Friday 31 October 2008

Camilla Cavendish Knows Who The Real Villains Are….

In her column today in the ‘Times’, she outlines a disturbing (but all too familiar) case – a mother accused by social services of Munchausen’s by Proxy, now called ‘fabricated or induced illness’ (FII) on spurious grounds, according to her little boy’s surgeon, who is adamant the boy had a genuine condition. Her little boy’s custody awarded to his violent father because his mother is said to be ‘a liar’.

And then, joy of joys for the SS, a new baby from her new relationship to steal:
It is one thing for the system to decide that a boy is better off with his father than his mother. It is quite another to take a child from its parents into care. When Ann became pregnant, the council was concerned. She and Bob found its suspicion hard to bear. She tried to express this to a social worker by saying that Bob felt like killing them all if their baby was also taken away. It was a disastrous mistake. Police arrived. Bob was marched out of the house. A few days later, their baby was removed.
A classic case. And of course, all appeals are pointless, even by your MP, as the SS simply stonewall, with the help of the monstrous secrecy surrounding Family Courts:
Mr Yeo has written to the council to ask what justification there was for removing a ten-week old baby from a couple who have never been charged with an offence. The council's previous replies to his requests for information are not encouraging. Ann and Bob want their MP to know all the facts of their case, however damaging it might prove to them. Mr Yeo would treat this in confidence. But the council says that it is bound by confidentiality. It cannot disclose information about families with which it works. So Mr Yeo is in the dark. He cannot advise his constituents without seeing the files.
It’s like something out of Kafka, as Camilla acknowledges:
This story looks like an example of a Catch-22 that I have begun to notice. You could call it “once a victim, always a victim”. It is well known that if you have been in care yourself, the authorities are more likely to consider you a risk to your child, keep you under scrutiny and to put your child in care. But it appears that something similar holds true if you have suffered domestic violence. It is not illogical to keep tabs on women who have fallen for cruel, manipulative men who can harm them and their children. What is surprising is that allegations made by such men are given so much weight.
Ah, yes. It’s not the system or the people running it that are at fault! It’s those dastardly men. If only there wasn’t any weight given to their allegations. Perhaps they should be ignored. Would that help, do you think?
I do not know how widespread this phenomenon is. But too often, power seems to tip the wrong way. The abusive partner gets custody. The innocent new father loses his child.
Well, yes. Build a rotten system, give petty officials grotesque power over others, and ensure that it is all covered up by the courts under a blanket of secrecy, and that’s what will happen.

Did you think it could possibly be any different, Camilla….?
The coup de grâce seems to come when women who make the break, and manage it well, then find themselves accused of obstructing access to the children.
Well, no, actually. Aren’t you forgetting the claims of ‘FII’ used against ‘Ann’ in spite of the fact that there’s no evidence for them? And the SS’s relentless pursuit of Ann’s new child (to help those adoption figures, naturally).

And that happens to people who aren’t engaged in a custody battle too. Doesn’t that tell you something?

But no, it seems Camilla has those uppity, abusive, violent men in her sights, and is therefore blind to the reality of the fact that it’s the State that’s at fault here…

And All Because The Lady Justice System Loves….

Kylie Fisk, 20, lashed out as officers tried to break up a brawl she was involved in outside her home in a cul de sac in Ipswich, Suffolk.

She screamed abuse, kicked a police car, punched Sgt Alistair Livingstone in the lip and left five deep scratch marks to his face.
Just another everyday story of the underclass…? Not quite:
But she was shown mercy by District Judge David Copper after he was told how she had bought the £3.10 box of Nestle chocolates to say sorry.

Judge Cooper, sitting at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court, told her: "That is a very sweet gesture. I have never heard of that happening before.

"I have to consider compensation. You bought the police officer a box of chocolates, that is nice. You just go and give him that."
Now, I’m speechless….
Fisk admitted assaulting Sgt Livingstone just after midnight on October 18 and was given a curfew order from 10pm to 7am for two months.

Judge Cooper added: "You have committed a very serious offence. It must never happen again or you will go to prison."
Or at least, have to spend more on a better quality box of chocolates for your victim…
Fisk's mother Vicky Combstock, 48, said: "She is extremely sorry. I thought the chocolates were a great idea.

"She was very worried that she might go to jail and I am delighted that the judge decided to give her the curfew order instead."
Yes, I just bet you were…

And, I take it, you weren’t worried that you’d brought up a brawling, abusive, manipulative little bitch as a daughter? You didn’t feel any shame at her behaviour?

But then again, why should you? It’s everyone else (like the Fisk’s neighbours) that needs to worry about that. And only people with normal standards of behaviour that need to feel any shame...

Joining The Dots…

Between April 2006 and April this year, offenders serving community sentences and suspended sentences were convicted of a total of 121 murders.
But don’t blame the Ministry of Justice! How could they possibly know…? They aren’t psychic, you know:
The Ministry of Justice insisted that the vast majority of offenders on probation had originally committed only minor offences, giving no clue that they would later commit serious crimes when on probation.

And yet:
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation officers' union, said: "The number of offenders involved in further serious crimes is less than 0.5 per cent of the total under supervision.
"Obviously we would like to get that figure as low as we can but we are dealing with people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions and further offences are inevitable."
Looks like Harry can predict ‘inevitable’ further offences. So can anyone, given the circumstances.

Not sure why it comes as a surprise to the MinJust apparatchiks though…

Cultural Vandal Is At It Again

Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, has suggested churches with low attendance could be turned into gyms, restaurants and multi-faith centres.
So we can all worship at the altars of fitness, consumerism and ‘diversity’ instead, Andy?

But I suspect there’s an ulterior motive behind this statement. And so it seems:
He used the example of the recent multi-million pound renovation of All Souls Church in Bolton, an Anglican church which has "found a new multi-faith, multi-racial community to serve."

"The CCT came up with a brilliant solution. The community did not need a museum piece but they did need somewhere to meet. They needed a gym, a health centre, space for community education and space for inter-faith learning."
Ahh, space for ‘community education’, eh…? Yes, I bet people were just clamouring for that…
He also used an example of a former church, St Peter's in Liverpool, which had been turned into a themed restaurant and bar called Alma De Cuba in 2005.

"My mum said the last time she set foot in the building was 40 years ago for confession," (Ed: Is Andy Burnham 40 years old? If so, I see why she’d need to…) he said, adding "Not everyone will be happy with that transformation. Part of me was uneasy but to her credit, my mum, a good Scouse Catholic, shrugged and raised a glass."
Ummm…OK, I’ll leave that one alone, I think!

So, how is the CoE taking this assault? As expected, it’s rolling over without a murmur:
A Church of England spokesman said Mr Burnham's suggestion would only apply to a minority of its 10,000 churches now deemed redundant - about 30 a year.
Heh. Who wants to place a bet on when we’ll see the first ‘redundant’ mosque turned into a nightclub?

Yeah, thought so….

Thursday 30 October 2008

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means..."

One of the corporation's most senior officials has told friends she would quit if any of her staff were sacked for allowing obscene phone calls to be made and broadcast by the presenter and comedian Russell Brand.

Sources said Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas will walk out if her employees are 'scapegoated' for the affair.
Lesley, sweetie, your employees are actually as much to blame for the affair.

If the BBC were to sack the Radio 2 studio cleaner, that would be 'scapegoating'. Nip along to the Radio 4 office - I'm sure they'll have a dictionary you can use...

The Price Of Manufactured Outrage….

A lot of bloggers have covered the Ross/Brand Affair recently, and I can’t disagree with their assessment of it as ’trash’ and ’despicable behaviour’ that is made worse by being funded by the license-paying public under duress.

But those who rightly focus on the costs to the license-payer may therefore cast a jaundiced eye at the newspaper-driven campaign to sack Ross:
The BBC will be plunged into a multi-million pound legal battle with Jonathan Ross if he is dismissed at the end of the internal inquiry.

Ross has 18 months to run of his three year £18 million contract which is the most expensive in the history of the BBC. All his shows for the BBC are made by his own production company, Hot Sauce.
Who’ll pay these costs? The newspapers? Oh, no, it’ll be the licence-fee payers, of course…
The contract includes a clause which gives the BBC the right to terminate the agreement, at short notice, if the corporation is brought into disrepute by his actions.

Even though Mark Thompson, the director-general, has accused Ross of a "gross lapse in taste", his lawyers would sue the corporation if he is fired.
Thus, a double whammy for the newspapers – humiliation for a competitor, and more salacious infighting that can be used to sell even more papers. Score!
The lewd remarks by Ross, who was a guest on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show, were pre-recorded and broadcast two days later on October 18. They had been subjected to the usual internal compliance procedure.

But Ross and his legal advisers will argue that any blame is attached to the BBC for permitting the comments to be broadcast in the first place. They will argue that if anyone is dismissed or disciplined it should be the producers of the show and compliance team.
I can’t see that that isn’t going to be viewed sympathetically by a court. If the comments went out live, with no time delay, it would have been a whole different kettle of fish…
The BBC is anxious to avoid an expensive and damaging legal row with Ross who Mark Thompson regards as "genuine talent".

Senior management are aware that they would have another public relations disaster on their hands, after the damaging publicity of the last three days, if they had to give Ross the £9 million outstanding on his contract. Ross may also consider suing for any damage to his reputation and loss of earnings.
The BBC are now learning that quick, kneejerk reaction to bad publicity is like throwing a snowball up a steep hill – once it’s rolled back down, it’s often big enough to crush you….

And that may not be the totality of the bad news for licence-fee payers:
When 27,000 people complain about a BBC broadcast, it’s a fair bet that somewhere along the line the law has been broken. But talk of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross having committed a criminal offence in disseminating obscene material over the phone is a red herring; it is the law of privacy that could take centre stage in this dispute.
We’ll leave aside the fallacy that because so many people are in agreement, that means something legally. This is another potential cost for those poor license-fee payers:
As Jennifer McDermott, a partner at Withers LLP, says: “Even though Georgina Baillie has now admitted sleeping with Brand, at the time this was broadcast she had a reasonable expectation that this was a private matter. Merely because Brand is a celebrity, he doesn’t have the right to broadcast details of private sexual liaisons (Ed: Well, that’s most of his act gone then, isn’t it…?).”

Mark Thompson, the BBC’s Director-General, will be hoping that Ms Baillie does not sue for invasion of privacy. The corporation would be vicariously liable for the acts of its presenters.

I’m afraid it seems the only winners of this little debacle are likely to be ‘The Mail’, ‘The Sun’, ‘The Times’, ‘The Telegraph’, etc….

Suffer Indoctrinate The Little Children….

That seems to be the motto of Tory-run South Norfolk Council:
A group of children were asked to take a pledge to be "nice to" gipsies on a school visit to their local council offices.

The pupils, aged six to 11, were told to stand up and promise to "welcome newcomers" and not bully them.

The incident happened at one of a series of workshops for children, hosted by South Norfolk Council as part of Local Democracy Week earlier this month.
‘Local Democracy Week’..? You’ve got to be kidding me…
Children at the talk, run by the Norwich and Norfolk Race Equality Council, included 15 pupils from Spooner Row Primary School near Wymondham, Norfolk.
Villagers in Spooner Row are fighting against council plans to build a new travellers site with eight pitches.

Council officers have insisted they knew nothing about the pledge and denied trying to "brainwash children" into accepting the controversial plan.
I can’t believe that they arranged for ‘workshops’ to be run on their premises, and for their selected event, without having a say in exactly what goes into them. So their protestations ring a little hollow, there.
But one parent, who asked not to be named, said: "It appeared as it the council was targeting children with propaganda to try and get them on side.

"My first thought was that it was disgusting to target children in such an underhand way when so many people oppose the new site."
It would be disgusting to any normal person, unnamed parent, but you see, these people are what Leg-Iron so accurately terms ’The Righteous’. They therefore know better than you, and are entitled to do as they please with your children. For the good of all.
Spooner Row Primary School head teacher Simon Wakeman said he believed it was "inappropriate" for children to be asked to make the promise.

Mr Wakeman said: "The two people taking the workshop asked the children if they wanted to stand up and make a pledge.

"None of the children stood up because I suspect they felt awkward, but the pledge was read out anyway.
Well, quite! Silence is acquiescence to people like this…
"I am very unhappy about any child of primary school age being asked to take any form of pledge to any group in society.

"But it was also of concern because of the heightened level of anxiety felt by many of the pupils' parents about the proposed travellers' site."

Mr Wakeman has now made an official complaint to the council.
I bet it doesn’t go very far…
Stephen Thomas, the council's active citizenship coordinator, has now sent a letter to Mr Wakeman apologising for any distress caused to pupils, teachers and parents "at this sensitive time for your community".
Note, not apologising for doing this in the first place, merely apologising for the ‘distress’ caused.

A neat rhetorical trick to turn this around on to those who are ‘sensitive’ to matters like this, while the council staff reassure themselves that they are right, and it’s just that people are overreacting.
John Fuller, the leader of Tory-run South Norfolk Council, has also sent a personal apology to the school.

He said: "I can see that people might feel as if the council has behaved in an underhand manner, but I can assure them that nothing like that was planned or intended.

"It is very regrettable and sad that a well-meant attempt to breach the divide in society has backfired in this way."
Once again, note the wording – people ‘might feel’ as if the council has behaved in this manner, not that they so demonstrably have behaved in this manner. Their sense of entitlement to behave in this manner will continue to be unaffected by the publicity this has generated.

And their intentions were good! Surely, no-one could then object to the outcome, could they…? Really, who is the injured party here? You could almost believe it to be the council staff, having to read such horrible things about themselves.

But take note, anyone who still believes that Cameron’s mob are going to be any different once they get into power. This is how they will behave. Business as usual…

Worrying Signs…

Suspected Holocaust denier Dr Gerald Toben has won his fight against extradition to Germany where he is wanted for allegedly publishing anti-Semitic material on his website.
Well, that’s good news. Not that I have any regard for Holocaust deniers, but I despise the attempt to jail someone for an offence not actually committed in the country that claims it to be an offence.

Particularly when the authorities aren’t even putting up a pretence of legal authority to back up their claims:
In the European Arrest Warrant issued in October 2004, he is accused of approving of or playing down the murder of the Jews by the Nazis.

But District Judge Daphne Wickham yesterday ruled the warrant invalid as it contains inadequate detail about the offences.

It neither states the name of the website nor where the propaganda is said to have been published from - merely referring to the 'world-wide internet'.
It’s a little worrying if that’s the only reason she refused it.
After discharging Mr Toben, Judge Wickham granted him bail pending an appeal by the German authorities.

But he was not expected to be released immediately, after she imposed a series of strict conditions including a £100,000 security.
Free to go, but not free. Nice legal status that is…
Judge Wickham rejected an argument from Melanie Cumberland, for the German authorities, that the required information could be acquired.

The judge said: "Compliance, in my view, cannot be fulfilled by a drip-feed of information as and when the issuing authority provides it.

"I find that the particulars are vague and imprecise, I find the warrant invalid and therefore discharge the defendant."
‘We don’t have enough information to arrest you, so we’ll arrest you and then find something to use against you.’ Well, I guess the Germans haven’t forgotten as much history as they claimed, then. Ironically…
His other bail conditions include residence at an approved address, written confirmation from the Australian High Commission of which passports he holds, and not to access the internet.

He is also banned from giving press interviews. These were safeguards 'to prevent any public order act offences', said Judge Wickham.
Well, of course. She could hardly say outright that they needed to gag him and impose restrictions on his right to free speech because ‘his thoughts are icky’, could she?

Far better to claim fears of some spurious ‘public order event’ that might be in the offing if this kook was allowed to walk the streets of Europe. As if we didn’t already have other nuts out there claiming that a giant conspiracy runs the world….

Wednesday 29 October 2008

"Take My Ad Or I’ll Scream & Scream Until I’m Sick..!!"

A council has accused a bus company of censoring its attempts to encourage people to vote in Greater Manchester's congestion charge referendum.
‘Censoring’…? You mean, the bus company, a private company, declined to run your ad? As they are perfectly entitled to do?

Get a new dictionary, Councillor Dave:
Stockport Council, which opposes the charge, wanted to place its adverts on Stagecoach buses in the run up to the ballot - but the firm refused.

Council leader Dave Goddard said the company was censoring a legitimate information campaign.
Listen, you jumped up little council functionary – the bus company is independent, and therefore has no moral or legal obligation to run propaganda for the council. If they don’t wish to carry your advert, they don’t have to.

That isn’t censorship – that’s free choice
Councillor Dave Goddard, said: "They are censoring an entirely legitimate and proper campaign to tell people in Stockport about the congestion charge, the impact of transport improvements on Stockport and to encourage people to vote in the approaching referendum.

"Stockport people deserve accuracy and clarity, and Stagecoach should be willing to be part of that.

"Their behaviour is disgraceful and has no place in a modern democracy."
Now, I’m not in favour of congestion charges, but in this instance, Davey boy, it’s your behaviour that is disgraceful and has no place in a modern democracy.

The bus company disagrees with your viewpoint, agrees with the proposed congestion charge and as a free company, can choose not to carry these adverts – they are not an arm of the state and that’s their right.

Although I suspect if you, and people who think like you, got their way, that’d come to an end. Your petulant comments to the media prove just how unsuitable for public office you really are…
Mark Threapleton, Managing Director at Stagecoach Manchester, said the company was within its rights to reject the advertising.
Yup, totally.
He said: "We believe that the TIF package has the potential to bring a host of improvements to public transport and the environment in Greater Manchester including more peak time buses, more reliable bus services and cleaner air quality for everyone in the area.

"We don't always accept all adverts we are requested to display and have universal policies on certain types of advertising including those which are not consistent with our beliefs on the future of public transport.

"We took the decision to carry our own adverts on our own vehicles and are therefore not accepting any other related adverts from third parties."
After all, it’s not like Stockport Council don’t have a website from which to run their ads, is it….?

Well, It’s Creating Work For Somebody

The children's trusts created by the government after the death of Victoria Climbie have made little difference in child protection, a new report claims.
Did anyone really think that it would…?
The study from the public sector spending watchdog is the first independent assessment of the trusts since they were formally created by the Children Act 2004 to co-ordinate children's services.

It found "little evidence of better outcomes for children and young people" and said too much time was being spent on "structures and process" at the expense of improving the lives of children, young people and their families.
Well, of course! Those taxpayer pounds won’t spend themselves on conferencing, networking, training and employing consultants to help the ‘teamwork process’, etc, etc…
Local agreements worked better than the "centrally-directed" approach, the report concluded.
There’s a surprise!
Minister Beverley Hughes said she was "disappointed" in the Commission's handling of the review.

"Not only are the headline messages a misrepresentation of what their own report as a whole says, but it is based on fieldwork which is now almost a year old.

"Significant changes have taken place since then, not least the publication of the Children's Plan, which sets out very clearly our high ambitions for children and the strength and role of children's trusts in delivering them."
Nice! Can I ignore the next government report that has taken a year to complete, then, Bev?

And nice of you to counter evidence of what is not happening (despite the promises made in 2004) with evidence of what you’ve said you plan to do in the future. That’ll work, I’m sure…

Ah, but the vultures have scented a nice, fresh corpse and are descending on outstretched wings for their share:
NSPCC policy officer Vijay Patel said the report made "some important points" and the recommendation for closer links with schools was important.

He said "professionals are still not consistently talking to colleagues in other sectors", and called for further investment to achieve a "cultural change" in welfare services.
Hmm, I see a pattern emerging…
Janet Davies, executive director of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report showed there had been "insufficient investment" in the training of nurses and other professionals.

"This has created a protection postcode lottery where safeguarding services vary significantly across the country," she said.
More taxpayers money! That’ll fix everything…

How To Criticise While Appearing Not To….

A two-year-old boy who fell into a temporary pool in a Lincolnshire garden died accidentally, a coroner has ruled.
That may be technically true, but a closer look at the coroner’s comments is needed.
Dylon Booth fell into the play pool in Winthorpe, near Skegness, while being supervised by his mother's friends on 4 July, the Horncastle hearing was told.

He was taken to Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre where he died five days later in intensive care.
Some ‘supervision’ that was…
After the hearing Dylon's mother, Emma Booth, told reporters her son's death could have been avoided.
Indeed. By her, or by her friends:
She said: "If anybody is thinking of putting up a paddling pool of any type, before it's put it up they must [look at] the safety precautions.

"If they haven't got the money to do it, don't put the pool up. It's not worth the risk.

"And if you do, you must supervise at all times, because I've lost my little boy - and it's an accident that could have been prevented."
Indeed it could, but no matter what advice is issued, it relies on people to take notice of it.

And if they aren’t the type to take notice of it, are they the sort of people you could leave your toddler with? I’d have to say ‘No’…

But it’s the mealy-mouthed statement from the coroner that perturbed me:
Coroner's officer Neil Jones said: "The coroner doesn't want to criticise the family or anybody involved in this case at all, but there are lessons to be learned.

"The manufacturer of this pool did issue a very impressive document that outlined the safety measures that should be taken.

"And the coroner would like to emphasise that those instructions should be followed at all times and may well have prevented this tragedy."
Nice weasel words there – you don’t want to criticise, yet you then point out that safety instructions were issued, and ignored.

By whom, Mr Jones…? Those people you don’t want to criticise, perhaps?

How long before there are calls from the usual suspects for tighter regulation on paddling pools, or a certificated installation scheme?

After all, it’ll be ‘for the chillddreeennnn!’

All Your Children Are Belong To Us...

More utter balls from Ed:
Pupils should be kept in school grounds during lunch breaks to stop them eating unhealthy take-away food, the Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said.
Yeah, I know, it's a worry, isn't it Ed? Not, obviously, as big a worry as them being unable to read and write, but then, that failure comes back on schools policy, and we (that is, you) can't have that!

This is called a 'distraction technique':
This will not be a compulsory requirement, but Mr Balls says he will back heads trying to impose a policy of not allowing pupils out during the day.
Well, of course! He knows full well that it doesn't need to be compulsory - there are plenty of little Headmaster Hitlers salivating for a chance to throw theiir weight around, secure in the knowledge that the governors will do little to stop them, because 'it's for the chilllddreeeennnn!'
He also wants councils to limit the number of take-aways near schools.
And again, keen not to get his own governmental hands dirty. Also, the legions of Town Hall tyrants will be only too glad to do his bidding here. And if they aren't, no doubt he'll find a way to, errr, encourage them via funding...
Mr Balls will tell the conference that attention needs to be paid to what children are eating outside school.

"There is no point in banning junk food and raising the quality of lunches in schools, if teenagers can simply go to eat unhealthy food from neighbouring take-aways," says Mr Balls.
Curse you, teenagers, curse you for your free will!!

How long before this insane meddler starts casting a beady eye on what parents serve their children at dinner and the weekend too? Perhaps then, people will wake up to what someone like this really thinks of 'the public'?

But wait! It seems we can lay the blame for this epidemic of chip and kebab munching at the government's door after all. The BBC article goes on:
The research by the Nutrition Policy Unit of London Metropolitan University found that two in five pupils never used the school canteen.

An important factor in eating habits was the speed and convenience of getting food from local take-aways, rather than queuing and overcrowding in school canteens, found researchers.

Rather than the quality or cost of school food being the determining factors, it was often the lack of comfort in the school canteen that influenced pupils.

The study found that local shops were more entrepreneurial about meeting this demand - offering cut-price child-size portions and getting in extra staff so that children could be served quickly.
In other words, local shops are better at serving customer need than the dead hand of state, with its one-size-fits-all policies, and its paring-costs-to-the-bone philosophy. Who'd have thought it?

Well, other than just about everyone...

Monday 27 October 2008

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is...

An interesting little vignette over at David Thompson's site...

Tee hee!

Hollywood Hates Me...

Not content with utterly ruining one of my favourite childhood books, Susan Cooper's splendid 'The Dark Is Rising' (Moving a story grounded so perfectly in old English and Arthurian myths to the US? Casting Ian bloody McShane as Merriman?), it appears they are at it again with another one.

They are about to release a movie based on "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge.

The trailer isn't soothing my fears for this latest attempt. *sigh*

Compare and Contrast...

Jack Straw will today launch a withering attack on liberal justice groups who 'drive him nuts' by focusing on the 'needs' of offenders instead of punishment.
Really, Jack? Hmm, but never mind what you say, what are you doing...?

Prison may be the place that the public would like criminals to be - but it's the last place Mr Straw wants them. He's responsible for the prison service, and he knows that there are no spaces for additional inmates. His immediate priority is to keep additional criminals from being sent to jail. It was Mr Straw who introduced the early-release scheme for criminals, which lets them out 28 days early. He is a great advocate of "community sentences", because they keep criminals out of jail.
Update: I'm not the only one to see through this...

Sunday 26 October 2008

Someone Gets It....

At 'CiF', Terry Mancour bewails the state of US politics, caused, naturally, entirely by those mean conservatives. No, there's no proof. You don't need proof for something like this, apparently.

Commentator 'oncealiberal' notes:
If obama loses there would probably be no car left to key.

True Grit...?

Yesterday evening, watching the news, you could have been forgiven for imagining a disaster unfolding in the Lake District, as BBC reporters breathlessly announced the poor weather conditions that forced the cancellation of the Original Mountain Marathon.

Yet, reading between the lines, the barely-suppressed panic and almost ghoulish anticipation of mass casualties didn't give the full picture:
The competitors were said to be in good spirits after being fed and sheltered and many backed the decision to start the event - some even regretted it was called off.

Organisers today faced the task of accounting for everyone who set off in the event.
Which won't be as difficult as the reports last night might have led you to believe:
Many of the entrants who camped out overnight were experienced fell runners and seasoned mountaineers who carried suitable equipment to cope with adverse weather.
Indeed, it was a condition of entry in the event:
All entrants, ranging from elite and beginner mountain runners to orienteers, fell walkers and mountaineers, had to bring suitable kit.
So why the panic? Well, it seems the BBC were taking most of their information from Honister Slate Mine manager Mark Weir:
Mr Weir said the race should have been called off.

"Now we've got several hundred, into the thousand, stranded, cold, tired, some hypothermic," he said.

"We've overwhelmed the emergency services - the poor mountain rescue are out trying to find people on the side of the mountain, in the dark. It's just a bizarre day."
Now, I've no desire to run up a mountain in the pouring rain. In fact, I've no desire to watch other people do it!

But why the panic over experienced fell walkers and mountaineers?

Saturday 25 October 2008

One Thing I Could Have Done Without Knowing...

You probably didn't know that women over 40 need stronger ones...

Has Richard Dawkins Finally Overstepped The Mark?

I mean, decry religion and you'll be feted by the liberal luvvies until the cows come home.

But start in on children's fiction (particularly the ubiquitous 'Harry Potter') and you might find those invitations to the smart parties drying up:
Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he added.
Oh, dear. This is going to cause some wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among the Islington set...

Wednesday 22 October 2008

This Way, Judge Macgill...

In the Barking and Dagenham Post (not yet in the online edition though), we see this:
A cannabis addict who terrorised a mum and her two children before threatening to stab a couple with a six-inch blade has walked free with 'one last chance'.
Our courts, protecting their citizenry...

This charmer, a seventeen year old who can't be named, was 'hearing voices in his head', and therefore tried to smash his way into the home of a woman, before threatening two people with a kitchen knife. But he's the victim here!
Simon Gledhill, defending, said the teenager heard voices and suffered hallucinations after becoming hooked on cannabis and alcohol...the teenager had himself been the victim of violent attacks....
Well, it must have convinced the judge:
Judge William Kennedy spared the thug from serving jail time in a young offenders' institution and gave him a community punishment and rehabilitation order.

The judge said: "I want to give you this one last chance."
Are you closer to understanding 'what on earth we are coming to in this world...', Judge Macgill?

“A takeaway? You want a takeaway? You can’t handle a takeaway!

A couple of days ago, while blogging about the decision taken to ban Welsh students from having sugar with their tea, I said:
And if enough of you take that route, how long before the parasites that infest the Welsh Assembly are clamouring for business restrictions within walking distances of schools? Not long, I’d bet…
Well, it wasn’t long. It just wasn’t in Wales:
Plans to ban new fast-food shops opening close to schools, parks and youth centres in east London are to be unveiled in a public consultation.
And if the public consultation says ‘You must be joking!’..? They’ll probably either do it anyway, or ask again and again until they get the answer they obviously want.

Because it’s ‘for the children’:
The council said the move was designed to tackle child obesity and littering.
Their view is that we are just sheep – we can’t help eating fatty food and throwing the litter on the floor because it’s available, so make it unavailable (or at the least, inconvenient), and the problem will be ‘solved’. The fact that for many, an occasional takeaway is a treat, and they can happily dispose of their waste appropriately, is of no consequence; everyone’s choices must be restricted to ensure that the lowest common denominator (so lovingly nurtured by NuLab’s policies) doesn’t foul their own nest.

And if you happen to live near a park, school or youth centre and would like a nearby takeaway open near you, tough!
Council leader councillor Clyde Loakes said: "There are more than enough fast food outlets in this borough and we want to stop any more from opening.

"The bottom line is that residents simply don't have enough choice because of the number of fast food takeaways….
Eh…? I want some of what he’s smoking, if he thinks having too many takeaways somehow restricts choice…

Businesses go where they can get business, and if people wanted something other than takeaways, then they’d be springing up to serve the demand. That they aren’t tells you something…
”…we don't want to tell them how to live their lives but we do want to give them the widest possible choice in what they can eat.”
Sorry, councillor Loakes, but this is utter nonsense - you patently do want to tell them how to live their lives.

And if you (and your ilk) can’t do it by business regulation, you’ll do it by making people’s lives and everyday decisions more and more difficult.

And it’ll all be ‘for their own good’….

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Couldn't They Charge Them With Shoplifting...?

I love local newspapers, particularly the online kind. You can usually be guaranteed a 'WTF?' moment at least once a week.

And so it is with the Epping Forest Guardian and their story about the three men convicted of brothel-related crimes:
Williams and Victor initially worked alone but on discovering the women were wary of two black men, they enlisted the help of Gunduz, who is Turkish, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
Oh, right. Well, that'd reassure me, I'm sure...

Yes, Well, They Would Say That, Wouldn't They...

Junk food which is banned in schools is still being served regularly in nurseries, with some spending just 25 pence a head on meals for children in their care, a new report claims.
As well as the low nutritional content of the meals, the report warns that too few nursery workers are trained to deal with children with food allergies, which could lead to dangerous situations and even death.
The report found that some nurseries regularly served up food banned or heavily restricted in primary and secondary schools, including chocolate, crisps, cakes, biscuits, sweets, burgers and chips.

And who are these brave people, who have worked so hard and so selflessly to bring us this utterly unbiased, independent report on the shocking state of nursery school food provision, without fear or favour, expecting no reward?


The Soil Association and Organix, an organic food company.

Cheers, guys!

I'm Not Laughing...

Stan and Blognor Regis have picked up this frankly appalling little story, and have highlighted their favourite sections. There's plenty to choose from, too...

For me, the one that really said it all was this:
"She's a little comedian. I let her get away with a lot of cheek. It's sweet."
Cheers, Mrs Holt...

Though I've got to admit, this is a very close second:
"I don't see the point in punishing her. If I ground her, I'm just punishing myself because I have to put up with her in the house," she said.

"Err, Michael, Are You Sure You Want To Do That..?"

Essex Police officers are to get special talking cars to stop them filling up with the wrong kind of fuel.

The force is introducing fuel-cap devices, which will remind staff whether to put petrol or diesel in their vehicle.
Can I tentatively suggest that the problem isn't the wrong kind of fuel. You are obviously recruiting the wrong type of policeman!

And we don't know how much it's going to cost to turn the average cop car into KITT, but we do know that these mistakes have cost £42,000 over the last five years.

Monday 20 October 2008

Culture War - Some In The Ranks Are Asking Questions

A teenager who has been hooked on cannabis since he was 10 has been locked up indefinitely after raping a 58-year-old woman in her own home.
Seems an odd first offence, even for someone hooked on drugs.

Oh. Wait:
Jordan Webster, 15, who has a shocking catalogue of 63 previous convictions and 38 court appearances, was just 14 when he attacked the woman while holding a knife to her throat.

His actions prompted a judge to ask: 'What on earth are we coming to in this world when a boy of 14 can not only acquire that record but then go on to do what you did that day?'
Shocking? To whom, exactly? Not to anyone who has seen this scenario a thousand times before.

And Judge Macgill’s query might be better addressed to his fellow judges and magistrates, rather than some vague ‘we’. Like, for instance, Tony Pomeroy and all his ilk…
Prosecutor Mr Clark said: 'Since the incident, the woman has become very emotional, often tearful, and cannot return to her own home. In her victim impact statement she said 'The defendant has taken away my home, my independence and everything I have worked for'.'

He then told the court about Webster's past convictions, including an ASBO which had been breached on several occasions.
Of course. ASBOs only work if they are enforced. Just like every other part of the justice system.

Getting the picture now, Judge Macgill?
Matthew Harding, for Webster, said that while it was a particularly serious offence, the knife was not used to inflict violence. He also said the teenager, who admitted rape and aggravated burglary, does not remember much of the attack.
Actually, the knife was used to inflict violence – it just wasn’t used to inflict a knife wound.

And when the defence is this lame, I think you can tell even the brief’s heart isn’t really in it. Perhaps he’s realised it might not be a good idea to let Webster go free, for fear the next bedroom he appears in later at night might be Mrs or Ms Hardings…

At least the judge managed to shoot down the kite tentatively flown by the defence:
But Judge Macgill said: 'You knew full well the consequences of leaving behind forensic evidence and you took the sheet with you. What that illustrates to me is that your claim that you don't remember the detail is a total sham.'
Like pretty much everything else the many, many defenders of young master Webster have uttered in courts like yours for the last few years.

Getting that clearer picture now, m’lud?
The judge said Webster, of Normanton, must serve at least five years before he is eligible for parole.
Guess not…

Do The Math…

Soaring numbers of trainee teachers are using unlimited resits to get through a basic numeracy test, figures show.

Up to 56 per cent now need multiple attempts before they pass, the statistics suggest.
Sure about that figure? You didn’t get a trainee teacher to work it out, did you?
One student reportedly made 27 attempts. Meanwhile, up to a third of trainees need two attempts or more at a similar test in literacy.
So, why do they think they deserve to be teachers in the first place? I’m hopeless at parallel parking, so I’m hardly likely to say ‘Hmm, I fancy a career as a driving instructor’. What’s attracting such dummies?
The figures appear to show that although a multi-million-pound recruitment campaign has boosted trainee numbers it has struggled to attract substantial numbers of top graduates and that the quality of trainees has deteriorated.
Ah, of course. The sweet, sweet smell of government moolah.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said trainees on some routes into teaching – such as on-the-job training programmes – were exempt from taking the skills tests.
Imagine what their literacy and numeracy might be like…
However, they are a requirement for all those undertaking 'initial teacher training' – the vast majority.

'Ofsted tell us that the standard of teaching training has never been higher and big rises in results show that quality of teaching is improving massively year-in, year-out,' he said.
And we all believe Ofsted, don’t we….?

Sunday 19 October 2008

As If A Looming Recession Wasn't A Big Enough Hit Of Nostalgia...

...Tom Jones has a new single coming out.

Joking aside, it's pretty damn good, too.

'Comment Is Free' - Unless It's An Inconvenient One...

That euthanasia for the sake of the budget advocate Mary Warnock has a comment piece over at 'Comment Is Free' regarding the death of Daniel James, the 23-year-old rugby player paralysed from the neck down, who flew to Switzerland to take up the offer of a dignified end via Dignitas.

Now, I sympathise whole-heartedly with his decision, and condemn the action of the police and CPS in attempting to harass his parents (though I suspect that any such attempt will be quickly dropped for fear of the publicity). But I thought CiF'ers ought to know the past utterances of the fragrant Mary Warnock, on the advisability of those with dementia seeking euthanasia so as not to be a burden on their family and - more importantly - a drain on the NHS's resources.

My first comment was quickly removed by a moderator (despite not breaching any rules). Oh dear, did I let a rather mangy, flea-ridden cat out of the CiF bag, mods..?

My second is still up (for now). Let's see how long it lasts...

Update: Well, it lasted a couple of hours, and has now been deleted. Let's see how my third does. They don't like free speech much, do they...?

Update 2
: Not long at all! Must have been the link to the 'Telegraph' that drew the ire, surely can't be drawing people's attention to Warnock's comments, and the duplicity of the mods?. But now others are picking up on this - let's see if they can ban everyone...

Update 3: They've reinstated my first post! But kept the deletion on my others. Inconsistency, it seems, is also free...

"Are the neighbors watching me...(Who's watching)...Well, is the mailman watching me..."

An often-expressed disquiet on blogs is the ease with which it seems England is slipping into the 'Government is watching me for my own good' default mode.

Among others, Leg-Iron and Devil's Kitchen have recently posted on the ease with which the government is turning us all into unpaid informers by small, imperceptible increments.

Well, now the gloves are finally off, and they feel emboldened to come straight out with it:
Tradesmen working for local authorities are to be asked to report signs of child abuse and neglect as they visit the homes of council tenants.

The plumbers, electricians and carpenters will be issued with a checklist of signs to look out for, including ‘unexplained bruising’ and ‘scalds’. Training will last just half a day.
Of course it will - the object isn't to pick up instances of child abuse (because let's face it, how good are social workers at dealing with that anyway, and why would they just worry about council homes, after telling us for years it happens everywhere?), it's to ensure that we all know that someone could be watching.

Any time, anywhere.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Hoplophobes In Our Schools...

Via ‘Landed Underclass’, this story of a grammar school boy suspended and investigated by the police for the heinous crime of paintballing.

Quite right, you may say – there’s a place and time for paintballing, and it isn’t in school!

Well, umm, this wasn't – it was in his own time and the school objected to him posting images on Facebook:
Police officers questioned the 17-year-old Slough Grammar School student after headteacher Margaret Lenton saw a photo of the bearded-pupil posing with a paintballing gun in overalls with the full headgear. The image, which is on the internet, is believed to have been taken when the youngster went paintballing with a group of friends.
And so headmistress Lenton, having reacted to this hideous image in the same way old maids are said to react to a mouse in their kitchen, immediately called the law.
Police officers confirmed they met the boy and his family and were happy that no offences were committed.

A police statement added: “The student was found to be in possession of some pictures that were brought to the attention of the headteacher. To help address and prevent further concerns, officers arranged to meet with the student and his family. Officers were reassured that this is not a police matter. The family members were left happy with the police’s response. This is now a matter for the school.”
I don’t know what’s worse – that the police didn’t just flip to the Facebook entry, say ‘It’s a paintball gun, you silly cow!’ and slam the phone down, or that the family members are apparently ‘happy’ that the Old Bill feel justified in calling round to have a ‘chat’ on the basis of a teacher’s snooping on their son’s Facebook page!
However, the suspension has caused anger among fellow pupils at the Lascelles Road school who campaigned against the suspension.

More than 100 youngsters, including pupils, have signed up to the campaign group on social networking site Facebook, as an informal petition against what they describe as “the disgraceful and just generally stupid suspension.”

A pupil, who does not want to be named, said: “We all think the suspension was a bit of an over-reaction. He’s a really hard-working student who has been at the school for years. Obviously nobody agrees with carrying a real gun but the photo was just of him holding a paintballing gun when he went out paintballing with his mates as most teenagers do. And that is not illegal.”
Bravo that pupil! Obviously, Slough Grammar turns out pupils able to think for themselves and reject the unthinking kneejerk reactions of their supposed elders and betters.

But where’s the outrage from the boy’s parents? Why aren’t they up in arms about a headmistress snooping around their son’s Facebook page to criticise and act on activities freely undertaken in his own time? Don’t they think this warrants action to prevent this happening to other pupils? What a pity they haven’t shown as much backbone as their son’s classmates...
Mrs Lenton said her decision was supported by school governors but declined to comment further.
No, I bet. I would too, if I were her, and I’d just made as big an arse of myself.

Let’s hope she never drives past Terry Western’s Volvo one afternoon....

Friday 17 October 2008

"Should’ve Gone To Specsavers…"

OK, bar the plastic nose, glassy eyes and distinctly synthetic sheen, perhaps it does look like the real thing.
Sure does. If you’re a complete moron
At least, that's what members of the public thought when they spotted a 'big cat' being driven in the back of a Volvo and rang police.
Because that’s what you do, obviously. Not think to yourself ‘Damn, need to get the prescription changed on my glasses/take more water with it next time, it looked for a second as if that man had a tiger in his car!’. Don’t think twice, just call ‘999’ for someone else to sort it out!

And these people can vote, remember!
Teaching assistant Adam Dobby, 45, was cycling on the A39 near Bude in Devon when the Volvo passed him.

'I noticed a big cat. It was lying in the back and I thought it looked like a tiger,' said the father of four. 'I did a double-take. Its head was moving and was pretty big. It was definitely a tiger.'
A 45 year old teaching assistant! And a father of four! Someone you’d expect to have some common sense.

And why aren’t the police prosecuting him for wasting police time in claiming that it moved, when it clearly couldn’t have?
Joy Hamilton, and daughter Zoe, 18, saw the 'animal' when the Volvo pulled out of a Morrisons store.

'Zoe was aghast, put her hands to her chest, and did a double-take,' she said.
Yeah, the reason for a double-take is to check that what you think you saw is correct, or not. I guess it didn’t work with these two, either…
Police identified the owner of the Volvo as farmer Terry Western.

'Its name is Tigger and it does look very real,' said the 69-year-old, of Clovelly, north Devon.
Actually, no. It doesn’t. Unless you’ve never seen a real tiger in the flesh or on tv, but have had one described to you…
A police spokesman said: 'No action was taken. We encourage people not to carry things that disturb other drivers.'
‘No action’…? What action could they have taken? Did NuLab pass a law stating that you can’t convey cheap, unrealistic models of wild animals in cars, in case it alarms the dim bulbs among the populace (and why not – probably Nu Lab’s core voters, after all..)?

And ‘things that disturb other drivers’…? Who could possibly have foreseen that there are people in the UK so dumb they mistake a cheap Chinese-import soft toy tiger for the real thing? What if they’d seen a Resusi-Annie doll in the back of a first-aider’s car boot, would he be castigated for making Joe and Jean Public report a ‘kidnapping’?

Some might say I’m making too much of what is, basically, a funny story.
But this is the pass we’ve come to – normal people see something and simply call the authorities, regardless of how little it really resembles what they think it is, simply because ‘it’s for others to sort out, I wash my hands of it’. The thought of making further enquiries themselves, corroborating what they thought they saw with others, never enters their heads.

And those others, when they turn up, don’t slam the morons for wasting their time in such a fashion, and issue guidance regarding the proper use of the ‘999’ facility, but issue a statement assuring that no action has been taken against the innocent party (implying that they could, or might have, even though he’s broken no laws), and warning everyone else not to do anything that might upset or alarm the cretins that now walk our streets…

‘Great’ Britain, folks…

Thursday 16 October 2008

”This, Right Here, Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things…!”

A £3,000 blank wall built for teenage graffiti artists by a council was painted by a disgruntled taxpayer with the slogan: "I paid my tax and all I got was this lousy wall".

The 6ft high by 30ft long wall was installed so youths could practice their graffiti artwork without vandalising local property.

But ahead of its opening on October 31 a fed-up resident sneaked behind a security fence and daubed a protest about the use of taxpayer's money.
Please excuse any misspellings in this post. It’s hard to type this, as I’m trying desperately to wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes…
The wall, in Wadebridge, Cornwall, was funded by Wadebridge Town Council, Wadebridge Town Forum and North Cornwall District Council.

It was built in the town's Jubilee Park and was the brainchild of Sergeant Robin Moorcroft who has vowed to investigate the graffiti.
So, a policeman thought this up? As part of a cunning plan to lure vandals to the wall, arrest and then charge them? Or obtain samples of their handiwork for forensic analysis and later action? Good going, Sgt Moorcroft!


He said it is "ironic" because most of the cost was subsidised by local businesses who supplied free materials and labour.

"The ironic thing is that the wall has been built thanks to the generosity of local people giving time and resources for free," he said.

"But it is now going to cost the taxpayer, as we will have to crime it, investigate it and paint over it.
Sorry..? Did I read that right?

‘Most’ of the resources were donated, so it’s ok that the rest was not, and that this barmy plan got off the ground in the first place?

You now have to ‘paint over it’ so the vandals have a pristine blank canvas again? Why, will it put them off their artistic stroke if you don’t?

It was put up for the ‘free expression’ of vandals, but the ‘free expression’ of a taxpayer fed up with the people paid to prevent this sort of behaviour pandering to criminals is suddenly a heinous crime deserving of your time?

Now I truly understand the expression ‘going native’. Sgt Moorcroft doesn’t belong in uniform:
"We have been working hard to try to provide something positive for the community and this coward and their juvenile delinquent act has set a terrible example to the youth of the town.

"All residents were given the opportunity to raise objections during the planning process. This person could have come and spoken to us instead of committing this petty act.

"To paint graffiti on the wall and remain anonymous shows this person has no courage, I would have more respect if he or she came forward and admitted responsibility."
Have I fallen down the rabbit hole? This self-satisfied, public-pensioned, oh-so-right-on little creep is whining that his grand plan to provide free space for vandals has been ‘ruined’ by someone else painting on the bloody wall put up for the vandals to paint on…?
But one resident added: "I suppose you could say the writing is on the wall. People around here think the money could be better spent on more worthy projects.

"It seems like an awful waste of time and money - especially during a credit crunch."
In other words – “Shove off, Sgt Moorcroft, and take your trendy ideas with you. Do the job you’re paid to do. Hint: that isn’t to be a ‘youth advocate’.’

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Post Of The Month here, by David T over at 'Harry's Place'. Nicely skewering the man-hating nutjob Julie Bindel, and exposing the hypocrisy at the heart of the 'Stonewall' organisation.

"Oh, No It Won't..."

Richard Cooey, who weighed 267-pounds (121-kilograms), had argued in numerous legal challenges that his weight problem would make it difficult for prison staff to find suitable veins to deliver the deadly chemicals, a problem that had delayed previous executions in the state.
Could have saved themselves a lot of effort if they'd just used the Gary Gilmore method instead...

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Comprehension Dawns In Welsh Students

If I were a Welsh café or chipshop owner, I’d be down on my knees thanking the educationalists for sending trade my way:
Children at a secondary school have been told they cannot have sugar in their tea because of concern about healthy eating.
Note: not that they are restricted to smaller portions of sugar – they can’t have any at all!
"We should have a right to choose what we eat," said Emma-Jayne Morgan 16, chairman of the student council.

"I was amazed to be told I could not have any sugar in my tea. If you were told that at a local cafe you would walk out in disgust."
Well, quite. But then, the café owner recognises that you are a customer who can go elsewhere if not satisfied. You might start to ask yourself why the people who are funded purely by your parent’s tax payments don’t see you as anything but a subject to do as you are told by your ‘betters’; why not consider this a valuable learning experience, Miss Morgan?
Miss Morgan said: "Everything has to be in moderation. You can educate people to eat more healthily but you cannot force them.

"I would rather go down to town to a cafe for lunch than force feed myself something I do not like."
And if enough of you take that route, how long before the parasites that infest the Welsh Assembly are clamouring for business restrictions within walking distances of schools? Not long, I’d bet…
In a letter to her local newspaper, Miss Morgan said mashed potatoes were no longer being prepared with butter and milk.

"If they are so concerned about healthy eating, why not substitute butter and milk for skimmed milk and low fat spread?" she wrote.

She added: "Set meals are now set in stone because they are 'nutritionally balanced', for example, if the menu allows you to have fish, chips and peas, this is what you must have, whereas in the past, if you did not like peas, you could swap them with beans.

"Now, you must either eat them or go without them because a portion of beans does not comply with the 'nutrition balance' of the meal. Well, I am sure that beans are better for you than nothing at all."
She’s catching on, I think. This is not so much a ‘healthy eating for your own good’ initiative, as a ‘we’ll show these peasants who’s in charge’ exercise. Perhaps it’s dawning on Welsh students at last that government is not their friend? Let’s hope so.
The school's headmaster, Stephen Parry, backed the move to cut down on sugar and salt.
He said it was part of a five year action plan to "improve the food and drink consumed throughout the school day".
There’s a good little gauleiter, Mr Parry. Don’t attempt to answer any of the pertinent questions raised by your students, just parrot the party line…

The Wisdom Of Our Elders…

….who decreed that ‘children should be seen but not heard’ could do with a comeback:
Children taken to pubs by parents are running riot like "baby lager louts", ruining the enjoyment of other customers, it is claimed today. Editors of the Good Pub Guide have received dozens of complaints from readers about children's behaviour as pubs try to make themselves more family-friendly.
And it’s not just some parents who seem reluctant to request discipline and respect for others – teachers aren’t always capable of it either, when taking their charges out for an ‘out-of-school activity…
The introduction to the guide's 27th edition says it is hard to see a solution to "this particularly British problem", although plenty of pubgoing families caused no trouble. "In continental restaurants and cafes, it's normal to see families with children, not normal to see kids spoil things for grown-ups.

It's easy to say we could start treating parents who let their children run riot with the disdain normally reserved for lager louts. But would that have any impact on people who think they are entitled to a thoroughly relaxed family day out? And you can imagine the retort when a publican asks a badly-behaved family to quieten their children. 'We have just spent over 50 quid here, do you want us to leave without paying?' "
But there’s the problem – their ‘right’ to a relaxed family day out doesn’t supecede anyone else’s right to enjoy a day out without other people’s undisciplined children ruining it. And anyone who walks out without paying can be charged with theft – that’ll nip threats such as this in the bud pretty quickly.

It’s also true that you rarely see this behaviour on the continent, though I believe it won’t be long before they start catching up to us in the ‘children behaving badly’ stakes – after all, our other bad habits spread so rapidly.
Nine in 10 of the 5,000 pubs listed in the guide allowed children. But some readers wanted a "no children" logo to help them choose those that did not, according to Fiona Stapley, a co-editor. "It might be something we would think about. We are split. We understand those people going to a pub for a quiet time but we also have a lot of readers who have young children and we want to support them as well."
Excellent! I’d certainly choose a ‘no children’ pub over one that didn’t have such a logo.

And if that worked, how about that ‘I allow smoking’ logo for those pubs that want to attract custom without government interference…?

Odd Case…

A Derbyshire man who had his conviction for murder overturned after spending 27 years in jail, has been found guilty of wearing police clothing in public.
This is Stephen Downing, who was famously released from prison in 2001, after his conviction in the ‘Bakewell Tart’ case was quashed on appeal thanks to the efforts of Don Hale, a local reporter.

But it seems that the police aren’t going to let the case rest, just as they seem reluctant to let go of Barry George.
Downing was arrested in Buxton, while dressed as an officer, in February.

He was charged after being detained in a shop dressed in an ex-police issue jacket, dark trousers and black boots, the court was told.

The jacket had the words Photographics, the name of Downing's freelance photographic company, on the back.
Oh, well, I always see police advertising a local company on the back of their jackets. You can see why people would be fooled:
Downing, of Jefferson House, Milford, Bakewell, Derbyshire, had been mistaken as a police officer while wearing the jacket before, the court heard.

At the time of his arrest, he called the police himself to come to the store to deal with the matter.
So, he’d actually called police and yet they arrested him? And this so-called ‘police uniform’ had the name of his company on the back?

Something stinks…

Aggressive Foreign Invaders…

A superweed spreading throughout the UK could be brought under control by introducing plant-eating predators from Japan, scientists believe.
Oh, god. Do we never learn…?

Mind you, we might just as well wait until they are over here anyway:
Exotic species of spiders are making their homes in the UK, scientists say.

Researchers believe arachnids arriving in imports of food and plants are now able to survive and spread thanks to the UK's increasingly mild climate.
I knew ‘global warming’ would be to blame! We’ll have to hope that that impending ice age kills them off…
Matt Shardlow, director of Buglife, told BBC News: "Other countries in the world take great care about what biological material they allow in, because it can contain pests that can damage our goods, our livelihoods, our health and our biodiversity.

"Currently in the UK, we have a laissez-faire attitude - there is an open licence for people to bring in dangerous pests."
Yes, our leaders have that attitude to all immigration, not just of creepy-crawlies…
The tube web spider (Segestria florentina), another non-native biting spider, has also been on the move, spreading from the South Coast much further north.

It is a large spider, measuring between 1.5cm and 2.2cm (0.6-0.9in), with green iridescence on its jaws.

Mr Hine said: "In spider terms, it has to be said that this is an aggressive spider.

"If you approach it, it raises its legs and bares its fangs.

"Most spiders will back away - this one will jump at you and bite."

A Day At Kew

Decided to take a day trip to Kew yesterday, to see the autumn leaf display and the new Xstrata Treetop walkway.

It was truly a ‘worst and best of the UK’ day out. First, a horrendous journey by Tube, taking over two and a half hours to make (well over the expected time). This was caused by overrunning engineering works from the weekend (which must have made rush hour hell), then signal problems at Aldgate East and congestion at Earl’s Court, then the cancellation of our Richmond train at Parsons Green, followed by the cancellation of the one behind it too, which we’d been assured as we were turfed off would be going all the way through and was ‘only a minute behind this one’.

And to add insult to injury, a primary school trip joined at Barking, raising the noise in the carriage to near intolerable levels (even the teachers and classroom assistants had to bellow directly into each others ears to be heard, and any announcements from the driver were totally lost in the din), despite the feeble attempts at telling them to ‘Shhh!’ which were simply ignored – it was a relief when they left at Mile End and you could hear yourself think once more. I looked up the school’s Ofstead report, and found to my amusement it was marked as grade 1 and it claimed ‘Behaviour is outstanding and this has an important influence on the quality of learning. Pupils are courteous, eager to help others and respond very well to the school's golden rules.’ Perhaps the inspectors should accompany the little darlings on their next trip out…

But once we finally got there, I was reminded again why Kew is one of my favourite attractions in the UK – a real oasis of calm, no yobs at all (do they not bother to come due to the price or subject matter, or are they there as they are everywhere, but you simply don’t notice due to the sheer size of it?), just beautiful grounds and glasshouses, well maintained and well run, and enjoyed by tourists, well-disciplined and run school trips and respectful visitors.

The Xstrata walkway was well worth the trip, though the fact that it had been left to go trendily rusty a la ‘Angel of the North’ might make some agoraphobics pause, as would the imperceptible tremors that run through the walkway when there are a number of people on it. But then, if you are agoraphobic, you aren’t likely to be at Kew in the first place!

But next time, I’ll drive….

Monday 13 October 2008

I'm 'The Public' And This Isn't In My Interests

A husband who stood up to a yob who shouted vile abuse at his wife has been convicted of assault and told by a magistrate: 'Next time, walk away.'
Modern Britain in a nutshell, is this case:
His 46-year-old wife, who is suffering from cervical cancer, was becoming upset by the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, screaming abuse through her open window.

Mr Toth said: 'I went up to him and said, "Enough is enough". He said, "You can't touch me, I'll get you sacked". I thought his mum should hear this so with open palms I coaxed him towards her house, which is a few doors down.
So, Mr Toth is in the papers, has lost his job and had to pay court costs, and the yob is once more secure in his behaviour because the adults around him, and the system itself, protect his rights above those of everyone else.
Officers arrived at Mr Toth's flat half an hour later. The boy's family claimed Mr Toth grabbed him in a bear hug and tried to pick him up, causing six scratches to his chest.
Not hard to see where the yob gets his attitude to authority from, is it?
Kent Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision to take Mr Toth to court. A spokesman said: 'The CPS only brings a prosecution if there is enough evidence to provide a reasonable chance of conviction and if the prosecution is in the public interest.'
Really..? It's not in the public interest at all, unless you think that yobs should be allowed to do as they please, while decent people have no recourse under the law. But that would be to advance the breakdown of society and reverse the natural course of things, to put the feckless and irresponsible in charge.

Maybe that's actually been the plan all along...

Getting Away With Murder...

A father was killed and his two-year-old son left fighting for life after they were hit by a getaway car carrying thieves who had stolen cans of lager from a supermarket.
A 25-year-old pedestrian was killed after two stolen cars collided and hit a block of flats, police have said.
Innocent civilians killed in the commission of a crime would once have seen the perpetrators jailed for life. Wonder what these will get (if ever convicted)?

Certainly Having Trouble Seeing The Small Print...

... on the nationalisation plans:
The Prime Minister's close friends have revealed that he can only see extremely large print and has needed guidance at public events.
It explains a lot...

Friday 10 October 2008

Getting Their Retaliation In First….

Firearms officers will be banned from collaborating on their statements about fatal shootings, under new draft guidelines being drawn up by police chiefs.

The Daily Telegraph understands that draft rules for the official police manual are expected to stop marksmen from writing their statements together after critical incidents – changing a practice accepted through case law for more than 50 years.
Hmmm, this suggests they aren’t too confident about the prospects of the family of gun-wielding barrister Mark Saunders losing their High Court challenge to the practice then, and are looking to head off bad PR at the pass:
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is in the "final stages" of drafting the proposals, which are due to be introduced pending a High Court ruling today relating to the shooting of Mark Saunders at his London home in May.

The family of Mr Saunders, a barrister, launched a judicial review, claiming that the practice of conferring meant that police evidence was "tainted" and could lead to deliberate collusion between officers to distort accounts of events.

Mr Justice Underhill is expected to comment on the practice, and rule specifically whether it is unlawful under European human rights laws.
Expect to see some rumblings over this, with the more militant threatening to hand in their firearms tickets, just as they did last time they faced criticism over the death of an innocent man.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has previously condemned collaborating as "unacceptable" after the shootings of Harry Stanley in east London in 1999 and Jean Charles de Menezes in south London in 2005. It said such sharing of evidence was "likely to undermine public confidence in the police".
Indeed it has. And the De Menezes inquest details so far haven’t changed that, except to undermine it further..
It is understood that under the new Acpo directions, in the Manual of Guidance on the Police Use of Firearms, officers will be able to confer during and after shootings, for "sound" operational reasons.

However they will be obliged to write up their first account and subsequent statements about an incident individually.
Next move to the police unions. It’ll be interesting to see where they go…

Thursday 9 October 2008

Cultural Vandalism - Just Because They Can

Libraries could install coffee shops, book shops and film centres, under new government proposals to make them more user-friendly.

Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, will launch a consultation on changing the face of libraries which he believes are out of touch.
Really..? ‘Out of touch’ with whom…? Does anyone wonder when Andy Burnham (or anyone in his circle of friends and advisers) last set foot in a public library?
Mr Burnham will tell the Public Library Authorities conference in Liverpool libraries must "look beyond the bookcase and not sleepwalk into the era of the e-book."

While English libraries attract 288 million visitors a year, book borrowings have fallen by 34 per cent in the past decade and 40 libraries closed across Britain last year.
And that’s purely because people are afraid to go in case someone might say ‘Shuush!’, is it?
Mr Burnham will say: "The popular public image of libraries as solemn and sombre places, patrolled by fearsome and formidable staff is decades out of date, but is nonetheless taken for granted by too many people."
I never saw my local library (when I used it as a child and as a student) as a ‘sober and solemn place’; it was a quiet place, yes, but then it was a haven of quiet, a place to browse and read unhampered by conversation, traffic noise, canned music, disruptions – all the things that Andy Burnham seems to want to bring into this place:
He will also say: "Libraries should be a place for families and joy and chatter. The word chatter might strike fear into the heart of traditionalists but libraries should be social places that offer an antidote to the isolation of someone playing on the internet at home."
‘Libraries should be a place for…chatter’…. Wow!

The disconnect there is staggering – aren’t there enough places already where you just can’t get away from other people’s noise, conversation, music? We have to put up with selfish louts listening to rap on their mobiles at top volume on the Tube and buses, now this cultural void wants to encourage it in the library as well? Sod that!

Not to mention encouraging people ‘playing on the Internet’! Now, I like a good Internet browse as much as the next person, but the thought of coming across people playing YouTube videos or giggling out loud at LolCats in my library doesn’t impress me much. Not to mention what the porn-browsers are likely to be doing…

This incarnation of Labour are the party of mindless ‘progress’ – always moving ‘forward’, yet inevitably utterly ruining what has been built by other, better people, and never quite understanding (or caring) why.
Tim Coates, the former managing director of Waterstones however criticized the potential plans.

He said: "This ought to be about getting more reading books, particularly for children, not about turning libraries into fish and chip shops."
You old stick-in-the-mud, Tim. Don’t you know you must move with the times? You’re just a former shopkeeper, fancy criticising a progressive colossus like the Secretary of State for Culture!

I’m reminded, reading this, that Damilola Taylor met his end at the hands of violent, undisciplined, ‘do as you want regardless’ savages after visiting his local library to read and study quietly in his quest to learn and improve himself. This moron would like to see fewer Damilolas visiting public libraries, and more socially-incontinent types like his killers, those who can’t see why they shouldn’t listen to loud music on their mobiles, talk loudly and scream abuse if it pleases them, and to hell with anyone else.

That a man so lacking in the basics of, well, anything can be a ‘Secretary of State for Culture’ shows Nu Labour for what they are – empty suits, progressives in the debased, pejorative sense of the word. Truly, people who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing…

”It’s worse than that, he’s dead not socially aware, Jim!

The price of alcohol must be increased and beer, wine and spirits companies should be banned from advertising, doctors have advised.

They believe Government and industry measures to tackle binge drinking are failing, and that more needs to be done to reduce the toll of alcohol-related deaths.
Don’t they have any, you know, doctoring to do? Are they just being paid huge salaries to churn out more and more nannystate demands for even greater interference in people’s lives?
Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, liver specialist Dr Nick Sheron and public health physician Dr Noel Olsen said alcohol misuse is behind a wide range of problems facing society.
Ah, yes, it’s for society! Well, that puts a different complexion on things, doesn’t it? Who am I to assume I’m a free woman able to make my own choices – I need to think of society every time I raise that glass of wine to my lips!
Research suggests that if prices are raised it will have the biggest effect on the heaviest consumers and on young people, who spend a relatively high proportion of their income on alcohol.

Dr Sheron, of Southampton General Hospital, said: "We need to re-establish the delicate balance between the price people pay for alcohol and the harm that it causes – valuable lives are being wasted to preserve our love for cheap booze."
I’d take issue with the description of ‘valuable lives’ if we are talking about the chavs staggering out of late-night bars in our local high street and puking their ‘5 drinks for a £5’ in the gutter, actually…

But that’s not the point. There cannot be an adult in this country who is unaware that drinking to excess is harmful. The tax on alcohol more than compensates the NHS for the harm those who abuse it do themselves, as is the case with cigarettes. I’d have more respect for these people if they just came right out and admitted to being Puritans who hate to see people enjoying themselves.

And if they insisted on serving nothing but water and fruit juice at their next taxpayer-funded PR shindig…

Wednesday 8 October 2008

"Mr de Menezes FluffySnookums was a victim of terrible and extraordinary circumstances that day and afterwards. "

Officers said that the dog was “out of control” and "on the rampage" after it escaped through a hole in a garden fence from a large home in Mitcham, south London. The owner of the dog, a 29-year-old woman, has been arrested.

The terrier escaped around South Lodge Avenue and immediately bit a young child’s leg at around 11.20am.

Two minutes later the bus driver was attacked.

At 11.30 police were called by a 50-year-old woman who was another victim and shortly afterwards a fourth person was taken to hospital with facial injuries.

Scores of officers in two London boroughs, dog handlers and a police helicopter were scrambled but could not find the dog for another two hours.
Mindful of the recent bad publicity stemming from the De Menezes inquest, police were quick to issue a mugshot of the dog to their firearms officers: