Monday, 31 May 2010

Vive La France!

Liberté, égalité, fraternité…
An unruly drunken mob or a harmless evening get together over a glass – or bottle – of wine? French authorities are pondering this question after a series of giant public cocktail parties inspired by the social networking site Facebook.
And by ‘pondering the question’, they mean ‘deciding whether to stop it’…
The phenomenon of "apéros géants" (giant aperitifs), which first appeared in Brittany last year, has thrown the country's leaders and lawmakers into a spin. Should they turn a blind eye and hope the drinkers will get bored, or should they crack down on them?
Well, shouldn’t that be decided by whether or not they are braking any laws?
Some official party-poopers saw something vaguely sinister, unpredictable and possibly revolutionary in the prospect of thousands of strangers being brought together by the web, and banned them.
And we think we are bad….
In the event, more than 50 such parties have taken place across France over the last year without making the headlines and with consequences hardly worse than the average rave party, music festival or football match. That changed earlier this month when a 21-year-old partygoer didn't just get drunk and fall over; he fell off a bridge and died after reportedly drinking up to 15 glasses of spirits. It was a tragic and entirely avoidable death, but not exactly singular in the history of youthful excess.
Quite.

And I fail to see how banning Facebook-inspired gatherings would reduce the chances of this happening. Is this the first person ever to get drunk in France and kill themselves?
Overnight the apéro géant became an issue of public order and political concern, particularly to president Nicolas Sarkozy's right-of-centre government, which was elected on a tough law-and-order platform. Although it pulled up short of imposing an outright ban, the official response to the apéros was heavy-handed at best, repressive at worst.
Sounds like home, doesn’t it?
Last weekend, French riot police, in their Robocop outfits, descended on the Eiffel Tower, where they vastly outnumbered the revellers who had turned up for the latest advertised apéro. True, drinking alcohol is banned on the Champ de Mars, the open space by the tower. True, failing to get permission for a "public demonstration" carries a possible €7,500 fine and six months in jail. And true, the authorities could not possibly know how many people would take up the invitation, as many a naive teenager has discovered after announcing their party on Facebook.

Even so, the sight of armed police rifling through tourists' bags searching for bottles of alcohol in a country that prides itself on being the cradle of civil liberties was shocking.
Heh! Not if you’d got so used to it over here. Just ask the smokers...
Threats to track down and charge the organisers of Facebook apéros also show that while the French like their individual civil liberties, they place an even greater importance on collective rights and freedoms.
You mean, they’ll discard those prized civil liberties lickety-split as soon as someone points out that ‘something must be done!’..?
As French MP Jean-François Copé remarked recently when talking about the potentially even more explosive issue of France's proposed ban on the burka: "Individual liberty is vital, but individuals, like communities, must accept compromises that are indispensable to living together, in the name of certain principles that are essential to the common good."
Those principles being what? That people shouldn’t be allowed to gather together and have fun?

Shove your principles and your common good right up your derriere, then, Monsewer…

This Happened To Me, And Now I Know All The Answers!

Dr Nick Foreman, a GP from Hertfordshire, recounts a car accident:
This is what happens and this is how it feels. I was driving along a well-lit suburban street with my two small stepchildren in the back of the car. We were on the way to pick up my wife who had been working away for a few days, and we were all excited about seeing her. It was 6.35pm on a dark February evening and I had some rather gloomy Radiohead music on the CD player.

In an instant, a few yards in front of me was a small child. He was followed by an adult. I remember thinking "WHAT THE..." and then reflexively hit my brakes. The car skidded and I ran into both of them. The child flew through the air, caught in the beam of my headlights. I didn't see the adult.
So, the accident was avoidable by them, and not at all by you?

Yup:
It started to become clearer what had happened. The child had got out of a car in a side street and had run towards the main road; his aunt had screamed and run after him. Both had run into my path.
This was confirmed by witnesses:
Somebody tapped me on the shoulder. "Are you all right, mate? I saw everything. The kid ran out in front of you – there was nothing you could have done." These were very kind words.
And very true ones.
The ambulance then sped off and a police sergeant appeared. He was less friendly and spent a long time inspecting my car. He ordered the young policemen to chalk the road, to show the position of my car.

My wife appeared, walking along the road with her luggage. The sergeant then allowed the car to be moved and one of the young policemen said he would take me home later. My wife drove the children home.

The police then explained that I would need to accompany them to the police station. They asked me if I had been intimidated by the crowd – I hadn't. The police were now friendly and sympathetic. The witnesses corroborated my story.
And what have you learned from this?

That accidents happen, no matter how careful you are? That children should always, always be supervised near roads?
So what has this experience done to me? Suddenly, a few speeding points on my licence don't seem quite so innocent. If you have any, you should also feel ashamed. It is easy to exceed the speed limit and, thankfully, on this occasion, I wasn't. Nor was I fiddling with my mobile phone, sat-nav, or CD player, all of which I have done before.
So, this wasn’t your fault, all’s well that end’s well, and…

Ah:
I think I was going at 20mph at the point of impact, and maybe now you will agree with me that that should be the speed limit in built-up areas.
No. Actually, I won’t. Because children will still be killed, and then what? We reduce it to 10mph? 5mph? We ban cars altogether?

Can The ConDems Learn From Others' Mistakes?

David Cameron is coming under pressure from his own MPs to scrap a system of extra holidays for civil servants.
This is the system of 'privilege holidays' - one day for the Queen's Birthday, one day at Christmas, and half a day for Maundy Thursday.
Last night, Tory MPs called for an end to the system, saying it was simply unaffordable at a time when the Government is having to slash billions of pounds from public spending and make thousands of civil servants redundant.
Hmmm, personally I'd have thought having them do nothing was preferable; when in work, they are prone to coming up with all sorts of barmy and baffling schemes and policies...

It seems the Cabinet Office doesn't want to touch this one though:
A Cabinet Office source said last night that the extra days off were written into civil servants’ contracts of employment.
Hmm, now why would that be a probl...

Ah:
On 10 May, the High Court ruled that the government had acted unlawfully when it introduced, without PCS’s agreement, a new scheme which cut members’ accrued rights under the CSCS.
Softly, softly, catchee monkey on this one, chaps...

Mrs Cornelius Clearly Has Too Much Time On Her Hands…

…and we all know what happens to idle hands:
Mum of three Mrs Cornelius says she was “sickened” by the group, which included mocked-up images of men eating babies and recipes for cooking children.

The 66 members of the group included people from Dartford, and some went by the names of notorious paedophiles, such as Gary Glitter.

Mrs Cornelius, of Ladywood Road, said: “As a mother, I was disgusted with the group. I found it so sick I wanted to bring it to the attention of other people.”
Yup, that makes sense.

You see something that horrifies and disgusts you, so you send it round to everyone else, saying ‘Look at this! Isn’t it horrific? Aren’t you offended?’.
Mrs Cornelius says her success in getting I Love Eating Children shut down has made her want to campaign against other offensive Facebook groups.

She said: “I'm pleased Facebook has shut down the group, but there are still many more groups like this, and such groups shouldn't be allowed in the first place.”
Ahhh, the perpetual cry of the Righteous: ‘It shouldn’t be allowed!’

Nothing that upsets Mrs Cornelius should be allowed. Free speech? What’s that, when compared with the freedom to roam the internet and never, ever see anything that might upset her?
Facebook removed the group yesterday, and a spokesman said: “We take all complaints by users seriously and we have a dedicated team investigating these complaints and comments.”
Well, you’ve just made yourself a hostage to fortune, haven’t you? Your group's going to be busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

"...you may find that there is nobody on earth more judgmental than bohemian, left-leaning woodcraft folk..."

...is a wonderful quote from this article on the perils and pitfalls of dealing with a child with 'difficulties'.

Unusually for the 'Guardian', it's frank and funny and well worth reading.

Misleading Headlines R Us...


Except if you read the story...
The vessel's crew had left their microphone on, blocking channel 16 off the Kent coast, which is used for distress calls.

All Dover coastguard staff could hear was Radio 2 on in the background so they called the BBC, who made the appeal on Ross's show during a news bulletin.

A Dover coastguard spokesman said the vessel blocked the channel for around three hours but has now moved out of range as it travels north, but it could cause further problems in the Thames coastguard area.
In other words, the appeal had zero effect. Nowhere does it say that as a result of the appeal, they stopped broadcasting...

No wonder no-one wanted to put their name to the story!

Ahhh, YouTube: For All Life's Little Dramas

Dizzy Thinks has video footage of some guy making a complete tit of himself, hectoring people trying to do a job, oblivious to the scorn and contempt of most normal people watching it.

Whoops! Sorry, that was the wrong link. Here's the right one.

You can see how easy it is to confuse the two, though... ;)

Johann Hari’s Ox Is Gored, And Gored Thoroughly….

…and the screams of anguish are earsplitting:
Who have they decided can afford to take the pain first? Not rich people like them: they will continue to enjoy big state subsidies to build up their savings and maintain their estates. No. Step forward instead the unemployed, poor kids who are falling behind in their reading, children in care, the elderly, the disabled, and any feeble little steps we were making towards building a low-carbon economy.
Hurrah! When do we start sending the kiddiewinks up chimneys again?
When you hear that the Communities Department has taken a 27 per cent cut, it sounds anodyne: what is it anyway? It's the money that goes to local authorities to pay for home help for the elderly and disabled, for monitoring children at risk, and children in care. Osborne has said he doesn't want councils to make up the difference by increasing council tax. So, very soon, there will be a big increase in the number of confused old people left unwashed and untended, and abused kids we never find in time.
And we’ll notice that, will we?

We’ll be able to compare it to the halcyon days of the Labour Period, when there were no abused children, no elderly left to die in squalor, and we all ran frolicking in the meadow among the sunbeams?
Many of these cuts will end up costing us money in the long term. Over the past few years, children – mainly in poor areas – who have not been able to learn to read have been given special one-on-one tuition to get them up to a decent standard, rather than tumbling through their school years getting more confused and angry.
I note that he doesn’t ask the question of just how it is that the normal comprehensive education isn’t sufficient to enable children to learn to read…
Literate people are far less likely to commit crime and much more likely to pay taxes later in life.
Really?

All those thieving bankers and fat cat industrialist tax-dodgers and expenses-fiddling MPs that he’s always whining about had good educations, didn’t they?
Cameron just closed the programme. The same child who loses her reading tutor now also won't get a small Child Trust Fund of £2,000 when she turns 18 – thanks to a Chancellor of the Exchequer who lives on an £4.2m trust fund of his own.
Yes, Johann, but I don’t begrudge him his trust fund because he isn’t sticking his hand in my pocket to pay for it. Which is most certainly not the case with the government scheme, is it?
David Cameron's claims to care about global warming also just drowned. The subsidy to build wind turbines, the encouragement to buy electric cars – all gone.
Hurrah! In fact, double hurrah! Bring on the nuclear power!
Of course, the Cameroons say they have no choice but to do all this, because we are "bust". There is currently a £178bn-a-year gap between what the Government takes in, and what it spends. But there are two crucial questions here: when the Government should close this gap, and how it should close it.
The answers being ‘soon’ and ‘by any means necessary’…
It seems logical to pay off a debt as soon as possible.
Why, yes, it does.

But that world-renowned economist, Mr J Hari, disagrees.
Better a deficit than a depression. Better to pay interest tomorrow than the dole to millions more today. And when the time for closing the gap does come, there is a much better way to do it – by closing the income gap. The first people to pay should be those who can afford it: the wealthy.
OK, we’ll target all those quango heads on more per annum than the Prime Minister. OK with you?
For example, the 1,000 richest people in Britain have added £77bn to their wealth in the past year alone. Can't they afford to make sacrifices a little more easily than a 17-year-old on the dole?
Yes, they probably could.

They could also afford to up sticks and decamp for friendlier climes, and then we wouldn’t have them here, employing people, using goods and services…

Would you like to see that, Johann?

Sunday Funnies

Don't say you weren't warned...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Lions! Tigers! Bears, Oh My...

Oh, I thought we'd seen the last of these two little publicity seekers, but I reckoned without the 'Daily Mail's' indefatigable desire to scare the living daylights out of their credulous readership.

And since cancer and rising house prices don't do it any more...
My worst fears nearly became a chilling reality last week when two girls, Kim Howells, 15, and her cousin Sophie Gwynne, eight, were stalked in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire - by what appears to have been a huge black cat.

Kim described the ‘panther’ as about the size of a Great Dane. ‘We cut through the brambles and just started running,’ she reported afterwards.

When they arrived home, their feet were cut and bleeding. Sophie was in tears. But what really brought this strange case home to me was the fact that if they had come to any real harm, I would have felt responsible.
Well, if that didn't catch the attention of the police, I don't know what would! Do you have a confession to make, Mark..?
For six months earlier, I had visited the same spot near Cinderford while making a TV film about leopards around the world, including a short section about the (I thought unlikely) possibility of them living in the UK.

In the end, fearful of causing public alarm, I chose not to use any of the extraordinary evidence I gathered.
Say one thing for him, he knows how to lead into a story. 'I could tell you, but then I'd have to...'
For the truth is I may well know the ‘mythical’ beast that chased them. Danny Nineham, the region’s local big cat enthusiast, showed me evidence of its existence when I was there last autumn. And it’s a black leopard — nicknamed Boris.

He’s huge, even for a male leopard,’ Nineham told me. ‘I’ve recorded many sightings of him. He’s dangerous, in my view. More so than any of the other leopards living and breeding wild in the Forest of Dean, or around the country.’
Damn! Does every region require a 'local big cat enthusiast'? Is there a grant for it? Sounds like a cushy job.
Nineham works with the authorities, logging the details. He collects possible hair and droppings samples, makes plaster casts of suspected paw prints, and sets up camera traps, all in the hope he can prove once and for all that Britain is stalked by big cats.
Ah, ok, maybe not.

And I suspect 'works with the authorities' is code for raised eyebrows at the local police station and a 'Oh, it's this nutter again...'
...we planned to interview Nineham as one of these eccentric believers and had lined up the wildlife liaison officer at Gloucestershire police, Mark Robson, to balance his claims.

Amazingly, however, he did no such thing. In fact, as I listened gobsmacked, Robson told me that most big cat sightings really are of leopards, and that there are enough eyewitness reports to follow individual animals’ movements on a map.
/facepalm

Let's hope his boss is reading this over his cornflakes. I can foresee a dressing-down on the horizon for Mark 'I Like To Have Fun With Journalists' Robson...
Many suspected sightings, after all, tend to be domestic cats, mangy foxes, even stuffed toys.

As eminent mammal expert Professor Stephen Harris told me: ‘Black always looks bigger in the dark.’
...

OK, I'm not touching that one!
I have to agree with him, the last thing we want is conclusive proof, telling us where and when these creatures appear in precise detail. Our record of living with large animals, however rare and beautiful, is not good.

But I do think that we should be aware that these extraordinary animals are probably out there, somewhere. And it is right that people such as those two little girls should know what they might meet on a Sunday walk.
Because it's not enough that we worry our kids about paedophiles, traffic, gangs, etc. We should tell them to be on the lookout for non-native predatory wildlife, too.

It’s So Annoying When You Leave Your Mobile On The Bus, Isn’t It?

Even more so when it’s full of stuff you really, really don’t want the police to know about:
And wheelchair-bound Fraser, who now lives in Seaham, County Durham, has become the last of five perverts to be sentenced for their part in the ring.
Whoops!
Brian Hegarty, defending, said: 'The defendant accepts that he has an unhealthy interest in children, which is of many years standing.'
And how many sitting down..?

Dangerous Dogs And Ignorant Bitches…

So, a dog already under a control order imposed by a court after a strong of attacks on other pets (and castrated, which clearly didn’t help) attacks again:
On December 10 last year Osya escaped from Sitaeva's home in Broad Street, Brighton, and attacked a smaller dog being walked by owner Gary Murphy.

Witnesses said Osya pinned the dog, called Benny, and “shook him like a rag doll”.

Drinkers at the nearby Marine Tavern ran outside and kicked and punched Osya to try and get him off. Mr Murphy and another man, Laurence Newell, were both bitten on the hand trying to free Benny from Osya's jaws.

Sitaeva tried to protect her own pet, shouting: “My poor dog, my poor dog” and told them “my dog didn't do anything”.
Yeah, right
Benny needed £800 worth of veterinary work for injuries including a broken jaw. When Brighton and Hove City Council animal welfare officers and police went to Sitaeva's home to seize Osya, she claimed she had given him away to a couple of complete strangers on the seafront.

But at Brighton Magistrates' Court yesterday she admitted she knew where the dog was being looked after.
Bang to rights then!

Let’s have a bit of ‘contempt of court’ for the owner thrown in as well, before we give the beast the Big Sleep, shall we?
Her barrister Giles Morrison asked the court not to have Osya destroyed under the Dangerous Dogs Act but to impose tougher conditions on its care.
Hah! Well, ten out of ten for effort, chum, but clearly that one isn’t...going to…

Oh, FFS..!
Magistrates imposed a “contingent destruction order” meaning Osya will be put down if Sitaeva does not obey a new order. She was barred from walking the dog in public and told only an adult aged between 18 and 55 can walk the dog.

Osya must be muzzled and on a lead at all times in public and must be kept on a long lead if in a private garden.
/golfclap

Well done! That’s why we have magistrates, isn’t it? So they can impose orders and then, when those orders are broken – actually, not just broken but screwed up in front of the panel, thrown to the ground and spat on with contempt – they can issue more orders.

Shouldn’t there be an IQ test for magistrates?
Presiding magistrate Dr Sue Berry said: “We believe the new and stringent control order will ensure Osya will not be a danger to the public.”
Oh, you believe that, do you? And on what do you base that belief?

It can’t be the owner’s compliance with the last lot of orders, can it?
Outside the court Sue Watson, animal welfare officer, said: “What if Osya sees another dog and decides to go for it?

I don't think anybody would be able to control him. We will be keeping a watchful eye on Osya's behaviour in the future.”

Mr Murphy, 56, said: “I'm speechless. It is only a matter of time until something else happens. This is a very dangerous dog.”
Let’s hope the next victim is a magistrate…

Young Love In 2010…

A former football star was tortured and murdered after his pregnant girlfriend set him up to be attacked by two thugs so she could watch the savage beating for pleasure.
Lovely
Chelsea Platt, 18, despised Martin Hyde, 22…
This is some new definition of the word ‘despised’ which is synonymous with ‘spread her legs willingly for’, I suppose?
When Mr Hyde got caught up in a petty row over £15, sadistic Platt lured her lover into the clutches of two thugs who ambushed him as he followed her down the street.
Platt later watched unfazed as Mr Hyde was viciously assaulted at her own flat during a two hour beating during which his killers shouted: 'I want a spade so we can watch him dig his own grave and put him in it.'
I await the inevitable ‘what sort of videos were they watching/drugs were they taking/upbringing did they have’ articles…
At Manchester Crown Court a judge condemned Platt's 'haunting and casual approach to violence' as he jailed her for four years after she admitted conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.
Four years..?!?

Even more odd than the condemnation uttered by the judge compared to the pitiful sentence was this paragraph:
Two witnesses who turned up at the flat in Brecon Towers, Stockport saw Mr Hyde battered and bleeding on the floor of the lounge with a blood soaked sponge in his mouth.
What sort of life must you be leading where the sight of something like that isn’t apparently unusual..?

And it's not the only bizarre story this week weither...

Friday, 28 May 2010

Unfortunate Typo Of The Month...



Click for larger.

From this story, where they've probably caught on and fixed it by now...

*sigh*

According to Angry Exile, the strange idea that you can appease those intent on genital mutilation of children by doing a bit of it yourself has made it down under: :
Australian doctors are considering introducing a controversial form of genital mutilation carried out on baby girls.

The Royal Australian New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) says the practice of "ritual nicks" could meet the cultural needs of some women and potentially save some people from drastic surgery.

Although illegal in Australia, female genital mutilation is common among some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities but has been known to leave some young girls scarred for life when not carried out in proper clinical facilities.
As I said over there, say what?!?

Isn’t leaving young girls scarred for life the very point and essence of this procedure in the first place?

I can’t say it better than AE:
"So, for what it's worth, and speaking as a migrant who's also adapting to the way things are done in Australia*, here's my suggestion. If Australia is such a tempting place to come and live then it must also be worth giving up the idea that one somehow has a right to mutilate one's offspring and accepting the more western concept of the individual being free from the threat of a parent setting about their crotch with cutlery. But if mutilating children is more important then don't f****** come here in the first place, because if you're caught doing it we'll send you away for f****** decades, you sick f***."
Seconded!

Ostentatious Consumption

Rebecca Seal in the ‘Guardian’ on that tricky question of how to ensure that your barbeque is as eco-friendly as possible:
Last year, in spite of the dire summer, we hardy Brits had 120m barbecues, making us the barbecue capital of Europe, according to the National Barbecue Association. The "alfresco eating industry" is worth £7bn annually (presumably companies making rainproof gazebos and waterproof fleece are also doing well), but, unfortunately, few of us realise how environmentally unfriendly a traditional barbecue can be.
I think that ought to read: ‘few of us care’, don’t you?
Those who think an outdoor gas grill is the green solution are quick to point out that charcoal releases more than 100 times as much carbon monoxide as gas. But although it's true that gas is a more efficient fuel for cooking, charcoal is carbon neutral as it releases carbon tied up temporarily in the tree it was made from.
And we wouldn’t want to be too efficient, would we? Not when we can be less
Most charcoal briquettes are made from hardwood culled from tropical forests that could do with being left alone. And they are also usually doused with firelighter solutions which can taint your food. The solution is to buy British lumpwood charcoal from sustainable sources, such as coppiced trees in managed woodland and forests.
Hmm, sounds a bit on the pricy side, doesn’t it?
Sarah Mooney from Bioregional, an entrepreneurial charity that sells British charcoal (available from Homebase and Sainsbury's, from £7 a bag), says: "Our charcoal has a more open structure than hardwood charcoals, so it doesn't need to be impregnated with lighter fuel. It burns for far longer so, although it's a bit more expensive, you'll use much less."
Yikes! £7 a bag! I should hope so! I'd expect it to go all night for that price.
Start your barbecue using twists of rolled-up newspaper, with the charcoal stacked on top, or natural firelighters such as those from If You Care (available from goodnessdirect.co.uk, 72 for £3.97), which are made from wood and vegetable oils.
Why not encourage people to rub two sticks (of sustainable British wood, natch) together..? Or would that be a health and safety risk?
You could also build your own barbecue using an oven rack and some old bricks, or an old oil drum cut in half – you'll have to weigh up the ethical points scored by not buying something new against less efficient cooking.
Mmm, weighing up ethical points. Yes, that’s certainly always on my mind when I’m planning a BBQ…
Rather than using paper plates, stock up on crockery from charity shops or buy palm leaf plates that biodegrade (25 plates, £11.99).
£11.99!!!

At this rate, I won’t be able to afford any food for this BBQ. Let’s hope that that’s not also an ethical minefie…

Oh.
Finally the food. There are far more interesting and ethical things to cook than cheap beefburgers, sausages, or Day-Glo chicken. Ben Spice, head chef at Acorn House and Water House, two of London's most environmentally friendly restaurants, suggests farmed tilapia fish or arctic char. "Unlike lots of farmed fish, tilapia is not fed dried fishmeal (which could have come from all sorts of untraceable, endangered fish), but sustainable organic matter. Similarly, farmed arctic char, a pale pink fish halfway between salmon and trout, barbecues well and is also fed on traceable fish meal. M&J Seafood is good for both."
They don’t say how much it costs, this time. I suspect I know why…
Both he and Henry Dimbleby, a restaurateur and founder of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, agree that squid is also a great choice. "It's the most sustainable fish at the moment, as we have overfished their predators and they're multiplying with abandon," says Dimbleby.
Thanks to our ‘green’ waste disposal efforts, so are rats and foxes. Want me to throw one of those on my barbie too..?

Seriously, who, other than neurotic Guardianista, can afford to concern themselves with this sort of thing?

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes And…

‘Daily Express’ this morning:
Allegations of cannibalism were last night refuted by senior investigators who said there was “absolutely no evidence” of such an act in any of the cases.
‘Daily Mail’ just now:
Griffiths, who was wearing a black shirt and navy blue jeans, appeared at Bradford Magistrates' Court and was remanded to appear at the city's crown court later today.
Asked to confirm his name he said 'the crossbow cannibal'.
That ‘D’oh!’ sound you just heard was the murder squad…

It Seems We’ll Have To Revise That Old Ronald Reagan Quote…

..it should now be ‘The nine most frightening words in the English language: I’m from the government a charity and I’m here to help’:
Patricia Faulkner and Dave Armitage built a run in their Colchester back garden for the squirrel they have named Squeaky.

Although he cannot climb trees, he is able to run about.

Squeaky has been with them for about seven years, but they are moving from Hazelton Road to a smaller home in Norfolk and had to call in the RSPCA as they will not have room for him.
And that’s when they first hit a snag…
The animal charity told the pair they had broken the law by keeping a wild animal without a licence and said Squeaky would have to be put down.
Bet they weren’t expecting that, if their only experience of the RSPCA was those heartwarming ads and ‘Rolf’s Animal Hospital’…
If they defy officials, they could face prosecution.
Well, naturally! The RSPCA aren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, are they?

This couple came to them for help, but who cares about that, when there’s a target to reach…
Ms Faulkner, 50, who works as a medic on film sets, said: “I can’t believe they would want to get rid of him.

“It’s like they are the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, except squirrels.”
I wouldn’t assume, going on their past history, that they are necessarily any better with other creatures.
RSPCA spokeswoman Katy Geary confirmed the couple had unwittingly broken the law by keeping a grey squirrel, as a licence was required under restrictions laid down by Natural England.

She said it would also be illegal to release Squeaky, in the knowledge that he was not fit to survive in the wild.

That means the RSPCA’s only option, other than to put him down, is to find a sanctuary which does have a licence to keep squirrels.
And god forbid they try to do that. It might eat into their bereaved-relative-hassling time and money…
The restrictions are tougher than for many other species as moving grey squirrels into certain areas of the country could put native red squirrels under threat.

Ms Geary said: “It is a bit of a legal minefield.

“It is one of these cases where people are doing what they think is best to care for an animal, but technically they are breaking the law.”
Well, after all, we wouldn’t want to encourage people to start thinking they could care for animals themselves, would we? No, that sort of thing’s best left to the profressionals.

Quote Of The Month

This month, we have Ross at Unenlightened Commentary to thank for this quote on the Labour leadership bunfight:
"So far today I've seen that Miliband is to challenge Miliband for the leadership of the Labour Party, over at CiF I read a post by David "Son of John" Prescott about said contest, Fiona Miller (Alastair Campbell's partner) writing about education policy, rumours about Ed Balls offering to stand aside for his wife Yvette Cooper in the leadership race and read stuff on this Labour supporting blog by Will "son of Jack" Straw.

I've seen Austrian cellars that have a less incestuous vibe than the Labour Party. "

Post Of The Month

This month, Patently's superb summation of what it is to be a Libertarian vs one of the Righteous.

Nothing To Hide, Nothing To Fear..?

A police team descended on a troubled snooker club in Benfleet – and tested 80 people for drugs.

Officers spent an evening at Rileys, in the High Road, following concerns about non-members trying to get in and cause trouble.
Wow, 80 people tried to get in to this club?
During the raid they swabbed the hands of 80 people to check for traces of cocaine.

Two of them tested positive and were searched, but no drugs were found. The pair were turned away from the club.
Ah, I see. They didn’t swab the hands of people trying to get in to the club and cause trouble at all. They swabbed everyone.

Why did they think they could do that?
Sgt Mark McQuade, of Benfleet police, said they had been invited to the club to help the owner keep the troublemakers out.
Good grief! There's always one, isn't there? Actually, these days, more than one.

Hmmm. Wonder if they swabbed him and his staff too?
Mr McQuade said they were now hoping to carry out similar operations at licensed premises across the rest of the borough.
Why not? The door’s been opened after all…
He said: “We have to get the landlords on board with it and sometimes the brewery, and if they are happy for us to do it we’ll go down there. It’s always good for the residents and customers that they feel a bit of peace of mind because we are there.”
Mmm, it always makes me feel safer when the police start swabbing everyone around me for drugs rather than deal with the few troublemakers….

I Thought This Was One For Mark Wadsworth...


...but sadly, it turned out to be his leg instead...

The 'Mail' Has The Important Facts...

..of the case of the suspected new serial killer:
The man charged with the Bradford prostitute murders attended one of the leading private schools, it has emerged.
Off to the 'Express' to see if they lead with how much his house is worth...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

"I feel very sorry for the mother..."

'I'm sure any mother would want the best for her child - but it shows a lack of thought. She must feel absolutely awful.'
I bet she doesn't feel half so bad as the baby...

Medical Ethics? What Medical Ethics?

Isn't it nice to know that no matter what your personal circumstances, there's always a support or pressure group or advocate somewhere that will stand up for your rights?

It seems that doctors wish to forcibly treat a woman with learning difficulties who has cancer and does not wish surgery. Step forward the disability network to uphold her rights and...

Oh. Wait.
Last night Liz Sayce, chief executive of Radar, the disability network, said: “The right to refuse treatment is a cornerstone of human rights and medical ethics, but so too is the duty of care.”The head states that saving the woman’s life is right; the heart recoils at the thought of deceiving and compelling her into undergoing a procedure which she does not want.”
Is it me, or is there a sense of 'mustn't upset the apple cart' about that statement?
“Society, however, must be careful to treat every case individually, and ensure that this case provides no precedent for over-riding the consent of people with learning disabilities in future.”
In other words, 'oooh, we'll let you do this just the once, but don't get too cheeky in the future!'.

Naturally, some medical professionals are 'what's all the fuss here? we do it all the time!' about this:
Dr Evan Harris, a former member of the Commons Science and Technology committee, said: “In A&E departments up and down the country, patients without capacity such as those drunk, drugged, psychotic, confused or with dementia are treated seemingly against their will, day in and day out. Learning disability coupled with needle or hospital-phobia in a patient with cancer needing is unusual but is a relatively routine matter for clinical ethics.”
It seems mental health campaigners aren't the only ones who've lost sight of what they are supposed to stand for...

Via UK NewsNetwork .

Update: MummyLongLegs has a piece of her mind for the medical establishment too...

Surely, You Jest..?

"Surely a 2 or 3 year old will be supervised and it's for their parents to explain it or keep them away in the same way as they keep them off other equipment for bigger children."
So says an online commenter to this story about a council's newly-built playing area for children, which appears to have a rather unfortunately-designed piece of equipment.

Clearly, this commenter hasn't observed an awful lot of modern day parents, have they?

Go To Work On An Egg A Motivational Statement!

Well, my office's teamworking event was, as expected, a massively pointless waste of time. But as I sit here gloomily contemplating my bulging email inbox, I realise it could be worse:
Many people admit they struggle to get motivated for a day's work when they first get up in a morning.

But police in Manchester have been given a helping hand after bosses printed American-style slogans on their breakfast cereal boxes.

The messages, which cost almost £2,400 to create, include: 'Start your day the citizen-focused way' and 'Putting people first.'
Oh, I just bet they went down a storm...
One disgruntled officer said: 'I can't believe the force would spend money on rubbish like this when there are cut-backs all over the place.'
Can't you? Can't you really?
Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney (Ed: Really..?) defended the decision to create the boxes.

He said: 'The promotional cereal and tea bag boxes were produced at a minimal cost around 18 months ago and have long-since passed their sell-by date.

'In late 2008, we sent out 500 of each around the force and, at the time they were issued, we received very few negative comments from anyone within the force and it was generally well-received.

'They were designed to show - in a more eye-catching format than a simple poster - what officers and staff should be doing to improve public confidence in the policing and the delivery of the 'policing pledge', such as how to make it easier for people to contact us.

'The money for them came out of the 2008/9 budget, which came out of a different economic climate. To complain about them now is, in my view, a little after-the-event.'
There you have it - modern management to a 't'. If they don't hear enough complaints (and you can just bet they went out of their way not to hear any..) it must be a success...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Why Should The Government Have To Help You To Have 'A Normal Family Life'..?

Problem families who make the lives of their neighbours a misery with antisocial behaviour are the target of a new community programme.
Ooh, I'm hoping, here.

I'm hoping this is going to be some good old zero tolerance, shape-up-or-ship-out action. But that word, 'community'. It bothers me. It says 'doing things on the cheap'.

Oh. Wait:
Southend Council’s youth offending team joined forces with South Essex Homes to win £230,000 of Government funding to tackle the problem across the town.
Well, that's certainly not on the cheap, is it?!

What's the money going towards? Cattle prods? A set of stocks for the village green? Extra prison places? Bringing Joe Arpaio over for some consultation?
The money will see a dedicated unit set up in the borough to work with individuals, families and children who are likely to be involved in antisocial or nuisance behaviour, in many cases helping stop them getting evicted.
Oh.
Carol Compton, head of Southend Council’s youth offending team, said:...“We all know bringing up a family can sometimes be a difficult task, and this programme provides support and advice to lead a normal family life.”
What..?

I lead a 'normal family life'. So do my neighbours. Oddly enough, we do it without help from a team of council taxpayer teat-suckers, too...
Kilworth Avenue resident Glyn Evans, a long-time community campaigner in the Kursaal area, said: “Antisocial behaviour isn’t just a bit of loud noise or bad behaviour now and then, it can be a life-ruining experience.

“I am personally fully supportive of anything that can be done to reduce the incidence of anti-social behaviour at the root cause, and not just paper over it by threatening people or sending them to prison.”
There you go. They'd rather spend your money on pandering to scum and 'assisting' them not to be scum than in 'punishing' them.

Sums up modern life just beautifully, doesn't it? In fact, as a commenter says:
Nebs, Westcliff-on-Sea says...

The worse you are, the more you get.
Well, this isn't a recipe for disaster or anything, then...

And why, when the response from the Righteous to other initiatives to improve the way the lazy and feckless behave is considered to be 'imposing our own value system' on them, is money poured down the drain on this sort of thing?

If You Want To Know The Time, Don’t Ask A Policeman…

…because he’ll be too busy handing out cards to kids:
Premier League Footballers, Power Rangers and predators have all been the subject of popular card swapping game Top Trumps.

And now it is the turn of the police as the Hayes and Coney Hall safer neighbourhood team unveil their own version - Cop Trumps.
This is, apparently, the brainchild of some cretin promotion-conscious cop to ‘engage with the community’ and ‘promote safety’:
The cards are a set of 30 numbered cards featuring pictures and descriptions of the officers from the team.

Each officer will carry their own card and children will be challenged to find and speak to officers - either when out patrolling the ward or when visiting the school - to collect their card.

Additional cards will be given to children on request in answer to a simple personal safety question and they will then get a special ‘gold’ card congratulating them when they have collected the full set.
Oh, good grief!
PC Mark Donovan from the Hayes and Coney Hall Safer Neighbourhood Team said: "Younger children have always enjoyed collecting cards and we have certainly seen a lot of interest in these new Cop Trump cards.

We hope that the children will enjoy building the set, and learning more about the work of the police and their local officers."
His work?

Will he be ever able to do any, while being followed around the borough by hyperactive kiddiewinks begging for cards?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat Dock...

Six more teenagers have been charged with murdering a teenager at Victoria Tube station.

Aspiring footballer Sofyen Belamouadden was stabbed several times in the chest at the station on March 25.

Nineteen people have now been charged with the killing...
I expect this will provide more grist to the mill for those who are of the opinion that 'joint enterprise' is a terrible, terrible thing.

Next, On The Discovery Channel's 'Extreme Professions'...

...'Chalk Carving: Hardcore':
Criminals have been banned from helping to clean up a chalk carving in Brighton as part of their community service because the job is "too dangerous".
Oh, well, of course.

I suppose the organisers had to pay someone to do it, then? Since if it's too dangerous for scum, it's obviously too dangerous for anyone else?
The project to re-carve the hawk on the hill in Whitehawk was instead carried out by children as young as five.
/facepalm
Mr Silsby said his own risk assessment had shown the work was so safe children as young as five could take part last month.

He said: "This is part of a health and safety mad, nanny state culture."
Can't really argue with that, can they?
"There are slopes on the hillside, obviously, and a few brambles. That's it. So we supervised the youngest kids and were careful. But the probation service took a different view.

"If we try to eliminate all risk we'll end up in a situation where we end up doing nothing at all.

"We needed every helping hand we could get, and children of all ages came along.
And is the probation service embarassed that they've been shown up to be box-ticking, risk-averse morons?

Well, what do you think?
A Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust spokesman said: "We are required to ensure that we can arrange for offenders to carry out their work in a way that is safe for them and the public.

"Regrettably with this project there was a concern following a risk assessment that the nature of the terrain was such that there could easily be an accident for which Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust could be held liable."
I can bet that none of the 'customers' of this service bothered to run a risk assessment before they climbed in someone's window or stole someone's car...

More 'Lord Of The Flies' Than 'Goodbye Mr Chips'...

Victoria Coren thinks we didn’t get upset enough about the case of Peter Harvey. in this column from a week or so ago:
Last week, hundreds of pupils staged a rebellion after seven of their peers were expelled for bullying. They marched into the quad, chanting for the headmaster and shouting abuse, before heading off to smoke and drink on the playing fields.

The headmaster, Richard Harman, held an emergency assembly in the chapel, where he explained why he had no choice but to expel the bullies. The rebellion was contained and the mutinous pupils are back in class.
Hmm, perhaps he should have expelled a few more, pour encourager les autres...
It's got everything, hasn't it? A quad. A chapel. A rebellion. Smoking on the playing fields. This is like public-school life in a film: flexing pubescent muscle, finding a voice, all under the safe wing of a firm-but-fair headmaster, against a backdrop of ancient stone and springy grass.

And what a headmaster. Zero tolerance of bullying, full tolerance of free speech.

Listening, explaining, "respecting", then sending them back to double maths where they belong.
Well, you get what you pay for, Victoria. This headmaster probably isn't bound by a telephone-directory sized book of rules and 'guidance' from the DoE and Ofsted...
What brings a lump to the throat is remembering how few schoolchildren in this country get to have that experience. You could cry, comparing this story to the other one, last week, about the state school science teacher who clubbed a pupil over the head with a 3k dumbbell, fracturing his skull.
Yes, it's appalling that the discipline problem in our schools can drive a man to these sorts of lengths, and...

Oh. That's not what you meant, is it?
The response to that story has been bizarre. The teacher's acquittal of attempted murder was greeted with a sort of public jubilation.
What do you expect?

You view the one incident of him snapping, yet ignore the constant taunts and bad behavious and sheer bloody arrogance of these children, secure in the knowledge that they cannot be touched, and that if they are, the CPS will swing into view immediately, no matter how small the injury.
There isn't an appropriate sense of sad, gentle relief that our justice system behaved mercifully to a mentally ill man.
On a lot of comments, that's exactly what was shown. But you'd rather concentrate on the others, wouldn't you?
People are actually on the teacher's side. There has been a flurry of articles in the press about feral modern schoolkids, all sympathetic to the idea of "lashing out".
That's because a lot of people are as fed up as this man must have been. They've seen the wilful arrogance and 'can't toubch me!' attitude of children today, they've seen the state constantly meddle in how their children can be disciplined, and the recognise this case for what it is; the inevitable result of such policies.
It is as if they think the teacher was acquitted not because he was ill and had no murderous intent, but because he did the right thing. It's as if they think children are so unruly that they deserve to be battered and attacked.
Some of them are, Victoria. Some of them are...
This is terrifying. If people really believe that discipline among state school children is now so out of control that any reasonable person would be tempted to fracture their skulls with a dumbbell, then why are we talking about anything else at all?
Why wouldn't people believe this, Victoria? The MSM has daily horror stories about the behaviour of state-educated children. They've even crippled teachers.

Even people with no children see the behaviour of state-educated pupils every day, particularly those unfortunate enough to travel on public transport with them.
There must, surely, be something we can learn from the difference between these two school stories. Whatever is at the heart of Uppingham, which allows those children to have a confident, non-violent protest but go back to class when they're told, needs to be identified like the Higgs Boson particle, bottled and passed around every school in the country.
Luckily, she mostly avoids the 'class and wealth' easy options:
Is it because they come from rich families, giving them the confidence to kick against a status quo but the motivation ultimately to uphold it? Is it because, in a fee-paying situation, the headmaster has the freedom immediately to expel troublemakers in a way that someone with national responsibility does not? Is it because their teachers are better paid, less tired, less in thrall to Ofsted and thus better able to radiate a sense of authority and power?
Think you've put your finger on it, Victoria. Well done. Any more observations?
I'm writing this article on Thursday. By the time it's published, I assume Nick Clegg will be prime minister.
Ah. OK, we'll draw a veil over that one...
The public response to that pupil attack, the idea of "Yes, well, he would, wouldn't he?", is the scariest thing to have happened in this country for years.
No. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. As MacHeath points out:
“The premeditation here was all on the part of the pupils who cynically plotted to provoke a stressed man into losing control while they filmed the result. Well, they certainly got what they wanted.

Teaching is an anomaly, a job in which any sign of perceived weakness will be exploited and yet teachers are hedged about with draconian rules about how they may deal with disruption, to the extent that pupils have developed a 'can't touch me!' attitude.”
One pupil learned that that only goes so far. A pity the others haven't yet taken on the lesson....

Monday, 24 May 2010

This Is A Surprise...

Two boys aged 10 and 11 were found guilty today of attempting to rape a girl of eight.

They were among the youngest boys to be prosecuted for rape in Britain and are now thought to be the country's youngest convicted sex offenders.
I was expecting an acquittal, what with the complete collapse of the main prosecution witness...
They had denied assaulting the girl and their barristers claimed they were just being naughty or playing a game.

But the judge Mr Justice Saunders refused their pleas to throw the case out after the girl admitted she had not been truthful about some of her evidence.

It's The Return Of Our Favourite Phrase...

Speaking about the case last November, Detective Inspector Mick Foote, of the Metropolitan Police's specialist crime directorate, said: ... 'Both victims have suffered a very traumatic event. However, I would like to reassure the public that such crimes are very rare.'
Al Jahom immediately gives the lie to that one, however...

Well, Lady, Just Count 'em..!

'My husband told her she'd cut the finger off and she replied, “No I haven't
It's like pantomime, isn't it? Altogether now:

'Oh, yes, you have!'

Looks Like The MONA Meme Is Dead...

Lots of descriptive taxt in the report of yesterday's park shooting:
A man was seriously ill in hospital last night after he was caught in the crossfire during a gunfight between two warring gangs at a street festival.
Two warring gangs, eh..?
Police said he was white and had suffered a single handgun wound.
'Police said'..? How odd. Note that they describe the victim, not the perpetrators. That, they leave to the witnesses:
Witness Lewis Barker, 22, a poet, said: ‘The park was packed, there wasn’t even enough room to move. We suddenly heard about three gunshots from 50 yards away and saw a group of black youths running through the park.

‘Everyone rushed over to the man who had been shot but he appeared to have had nothing to do with them.’
Quick to distance the victim from the perps. That's a refreshing change. He isn't the only eyewitness making that distinction either:
Another witness called Peter, from Dublin, said: ‘There were two groups of youths who were antagonising each other and suddenly one group started shooting at the other.

‘Then a white guy sitting around his barbecue with friends got shot in the crossfire.’
Wow, there's no doubt whatsoever that the Men of No Appearance aren't going to show up here:
And a festival-goer called Jacob added: ‘We were just sitting around playing our guitars when we heard a gunshot and saw a black kid running past wearing a white shirt and jeans. It was awful.’
Still, the Mayor of Hackney seems to be able to find a silver lining:
The Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, said: ‘Despite this very worrying incident, hundreds of people were able to enjoy the event in London Fields safely.

'Thankfully the incident took place some distance from the event, but if anyone has any information, I would urge them to contact the police.’
Gosh, good for you, Jules! Hate to have anything so unseemly as a violent shootout between warring street scum spoil your little shindig...

MummyLongLegs wonders where Diane Abbott was. After all, Hackney's her stomping ground, and she's usually only too happy to get her ugly mug on the TV...

Sinister Moves Afoot…

Lurking in my pile of 'things to post when the router situation is resolved' was this odd story:
Pupils should be given spoken as well as written exams to prevent left-handed children falling behind, a leading headmaster has suggested.
Aha! A new 'victim' group to provide special favours for! Won't the Righteous be delighted?
Anthony Clark said left-handers may benefit from oral exams in subjects such as English and history because they find writing awkward, reducing their chances of achieving good grades.

Spoken exams would give left-handed pupils a chance to shine because they hone their verbal skills to compensate for difficulties with writing.
That sounds suspiciously like the 'blind people have excellent hearing to compensate for their lack of sight!' old chestnut, which must really aggravate blind people who are now expected to become Matt Murdock...
Mr Clark, head of Malvern College, proposed the idea ahead of a conference on left-handedness to be held at the school next week.
There's a conference for this..?
Mr Clark said he had observed left-handed pupils having greater difficulty producing legible script than right-handers.

'When I see students writing, sometimes with difficulty - and many left-handers have difficulty with script - one imagines that they write less and therefore perhaps achieve lower grades than those who write more, because they have simply put less on paper,' he said.
So this is all supposition, based on what you've observed. It doesn't appear that you've even spoken to any of these pupils, or you've have a heartwrenching anecdote to share with us...
He said: 'I understand that 11 per cent of the world population is left-handed and believe that left-handers have had a disproportionately significant impact on the development of the world. Why is this?

'Is it because they feel constrained by the right-handed world in which they live?

'Is it that they perceive the world is against them and they seek inventive ways in which to manage the environment which confounds them?'
So, you think that being left-handed is a handicap that holds pupils back in exams, yet they have a disproportionate effect on the world's development?

Sounds more to me like exams are no judge of success, Mr Clark...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Guardian In 'Just Not Getting It' Shock...

Well, I guess it's safe now to take a look at the finale of 'Ashes To Ashes'. But just in case...


s

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i

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The 'Guardian's' review is, well, typically 'Guardian':
So that's it then, Ashes to Ashes to ashes. The end of Gene Hunt, the bullying, racist, misogynist, everything else-ist DCI the nation strangely fell in love with...
Ahh, bless. You can almost hear the baffled incomprehension that must have been in his mind when he typed that copy, can't you?

Rather like the now-notorious quote (attributed to Pauline Kael) that a liberal doyenne "couldn't believe Nixon had won", since no one she knew had voted for him, the Guardian just doesn't understand how anyone other than policemen (corrupt, racist, misogynistic policemen at that, ones not yet drummed out of the force by the professional standards people) could appreciate that show.

And certainly, it's proved popular with the police, if blogs are anything to go by. Even Inspector Gadget couldn't resist changing his header in tribute on Friday:


Yet it also proved hugely popular with the public too. And that makes nice, politically-correct, well brought up Guardian reviewers, secure in their insular bubble, head's explode...

Mind you, the reviewer is in good company, because even the creators are puzzled by that:
Some viewers may have been too busy enjoying Hunt's politically incorrect ways to notice. The gruff Gary Cooper fan surprised his creators by sparking the passion of some female viewers – there's even an online group called Hunt's Housewives – the admiration of some men, and leaving others obsessed with Gene and Alex's (or Galex's) relationship. "I'm still amazed that girls find it romantic, this big hulking bloke in a dated suit, that there could be anything even closely resembling a sex symbol," Graham says. "I find that baffling. It's great but I just don't understand it."
Oh, dear. Well, sometimes the best discoveries are the most unexpected. 'Fawlty Towers' wasn't expected to be a hit either, being savaged by the critics on release, only to see the character of Basil Fawlty - manic, cowardly, incompetent - voted second favourite TV character in a Channel Four programme.

It isn't just the maddeningly elusive appeal of the main character - for as we all know now, Hunt IS the main character, not Sam Tyler or Alex Drake - but the baffling (to the reviewer) ending, and the 'did they or didn't they?' question:
Got it? No, I'm not sure I have either. Did the people behind A2A know all this when they started, or are they just tying together all the loose ends together now, in a big old knot?
My guess is that they planned something like this, on reflection, if not the exact format of the ending. And I plan to go back and watch 'Life on Mars' all over again to see if there's any foreshadowing!

The bitterness at the popularity of the show with the public, and the obvious yearning for the 'old' police force seeps through in every line of the Guardian's review:
Heaven is the pub, the old one from Life on Mars, the Railway Arms, where CID went for a bit of R&R after beating the crap out of people all day.
Heh!

As shows go, this one - two?- has been one of the key shows of the Noughties (I loathe that term, but what else do you call them?). And the BBC almost passed up the chance to screen it. What a mistake that would have been...

So what is the appeal? Nostalgia? The retro soundtrack? A longing for the world to be put to rights, for a police force to concentrate on real villains, instead of politically correct trivialities? A longing for real heroes, uncomplicated by modern drama's need for 'conflict' and 'ambiguity'?

Probably all of the above. At least at first.

But then, like all great shows written by great teams, it took on a life all of its own beyond the soundtrack and the snappy one-liners, and became something that could support its internal mythology to produce something as splendid as the final episode, which ends - fittingly -with the Hunt character moodily contemplating his new 'decade' and new ride in his office, while outside another confused soul arrives, looking for his iPhone and wondering where the hell he's ended up...

Not a prospect that comforts our poor reviewer:
Hold up though, who's this at the end? A new arrival in Gene Hunt's purgatory? Does that keep the door open, just a crack, for maybe more to come? Oh Lordy no, surely not, they said this really was the end.
I don't think so, though. The ending is just too, too perfect. I think - I hope, despite wanting more - that the creators will resist the temptation to do one more series.

And if they don't win a BAFTA, there'll be no justice. But then, as the public longing for the world of 'Life on Mars' and 'Ashes to Ashes' shows us, there isn't any justice any more, is there..?

Memo To Novice Bootsalers

Careful placement of price labels is everything:

Fearing A Small State….

Madeline Bunting does not welcome the coalition’s plans for a smaller state and more self-reliance:
Liberalism has been a notoriously elastic word – as often used as a term of abuse applied to Islington chatterati as claimed to define an acceptable form of individualism.
‘Acceptable’ to whom, Madeline..?
At the centre of this re-emergent liberalism is the much used idea of a "self-authored life", in which individual autonomy is paramount to shape one's own version of the good life. The only role the state has is to ensure the individuals have the capabilities for autonomy, such as education and health. Power resides in individuals, who should be free to make their own choices in public services such as health and education. The state must leave people to run their own lives, dismantling big institutions and bureaucracies.
Sounds like paradise. More to the point, sounds like affordable paradise.

Who could possibly disagree?
What it can achieve in tackling welfare dependence, broken Britain, political disengagement and other objectives for which it makes great claims, remains to be seen. Liberalism, has, at heart, a deeply idealistic view of human nature: give people power and they will know how to use it.
Ah. Right. Of course.

The people who believe that we are basically children at heart, no matter how old we may be. Who believe that humanity is flawed, and they have the answers to putting things right, if only they can grasp the reins of power for long enough.
What is lost in this coalition – as Shirley Williams recognised in the Guardian – is any notion of state action to achieve equality and social justice.
Perhaps that’s because it’s been tried, and tried, and tried, and it doesn’t work.
Humanity is not perfectable by government edict and, god willing, never will be…
It's a set of ideas for government that will appeal to successful, aspirant England – southern England outside London opted for it en masse in the election in a flat rejection of Labour – but it offers as much loneliness and insecurity as it does freedom.
Not having the warm, soothing, expensive hands of government on your shoulders from cradle to grave is now to be prey to ‘loneliness and insecurity’, is it?

Well, bring it on!

N.B: Angry Exile finds that this attitude – that the state is mother, the state is father - has spread to the Land Down Under too…

Sunday Funnies

I had never even heard of the first one of these, which considering my love of true crime and Fortean events, is almost twice as spooky as the actual story!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

How Urban Panics Start….

Terrified residents have been spreading false rumours of child abductions in south Essex, according to police.

Essex Police said it has been inundated with calls from frightened parents, asking about a spate of child abductions rumoured to have happened in Castle Point and Rayleigh in the past few days.

Residents started making the panicked calls around Saturday lunchtime, saying said they had received text messages or seen text messages on other people's phones containing the rumour.
I’ve seen this go around before. Once it starts, it’s very hard to stop. Old style gossip and Chinese whispers were bad enough, but the reliance on the Internet and texting means it now spreads exponentially faster and further than ever before.

But the police are doing their best:
But officers have been quick to stamp out the rumour and insist there is no truth to it.
However, judging by the comments, it isn’t going to go away.

Among the sensible reactions we have some that sum up how these panics start, and why they are so hard to stop:
milesawayfromessex, Downtown says...

So what about the incident last Thursday, in Hockley, 8pm, near the Spa Pub, 11 year old boy, very distressed, crying, saying 2 men had tried to get him in a car?
When i checked with Essex Police they had no record of it, dispite their PCSO comforting the boy after the incident and looking for the two?????
so whats happening ?
Instantly, this is now at best a cock-up, at worst a conspiracy: ‘the authorities know something, but they aren’t telling us!’.

This is helped by the ‘I’m not sure if this is a wind up, but better safe than sorry’ crowd:
buttonbaggins, Westcliff says...

If i see something like that I feel its best to pass it on, as you its always best to be alert whether its true or not. As for this rumour my friend was sent it via a text from a POLICEMAN! so go figure!
And then there’s the ‘hey, there’s a pattern emerging here’ people:
Publicdefender, Castle Point says...

THERE IS A LOT OF SEXUAL CRIMES GOING ON AT THE MOMMENT.
SEE THE ECHO ,
the Echo should have outlined this in there piece.
Canvey has had a number if incidents, Thundersley has had a flasher and an approach from a car,now Hockley, from memory there has been 5 or 6 in 2 months .

People have a right to be concerned.
And of course, since this is 2010, the ‘someone might be liable if they don’t!’ argument:
Hagrace, Hockley says...

My son's school sent a letter home Friday about the incident in Hockley so they obviously thought there was something to write home about (pardon the pun) Even if this is Chinese whispers, at least it makes parents alert. No matter what we tell our kids about strangers, there's nothing a youngster could do if a grown-up physically dragged them into a car. Vigilance is vital and I am glad the school took it seriously enough to take action. If they hadn't and an abduction occured there would be hell to pay as well as compensation claims!!!
We sometimes forget that though the technology changes, people don’t.

Take away the texting, the Twittering, the mobile calls, and how is this reaction any different to a bunch of superstitious, frightened peasants warning everyone they meet on their way to the fields to dig turnips for a living about the witch who is making their neighbour’s cows barren?

Headlines...

...they are deceptive. It always pays to read the story closely:


Sounds like another 'police in reckless pursuit' story, doesn't it?

Well....
The drama happened after a police motorbike saw four youths - who have a history of burglary, violence and robbery - acting suspiciously in the Honda Civic around 9pm on Monday.

The vehicle's lights were switched off and none of the occupants was wearing seat belts.

When he enquired what they were doing, the car sped off.

Thirty seconds later the Honda collided with parked vehicles in Fauconberg Road, a quiet suburban street in Chiswick.
Thirty seconds. That's barely enough time to read that headline.

Some 'chase', eh? Nice one, 'Daily Fail'....

Here We Go Again…

Robert Harris is the latest ‘celebrity’ to throw his meagre weight behind the attempt to win favour for fugitive sexual predator and fellow ‘celebrity’, Roman Polanski:
Last Friday in Los Angeles, the so-called celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred – whose most recent clients include two of the alleged mistresses of Tiger Woods – called a press conference. A British actor, Charlotte Lewis, appeared alongside her, claiming to have been sexually assaulted in 1983 by Roman Polanski, who is fighting extradition to the United States after his 1977 conviction for unlawful sex with a minor.
It appears Mr Harris feels the timing of this announcement is a little unfortunate for his pal:
Carried live on cable TV, Lewis made a short and dramatic statement: "I am also a victim of Roman Polanski. Mr Polanski knew I was only 16 years old when he met me and forced himself upon me in his apartment in Paris. He took advantage of me, and I have lived with the effects of his behaviour ever since." Allred added that her client was "ready to testify under oath if and when that is necessary". The Los Angeles legal authorities subsequently confirmed to the Associated Press that they had interviewed Lewis the previous day.
Hmmm, things don’t look good for our plucky antihero in his mansion in Switzerland.

I know! Let’s paint this girl as a flake and a golddigger!
Yet there was, from the outset, something slightly peculiar about it. Lewis alleged that the assault ("the worst possible") took place in 1983, but apparently it was not so horrible that it put her off working with Polanski, since she appeared in his 1986 film, Pirates.
Hey, we are always being told by the Righteous that women who are abused by men can’t be expected to just get away from them. When did the rules change?
I know Polanski well, as we recently collaborated on a film of my novel, The Ghost.
Oh, really?

It seems you don’t know him as well as his victim, Samantha Geimer, got to know him. Against her will…
In fairness to the Mail on Sunday, they did at least do a little research in the cuttings library before going to press, and actually included a comment Lewis had made on the record about Polanski in 1986: "I found him very attractive. I'd love to have had a romantic relationship with him – and a physical one. You can't help falling in love with him. But he didn't want me that way." The paper tried to explain away the glaring discrepancy between her stories then and now by saying "at the time she was speaking she was still working for Polanski and, it could be argued, in thrall of him [sic]"
Well, that’s again something we are continually told by the Righteous we must bear in mind when women claim abuse.
…there is in the archives a third version of Lewis's relationship with Polanski. A profile, titled "Wild Child", clearly written with the actor's co-operation, appeared in the News of the World on 8 August 1999: "In a no-holds-barred interview Charlotte … confessed how she seduced kinky director Polanski when she was a nubile 17-year-old …" (The Mail on Sunday newspaper makes no mention of this earlier 2,800-word article, leaving it to the online-only version, which reports Lewis to have been "misquoted".)
And Mr Harris’s conclusions? It’s all the victim’s fault, is it?

Ah. No. He doesn’t want to be thrown in that briar patch:
It is hard to blame Lewis for the confusion she has spread. If her own account of her life as reported by the News of the World is correct, then she is more to be commiserated with than condemned.
Then it’s those bloody meddling lawyers and media is, it, who are cruelly persecuting your chum?

Yup:
But the behaviour of the media, and of some lawyers in America, is a different matter. The Polanski affair has now become utterly politicised.
Funny how that happens when someone flees justice, isn’t it?
The man in charge of the case, the Los Angeles district attorney Steve Cooley, is locked in a tight race for the Republican nomination to become California's attorney general: much of his prominence is down to his high-profile pursuit of Polanski.
Actually, finding and trying fugitives from justice is pretty much his job description.
It does not seem to matter that the officers of the court in 1977 recommended that the director should not serve a custodial sentence
Well, Polanski blew that option out of the water by having it away on his toes to a non-extradition country, didn’t he?
A lynch mob is in town, bent on destroying Polanski, whatever the facts of his case or the opinions of his real victim, Samantha Geimer, who has long since publicly forgiven him and asked for him to be left alone.
The US isn’t one of those third-world hellholes that accepts blood money. It doesn’t matter what she wants, and quite rightly so. The offence is against the state, not her.
I know few readers will be as sympathetic to Polanski as I am; I understand the instinctive recoil from the crime he committed a third of a century ago. Even so, the scenes at Allred's media circus last Friday ought to make anyone with a vestigial sense of justice shudder at the thought of what will await him if ever he is returned to the United States.
Justice. Long denied.

It’s about time…