Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Tough Guy

No doubt H&S will try to ban it.
More than 5,000 people worldwide descended on a small corner of farmland today to brave mud, rain, ice and fire on a gruelling assault course dubbed 'the world's hardest endurance test'.

The eight-mile long assault course features terrifying underwater tunnels, barbed wire fences and fire walks.

It sees competitors stretched to their physical boundaries as they clamber over nets, walls and even an electrified fence dubbed 'The Tiger'.

Brave Britons, Aussies, New Zealanders, Chinese and Japanese all took part in the rainy event - which saw its fair share of broken bones and bruised bodies.

Just look at the pictures.

If you want to take part in the next event you need to register here

Because I say so.

Mr Ed Milliband says :-
we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for 6,000 years
No, Mr Milliband, we don't know anything of the sort, not for sure - and frankly, the scientific community that promoted AGW has managed to discredit itself a bit recently because it's been proven that they messed around with data to make it fit the outcome they wanted, and which they were paid to achieve.

Ed Milliband also says :-
to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."
In other words he's telling Guardian readers to do as he says, or else. They mustn't listen to the naysayers because they are wrong and it'll be their fault if, and when, the planet burns up because we're all breathing out too much.

Perhaps Mr Ed will take the time to read some of the comments his article has received, it would seem that his stance hasn't gone down too well.

Like his brother, this Milliband needs to realise that just because he says something it doesn't make it true, and getting his words written in a newspaper doesn't make them true either.

There are some things that have been reported very recently that show a, seemingly politically expedient, disregard for honesty and truthfulness.

Let's look at some of those things.

We've had an individual allowed to declare his fears about AGW as equal to a religious belief, so protecting his employment.

We've had Mr Brown calling AGW sceptics flat-earthers, and we've had the climategate emails - whose ripples are still spreading.

Rajendra Pachauri is slowly but surely being discredited, thanks to certain bloggers - for example here, here and here. The story is only now being picked up by MSM.

We have scientific theories presented to international conferences, and used as a basis for agreements and protocols - yet find they are based on little more than chatter and a student dissertation .

We now know that UN reports were altered and we know that IPCC was misled, and now we have scientists claiming they are only human.

Perhaps IPCC scientists should realise that the rest of us are 'only human' too, and we are capable of acknowledging that the establishment has been trying to make us pay for the Emperor's New Clothes in the form of carbon credits. We fear that this is a pocket-lining scam akin to the South Sea Bubble - something that has been mentioned more than once on this blog.

Glaciers in hiding

A group of intrepid scientists from Manchester went to Albania and found some things for polar bears to stand on.

They found some glaciers that nobody had seen before, well, at least not anybody British - it's likely one or two Albanians had noticed them.

The glaciers are, apparently, in a place they didn't ought to be, because they're at too low an altitude for such a southerly latitude.

Maybe nobody told them they were in the wrong place, or maybe they were hiding from gunfire because ...
“The fact that the mountains were until only recently surrounded by war and lawlessness might explain why they have proved so elusive.”
*insert little chuckle* Presumably it's the glaciers that have been elusive rather than the mountains.

Good luck to these scientific geographers though, because it seems they've accurately reported something that shouldn't be there - which is yet another spanner in the works of the "establishment".

The existence of these frozen rivers, in a place where previous knowledge says they shouldn't be, might even make Mr Brown and Mr Gore think twice before they next consider hurling insults relating to the shape of planet Earth.

But it's hard to imagine those chaps worrying their little heads about it too much and, well, perhaps Mr Brown will have other things on his mind today? (see here)

"Fanciful stories"

The Mail carries an item referring to a book about Mr Brown, written by Andrew Rawnsley which will be published, and presumably will be on sale from, 1st March 2010.

The book, apparently, includes snippets such as :-
... claims that Mr Brown:
  • Hit a senior aide who got in the way as he rushed to a reception at No10.
  • Physically pulled a secretary out of her chair as he dictated a memo to her.
  • Hurled foul-mouthed abuse at two aides in his hotel room in America in a state of semi-undress after reports that he had been snubbed by President Obama
Two years ago, Mr Brown is said to have been so angry when told that computer discs containing child-benefit records of 25million people had been lost that he kicked a table hard enough to knock it over. And it was claimed he threw a mobile phone at a Government chauffeur.
In 2000, Mr Rawnsley's book Servants Of The People revealed how Mr Brown panicked after a radio interview in which he denied knowing about Formula 1 motor-racing chief Bernie Ecclestone's £1million donation to Labour.

The book alleged that Mr Brown later raged: 'I lied. I lied. If this gets out, I'll be destroyed.'
In response, a "Downing Street spokesman" has 'told the Mail on Sunday' that
'Journalists are free to investigate whatever fanciful stories they wish.'
Yes, of course they are, that's what journalists do. Oddly they often uncover an inconvenient truth or two - such as lies and cover-ups and manipulation of data that enable governments to raise taxation.

The book, by the way, is called "The End of The Party".

Some party!

Phew! It seems more like a bun fight.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Big Garden Birdwatch 2010

It's this weekend, by the way.

Some of the tips from RSPB
  • Do watch the birds in your garden, or local park, for an hour any time during the weekend of 30 and 31 January 2010. Don't forget to wrap up if it's cold!
  • Do use our counting sheet to record the highest number of each species you see at any one time. Please don't send the counting sheet back to us - it's just to help you record your counts.
  • Do record the ones that actually land – don't record the birds that fly over, or total them up over the hour, as you may record the same bird twice.
  • Do let us know even if you don't see any birds. It's all useful information.
More info at RSPB :-

What to look for

About the BirdWatch


Standard and Poor's downgrade Britain

This doesn't look very good, it's no wonder there's nothing on BBC
One of the world’s biggest credit ratings agencies said that Britain’s ongoing “weak economic environment” and Gordon Brown’s failure to properly reform the financial system had led to its unprecedented decision to “downgrade” Britain’s banks.

The warning from Standard & Poor’s sparked an immediate slump in the stock market and the value of the pound
More in the Telegraph

This might be how they work out the rating - there's bound to be somebody somewhere in the blogosphere who will have more information later, as well as a detailed explanation.

Policing Pledge

Checking the DirectGov site for a reference to the once widely publicised "Policing Pledge" this is what you find.

First :-
The Policing Pledge is a national set of promises to the public which every police force has signed up to.
Then this explanation :-
The policing pledge is a set of promises from the police to you about the services they will provide. All 43 police forces in England and Wales have agreed to keep those promises so the same set of promises apply wherever you are. Find out more about what that means to you.
... followed by ...

What the pledge promises

Through the national policing pledge, every police force promises to listen to you and your neighbours, and to act on any problems you raise with them.
The pledge promises that:
  • police will treat you with dignity and respect at all times

  • emergency 999 calls will be answered within ten seconds, and that help will be sent immediately

  • if you call 999, you’ll be told when help will get there, and it will be there on time

  • police will handle non-emergency calls quickly

  • if you need to make an appointment to discuss local crime problems, you can

  • neighbourhood policing teams will spend at least 80 per cent of their time on the beat in your neighbourhood

  • your neighbourhood policing team will keep you informed about what they are doing about local issues and priorities

  • The pledge also says that if you're unhappy with the service you've received and you report that to the police, police will get in touch within 24 hours and discuss the situation with you. They will give you the opportunity to talk about it with someone from your local police, in person.
     To read the "... full national policing pledge ..." click here (pdf)

    Here's a little story from Merseyside ...
    Lee Fairbrother, 26, who had consumed a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, was spotted by two officers on the M57 near Aintree in Merseyside in July 2007.
    They decided not to stop because they had not been trained to deal with motorway incidents
    Maybe it would also be worth finding out how a Police Officer could forget where (s)he was, because :-
    the officer reporting the matter gave inaccurate information - saying Mr Fairbrother was near junction 1 when he was actually 14 miles away, near junction 7
    The coroner is, of course, being realistic, the inquest is of an an incident almost eighteen months ago, and of course since then things have changed for the better.

    Haven't they?
    Speaking after the hearing, Ch Insp Chris Markey said: "Since this tragic incident some changes have been made and the motorway is now patrolled by North West Motorway Police Group.
    "Motorways can be a dangerous and difficult environment to police.

    "It is because of these reasons that only trained and specifically equipped roads policing officers are deployed to incidents on the network, a practice that is also adopted in most forces in the UK."
    So maybe Police officers will use a motorway to get from a ->b and, because they are "not trained to respond to motorway incidents", they will drive straight past any problems they might notice - because they've been told to?

    It would seem so, if this is anything to go by.
    The two officers were not trained to stop on the motorway so hence they didnt ok they got the location wrong and should of made the comms op aware of its urgency but they did what they were supposed to if they had stopped and something had happened they would be in the firing line!

    It is the victims fault he got drunk and decided to take a walk home via a major motorway and paid with his life my thoughts are with his family but this should serve as a lesson for all motorways are for cars not for pedestrians!
    It's hard to see how that opinion ties in with what's written in the "pledge".

    Thankfully there's also this :-
    me my self whould have stopped but thats me.
    The "Police Pledge" is not new news, it is not a new promise, and there is a copy of this so-called "pledge"on the Merseyside Police site, it's here. The same words are carried on all force sites. This "pledge" is meant to apply evenly to all, not to be interpreted differently by different individuals and different regional forces, but it would seem that it is.

    We're getting so used to empty words from those who are paid out of the public purse. It's more than worrying to learn that those who are trained and paid to, well, to Police the law and keep us safe, even when we've been a bit stupid, have been ordered to walk away and do nothing in certain circumstances because doing otherwise means, maybe, putting themselves at risk.

    But, at least the Police do their job properly, on the whole. **

    Don't they?

    Another couple of little stories, also from the BBC.

    This one
    Kent Police have admitted they broke the law when they stopped and searched some people at Kingsnorth Climate Camp.
    This isn't actually referring to "some people" - which suggests adults, it is referring to two eleven year olds who were searched and DNAd - as reported earlier
    The stop and search of 11-year-old twins at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp was unlawful, Kent police have admitted at London's High Court.
    There's also this one
    A group of G20 protesters are to sue the Metropolitan Police after all charges against them were dropped.

    ** The Rigbytown Police, when we see them, have been efficient, polite and friendly.

    Friday, 29 January 2010

    a rambling inconsequential fool

    This is a lazy sort of post, taken mostly from comments following a Mail article. One that seemed to ring true was this :-
    Peter Hain is a rambling inconsequential fool.
    Why would anybody feel the need to refer to Peter Hain in any way, shape or form? Does he actually do anything useful, has he ever done anything useful?

    Anyhow, Hain is reported as being appalled at the 'inflammatory language' used by David Davies (the Welsh one, MP for Monmouth) who apparently said
    there do seem to be some people in some communities who don't respect women's rights at all and who - if I may say, without necessarily saying that this is the case on this occasion - who have imported into this country barbaric and medieval views about women.'
    David Davies felt the need to say this when referring to a particularly nasty rape case, in which 13/14 year old Balal Kahn* repeatedly raped a 20 year old woman in front of his friends - who presumably thought it was an okay thing to do otherwise they'd have stopped him.

    This lovely young chap has been sentenced to 3 years 'because of his age and because he said "sorry" '. David Davies would like the sentence reviewed and was explaining his opinion on Radio 5 Live.

    The Mail says critics described the remarks as 'dangerous'.

    It must have been quite difficult to find people willing to openly criticise David Davies, because only Hain and one other individual are mentioned by name :- 
    Professor Heaven Crawley, of the Centre for Migration Policy Research at Swansea University, Mr Davies showed 'a crass misunderstanding of gender relations and why rape happens', adding that there were 'plenty of barbaric and backward' attitudes among men in all sorts of communities, including white British.
    Professor Crawley** has studied things like this, she teaches them too, but her words don't go down well with readers of the Mail who say :-
    How on earth can these few words be "dangerous"
    Dangerous - maybe because the people being criticized could get cross and take to the streets?

    Another comment asks :-
    Can someone, anyone out there please explain to me why it is "deeply offensive" to tell the truth. Surely the whole point here is that, this character is a blot on the human race, and no one should be standing up for him regardless of race or religion
    Good point! "Truth" appears to be relative to an individual's physical appearance, personal background and theology. There was a time when justice was blindfolded and punishment was meted out solely in relation to the crime committed. These days there seem to be many, many excuses for wrongdoing, and that's what's making some people quite angry.

    Another comment reaffirms this view :-
    This proves that if your opinion does not fit in with the so called "acceptable" rules, laid down by the political elite, you must never,ever,express them.
    There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, by certain sections of the population of this country, and they seem to be able to say whatever they like, no matter how inflammatory.
    It's hard to argue with any of this. All too often anybody who disagrees with either the "establishment view" or the opinion of vociferous pressure groups is called rude names - and is prevented from seeking redress because the powers-that-be say they can't, because they don't belong to a group that is classed as being the underdog. It would seem that there are groups of people who have been effectively disenfranchised because they are 'ordinary'.

    It's seems a pity that the Conservative Party is reluctant to open the debate because they disown Davies' comments saying they
    'do not reflect the views of the party in any way'.
    Talk about giving votes away!

    It really is time that the high-ups in all political groups started listening to the opinions of those they are supposed to represent - all the people they are supposed to represent, not just those who are able to belong to pressure groups due to race, ethnicity or creed.


    Balal Kahn will, by the way, be 17ish at the end of any sentence. Perhaps that small fact is enough to realise why David Davies would prefer a longer sentence.

    Oh, and here's a bit more about Professor Heaven Crawley from Swansea :-

    PhD, Oxford University (1999), MA Gender and Development, Institute of Development Studies (1994), BA (Hons) (First Class), University of Sussex (1992) 

    "I teach a Level 3 undergraduate module on 'Geographies of forced migration and asylum' (GEG343). I also co-ordinate the MSc in Migration and International Development, which is taught in collaboration with the Centre for Development Studies. In addition I contribute to the following modules:
    GEG105 Global Shifts: Towards a New World Order
    GEG250 Geographical Research Methods
    GEG332 Dissertation Support
    GEG252 New York fieldcourse
    SSRM11 Contemporary Research in Human Geography 

    I am a member of the Migration, Boundaries and Identities Research Group , Director of the Centre for Migration Policy Research and Postgraduate Admissions Tutor for the Geography Department"

    Weather predictions

    Long term weather forecasting from Michael Flanders might be more accurate than using the Met Office, and it's a bit more fun too

    "A Song of the Weather"
    January brings the snow,
    Makes your feet and fingers glow
    February's Ice and sleet
    Freeze the toes right off your feet
    Welcome March with wintry wind
    Would thou wer't not so unkind
    April brings the sweet spring showers
    On and on for hours and hours
    Farmers fear unkindly May
    Frost by night and hail by day
    June just rains and never stops
    Thirty days and spoils the crops
    In July the sun is hot.
    Is it shining? No, it's not!
    August cold, and dank, and wet -
    Brings more rain than any yet
    Bleak September's mist and mud
    Is enough to chill the blood
    Then October adds a gale,
    Wind and slush and rain and hail
    Dark November brings the fog -
    Should not do it to a dog
    Freezing wet December then :
    Bloody January again!

    "A Song of The Weather" by Michael Flanders OBE (songwriter - Flanders and Swann); a comic variation on Sara Coleridge's 1834 rhyme "January Brings the Snow".

    You can listen to the original here onYouTube  (Embedding disabled by request)

    Thursday, 28 January 2010

    Pyjamas and fluffy slippers.

    Having identified All Day Pyjama Syndrome (ADPS) in 2003, and a couple of years after a school asked parents to wear day clothes when delivering their children, a Tesco store has decided to ban shoppers who are wearing pyjamas or other nightwear.

    It seems unreal, but the BBC says so, and so do the Mail and Guardian, so it must be true.

    The lady chosen to be spokeswoman for the nightie-wearing folk of the St Mellons area of Cardiff could, probably, have been chosen more wisely because she complains that
    "I think it's stupid really not being allowed in the supermarket with pyjamas on.
    "It's not as if they're going to fall down or anything like that. They should be happy because you're going to spend all that money." 
    Ah, so she thinks a shop should never turn away a customer, it doesn't matter how they're dressed - it's all about taking money.

    Apparently some pyjama-wearers think Tesco is waging a class war.
    One mother said: ‘This is just pathetic and shows how snobbish some people can be.
    ‘Do they have any idea how difficult it is to get three kids off to school when you are a single parent?

    Goodness me, getting three kids off to school sounds really hard, it's probably terribly tiring too - so tiring that Mum has to go back to bed afterwards.

    How is it that 'snobs' don't do this?

    Let's put it into perspective - schools only have to be open for teaching for 190 days a year, not at weekends. Schools tend to open at the same time each day. It's a routine that should be relatively simple to master - especially for an adult.

    Tesco employees who also happen to be parents can manage to get up, sort their kids out, and still be there to provide a service to these wannabe pyjama-wearers - and many Tesco staff will also be 'single parents'.

    So taking a giant leap in logic, perhaps only a few, if any, of these pyjama-wearing 'single parents' go to work. Maybe they're just taking some time out, or maybe they are stay-at-home Mums who have never needed to go to earn - so have never had to plan ahead, never had to get themselves up, have breakfast, get dressed for work as well as get child or children dressed, breakfasted and ready for school and/or before taking them to the childminder early enough to be in work before the boss complains.

    Maybe these ladies were part of the group we Rigbys breakfasted with a year or so ago - a whole tribe of them, wearing fluffy slippers, short nighties, embroidered pyjamas and so on.

    There really is nothing wrong with wearing your nightwear when eating breakfast - at home. But there is something wrong when you can't be bothered to put on 'day' clothes before joining a number of complete strangers in a hotel dining room.

    It looks as if our opinion is borne out by the comments on BBC's HYS.

    There was a time when people made sure they were dressed according to the occasion - work clothes were for, err, work, casual clothes were for evenings and weekends, or whatever free-from-work time there was. Things slackened off, possibly at about the same time as tracksuits became 'fashionable' - but it's unlikely that those tracksuits were worn in bed as well as out of doors.

    There was a time when people would make sure they got washed and dressed before they went further than either the back garden or the doorstep, and they also made sure that their nightclothes were worn only in bed - to make sure they weren't dirty, to make sure that there weren't 'outdoor things' in bedding.

    It does seem incredible that 'these days' there are people who will happily get out of bed and mix with other people - strangers - in what are very public places without even making sure they are clean and tidy as well as properly covered up. Especially when every man is a potential rapist or child abuser.

    To go food shopping without even bothering to wash the sleep from your eyes seems a little lackadaisical and is also probably unhealthy - but they don't seem to care.

    A comment from an unnamed 'mother' :-
    ‘I can't see what is wrong with pulling a coat over your pyjamas to drop the kids off at school then stopping in the shop for a loaf of bread.
    Sorry dear, I can, and so can people on Mumsnet .

    On Facebook a group of, currently 10,640, people want to ban pyjamas from the streets of Liverpool.

    The unnamed mother continues :-
    ‘I won't be bothering with Tesco anymore, I'm off to Aldi.’
    And Aldi in Cardiff will welcome the great unwashed?

    Let's wait and see, shall we.

    Monday, 25 January 2010


    Eight people, including seven in Scotland, have died of anthrax infection from using suspected contaminated heroin, European health authorities said last night, and one expert advised users to stop taking the narcotic immediately.
    So says the Indy.

    We're reassured that those injecting themselves with heroin read the Independent, and will stop using the drug straight away thanks to advice from some un-named official somewhere in Europe.

    No other papers appear to carry this news, although it is tucked away within BBC Scotland
    A further case of anthrax has been confirmed in a drug user in Scotland bringing the total number of cases in this outbreak to 15.
    The new case of the potential killer was confirmed to have taken place in the NHS Ayrshire and Arran area.
    So far, the number of anthrax related deaths stands at seven with cases confirmed in six NHS boards.
    The BBC reassures that we can't catch it :-
    It normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores, but it cannot be passed from person to person.
    Funny how they describe it as an "outbreak" if you can't catch it - a bit careless perhaps?

    Apparently Anthrax is (quote HPA).
    ... a bacterial infection caused by Bacillus anthracis, spores of which can survive in the environment for years or decades. It is primarily a disease of herbivorous mammals, though other animals and some birds, particularly carrion birds, can also contract it.
    There's a Q+A (FAQ) here and something on DEFRA wrt animals

    HPA also says this
    Anthrax became a notifiable industrial disease under the Factories Act in 1895, and in December 1960 became a notifiable disease under the Public Health Act. Information about the morbidity of the disease in the general population is available only since 1961.

    The last reported case of anthrax in England and Wales occurred in October 2008  ... this was a fatal case of inhalation anthrax in a man whose exposure occurred during manipulation of animal hides while drum-making. This was the first death since 1974, when there were been two fatal cases, both believed to be associated with bonemeal fertilizer. One had haemorrhagic septicaemia and generalised infection with Bacillus anthracis, and the second had gastrointestinal and pulmonary anthrax. Prior to that, the last reported case of pulmonary anthrax had been in 1965.

    A death from anthrax occurred in Scotland in 2006; this was a case of atypical inhalation anthrax which probably followed exposure as a result of playing/handling animal hide drums ... In December 2009 cases of anthrax were reported in injecting drug users in Scotland.
    There's more information about the cases on HPA here

    It's odd that these little spores, which apparently can't be (according to the BBC) "passed from one person to another", caused an island to be abandoned and sealed off about fifty or so years ago. There was some obscure reference to anthrax to do with doing up some of the tube stations too, because the old plaster contained dead anthrax spores from either horse hair or straw - can't find a reference.

    Anyhow, here's a bit more, this time from  Wikipedia
    Anthrax cannot be spread directly from person to person, but a patient's clothing and body may be contaminated with anthrax spores. Effective decontamination of people can be accomplished by a thorough wash down with antimicrobial effective soap and water. Waste water should be treated with bleach or other anti-microbial agent. Effective decontamination of articles can be accomplished by boiling contaminated articles in water for 30 minutes or longer. Chlorine bleach is ineffective in destroying spores and vegetative cells on surfaces, though formaldehyde is effective. Burning clothing is very effective in destroying spores.
    Absolutely no idea if this is accurate or not, because sometimes Wikipedia seems to have been written by idiots, but the science stuff is usually quite good.

    Does anybody out there know a bit more?

    Saturday, 23 January 2010

    Victor Meldrew goes to a hotel

    An eye-popping idea from Holiday Inn.

    Maybe they realised guests were stealing the hot water bottles and electric blankets because
    Guests who don’t want to hop into a cold bed at one English hotel now have a novel way to warm up: by enlisting a staff member to do it for them.
    And here's how it will be done
    A hotel staffer, dressed from head-to-toe in a white, fleecy getup that looks like a cross between a footed pajama set and a snowsuit, will get into your bed upon request and move around, generating some heat between those chilly sheets
    Nope! Not listed on Snopes.

    Victor Meldrew and art.

    The Mail reports that the BBC has decided to carefully pre-empt viewers complaints.

    Let's put you in the picture with a bit of help from Flog it! presenter Paul Martin :-
    'Yes, they had to have the painting moved. It wasn't a big deal but they do get complaints about this sort of thing. You'd be surprised.'
    No, actually, there's little that would surprise most British people these days, but let's move on to what Mr Aldridge, the auctioneer, thinks :-
    'It is absolutely ridiculous.

    'This is a 19th century neo-classical work of art.
    So Mr Aldridge tried to deal with the problem himself
    'I tried putting a Post-It note over the offending part of her anatomy, but that wasn't good enough apparently.'
    The Mail is, of course, less concerned and carries a snapshot of the offending painting - which shows a woman's nipple. And it isn't even a fresh one

    As the auctioneer explained, the painting is 19th century, neo-classical, oil on canvas.

    Presumably the BBC will now, when making any of their programmes, make ensure that no classical art or sculpture is in the background - nowhere, not anywhere - on case one viewer comes over all faint and nervous, or in case another gets all excited.

    This isn't, sadly, quite a full-on Victor Meldrew moment, not really, because this sort of thing already happens in the online photographic world, where photographers have to label pictures of naked people, including statuary, as "adult material" - due to complaints from vociferous one or two (who could even be the same person) who threaten legal action which could take a site offline and their usual excuse is, "In case a child sees it.".

    These people are, slowly but surely, suppressing freedom of artistic expression - with one place after another toppling like dominoes - as each becomes an example of "best practice" for others. They've clearly ratched up the ante now, by getting the BBC to conform.

    It's not good to speculate who these complainers might be, or what their motives might be, or what their background might be, but it seems more than likely that they are not native Britons.

    Sometimes people need to understand that prudity was never listed as a virtue, and children need to know that being without clothing is not a crime.

    ** Splutter! **

    Shamelessly copied from here

    !!! - Warning - don't be drinking coffee whilst reading. - !!!

    Three Reported Missing After Animal Rights Activists Take "War on Leather" to Motorcycle Gang Rally.

    Sunday, 3 January 2010

    Johnstown, PA: Local and state police scoured the hills outside rural Johnstown, Pennsylvania, after reports of three animal rights activists going missing after attempting to protest the wearing of leather at a large motorcycle gang rally this weekend.

    Two others, previously reported missing, were discovered by fast food workers "duct taped inside several fast food restaurant dumpsters," according to police officials.

    "Something just went wrong," said a still visibly shaken organizer of the protest. "Something just went horribly, horribly, wrong."

    The organizer said a group of concerned animal rights activist groups, "growing tired of throwing fake blood and shouting profanities at older women wearing leather or fur coats," decided to protest the annual motorcycle club event "in a hope to show them our outrage at their wanton use of leather in their clothing and motor bike seats."

    "In fact," said the organizer. "Motorcycle gangs are one of the biggest abusers of wearing leather, and we decided it was high time that we let them know that we disagree with them using it... Ergo, they should stop."

    According to witnesses, protesters arrived at the event in a vintage 1960's era Volkswagen van and began to pelt the gang members with balloons filled with red colored water, simulating blood, and shouting "you're murderers" to passers by. This, evidently, is when the brouhaha began.

    "They peed on me!!!" charged one activist. "They grabbed me, said I looked like I was French, started calling me 'La Trene', and duct taped me to a tree so they could pee on me all day!"

    "I ... I was trying to show my outrage at a man with a heavy leather jacket. And, he...he didn't even care. I called him a murderer, and all he said was, 'You can't prove that..' Next thing I know is he forced me to ride on the back of his motorcycle all day, and not left me off, because his girl friend was out of town and I was almost a woman."

    Still others claimed they were forced to eat hamburgers and hot dogs under duress. Those who resisted were allegedly held down while several bikers "farted on their heads."

    Police officials declined comments on any leads or arrests due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, however, organizers for the motorcycle club rally expressed "surprise" at the allegations.

    "That's preposterous," said one high ranking member of the biker organizing committee. "We were having a party, and these people showed up and were very rude to us. They threw things at us, called us names, and tried to ruin the entire event. So, what did we do? We invited them to the party! What could be more friendly than that? You know, just because we are all members of motorcycle clubs does not mean we do not care about inclusiveness. Personally, I think it shows a lack of character for them to be saying such nasty things about us after we bent over backwards to make them feel welcome."

    When confronted with the allegations of force feeding the activists meat, using them as ad hoc latrines, leaving them incapacitated in fast food restaurant dumpsters, and 'farting on their heads,' the organizer declined to comment in detail. "That's just our secret handshake," assured the organizer.


    Okay, so it isn't real, but I bet it made you do a bit more than smile. Original source is here

    Craig Murray writing about Iraq Inquiry

    This is interesting ...
    I was a British Ambassador at the time of the events covered by the Iraq Inquiry. I know many of the witnesses and a great deal of the background. I can therefore see right through the smooth presentation. Jack Straw was the smoothest of all - but he told lie after lie .....
    Read on, and make your own mind up.

    We're going to read it more carefully another time, this is a good way of saving the link.

    Friday, 22 January 2010

    Edlington and Balls

    Responding to this Mr Balls said
    the justice system had to ensure the Edlington brothers "get support in custody to try and turn things around for them."

    ... Mr Balls said, "we have to ensure they get the support in custody to try and turn things around for them."
    He also says this
    “The first time that the inspectors said there was inadequacy in Doncaster was December, 2008,” Mr Balls said. “When that report came back we immediately sent in diagnostic experts who reported back to us.”
    So you got a report and, err, looked at it more carefully? What a waste of time, money and effort..

    Anyhow, what Mr Balls said doesn't appear to be entirely true, because.
    Seven children known to the authority have died in the borough since 2004, prompting serious case reviews, Ofsted inspections and a Government investigation.
    Seven children died!

    Seven children who were known to Doncaster Social Services and Mr Balls is suggesting nobody noticed? - Cobblers! They'll have noticed all right. 

    And, referring, to the one particular Edlington family :-
    "Although many services tried to work with the family, none were able to make an effective change to the behaviour and problems of the boys and their family.

    "There was too much reliance on using agreements and warnings to change their behaviour. This reflected an insufficiently authoritative, consistent and assertive strategy in working with a family who were unco-operative and anti-social in attitude and behaviour.
    There you have it Mr Balls - over reliance on pussy footing around, not wanting to upset the little darlings, and the end result is two vicious little thugs who knew they could do what they liked because they continued to terrorise the community, as they and their family had done for years - and got away with it, probably because everybody was too scared to challenge them. They were truly untouchable.

    Mr Balls wants to make sure they "get support". Yes, they need support - they need support to make them learn and understand what punishment is all about. They need to learn, and properly learn, what happens when social rules are broken. They need a firm hand that makes them behave, and makes them want to behave, makes them respect not only others but themselves.

    That'd be quite a novelty in 2010 Britain, and it's where all Mr Straw's lovely new, very petty, laws, have proved to be part of this country's social downfall - because it's likely an individual will be more harshly punished for  "disturbing a pack of eggs" than for being a thug, a thief, a murderer or a rapist.

    It's the lawmakers and law enforcers who helped make these boys what they are. Look at this :-
    People living on the estate where the two young brothers were brought up have described how the boys and their family terrorised their neighbours with senseless vandalism and sporadic violence. ...

    ... the 11-year-old brother has already appeared in court on four separate occasions for ''acts of violence'', the last being in January when he received a 12-month supervision order for an offence of battery.

    The 10-year-old had been reprimanded for violence, including offences of causing actual bodily harm and common assault.

    At the time of the Edlington horror he was on bail facing two charges of causing actual bodily harm and one of burglary.

    The hearing heard both boys were on the child protection register.

    They were also expelled from their local primary school and were being taught at a Pupil Referral Unit.
    Just a week before the attack on the two boys, the brothers attacked another 11-year-old boy at the same place and in strikingly similar circumstances.

    The boy, who also can not be named, believed he was going to die until a passer-by disrupted the attackers and he fled.
    What, pray, is the point of a "supervision order" if there is no supervision - it's clearly a waste of paper, the words are trite and empty of meaning. They're there to satisfy the form fillers that something's been done.

    Not only were these boys known to Social Services they were on the At Risk Register - putting a name on the list and doing nothing is little more than neglect, especially in this instance, and it is neglect by those who are paid and trusted to keep children safe. It is their responsibility to ensure that 'at risk from harm' children are safe, it's also their responsibility to ensure those who are 'at risk behaving abominably' are kept away from those they can hurt.

    The Edlington boys had been in court many, many, times - yet with nothing more than a verbal warning. They could deal with that, because their parents used to thrash them. They'd been kicked out of mainstream school too - but probably didn't care - these are not 'normal' children, not by any stretch of the imagination. They may have been brutalised, but they learned to be brutal, not passive.

    It's as a direct result of laxity, failure to enforce the law, failure to punish real offenders and the lack of authority on the part of the so-called 'authorities' that these boys were left free to do whatsoever they wanted - resulting in the near murder of two ordinary young lads.

    There should be culpability, but we've seen it all before - people at the top are virtually untouchable - just like those thuggish boys.

    There's little doubt that, unless the system gets more rigorous and less bleeding-heart, one day they will be back on the streets with their identities protected at huge cost from the taxpayer - just like those who murdered Jamie Bulger.

    Street and architectural photography in London

    If you're a photographer and have a few hours spare tomorrow, 23rd January 2010, why not pop along to Trafalgar Square around midday when you can meet up with other like-minded souls and take some pictures of London.

    The get together is being organised by these people, and supported by Amateur Photographer.

    Law of intended consequence?

    Linked to one of my blog posts lurking in the drafts folder is this
    In total, between 1997 and 2009, 4,289 new criminal offences were created - approximately one for every day ministers have been in office.
    Brand new laws include
    the ban on the sale of game birds shot on a Sunday-or Christmas Day.

    This stems from the fact it is illegal, for ancient religious reasons, to shoot the birds on a Sunday - so the Government felt the need to also make it illegal to sell birds shot on a Sunday, to reinforce the point.
    Logical sort of rule wouldn't you think? Closed a bit of a loophole? Just tidying up - making sure there's a double whammy for the enforcers who would, of course, know precisely when a game bird has been killed.

    But let's face it, country people know the relevant laws and don't tend to break them without a very good reason - they would kill a "game bird" on a Sunday or Christmas Day if it had been ravaged by a fox or a stray dog, because they'd want to put it out of its' misery. Would they be likely to try to sell on the carcass?

    This law's even better.
    the crime of 'disturbing a pack of eggs',
    Would this 'disturbing' of packs of eggs include frightening them, moving them from their comfortable home, making a loud noise close to them, causing them to suffer mental trauma because they were looked at the wrong way or they heard the wrong words being used?
    Mr Straw said: 'Egg marketing inspectors must be able to ensure that eggs suspected of being marketed in contravention of EU regulations are not tampered with.'
    It's badly worded, unnecessary legislation Mr Straw. Somebody is going to end up in court, wasting time and money, for doing nothing more than checking a box of eggs for breakages. To stop that happening maybe they could be given a 'fixed penalty notice'?

    Ah, I see - money.

    Mr Straw, currently Secretary of State for Justice and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, isn't happy about the criticism of his, and his party's, lovely new laws.
    He added: 'I am sorry that you regard these offences as unnecessary. In their different ways they are important pieces of legislation.'
    Neat twist there, these are 'offences' - things there have to be a law against.

    And, you see. There's always a reason.
    Many of the new laws are backed by powers to enter people's home without a warrant to check they are not being breached.
    Traumatise an egg box, terrify a yolk - get your home searched.

    Law of intended consequences?



    The exchange between Mr Huhne and Mr Straw can be seen in Hansard 4 Dec 2008 : Column 171. 1.28 pm
    Our reaction to the Home Secretary’s speech and to the proposals is that this is another example of what the Home Office is extremely adept at: using legislation as a glorified press release. We are to have the 26th criminal justice Bill and the seventh immigration Bill from this Government since 1997. Various of those Bills have been shovelled through this House so hastily that whole sections and clauses have not been considered at all and have had to be reviewed in the other place. We now know from parliamentary answers to questions tabled by Liberal Democrats that no fewer than 3,600 new criminal offences have been introduced by this Government since 1997, yet extraordinarily, the Home Secretary—who, sadly, is no longer in her place—assures us that one of her key priorities is to reduce the need for police paperwork and bureaucracy. The extraordinary creation of offences by the Government is massively complicating the job of law enforcement and of the whole criminal justice system.

    Some of these offences are completely bizarre—for example, the offence of causing a nuclear explosion. The idea that anyone might cause a nuclear explosion without killing anybody, and therefore being subject to a possible charge of murder, is extremely far-fetched. It is perhaps reassuring for some on the Government Benches that were there to be a nuclear explosion that did not kill anyone, the perpetrator could, indeed, be charged. Other of the new offences include: wilfully pretending to be a barrister; disturbing a pack of eggs when instructed not to by an authorised officer; obstructing workers carrying out repairs to the docklands light
    4 Dec 2008 : Column 172
    railway; offering for sale a game bird killed on a Sunday or Christmas day; attaching an ear tag to an animal where it has previously been used to identify another animal; landing at a harbour without permission a catch that includes unsorted fish. I could continue that extraordinary list of new offences.

    Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman has mentioned only one or two offences, from this list of 3,600, that he wishes to remove. On reflection, he may not really wish to remove the protections against the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, to which he made cavalier reference a moment ago. As he is so concerned, and as he has obviously done a huge amount of research on these 3,600 offences, he should make public a full list of all the ones that he would like repealed.

    Chris Huhne: I am grateful to the Justice Secretary for intervening in that way. When he wrote to me in those terms, challenging me to come up with a complete list, I replied offering him the chance to repeal certain of the more absurd offences that have been put on the statute book. I have still not received a reply to that letter, in which I assured him that as soon as those offences, such as causing a nuclear explosion, had been repealed, I would provide him with a new list of further offences that he could then work on repealing.

    Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman is either making a trivial debating point or a serious point. The point that he makes all the time is that there are 3,600 new offences. I may question him on a number of those, but he says that he has culled his information from various parliamentary answers. The only conclusion to be drawn from his making that point repeatedly is that he does not think that these 3,600 offences should be on the statute book. He has mentioned about five of the offences. As it is his point, he should be responsible for providing us with a full list of the offences that he thinks should be repealed.

    Chris Huhne: The Justice Secretary accuses me of making a trivial point, but I just wish he knew the difficulties we had in getting Departments even to list the new criminal offences that they have created. If he can assure me that, when we follow up those questions by asking those Departments for a full list of every new criminal offence, he will instruct his colleagues not to rule our request out of order on the grounds that it involves disproportionate cost, I will be delighted to give him a full list. If the Government can be less obstructionist in how they answer parliamentary questions, perhaps Opposition parties will be able to do that. He knows perfectly well that I have given him very good clear examples of absolutely absurd offences that have been put on the statute book, and he has done nothing to repeal them. I can give him chapter and verse and can continue through this list. Frankly, it is not good enough for the Justice Secretary to ask the Opposition to do something that he, in government, ought to be able to do.
    There's a bit more to the debate that's worth reading, and other MPs are involved.

    Why doesn't Mr Straw know which offences are new? He's the Justice Secretary and has staff who should at least keep him up to date - or doesn't he get told either?

    One point made is the same as something John Redwood** has said several times and it's basically - under the current Government Parliament is not allowed enough time for robust debate, which lets new laws to slip onto the statute books without scrutiny.

    ** For example :-

    Thursday, 21 January 2010

    Hot shingle.

    According to a report in the Times Branscombe beach in Devon has lost a lot of shingle this winter. So much has gone (been washed away by winter storms) that the level of the beach has dropped by 4 ft, exposing bits and pieces from WW2 as well as the wreck of the Napoli which foundered in a storm in 2007.

    Some locals think the new groynes at Sidmouth might have something to do with this, because they change the direction of water movement.

    A lady who lives in the area might have the true answer though, because tucked away in her comment is this gem :-
    maybe it’s global warming,
    I wonder how many people they had to ask before they got the right words to quote?

    It's going to be a long time before either "climate change" or "global warming" are unfashionable excuses for nature's idiosyncrasies.

    Shelterboxes, bloggers and help for Haiti.

    Traction Man, who is no longer in his hospital bed, says :-
    A group of bloggers has set up a website to raise money for the Haitian earthquake appeal. If you would like to donate some money towards the humanitarian efforts underway in the Caribbean then please visit the Bloggers for Haiti website and make your contribution to save lives and provide much-needed assistance.
    These boxes look like a brilliant idea, which is why it's been mentioned and linked.

    Shelterboxes are huge, it takes two people to lift them. Each one contains a 10-person tent, tools and equipment and so on.

    They are the brainchild of Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and ex-Navy diver from Cornwall, who decided that something in addition to medicines and food is needed in response to disasters, so he worked out what would be needed to survive - which is shelter from the elements and a the rudiments of self-sufficiency. The box itself is sturdy enough to be used to carry or store water, or even to act as a crib.

    If you would like to see what a Shelterbox is, didn't spot the link or don't like third-party sites, then go to Shelterbox itself where there is a donate button.

    Shelterbox's donation hotline number is 0300-0300-500
    (same price as 01 or 02 numbers)

    Deutsch, Francais, Espanol, Portugues, Italiano?

    The greatest gift a child can have is that of communication, which enables them to understand and interact with those around the. Communication is either verbal or visual, which would include the written word.

    In 2002 government decided to remove the requirement to learn a foreign language up to age 16 - which meant that no child in a state school was being forced to take a GCSE in any language other than English. In 2006 schools were worried that take-up of language learning had reached the point of no return.

    In 2007 it was announced by then Education Minister Alan Johnson that
    all children should learn a language from the age of seven.
    This should happen by 2010, as part of the next curriculum overhaul.
    Later that year £50million was poured into language teaching for Primary Schools but only a year later, in 2008, researchers discovered that oral tests were too stressful for teenagers - so testing was diluted and in February 2009 Estelle Morris said the decision to take the  'compulsory' out of language learning had been because it helped get truants back into schools

    In September 2009 and despite the £millions spent and the 2007 announcement.
    The National Centre for Languages (Cilt) points to a worrying decline in the take-up of modern languages (and wanted) languages to be treated as strategically significant subjects in the same way that science and maths have been championed.
    The government said a review of modern languages was currently under way.
    "Underway" - two years after being announced they were still talking about it! Alan Johnson's "by 2010" seems to have been ignored, resulting in the latest announcement in the Mail that 60% of GCSE pupils are not learning a foreign language.

    It says so on the BBC too, which maintains a consistency of sources, because all but the last reference were taken from the there. Their headline is "Fewer schools hit language target" and they say
    Ministers want schools to have "between 50% and 90%" of pupils taking a modern foreign language at GCSE.

    But a survey for The National Centre for Languages (Cilt) suggests only 40% of state schools meet this target - and that the trend is downwards.
    Reassuringly, according to BBC :-
    The government says the proportion of pupils taking languages has stabilised.
    It seems somewhat complacent, with the numbers appearing to stabilise at below the set target, and it doesn't exactly need rocket science qualifications to work out why the 'popularity' of foreign languages has declined so rapidly.

    The curriculum is designed to make sure everybody is a winner - which means that more and more children are going through the state system without ever having to challenge themselves to do something difficult - they don't even have to learn to tie a tie, the excuse being that they might strangle themselves. They don't really have to learn to spell English - in case it represses their sense of self-expression - so learning to read, write, spell and speak a foreign language would be impossibly difficult especially as it might mean sitting still for a few minutes, which we were told only a few days ago hindered boys' learning.

    So schoolchildren are, currently, left with a mere three years - between the ages of 11 and 13 - in which to learn a foreign language, which is when the hormones tend to be doing their worst.

    Educational provision in Britain seems to be based on the idea that if children don't want to do something they shouldn't have to - nothing should be absolutely compulsory, not really, or the children might be unhappy.

    Once a child has passed the age of asking 'why' questions it can be too late to inspire or challenge them, so when they enter their tumultuous, rebellious, sleepy, teenage years they've never faced a challenge, never managed to do more than they could-without-trying, never taken a risk (because it's too dangerous and somebody might sue) and, unfortunately, probably never achieved anything much either.

    It's terribly sad to think we have a generation of children locked into a education system that gives them very little more than the basics. That, in turn, leads to a disillusioned adult population who can honestly tell their offspring that there's no point in bothering to work too hard at school, and there's no need either because there's no need to go to work in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. So a circular pattern is developing resulting in a high proportion of school leavers being functionally illiterate and innumerate - and it's not easy to learn anything if you can't read.

    There's no reasonable explanation for this other than apathy and lethargy. Ability levels aren't likely to have gone down in such a short time, but aspiration and the 'need' to learn seems to be disappearing from the national psyche with the result that too many youngsters don't see the need to learn - they don't see the need to learn anything other than what suits their immediate needs, and are able to roll out a list of excuses for failure that would do social or probation workers proud.

    Let's wind back the years a bit.

    In the past everybody in secondary school, whether it was the secondary modern, grammar or comprehensive, learned French. If it was hard to learn to write the language then teachers at least tried to make sure children could make themselves understood. Statistically this doesn't seem to make sense because French is way down the list of the 'most widely spoken' first languages, but this was for historical reasons dating back to the Conquest when the Court spoke French and because, geographically, France is our closest European neighbour. French is, also thanks to history, closest to English in pronunciation and spelling, while Breton, Cornish and Welsh are themselves very similar.

    German is often the next choice - where there is a choice - and for historical reasons too, but
    For the most popular foreign languages at GCSE, French and German, take-up declined in England by 45% and 46% respectively between 1997 and 2008.
    Even accounting for USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand there are fewer people worldwide who speak English as a first language than those who speak Spanish, which is the 'second' language of USA. Next, after English, is Portuguese which is also widely spoken in South America - don't forget that Brazilians speak Portuguese.

    This ties in quite neatly with UK foreign holiday statistics for 2009, and travel stats from 2008, which give Spain the top slot. So we have most British people choosing to take holidays in a country where the language is not one they will have learned at school, but that in itself isn't a problem, not for holidaymakers.

    A huge majority of young people who go abroad for holidays will be taken to easy to reach, low-budget, resorts. The reality is that only the wealthiest can afford to travel to distant countries, and package holidays, whether by air or sea, are the cheapest way to travel. But, package holidays reps for British-based companies are usually English, and all resort staff can speak English - because almost all European countries teach English to age 16, it's compulsory. So, with most people choosing beach holidays and rarely doing more than relaxing in the sun for a few days, it's hardly surprising that, although 'foreign travel' may be more common than it was only a few decades ago, the need to communicate with those speaking a different language has diminished.

    Communicating in a foreign language doesn't include asking for "payella" in a loud voice, and "pizza" no longer counts as a foreign word.

    Let's go back to the the September 2009 report
    The University of the West of England is to stop courses in French, Spanish and Chinese this year because they received only 39 applicants.
    And Queen's University Belfast is planning to close its German department.
    The UK will be held back as it seeks to emerge from recession unless it boosts the number of language graduates, campaigners say.
    There is a link, and it is a link to future employability that seems to have escaped our policymakers - who have the responsibility of ensuring that our workforce is suitably qualified.

    Mr Brown got it wrong when he said, "British jobs for British workers." He didn't ever exactly backtrack, he never does that, but it was quickly pointed out that no employer is allowed to choose only British personnel or those whose first language is English, in the same way that no other EU employer is allowed to discriminate on grounds of nationality or first language.

    But employers can, and do, select their workforce on grounds of suitability and employability - which is where British people are beginning to realise that they fail the test. Increasing numbers of British employers are based outside UK - just look at our power suppliers. It doesn't matter too much for those on the ground, but it means that moving up the ladder is impossible because managers need to be "European".

    Within the EU - Commission and Agencies - it is now a precondition that employees must speak a second European language fluently, and in fact part of the oral interview will be carried out in the language chosen by the interviewee. This applies to clerical staff as well as administrators, experts and specialists.
    • Which languages will I need to speak to apply?
    You will need to know at least two of the 23 official languages of the European Union:

    • You should have at least a thorough knowledge of your main language, which must be one of these 23 official EU languages.

    • You should have at least a satisfactory knowledge of your second language, which must be different from your main language and will usually have to be chosen from English, French or German (some competitions (interviews), in particular for linguists, may specify different language requirements). In present cases, you will be required to tackle the competition (interview) in your second language.
    So, thanks to a series of failures and disjointed policies, 60% of British school leavers, no matter how bright or clever they might be, will find themselves unemployable within the EU organisation - and that includes the Agencies based here in Britain.

    This means that EU policies will, increasingly, be made by those who have no natural interest in Britain because it is not their country of birth. That's quite a sweeping statement, but it's human nature - if there isn't anybody truly capable of speaking up for Britain then we will not have a voice and this, in turn, will lead to ever more disenchantment with the EU and distrust of policy decisions.

    So what can be done about it? Not much if government is allowed to continue making one-size-fits-all policies, and not much if children are allowed to take the easy route through the education system. It should be a case of the grown-ups knowing what's best, but the grown-ups in charge of decision making have proven themselves to be abject failures - all talk, excuses, empty policies and empty promises, and no action - a fine example to follow.

    Schools, that in many cases are struggling to maintain some semblance of order and discipline, aren't going to encourage their students to choose something 'difficult' because it'll affect their league table score, and they won't let children try in case they don't do very well. Compulsion is a rude word in the state sector - because it upsets the children.

    If a recalcitrant teenager is given the opportunity to avoid something they either don't understand or don't want to understand they'll take that option - and so won't learn something as apparently unnecessary and incomprehensible as Spanish, German, Portuguese or French. They simply won't bother, there's no need, not ever - they know, because in today's Britain it's the children who have been 'empowered' to make their own decisions.

    The downward spiral will continue - if few schoolchildren are learning a foreign language then few adults will be able to speak foreign languages, and few of those will want to be teachers, there's better money and less stress in other sectors of employment.

    It's interesting to work out the logic behind this disastrous chain of events - but this government has done it all on it's own - they can no longer lay the blame at the door of the Tories.

    Children (students) in state schools who will be taking their GCSEs in 2010 will be the seventh successive year group whose secondary education has been dictated by the current government's curriculum policies, although it's unlikely that they will be in power when the results are published.

    New rules forcing them to remain in full time education until age 18 (even though they can marry at age 16) will not hide the decline in standards and outcomes - but no doubt a Labour Opposition spokesperson will point out the differences, pointing at the 'elite toffs' of the private sector who have been educated by those who job is to make children learn and make them achieve.

    Disjointed policies appear to have ensured that British (and specifically English) adults are incapable of working outside this country because they seem to have ignored the facts of nature  and failed to understand that child-centred learning can often fail the adult the child will become.

    Dammed - or damned?

    Mrs Rigby doesn't watch or listen to any part of PMQ any more, not even the recordings - it's too distasteful to see/hear questions sidestepped and pre-prepared statements slotted in to fit an agenda rather than to answer the question. Instead she takes a stroll round a few blogs and finds out what's been said.

    PMQ should be the time any Member of Parliament can ask a question of the Prime Minister, which is what happens in theory, in practice a number of questions are put forward, answers are prepared and those that make government look best are the ones that are given time.

    Today Iain Dale relates what happened during PMQ when Michael Fabricant asked Mr Brown for help with the costs of essential repairs to a leaking earth dam that holds back the Chasewater Reservoir, because it's too much for the local budget alone.

    Rigby Town is nowhere near Chasewater so we looked it up and thought we would share our findings. According to good old Wikipedia the earth dam was started in 1796, opened in 1797, burst in 1799 was repaired in 1800. It was built to store water for the canal system and is used today for watersports and wildlife.

    The reservoir is here. It is not in an isolated valley far from towns. The river leaving the reservoir (which would be the route of any overflow or flood) passes beneath the M6 Toll. Because of this you'd expect a reasonable response from government - if the dam were to burst it wouldn't just affect local people, it could cut a very major road.

    This was the question
    The 200 year old earthworks dam in my constituency which contains the Chasewater reservoir has started to leak. A recent engineers report stated that if it collapses, scores of lives will be lost and there will be a lasting effect in the midlands. The small district of Lichfield does not have the funds to make the urgent repairs. Will the Prime Minister please use his best endeavours to ensure that the financial burden is spread over the region as a whole?"
    Bear in mind UK is a bit short of cash, but there's obviously enough in the coffers to spend on a few laptops, so you'd think there'd be some spare to fix a leaking dam.

    This, however, was the Prime Minister's response
    Of course I will be happy to consider his point although I see that he is making the case for public expenditure
    It took a little while for these words to sink in and, of course it's "political" - Litchfield is Tory and the Tories are saying there needs to be a reduction in public expenditure, so Michael Fabricant must be a hypocrite .. or something. It doesn't matter about the dam, what matters most is politicking and point scoring.

    So maybe Chasefield should advertise for a Hans Brinker? But this isn't really a joking matter.

    This is what the local paper says Leaking Chasewater dam could have 'catastrophic consequences', MP Fabricant claims

    Here's what's been said on Iain Dale's Diary, this is what they say on LabourHome

    We Rigbys just hope it doesn't rain too much, that it stays above feezing so freeze-thaw doesn't increase the area that's leaking. Let's hope they find the money to get the repairs done before there's a disaster.

    Wednesday, 20 January 2010

    The Hockey Stick Illusion - book

    The Hockey Stick Illusion;Climategate and the Corruption of Science (Independent Minds) (Paperback)
    by A W Montford (Author)

    See more here and here at Bishop Hill

    Can be ordered from here

    Tuesday, 19 January 2010

    British Government and terror lists

    It's hard to think of polite the right words to say about this :-

    UK Government backs Islamists in battle to remove their names from terror list

    The Government is secretly supporting an attempt by UK-based Islamists to have their names removed from an international terror blacklist

    The seven men were placed on the United Nations list because they were suspected of having links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

    As a result they have been barred from leaving Britain and their assets have been frozen by the Bank of England and HM Treasury.

    They include individuals who were:

    * convicted of involvement in the 2003 Casablanca bombings and of possessing terrorist documents in the UK,

    * accused of assisting the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa and of being an associate of Osama bin Laden,

    * found guilty by a military court of plotting terror attacks.

    But an attempt by the men to have their names removed from the UN list has now won the backing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

    The FCO has insisted that it is acting because it has reviewed the men's cases and does not think they are dangerous.

    Well, the secret's out now!

    Other countries, it would seem, disagree with this request - the article explains why, and also tries to explain FCO's position.

    One of the reasons given for removing the names from the list is that :-
    ... the UN is forcing the UK authorities to impose draconian restrictions on individuals.

    Which sounds a bit like, "The big boys made me do it", but using a far more adult vocabulary. So the detention, freezing of assets etc was nothing to do with UK authorities, nothing at all. They had no choice, which is why these individuals now have government support.

    Whatever happens next, and Mrs R hasn't a clue what it might be although she does know we really and truly can't afford to break friends with USA, she wonders if this request sets a precedent.

    Some people who have been convicted of crimes can get government support to have their names removed from a list that says how bad they've been or how bad they might be.

    So surely those who have not broken the law - people like this, or this, or those mentioned here - will be able to get their DNA and the analysis removed from the UK DNA database very quickly and very easily, because government will help them.

    Is that likely to happen?

    There are about five and a half million DNA samples, and their analysis, in storage within the UK database but :-
     just 377 profiles were deleted in 2009 after appeals to police chiefs.

    ECHR mentioned something about storing DNA, it said that :-

    ... keeping innocent people's DNA records on a criminal register breached article eight of the Human Rights Convention, covering the right to respect for private and family life.

    In response UK said :-

     ... that other states have "not yet achieved the same maturity in terms of the size and resources of DNA databases."
    (our DNA database is the biggest in the world, so we're better than everybody else.)

    But the ECHR said that :-

    ... the Government had a special duty for that reason.

    Maybe "UK" is hoping the rest of the world will catch up and get their own DNA databases, but it will take a very long time because some countries have rather more pressing things on their minds.

    One such country is Haiti, where the earth moved quite dramatically only a few days ago. The people there haven't got water to drink, they have no food to eat and no houses to live in - so freeze-storing DNA samples will be very low down their list of priorities.

    Finally, let's compare the two sets of data.

    Are there any differences?
    • A long list of names of either known terrorists, or carefully profiled potential terrorists. The list is held, maintained and controlled by either UN or USA.
    • A large collection of named, labelled, analysed, personal, DNA samples (many of which have been taken from children, witnesses or bystanders, or those never charged with an offence) that is held, maintained and controlled by UK.

    Cadbury goes to Kraft

    A few months ago Mrs Rigby said this

    Today the media announce that the takeover by Kraft Foods is going ahead.

    On the BBC
    Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the government was "determined" to ensure that Cadbury jobs were secure.

    "We are determined that the levels of investment that take place in Cadbury in the United Kingdom are maintained and we are determined that, at a time when people are worried about their jobs, that jobs in Cadbury can be secure," he said.

    But the whole thing goes a bit peculiar if you look at some of the comments in the Mail including this note of caution from Ipswich

    Cadbury employees beware! I worked for a company over here that was taken over by an American parent company. Almost overnight new layers of management were put in place & bullying in the workplace encouraged. Managers who seemd reasonable before turned into bullyboys & the workforce reduced to sub humans with no human rights. We walked through the gates we lost all rights of decency. By the time I left 5 years later a huge number were on anti-depressants.

    Surely he has to be wrong,Mr Brown says the jobs will be safe.

    Also, people in Britain have rights - they're all written down on pieces of paper and enforced by lawyers paid for by the Unions.

    The British Unions are renowned for looking after their members, and working people always pull together to help each other during difficult times - just like in Redcar and Scunthorpe.

    Read this

    Note the supportive comments.

    There was a time when the media announced job losses, but they don't seem to do that any more.

    I wonder why.

    Climategate: The CRUtape Letters

    There's a book with a very clever title if anybody remembers C.S. Lewis.

    Climategate: The CRUtape Letters (Volume 1) (Paperback)
    ~ Steven Mosher (Author), Thomas W. Fuller (Author)

    Check out WattsupWithThat here

    Monday, 18 January 2010

    Laptop on Ebay



    To read the list of questions and answers you need to log in - it's worth it.

    The auction is real - the money will be donated to a Haiti charity

    Sunday, 17 January 2010

    ‘Statistical Literacy: How To Understand And Calculate Percentages’

    It's a handy little guide, well suited to those who are struggling with understanding Maths.

    Here are a couple of examples.

    Q: ‘What’s the idea behind percentages?’

    A: ‘Percentages are essentially a way of writing a fraction with 100 on the bottom. For example: 20 per cent is the same as 20/100, 30 per cent is the same as 30/100 and 110 per cent is the same as 110/100.’


    Q: ‘The basics - what is 40 per cent of 50?

    A: Example 1: To calculate what 40 per cent of 50 is, first write 40 per cent as a fraction – 40/100 – and then multiply this by 50: 40 per cent of 50 = (40/100) x 50 = 0.4 x 50 = 20.’

    Who is this educational booklet designed for?

    Is it children at primary school - working towards KS2 targets
    1. recognise the equivalence between the decimal and fraction forms of one half, quarters, tenths and hundredths; understand that 'percentage' means the 'number of parts per 100' and that it can be used for comparisons; find percentages of whole number quantities, using a calculator where appropriate
    2. recognise approximate proportions of a whole and use simple fractions and percentages to describe them, explaining their methods and reasoning
    3. solve simple problems involving ratio and direct proportion
    Is the booklet designed to help those studying Maths at Britain's wonderful comprehensives or academies and aiming for KS3?
    • in their heads, do some calculations involving decimals, fractions, percentages, factors, powers and roots
    • give one number as a fraction or percentage of another
    • use the relationships between fractions, decimals, percentages, ratio and proportion to solve problems

    No, this booklet is not for either of these groups of learners.

    The booklet has been written to help the grown-ups who work here.

    Perhaps Mark Wallace is right :-

    Mark Wallace of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘The Commons authorities must have a very low opinion of MPs’ grasp of mathematics if they have spent taxpayers’ money to show them how to do straightforward percentages.
    ‘We need people in Parliament who have a sound command of complex figures or the Government is never going to get the nation out of debt.
    ‘If MPs need help to work out that 200 is 20 per cent of 1,000, it is little wonder the nation’s finances are in such an awful mess....’

    Godwin's Law and Burkas.

    A comment in the Mail invokes Godwin's Law more times in a short paragraph than Mrs Rigby has seen for ages.

    Before we go any further let's make it clear that none of the Rigbys are members of any political group, organisation or party and nor are we full, practising, members of any religion.

    Some of the things below may be either very simplistic or historically inaccurate, but remember this is a blog and it’s all a matter of opinion, not meant to be used as a text book.

    Anyhow, let’s move on and see what "Kenny" from "Inverness" wrote :-

    racists, nazis, little englanders, small minded, that's UKIP and the BNP, there's ways to protect and be proud of your country without reverting to political point scoring with attacks on ethnic minorities, this was how Hitler started, and we dont want that, freedom should mean exactly that, by supporting these excessive measures we are in danger of becoming everything we are supposed to be against.

    - kenny, inverness

    Okay "Kenny", so did you read the whole article, including this bit - which is needed to set the context.

    The policy decision comes after French President Nicolas Sarkozy began attempts to outlaw full veils on state premises including public transport.

    Danish Conservatives in the country's coalition government have also demanded a ban on the burka and the niqab in public. And in October 2009 the Muslim Canadian Congress called for similar measures.

    UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch added: 'We are taking expert advice on how we could do it.

    'It makes sense to ban the burka, or anything which conceals a woman’s face, in public buildings. But we want to make it possible to ban them in private buildings.

    'It isn’t right that you can’t see someone’s face in an airport.

    'We are not Muslim bashing, but this is incompatible with Britain’s values of freedom and democracy.'

    It would seem that "Kenny" might have decided what "he" was going to say by skimming the title, and was going to say “his” piece whether or not it was relevant - because "he" misses the point completely. Maybe “he” just wanted to call other people racist nazis because, err, well, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Mrs Rigby disagrees with people like "Kenny" and so do some other bloggers, including Raedwald.

    Plenty of places won't let you through their doors if you're wearing a motorbike crash helmet, either with or without a visor, and some won't let you in if you're wearing a hooded coat or even a hat with a brim or peak - it makes no difference if you're quite old and no piece of clothing is covering your head. These places include banks, some pubs and restaurants and some shopping centres. The rules for ID photographs of any sort (passport, driving license etc) are nitpickingly strict. They do this because we identify each other from our faces.

    Mrs Rigby and others in Britain, France, Denmark and Canada don’t think anybody should be allowed to exempt themselves from rules that have been carefully designed to keep people safe - and that includes women, especially those who have made a conscious, voluntary, decision regarding their lifestyle - but acknowledges that this is where there could be a clash of cultural values.

    Some people seem to forget that Britain, much of northern and western Europe, the Antipodes and most ex-European colonies across the pond and in Africa, share a common cultural heritage that has little to do with organised religion as we now know it, and has little to do with late-twentieth-century mores either. Cultural and societal customs and practice have evolved over centuries, often invoking a deep-seated legacy of instincts that have been absorbed rather than consciously learned – and these values and instincts travelled a long way when they hitched their ride with Columbus, Magellan, Cook et als.

    “Western” people tend to communicate with their faces – irrespective of their religious background or spoken language. It’s easy to tell if somebody is happy or sad, pleased or annoyed, by looking at their face. We can quickly tell if somebody is lying – we simply know. Cover the face and there’s a blank, uncommunicative canvas, unwilling to interact with others – because we have either lost or have never needed to develop an instinctive understanding of body language.

    Also, people who can't see are very good at working out emotions from listening to intonation and enunciation. Those who can't hear tend to rely on what they can see. So covering up, or cloaking, an important part of a person can make communication almost impossible for those those who are either visually or hearing impaired.

    It’s long been accepted, in Europe etc., that those who deliberately covered their faces (except for protection) did it because they didn’t want to be recognised. Perhaps it was because they were involved in something unpleasant – whether highway robbery, burglary or carrying out executions – or because they were performing a rite or ceremony, such as some mummers – whose origins have long gone.

    The last time it was socially acceptable, in Britain anyway, for women to cover their faces with veils so thick that they hid the individual from view was in Victorian times - during a period of deep mourning. Such veils were last seen at the funeral of George VI (scroll in to 3m 10 secs), when many thought they were terribly passé because things like this were becoming fashionable.

    In Britain, and generally throughout Europe and the western world, adult women can wear almost anything they want these days, and can do so without being punished. It’s a very long time since fashion or ‘rules of fashion’ said that “a well-dressed lady never shows her knees”, and even longer since ankles were deemed risqué. It’s why, in general, British and European women only cover their faces for a special ceremony of some sort – a ceremony that they choose to be involved in rather than being told they must, which could include wearing a full veil for Mass or as a Bride.

    Mrs Rigby and her friends have worn all sorts of different fashions. They’ve worn long things, short things, flimsy things, silly things, floaty things and sometimes very little things, and they’ve worn them in public places too – and they’ve done it without ever being told off or punished. It’s because of this that many women shudder at the thought of being thrashed for wearing trousers – especially as they wear them very often, and they know it’s a regular part of girls’ school uniform here in Britain.

    It’s probably also why many British or European women feel uncomfortable or ill-at-ease if they find themselves in a situation where they are told they must cover either part or all of themselves with a particular piece of clothing, and why, when they think that other women are being put under pressure to “conform or be punished” and so must wear a dark coloured garment that covers them from head to toe, they want to say something – but generally realise there’s no point because few will hear what they say, and if they do they won’t listen.

    During the 20th century governments in European countries made agreements with allies that were intended to stop big wars happening again, then they made more alliances for trade. In simple terms organisations such as NATO and the EU are a result of those alliances and it’s because of people working with each other that Europe has been relatively peaceful since 1945.

    Perhaps it's because of this long-term peace that some people fail to acknowledge that all humans like to identify themselves with others and are, essentially, 'tribal' creatures. We all, either consciously or subconsciously, prefer to mix with those with whom we have something in common – it could be place of birth, age, language, religion, cultural or societal concepts, or even something as simple as a dress code. A single ‘something in common’ can overrule and negate all other differences, especially if individuals define themselves by this one thing – but it’s when huge tribes start thinking their ideas are more important than other tribes’ ideas that trouble starts.

    Some people seem to forget that there was a fully-functioning Britain before it got called a 'multicultural' country, and before it began to be absorbed into the greater geographical concept  known as the EU.

    Compared to some parts of the world it’s quite nice to live in Europe and ‘the West’, it’s so nice that, historically, people from less peaceful and less pleasant parts of the world have always wanted to come to live here. Immigration patterns over the centuries tended to be quite slow and it wasn't until the mid 20th century that thousands of people started arriving in Britain, France and other northern European countries all at once, and those people came from places that had their own, distinct, cultural background as well as fashions (clothing) that set them apart from the locals.

    When immigration started speeding up there were, of course, a few who were horrible to newcomers – these people were probably horrible to everybody they came into contact with – but they were used as an example of how ghastly British people were. The reality was that most ordinary Brits didn't care what colour somebody else might be - as long as they were nice and didn't rock the boat - because they had other things on their minds, including feeding their families and helping put the country back together after WW2.

    The reality in 2010 is that few apart from the bean counters and policy makers give a damn about racial stereotyping, and resent the way it's become an industry all of its own. A lot of people also resent the “Kennys” of this world, who think it’s just fine to make ad hominem attacks because, well, just because they can and because they don’t actually know the people they are attacking but presume they must be ‘racially’ European.

    People like “Kenny” don’t seem to ‘get it’, they don’t seem to realise that most people just want to keep their heads down and get on with their lives - it doesn't matter who they are or where they come from. European people as a whole are intrinsically fair-minded and will generally follow rules, but they don’t like to see favouritism in either the making or enforcement of those rules – rules which are needed because of things like this and because there is a serious need to stop people from covering up their faces to hide their identity when they commit crimes.

    In short, if nobody can identify a lawbreaker then the lawbreaker gets away with their crime.

    People like “Kenny” don’t seem to look further than the end of their noses in their quest for “equality”, which in itself is something of an irony because they don’t seem to notice that, in multicultural, equal-opportunity Britain, there are some high profile organisations that don’t seem to comply with government’s equality ‘quotas’ and would probably baulk at the idea of all-women shortlists. One such group has been recently reconciled with government. (more here h/t LFaT)

    Mrs R thinks that if this organisation fully complied with Harriet Harman’s quotas their list of around 70 “Advisors, Office Bearers, Members, Board of Councillors” would proudly show that it comprises more than 4 women. A spokesman for this same organisation has said that most women who wear the burka do so out of choice and do so out of a sense of religious duty.

    Mrs R has a sneaky suspicion that if a man ever suggested she had to wear something because it’s her “duty” she would get all rebellious and tell him where to go – especially if following his orders meant couldn’t go into a lot of places in Britain.

    She knows she could do this – because there are laws that say she can.

    She knows that, if the man tried to punish her for disagreeing with him and refusing to do what he demanded, she could seek help.

    She knows that if he thumped her she could go to a hospital on her own and have her injuries checked out, even by a male doctor, and she could even be given a safe place to sleep.

    Mrs Rigby knows that laws were made to protect women a long time ago. It happened after programmes like this one were shown on the television when organisations like this one were set up.

    Mrs Rigby is lucky, because she knows that none of the things she’s just mentioned are likely to happen to her. She isn’t so sure that each and every female who walks shrouded in a burka would be so lucky if wearing them became illegal - and that’s why, although she applauds this law in principle, because it’s just plain common sense, Mrs Rigby thinks the law-makers would need to be very careful regarding unintended consequences that could, inadvertently, mean that a lot of women find themselves permanently housebound - kept indoors by rules that dictate women's attire. Rules that are currently regulated and enforced by practitioners outside the jurisdiction of either British or EU Courts.


    In an interesting twist, Mr Balls doesn't want to tell some British part-time schools to comply with no-smacking rules - for fear of upsetting Muslim 'sensitivities'.

    Mr Balls needs to realise that nobody in Britain should be outside the law, and it's things like this that make people angry, more especially as so many of government's rules have been 'for the children'.

    For other opinions see also :-
    Muffled Vociferation
    Cranmer here and here
    13th Spitfire
    Corrugated Soundbite