and consider exactly what to do in the light of this decision.” Once you are a “terrorist suspect”, it seems, not even a not-guilty verdict will help you. You may no longer be a suspect, but you are still, by definition, a terrorist . . .






0 responses to “ID cards: a price worth paying”

  1. mupwangle

    Not on subject – but your formatting starts to get progressively more tits-up again after the 4th quote.

  2. Gary

    That’s weird. The code looks okay in WordPress and it’s OK on firefox and safari (both Mac). What’s it doing?

  3. mupwangle

    Same as before. Once you use a block quote it offsets the subsequent text a pixel or two to the left. Then the next time it does it again until the entire first letter of each line is off the end of the page. It’s exactly the same thing as last time that either you or Ronnie fixed. It’s definately an IE thing. I’ve tried it on Firefox on the mac and XP(under parallels) and it’s fine. I’m posting this from IE6 on parallels and it’s all sideways. I’m on IE6 at work too. Your comment above, for example, says “hat’s weird” You can see the text sticking out of the side of later boxquotes. It also affects everything on the page afterwards. I’m also getting frequent database errors on this site.

  4. Gary

    Ah, ok. The database errors – I’ve been getting them too. It usually means a minor server connectivity problem. The database servers have been slow today.

  5. tm

    I consistently see the shifting to the left thing on IE6 at work, i think I mentioned it once before. i don[‘t see it at home on FF or IE7.

  6. Gary

    Yeah, sorry, it’s an IE-specific bug that Ronnie and I haven’t had time to fix yet. I’ve encountered something similar on another bit of coding I’ve been doing and the only way round it was to seriously arse about with column widths and stuff. I suspect it’s a padding or similar bit of CSS code being completely bloody ignored by IE6. Gaaaaaah.

  7. Gary

    Incidentally, 1&1’s servers seem to be having outages again – not just database but logging into the control panel, getting email, etc. Don’t be entirely surprised if the blog gets very slow or occasionally fails to work at all. Assuming that isn’t already happening, of course.

  8. If I may offer a bit of advice… my favourite way round the IE6 padding bug is to use separate tags for padding. So, for instance, replace

    blockquote {
    color: #878785;
    padding: 4px 8px 4px 12px;
    border-left: 2px solid #76BBF6;
    font-size: 100%;


    blockquote {
    color: #878785;
    border-left: 2px solid #76BBF6;
    font-size: 100%;
    blockquote .padding {
    padding: 4px 8px 4px 12px;

    then replace



    <blockquote><div class=”padding”>Blah.</div></blockquote>

    A bit verbose, but it has the advantage over all the other IE6 hacks of being technically correct and so having no chance whatsoever of falling over on some future release or obscure browser, and you’re not breaking perfectly good code by putting it in.

    Not sure whether that’d fix the problem here, mind. You might expect IE6 to fuck up each quote individually, but not for it to get progressively worse with each one. That’s weird.

  9. No, that doesn’t solve the problem. There must be something about the blockquote code that’s causing IE6 to turn the padding off without having turned it on in the first place. Or maybe the margin. Bizarre.

    Mind you, this should fix it:

    <!–[if IE6]>Upgrade, fool!<![endif]–>

  10. Bloody WordPress, amalgamating my hyphens without so much as a by-your-leave.

    <!––[if IE6]>Upgrade, fool!<![endif]––>

  11. mupwangle

    With all this blockquoting going on – this page has slipped about an inch off the side. Quite odd.

  12. Ah, got it: it’s the border. No idea why, though.

    For a quick fix, stick this in after your CSS import lines:

    <!––[if IE6]>
    <link rel=”stylesheet” href=”[URL]/ie6.css” type=”text/css” media=”screen” />

    And the ie6.css file should contain nothing but:

    blockquote {
    border-left: 0;

    Means you won’t see the pretty blue line in IE6, but hey. Longer-term fix might involve using a 2-by-1-pixels background image to put that back in.

  13. tm

    Hmmm. I just nocted that the first time the page gets rendered it’s actually – but then when it completes loading it re-draws and thats when stuff shifts to the side. Not sure if that helps – maybe you need a slow connection like my work to see it. oh, and I can’t see the left hand side of this post…

  14. OK, scratch that. Here’s a proper cross-browser fix.


    blockquote {
        color: #878785;
        padding: 4px 8px 4px 12px;
        border-left: 2px solid #76BBF6;
        font-size: 100%;


    blockquote {
        color: #878785;
        font-size: 100%;
    blockquote .padding {
        padding: 4px 8px 4px 12px;
    .blborder {
        border-left: 2px solid #76BBF6;

    Then, annoyingly, replace



    <div class=”blborder”><blockquote><div class=”padding”>Blah.</div></blockquote></div>

    God, I hate IE.

  15. Gary

    So I’d need to do that blockquote malarkey every time I use the tag in future?

  16. mupwangle

    I wonder how long it will be before this entire thread disappears off the left-hand side? Strangely, the blockquote background bit is always in the right place . It’s only the text that shifts.

  17. > So I’d need to do that blockquote malarkey every time I use the tag in future?

    Unfortunately, yes. But WordPress can do that automatically for you, can’t it?

  18. Gary

    Looks like it’s a border bug – taking out the border bit from the CSS seems to work (I’ve got a standalone IE6 up and running on an XP box). Does anyone who hasn’t also installed IE7 on their machine fancy taking a look and getting back to me? Please?

  19. You can install IE6 on the machine along with IE7:

  20. tm

    I’ll check once I’m at work tomorrow, can’t do much until then…

  21. Anonymous

    Yeah, that’s the version I used. I’m just unsure whether any of the underpinnings it uses are IE7 if installed – when you do help > about it reports that it’s IE7.

  22. Gary

    Sorry, that was me.

  23. mupwangle

    Still knacked for me at work. Your last post says:-

    27th, 2007 at 10:57pm
    at was me.

  24. Gary

    Damn and blast.

  25. tm

    Yeah, same for me. So this post is pretty approximate because I can’t see half of it…

  26. tm

    But then I refreshed and now it’s working – what have you done?

  27. Gary

    I haven’t done anything. Maybe the original CSS was still cached?

  28. mupwangle

    Me too.

    The only difference I see is that blue line in the blockquote.

  29. Gary

    If the blue line is still visible, you’ve got the old CSS from cache. Refreshing should get rid of the blue line, because that’s not in the edited CSS.

  30. > when you do help > about it reports that it’s IE7.

    As I understand it, those archived standalones miss out a load of stuff to keep the files small and the programmers sane, so they don’t bother with things like overriding IE7’s About info but they do bother with all the rendering, ’cause the rendering is what they’re for. Hopefully.

  31. Jeebus, what a fucking waste of time. And the sad thing is, everyone who’s done anything on the web has been through this and wasted several lifetimes dealing with the crap that is IE.

    Maybe web designers should quote a price for building a web site intended for browsers, and then double it for building a website intended for IE as well. That’s what it often amounts to, in the end.

  32. Gary

    Oh, IE6 is a dirty word in web design circles. Unfortunately you can’t really survive without it – browser share may be down from the 96% peak of a few years ago, but IE6 is still on 80-odd-percent of PCs. Even the fairly techy w3schools site’s reporting 43% IE6 usage.

  33. Gary

    David, TM, is the post IE-friendly now that you’ve refreshed?

  34. tm

    yeah, works fire now. I noticed I have a couple of IE windows in the background with some stuff I was working on last night in the background, so they were probably keeping my cache alive until I forced a refresh.

    The problem with IE 6 is this: Massive installed base with no easy upgrade path. You can’t go to IE7 if you have win 2k and lots of people and companies haven’t done that, because there isn’t really a compelling case until you’re actually changing machines. Vista doesn’t really look like it’s going to change that in the very near furture either.

  35. > … and then double it for building a website intended for IE as well.

    I would say that IE6 approximately triples the amount of time it takes me to build a site.

    > The problem with IE 6 is this: Massive installed base with no easy upgrade path.

    The problem with IE6 is that Microsoft have been well aware of its bugs for years but haven’t bothered fixing it. I don’t mind (much) that it can’t handle some things at all, but I do mind that it handles things incorrectly. I mean, how difficult would it be to fix the box-model bug? It’s a pretty simple little thing: shift one integer from one group to another and change another from negative to positive… it’s just a bit of tinkering. How much time would have been added to IE7’s development by getting the same team to release a quick IE6 update? A day? Three? Not doing it is just plain rude.

  36. Wow, I missed all this…

    Anything you want me to look at?

  37. Gary

    Don’t think so. I think it’s OK now.