Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Pick Of The Movies For 2009

Well, it seems to be the done thing to look ahead to the New Year for fashion, films, food fads, and the like, so here’s my pick of movies I will probably go see on the big screen rather than wait for them to come out on DVD, and my suggestions of ones to avoid like the plague.

Trends seem to be pretty much the same as last year, to be honest. Remakes and sequels abound, with some rather odd choices:

Miss: ‘Nine’ - a sequel to Fellini’s ‘8 ½’ – redone as a musical..? Oh, dear. A poor attempt to capitalise on the success of ‘Mamma Mia’..?

Miss: ‘Fast and Furious’ – reuniting Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Just what the film world was crying out for. Should have stopped at the first one, guys...

Hit: ‘The Wolf Man’ – stars Benicio Del Toro (which won’t please the Devil) but promises to be more than just an upgraded special effects fest.

Then there’s the ‘prequels’:

Hit: ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ – I’m really no fan of Hugh Jackman in the title role, but Liev Shreiber as Victor Creed? Oooh, imaginative casting and he always promises to be watchable.

Hit: ‘Angels and Demons’ – reuniting Tom Hanks with a Dan Brown novel, should prove interesting at least, though might not have the recognition factor of ‘Da Vinci Code’.

Miss: ’Star Trek’ – I know J J Abrams is the ‘man of the moment’, and the casting looks intriguing, but the trailer doesn’t seem to capture the characters very well...

There are some intriguing new films out that don’t seem to be direct retreads though:

Hit: ‘Knowing’ – supernatural thriller about predictions, starring Nic Cage. The trailers are pretty good and it’s an intriguing story. Nic Cage is another one who is always watchable, even in stinkers like ‘Ghost Rider’.

Hit: ‘2012’ - a Roland Emmerich ‘end of the world’ blockbuster which starts with the end of the world from an as-yet-unspecified ‘global cataclysm’ and goes on from there? Say no more. It better not turn out to be the 2009 version of ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ though.

Anyone got any other recommendations?

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

”We Value Your Feedback...” long as it’s in agreement with us:
When residents were asked to provide feedback on council plans to build traveller camps on their doorstep they dutifully responded.

More than 3,000 homeowners filled in forms outlining their views, many raising concerns over a possible increase in noise, traffic, rubbish and a detrimental effect on property prices.
So, what did the council do?

Ignored the ones they deemed ‘racist’. And then had the nerve to write back to the people who pay for their comfortable jobs and pensions to tell them so:
Weeks after asking for residents' views earlier this year, the council posted an article on its website entitled 'Racist Comments Not Welcome'.

It claimed the council's 'duty of community leadership' meant it had to crack down on the use of racial stereotypes, and revealed that while 400 responses would be considered, 3,100 were in some way racist and would be rejected.

The council even sent letters to objectors telling them their views had been deemed offensive and would not be taken account of.
Could there be a clearer example of just what these people think of the sheep they depend on for their livelihood?
The district council's attitude has been criticised by local campaigners, politicians and civil liberties groups.

Tory communities spokesman Eric Pickles said yesterday: 'I hope that they write a letter of apology to everyone they have accused of being racist. Otherwise, people simply aren't going to feel able to object to these camps without the fear of being branded racist.'
I don’t want them to ‘write back with an apology’. That’ll just cost more money. Instead, Pickles should be calling for the immediate sacking of the person in charge of the exercise. That’ll save money...

As usual, the council refuses to accept it might be in the wrong here:
When contacted by the Daily Mail, a spokesman for Mid-Bedfordshire council admitted that it had been 'somewhat overzealous'.

He said: 'We were worried that many of the letters contained racist slurs and objectionable comments that we felt could not be published under current race relations legislation.

'We had no intention of offending those who took the time to respond to the consultation and certainly were not trying to label residents as racist.’
‘It wasn’t our fault! It was the legislation!’. What a pathetic excuse...

Pick On The Unsympathetic Targets....

...then move on to everyone else:
Former prisoners who have served their sentences and been released could be tracked down and forced to give DNA samples to the police.

Government plans to be published in the New Year could also see the police entering jails to take samples from serving prisoners who are not on the National DNA Database.
Because who’s going to complain?

Me, for a start:
The Home Office is preparing to publish a White Paper proposing major changes to the collection and retention of genetic material from people arrested, charged or convicted.

Following a legal victory for civil rights campaigners, the review is likely to lead to time limits on how long profiles of those that have been arrested but not convicted may be held.
Why a time limit? Innocent is innocent – as soon as charges are dropped, the DNA should be dropped too.
Yet people convicted of serious crimes years or even decades ago could face a new move to put them on the database. Murderers and rapists released after serving their sentences could be visited by the police for samples.
Read that again – ‘after serving their sentences’. They are free men and women and have paid their debt to society. To harass them for DNA after release is unconscionable.

But this is, of course, merely the thin end of the wedge....


Not that he doesn’t richly deserve punishment, but there’s something odd here:
A teenager is due to appear in court over the murder of a mother of three who died when a glass bottle was thrown into a crowded pub.

Neil McNulty, 19, is accused of killing Emma O'Kane, 27, who died in a "million-to-one tragedy" while celebrating the birthday of her fiance, Michael Shepherd.
It's difficult to see how his actions justify a charge of murder:
McNulty, of Peel Lane, Heywood, is due to appear before Rochdale Magistrates' Court.

He is suspected of hurling the bottle after being refused entry to the Queen Anne Hotel in Heywood, Greater Manchester, shortly before 2am on Saturday.

The bottle shattered against a pillar and a shard of glass stuck in Ms O'Kane's neck, cutting her throat, according to a witness.
Manslaughter, certainly. But murder....?

Even the police admit it can’t possibly have been his intent to kill:
"This was a million to one tragedy", a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said.

"For a bottle to be thrown into the pub, to shatter against a pillar and for a shard of glass to fall from a height capable of causing a fatal injury is extremely rare, you couldn't recreate it."
So what are the CPS playing at....?

Monday, 29 December 2008

Different Standards....

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London, Mr Miliband renewed Britain's calls for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate halting of violence on both sides.

As Israel masses troops on its border with Gaza, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken by telephone to his counterpart in Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, urging the Israelis to fulfil their humanitarian obligations.
Anyone remember Milibland and Broon getting worked up about the Hamas rocket attacks the Israelis have been enduring the last few weeks...?

Nope, me neither...

Adrian Mole - The Updated Edition...

Over in the ‘Times’, poor Daisy Goodwin laments her role as mother to a teenage zealot:
I wonder how many parents of idealistic children shuddered over their mince pies when they heard the story of 20-year-old Gerrah Selby, the attractive middle-class girl who fell in with Greg Avery, evangelical leader of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
Not many, I suspect. At least, not those that had brought up children the correct way, i.e not spoiling them, bribing them to behave, fawning over them and treating them as little adults.

I can see why Daisy is concerned though:
Selby is now awaiting sentence for blackmail and, whatever you think of the ALF and its methods, it seems a terrible waste of a life that had just begun. Her mother has said that she was always against her daughter joining the ALF, “because life had so much more to offer”.
Not because they were a gang of ragbag criminals then? Nice family...

But back to Daisy’s offspring, and the reason for this paean:
... I have a 17-year-old daughter who has been a vegan since the age of 12 in a family of carnivores, a child who likes to turn the water off to save the planet while you are brushing your teeth. Her idea of a good Saturday afternoon is not browsing the rails of Top-shop but protesting against the building of Siena airport.

She thinks my generation has been incredibly selfish in the way it has squandered the world’s resources: “The polar bears are dying, Mum, and it’s all your fault.” For Christmas she asked for notebooks made from recycled rubber tyres and membership of the Green party.
She’d have been lucky to get anything if she’d tried that one on my mother...!
She won’t learn to drive because she thinks cars are wrong and she would rather stuff her shopping into her pants than accept a convenient plastic bag. She spends half an hour every night turning off all the appliances at the socket.

She would rather starve than eat at McDonald’s and while she doesn't believe in God she knows that Jeremy Clarkson is the devil incarnate.
Daisy, sweetie, have you considered, ummm, ensuring that she realises she isn’t the centre of the family, nay, the universe?

Not that I’m saying you may have made a rod for your own back (raising irate adolescents ) here, but still....
None of this is particularly easy to live with; it’s no fun having your carbon footprint ruthlessly dissected by a girl who doesn’t understand the word compromise. And yet I have to admire her unflinching stance: I can’t help feeling that this kind of passionate, unswerving, pigheaded commitment is what teenagers are for.
Ahhhh, bless...! The little madam sounds like she needs a lesson in economic reality to me.
So I’m rather hoping my teen rebel with a cause will get past the point where she is easy fodder for charlatans such as Avery and will arrive safely in the more prosaic world of letters to The Times, Radio 5 Live phone-ins and Facebook groups.
Of course she will. When she grows up.

And when she does, she’ll be able to Google Mum’s little piece here. Won’t that be fun...?
As a child of the 1980s I protested fairly feebly against racism and the poll tax and for Nelson Mandela’s release and the miners. And today we live in an officially multi-cultural society with a black American president-elect, local taxes based on property owned and Mandela is the official Global National Treasure. I am sure that when my daughter has her own two-up two-down slice of negative equity, we will be driving solar-powered cars, sending meat eaters outside to scoff their carcinogenic sausage rolls under the wind-powered patio heaters, protesting against the culling of the rampant polar bear population and regarding clips of Top Gear with the horrified awe that we now reserve for the smoking advertisements of the 1940s that said things such as: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette”.
Ah, the Brave New World. Somehow, I can’t help but think it isn’t going to look one bit like that...

Rules – Strictly For The Little People...

Britain’s top anti-terror police chief faces more embarrassing questions over a luxury car hire business run from his home which appears to be operating illegally and is being investigated by the local council.

The business, run by the wife of Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, the officer who sanctioned the highly controversial raid on the House of Commons office of Tory MP Damian Green, could face prosecution and a fine of up to £3,000.
Oh, dear...
Inquiries by this newspaper have established that the business, which hires out vintage Rolls-Royces and Mr Quick’s 130mph Jensen Interceptor for about £500 a day, does not have an operator’s licence.

This could have a bearing on the validity of its passenger insurance policies.
I’m shocked, shocked to find out that a servant of the Crown may have disregarded the rules and regulations! Perhaps he can claim ignorance of the law? I hear that sometimes works...

In a further embarrassment to Mr Quick, it has emerged that while in his previous post as Chief Constable of Surrey, his force and the local Tandridge District Council produced a 36-page booklet explaining the rules affecting private car hire firms.

One paragraph states: ‘No person shall operate any vehicle as a private-hire vehicle in Tandridge without having a current operator’s licence.’
Heh, busted!

And in true chivalrous style, he’s letting the little wifey take the flack:
Last night Mrs Quick said that in early 2007 she had sought ‘detailed advice’ from the council.

‘Due to the nature of the business I was not required to obtain a licence,’ she said.
And she, in turn, is blaming the council for giving her inaccurate advice. What a couple! They truly deserve each other...

It’s Just Like ‘Spooks’! But With A Better Pension Plan...

...and maybe even a smaller chance of getting your head held in a deep fat fryer:
Undercover investigators on salaries of nearly £33,000 are being recruited to spy on motorists suspected of abusing disabled parking badges.

Using powers originally intended to combat terrorism and serious crime, they will undertake covert missions, making use of video and digital cameras ‘or other appropriate methods of surveillance’ to gather evidence for prosecutions.
Hmmm, now, wasn’t there a government statement about that recently? Why, yes there was!:
Two weeks ago Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said town halls should not use the controversial Regulation Of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to snoop on people suspected of minor civil offences such as dog fouling or putting bins out on the wrong day.
It seems that even local council chiefs don’t respect their lords and masters anymore.

And by ‘lords and masters’, of course I don’t mean us taxpayers...
Local authorities say abuse of the blue badge scheme is on the increase and the Department For Transport estimates that one in 200 of the 2.3million permits – which give holders the right to park free of charge on single and double yellow lines and exempt the holder from the £8-a-day London congestion charge – are being used by people not entitled to have them.

Many car break-ins are linked to the theft of the sought-after blue badges, which can sell for up to £1,500 on the black market.
It is indeed a disgrace to see people abusing this necessary privilege – but adding to the burden on the public payroll by recruiting yet more civil servants isn’t the best way to go about stopping it.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Shock Financial News! People Won’t Pay Inflated Prices In A Recession!

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I read this :
Experts warned yesterday that Britain has become addicted to discounts after retailers suffered their worst Christmas for decades.

And stores now face the daunting task of trying to sell products at full price this spring during a difficult time for the economy, with falling house prices and Sterling causing nervousness among consumers.
You mean, they knocked down all the prices to entice customers in before Christmas, and are now worried that people won’t want to pay the ‘full’ price later on? What economic trickery is this?!

After all, how many sat-navs, flat-screen TVs and corner sofas do you need in one year anyway....?
Shoppers who shunned the High Street before Christmas have flocked to sales this weekend to cash in on massive discounts of as much as 90 per cent.

Many retailers and shopping centres across the UK also opened their doors for their first Boxing Day trading in a desperate bid to attract shoppers.
And yet, when I could drag myself from my sickbed yesterday, it wasn’t exactly hopping in my local area.

Bluewater and Lakeside and other big retail outlets were reported as doing well, but there was a distinct air of ‘Nope, got all I want, thanks’ in the air...
'Consumers have realised that this is a waiting game you can take one step further,' said Jonathan De Mello, director of retail consultancy at Footfall's owner, Experian.

'Rather than waiting for sales to begin before Christmas, people are saving up for Boxing Day when they know the 50 per cent discounts pre-Christmas become 70 per cent or even 90 per cent off. It seems people are willing to spend, but only at a price that is becoming unsustainable for retailers.'
Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the RRP level, chaps...?
The scale of the problem facing retailers will become evident next week when Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Next and Ernest Jones-to-H Samuel owner Signet release their trading figures.

Most are expected to report that sales are declining more rapidly than their most recent updates in autumn.
That's going to make interesting reading....

”Nice Care Home You Got Here.... a shame if something happened to it....”

It seems some councils plan to start 2009 in the spirit of persecution of the unwilling, just like last year, and the one before that, etc, etc:
A care home where elderly Christian residents refused to answer ‘intrusive’ questions about their sexuality is at the centre of a bitter legal battle after its council grant was axed.

Brighton & Hove Council told the home to ask pensioners four times a year about their sexual orientation under its ‘fair access and diversity’ policies, which stem from New Labour equality laws.

Council chiefs also accused the charity that runs the home of ‘institutional discrimination’, before cutting a £13,000 grant towards warden services.
See, you don’t have to ask the questions. But if you don’t, well, the council doesn’t have to give you a grant. Funny how that works out, eh...?

And 'four times a year'? Are they expecting it to change that often, even in Brighton?
Andrew Jessop, the charity’s chief executive, said: ‘The council has taken overzealousness to the extreme. People in their 90s are very vulnerable and shouldn’t be treated in this way.’

Tensions began last year when the council imposed stricter criteria on organisations it supported to ‘comply’ with the Equality Act 2006 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

It circulated a questionnaire to the Pilgrim Home in Egremont Place, Brighton, which houses 39 single Christians aged over 80, including former missionaries and a minister.
A ‘voluntary’ questionnaire, naturally.
Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, said he was told by the council the home had to ask residents if they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual or ‘unsure’, even if they objected. Many of the elderly rebelled, however, and the home wrote to the council saying residents did not want to participate.
And that set the cat among the pigeons. Can’t have people thinking that because the questionnaire is voluntary, that they really have some choice in the matter.
But Brighton & Hove Council complained about the home’s ‘negative response’ and argued that because the home had a Christian ethos, gay people might be deterred from applying.

It cited the ‘resistance’ to using images of elderly gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the home’s leaflets, saying this meant gays and lesbians ‘would not feel comfortable’ applying for a place.

The council then announced it was axeing the grant because there had been ‘limited progress’ in making the home accessible to the homosexual community.
This is the ‘service’ you can now expect from the unscrutinised little gauleiters that take your council tax – petty spite if you don’t co-operate with their schemes.

Several MPs have weighed in on this:
MPs last night backed the charity, which fears other councils that provide it with grants totalling more than £100,000, could follow Brighton’s lead.

Ann Widdecombe, former Tory Home Office Minister, said: ‘The equality law does not oblige anyone to ask intrusive questions. This sort of thing needs to be nipped in the bud.’

David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, said: ‘It is absolutely disgraceful that the council has tried to get 90-year-olds, from a generation that wasn’t obsessed with sex, to put intimate information on to one of its forms.’
It’d be nice to see some strong condemnation from Call-Me-Dave, but I expect he’s waiting for the focus group to weigh in before his spin doctors let him make up his mind...

The council is doing its best to bluster away any critiscism, with the usual ‘Who, me...?’ excuse:
But Brighton & Hove Council said: ‘We have never expected any residents to answer questions about their sexuality if they preferred not to do so.

‘The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding. In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn.’
Yeah, sure. And I expect if all the residents had returned the questionnaire with ‘Mind your own business’ written on it, you’d have given them their grant...?

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Stating The Blindingly Obvious...

The Probation Service has an "institutional reluctance to put the public first", the government's neighbourhood crime adviser has said.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I read that! Who'd have thought it?

Pretty much everyone who hasn't been living in a cave for the last ten years, I'd say:
Louise Casey said probation officers had "a kind of institutional desire to put offenders first, over and over".

She pointed to opposition in the service to criminals wearing high-visibility clothing as a punishment.

Probation officers have warned the clothing could increase the risk of offenders becoming targets for attacks.
Louise, sweetie, that's because the customers for the probation service aren't, as you'd imagine, the public. They are the criminals! That's who the service is run for.
Ms Casey said there should be more information given to the public about the punishments handed down to the guilty.

"So much crime is not brought to justice because the public do not bother or have no faith in the system or don't want to go into court to give evidence," she said.

"If we do not get some of these things right, that is what will continue."
Then you are starting with the wrong people, love. Don't go wasting money handing out leaflets to the public.

Start with the judicial system, in particular, start sacking judges and magistrates like this chap...

And this one...

And also this one...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Medical Experts 21st Century Witchfinders In Action

A couple whose three children spent two years in care because social workers wrongly believed that they were at risk of abuse have been awarded a “six-figure” sum in compensation.
Small comfort it may be to them, when the details of the case are examined...
The couple, from Newport, South Wales, received an undisclosed sum yesterday in an agreed settlement at the High Court in Cardiff and were given a full written apology from Newport City Council.

The court was told that there had never been any evidence that the children, now aged 14, 11 and 9, had been abused. As a result of the social workers’ actions, the Williams missed their children’s birthdays, Christmases and their first days in new schools.
Still, a ‘six figure sum’, eh? Personally, I’d have only settled for the heads of the social workers and doctors on a pike, but I’m not the forgiving type.
In August 2004 Mr Williams called the police after finding his youngest daughter naked from the waist down with an 11-year-old friend. The girl was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up and the doctor who carried out the examination claimed to have found evidence of longstanding abuse but by an adult, not an 11-year-old.

Mr Williams and his wife were told that they were under suspicion and the children were taken into care. A second doctor confirmed the evidence of abuse and the couple were restricted to supervised weekly visits to their children.
So, two paragons of the NHS scrutinised the child for the Devil’s Mark and found it.

And (as before) they were both wrong:
There were exonerated after a US expert in child abuse examined the evidence and disputed the claims by the British doctors, who subsequently accepted that they had been mistaken. The council conceded that the children should never have been taken from their parents on the basis of the evidence.
They can no doubt thank their lucky stars that they were living in the 21st century, or there’d be no six-figure sum payable should Matthew Hopkin’s team be found wanting....

However, the judge was quick to point out the potential for real victims to be created here:
Giving his judgment, Judge Crispin Masterman said that the children’s names were never put on the child protection register and it was simply decided to remove them from the family home. He said that the criticisms were coupled with an acknowledgment that all professionals involved were acting for the good of the children.

“It is undoubtedly true that social services departments have in recent years operated with inadequate resources and under immense stress and run the risk of attracting equal criticism whether they remove a child or whether they do not.”
Oh, bless them! Would they like more money and less criticism, then? Would that help?

Perhaps court secrecy would be a good idea? Oh, no, wait, they’ve got that, haven’t they?
A Newport council representative said: “A settlement has now been reached which will support the children’s future. The wellbeing of the children has remained paramount throughout this case. While the local authority has offered sincere apologies to the family, our priority was always the safety of the children. The court concluded that the council acted in good faith given the strength of the medical evidence presented.

“The council, together with other members of Newport safeguarding children board, has embraced the recommendations of the multi-agency review.”
Oooh, a ‘multi agency review’! Let me guess, it’s so they can ‘learn lessons’...
Under the terms of the settlement, the family are banned from talking about it.
Not for the sake of the children, I suspect, but so the doctors and social workers can remain nameless.

After all, ‘naming and shaming’ is so 17th century, isn’t it...?

Believing The Unbelievable...

Another one of those cases that feminists tell us are very, very rare:
A 'dangerous fantasist' who wasted £316,000 of public money by falsely claiming to have been raped, kidnapped and blackmailed was jailed for four years yesterday.

Police spent 7,000 hours investigating bizarre allegations made over six months in 2006 by Michaela Britton, a court heard.
Amazing! I wonder what were the total man-hours spent on burglary and criminal damage allegations in the same period?
Her 'whopping lies' included claiming she was being blackmailed for £10,000 over a pornographic video stolen from her home which was made with an ex-boyfriend said to be a Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist officer.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that police wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds investigating her complaints.

Britton, a senior loss adjuster, also claimed her line manager at Churchill Insurance in Romford put a gun to her head after she spurned his advances.
And no doubt he was subjected to arrest, DNA sampling, and all the other indignities heaped upon anyone unlucky enough to fall into the aggro range of a demented female. Still, let’s concentrate on the money, that seems to have been the real concern of the courts...
Eventually, detectives became suspicious of Britton and began tracking her movements by installing CCTV outside her partner, Mick Murray's, house in Chelmsford, Essex, where she often visited.
I wonder what made them suspicious?
Judge David Turner told her at Chelmsford Crown Court: 'You are a dangerous fantasist.

'Your conduct has been pathological and profoundly and protractedly wasteful of police resources.'
Not to mention the poor accused men, but hey, omlettes, eggs, and all that...

As for what finally made them suspicious, maybe it was this:
The court heard how Britton had a previous conviction from 1990 for obtaining property by deception when 61 offences were taken into account.

And Don’t Let The Vestry Door...

... hit you in the arse on the way out!
A Vicar embroiled in a bitter feud with his congregation over his 'happy-clappy' services has gone on leave for four months.

The Rev Jerry Bird yesterday announced he was taking the 'time to seek God' after his entire 18-strong choir quit --leaving no one to sing any carols.
*flounce!* 'Take that, you, you....meanies!'
Resentment against him has become so acute that parishioners claim attendance has fallen by more than half.
Nothing like a little Christmas cheer and charity. And yes, that’s nothing like a little Christmas cheer and charity!

So, what’s their beef with this chap?
A letter was sent this month to the Bishop of Exeter from 129 members of the congregation who are 'deeply concerned' with the situation.

They wrote: 'We have long been aware of the incumbent's apparent contempt for anyone who does not share his views, and what seems to us his consistent disregard for any advice given by the Diocesan authorities, the congregation or the mediators.

'We find it intolerable that, despite all efforts to promote healing and reconciliation in the parish, Mr Bird seems determined to have his own way at almost any cost.

'It seems therefore obvious to us that he is the main obstacle to reconciliation and the restoration of unity in the church.'
Oh dear...
The group has not received a reply to their letter.
Well, that’s bound to make things better, isn’t it!
Churchgoer Desmond Pike said: 'Rev Bird has split the church and in my view is a very poor parish priest. He seems to operate a very divisive policy and treads a path of introducing contentious issues in a high-handed way without any thought to the hurt that may be caused.'

Another churchgoer said: 'We are no further forward, in fact we have gone backwards. Jerry Bird should be the first to apologise. It would be a significant first move. He has never done anything to say he is sorry.

'He blames everybody else for name calling. He has deliberately pursued a policy of alienating 50 per cent of the church.

'The Bishop seems to be saying 'I cannot sack him because he has not committed a criminal offence and I cannot tell these people who don't want him there, to leave the church'.'
Sounds like this chap is utterly wasted in the Church – he’d be a shoe-in for a Parliamentary seat though!
The objectors have produced a parish profile report showing the differences from when Rev Bird became their vicar to the present day.

They claim it has gone from an 'active, thriving parish church' into a 'floundering and divided church' which is not involved in local activities like it used to be.
If your vicar no longer embodies the qualities you want in a vicar, or indeed a church, then people are simply no longer prepared to put up with it, and will campaign against him. Welcome to the 21st century and the customer complaints procedure!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Balls From Ed...

Whatever you do this Christmas, don't let the children into the kitchen while you are cooking the turkey.

Always finish your drink (Ed: No danger of breaking that rule!) to avoid a youngster having a taste and ending up with alcohol poisoning.

And, of course, never hang baubles on the tree. They might break and give someone a nasty cut.
Well, Christmas is for the kids, so it’s appropriate that the government treats us like them, I suppose...
These 'tips', from a list of gratuitous health and safety advice issued yesterday, came not from a misguided town hall jobsworth, but with the authority of Children's Secretary Ed Balls.

Mr Balls's officials have printed 150,000 leaflets designed to look like advent calendars, to be distributed through shopping malls and children's centres 'to help make the festive season safe'.
I wonder what that cost...?
Children's minister Delyth Morgan said the leaflet would remind parents of safeguards around the home so they can 'make sure Christmas is a time for fun and laughter but not tears'.

The advice leaflet, titled 'Tis the Season to be Careful, ran into trouble with critics who pointed out that Mr Balls's department is in charge of the 'safeguarding children' system that failed to prevent the death of Baby P.

Tory junior Children's spokesman Tim Loughton said: 'This is yet more evidence that the DCSF really stands for the Department that Can't Stop Fiddling.
While Rome Haringey burns, no less....

Post of the Month

From Landed Underclass, on the likelihood of registration for private CCTV systems.

Quote of the Month

From They're Joking, Aren't They? on how the colonial ambitions of the Victorians are to blame for persecution of homosexuals. Or not:
So there you have it, Rhodes and Raffles and Clive: all primal and indeed seminal queer-bashers. Their tiny bureaucracies allied with Christian missionaries managed, in a mere century or so, to overturn millennia of tolerance and even approval of homosexuality everywhere south of the Levant and East of Suez.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Bawdy Jokes In Shakespeare..? Who Knew?!?

Outraged theatre-goers walked out of a performance of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, describing a simulated sex scene between two men as ‘pornography’.

Children as young as eight were among the audience at the performance of The Comedy of Errors at The Old Laundry Theatre, in Bowness, Cumbria.
Oh noes! The children..!
It featured one of the play's characters Dromio guarding a door when a man dressed as a woman walked up to him, pulled down his pants and Dromio's pants, before the pair simulated sex.

No genitals were on show, but buttocks were visible.
How very British that sounds...
One theatre-goer Chrissie Greaves, 56, attended the performance with her husband and 15-year-old son.

She claims an elderly man was so disgusted at the scene he vaulted over a barrier in order to escape the auditorium.
Oh, my...! I’m so jealous – I would love to go to see a play where someone did that! And not just because they couldn’t stand the performance of some ex-soap starlet, either...
‘They then had some slapstick with breaking wind, and bare buttocks were on show through the door.

‘There was nothing on the ticket that said it was unsuitable for children.
Since when have fart jokes and bare bums been unsuitable for children?

I know it was nearly fifty years ago, sweetie, but what do you think you thought was the greatest joke EVER when you were five or six? I’ll wager it had the words ‘pee’, ‘po’, ‘belly’, ‘bum’, or ‘drawers’ in it...
Peter James, LAMDA principal, said: ‘A careful reading of the text would demonstrate that we did nothing that was uncalled for by the Bard.

‘However, it is never our intention to cause offence to any member of the audience and we fully support the comments that have already been made by the Old Laundry Theatre.’
Shame on you, Peter! Didn’t you realise a faithful recreation of the play wasn’t going to be expected by a portion of your audience? They were probably baffled by the play’s foreign setting, as everyone knows Shakespeare was English, innit?
The theatre's general manager Richard Foster said: ‘The Old Laundry Theatre apologises wholeheartedly for any offence caused to the audience during Monday night's performance of The Comedy of Errors.

Perhaps in hindsight the theatre should have put up a notice, warning the audience of the content of the play.
Yes, perhaps. After all, in this day and age, it’s obviously expecting a bit too much to assume they’ve ever read, or been taught at school, any Shakespeare, isn’t it...?

No Good Deed Shall Go Unpunished In Brown’s Britain...

After the lackadaisical way the police have just been shown to have treated claims that Napper was a nutter (and from his Mum, no less), we can console ourselves that those dogged sleuths, the BTP, are maintaining standards:
A kind-hearted teenager was interrogated for two hours and threatened with a criminal record by police after he attempted to help elderly residents left stranded by icy weather.
His heinous crime?

After the council failed to grit the streets, he went down to the council offices and offered to do their job for them. They told him he could do so, if he could find a yellow grit bin (obviously they didn’t know where to find it themselves, what do you think they do, work here..?).
Determined to accomplish his act of kindness, the teenager and his friends spent hours driving around town looking for grit for the paths around the estate in Cedar Grove.

He finally found some at a railway station and went ahead with the gritting.

However, two days later British Transport Police arrived at his home and accused the youngster of theft of the grit.
So they presumably tracked him down via his car registration. I guess thee must be no other crime on the railway in Cedar Grove worth bothering about?
Philip added: 'They came to my house and questioned me for two hours.

'I have never been in trouble before and tried to explain I was helping the older people get out of their homes.

'The officer said that if they did not take me to court I might still get an official caution. I have been worrying ever since.'
But now this has been publicised, the BTP issued a grovelling apology and promised disciplinary action for the numptys that called on Philip.

Ha, no, of course not:
A spokesman for British Transport Police said: 'We have investigated this but it appears the 17-year-old and his friends who took the grit did not realise they were committing an offence.

'We will not be taking this any further.'
How good of you....

Well, if that daft cow Melanie Reid wants us all to do ‘compulsory voluntary work’, she going to have her work cut out ensuring that we aren’t all nicked for it...

Friday, 19 December 2008

Delusions Of Importance

Paxman upset some viewers last month when he interviewed (rap star Dizzee) Rascal on Newsnight and asked the London-born star: "Mr Rascal, do you feel yourself to be British?"
The prior guest had been Baroness Amos, discussing race, nationality and identity, and hw we in the UK don’t discuss the nature of ‘Britishness’. So this was referring to that discussion.
A bemused Rascal - real name Dylan Mills - replied: "Of course I'm British... it don't matter what colour you are."
Of course, it doesn’t. And that’s not what Paxman was getting at.

But the professionally-aggrieved have jumped on the bandwagon regardless:
Speaking to the New Statesman, fellow black star Estelle said: "That was out of line. Paxman's not going to get away with asking me do I think I'm British. That's disrespectful - you know, what do you think I am?"

Smacking her fist into her palm, the Mercury-nominated singer added: "I'd want to question him - and make him feel like an idiot."
Hmm, I think my money’d be on Paxo in that encounter…
Estelle said she was also disappointed by Rascal's performance on Newsnight. He was invited onto the programme during coverage of the US Presidential election to discuss whether Britain would ever have a black Prime Minister.

He did not take the encounter too seriously, and Estelle complained: "I don't ever want to diss another artist that I know is in the same struggle and grind as me, but it was the look on Jeremy Paxman's face. I was like, 'He [Paxman] is taking you for an idiot right now! Did no-one brief you?' I felt so disappointed because Dizzee has come so far as an artist and a businessman that to go on there and represent us, represent all the musicians in the UK, it was like Oh. My. God."
Oh, she’s quite the intellectual, isn’t she…?

But she’s off again:
Estelle was also critical of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident initiative, which was set up to combat black-on-black gun crime. She has appeared in a Trident advert for MTV but said: "Now they're acting like I'm their ambassador... that whole programme, to me, it's faulty because it hasn't really worked. They're just telling kids they're going to lock them up.

Where is the extra help, where's the extra care?"
I guess she’s a little confused about the role of the police in the UK, poor lamb….
She did have some positive things to say about Barack Obama, however. "I'm so full of joy that America elected Obama. He didn't win because he was black. People voted for him because he had a plan and because he talked sense and because you believed him. When he stands up on the podium, you get goosebumps."
All perfectly good reasons for choosing a leader, I’m sure. If you’re 5 years old.

I wonder when Obama’s ‘plan’ will materialise, and what she’ll think of it when/if it does?

Obama Not Dancing With The Ones Who Brought Him After All….

Didn’t take long for the single-issue voters to realise they’d been shafted, did it?
Gay civil rights advocates and liberal activists were in an uproar today over news that evangelical pastor Rick Warren is to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration next month.

Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, was an outspoken proponent of a ballot measure to rescind the right of California same-sex couples to wed, and has compared homosexuality to incest and paedophilia.
Which has got a few of the dedicated followers of the Obama Cult in a tizz:
John Aravosis, the editor of AmericaBlog, a liberal website, wondered why Obama chose Warren out of all the preachers in the country.
Well, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright was out, for obvious reasons…
"When a Democrat wins the presidency, I would think we could find at least one preacher who isn't a raving homophobe to give the invocation," Aravosis said. "The Obama people know the loss on that prop 8 was a huge issue for the gay community. It is an incredibly raw issue, and then you go and pick one of the top guys behind it?"
Ever been had, Johnnie boy….?

Besides, ‘raving homophobe’ isn’t exactly the right description anyway, as Warren isn’t objecting to civil unions, but to the attempt to highjack the language to force through ‘acceptibility’:
In an interview on after the election, Warren said he is opposed not to same-sex civil unions, but to "the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage".

"I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage," he continued. "I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

Asked by the interviewer if those are "equivalent to having gays getting married", Warren responded: "I do."
He’s got a point. It isn't marriage, and insisting on calling it marriage is, I suspect, more about sticking two fingers up to the 'straights' than anything else...

“It’s All Your Mum’s Fault!”

Susie Orbach (author of Fat is a Feminist Issue) has an open letter to Sir Liam Donaldson in the ‘Times’ today:
Obesity is the manifestation of a food- and size-obsessed society that most shows us we are in trouble where eating is concerned. The latest information from the EarlyBird Diabetes study of 233 children from birth to puberty, published in the journal Paediatrics, shows that one in four children aged 4 to 5 in England is overweight despite normal birth weights. But, says Terry Wilkin, the study's lead researcher, it is difficult to know what is causing the upsurge.
Not for Susie, obviously:
Difficult? Well perhaps. But not that difficult. You don't have to be a psychoanalyst to know that childhood is formative and that one's earliest eating experiences - entwined as they are with our fundamental feelings of security, love, attachment and caring - form the basis of how we approach food and succour throughout our lives.

Mothers strive to and want to give their children all that is best and most reassuring. But in many cases, this doesn't happen because mothers themselves are troubled by erratic eating, fear of food, preoccupation with body size, frequent dieting, and its sister – bingeing.
I guess Philip Larkin was only half right then, according to Suze…
People eat when they aren't hungry because they are bored, anxious, angry, conflicted, nervous, sad or overexcited. They reach out for something cheap and tasty that feels momentarily like a treat; something that takes their mind off what hurts. The upset feelings don't get dealt with; they sit there and the next time they emerge, the person will again turn to food for soothing.

This behaviour is learnt when we are little - whether it is by being rewarded with food, by being given food to cheer us up after falling down or by observing a mother who is constantly dieting but then eats off a child's own plate. Food becomes not food but something imbued with magically comforting properties.
And there’s something wrong with being comforted?
Sir Liam, you are calling for early interventions. Thank goodness. But is anyone in the Department of Health listening? Will they now? For at least ten years, I have been pestering the departmentM (as, I imagine, have others) with economical, nay cheap, plans to provide support to help new mothers not pass their eating problems on to their babies. Helping mothers to come to grips with their own eating difficulties is surely the sanest and most effective way to help two generations in one go.

It's not difficult to see how to train midwives and health visitors to take a more nuanced and psychobiological approach to expectant and new mothers so that their eating attitudes, habits and psychological issues are addressed rather than their being told to feed on the right breast for ten minutes and then the left.
Yup, we need an army of midwives and health visitors to slap the spoons from mothers’ hands and bark ‘Don’t let them eat cake!’, all paid for on the NHS. That’ll work….
So please, Sir Liam, can I talk to you about implementing some programmes that stand a good chance of addressing the eating problems that beset so many - and that are contributing to the epidemic in the next generation.

As Erasmus told us nearly 500 years ago “young bodies are like tender plants, which grow and become hardened into whatever shape you've trained them”. He wasn't wrong where it comes to food. So let's train people to relish it rather than fear or laud it.
That’s going to be a bit hard to do with your proposed army of Mary Poppins suggesting a spoonful of vinegar to help the medicine go down, won’t it…?

And I’m not sure how this sits with her scorn over food labelling in the ‘Guardian’ earlier this year. If people aren’t given basic facts of nutrition, how do you expect them to view food as anything other than a mystery?

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. She does have a new book out soon, and what better way to promote it than by spouting hysterical feminist rubbish in the dailies?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

”If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it…”

Plans for direct elections to police authorities have been dropped by the Government amid fears that they would lead to extremist politicians being able to control forces.
It’s ok if the incompetent and corrupt ones control forces, it seems, but let the extremists have a bite at the cherry? That would never do!
Ministers also decided that the controversial proposal would run into strong opposition on the back benches and in the House of Lords, leading to another embarrassing defeat.
And Labour certainly don’t need another one of those
The decision comes just weeks after the ousting of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, a move that many senior police officers saw as overt political interference in policing.
Seems only fair, since Blair had been interfering in politics for quite a while!

Compare And Contrast

The ‘Times’ is rightly congratulating itself today over the news that some of the secrecy over family courts is due to be relaxed; Their reporter Camilla Cavendish is to be commended on the work she’s done – real journalism – to get this far (though I’ve had my misgivings about her in the past).

One of the highlighted cases shows the disparity of treatment of child protection cases:
They put the Christmas decorations up a couple of days ago but no one in the Smith family feels much like celebrating. Despite the tinsel over their sons’ photographs, there are no excited children racing around the flat. Instead, Patrick, 6, and Donald, 2 – not their real names – will spend the holiday in foster care.
Wow! What did they do? It must have been really, really bad.

Worse than being a slovenly, deceitful, cruel hag with a paedophile for a boyfriend. Worse even than being known drug addicts with a history of manslaughter.

Well, not according to their story:
It started two years ago with a nosebleed. Robert Smith wiped his stepson Patrick’s nose and took him to school. A teacher spotted some dried blood, and asked Patrick what had happened.

“Robert,” he said, and made a wiping motion.
She went to social services, who called the police. That afternoon Mr Smith was arrested for assault and had to move out of the flat.
Hmm, not exactly the lackadaisical response experienced by the perpetrators in the other cases, is it? But give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there was much more to it than they claim, and the swift response was found to be fully justified.

Ah. Not really:
“We thought, it will all get sorted and go away. We knew we’d done nothing wrong,” he said. A criminal court threw out the charges after the prosecution admitted that it had no evidence. But social services would not let Mr Smith move back home. Stacks of legal paper under the Christmas tree chronicle the Smiths’ struggle in the family courts, where the case is still being heard.
Because it obviously takes time to build a case. But this long? Something about this stinks…
Because reporters have been unable to cover such proceedings, their story would have remained untold had Mr Smith’s parents not read about The Times’s campaign and contacted the paper. Even so, The Times is unable to report details of the case against them.
It better be a lot more than what they are claiming in this article, or there’s truly no justice.
For several months, Mr Smith could see Donald only twice a week under supervision. Social services did provide some help, and last spring the Smiths were reunited in an assessment centre. They thought everything was going well. But after eight weeks the children were taken into foster care because the parents showed “inconsistent emotional warmth”. The Smiths now see their sons for three supervised hour-long visits a week.
So, let’s see if I’ve got this right – you can keep your children in utter squalor like Karen Matthews, be a convicted killer with a drug habit like Amanda Adams, but if you appear to a clipboard-wielding busybody to be (subjectively) ‘lacking in emotional warmth’, forget about keeping your kids….
His parents have submitted a complaint about the way that social services have handled the proceedings. They also welcome greater transparency in the system: “If we were all allowed to put this in the paper from day one, social services could look more closely at what was going on in each case.”

For their family, time is running out. A preadoption hearing will take place in the spring. A tea towel pinned up on the kitchen wall spells out an encouraging “Don’t Quit”. The Smiths find it increasingly hard, however. “Life has been on hold for the last two years. The tape is paused,” Mr Smith said.

UK Population: Small Percentage Irreversibly Dim, ‘Guardian’ Finds….

Few people know and understand the ¬government's guidelines on healthy eating, smoking and drinking despite the millions of pounds spent on awareness campaigns, it emerged today.

Data from the annual Health Survey for England revealed that although obesity has nearly doubled in the last 14 years, two-thirds of men and women do not know the amount of exercise they should be taking. Only 27% of men and 31% of women eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Because you can lead a horse to water, but…
Less than a third knew the maximum amount of alcohol they should drink a day, the report found. And only 14% of men and 11% of women could always correctly identify a portion of fruit or vegetables.
In identifying a portion of fruit and vegetables, 76% of men and 80% of women usually got it right. Nearly four out of five women but only three out of five men (78% and 62%) knew that the recommended number of daily portions was five.
Well, that was money well spent then! But you have to wonder just what they were misidentifying as fruit and vegetables?
The report pointed out the clear link between unhealthy diet and poor health and premature death, which is costing the NHS more than £2bn. "A government consultation into issues concerning healthy eating (2004) highlighted the need for the population to have sufficient information and knowledge to make informed choices about their diet," it said.
Make available all the information you want – you can’t make people read it, and you can’t make them understand it. There are no incentives in doing so. Start restricting their access to the NHS and you’d see some results, I suspect.

So, the millions of pounds spent on the campaigns has been a waste of money. Anyone want to guess what they plan to do?

Yup, right on the (taxpayers) money:
The public health minister, Dawn -Primarolo, said that more campaigns were on the way. "In the New Year we will launch our ambitious Change4Life movement. Change4Life will help families to move more, eat well and live longer.
‘Move more’…? What’s she been smoking?

Set A Thief To Catch A….Oh!

It seems Essex Police have good working knowledge of the criminal classes – some of them are their colleagues!
The highest ranking officer is a Detective Constable with a robbery conviction, while two other DCs have convictions for careless driving and possession of cannabis.

And a total of 15 Essex Police officers have been taken on even though they had criminal records before joining the force, a freedom of information request has disclosed.
Perhaps CEOP would like to offer Gary Glitter a job, since it seems prior (and current) criminality is not necessarily a bar to employment?

Politicians are quick to point out the ludicrous double-standards:
James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" serving officers had these criminal records.

He said: "I find it ludicrous someone might have a problem working for the Scouts because they have a conviction for possessing cannabis but wouldn't have a problem working with the drugs squad. I don't consider these minor offences in any way shape or form.

Police officers should be beyond reproach."
Most people wouldn’t consider these ‘minor offences’ either, but you could argue the police are just taking the same lenient view of criminality as the judiciary…

Needless to say, the police mouthpieces are quick to try to justify this:
Tony Rayner, chairman of the Essex Branch of the Police Federation, defended the figures however.

He said: "I do not know the circumstances of each case but if Essex Police has looked at them and felt the offence was in the past and of such a nature it did not prevent the person becoming a police officer, then that's the decision that has been taken."
Yes, nobody’s saying it isn’t ‘the decision they have taken’. They are questioning the wisdom of them having made the decision!
Essex Police spokesman Nishan Wijeratne said: "While the majority of officers either resign or lose their job as a result of a hearing, in a small number of cases they remain in the service.

"This is generally for motoring related offences or where extenuating circumstances mean they are considered to be suitable to continue as a police officers.

"With almost 3,500 serving police officers the number of such cases is very small."
It should be very ‘small’. It should be zero.

And I’d love to see the ‘extenuating circumstances’ that mean a DC with a robbery conviction isn’t dismissed…

Although, in a case of classic timing, the Nottingham force farce say ’We can top that!’

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Stick and Stones May Break My Bones...

...but call me names and I’ll kill you.

And get off scot free:
Anthony Corsi, 24, was on a night out when a group of men began chanting "Rooney, Rooney" at him.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that Corsi swung a punch at trainee accountant Christopher Jones, 21, who died a week later from a head injury.
It sounds like a manslaughter case, rather than murder, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the case you can just walk away from, either.

Guess again:
Corsi admitted he "overreacted" when he was teased about his likeness to the soccer star as he got into a taxi in Cardiff city centre.

The court heard he told police: "I was upset about what they called me and I stopped the car and got out.

"I was angry, nervous, upset and drunk. Maybe it was the way he approached, I just remember him coming towards me and I hit him.

"I suppose I felt threatened and overreacted."
So, he stopped the car and got out in reaction to a bit of drunken name-calling? Doesn’t sound like he wanted to avoid trouble, does it?
The court heard Mr Jones, of Marshfield, near Cardiff, was hit by an upper cut and suffered bleeding to the brain.

He was expected to make a full recovery - but collapsed and in hospital a week later of a ruptured artery.
So Corsi was arrested. And has now been acquitted – not by a jury. By the judge.
John Charles Rees QC, defending, said: "I don't want to insult Wayne Rooney but his looks have become a bit of a figure of fun."
Corsi, of Heath, Cardiff, denied manslaughter and was cleared after judge Wyn Williams directed the jury to find him not guilty.
Sadly, I can’t find a picture of ‘Justice’ Williams to find out who he resembles. Perhaps I should try Black’s Medical Dictionary.

Under ‘a’....

”Let no man forget how menacing we are, we are lions!”

Ronald Kennedy, 77, decided to take action after he saw thief Richard Coleman attack a female shop assistant and grab cash from a till.

Coleman, 32, jumped over the Spar counter and pushed the terrified worker away before turning and trying to escape with £445 cash.

But Mr Kennedy, a grandfather, who was in the store to buy a Lottery ticket, hit him on the head with his walking stick as he fled.
Bravo, Mr Kennedy! And if there’s any justice, that ticket will be a winning one.
Coleman fell 'like a sack of potatoes', dropping £60 of the money before scrambling for the door and limping away.

The thief was later caught and has now been jailed for four years after admitting four shop raids in a four-day crime spree.
And let’s hope all his cellmates are reading this in their morning paper!
Mr Kennedy, a retired theatre commissionaire, was hailed for his 'public spirit' in court and has been sent a letter of thanks by a police chief.

The father-of-three, of Plymouth, Devon, said: 'This man was a damn fool. If you want money you work for it - you don't go around stealing.'
Well said. But of course, for Coleman, it appears this was his day job:
Coleman, of Basildon, Essex, used the same tactics to rob four businesses in Plymouth, Devon, on March 23 and April 10, 11 and 12.

He targeted shops staffed by women, selected a small item such as a newspaper and took it to the till to pay, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

But when the assistant opened the till, he would push her violently away, lean over the till and grab as many bank notes as he could.

During his crime spree in Plymouth, Devon, he stole a total of £1,226 from three Spar shops and a Co-Op, the court heard.
A better contrast between the two generations couldn’t really be found, could it?

Naturally, the justice system was minded to be harsh with this low life:
Judge Francis Gilbert QC praised Mr Kennedy for being 'public-spirited' and sentenced Coleman to four concurrent four year jail sentences less 198 days on remand.
That’ll teach him, I’m sure...


Head teachers are whinging again.
Half of pupils from families in poverty are not getting a free hot lunch as a result of a flaw in the funding system.

The income threshold to qualify is set lower than the current level used to define poverty, which means that a family of two adults and two children struggling to get by on £18,000 a year has to pay for school dinners.
And teachers are up in arms about this because....?

Headteachers said some schools were losing out on funding as a result of the flaw, because they receive extra money for teaching disadvantaged pupils based on the number on free school meals.
So, not so much moral outrage that the poor ickle kiddies are starving in the streets, as concern that they won’t have enough money in the kitty for musical loos or staff meetings on the Costa Del Chav.
David Laws, the Lib Dem education spokesman, who obtained the figures through a parliamentary question, said: “For the most disadvantaged children, a school dinner can be the only hot meal they get. As times get tough, paying for school lunches is going to be a real struggle for more and more families.”
So, taxpayers should pay for it instead?

I guess suggesting that parents don’t have children they can’t support would be terribly old fashioned, wouldn’t it..?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Building Utopia…

The government today outlines plans for major public service reforms to lift the aspirations of Britain's least ambitious 2.4 million children, predominantly white working-class boys in northern cities.
Or as Labour like to call them, ‘future voters’…
A deep-seated problem of low aspiration in specific communities has been found in a Cabinet Office report to be published tomorrow. These communities, the research shows, tend to have "more insular social networks, low population mobility and a history of economic decline".

The report says the government has lacked a systematic "cultural or behavioural" approach to raising horizons in these communities to encourage children to do better at school and strive for more interesting jobs.
The jobs that don’t exist, have been filled by immigrants working for minimum wage, or have all been moved overseas…?
In a Guardian interview, Liam Byrne, Cabinet Office minister, argues that the findings underline the need for a new wave of locally based reforms, including the use of school buildings to offer "cradle- to-grave" education, health, retraining and parenting skills.
And building a nice little public-sector empire as a side benefit?
He says these schools, possibly incorporating health centres, backed by billions of pounds of new investment, could become the focus for bringing inward-looking, disengaged communities into contact with the wider world.
Ahhh, there it is: ‘billions of pounds of new investment’. I knew it wouldn’t be far away…
He said: "In the medieval days we built communities around the manor house and then in the 19th century we built communities about the factory and in the 21st century we need to build communities around schools.
I guess Liam Byrne failed his History ‘O’ level. We didn’t ‘build them’ there, they grew up there because that was the logical place for them to grow – there was no grand plan, no thought or direction behind it. It wasn’t needed. But this is Labour, and they can’t conceive of anything happening without someone in charge of it!

And two of those things are not like the other – the manor house and the factory both provided work; the school does not (unless you work for the State).
"This could well have big consequences for the way we take forward public service reform. There is a big opportunity. Over the years to come we're spending £35bn on Building Schools for the Future and we are spending hundreds of millions on renewing the fabric of the health service so in many low-income communities we are revolutionising public institutions. We have to think afresh about how those institutions become the 'power supply' for aspiration in the communities they serve."
Maybe that is the plan, after all; everyone works for the State in some capacity.
The research shows there are nearly 2.4 million young children in deprived neighbourhoods who have low aspirations to stay on in full-time education after the age of 16. They tend to be in communities with high social housing, living in large cities in the north. By contrast, children of poor families that have a sense of community and religious belief have higher than average aspiration and GCSE results.
And the obvious fact staring him in the face there goes whooshing right over his head…
The research also suggests: "Girls consistently have higher educational aspirations than boys. Parents also have higher aspirations for their daughters than their sons, reversing the trends of previous generations. White young people have lower educational aspirations than most other ethnic groups. Similarly, the educational attainment of white boys is failing to improve at the rates of most other ethnic groups."
Good job, feminists!
The report suggests locally tailored efforts are needed to shift attitudes, change behaviour and improve outcomes. "This would mobilise the community around the goal of doing the best for their young people. It would provide a new model for constructive local partnership working," the study says. Ministers have identified the ages of 11 to 14 as the critical moment when children's aspirations are set, and "idealism turns to realism".
I thought that happened when a liberal got mugged….
With Cabinet Office papers on social mobility and public service reform due next year, Byrne calls for an end to the current divisions in public services so "we have not just an education service for the kids, but on that same site we need family learning services because a lot of parents may not be in work and may need re-equipping with new skills to get back into work. There may be a need for a different kind of health service that is co-located in schools with a bigger emphasis on children and adult mental health services.

"I don't think that kind of change is possible if public servants carry on working in their current little boxes."
You know what else has an on-site health service to treat a captive population? A zoo.

That’s what Labour are planning to turn schools into – little zoos, run by and for the zookeepers. Judging by the discipline problems, they’re halfway there already.
Byrne said: "The next stage of public service reform in 2009 is going to set out three big ideas: how we reform the power of frontline leaders to put services together in a different way to change the communities around them.

Alongside that we have got to bring the digital revolution to government and public services so consultation about public services is changed to a conversation. Finally we have got to create a completely different role for the centre. The era of a delivery unit controlling things with hundreds of targets is over."
I wonder just what sort of ‘conversation’ they think they are going to get? One they feel they can safely ignore, no doubt, should it provide results they don’t like.
He also advocates a new cadre of public sector workers known as lead professionals required to generate community power. "We might see about three lead professionals in one area so across the country you're talking several thousand," Byrne said.
Super Civil Servant! Does the position come with a cape and tights? Because for sure, it’ll come with a six-figure salary and pension benefits to die for….

I look at these proposals, and I can’t see a single thing to benefit anyone other than Labour’s growing client-state.

At Least These Guys Play You Some Music…

For 130 years they have been part of Christmas, filling the air in towns across the land with music and carols.

But one thing is missing from the repertoire of Salvation Army bands this year - the percussion of rattling tins.

Members have been forbidden to shake their charity tins - even if it's done in time to the music - in case it harasses or intimidates people. One said she had been told it might also offend other religions.
Hmm, I think the real problem is in the first line of that extract: “For 130 years they have been part of Christmas…”. I’m guessing that’s the part that the tinpot dictators have problems with.
Guidelines for branches organising public collections say tinholders should simply keep the tin still.

It means that when the brass bands start up they can rock and roll all they want - but if they shake and rattle, it could put them in conflict with the law.
And yet, chuggers infesting our streets 24/7, and not even having the decency to whistle a happy tune in return? No problem! In fact, the ’Guardian’ will even give them space to whine about how needed they are…

Monday, 15 December 2008

Have You ‘Learned Enough Lessons’ Now..?

A few paragraphs on the BBC News site detail the sad life of yet another abused and murdered child:
A toddler killed by his mother had been taken off the child protection register, it has emerged.

Sean Denton, died aged 18 months in Barnet, north London, in October 2007, and his mother Amanda Adams killed herself shortly afterwards.
The BBC report is very bland and matter of fact about the story:
It is thought it happened after she learned her partner Mark Denton had committed suicide.
But there are clues that this is yet another case of ‘child protection’ as utter failure:
Barnet Council said Sean's parents had previously both been convicted of manslaughter in 1999.
I love the way that’s just thrown in there, almost as an afterthought. And no details of who they killed or why are given.

But the ‘Sun’ reports, they were also junkies. In fact, the ‘Mirror’ gives even more details of the case that throw a very different light on the story:
Amanda, 30, and Mark, 35, together killed a squatter in a violent row in 1999 - and were each sentenced for manslaughter. Amanda was jailed for life, Mark received a lesser sentence - but both were released after just five years.
Cheers, justice system!
Until now, the tragic circumstances of Sean’s death have been kept quiet. His parents met in rehab in 1999. Amanda, whose father killed himself when she was just eight years old, was known to authorities as a troublesome teenager whose mother couldn’t control her.

When she and Mark came out of rehab they were homeless and lived in a squat. They soon spiralled back into a life of drink and drugs. It wasn’t long before they killed a fellow squatter and were jailed. They were released in 2004 and the following year they got back together. Amanda then fell pregnant with Sean.

The authorities were so concerned that Sean was placed on the child protection register even before his birth. But, astonishingly, the decision was made to take him off the register when he was just a few weeks old because he was healthy and there were no signs of abuse.
Oh, yeah, these are sterling examples of parents, aren’t they?

So, back to the Beeb:
A spokesman for the council said the authority would have acted if they had known Mr Denton had died as his death had a "profound" affect on the child's mother.

A Serious Case Review was launched into Sean's death by the Safeguarding Children Board.

A council source said the confidential review found Barnet Council "had behaved appropriately and in line with government guidance in the case."

He added the review found "that it would be unlikely that intervention would have saved his life due to the mothers wish for the family to be reunited in death."
Or to paraphrase: ‘Oh, come on! How could we possibly predict that these people might not be up to the demanding task of looking after a child?’ Perhaps because, as Dumbjon points out, their own outlook is so often skewed a few degrees off true...?

And as far as the Beeb is concerned, that’s it. Case closed, go back to reading about the ‘X Factor’ result, peasants.

But over at the ‘Mirror, things aren’t looking so rosy:
The year-long Serious Case Review, seen by the Sunday Mirror, reveals a catalogue of fatal blunders that led to the child’s welfare being ignored.

Mother and baby were being monitored by the Metropolitan Police, London Probation, Barnet NHS Primary Care Trust, Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health, London Borough of Barnet and Barnet Homes and Barnet Children’s Services.
That’s a lot of agencies…
The papers reveal the many mistakes made by the organisations which failed to spot the baby was in danger. They also reveal a complete communication breakdown between the 10 different authorities, including two police forces, which meant Barnet child protection workers were not told of the father’s suicide.
Breakdowns in communication? Where have we seen that before?
Oh, right! All the previous failures….
A further independent review slammed officials for painting a ‘positive picture’ of the parents and being ‘overly optimistic’. It said carers did not check records properly and ‘the history of extreme violence was not explored’.
One question – are we sure this is even the right report? Or is this just a template given to every authority, to just change the names each time?

Because it doesn’t sound so different from all those other reports, does it? The ones from which the officials always swear they will ‘learn lessons’…
A whistleblower who attended the Serious Case Review was appalled by what he heard.

He told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Sirens should have been ringing as loud and clear over this case as possible.’ The review suggested there should have been greater risk assessments and that they should have looked more closely at the history of the parents. If two killer parents with a history of drug and alcohol problems aren’t a risk, I don’t know what is.

’Baby S’s death was completely preventable - no ifs or buts.
‘Whistleblower’, eh…? Let’s hope this one doesn’t get the same treatment as the last one….
The separate, damning independent Overview Review report, by child protection expert Sally Trench said: ‘Previous records were not consulted, extreme violence not explored.

The director of children’s services in Barnet at the time of Sean’s death - Gillian Palmer - has since moved on to work for Greenwich Council in South London.

Yesterday when approached at her home she refused to speak to the Sunday Mirror about the case.
Yeah, I just bet she did…
’The whistleblower also said of the Serious Case Review: ‘No one said they were sorry.’ There was an air of regretfulness but mostly people said they did all they could do.’

Then we had an email around warning us not to speak to the Press.’
You can now see why the Beeb didn’t want to go into more detail about this case, can’t you?

”Welcome to Chicago…”

“…this town stinks like a whorehouse at low tide.”
Barack Obama's choice to be his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is coming under mounting pressure to make a full disclosure about his contacts with the disgraced governor of Illinois over the billowing Senate "seat for sale" scandal.
Well, I expected the bloom to start coming off the Obama rose quite quickly.

But even I thought the other shoe would drop after the coronation, not before!
Though Emanuel is understood not to be a target of the investigation, the disclosure that he was in contact with Blagojevich's office with regard to the seat has unleashed a storm of media interest that is awkward for the Obama team.
So, now we see media interest in Obama’s background and political affiliations? Yet before the election, all we heard about was Sarah Palin’s tanning bed and in-law disputes. Good going, legacy media!
There is nothing untoward about Emanuel having made clear Obama's opinions about the Senate appointment. What is proving difficult is the silence emanating from the Obama camp about the full nature of his contacts with the governor. Observers are puzzled by how long any response has taken, giving Republicans space to criticise Obama for failing to live up to his promise of open government.
I uses Obama learned one thing, at least; it’s always the cover-up that gets you…

Not sure how effective the tactic of staying silent will prove, instead, though. It’s a bit like holding your breath under water – it goes quite well for the first few minutes. But then you’ve gotta come up, no matter what.

I’ll keep watching for bubbles… ;)

Employer Of The Year II!

Meanwhile, over at the BBC, a talented radio presenter learns of his sacking via a journalist:
The sacking of Ed Stourton from Radio 4's Today programme was 'crass', a fellow presenter said last night.

Stourton who has presented the flagship news show for a decade, was devastated to learn of his dismissal last week, after being asked by a journalist if rumours of his departure were true.
They weren’t, as he found out…
Last night a Today presenter, who did not want to be named, said: 'Of course it was mishandled, there's no mistake about that.

'It was crass, the way it was done. When a guy discovers he is being sacked when a reporter tells him he has seen a bit in a column, that's hardly classic management really.'
You can say that again!
Insiders have also claimed Stourton was forced out because he was uncomfortable with demands for presenters to adopt a more 'light-hearted' and energetic style of presenting.

Yesterday, Stourton – whose nickname is Posh Ed – said the BBC had tried to cover up the callous nature of his sacking with a statement saying he was leaving to 'pursue other projects'.

'I did think it was wrong of them to say that I was leaving to pursue other projects, which is simply not true,' he added. 'I am leaving because they have removed me and there are no other projects.

'I had absolutely no indication of what was coming and nor did anyone else on the programme. They said they were as in the dark about this as I was.'
And people think the BBC handles licence-fee nonpayers poorly…!

Employer Of The Year!

A man wanted by Interpol for his links to an alleged terrorist organisation has been advising Scotland Yard on countering Muslim extremism, a Times investigation has discovered.
Well, it takes a thief to catch a thief, they say. Poor Ronnie Biggs must be wondering why he didn’t get a lucrative job offer, instead of being chased halfway round the globe…
Mr Harrath has been convicted in absentia of numerous criminal and terrorism-related offences by Tunisian courts and sentenced to 56 years in prison. Tunisia is an ally of the West in the fight against terrorism but is regarded by critics as a police or one-party state. Its secular Government regards those who advocate an Islamic state as a threat to its stability.
Hard to say they’re wrong…
Despite Mr Harrath being wanted by Interpol, Scotland Yard has appointed him as adviser to its Muslim Contact Unit on preventing extremism and terrorism. Mr Harrath told The Times that he was “regularly consulted in an advisory capacity by the Muslim Contact Unit of the British police for guidance on best practice in relation to counter-terrorism issues and combating extremism”.
Perhaps a trawl through the Scotland Yard HR database may turn up more wanted fugitives. Who knows, we may finally find out what happened to Lord Lucan!
The British Government refused a request by the Tunisian Government in 1997 to have him extradited. According to his lawyers, “the UK security services informed Mr Harrath that the UK did not regard him as a threat and that there was no basis for the Tunisian extradition request, which the Tunisian authorities had wholly failed to substantiate”.

His political views and wish to overthrow Tunisia’s Government have, however, raised alarm in British circles. One government minister said: “That is not acceptable. We have a problem with that because Tunisia is our ally. Tunisia today, UK tomorrow.”
If questions aren’t asked in the House about this, we’ll have incontrovertible proof that the lunatics really are in control of the asylum…

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Dumb Animals…

Liz Jones, the ‘Mail’s’ style expert, is in a tiz over Nigella Lawson:
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece celebrating Nigella Lawson's milky curves, applauding her good sense at not conforming to the diktat that women must be thin and young to be beautiful.

Well, I take that article back.
Why? Well, Nigella had the nerve to endorse the wearing of real fur. Though from the sound of it, her real error was to disregard the opinion of people like Liz, who make a living from telling everyone else what to wear:
What is particularly galling is that while I might expect a model, fashion designer or actress - such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who has a contract with Italian leather goods label Tod's, one of the worst fur offenders - not to appreciate the danger of condoning this industry, I expected more from a grown woman with an Oxbridge education and sufficient wealth never to be in fear of being dropped by anyone.
Yup, note the casual way she dismisses the people who help her earn a living as either clueless morons or cowardly go-alongs, yet an educated woman didn’t agree with Ms Jones on what to wear!?! *Swoon*
….I find it very hard to sit in the front row of fashion shows where fur is paraded inches from my nose.
Perhaps you should try another job then, Liz? Are you even qualified for anything else?
Protesters from People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (Peta) stormed the catwalks of Roberto Cavalli and Burberry in Milan a few seasons ago.

I was disgusted when the protesters, mainly young girls, were dragged from the catwalk by security men, and all the glossy magazine mavens cheered when the show was able to resume.
Yes, fancy that. A major event in your ‘job’ went ahead instead of being disrupted by publicity-hungry cretins and people were happy about that? Does not compute!
While most British glossies have a strict 'no fur' policy for editorial photographs, they are happy to take adverts from labels that use fur.

When editor of Marie Claire, I mooted the idea to the magazine's publisher that we bar all adverts from such labels, but was told this would be financial suicide.
Oh noes! Harsh realities of the world of business!

Joining in the harpy chorus is Melanie Rickey, ‘Grazia’ fashion editor:
It's the fur debate and in my mind the answer is simple. In this country, and in the climate we live in, there is no excuse for us to wear fur at all. On a practical level, we don't need to. It's not cold enough. The practice of farming fur was banned in Britain in 2000.
I wonder what car Rickey drives? I’m pretty sure it’s a good one, loaded with all the latest gadgets. Bet she’d squeal like a stuck pig if someone came along and swapped it for a Ford Cortina, though, on the grounds there was no need for heated leather seats and sat-nav on a practical level.

And because we have banned fur farming simply means it’s moved abroad, to places like China, where regulations on animal welfare are sometimes lax or even non-existant. Not sure that helped, Mel. But then, the perfect has always been the enemy of the good.
And yet whenever there is a cold snap, out come the furs. This year, it seems more fur than ever is being strutted around town by young, fashionable women. Some of them are even walking their dogs - an irony perhaps lost on them.
Yup, when it gets cold, people wear fur coats! Who knew…?
They would do well to sit down and seriously question their morals in order to form an educated opinion, and then take a stance on whether or not they should wear fur. Wearing one canine - a fox - while walking your beloved four-legged friend is just wrong.
When Mel says ‘form an educated opinion’, she really just means ‘agree with me’.

The fact that they may have formed an educated opinion that wearing chemical-based acrylic instead of a natural, farmed substance isn't better doesn’t seem to have occurred to her. An educated opinion is only educated if it agrees 100% with her own outlook.
On Wednesday, at the tea party thrown by Katie Grand to celebrate her new magazine Love, I bumped into model Agyness Deyn, the owner of two small dogs, swathed in an Arctic fox coat. It looked fantastic, yes, but that doesn't make it right.

'I was freezing,' she told me. 'I didn't think it would be as cold in London as it is in New York, so I had to dash into a second-hand shop and saw this fur for £100. It's not bad to wear fur if it's second-hand, is it?' she asked me with genuine concern.
I didn't want to cause a kerfuffle, so I said: 'Well, at least you are recycling it.' But I wish I had given her a kindly lecture. The thing is, if you are going to wear fur, you have to be able to justify it to yourself and others.
Actually, she doesn’t. Not in the slightest.

That’s what really causes your hackles to rise, isn’t it, ladies? Not the ickle pwetty fluffy bunnies? The fact that some people have heard and rejected your arguments…