Monday, 28 February 2011

I tried, but I couldn't.

I tried to come up with a more ridiculous idea than this. I tried really hard. I've been pacing up and down the living room all evening trying to come up with something even more boneheaded than this suggestion, I've worn a hole in the carpet, I've failed.

I'll just let this, I struggle to think of a term which doesn't go from dim, through absurd, racing through insane before stopping at inspired as it completes the cycle breaking through the divide at the back. I'll just have to use inspired.

I'll just let this inspired idea speak for itself.

[Bob Crow] The General Secretary of the militant Rail, Maritime and Transport union was booed as he outlined his idea for a 1p tax on each email during an appearance on a late night comedy show. 


No. I'm speechless.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Clots, or how the system can work.

I'm waiting for the wailing, but it hasn't started yet. It will do once the Righteous finish their organic, free range, home knitted yoghurt, unhusked bran and pond water smoothies this morning.

Two events this week are proof if proof be need be that there is a new menace on our streets. Surely something must be done?

I give you Exhibit A:

A third teenager has appeared in court in connection with an airgun attack near a school in which 11 youngsters were injured.

The 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged at Ayr Sheriff Court with assault.

He made no plea or declaration and was released on bail.

Two youths have already been charged over the incident in Auchinleck, East Ayrshire, on Wednesday lunchtime.

Five girls and six boys aged between 12 and 16 were struck by pellets in the Church Street area of the town. 

No-one was seriously injured.

And Exhibit B:

SOCCER ace Ashley Cole left a fan "bleeding profusely" after shooting him at Chelsea's training ground, it has been reported. 

The controversial England defender allegedly took a .22 air rifle - the most powerful gun available without a licence in the UK - with him to training last Sunday.

The News of the World reports that Cole was messing around with the weapon in the dressing room when he inadvertently shot Tom Cowan, a sports science student on work placement with Chelsea.

It is high time that these weapons were banned before some other poor innocent bystander is injured in a slightly inconvenient manner which doesn't threaten their lives in the slightest.

I'm being slightly flippant. I'd be really pissed off if some lack-wit arseclown shot me with an air gun, and yes, to wheel out the favourite line of safety types, someone could have lost an eye.

But let's face facts here, the system appears to be working. The clots in Scotland are up before the beak, and because they've not done something really heinous, like dropping some fag ash on the floor, or something trivial like stubbing said cigarette out on a baby, they'll probably get a sentence that fits the crime.

Meanwhile Mr. Cole, a man who is a better clot than he is a left back, and he's a world class left back, probably thought he got away with it, but may find that now that the news of the screws has got hold of it he may face some action after all. The damage this article has done to his reputation is nil, due to the fact that his reputation is already lower than a snake's belly anyway.

What is it about some professional footballers (certainly not all, it is always the same half a dozen names that crop up) that makes them act like a complete arse?

There are differences between these cases, the lads in Scotland acted with malice and should be treated accordingly by the courts. Cashley was just an idiot, I don't think there was any intent, but it is symptomatic of his class. He's famous and rich, so whilst what happened to the young student in question is regrettable it will be just a bit of a joke to him, as the other guy isn't rich and famous and doesn't really count. We've seen time and time again how Cole has little regard for others, especially 'little people', if he's put up before the beak what can we expect? A fine and a victim surcharge which will never get anywhere near the victim and will not even make a dent in his wage packet of £100k per week plus. If I were given free reign, I'd give an order to spend the next 4 months training with his local TA regiment, where he would learn weapons discipline, get some humility and order, and if the evenings when the regiment train happen to clash with evenings when Chelsea play, then tough luck, perhaps the lost income will make you consider your actions in the future. It may also give him an appreciation of proper teamwork and the lot of those who do properly important jobs. His crime is not malice, it is a selfish lack of thought.

Of course that won't happen, but I can dream, can't I?

Nevertheless, the calls for the banning of air guns will probably grow in volume, because it is so much easier to call for the restriction of items than to hold those who misuse them to account for their actions. Once again, the majority will be made to suffer for the idiotic actions of the minority.

*Prize of a juicy bone to the person who points out the gratuitous Chris Morris reference.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Spot the difference.

Lovingly stolen from Old Holborn's gaff.
Can you spot the difference? One is an unelected, unaccountable, grasping opportunist who attracts the enmity of millions, the other is a charismatic and entertaining public speaker with flamboyant taste in camping equipment.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

For the people.

Twitter was alive last night with talk of events down at the council chamber where Lambeth council do their business. There have been a number of demonstrations against the cuts to public spending which are planned by the council and things came to a head last night when, well, I'll let 'uncutter' at Indymedia London take over:

Lambeth town hall in Brixton was taken over and occupied by protestors as the council met to vote through budget cuts of tens of millions of pounds. Hundreds of people gathered outside the town hall (as they'd done previously two weeks ago) and at around 7pm took over the chamber chanting "This is what democracy looks like" and "No ifs, no buts, no public services cuts!", before holding a people's assembly.

After withdrawing the council members met under a police guard to vote through the cuts. The occupation ended at around 9pm as people marched out after 2 hours of discussions and speeches at the 'people's council'.

This sort of thing chills me to the bone. I always get very uneasy when activists and politicians talk about 'the people'. I'm afraid that in a population of 272,000, a group of hundreds does not represent democracy, it does not even represent double figures of the population in terms of percentage. To try and pass it off as democracy is misleading.

I'm not going to get into the whole Keynsian discussion again, but I will state that I do support public spending cuts, because there is so much that goverment is involved in. that it has no business doing. I do not trust the politicians and civil servants to cut where the fat is, though. They will always protect their own empires and pet projects.

A 'people's council' (sic) does not represent the people. It never can, even the most representative, even handed and well regarded assembly cannot represent the people, it can only represent the majority. I am not convinced that a hastily convened peoples' council in Lambeth is representative of the majority. This is a term used to marginalise and stigmatise people. What we saw last night was a trailer of things to come, or things that have happened elsewhere. A group of people, through force and violence, establish themselves and then claim to speak for 'the people' as if the population is one homogenous mass with identical wishes, desires and aspirations.

This is always a mistake made by authoritarian (mainly left-wing) regimes, people are individuals. What you are doing is trying to project your view of what you think the people should be onto that population. You believe that your ideas and policies are right. Well, I think the same of mine, of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't hold them, the same holds true for you. The difference between us, is that I do not seek to impose my vision on others. What happens when people do not share you views, do not want your vision? We've seen it time and time again, Stalin, Hoxha, Pot, Mao, all ruled in the name of 'the people'. How many of them were the wrong sort of people? How many of them were imprisoned, executed and subjected to horrific treatment as a result? Kim Jong-Il rules in the name of the people. I didn't see any election, he was annointed. What do the people think of him? I'm sure his approval rates are through the roof, his population wouldn't dare express anything but satisfaction. What about Gaddafi? Ask him this morning, he'll still tell you he's ruling in the name of the people, it is the enemies of the people who are stirring up trouble, the real people love him. So much do they love him, he would submit, that they are happy that 10,000 lie dead on the streets of Libya. This is what rule in the name of the people looks like.

Let us not kid ourselves here. When you claim you are acting for the people, you are using it as a crutch to prop up your own crumbling credibility. Oh, you know that the majority follow you. You know you have the support of tens of thousands in your borough. You know that everyone is up in arms at the cuts.

Everyone? He asks with eyebrow raised in a questioning fashion.

Well, everyone that counts.

Ah, there we go. No. Not everyone, otherwise in the recent general election your lot would have found themselves with an increased majority. That, no matter how flawed, how un-representative, is the closest we have to democracy in this country. And when people stop counting, that is where the trouble begins.

I'm not suggesting that we're about to see RAF air strikes on the population of Brixton, but unelected, unaccountable people make odd decisions and have, what appears to me, a skewed view of the world. I'll give you an example.

I was watching the first episode of Heston's Mission Impossible on C4 the other night. (The link is to the 4od player) I like Heston, he is imaginative, passionate and practical. His series on the overhaul of the Little Chef menu was very good. In this, the first episode of his new series where he does the same to different sectors of the catering industry, he was working his magic at Alder Hey hospital. No hectoring and lecturing in the style of Jamie Wotsisname here, just getting on with the job.

Notes from a hospital bed is an established critique of the terrible food on offer in our hospitals, so head over there, and you'll see the form guide. Needless to say, the food given to the kids in the hospital was terrible. Without wanting to come over all lisping and mockney, surely, kids in hospital need decent scran to aid their recovery? Yet they were served dross and plates were returned, untouched. Parents, who have paid for this food, without the option to opt-out, in the form of their taxes, were having to bring in grub for their kids. It is a story reproduced throughout the NHS.

In the first portion of the show, Heston went to the kitchens to investigate and was shown a menu, it looked alright, it transpired it was for the staff canteen, public restaurant and (I really couldn't believe this) outside functions. The head of catering stated that 90% of food prepared in the hozzie kitchens was fresh, from scratch. The 10% excluded? Yes, the children. The group that is the hospital's enitre reason for being. Out of a cooking staff of 14, only two were making the childrens' food. 'Welcome to the NHS' was the response from the head of catering.

He would maintain that he is absolutely acting in the best interest of the children. However, there was no communication between the kids and the kitchens.

Gaddafi, Kim and the Lambeth Peoples' Council would maintain that they are absolutely acting in the best interest of the people. However, there is no communication between the people and the government.

Of course, those occupying Lambeth council chamber last night would say they were different, just as every unelected, unaccountable, dictatorial regime that has gone before is different. This time it will be different, this time we're not the same as all the others, we care, we know what is wrong, we know the answers. Every time the end result is the same.

When you invoke the name of the people, you are hiding behind a legend, in the same way that Westboro Baptist Church invoke the name of God when they indulge in their revolting homophobic activities. When the Islamic fundamentalists bomb innocent people, or beat, maim and execute people, they do it whilst hiding behind the shield of an unspeaking God, you would no doubt condemn their actions, yet from where I'm sitting, you don't look so different when you hide behind the shield of a silent supposed majority.

No, you'll get no support from this quarter.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

They are not responsbile for our predicament.

I'm now getting very tired of all this banging on about how banks have caused us to live in penury, it is all their fault, and wouldn't it be best if we just rounded all the bankers up and killed them? It just doesn't wash with me.

The latest one is Barclays. Their UK tax bill has come to £113million, 2.4% of their global profit. I'm assuming that Barclays have a responsibility to pay tax at whatever rate is prescribed in each territory that they operate. It seems strange to me that people are demanding that Barclays hand over more money in the UK, despite the fact that they've probably had to do the same in Australia, Canada, Spain, Mauritania and the Federated States of Micronesia. I have no doubt that Barclays employ a small army of people to minimise their tax burden, but then that's the system. Without wanting to get into a discussion yet again about the old avoidance vs evasion argument, I will simply say that if a person or an organisation finds a legal way to minimise their tax bill, it is naive at best to expect them to voluntarily hand over more.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, of the Treasury Select Committee, who requested the detail, described it as "shocking".

Mr Umunna said revelation showed that the bank was not paying its fair share towards a deficit they had helped create, despite having benefited from the government's rescue of the financial system.

Whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that Barclays has taken not one penny of public money. So, if Barclays have helped create this defecit, then how? Evidence, please, you vacuous, vain little man because I remember your party stood on the sideline cheering them on, how everything was roses, we would have jam today, tomorrow and for every day after that. You incited this behaviour. Now, all of a sudden it is their fault.

Although Barclays was not directly rescued by the UK government - unlike Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland - it has been able to borrow extremely cheaply because of the Bank of England's decision to slash interest rates, and because markets perceived that the government would not allow any big bank to fail.

So Barclays and other banks should pay more because of the Bank of England's independent decision to keep interest rates low? Really? How does that work then? And markets perceived that HMG wouldn't let a big bank fail.

Aye, there's the rub.

You see, the mind boggling amount of our cash that has been poured into the banks has been poured into them by the politicians. It was their decision. They could have stood back and said 'your business, your mess', but they chose not to. They could have pointed out to the shareholders that it is their responsibility to ensure that the business they own is properly run, but they chose not to. They could have allowed the banks to go to the wall, like Woolworths, MFI and Zavvi, but they chose not to. What the politicians have done is the equivalent of a parent going down to the local car dealership and buying a top of the range car to replace the one wrecked by their teenage son, and then blaming the son for the fact that the family is going to be living off beans on toast for the next two years.

Even then, Northern Rock has been doing a pretty decent job of paying back the cash that was poured into it. So, the payout that we were forced to make by our politicians is being returned. It may be that the investment gets returned with a profit. So, where's the issue?

The issue is this, the bail out of the banks is symptomatic of Labour's poor governance. For thirteen years they spent at eyewatering levels. They took our money and wasted billions upon billions of it. It isn't often I'll agree with David Cameron, but when he says that Labour are in defecit denial, he's quite right. But that denial conveniently stops when an 'evil' bank, that has taken none of our money, manages to minimise the amount it hands over.

Why the hell should they hand it over? This idea that extorting money from people, under threat of going to prison, to spend on stuff that we don't want, don't need and can't afford, and then taxing the people that our money is handed to, so they can perform the whole cycle over again will somehow save the economy is rubbish. Every penny that government spends comes from our pockets, and every time it is recycled the amount diminishes, not increases. Every pound that passes through government (local or national) hands is clipped, trimmed and reduced. Government is expensive, inefficient and self-serving. Government can no more stimulate the economy than it can change the direction of the wind. The best thing the government can do to the economy is leave it the hell alone. Government produces nothing, it sells nothing, it leeches.

Government has a disastrous track record in delivery, that being, it doesn't. Never has, never will, on anything. If government delivered on its promises, and those promises were acceptable to the electorate, then elections really would be a futile exercise because there'd never be a change. We'd all be so delighted with our politicians that we'd be crazy to kick them out. The fact that our history shows 'promises-elected-failure- kicked out', time and time again shows that government is utterly incapable of doing anything truly constructive.

They are obsessed with change, normally changing us so we fit in with their ideals. They simply cannot leave us alone. We have to change. It is always us. Never them. They engineer society then realise they need re-electing, they spin, they deceive, they lie, they steal, they make bad legislation, they interfere in things they don't understand, they make things worse. Just because someone won an election doesn't mean they actually know anything. They just had the nicest suits, the best TV adverts, the prettiest posters. That or the failure of their opponents was so complete that they would have won regardless.

People whine and complain that Barclays not handing over more tax than they are obliged to is unfair. No. What is unfair is that our money is taken from us and used to prop up a business (not Barclays) that has been poorly run. What is unfair is that our money is taken from us and spent on roller disco instructors. What is unfair is that our money is taken from us and given to people who do not wish to work. What is unfair is that our money is taken from us and given to an organisation that has not had its accounts signed off for 16 years, an organisation that costs us £323 million a day (according to the TPA's figures).

Turn your attention to the politicians who extort your money, steal it for themselves, waste it on mad schemes and hand it to unaccountable, arrogant bodies. The banks are a smokescreen, and you're swallowing it hook, line and sinker.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Welcome to freedom, now do what we say or else.

Oh dear.

But then what did we expect?

Egypt's ruling military council says it will not tolerate any more strikes which disrupt the country's economy.

Well done, you got the old bastard out, we're in charge now. You do what we say.

State television carried a statement in which the military said strikers would be "confronted".

How? OK, if they congregate in big groups around the place, they make it easy for them. What if they just, you know, stayed at home? What are the army going to do? Kick down tens of thousands of doors and drag people down the office? Even then, you can lead a horse to water. . .

All of a sudden, I'm looking at the army's six month claim in Egypt with a jaundiced eye. Will they surrender power? Undoubtedly, as long as the people look like they're going to elect the guy that the army want in the big chair. If they don't, I can forsee some national emergency, or some accused interference from foreign powers, which would mean that any election would be flawed, unsafe, unfair, best not risked, national security and all that.

Perhaps the people of the middle east are waking up to the fact that they are not owned, they are not serfs or chattels. Perhaps the people of the middle east are starting to realise that freedom comes from within first. That first word is no. You don't have to demonstrate for your freedom, you just quietly take it. No song and dance, no elaborate displays of venom or anger, take the Gandhi route, just sit there and do nothing.

Just as we are seeing in Bahrain and Libya, the King, or the head honcho, can send the army in, but if there's no-one to shoot at, then what are they going to do? To remain in power, a dictator needs money, he needs money to pay his soldiers, his secret and uniformed police, the western governments and companies for the bullets he wants to fire at his population. The only way he can get that money is by taxing. If the population just stay at home, his tax well will dry up quick enough.

'Ahh, but they have huge reserves of gas and oil.' I hear you say. 'The big guy will just take the cash straight out of that.' Yes. But who is going to get it out of the ground? Him? Who will move the western experts to their place of work? Stock their supermarkets? Make sure their air-con is working?

Going out onto the street is a good photo-op, but you know what? The big guy knows you're angry, he just doesn't care. You are his property, it is your job to do what he tells you.

Old Holborn writes about this today. The State is not superior to the population, it is the population. And when those entrusted with, or those who have taken responsibility for the running of the State act against that State's best interests, those being the interests or desires of the population, there can be but one outcome.

No doubt the religious nutters will try to capitalise, but once again as OH points out, 21st century technology, satellite TV and the mobile phone have made millions in the middle east aware that there are alternative civilisations on the planet, where the leaders are not the mightiest tribe, the elders, the most armed. I think they'll find the ground isn't very fertile. The old Eastern Bloc Europeans may have been quick to swap one crushing authoritarian regime for another, but I don't think the Arabs will be so keen to make the same mistake, they've seen what's happened in the EU, in Palestine, how things have gone since the hated Shah was kicked out in Iran.

The lands of Islam used to be the centre of learning, science, art, music, mathematics, astronomy and commerce. They are due a renaissance.

How long is it before we look at the middle east with envy, rather than despair and fear? In the race for freedom they have exploded out of the blocks, whilst we are still in the locker room, fretting over the colour and make of spikes we should be wearing.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The bread is stale and the circus is crap.

The coverage of events in Bahrain by the BBC and Sky is peppered with an almost tangible sense of incredulity and stats to back this sense up.

According to the CIA world factbook, none of the population are below the poverty line, it is, according to Sky the most liberal regime in the gulf. The population have nice houses, access to the internet, schools, healthcare, jobs and a shiny new F1 race track.

Life in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya is not pleasant, so it is entirely understandable that the populations have risen, are rising, or look like they will rise, up against the regimes there. But Bahrain? Why?

Sky have been at pains to point out all day that the majority of the 1.2 million population are Shi'ite, yet the ruling royal family are Sunni. That must be it. It's the middle east, it must all be down to religion, it always is there, it'll be some nutjob with a turban and a raggedy arsed beard shouting a lot.

Well, no.

Despite everything the Bahrainis have, there's one thing they're missing. Freedom. The same thing that is missing all over north Africa and the Gulf. The rest is just dressing, when you have no power, no say over your life, no chance to influence or change your society, then all the nice air conditioned houses and imported German cars don't matter. Sure, they'll delay the inevitable, but it is inevitable. There comes a point when the population will take no more, they will hit back.

How to deal with it?

Well, in Tunisia the authorities thought about it for a while then decided it wasn't worth the effort. In Egypt the army made it perfectly clear whose side they were on and did a good job of doing nothing whilst saying 'don't make me come down there.' In both countries it remains to be seen if the population will get what they want.

In Bahrain the authorities (that is the King, the only authority) have made it perfectly clear that the population can go take a running jump. Shooting at people who are angry only makes them angrier. Shooting at people where the group constitutes women and children will make people absolutely furious. It all depends on which comes first, is it the angry mob saying 'sod this, I'm tired of being shot at', or is it the troops who suddenly realise the people stood in front of them are their mate, brother, sister, father, mother, niece, nephew, grandmother, grandfather and suddenly decide they don't fancy shooting any more, at least not in the direction they've been told to. In a small country like Bahrain, I'm betting the latter comes first. I've always thought the best way to disarm an army in a civil dispute is to march a line of old women up to the troops carrying placards that say 'I'm your Grandmother and I want you to stop this nonsense right now.'

What will be interesting will be the American's response to this. They have a large amount of floating hardware anchored off the coast, they've certainly sold the arms to Bahrain that are now being trained on the population, they (and we) get oil from Bahrain. The King is a good mate to Uncle Sam, but how far will that friendship stretch? When will the concerned noises turn into 'Oh, come on now.' What happens when/if the American public realises that their weapons are fired at people who live under an effective absolute monarchy? What happens if the flow of oil is disrupted? Will America look at the King with such fondness then, especially as the regime seems to go against everything the American constitution stands for? The only difference between Bahrain and Iran is that Bahrain wouldn't drop a shed load of missiles on America given half the chance. It's a big difference, but can a President with a certain public facade to keep up be seen to be supporting the total extermination of free speech, freedom of assembly and shooting of innocent citizens in the street?

Yes, they may have the nice TV, the big sporting events, a comfy bed in a nice house, but all the time you have no say, no freedom, it isn't worth anything. The EU would do well to look at Bahrain over the next few days and take note. It could happen here, very easily, one of our cousins in this brave new world have recent experience and people have longer memories than dictators think.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Too Soon?

Having already booked my spot in hell, this is most likely just to upgrade me to the superior room when I turn up, but I can't read this story:

An investigation has been launched after two horses died in the paddock at Newbury amid fears they were electrocuted by underground cabling.

Without thinking of this:

Now that's what I call freedom.

It all started so well, didn't it? They day the coagulation took over we were told HIPS were gone, the ID cards were a thing of the past (incidentally, the cards ceased to be a legal document last month, and the associated database was destroyed this week) and then. . . well, it all went a little quiet, didn't it?

But boy, have they come back with a bang? CRB checks on people who work with, volunteer with, look at, know someone who has, or accidentally stumbles over TV programming aimed at children have been relaxed. I think the penny has dropped somewhere that it'll only show you to be a nonce, if you've been convicted of being a nonce.

However, in a week when we've seen the overthrow of a dictator in Egypt, and the mother of parliaments sitting down in a session where almost three hundred of our representatives discussed the primacy of a sovereign parliament over that of an unelected, non-legislative body and cried 'how did we come to be here?', (I'll give you a clue, you grinned like clueless morons whilst you handed it over without so much as a second thought), we have seen perhaps the most groundshaking development in liberties this country has seen for a long, long time.

Hold on to your hats, guys and girls:

Night time weddings will be able to take place in future under plans outlined by the government.

Brilliant! Because I had been worried about the intrusion of CCTV into all of our lives, the installation of ANPR cameras on the main roads in and out of most towns in the UK, the retention of DNA by a paranoid and controlling state, but all that has been swept away, because now, when I go and ask the State's permission, in the form of a licence, to place my relationship on a register, so they can keep a record of who I am sleeping with, just in case the union is blessed, so they don't miss out on the tax eighteen years later, I can now have that relationship registered, at a time that is convenient to me! Break out the bunting!

The changes allowing marriages to take place 24 hours a day in England and Wales are part of the Protection Of Freedoms Bill. They will also apply to civil partnerships.

Even the gayers are included! There's going to be a hell of a party down my way.

However, there will be no prospect of spur of the moment marriages at Las Vegas-style chapels where in the past some couples have wed after a night of heavy drinking - at least 15 days advance notice will still be required.

Yes, you still need to give the state a fortnight to get its shit together, because like all good nannies, it has to be allowed to tell you to go away and think about it for a good while. You could have been together for fifteen years, but you still can't just turn up and do it. That would be unthinkable. Plus you still can't get married outside. Well, you can, but you have to be undercover when the vows are made because . . . errrm, well, you see. . . look, you just have to, OK? It's your wedding, and thus nothing to do with you at all, you can only do it in a style which we find acceptable, OK?

The Church of England says a relaxation in the times of church weddings would require a change to Canon Law from the General Synod, which meets twice a year. And the Catholic Church has reportedly said it would not conduct late night ceremonies.

The private sky pixie clubs will still be telling you what you should be doing though.

This is freedom?

Good grief.

How management works.

A woman in a hot air balloon realised she was lost. She reduced altitude and spotted a man below. She descended a bit more and shouted: 'Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago but I don't know where I am.'

The man below replied, 'You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.'

'You must be an Engineer,' said the balloonist.

'I am,' replied the man, 'how did you know?'

'Well,' answered the balloonist, 'everything you have told me is probably technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information and the fact is, I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip by your talk.'

The man below responded, 'You must be in Management.'

'I am,' replied the balloonist, 'but how did you know?'

'Well,' said the man, 'you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fucking fault.'

An oldie, but a goodie.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Pay up! Pay up! And pay up again!

Just image the scene. It is Sunday morning and from your bed you hear the letterbox opening and then the floor cracking as the behemoth of a Sunday paper hits the ground and shakes the house to its very foundations. You take the publication upstairs and prepare to immerse yourself in the six colour magazines and countless niche supplements, or, if you're anything like Mrs. Snowolf, to half complete the crossword and sit the whole pile of papers on the shelf of the coffee table where in contravention of pretty much every physical law it will increase in mass and surface area for the next seven days.

I deviate. As you are about to sit down and enjoy your paper, the doorbell goes. It is the little scamp of a paperboy who has delivered the paper to you this morning (but not before 7am, see below), he is now explaining that the £1.20, £2.00, £2.50 or whatever you've paid is just for the delivery. As you have now chosen to read said paper, you have to pay again.

What would you do? Well, one of the first things you'd probably do would be to change your newspaper supplier.

But what if you couldn't change? What if you HAD to buy your newspaper from this shop? What would you do then? Oh, you'd be free to purchase another paper from another outlet, but that wouldn't absolve you of your obligation to buy your newspaper from this shop.

It would be an intolerable situation.

Yet. . .

My attention has been drawn to this old chestnut which is being wheeled out for the umpteenth time today:

Drunk people should pay for the treatment they receive at accident and emergency units, a patients' group has said.

But they already HAVE paid for the treatment. There is no such thing as free healthcare, these people are obliged to pay for the service. You want to charge them again?

'Ah, but Wolfers, these people are drunk', I hear you say.

Right then, define drunk.

What the patients' group wants to conjure up in your mind is an image of young men, Ben Sherman shirts, black slip on shoes, shaven headed or heavily gelled hair, brawling in the gutter. Let's just suppose you've been out for the evening with your friends to a nice restaurant. You're on foot, miss your step and break your ankle. You've had too much to drink to drive legally, but you're not drunk as you would see it. Are you drunk then? Whose definition of 'drunk' is important? What is the test? Incoherence? Evidential breath test? Blood test? Opinion of the triage nurse?

The Scotland Patients Association said nurses and doctors were often abused by those who had overindulged in alcohol, particularly at weekends.

So, prosecute them for common assault then. If they break that little bit of law, which has served us well for, oooh, about a thousand years, then prosecute them. Give the magistrate the power to hand out a proper sentence, it doesn't have to be custodial, but it does have to teach that abusing those who are trying to help you is the act of a clot, and this is what happens to clots.

They said the time had now come for such people to pay for services.

They HAVE!

Ms Watt said: "Anyone who has been abusing alcohol and can't stand on their feet and is admitted to hospital at the weekend should pay towards their treatment.

They HAVE!

Ms Watt said drunk people should be charged for using ambulances and for the time of staff who treated them.

Oh for crying out loud, HELLO? HELLO? THEY ALREADY HAVE PAID.

Hang on. . .

can't stand on their feet and is admitted to hospital at the weekend 

At the weekend? Of course, the hardened drinker will out necking it every night, do they not end up in the hospital during the week, or are they members of some loyalty card club?

If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth, it doesn't matter if it is based in fact or not. The fact seems to have been forgotten that we all pay for the NHS, it is not, and never has been free.

By perpetuating the myth that it is run on fairy dust and sunny mornings it makes it easy to demonise people, and drinkers and smokers and the fat are easy prey. What next? A pursed mouth saying 'Well, you chose to grow old'? An NHS that will offer treatment as long as you promise to never be ill?

Because people are told that the NHS is free they feel as if their health becomes the property of the state, or other 'well meaning' people (read: 'bloody nosy interfering busybodies'). It results in rubbish like this:

The move was introduced for players at the Blue Square Bet Premier club a few weeks ago but now the policy has been extended to the whole stadium.

What? Eh? Why? How? *Boggle*

The Gloucestershire club is owned by Dale Vince who is a vegan who runs green electricity company Ecotricity.

Oh, right. There's an old joke in catering about how do you know when a vegan enters your restaurant? Don't worry, he'll let everyone know, very loudly, every five minutes. It's a joke I like because it plays on the level of having a little crack at the self importance of the Righteous, whilst also working on the level of a fart gag.

Free-range poultry and fish from sustainable stocks will continue to be served.

Great, the Devizies Tree Hugging Display Team will also be giving a half time demonstration.

"We appreciate some will miss their burgers and sausages, but our catering staff are working hard on a range of tasty and interesting products to replace those that are no longer available.

Oh, joy. Thank you very much, Dale.

"We're a country now where apparently chicken tikka masala is the most popular national dish. I think the old sausage bap won't be much lamented."

I think you're about to learn a valuable lesson about market demand. Oh, there are those who will follow the club whoever is running it, this is how football survives, but you WILL lose supporters over this, and you will certainly lose revenue in the tea bar, revenue which no doubt helps bankroll the playing staff.

"Anybody that really needs it can bring a ham sandwich or something if they wish - that's no problem."

Can they? That's bloody good of you, old chap. No pat downs at the turnstiles for meat and dairy produce then? Does this mean you won't be coming around to inspect the contents of my fridge with a disapproving look on your puss?

Forest Green Rovers, enjoy the mocking from opposition fans. You deserve it.

Jeez, what is wrong with these people that they think they have the right to decide what your money is spent on, what access you are permitted to have to services the money you provided paid for and what you should and shouldn't be eating? 

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Bloody kids.

What has happened to the children in our country? Why do they hold the laws of the land in such scant regard?

Take a look at this little blighter:

A criminal. Thankfully, he appears to have been given the sack already.

Sam starts work at 6.45am every day, but because he’s only 15 legally he cannot begin work until 7am – and if he does that, he could miss the start of school.

He'll have to give up work then, won't he? If he misses the start of the school day, his parents must be prosecuted. Of course, if he misbehaves at school, disrupts lessons, bullies smaller children and intimidates female members of staff, that's fine, it's his human right to express himself.

He won a national award last year for looking after a terminally ill pensioner.
He should be forced to give the award back, and the terminally ill pensioner must be prosecuted for incitement to employ a child before 7 am. Did the terminally ill pensioner undergo a CRB check? I doubt it. This is a scandalous exploitation of child labour.
Thankfully, a public spirited civillian contacted the local council and tipped them off about this. This stout yeoman of our green and pleasant land should be held up as a public hero, stopping the abuse and exploitation of children is a sacred duty for all of us. Perhaps he or she should be given the award handed out to the criminal little mite in recompense?

Now he could be forced to ditch his round after CEO [Child Employment Office] officials threatened the shop owner that employs Sam.

Vicky Onions, from Vicky’s Convenience Store, could be taken to court if she continues to employ the 15-year-old.

Well now, hang on. Why are we just going for the employer here? Certainly she's had a major part in facilitating the offence here, but then there's the people who paid her for the service, they should all be fined. There's the parents who have aided and abetted their progeny being used in the manner of a child being sent up the chimney. There's the lad's friends and their parents, are we to believe they weren't aware of this flagrant breach of the law? They are all accessories in my eyes. Then there's the boy himself. He has wilfully broken the law here, he has drawn in people to have contact with him, in direct contravention of child safety protocol, he has endangered his chances of getting a drone certificate from his local school, and has knowingly put himself in an environment where he is likely to be snatched from the street by a paedophile, exposed to non-approved literature and to see products containing tobacco, alcohol and high levels of sugar and salt.

Look people, it is perfectly simple, if we have children, their parents and local employers talking and making decisions without the benefit of the State's Solomon like wisdom, where will it all end? They should all be fined and imprisoned before this sort of thing gets out of hand.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Duplicity? No. A bloody lie.

Guido has very kindly coralled all the relevants cuttings over at his gaff, so there's little for me to do but to add my own comments.

August 2009:

“Gordon Brown today broke his silence on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, saying that the UK government had done no deal with Libya and that he was “angry and repulsed” at the scenes of jubilation in Tripoli.”

September 2009 (Gordon Brown): 

“On our part, there was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double-dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to (Libyan leader) Colonel (Muammar) Gaddafi. We were absolutely clear throughout with the Libyans and everyone else that this was a decision for the Scottish government.”

“The former Labour Government did “all it could” to help Libya secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Britain’s most senior civil servant is to admit today”

“Policy was, therefore, progressively developed that Her Majesty’s Government should do all it could, while respecting devolved competencies, to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish government for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s release under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) or for release on compassionate grounds. Such an approach was understood across all relevant departments.”
There are serious doubts in my mind as to whether al-Megrahi was the perp here. The public were demanding that someone be locked up for it, it was perhaps politically convenient to both the UK and Libyan governments at the time that al-Megrahi should be that man.

But, for the Prime Minister to wilfully mislead the country and the House is unforgivable. Yes, we all know that politicians lie, but there are lies and there are lies. Bugger an inquest, let's just go straight to the prosecutions, shall we?

I'm no lover of the coalition shouting match we have at the moment, but it will be a long, long time until we see a government as deceitful, arrogant, hubristic and contemptible as the one that was thrown out last year. I hope it is equally as long until anyone from the Labour party gets their hands on the lever of power again, and I wish that the last Labour government is just that, the last one.   

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Leave it to the governing bodies.

For what it is worth, I think the ICC got it spot on with the suspensions handed down to the three Pakistani cricketers who indulged in a bit of spot fixing during their tour of England over the summer. Had the three (and the agent) been involved in fixing the outcome of the match, then I would have expected to see life bans handed down.

It is very easy to criticise the governing bodies of sport, it is also usually justified. The governing body of cycling, the UCI, have been pretty ineffective in tackling the performance enhancing drug abuse which seems to be running rampant through the sport. Alberto Contador, who won le Tour last year, is the latest high profile case to fall foul of the doping regulations, with the usual claims of accidental contamination. Another big name from the sport, Floyd Landis, who has held his hands up to the offence has also implicated the absolute biggest name in the history of the sport, Lance Armstrong in the same.

I'm not about to defame Contador here, it may be that his protestations of innocence are credible, certainly from the amounts declared it would appear that if you want to be a top class athlete you also need to be a food scientist.

The football world in the UK is scratching its head at the fine of £25,000 imposed on Blackpool for fielding a 'weakened' team in a match against Aston Villa in the Premier League in November. Blackpool's entertaining manager, Ian Holloway, said at the time that if the club were fined for making ten changes to their team, then he'd resign. The situation is a farce. At the start of the season, each Premier League club is instructed to submit a squad of 25 players for registration in the competition (excluding players under the age of 21, who can be, but do not have to be registered). One would have thought that having submitted that squad, each manager is then free to pick whichever 11 players he sees fit. So Holloway has registered his squad, picked his eleven, all from the registered squad and has seen his club fined by some administrators who obviously think that they are more qualified to pick his team than he is. The irony is that the 'big' clubs, the Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas of the league will regularly make large changes to teams in the games immediately before Champions League fixtures, when facing smaller opposition in the FA cup and will stick out a team comprised completely of reserve, youth team and very occasional first team players in the League Cup. Has the FA ever fined them? No. They wouldn't dare.

It is an unfortunate truth that the ICC have marked themselves out as being the exception rather than the rule. In most other sports, the governing bodies quake at the thought of rapping the big clubs and names over the knuckles, and as a result sanctions that they hand out are uneven and inconsistent. By handing out 5 year bans to Butt and Asif, the ICC have shown no such fear in the face of two of the most established stars in the game.

But there's a problem, sport is popular, so the authorities can't help getting involved in it. Just because it is popular, they make the mistake of thinking it is important. So we see stories like this:

The Football Association say there is "no justification'' for direct Government intervention into the governance of the game and have warned their organisation could face FIFA sanctions if politicians overstepped the mark.

The comments, made in written evidence from the FA to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into football governance, follow comments from sports minister Hugh Robertson, who described football as the "worst governed'' sport in Britain.

Which is kind of like Charlie Kennedy berating the pub industry for taking one or two too many drinks. There simply is no justification for politicians to get involved here, and given the track records of politicians any intervention from them would increase costs, expand red tape and ensure the sport is even worse governed. It is what politicians do.

It is also the CPS getting involved as well.

Prosecutors in Britain announced on Friday that batsman Butt and seamers Amir and Asif would face criminal charges over their part in last year's alleged spot-fixing scandal, specifically over their actions in the fourth Test at Lord's.

Why? No-one has been injured here. The result of the match was unaffected and the noises about spot fixing in the game in the sub-continent have been running for so long that any punter who stuck a few quid on anything beyond the final result is a fool or in on it. Likewise the bookies who took such a bet need to take a look at themselves for being so credulous.

The three Pakistani cricketers are in Pakistan, a country we have no extradition treaty with, so any attempt to get them back to the UK if they don't surrender themselves would be very expensive and probably fruitless, that, coupled with the expense of trial and imprisonment, means that surely a prosecution just isn't in the public interest.

The ICC have shown that governing bodies are perfectly capable of administering their own kingdoms without 'help' from the politicians or apparatus of state. The politicians would do well to realise this and back off. We need to cut back areas of life where they are involved, not to increase them. 

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Food for thought.

This woman is 51.

Gillian McKeith used to claim to be a doctor, until she was told to stop it. She promotes herself as a 'nutritionalist'. TV has bought into this in the UK and across the Atlantic. She has had TV shows where she advocates a 'holistic' approach to nutrition and ill health, promoting exercise, a pescetarian diet high in organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets colonic irrigation and supplements, also making statements that yeast is harmful, that the colour of food is nutritionally significant, and about the utility of lingual and faecal examination. She is a brow-beating, shreiking, foot-stamping, Righteous, harridan.

I'm betting she eats alone, in silence, probably indulging in a spot of scouring at the same time.

This woman is 50.

Nigella Lawson is a TV cook. Her entire output would have McKeith going purple with rage. She eats nothing but meat, butter and deserts. Half-fat is a mystery to her. No meal is complete without accompanying alcohol. She is one of the most popular figures in the UK. Admired by women for showing that real women exist and loved by men because, well, look at her.

I'm betting she eats with friends and family, surrounded by contented chatter and laughter. Except when she's tucking into the leftover chocolate mousse just before going to bed.

These two pictures demonstrate what the Righteous, the people that would have you smoke-free, drink-free, fat-free, friend-free, choice-free, freedom-free actually look like, and what they want you to look like. It also shows how those who want everyone to spend the time we have on this Earth actually living and loving, rather than surviving and cowering in fear, look.

Which would you rather be?

The bell is a message for me, not for you.

I quite enjoyed school, mainly because I derive a great deal of enjoyment from learning stuff. It makes me smile. Even as an adult, being shown things I had no comprehension of and being shown how to do or use it can still induce a fit of excited giggles. I really like learning stuff.

But, you may also be surprised to know that I could be a right pain in the arse at school as well. I have a habit of asking inconvenient questions like 'why do you say that?', 'why is it not done this way?', what difference does it make if I wear a tie or not, will it have any influence over the speed or depth of my learning?' I was annoyed by stupid rules which made no sense, or imposed inconveniences which seem to benefit nobody. When I was in the 5th year (is that year ten in new money?) I grew a beard, a beard you could lose a badger in. It didn't say I couldn't in the rules, so I did it, it annoyed quite a few people.

When in the sixth form I went to visit some family friends in Washington state during term time. The head of sixth form tried to carpet me for going out of school in term time without permission. I pointed out that I was in the sixth form because I chose to be, not because the law required me to be in education so where was the beef?

I turned 18 in the sixth form, and was subject to an attempted bollocking for pissing off home at lunchtime once a week because I had no lessons in the afternoon (this was a school, not a college), I pointed out that had I been in a college it wouldn't have been an issue. It was, I was told, for my own protection, that the school had a duty of care for my welfare. Which expired when I ceased to be 17, I explained.

I was an intransigent, obstinate, yet polite, annoyance. I think they were quite pleased when I pissed off to university. I steadfastly refused to do what I was told unless I could be provided with a reasonable explanation as to why certain rules were in place. 'Just because', or 'Because we say so' was never going to cut the ice.

Even now when I read stories like this about the imposition of ridiculous rules in schools it makes me bristle:

Dozens of pupils were sent home from a city secondary school this week - for wearing the wrong kind of shoes.

Around 100 pupils at Cardinal Newman Catholic School were sent home on Monday with a letter for parents explaining boots, trainers and pumps were banned.

Disgruntled parents claimed as many as 400 pupils had fallen foul of the footwear crackdown, but the school insisted the figure was nearer 100.

Why? What bloody difference does it make what sort of footwear someone wears?

I've heard the arguments over uniform for years, and I've never been convinced about them. There's the preparation argument; wearing an acceptable mode of clothing will give the child an understanding of what will be expected when they enter the world of work. And yet, the shcools will send kids out who are functionally illiterate and innumerate. How is that useful perparation? They can tell you when Eid is, quote chapter and verse on global warming, or tell you what it was like to be an Aboriginal child in the horror of the stolen generations, but they can't write a letter, construct an argument or balance a cheque book. But hey, they'll be able to pick out a nice pair of shoes (imitation leather, to avoid offence to others, naturally).

Then there's the argument about fairness and bullying; if you don't have a uniform then the poorer kids will be subjected to bullying because they don't have the latest or coolest kit. Well, bollocks. Firstly, there may well be kids who can afford it, but just couldn't care about the shallow materialism. Secondly, and this is a point illustrating an awful lot about what is wrong with this country today, how about actually dealing with the problem of bullying? Merely removing one focal point of bullying will just move the gaze of the bullies from one subject to another or one item to another. Any headteacher who tells you bullying isn't a problem in their school is either a fool or a liar. Don't remove the opportunity to bully, remove the bully him or herself. Teach a worthwhile lesson. That lesson is not 'Conform!', that lesson is 'your actions have consequences, you acted in such a fashion, here is the consequence'. Schools all over Europe and north America seem to survive quite happily without a uniform policy, why should the UK be any different?

My mind goes back to my term-time trip to Seattle. I was given the impression that those lessons were gone, irreplacable. I'd taken the trouble to speak to the teachers beforehand, to see what I would be missing out on and how to catch up. I think one of the problems was that I'd done it off my own back, rather than asking for permission and having some plan drawn up for me. Going away in term time, to see a foreign country, and to spend a good deal of time kicking around on the University of Washington campus with the daughter of the family friend who studied there was an education in itself, but I was made to feel it was an act of heresy. And yet, schools will send kids home, missing these vital, never to be repeated lessons, because they're wearing the wrong shoes? Really? I'm calling bullshit, it means either the lessons aren't all that important, or the school feels its arbitrary rules are more important than the education the teachers are paid to dish out. Which is it?

Not only is it dress code which gets educationalists juices flowing, there are other ways to get the authoritarian beating stick out, another method of teaching the kids that the most important lesson they can learn is to simply do as they are told, all throughout their lives.

New search powers being given to schools over mobile phones are more suitable for terror inquiries, human rights pressure group Liberty says.

England's head teachers will be allowed to search for phones without consent in a bid to combat cyber-bullying.

The Education Bill, to be debated in the Commons next week, also allows heads to delete data from the phones.

The government says heads asked for the powers and will be expected to use them sensibly.

What. The. Hell?
Search without consent? Just wait for the kiddie fiddling claims.

Delete data from the phones? Uh-uh. Not even the police can do that. If my kid is being cyber-bullied, I want the data retained, because I'm going after the little shit.

Heads asked for the powers? Did they know? Is there anything else they asked for? Will you give that to them? In my experience headteachers are used to being kings of their castles, I used to have regular contact with teachers, outside of schools but on school business, and they love to stamp their feet and make demands of everyone, expecting to be obeyed by all. They quite upset when it doesn't happen, and are not used to hearing the word no, not unlike many of their charges, really. Will they use the powers sensibly? Some won't. Once again, go after the bullies, not the tools of the bully.

I don't like this. The problem with giving people authoritarian tools of control is that they will use them. And then seek to expand them.

Finally, when we do get someone who absolutely tries to do the best for the kids, she gets pilloried, insulted, smeared and sacked. Anna Raccoon has the latest quest she is on. Please do pop over and read about it.