December 23, 2005

Dissent Will Not Be Tolerated

Say something of which the Government doesn't approve and it is very possible that you will be interviewed by the police and if it is determined that you haven't committed what amounts to a crime yet, the incident will be reported and recorded on a Government computer for future reference.

That's what has happened over the promotion of homosexuality in this country. First, author Lynette Burrows dared to say that she did not believe that homosexuals should be allowed to adopt. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, "She added that placing boys with two homosexuals for adoption was as obvious a risk as placing a girl with two heterosexual men who offered themselves as parents." Even more outrageously, she actually said it in a radio interview on Radio Five Live.

Police contacted her the next day, saying they had a report of a "homophobic incident".

"I was astounded," she said. "I told [the policewoman] this was a free country and we are allowed to express opinions on matters of public interest. She told me it was not a crime but that she had to record these incidents. They were leaning on me, letting me know that the police had an interest in my views. I think it is sinister and completely unacceptable."

Well, Scotland Yard might have taken a lenient approach with Lynette Burrows, but the Lancashire Constabulary was not so forgiving, and over much less, as a retired Christian couple from Fleetwood found out.

The Wyre Borough Council distributes gay rights leaflets and promotes its theatre as a venue for civil partnership ceremonies. Joe and Helen Roberts asked if they could display Christian literature next to the gay material.

Unfortunately, they had to ask the council officer responsible for the council-run campaign to promote to gay and lesbian rights.

Mr Roberts was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying, "I asked him if I could put Christian literature on display alongside the gay material. He said I couldn’t because it would offend gay people. I said we had no objection to gay people, but we thought that homosexual practice was wrong and we were offended by the gay culture which the council is promoting."

The response of the council was to call the police. A council spokesman said that the couple had “displayed potentially homophobic attitudes,” so, he added, “The council referred this matter to the police for further investigation with the intention of challenging attitudes and educating and raising awareness of the implications of homophobic behaviour.”

Now it is the job of the police to re-educate those who have illegal attitudes. The police said that during their visit with the Roberts family, "Words of suitable advice were given and we will not be taking any further action."

Or as Mr Roberts clarified, "They warned me that being discriminatory and homophobic is in line with hate crime. The phrase they used was that we were ‘walking on eggshells’."

Then Mr Roberts asked a question that should be asked up and down the country again and again. "I asked the officer, if I phoned the police with a complaint that the council were discriminating against Christians would he go to interview them?"

Posted by david at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2005

We'll Issue our Opinion Soon

What began as a blog entry about the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District is now becoming a Mental Meandering. I hope to publish it shortly.

Posted by david at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

From the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska

The digital channels on British television are slowly expanding. Recently ITV added a fourth channel. With it they added the Late Show with David Letterman. It comes on at midnight with the CBS broadcast from the previous night.

Another slice of American culture comes to Britain.

Posted by david at 12:23 AM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2005

ID and the Unbalanced BBC

I've just watch a BBC News segment on the Intelligent Design controversy in Dover, Pennsylvania. I would like to say I've never seen a more lopsided report, but there is too much bias in Broadcasting House suggest that. Stateside correspondent Matt Frei and his editors characterised the ID debate as funded and fueled by fundamentalists, juxtaposing Americans United for Separation of Church and State with an already-overused clip from Pat Robertson on the 700 Club.

Staging the first part of his report from the Gettysburg Battefield, he said, "Not since the civil war [sic] was fought right here has America been as divided as it is today about some really fundamental issues.

"Then of course it was all about slavery and states' rights.

"Today, amongst other things, it is about the role of God in society, the separation of church and state - strange issues you might say for a modern, industrialised nation."

Yes, that's right, there's really no role for God in a modern society. Of course he is representing a news organisation owned by a state which is not separated from the church (or at least for 92% of the population, as there is no establishment in Wales or Northern Ireland). This just goes to show you how impotent the established churches are in this country - that they are no factor in the perception of role of God in this modern industrialised nation.

The only quote from someone supporting ID was one of the people who got voted off the local school board, "Evolution is not the only way to look at science. There are other considerations here, life is very complex and there are other theories to look at, to know of, to round out the picture and complete the picture."

And other than Robertson's suggestion that Dover is under the judgment of God, all of the input was from anti-ID and anti-religion sources. It reminds me of a blog I saw recently that divided links to other blogs between "Fair and Balanced" and "To the Right".

I had a comment today from an omniscient 15-year-old (if you will forgive the tautology) who told me that there was no reason to study religion because scientists had proved there is no God. He was convinced that the truth of his statement was self-evident. His forensic method was simply to talk over me saying, "There's no God. There's no God. There's no God." (If he were in the US, he would be a high school sophomore. It is not surprising there is such a close relationship between that term and Psalm 14:1 or Romans 1:22.) When pressed, he finally coughed up his evidence: it's on TV all the time.

Posted by david at 11:25 PM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2005

Santa the Perv

When my father managed the local radio station in my hometown, one of the annual events was the arrival of Santa to hear the wishes of the local boys and girls. Santa arrived early from his day job as guidance counselor at the local high school, changed into the red and white suit that stayed in a box in the back of the station most of the year. Children queued up for their turn on Santas lap to tell him the things they wanted for Christmas.

This same scene has been replayed in shopping malls, department stores, and other venues for years. It is one of the great social traditions of Christmas, at least in the English-speaking world.

Not anymore - at least in a number of shopping malls and toy stores throughout this country. Now that everyone is a suspected paedophile, if parents dare to take their children to see Santa, it is only to sit on a stool next to him.

One shopping centre Santa provider said, “Unfortunately, people in this day and age just don’t look favourably on a child sitting on Santa’s knee, so we train our Santas not to do it." This was echoed by the spokesperson of another mall, “Children are not allowed to sit on Santa’s knee because all our Santas go through rigorous police checks, and we’re advised on the basis of that training to ask the Santas not to touch the children.”

What is the world coming to when Santa has to pass a police check and still isn't fit for that most basic of Santa duties?

Posted by david at 01:35 AM | Comments (2)

December 16, 2005

No Sense of Humour

The Kazakh government may have no sense of democracy, but it has no sense of humour either. Only a central Asian dictatorship would take exception to a British comedian to the point that it would threaten to sue him, close down his website, and suggest that he is a comedy spy.

As Sacha Baron Cohen was wearing out his Ali G character, he created Borat. Borat is a Kazakh television reporter. The comedy plays upon the general ignorance of interviewees and other unsuspecting people about Kazakhstan. In the end, the joke is on the ignorant, not on the Kazakhs. At least it was until the Kazakh government made themselves the collective butt of the joke.

Sure, Cohen portrays Kazakhs as incestuous anti-Semitic drunkards. But he's just a comedian. First the Kazakh Foreign Ministry threatened to sue him. "We reserve the right to any legal action to prevent new pranks of the kind." That was after they declared his act "utterly unacceptable, being a concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is completely incompatible with ethics and civilised behaviour".

Then they pulled his website. The president of the Association of Kazakh IT Companies, told Reuters, "We've done this so he can't bad-mouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name." He was using the site to respond sacastically to the legal threats.

But now Cohen is apparently suspected of being the agent of a foreign government, entrusted with the mission of showing Kazakhstan in a negative light. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzham Ashykbayev told reporters, "We do not rule out that Mr. Cohen is serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way."

President Nazarbayev's government has also hired two Western PR firms to counter Borat's "claims". Their efforts have included running a four-page advertisement in the New York Times carriying testimonials about Kazakhstan's democracy, education system and the power and influence enjoyed by women. I would suggest that if you are going to attempt to defend a record on democracy, it might help to run an actual fair, democractic election and not worry about character comedians.

Posted by david at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

What's That?

I'm not sure if this is an indication of how old I am.

I was explaining to some students that I had a friend in college who had contracted polio as a child. He was a bit older than me, having been born in the 1950s. I'm not exactly sure when, but I would guess around 1955, the year that vaccination was introduced. Anyhow, when I mentioned that I had a friend who had suffered from polio, one student said,"What's that?"

So then I wondered, what else might I mention to a Year 10 and get the same response? After all, this year's Year 10s were born in either 1990 or 1991.

Tiananmen Square? What was the Hillsborough Disaster? Who were the Guildford Four? Who was Ceauşescu? What's the Berlin Wall? With all these events, that came down in 1989.

Pan Am Flight 103? That came down in 1988.

Pan Am itself? That came down in 1991.

The Hungerford Massacre? That was the same year as the Great Storm of 1987.

The Challenger Disaster? Ancient history for our Year 10s. 1986.

And that's just some of the stuff that immediately preceded their advents into the world. I'm sure I could go a few years ahead and they still wouldn't be aware of much. As a practical matter, their historical frame of reference is the last 5-6 years, at best.

With the Government constantly devaluing history as a subject, it is likely that there successors as GCSE students will know even less.

Posted by david at 05:04 PM | Comments (4)

December 10, 2005

Forget Democracy

So many thing have happened in my absence. Where to start? The elections in Kazakhstan?

Unlike the Rose, Orange, and Tulip, there will be no revolution named after either a colour or a flower. The U.S. State Department even said the election reflects the will of the people - 91% of the votes cast. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which monitors the fairness of elections said the election was seriously flawed, saying that there were "numerous and persistent examples of intimidation by the authorities, including undue restrictions on campaigning and harassment of campaign staff.'' There was also the problem that the other guys weren't really allowed to campaign.

Nonetheless, the strongest thing the State Department could bring itself to say was, "To bring Kazakhstani laws and practices in line with OSCE standards will require considerable effort as well as a credible investigation of irregularities.'' This is diplomatic speak for, "Of course the election was a farce. Anyone with half a brain knows it was completely rigged. But since we got caught out supporting torture in Uzbekistan and had to make an ubrupt about-face, losing our ally Karimov, we need friends in the region."

The most amazing thing to come out of all of this is not that the US is supporting another dictator. It has always been US (and UK, for that matter) policy to spread democracy throughout the world, except where is it doesn't suit the need to maintain influence. Rather it is that not only does President Nazarbayev expect to chair the OSCE beginning in 2009, but that the West supports this. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse.

Posted by david at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2005

Staying Soft on Crime

Mugging are up by another 4% in the latest statistics for the three months ending in June. Now judges are being told to reduce sentences for muggers by 15%. More non-custodial sentence will be handed out.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council has decided that a community order could be imposed within the sentencing ranges for offences at the lowest level of seriousness. This includes where a victim may be beaten, but not suffer permanent or serious physical injury.

But if you think you will be safer when you retreat to your home, think again.

Just when we thought the Labour government was giving in to the popular outcry about the helplessness of homeowners against intruders, the Home Secretary has decided that nothing will change.

Conservative MP Anne McIntosh has introduced a bill that would give householders and shopkeepers the legal right to use all but "grossly disproportionate" force against an intruder. It has support across the backbenches on both sides of the House. However, the nature of the legislative process in this country means that without at least the tacit approval of the Government, it has no chance. Because the Government controls the availability of legislative time, they will simply make sure that this bill has no opportunity to make it all the way through the process.

Posted by david at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2005

Accessory to the Crime

It's the first time I heard of a judge presented with the "does my ankle look fat in this?" argument. It worked for an 18-year-old woman in Worcester when she didn't want to wear an electronic tag while on bail for grievous bodily harm.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Her lawyer said the tag would be visible, look odd and affect her dress sense. Worcester magistrates agreed to let her off. Hughes said: "I didn't want to wear a tag because they are really bulky and embarrassing. I like to wear skirts which means people can see it and it looks stupid."

I think beating the crap out of someone is pretty stupid, too.

Posted by david at 01:51 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005

The Nursery Curriculum

Now that the National Curriculum has been a total failure, the Government are introducing it for babies. That's right babies. And toddlers, of course.

Childminders and nurseries will be required to teach the "Early Years Foundation Stage" from birth until age 3. The curriculum includes mathematics, reading, and writing. Yes, maths for infants, apparently.

There will be Ofsted inspections to ensure that they have mastered skills such as comparing, categorising and recognising symbols and marks. Obviously nursery staff will now be under the same sort of pressure as primary and secondary teachers to get results. Results. And you can't assess progress without paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Trust me, I know these things.

For inspectors, there will be four aspects, each with its own check list of components — a strong child, a skilful communicator, a competent learner and a healthy child.

According to Children's Minister Beverly Hughes, “It is a truly radical Bill enshrining in law the duty of local authorities to reduce inequalities amongst the youngest children and improve outcomes for all. It brings, for the first time, the provision of integrated early years education and care into the mainstream of the modern welfare state.”

Nearly every word of that statement is enough to scare any decent freedom-loving parent.

Posted by david at 12:54 AM | Comments (2)

November 09, 2005

Down He Goes

His authority has been diminishing, especially since he said he would not fight another election. Now Tony Blair has finally been defeated in a House of Commons vote.

He insisted on keeping a provision in the new terrorism bill that would have extended the detention of terror suspects without charge to 90 days instead of the current limit of 14. He knew it would be close, so he even made Gordon Brown and Jack Straw cut short trips to Moscow and Jerusalem to return for the vote. They might just as well have saved the taxpayers thousands of pounds in the the cost of jet fuel, because the tally was 322-291.

Now Blair cannot emulate the Bush administration's Gitmo "lock 'em up until we can figure out what to do with them" policy.

Posted by david at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

The Racist Left

Oprah is a racist. So's Al Franken.

H/T to Greg Wallace.

Posted by david at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

Carter Against Abortion

Even he admits that he is a better ex-president than he was president. Now Jimmy Carter has rounded on his Democratic Party and its embrace of the abortion culture. You may have seen this as it came out four days ago, but it was just brought to my attention.

One article about this is in the Washington Times. There is more at

Posted by david at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2005

Abstinence Comes to Hooterville

The Sunday Telegraph has an article featuring one of the comprehensives in Hooterville at which I do not teach. In fact is the worst high school in the county in terms of academics, behaviour, and any other standard one might use. We used to live just behind it and still live in the catchment area. They have introduced an abstinence-based sex education programme.

If there is anywhere that needs abstinence education, it is Haywood, even if the Government doesn't think so. As the article notes:

On one side there is the Teenage Pregnancy Unit, the agency set up in 1998 to spearhead the Government's £163 million drive to halve under-18 conceptions by 2010.

It has had limited success but the most recent figures have shown the proportion of 13- to 15-year-old pregnancies has actually risen by 2.5 per cent to 8,075. Sexual infections have also mushroomed to "epidemic proportions" according to doctors, who reported that chlamydia cases surpassed 100,000 for the first time this year.

Despite this, the unit and its supporters regard abstinence as a dirty word. The only reference to it on the unit website is a report entitled: "Just Say No! To Abstinence Education". It argues that the approach is unrealistic, ignores the fact that some teenagers do have sex, and fails to protect young people from pregnancy and disease.

In other words, don't say "no", because they are going to do it anyway. What this really means is, "we can't say 'no' if we are going to practice the same promiscuity and otherwise inculcate completely relativistic values."

Posted by david at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)

Mystery Millions

Ever wonder where all the money from the films right to the upcoming film of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has gone?

Posted by david at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2005

Quiet Death

Until 2001 the abortifacient "morning after" pill coud only be obtained by prescription. This didn't fit with the Government's easy-come-easy-go attitude toward life, so they made it available over the counter.

So it was no big surprise tha this has become a very popular option. Now half of the women who obtain it do so without any advice from a health care professional. The number of 13-15 year olds attending family planning clinics has dropped. This is a bad thing - not because it indicates a drop in teen sex, but because they don't perceive the need for advice. Now only 9 percent of 13-15 year old girls in this country attended a family planning clinic in 2004-05.

Posted by david at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2005

Document Tracking

Seems the US Government is concerned about how you might use your colour laser printer. Letting folks just print whatever and whenever may not be the best idea. Of course you are still free to print whatever you want to say - for now. But at least the Government will know who said it and when.

This isn't really news -- PC World published information about this a year ago. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has decoded the tiny yellow dots that are automatically printed on each page. They even have an web-based interactive decoder program. So now we can at least watch them watching us.

Posted by david at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

Mind Your W's and Q's

I'm starting to wonder if I should set up a whole category in this blog for things Turkish. Yep, those crazy Turks are at it again.

A Turkish court has fined 20 Kurds 100 new lira (about $75) each for displaying placards containing the letters "W" and "Q" at a Kurdish celebration. Those letters are not in the Turkish alphabet and under the 1928 Law on the Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters, it is illegal to display any signs using anything other than the official Turkish letters. It doesn't matter that the event was Kurdish.

Since W and Q are in the Kurdish alphabet, this make it difficult for Kurds to display their written language. The EU pressured Turkey to lift the ban on teaching and broadcasting in Kurdish, but the Turks have kept every possible loophole open to maintain as much oppression as they can get away with.

I wonder what Turkish ally George W Bush thinks of this.

Posted by david at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2005

National Inferiority Complex

There is something seriously defective in the Turkish national mentality. Why else would they need laws against "insulting and weakening Turkish identity"? Have you ever seen such a collective lack of self-esteem?

That is what Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk is charged with when he goes on trial in December. This is because he refuses to back down from published remarks acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. He didn't even use the word "genocide". He just stated facts of history.

Recently prosecutions under this law would indicate that he won't get the full three-year prison sentence. Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was convicted this month for the wording of a single phrase in a newspaper column and only got a six month suspended sentence. He will stay out of jail unless he repeats the offence.

The lawyers for the prosecution were not happy with the result. One of them said,"There was an obvious humiliation and result of this case should be at least two and a half years or three years criminal charge, but I think that Turkish courts are under big pressure due to these European Union accession talks."

The ironic thing is that Dink wrote the column with the aim of improving Turkish-Armenian relations.

Just to show that I don't have any hard feelings against the Turks, I'm going out now to have a kebab.

Posted by david at 02:27 PM | Comments (3)

October 22, 2005

Not So Stupid

If you visit this country from the United States, and you get past the historical sites and quaint quintessential tourist things, you will find that the British press treats America and Americans with extreme condescension. It is not that they are so much anti-American as such, but rather consider them rather stupid. If only Americans were more enlightened, their country would be a better place and could receive the official European seal of approval of which it is in need, if only it could understand this.

However, if I had a shilling for every student who has told me how much they wish they could live in the US, or even plan to move there at some point, I'd have, well, a lot of coins that are no longer legal tender. But I would have a lot of them. More than that, they respond with incredulity to my preference for living in the UK.

So many Brits want to move to the US that they are not eligible for the Diversity Lottery to get a US Green Card. In 2004, 3,180 American were naturalised as British citizens. During the same period, 7,785 Brits became Americans. That's nearly two and a half times as many becoming part of the much-maligned US electorate. That's something you don't see mentoned in the Guardian. Nor do they do the real math. The US has roughly five times the population of the UK. That means as a percentage of population, emigration to the US has 12.5 times more impact on the UK than immigration received from land of the free and home of the brave.

Even if many Brits have let themselves be influenced by the leftwing MSM in this country, and aren't always bright enough to think for themselves, most have more in common with their trans-Atlantic cousins than they think. For example, 70% of Brits favour the death penalty. Nonetheless, it will never ever be reinstated in this country. Our politicians are far too enlightened. They know they would be excoriated in the press. They also gave away their ability to decide such things when they signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and gave the European Court of Justice the ultimate say.

Silly Americans. They have the policies the British public want, and have kept their sovereignty as well. How stupid is that?

Posted by david at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2005

Up, Up, and Away

The new crime figures are out and here we go again.

From April to June this year, there were 6% more violent crimes than in the same quarter last year. There were 12% more than there had been during January, February, and March. Robbery is up by 4% over last year. And it's not just happening here and there. Street crime is on the rise in every police area.

Of course in the land of no guns, gun crime is up once again. This time it is another 5% increase over last year.

The big jump is in sexual offences. These are up by 12% over last year.

How did the Government respond to these figures? Unless you are used to the incredulity that is the normal reaction to New Labour spin, you will find it incomprehensible.

According to the Home Secretary, "This is a considerable achievement demonstrating the success of Government initiatives on crime reduction and should not be underestimated.

''However, I recognise that the fear of crime is too high - it is not enough to reduce crime if people do not perceive that reduction.''

That's right, it's our fault because we don't understand how an increase in crime is a reduction in crime. First there was Newspeak. Now there is Newmaths.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

Leading the Blind off the Plane

It is one of the most disgusting things I have heard about in a long time. Ryanair is a cheap airline. Really cheap.

Ryanair doesn't like disabled customers. Thursday,evening nine blind passengers were seated on a Ryanair jet at Stanstead, waiting to depart for Italy. Unfortunately, the airline allows a maximum of four disabled people on each flight. The crip quota had been met already, so the nine blind people were forced off the plane.

They were herded back to the departure lounge. They were gven no accommodation, no money for food, and some of them had to sleep on the floor.

Ryanair attempted to blame it on safety regulations. The Irish Aviation Authority said there was nothing contrary to the regulations in carrying those passengers. No other airline has a limit on the number of disabled people on any flight.

Ryanair also charges them extra. Since they don't use those fancy jetways, because its cheaper to stick to the stairs out on the tarmac for access to the fusilage, they were charging £36 for the use of a wheelchair to reach the plane. They did that until they were sued for discrimination and lost.

I hope these nine people sue Ryanair. I hope a court awards more than the £1300 compensation Bob Ross got for his wheelchair incident. And I don't think I will fly Ryanair any time soon.

Posted by david at 01:17 AM | Comments (5)

October 03, 2005

Talking Turkey

After hours and hours of talks, Turkey and the EU have reached an agreement on the terms of negotiating Turkey's membership. In other words, they have decided what issues will be on the table. And despite the visibility of protesters outside the meetings, one key issue will not be under discussion.

If you have followed my constant harping on Turkey, then you will easily guess which issue it is. It's that little matter of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey's persistent denial of it.

Only the French have had the balls (and how often can anyone actually say that?) to official recognise the genocide. It's no surprise that France's popular antipathy towards Turkey's EU membership is exceeded only by Cyprus and Austria. It would be hard to top those two, given that Turkey invaded and still occupies one-third of the former and was stopped from conquering Europe by the latter.

Even the US favours Turkey's admission. They need ostensibly secular Muslim states on their side.

Forget the malarky that Turkey is a secular state. Try sharing the Gospel openly. Try getting them to recognise the Ecumenical Patriarch, even though everyone else has for centuries. Try getting them to take all of the surveillance bugs out of the Phanar. Try getting them to give back all the church buildings they have stolen. Try getting them to stop bulldozing away the Armenian heritage of eastern Anatolia.

No, the US is concerned with where it can place a few warplanes.

The UK Government is more concerned about multi-culturalism. When Austria's foreign minister voiced opposition, UK foreign minister Jack Straw warned of a "theological-political divide, which could open up even further down the boundary between so-called Christian-heritage states and those of Islamic heritage".

That's right, Islamic heritage is real. Christian heritage is suspect, if not altogether imaginary. Everyone seems to have forgotten that Europe's Christian heritage far pre-dates Turkey's Islamic heritage. In fact, Turkey's Christian heritage far pre-dates its Islamic heritage, even if Turkey, in collusion with the US and UK, tries to obliterate it.

Posted by david at 10:40 PM | Comments (4)

September 27, 2005

What Are You Looking At?

Just when you think you've seen it all...

This article in The Times today speaks for itself.

How do you infringe a baby's human rights? Just say ‘coo’
By A Correspondent

HOSPITAL visitors have been banned from cooing at babies because it was decided that such behaviour infringes the newborn’s human rights.

Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, West Yorkshire, has also banned well-wishers from asking mothers about their babies. The rules have been introduced by neonatal staff to protect the babies’ “right to privacy”. Debbie Lawson, neonatal manager at the Special Care Baby Unit, said that the barrage of questions infringed a child’s human rights.

“We know people have good intentions, and most people cannot resist cooing over new babies, but we need to respect the child. Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me,” she said.

“We often get visitors wandering over to peer into cots but people sometimes touch or talk about the baby like they would if they were examining tins in a supermarket, and that should not happen.”

New regulations have been introduced throughout the maternity unit. One ward has put a doll in a cot on display, with a message that reads: “What makes you think I want to be looked at?” Mrs Lawson said: “Hopefully our message comes across loud and clear. The Government has set a benchmark that every patient has a right to privacy and dignity, and we say that includes tiny babies as well.

“I can’t imagine why any mother would complain. Most would be against strangers poking and prodding and asking questions.”

But the rules have already brought criticism from some new mothers. Lynsey Pearson, 26, from Halifax, gave birth to her first child, Hannah, four weeks ago. “This ludicrous idea is taking patient confidentiality to the extreme. If people did not ask me questions about my baby, I would be offended.

“I am so proud of Hannah and want to show her off, and I would imagine all new mums feel that way. When I was in hospital even the cleaners asked me questions and touched her and cuddled her.

“Babies love attention and I think it is cruel to ask visitors and parents to basically ignore them.”

One couple know better than most how important it is to have interaction with visitors and other mums-to-be on the wards. Rachel and Nick Hughes, also from Halifax, had their baby Annis, 18 months ago after IVF treatment.

“New parents and babies need privacy but they also need to interact, and mums in particular crave attention for their new babies,” Mr Hughes said.

“We wanted to talk about Annis all the time. She was our little miracle and we wanted everyone to know about her. It is flattering when people talk to you about your experiences.”

The staff at Calderdale Royal are unrepentant. The ban was necessary to prevent visitors “gawping” at newborns or quizzing mothers, they said.

But Linda Riordan, the Labour MP for Halifax, said that the hospital was taking government guidelines to the extreme. “It is bureaucracy gone mad,” she said. “All mothers want people to admire their babies because all babies are beautiful. But in a case where a mother did not want to answer questions, it should be up to that individual to say so.”

Posted by david at 01:06 PM | Comments (4)

September 22, 2005

I Could Use the Money

The Government is pouring money into education.

Since Labour came to power, they have pumped nearly £1 billion ($1.85 billion) into tackling truancy. The result: truancy has continued to rise, jumping another 10% last year.

It's not just schools that can't seem to get students to show up. Universities now have a first-year drop-out rate of nearly 25%. Some of those are likely to be students who never should have been there, but have been pushed into higher education by the Government's goal of 50% of the population with a university degree. Others have been so ill-prepared by GCSEs and A levels that they can't hack the rigours of university. The cost to the taxpayer? Another £500 million.

The Government has spent another £300 million on initiatives to get state school candidates into university. The result? A surprise fall in state school educated students at top universities. Well, the Government may have been surprised. I'm not.

So where could they have spent that wasted £1.8 billion ($3.33 billion)? My pay packet could have used a little bit of that. Call me an interested party, but better paid teachers with less red tape could do a lot more than endless initiatives. I am responsible for educating the 550 or so students I see in class every week and generally responsible for all of the other 650 children as I supervise them during breaks, lunch, etc. It will be three years before I earn the average UK salary.

Posted by david at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005

My Two Mummies

I just don't have time to blog about this tonight. You migth as well read the horrifying truth for yourself

UK scientists have won permission to create a human embryo that will have genetic material from two mothers.

The Newcastle University team will transfer genetic material created when an egg and sperm fuse into another woman's egg.

Read the rest on the BBC website.

Posted by david at 12:33 AM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2005


The Government has managed to make a bad thing worse. Before Labour came to power, only seven out of ten parents were getting the child support collected for them. Now seven out of ten aren’t getting any payments.

Frank Field, a former Labour welfare minister declared the situation a "meltdown". He wrote an open letter to Tony Blair in which he said the CSA is "bolting down the hatches" by refusing to publish key information. He said he 2003 reforms made a "poor service even worse." Former ministers frequently have to communicate with the PM in an open forum as Number 10 is usually very closed to them.

There are exceptions to this closed door policy. One of these is formerly disgraced the former Home Secretary, now reincarnated as Work and Pensions Secretary, who keeps hoping to pay child support for children that aren’t his. He actually admitted that there was nothing in Mr Field's letter that ministers were not "painfully aware of". Yes, it is so bad that the Government have to admit that it is true - this from a Government that never admits anything, especially if it is anywhere close to the truth.

What are some of Mr Field's specifics that the Government is aware of?

• The amount of non-collected maintenance written off has crossed the £1 billion mark for the first time.
• As write-offs reach record levels the total sum of maintenance still to be collected records one of the biggest-ever increases in a single year: up by a third to around £1.26 billion.
• The total amount of maintenance collected by the agency shows its first-ever decline in real terms.
• The proportion of lone parents receiving a first payment where the maintenance assessment had been made, dropped by a third — from 72 per cent to 52 per cent.
• The total backlog of parents waiting for a maintenance assessment continues to rise — up by 20 per cent in the past six months, the latest date for which data is available.
• Worse still, 40% of all applications for child support on the new scheme are still waiting for an assessment to be made.

And what is this costing the taxpayer at large? 54p for every £1 collected.

If the Government are going to promote an amoral society and single parenthood, they ought to at least get the necessary infrastructure properly in place. With the teenage pregnancy rate soaring higher with each prophylactic initiative, the CSA must not only suck ever last penny out of the fathers – they have to actually get the cash to the mothers so they can buy Burberry and bling.

Posted by david at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2005

RIP, Little Buddy

Bob Denver has passed away at the age of 70. Gilligan's Island probably never will.

BTW, I can tap out the theme song by rapping my knuckles around the top of my head and opening my mouth in different ways. I can do the same with the theme to Green Acres.

Posted by david at 11:46 PM | Comments (2)

September 02, 2005

We Built This City

Okay, I thought I’d heard it all. Jazz singer Lillian Boutte was tapped by BBC News 24 to comment on the situation in New Orleans (and I quote it exactly as it was said)…“And now as it’s said, I don’t know but I just give a rumour, the Republicans believe that now that New Orleans shouldn’t even be put back on the map – that it should be flattened and used for whatever purposes, but you’re taking a history of the world…

“The music community is the thing that’s going to build up New Orleans. I don’t care what they say, the Republicans can talk what they want about levelling off this place, they’ll never be able to do it – the world will go against them...

“They’re [the looters] going wherever they can where its useful for survival, they’re going into different cities now and ramping [sic, unless this is some new term in the 'hood]. They’re just taking everything down if they don’t do it, it’s not just going to be sustained in Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama, it gonna go over the whole of America.”

Yes, you heard it here. The Republicans want to raze New Orleans, but the musicians are going to build it up again. I suppose they are going to rebuild the levees, pump out the water, and reconstruct all the buildings. And foot the $50 billion bill. Sure. The musicians – not those terrible Republicans. And it’s gonna be the Republicans' fault that the looters are going to spread anarchy over the whole country because they can’t get what they need to survive by stealing everything not tied down (including one Wal-mart, where they "acquired" all the ammunition.

I only quote Ms Boutte from one of the interviews they did. They just kept being her back one to spout more drivel about the Republicans and George W.

Whilst I'm sure the musicians will actually save the day, Greg Wallace has a list of what the Republicans' friends in corporate America are doing.

Posted by david at 11:19 PM | Comments (2)

Supply and Demand

Thanks to Katrina, gasoline prices in the US are going up again. And thanks to Katrina, petrol prices in the UK are going up again. With the shut down of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the reduced production of Gulf Coast refineries, the US needs to get fuel from somewhere else.

This means that oil tankers originally headed to European ports are headed to America. The going rate for tankers has doubled, because US suppliers are willing to pay that to bring the tankers across the Atlantic. So there will be less oil coming into the UK and our prices will continue to rise.

In the background of a BBC television news report from the States, I saw gas prices at nearly $3.00 a gallon. Wouldn’t that be nice. I’d love to pay $3.00 a gallon for gas. Petrol here is now about 93p/litre. Thanks to the strengthening of the pound against the dollar, that now translates to a mere $6.50 a gallon.

Posted by david at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)


Following on the star rating of hospitals, the Government as published a similar system for GP practices. This was announced the same day I needed to make an appointment with the surgery where I am registered.

One of the key targets set is the requirement to see patients within 48 hours. Our surgery has gone one better and will see patients within 24 hours of making an appointment. Sounds great, doesn’t it? How do they manage to do it?

They don’t take appointments. At least not any appointments more than 24 hours in advance. So everyone gets on the phone at 8am trying to get one of the slots for the day.

By meeting the Government targets and getting a higher rating, the surgery gets more money. Yes, socialised medicine is still about making money. It’s only a matter of from whence the money comes.

Posted by david at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2005

What is Extreme?

President for life Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan like things done a certain way. And when you are a Central Asian dictator, you get things your way.

He has banned opera, ballet, and car radios. He has cracked down on young men wearing long hair or beards. He has closed all the hospitals in the country except in the capital, Ashgabat. He has even renamed some calendar months after himself and his mother.

In case his subjects were unclear as to what is good and right and true for the Turkmen people, he has written a book, Ruhnama, which everyone is required to read. It is part of the secondary and university curriculum.

Nonetheless, people haven't been getting the message, and last week Niyazov had to ban lip synching. According to the official daily newpaper, Neitralny Turkmenistan, this includes "musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkmen television channels, at all cultural events organised by state... in places of mass assembly and at weddings and celebrations organised by the public".

Not to be outdone by another Central Asian nutcase in the area of personal caprice, any type of billiards or pool is illegal in Uzbekistan. This is not for any particular reason. President Islam Karimov decided that he didn’t like it, so he declared it illegal. This has not eliminated billiards in Uzbekistan. I watched a BBC4 documentary on the Central Asian republics last night in which they secretly filmed an underground pool hall.

I remember stories of how Christian services were attended by secret police in the Communist bloc before the end those regimes. I found it interesting that in Uzbekistan the mosques are attended by government agents. The sermons at Friday prayers are given according to guidelines set out by the government. It is not surprising that there are Muslim “extremists” who are opposed to the government.

If Christian services were monitored in the US or UK and sermons required to be given according to government guidelines, how many Christian “extremists” would there be? When you hear about Karimov fighting Muslim extremists in Uzbekistan, take that into consideration.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

Terrorist Win One

I'm not talking about Muslim extremists. No, we have had another breed of home-grown terrorists in this country for a long time. Animal rights activists.

Darley Oaks Farm in Staffordshire has been breeding guinea pigs for medical research for 30 years. For seven years activists have tried to shut it down.

There have been 460 separate incidents, involving the intimidation of Darley staff, casual workers and suppliers using hate mail, arson attacks, and hoax bombs. It has cost £500,000 a year for policing. The local village has been routinely vandalised and the golf course ripped up.

Then, last October they desecrated of the grave of Gladys Hammond, mother-in-law of Darley Oaks’ owners, stealing her body and holding it ransom. The ransom price: the Darley Oaks business.

Darley Oaks has thrown in the towel. In a statement announcing the end of their business, they asked for the body to be returned.

But the owners, employees, suppliers, and incidental visitors at Darley Oaks are not the only ones facing this terrorist activity. There are 22,000 people in this country who work in areas of scientific research involving animals and all of them are viewed at valid targets. As one newspaper noted they "can expect to have their cars covered in acid, endless unordered goods to be delivered to their homes and even have their children threatened."

For these activists, human life is irrelevant and valueless when compared to rodents.

Posted by david at 12:36 AM | Comments (3)

August 22, 2005

Shame on Cindy

The Boston Globe today has an op-ed piece on "The Cindy Sheehan you don't know". Everything you imagined to be true and more.

H/T to Greg Wallace.

Huw Raphael's own experience puts a very good perspective on this.

Posted by david at 10:43 PM | Comments (2)

What Goes Around...

The removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza is almost complete. I don't know if they showed the same news footage in the States as they did here, but we received lots of coverage. It would have been the top story each night, except for continuing new revelations about the de Menezes execution.

I don't like to see anyone lose their home, but settlers could have been warned that this day might come. Of course, when they were sent in there, there was no spirit of compromise in Israel. The Israelis had taken by conquest what they believed was rightfully theirs, even if the creation of the State of Israel by the US and UK in 1948 hadn't taken it into account.

But how different this was from 1948 when the Jews began systematically removing Palestinians and confiscating their homes and their lands. There was no compensation and no other provision. There are still refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon.

Another difference was that when Israelis took over Palestinian property, they left the houses and occupied them. In the withdrawal from Gaza, the houses will all be bulldozed. If Palestinians want to to make their land habitable, the will just have to start from scratch. Whole towns of perfectly good houses will be demolished. It can't be seen that the Palestinians get anything off the backs of the Jews, even though the Jews got everything off the backs of the Palestinians.

Posted by david at 02:35 AM | Comments (1)

August 21, 2005

The Story that Doesn't Die

Jean Charles de Menezes. I'm sure some of your just skip over my blog entries that mention the name. Just like the Met wanted his family to skip over having a lawyer present when they were offered a pittance in compensation.

Yes, it keeps getting worse for the Met. What happened when officials met with the decedent parents in Brazil? Well, they told the Mail on Sunday:

• They were only summoned to the August 1 meeting with Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates the night before it took place - and despite pleading for more time so their lawyer could be present, were told it could not be delayed.
• Mr Yates refused to answer any of their questions about how Jean Charles died --even though by this stage, ten days after the shooting, the Yard knew that initial reports that he had run from police were wrong.
• The still heavily-sedated parents, who only speak Portuguese, were then handed a of which they have passed to The Mail on Sunday, offering them speedy payment of £15,000 'by way of compensation to you for the death of your son'.
• When the family's London-based lawyers protested to the Met that they had been excluded from the meeting in Gonzaga, Brazil, they were wrongly told that they acted only 'for cousins in England and not the next of kin'.

Just how badly could one operation and the following cover up go?

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2005

No Place to Go

The Government has been pushing for 50% of the population to get university degrees. Despite their denials, they keep lowering the standards of examinations so that more students get higher grades. 'A' level results released yesterday showed that grades have risen again - for the 23rd year in a row. Almost a quarter of all exams resulted in A grades.

Unfortunately the Government hasn't created all the places at universities for all these new amazing scholars.

Places at university are tentatively given on the basis of expected 'A' level grades. If the required grades aren't achieved, then a student has to go through "clearing" to find another university with places that will accept them.

There are usually a lot of places because students will put off their university education and take a gap year. This is not a good year for gap years. Why? The Government has raised tuition fees by 300% starting in 2006. With everyone taking their places, there are just 37,700 vacancies.

Nearly 100,000 students want those vacancies. This means that about 60,000 18-year-olds better find something to do, because they will not be going to university this year.

Posted by david at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

Mo Mowlam, RIP

I didn't agree with many of Mo Mowlam's core political beliefs. Nonetheless, I have missed her participation in the political process and I was saddened to learn of her death today.

Mo (and she always insisted on being called "Mo", not "Ms. Mowlam" or "Minister") became the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when Labour came to power in 1997. She had been the Shadow Secretary since 1994. She got the talks going which led to the final IRA ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement.

Her greatest asset was her insistence of plain speaking in a political arena of couched terms and carefully chosen phrases. As one Northern Ireland politician commented today, she wasn't afraid to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the living room. It is a lot easier to agree or disagree with someone, and reach understanding and compromise, when the cards are laid out on the table.

Mo was diagnosed with a brain tumor five months before Labour came to power in 1997. She lost her hair due to chemotherapy, and was known to take off her wig to remove the formality from meetings and defuse tense situations. She was a politician without pretensions.

She had significant connections with the US. She received her PhD in political science from the University of Iowa. She taught at the University of Wisconsin and Florida State, before returning to the UK to teach at the University of Newcastle.

Her illness led only indirectly to her death. Radiation treatment she was receiving caused her to have problems with balance. She received head injuries as the result of a fall and never regained consciousness.

May she rest in peace and may her memory be eternal.

Posted by david at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2005

It Just Gets Deeper

My post last night about the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes was based upon the news as it stood then. I didn't think it could get any worse. Now it has emerged that the Commissioner of the Met, Sir Ian Blair (no relation to the Prime Minister of the same surname), tried to stop the Independent Police Complaints Commission from opening an investigation.

On the day of the incident, Sir Ian had contacted the Home Office to determine the scope of the IPCC's remit. As it was believed at the time that Menezes was a terrorist, Sir Ian did not want the IPCC to mess with his anti-terrorism operation. However, when it was revealed the next day that Menezes was not a terrorist, Sir Ian still did not refer the case on to the IPCC. It took three days and lots of pressure from Menezes' family to do that.

So now we have clear evidence the coverup reaching the highest level. I dread to see what ITN uncovers tomorrow.

Posted by david at 08:34 PM | Comments (1)

No Need for a Library Card

The royal family of the British celebrity world, former Spice Girl Victoria and England football captain David Beckham (known over here as Posh and Becks) have been in the news a lot this year. As role model for thousands of teenage boys, Becks seems to spend a lot of time out of the marital bed - or in it, with someone other than the mother of his three children. Not doing a lot for the cause of monogamy.

But it is Posh who is in the news now. Despite the fact that she recently "authored" a 528-page biography, she has told a Spanish magazine that she has never read a book. Honest. "I haven't read a book in my life. I don't have the time. I prefer listening to music, although I do love fashion magazines."

Is it any wonder that so many secondary school students can't read?

Posted by david at 02:46 AM | Comments (1)

The Frankenblair Government

The Government is set to overhaul fertility laws. While they are taking the views of the public and medical professionals until November, there is no mistaking the adgenda that is already in place. There are three key areas they are keen to change, or "update", as they like to call it.

The first the screening of embyonic babies to choose who will live and who will die. This is already done. What will change is the basis. On the basis of which diseases, or the genetic potential for those diseases, can the embyro be destroyed? And on what basis can parents choose the sex of their child? So far this has only been allowed when it was deemed medically necessary, due to genetic defects carried through a particular sex. Now members of every culture that values males over females will be able to get the boy they want.

The second area concerns who should receive IVF treatment. Under current regulations, fertility clinics must consider the welfare of any child who was born as a result of the treatment they provide. This includes its need for a father or male figure in its life. This does not mean that those who intend to raise a child without a father can't get IVF - they are just further down the waiting list in an NHS of limited resources.

Where is the law going on this? It is telling that a House of Commons select committee called this rule "offensive" to unconventional families. The head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority says it is "nonsense". Theoretically, single mothers of either natural or lesbians inclinations will be on equal footing with those who are partnered by the opposite sex. But of course the Government will be keen to redress the balance, so I would not hesitate to speculate that anyone living in what approaches a natural family situation will have a much harder time getting a place in the queue.

And the third area does away with the need for men altogether. In research still under development, a lesbian couple who doesn't want to deal with that icky sperm and wants a child truly "their own" will simply have a different cell taken from one partner and used as a gamete. This is a variation on cloning technology already being used in the lab - not something of science fiction. Because the Government wants to have legislation in place that will work for the next decade, this is the sort of thing that will be addressed.

Posted by david at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and a Statistic

What you are about to read is the most disgusting thing. Really disgusting. I am normally quite critical of the police. Yet even for me, this defies belief. It has been the top news story all evening in this country. This takes a moment to set up, but please keep reading.

When Jean Charles de Menezes was mistakenly killed by police on the Tube in London, as a suspect in the July 21 failed bombings, the police said that he had come out of building under surveillance wearing a bulky jacket (to hide a bomb, obviously), been identified as one of the terrorist suspects and was followed on the bus to Stockwell Station. They told us he was confronted by police and jumped the ticket barrier. He ran for a train to escape officers, tripped, was pinned down and before he could detonate a suicide bomb, he was shot.

The police admitted the next day that he wasn't a bomber, or an Asian, or a Muslim, but a Brazilian electrician. With a need to discredit their victim, they announced that he had a expired visa, so he must have been running to avoid getting into immigration trouble. The moral of the story: don't run from the police - if you do, it's your own fault.

Menezes' family continued to reject the police story and the investigation was taken over by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC took lots of statements and compiled lots of evidence. Then somebody leaked it to ITN, pictures and all. Tonight the police are suffering collective loss of bowel control.

Menedez did leave an apartment block that was under surveillance. However, the officer who was suppose to identify him couldn't. He didn't get a good look him and didn't get his camera turned on. Why? He was relieving himself at the time. Those are his words. But he said, yeah, I'm pretty sure it's him. Menezes was a light-skinned European-looking Brazilian. He was mistaken for an Ethiopian.

Let me make this clear in case you didn't get it the first time. Menezes died because the man in charge of surveillance was having a pee and couldn't tell a white man from a black man. But based on his information, Menezes was followed to the Tube station.

The police never confronted Menezes. He never vaulted the ticket barrier as they alleged. He didn't even know he was being followed. He stopped to pick up a free newspaper and travelled slowly down the escalator. When he got to the platform his train was already there, so he ran to catch it before the doors closed. That was his fatal mistake.

He didn't know that police agreed that if he ran they would shoot him. He made the train on time and was sitting down. They got on the train and shouted at him. He got up and had his arms pinned to the sides of his denim jacket. He was then pushed into the seat where he had been sitting and shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

He was the wrong colour. He never ran from the police. He never vaulted the ticket barrier. He never acted suspiciously. He was not wearing any sort of bulky jacket.

The police broke every rule in the book. And they lied about it. They tried to besmirch the victim to distract the attention of the public. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police fed this to us in press conferences, with flagrant disregard for not only the truth but also for the pain and suffering of Menezes' family. This could be the plot to a movie about dirty cops. You know, the kind were the real bad guys get it in the end.

Heads should roll.

Posted by david at 11:53 PM | Comments (3)

August 12, 2005

Another Excuse

Little Andrew Morton's death was the result of a most dispicable crime. Mark Bonini, a man with no job but enough money to be described to police as "out of his face" on drugs, decided to take pot shots out of his window with an airgun. He was convicted on Tuesday of murdering the 2-year-old.

Predictably, for the politicians, the issue is not drugged up dolies, but airguns. Clearly they need to be outlawed. Just like when the Dunblane massacre was carried out with long guns, the Government came in and outlawed handguns.

The Government will use what ever excuse it can to disarm law-abiding citizen. Using Andrew Morton's death does nothing to honor his life, nor will it prevent the same sort of tragedy from happening again. People like Mark Bonini are not going to turn in their pellet guns out of either legal obedience or a brainwashed sense of social responsibility.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal Europe:
Crime was not supposed to rise after handguns were banned in 1997. Yet, since 1996 the serious violent crime rate has soared by 69%: robbery is up by 45% and murders up by 54%. Before the law, armed robberies had fallen by 50% from 1993 to 1997, but as soon as handguns were banned the robbery rate shot back up, almost back to their 1993 levels.

Gun crime in England and Wales nearly doubled in the four years from 1998-99 to 2002-03. It rose again by another 3% last year.

What does the Government imagine that it is going to accomplish by an airgun ban?

Posted by david at 11:03 PM | Comments (2)

August 10, 2005

Patronising Liberals

The NCAA has decided that universities with mascots or nicknames derived from American Indian sources must change or cover up their nicknames to compete in NCAA tournaments because they are "hostile and abusive".

I started to blog about this, but it got too long. It has become my latest Meandering.

Comments welcome.

Posted by david at 11:27 PM | Comments (3)

August 06, 2005

Cripple Quotas

Many people know that I have been an advocate for disability access, especially in the last 12 years. In Indianapolis, I was the first person to approach the prosecutor's office to allow specially trained and commissioned disabled people to hand out parking tickets when ablebodied lazy turds can't understand the big wheelchair symbol painted on the tarmac beneath a wheelchair symbol on a big blue sign. (Let's forgive the fact that they forgot all about me when it was introduced in 1998. No, really, I forgive them.) I figured it mollified my urge to take my spare leg and beat the crap out of their car. After all, if someone is such a lowlife scum as to nick a handicap space, the probably would have no compunction about violently repelling a one-legged man.

Anyhow, the point is that I am pro-active about equal access.

However, I was flipping through a crip magazine that I get free and found out that we aren't seeing enough disabled folks on the telly. The Beeb has now set targets for its drama programmes:

• There has to be at least one disabled character in every returning drama series on BBC1
• Two out of every 100 extras must be a disabled character
• Three factual and leisure shows on BBC1 and BBC2 must feature at least one disabled contributor per series
• Three key entertainment series on BBC1 must feature at least one disabled contestant out of 50
• BBC3 has to broadcast at least one series with a regular disabled character
• BBC4 has to broadcast at least two profiles of “people of achievement” per year

Just as adamant as I am about equal access, I oppose employment quotas regardless of the minority involved. I also reject the idea that I need to see a certain number of disabled people to give me a more positive view of them or so that I will have the right kind of role models.

I think the license fee payer's money would be better spent on programmes that viewers enjoy, rather than on programmes that will condition viewers in a politically correct way.

Posted by david at 03:46 PM | Comments (11)

August 03, 2005

Karimov, China, and the Balance of Power

He doesn't take criticism very well. The Bush Administration has suggested that perhaps the killing of 750 protesters isn't the thing to do. As a result, Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov is terminating US access to the base at Karshi-Khanabad, known as K2.

It doesn't help that the US supported a UN airlift of 439 Uzbek refugees out of Kyrgystan to Romania (and you know things must be bad if people are moving to Romania). Karimov was insisting that they be forcibly returned to Uzbekistan. That's the way with despots. They're big into forcibly doing things, and not so big into freedom of movement or emigration. Since these are political refugees who fled after the Andijan uprising, I'm sure Karimov wanted to throw in a good dose of torture, maybe accidentally killing a few.

This development makes the Russians and Chinese happy. They've been looking for a way to move some of the US presence out of the region, as it stifles their plans. Russia still thinks that it is entitled to regional influence and the Chinese don't like anyone sniffing too close to their own human rights abuses.

Russians and Chinese are also trying to get the US out of Kyrgystan for the same reason. Beijing has mistreated the indigenous populations of its western frontiers without too much interference from the US or any of the other countries of the world who believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to treat folks. This is mostly because until the Afghan war, Central Asia was far from the minds of most Americans or Europeans. Beijing wants to keep it that way. Moscow does as well, but mostly so it can keep up the charade of being a world power.

The Russians and Chinese are even planning joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea. China wanted to hold them further south, off the coast of Taiwan, just to remind the Chinese there that the Commies plan to take them by force eventually, so they might as well give up silly ideas like freedom and democracy now and be assimilated into the Sino-Borg.

Fortunately, Karimov is slowly being isolated as the era of the post-Soviet tinpot dictator is coming to an end. The US will need democratic (or at least more democratic than before) friends in Central Asia to hem in a much more significant foe of freedom than Islamic terrorists.

Posted by david at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2005

They All Look Alike

The man killed by police at Stockwell Station was apparently neither Muslim nor South Asian.

He was Jean Charles de Menezes (7 January 1978 – 22 July 2005) a Brazilian electrician who had lived in the UK for three years.

Though he died in a state of personal terror, by the mercies of Almighty God, may he rest in peace.

Posted by david at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2005

Hit Me Baby One More Time

Reverend Alan Blackwood faces up to three months in prison after pleading guilty to the serious assault and injury of his wife, Reverend Sandi Blackwood. It seems their second marriages aren't working out very well.

Apparently Mrs Blackwood stayed up to read while her husband went to bed. He said, “She was trying to wind me up and I just snapped.”

According to the prosecutor, “On returning home from a night out with friends a row which had been festering flared up again. The accused went to bed and the complainer went to bed shortly after midnight . . . A row erupted and the couple began arguing, moving from room to room. Matters deteriorated when the complainer removed the lightbulb from a lamp so that he could get to sleep. The row continued and culminated in the accused assaulting his wife and headbutting her on the nose.” This resulted in a centimetre-long gash that required stitches.

This all happened in on Easter Sunday and the wee hours of Easter Monday. What a way to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord.

The Times reports that they were known as devoted Christians. I would have thought as ministers of religion, this would have been a given. Perhaps not. And people wonder why there has been a 22% decline in attendance in the Church of Scotland from 1994 to 2002.

Posted by david at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

Oops, They Did it Again

He should have known better than to come out of a house under police surveillance and go into a Tube station. Well, he wouldn't really have known, because the police have changed all the rules when it comes to surveillance and firearms. No one knows what the rules of engagement are.

We only know it is called Operation Kratos and that the rules are secret.

As the BBC's security correspondent said, "We can speculate about the kind of effect that giving someone a warning might have, if you suspect they might be a suicide bomber. We can speculate about whether the police aim differently but we don't know, because those rules of engagement are secret."

The police did give a bit away when they killed an Asian man in a Tube train at Stockwell station yesterday. They followed him into the station and he got spooked. Was he up to no good, or was he scared of two or three big burly white blokes who look more like East End gangsters (or racists) than cops? After all, they didn't tell him they were cops - that would give away the secret.

So he jumped the ticket barrier and ran down the escalator, followed by the Cray enforcer clones. As life imitates art, when the cops reached the platform their pulled their guns out and ordered everyone down. The Asian man jumped onto the train to try to get away. Then in the words of one eyewitness,

The man was running so fast he fell on the floor or he may have been pushed down by one of the officers. As the man got on the train I looked at his face. He looked from left to right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, like a cornered fox. He looked utterly petrified.

The policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand, he held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him: ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang’. I saw the gun going off. There was no hesitation from the police. I was just five yards away.

The dead man did not have a bomb, nor was he armed in any way. He might like to tell his side of the story, but those five bullets in his head will make that a bit impossible.

Posted by david at 01:57 PM | Comments (5)

July 15, 2005

Terrorist 1 Freedom 0

Just when you hoped the Government would be sensible over this whole London bombing thing and not make any rash legislative reactions, here they go again.

They had plans for more anti-terrorism laws inthe pipeline before 7/7. Now they have no opposition, because no one in the House of Commons wants to show anything less than solidarity.

It will become an offence to give or receive training in the use of hazardous substances. There are a lot of hazardous substances out there that have nothing to do with terrorism.

There will be a new offence of "acts preparatory to terrorism". Isn't there already a crime of conspiracy to commit murder?

According to Home Office minsiter Hazel Blears, the new offence of indirect incitement to commit terrorism would have a wide-ranging effect, applying to both public and private statements. As quoted in The Times:

"It would apply where people would seek to glorify terrorist activity, perhaps, for example, it’s saying ’it’s a marvellous thing that this has happened, these people are martyrs’. Not a direct incitement to go out and do so but it could be construed by people hearing that as an endorsement of terrorism."

The minister said: "It’s very difficult to give examples of this. It would depend on what words we used, were they an endorsement, were they a glorification?

"In some cases the tone of your endorsement might take it into glorification. What we’re trying to get to here is that where people know the things that they say are likely to incite people then the criminal offence should be sufficient for them to be prosecuted."

If that isn't the squishiest mishmash of Government garble, I don't know what is. Sure, I want to remove fundamental free speech rights as much as the next emotionally-charged reactionary, but at least do it with comprehensible legislation.

And the scariest bit:

Looking at terrorist-themed websites would not necessarily be a criminal act under the new training offence, she said. But the minister said anyone who looked at such material and then went on to prepare for an act of terrorism, for example, by purchasing chemicals or explosives, would be snared by the new offence of committing acts preparatory to terrorism.

Why is this scary? Because if the security services or the police can connect looking at websites with susequent actions, they must be able to keep logs of individual internet activity. As it turns out, the Government will be keeping much more extensive records on every website anyone accesses, every email sent, every mobile phone call made to anyone.

Posted by david at 10:28 PM | Comments (1)

July 10, 2005

Travel Expenses

The cost of gasoline in this country from some oil companies has now risen above £4 per gallon. This is an imperial gallon. American tourist can take heart that they will only pay £3.33 per US gallon.

Thanks to the weakening of the pound against the dollar since April, that means you will only pay about $6.00 for a US gallon. This is a mere three times the American price these days. And who says this is rip-off Britain?

Posted by david at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)

July 09, 2005

How to Respond to Bombs

In the aftermath of the London bombings, I have noticed significant differences between the reactions to 9/11 and 7/7.

Other than around the bomb sites where forensic work is ongoing (or in the case of the Russell Square/King's Cross train, body removal as well), in London life is quickly returning to normal. It is still the top news story, but for Londoners, and especially for the rest of Britain not affected by transport issues, the terrorists have failed.

Now I will be the first to say that there is a big difference between 2,752 deaths and what will eventually be counted at less than 100. Additonally, no giant iconic buildings were destroyed live on television.

But the real difference is that terrorism is nothing new to Britain and to London in particular. When I lived in London briefly during the early 90s, I can't remember the number of times a Tube station was evacuated because of a possible bomb. Usually this was a rucksack or shopping bag that someone had forgetten. Getting into the Palace of the Westminster or one of the parliamentary office buildings was an exercise in patience as both a metal detector and a bomb sniffing machine were required. Bringing a car onto any of these premises required a thorough inspection of the undercarriage by means of mirrors on long poles.

7/7 was at least the sixteenth fatal terrorist bombing on the island of Great Britain in the last 31 years, the sixth since the 1990. It is the most fatal single day of bombing since the Second World War, when the devices rained down from the skies in the living memory of many Londoners. That was a time when the Tube stations were places of safety and not of death.

Mrs H noted that there has been no talk of retaliation or an invasion in response to 7/7. Unless Messrs Blair and Clarke use these incidents as an excuse for further legislation, then unlike 9/11, the terrorists have not won.

The 9/11 bombers wanted to change the world and they have. Entering the US as a non-US citizen has become an onerous task. That is just one little facet of the War on Terror. Suspect air travellers like my 71-year-old mother are routinely thoroughly searched for weapons. Of course the young Saudi men behind her in the queue find it easier to pass through because of the fear of racial profiling.

The US is always in some colour-coded state of terror alert. This is issued by the 9/11-precipitated Department of Homeland Security which has 183,000 employees and a 2005 discretionary budget of $33.8 billion. Yes, the terrorist have won. 183,000 bureaucrats and $33,800,000,000 and one big problem. They can't stop terrorism. Why? Because when someone is willing to give up their own life to achieve their objective, there's not a lot anyone can do to stop them.

Yes, the authorities can stop a few from getting on airplanes. Or sometimes, as in the case of Richard Reid, at least they get tackled and shackled when they can't light the bomb in their shoe. Last month, a American Airlines flight from JFK to Seattle was diverted to Chicago because of a suspicious item on board. According to a Chicago Police spokesman, the police bomb and arson unit and the FBI determined it was "an older-looking, Walkman-type radio."

9/11 took a bit of planning - even some basic flying lessons for a few of the terrorists. Most bombing operations don't. As one security expert noted on Thursday, a wedding takes more planning than the London attacks. The devices were apparently sophisicated, but the planning need not be. The 7/7 bombs either had timing devices or were detonated by remote control. At rush hour, a bag left on a train wouldn't be noticed for a long time, or at least until it blows apart a carriage.

This is not to say that terrorism isn't taken seriously here. Even as I write, 20,000 people have been evacuated from the Birmingham city centre due to a "credible threat".

But unless terror threats are taken in stride, the terrorist have won. That doesn't mean we don't feel for those who are directly affected. Every death brings grief. But while we support those who grieve, we cannot change our lives in response to those who would change our societies.

We have to let them know that they don't count. They don't matter. They are non-entities. We need to find them and crush them, but not give them attention. That is exactly what they are seeking.

Posted by david at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

Bringing Out the Worst

The aftermath of traumatic incidents like the London bombings brings out the best and the worst in people.

When people were stuck in London on Thursday night, the Hilton group offered its empty rooms at half-price. Some hotels offered blankets and use of showers for free. Others raised their prices to take advantage of the situation. Reports included special Thursday night price hikes of more than 400%.

The media is full of stories of heroic deeds. However, here in Hooterville someone had the bright idea of leaving a bomb-like package in front of a neighbourhood shop. An entire estate of houses had to be evacuated while police came in and did the controlled explosion thing - residents were allowed back in sometime after midnight. There was a similar hoax in Worcester.

Posted by david at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2005

Out of Step

A report outlining the beliefs of Church of England clergy and laity published today shows something surprising. The liberalism of the clergy is well known. What hasn't been as clear is the relative conservatism of the laity.

As many as 300 C of E clergy don't believe in the existence of God. But that's a percentage reflected in the Church as a whole. Across the board, God Himself gets a 97% rating. I'm sure he's glad to hear He's real.

Equally 80% of both groups believe in the Resurrection. Nearly the same percentage believe in the Virgin Birth: 62% of laity vs. 60% of clergy. And there's only a four point spread on whether Jesus actually performed miracles, with 65% of laity and 61% of clergy believing that Jesus actually turned water to wine.

The divide becomes evident when it comes to moral issues. While 56% of the laity believe homosexual acts are wrong, only 48% of the clergy agree. When it comes to ordaining practicing homosexuals as priests, ⅓ of clergy are in favour and only ¼ of the laity approve. The same number of clergy support the ordination of gay bishops, but laity approval falls to less than one-fifth. There's more laity that oppose gay bishops than believe in the Resurrection.

Clearly the C of E under the rule of a vocal minority.

Posted by david at 06:47 PM | Comments (10)

July 03, 2005

Entrenching the Culture of Death

The British Medical Association has officially dropped its oppostion to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

The motion adopted at their Manchester meeting on Thursday states: "The BMA should not oppose legislation which alters the criminal law but should press for robust safeguards both for patients and for doctors who not wish to be involved in such procedures."

Does the BMA expect Parliament to be as neutral as they are? Will euthanasia simply become an option? Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics said, "There will be people who say we should have gone further."

Dr John Chisholm, former BMA GP leader, called for safeguards to protect both doctors and patients who did not wish to be involved in assisted dying. Dr Nathanson said any change in the law should include a "conscientious objection clause" so that doctors opposed to helping patients die could abide by their principles.

If there are serious concerns about the rights of those who do not want to die and those who don't want to kill them, where is this really heading?

On the same day, the BMA rejected a motion to support reducing the age limit for abortion from 24 to 20 weeks. This is after overwhelming evidence has been made public - even by the mainstream media - about fetal sensation and about early viability outside the womb.

This also keeps the UK out of step with European neighbours. The limit in Germany and France is 12 weeks, Italy 13 weeks, and even liberal Sweden 18 weeks.

Posted by david at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2005

Need to Know Basis

On Tuesday night, with a majority of just 31, the Government got it's ID Card bill through Second Reading in the House of Commons. In case you are wondering just what the ID card will contain, also to be kept in a giant central Register, so the Government always have the details at their fingertips:

Personal information
* full name
* other names by which person is or has been known
* date of birth
* place of birth
* gender
* address of principal place of residence in the United Kingdom
* the address of every other place in the United Kingdom where person has a place of residence.
Identifying information
* a photograph of head and shoulders
* signature
* fingerprints
* other biometric information
Residential status
* nationality
* entitlement to remain in the United Kingdom where that entitlement derives from a grant of leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, the terms and conditions of that leave
Personal reference numbers
* National Identity Registration Number
* the number of any ID card issued
* allocated national insurance number
* the number of any relevant immigration document
* the number of their United Kingdom passport
* the number of any passport issued to the individual by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom or by or on behalf of an international organisation
* the number of any document that can be used by them (in some or all circumstances) instead of a passport;
* the number of any identity card issued to him/her by the authorities of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom
* any reference number allocated to him/her by the secretary of state in connection with an application made by him for permission to enter or to remain in the United Kingdom
* the number of any work permit relating to him/her;
* any driver number given to him/her by a driving licence;
* the number of any designated document which is held by him/her and is a document the number of which does not fall within any of the preceding sub-paragraphs
* the date of expiry or period of validity of a document the number of which is recorded by virtue of this paragraph.
Record history
* information falling within the preceding paragraphs that has previously been recorded about him/her in the Register
* particulars of changes affecting that information and of changes made to his/her entry in the Register
* date of death.
Registration and ID card history
* the date of every application for registration made by him/her
* the date of every application by him/her for a modification of the contents of his entry
* the date of every application by him/her confirming the contents of his entry (with or without changes)
* the reason for any omission from the information recorded in his/her entry
* particulars (in addition to its number) of every ID card issued to him/her
* whether each such card is in force and, if not, why not
* particulars of every person who has countersigned an application by him/her for an ID card or a designated document, so far as those particulars were included on the application
* particulars of every notification given about lost, stolen and damaged ID cards
* particulars of every requirement by the secretary of state for the individual to surrender an ID card issued to him.
Validation information
* the information provided in connection with every application to be entered in the Register, for a modification of the contents of his entry or for the issue of an ID card
* the information provided in connection with every application confirming entry in the Register (with or without changes)
* particulars of the steps taken, in connection with an application mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) or otherwise, for identifying the applicant or for verifying the information provided in connection with the application
* particulars of any other steps taken or information obtained for ensuring that there is a complete, up-to-date and accurate entry about that individual in the Register
* particulars of every notification given by that individual for changing details in the register.
Security information
* a personal identification number to be used for facilitating the making of applications for information recorded in his/her entry, and for facilitating the provision of the information;
* a password or other code to be used for that purpose or particulars of a method of generating such a password or code
* questions and answers to be used for identifying a person seeking to make such an application or to apply for or to make a modification of that entry.
Records of provision of information
* particulars of every occasion on which information contained in the individual's entry has been provided to a person
* particulars of every person to whom such information has been provided on such an occasion
* other particulars, in relation to each such occasion, of the provision of the information.

Posted by david at 11:49 AM | Comments (7)

Keep Quiet

The Left and the Right in this country don't agree on much, but they agree that we are becoming a totalitarian state.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act comes into effect in one month. One of the provisions allows ministers to create a one-kilometre demonstration exclusion zone around Parliament Square. If the Government don't like what you want to protest about, you can't even get as close as Trafalgar Square.

This clause was passed by Parliament because David Blunkett told them it was merely to get rid of Brian Haw. Haw has been protesting across the street from the Houses of Parliament for 1491 days. His little permanent camping site is a bit of an eyesore. This is not enough of a reason to eradicate the fundamental right to protest. Mr Haw actually has a good analysis of the implications of this legislation on his website.

You might think that just shutting up any dissent is a small thing - nothing to suggests liberties are at risk. After all, surely it's better if the Government get along with the business of knowing what's best for us without having to deal with such distractions.

Posted by david at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2005

Hundred Acre Graveyard

Piglet is dead.

John Fielder, the voice of Piglet in Disney's Winnie the Pooh films died on Saturday. This is just a day after the death of Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger.

To the best of my knowledge, the Peter Cullen, the voice of Eeyore, is alive and well. For now.

Pooh is dead. The voice of "Bear of Very Little Brain", Sterling Holloway died in 1992. November 22, in fact. The 29th anniverary of the assassination of JFK. Connection? Hmm... Well, there are 9 characters in the 20 original stories by A.A. Milne. You do the math.

Posted by david at 09:20 PM | Comments (3)

June 26, 2005

World Class Disaster

I work in a "world class" education system. At least that was what Tony Blair said in 1998. He promised that is what Labour would create. He just didn't mention that the world in question was the Third World.

Since they came to power this Government have pumped £1 billion into the national literacy and numeracy strategies. An examination of GCSE results in the intervening years has shown that this tax money has gone down a rat hole. There has been no improvement. The GCSE exams have been made easier and easier, and still no improvement.

I see it every day. Secondary school students cannot read or write. They can form complete sentences, not to mention paragraphs. They can't spell very basic words.

I work in literacy subjects, but I'm supposed to incorporate numeracy skills into my lessons, because apparently unless they are made to do a bit of adding up in RE and History, they forget how to do it before they get to Maths again. So I teach on the Trinity. You know, 1+1+1=1. Put that in your numeracy strategy!

Only a couple of weeks ago, Baroness Warnock, the architect of inclusive education - the mainstreaming of those with special educational needs - said, "Oops! I was wrong about that."

She now regards the moving of pupils out of special schools as a "disastrous legacy". She said, "Governments must come to recognise that, even if inclusion is an ideal for society in general, it may not always be an ideal for school."

That's the heart of the matter. The Government is trying to address pedigogical issues with political solutions. Is there any wonder that the logical and inevitable result is failure? And if they are failing the education of the population year after year, how disastrous will this legacy be?

Posted by david at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2005


A hat tip is due to the anonymous reader who emailed me an excerpt of Mark Steyn's op/ed piece in the Daily Telegraph. The piece as a whole is about the general incompetence of Thames Valley Police, but this is the funniest/scariest bit:

As we now know, if you require a less desultory response from Thames Valley Police, the best advice is to speculate about the sexuality of the officer's horse. As my colleague Sam Leith reported yesterday, late in the evening on Bank Holiday Monday, Sam Brown, an Oxford University undergraduate, inquired of a mounted policeman on Cornmarket Street: "Do you know your horse is gay?" Also, "I hope you're comfortable riding a gay horse."

Within minutes, young Mr Brown was surrounded by six officers and a fleet of patrol cars, handcuffed and tossed in the slammer overnight, after which he was fined £80. A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police told the student newspaper Cherwell that the "homophobic comments" were "not only offensive to the policeman and his horse, but any members of the general public in the area."

"Offensive to his horse"? Well, you never know. If any constabulary is keeping a full-time equine psychologist on staff, it's bound to be Thames Valley. Even now, the horse may be on one month's stress leave at home on full pay, with his feet up listening to Judy Garland on his iPod. Whoops, sorry. We don't know whether the horse in question is, in fact, gay. It may be just the way he trots. Whoops, there goes another 80 quid. What I'm getting at is that, even under a generous interpretation of "homophobia", it's hard to see why simply identifying the horse as gay should be a criminal offence.

If you enjoyed that, read the rest of Steyn's piece. Free registration may be required. But it's worth it. Really.

Posted by david at 01:54 AM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2005

Wimbledon's Weapons of Mass Consumption

If you are planning to visit the All England Club during the Championships, hoping to dine on Henman Hill while you watch Tiger Tim declawed and defeated, sorry, but you'll have to leave your picnic hamper at home. Amidst all the champagne and posh food, you may be toting a weapon to perpetrate a terrorist act.

As reported in The Times,

Pam and Philip Newland, from Skegness, Lincolnshire, were angry at the new security measures. “We’re civilised people, you know. We’ve had to leave our wicker picnic hamper outside, and all our knives and forks, so we’re eating chicken in barbecue sauce, shelled prawns, Scotch eggs and salad with our hands,” Mrs Newland said.

“They even took our corkscrew so we can’t open our wine. I haven’t got the imagination to do anything nasty with a corkscrew but I’d have a go if they told me now.”

This means more people have to buy lunch from on-site caterers. Champagne is £10 a glass, and while a half-lobster will set you back £26, you can get Scottish salmon for £15.

Posted by david at 10:08 PM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2005

First Class Ticket

He was the most expensive Lord Chancellor in recent memory. He would have made Cardinal Wolsey proud. Though he resigned in 2003, Derry Irvine is still milking the public purse for every penny. Before he resigned, he fought against the inflation-linked pay rise that the rest of the Cabinet received. He wanted an increase of more than five times that. He was already the highest paid member of the Cabinet - receiving almost £30,000 per year more than the Prime Minister. When he resigned, he received a pension worth more than £2 million.

Now that he is just a rank-and-file member of the House of Lords, he rarely does anything connected with its business. He votes only occasionally, never takes part in debates, and serves on no committees. However, he does show up long enough to sign in whenever the Lords is in session.

Why bother? Because he gets £192 each day. Even though he lives in London, he gets an additional £128 overnight allowance because his official residence is in Argyllshire in western Scotland. And on top of that, he gets the cost of first-class travel to his official home each day, even though he actually lives no more than a few miles away. The travel perks alone add up to more than £35,000 per year. And it is all tax-free.

It's not like he doesn't have any other income. He is also a consultant and non-executive director of Hutchison Whampoa, fetching a six-figure sum for that. Please forgive me if I begrudge him £35,000 per year of my tax money in free non-existent travel.

Posted by david at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face

I am sad to report the death on June 15th of world record holder Percy Arrowsmith.

Hooterville is home to many notable things. The largest cider company in the world was founded here. The Royal National College for the Blind is here. There has been a cathedral here since 676. The city has given its name to a famous breed of beef cattle known since the 1600s.

It is also home to at least two records listed in the Guinness Book. The first is the largest bag of chips - as in chipped fried potatoes, the chips part of fish and chips. It weighed 812lbs. This record may have been exceed in February of this year by a chip shop in Plymouth, but they are waiting to hear back from the Guinness people.

Percy's record is much nobler than the first, even if he only held it for 15 days. She shared it with his wife Florence. On June 1, they celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary. As the BBC noted, the year they were married Stanley Baldwin was the Prime Minister and HM the Queen had not even been born yet. In fact, HM's grandfather George V would be on the throne for another 10½ years.

Perhaps Mrs H and I will one day be married 80 years. I'll only be 115.

Posted by david at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

Pay or Wait

Health care in this country is free. Well, not exactly free. We all pay for it. We just may not get it.

Rachel King suffered head injuries when she was hit by a car in January. She has dizzy spells and reduced vision and is in need of an MRI scan on her brain. She can get it done in two weeks time. The only problem is that it will cost £983. That's $1800.

She could have it done at the very same unit on the NHS, since she's already paid for it with her taxes. She'd just have to wait a bit. If you consider 80 weeks just a bit of a wait, that is. She told The Times, “I still have falls, and I can’t return to work or drive. I’ve never signed on the dole in my life but I have had to now.” That's right - for an existing condition with existing debilitating symptoms severely affecting her well-being. 80 weeks.

The letter from King’s College Hospital said that because of “heavy demand”, the scan would be delayed. However there was a handwritten note on the bottom, which read: “If you want to go privately call 0845 6080991 for prices.”

According to The Times:

When she did, the telephone was answered by King’s College Self Pay, who said that the cost of such a scan was £983, and she could have the procedure in a couple of weeks.

King’s College Hospital said in a statement that it recognised that an 80-week wait for scans was unacceptable. It had recently received funds to expand its services, with the aim of getting waiting times down to 26 weeks by next March.

Now let's see... Next March is about 39 weeks from now. The list will then be down to 26 weeks. That's only 65 weeks in total. Why didn't I realise just how good a job the Government is doing in reducing waiting times?

No telling how long the wait would be if a GP told someone, "I think you might have a brain tumour. We ought to have this checked out." The patient would be checked out alright, long before the diagnosis could be made, except by autopsy.

Posted by david at 03:01 PM | Comments (2)

June 12, 2005

The Foster State

This is the scariest thing I have seen in a long time. And I see a lot of scary things. Even wonder what the Government is planning behind our backs. Well, fortunately, there are always moles in the civil service who are happy to leak things to the press.

Remember that total idiot who used to be Education Secretary? The one Tony has now made Home Secretary? Well, it seems that Charles Clarke is not done yet tampering with the lives of our children. In fact, this is a lot more than tampering.

From the Sunday Times:

A confidential Home Office report recommends that children should be targeted as potential criminals from the age of three. It says they can be singled out by their bullying behaviour in nursery school or by a history of criminality in their immediate family.

It proposes parenting classes and, in the worst cases, putting more children who are not “under control” into intensive foster care instead of care homes. Nursery staff would be trained to spot children at risk of growing up to be criminals.

So if your child is a bit aggressive at nursery school, or at least a "trained" nursery worker with two GCSEs and an NVQ decides that he is, he could labelled a potential criminal and taken away into foster care.

But really a child need not do anything. All he needs is for a sibling to get in trouble. Then it's no more Mummy or Daddy for him. Maybe they'll get to come by and visit. Maybe not. And foster homes can be nice. Okay, not always, but he'll get moved around a lot, so he will get to know lots of Mummies and Daddies. And if his own Mummy and Daddy attend mandatory parenting classed, they might be deemed worthy to try again - under close supervision, to be sure.

Posted by david at 10:27 AM | Comments (7)

June 09, 2005

Name and Shame

For those of you unfamiliar with British criminal law, the flavour of the month is the Anti-social Behaviour Order. This is issued against really bad people who go out of their way to commit crimes that make other people's life a absolute misery. An asbo is a way of saying, "You've been very naughty and if you are naughty again we might put you in jail."

Here is one that was recently issued:

A 10-year-old boy has become one of the youngest in Britain to be given an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo).

Calvin Hooper and his brother Kyle, 12, from Newport, south Wales, have been placed under Asbos for five years by magistrates in nearby Caerphilly.

Both are banned from swearing, making rude gestures, damaging property, starting fires and throwing missiles.

Forty-four incidents were recorded in 14 months, including breaking windows and shooting at people with an air gun.

In a 14-month period leading up to January 2005 the boys also threw bottles and eggs at people near their home in Broadmead Park.

Posted by david at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

June 05, 2005

More Mugabe Madness

Robert Mugabe is at it again. He has run all of the white folks out of Zimbabwe by seizing all their property, so he has to find new ways to persecute people.

Over the last two weeks, more than 22,000 people have been arrested as illegal street traders. Over the same period, about 200,000 people have been made homeless as the government has torched and demolished shantytowns in Harare and Bulawayo. If this policy continues unabated, it may affect between 2 and 3 million people - up to one-fourth of Zimbabwe's population.

It may come as no surprise that the areas under attack are those which tended to vote for the opposition in the recent elections.

Posted by david at 07:54 PM | Comments (2)

Bedside Bible Ban

This made the front page headline of the Daily Mail on Friday, but was picked up by the broadsheets as well. The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is considering banning Bibles from hospital bedsides. They don't want to offend anyone. Leicester is, after all, heavy Asian, with lots and lots of Muslims and Sikhs.

The only problem is that no one is offended. Both the Muslim and Sikh communities immediately responded to this news. Suleman Nagdi, of Leicestershire's Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "This is a Christian country and it would be sad to see the tradition end." Resham Singh Sandu, Sikh chairman of the Council of Faiths, said: "I don't think many ethnic minority patients would object to the Bible in a locker."

One of the executive directors of the Gideons said they had not received "a single letter, e-mail or telephone call from any member of another faith to say that they have been offended by a hospital bible."

Trust officials have also tried to say that the Bibles might spread MRSA (the hospital super-bug). Of course there is no known case of this. Washing hands and using clean rags with a little disinfectant might be the first tactic for Leicester. Just a thought.

Posted by david at 03:57 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2005

Easily Forgotten

Of all the blogs I read, I have only come across one meta-blogged link to the current turmoil in Uzbekistan. I wondered why that is and I started looking for American news stories about the trouble in the Central Asian republic. Therein may be the answer.

I found one story on and nothing on the website of the other major television networks. I checked the AP wire link from the Indianapolis Star. I looked at the LA Times and the Chicago Sun-Times. And given the policy of the New York Times, I must surmise that news from Uzbekistan is not fit to print.

I'm glad that the British press hasn't missed this. It has been covered extensively by the BBC, ITN, and the quality (as opposed to tabloid) newspapers.

Am I the only American concerned about this? A chief US/UK ally in Central Asia has troops gun down 600 civilian protesters and no one is saying anything? This really is an exposé of how governments choose the tin-pot dictators they support and overthrow. The more quiet the US and British governments remain about Karimov, the more rapidly their moral high ground on Iraq sinks into a squishy mire of wet bovine excrement.

Give us an airbase to bomb the living crap out of the Taliban and we won't say anything about heavy machine gun fire on women and children. Let us use your facilities to carry out torture illegal under our own laws and we will kiss your sweet posterior.

I have long said that Karimov would be the hardest nut to crack in Central Asia - mostly because no one is willing to crack his nuts.

Posted by david at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005

Duty to Die

The Government is backing the General Medical Council in an appeal from a High Court (that's a trial court in this country) ruling that said patients have a right to artificial nutrition or hydration if they ask for it.

No way, say the GMC and the Health Secretary. Can't afford it. If everyone started wanting to stay alive with a little food and water, it would be a "crippling waster of resources". That's our Government. I kid you not.

The Government said, as published in The Times, "that if that right were established, patients could demand other life-prolonging treatments. The department argues that this will create a culture in which patients request treatments 'no matter how untested, inappropriate or expensive, regardless of doctors’ views'."

In other words, if you give them a little water, they are gonna start wanting medicine.

It brings home the lessons I have been teaching to my Year 9s. We have been talking about Matthew 25 and the Sheep and the Goats. "I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink...".

Are Government ministers who are pushing this policy endangering their eternal souls? I bet the thought hasn't even crossed their collective minds.

Posted by david at 02:06 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2005

He Told Us So

The protest has moved from Andijan to Karasu as the turmoil in Uzbekistan continues.

Now, all of a sudden, the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has told the BBC there had been "a clear abuse of human rights" in Uzbekistan. The Beeb report that he said the situation was "serious" and called for more transparency from the Uzbek government.

This is rich. This is the same Jack Straw who recalled Craig Murray from Tashkent as the British ambassador. Why? Because he kept talking about human rights abuses. It was embarrassing to expose such an important ally.

It appears that the CIA have been using Uzbekistan as a convenient location for torturing prisoners beyond the limits of US law, to squeeze out that little extra bit of information. Now you can't really slam the Uzbek dictatorship for torture if you are using their facilities and techniques.

No, this situation is going to be a bit sticky. I could be that the US and UK will suddenly get collective amnesia and forget their close ties to Karimov, just like they did with Saddam Hussein. However, since he hasn't precipitated an international crisis like the first Gulf War, if it ever comes down to it, I would expect them to hustle him out of the country to a safe location to live the remainder of his days in peace. Much more peace than the thousands he has tortured and killed - such as the ones he has boiled alive.

Islam Karimov is a nasty piece of work. Some of is knew this already. Now the world at large is finding out.

Posted by david at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2005

Rivers of Blood

It's kicking off again. More trouble in Central Asia. But this is not Kyrgyzstan and the president hasn't made himself scarce.

This is Uzbekistan and the president is Islam Karimov, the hardest of the Central Asian hardmen. He's already had troops fire indescriminately into protesting crowds, killing hundreds. And he's getting away with it. Just like he's gotten away with human rights abuses during his entire iron-fisted rule on the region's most populous country.

He has the right friends. He is tight with both Vladimir Putin and George Bush. Sitting on the border with Afghanistan, he was a chief ally in the Afghan invasion, providing a key airbase. Putin already has a high tolerance of autocracy and human rights abuse.

Karimov is trying to say that he is fighting Islamic extremists. Ten thousand Islamic extremists just in Andijan- including women and children? Does he think that the rest of the world - outside the psychological repression of his regime and the tight control of his news media - really buys this? Okay, maybe a few folks at Little Green Footballs and JihadWatch.

There will be a lot more bloodshed in Uzbekistan. This will be no Rose, Orange, or Tulip Revolution. It may not be a revolution at all.

Posted by david at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2005

Shuffling the Same Deck

Tony has rearranged the contents of his cabinet. Nothing significant to report. Expect more of the same.

The media try to make a lot of the anti-war sentiment as a cause for Labour's reduced majority. The only problem with this is that the Tories supported the war and did not make it an election issue. Michael Howard tried a few times to say he would not have supported it had he known there were no WMD, but in fact this is unlikely.

Everyone except George Galloway wanted to get rid of Saddam and if Coalition troops had been able to get in and get out in a few weeks, nobody would have said anything. People aren't opposed to the war per se, they are opposed to still having troops in Iraq so long after the fact.

Posted by david at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

Always the Bridemaid

Last night Hooterville United remained true to form and lost the second, and home, leg of the Conference playoff semi-final. They work hard all season, get into the playoffs, and give it away again.

I'm glad I resisted the temptation to shell out £12 or however much it was for a ticket.

I stayed home and slept off my election watch.

Posted by david at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2005

Time For Bed

The inevitable has happened. Labour now have in excess of 324 seats in the House of Commons and will form the next Government. The final results will trickle in over the next few hours, but I can sleep a couple of hours before returning to work.

The Tories have one two seats in Wales, including that of Mrs H's family. It's good to see some blue on the principality map for the first time since 1992.

Posted by david at 04:41 AM | Comments (0)

Many Happy Returns

At the moment, the current seat count (498 of 646 declared and it changes moment by moment) is 314 for Labour, 130 Conservative, 43 Liberal Democrat. Even though Labour will form the next Government (it takes 324 to win), this has been a good night for the Tories.

I am most happy about a Tory loss, however. In our local constituency, the mildy pro-choice Lib-Dem MP has kept his seat against the very pro-choice Tory candidate. The incumbent is a very good constituency MP who has helped us personally. He is a local boy done good. The Tory is a smug Londoner with a second home out in the country. Back when I was publicity officer and Mrs H was campaigns officer for Hooterville LIFE, our MP was happy to answer our questionnaire and visit our group, and appreciated our work even if he didn't entirely agree with our views. Mrs Snooty refused to have anything to do with us.

I was sorry that my friend Peter Garrett, running as the Tory candidate in Liverpool, West Derby didn't win, but it was quite a safe Labour seat. He only got 8.4% of the vote, while the Labour candidate got 62.8%. He did increase the Tory vote in the constituency by 0.4%.

Hyndburn, the constituency where I wore off a lot of shoe leather in 1992 campaigning for the Tory MP for whom I had worked as a intern, which was won by Labour at that election, has been held again by one of Tony's Deputy Whips. I have met the Tory candidate there when he campaigned for Peter Garrett in a by-election in Preston a few of years ago. He is James Mawdesley, who spent time in prison in Burma for illegally distributing from democracy literature.

And one of the big stories of the has to be Labour losing its safest seat in Wales - a principality that is overwhelming Labour. Blaenau (pronounced Bly'-nuh) Gwent had a 19,000 Labour majority. Then the national party machine presented a female-only shortlist of candidates to the local party. The good voters of Blaenau were not about to be told what to do. The Labour candidate was defeated and the former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly who ran as an independent won a majority of over 9,000.

Posted by david at 04:12 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2005

Exit Polls

The BBC/ITV exit poll says there will be a Labour majority of just 66. We can hope. The first constituency should declare in the next couple of minutes. Sunderland South is trying to break their record of 43 minutes. They have declared first for the last three elections.

Posted by david at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

Election Day

The polls close in 30 minutes. We will then find out by what margin Labour has won a third term to further dismantle the Constitution.

My projection: a margin of less than 100 seats, but not much less - a majority in the 90s. But what do I know?

Posted by david at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2005

Ups and Downs

I have been known to follow football (that's soccer to you lot in America) more attentively than this past season. I could be something to do with the work and stress of the teaching year. It could be the disapointment of last year's Conference Playoffs.

So here we are at the end of the season and Hooterville United once again finish second in the Conference, which means the playoffs instead of automatic promotion. The team who last year were given the ticket to the playoff final by the incompetent ref are once again in the bracket, but this time pitted in the semis against Carlisle United. Will Hooterville's Bulls make in back into the Football League for the first time since 1997? Don't hold your breath.

The first team I ever supported in English football used to be a powerhouse of the old First Division (now the Premier League). In the glory days of the late 1970s, they were European Cup winners. I once visited their ground and had lunch with the chairman. Yesterday, Nottingham Forest were mathematically relegated to what is now called the Coca-Cola Footbal League One, more recently Division Two, or the old Division Three. So a first-tier stadium is the home to a third-tier team. Will they ever return to top-flight football? Don't hold your breath.

Posted by david at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2005

Conservative Campaigning

As I've already mentioned, the General Election is set for May 5. The campaign is in full swing. As much as I like to vote, I'm almost glad I haven't become naturalised yet.

As a Republican, I should be a natural Conservative voter. Unfortunately, even though the party is on its third leader since it left Government, it still doesn't have its act together. I wonder if it ever will get it together. The problem is that they just don't stand for anything.

They have no room to be any more fiscally conservative than our Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.

They don't want to be morally conservative. That's not to say there aren't many great moral conservatives in the parliamentary Conservative Party. It is just that these are not election issues here and they would not be welcomed as such. It is just as easy to be openly gay or support abortion rights as a Tory MP as it is in the Labour Party.

The only thing that the Tories have left are scare tactics - not unlike Democrats trying to scare senior citizens in the US with fears of Republican plans for social security. The billboard that I drive past every day on my way home from school is about MRSA - the hospital superbug that kills loads of folks in this country because nobody bothers to clean wards and beds and hands and scapels and that sort of stuff properly. So the message is vote Labour and you will die of MRSA.

The real populist issue the Tories are pounding on is immigration. Too many people are showing up in our country and they don't look like us, or even if they look like us they dont' talk like us, and somebody has to keep them out. They are gonna take all the dole money and there won't be anything to pay the good decent layabouts of who were born and raised in this country.

We all know these foreigners are lazy, because why else would they have suffered hardships and privations to get to this country? If they have been persecuted in their country of origin, what does the Labour Government do for them when they get here? Put them in detention centres. Locks them up. Obviously this is too soft. There must be harsher ways to make these people stay away.

Okay, so they get jobs. But what do they end up doing? They take these jobs from British people. Okay, these are back-breaking jobs like picking soft fruit that no able-bodied Brit will do. Maybe that means we shouldn't grow soft fruit in this country. Why can we just import it and let the fruit pickers stay in their own country?

So that's the Tory election tactics in a nutshell. The immigrants are coming! The immigrants are coming!

Posted by david at 02:26 AM | Comments (3)

April 10, 2005

Education Economics and the Election

As the General Election looms, I was thinking about how the main parties have shifted around the political spectrum.

It used to be easy. The Conservatives were conservative. Labour were socialists. The Liberal Democrats were liberal.

Now on economic issues, Labour are conservative. The conservatives are liberal - or are they even more conservative - or are they sometimes socialist - it is difficult to keep up. The Liberal Democrats are the new socialists.

I thought about how higher education funding had changed. Under the free-market Tories, he State paid people to go to university. Once the socialist came to power in 1997, they started by removing the busary. Then they introduced tuition fees - £1000 per year. Then they introduced "top-up" fees. These are fees charged by the university where they think they need extra money to keep running. Of course all the universities have decided that they need the extra money, so all but eight will be charging the maximum extra £2000 in 2006.

However, going into the General Election, it is only the Liberal Democrats who have a policy of scrapping the fees.

Labour have wanted to make higher education available to everyone. To that end, they have lowered the standards far enough to get 50% of the population in the hallowed halls of the university. They will even give them loans to pay for it. Student loans. That's the way to bring everyone prosperity.

And of course when all these university graduates hit the marketplace, there will be lots of jobs for them. Higher pay. Right. Because the entire economy is going to be different and no one will need to do all the jobs that were done by school-leavers. Or school-quitters. Or school-leavers that should have been school-quitters or at the very least put into entirely vocation education tracks.

Of course there won't be the jobs out there for all the uni grads envisioned by the Government. But there will still be the loans to repay.

Posted by david at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2005

Simple and Grand

I'm sure most of my American readers did not see the Pope's funeral. It would have been about 4:00 am EDT (3:00 CDT) when it began. Fortunately, I only live one time zone earlier than Rome. I'm sure that many of you will see a few bits on the evening news.

It was simple and grand at the same time. John Paul insisted that his casket be place on the ground rather than on a raised platform. The simple casket was then surrounded by all those important people. And by millions of lesser folk.

It was your usual funeral mass - except that the readings were in Spanish and English, the Gospel in Latin, and the sermon is Italian. Likewise the litanies were in Polish, Czech, German, Tagalog, Swahili, and Portugeuse. And the final prayers were in the Roman rite and the Eastern rite, with the Uniates singing "Christ is Risen" in Greek just like in the Orthodox service while they did their own censing of the body.

And then there were the crowds shouting for him to be made a saint.

Okay, it was pretty amazing.

May his memory be eternal.

Posted by david at 05:25 PM | Comments (2)

The World is Watching

Today's papal funeral is set to be one of the biggest funerals in history. Two hundred of the world's leaders, including the leaders of the world's faiths with many of the Orthodox patrirachs and heads of autocephlous jurisdictions, will have seats near the coffin in a special VIP section.

The capacity of St Peter's Square, with every body pressed against the next, is only about a quarter of a million. Because Rome has at least 5 million pilgrims right now, every piazza in the city is being fitted with a giant TV screen. The same thing is happening in Milan, Florence, Turin, Naples and Assisi.

This is a big deal. I need to go to bed now so I can be up to see the whole thing.

Posted by david at 02:29 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2005

The Holy and the Unholy

One of the most of amazing things ever:

The queue to see the holy remains of John Paul, Patriarch of Rome.

One of the most disgusting things ever:

Robert Mugabe, dictator of Zimbabwe, sullying the funeral with his presence.

Posted by david at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2005

Shoo! or Shhh...! How to Defend A British Home

In an article about the Florida legislation that allows a threatened person to respond with deadly force rather than first attempting retreat (and a chance of getting shot in the back), The Times noted that Florida, like most states, applies the Castle Doctrine regarding the right to self-defence in the home.

It then noted:

British victims of crime must wrestle with a series of moral and criminal guidelines before taking action against intruders in their homes. Latest Home Office advice suggests either making a noise to scare off the burglar or staying quiet in the hope that they will leave you alone.

Posted by david at 04:33 PM | Comments (2)

April 05, 2005

Everything Changes

The cardinals meeting in Rome clearly didn' t take all things into consideration when they set the date for the Pope's funeral.

HRH the Prince of Wales has had to reschedule his wedding to Mrs Parker Bowles from Friday to Saturday. Not only does he have to go to Rome to represent the Queen, but his guest list would have been affected as well. Tony and Cherie Blair want to attend both occasions. (Blair already had to reschedule his announcement of General Election in the wake of the Pope's death.) And the producers of fine china in Staffordshire have had to manufacture entire new lines of commemorative plates and cups. Not that they will lose any money - the ones with the wrong date are now in great demand.

Of course other couples had already booked weddings at the Windsor registry office. I have been assured by the BBC that none of these have been cancelled due to the knock-on effects of the Pope's funeral.

And since the church blessing of the civil ceremony will be televised, this throws everything off at the BBC. Saturday is also the day of the most important horse race in the UK, the Grand National at Aintree. (It's the only race on which I ever place a bet, albeit usual about £4.) So, in order for the Grand National to be televised, it has been rescheduled from 3:45 to 4:10.

You'd think the cardinals would have thought of all these implications.

Posted by david at 10:40 PM | Comments (1)

De Facto Becomes De Jure

Askar Akayev, the leader of Kyrgyzstan who fled the country on March 24, has official resigned his presidency from exile in Moscow. Long after he was ousted, he refused to acknowledge his fall from power.

Now after talks with a parliamentary delegation at Kyrgyzstan's Moscow embassy, and after the country's Constitutional Court said he could legally resign in exile, it is official.

The presidential election will take place on June 26 instead of October 30 as originally scheduled.

Posted by david at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2005

Spam Attack

The porn spammers have attacked again. This time they have been doing it through trackback pings. They have left an average of about 63 links per entry. I didn't notice it at first because they did it on entries already archived behind the index page. Today I noticed that virtually every entry on the index had been hit.

I've disabled the trackback pop-up window, but there is no telling how long it will take to clean out the actual entries.


Posted by david at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2005

The Better Death

He can finally marry the woman he loves. He's killed his wife.

Michael "Spawn of Satan" Schiavo wouldn't even let her parents be with her when she died.

For the ever-memorable handmaiden of God, Terry, may she find a place of light, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, whence pain, sorrow and sighing have fled away. Perhaps she will find a place under the altar in heaven where she can cry out, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

Cremation to hide the crimes committed against her will not prevent her from having a new and incorruptable body at the Resurrection. She may have been hastened to the First Death, but murderers will not avoid the Second.

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005

Peaceful Freedom and the Red Light on the Silk Road

According to KyrgyzInfo, a non-state information agency, there were either 67 or 76 requests for medical care during the protests in Bishkek which toppled the government.

As revolutions go, that's not a bad record.

There is still confusion as to whether the old bicameral parliament or the new unicameral body is the one with the powers to legislate. For now the executive branch of government seems fairly stable and that should see the country through this time of transition.

One neighbour not happy with developments in Kyrgyzstan is China. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, China has closed its border.

China has a large Uighur (or Uyghur) population in the adjoining and aptly named Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. "Autonomous" means "you can do what you want, as long as you want to do exactly as we have told you to do." In this area is also known as East Turkestan, Beijing has two overriding interests: to protect the borders of its empire and to prevent any of the ethnic groups it oppresses from getting a whiff of freedom.

Posted by david at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2005

Denied the Bread from Heaven

Terry Schiavo has truly received her last rites.

As is his custom when he is killing his wife, Michael "the Snake" Schiavo has denied Holy Communion to Terry over Easter. Is he so afraid that the accidents (the remaining form of the bread and wine) of the Holy, Good, and Life-sustaining Mysteries of Christ will preserve her mortality for one extra minute?

As for the head of those who surround me, let the evil of their lips cover them; let them be cast into the fire, into deep pits, that they rise not up again.

Let the slanderer be established in the earth; let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him.

Posted by david at 01:17 PM | Comments (5)

March 25, 2005

Sphere of Imagination

The Russian sphere of influence has suffered another blow. With each of the pro-democracy revolutions in former Soviet republics, these countries turn to the West for emulation and support. It is happening again in Kyrgyzstan.

Some of my readers and fellow bloggers might think this is a bad thing. (At least they have in the past.) I don't think it is. It may create tensions between Moscow and Washington, but at the end of the day, Moscow needs Washington a whole lot more than Washington needs Moscow. United States ranks 1st by the volume of accumulated foreign direct investments into the Russian economy.

Russia needs to realise that it is not a world power. During the waning years of the Cold War, the West had a hard time realising that the emperor (or the General Secretary) had no clothes. Even though the Russian Federation (meaning Russia and the 20 other "republics" which it controls, some willingly and others by force) covers ⅛ of the planet's land mass and is the 7th most populous country, its economy in 2000 was 16th in the world. This put it between the Netherlands and Argentina. Way behind South Korea and Mexico.

They may be angry that the Ukraine and Georgia have turned their backs, but honestly, what do the Russians have to offer? Why would Kyrgyzstan want to overthrow a Moscow-supported former Communist and still look to its former overlords as principal allies? It does not even have a border with Russia. Not even close. From Bishkek, located in the far north of the country, the closest major Russian city is 839 miles away.

The idea that there are Eastern and Western spheres of influence is fading fast. This does not mean that an imperial America is running the world. For example, the pro-American new president of the Ukraine is withdrawing troops from Iraq. These are not puppet regimes.

There are always going to be those who want avoid democracy, whether they are relics of Communism, military dictatorships, or neo-Islamists. But more and more of the world is realising that they can choose how and by whom they will be governed. Kyrgyzstan may be the key that unlocks democracy in the other Central Asia republics. All of them have had rigged elections and each is ruled by a strongman with a fondness for nepotism. Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, Rahmonov in Tajikistan, Niyazov in Turkmenistan, and Karimov in Uzbekistan will all be longing over their shoulders.

Posted by david at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Science Conspires with History

As I have mentioned in past, the Turks are always keen to remove any hint of Armenian history from that part of Armenia within it's conquered territory. They have been doing the same with the Kurds in the southeastern part of Anatolia. I have been tipped off by RESEAUNATE.90 that they are taking this to a new level.

Now they are trying to change scientific nomenclature to remove any reference to the ancient cultures of those areas. The red fox will no longer be known as Vulpes Vulpes Kurdistanica, but simply as Vulpes Vulpes. At least in Turkey by scientists who want to remain in Turkey. Capreolus Capreolus Armenus is the name of the roe deer, until now. In Turkey it will be known as the rather unimaginative Capreolus Caprelus Capreolus. A species of wild sheep named Ovis Armeniana becomes Ovis Orientalis Anatolicus. That's right, not the Armenian sheep, but the eastern Anatolian sheep.

The original names were given in bad faith, implying that Armenians and Kurds once lived in the places where these animals are found. At least that the official word from Turkish environment ministry, which believes conspiracy against the Turks runs deeper. "Unfortunately there are many other species in Turkey which were named this way with ill intentions. This ill intent is so obvious that even species only found in our country were given names against Turkey's unity."

According to the Turkish Daily News, "Environment and Forest Ministry Nature Preservation Department chief Professor Mustafa Kemal Yalınkılıç admitted that scientific names could not be chosen by anyone, but claimed that certain games were being played over Turkey. He said these academics were using such names to argue that Armenians or Kurds used to live in these regions."

Turkey not only refuses to recognise that Armenians lived in Anatolia for thousands of years, it refuses to even recognise the adjacent rump of Armenia which devolved from the Soviet Union. As far as the Turks are concerned there are no such people as Armenians, past or present. If the Turks can't eradicate all of them through genocide, they can at least pretend that they have.

The Turks seem to have a bizarre lack of collective self-esteem. They think that they can bully their way into re-writing history and even the history of science so as to justify their deeds past and present.

Posted by david at 11:42 PM | Comments (2)

March 21, 2005

Losing a Grip on Power

It still isn't a big enough story to make the evening news here.

Today, approximately 1,000 protesters stormed the regional government building and police headquarters in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, and the police were forced to skedaddle.

Yesterday, about 10,000 people besieged and burned down the police station in Jalal-Abad. They blocked the local airport runway so the government could not fly in re-enforcements. The government is losing control of parts of the country.

It is enough that the focal point of their protests, president Askar Akayev has met their initial demand of reviewing the result of the parliamentary elections. If the protesters can get a re-run of the poll, they shouldn't haven't trouble accomplishing their other goal. They want the president out of office. He is due to step down in at the end of October and not run for re-election. If the protesters can resist the urge to throw their Molotov cocktails, it will be the first peaceful handover of power in Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But it seems that Akayev wants to hold on to a measure of power. His son, daughter and sisters-in-law all ran in the parliamentary election.

Accordng to what seems to be a good source on news out of Central Asia, there seem to some stirring amongst the Russians to get involved. If Russian forces come in to keep the peace, the whole thing will probably get even worse.

Posted by david at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

Statesmen Before a Watching World

How have I missed this? I only just now discovered that I can watch C-SPAN live on the net.

I am currently watching the Congressional debate on Terry Schiavo.

She is starving, but still alive. Lord have mercy.

Posted by david at 03:11 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2005

The Evil That Men Do

I've not said much about Terry Schiavo, as every other blog has already said just about everything that can be said.

But I just have to say that I am gobsmacked by the sheer audacity of Michael Schiavo. He is committing murder in the full glare of the entire planet. The feeding tube has been removed in the last few hours and there are already 2,250 articles available through Google's new portal.

A world watches helpless while a serial domestic abuser silences his victim for the last time.

The only people that can share in the guilt of Michael Schiavo are his lawyer George Felos and the Judge George Greer. These two men make the slimiest, most vile of my former colleagues in the legal profession look like saints.

Felos is an example of how the holy waters of baptism can be spit upon. He was born Greek Orthodox. He is Orthodox no more. In an interview with Florida's St. Peterburg Times he declared, "I believe that Christ was God incarnate and was resurrected. But, by the same token, I believe that there were other incarnations of God as well. All the great religions in their essence express the same fundamental truths."

Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

May God have mercy on his handmaiden Terry, preserve her life, or if His angels are ready to receive her, may he take her into his bosom and may she find a place of light, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, whence pain, sorrow and sighing have fled away.

The only prayer I can think of for Michael, George, and George are the words of Holy Spirit sung through the Prophet and King David in Psalm 28 (or Psalm 27 in the LXX), "Give to them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; give them according to the work of their hands; render to them what they deserve."

Okay, I could also pray Psalm 109 (108 LXX). According to the Orthodox Study Bible, it is seen liturgically as a reference to Judas. But what more obvious example of betrayal have we seen than Michael Schiavo. He broke his marriage vows by beating her to oblivion (having already taken much more than 30 pieces of silver), committing open and flagrant adultery, and now killing her, using up his blood money to make sure that it happens. Yep, I think 109 is a good fit here.

Feel free to use my ideas.

Posted by david at 10:44 PM | Comments (3)

March 17, 2005

Another Revolution

It could be the domino effect of democracy. Most recently the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine saw the toppling of a dictator and the installation the Opposition leader after a re-run of fraudulent elections. Just over a year ago, it was the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

Now we may be looking at the "Lemon Revolution" or "Tulip Revolution" in Kyrgyzstan. Askar Akayev has been the only president of Kyrgyzstan since the former Soviet republic achieved independence from Moscow in 1990. He has promised to step down and not stand in the presidential election scheduled for October 30th this year. However, the Opposition charges that the parliamentary elections held on February 27th have packed the unicameralised Jorgorku Kenesh with Akayev's relatives.

In the usual ex-Soviet stongman style, Akayev has repeatedly told the Opposition that any attempt to imitate the Ukraine will result in a civil war. But democracy is a powerful, and often addictive, thing. With people who just can't get enough of it, they will often resort to anything to get it or keep it. They have even been known to die for it.

Sometimes even the most hardened autocrats, mugged while passing down the dark alleyway of history, have been know to hand over what they have and count themselves lucky to have escaped with their lives.

Posted by david at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

To Be Expected

Well, you wouldn't expect the Democrats to replace Sarbanes with anything better. The first contender to throw his hat into the ring is Frizzell Gray. Frizzell is a former Maryland congressman who most recently ran the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in charge of its $27 million annual budget and 2200 adult branches and 1700 youth and college chapters.

This is a truly amazing accomplishment, since there haven't been colored people in the US for as long as I can remember. By the time I was any age, they had been replaced by the black people (still a perfectly good term on this side of the Pond), who in turn gave way to the African-Americans.

But Friz (as I like to call him - its better than his childhood nickname "Pee Wee") supports genocide. And not just any genocide. He supports the genocide of colored people. That's what Dr Ben Joseph realised during the flap over Catholic University's refusal last year to grant a campus charter to the NAACP last year:

"Thirty-six percent of all abortions are performed on black women while they represent only fourteen percent of the child bearing population. So, one need not be a rocket scientist to deduce that in time, the black race in the USA will become extinct. Yet, the NAACP, led by their President, Kweisi Mfume has decided to perpetuate this genocide of their own people. Mfume even says that Catholic University is intolerant when all the while it appears that it is Mfume who is intolerant -- and of his own race."

In Congress, Friz (or Kweisi, as you may have noticed he styles himself now) was a consistent opponent of the unborn. He was a consistent supporter of everything else on the Democratic agenda. The sad thing is that Maryland consistently sends Democrats to Capitol Hill.

So what are the Orthodox in Maryland (yes, I know you are reading this) going to do? Someone needs to start printing "Stop Friz!" bumperstickers. For those who don't know he made up his new name in the 70's, how about "Kweisi Makes Me Queasy"?

Posted by david at 10:28 PM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2005

Heritage is History

Many of the great historic sites of England are under the care of English Heritage. In fact, English Heritage is so steeped in history, its website will not work with the Firefox browser. But I digress...

Over 400 properties, from Stonehenge to Whitby Abbey to Lindisfarne Priory, from Tintagel Castle to Dover Castle to Kenilworth Castle are protected and managed by this quango. Now the Cuture Secretary Tessa Jowell is threatening to dismantle English Heritage. It seems EH has been involved in a number for rows with the Government. And that's how this Government operates. Rock their boat and they will sink your ship. (When the House of Lords last week dared to fulfil its role as a revising chamber and amended terrorism legislation, there were renewed calls for its complete abolition.) One of EH's unpardonable sins was trying to stop John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, from demolishing thousands of Victorian homes in northern England.

According to Government plans to be published next week, the EH properties would be given to the National Trust. The properties would no longer belong to the British people. Despite it's misleading name, the NT is a private charity and receives no Government funding whatsoever. It is already the largest landowner in Britain with 612,000 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. (Scottish properties are under the control of Historic Scotland, an agency of the Scottish Executive.)

It makes sense that this Government wants rid of history. They have dismantled all the historic institutions. Tessa Jowell has criticised heritage organisations as being "too middle class". She believes they put too much emphasis on stately homes. The sad thing is that most of the hovels of the peasants in the Middle Ages just aren't here to preserve. That is, no doubt, the fault of the rich.

Posted by david at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2005

Doesn't He Just Feel Silly Now

After all the hoohah surrounding former Home Secretary David Bunkett and his attempt to establish his parental rights over the then-unborn child being carried by his ex-lover - a palava which cost him his job as the third most powerful man in Government - DNA testing has shown that the child is not his.

The obsessive Mr Blunkett just couldn't see what everyone else could see - that his lover's sexual proclivities meant almost anyone could have been the father, even her husband. He is still seeking access to her 2-year-old son, claiming that the child must be his. Because they fuzz out the child's face in the papers, I can't see any resemblance. But then again, neither can he.

Posted by david at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

Government by Fraud

In increase voter numbers, the Government has introduced postal voting. Unlike absentee balloting, anyone can now vote by post. And I do mean anyone.

This postal voting has been "tested" in some local council elections. Labour supporters forged 1,200 votes in a single council ward in Birmingham last summer. That was 80% of the Labour votes cast. Is it no wonder that the Labour Government has refused to implement safeguards in the system that the Electoral Commission (a dangerously independent body) wants.

This is not an isolated case. Former Labour councillor Muhammed Hussain is headed to jail after admitting rigging a Blackburn local election with postal votes in 2002. He pleaded guilty yesterday in Preston Crown Court and was told to expect a custodial sentence.

The Government says it is too late to fix the problems. We are too close to the General Election. Not that the Government has announced the date of the election. The Government gets to pick whatver date it wants within five years of the last election. That means anytime up to June 7, 2006. But everyone knows Tony has decided the election will be on May 7, 2005.

Not only that, but in this case underway in Birmingham, the Government tried to get it adjourned until after the General Election to avoid embarrassment. The three Labour councillors involved were supposed to be represented by Labour party solicitors, but when the judge refused a request for a continuance, the Party withdrew funding.

Tony would rather get elected now on a fraudulent ballot than wait a few months and get elected on a fair one. That is the sort of Government we are dealing with in this country. They have abolished the ancient institutions, eroded trial by jury, destroyed the countryside, and will stop at nothing to keep themselves in power.

Posted by david at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2005

Left Hungry

At first it was just a local interest story. Now it has made the front pages of the national newpapers.

Until she went the US a couple of weeks ago, Tilly Merrell had never had a thing to eat. At 8 years old, her first meal was a burger with cheese, bacon, egg and ham, and some hash browns. And who does she have to thank for the years of hunger? The good ol' National Health Service.

When Tilly was a baby she had a viral infection. Some food got caught in her lungs, which led to several bouts of pneumonia. Needless to say, the infections cleared up, but doctors in here in England decided that she had bulbar palsy and if she ever ate the tiniest morsel of food, it would go into her lungs and she would die.

Tilly's mother found a clinic in the US that had previously treated bulbar palsy. With the aid of the local community, and an appeal on the regional TV news, her family raised the £10,000 required for treatment in the States.

The only thing the British doctors didn't do was research. When they got to California, the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her. They could see that Tilly showed none of the neurological symptoms usually associated with bulbar palsy. All she had was enlarged tonsils.

They unhooked the tube to her stomach and her feeding backpack that had to go with her everywhere. That's right - 7½ years of without a bite eat due to a very simple misdiagnosis that was never followed up.

Posted by david at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2005

Britain Great for Life Expectancy - If You're a Cat

Spook, at 24 and living in Ontario, is currently recognised as the world's oldest cat. She may soon lose her status to a former stray in west Wales. Amber showed up at her owner's house in 1978. That would beat the record. By all accounts she was already fully grown, possibly even two or three-years-old when she appeared in Diane Sleeman's tree.

Amber doesn't have any teeth left, which a vet needs to accurately determine her age, but at nearly 30, her mousing days are probably behind her.

Posted by david at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

Make the Yuletide Gay

Red states from the Atlantic to almost the Pacific are busy re-affirming the view that marriage requires the parties to be a man and a woman. Here on these shores, those of the other persuasion are waiting patiently for the Civil Partnership Act to come into force. On December 5, the wait will be over.

That's when couples with matching sets of chromosomes and gonads will be able to file their intent with the local registrar to sign a further document in front of witnesses after a 15-day waiting period. I'm not sure what the purpose of the added waiting period is, but nonetheless the first official gay weddings will take place on December 20.

I have no doubt that December 20-23 will be booked up very quickly in Brighton and some other locations. In addition to the gay capital of Britain, register offices have already been contacted in Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and the London borough of Camden.

Posted by david at 09:54 PM | Comments (3)

Cost of Socialised Medicine

A 13-year-old boy from Scotland had been waiting since 2000 for important treatment to adjust his misaligned jaw. He was told that he would have to wait until 2006.

He has a condition in which his top jaw grows faster than his bottom jaw. He had been waiting since the age of 9. By the time he was 10 he could fit three fingers behind his upper teeth when he closed his mouth. He was expected to wait until he was 15.

His parents have been paying their taxes, including their National Insurance contribution, all along. That is, after all, the price of socialised medicine. Or at least for medical care in available specialities. Available on the NHS that is.

No longer willing to see their child suffer, they had to remortgage their home to cover the cost of the treatment. They had to pay £2,700 ($5,100) to be treated privately. The doctor who treated him may very well be the one who would have seen him for free in 2006. That is what often happens when people pay for private care in this country.

Posted by david at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

Armenian Blog

My post about the Turks and Kurds has prompted me to look again at a link I was sent a couple of weeks back.

If you have been visiting this blog or reading my Meanderings for very long, you will know that I have an interest in keeping the Armenian genocide from fading into the mists of history. RESEAUNATE: Reflections and Commentaries is a new blog with a focus on the plight of the Armenians.

Posted by david at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2005

Turks and Kurds

The Turks don't like the Kurds. Everyone knows that. They constantly persecute Kurds in Turkey. And thinking back of the Armenians, we know what the Turks do to folks they don't like.

But it one thing to persecute an ethnic group in your own country. This sort of thing happens every day, all over the world. The Turks have taken is one step further. They don't just hate Kurds in Turkey, they hate them in other countries as well. On an official level.

The Foreign Ministry in Ankara has been warning Iraqi Kurds from moving to Kirkuk. Now they are really upset because the Kurds did so well in the Iraqi elections. Well enough that combined with Kirkuk's oil income, there could eventually be a viable Kurdish state carved out of Iraq.

I have no doubt that if an independent Kurdistan were created, the Turks would invade it. They would do it to prevent the Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey from having further inspiration or a neighbouring ally.

The Turks never think that maybe if they just treated folks a little better, they wouldn't have these problems.

Posted by david at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

When the Orthodox Get it Wrong

The Greek Orthodox charity Solidarity joined the rest of the world in gathering aid for the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.

But while most organisations were sending food, shelter, and medical supplies, Solidarity sent fur coats, thong underwear, and carnival wigs. The items were sent with 600 tons aid to Sri Lanka on a cruise ship. They proved to be quite a shock to the members of the Doctors of the World mission staff as they opened the boxes.

Solidarity Director Dimitris Fourlemadis said there could have been some boxes containing suspect clothing, but he told Reuters, "It is a very small number and not worth mentioning." Elli Xenou, Doctors of the World director of foreign missions, saw it a bit differently, "There was a considerable amount of stuff that should definitely not have been there. Even if just one box could not be used it is unacceptable."

Posted by david at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

The Price of Victory

Well, it's official. Fox hunting is illegal in England and Wales. (It was already outlawed in Scotland.) Tony Blair, who is not opposed to hunting, sacrificed it on the altar of the war in Iraq. In order to get enough support on his backbenches, he sold out the countryside.

All of the Labour townies, who live the politics of envy in their hatred of toffs, have now gotten a chance to stick their knives in. Most of the same MPs support the right to rip unborn children limb from limb - but foxes are a whole other matter. Foxes are hunted by rich people (forget that this is more perception than reality) and rich people must be punished for being rich. Especially if they inherited their wealth, they represent all that is wrong with this country. How dare they pay 40% of the value of their property in tax with each passing generation and still have enough money for a horse and fancy red jacket!

Actually, I mischaracterise inheritance tax in this country. I should say 40% of the value of the estate, plus the value of all non-exempt gifts made within seven years of death. The only exemptions are gifts to a spouse totalling up to £55,000 over the seven years, or gifts to UK-based charities, museums, universities, the National Trust (which will be happy to have the deed to your family home), or political parties. So if you die during your working life, you will have paid 40% income tax during those seven years, plus any of your money you gave away to your children or anyone else will be taxed against the giver again at 40%, plus anything left over will be taxed at 40%. But I digress...

The ban on fox hunting will not stop the killing of foxes. Foxes may still be killed with guns. They are, after all, pests. Until the Labour parliamentary mob completely run all the farmers out of business (and they are working hard at it) foxes will still kill livestock. They just may not be killed by hounds. This will put thousands of hounds out of work.

What happens to thousands of hounds out of work? They will have to be put down. So all the foxes will still be killed and now so will the hounds. And what of the jobs that depend on foxhunting? Those people will be at the local Job Centre claiming the tax money paid by the toffs, rather than being paid wages from the toffs. And they will no longer be paying any taxes, since they no longer earn a living.

So everyone loses except the Labour backbenchers. They have shown that with enough Parliamentary time and effort, horse trading and backstabbing, and the possibly illegal use of the Parliament Act to bypass the vote of the other House, they can take away a country pursuit enjoyed, in part, by rich people. What a victory for the common man.

Posted by david at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2005

Laying Down the Law

From the Daily Mail yesterday:

If you wonder just what Labour has been doing since it came to power, the news this week that it has put 1,018 new crimes on the statute books might help answer the question. Among them are a heavy fine for assisting a woman in childbirth if you are not a qualified midwife, and six months in jail for holding a concert in a church hall without a license.

Posted by david at 05:13 PM | Comments (1)

Humorous Quote of the Day

"We need to maintain a moral high ground that we had before this administration took over." - Howard Dean, the new Democratic National Committee Chairman.

Is he talking about a President who earned the sobriquet "Slick Willie" in more ways than one?

No, he's taking the Democratic message to the red states. He's trying to prove to the Christians that elected Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress that Democratic positions on helping the poor and protecting children are consistent with their values.

The problem is that voters in the red states don't think helping the poor means stealing from everyone else. Theft is not charity. There may be a tradition of Christian socialism in Europe, but in red states this is an oxymoron.

And protecting children? I'm not sure what the Democratic policies on protecting post-natal children are and how they differ from Republican policies. Those aren't clearly enunciated.

We know what their policy is on protecting unborn children. But Dean wants to rephrase their policy to make it more palatable. He says no one is "pro-abortion." How disingenuous or naive. What? Have NOW and Planned Parenthood left the party? Instead, he says, "We are the party in favor of allowing women to make up their own minds about their health care." Does he think that somehow the voters in the red states will be fooled by this?

"We are the party that has always believed in equal rights under the law for all people," is the new way of supporting gay marriage. Does that mean they support the rights of brothers and sisters to marry each other? Contrary to the characterisation of some red states popular in the those small pockets of blue, this will not be a vote-getter. But you can't be consistent and support one without the other. And I think they would be hard pressed to show that the Democratic Party has always supported gay marriage. James Loewen's theories of President Buchanan's sexuality aside, can you imagine Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, or Harry Truman supporting gay marriage?

Howard Dean and the Democrats can try to redefine morality all they want. They don't want to appeal to voters by supporting what the voters support. They have no intention of actually changing any positions that the majority of Americans find repugnant. Despite their Newspeak PR campaign, the views of the Democratic Party remain plain and obvious.

Posted by david at 12:46 PM | Comments (2)

February 10, 2005

She's a Lady

Well, it's big, big news here in the Sceptred Isle. After years of adultery and fornication, HRH The Prince of Wales is going to marry Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles on April 8.

They've been sleeping together off and on for 34 years. However, in the tradition of British kings, this will not prevent him from becoming Defender of the Faith when HM the Queen goes to her eternal reward. Not that he wants to be Defender of the Faith anyway. As one of his cronies explained on the news special tonight, he wants to be the defender of faith, i.e., the defender all those for whom religious faith of any type is a priority in their lives. Generic faith is always very tolerant of the things brand name faith forbids.

Though no longer forbidden by the Church of England the couple have forgone a church wedding for a civil cermony, followed by a church blessing. I suppose that way the church isn't involved in marrying the couple as though it is condoning Mrs. Parker Bowles adultery (Charles' adultery is now a moot point, now that he is a widower) but once they are married, it can then bless them. HM the Queen has given her blessing, even though she has only met Camilla on a few occasions. Her official approval was also required, as no descendant of George III can marry without the monarch's consent.

Camilla will never be Queen of England. This was just unpalatable to too many both in and out of power, even though this has never happened before in all of English history. In April, she will become the Duchess of Cornwall, as the wife of the Duke of Cornwall, Charles' highest hereditary title. When he ascends the Throne, she will assume the title Princess Consort (as William's wife, should he have one, would become Duchess of Cornwall, even if she also becomes - and one assumes she would - Princess of Wales).

I'm glad they are getting married. It is at least a little better moral example than their current relationship.

Posted by david at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

Missing Out

I picked up a copy of the Times Education Supplement in the staff room today and discovered that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month had started without me.

As far as I can tell, it seems my school is missing out. As the Schools Minister (not to be confused with his boss the Education Minister) Stephen Twigg has long been a gay activist, it is not surprising that he said, “We will be encouraging schools to take part.” The Goverment has even contributed some of my money to fund the Schools Out website (link intentionally omitted) but you can Google it.

The purpose of Schools Out:

* To provide both a formal and informal support network for all lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transpersons in education.

* To research, debate and stimulate curriculum development on issues of sexuality.

* To campaign on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transperson issues as they affect education and those in education.

But Stephen Twigg isn't the only Government gun behind Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month. Jacqui Smith, the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women and Equality (now there's a job) said, “I believe the month will be important in helping to drive the culture change to create a more inclusive society.”

Does this Government have an agenda on perversion? Is it any surprise that their policies in other areas undermine the family? That it is more tax advantageous to be anything other than a married couple? (I'll be blogging on that in the future, as the Government are about to take away an additional £800 per month from our income.)

Posted by david at 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2005

Powerless Rights

The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued new guidelines about home defense against burglars. The guidelines make clear that is it lawful to even kill an intruder in some circumstances. He said people can use objects as weapons, such as a bat, knife or gun, and almost any level of violence against a burglar could be acceptable in the right situation.

But wait - the Government took away all the guns in 1997. So, you can kill the intruder where you “honestly and instinctively believe is necessary”, but whilst you won't be prosecuted for using the gun, you will be prosecuted for unlawful possession of the gun.

So if you are a farmer - which you just about have to be to get a shotgun license (the only firearms left) - and you don't lie in wait like Tony Martin did - and you just happen to have the shotgun to hand when you are startled awake by the burglar, then you can shoot him. Otherwise, these new guidelines mean nothing.

The Government can now crow about how it has listened to the people and have at the same time effectively avoided doing anything.

Posted by david at 01:28 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2005

Pot and Kettle

Brits like to characterise America as a violent lawless place, so unlike these gentle shores, populated with the sensible people sharing enlightened Euro-values. Once again, it is time to put this in perspective with those pesky little crime figures. With a Government that spins everything on an axis tilted to give it an eternal summer, they were hard pressed to get out of the hard, cold facts.

Violent crime is up by six percent. No big surprise there. This is a violent country. People used to just beat the crap out of each other, but since the Government took away all the guns in their first year in power, gun crime has steadily risen. Firearms offences rose by another five percent last year to 10,670.

Sexual offences rose by 22%. The Government explains that this rise is due to the creation of new offences, such as administering a date-rape drug. So in other words, people were doing some really bad things already -- we just hadn't bothered criminalising it until now.

Some of this may be related to the fact admitted by the Home Secretary that one in four boys between the ages of 14 and 17 admits to being a serious, or prolific, offender. The Government did not say what percentage they comprise of the 3.8 million active offenders in England and Wales. That is over 7% of the overall population.

The Home Secretary blames much of the problem on alcohol. “We are building a massive problem for the future if we do not really hammer alcohol-related crime. There is no doubt about that, for both health and social reasons. Anyone who goes on to the streets of some of our town centres on Friday or Saturday nights knows there is a major issue that needs to be addressed. There has not been sufficient working together between communities themselves, police and the alcohol industry themselves to ensure people behave in a responsible way.”

Notice that everyone else is to blame: communities, police, the alcohol industry. This is the same Government that has now changed the law to allow alcohol to be sold 24 hours a day. This is to reduce drinking. I kid you not. If pubs don't close at 11pm and clubs can stay open past 2am, then there will be a reduction in binge drinking, because everyone won't be trying to get drunk as fast as possible. Then they won't all spill out of pubs and clubs at the same time, so there will be no more street violence. According to opinion polls, no one believes this except for the Government.

The real Government policy: Let them get as drunk as they want to and stay drunk all night long. As long as they don't leave the pubs and clubs, there won't be that peksy CCTV footage of street fights to show on telly.

If most Americans could see the real Britain at night - and this sort of thing is the usual experience even in backwater cities like Hooterville - they would realise what a more civilised nation they are.

Posted by david at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2005


And in second hat tip to Greg Wallace (or the fourth in two days), I will only include the link to this article written back on 1993. I've worked in fast food - okay in pizza, which is semi-fast food - but this is the sort of brain power I often worked alongside.

It reminds me of the girl I used to work with who, upon meeting the then-future Mrs H, asked if there were a lot of African-Americans in England (nevermind that Mrs H is from Wales). When Mrs H tried to explain that there were almost no African-Americans in England but that there were lots of black people, the poor girl could just not get her head around it.

Posted by david at 01:03 AM | Comments (3)

Sometimes a Good Jury is Hard to Find

The first of a another double-bill hat tip is due Greg Wallace for this story which can only be copied in full. The story is from the Associated Press:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell." The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence. Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."

When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.

Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."

Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen.

The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin's client was found not guilty.

Posted by david at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2005

Worthy Additional Reading

With a hat tip to Greg Wallace, I have to recommend two articles.

The first is P.J. O'Rourke's An Alternative Inaugural Address - what Bush should say on Thursday.

The other is Mark Steyn's op/ed piece in the Daily Telegraph about the furore surrounding Prince Harry's choice of costume for a fancy dress party. This is the story that won't die. Not only has it been front page news across the British media, but every other country in Europe has felt it necessary to pontificate on it.

One of my favourite bits from Steyn's piece:

The French sports minister suggested the "scandal" would undermine Britain's bid to host the Olympics. Londoners should be so lucky.

But, if I understand the concern of the sporting world correctly, being a totalitarian state that's killed millions is no obstacle to hosting the Olympics, but going to a costume party wearing the uniform of a defunct totalitarian state that's no longer around to kill millions is completely unacceptable.

The first bit of clear thinking published about all of this.

Posted by david at 10:32 AM | Comments (1)

January 18, 2005

Miracles Do Happen

Arhbishop Casmoussa has been released by his captors. They were initially asking for $200,000 in ransom. The Vatican has reported that he was released without any payment.

God is merciful.

Posted by david at 01:43 PM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2005

Keeping Us Helpless

Despite all the pressure to strengthen the law in favour of householders who confront burglars, the Government has announced that it will do no such thing. The announcement by Home Secretary Charles Clarke was made to pre-empt Tory MP Patrick Mercer's private member's bill. This means that the Government will not support the bill and it is virtually doomed to failure.

Under the Tory plan only those using "grossly disproportionate force" would risk being prosecuted. I suppose this is an appropriate daytime response. In some instances you can assess the situation before acting. At night, a very simple formula should apply: dark + burglar = dead.

Posted by david at 02:06 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2005

Crime, Policing, and Redefining History

The independent think tank Civitas has published the same conclusion that I reached a long time ago: Britain has some of the worst policing in the world. When you combine this with one of the highest crime rates in the developed world, the results are not good.

There are more than twice as many police officers today as there were in 1921. That's good, except that there are 57 times as many crimes committed today. The most spectacular rises have been in the post-war era. From the mid-1950s to the end of the '60s crime rose three-fold. By the end of the next decade, the numbers of crimes had almost doubled again.

Some areas of crime have been particularly profitable for perpitrators. In 1964 there were 3,000 robberies. Forty years later there were 101,000. That 30:1 ratio for outstrips the five household burglaries for every one in 1964.

Though it cites the change in attitude toward policing as a significant factor, the Civitas researchers, Norman Dennis and George Erdos, correctly find the root of the problem is in the amorality of this society. "A society on a large scale or a small scale ceases to exist when its members lose the capacity to agree on what facts are true and what conduct is good". It is no surprise that the police suffer from this same lack of moral compass.

This does not explain why equally amoral France and Germany do a better job of tackling crime. The best this Government can do is ignore the numbers before they came to power in 1997 and trumpet any reduction in crime they can achieve by manipulating the numbers, classifying and reclassifying offences. Any claim that crime is at historically low levels can only be based on the narrowest and shortest-term definition of history possible.

Yes, technically, yesterday is "history". As I write this, I still haven't had breakfast, so you could say that I'm eating at an historically low level. My calorie intake has dropped so dramatically in the last eight hours you would think I'm nearly starving. None of this changes the fact that I'm a fat bloater. Big as a house.

What the Government want to avoid at any cost is the obvious connection between the problem and their own social and moral policies. They cannot acknowledge that their assault on every institution which inculcates morality, especially the family, will necessarily result in a continuing disintegration into chaos.

Posted by david at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

Turks Behaving Badly

As longtime readers of this blog or my Meanderings will know, I don't think much of the Turks.

If you have been lulled into thinking that Turkey joining the EU is a good thing and that all the Turks need to do is clean up their prisons and stop gassing Kurds, you need to think again. With a hat tip to Minor Clergy, Major Problems, I recommend an article in the Hellenic News of America on just how badly the Turks continue to treat the Orthodox.

Posted by david at 04:24 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

A Sheep Amongst the Goats

In a shocking move for our godless death-loving Government, David Blunkett's exit and Charles Clarke's promotion have actually made room for a decent individual as Education Secretary. And no one is more shocked than the "Blair Babes" - fellow female Labour MPs elected in the 1997 landslide. In fact, they have gotten downright catty about it.

Ruth Kelly is a mother of four and a practicing Roman Catholic. And not a liberal Catholic who happens to attend church, but rather a conservative who not only attends church, but also meetings of Opus Dei. She opposes abortion, has told Tony Blair that she could never support stem cell research, and was even excused from the three-line whip on the living will vote last week.

The Blair Babes have expressed disappointed that she has not be more forthright about so-called "women's issues". I don't know how more forthright she could be. What they really hate is that she is plainly opposed to them. One of the women's issues is supposed to be equality of opportunity in employment, but there was no hint of embarrassment in the hypocrisy of one BB who said, “How has she managed to get so far when she’s had so much maternity leave?”

Another BB said, “What’s she ever done for Labour? We were the people in the key seats, rather than that cow who was dropped in and had barely been a party member for a couple of years. She wouldn’t talk to most of us. It was like she regarded herself as one of the ‘in-girls’. This promotion is just a kick in the teeth.” So much for solidarity of the sisterhood.

I don't often wish Labour ministers well in their jobs, but I will make an exception in this case. It will be interesting to see how long she will last, especially if she is bucking the spirit of the age. And of course a good Education Secretary can make my life a lot easier as well.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2004

Being British

I thought I would be able to just send in an application and a hefty fee, wait an eternity, and presto, I would become a British citizen. Now the Government have decided that applicants for citizenship should pass an exam in Britishness.

Now you would think that I should have no problem, after all, the study materials include a section on history. I teach this stuff every day. What could be more important than understanding Britain's history? But history is not actually on the exam.

No, what will actually be on the exam are things like how to claim unemployment benefits (okay, I won't have trouble with that either), how to seek compensation for unfair dismissal, how to complain about sexual harrassment, statutory holiday pay, equal opportunities and discrimination, complaining about the police, all of the rights under the Human Rights Act, same-sex civil partnerships, European citizenship rights, all of the EU institutions and how they work, legal aid, and no-win-no-fee lawyers.

History may not be important, but British customs are. The exam will include knowledge of Father Christmas (though not the actual St Nicholas, of course), Christmas pudding, Valentine's Day, and April Fool's Day. You have to know how to buy a round of drinks in a pub.

These are apparently the things that define Britishness today.

The study materials also include that doctors give confidential advice and contraception to those under 16. They do not mention when to dial 999 or how to visit a doctor or hospital on the NHS. It would seem it is more important to know the sexual rights of teenagers under the age of consent than it is to know how to get an ambulance.

This is all the more serious because an ambulance might prove necessary, since there is nothing on taking a driving test, requirements for insurance, MOT, or road tax, the importance of seat belts, or what to do in case of a motoring accident.

Lessons in Britishness will cost about £40 million each year, and the Government has acknowledged that it has no idea from whence the funding will come.

Posted by david at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2004

Demise of My Nemesis

I have been blogging about David Blunkett for about as long as I have been blogging about anyone or anything. Now the Home Secretary is the former Home Secretary. The man who spearheaded the introduction of biometric indentity cards and chipped away at the rights of the individual is back on the back benches.

It appears that the evidence was mounting against him in the scandal over whether he fast-tracked the visa application of his married lover's nanny. A smoking gun email was uncovered and that, as they say, was that.

It didn't help that he had bad-mouthed many of his Cabinet colleagues in his biography that was released today. Not the way to win friends and influence people when they are the very people you need to rally behind you to keep your job. They were otherwise perfectly willing to stand behind him in the whole matter of not only admitting his affair with a married woman, but being the one to publicise it to the papers and then hauling her into court (in her 7th month of a complicated pregnancy, resulting her hospitalisation) to press for paternity rights to both her 2-year-old and her unborn child.

Whilst the Conservatives were not "whiter than white" (as Blair promised Labour would be during the 1997 General Election campaign), in times of Tory ascendancy, this would have led to a resignation long, long before it reached the point of the Blunkett situation. But this is just a sign of the times. Neither the Government nor the governed care one bit about who is sleeping with who. Adultery and promiscuity are in. The sanctity of marriage is out. Way out.

The down side of the Blunkett demise is his replacement. It would just happen to be my other nemesis on this blog, Education Secretary Charles Clarke. Clarke has proved himself so far to be a complete idiot. The only good thing is that he is out of the Department for Education and Skills. So now he is not ruining our children, but merely protecting our nation.

Lord have mercy.

Posted by david at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

Making Fun of Make Believe

We have to put up with a lot of crap in this country, but one thing that hasn't transplanted here is that silliness known as Kwanzaa. It's really one of those things that only works within the framework of black American mythology and the anti-white racist drivel that is the specialty of American liberalism.

So, with a tip o' the hat to my old friend Greg Wallace, I refer you to A Kwanzaa Karol by Kathie Shaidle in the American Spectator.

Posted by david at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)

December 11, 2004

Home-schoolers 1 Oxford 0

I have to recommend an article in the Washington Times today that tells of a debate team from Patrick Henry College who won a moot court competition against a team from Balliol College, Oxford.

This article is long, but worth every word. This story is all the more amazing because law is an undergraduate degree in the UK, so these home-school educated liberal arts majors (PHC only offers degrees in Government, Journalism, History, Literature, and Classical Liberal Arts) were debating a ficticious breach of contract case under British law against what were almost certainly final year British law students. They also debated at Balliol, judge by two Balliol alumni. (I almost didn't realise who the judges were until I translated it into Britspeak and realised they were Lord Bingham of Corhill and Lord Hutton.) Talk about the other side having home field advantage.

Not surprisingly, this news appears nowhere in the British press.

Posted by david at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2004

My Man Mitch

Though I am expatriated from the Hoosier State, I have to admit that I did not follow the recent gubernatorial election there very closely. I was aware of the candidates and I knew that Mitch Daniels was the director of the OMB in the Bush White House.

I didn't know how open he is about being a Christian. I didn't realise that he is an elder at the evangelical Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. His website mentions further that

Through his church he became a founder of The Oaks Academy, an inner-city school established to promote academic excellence and racial reconciliation based on solid religious principles. Though his job in the federal government required him to resign from the school’s board, he remained active in the school. In fact, a photo of the school’s more than 200 students was the first picture he hung in his office in Washington.

And it was in the Indianapolis Star that I learned of his inauguration plans:

Daniels' is inviting all Hoosiers to worship with him Sunday to kick off his inauguration at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church on 34th Street. Then, Daniels and Lt. Gov.-elect Becky Skillman will host a Gospel celebration featuring Bill and Gloria Gaither and Sandi Patty in the Pepsi Coliseum. The free concert begins at 2:30 p.m.

Not a bad way to set the tone for his first four years as Governor of Indiana.

Posted by david at 11:52 PM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2004

Staying out of Manchester (But It May Not be Enough)

A three-year-old boy ran out in front of a car as the climax to constant misbehaviour, so his father smacked him on the bum. Unfortunately, one of Manchester's finest was putting up murder inquiry posters and saw the man apply one smack.

So the father was charged and banned from going home or seeing his son unsupervised. For six months. He was even banned from speaking to him on the phone. That's how long it took for the case to come to trial.

But it didn't just remove him from his son for a sixth of his son's life. He had a newborn baby daughter and he has missed her entire life. He is a stranger to her. He has missed every exciting development and event in the lives of both children and his partner has had to raise them without any help.

At trial, he was convicted of common assault and given a two-year rehabilitation order. That's right - no, I am not making this up - common assault.

The immoral police and courts of Manchester have ruined a family. Because of a combination of the rehabilitation order and fear, that boy will probably never be disciplined again. He may end up like the 40 hooded students wearing balaclavas who attempted to storm Priestnall High School in Manchester this week and attacked students on their way to take their mock GCSEs.

The Government, the police, social services, and the courts want to remove every shred of discipline from the family, just as they have from the schools, and yet they think they can somehow bring order out of the chaos of their own creation. Children run wild, violence is ever on the increase, the world has gone mad.

Maybe if they weren't so busy arresting fathers smacking unruly children, they wouldn't be putting up so many murder inquiry posters.

Now the Government has officially announced proposals that will put financially responsibility on parents of children under 10 who are found deliberately damaging property. They can't be smacked, but they can saddle mum and dad with a bill for £5,000. If the parents fail to pay, magistrates (like the idiots on the bench in Manchester) will allow property to be seized from their homes or cash deductions made from their wages or benefits. If that doesn't settle the bill, jail is also an option.

Posted by david at 09:02 PM | Comments (3)

December 06, 2004

Who is My Neighbour?

I'm not much of a meta-blogger, but I have to urge you to read an article that appeared in the Washington Times Insider yesterday. We so often forget about the many conflicts in little known places.

The Beslan seige focused our attention for a brief time on North Ossetia, but I saw very little on the actual political, ethnic, and religious issues dividing North Ossetia with neighbouring Ingushetia. It is only now that I know something about the Ingush.

The article only briefly mentions an issue that needs to be on the minds and hearts of praying Christians. "The same region has emerged as a target of opportunity for radical Islamists needing a new base with the loss of Afghanistan. The goal: to marry the local ethnic grievances of Chechens, Ingush and others to the global goals of radical Islamist fundamentalism."

Combined with the example of Orthodox Christians in Serbia in their relationship to evangelical ethnic Hungarians, there seems to be an endemic ignorance of story of the Good Samaritan. Maybe everyone forgets to go to Liturgy on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, or maybe the priests decide not to preach on the Gospel of the day.

In most of the places Islam meets Christianity, Orthodoxy is on the front line. At these places, the centuries of conflict have hardened the hearts on both sides. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that the love of God will ever shine through. If there is to be peace, there must be theosis. Otherwise, I fear militant Islam will gain the upper hand. It is a matter of love or death.

Posted by david at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2004

Immorality, ID Cards and Vermin

There's so much in the news, where would I even begin?

David Blunkett is helping Tony Blair re-write the rules on morality in government. Not only has he not covered up his affair with a married woman, he demanded DNA tests to prove he is the father of her children. She capitulated and admitted they are his. Now he is under investigation for helping the visa application of her nanny. I predict he will survive all of this, because he is such a close ally of the PM and powerful in his own right.

Blunkett finally officially revealed his ID card legislation in the Queen's Speech. This includes a £1000 fine for anyone who fails to tell the Government when they move to a new address. The Government is not even bothering to hide the fact that it wants to know where you are and what you are up to.

Now that 700 hours of legislative time has resulted in a ban on foxhunting, the Princess Royal was openly on a hunt yesterday. Admittedly the legislation does not come into effect until February, so so was not breaking the law. No one doubts that she will continue hunting after February.

Where exactly do they imprison royal princesses these days? The cells in the Tower of London aren't really that secure anymore, what with all the tourists. Though I have to admit, having a real live princess incarcerated and on display in the Tower would cause ticket sales to go through the roof. Every time I've been there, I have suffered through infinite queues.

I wonder if the heir to the heir to the Throne will continue to hunt as well. The Labour government has been looking for an excuse to overthrow the monarchy. What a good excuse for locking them all up and taking over as Head of State. With the crown and all the accutrements of royalty no longer valid symbols of authority, perhaps the little red fox could become the mascot of republicanism.

After all, it only seems appropriate for the the Blair administration to represented by a crafty little vermin.

Posted by david at 03:08 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back

The Russians keep forgetting that they no longer have an empire. After openly supporting one of the presidential candidates in the Ukrainian election, they are taking exception to any other countries becoming involved in the situation. In fact, they are getting downright pissy about it.

They claim that the West is trying to drag the country illegally into its orbit. According to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, "In some European capitals there are some forces that are attempting to draw some new border lines across Europe. We are alarmed at attempts by certain governments to steer the situation in Ukraine away from a legal path. Especially when certain European capitals are declaring that they do not recognise the elections and that Ukraine has to be with the West."

Draw new borderlines across Europe? The only borderlines are international boundaries. Russia has no border surrounding the Ukraine. Gone are the days which led Winston Church to say, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." What Russia doesn't realise is that free countries freely associate themselves as they please. If Ukraine wants to associate itself with countries to the west, then what is that to do with Moscow? Why would it see any future in continuing as a Russian satellite with a Soviet-style dictatorship like it's neighbour to the north, Belarus?

Europe, for all the legitmate criticism that may be levelled at it, is a free association. Not one single country has been forced to join the EU. At this point, not one sovereign state is force to stay (which is better than situation in the US after 1860). And is it Britain or France or Spain that have even attempted to mediate in the current crisis? No, it is the presidents of Poland and Lithuania, former Eastern bloc Soviet client states.

The news media in the UK, always looking for a way to criticise GWB, has latched onto the refusal of the American adminstration to recognise the results of the election. They conclude that this means the Americans are meddling in Ukranian affairs and want it to become an American client state. Hardly. It is the business of governments to recognise or not legitimate foreign powers. The US and every other country will have to do diplomatic business with someone in the Ukraine. The Bush administration has never said that western-leaning Yushchenko won the election.

The Ukrainian parliament voted today to annul the results of the election and have another under the auspices of a new Election Commission. The parliamentary vote is not binding. I'm sure the Russians will declare it illegal as well.

Posted by david at 07:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2004


When you hear all the Democrats complaining about whether everyone they bussed to the polls got to vote in either 2000 or 2004, just take a look at the elections in Ukraine.

All international observers have condemned the rigging of the vote in favour of the pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich succeeding the current pro-Moscow President Leonid Kuchma. I don't think any Democrat has accused Republicans of pouring acid into the ballot boxes in heavily Democratic areas.

Already more than 100,000 protesters have taken over the centre of Kiev camping out in sub-zero temperatures. Viktor Yushchenko has symbolically taken the oath of office. The administrations in three other major cities, Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk said that they recognised pro-western Yushchenko as the new President.

And unlike any situation in the US since the election of Abe Lincoln in 1860, this presidential election may very well result in bloodshed. Kuchma has promised there would be no revolutions in Ukraine and warned the Opposition that lawlessness would be put down "quickly and firmly". In other words, "I have chosen my successor and will kill anyone and everyone who stands in the way."

Soviet ways die hard.

Posted by david at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2004

Producing War Criminals

I would imagine that there is more coverage in this country than in the US about the indiscretions of US military personnel in Iraq. Anything that gets aired in the US is probably blamed on the liberal anti-war media. After all, we have to stand behind our troops, don't we?

I think the apparent shooting of the unarmed, wounded apparent militant in the unnamed Fallujah mosques, the problems with Abu Ghraib prison, and other stories published by reporters imbedded with troops do offer an important revelation about the state of the US military. This has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of prosecuting the war in Iraq. That is a matter for theoreticians and philosophers to contemplate and debate. I sometimes to pretend to be one or the other, but I wear neither hat at the moment.

There seems to be a perception amongst at least some conservatives of the military as an inherently good institution. I have often heard the presumption that military service builds character, if by no other means than discipline. This is patently not true. There have been disciplined military forces through out history and the 20th century in particular which have wrought great evil. The Wehrmacht springs to mind.

I am not comparing the US military to the Wehrmacht. What I am saying is that a military force is no more than a representative sample of the society from which it is drawn. During the Second World War, the US military was comprised of members of a society that was predominantly Christian and most came from two-parent families. Because the draft cut across society, there was a broad base of socio-economic background. And though most served quite honourably, war crimes were committed.

Today the entirely volunteer US forces are drawn from a society that is not as Christian. Enlistees are much more likely to come from single-parent households, having grown up without the proper influence of a father. They are heavily drawn from economically deprived backgrounds. Their first father figure may be a Marine drill sergeant who spends every waking moment teaching them how to kill, kill, kill. Kill or be killed.

American soldiers in WWII came from a society that inherently valued life. Killing was something you were forced to do because the actions of a couple of aggressive nations made it necessary. Freedom was at stake.

Is it any surprise that a society that murders thousands of it own infants each day produces soldiers that don't value the difference between combatant and and an unarmed child? Two generations ago, soldiers had been little boys who played cowboys and Indians. Now they have played Wolfenstein, Doom, and Halo. I'm not worried that they have seen violence in Saving Private Ryan or even Full Metal Jacket. Rather it is that they see it glorified in Natural Born Killers and Kill Bill.

Every small town has a good upstanding boy from a church youth group who is serving God and country in the Middle East. Thank God they are there to exert influence. I know there are Christian men in positions of authority and leadership. This is not a blanket condemnation of the military or its personnel.

I would be interested to see certain demographic comparisions between the prison population and infantry personnel. But do not be surprised that a society which has cheapened life and glorified violence produces fatherless young men who, in the pressure cooker of battle, exhibit excessive violence, enjoy torture, and shoot to thrill. And rather than ignoring this problem, it should be a wake-up call.

Posted by david at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

Child Support Fiasco

Some of you may remember that I blogged about the problems with the Child Support Agency here in the UK. Now the Work and Pensions Select Committee of the House of Commons has finally seen the "chronic, systemic failures" of management at the agency.

The biggest problem was the compter system that never worked. EDS got paid half-a-billion pounds for it. However, the chairman of the committee noted, "This is not just about computers. It is a systemic, chronic failure of management right across the totality of the agency." It has been a failure to collect £0.75 billion and a write off of an additional £1 billion. 478,000 applications have been filed and only 61,000 non-custodial parents have made a payment.

The head of the agency resigned today, but I can't see that this is going to make any difference. The problems are much deeper than that.

A government that actively promotes single parenthood really has to get this right. If its ethos and social welfare policies are going to encourage and even reward those who go against the two-parent family model, the dependence upon child support payments is only going to increase. Single parents simply can't live off of the added government handouts.

Too many non-custodial parents are managing to avoid accomodation in a bedsit and are not really living hand-to-mouth. This is a clear failure of Government policy.

Posted by david at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2004

Getting Out the Vote Without Gimmicks

On the BBC website, I found a piece by New York Times correspondent Tim Egan which was broadcast on the Beeb. He travelled across the battleground states sampling public opinion and especially trying to understand the evangelical voters.

He stopped at New Life Church World Prayer Centre, the mega-church in Colorado Springs pastored by Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was taken around by one of the associate pastors.

I asked the church leaders at New Life whether they planned to canvass door-to-door, or man a phone bank - this is what the Democrats had done after all and they were planning a massive get-out-the-vote effort.

Pastor Brendle laughed.

"Our people don't need to be bussed to the polls and given a sandwich to vote," he said.

"Well, then," I asked, "how do evangelicals get out the vote?"

"We speak," Pastor Brendle said. "And when we do there is a high response."

I wonder what the popular vote margin would have been if you weren't allowed to go out to the projects and lure them onto busses with free food?

Posted by david at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)

November 09, 2004

In the Details

It was 298 years ago today that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Gansshorn were married, presumably in Heidelberg, in what is now Germany.

This is just one of those tiny little facts that resulted in me being me. I have no idea how many great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren they have, and I'm probably not one of their favourites, but I may be one of the few who remember them after all these years.

So, Johann and Apollonia, memory eternal!

Posted by david at 02:50 AM | Comments (2)

November 08, 2004

Pettiness and Intolerance

There is nothing so intolerant as a liberal. There is no place so liberal as San Francisco. 83.3 percent of voters in San Francisco County cast their ballots for John Kerry.

Just like the Philadephians mentioned below, they are big on the United States of Canada, with the maps drawn to include Californication and the Northeast. According to Reuters, some are taking their dissociation with the red states quite seriously:

"I have family in Idaho, but I told my wife we're not going to visit them now. It's all Republicans there," said Ron Schmidt, a public relations executive. "We have family in Indiana and I don't want to go there either."

How petty can you get? If I had the opportunity, I would gladly visit my cousins in California, even though some of them, not to mention 54.7% of voters in the Fruit Nut and Flake State, voted for Kerry. I'd even visit San Francisco, a city I've only ever seen on the way to and from an Orthodox conference in Forestville.

I've also never had the chance to visit New England in the autumn or any other season. I'd like to see foundations of the American freedom, even if they are located in Taxachusetts. I don't care that it chooses evildoers to represent it in Washington. For the most part, it lost the faith of its founders more than 150 years ago.

But hey, if some folks don't want to visit the Grand Canyon, Pike's Peak, Yellowstone, Mt Rushmore, the Alamo, the Ozarks, the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby, the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, or Disneyworld because they might actually come into visual contact with one of the 60,000,000 Republican voters or their traditionally structured families, whose loss is it anyway?

Posted by david at 02:49 AM | Comments (5)

November 07, 2004

More Government Promotion of Underage Sex

Since pre-teen girls can't always be trusted with taking the morning after pill, the Government is now planning to give free condoms to 11-year-old boys. And they don't need to worry about embarrassment. They don't actually have to ask for them.

No, the Government has thought of a way to overcome that little stumbling block. Schools will hand out condom cards - to be popularly known as "C cards" - and all the boys need to do is hand it over the counter at a family planning clinic, youth drop-in centre, or chemist.

The hope is that this will be combined with girls of a similar age using their "U card". They present this without need for explanation to the receptionist at their doctor's surgery and they are taken through immediately to get the abortion pill.

Both cards are the size of credit cards so they will fit easily into a pencil case. They are printed with information about where the child can receive these services. They are being promoted heavily by the Department of Education's Teenage Pregnancy Unit in conferences hosted around the country. According to a Department spokesman, the scheme is already being taken up everywhere.

Posted by david at 01:42 AM | Comments (2)

November 06, 2004

Unhappy with the Election Result, Eh?

It seems like a perfect match. All those liberal whingers talk about moving to Canada and they want more immigrants north of the border.

The Canadian government's immigration website has seen a massive increase in hits. They were up 600% the day after the election and now maintain an average of over three times the previous rate of visits. I think this is a good thing.

Shouldn't the US give something back to the country that gave it William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, and Mike Myers? In fact, I think Canada deserves to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. Half the Hollywood-produced movies are filmed up there anyway. They could move to Toronto and attend all the gay weddings they want.

Toronto Sun columnist Thane Burnett wrote a guide to becoming a Canadian, "As Canadians, you'll have to learn to embrace and use all the products and culture of Americans, while bad-mouthing their way of life." Hollywood won't have to learn anything. They've been doing this for years.

Burnett's column was written in response to Howard Gensler's Philadelphia Daily News column, "O Canada, we plead to cede to thee". (free reg required) Gensler's arguement is that everything great, good, and interesting about the US is found in those blue states.

You don't like our "values," red-staters, you've got your wish - we're outta here.

But remember, the next time you want to see a Broadway show, visit wine country, Hawaii or the birthplace of liberty, don't just bring your Visa card, bring your visa.

You're in Canada now. And we're tightening our borders.

So to get rid of God-hating liberals, the lower 30 plus Alaska have to give up claims to Gotham, the Gallo brothers, a few Pacific volcanos, and Philly? My only condition is that by taking the Quaker State, they have to take Arlen Specter as well. We'll give polical asylum to Rick Santorum. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

Posted by david at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

Fornication Freedom

Okay, one last comment on the politics surrounding the presidential election. I have had it up to my nostrils with whiny feminists blathering on about "reproductive rights".

Neither GWB nor the Republican Party have ever suggested that anyone does not have the right to reproduce. If anything they encourage it. Nor have they ever suggested that anyone should be denied the right to not reproduce. Not one single (or married) woman has ever been forced by any sort of governmental coercion to get pregnant. There is no sort of state-sponsored insemination programme. In fact, anyone who forces a woman into a potentially reproductive act faces the full force of the law which can result in time spent in that place when non-reproductive acts are quite common.

So all of this talk of GWB taking away reproductive rights and forcing women into the back alley abortions (that are much more the product of legend than truth anyway) is just silliness.

No, what these women want is right to kill anyone who infringes on their freedom to fornicate or even makes it a bit inconvenient. The freedom is there. You can't find a serious Republican who is committed enough to sponsor legislation to unabolish fornication laws that were already unenforced when they slipped away for the most part in the 1970s.

The "right to choose" is the right to choose to have sex anytime, anywhere, with anyone, and without any consequences. It is asking for government to interfere in the bedroom, to use that oft repeated phrase in its legitimate context. Only government has been able to step in and say that those things which are de facto wrong are de jure right. Government has stepped in and attempted to take away the natural consequences of promiscuity.

Yes, there has been an expectation of state interference since 1973 in the US. Now the fear is that the state will walk away and leave individuals to the natural consequences of their actions. It has them shaking in their boots.

Posted by david at 02:19 AM | Comments (0)

People's Republic of Islington

This blog got off to an early boost when, on its fourth day of existence, I took on the London Borough of Tower Hamlets over the banning of hot cross buns in schools. Moving north and west and decidedly upmarket is the Borough of Islington, former home of the Blairs. When it comes to the religious aspects of political correctness, Islington is in a whole other league from Tower Hamlets.

Islington wants to force a school to change it's name. St Mary Magdelene Church of England Primary School has been around since 1710. For almost 300 years, there's been no problem. Now Islington council wants it to drop the "Saint" bit because it might cause offense to other religions. It would be better if it and she weren't so closely associated to the Christian God.

But just like the situation with the buns in east London, the only problem is that the other religions don't seems to care. In fact, they seem to think it is silly.

The real motivation is revealed by James Kempton, the children and young people spokesman for the council's ruling Liberal Democrat party. "We need to ensure this is a school which is appropriate for Islington in the 21st century. Church-going is now a much less significant part of people's lives." It is post-Christian secularists that are the ones most likely to be offended.

Rev Malcolm Rogers, vicar of St Mary Magdelene church noted, “There is a perception that Islington council have been running an anti-Christian agenda, consistently on ideological grounds rejecting Christianity.” They aren't opposed to having £2 million in church funds toward the building required to expand the school into a City Academy for ages 5-18. They just insist that it cannot have a religious name.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

November 05, 2004

President of the World

To the shock and awe of my work colleagues, I supported George Bush for President. They all assumed I was right-minded until I was outed by the election. Now they know I'm not in my right mind.

Some of them got quite animated at the mention of a second Bush administration. It is bad enough that he invaded Iraq. The really terrible thing is that he is a religious "fundamentalist". I put this in quotes because they have no idea what a fundamentalist actually is. But how could someone who is guided in any way by religious beliefs be trusted to lead the world?

The 60,000,000 Americans who voted for him had an obligation to give the secularist godless Europeans a President who shares their worldview. How could they dare do otherwise? How could they not realise that the endorsement of the Guardian was binding on them, one and all?

And speaking of Manchester's gift to the world of pinko quasi-journalism, even in today's edition, the pages were filled with disgust. Well, I should say the Guardian website is filled with articles from today's edition, because I the only time I ever read a paper copy is when I find it discarded on a train. If you want to read some of the more entertaining of this vitriole, I recommend historian Simon Schama's op-ed piece, "Onward Christian soldiers". It is amazing how much he gets it (and hates it) and the same time doesn't get it at all.

Former senior Democratic party strategist Philip James, also writing in the aforementioned rag, definitely gets it, whether he likes it or not. In his post mortem:

In a country with so many believers, (80% of this year's voters said they attended church) this is a huge problem. Kerry simply wasn't communicating to a massive slice of the electorate, the hard core of which gets its political information not from the TV news, but from the pulpit.

Not all Christian churchgoers are hardcore evangelicals, but it's clear that Kerry did not appeal to any of them. Just as Bush wore his religion on his sleeve, so Kerry wore his irreligiousness on his. Kerry thought that referring to his upbringing as a Catholic altar boy would be sufficient. It only made it clear that religion was a vestige of his upbringing without relevance to his current life.

The few times that Kerry attended Southern Baptist churches on the campaign trail, he looked like a tourist in Harlem. The services appeared to pique his interest as they would an anthropologist. He was never an actual participant.

That's why Brits and other Europeans warmed to Kerry. It had nothing to do with the fact that Kerry wasn't going to pull out of Iraq, but rather pressure the Europeans to give a greater share of the troops to the war zone. (They were so busy screaming their hatred at Bush that they missed this altogether.) No, it was that religion has no real relevance in his life.

Posted by david at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

November 03, 2004

Lord Had Mercy

Everyone else is offering their election post mortem, so who am I to buck the trend?

Yes, the exit polls were wrong - and right. They did not predict the winner, but they did tell us why people voted the way they did. What was important to the 59,000,000 people who voted for Bush? Morality.

Even the BBC's Radio Five Live started to figure it out, and Brits have the hardest time getting their head around this. Presenter Peter Allen, reporting from Washington, noted:

"If you look at a map of America there's the west coast where Kerry scores and a kind of northeast corner, but the rest is a great swathe of Republican territory. It's not territory that we get out and visit a lot, but that's where they are. Whether it's because they're religious and God-fearing people who think that Bush is right for them, or whether it's because of what they think about Iraq - this is a nation divided and the majority quite clearly still believes that George Bush, despite all the problems in Iraq, is the man to solve it."

Yes, it was religious, God-fearing people that made the difference.

Posted by david at 10:30 PM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2004


I was watching coverage of Kerry's campaigning over the weekend and it included a stop at a black church in an unnamed state. John Kerry was just a little out of place in this environment. It wasn't exactly his liberal Boston quasi-Catholic parish.

How this church thought it had anything in common with John Kerry, I'll never know. Then during his sermon, Kerry actually had the audacity to tell the congregation to vote for him, because if he won they would be walking together "in the footsteps of the Lord".

Posted by david at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2004

Barons and Witches

Some of the last feudal powers in Scotland are due to be abolished next month. Barons will no longer have the right to dispense justice on their lands. What is the world coming to? On November 28, the Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) Act 2000 enters into full force and legal effect. Why the effective date was set four years after the passage of the Act, I don't know.

Prior to the passage of the Act, the civil and criminal jurisdiction of barons was preserved by the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act 1746. The criminal jurisdiction was restricted to cases of "assaults, batteries and smaller crimes". Punishments were limited to a fine of up to £1 or confinement in the stocks for up to three hours in the daytime. The civil jurisdiction was limited to cases with a value of up to £2 and cases for the recovery of "rents or other dues of a like nature."

So you might thing this is much ado about nothing. It's quaint; it's historic; it's Scottish. Oh no, the Government takes these things very seriously. The Scottish Office's "Report on Abolition of the Feudal System", which provides the basis for the Act, states, "A privately owned criminal and civil jurisdiction, even if limited and fallen into disuse, is such an anachronistic and objectionable relic of feudalism that it must clearly be abolished. The jurisdictional rights of barons have no value and compensation for their abolition would be inappropriate and unnecessary." So they have no value but they must clearly be abolished.

The last baronial judicial act is set for tomorrow. The 14th Baron Prestoungrange will be issuing a public declaration of pardon to the 81 people and their cats executed for witchcraft in his barony in the 16th and 17th centuries. The last execution for witchcraft in Scotland was in 1727.

According to the findings of the the Court, “Most of those persons condemned for witchcraft within the jurisdiction of the Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun were convicted on the basis of spectral evidence – that is to say, prosecuting witnesses declared that they felt the presence of evil sprits or heard spirit voices.

“Such spectral evidence is impossible to prove or to disprove nor is it possible for the accused to cross-examine the spirit concerned. One is convicted upon the very making of such charges without any possibility of offering a defence.”

This, I think, is a good thing. Don't get me wrong. Clearly, practicing witchcraft is a capital offence. Every Christian nation (before the influence of the humanist so-called "Enlightenment") had no problem following the plain wording of the Bible in this regard. But if you can't apply the biblical standard of evidence (corroborating eye witnesses), you can't apply the biblical sanction.

It is probably for this reason that in pre-Reformation Scotland executions for witchcraft were almost unknown. After the Reformation, it has been alleged that as many as 3,500 people were killed in the witch hunts.

Witchcraft is increasing in poularity in Scotland just as everywhere else. Witches (or Pagans or Wiccans) openly declare themselves. But now the Baronial courts won't even be able to give them three hours in the stocks.

Posted by david at 01:53 PM | Comments (2)

Usurping Usury

One of the big stories in the news over here, other than the US Presidential elections, is that a court actually said that it was possible for a loan agreement to "grossly contravene the ordinary principles of fair dealing."

For my American readers this may sound strange. After all, in this age of consumer credit protection, there are restrictions on how lenders can swindle money out of borrowers. There are caps on the level of interest that can be charged. Even department store credit cards top out at less than 25% APR.

This is not the case in the UK. What prompted the judge at Liverpool County Court to make the above statement as he wiped out the remaining debt of Tony and Michelle Meadows? The Meadows had borrowed £5,750. After paying back about £25,000 they still owed £384,000. No, there is no typo there. They borrowed about $11,000. They paid about $50,000. They still owed about $750,000. The Mafia was not involved.

The case was in court because London North Securities, which bought the original note from Home Loan Northern, was seeking a repossession order on the Meadows' home. The Meadows had gone to Home Loan Northern to borrow £2,000 for a home improvement loan. They were persuaded to borrow an extra £3,000 to pay off their mortgage and then charged £750 for an insurance policy they didn't want. They missed payments, so the 34.9% APR began to accrue against the late payment penalties, interest, and legal fees. Even though they managed to fork out £25,000, they could never get ahead.

Loan companies like Home Loan Northern are reaping windfalls like this by preying on the poor and those with bad credit. But at 34.9%, Home Loan Northern isn't even in the same league as Provident Personal Credit. Provident sends agents door to door, particularly in council estates, hard selling loans. They've yet to find a poor person they can't make poorer still.

At this point, my American readers may need to sit down. Provident offers a credit card. The annual percentage rate is 152.3%. Unbelievably, the rate for their specialty, cash loans, is even higher. They lend money at 177% APR. I am not making this up. I am using their own numbers, openly published on their website.

You can see now why this ruling in Liverpool has rocked the country. It has no precedential value. No other judge is bound by it. It has, however, broken the ice. In commenting upon the case, the presiding judge at Central London County Court said that other judges might be encouraged to make similar decisions. The Government, which has repeatedly shelved interest-capping consumer credit legislation, may actually want to do something now.

Posted by david at 02:52 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2004

Disgusting Behaviour and Distinctive Taste

The British are great animal lovers. Unfortunately, we have more than our fair share of those people who think that animals are more important than people.

The issue of fox hunting rages on. The will of the townies in power in the House of Commons will eventually extinguish this form of pest control. They have declared it important enough to set aside the other house of Parliament to make sure they get their way. (This is a bit like the House of Representatives having the power to make laws without the Senate if the Senate refuses to agree with the House.) They love the little foxes so much that they are willing to have thousands of jobless hounds put down.

However, in the last couple of weeks, the place of the fox has been usurped by the guinea pig. This is not because there is a groundswell of public support for the gentle cavy. Rather it is the protesters who have taken the spotlight.

If you can't get anyone to take you seriously, desecrate a grave. Or worse, exhume a body and hold it hostage. Protesters have regularly harrassed Darley Oaks Farm, which breeds guinea pigs for sale to medical research facilities. In addition to the picketing, screaming and yelling outside their Staffordshire farm, the owners have long been the subject of death threats and their property is continually damaged, usually by balaclava-wearing thugs in the middle of the night. Finally, they decided to steal the remains of the mother-in-law of one of the brothers who run the farm.

I don't animal rights people at the best of times. Don't get me wrong - I like animals. I even like guinea pigs. But they have no rights. They are animals. Do we have responsibilities toward them? Sure. The Holy Scriptures are clear about this. But our responsibilities do not somehow confer rights. After all, we have responsibilities in how we farm crops as well. That doesn't mean there are crops rights.

Though the guinea pig protesters have been in the news since early this month, I mention this now because of an announcement by Peruvian researchers that after 34 years of trying, they have bred a super guinea pig. Cavies have long been a delicacy in that part of South America, but have been impractical to export. There is just not enough meat on them to make it worthwhile.

The new piggie is twice the usual size, weighing in at more than a kilo. It is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. I have never had cuy, as it is called locally, but apparently its distinctive taste is similar to rabbit.

I think they should be imported by Darley Oaks Farm, who should set up a barbeque grill every Saturday just inside their gates.

Posted by david at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2004

Hoon's Used Subs

Back in January, I commented on the failure of the Ministry of Defence to send any equipment to the soldiers in Iraq. It may not be such a bad thing they they had to buy their own kit. Just asked the Canadian navy.

Back in 1998, the Canadians bought four Royal Navy submarines from the MoD on a lease-to-purchase plan for C$750 million. The subs had been mothballed in 1993, but the Royal Navy told the Canadians they were out of service because the MoD had decided to focus solely on nuclear subs.

The first subs were recommissioned in 2001. In 2002, the first of these left port for a planned two-week mission, but was forced to turn back after salt water seeped into a hydraulic motor. The Canadians then revealed that the second has a dent in its hull the size of a pizza, as a result of a collision that occurred before the Canadians took over the sub. The Canadian navy said cracked diesel exhaust valves on all the subs would have to be replaced.

Last year, the Canadian Defence Department said the lease-to-purchase plan for the four new subs would now cost more like C$900 million because of the structural problems discovered. This reminds me of the buy-here-pay-here used car dealers I used to sue for fraud. Apparently the MoD fixed them up just enough for the Canadians to drive them off the lot.

This week on the last of these vessels to be recommissioned, a fire broke out in the electrical equipment room during its maiden voyage under the Canadian flag. No sooner had HMS Upholder been renamed HMCS Chicoutimi and left Faslane, Scotland than it was left powerless in the middle of the Irish Sea. It is not entirely surprising, as the Chicoutimi had been stripped for parts in an attempt to get the three other submarines working. The Ottawa Citizen quoted defence documents as saying the Chicoutimi's hull was so badly affected by rust that the vessel could not dive to its usual operating depth.

And of course the MoD never misses a chance for their shoddiness to cause loss of life. The two very young children of 32-year-old Lieut. Chris Saunders will never remember their father. As always, Defence Minister Geoff Hoon takes none of the blame. "These boats were brought up to Royal Navy standards, they had undergone rigorous trials and tests," he told BBC Radio Four.

If so, what does that say of the standards of the Royal Navy? It's no wonder that Britannia no longer rules the waves. As the pictures of the Chicoutimi adrift in the sea showed, this Government has clearly given the the waves the upper hand.

Posted by david at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2004

Species Cleansing

It can't be called ethnic cleansing, because it wasn't a matter of ethnicity. Every human was forceably removed from Diego Garcia. Thanks to Serge for pointing me to this scathing indictment of both US and UK long-standing foreign policy.

Posted by david at 12:22 AM | Comments (4)

September 25, 2004

Fighting for Both Sides in the War of Drugs

The Department of Health has funded a booklet advising clubbers how to take drugs for maximum effect, whilst leaving no evidence for the police. If you think that is unbelievable, then your incredulity with be stretched to the limits when I tell you it was produced by a organisation which includes the police and the courts.

Coventry Community Safety Partnership, using £10,000 of DoH money produced 5,000 copies of Safe2Dance. That's right each booklet cost £2 of taxpayer money. It advises readers to take ketamine on an empty stomach to get the best results. It also encourages snort cocaine off of ceramic tiles and mirrors, as this leaves the least evidence.

Fortunately someone with half a brain in Coventry (apparently a demographic group that is underpopulated) saw the booklet and prompted an inquiry. This led to it being withdrawn before it could be distributed. So £10,000 was tossed into the bin. I have to wonder why an inquiry was necessary and how much that cost.

Posted by david at 11:30 PM | Comments (1)

September 20, 2004

Sorry, Mate...

An Algerian national was released from prison today. He had never been charged with anything. He was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act so he didn't have to be chrged with anything. All that was required was for MI5 to suggest he might be connected in some way with terrorism. They couldn't come up with any evidence, so David Blunkett ordered that he be let go.

After three years. That's right, "D" sat in a maximum security prison, probably in solitary confinement for three years.

"D" is probably a supporter of terrorism. He was jailed in France for being a supporter of a banned organisation, Groupe Islamique Armee. But it shouldn't take three years to decide whether there is evidence that he has violated UK law. Ideally there should be some sort of evidence before arrest, but the Government has given up that principle long ago.

It is an understatement to say that "D" is not a happy camper. If he wasn't already a terrorist, I would think the Government has given him plenty of motivation to become one.

Posted by david at 11:48 PM | Comments (1)

September 18, 2004

Robbed Blind

David Blunkett is at it once again. Without bothering to consult his parliamentary colleagues, he has just re-written one of the most fundamental principles of the law. It is no longer a crime to steal.

Effective next week, stealing goods of up to £200 in value from a shop will not incur criminal charges or even a caution from the police. It will not result in a criminal record.

It will only result in an £80 pound fixed penalty notice called a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND). It will be like getting an expensive parking ticket - unless you live in London, where parking tickets go for up to £100. And who says crime doesn't pay. £200 in goods - £80 fine - you do the math. Given that 70% of shoplifting is done to support drug habits, the new measures will ease the burden on treatment programmes. Courts could direct offenders into rehab, but now there will be no such external guidance.

However, on the other side of the equation, nicking a 30p bar of chocolate will also result in an £80 fine. However, it will not be enforced against the primary schoolboy of 10 years old, but rather against his parents. That's right, the minimum age for incurring the fine will be 10.

It's not only shoplifting that is being added to the list of PNDs. Criminal damage will no longer by criminal as long as it doesn't exceed £500 in value and various underage drinking offences will apparently become underage drinking disorders.

The main result for the Government will be a nice drop in the crime statistics. Crime will be falling because fewer things are against the law. Behaviour won't have changed. The lives of the law-abiding public will not be improved in quality. If anything, behaviour will continue to decline and will have more of an incentive to do so and the quality of life in this country - already plagued by a culture of thievery and thuggery - will continue to ebb.

I don't know if David Blunkett just can't see what's happening or just doesn't care.

Posted by david at 06:50 PM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2004

Government Sealed (but only at the ears)

On Monday, Batman climbed up to the royal balconey on the front of Buckingham Palace, though Robin got nicked by the coppers and the Batmobile was clamped.

On Wednesday, farmers snuck through the labyrinth of corridors in the Palace of Westminster and rushed onto the floor of the House of Commons, physically confronting Government ministers, until they were tackled by old men wearing dinner jackets and swords.

Yesterday, while outraged minsters, shadow numbers, and backbenchers talked to themselves and the press about the need to tighten things up, a reporter for The Sun planted a fake bomb - plasticene, wires, and all - right under them.

It seems that no matter how hard they try, it is impossible to hermetically seal everything. The world can't be made 100% safe. Of course in these cases there was no real danger. The only thing to fear was the publicity.

If these Fathers 4 Justice keep buying superhero costumes and pulling superhero stunts, somebody might actually listen to their message and make sure that for broken families equality in parenting is the norm. The only problem is that now terrorists will know that all they need to do to avoid being shot while in a high-security trespass is to dress up.

And I don't blame the pro-hunt lobby for storming the House of Commons. For some of the urbanite Labour ministers it may be the first time they have seen someone from the countryside face-to-face. They ought to be glad that they didn't have to actually get their shoes dirty in the soil of the land they govern.

Given the ease with which they could have done something more violent, as demonstrated by The Sun, the Government should be glad that majority, for whom they have no regard, are as docile as they are. The protests both inside and outside the House didn't sway a single vote. If anything, it made the anti-hunt MPs more adamant. They will use the Parliament Act to override the House of Lords to save a few foxes and decimate the rural economy. With the exception of Ann Widdecombe, the same MPs will work just as hard to kill thousands babies for convenience, while creating others out of clones for spare body parts.

It is a mad world. Not even a super hero can fix it.

Posted by david at 08:58 PM | Comments (1)

September 11, 2004

How We Lost the War on Terrorism

I haven't ventured out into the blogosphere yet today, so I don't know what everyone else is saying. I'm sure that there are a significant number of 9/11 anniversary posts. But without checking to see if I'm simply repeating what everyone else is saying, I'll offer the following:

It's not often I even pay attention to the headline of the Independent. I like to think that it is called that because it is independent of any clear thinking and common sense. I had to agree with the big print across the top of the today, "We should not have allowed 19 murderers to change our world". The underlying article by Robert Fisk was a load of bollocks about George Bush and Iraq, but the headline was right.

The murderers of September 11, 2001 may not have achieved all they set out to do, but the world is a different place. If we live in constant fear, terrorism has won. They don't have to blow up a building or and airplane every day. They just have to make you think they might.

These 19 Islamists who have traded the fires of exploding planes for the fires of perdition ("hey, where's the 72 virgins?!") mananged to cost the taxpayers of the United States about $105 billion just for the Department of Homeland Security through 2005. Now you could argue that the exisiting 22 components of the federal bureaucracy that were absorbed in the DHS were already going to cost $78 billion over 2003-2005, so the hijackers only added $27 billion.

By my estimation, that's $1.42 billion per hijacker. Not bad for a day's work, or even the two or three years that went into planning the murders. And this doesn't count the costs that aren't a part of the DHS budget.

There's the whole issues of compensation. Before the December 22, 2003 deadline, there were 7,402 claims related to deceased persons which had been submitted to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Out of these, 5,558 resulted in award letters. The average award was $2,081,348. By my calculations that is a total of $11,568,132,184. That's $11.568 billion, for those of you who need to see the numbers in an easier to read format.

If we add this to the cost of running the DHS for 3 years, that's $2.03 billion per deluded Wahabi.

In addition to this, there are 2,679 claims for personal injury. The personal injury awards "have ranged from a low of $500 to a high of over $8.6 million after offsets." I can find no published data giving the total amount of personal injury awards to date.

I haven't even touched upon the loss of buildings, jobs, goods, and services. According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the tangible losses are about $100 billion. That's $5.26 billion for each satanically inspired Infidel.

But it doesn't stop there. The DHS budget is scheduled to increase by about $5 billion per year. It won't stop until it finally creates the Nation in a Bubble, able to filter out all contaminants and deadly attacks. The DHS and the US Goverment are as deluded as their nemeses if they think they can hermetically seal the borders with universal biometric passports and life will revert back to Pleasantville.

Welcome to the rest of the world, America. In Britain, the threat of terrorism has been around for ages, thanks to idiots who are still fighting the Battle of the Boyne. Thankfully that threat is, if not in the past, at least on the back burner. We now also face the open threat of Islamist attacks. The difference is that at least the Irish rang ahead of time and they didn't rape young girls as happened in the school in Beslan.

If there is such a thing as honourable terrorism, it cannot be attributed the people we are dealing with now. Somehow they think that by preying on the weakest, most vunerable members of society, they can force us to accede to their demand of submission to a false god. "I know what we need to do, guys! Let's find some little children to torture and murder! Then the world will convert to Islam!"

But as absolutely vile as these people are, we cannot let them run our lives, either individually or as nations. We have to show no fear. We can't worry about their threat to replace every "martyr" with 1,000 more. That just means 1,000 more bullets will have to be manufactured. Terrorists creating jobs - that's what I like to see.

And I don't give a pile of burning camel dung about how it is our fault that they are like they are. Stop your bloody whinging and stop importing Coca Cola. If the people in your country are becoming westernised and not following your little fringe view of Islam maybe you need to look at your methods of evangelism, Osama.

Believe it or not, absent these unstable types (look at the shoe bomber Richard Reed, if you can't figure why I called them unstable), mostly jobless young men with nothing else to do but listen to radical clerics, Muslims and Christians have gotten along peacefully for centuries. That's not to say that the religions are compatable, but rather that the people just get on with life. Even in Muslim governments, from the Ottoman Empire of the 18th century to the Ba'athist regimes of the 21st, Christians have held places of prominence and power.

Yes, there needs to be a war on terror and it shouldn't result in a siege mentality. It does not need to be a war on Islam. The only sword which you should put to your Muslim neighbours is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And if you are worried about their values permeating your country, just remember that if you want to see Christian values as the basis of government social policy, you will find more in common with your Muslim neighbours than with the secularist who may look more like you in an epidermal sense.

Posted by david at 07:12 PM | Comments (3)

September 05, 2004

Red Ketchup and Blue Air

Though it won't be of interest to my well-intentioned but ill-advised readers who are supporting Michael Peroutka nor my readers who are supporting John Kerry but are really holding out for the re-election of Hillary Clinton in 2008, the rest of you might be interested in the latest condiment for your table, W. Ketchup.

The "W" is of course George Washington, whose image appears on the front and back labels. It doesn't fund the Republican presidential candidate in any way - rather it contributes to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, "which provides scholarships for the children of active duty service members killed in the line of duty." What it also doesn't do is put money into the coffers of the Heinz corporation or any of the left-wing beneficiaries of its charitable trusts, such as John Kerry.

I found the Comments section of the website most entertaining. Being non-partisan, they include views from across the political spectrum. Those who dislike the product idea (since they have never and make it clear will never actually try it) demonstrate why blue is the colour associated with the Democrats. It is the colour of the air around them. As the foulest mouthed prospective First Couple in a long time, the Heinz-Kerrys should feel right at home with their fellow partisans. Even though the site/product owners have substituted various non-alphanumeric characters so that the site can get through profanity filters, the messages are clear.

From this I think we can also predict that if John Kerry is elected, he will bring back to the White House the quality and caliber of staff which left with Bill Clinton, taking furniture, presidential seals, and office supplies with them, after removing all the "W" keys from the keyboards, and leaving obscene graffiti and phone greetings.

Posted by david at 01:55 PM | Comments (1)

September 04, 2004

If It Weren't For Bad Luck...

It seems the Russians have managed to bungle another hostage crisis, resulting in massive deaths. There were at least 117 hostage deaths a Moscow theatre in 2002. That's the official toll and I don't know about you, but communism or not, I don't trust Russian officialdom. In that instance, it appears that almost all the deaths were caused by the secret anesthetic gas used. In other words, the Russian goverment did a much more efficient job of killing the hostages than the terrorist could have.

It is still unclear how the massive death toll in Beslan has transpired. How many were killed in the initial explosion that seems to precipitated the storming of the school? How many were quickly killed by terrorists as their position started to crumble? How many were killed in crossfire?

Again, knowing the Russians, we will probably never know. It does seem that the Russians have a special knack for maximising civilian casualities.

Nonetheless, pray for those who have lost their lives that they might be found in the peace of Christ. Memory eternal ! And pray for those left behind who will be grieving that they might find the peace of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Posted by david at 03:19 AM | Comments (1)

August 29, 2004

Hamsters for Fun and Profit

If you fancy a fur, but think mink, fox, sable, beaver, or chinchilla is just a bit too ordinary, there's still time left at the House of Bruar to get your hamster coat. And they're going cheap.

Originally £1,750, the Perthshire retailer has cut the price to move the stock. It seems animal rights activists threw a paddy and the coats were pulled. It also seems the store can't afford to just eat the costs, so they've had to put them back in stock to recoup their investment.

Unfortunately, if you were hoping to look like you belong in a cage running on a wheel, you will be disappointed. The hamster fur is only a lining for a loden coat. (A loden is a "jacket of Tyrolean origin, made of loden cloth, which was first handwoven by peasants living in Loderers, Austria, in the 16th century. The material comes from the coarse, oily wool of mountain sheep and is thick, soft, and waterproof" according to Encyclopaedia Brittanica Online.)

Nevermind - it is a great opportunity for animal rights activists to show pictures of little Syrian hamsters as the face of the fur industry. This has given them an opportunity to exploit the children's news media like CBBC with their message that no creature is made in the image of God and we are all a part of that great monist life continuum.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) only seems worried about the way the hamsters were killed. They were gassed and the SSPCA think the only way to kill animals without unnecessary pain is to put them down by injection.

News articles mentioned that it took 100 pelts to make the coat (or coat lining, as is the case). Now, we've had hamsters and even at his biggest, I don't think 100 Humphreys would have lined a large coat. However, it appears that the rodents in question are the size of guinea pigs. The pelts are supplied from Russia.

They say that guinea pigs are good eating. Hence the sign at a local farm park. I wonder what hamster takes like.

Posted by david at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

Death, Drugs, and David Blunkett

It comes as no surprise that the Government's sex education and teen pregnancy initiatives and policies continue to fail miserably. The abortion figures for 2003 have been released and the number of babies legally murdered in this country has reached an all-time high.

Last year, trained medical professionals separated the bodies and souls of over 190,000 children, beating the old record of 187,000 set in 1998. This does not take into account the "morning after pill" distributed like candy, nor the abortifacient effects of the Pill or other birth control methods. Of the 190,000+ abortions, 37,043 of the mothers were aged 15 to 19. That is over 1,000 more than in the 25-29 age bracket. 1,171 were under 15.

If you are a British taxpayer, you paid for 80% of those "procedures".

But it isn't just the teen pregnancy policy that's failing. Figures published Friday show that teenage drug use is increasing. Despite the hours and hours of anti-drug PSHE classes in school, levels of drug use amongst 14- and 15-year-olds is at its highest ever.

It's not just official policy that is the problem. It is the culture that the Government promotes. It has systematically and relentlessly attacked and undermined any residual Christian values and morality left in this godless land. It leads by example, when ministers have been caught up in scandals that would have required disgraceful resignation in the previous Government and any other before it. Instead they are supported, praised, and promoted. This is a Government that thumbs its nose - or more accurately gives two fingers (British readers will understand what I mean) - to any suggestion of accountability.

Most recently we've had a Home Secretary who refused to stop pestering his married ex-lover to such an extent that she had to use civil servants as witnesses to her demand that he leave her alone. Not that the civil servants weren't already aware of the relationship. After all, some of them were with him when he took her on foreign holidays, posing as husband and wife. It would be a bit ironic if the Cabinet minister responsible for law enforcement has to have a restraining order placed against him. But there is no suggestion that David Blunkett's position is less than secure.

That's the message of this Government. And they wonder why their policies don't work.

Posted by david at 03:42 AM | Comments (2)

National Death Service

Whatever you do, don't get sick in Portsmouth.

In not the first case of it's kind at St Mary's Hospital, doctors are trying to end the life of a child against the wishes of the parents. They are refusing to put Darren and Debbie Wyatt's 10-month-old daughter on a ventilator if she stops breathing. Just to be safe, because of the pesky European Court of Human Rights, the hospital is going to the trouble of getting a court order allowing medical staff to withhold treatment.

They wouldn't have to go to all this trouble if they had been allowed to kill David Glass six years ago. That's when they wanted to do a Harold Shipman and overdose him with diamorphine. They decided he was dying of lung disease and it would be in his best interests. His mother pulled out the drip and David Glass is still alive.

It wasn't until March of this year that the ECHR ruled that the doctors in the Glass case should have sought an order from the High Court before withholding treatment against the wishes of Mrs Glass. This new little hurdle shouldn't keep them from killing off little Charlotte Wyatt. There is an obligation to take into account (whatever that vague phrase means) the parents’ wishes, but the courts have yet to overrule medical advice.

If a doctor wants you dead, it's just a matter of time.

Posted by david at 02:42 AM | Comments (5)

The Cost of Truth

Surely they thought they were witnessing a miracle. West Yorkshire police (yes it's them again) clocked a Fiat Punto on the motorway at 115 mph. After all, the Punto doesn't even do 115. Not deterred by the laws of physics or the protestations of the driver (after he realised it wasn't a joke), they were determined to throw the book at him, get an automatic driving ban and an fine of up to £2,500 - not to mention sending his insurance premiums through the roof.

They picked on the wrong law student. It cost Steve Lucas £2,000 - cash he couldn't really afford - and 18 months, but he won his case when magistrates finally tossed the case. He had to hire a solicitor, a road traffic consultant, and a test track. They proved that the car in question, with a 1.2 litre engine, had an absolute top speed of 104 mph. That was only possible downhill assisted by a tailwind. At best, the cops were just plain wrong. More likely, they exhibited the level of integrity that we have, unfortunately, come to expect of our police.

Steve may have proved he was in the right, but the cops can at least boast that to beat them at their game is a Pyrrhic victory. The costs were such that he had to sell the car and drop out of his second year of university. He also had to plead guilty to overtaking a vehicle in the wrong lane, for which he was awarded three penalty points and £120 in fines and costs.

This story made most of the national newspapers here. You would think that West Yorkshire police would be a bit embarrassed. You would think a public apology might be in order. No, the police don't make mistakes here. They don't own up to anything. Several papers noted that the spokesman for West Yorkshire police refused to comment.

Posted by david at 02:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2004

Ugly Anti-Americans

One of the advantages of travelling by train is the variety of reading material available. During the long train journey home on Wednesday night (see the blog entry below), I picked up a discarded copy of The Guardian, a national newspaper for which I would never actually part with money. As if I needed reminding why, I flipped through its pages to peruse the collection of what can only be termed piffle, drivel, and swill (a collection of adjectives first coined by George Grant).

In both "news" articles and op/ed pieces, the vitriol that pours out against America, Americans, and a certain American president is unending. And I'm sorry, but it just pisses me off. Sure, most of the press in this country is anti-American, and I suppose something had to take the place of the old Pravda when the Soviet Union collapsed, but The Guardian is just too much.

The worst of it all was an op/ed piece by veteran anti-American Polly Toynbee. She regards the fact that there are universities with unfilled places in American Studies programmes as a revelation of the increasing dislike of the US. She uses this as the jumping off point to attack everything supported by "Bushites in their daily, foul-mouthed email assaults on Guardian writers".

She talks about an ICM poll taken across a string of countries which she says reveals "a world that thinks America arrogant, less cultured, a worse place to live than their own countries and a threat to world peace". I have to wonder how many of the Brazilians, Indonesians, Jordanians, and Russians (about 1000 of each) have actually been to the US to know if it is a worse place to live than their own country.

She even lies about the data in the poll (perhaps assuming that no one would actually find it and look at it). She says that whilst all the countries polled except Israel have a majority against Bush, Canada, Australia, and Korea are least unfavourable. Of the three, Canada and Australia actually have less than 50% registering unfavourable responses. She also failed to mention that Russia also has a minority unfavourable to W.

But in an article about how bad America is, why does she use opinions of Bush? Because in the same poll, the opinions about America don't match the point she wants to make. Of all the countries, which ones actual have a majority with an unfavourable response about how the feel about America? Well, there's Brazil, France, Indonesia, and Jordan. I'm not sure what the Brazilians' beef is, but do the others really surprise anyone? Skipping France for the moment, you have two Muslim countries, one the world's most populous and the other sitting next to US ally Israel.

If America is so bad, why is everyone trying to get in and no one trying to leave? Maybe it's because when asked which best describes America, "free" or "unfree", even 87% of Indonesians responded "free".

And who cares what the Frogs think? After all, the French celebrated the 1944 liberation of Paris this week with no mention of the Americans, reprising the de Gaulle fantasy that Ike let him live when he entered Paris 60 years ago. The French had about as much to do with the liberation of Paris as I did. Two times in the last century Americans saved their collective sorry glutes and their lack of collective gratitude is as shameful as any American foreign policy with which they have disagreed over the same period of time.

But back to Ms Toynbee and The Guardian... Why don't these pinko whingers find the socialist paradise they crave? Maybe it is because it would have to be subsidised by American tax dollars in the form of foreign aid to survive.

Posted by david at 01:42 AM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2004

Fishing for Minnows

The cops are out in force. Like the boy detective Encyclopedia Brown in the eponymous stories I read as a child, West Yorkshire police have a policy of "no case too small".

It took 30 uniformed officers and 15 marked cars, but they nabbed Sandra Hughes. Not that she offered any resisitance. But you can't too careful with dangerous criminals like her. After all, she had allowed her local garage to use a black screw intead of a white one to attach her number plate. She drove around for 18 months obliviously flouting the law, but she was caught and punished. No warning for her. That'll be £30.

West Yorkshire police knew that a job like this wasn't one they could handle alone. They had back up. Their operation included Customs & Excise, the Vehicle Inspectorate, and trading standards officers.

And in case the nefarious 57-year-old grandmother was lying about her identity to get someone else to take the rap for her crime, she was fingerprinted on the spot. After all, identification is all important to the police. That's why her crime was so serious. Because the screw is the same colour as the numbers and letters on the plate, it might interfere with the automatic number plate recognition system. In other words, it might keep the cops from knowing who she is and where she is at all times.

Posted by david at 07:22 PM | Comments (2)

August 12, 2004

License to Kill

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has granted a licence to perform therapeutic cloning using human embryos for the first time. This means that Briatin has become the first Western nation to embrace the cloning age. Parliament legalised it in 2001, but this is the first license granted under that legislation. Outside the UK, only South Korea, Singapore and China allow it.

The scientists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne will not be the first to clone humans. South Korea researchers did it last year.

The purpose of therapeutic cloning is to create spare parts. The idea is to create a human, extract some stem cells and throw away the rest. Ethically and morally, this is not much different from IVF or embryo screening. The difference is that the life is being created outside the natural method of conception. Throwing away excess babies is nothing new.

However, the only thing that divides therapeutic cloning from reproductive cloning, i.e. implanting and gestating clones to full term, is the majority of a quorum of both Houses of Parliament - or just the House of Commons if the Parliament Act is invoked. That means 21 MPs.

Posted by david at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2004

Forgotten Heritage

Why am I a history teacher? I am the last bastion of hope - the last chance to turn the tide of darkness in this ignorant land. Okay there is me and the BBC.

The BBC conducted a poll of 1006 people over the age of 16 in the run up to a new series on BBC2 called "Battlefield Britain". The results were, well, sad.

A third of 16 to 34-year-olds did not know that William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings. This, despite the fact that every 11-year-old in this country learns about it. It is a key fact in world history, not just British history.

Move ahead in time to the question of who defeated the Spanish Armada. I am not joking when I tell you that 6% of 16 to 24-year-olds thought it was Gandalf. You know, the tall bloke with the pointy hat that looks a lot like Ian McKellen and seems to fancy short, hairy-footed companions. The blending of fact and fiction doesn't end there - 13% thought it was Horatio Hornblower. Christopher Columbus was also a popular choice.

Or advance up the timeline again to the Battle of the Boyne. How many knew it was Catholic King James II's troops who were defeated by Protestant William III in 1690? Only 18% of those 16 to 24-year-olds - the group most recently out of school. Over the Pond, you may not be as aware of this, but realise in this country it is celebrated every July 12 by Orangemen and is the highlight of the marching season in Northern Ireland, a time always marked with strife. And everyone studies the Stuarts in Year 8 (7th grade) here.

But how about something even more recent - within living memory of some? How many knew the Battle of Britain happened during the Second World War? Despite all the media coverage of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings and that WWII is covered in both Year 9 and by most GCSE pupils, almost one-third of all age groups didn't know this.

Despite this, the Government wants to do away with the history GCSE and replace it with a "Making sense of the modern world" course, with watered down bits history, geography, and a good dose of citizenship. Of course when you have a Government that has systematically destroyed the historical institutions of this country, it is hardly surprising.

Posted by david at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2004

Indulgence Education

The Government's teen pregnancy initiatives are not working, even by their own admission. Last week the Department of Health sent out new guidance to health practitioners re-emphasising "a young person's right to confidential sexual health guidance". This new guidance also makes explicit reference to abortion for the first time.

In other words, just so everyone is clear, parents do not need to know if their daughter under 16 is having a surigical procedure to kill their grandchild.

But anticipating that this will not be a sufficient strategy, they have a new plan. They want to start handing out condoms to 12-year-olds. The scheme will be piloted in Halifax, West Yorkshire, starting in September with a view to introducing it throughout the country.

This will mean that school curriculum for Personal, Social, and Health Education (PSHE) will need to be changed. After all, as the teenage pregnancy co-ordinator in Halifax said: “Something needed to be done to not only encourage young people to use condoms but teach them how to use them properly. We have a checklist of criteria which has to be met . . . we want to ensure the young person knows what they are doing and has made an informed choice to have sex." Currently, pupils don't learn how to put on a condom until they are 13 or 14.

Posted by david at 04:40 PM | Comments (1)

The Real Issues

Pubicizing it as an effort to get rid of George W. Bush, ten different musical acts are involved in a 28-city tour through the states expected to be the swing in the November election. But if you think it is some sort of anti-war effort or even about Bush personally, you would be wrong.

In the words of Eli Pariser, executive director of the liberal political action committee presenting the tour, "The tour is aimed squarely at the radical right wing policies of Republican ideologues throughout the country." What are these radical right wing policies?

The political action committee is MoveOn PAC and they aren't spending any money on John Kerry. They are funneling donations to seven different congressional candiates. Who and why?

They are supporting Jon Jennings in the Indiana 8th, because the incumbent John Hostettler favours the "radical Marriage Protection Act (HR 3313) which removes the power of courts to determine the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act." They are supporting Lois Murphy in the Pennsylvania 8th, who "has spent her career fighting for women and families as the past president of NARAL-Pennsylvania". Or you can donate through them to Richard Romero in the New Mexico 1st because he is "pro-choice and opposed to the constitutional ban on gay marriage."

Do we see a common thread here? Let's see...

There's Jim Stork in Florida-22, "who is openly gay...focusing on critical issues including stem cell research...has been a leader on gay rights issues..."

And if you prefer a Senate race, spend your money on Joe Heoffel in Pennsylvania running against the never particularly conservative Arlen Specter. How can a Democrat stand out against Specter? According to his website, Hoeffel opposes the ban on late-term abortions, abstinence-based sex education, abstinence-based global AIDS funding, and any judicial nominee who opposes abortion.

So what are the "radical right wing policies"? When it comes down to it, they are anything that restricts sexual immorality in any way. For MoveOn PAC and the Democrats the real agenda is creating a legal and social climate where anything goes.

If you are thinking about whether to vote Republican from the top of the ticket down, all worried about the war in Iraq and whether it is the right thing, please don't be stupid. Wars come and wars go. And - shock! horror! - soldiers die. What is at stake is not control of a piece of desert in the Middle East.

Don't get me wrong, there are lives at stake. Lots of them. Most of them unborn. But there are also those lives that are influenced by political leadership that says right is wrong and wrong is right. Our salvation is not in the State, but though we are not of the world, we are in the world. And what we do in the world makes a difference.

Posted by david at 03:38 AM | Comments (4)

July 23, 2004

Child Support Aggravation

If you are owed child support in this country don't hold your breath waiting for it. Likewise, if you don't owe it anymore because your kids are grown, don't expect to stop paying.

The Child Support Agency published its annual report yesterday. As best it can tell, because its £450 million computer system doesn't work, it had gathered only 40% of the support payments it was supposed to collect. It has 300,000 cases on its books, but processed only about half. It admitted that almost one-third of telephone calls to the agency were “abandoned”.

Staff took an average of three weeks of sick leave each year. If you add that to their four weeks holiday, and the eight statutory holidays (six bank holidays, plus Good Friday and Christmas), the average CSA employee is only on the job 217 days per year. That averages out to about four days a week.

I know someone who hasn't been obligated to pay child support since before Christmas. When she contacted the CSA, she got nowhere. After several months, they finally contacted her ex-husband, who made unsubstantiated claims that he was still entitled to the money.

Even though they could have found out the truth with just one phone call, the CSA just took his word and didn't look into it. After she insisted that her ex was committing fraud, and asked when the case would be investigated, the voice on the phone said, "I might get around to it Friday - I might not." Wanting to contact a supervisor, she asked her combatant's name. "I don't have a name," he replied.

He didn't get around to that Friday. He didn't get around to it until she contacted her MP. The case still hasn't been resolved.

Posted by david at 12:28 PM | Comments (2)

Would You Like to Hold Your Baby?

What do you give the girl who has everything?

How about her own baby in a tube of water? That's what a nurse at Bishop Auckland General Hosital gave Stacey Storey. Well, they didn't really give it to her. They just asked her to take it home overnight, keep it in the fridge, and bring it back in the morning.

Thanks to the Government's teen sex policies, the 14-year-old found herself in the family way and despite the easy path to termination and her 17-year-old boyfriend's quick exit, she intended to keep the child. Unfortunately, she started miscarrying and her mum rushed her to Bishop Auckland. She finished miscarrying while waiting 20 minutes to be seen.

When the nurse came in, she put the 11-week-old foetus in a tube, asked if Stacey was okay, and booked an appointment with the gynaecology department for the next day. There seems to have been very little regard for her physical well-being, not to mention her mental state.

Is it any wonder that groups like Life have to offer counselling after miscarriage? If losing a baby wasn't enough, the callous disregard by medical professionals compounds the grief and depression.

This isn't an isolated case maternity mismanagement at Bishop Auckland General. Stacey's mum lost a baby at 38 weeks. The baby was breech and was supposed to be turned at the hospital. Four days before her appointment, the maternity unit at Bishop Auckland General was downgraded to only deal with uncomplicated births so a new appointment had to be made at another hospital. During the delay the baby died.

Between the babies deliberately killed and those lost through neglect, it is no wonder we don't have a replacement rate of population growth.

Posted by david at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Babies Killing Babies

The Government has released new figures showing that the number of abortions continues to rise and last year hit a record of 181,000. The big jump was in abortions by girls under 16. These rose by 5.4%.

Every one of these pregnancies is the result of a criminal offence. Nevertheless, the Government does not encourage abstinence as strategy against under-16 pregnancies. Instead it throws more and more money into free condoms and demonstrations of how to use them. And this is the result they get.

Posted by david at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2004

Screened to Order

They're here! Everyone has to have one! Designer babies!

Last night, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority overturned their long-standing rule that embryo screening is acceptable only to weed out inherited disease. While there some opposition to this policy, it was accepted that tiny babies could be killed if they were potentially defective.

Now the HFEA will allow parents to choose children with desirable traits. The media-savvy motivation for this change is the pressure to allow the selection of embryos to donate tissue to sick siblings. The HFEA chairperson noted, “Faced with potential requests from parents who want to save a sick child, the emotional focus is understandably on the child who is ill."

She said further, "Our job is also to consider the welfare of the tissue-matched child which will be born. Our review of the evidence available does not indicate that the embryo biopsy procedure disadvantages resulting babies compared to other IVF babies." So there is no harm to the child that is born with the "right" genes. She completely misses the point that there is irreparable harm done to the undesired embryos.

Under the new rules, there is nothing to prevent selection based on a desire to have a boy or a girl or blond hair and blue eyes. It doesn't even have to be limited to appearance. Want the most intelligent? The most athletic? These traits can be screened as well. As genetics increasingly becomes a more exact science, you can have exactly the child you want, discarding the rest.

Posted by david at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2004

Stuck on You

Thanks to Serge for bringing this to my attention.

Just over a year ago, the Ontario Court of Appeal legalised same-sex marriage. A week after the court's decision and eager to pledge their undying love for one another, M.M. and J.H. were joined in unholy matrimony, notwithstanding the lack of a Y chromosome between them. They separated five days later.

Now they can't get a divorce. Ontario may have married them, but it doesn't have the power to put them asunder. Even though British Columbia, Quebec and the Yukon have joined Ontario in removing the gonadal diversity requirement for legal union, disunion will require action in Ottawa. The Divorce Act, which is federal legislation, defines spouses as "either of a man or a woman who are married to each other."

The lawyer for one of the women is using the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the Divorce Act. It looks to me like this is a prime opportunity to force gay marriage on all of Canada through the back door.

Posted by david at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2004

The Moon and the Stars Which You Have Ordained

It was 35 years ago today that the nation saw Walter Cronkite wipe the tears from his eyes and heard Neil Armstrong's voice: "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed".

I was only 5 years old. Now that I'm 40, we haven't gotten any farther. In fact, we haven't gotten nearly that far for almost 32 years. Some of my readers question why we should go back. How is it salvific?

I think it is. I think we have a responsibility to go. Do we have a obligation to understand the created universe? How else do we fulfil our dominion mandate? We can exercise stewardship over something we don't understand.

Why do we have an obligation to exercise stewardship over the Moon? Because we have a responsibility to use planet Earth wisely. If we harness the resources of the Moon, which can be done without harming it, we could remove the need for fossil fuels. We could make energy production a non-issue.

That's just one reason. I could name many more.

Is a trip to the Moon salvific on a personal level? It was for Jim Irwin. "The hours I spent on the Moon were the most thrilling of my life. Not because I was there but because I could feel the presence of God." As Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean recalls his friends of Apollo 15, "Dave [Scott] and Jim journeyed into space as test pilot astronauts and most of us returned the same way. But Jim changed outwardly." He quoted Irwin as saying, "I returned determined to share with others that profound experience with God on the Moon and lift man to highest flight in life."

Posted by david at 03:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2004

The New Forrest Law

I'm sure Tom Forrest never thought he would be thrust into the national limelight over the rules of his bed and breakfast. Nor did he expect to still be in it three weeks later. He has now become the whipping boy of the sodomy lobby.

The Deputy Women's Minister Jaqui Smith has announced a new piece of legislation prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services to homosexuals. You might think that sounds silly. After all, who would know that an individual in receipt of good or services is a homosexual? And who would care?

No, what she means is that anyone providing goods and services will have to provide them on demand to homosexual couples. She said, "We are determined to press on with ensuring that same-sex couples get the opportunity to gain legal recognition of their relationships - and the equality and dignity they deserve."

In other words, it is the policy of this Government to defy the laws of God and nature, and create an Orwellian alternate universe where anything must be called a family. Everyone must conform.

The new legislation will be drafted by the new Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is the remit of this new super-quango to hunt down discrimination where it can find it in every walk of life.

Mr Forrest told the Daily Mail, "Everyone should have the right to decide who they let stay in their property. My guesthouse is also my home - but I would rather close down than yield to a law like this."

He has been the butt of jokes and the bugbear of newspaper columnists. But as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity. If he has to close down, it would not be for lack of business. He said that his bookings have "gone through the roof" since he banned the the Romans 1:27 couple.

Posted by david at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2004

Protecting European Free Speech

The story about the Swedish pastor jailed for offending homosexuals has made its way throughout blogdom, and it has also come to the attention of the Christian Democratic Party (KDH) in Slovakia.

According to the Slovak Spectator, Slovakia's English language newspaper, the party sees this as a free speech issue. The party chairman, and Speaker of the National Council (parliament), Pavol Hrušovský, said the sentence is a sign that torture based on anti-discrimination legislation has began. He plans to send a protest letter to his Swedish counterpart.

The problem is that his counterpart is not in a very strong position. While the KDH is in the coalition Slovak government, the Swedish Kristdemokraterna has only 9.5% of seats in the Riksdag and these are on the wrong side of the aisle.

Slovak Interior Minister Vladimír Palko (and deputy leader of the KDH) may be taking a better approach. He sees this an example of the tyranny of "leftist-liberal ideology" in Europe. He has met to discuss the issue with the Swedish ambassador, Cecilia Julin. I don't think it will make a difference, but at least it is addressing an official representative of the Swedish government. Palko told reporters afterwards, "I explained to Ms Julin that my position was like that of Martin Luther when he said: 'Here I stand, I can do no other'."

Palko also promised that, "with a KDH interior minister in Slovakia, no investigator will proceed against anyone in such a way.”

It's too bad every other European government is allowing this to pass unnoticed. I wouldn't be surprised if David Blunkett uses the Swedes as an example of best practice to promote his own hate speech legislation.

The Slovaks, however, are putting their legislation where their mouth is. A new Penal Code is making its way through the parliament. no longer contains the article on the "defamation of nation, race, and belief". Instead it introduces the new crime of "disturbing the practicing of religion".

Posted by david at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Bureaucrats on the Street

In Chancellor Gordon Brown's spending review, he has decided that 100,000 civil service jobs must be cut. A first glance this sounds like a good thing. Cutting down the size of the bureaucracy - why not?

This means that 100,000 people will be out of work. If they can't find 100,000 jobs in the private sector, then all of the savings to the Budget in terms of salaries will be paid out in unemployment benefits.

One of the departments hardest hit will be Work and Pensions. When all the staff of the Job Centres are made redundant, they will walk around to the other side of their old desks and file Jobseeker's Allowance forms, if they can find anyone to receive the paperwork and process it.

Posted by david at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2004

The Most Dangerous Place in Britain

It's not a specific place. It's any number of hospitals across the country.

When Mrs H got an infection in her C-section wound before she left the hospital, we feared the worst. We are fortunate that it healed after only 6 weeks or so. We were never told that the adjacent Special Care Baby Unit, as well as a ward on the floor below, had been closed down due to infection while she was in the maternity ward.

The rate of infections acquired in hospital is roughly the same in the UK as it is in other developed countries. Given that we have a third world health care system, perhaps that is heartening. However, the problem is the proportion of infections that are caused by a superbug (or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA]). In Britain, 44% of hospital infections are from MRSA, whilst the proportion is only 1% in the Netherlands and Denmark, 11% in Austria, and 19% in Germany.

Get a bug in an NHS hospital and you have a good chance of being very, very ill for a very long time or just dying in a very short time. It is estimated that in the UK, 100,000 people are infected with the superbug every year, resulting in 5,000 deaths.

What is the main cause of this problem? Sure, it is exacerbated by the overuse of antibiotics, but that isn't the cause. Ineffective antibiotics do not cause infections - germs do. Why are there so many germs in British hospitals? Filth. Dirt. Grime. Lack of basic hygiene. Unwashed hands.

The Government is now going to go to extra lengths to encourage staff to wash their hands and observe basic hygiene. Should this require a Government initiative? Shouldn't doctors, nurses, and other health care workers just do this instinctively? John Reid, the Health Secretary, said "I want NHS patients to demand the highest standards of hygiene and, since human contact is a major way infection spreads in hospital, to feel happy to ask staff if they’ve washed their hands." Should you have to ask a doctor if he has washed his hands?

Posted by david at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)

July 08, 2004

Labour Supports Labour?

It is hard to believe. Tony Blair maybe supporting a move to lower the gestational limit on pre-natal infanticide. The current limit is 24 weeks. This was set during a free vote I observed from the Strangers Gallery in 1990.

However, current undeniable medical evidence has made arguments for 24 weeks based on fetal viabiliaty unviable. While insisting that it would be a free vote, Blair told MPs that “if the scientific evidence has shifted, then it is obviously sensible for us to take that into account”.

Ian Gibson, Labour chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, told The Times Wednesday, “There has been such a big inflow of information since we last set the limit that, putting all the political issues aside, there is a case for looking at it again.”

All of this has been brought to the forefront by a national newspaper - I think it was the Daily Mail - showing photographs of babies at 12 weeks moving and otherwise showing signs of sentience. Various pro-abortion rags have suggested that the photos are deceptive because they enlarge the actual size of the baby. After all, a 12-week-old baby is quite small. Apparently size is everything.

Though some campaigners are calling for the law to drop the limit for what some refer to as "social abortions" - what would better be called "selfish abortions" - to 12 weeks, this is unrealistically hopeful. I think 18 weeks is achievable and that will save at least a few more lives.

Posted by david at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2004

Undisciplined Nation

Parental rights are on the ropes here in the UK.

We are used to being under attack by the Government or the House of Commons (otherwise known as the Government's legislative puppet). Now it is the House of Lords.

There was an attempt to ban smacking (that's Britspeak for spanking) outright. Every parent who smacked a child would be guilty of a criminal offense and subject to a possible custodial sentence of six months. Amongst "child advocates" that is still the goal of their relentless campaign.

The total ban did not have the support of the Government, which supporters know they must have if they are to get it through the Commons. Instead, a compromise was agreed by 226-91. Under the compromise parents are allowed to use "mild smacking". This means that "causing bruises, reddening of the skin and mental harm" will become a criminal offence in England and Wales. This means that parents will have to consider carefully the implements they use. (There was a push by some groups to ban anything but the hand.)

I have to say that Tony Samphier of the Children Are Unbeatable! alliance was right when he said the outcome of Monday's vote was "shameful, unjust and irresponsible". Of course I don't agree with his namby-pamby flower-child completely out-to-lunch reason. It is people like Tony Samphier who are irresponsible.

How absolutely stupid are these people. They spout absolute rubbish like Liberal Democrat Baroness Walmsley who urged peers to vote in favour of the full ban. She said Britain's "culture of violence" was rooted in the acceptance that children could be smacked. The culture of violence in this country - and believe you me there is one - really only began after the unbiblical psychology of the 1960s took hold and there have been two generations with foolish bound in their hearts because they have not had the rod to drive it far from them. After all, it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God. Those who are still left believing in God don't believe He has anything particularly relevant, not to mention binding, to tell us.

The Government, through it's compromise with the Lords, has drawn its line in the sand. They are passed redefining families to include all manner of unnaturalness. They are now saying if families choose to follow the Bible, they will be criminals. It's time to break out the incense to Caesar folks. Maybe it will cover up the stench of children being sacrificed on his altar.

Posted by david at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2004

Eleven Score and Eight Years Ago

The Fourth of July goes fairly unnoticed over here. I suppose it isn't in the collective psyche of a nation to celebrate great defeats.

I wonder how things would have turned out if there had been taxation with representation and any major grievances had been addressed by Parliament and the King.

What would that representation have looked like in 1807 or 1833 when the major slavery legislation passed through Parliament? How would the slave states have reacted to the passage of that legislation? Would there have been a war of independence by just the southern colonies?

Would the American colonies have devolved, like Scotland? Or would they have been granted (or wanted) independence in the great break-up of the Empire?

Just thoughts I ponder as I sit on the other side of the Atlantic.

Posted by david at 02:44 AM | Comments (1)

July 02, 2004

Shoddy Journalism

Okay, one last thing about Cromasaig.

In the article in The Times, the writer tried put a little more umph behind his bias to get his point across.

He closed his article with this little non sequitur:

John Knox, in his 16th-century tract, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, was taking a stand against women ministers. Today, the Kirk has lots of them. In some respects at least, the stern North has moved with the times.

Unfortunately, he didn't even bother to check his facts. The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women has nothing to do with women ministers. Such an idea would have been unthinkable in Knox's time. It is rather about women rulers - specifically Catherine de Medici (Queen of France), Mary of Guise (Regent of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots), and Mary I of England.

I have emailed the home news editor of The Times about this inaccuracy, though I doubt I will get a response.

Posted by david at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

More on Cromasaig

This story has really taken off over here. Both Stephen Nock and Tom Forrest were guests on the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2, though not simultaneously. There were other guests - all of whom were homosexual. They were, of course, all outraged that this man would have some sort of choice concerning behaviours permitted in his own home. None of the guests on the show could grasp that Cromasaig is this man's home. They compared him to Nazis (comparing themselves the Jews, of course) and racists.

All of the guests also ignored the fact that the Forests have hosted many gay and lesbian couples. They have nothing against them personally. Tom Forrest even conceded that some of them many commit acts against nature in one of the twin beds. His point was that he drew the line where he chose to draw it in his own home.

Posted by david at 01:49 AM | Comments (2)

June 30, 2004

Last Bastion of Morality

Yes, there are isolated places on this island where Christian morality still reigns.

I do not think I can tell the story better than it appeared on Yahoo news:

It was a true clash of cultures. Stephen Nock, a gay man from London, assumed it would be a matter of routine to book a double room at a remote Scottish guest house for himself and his long-term partner.

But Tom Forrest, owner of the bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the Scottish Highlands, where a sometimes stern Presbyterian spirit remains strong, had other ideas.

He would be happy to rent the couple a room with twin beds at the guest house in the village of Kinlochewe, "but we will not condone your perversion" with a double bed, he wrote in an e-mail, the Times newspaper said Wednesday.

Angry at the response, Nock replied by suggesting that Forrest was bigoted.

"Bigot? No. Respect for other guests," came the reply.

"Homophobic? No, I have no hatred or fear of poofs, etc -- I just do not approve of unnatural acts being performed in my home."

Nock in return asked the Scottish tourism board to remove the guesthouse from a list of recommended accommodation on its website, saying that the prejudice had "depressed" him, the report said.

The tourism board asked the guest house owner to act differently, but he has refused to back down, saying he ran a "respectable" establishment.

"I have had bent people coming to stay, but they have had a twin room and respect our wishes," Forrest was quoted as saying.

It will be interesting to see what the Scottish tourist board does.

I did a little Googling and I found the B&B in question. Cromasaig seems to have two one-page websites. The second link will take you to the one that says: NB: We will only allow heterosexual couples and singles to occupy our double bedded rooms.

I've been through Kinlochewe - and it's a place you have to want to go through, as it is in the northwest Highlands. The scenery really is magnificent. If I ever get up that way again, we will probably stay with Tom and Liz Forrest.

Posted by david at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2004

Total Depravity

Okay, I found another story I just couldn't pass up.

Fifty member of the Silver Ring Thing have arrived in Britain with the message of chastity for teenagers. The unfortunate thing is that there message is aimed at virgins. They can't find any.

They have started in the town of Claygate, Surrey. As reported in The Times:

The only problem is that there seem to be no teenage virgins in Claygate. After a day spent scouring the village for candidates, The Times could not find anyone between the ages of 14 and 19 who even knew of such a person. One 15-year-old boy called Owen unwittingly summed up the situation when he asked: “What’s celibate?”

Claygate was chosen as a microcosm of Middle England. If they can't find a virgin there, there is little hope of success in the remainder of their tour, including Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. Okay, they might find a virgin in some of the Protestant strongholds of Belfast. But that's about it.

The Times interviewed "Tom" a 17-year-old whose typical view was, “It’s for churchy types. I don’t know anyone who is going, to be honest. They make too much of a deal about sex. It should be seen as more of a recreational thing.”

I think the Americans are going to be shocked at just how depraved this country is.

Posted by david at 04:04 PM | Comments (2)

June 20, 2004

Clinton Revealed

Okay, this entry will take just a minute.

Britain may actually get to see shades of the real Bill Clinton, which whom they so enamored. The front page of the Sunday Telegraph carries a story about the interview Clinton recently did with the BBC news programme Panorama. David Dimbleby interviewed Clinton as a part of the former President's publicity campaign for his autobiography.

When Dimbleby asked whether his contrition over the Monica Lewinsky affair was genuine Clinton became visibly rattled and angry. He first lashed out at the media in general and then at Dimbleby himself. According to one BBC executive who has seen the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday night, "He is visibly angry with Dimbleby's line of questioning and some of that anger gets directed at Dimbleby himself. As outbursts go, it is not just some flash that is over in an instant. It is something substantial and sustained.

"It is memorable television which will give the public a different insight into the President's character. It will leave them wondering whether he is as contrite as he says he is about past events. Dimbleby manages to remain calm and order is eventually restored."

I hope I have a chance to watch it.

Posted by david at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2004

Honour to Whom Honour is Due

I was able to watch the National Funeral for President Reagan after all. I managed to nick the aerial from one classroom and use the telly in another and stay until the caretaker finally kicked me out of the building. I saw everything up to the middle of the recessional out of the building.

I cried through most of it. I stopped when Rev. Sen. Ambassador-designate Danforth gave his homily. Now is it me, or which one actually did the preaching? Was is Danforth or W.?

Danforth was careful not to offend the Jew and the Muslim and any Anglicans present by referring to the Creator, Sustainer, and/or Comforter. Bush's references to the "the Lord" and "his saviour" carried more Christian conviction and he probably used more reference or allusion to Scripture. Danforth claimed his was the "religious" message, but I'm not so sure.

Did Bill Clinton take sleeping tablets before arriving, so all of the noise of the choirs and bands and orchestras and organ wouldn't disturb him? Perhaps it is how he managed to sit next to the most sour-faced woman on the planet, the capetbagging junior Senator from New York. He may have been more popular than his Democratic predecessor, but he and his puppetmaster could learn something about grace and dignity from the man and woman from Plains. The Clintons could never be pinned with the adjective "genteel". An event such as this just shows the stark contrast between the Clintons and the rest of those who have lived (or presently occupy) 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They really are a cut below. I am so glad Reagan outlived the Clinton presidency, or else we might have had to listen to an insincere, amorphous eulogy.

I'm very glad I got to see the national send off for Ronald Reagan. I wish my children were older so that they could have watched an appreciated it. I hope that those of you with older children made this event required viewing. They need to take this into their lives and tell their children's children that they saw the way the nation honoured the passing of the 40th President of the United States.

Posted by david at 11:24 PM | Comments (3)

June 10, 2004

Two Models of Behaviour

I am watching the end of the State Funeral of Ronald Reagan as the various dignitaries pay their respects and leave the Capitol, thanks to the coverage of the BBC. I would have loved to have had American coverage, but there was no way I could get to a satellite signal.

For which I cannot thank the BBC is their choice of "colour" commentator as sidekick to the BBC presenter Gavin Esler, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift. I couldn't have imagined that the BBC would have found someone more liberal than their own stable of reporters and commentators. They did.

As the funeral cortege made its way from the White House to the Hill, Ms Clift deemed this the appropriate time to criticise Reagan and his policies. As a nation stood still to honour his memory, she rattled on about how the nation was really worse off under Reagan because he didn't follow her self-evident welfare state views. I was incensed. Esler keep trying to steer her comments in a more positive and respectful direction, but she would have none of it.

At least they shut her up when the coffin arrived at the Capitol, though now they have loosed her tongue again.

By sharp contrast, I saw Baroness Thatcher as she paid her respects. She is of such frail health that is was doubtful that she would be able to attend. Even the BBC didn't know she was there and didn't pick her out during the service or the pre-service shots of the crowd. Yet she made it. Despite her very evident difficulty, after she leaned forward to kiss the coffin, she actually curtsied as if he were royalty.

Thatcher and Reagan brought together British-American relations like no two people until Mrs H married me. It was a much more politically honest relationship than that of Tony and W. The latter pair may have genuine affection for one another, but they are ideologically quite different. The Iron Lady and the Teflon President were two peas in a pod.

It appears that there will be no way for me to see the National Funeral on Friday. I am jealous of all my American resident friends.

Posted by david at 01:57 AM | Comments (2)

June 08, 2004

Worlds Within Worlds

As some of you may be aware the transit of Venus was visible from the UK for the first time since 1882.

It seems an appropriate time to share a link sent to me by Fr Pat Reardon. It helps to demonstrate what a wonderous creation God has made from the largest to the smallest detail.

Posted by david at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)

June 06, 2004

Reagan's European Legacy

It is perhaps ironic that those Europhiles in this country who would be the quickest to criticise Ronald Reagan and his presidency have him to thank for fulfilling their vision.

Of the ten countries that joined the EU on May 1 this year, eight began the 1980's under Communism. Of the three current applicant states, two are former Soviet client regimes. Thanks to Reagan, trade is free and travel is unrestricted from the Algarve to Estonia. The students who come to the Shire in the summer to pick strawberries would otherwise still be behind that iron curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.

Thousands of Orthodox priests, Protestant pastors, and others holding fast to the Faith would still be under persecution of aggressively atheistic regimes. I venerate the many New Martyrs of 20th century Europe, but I am also thankful their numbers are not being increased. Churches are no longer closed and bulldozed. Old and new churches are being opened. And yes, that is because God chose to use Ronald Reagan.

Posted by david at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

Ronald Reagan, RIP

I'm typing this is immediate response to the news that I just saw on Yahoo.

Reagan defined the politics in which I was nurtured. My father was a Reaganite from before 1976 and shared the platform with him on at least once occasion during the 1976 electoral season (in which my father was the GOP candidate for the 14th Congressional Distict of Texas).

Like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan defined a decade. That is probably why after Maggie, he is the most detested historical political figure in this country. I haven't seen any polls - this is based upon comments I get when discussing politics with various friends and colleagues and the references I see in the press. When Brits go Reagan-bashing, I just smile unless I have the opportunity to challenge them gently. The negative disposition toward American conservatism in this country, particularly amongst academics, is vehement and irrational enough that it is often pointless to try to get a word in edgewise.

His presidency wasn't perfect - but none are. He wasn't perfect - but no one is. However, he stood for domestic values and policies that emphasised personal responsibility. You can see how a country such as this one that proudly uses the term "welfare state" to descibe itself might not like that. In foreign policy, we saw the hastening of what would have been the inevitable downfall of Soviet-bloc communism.

I'm glad that President Reagan has died. He spent the last few years not even knowing the people around him, not to mention the mark he left on the world. Now that his soul has found the perfect healing of separation for the corruption of the body, he can truly be at peace.

Give rest, O God, to thy servant, and establish him in paraside, where the choirs of the saints and the righteous shine like the stars.

Posted by david at 01:30 AM | Comments (2)

June 03, 2004


Human reproductive cloning is illegal in the UK. Clones can be created but they must be destroyed by the 14th day. However, a loophole has been found in 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which allows scientists to create human-animal hybrids without even needing a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

It is already being done. According to The Times, "Last year, a team at Cambridge University fused the nuclei of adult human cells with frog eggs..." I'm not sure if this was an attempt to turn a frog into a prince, or vice versa.

This raises a myriad of theological issues. The whole question of the whether a clone has a soul is further complicated. Does a creature have to have 100% human DNA to be human? Did Christ die for frog-people? Clearly at this point there is little prospect of these embryonic lives maturing out of that stage. But if life begins at conception, what is conception?

Posted by david at 03:56 AM | Comments (0)

Cranmer's Successor

The Church that was founded to legitimise the divorce of a past king has finally given its approval for the marriage of a divorced future king. The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his approval for the marriage of HRH The Prince of Wales to his co-fornicator Camilla Parker Bowles. The Anglican Primate has the support of both liberal and evangelical wings of the Church.

This does not mean that Charles and his old lady can actually get married. The Royal Marriage of Act 1772 requires that he get the consent of his dear Mummy. HM the Queen has only met Mrs Parker Bowles a few times and has always been hostile to the idea of Charles' remarriage. However, it is difficult to say how much effect this change in the official view of the Church (of which she is the Head) will have on her own views.

I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. It would seem to me that once Diana was six feet under on her little island in Northamptonshire, Charles was freed from the bar against remarriage. Maybe my reading of Romans 7:2-3 is a little too simple. I can't say that I'm particularly keen on a Queen Camilla, but I think she probably wouldn't be the worst Consort in the history of the British Crown.

Posted by david at 03:34 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2004

Misplaced Pride

I'm not proud to be an American.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't gone all Euro. I'm not ashamed to be an American, either. I just am an American.

I didn't have any choice in the matter. By Divine Providence, my father is an American citizen and my mother is an American citizen. That either of them is a citizen is enough to confer that to me. It is not based on anything I've accomplished.

To be proud of one's accomplishments shows a lack of humilty. To be proud of the accidents of one's birth shows a lack of intelligence. I'm no more proud to be an American that I am proud to be a Christian. Even though as an Orthodox Christian I believe in more synergism (that I participate with God in working out my salvation with fear and trembling) than I did in my monergistic Calvinist days, my salvation is not my accomplishment.

When I think of the veterans assembling even now in the coastal towns and villages of Normandy, I am proud of what they accomplished 60 years ago in ridding the world of the Third Reich. Yet as I see them interviewed from time to time, they are not bursting with pride at what they did. I have yet to see one stand up and say, "I'm a hero!" Yet the leaders of many nations will gather together on Sunday to honour them. But it is not because they are Americans, or Brits or Canadians - it is because they served and gave of themselves.

Posted by david at 12:34 AM | Comments (4)

May 31, 2004

Back Home Again in... Wherever

I've lived away from Indiana for so long now that I forgot yesterday was the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. For ten years, it was unavoidable. I lived just a couple of miles from, and on the same side of town as, the Brickyard. It is the focal point for the civic calendar during the entire month of May.

I had never really cared for motor racing, but upon moving to Indianapolis, I quickly learned the names of the perennial drivers and teams. I moved to Indy over a qualification weekend in May, so my baptism was preceded by a very short catechumenate. Reading the results of the race, I now recognise very few names - evidence of my apostasy since leaving the Circle City for the rolling hills of the Shire.

The downside of living in Indianapolis was that after all of the hype and whilst having to put up with all the extra traffic on the Westside, had to listen to the race on the radio. Apparently it isn't enough to have an estimated 750,000 people inside the walls of the Motor Speedway (estimated because the Tony George and the IMS never reveal how many tickets they sell). The television rights always include a blackout provision for a 90-mile radius. As far as I am aware, this hasn't packed more people into the infield, as it isn't a particularly good place from which to view the race.

Anyhow, it looks like David Letterman's joint venture with Bobby Rahal has paid off and good for him.

Part of me misses Indianapolis, not for the race, but for the friends, the familiar streets, and the days between the blistering hot summers and the freezing cold winters. I find that part of me misses everywhere I've lived since I left home - the coastal plains of Gonzales, the dry rugged hill country of Junction, the Ozarks of Fayetteville, as well as the sprawling small town of 1.2 million that is metropolitan Indianapolis. I've be blessed to have never lived somewhere I really disliked. In each case, except Junction really, I've been happy to settle indefinitely. I didn't dislike Junction - I just never planned to stick around.

Part of me has always wanted to put down roots and become an established and recognised member of a local community. My destiny has never allowed this. I'm sure I'm just a transient resident of the Shire. But at the end of the day, we are all just passing through, so I suppose it doesn't really matter that much.

Posted by david at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2004

State-mandated Atheism

In this country we have an established religion, which, believe it or not, is a version of Christianity. However, most people who actually get married, and it isn't many of them, have the ceremony performed in a registry office. For those of you outside the UK, this is the same place that births and deaths are registered, kind of like a county clerk. It is like a JP wedding.

Even though Christianity is the legally recognised religion of the State, by Act of Parliament, "No religious service shall be used at any marriage solemnized in the office of a superintendent registrar." This has been intrepreted by the General Register Office as prohibiting the use of any religious words.

This means that all readings from poetry or prose are censored for anything that could be construed as religious content, even if it is unintentional. This was brought to the attention of the Sunday Times when someone wanted the 43rd of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese (you know the one: How do I love thee, Let me count the ways...) read at his wedding and he was told that he had to cut the last to lines because they included the word "God". It was also suspect because it contains the words "soul" and "grace". An undercover Sunday Times reporter approached several registry offices and got the same response.

It is one thing to allow for non-religious ceremonies. I can understand why non-religious couples would want to marry, as marriage has been reduced to a civil act carrying certain tax advantages. However, to bar any reference to a generic Almighty or even words like "soul" and "grace" is just silly. Clearly if the parties to the marriage want to include these words, then they are not offended by the references therein and that is all that should matter. In providing a non-religious venue, what interest is being served in censoring every single word of any religious origin which has seeped into the common vernacular?

Posted by david at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2004

Nowhere to Hide

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has announced that the Government is planning to tag released sex offenders. The tags will be monitored by satellite, so that the whereabouts of the convict will be known at all times any where in the world.

This a bad thing. Yes, I know everyone thinks of sex offenders as the lowest of the low and that they should all be strung up. And in the current environment, "sex offender" principally conjures up the image of child sex offender, the lowest of the lowest of the low. How could anyone think that any restriction placed on these people be challenged?

But sex offenders are just the easy target of the Government. They provide a means for implementing the first stage of its overall plan to tag all offenders and ex-offenders. This way, they can prove where the tagged individuals are at any time.

This is just another step toward a total surveillance society. Other aspects of this have been detailed in this blog from time to time. It's ever multiplying CCTV camera (I absolutely marvelled at the number I casually observed on the highways whilst driving back from London on Thursday) and road sensors linked to microchipped cars. This used to be the stuff of crack-pot conspiracy theories. Now this Government (and others such as the US Government, with it's all-access Patriot Act and Patriot Act II) are open about plans to keep tabs on the unwashed masses. It's not just criminals - we have to remember that anyone might be a terrorist or at least a supporter of terrorism.

Think the idea of limited government is rapidly becoming an historical concept.

Posted by david at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2004

Good Riddance

It has been reported in the news that there was a fire in East London and that a lot of modern art had been destroyed. Then I saw that it included "works" by Tracey Emin.

Sounds to me like someone was just burning the rubbish out back.

Posted by david at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2004

From a Distance

Just when you think the ubiquitous heavyhandedness of traffic control by speed camera couldn't get any worse, they have managed to add something new to the arsenal of weapons of mass driving license destruction. Having increased fine revenues and penalty points four-fold in just a couple of years, there is still more money to be made and more drivers to disqualify.

Heretofore, speed cameras have had one distinct disadvantage. If you can spot them before they spot you, you have a chance to slow down and get under the limit. In fact, with fixed cameras being housing in yellow boxes, they slow many more drivers than they actually catch. The mobile units tend to be in white vans parked on the side of the road, and though they do their best to hide around the bend to catch someone doing 10%+2mph over the speed limit (e.g., 35 in a 30 or 47 in a 40), sometimes they merely clam traffic.

So now police will be using the all-new the ProLaser III camera. It sounds like science fiction, but believe you me, it is factual enough be introduced in Dorset next month. As reported in The Times:

The policeman who operates the camera can stand on the road and point it at a car up to 2,000 metres away. The laser is then projected on to the vehicle and it bounces back to the camera, where the speed is recorded. The video in the camera then records the numberplate and the driver and the notice of impending conviction is sent through the post in the normal way.

For those of you who still measure distance the old fashioned way, the range of this camera is 1.25 miles. That's right, you can be more than a mile down the road, with no warning sign required, and you and your number plate will be photographed at the same time your speed is recorded. The first you will know about it is when the penalty notice comes through the door.

Posted by david at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2004

Foreign Race

In a post somewhat related to yesterday entry, the High Court in London has ruled that using the phrase "bloody foreigners" can be racist. This seems strange to me, as I didn't realise that "foreigner" was a particular race.

The case arises from the case of a 16-year-old who used the phrase in an argument with a Turkish-speaking chef in a Portsmouth kebab shop. The argument was about whether the youth had paid for his food. The drunk teenager then cracked the window of the shop.

Charged under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, he faced greater sanctions if it were shown that his criminal damage was racially motivated. The magistrates who originally heard the case decided that since he was motivated by the disagreement concerning payment, there could be not a racist element. The High Court overruled this. For the offence to be committed, all that was necessary was for the defendant "to demonstrate towards the victim hostility based on the victim's membership, or presumed membership, of a racial group", said the judge.

I'm still not clear what membership of a racial group, presumed or otherwise, was demonstrated. Is there a Turkish race? But the defendant didn't even say "bloody Turk". Apparently all foreigners are a racial group.

Now, tying this into the subject of yesterday's blog, it would seem that all the proponents of the migrant worker village need to do is have every opponent of the plan charged with racial hatred and jailed.

Posted by david at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2004

Dangers of Migrant Workers

It's not often that we make the national news here in the Shire. Unfortunately, we have made it thanks to the pervasive xenophobia of this county, which is equally only by those quaint Home Counties villages and their NIMBY attitudes toward detention centres for asylum seekers.

To briefly digress... One of the women in the one of those villages was recent sound-bitten on the Six O'Clock News and the only reason she could articulate against the asylum seekers was that they would bring sexually transmitted diseases with them. Actually, it is the asylum seekers who should be warned. They may not realise that in some areas 20% of all women are infected with chlamydia. Clearly the locals aren't waiting for some foreigner to lead them astray.

Anyhow... Here in the Shire we raise many agricultural products. One of the most important of these is strawberries. The problem is that picking strawberries is uncomfortable work. Manual labour. It is piece work, which means pays is related to productivity.

There are lots of manual labourers in this country. You can see them taking their break around worksites all day long. They aren't about to go picking soft fruit. But they will challenge the opportunity of someone who speaks a different language from doing so.

The largest strawberry operation in Europe regularly brings in hundreds of workers. Until this year, most of them had to had a special summer work permit, but now many of them are members of the EU. In order to meet their various needs of food, relaxation and entertainment, and reduce their burden on local services, their employer intended to build a mini village for them on his land. They would have had a swimming pool, cinema, shops, and other amenties, in addition to a static caravan site for accommodation. This would all be surrounded by a gaint fence, so as to not disturb the neighbouring farms.

Nothing could have been more controversial. Planning permission has been a running battle, even going up the High Court in London.

What is the basis for this xenophobia? I think many Britons are worried about people coming in who do not share the values of the dominant culture in this country. As I look at it, they have a point. Many of these people coming in just aren't like us.

They actually want to work and aren't afraid to do it. That is an affront to the can't-do won't-do underclass in this country. They have a lower per capita incidence of crimes of dishonesty. How is that going to make those feel who have lived a life of welfare-fiddling and nicking anything that isn't tied down (and some things that are)? Some of them even go the church! (I know, because some of them attend our little community during the picking season.)

Yes, they do present a challenge to our way of life. Can't have anyone around raising the standards. No sirree.

Posted by david at 01:07 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

Gary's Got it Right

Thanks to Serge, I read this article by Gary North on the implications of the Abu Ghraib situation.

I have been known to disagree with Scary Gary in the past, but I think he has it right in this instance.

Posted by david at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004


Today was the day. The home leg of the Nationwide Conference semi-final. We drew 1-1 at Aldershot and now it was time to show the what the team with the most goals and the longest winning streak in the Conference could do on their home pitch.

Most teams play against 11 men. Seems fair. 11 vs. 11. Aldershot played with 12. That 12th man was Andy Woolmer. I have never seen one person contribute so much to a team's performance. He was so special he even wore a different uniform. Whilst the rest of the Aldershot team wore red, Woolmer wore all black. He was clearly the man of the match. They couldn't have done it without him, and he didn't even touch the ball.

From the 21st minute Hereford were clearly outnumbered 10 to 12. That was when Andy Tretton was sent off as a result of an Oscar-worthy acting performance by Aaron McLean. Had McLean's acting been believable, Tretton should have gotten nothing more than a yellow card. Even Aldershot's manager commented, "A lot of referees would not have given that. If that had been one of my boys sent off like that then I would have been screaming and shouting."

From then on, it was clear that Andy Woolmer was playing for Aldershot. For the rest of the half, the crowd that had been loudly singing was loudly booing. It was like a black cloud came over the Edgar Street stadium. From that moment many people in the crown realised that 91 points, the most consecutive wins, and tying the Conference record for the number of goals in a season was all for nothing.

We had three more players booked for the tiniest of fouls and another for expressing his disbelief at one of these bookings. Aldershot clearly handled the ball three times. Remember, this is the kind of football where using your hands is a no-no. Aldershot would seem to be exempt from this rule. One of these handballs was in the penalty box, which should have given us a penalty kick. To quote the official Nationwide Conference website match report, "Referee Woolmer also infuriated Hereford fans by his failure to award a late spot-kick when Tim Sills clearly handled a cross from Tony James."

I did not agree with the comments of those in the stands who suggested that Mr Woolmer had invested a large sum with the bookmakers contingent on the outcome. Yet is does seem incomprehensible that one man could be so incompetent.

We held off their 12 with our 10 for 100 minutes. 90 minutes of scoreless regulation were followed by two 15-minute overtime period. Eventually it had to be decided by penalties. Aldershot won those 4-2.

If this was a one-off occurrance of a ref completely losing the plot, it would be one thing. But when I got home, I decided to do a little research. I have to say that Andy Woolmer has quite a reputation.

In March, Shrewbury Town beat Woking 1-0. However in both the Shrewsbury and Woking newspapers, the articles about the game were really articles about Andy Woolmer. The hometown rag of the winners, the Shropshire Star begins with: "It was very kind of referee Andy Woolmer to try and brighten up a mundane midweek match at the Meadow with his one-man comedy show." It goes on to use the terms muppet, wacky, pedantic, fussy, ropy, and "the man in the muddle". And that was what the winners had to say.

It's not his only poor performance at Edgar Street this year. Hereford only lost 4 home matches all season. Who refereed one of them? You guessed it. Andy Woolmer. Again, as the official Conference website match report states: "And referee Andy Woolmer also left an unwanted impression on the game," though it cites 2 red cards and 5 yellows, when the stats note a total of 10 yellow cards (two of which were second bookable offenses and resulted in the 2 reds).

He's bad enough that club managers, who face fines and other penalties for saying anything disparaging about referee, have been speaking out all season. This includes everyone from the manager of champions Chester City to another opponent of Aldershot Town that lost two points (in other words, a win became a draw) on the award of a dodgy penalty.

You may be thinking "what's the big deal - it's only a game". No, really, it's not. People's livelihoods are at stake. Not just the the folks that work for the club. Football brings money into the local economy. The bigger the club and the higher the division, the bigger the economic stake.

Andy Woolmer cost Hereford United and the local economy many, many thousands of pounds. Possibly millions of pounds. You'd think he'd understand this, because the crowd indicated he was involved in the financial services industry. They kept chanting in unison, "The referee's a banker!" Or at least it rhymed with that. I can't be sure.

I can be sure that Andy Woolmer needs to take off his whistle and little black outfit and sit at home and watch football from the comfort of his easy chair. We can't afford for him to do anything else.

Posted by david at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2004

Stupid, Not Ignorant

With the pictures of the maltreatment of Iraqi prisoners flashed around the world, the handful of American soldiers involved have pled ignorance. Not ignorance of what was going on -- that would be hard, given that they are grinning in some of the photos -- but ignorance that it was wrong. I heard one soldier on BBC radio saying that he didn't know what they were doing was in violation of the Geneva Convention. He said his superiors hadn't trained him in the protocols of the Convention.

I am shocked that he needed a superior officer to tell him that it isn't appropriate to put a hood on a prisoner, stand him on a box, attach wires to him, and tell him he will be electrocuted if he steps off. Why would you have the rules of the Geneva Convention to realise that you shouldn't make prisoners simulate sex acts or stack them naked in a human pyramid.

Is this the best the US military can find? Is this how these soldiers prove they can be all that they can be?

Posted by david at 08:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2004

Contrary Greeks

The citizens of Cyprus will be voting day after tomorrow on whether to re-unite the island that has been divided since 1974. Cyprus will be joining the European Union on May 1 either way. However, if the island is not politically reunified, then only the Greek sector will come within the fold of Europe.

A deal was worked out by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Now it is up to the Cypriots. Ethnically Turkish Northern Cyprus is set to vote "yes" by an overwhelming majority. It is the Greeks in the south who are like to vote "no".

Northern Cyprus has never been recognised by any country other than Turkey. Now that it want to join back with the thrice-larger ethnic Greek majority, the Greeks don't want them. The deal would require the Turkish Cypriot to withdraw from territory to allow 80,000 Greeks back to the homes they abandoned in 1974.

Even though this would benefit the Greeks, they will vote no just to harm the Turks. Otherwise they would be giving Turks a voice in unified Cyprus. I'm not one to generally favour the Turks, but it has to be remembered that Turkey only invaded Cyprus after a coup by Hellenists who were seeking political union with Greece. However, given that Turks gave the Greeks such a raw deal in removing them from Anatolia in the 1920s, the Greeks never want to miss a chance to return the favour.

Posted by david at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2004

Knocking Some Sense Into Them

In some parts I am well known for the lyrics:

Take me south to the Amazon trees,
Chop one down; make a bludgeon for me,
'Cause I'm going to Africa to club a baby seal --
And throw another log on the fire.

Well, they it's not in Africa, but in Canada that they are currently clubbing baby seals. Most of the UK media is incensed.

Finally someone has come along who as as much sense about this as I do. Boris Johnson, MP has an op/ed piece in the Daily Telegraph.

Posted by david at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004


Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, refused to speak at the annual conference of the largest teachers union. He actually told the House of Commons that he had “better things to do”. He snubbed the National Union of Teachers (NUT) because it refused to sign a national agreement on school workforce reform. The Government is trying to get teachers to agree with allowing unqualified classroom assistants to teach classes and the NUT refused to be bullied.

Clarke did go to the conference of the NASUWT, the second largest union, and used the opportunity to badmouth the NUT. He said “The idea that we would go down the path of reducing the number of teachers and increasing the number of teaching assistants is completely wrong. The suggestion is completely malicious and designed simply to mislead.”

Yet as I noted in February, this is entirely true. It is Mr Clarke who has been designed simply to mislead. He is a member of a Government which has spent the last seven years simply misleading.

Charlie Clarke is reason they can't find enough teachers. The combination of disingenuity and bureaucracy is more than most can take. If the Government would stop lying and stop the deforestation required for teachers to produce all of the paperwork, things might get better.

A secondary school teacher teaches about 20 hours a week. They work an average of 52 hours per week. Can you guess how almost 62% of their time is spent?

Posted by david at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2004

And the Children Shall Lead

Following up on yesterday's topic, it has now been revealed that the Electoral Commission wants to lower the age limits for Members of Parliament to 18 or lower. Campaigners want it to be lowered to 16 like the voting age.

This brings to mind the words of judgment in Isaiah 3:4, "I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them." Since we are already ruled over by Blair Babes, fifth-formers are the next logical step. I'm not sure how this will fit in with their Year 11 studies and preparation for their GCSEs. It would be a shame for 16-year-olds to leave school with no qualifications because they were too busy at Westminster and holding surgeries in their constituencies.

It would ease the burden on their parents of supplying pocket money. As noted in The Times:

There cannot be too many 16-year-olds who earn the equivalent of a backbench MP’s £57,485 salary, not to mention an £18,799 allowance for incidental costs and up to a £20,333 allowance for additional costs for those with constituencies outside London. MPs can also claim mileage or bicycle allowance when travelling on parliamentary duty. They are also entitled to a staff allowance of £64,000 to £74,000 and London-based MPs receive a London supplement of £1,574.

They'll need a lot of pockets for all that cash.

Posted by david at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2004

Never Too Young

The Electoral Commission is set to propose that the voting age in the UK be lowered to 16. The only other country in Europe to allow voters this young in national elections is Bosnia.

According to the results of a Mori poll, this would give Labour an extra 400 votes per constituency. A survey last year of 16- and 17-year-olds found that of those who expressed a preference, 60% supported Labour.

I actually expect this percentage to rise. Given that New Labour indoctrinating Citizenship is a required subject at school from age 4 to age 16, I expect little left-of-centre minds to be unleased on the voting booths of this country. The age will not be lowered until the General Election after the next one - probably 2009. That means that the 16-year-olds then will have had seven years of Citizenship.

For Americans who may be confused (or Brits who have no idea what is be done with their education system), Citizenship is not just about political literacy. It is not American-style Civics or Government. It promotes environmentalism and globalism. Being a "good citizen" means holding certain values in the spirit of this Age.

Tony Blair has taken very effective steps toward insuring that the election of 1997 represented a shift, not just in politics, but in the political spectrum. This is just another one of those steps.

Posted by david at 03:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2004

ID Cards Through the Back Door

Home Secretary David Blunkett has been trying every which way to get mandatory ID cards imposed on everyone in this country. Even though he has the support of Tony Blair, there was such opposition in the Cabinet to his plans he thought he was going to have to shelve them for years.

If there's one thing we can't afford in this new era of the War on Terrorism, it is personal freedom and privacy. The only way for the Government to stop the terrorists is to keep tabs on everyone at all times. Don't think this is just a Blair/Blunkett obsession. If you are on the other side of the Pond, just read the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II.

Blunkett is going to get his cards by starting with foreigners. No one cares what they do with foreigners, as long as they keep out as many as possible. It is anticipated that all non-EU citizens will have to register for the mean the card by 2007.

It has now been revealed by Mr Blunkett himself that this legislation will be extended to everyone else by order in Parliament, not by proper legislation. This means all that is required is to schedule a single day for floor debate with a simple majority up or down vote at the end.

Once there is full coverage, the card will be compulsory for access to any and all public services.

Posted by david at 03:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2004

Scammer in the Slammer

Has someone in Nigeria specially chosen to entrust you with millions of dollars or pounds, because they know you are honest? Are they willing to launder their hard-earned money through your bank account to keep it out of the hands of an unscrupulous government? Do they just need your bank details and you will get to keep a substantial percentage, just for being a good neighbour? Oh, and then there's an unexpected problem and they just need a little cash to facilitate freeing up the money in Africa?

In at least one of those cases, that someone was Peter Ewalefoh Okoeguale. He may not have fooled you, but he did con thousands of pounds out of victims. He wasn't in Nigeria. He was in the UK and Ireland. It was as he was about to catch the ferry from North Wales to the Irish Republic that he was caught.

According to the Press Association, "North Wales Police said that discs found on Okoeguale contained thousands of e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of companies and individuals from Scotland, the US, the Middle East, and the Far East. Using the documents officers traced 11 victims, including one in Scotland who lost up to £20,000, and a retired 72-year-old American businessman who lost $46,500."

Okoeguale was jailed for 20 months at Caernarfon Crown Court today.

Posted by david at 09:41 PM | Comments (1)

March 31, 2004

Turning on the Taps

Under the guise of gathering evidence against the UK's 5000 most persistent offenders, characterised as teenage "tearaways", Tony Blair has proposed relaxing surveillance laws. This would include increasing the power to tap phones and emails.

Currently, the law restricts phone tapping so that it can only be used against those over 21 who are likely to commit an offence punishable by a sentence of at least three years. Not good enough for Tony. He said, “The Metropolitan Police believe the threshold is too high for intrusive surveillance and prevents them from carrying out such activity on the people who may be prolific offenders but whose offending has not reached the level required by the Act. We will review this situation with them and, if necessary, legislate to give the police the powers they need.”

Of course once they modify the law, there little to keep the police from doing whatever they want. They will listen when and where they want. They will read any email.

Home Secretary David Blunkett published a White Paper on Monday proposing a British version of the FBI. I think the letters he's looking for are KGB.

Posted by david at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2004

Reparations for Aidan

Descendants of African slaves who ended up in America have filed suit against Lloyd's of London for insuring some of the ships that transported their ancestors between two hundred and three hundred years ago. (The importation of slaves was outlawed in 1808.) They claim they are suffereing because the actions of Lloyd's.

Their lawyer, Edward Fagan has claimed, "Lloyd's knew what they were doing led to the destruction of indigenous populations. They took people, put them on board ships and wiped out their identities." Responding to suggestions that events were too far in the past, he said, "There's ongoing injuries that these people suffer from. Why is it too far fetched to say blacks should be entitled to compensation for damages and genocide committed against them, when every other group in the world that has been victimised in this way has been?"

I don't think every other group in the world has been compensated. I'm not even going to mention the Armenians or the Ukrainians. I'm going to act on Aidan's behalf and file suit against the English Crown. Aidie is half Welsh and he has suffered from the conquest of Wales by the English and denied his true identity. Not only that, but some of Mrs H's family came to Wales from Ireland because they were persecuted by -- you guessed it -- agents of the Crown. I'll claim compensation for that as well.

One plaintiff, Deadria Farmer-Paellman said the slave trade denied her identity. "Today I suffer from the injury of not knowing who I am, having no nationality or ethnic group as a result of acts committed by these parties."

I was under the impression that her nationality is American. Just like most other Americans her ethnic group is American. Most white Americans have no other ethnic group, because their English, Irish, German, French, Scottish, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Russian, Welsh, Estonian, Bohemian, and Magyar ancestors all intermarried.

Frankly, that raises the whole issue of the Roman invasion of Britain. I'll lodging a complaint in the Eternal City against the successors to that regime, the government headed up by Mr Berlusconi. After all, the Italians of 2000 years ago knew exactly what they were doing when they drove the British tribes west -- forcing them from hearth and hovel. What is Welsh really, other than a forced amalgamation of ethnically distinct Celtic tribes, each with its own cultural identity? They may have lost all distinctiveness centuries ago, but according to Mr Fagan, it doesn't matter that this is in the past. Those who suffer for past wrongs on their ancestors should be compensated.

Is Aidie ethnically Dobunni, Cordovii, Demetae, or Iceni? Is he Deceangi, Carvetii, Coritani, or Atrebates? He'll never know. I will indoctrinate him with the fact that he will never know. We will spend all of Celtic History Month telling him just how bad he's got it. He is suffering and I am outraged. Cough up, Mr Berlusconi.

Posted by david at 08:05 AM | Comments (4)

March 25, 2004

Fly Me to the Moon

Today I seredipitously came across the a public hearing of the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond. Among other presentations, I got to see Buzz Aldrin.

I called Aidie over to the computer to see one of the men who walked on the Moon. He has no concept of what that means. I thought it was important for me to at least tell him in future years that even though he doesn't remember it, he saw the second man to walk on the Moon.

I think it is sad that by the time we go back to the Moon, most of the men who pioneered this new world may very well be dead. Of the twelve men who have has Moon dust on their boots, two (Alan Shepard and Jim Irwin) are gone already. The youngest one alive (Charlie Duke) will be 69 in October. The youngest man to have even been around the moon (Ken Mattingly) turned 68 last week. If it takes ten years to set up a permanent base, most of those still around will be in their mid-80s.

One of the things that has come out of the public hearing is that if space travel is to ever be made feasible, it is going to have to be driven by industry and not government. As one witness stated, government programmes are not sustainable.

When it comes to manned Mars missions, politics will have to taken out of the equation. In a situation where a Martian tour of duty will have to be in range of five years and multiple overlapping missions (which is the only way to keep a permanent presence on the red planet and make it worthwhile), there isn't room for budget cutting and programme shelving.

On a sad note, I learned today that Bart Howard passed away just over a month ago at the age of 88. Bart didn't contribute directly to the space programme. In fact, he didn't really contribute indirectly. He did write a song that was picked up by Frank Sinatra:

Fly me to the moon
Let me play amoung the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars

I'll never make it to the Moon, but I just hope that someone sees what spring is like on Mars before I turn 88.

Posted by david at 07:11 PM | Comments (2)

March 24, 2004

A Taste of Scotland

Britain has many indigenous culinary creations. It is the land of fish & chips, shepherds pie, Yorkshire pudding, and tikka masala. Now it has the deep-fried chocolate sandwich. Developed in an Edinburgh hotel, it has spread like wildfire north of the border.

Each sandwich contains over 1,000 calories. It is comprised of two slices of white bread smothered in chocolate sauce, dipped in batter and deep-fried, then covered in sugar and more chocolate sauce. It is served with vanilla ice-cream. Not exactly health food.

It should not be surprising that it come from Scotland. It is the country that gave us the deep-fried Mars bar. Perhaps it is another attempt to associate Scotland with something other than its principle contribution to the palate, chopped up sheep's pluck (heart, liver, lungs) and suet cooked in a sheep's stomach, otherwise known as haggis.

Posted by david at 10:46 PM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2004

Stay of Constitutional Execution

Tony Blair has been forced to shelve his plans to dump the remaining 92 hereditary peers from the House of Lords. All but this remnant were kicked out in 1999 and the self-appointed destroyer of the British constitution had pledged to dismiss the rest before next General Election.

It is the Lords themselves (both hereditary and life peers) who have made it clear that these latest changes would not get though their House successfully. They have forced the bill to create a Supreme Court into committee, sending a clear message to the Government that dismantling one house of the legislature without something to put in its place is not going to work.

Tony has wanted the House of Lord to be comprised entirely of his appointees, as that is the only way to get some of his personal agenda imposed on the British public. His excuse for getting rid of the hereditaries is that someone shouldn't be born into a role in government. Apparently it is better to have someone appointed in his patronage, rather than the great-great-grandson of someone appointed in someone else's patronage. He says the situation now is unacceptable in a democratic society and wants to replace it with a decidedly undemocratic solution.

However, with too much opposition to pure cronyism, Tony has no back-up plan. He wants to leave the British constitution floundering. Given the track record of his Government, he is very experienced at floundering.

Posted by david at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

In the Shadow of Ararat

I was at the opticians yesterday to pick up my first new pair of contact lenses in at least six or seven years. Expecting to find the usual supply of very outdated magazines in the waiting room, I was pleasantly surprised to see this month's issue of National Geographic.

It's not that I'm usually a reader of this publication. What caught my eye was mention of Armenia on the cover. Unfortunately, they are so efficient at my opticians that I was unable to finish the 22-page article. What I read was so good that I immediately went out to WH Smith and bought the magazine so I could finish it. If you have a local vendor of National Geographic, I recommend the purchase of this issue.

In addition to highlighting the plight of the Armenians past and present, it has a very positive take on the Armenian Church and the spiritual heritage of the Armenian people. Until now I have to admit that I was unaware of 4th/5th century St Mesrob, who was given the Armenian alphabet by God and then with a host of monks and others went about translating the literature of the day into it.

When I was at WH Smith, I was surprised to find that the magazine of the Royal Geographic Society, Geographical, also has an article on Armenia in this month's issue. I bought it while I was there, but I haven't had a chance to read it.

I know there are certain Chalcedonian issues to be worked out, but I would encourage you to join St Mesrob and St Gregory the Illuminator in praying for our Armenian brethren, as they are in great economic trouble, with their borders to Turkey and Azerbaijan closed against them and the constant fighting in Nagorno Karabakh.

Posted by david at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Needing a New Jigsaw

We recent got the Marks & Spencer jigsaw of the solar system as was recommending in a comment to a previous blog entry. Aidie is able to do most of it. He can put the planets together, though he needs a bit of help getting the whole thing attached. It takes up half the length of the lounge.

We have lost a piece of Pluto. We looked under all the furniture but as Aidie tells everyone who sees the puzzle, "missing!" But this may not be a problem after all. We may have to remove all the Pluto pieces.

Pluto is in danger of being demoted. Thanks to the discovery of the object preliminarily dubbed Sedna, it may be determined that Pluto isn't a planet after all. Sedna, named after an Inuit sea goddess (what? they can't come up with another Roman deity?) is not much smaller than Pluto, even though it is 5 billion miles further away from the Sun.

Many astonomers have long wanted to consign Pluto to the Kuiper Belt. Even though it is the largest body found in this region of space, it is considered by some to have no more significance than Quoaor. This would make Aidie unhappy. When he recites the planets, or now names them as he puts them together in the puzzle, he announces with triumphal finality, "Pluto!".

Posted by david at 10:39 PM | Comments (2)

Showing Appreciation

Thanks to Jonathan David over at Philalethia I have been informed(albeit belatedly, as I haven't been able to make the usual blog rounds for a few days) about the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.

I hope no one lets me miss out on National Day of Appreciation for Serial Killers. Oh, and has anyone remembered to nominate Robert Mugabe for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Posted by david at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Policy of Promiscuity

Britons may think America's abstinence education is silly and that it isn't particularly effective but they really have no room to talk. In a country where £63 million has been poured into the Department of Health's Teenage Pregnany Strategy, the rate of teenage pregnancy continues to skyrocket.

The latest available figures are for 2002. In that year, there were 39,286 pregnancies among girls under 18. That was up from 38,439 in 2001. 46% of the 2001 pregnancies in this age group resulted in an infant murder.

From 1998 to 2002 the rate of teenage pregnancy in Oxfordshire has increased 31.8 per 1000 girls to 36.9 per 1000. In Nottinghamshire, the pregnancy rate went up by 17.5% in just one year. Now 78.6 per 1000 under-18s get pregnant. This does not include babies flushed down the toilet after the use of the "morning after" abortifacient pill, which some pharmacies give free of charge. The 2002 figures for the London borough of Lambeth is a staggering 100.4 per 1000 girls.

The Teenage Pregnancy Unit is convinced its strategy is working. Its strategy includes a list of websites on the front page of its own website, every one of which encourages promiscuity. I won't link to them, but you can see them for yourself. I will warn you that some of them are not for the faint of heart. On the Brook site, you can play a Flash video game and shoot at sperm with a condom gun. The RU Thinking site, which is clearly aimed at young teens, will tell you everything, and has a whole section on "You and your rights" emphasising that no matter how young you are, you can get whatever you want or need without your parents ever having to know.

On the TPU site, they are proud to show that the percentage of under-18 pregnancies ending in abortion in rising each year. They may not be stopping the pregnancies, but they are stopping the babies dead in their tracks.

Posted by david at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004

Empty Pockets - Bulging Coffers

Given that much of life over the last month has revolved around death, Mrs H and I changed the topic tonight to taxes.

The basic rate of income tax is 22%. The usual rate of national insurance tax for an employee is 11%. There goes 33% before anything goes in the bank. But don't keep it in the bank too long. Savings are also taxed at the same rate as income tax (this is directly debited by the Inland Revenue). I mentioned a few days ago that they are taking up to 50% on certain kinds of income that Mrs H and I aren't in a position to enjoy.

Spend the money that's left and 17.5% percent of every purchase is tax. This includes our phone bill. Except petrol, of course. I filled up my tank yesterday at a cost of $70.00. 80% of that was tax. Every time I fill my tank, I gove the Government another $56.00 or so. I fill up my car about once a week. That means I pay the Goverment over $200.00 in tax each month. That doesn't include the road tax for the car of $320 per year.

Then there is council tax. The normal rate for our tiny rented property is about $176 per month. Then for the privilege of having a TV we pay $18 per month. That's only to watch the five broadcast channels with the aid of a aerial. Even if with had digital or cable or satellite, we would still have to pay the TV license on top of those costs (which would be again taxed at 17.5%).

Those are the taxes we could think of off the top of our heads. We realised that it is amazing that we (or anyone else in this country) still has any money.

Posted by david at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

Keeping it Quiet

The Government have always claimed that speed camera are situated in locations with at least four deaths or serious injuries, or eight injuries of any severity, in the previous three years. The casualties must have happened within one kilometre of the camera site. This is how they have justified the proliferation of these nerfarious devices. Those were the rules promulgated by the Department of Transporations in 2002 in their guideline handbook.

What the Government hasn't heretofore mentioned is that they quietly changed the rules in October of last year. They now allow 15% of the cameras to be placed at sites that do not meet the guidelines. “Tolerance is included for partnerships to enforce at sites that do not meet the criteria set out in this handbook.”

The DoT quietly slipped the handbook into the library of the House of Commons, thus officially putting MP on notice. They never actually announced, either to the press or the floor of the House (protocol indicating the latter, the practices of this Government usually preferring the former) that the rules had changed. Thus, when people wrote to their MPs complaining about the ubiquitous cameras, they were confidently reassured that the very restrictive guidelines made sure it was all a matter of public safety.

How did this come to light? The Government announced yesterday that all of the 5000 camera complied with its guidelines. It couldn't have been more obvious that this was a completely absurd claim. As it turned out it wasn't the claim that was unbelievable - it was once again the Government.

Posted by david at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

A Case of Cold Feet and Genocide

Harry Blackmun penned the words that condemned thousands upon thousands children to death. After he wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, he defended it from numerous challenges. On the fifth anniversary of his own death, his papers became available to the public.

We now know that nearly 12 years ago, Roe was almost completely overturned. Planned Parenthood v. Casey was almost decided another way. Chief Justice Rehnquist had lined up five justices for a clear majority opinion. Then Justice Anthony Kennedy got cold feet. In a position that should be free from political pressure, he caved in.

Rehnquist was already writing up the majority opinion. A lifeline was being thrown to those little lives drowning in the sea of selfishness and convenience. About 1¾ million have been killed since the Casey decision. Anthony Kennedy cut the lifeline and left them to die.

Posted by david at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2004

What's in a Name?

In a move to further separate this country from his history, values, traditions, and form of government, the Government is renaming things. It has announced that it will be changing the name of the Crown Prosecution Service to the Public Prosecution Service. This follows on the changing of the Her Majesty's Prison Service to the National Offender Management Service.

The Constitutional Affairs spokesman for the Conservative Party noted, "It is all part of an increasingly obvious agenda to remove the Crown from everything. The government thinks Downing Street is on top of the pile and the world can follow suit."

This is further evidence of Tony's desire to be a president rather than a prime minister. He does not like the fact that he is not the Head of State.

Posted by david at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

Tony Giveth and Tony Taketh Away

When the Government decided last year to allow families to send free parcels weighing up to 4lbs to their loved ones serving in Iraq, Tony Blair announced it personally to a packed House and TV cameras during Prime Minister's question time. When this was cancelled by the Government on Friday, it was quietly announced by a junior Armed Forces Minister. It was done on Friday because the House of Commons is typically virtually empty, with MPs travelling back to their constituencies for the weekend.

Now families will have to pay £7.23 for every package they send. That's about $14.00. Even if it weigh far less that 4lbs, they will still have to pay the full amount. Want to send a picture and a card to Daddy? That will be £7.23, thank you very much. Want to send him essential toiletries or a flak jacket that the MOD is too tight-fisted to provide? Again, £7.23. Well, if the body armour weighs over 4lbs, then I'm sure it will cost a lot more to send.

The Conservative defence spokesman said, "This carries meanness too far." His counterpart for the Liberal Democrats, our own MP here in Hooterville, called it "ministerial penny-pinching of the worst sort."

The be fair, the US Government does not offer free postage for parcels to loved ones in the military. But does it charge $14.00 for 1oz-4lbs? Not hardly. For $14.00 you can send around 14lbs. Oh, but the US military already supplies flak jackets and other essential military equipment. Wanna send a card to Daddy? That'll be 37 cents, please.

Posted by david at 11:51 PM | Comments (3)

February 27, 2004

In Loco Parentis

From today parents can be issued fixed penalty notices, much like parking tickets, for up to £100 if their children are truant from school. Who has been given policing powers to issue these fines? Educational welfare officers and head teachers. Under the new act, magistrates also have the power to order parents into counselling.

This legislation has been brought about because, in the words of Education Minister Ivan Lewis, "Children have a fundamental right to an education." And if they aren't going to exercise that right, by golly, they are going to pay. Lewis emphasised that in local truacy sweeps, often half of the children caught out of school without permission are with their parents. What business parents have being with their children without the permission of the school, we can only imagine.

"Where parents are unable to fulfil their responsibilities, parenting contracts will provide them with the professional support they need and focus on what needs to be done to improve their child's attendance or behaviour.

"However, where parents are simply unwilling to fulfil their responsibilities, it must be right that society demands legal sanctions, and penalty notices for truancy will provide due accountability."

Bad enough? Ah, but there's more...

The Association for Education Welfare Management has asked the Children's Minister, Margaret Hodge, for the power to check up on home educators. Currently the local education authorities have no responsibility to make enquiries about homeschooling families. The forthcoming Children Bill may have something to say about that.

Jenny Price, the Association's general secretary, said, "We believe that the forthcoming Children Bill, together with the new education service arrangements for safeguarding children, offer a most useful opportunity to develop and implement effective practice in this area."

The Children Bill, which promises to be the most far reaching reform of children's services for 30 years, will use the excuse of protecting children to remove as many educational rights from parents as possible and insure that children are purely creatures of the State.

Proponents of the Bill are even using non sequitur scare tactics to support their position. Ms Price supported her views by saying, "Let's not mince words: there are paedophiles who know how to make contact with children and parents." That's right, unless your children are safe at school, they are likely to be abused by paedophiles, even if they are with you.

Homeschoolers realise that the plan is to play on the ignorance of educators and the general public. The spokesperson for Education Otherwise, the biggest UK organisation representing home educators, commented, "Currently many professionals who come into contact with children are unaware that home education is equal in statute with school education and that home educated children are at no greater risk of educational failure, social exclusion, neglect or abuse than those who go to school."

If this Government gets its way with the Children Bill, you can be sure who will be the big losers: parents, and of course, children.

Posted by david at 03:46 PM | Comments (1)

February 25, 2004

Bye Bye Baby

The election of 1997 saw a large number of women come into Parliament. The Blair-led Labour Party wanted to appeal to the more women, so they put up a lot of women candidates, particularly in seats with significant Tory majorities and little hope of success. In the landslide that followed, many of these women, dubbed "Blair Babes", joined the backbenches.

Jane Griffiths standing in Reading East was one of those Babes. She even increase her majority at the 2001 election. However, under Labour Party rules the activists in the local constituency have the option to deselect an MP for the next election and name another prospective candidate. That's what has happened in Reading East.

Ms Griffiths has not been accused of impropriety. She's just not the quality of candidate that her local Labour Party is looking for. She will be replaced as a candidate at the next election by Tony Page, who may have no record on the issues, but has a record of cottaging offenses.

Cottaging is the practice of having gay sex in public toilets. The Government has planned to make it legal, but had to abandon this while the legislation was in committee. Maybe Mr Page can work to change all of this.

Posted by david at 12:13 AM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2004

Replacing One Tax with Another

As reported here a few days ago, the Government's Strategy Unit was proposing the taxing of fatty foods. Because this was disclosed in The Times, the Treasury and the Health Department got upset and the report was re-written. The paragraph about the fat tax now says that the idea came from the British Medical Association. The Government disowns it by saying, "However, there are no signs that any current Western government sees policies of this kind as desirable or feasible."

Don't think that Blair & Co are reducing their lust for money. Inland Revenue (our version of the IRS) has assumed new powers to charge a 50% tax rate on incomes for those who have income outside their regular employment, such a rental property, free lance work, or investments. Rather than being taxed on a separate return, it will be taken directly out of pay cheques.

Posted by david at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2004

Ultimate Pop Star

Surveys are only as good as the source group. Ask who is the greatest pop star of all time and answers will vary widely. One way to avoid asking opinions and yet get a reliable answer is to look at the actual number of records sold. Or more specifically, singles.

So who has sold more singles in the UK than any other artist or group? I was surprised at who wasn’t on top. It wasn’t the Beatles. It wasn’t Elvis. It wasn’t even Elton John. And the biggest surprise of all – it was a Christian. Someone who is actually well known as a Christian in this godless land and almost unknown in the USA.

Sir Cliff Richard has sold 20.96 million singles in a career that has spanned five decades. In fact, he is the only artist to have had a Number 1 hit the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. He’s still after his first Number 1 of the ‘00s. He is a clean-living, soft-spoken, scandal-free man – enormously wealthy and not at all flashy – hardly the proper example of a pop star.

Posted by david at 10:23 PM | Comments (7)

February 22, 2004

Education on the Cheap

The Goverment has come up with a way to save lots of money spent on education. They could save as much as £2.2 billion by increasing class sizes. Forget that old target of reducing class sizes to improve the quality of teaching and learning. That's yesterday's wisdom. Now they want to increase the size of secondary school class to as large as 90 pupils.

Now I know you are think that 90 teenagers is a lot for a teacher to control. Don't worry, the Government has thought of that. They are doing away with teachers. After all school are only legally required to have one person on staff with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). That could be the headteacher (as school principals are known in this country).

Before they get to that point, they will have one teacher over each of these mega-classes with cheap unqualified teaching assistants helping out.

The report by Sir Peter Gershon, head of the Government’s efficiency review notes: “Gone are the days of every school having to have a full ‘complement’ of directly employed QTS teachers. Staff could be bought in from agencies or come in on secondment.”

Even though it is a report from a Government-appointed review body, ministers were trying to distance themselves from it. This is a bit disingenuous, given that Education Secretary Charles Clarke already signed an agreement on workforce reform with most school unions last year that included a provision for teachers to supervise classes of up to 60 pupils.

Posted by david at 02:41 AM | Comments (2)

February 21, 2004

The Joke's on Them

Being on this side of the Pond, I have been a distant observer of the flap over Conan O'Brien's trip to Canada. Thus, I haven't really been fired up to write about it.

National Review and Telegraph columnist (and Canadian) Mark Steyn has captured it perfectly. Many thanks to Fr Pat Reardon for sending me the link to Steyn's article in the online version of the Wall Street Jounal.

Posted by david at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

With Lots of Salt and Vinegar

Hooterville is now the home of a world record. Yesterday the owner of a local chippy and former mayor set the record for the largest bag of chips. Out at the local racecourse, he set up a bank of industrial fryers and brought in boxes and boxes of chips.

The old record was around 397 lbs. Alan Williams, who always promised to buy a website from me in my previous employment but never did, started frying at about 9:30 yesterday morning and broke the record about 1:00. Not wanting to be outdone anytime soon, he kept feeding the baskets with cold potatoes and dumping hot chips into the giant bag. By the time he was finished he nearly doubled the previous mark set by some Belgians. When I rang his chip shop today, he was out and none of the ladies working there were sure of the exact weight - just that it was around 800 lbs.

That's one big bag of chips. There was no information about how much salt and vinegar was required.

Posted by david at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2004

Higher Taxes for Food and Shelter

You might not know it from my recent entries, what with everything that's been going on, but I haven't been ignoring the world around me. Besides, I have at least one UK reader who depends on me as their sole news source, and I can't let down my readers.

It will come as no surprise that taxes are going up again and I'm complaining about it. We are lucky here in the Shire. Our council tax (the money raised locally to fund local government - combined with money supplied by central government) is only going up by 10.4% this year. Council tax is similar to property tax in the US, except that it is levied on the occupants of a property, not the owners. It is a personal tax based on the roof over your head. And rather than being assessed on the actual value of the property, the accommodation is placed in a one of four tax rate bands.

The exception is second homes. People who have holiday homes in the Shire will see their council tax rise by 90%. That is not a misprint or a mistype. Ninety percent. The only reason it is 90% is that this this the maximum allowed by law. The purpose of council tax is to fund local services. Mrs H commented to me that isn't exactly fair that those who principally live elsewhere and only occasionally use local services should pay by far the largest amount to support them.

But back to our single-home dwellers... 83-year-old Elizabeth Winkfield is headed for prison because she won't pay the almost 18% increase where she lives in Devon. She lives on a state pension (social security) of £312 a month. Her council tax went up by £99. By contrast, old age pension increased by 1.7% last year. Relative youngster, 71-year-old Sylvia Hardy is going to jail because the increase in tax for her flat, one band lower that Winkfield's, is £91.

These ladies and other pensioners are likely to be around longer to keep paying council tax because the Government is now planning to tax unhealthy food more heavily. Restaurant food has always been taxed with 17.5% VAT (sales tax) like most other retail goods. Supermarket food has always been exempt. Now foods with unsaturated fat (e.g., milk, cheese, butter) or otherwise deemed less desirable by the Government will be 17.5% more expensive to drive consumers away from them - and of course to raise more money for the Treasury from those who just can't obey and eat what they are told to eat.

Posted by david at 11:43 PM | Comments (3)

January 31, 2004


It appears that the Government are the only ones who actually believe the findings of the Hutton report. For my Stateside readers, this is the report on the inquiry concerning whether the BBC's Andrew Gilligan incorrectly exposed the Government faking and "sexing up" intelligence information concerning the war in Iraq and how the name of Dr David Kelly was revealed at the source of information, which led to his apparent suicide. Is that convoluted enough?

Lord Hutton, appointed by the Government, came up with the conclusion that the Government - wait for the startling revelation - did nothing wrong. While they are busy demanding apologies from the BBC, the Tory front bench, and anyone else who might have suggested that they have the moral backbone of a jellyfish, the public don't buy it. It has led to the resignation of the chairman of the BBC board of governors Gavyn Davies and the corporation's Director-General Greg Dyke.

Even with their own man at the top of the day-to-day operations (Dyke was a big New Labour supporter prior to his appointment as D-G), the Government were unable to keep it in line. As a result, the Government is looking to set more controls to make sure any reports about it are 100% accurate. That would be 100% accurate in reciting the Government's official position as the truth.

When comparing the BBC and the Government, it is hard to pick a favourite. The Beeb is not unbiased. Whilst I have been ambivalent about the war, the Beeb has pursued an anti-war agenda generally and anti-Bush agenda unabashedly. Nonetheless, this bias may have driven it toward the investigative journalism that exposed the Government.

Even though most people believe the Beeb, or at least believe it more than the Government in this particular instance, this doesn't seem to matter one bit to the Number 10 Spin Machine. After all, just because only 27% of the public believe the Government in the wake of Hutton, this probably will not be enough to keep them out of power at the next election.

Posted by david at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2004

Snow? Where Did That Come From?

You would think that a country that spends so much time in the cold would be prepared to handle a little winter weather.

If a flake of snow falls, the nation grinds to a halt. People are stuck in traffic for eight or nine hours trying to get home from work, in many cases justs a couple of miles down the road. That's what happened in Birmingham yesterday. Last year, it was people spending the night on the M11 motorway in East Anglia. The same motorway was trouble again, as were the M1, M4, and countless other major roads.

Here in the Shire, we had minimal snow and ice. Minimal enough that the class I had to attend went ahead. However the high school where my class was being held shut for the day. The buses refused to go pick up pupils out in the country.

Up in Scotland, where they really should be ready for this, 11 principle highways were shut.

In London, seven Tube lines had disruptions. Four of them had no service for most of the day. Weather problems with the Underground - most of which is, well, rather obviously, under ground? Above ground parts of central London were at a standstill. The capital was in chaos. What shut down a city of 8 million? A snowfall that varied from less than a inch to a massive two inches in some places.

This was not some sort of freak, unexpected spate of bad weather. They started talking about it on the television news over a week ago. It's not like there wasn't time to get prepared. Any readers in the US living anywhere north of Dallas would find this situation laughable.

Posted by david at 11:33 PM | Comments (2)

January 28, 2004


Blair is risen from the dead. Not like Jesus. More like Jason or Freddy Kruger.

The Hutton report cleared him of any wrongdoing. It even seems to have cleared the Defense Secretary, Geoff Hoon.

Who will deliver us from this evil?

Posted by david at 11:34 PM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2004

So Close

The ayes to the right, 316; the noes to the left, 311.

Just three stinking votes and Tony Blair would have been defeated in the Commons over the Education Bill. We know where two of those votes came from. One of the Rebel leaders went over to the Dark Side and took one of his followers with him.

Except for heavy lobbying by the PM himself, the vote would have been lost to the Government. It would have resulted in a confidence motion and Blair's premiership might have been fatally wounded.

There is still hope, but it is growing dim. The Hutton Report is being released to the public tomorrow. The Government already got their advance copy and are preparing their answer to it. The Opposition only get it three hours in advance of publication. However, if it condemns the Government generally and TB specifically for naming Dr David Kelly and contributing to his alleged suicide, perhaps advanced notice will be unimportant.

We just have to wait and see.

Posted by david at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2004

Government Endorsing Post-Natal Infanticide

Why do we need rid of this Government? Tuition fees? No. General untruthfulness? No. It is because they are advised by people like this.

A Government adviser on genetics has suggested that it may be acceptable to destroy babies with “defects” soon after birth.

As reported in The Times:

John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a parliamentary meeting last week that he did not see any moral difference in aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and committing infanticide.

Harris, professor of bioethics at Manchester University, declined to say what defects might justify terminating the baby’s life, or the maximum permissible age for such a course of action.

But yesterday he was reported to have said that he did not think infanticide was always unjustifiable. He did not believe there was any “moral change” that occurred during the journey down the birth canal.

Harris, who also advises Britain’s doctors as a member of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, is said to have argued that there was no moral difference between terminating a foetus found by tests to have defects and one where the parents only discovered the abnormalities at birth.

Harris was speaking at the the launch of a public consultation on whether laws governing test-tube baby clinics should be tightened in the light of new technology. It was chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy, who also chairs the Human Genetics Commission.

Ian Gibson, MP, chairman of the science and technology committee, said: “The debate was principally about designer babies and sex selection. Harris said everything in this area must be open for consideration and infanticide could not be ruled out.”

In the past Harris has spoken of the need to allow people to buy and sell human organs as a means of increasing the supply for transplant operations. He also recently expressed support for sex selection for social reasons among babies. “If it isn’t wrong to wish for a bonny, bouncing baby girl, why would it be wrong to make use of technology to play fairy godmother?” he said.

The spokesperson of the Pro-Life lobby group, Julia Millington, who attended the debate, said: “It is frightening to think that university students are being educated by somebody who endorses the killing of newborn babies, and equally worrying to discover that such a person is the Establishment’s ‘preferred’ bioethicist.”

Harris is correct that there is no difference in aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and committing post-natal infanticide. It's just that he has no problem with either one.

Posted by david at 10:32 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2004

Violent Crime Still on the Rise

Official crime figures have been released today. Less serious offences of violence against the person rose 17% when comparing the third quarter of 2003 with the same period in 2002. Serious violent crime rose by 18%. I suppose it is encouraging that gun crime only rose by 2%.

The Government's response to this news has been to declare that we are actually safer today than a year ago. It is obvious to them that it is just that more people are reporting crime now.

However, if for some reason people in deprived neighbourhoods don't feel safe -- even though, of course, they should -- the Government will now give them the option to vote for an annual levy to raise money for additional officers. Yes, that's right, if people in poor areas want more policing, they will have to pay more for it. They won't actually get real cops - they will get "community support officers". These are security guards without uniforms. Of course they are unarmed - even the real cops are unarmed.

This levy will be on top of the regular council tax, to which the Government wants to add a local income tax, costing taxpayers an average of an extra £537 per year.

They have never explained why having made guns illegal gun crime doesn't go down. To make extra sure that citizens cannot defend themselves against crime, the Government has also introduced harsher sentences for possession of an illegal firearm (that's any handgun and most rifles). It will now cost five years of freedom.

Posted by david at 12:08 AM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2004

The Other Doctor Death

Thanks to Karl for the link to the Lawrence Journal-World article about Tiller the Killer's special offer of free third trimester abortions to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

We are all sinners, but there are some people who are so openly and vilely evil that it simply boggles the mind and depresses the soul. George Tiller makes Harold Shipman look almost saintly. At least Shipman the Hitman didn't flaunt his mass murder. He just quitely went about his business of injecting unsuspecting OAPs with diamorphine and signing their death certificates. He finally had the decency to top himself, since this country doesn't have the testicular fortitude to have just punishment.

Tiller wants all the world to know that he kills babies - that he loves butchering big healthy babies. Yet in his country as well there is no will to call what he does "murder" and punish it.

God have mercy on both countries.

Posted by david at 10:09 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2004

Waiting to Open Wide

How difficult is it to get a dentist on the NHS? It is bad enough here in Hooterville, where it took a year to get on the list of the only available NHS dentist in the city - man who, frankly, scares me. Not Freddy Kruger scary. More like Jim Carrey scary. A goofy guy and dental drill are an unsettling combination.

In Stonehaven, in the northeast of Scotland, 1,500 people stood for up to 7 hours in the driving rain last weekend for a chance to register with the new dentist in town. The dentist had intended to take on about 300 patients. In the end, the 600 earliest birds got a worm. The rest got turned away, and not all of them took it well. In typical British understatement, some got "quite argumentative."

In the whole of northeast Scotland, there are only two other dental surgeries open to new NHS patients. There no telling how long the wait is to get onto their books, though.

The British are known for bad teeth (the Scots reputely with the worst teeth of all) and this may be part of the reason why.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (3)

January 19, 2004

Hiring Mercenary MPs

Tony Blair is going to push top-up fees for English universities through Parliament next week. There are many rebel MPs on the Labour Party backbenchers, but Tony will successfully squeeze the legislation out of the Commons. He has enough Scottish MPs to help him.

Let me make this crystal clear: the top-up fees affect English universities -- not British universities -- English universities. The funding of Scottish education at all levels is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. But Scottish MPs sitting in Westminster will provide the majority Tony, even though their constituencies are not affected.

Posted by david at 10:33 PM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2004

21st Century Crimean War

To follow up on a comment Havdala made to yesterday's blog, for Brits the situation in Iraq is more like the Crimean War than people might imagine. Because I focused on Sgt Roberts and stopped for the sake of time (both mine and my readers'), I didn't mention mention the case of Sgt Albert Thomson. This case hits home to me because it involves an amputation.

No doubt there are some amputations that are inevitable as a result of war wounds. This has been the case since time immemorial. That has to be accepted. What are unacceptable are amputations that should never have been necessary.

In the case of Sgt Thomson, an Army surgical team in Iraq was unable to save his leg because it didn't have a fairly simple, fairly standard vascular repair kit. They had no instruments to clamp and repair damaged blood vessels.

As a LibDem MP commented, "This isn't just about one widow whose husband died because of the kit shortages [Sgt Roberts]. There was potential here for lots of soldiers to have died due to kit shortages if we had taken heavy casualites." He further noted, "We have a whole catalogue of excuses and complacency from the MoD, whereas people who were on the frontline have repeatedly said there were major problems and shortages."

A senior commander in the Defense Medical Forces told a Parliamentary committee that a vascular repair kit should be available to surgeons in a war zone and promised to launch an inquiry. He said this while backtracking from earlier claims that no treatment of British casualities was compromised by shortages.

Though these issues were raised with the Defense Medical Services by the aformentioned MP in October, they admitted to the Daily Mail on Friday that no inquiry had begun.

Posted by david at 11:38 PM | Comments (2)

January 17, 2004

No Regrets

The Blair Government sinks lower and lower in the mire of its own importance and shocking disregard for all that is good and decent. On the Stateside of the Pond, readers will no doubt be oblivious to name, not to mention the behaviour, of our Defense Secretary, Geoff Hoon. But while Donald Rumsfeld may be of questionable vocabulary, Mr Hoon is of questionable character. If I had to chose between the two failings, surely the former is better than the latter.

The US may be all chuffed that the Brits went into Iraq with them, securing the southern part of the country. Unfortunately, the Brits may have showed up, but most of their equipment didn't. Tony couldn't let down George, but the press only notices men, not materiel. That is until someone goes and complains about how her husband died needlessly.

Seems Geoff's army couldn't afford supplies. Sergeant Steve Roberts had to go out an spend over £1000 of his own money before going to Iraq. He had to buy his own tent, torch, and other necessities. He expected to be supplied with body armour. He was supplied with a flak jacket briefly, until he was ordered to give it up because of a shortage. MoD reports into his death indicate it would have saved his life. It was £167 the Government couldn't afford to spend.

As the Daily Mail pointed out, it chose to spend the money instead on half a roll of wallpaper for the Lord Chancellor's private apartments, or was it six seconds of keeping the Millennium Dome open without visitors, or a cushion on an MP's £440 armchair, or one day's wages for either a "Five-a-Day" Executive (paid £28,000 to get people to eat more fruit and veg) or a Real Nappy Officer (paid £30,000 to get more parents to use cotton nappies instead of Huggies or Pampers). or one hour's wages for a solicitor on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry which has spent £113 million to find out why British soldiers fired upon unarmed protesters 32 years ago this month.

Hoon point blank refuses to take any ministerial responsibility for sending troops without any intention of providing them with proper equipment, and then once it was sent, not making sure it actually got to the front lines. He wouldn't be under such attack if it weren't for a pesky widow. Samantha Roberts is armed with weapons that Hoon should, or at least should have to, fear. She is intelligent, well-spoken, and has her husband's audio diary of his time in Iraq. Speaking from the grave, Sgt Roberts said the supplies were a joke, the shortages disgraceful, and very specifically that the lack of body armour filled him with "remorse".

Yet even his death doesn't fill, or even seem to twinge, Geoff Hoon with remorse.

Posted by david at 11:13 PM | Comments (3)

January 15, 2004

Changing the Rules

Maxine Carr has been judged by a jury to have had nothing to do with the murders committed by her ex-boyfriend. She didn't tell the police what she knew as soon she as she could have and as a result was sentenced to 3 1/2 years. She spent enough time in prison on remand that she is eligible for regular release in May. However, under an electronic tagging scheme, she's eligible to be released with a tag now.

There is really no reason not to release her. If she were any other prisoner convicted of violating the same statute, there wouldn't be any hesistancy. Since she was involved in a high-profile emotionally-charged case, the rules are different. Or rather, the rules have been changed.

Because David Blunkett fears the political heat from the prospect of treating prisoners equally, he is altering the rules about electronic tagging. Because Maxine Carr has applied, the whole Home Detention Curfew scheme is being changed. The final decisions to release and tag prisoners will not be made by prison governors. Well, at least not in some cases. "Exceptional cases", will be referred to the chief executive of National Offender Management Service, the newly merged prison and probation service.

Exceptional cases amount to cases over which the press makes a fuss. The press will decide who gets tagged and who doesn't. Where some prisoners are held at Her Majesty's pleasure, others will now be held at Fleet Street's pleasure.

Posted by david at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

From Someone Who Has Been There

There is a great commentary piece in the LA Times today by the last man to step onto the Moon, Harrison Schmitt. Registration is required to use the site, but it is free and much less onerous than with some newpaper sites I've seen.

Schmitt has clearly been reading this blog, as he said some of the same things I've been saying.

Posted by david at 08:46 PM | Comments (3)

Where Will They Stop?

It seems everyday I'm mentioning another Government tactic to get more revenue. And all of it seems to be at the expense of motorists.

Making a right turn or negotiating a roundabout and get stuck in the yellow box? If a traffic warden sees you and notes your number plate, you could get a £100 fixed penalty notice in the post.

Park 51 cm away from the curb? Even if you need the little bit of extra space to open your door, because you are, say, handicapped? That will be £100 if you are in London or £60 in the rest of the country.

And yesterday it was announced that the Home Office wants to tack a £5 surcharge on all speeding tickets. This is to help compensate the victims of crime. Why put this on speeding tickets? Why shouldn't criminals be compensating the victims of the crimes they perpetrate? Why should the general public subsidise this? And why pick on speeders? They've done something wrong, so they should somehow contribute toward unrelated people who have had wrong done against them?

The real reason? A. There are a lot of speeders being caught - more and more, month by month. B. They are being forced to fork out money anyway. C. What's extra fiver?

I fully expect the Government to announce more fines and stealth taxes throughout the coming days and weeks. They are on a roll.

Posted by david at 12:02 AM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2004

Big Brother (and Everyone Else) is Watching

I don't often read the Independent, but the headline yesterday caught my attention. The news didn't surprise me, though I wasn't aware the situation was as bad as it is.

If you are looking for privacy, Britain is not the place to be. Most other countries have privacy laws which protect people from constant surveillance. Not this one.

With over 4 million CCTV cameras, the average Briton can expect to be filmed many, many times each day. For the average Londoner, it is 300 times. 300 times a day. One-fifth of all the CCTV cameras in the world are in the UK. There is one for every 14 people. This is a quadruple increase over the last three years.

Professor Clive Norris, deputy director of the Centre for Criminological Research in Sheffield, noted, "Other countries have been much more wary about CCTV, because of long-held concepts such as freedom of expression and assembly. These seem to be alien concepts in here."

According to the Independent:

The Data Protection Act states that the public has to be informed that CCTV systems are in operation, and be told how they can exercise their legal right to see their own footage. But civil rights groups said many councils, shops and businesses were failing to provide this information, and they estimated that up to 70 per of CCTV camera operators were breaking the rules.

Some months ago, the most dangerous courier driver in town (I have seen him many time since driving like a nutter) backed into our car at Mrs H's former workplace. There was a CCTV camera in the car park. Both we and our insurance company asked to see the footage. We were told we had no right to see it.

CCTV is frequently used in the private sector to track homeless people, teenagers, and others that shopping centre security guards find undesirable and want to harrass and get rid of, even if they haven't done anything wrong.

The thing CCTV hasn't done is reduce crime. It has made no difference where it installed.

Posted by david at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2004

Attacking Abstinence

In Channel 4’s series of programmes on Texas, they have now attacked abstinence education. The problem is that it goes against “teenagers’ natural urges”. Can’t do that!

The entire show was shot in Lubbock. The programme followed a group of horny teen boys who had distain for abstinence and party, party, party. They are 17 years old. They are normal. They can’t take full advantage of their sexual freedom because 80 percent of the population goes to church.

They visit various churches and Christian teenagers, and make fun of teenagers who take purity pledges. They tried to make the parents and pastors sound silly. They didn’t sound particularly silly to me – they didn’t use kooks, like in the first Texas programme. The fact that they were American evangelical, and in some cases charismatic, Christians is enough to scare and shock Brits. One pastor quoted the Scriptures a lot. He prayed for people. In the closing shot of him, he was speaking in tongues. Clearly an insane and dangerous radical.

They emphasised how often these kids go to church or other religious meetings. They showed them singing worship songs, closing their eyes, raising their hands. Obviously this is not normal behaviour. In interviews, they mention that it would be fun to party, but the temptations are too great. Poor kids brainwashed by religion and an imprisoned by consciences from doing what feels good. They talked about the peer pressure not to have sex and friends who acted as accountabilty partners. The presenter of the programme thought it was terrible that teens felt such pressure. It was okay to have the pressure and encouragement to have sex, of course.

They showed a couple in church-based pre-marital counselling and how terrible it was that spouses might not have any experience before their wedding night. Surely this will lead to unfulfilled sex lives, since they have been told as teenagers that sex is bad.

All this abstinence and pressure on teens not to have sex is of course the fault of George W. Bush. After all, the law about including abstinence education in sex education was passed while he was governor. Schools can’t promote contraception. They can’t pass out condoms and they can’t demonstrate how to put them on. George kills all the people on death row and he keeps all the teenagers from having sex. How could any one man be more offensive to enlightened British sensibilities?

All the reasonable voices in Lubbock want broader education. The pastor that used Scripture a lot is also an abstinence educator in schools. He tells students plainly that condoms do not prevent the transmission of disease. They showed a representative of the Department of Health speaking to a group of “at risk” students, telling them that the pastor lied and he was only trying to scare them. And the reason there are teenage pregnancies and STDs in Lubbock? Abstinence education.

With disdain in her voice, the narrator closed the programme with, “Texas is not the place for teenage sex. No matter what the consequences, abstinence is here to stay.”

Posted by david at 01:02 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2004

To Infinity and Beyond

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I am quite excited about the pre-announcement story out of the White House that W is going to propose a Moon base and manned Mars mission. My excitement is only tempered by two factors.

First, the timescale is ridiculous. There is talk of Moon missions by 2013 and men on Mars by 2030. We got to the Moon the first time less than seven years after President Kennedy's famous speech at Rice University -- just over eight years after Alan Shepard first entered space. We got there six times (out of seven) in a tin can, with technology dwarfed by my pocket calculator, not to mention the laptop on which I write this blog. How much more could we do and how much faster could we do it today?

The biggest hurdle to a quick lunar trip? The demand for a risk-free mission. No one takes any chances anymore. Just look at the war in Iraq. The media tries to drum up the terrible cost of war with each soldier that gets killed (as if war isn't about killing people). It is all supposed to be sanitary and precise. No one pushes the envelope anymore. As Milt Heflin, head of NASA's flight director's office, told Reuters, "I'm not sure you could get the lunar module (of 1969) approved for flight today. The mission would probably be too risky."

If NASA is ever going to do anything - if mankind is ever going to go anywhere off this planet - they are going to have to follow the advice of the archtypal space explorer, in one of the greatest speeches ever delivered.

If we could get to the Moon tomorrow - or realistically in the next four years - why wait twenty-six years to go to Mars? When I was a small child at the height of the Apollo program, I had sets of 1970 and 1971 World Book encyclopaedias. In the article on space travel, there were diagrams of Mars travel and what a Mars-bound spacecraft could look like (bit like yet-to-be-conceived space shuttle) with suggestions that this was quite a way into the future, well into the 1980s.

That was written at a time when it was unthinkable that plug would be pulled on the greatest programme of exploration ever undertaken. This was not going across an ocean to a new continent. It was not even travelling around the whole world. It was travelling the equivalent of ten times around the globe through the void of space.

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue (with breathable air plentifully available) in a ship approximately 23.5 metres long. He had two other ships with him. He had 87 men. In 1969, Neil Armstrong sailed the ocean black in a ship 11.03 metres long (the total habitable space was 6.17 m3). The only other ship was a dingy made of aluminum foil.

Technologically we are almost as far ahead of the Columbia and Eagle as they were of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. We can do this.

I mentioned that there were two factors that tempered my excitement. The second is related to the first. Because of the stretched out time scale, there is plenty of time for future administrations and congressional sessions to pull the plug on this, just like Congress and the Clinton administration did to similar plans laid out by GHW Bush. Sustaining the political willpower over two decades (or even longer if any glitches threaten a risk-free mission) will be very difficult.

Posted by david at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Cops Out of the Closet

Police officers in this coutry are to be surveyed concerning their sexual orientation. According to The Sunday Times, "New recruits and officers seeking promotion will be asked to state whether they are straight, gay or bisexual. Where the number of gay officers is found wanting, “gay-friendly” recruitment campaigns will be launched to boost numbers." If you want to join up or hope to move up the ladder, it pays to be gay.

The goal, which has been agreed by the Gay Police Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers, is to make sure that at least 10% of the coppers in this country are gay or lesbian. Apparently this is because 6% of the general population is believed to be gay, though it may be as high as 10% in London.

New laws introduced last month explicitly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment. Though clearly not what was intended, it may be that heterosexuals will have to avail themselves of redress through this legislation.

Greater Manchester police has expressed an interest in taking part but has yet to confirm its participation. They are probably still busy trying to get rid of all their officers who were shown on television bragging about beating up Asians. They might find difficulty in meeting quotas for gays.

This new quota system is going to place a strain on the general public. As the number of homosexual police officers increases, confusion will reign in terms of perjorative slang. (The use of which I would never condone - I'm merely observing sociological phenomenon.) The same term is used in this country for both homosexuals and crooked policemen. Given that 10% will be gay and 10% are honest, and there is no guarantee it will be the exact same 10%, how can this problem be solved without adjectival redundancy?

Posted by david at 12:16 AM | Comments (1)

January 05, 2004

Messing with Texas

Channel 4 is doing a series of programmes on Texas.

To put together an unbiased balanced view of the state of Texas, who better to choose than Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is the atheist socialist who is best known for writing a book slamming on Mother Teresa.

Hitchens interviewed every nut case conservative and every rational sounding liberal. He decried the "Republicanisation" of Texas, which is apparently all the fault of George Bush and cowboys.

Hitchens never could get away from cowboys. The word "cowboy" is only used in two contexts in this country. It is the term for builders and other self-employed contractors who do shoddy work and then disappear without a trace. It only otherwise used to describe the President. Hitchens even tried to get his some interviewees to understand how Europeans ridicule cowboy mentality.

To see Hitchens' programme is to believe that all Republicans live in beautiful suburban tracts (he drove through such a neighbourhood in Plano as he talked about this), and all Mexicans, who along with liberal Anglos naturally vote Democrat, live in colonias. The only reason any Mexican-Americans voted for Bush was beause they were swayed by his Hispanic advertising campaign when he spoke a few words in Spanish.

He made fun of Texans, using bumpers stickers as his tool. He used the famous "Don't Mess with Texas" litter campaign to talk about the death penalty. It's bad, of course. I think it was the only programme that I've seen that didn't actually say that George Bush personally put every condemned criminal to death. Most of them do. You'd think ol' George spent his entire governorship in Huntsville with his finger on the button to the lethal injection pump. At least for Hitchens all Texans bear collective responsibility for capital punishment.

He would intersperse scenes of ordinary Texans mentioning belief in God with his liberal friends talking about how it is impossible to be right thinking and believe in God. Texans, and especially Bush, are just a little unstable because they believe in God.

And besides all that, he didn't take the Alamo seriously.

Posted by david at 11:46 PM | Comments (2)

January 03, 2004

Stacking the Deck Against Private Education

The left wing of the Labour party is opposed to tuition fees and the introduction of the new "top-up" fees for university students. Well, at least in most cases.

They support the idea of charging those who were educated in private schools for the opportunity to continue their education. It has been proposed by the Government’s London Schools Commissioner. Professor Tim Brighouse has called for an extra 10% charge to be levied on top-up fees for every year that a pupil spent at a private school.

Thus, if they spent all 14 years of primary, secondary, and sixth form education in the private sector, they would be charged an extra 130% of their top-up fee. If they completed their A levels in the private sector, this is an extra This means that if the top-up fee is £3000, as it will be for top universities, privately educated students will pay £6900. This is on top of the tuition fees (hence the term "top-up fee").

Professor Brighouse would discount this if the student leaves private school at 16 and does their A levels in the state sector. He claims the reason for the discount is actually to drive teachers out of the private sector. "This would tempt them into joining in with everybody in sixth form colleges and so on." I can't see how this would work. Does he think that a discount off of a surcharge is going to cause all the sixth-formers to flee from colleges of ancient reputation and outstanding results, leaving no jobs in the private sector?

The support for this idea in Parliament is exemplified by Jon Owen Jones, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central. He opposes tuition fees, but says that this idea deserves consideration. "If people have bought an advantage by going private, I don’t see why the State should then give them virtually free university education." (Virtually free? Doesn't he remember that the tutition fees have already been here for some time? Doesn't he realise that top-up fees are going to be pushed through by the Government on whose backbenches he sits?) In other words, those who value their children's education high enough and can afford to educate them outside of the state system and the control of the National Curriculum should be punished. They should be held to a different standard.

It is like saying that someone who has bought private health insurance should have to pay for treatment on the NHS, even though they have paid the exact same taxes (or in all likelihood more taxes) to fund it.

Posted by david at 03:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

What They are Doing (In Their Own Words)

What better way to start off the new year than with new taxes! Of course it is the Government's favourite kind of tax - the stealth taxes. You know, the kind of taxes you aren't supposed to know are taxes. But a tax by any other name would smell as foul. The means the Government is using to raise new revenue these days is the automatic, unappealable fine.

As of yesterday, motorist will be automatically fined £80 for not renewing their tax disc. Even if the car is off the road and the owner is out of the country or in hospital, there will be no allowances made. The DVLA has refused to appoint an arbiter to consider extenuating circumstances. There will be no appeals panel. This means that even though the new system will be infested with bugs (as the London congestion charging system has proved to be), the public will bear the burden of the mistakes.

Anyone who does not renew their tax disc will be assumed to be guilty unless the DVLA has received written notification that the vehicle has been sold or is off the road.

By the DVLA's own predictions which they are willing to make public, more than 100,000 people a month will be fined. They expect to raise about £40 million a year -- twice as much money as speed cameras. The DVLA even admitted that many drivers will be caught complete unaware of the new rules. Does the DVLA care? To quote Jeff Mumford, the DVLA deputy manager: "The registration system in Britain has been too friendly. We are looking to slowly tighten the screw."

I'm not sure if he meant that as a noun or a verb, but either way, there isn't a better word for it.

Posted by david at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

Unlimited Revenue

The Inland Revenue has come up with a way to get even more revenue. They have added a new range of penalties for late payment of taxes. In addition to the current fines, the Inland Revenue will be issuing uncapped fines of £60 ($100) per day. This is in addition to the fixed £100 fine, 5% surcharge on the tax debt, and 6.5% interest.

The Inland Revenue is planning to issue tens of thousands of these fines. Apparently they aren't satisfied with the £1 billion that has already been raised in fines, surcharges, and interest.

Big Brother is watching whether or not you pay your taxes. This year staff at the Inland Revenue are changed with the task of collecting more personal details on people likely to evade tax payments. Profiling. This can't be done with terror suspects, but it can be done with taxpayers. They will also be phoning up late payers at home - probably at teatime, if they want to follow the example of telesales and debt collector scum. It is unclear if they will ringing people who are likely to be late payers.

Posted by david at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2003

Violating the National Trust

Could there be anything more traditional than the National Trust? It owns many of the great historic properties in England. Forty-four National Trust properties are licensed for weddings. (Weddings in this country may only be performed in churches, Registry offices, and licensed venues.)

Now every NT property will be available for weddings. Well, not real weddings. The National Trust has teamed up with Pink Weddings, a company that organises gay "marriages". Five properties in various parts of the country will be the first to host "committment ceremonies". Local council sponsored committment ceremonies are due to be replaced with the Government's legally recognised "civil partnerships" next year. However, since they aren't technically weddings, they will not be confined to particular places.

It has been acknowledged that the use of NT properties may be unpopular with the 3 million members of the Trust. But you can't let 3 million people stand in the way of the liberals who have found their way onto the Trust's governing Council. Only half of the Council is elected by the members and the other half is appointed from "kindred bodies". These bodies are laid down in an Act of Parliament.

Members may be finding out about this in the newspaper. It has not been mentioned on the NT's website. I doubt they have received any sort of official notice. However, it is promoted with a full page on the Pink Weddings website (link intentionally omitted).

Posted by david at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2003

What's in a Name?

The PC brigade is at it again. The target: schools named after Confederate leaders. Erenestine Harrison, a substitute teacher with a psychology degree, has started a petition drive in Hampton, Virginia, to change the name of Jefferson Davis Middle School. Her reason? "If I were a kid, especially a teenager, I would be ashamed to tell a friend that I went to Jefferson Davis. Basically, those guys fought for slavery. Of course we can argue over the whole history [of the Civil War], but the end result would be black people would have continued to be in slavery."

So we can argue about it, but as an armchair historian, she's already decided anyway. And she's not a kid, especially not a teenager, and I would put money on it that most of the kids didn't even think about it until she brought it up. A black eighth-grader who says she doesn't pay much attention to the petition effort said, "What are they going to name it, Allen Iverson Middle School?" (The NBA bad boy attended the school.) The girl and her mother call the petition ridiculous.

Harrison was originally fighting to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary as well, but has apparently dropped that drive after learning that Lee didn't own slaves. Seems a bit inconsisitent to me. After all, Lee was more involved in the actually fighting than Jeff Davis. Lee was the one who accepted the responsibility to attempt to win the war.

There is no mention of what she thinks of Hampton's Merrimack Elementary, named after the Confederate naval vessel that famously fought the Monitor nearby.

At least some people are willing to be more consistent. The Orleans Parish School Board in Louisiana has renamed all the schools that were originally named for anyone who owned slaves. Thus George Washington Elementary is now named after a black surgeon from World War II.

So for the sake of consistency, let's remove all the names of Presidents who owned slaves: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, W H Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and (surprise!) U S Grant.

But what I really want to see is total consistency. I think that they should start petitions to change the names of any school bearing the name of any signer of the US Constitution. After all, the Constitution, as they signed it, allowed the importing of slaves until 1808 and acknowledged that slaves were less than others, because they only counted a 3/5 of a person. Surely if these men had any real principles, they wold have refused to sign such a document - a document that perpetuated the condition of involuntary servitude. Orleans Parish needs to rename Benjamin Franklin Elementary and Benjamin Franklin High School as well.

But is that really consistency? Let's go one better. We should obliterate the name from any school of anyone who openly held racist views. Well, there go all the 684 public schools named Lincoln. The mind boggles at the other names that would have to be consign the scrap heap.

Posted by david at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2003

Ebenezer Blair

In the US, dependents are taken into account before money is withheld from paychecks. This is not the case in the UK. As I have mentioned before, the Government has created a complex system of child tax credits and working tax credits, so that after it takes the same amount of money away from everyone regardless of family situation, it can then give back the right amount to everyone who shouldn't have had it taken off in the first place. It also takes money off of unemployment benefits and pays money back to those same people not in work. It requires a great amount of legwork on the part of the taxpayer/credit recepient to get the credits in place, but it is essential because it forms an important part of the family budget for over 6,000,000 Britons.

Now the Government has discovered that it has overpaid in thousands of cases. Of course it wants its money back. Now. As a result, in the days before Christmas, families have received notices that not only has their weekly budget been cut, but they bank accounts will be drained as well.

The Government's Paymaster General has gone on the telly to assure everyone that no one will suffer hardship. They can get top-up payments from the Inland Revenue. All they have to do it ring. Just like they had to do when the Government screwed up the system to start with in April and 500,000 people hadn't gotten their payments by late May.

Then they will have to send in all of their supporting documentation -- bills, leases, bank statements, blood samples, first-born child, etc., and wait 12 weeks or so to get any response from Inland Revenue. Well, unless the Revenue officer puts in in the wrong basket and then no one takes responsibility for it...

Yes, thanks to HM Treasury, it looks to be a very unmerry Christmas and not a very happy New Year for a lot of British families.

Posted by david at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2003

His Own Little FIFA-dom

For all of you dispensationalists with your prophesy charts at the ready, it may surprise you to learn that there is already a one-world government. It is called FIFA and the Beast at the head of it is Sepp Blatter. If you are looking for a model of the world under the control of a tyrant, just look at football - the original kind that some people call "soccer", not the North American version of rugby played with helmets and pads.

Blatter is kept in power by the equal voting rights of all the developing nations. When he was last up for election, he promised them the sun, moon, and stars if they kept him in power.

I'm no lover of Manchester United, but when Rio Ferdinand missed a drugs test through what seems a reasonable excuse, United let him continue to play until the matter was adjudicated by the England Football Association (FA). Blatter was unhappy and criticised United, insisting that players should be considered guilty until proven innocent. Blatter even questioned the validity of United matches in which Ferdinand has played since the missed test (even though he tested clean less than two days later). He has done this even though the rules are clear that Rio is free to play.

United made it clear that it didn't appreciate Mr Blatter interfering and that he was clearly out of line. But Sepp wasn't to be hampered by little things like the rules and certainly not by the propriety of non-interference in internal English FA matters. Nor was he going to countenance the suggested that football is not his personal fiefdom.

He put the screws to the FA commissioners hearing the case. The same body in an identical case in May over a missed test by a Manchester City player gave a £2000 fine and no suspension. They gave Ferdinand a £50,000 fine (that's US$85,000) and an 8-month suspension. He was also ordered to pay all the costs of the two-day hearing. This causes him not only to lose all of the remaining season with United, but also prevents him from playing for England in Euro 2004 (the quadrennial Euro-only version of the World Cup). It is one month short of the ban Mark Bosnich received for a positive test for cocaine.

Like I said, I have no particular love for Man United. However, I have only loathing for tyrants.

Posted by david at 02:46 AM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2003

Agenda-Driven Academia

Readers of my recent Meandering who thought for some reason that I'm some sort of misogynist because women can't be priests (and the whole point of that small part of the Meandering was to blame God, not me - as if I'm somehow responsible for what is and is not in the eternal order of all things) will certainly not like the latest burr in my saddle.

In an recent academic setting, one of the people who opposed my view (and that of a fellow Orthodox colleague) on women priests explained her opposition on was based upon what she had been taught in her very first class at university. Then she mentioned that her degree is in Women's Studies.

I can't recall where she said she got her degree, but at a nearby university, "Women's Studies is the study of power and gender relationships. It enables you to learn about women's experiences and achievements and to devise strategies for social change." So in their own words, it is only study insofar as it enables the student be active in a particular ideological agenda. You think I'm making this up? Jumping to conclusions? Well, the next sentence continues, "Women's Studies offers the opportunity to study across disciplines and / or within individual fields on women-centred, feminist-based issues."

One course in this degree "examines paradigms based upon recent scholarship which questions and contrasts with androcentric assumptions in ‘traditional’ methodologies, theories and research." How loaded and biased is that? But what really needs questioning here is how they decided that even methods of scholarship and research are so "androcentric" as to be questionable. In other words, the only way feminists can create anything of any academic credibility is to simply redefine credibility.

That's why to get anything out of this degree, students need this course in "Feminist Research Methods" where "Students are introduced to the range of methodologies particularly appropriate for interdisciplinary studies of women and gender. The module examines androcentric theory, gender as a construct and feminist research practice."

The course on "Gender, Power, and Subversion" is not just focued on the horrors of patriarchal societies. No. What is it they are wanting to subvert? Well, the course "considers the strategies available to women for exploiting and destabilising gender boundaries." So exploit the boundaries when it is to their advantage and destablise them when it is not.

Now I hate to state the obvious, but since it clearly may not be obvious to some... Do you think that the purveyors of women's studies would support the destablising of gender boundaries in political correctness and support the development of men's studies departments and degrees? Should their be courses in challenging feminist assumptions? Do they really want academic parity? And should masculinist academics be free to use the same kind of terminology about women as feminists use about men?

Who am I kidding? There is no way that that the detesticulated (and of course atesticular) principalities and powers in the decision making positions of academia would ever consider such a thing.

And while I'm at it, here's another thing. I noticed that the University of Central England offers a BA (Hons) in women's health. Why is there not a corresponding degree in men's health? Is this related to the fact that in 1997£4.4 million was spent on breast cancer research and £47,000 was spent on prostate cancer? Perhaps it is part of their self-avowed destablising subversion to just kill off as many men as possible through medical neglect.

As 60% of medical students in the UK are female, surely the focus will remain on women's health. After all, isn't it one of the premises of feminist studies that the dominant gender has safeguarded its own interests?

Posted by david at 01:17 AM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2003

The Country in the Mirror

Holding prisoners for years without charging them is not something unique to Asian dictatorships. It's not even confined in the West to the US Government and the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The UK Government is holding at least 14 suspected terrorists. It has been holding them for over two years.

It is not holding them while the Crown builds a case against them. There is no preparation for trial of any kind. They are just being held. Apparently any evidence that would be offered in court is just too sensitive.

The UK is the only country in Europe to hold prisoners without charge in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Posted by david at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

Addressing the Soviet Legacy

I read recently that at least 18 journalists have been murdered in the Ukraine since it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Volodymyr Karachevtsev is the latest victim. It probably didn't come as a surprise when the end came. He had been receiving death threats for some time. Seems he kept snooping around links between local officials and certain businessmen.

Some of the deaths have been linked directly to President Kuchma. He's not the sort of bloke who wants to be scrutinized very closely. Kuchma was made from the same mold as other leaders of post-Soviet republics.

The Ukraine has Kuchma, Uzbekistan has Karimov, Kazakhstan has Nazarbayev, Turkmenstan has Niyazov - strongmen who brook no opposition. Brutal dictators, yet we hear so little criticism from the West. With American forces built up in neighbouring countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems like it would be a relatively easy task to ensure democracy in the whole region. Unless we are just picking and choosing which dictators to knock off, of course.

Posted by david at 08:48 PM | Comments (5)

Deepening the Bottomless Coffers

I know I harp on about this, but it seems that week by week the situation ges more ridiculous. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has now decided that as there were only 1.1 million convictions from speed cameras in 2001, and over 2 million this year, something must be done.

They intend to lower the trigger speed. Currently the camera fire only at 35mph in a 30mph zone and 46 in a 40. Now the threshold will be lowered to 33mph and 43mph respectively. The goal is to get 3 million convictions in 2004.

Under the current rules, camera can only be placed on roads where there has been four serious injury accidents in the last three years. This is not a very difficult criterion to meet. At least it keep the pretense that cameras are linked to road safety. The head of ACPO has now said that he wants to see cameras where there is no history of crashes. He said, “The guidelines are going to have to be loosened. As we eliminate crash hotspots we are going to have to look elsewhere to reduce casualties.”

He didn't explain how he was going to reduce casualties in places where no casualties are occuring. I think what he meant was, "As we eliminate crash hotspots, we are going to have to look elsewhere for more cash hotspots." After all, with the lower speed threshold and the existing camera locations, they will only be able to raise £180 million.

Posted by david at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2003

The Great Compromise Revisited

The European Union is trying to write a new constitution in preparation for an influx of new members which will bring the total to 25. The most recent meeting of what could be considered a Euro “Constitutional Convention” has ended in deadlock. Seems they can’t decide how the member states will be represented.

Not surprisingly, the big states, such as Germany and France, want representation based upon population. They assumed they were going to get their way. After all, when it comes to matters Euro, they usually do. Less populous countries like Spain and Poland want equal representation for each. So Poland scuppered the deal. Poland not letting the Germans have what they want? Is this a good idea? Have they forgotten what happened the last time?

Since I haven’t been employed as a consultant, and because I’m a Euro-sceptic, I hate to solve the problem for them. It’s not like I have to come up something new. This has been done before. As they are trying to create a United States of Europe, it seems to me they should look to the most successful United States created so far. Give both sides what they want and create a bicameral legislature.

Unfortunately, since most of Europe is very Ameri-sceptic, I’m sure they will come up with something different. Since most Americans aren’t even aware of what the Europeans are doing, I doubt that anyone from that side of the Pond has offered advice. (Pop quiz for American readers: without referring to an Internet source, how many of the countries about to join the EU can you name?)

Posted by david at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003

What the Media Doesn't Know It Doesn't Know

I'm getting very tired of all the mick taking around Donald Rumsfeld's knowns and unknowns. He even won some "award" for gobbledy gook. Everyone seems to think he makes no sense.

Politics aside, what all the journalists and comedians need is even the most basic understand of logic. There is nothing silly or convoluted about "known knowns", "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns". We experience them in everyday life, whether we are intelligent enough to categorise our knowledge or not.

"Known knowns" should be pretty obvious. I just came back from the supermarket, so I'll use it as an illustration. If we have a large box of apples, we known that we know the ones on the top are red.

It is a "known unknown" that we don't know what colour the one below are, though we known there are apples underneath, and we known they are either red or yellow or green. Whether there are any more boxes of apples in the back of the store is also a "known unknown" because we don't have basis for knowning whether the supermarket recieves shipments of apples on Thursday.

However, that the supermarket has stopped carrying apples altogether after these boxes are sold is an "unknown unknown" because we have no clue that stocking or not of apples is or was even under consideration.

If journalists had half a brain and less of agenda, they would realise that they are the ones who are really silly in this whole thing.

Posted by david at 10:46 PM | Comments (4)

December 07, 2003

Be Warmed and Filled

The Central Methodist Church of Dudley was in the news yesterday. It's always good to see a church in the news. Okay, not always...

Seems about 60 members of the church were having a party when a naked or nearly-naked man asked to come in out of the freezing temperatures. Apparently they didn't realise that when St James said, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" he was suggesting this was the wrong thing to do.

The feasting church members gave him a blanket, sandwich and hot drink and handed them to him, but left him out in the cold. The Rev Ivor Sperring told the inquest that the man’s behaviour was threatening. "He was picking up plastic and banging it on the ground. Most of the people were older than him and didn’t feel they would be able to deal with the situation. He was nothing more than a nuisance. We felt we weren’t in a position to deal with it because of his behaviour, his nudity, and there was something sinister about the way he was breaking things.”

So he didn't get inside the church and do anything sinister. Instead, he died outside in the cold from hypothermia. Sounds lije the kind of thing Jesus was talking about when he said, "I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." I hope they don't answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?"

Though I think 60 people, even if they were over-60s (as was the naked man) could have controlled him enough to eject him had he become violent. To be fair to them, they aren't the only culprits. The church did ring the police to deal with the situation. Apparently the cops had just sat down for their coffee and donuts, because it took them three hours to arrive.

Either the church or the cops could have prevented this man's death. However, I don't think Jesus will be referring to the cops when He says "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me."

Posted by david at 02:57 AM | Comments (3)

December 06, 2003

Facing Defeat

It may surprise my American readers, but up until recently, the British Government paid for undergraduate university education. Students used to receive a grant to live (albeit to live like students, sustained with beans on toast) and it was unthinkable that they would pay anything for the education itself.

Then the number of students attending university and other budgetary concerns made the busary untenable. The Government went from paying students to live to loaning students money to live. These loans were to be paid back without interest when the graduate was making above a threshold salary and then on a graduated scale. Thus began the first step down the slippery slope.

The Government began charging tution fees, but only to families that had a threshold income. Even married students are assessed fees based upon their parents' income for the first two years of marriage. After all, since so many more students were going to university, somebody has to pay for it.

Now that the Government wants 50% of the population to go through higher education by 2010, and has lowered the entrance requirements to get them in, there is even less money to go around. At the top of the Government's agenda in this new Parliament is the introduction of top-up fees on top of tuition fees. These will be up to £3,000 a year. Of course loans will be available, so everyone will be able to go. They will just come out of university with enormous debt. Sounds like America, doesn't it?

Tony Blair is facing defeat in the House of Commons. The opposition to top-up fees in his own party is so strong that many of them are not only planning to vote against the PM, they don't care if his authority is so undermined that he has to resign. For Blair it could be a situation worse than the opposition to the war in Iraq. He shouldn't be surprised since the 2001 Labour Party Election Manifesto (that the official party platform) specifically said there would be no top-up fees that that the Party had always been opposed to them. There is also the hypocrisy of Blair and his Cabinet getting paid to go to top universities and then denying the following generation the same opportunity.

Tony's Labour colleagues like the idea of everyone getting a university education -- they just want the taxpayer to fund it. But that's where the fundamental flaw is. The creation of a nation of university graduates is not going to result in a nation of higher paying jobs. The same jobs, with the same wages, will be there on the other side.

Well, not all of the same jobs. There will be an even greater shortage of skilled tradesmen, such as plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, and the like. Uni grads in psychology and media studies can't fix boilers, but they can flip burgers and get fries with that.

Posted by david at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2003


Yes, it's the moment you have all be waiting for. A new issue of David's Mental Meanderings is out -- it comes with a special announcement.

Posted by david at 08:13 PM | Comments (3)

December 01, 2003

Visit Israel, If It's the Last Thing You Do

In an effort to boost tourism, the Israeli government is spending £2 million on an advertising campaign. With slogans like "Get Your Camera and We'll Get that Perfect Shot", it's sure to be a winner.

I can imagine them doing little sound-bite clips of tourists saying things like, "I visited a historic settlement in Gaza dating way back to the late 20th century. What I saw was so amazing, you could have knocked me down with a bulldozer!"

As one public relations expert said, "You can’t sell Israel with images of soldiers and reassuring safety messages." I don't think he realised that this is oxymoronic. After all, tourists may get attacked in Israel, but it usually isn't by terrorists.

I would just suggest that if you are visiting Manger Square this Christmas, you should probably run across it in a random zigzag pattern -- just in case the IDF mistake you for an altar boy.

Posted by david at 11:34 PM | Comments (4)

November 29, 2003

Offended Imagination and PC Silliness

If I'd seen it any other place, I would have immediately assumed it was an urban legend (if something can become a legend in less than two weeks). Surely the world hasn't gone this mad. Oh, yes it has. Thanks to the good folks at the Urban Legends Reference Pages for bringing this to my attention.

The County of Los Angeles now insist that all manufacturers who supply them with computer or other eletronic or mechanical components must remove any references to "master" and/or "slave". This universal lingo for the unidirectional control of one device or process by another. That it is universal means that it doesn't apply in the Orwellian alternate universe that is LA.

The memo sent out by the Purchasing and Contract section of the Internal Sevices Department says, "Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label." I can only understand this to mean that the County of Los Angeles doesn't want to offend either masters or slaves. Apparently these exist in LA.

They must, as this is the only reason the memo would continue:

We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment or components thereof that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature before such equipment is sold or otherwise provided to any County department.

Someone who believe themself to be either one or the other must exist, because in May 2003, an employee of the county's Probation Department filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance after spotting "master" and "slave" labels on a videotape machine. The only explanation I can think of is that perhaps they immigrated here from the Sudan or some other place where slavery is openly practiced and don't actually realise that the United States doesn't recognised the legal status of either "master" or "slave".

Obviously I don't believe for a minute that this is true. I honestly think it is instead a idiot who thinks that because he may be a descendant of one or more person who were at one time in a state of involuntary servitude, somehow he can claim ownership of the terms "master" and "slave". He probably doen't even realise that there are more slaves in the world today than were ever transported from Africa across the Atlantic from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Some people need to stop looking for reasons to be offended and stop looking for victimisation by (very tenuous) association.

Posted by david at 09:09 PM | Comments (4)

November 28, 2003

Polarisation in Ulster

Even though it has been suspended for over a year, elections have been held this week for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Due to the result, it is unlikely that the suspension will end any time soon.

Despite the IRA ceasefire and destruction of weapons and the attempt to ease tensions through the Good Friday agreement, Northern Ireland has become more polarized. In the proportional representation which determines the Assembly membership, the Ulster Unionists and the Assembly's First Minister David Trimble are no longer the largest party. The have been supplanted by Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party.

On the other side, the moderate Social Democratic Labour Party is no longer the largest of the Catholic groups. Sinn Fein, the political side of the IRA, has now become ascendant.

The Northern Ireland executive has been a coalition, with ministers drawn from of all the major parties. When both the DUP and Sinn Fein had two ministers things were difficul at best. The DUP refuses to even speak to members of Sinn Fein. Now that both will be entitled to greater representation in the executive, provincially-based government will be virtually impossible.

One member of the SDLP has said that it could be ten years before power is returned to Strormont. This suits the DUP, because they never wanted devolution in the first place. However, the DUP will lose in the end. Ten years is also how long it may be before Catholics outnumber the Protestants.

Posted by david at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

No Safe Place

Terrorism is get very close. Yesterday, the police evacuated 119 families from homes in Gloucester while arresting a 24-year-old man and impounding his explosives. Today they have raided four more homes. Large amounts of material have been removed from all the addresses. Gloucester is not very far at all from Hooterville.

Gloucester is convenient for blowing up GCHQ, the Government's intelligence centre, at nearby Cheltenham. It is near the homes of various members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal.

A few years ago this would have been the work of the IRA. Everyone who isn't a member of the DUP is glad that the IRA is no longer blowing things up.

It's a good thing Islam is a peaceful religion. I can't imagine what it would be like if it was violent and committed to bring the world into submission to it.

Posted by david at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2003

Filled to Overflowing

I hate to harp on about speed cameras, but the situation is getting quite ridiculous. The average yearly cost of a speed camera is over £100,000 ($170,000). The average cost of a policeman, with overtime and allowances, is under £35,000. Wouldn't it be more cost effective to hire more cops and give them radar guns?

With a speed camera, you would think the primary running cost would be the film and processing. Not true. That only accounts for about £18,000. The biggest cost is salaries. This is because the cameras are not run by the police. They are run my a multi-tiered system. The day-to-day responsibility belongs to various consultanting firms. These are hired by quangos, called safety camera partnerships. The tickets are processed by the quangos and sent to the courts to further processed. Then they have to be sent to the DVLA for further processing. All this processing takes manpower. Manpower takes money.

There is no need to worry that there won't be enough money to pay for it. They have more money than they know what to do with -- literally. Even after they have padded everyone's pocket, wheelbarrow loads of the cash has to be carted over to HM Treasury.

Posted by david at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2003

West Lothian Revisited

Most people who follow politics to any degree in thie country will be familiar with the West Lothian question. It refers to a conundrum first posed in Parliament by Tam Dalyell (pronounced like "Dail" in a two-syllable Texas drawl) as to why Scottish MPs at Westminster can vote on purely English matters, but English MPs canoot vote on the same matters that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament. (To satisfy the intensely curious, it is called the West Lothian question because Dalyell asked why a member for West Lothian [such as Mr Dalyell] can vote at Westminster on affairs relevant to West Bromwich, while the member for West Bromwich must be silent on anything happening in West Lothian.)

On Tuesday night it was very clear why the Government have done nothing to rectify this serious inequality. They needed to the Scottish Labour votes to push through one of their pieces of legislation. With a party majority of 161, the Government were only able to muster a majority vote of 17. The legislation concerned the Government's plan to establish foundation hospitals which are not managed directly by the Department of Health and have some measure of local autonomy.

The problem is that the Department of Health, though a part of the government of the United Kingdom, clearly states as the first sentence on its website, "Our aim is to improve the health and well-being of people in England." That is because it has no control over health in Scotland or Wales. What hasn't been noticed by the news media is that the Government also needed the vote of the Welsh Labour MPs. Without both the Scots and the Welsh votes, Tony B couldn't have pushed through his agenda for the English health service.

It is interesting to note that of the two members representing constituencies in West Lothian, Mr Dalyell abstained, but Robin Cook voted with the Government.

Posted by david at 01:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2003

Daily Mirror Helps al Qaeda

Perceiving it to somehow be in the public interest, the Daily Mirror sent a reporter undercover into Buckingham Palace. The reporter applied for a job as a footman and gave a false reference but still got the job. This was to prove how easy it was for a terrorist to get a job working for the Royals.

Then, just after serving in the receiving party for President Bush, he broke cover and published his story. But he and Mirror editor Piers Morgan weren't satisfied with just showing how easy it was for someone to get a job at Buck House. They published all the details of the security systems, when and where the security personnel could be found or not, and even private details of the Windsors.

While it may pander to the unending curiosity of the British public that the Queen breaks fast on cornflakes and porridge oats served from Tupperware boxes for breakfast, accompanied by plain yoghurt, fruit and toast with a light helping of marmalade and the Duke of Edinburgh prefers a fry up, this is just simple invasion of privacy and violation of a signed confidentiality agreement. To compromise the safety of the Royal Family from nutters, psychos, and Islamic terrorists (pardon any redundant language) is a whole other matter.

Though it was a bit like closing the gate after the horse had bolted, Her Majesty's lawyers successfully applied to the High Court for an injunction preventing the publishing of further details. The information was indeed scandalous. The security around the Royals does appear to be terribly lax. Did I need to know exactly how lax? No. Did it sell newspapers? Yes. If the reporter and the paper were, as they claimed, motivated by a desire to show the need to improve security, then why didn't they privately bring these details to the attention of Her Majesty's household, or since the reporter spend a significant amount of time in the Royal presence, to the attention of Her Majesty personally?

Posted by david at 11:09 PM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2003

How to Make Load of Money Without Doing Anything

There is so much lunacy in the news today, it is hard think of where to begin. As usual, if we are looking for idiots, the easiest targets are the police.

As I have mentioned before, we no longer need traffic cops in this country. Until the existing road sensors are converted road crime (i.e., speeding) detection, the police are happy to let their job be done by speed cameras.

There are already 5,000 speed cameras set up. Most of them are on motorways and major trunk roads where two conditions prevail: lots of traffic and very few accidents. That's because speed cameras, despite what police PR and that idiot the chairperson of the House of Commons Transport Committee, Gwyneth Dunwoody pretend, are about revenue. They haven't dropped accident rates, but they have raised a lot of money.

Now they are going to increase the number of cameras by 50%. Yes, another 2,500 will be set up, both in permanent locations, or as they are often wont to do, in mobile units. The AA (the UK equivalent of the AAA in the US) believes that the number of convictions will hit 4.5 million per year by 2006. At £60 a pop, that's £270 million into the Treasury on an annual basis.

It is also 13.5 million points on drivers licenses. This will help fulfil the Government's other agenda of getting everyone off the road. It won't get unsafe drivers walking the pavement, because even though younger male drivers cause the most accidents, the target demographic for the speed cameras is professionals between the ages of 45 and 54 - safest group.

Posted by david at 12:54 AM | Comments (1)

Criminal Biblical Views

Because the police don't have to out on the highways, they can be investigating the real criminals, like the Anglican Bishop of Chester.

The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, Lord Bishop of Chester, said the following in the Chester Chronicle, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph:

Some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves. I would encourage them to consider that as an option, but I would not set myself up as a medical specialist on the subject - that's in the area of psychiatric health.

I would urge you not to say such a thing whilst in the United Kingdom. It may constitute a criminal offence. These comments are being investigated by the Cheshire Police. Apparently in Cheshire there are no murders, robberies, burglaries, rapes, assaults, or anything else requiring police time. And we know they don't have to worry about speeders. It's those evangelical bishops with traditional theology that must be hit and hit hard.

And who is pushing the police? While it claims that it didn't make the complaint on an organisational level at least, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (which certainly has to top the list of oxymoronic names) welcomed the criminal investigation of the bishop for what it calls "scandalous" views. According to the Telegraph, the spokesperson for the group admitted that it could have been one of their members who filed the criminal complaint.

Let me put this in plain language for you. If you have the cheek, the audacity, to openly hold to the teaching of the Christian Church, unchanged and unbroken for two millenia, and especially if you publically express those views, you may be charged with a crime in this country. This is a country which claims that Christianity is the establish religion and where the Head of State is the Head of the Church.

Posted by david at 12:53 AM | Comments (1)

November 11, 2003

Blog Spammers

I don't know if any other bloggers have this problem, but I get loads of spam comments added deep in my blog. They never spam in the current month, and especially not on anything visible on the home page. Perhaps they don't realise that I see every comment and can edit or delete it and block their IP.

Just about every day, I have to go in and delete all of the ads and links for penis enlargement, viagra, and who knows what else. Then I have to rebuild all of my files so the comments no longer show up. I wish there was some way that I could re-work their comment spam so that it would backfire on them, but I haven't come up with a solution.

Posted by david at 09:59 PM | Comments (2)

November 10, 2003

Remembrance Sunday

It is US, it was originally called Armistice Day, but since 1954 it has been called Veterans Day. It's a rather low-key public holiday. In some places there may be Veterans Day parades, but for the most part, it is just another Monday when the mail doesn't get delivered.

In the UK it is not the Monday that is important, but the Sunday. It is called Remembrance Sunday -- the Sunday closest to the 11th of November. The focus is not on the veterans, but on the war dead.

It is so important that the Queen shows up every year at the Cenotaph - the war memorial in the middle of Whitehall (the street running from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square) - to lay a wreath. And every member of the Royal Family lays a wreath, as do the Prime Minister, the leaders of the major opposition parties, the High Commissioners of all the Commonwealth countries, and the representatives of each branch of the Armed Forces. Then thousands of veterans march past, grouped by their various associations, and a representative of each hands over a wreath to placed next to the monument.

The ceremony is shown live every year on BBC1. I watched it this year for the first time. Though the day was originally set aside to honour the dead of the First World War, it had been ten years since veterans of that conflict had been able to attend to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.

This year, 3 of the remaining 27 British WWI veterans were able to attend. Precedent was broken to accommodate them, as motor vehicles have never been allowed as part of the parade. However, at the ages of 107, 104, and 102, they were not really up to the walk down Whitehall, so they were driven in a 1911 Austin, which itself was a sight to behold.

The oldest of the group - in fact, the oldest living WWI veteran - Henry Allingham could have represented any of the three services, as he was a part of all of them. He repesented the air service, because he was there when the RAF was born. He saw action on land, at sea, and in the air. He was involved famous battles in each capacity. He participated in the Jutland, the Somme, and Ypres.

Though I thought about the thousands of servicemen who gave their lives, I was very moved by the old and infirm veterans of the Second World War, the Korean War, and other conflicts. It was important enough for them to travel to London, stand out in the weather for a long time while the first part of the ceremony took place, and then march past the Cenotaph.

Whenever the subject of remembrance arises, there is the inevitable comparison with the Eucharist. This is not a bad thing. It is, after all, the remembrance of all remembrances. Certainly it is applicable when thinking of those who have made the "ultimate sacrifice", because the ultimate ultimate sacrifice was the One who "was given up, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world."

This is where it demonstrates to me how little I truly appreciate the Eucharist. If I'm able to get weepy-eyed at watching old men walk past a stone memorial in praise of the noble, but earthly, deeds of men, how much more should I be moved by the remembrance of the saving act of the eternal God, who even allows me to participate through the sacrifice of praise in His Body and Blood.

In the UK, great honour is accorded those who fought the Kaiser and the Fuhrer. In defeating the latter, they were saved from subordination to one of the most evil regimes in history. Yet how easily we forget that in the Cross and Resurrection, we were saved from a far worse fate than the Third Reich. We were delivered from the Evil One himself. We were saved from the Second Death.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, let us remember those who gave their lives for King and Country. But let us make every Sunday a Remembrance Sunday and every day a Remembrance Day for the King of Glory who gave Himself up for us.

Posted by david at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2003

Revising Historical Revisionism

In March, I mentioned a new book that has presented a view of the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor as an English spy. It would seem that this historical revisionism is not appreciated by everyone, especially the Clan Gregor.

Today I got a comment from the Honorary Bard of Clan Gregor, which I think is certainly worth your notice, particularly if you a) took any notice of the original post, or b) have an interest in Scottish history generally.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2003

See No Evil

It was annouced this week that the Government has delayed it's plans to implement mandatory identity cards. They are putting them back until sometime later in the decade. They don't need them anyway. They now have "the Machine".

"The Machine", a passive millimetre-wave scanning device, is joint US/UK project developed not far from here by a privatised former Ministry of Defense agency. It sees through clothes and can pick up metal, ceramic, plastic, and anything else that can be used as a weapon. These show as a different colour from the intimate details of the human body, also on view.

According to The Times, the project to develop this scanning device was ordered by Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It is not a thing of the future. It is here and now. As quoted from The Times:

The existence of the scanner has been kept secret within Scotland Yard and only a few senior officers know of the project. Sir John and other commanders were given laboratory demonstrations this year.

Did I mention that the demonstrations have not been kept in the laboratory? Large versions have been used at the ports to detect illegal immigrants hiding in lorries. But you don't have to be a trans-Channel stowaway to have been exposed. If you've been in London lately, someone may have seen more of you than you intended:

A large version has already been tested on the London streets, from the back of a converted van and police are highly optimistic that it can work operationally.

They are working now to reduce the size of the scanner so that rather than requiring an unmarked van, it can fit in a car. That way, the bobbies can turn on the screen for a little entertainment while they munch on doughnuts or whatever it is they snack on in this country.

Even though policemen may be focusing their eyes on the intimate bits of you, your wife, or your daughter, theoretically they want it to see if you are carrying a handgun. This is because since they outlawed guns, gun crime has skyrocketed. In 2002, it was up 35% over the previous year. So whether you are walking or standing or sitting down they will know whether that is a gun in your pocket or you are just happy to see them.

Posted by david at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)


McDonald's is upset that the latest editon of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has included the word "McJob," defined as "low paying and dead-end work."

According to an AP news story "In an open letter to Merriam-Webster, McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo said the term is 'an inaccurate description of restaurant employment' and 'a slap in the face to the 12 million men and women' who work in the restaurant industry." Apparently McDonald's is under the impression that compilers of dictionaries just invent words and invent definitions to go along with them. If they want to know why such a word has come about, perhaps they need to look in a giant corporate mirror.

In other McNews, the company is set to report Y3.7 billion year-end losses in Japan. A price war, the introduction of a new menu, and lots of marketing gimmicks have not been enough. According to the company executive who had been brought in to improve the company's fortunes, “Somehow, someway, customers are not as satisfied with McDonald’s as they used to be.”

I'm afraid I have as much McSympathy for the world's largest restaurant chain as they have beef in their burgers.

Posted by david at 05:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2003

Unmarried Quarters

I was at first impressed with a rare move by the Government in upholding both the law and Christian morality. The Ministry of Defense is refusing to allow to lesbians, who are shortly to be legally "married" in Toronto, to take up married quarters when they move to the UK. One of them was posted to the Great White North with the RAF and met her partner there.

The MoD clarified the situation for BBC Online, stating: "The situation is that gay marriages are not recognised within the UK, therefore those individuals are not eligible for married quarters."

However, hopes for maintaining this should not be held too high, as, "The MoD is looking at this for the future but at the moment that is the situation."

Posted by david at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2003

Dr Paisley and the Demilitarised Zone

After years of fighting and terrorism, everyone wants peace in Northern Ireland. Well, everyone except for Ian Paisley. As a major step in the continuing peace process stumbled, Rev. Dr Paisely boasted that God intervened.

A key part of the peace process is the Joint Declaration. Ian Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) do not like this document. As an official press release related to the November 26 Northern Ireland Assembly elections states:

Over the course of 3 entire pages, the Joint Declaration lays out in shocking detail how the Government intends to demilitarise Northern Ireland. Watchtowers are to be vacated and demolished. Helicopters are to be no longer used for operational purposes. The massive troop withdrawals can only lead to the phasing out of the home battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment.

If such shocking things happen, the Northern Ireland might become like any other part of the UK, where people don't firebomb each other and soldiers don't patrol the streets. However, Paisely believes that any concession to Catholics, such as political representation or fewer troops pointing guns at them from watchtowers, is the work of the Devil and the Pope. Reducing the size of the army in Northern Ireland is undoubtedly a papist plot to bring the United Kindgom back under the sway of Rome. I can almost hearing him saying it now.

I am terrible with accents and imitating voices. The only one I do with confidence is Ian Paisley. This is because the only thing that Rev. Dr. Paisley, MP, and the Catholics agree on is the evil which is abortion. I was privileged to be in the House of Commons on 24th April 1990 when a bill slightly reducing the maximum gestation for a legal abortion was being debated. Opponents of the bill suggested that it was a Catholic measure, as it was introduced and heavily supported by certain Catholic MPs. Rev. Paisley rose and declared, "I doubt whether I will be accused in this debate of being Roman Catholic."

The House erupted with laughter.

Posted by david at 11:50 PM | Comments (6)

October 29, 2003

iDs-Day for the Tories

Today is the day that the Parliamentary Conservative Party decides the fate of its leader, Iain Duncan Smith. He has to get the support of 83 MPs to remain leader. If he does that, he will be secure in his position for the next year and probably lead the Tories to their next election defeat.

My money is on IDS not getting the required level of support. If he doesn't get 83 votes of confidence, he is out and cannot stand as a candidate in the next round.

I like IDS. I agree with most of the things he says. I think he is right on most of the issues. I think he is the wrong person to be leader of the party. I'm sure he made a fine army officer, but this is one group who will not follow him in to battle.

A lot of it is down to style. IDS doesn't excite anyone and in this age of television and sound bites, boring just doesn't work. In matters of policy, he hasn't found the right poltical battleground on which to set up an effective Opposition. No one knows what the Tories stand for and how they are different from those faux-Tories, New Labour.

This dissarray in the Conservative Party has even led the Liberal Democrats to shift their Shadow Cabinet right-ward to prepare to take the role of HM Opposition. It is, after all, conceivable that the LDs could win more seats at the next election than the Tories. If that happens, the Conservative Party will disintegrate.

The problem with dumping IDS is that there is no one strong enough to re-group the Tories and look like a Prime Minister-in-waiting before the next General Election. The only person who might pull it off is the person who will probably not stand for the leadership, Michael Portillo. Portillo knows that the next election is like to be lost and the leader will probably do a William Hague and resign in the aftermath. He can then come in an do what he had hoped to do the last time.

I don't particularly care for Portillo. He has gone all lefty and squishy, especially on social issues. He is particularly vulnerable to the gay lobby. I do realise that he is probably the only Tory that the nation, which itself has gone a bit lefty and squishy, will be willing to elect.

I don't want to eat any of my words, so I will wait until this evening before I write off IDS. Stranger things have happened. Any way you look at it and whatever happens in the leadership struggle, it is still a long road back for the Tories. Let's just hope there's not a bridge washed out along the way.

Posted by david at 03:50 AM | Comments (2)

October 27, 2003

Contrasts of the Church in Zimbabwe

Thugs in Mugabe's Zimbabwe sometimes where clerical collars or even bishop's mitres. Nolbert Kunonga, the Anglican Bishop of Harare has seized a white-owned farm and his son has moved into the farmhouse. His abuse isn't limited to just white people, though. Apparently believing in equal-opportunity victimization, he has thrown out 50 black workers and their families to make way for his own staff.

The property is quite conveniently located just about 10 miles from his cathedral, so he will be able to communte easily to work, where he can resume committing sacrilege and shaming the name of Christ.

As an outspoken supporter of Mugabe, it would seem the farm was a reward to Kunonga from the dicator.

On the other hand, for Christian leaders who speak out against Mugabe, there is a whole other approach. Merfyn Temple is a retired Methodist minister who spent 31 years as a missionary in Africa. Now 83 years old, he decided to go to Zimbabwe. Not wanting to arrive empty-handed, according to The Sunday Times "he packed 15 kilos of organic flour into a 90-year-old suitcase and attached the casters from his wheelie bin to help transport it."

But the gift of flour to a starving people was not the primary reason for his journey. He had a message for the vile Robert Mugabe. He got up in the Holy Trinity Methodist Church in Harare and read a letter he had written:

Dear Mr Mugabe, The sufferings of the people of Zimbabwe are an abomination in the sight of the Lord. I am praying that the British government arrest you and charge you with crimes against humanity.

Yours faithfully, Merfyn Temple.

He then left the church and walked to Mugabe's residence to deliver the letter. As he approached, he was arrested and thrown into a jail cell designed for six people with 17 occupants. He was accused of being a spy for Tony Blair or George Bush.

The intellectual fortitude of Mugabe's officials can be no more clearly demonstrated than by the next episode which I will quote from The Sunday Times intact:

When Temple was questioned the next day, a police officer who said he had been trained by the FBI in methods of interrogation told him: "We think you are a spy for three reasons. You are tall and you look like a retired brigadier. Your arms are very brown and so you must have spent many years in Africa. When you gave us your coded address in Honiton you said: 'Hotel, hotel'. That is the kind of language the army uses when it relays messages."

He was interrogated further two days later. He daughter in England got worried because she had not heard from him, so she got in contact with a lawyer in Harare who managed to get him out of jail and deported back to Britain.

Seems like God was looking out for him.

Posted by david at 02:06 AM | Comments (4)

October 26, 2003

Diplomatically Incorrect

The government of the United States wants to recall an ambassador from a foreign post. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? The only problem is that it wants to recall a British ambassador.

The US is very unhappy with the British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He keeps going around telling the truth. The US is not denying that he is telling the truth - only that it is very embarrassing. The Bush administration has been putting a lot of pressure on the Blair administration (surprise, surprise) and as a result the Foreign Office has told Craig Murray "resign or we'll sack you" according to reports in the Sunday Times.

The problems started when the US ambassador John Herbst and Mr Murray shared a platform speaking to senior Uzbek officials. Herbst said Uzbekistan had made “some progress” in the areas of “democratic reforms and the protection of human rights”. Murray followed this diplomatic song and dance routine with statements like, “Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy, nor does it appear to be moving in the direction of democracy,” and “We believe there to be between 7,000 and 10,000 people in detention. In many cases they have been falsely convicted. The terrible case of (two men) apparently tortured to death by boiling water is not an isolated incident. Brutality is inherent in (your) system.”

The Tashkent government was not amused. After all, it was the sort of thing that could get a patriotic Uzbek cooked like a pot of potatoes. And what makes Tashkent upset makes Washington upset. Uzbekistan is, after all, an important ally in keeping Afghanistan under control. They may boil dissidents alive, but they also let the US build an base for launching airstrikes across the border.

This once again brings to light to awful hypocrisy of the US when picking and choosing which regimes to topple and which to placate. Saddam's brutality was used as an reason to invade Iraq, on the off-chance no WMD could be found. Uzbek president Islam Karimov's similar practices are ignored. I've already blogged about the treatment of Taliban prisoners by the same US government that wouldn't tolerate similar treatment by a foreign government it didn't fancy at the time and would never tolerate it if the prisoners were American.

But what is the British government to do with Mr Murray? While he was away on holiday an investigator was sent to Tashkent to look at (or create) allegations of misbehviour. He has now been accused of a string of misdemeanors, including having sex with visa applicants in his office, going out drinking in an official car, and driving a Land Rover down the steps of the embassy, though none of the allegations has been proven.

The Foreign Office will not even admit that it has investigated Murray. It is, however, using the allegations to pressure him into resigning. He is not inclined to do so. He's too busy telling the truth.

Posted by david at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2003

A Truly Evil Man

Thanks to Huw at Doxos for pointing this out.

Even over here in the UK, we have been keeping up with the saga of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a nursing home after suffering brain damage [as has been pointed out in comments below, not in a vegetative state]. Her husband has been trying desperately to kill her. It would seem among other things that this would facilitate his marriage to his girlfriend by whom he already has a child.

Her family is trying just as desperately to save her, as are people everywhere who care about the right to life. Her husband finally got a court order to have her feeding tube removed so she could slowly starve to death. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, he refused to allow her to receive the viaticum -- the Holy Communion of the last rites. Perhaps he thought a particle of the Most Precious Body or a drop of the Most Precious Blood might sustain her earthly life a few moments longer.

Now that Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature have stepped in and passed emergency legislation to save her life and restore her feeding tube, perhaps her access to the Holy Mysteries will be restored.

It is no doubt down to my lack of holiness, but it is difficult when praying for Terri not pray imprecatorily on her most evil *astard of a husband.

(I don't like to water down my words with substitutionary symbols, but I know I have readers who have to access from behind language-police filters.)

Posted by david at 03:47 AM | Comments (2)

October 19, 2003

Kids Say the Darndest Things

A lesbian teacher has sued her former school and the county council because of discrimination due to sexual orientation. You might think this comes as no surprise. Was she denied a promotion? Was she shunned by other teachers? No, she was taunted by pupils. She is suing for loss of earnings, pension rights and, of course, hurt feelings. £215,000 worth.

Somehow using health and safety law, she is claiming that the school failed to protect her from taunts by 11- to 16-year-olds who called her “lezzie” and “dyke” after they found out she had been visiting a lesbian club. I have to wonder how her pupils found out. If she was visiting such a club in Portsmouth, where her school was located and her students live, that would have been just stupid. I'm not suggesting that those pupils should have acted the way they did, but given that schools have been stripped of so much disciplinary power, I can't imagine how it could have been eliminated. However, according to the Guardian, her barrister said the suit was based upon "the grounds that the school had the power to end the abuse by the pupils but did not adequately do so and, therefore, effectively permitted it."

It has taken a while for all the hurt feelings to take their toll, because the alleged pupil campaign lasted from 1990 to 1996. Now seven years later, this case, according to the Sunday Times, "could help thousands of homosexual workers to claim compensation." Perhaps there more agenda than angst. The case was heard on appeal in the House of Lords in January.

If this case is successful, the logical legal progression will be that parents will be sued for anytime their child says anything politically incorrect to anyone.

Posted by david at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

October 17, 2003

Not Another 1945

Well, the Cubs will not be in the World Series, after blowing a 3-1 lead in the NLCS.

At the time of thie writing, the Red Sox lead the Yankees 4-0 in the bottom of the 4th of the ALCS game 7. I'd like to the boys from Beantown win that, but there will still be no Cubs/Red Sox Series, which is the stuff of history.

Well, back to 11 1/2 more months of not caring a bit about baseball.

On the other hand, I might actually attend a Hereford United football match for the first time in two years. They are top of the table, where they will probably be until late in the season when they will lose out on automatic promotion to the Football League and then lose in the playoffs to spend another year in the Conference.

Posted by david at 02:35 AM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2003

Running the Race Alone

China has entered the space race. They are 40 years behind everyone else. So far behind that the other players have finished, gone home, opened a beer, and sat in from of the telly.

It looks like there is hope for continued exploration of the moon, as I have long advocated. Sadly the country that first went to the moon will not be a part of it. the way things are going, the Chinese will probably be the first to Mars.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2003

Missing History

The Chicago Cubs are one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945. Channel 5 here in the UK, which screens live MLB games throughout the year, apparently doesn't have a deal for the playoffs.

I don't think there is a radio network with free Internet streaming audio rights.

Update: Channel 5 are showing the Red Sox/Yankees game tonight starting at 1:00 am here. I would watch that, except that I have to be out the door by 7:30.

Posted by david at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2003

Guantanamo Guano

The US Government has created a serious problem for itself. It invaded Afghanistan, declared anyone who fought against it an unlawful combatant, captured a load of them and shipped them off to Cuba. It was originally suggested that they could be executed for their crime of fighting against US forces in their own country (or in some case in a country where they were invited by the de facto government of the day long before and US forces arrived).

Now since a few of the prisoners are subjects of Her Britannic Majesty, Tony Blair has played his cards to make sure those don't get the intravenous drip of death. What can be done then with the others? The only interim solution is to keep them chained up like dogs and forget about them.

The Government more recently thought they had themselves a spy. The Muslim army chaplain assigned to the prisoners looked like he might have been colluding with them. He was caught with a map of the prison, after all. Not that a chaplain might need a map of the place to find the cage of a particular prisoner. Anyhow, they whisked him off to a Naval brig while they attempted to build a case against him.

It appears now that the best the Army can do is "disobeying orders for improperly handling classified information" because he had "wrongly transported" it. He can still get two years and a bad conduct discharge. In other words, he didn't do anything intentionally wrong, and didn't actually jeopardize national security (or even the security of the Gitmo dog pound) but the Army (and the Government) really needs to save face over this.

I am sure he is not the last halal meat the US will hang up to dry before this is all over, if it ever is over.

Posted by david at 03:55 AM | Comments (0)

Tougher Than It Looks

I haven't paid that much attention to the California gubernatorial recall. I'm sorry to see that the best the Republicans could come up with was a liberal movie star married to one of the most powerful Democrat dynasties in American history.

I noted with interest that it wasn't until after the election that Arnie discovered the state finances to be much worse than he had previously thought. Maybe its not going to be such as easy job putting the land of nuts, fruits, and flakes on a sound footing.

He may be the second actor to become governor of California, but Arnie's no Ronald Reagan. Fortunately he is constitutionally barred from running for the Presidency.

Posted by david at 03:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2003

Employments Rights Are For The Young

If you are going to lose your job in the UK, be sure to do it before your 65th birthday. Until then, you will get redundancy pay. Your employer can't just decide you are no longer needed and change the locks or the entry code, leaving you with no visible means of support. However, turn 65 and you can be turned onto the street. That's what the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided yesterday in overturning a lower decision.

You are entitled to the Government pension of course. As long as you have worked for long enough, you can get as much as £77.45 per week! (That's about $123.00.) That's £333 per month. Taxable, of course. Not that you will pay much tax on just under £4000 per year. But if you were making, say, £30,000 a year at age 64 and are suddenly making £4000 a year at age 65, that can be quite a shock.

Oh but let's say that you have an additional pension with your employer. But, oops, it doesn't fully vest until you are a couple of weeks over 65, because that when you hit the necessary milestone of service to the company. If they can get rid of you during that fortnight during which you have no employment rights, think of the money they have saved!

Oh, I forgot to mention the name of the appellant - the one that fought so hard and won. Was it some big mean heartless ultra-capitalist corporation? Not exactly. It was Her Majesty's big mean heartless socialist Government.

Posted by david at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2003

Al "Rupert Murdoch" Gore

It has been reported that Al Gore is in talks to buy a cable TV channel. He and his group of investors want to set up a liberal news outlet to counteract the Fox News Channel, which is decidedly conservative. The channel they are hoping to buy, Newsworld International, is currently only available in 20 million US homes. They would seem to be hoping that other cable providers would pick it up.

I really don't get this. There are already liberal news outlets available in the US market. I believe they are known as ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN. This is the very reason Fox is doing so well and is the most widely watched news channel in the States. All that Gore will be able to do is take a small slice of this already well-divided pie. He's not going to take any viewers away from Fox.

However, when the Nielsen ratings are released, I'm sure that Al will declare himself the real winner, at least amongst viewers in Florida. In a few years, he will remind us that he actually invented the whole idea of cable news channels.

Posted by david at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2003

Woooo Pig! Sooie!

I don't think they were ranked in the pre-season polls, but Arkansas is now at No. 8 in the AP and No. 9 in the USA Today/ESPN rankings. They have beaten both Texas and Alabama in their 4-0 start to the season.

I attended my first college football games at Razorback Stadium. In fact, the only college football I've seen live outside of Fayetteville was at the 1989 Cotton Bowl, in which Arkansas played a UCLA team quarterbacked by Troy Aikman. I have retained a lingering fondness for UA football, despite the time that certain unnamed players stole hamburgers from me when I had a job delivering fast food to the campus.

One of those players went on to become a eight-time Pro Bowler with the with an unnamed team located about a mile up in the Rocky Mountains - probably one of the reasons I never could like that team. I just Googled that person and there are pages and pages of websites, mostly with memorabilia for sale. I suppose he's still a hot commodity even three years after retirement. He may have even become a nice bloke. I'll never know. I'll only remember him, not for the footballs he intercepted for fumbles he recovered, but rather for other things he took. But you know what? I'm sure he doesn't remember. And even if he did, I doubt he would care. (If you do, Steve, feel free to stop by Burger Plus the next time you are in Fayetteville. It has now been combined with Wes' Hickory Smoked BBQ. )

I don't know the character of the players with the current Razorback squad. I just hope they aren't thieving from some other poor grad student just trying to make a buck. And I hope they continue to do well this season. Go Hogs!

Posted by david at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2003

Priced Off the Road

Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced that more tax is to be added to the cost of petrol. Even though 80% of the purchase price already goes in the Government's coffers, another 5p (7.5¢) per gallon is being added.

This is another example of how this Government really doesn't care what the governed think. We already pay more for fuel that any other country in Europe except the Germans. (And really, who gives a toss what the Germans pay?) The average price of petrol is over 2½ times of the price in the US.

But there is more about this than money. It is also another attempt by the occupants of ministerial Daimlers to force more drivers off the roads.

Posted by david at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2003

Don't Ask, Don't Treat

Bowel cancer kills 16,000 people each year in the UK. It is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in this country. By a simple screening of a faecal occult blood sample and a sigmoidoscopy, 5,000 lives could be saved.

The NHS won't have it. It does not want the screening. Why? Because it doesn't know what to do with the additional patients it would identify. It would increase the waiting lists, which would lead to more of the usual horror stories in the newspapers. The NHS doesn't need any more bad press. It's worth the loss of 5,000 lives a year to avoid it.

According to the new chief executive of Cancer Research UK, there is a similar problem with prostate cancer screening. The blood test only costs £30, but more test means more positive results, and then what are they supposed to do? Treat all these people?

Posted by david at 12:48 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2003

The Gates of Hell

Bill Gates is getting a stronger and stronger stranglehold on the world of communication. The features incorporated into Office 2003 are pretty scary.

WorldNetDaily has the scoop. Thanks to Mary for bringing this to my attention.

Posted by david at 10:12 PM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No, It's...

You thought they were the stuff of comic books, TV shows, and movies. Who else would wear a blue catsuit, gold boots and a matching pair of crotch-hugging briefs? With the way that drivers are being treated these days, we have needed a superhero. Now we have Angle Grinder Man!

The chief weapon used by traffic wardens against parking violators in this country, and especially in London, is the wheel clamp. I never have understood the logic of the wheel clamp, since it forcibly leaves in place a vehicle that should have been there in the first place. You're blocking traffic? Well, we'll clamp you in place so that until you cough up £105, the obstruction will remain. Already paid £105 plus the fine for a parking space? Might as well leave it all day for that price.

But really, who wants to pay and extra £105 to park? (That's about $170, for those of you keeping score on the other side of the Pond.) Angle Grinder Man didn't, so he went to a tool hire shop and got - you guessed it - an angle grinder. He sawed off the clamp amidst cheering bystanders and a superhero was born.

Now he goes out at night in the aforementioned costume and cuts off clamps. Though he has advertised his service through flyers and a website (which wasn't working due to a server error when I tried it), and takes calls on the Angle Grinder hotline, he accepts no payment for his services.

Posted by david at 11:42 PM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2003

In Cold Blood

The Israeli Deputy Prime Minister has openly told the press that the Israeli Government is considering assassinating Yasser Arafat. They have decided they will get rid of him. It is only a question of how.

What progress has been made toward a Palestinian state? How is the leader of the Palestinians treated by his Israeli overlords? In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, "His expulsion is an option, his liquidation is another option. It is also possible to confine him to prison-like conditions." And they wonder why the Intifada continues?

The Israeli Government acts like it is convinced that Arafat is the reason the suicide bombings continue. I can't believe that they are so stupid as to not get that the continued mistreatment of the Palestinian people might just play a teensy-weensy role in this. They have taken an land settled by other people, shipped most of them off into the exile of refuge camps, and created the remaining group as legalised second-class citizens. They have bulldozed the Palestinians ghettos and consistently taken away ownership of Palenstinian land for citing the need for Jewish lebensraum.

There just may be something to the psychological theory that victims of abuse tend to become abusers themselves. At least it appears to be vaild on a sociological scale.

Posted by david at 12:59 AM | Comments (4)

September 14, 2003

Dumb and Dumber

The Government has decided that 50% of the population aged 18-30 must go through higher education within the next seven years. It has lowered the standards of exams for GCSE and A-level to ensure this. After all, students aren't going to get smarter, so the only thing left to do is recruit thicker ones.

The senior examiner of the GCSE maths exam for the past nine years for Edexcel, one of the main exam providers, has admitted the results were fixed this year. Because candidates for the exam had the worst marks in a decade, the grading scale was radically adjusted to make sure the required number got good enough grades to go on to A-level. Normally it takes 50% on the exam to get a C. This year it was 42%. As David Kent told The Sunday Times, “If we had set the grade C boundary at 50%, the proportion passing would have been considerably less. In fact, it would have been so low we didn’t even consider it."

According to Mr Kent, the exam boards make sure that the same proportion of students pass the exam each year, regardless of how well they actually do.

The cover up the scandal, Edexcel have refused to release the actual "raw" marks to the students. In other words, those who tok the exam are now allowed to know how many questions they actually missed. David Burghes, a former chairman of examiners and professor of education at Exeter University said, “We know it is a fiddle because students have not been given their raw marks on the papers.”

One thing that the Government hasn't been able to do is keep the new students once they ship them off to university. Even with remedial classes and a general dumbing-down of the university curriculum (since it is useless to teach completely over their heads), 40% of students are dropping out of some universities.

Universities have alway had some students drop out for various reasons. Even Cambridge and Oxford, lose 1.3% and 2% of students respectively before they complete their degrees. But this is nothing like London Metropolitan where 38% drop out. While increased tuition fees and the Government's increasing willingness to burden students with educational debt plays some role in all of this, The Sunday Times reports that research from the Institute for Higher Education Policy found that the lower a student’s grades before going to university, the higher the chance of dropping out.

So as a result, the Government is intent on creating a nation of university drop-outs saddled with debt.

Posted by david at 02:32 PM | Comments (2)

September 01, 2003

More Keystone Terrorism Cops

While Lancashire police were surrounding a seven-year-old boy with a plastic gun and holding his father at gunpoint, Kent police were stopping all the cross-Channel ferries and stranded almost 2,000 people for seven hours.

In the biggest terrorist alert since the army was sent in to Heathrow airport in February, three men were held under anti-terrorism laws for carrying two or three taser stunguns - the kind used in the UK by police. Police first said that x-ray scanners had found bomb-making equipment. How you mistake a stun gun for bomb-making equipment?

I think the Kent police just got lucky to find anything on these blokes. Tasers are widely available on the black market. If this had been a real suspected terrorism incident, Scotland Yard would have taken charge. Instead, a Met source made this comment: “What they found was not what they thought they found. Kent police didn’t want to tell us what was going on. It isn’t going to make them look very clever.”

Posted by david at 12:26 AM

August 30, 2003

Putting a Stop to the Movement of Arms

A seven-year-old boy playing with a plastic gun while travelling on a family holiday caused a highway to be shut down as police cars surrounded him and a helicopter swooped in. After they were forced off the road, little Connor Price's father and older brother were put on the ground and told they would be shot if they moved. Connor and another brother were put into a police car. His mother, granny, and another brother, who were travelling in another car could only watch helpless from behind all the police vehicles.

All the Lancashire police could say was, "We have to take any reports of firearms seriously."

Posted by david at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2003

Smarter and Smarter

After a brief fascination with the whole idea back in my teen years, when bad eschatology had me convinced of the horrors of computers so big they could hold information on every person on the planet in one room (the sort of thing you could do today with a palm-top), I've not been overly concerned about the Government and high-tech information management. Because of this, I am surprised at the number of items in the news recently that are audacious enough to merit blogging. I am now mentioning this at a rate of every other day.

Well, they've done it yet again. The Government cannot even trial ID cards for the general population without parliamentary approval. The Government doesn't just want ID cards. They want "smart" cards, implanted with a chip carrying biometric data.

While the Home Office doesn't have the credit card-sized ID cards, they do have passports. They are going to be running a trial of creating "smart" passports. They will start with the residents of a small as-of-yet-unnamed market town, to see how they react to the use of fingerprinting and eye-scanning. If they go like sheep to the slaughter, without any of that silly bleating about civil liberties, then the scheme will be introduced across the entire population.

According to The Times today, The Home Office insisted that the scheme would be carried out on behalf of the UK Passport Service in preparation for the introduction of “smart” passports.

But a spokesman admitted that the information from the trial could be used if a national identity card system were introduced.

The UK Passport Service’s business plan for the next five years, published this year, showed that officials were hoping to begin to implement the “smart” passports by April 2005.

That's 20 months away. The ID cards will not be far behind.

Posted by david at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2003

Shrouded in Darkness

Today the planet Mars passes closer to the Earth that it has in a long, long time. Since astronomers calculate that this is the closest it has been in the last 60,000 years, for young earth creationists this means that it is the closest it has ever been.

As many of you will know I have long been a proponent of Martian exploration. Mrs H will tell you that I am always looking forward to buying Aidie his first telescope. But even if he was old enough to have one now, it would be a total waste tonight. The UK is inconveniently covered with clouds.

Since Mars will appear just about as bright for the next few weeks, I am hopeful that the clouds will break for at least one evening.

Posted by david at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

Promoting What?

Somehow I doubt that this piece I received from a friend by e-mail is apocryphal. It just sounds to good not to be true:

On TV the other day a reporter was interviewing the Alabama judge who
refused to take down the ten commandments from the courthouse grounds.

"You're promoting the Christian religion," she said. "Would you allow a
Torah to be on display here?"

Posted by david at 08:57 PM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2003

Chipping Away at Privacy

As I mentioned recently, the Government are planning to install tracking microchips in cars within four years. But it isn't just the Government that wants to know where you are. Businesses are interested as well.

Marks & Spencer are planning to insert tiny chips in each of its suits, beginning this autumn. These Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices will send out radio signals which can be tracked by scanners. Initially the signal will have to be read from no more than 5 metres distance. The chips are about the size of a grain of sand and available for just a few pence each, so the wearer will notice nothing either in the clothing or its cost. Tesco and Asda have similar plans for their products.

There is nothing to keep the Government from tuning into the same frequencies and tracking the wearer. Initially, this would not be difficult in cities, since an individual already isn't much farther than 5 metres from the Government's CCTV at any time. Just add a little scanner to the side of the camera and presto! Big Brother is watching you in two ways at the same time.

This is not just idle speculation. According to The Times, the Government has been sponsoring RFID trials. As soon as Gordon Brown decides its time to ditch the pound and join the Euro, as long as you have money in your wallet, you will be tracked everywhere. The European Central Bank plans to put the RFID granules in euro banknotes.

RFID is not something that is confined to Europe. In fact, it is much further along in the US. A pressure group, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (Caspian), has already forced Gillette, Benetton, and Wal-Mart to back down from RFID. Gillette has actually been setting up cameras to take mug shots of customers who picked up the Mach3 razor. They have been doing this in the UK as well, as reported in the Guardian last month:

The supermarket chain Tesco has admitted testing controversial technology that tracks customers buying certain products through its stores. Anyone picking up Gillette Mach3 razor blades at its Cambridge store will have his or her picture taken.

But back to the US, as reported in The Times today:

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Unilever are working with the Auto-ID Centre, part of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, to develop the common standard that would allow RFID tags to gain widespread adoption.

It would appear that Government and big business have a keen interest in knowing what we are buying, when we are buying it, where we are going with it, and what we are doing with it.

Posted by david at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

"The Stump is Black, the Foot is White...

...together they learn to walk upright, what a beautiful sight."

Okay, so that isn't actually one of the verses to the song by Three Dog Night, but it was originally the hope of the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust. As an amputee, this is a story for which I just couldn't pass up comment.

Apparently Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals builds prostheses like Henry Ford built Model T cars - available in any colour, as long as it is white. Ingrid Nicholls is about to have an operation which will involved removing her foot. She is a woman of mixed race whose natural skin colour is decidedly dark. However, she was told she would have to pay for an artificial limb if she wanted a black foot.

A spokeswoman for the Trust admitted to the BBC, "She was originally told she would have to pay more for any other colour, but that has now been resolved." Apparently, they were able to dig around in the tax-funded coffers and find some money to pony up for it.

Not being one to ever be accused of being politically correct, I'm usually not moved by people who feel "angry and hurt". But here is a woman who is about to lose a major body part and face a life of disability and disfigurement. Then she is told that she is only entitled to have a white skin as the cosmetic as well as functional replacement for her foot.

Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority said it was all a "misunderstanding". A misunderstanding. A misunderstanding? Your foot is a size 6 and we gave you a 7? That's a misunderstanding. You needed it this week instead of next week? That's a misunderstanding. Black patients have to pay for black prostheses while white people get white prostheses for free? That is not a misunderstanding. That is simply outrageous.

Posted by david at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2003

Big Brother, Where Art Thou?

In most things, the UK lags behind the rest of the EU, generally sceptical of ideas immanating from Brussels. This time the Government here is a step ahead. Brussels would like to be able to track the drug smugglers and terrorists across Europe using electronic vehicle identification. The UK Government wants to use it for so much more.

The Government here is hoping to microchip every vehicle. This will save the lots of money. Not only will is save money, it will make lots and lots of money. It will save the cost of traffic cops -- what few of them there are left. It will save the cost of speed cameras which have by and large replaced the cops. All a car has to do is travel from one roadside sensor to another. The speed is calculated by a computer, which can then print off the citation and address it to the registered owner of the car.

But it isn't just a explosion in speeding fines that will have the coffers overflowing. The chip will also notify the Government when the road tax disc, MOT, or insurance has expired. It will even know when the car is parked illegally or following too closely on the motorway. A feasibility study prepared by the Association of Chief Police Officers has listed 47 possible applications for the chip. Every possible minor offence will be charged and paid for and the computer won't have to listen to any excuses, whether good, bad, or indifferent.

The Government will also know everywhere every car travels. Can't remember which day you visited family in Wales or friends in the Midlands? The Government can. Can't remember with whom you associated at a political meeting? Well, you won't have the records, but the Government will be able to correlate all of the chips at a particular location at a particular time. I'm sure any of my intelligent readers can extrapolate the implications from there.

The Government wants to get every car tagged within the next four years. As for the network of roadside sensors, well, surprise! it's already in place.

Posted by david at 10:01 PM | Comments (3)

August 17, 2003

In Appreciation of All Your Hard Work

It's not just patients who are treated callously by the NHS here in Hooterville. They don't take care of their own very well, either. A staff nurse at the hospital recently retired after 27 years and received a retirement gift of £58 from Hereford Hospitals Trust. That's about £2 for each year of service.

You think that stingy? As usual, the story doesn't end there, and of course it gets worse.

Her gift was followed up by a letter from the trust claiming that she had been overpaid £154.75 and threatening legal action. This does not take into account the many hours of unpaid overtime she put in over more than a quarter century. The overpayment was not even due to any fault of her own. The department in which she worked didn't give enough notice to the finance department to stop her pay in time.

Posted by david at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

Captive Audience

I had the misfortune to use the public loo in the middle of Worcester yesterday. It wasn't the state of the facilities that I found particularly disgusting - though they weren't particularly clean. No, it was the state of the personals advertised in pen on the stall frame.

It is not uncommon to see, "For a good time, ring..." or "For [homosexual act of your choice] ring..." with a mobile phone number. Now the internet has made things easier and the graffitied area larger. The most recent ad writer in my stall included his email address and even a Yahoo group URL in case I was interested in pics, before deciding whether to engage in a vile act.

I'm sure this sort of advertising works, or it wouldn't be so pervasive. I just wish I didn't have to see it.

Posted by david at 01:58 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2003

When Health Care Becomes an Oxymoron

It may have taken a year for me to get a simple medical test procedure on the NHS, from the time I was rushed to hospital and almost prepped for surgery on a suspected rupture bowel. And it may have taken five hours for them to find me an available bed while they kept me doped up on morphine to keep me from complaining. At least I wasn't dripping with blood with my face ripped apart.

Last Saturday here in Hooterville, an eight-year-old boy had an accident on his bicycle and smashed his face into the pavement. As his mother recounted to a local newspaper, he was "covered in blood, his gums were ripped apart and his face was twice the size where it was already swelling up." She rushed him to the A&E (what we call the ER in this country). Without rendering any care or assistance to him, the boy was kept in the waiting room for four hours, wearing only his jeans and shoes. He wasn't even offered a blanket.

When he was finally seen by a doctor at around midnight, his mouth was ignored and a band-aid was stuck on his elbow. He was given no pain killers, no antibiotics to ward off infection, nothing. The doctor just told his mother to take him to the dentist the next morning.

When she was able to get him in to see a dentist the next day, he was finally prescribed medication and x-rays revealed that his jaw was broken. When she returned to the hospital, they weren't sympathetic, not to even mention apologetic. Instead, they said the x-rays were wrong, even though they stilll hadn't looked at his injuries.

Posted by david at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

Not to be Outdone

The British NHS may have compassions problems, but in that ever competitive cross-channel rivalry, the French are not to be outdone. If the British can be uncaring, the Frogs can be even more callous.

A British tourist in France was left to die alone in a coma, because neither the French hospital staff nor the French authorities could be arsed to inform his family. Maurice Lee was browsing in a gift shop when he suddenly collapsed from a stroke and was rished to hospital. It was after nine days, when he hadn't returned home, that his wife contacted the police.

Mrs Lee said, “It was an appalling bureaucratic nightmare and a very harrowing experience. If you’re going to have a stroke don’t do it in France. The French authorities didn’t take any steps to find out who he was. The hospital’s attitude was simply ‘We are here to care for sick people not find their families’.”

But the French don't want you to think that their hard hearts are limited to callous disregard. No, they want to take a more active role in promoting misery. After the family rushed to his bedside, during the four remaining days he had to live, they were only allow to spend one hour per day with him. So out of a total of his last thirteen days, they were allowed to be with him four hours.

Oh, but there's more... While Mr Lee lay dying in his coma, the hospital, which had somehow come into possession of his car, would not allow his wife of 28 years to have his car keys. They required Mr Lee's written consent. The written consent of a man in a coma.

Posted by david at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2003

Hot Hot Hot

For most of you in the States, this won't seem remarkable.

The high temperature record in Britain has been shattered today. It was so shattered that we recorded the very first 100°F day ever. The record was broken earlier in the day at Heathrow Airport, when it recorded 99.32°F, but the sun wasn't finished quite yet. Heathrow eventually topped out at 100.6°F. The new record, however, was set at Gravesend, Kent when it regstered 100.8°F.

The real losers were the bookies. William Hill alone will be paying out £250,000 on bets that the thermometer would reach 100°F. The odds were 25-1.

Posted by david at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2003

Miracles Do Happen... Well, Sorta

I know I have been gone from the States for a long time when I look at the Major League Baseball standings and the Royals are at the top of their division. Admittedly this is only the case because MLB has split the leagues into three divisions, as they only have the 5th best record in the American League.

I was a Royals fan back in the late 80s and early 90s, when they were really getting into their downward slide from the glory year of 1985.

Posted by david at 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2003

The Death of Europe

As euthanasia became legalised in the Netherlands and other countries liberalised their positions assisted suicide, it was portrayed as a means of merciful death for a few suffering people. A study of the deaths of those over 80 in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland has produced scary results.

At most, two-thirds of the deaths was of natural causes. As some of the deaths involved illegal procedures, some of the doctors surveyed may have been less than forthcoming. Some of the countries in the study are more dangerous than others for octogenarians.

If you are over 80, do not go to Switzerland. Stay away. At least 51 percent of the deaths were due to euthanasia. Over half.

Euthanasia or assisted suicide were a factor in 38 percent of octogenarian deaths in Belgium, 41 percent in Denmark, 44 percent in the Netherlands and 36 percent in Sweden. The safest place to be was Italy, where less than 1 in 4 were helped along to the other side.

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2003

More Euro-Rights

A beggar in Nottingham has been given £5000 of taxpayer money. It's not for food or shelter or clothing. In fact, she won't be getting the money at all. It will go directly to her lawyer. She's been given legal aid to sue Nottingham City Council.

Margaret Edlin is suing under the human rights act. The City Council has imposed an injunction on her in a crackdown on persistent and aggressive beggars. Begging is illegal in the UK. She has been convicted of begging 18 times in the last 18 months. She believes the human rights act gives her the right to beg anywhere she wants to.

It seems odd that she is suing the City of Nottingham for preventing her from breaking the law, at least within its precincts. After all, the City Council doesn't make the laws, nor does it enforce them.

You may think this is a bit far-fetched. After all, a greengrocer in South London tried to use a clause in the act granting the right to “impart information without interference by public authority”. He wanted to sell his produce in pounds and ounces that his customers understand rather than the grams imposed by Brussels. He was unsuccessful.

However, last year it was found that prisoners have the right to possess pornography. This seems to fall under the the right to receive information enshired in the act. Everyone has the right to the "information" provided by porn, but not the information provided by weighing scales.

So don't be surprised if Margaret Edlin wins the right to break the law wherever she pleases.

Posted by david at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2003

The Western Isles on the Edge of Perdition

Isolated at the far reaches of northwestern Britain, and separated from it by a distance greater than from southeastern Britain to France (and a journey of more than twice the duration), the Western Isles have lived up the the biblical maxim to be in the world but not of the world. They are, after all, barely in the world to begin with.

However, things are beginning to change in Lewis, Harris, and North Uist. It started slowly. First, people were allowed to leave the Isles on a Sunday. Caledonian-MacBrayne faced great opposition, but they actually transported heathens on the Sabbath. One local minister nearly became a martyr by lying on the jetty when the first Sunday ferry to the Isle of Skye tried to leave.

As of this weekend things have deteriorated much further. For the first time, a shop was open on a Sunday. It was a service station. I know it seems small to most people, but you have to think about it. Who needs a service station? Motorists. Why would motorists need a service station? To travel on the Sabbath. So we have one sin facilitating another.

Something even more sinister is afoot. The son of the man who opened his service station applied to the local council for a license to operate his paintball enterprise on Sunday. The decline in morals is evident in that someone had the audacity to even apply. I would certainly think that the whole family has been excommunicated from the Wee Free Church of Scotland! It has happened over a lot less.

The Western Isles have also been reached by European human rights legislation. Apparently under Euro-law, you can't outlaw something on purely religious grounds like Sabbath breaking. The council received legal advice that they now have to phrase their decisions on such matters in terms of "local amenity".

In a decision that was no doubt published before the matter came up on the council agenda, the entertainment license for the paintball company was found to have adverse effect on local amenity.

Posted by david at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2003

Tony Martin's Real Mistake

Tony Martin's big mistake was not shooting and killing an intruder in his house. Sure, that cost him two-thirds of a five-year sentence in prison for self-defence... er... I mean, manslaughter. No, Tony's big mistake was shooting a gypsy.

Gypsies, or "travellers" as they are often called, are a close-knit community, though they are scattered all over the UK. And they are all related. They don't all live in the horse-drawn wagons or car-pulled caravans in laybys, fields, and public car parks. Some live in houses, like the dead thief Fred Barras grew up in. (They are not to be confused with those traveller wannabees that are just throwback 70s hippies.)

The Gypsies have put a bounty on Tony Martin's head. Apparently they are all pitching in from their multiple dole accounts, profits from fenced goods, and other nefarious means of acquisition, and offering £60,000 to have him killed.

The police are obviously taking the threats seriously, as they have set up a mobile police unit near Martin's Norfolk farm.

A cousin of Barras said of Martin, "He will get it. Something will happen to him, it's got to. We've got hundreds of relations who aren't happy with it. And to those who say it's just talk, I'd say wait and see. The detectives can't be with him all the time, can they?"

Another cousin told a national newspaper, "He is a dead man. I don't know if it will be a traveller that will do it, but it will be a proper hitman, a professional job."

Martin will be unable to defend himself, because he has had his shotgun confiscated and his gun license revoked. I'm not sure how effective the police protecting him will be. If they see an armed gypo headed for Tony's house, they will probably challenge him. Since they are as unlikely as Martin to have guns, they will probably say, "Stop or I'll say 'stop' again."

If all this had happened in a civilized country, where property and personal safety are defensible by deadly force without fear of state retribution, things would be different. Tony Martin and his neighbours would be ready for anyone who tried to get revenge.

Posted by david at 10:30 PM | Comments (15)

July 27, 2003

Forced to Pimp or Lose Benefits

Job Centres run by the Department of Work and Pensions are very helpful places. In addition to determining eligibility for the dole - now known as Job Seekers Allowance - they can find you a job just about anywhere. Even as a pimp.

You may not know you are going to be a pimp. The job advert may call it something like Personal Assistant/Secretary. But if you get there and you find out that it actually entails setting up appointments for high-priced hookers, don't bother to tell the Job Centre about it. There's no complaints department - quit the job and you lose your benefits.

That's what happened at the Job Centre in south London.

Posted by david at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

The Costs and Benefits of Immigration

In an effort to trim costs, the Health Department is going to cut out services to old age pensioners. Retirees who have moved to warmer climes will no longer be allowed "free" health care. After all, no health care is free. In the UK, it is being paid for by those involuntary pay packet extractions. If they live for more than six months of the year outside the country where they have paid a lifetime of taxes, they will have to pay again for health care, should they desire to return.

If they need to be hospitalised while living in Spain or France, rather than being able to come home to be near family, they will have to stay put if they don't want to be treated as a non-EU foreigner in the UK.

This is necessary for a number of reasons. Since citizens of any EU country can show up Britain and say they are living here, they are entitled to social security benefits and council housing, as well as the NHS. They need not actually work here - just become "habitually resident" (which for some seems to be a hard habit to break). So if we are going to have to pay for everyone that shows up from everywhere else, we can't very well be taking care of all our citizens.

It's going to get even worse next year when ten more countries join the EU. Much worse. There isn't a lot of motivation for mass migration to places like France, Spain, Germany and Italy. The new EU citizens won't be going there, because they have passed laws preventing Eastern European from working there for as long as seven years. The UK has done the opposite. From May 2004, citizens of Poland, Hungary, Lativia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta will be just as free as any other EU citizens to drain the Government coffers. They don't even have to bother to marry a Brit.

I am sure that as soon as the reality of the situation hits the Exchequer, more and more Brits will be squeezed out to make sure that every Euro-migrant is integrated into the welfare state.

Posted by david at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2003

Taking Faith out of a Faith Perspective

Thanks to Serge at a conservative blog for peace for noticing an article in the Daily Telegraph that I missed.

If you can't get to it without registration, the gist of it is that the BBC is purging presenters from Radio 4's Thought for the Day programme for being too religious. Thought for the Day is, according to the BBC website, "a two minute reflection on the news from a faith perspective." The agnostic who is the Beeb's head of religion and ethics, Alan Bookbinder, said that religious voices often sounded "mundane and muted".

Of course they aren't getting rid of all the religious presenters. According to the Daily Telegraph, they have recently added "Abdal Hakim Murad, a leading commentator on Islamic issues, Jeevan Singh Deol, a fellow in Indian history at the university of Cambridge and a specialist in Sikh issues, and Shagufta Yaqub, the editor of the Muslim publication, Q News." There is also increasing pressure on Mr Bookbinder to include atheist views.

I suppose they will have to re-write their description of the programme to read something like: "Thought for the Day is a two minute reflection on the news from a non-Christian or lack of faith perspective." But then how is it any different from the rest of their programming?

Posted by david at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

Dangerously Christian

Alarm bells are ringing. Ian Duncan Smith has done it now. Surely the Tory leader has become a puppet of the religious right. He has appointed a new chief political adviser who is a Christian. And not just any sort of Christian, mind you. Oh no, we are talking about the most dangerous kind. Tim Montgomerie is an evangelical Christian.

Montgomerie is the director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, which is not an exclusively evangelical organization. He does however, apparently have "strong links" to University of Texas journalism professor Marvin Olasky. Maybe he's met with Marvin, maybe he's read some of Marvin's books - I don't know. But he's guilty by association, because Olasky has strong links to George W - in fact he taught W most of what he knows about "Compassionate Conservatism". If there is anything you don't want in this country it is any connection W.

After all, that's Tony Blair's biggest liability. It's not that he's let the country fall apart. It's that he gets along with a Republican US President. And now, horror of horrors, if Blair gets along with Bush on foreign policy and IDS gets along with Bush on domestic policy, who are "right-minded" heathen Britons to look to for leadership?

If someone doesn't stop all this crazy radicalism of the religious right, who knows what might happen. They might even put Christians back on Radio 4's Thought for the Day!

Posted by david at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2003

Could See But Now I'm Blind

Bristol Eye Hospital is one of the leading opthamological centres in the country. Managers were so determined to meet Government targets for new outpatient appointments that they cancelled follow-up appointments for exisiting patients.

It would have been bad enough if they had cancelled just a few and inconvenienced a handful of people. That's not what they did. They cancelled more than 1,000 appointments each month. Patients, some with diabetes and glaucoma, had to wait as long as 20 months beyond their originally scheduled follow up.

As a result, at least 25 with conditions that would have otherwise been treatable have lost their sight. They are as blind as the Government, which cannot see that all of this playing politics with the health care service actually destroys the lives of the people they are allegedly governing.

Posted by david at 08:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2003

Home Office turns to God

I always hate to mention when the Government does something right. Fortunately, I don't have to do this very often.

Without giving any credit to Christian developers and proponents of its plan, the Home Secretary has announced plans to implement a pilot programme in Restorative Justice. I'm not sure how this is going to work with Hazel Blears' plan to pay criminals £20,000 a year. Perhaps that is how they will afford to pay restitution to their victims.

The point of Restorative Justice is to bring the offender face to face with the offended. They have to apologise to their victims and compensate any loss. There is no biblical formulation of double, four- or five-fold restitution, but it is correct as far as it goes.

It is one of the key policies promoted by Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship. The idea has been successful in the United States in reducing recidivism. A biblical idea actually works. Surprise, surprise!

Posted by david at 06:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2003

PC - or is that WPC?

Are you a hard-working officer with the Metropolitan Police - aka Scotland Yard? Do you need a little time off, but you just can't afford it? How does a year of paid leave sound? All you have to do is turn in your tackle. No, not your police equipment.

Officers with the Met who have a sex change will get twelve months of paid leave, with six months of that at full pay. This is not some sort of means of easing them out of the police. Quite the contrary, the Metropolitan Police Service Policy on Employment of Transsexuals insists that those who choose "gender reassignment" from what God made them to what they really are inside must not be discriminated against in any way.

This new policy gives the police a chance to take advantage of their carefully honed skills at supressing evidence. Records must be “weeded”. “Nothing should remain on the file which would disclose to a third party that a change has occurred.” They are also entitled to be tranferred to another post.

This isn't a policy just for existing officers. It is also for “encouraging and supporting members of the transsexual community to join the police”.

This isn't an idle policy that is just for a show of political correctness. The Met has already had 10 serving officers who have done a chop-and-change. They have also taken on at least one new recruit this year, though there was no indication whether this "transperson" (as the Met refers to them in this document) had finished the job of self-mutilation.

Posted by david at 09:20 PM | Comments (1)

Crime Pays - Very Well, Actually

The Government has announced a great new scheme for increasing the earning power of young people. Currently 16-year-olds earn an average of £8,000 a year. Now they can receive as much as £20,000. For those of you on the western side of the Atlantic, that's the equivalent of $32,000. Getting this money couldn't be easier. All they have to do is become criminals.

As long as they are either first-time offenders, or multiple offenders with no violence was used in their crimes, they will be given the option of paid community work for what would otherwise be the length of their sentence in prison. They will be paid £384 ($615) a week.

This is another result of Tony Blair's reshuffle. Junior minister Hazel Blears moved from the Health Department to the Home Office as Minister of State for Crime Reduction, Policing & Community Safety. This is her idea.

It will behoove those out of work to commit crimes rather than go on Job Seeker's Allowance (the current name of the dole). A single man on JSA gets about £40 a week. This is better than most would get in the prevalent practice of the what I call "Dole Plus". Since it is not possible to actually survive on the dole, whether someone is on it willingly or as a last resort, many recepients of public funds have heretofore found it necessary to either work in the grey market with no paperwork, or find things that have fallen off the back of a lorry to sell on the black market. This is all an awful lot of trouble for what is inevitably a lot less than £384 a week.

Posted by david at 08:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2003

Just Able to See Over the Dashboard

On Wednesday in southern Gonzales County, Texas, where I went to college, a 6-year-old boy got in a car and drove 30 miles from his home to the town where his grandmother lives.

The boy was with a baby-sitter a said he was going see his grandfather, who lives next door. About 30 minutes later, the baby-sitter noticed that not only had the boy not returned, but the 1998 Mazda was also missing. She called the Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff confirmed that his department received a call about the incident at 1:20 p.m. However, by 1:30 p.m. the boy was found in a supermarket parking lot in Luling. In the words of the Luling Police Chief, "It was kind of a strange deal."

Apparently the 6-year-old was not a very good driver. By the time he got to the supermarket, the vehicle was damaged to the extent that he had very little control over it. Even though he was driving without a license and almost certainly without insurance, the boy is not being charged due to his age.

Posted by david at 04:36 PM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2003

More Scottish Oppression

Scotland is grossly over-represented in the UK Parliament. There are 72 Scottish MPs. In some cases Scottish constituencies include as few as 20,000 people, whereas English constituencies include as many as 100,000.

There have been plans reduce the number of Scottish seats to 59. This would not create actual parity with England, but would come closer. These plans may now be shelved until after the next General Election. The reason is simple. The largest number of seat are held by Labour and they would be the big losers. The Government wants to pad the next election in every way that it can to insure a third consecutive term in office.

I have already blogged recent about how the Scots enjoy a great deal of power over the English. They can vote in the UK Parliament on matters that affect the English, but have been devolved to Edinburgh for the Scots. Not only that, Transport and Health Secretaries in London, both Scots, determine policy for England but not for Scotland.

I think all the Scots MPs should go home. Perhaps there should be special days when policies affecting all the UK are dealt with, and then the Scots can send down a little group to take part in the debate. But when it's over, put them all on a bus and send them back north of the border.

Posted by david at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2003

Constitutional Settlement

In a move that will surprise no one, the least democratic UK Government in recent memory has finally decided on the composition the House of Lords.

In the name of democracy, the Labour Government removed all but 92 of the hereditary peers in Phase One of their plan to reform the Lords. Of course at the time they didn't have a Phase Two. It wasn't important to have a comprehensive plan, but rather imperative to dismantle a functioning constitutional structure. The was one of Labour's clearest examples of the primacy of form over substance.

Now they will remove the last of the hereditaries and make the Lords an entirely appointed body. They are also looking at the possiblity of limiting terms for members of the Lords. This is the only way to give the Government as much leverage as possible. Under the present arrangement, Lords serve for life. This means that as soon as they take their seats, they are no longer subject to the pressures of political patronage. This means they don't always respond appropriately when the told to rubber stamp the abolition of the ancient rights of Englishmen (or Welshmen, or Scotsmen, or Irishmen for that matter).

Posted by david at 03:18 PM | Comments (3)

July 15, 2003

The Verdict on Trial By Jury

Tonight the Government suffered a defeat in the House of Lords. Even though Tony Blair has stripped the chamber of the hereditaries and stuffed it with his own cronies, he has been unable to get a rubber stamp of approval on one of his key reforms to the legal system, the abolition of the automatic right to trial by jury.

Why does the Government want this? As the Minster of State for Criminal Justice System and Law Reform told the BBC tonight, “We are providing the guilty an opportunity to be found guilty”. As unbelievable as that seems, I can tell you that I typed those words even as I heard them and watched them come out of her mouth.

Even though peers voted 210 to 136 against the measure, the Government is determined to force it through. This was their third shot at it, but they will not be refused. The Government line on this has been that jurors are just too thick to understand fraud trials. This time, they have also tried to cast it as a move which will protect jurors, saying in a statement from the Home Office, "This is a bad day for jury members, who would continue to be intimidated by dangerous criminals if this vote were allowed to stand. We shall reverse this defeat in the House of Commons."

It makes more sense to me and to the Tories that more needs to be done to actually deal with the crime of jury intimidation rather than giving into to intimidators by taking away the jury trial for whomever the Government decides shouldn't have it. But as one Tory spokesman said, "The knobblers will go from knobbling juries to knobbling judges."

The real issue is control. The Government can control judges and make sure it gets acceptably high conviction rates. Because they are free of political pressure, juries have bad tendency to deal with the facts and arrive at less acceptable conclusions.

Posted by david at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2003

The Little Government that Couldn't

The Government has been trying to get everyone out of their cars and onto the trains. Their advertising slogan, "Pay through the nose, stand for hours, sweat like a pig, and miss your appointments" doesn't seem to be working.

Some of the train companies have as many as 40 percent of their trains running late. Complaints are up by 8 percent over last year. The Strategic Rail Authority, Network Rail, and the Transport Secretary have a plan.

To cut back on the number of late trains, they are going to cut back on the number of trains, starting with 180 services. It's a simply formula, really. If x equals the number of trains running now, and y equal x minus 180, then 40 percent of y must be less than 40 percent of x. The only difference is that already overcrowded carriages will become even more stuffed. People will be hanging out the windows and riding shotgun with the driver, like something out of the third world.

Nework Rail, which is responsible for the rail infrastructure, is also cutting back on the number of staff. Possibly more than 14 percent. If you have fewer trains, you need fewer staff. This will save nearly £13 billion.

Being squeezed out the window of one of the few trains left will also cost more than the occasional chance to sit down does now. The Transport Secretary has annouced that fares will be going up at above the rate of inflation.

Apparently if they charge a lot more and spend a lot less, they may even reach their goal of having something in the region of 10 percent tardy by 2009.

So to summarise the Government's rail plan: fares will rise now, the number of services will drop now, there will be fewer staff now, and fewer trains will be late within six years.

Posted by david at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2003

I Kid You Not

In a move that will no doubt be cheered by Bill Gothard and all the proponents of "courtship", young people under 16 who are caught kissing could be jailed for up to five years. I kid you not. Any sort of consensual sexual contact, which includes fondling, touching, and yes, kissing, will be criminalised.

Now before you get all excited about the Government enforcing high moral standards, you have to remember that this is the Government legalising cottaging (homosexual acts in public toilets).

Family Planning groups are particularly upset because preventing kids from making out could seriously cut into the abortion trade. They need not fear, however, because a government advisory body is going to recommend that sex education be compulsory from the age of five. They aren't suggesting formal lessons in sex, but rather during -- again, I kid you not -- Show and Tell.

And just to balance out for the police watching for those who are young and in love, according to The Times, "The Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy is also expected to call on the Government to stage a nationwide advertising campaign to reassure children under 16 that their parents will not automatically be told if they seek contraceptive advice."

Posted by david at 05:42 PM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2003

Watch What You Let Someone Else Say

As a Christian in Pakistan, you have to watch what you say. You especially have to watch what you write. You even have to watch what other people write.

Munawar Mohsin was a sub-editor at the English-language newspaper Frontier Post. A judge has determined that he was responsible for selecting a letter to the editor for publication. That was enough to merit a life sentence. In Pakistan, life means life. And believe it or not, Mohsin got off easy. The sentence is often death.

Mohsin was convicted of blasphemy. The letter that was published was determined to be derogatory toward Muhammad. Mohsin's crime was fairly easy to detect. Students from a seminary formed a mob and attacked the newspaper's office, destroying the printing press. They also damaged other nearby buildings. They probably just thought of it as a field trip. After graduation the ones that don't join the remnants of the Taleban or become suicide bombers for Hezbollah will immigrate to the UK as mosque spokesmen to tell us on the evening news that Islam is a peaceful religion. They may go to India to wait and see if another American Christian preacher says something about Muhammad, so they can gather a mob to kill some more Hindus.

It probably won't come as a surprise that most of the hundreds of people convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan are Christians. As a Christian, it pays to be a very good neighbour. All it takes is person going to the police and simply accusing someone. Before the investigation can start, the accused must be arrested. They can then languish in jail until their case comes to court. Mohsin was incarcerated for two years before his trial.

President/General Musharraf had intended to change this, but he had too much opposition. Radical groups protested. I wouldn't be surprised if this including those seminary students. It is enough that the accused might have blasphemed. It is easier to jail more Christians that way.

Of course they want to come to this country and be free to incite others to kill Christians. In fact, when anyone objects to this, they protest that they are being persecuted. That takes a lot of cheek. They are free to preach death to Christians and the overthrow of non-Islamic governments while living on the social welfare benefits of those governments.

In their countries of origin Christians are not free to preach the Gospel. Christians are prohibited from evangelising those who do not believe that Jesus is God. Christians are prohibited from saying that Allah is not God and Muhammad is not his prophet. Christians may not be forced to directly blaspheme the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but they may not openly declare Him on pain of death.

The situation in Pakistan is proof that completely apart from terrorist attacks, Islam is not a peaceful religion. There may be Muslims who are themselves peaceful. I don't have any problem with that. But as long as the Muslim nations prohibit the preaching of the Gospel with the threat of criminal sanctions and even death, it couldn't be clearer that they are simply lying.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (1)

July 09, 2003

The Other Holocaust

My new Meandering is out today. After you click over and read it, you may want to come back to try these links:

Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide: history does not fade away

Armenian National Institute

An Armenian Journey

Posted by david at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2003

Vacant Protest

Because his choice for suffragan Bishop of Reading eventually withdrew under pressure, the Bishop of Oxford is considering leaving the position vacant in protest. He may not appoint another bishop until the C of E makes up its mind about gay sex. In the words of The Times, "the Right Rev Richard Harries, is considering whether, if the Church of England does not want a homosexual Bishop of Reading, it should have no bishop at all."

Clearly pastoral concern for the flock isn't the chief consideration. To Dr Harries, the episcopate is nothing more than another slogan on a placard. Even though I don't believe the C of E clergy are in apostolic succession -- physical succession, I mean, since any hint of spiritual succession has evaporated -- I am disgusted that someone who has been entrusted as the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Oxford and its people would treat this with such cavalier disregard.

Posted by david at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2003

Papers, Please

In a move reminiscent of the Third Reich and the former Soviet bloc, all British citizens will be required to have an identity card. Anyone challenged will have to produce it for the police. However, with technology that could have never been imagined by the Gestapo or the Stasi, these card will be very difficult to forge. The cards will contain biometric data, such as an image of the holder's iris.

Please note that I didn't say anything about being issued a card. It's not something that will just arrive by post. It's not going to be free, after all. No, that'll be £40, please.

It is not clear whether it will just be citizens that will be required to have the card. It could required of anyone living in Britain.

Posted by david at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2003

Where to Build Cair Paravel

Thanks again to Lord of the Rings fanatic and Little Geneva blogger Harry Seabrook for another link. The Oscar winning co-director of the animated Shrek is hoping to shoot a live-action version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in New Zealand.

Andrew Adamson is waiting on the Kiwi Government to agree to support the project with tax breaks or some other sorts of incentives. The other problem seems to be that Peter Jackson already turned all the best locations into Middle Earth.

But back to LOTR, I wonder if anyone has told the quite throroughly Reformed Harry that JRR Tolkein was actually a (shhh) Roman Catholic?

Posted by david at 04:01 PM | Comments (1)


Eastern European gangs are stealing from the Queen. Sounds like a storyline for a film script? Well, not exactly. They aren't breaking into palaces, nicking painting or jewellery. They killing and roasting swans.

All of the swans in the UK belong to the Crown. It has been that way for a long time. Killing, or even injuring, a swan carries a £5,000 fine or six months in jail.

Now these gangs comprised principally of asylum seekers are poaching the birds by luring them into baited traps. We are not talking about the odd swan here and there. The Metropolitan Police and local communities have noted a serious drop in numbers. They are being taken from parks and rivers all over the London and Southeast England -- even from such high-profile places as Hyde Park.

I have to agree with editorial comments in The Sun (which carried this as a full front page article), "If people want to come here from other nations, then let them respect our way of life. If they want to behave like savages, let them get back where they came from."

Posted by david at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2003

The Resistance

It appears that the countryside is not going to go down without a fight. The more militant pro-hunt activists have held their fire while the Countryside Alliance negotiated with the Government. As normally quiet, law-abiding citizens, they would much prefer to see things properly sorted out. That is not to say they have trusted the Government. No one would be so foolish as to do that.

In plans that have been developed for months, this more militant wing will be disrupting traffic in the major cities. There are also threats to electricity supplies and telecommunications networks. The Government will have a lot more than al Qaeda to worry them, though I'm sure hunt supporters will not endanger human lives.

No doubt MI5 will develop a profile of suspected countryside saboteurs. Police will have to be on the lookout for white, middle-aged women wearing Barbour jackets and wellies, driving 20-year-old Landrovers covered in mud.

Posted by david at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

Killing the Dogs to Save the Foxes

An estimate in The Times indicates that at least 17,000 hounds will have to be destroyed when the hunting ban is finally forced through. This is because the owners of the dogs will not have the means to keep them. "Breeders dismissed the notion that more than a handful could be rehoused, as their pack-animal instincts and prodigious need for exercise make them unsuitable pets."

They ought to make each of the MPs who voted for the ban go out and do the deed. Since 362 were numbered amongst the "ayes to the right", that means each MP would have to shoot at least 47 dogs.

A collapse in the horse market is also anticipated. The British Equestrian Trades Association estimates that there would be a £50 million loss in just the first four years.

Posted by david at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

Work til You Drop

The Government has released proposals today to fight age discrimination in the workplace. It will theoretically make it more difficult advertise jobs as only for young people. It will also try to prevent employers from refusing to promote or give training opportunities to older employees, or giving them disadvanatageous pensions and other benefits.

Of course you have to give a little to get a little, so the trade off is that companies will be able to refuse full entitlement to company pensions until age 70. State pensions would still be available from 65 for now.

This is just one step away from the inevitable. The state pension (the equivalent of Social Security benefits in the US) will have to eventually be raised to age 70 as well. Otherwise the money is simply going to dry up. Older people are living longer and younger people are not having babies. The Government's proposal points out that within seven years, 40% of British workers will be over 45 and only 17% under 24. Soon there simply won't be a workforce to pay for benefits. The way things are going, I may have to work until I'm 80.

Posted by david at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2003

Double Dealing

In a move that should surprise no one, the Government last night betrayed the countryside, the rural economy, and of course the long-standing traditions of this nation. Because of the continuing urbanisation of the electorate, the vast majority in the House of Commons hail from the towns and cities. They have no understanding of, or care for, the livelihood of those who can still breathe fresh air. This Government has engaged in a systematic destruction of countryside than makes Sherman’s march to the sea look like an afternoon stroll.

The loony left wants to outlaw fox hunting. They always have. They are perfectly happy to permit the killing of baby humans, but foxes are a whole other matter. What it comes down to is pest control.

For those caught up in the spirit of this age, babies are a pest. They interfere with the core values of hedonism. They keep women from fulfilling their potential as pseudo-men. And after all, killing babies creates jobs for doctors and nurses and other medical staff. It is good for the urban economy.

For farmers, foxes are a pest. They kill livestock. They destroy the farmer’s ability to feed himself and his family. They are by no means an endangered species, but rather are increasing in population, even in the towns and cities. Other the other hand, fox hunting creates thousands of jobs. What really chaps the hides of the anti-hunt lobby is that farmers have taken this pest control as a cultural expression of community spirit. If farmers just went out quietly and shot foxes that were getting in their hen houses, the anti-hunt lobby probably wouldn’t have a lot of ammunition. But urban loonies hate that the farmers seem to enjoy the hunt and make a spectacle of it.

But back to the Government... They had agreed to support the licensing of hunting instead of an outright ban. This would make sure there was no hunting during the cubbing season, so there would be no danger to the little foxes. However, because the Government has faced increasing rebellions from its own backbenchers, it needed to give them a little to get a little on parts of its legislative agenda. So the Rural Affairs minister dropped his legislation in the middle of the debate and let the House run riot.

The Government may have agreed to licensure, but at heart it was for a ban. To be fair, one of the four Government ministers who voted against the outright ban was the Rural Affairs Minister, Alun Michael. Of course in true Labour fashion, he doesn’t represent a rural constituency, being the member for Cardiff South and Penarth. Perhaps he has gone native after having to spend so much time with the backward country folk.

The odd one in this whole thing has been the normally quite sane Ann Widdecombe. She a Christian and ardently is pro-life. The problem is that she is pro-anything-that-is-living. Where the left generally cuddle foxes and kill babies, she see no distinction between Man created in the image of God and foxes made in the image of, well, foxes.

Posted by david at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2003

Alternative to Tony Martin

While have always offered my unwavering support for Norfolk farmer Tony Martin who stopped a burglar in his house with his shotgun, given the idiocy of the British legal system, perhaps he should have taken the approach of Derrick Winterbottom from Llanynghenedl in North Wales.

The 51-year-old Winterbottom struggled with the intruder 20 years his junior. Nicholas Jones tried to get away, but Winterbottom chased him outside, pulled down his trousers and yanked off his shoes. He then threatened Jones to keep him in place long enough to retrieve tape from the garage. Jones was then bound with the tape and made to kneel trouserless in front of the house until the police arrived.

Unlike Martin, Winterbottom was commended for his actions by the judge in the burglary case. He is to receive a £200 reward. In the meantime, the Norfolk hero Tony Martin languishes in prison for a few more weeks.

Posted by david at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2003

The Problem of Agricultural Emissions

New Zealand is a rather rural place. Not a lot of industry other than the occasional film crew shooting an epic fantasy. But being the green, left-leaning country that it is, it wants to be sure to meet its committments to combat global warming under the Kyoto agreement.

Apparently one of the most serious threats to the enviroment is the animal kingdom itself. It is reported that 15% of the world's methane is produced by ruminants. Those are animals that chew cud. The principal offenders are cows and sheep. If there is anything they have in New Zealand is cows and especially sheep. They produce 90% of the country's methane.

To fund research into reducing farm farting, the New Zealand government is proposing a flatulence tax on farmers. They expect to raise NZ$8.4 million a year. The Kiwi dollar is worth even less than the Canadian dollar or roughly the equivalent of Monopoly money, so this is only about US$4.9 million (£2.9 million). It is nonetheless a burden on farmers, who will be forced to pay NZ$300 for ever 500 head of cattle or 3,000 sheep, while everyone will benefit for the cleaner air.

I've gotten wind that Mrs Holford is proposing a similar tax around here.

Posted by david at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)

How to Fight Like a Welshman

I have mentioned before that this is a very pugilistic society. Where Americans might settle disputes at a distance with the aid of a small firearm, Brits prefer hand-to-hand combat. Of the two, I would have to say that the UK is the more violent country. Near Mrs Holford's hometown last night, a man had his nose bitten off in an attack. I am unable to comprehend what possesses a man (other than demons) to bite off the nose of another man. The closest thing I have seen to this is when Mike Tyson (speaking of someone undeniably possessed by demons) bit of Evander Holyfield's ear in the boxing ring.

The BBC reports that police collected the victim's nose and delivered it to the hospital where he was being treated. Man and nose then had to be transferred to Swansea to be rejoined. I feel sorry for the man. I feel sorry for anyone who has to go the Swansea.

Posted by david at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2003

Truth and Consequences

According to the Anglican bishop of Worcester, any bishops who oppose the consecration of Dr Jeffrey John as suffrigan bishop of Reading are inciting people violenltly attack gays and vitually doing the same thing by expressing their views. Peter Selby said, “I think what they are are bishops who are intelligent, conscientious, respectful people and because of that I find it very difficult to imagine they are doing something that actually supports outrageous and violent behaviour by other people. And although they would not go out on a Saturday night with a broken bottle and attack a gay person, and would be appalled if anybody did, the problem is that the instrument they are using, which is a pen, is very powerful to achieve a similar end.” He added: “There is no question that people use what they hear from religious people, especially conservative religious pronouncements, in support of behaviour that people who made those announcements would deplore."

I wasn't aware that thugs attacking gays with broken bottles look to conservative Anglican bishops for their inspiration. At least he doesn't believe that these bishops would actually go out an do the same thing. He just can't believe such nice intelligent people would support such violence by going so far as actually do what bishops are supposed to do, proclaim the Truth that has been given to us and has been held by the Church throughout the ages.

The BBC reported tonight that two secretly gay bishops had already been consecrated in the Anglican church. It also reported that 25% of Anglican clergy are gay. Neither of these things surprises me. Dr John is just the first bishop-elect to admit that he is gay, living with his partner, and determined to continue to do so.

It was also reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury is very determined to consecrate Dr John. I hope he does. Those things being done in secret should be shown openly. I also hope that the Anglican Primate of Nigeria holds good to his threat to break communion with Canterbury. The whole thing needs to break apart. The wheat needs to be separated from the chaff, so that the chaff can be burned in the fire. You know the one -- where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

I have no doubt that when the break occurs, England will see the same situation as has occurred in the US. The orthodox Anglican Primates of the developing countries will have to send in missionary bishops, just as they have in creating the Anglican Mission in America. I also anticipate that this will have the same effect that introduction of purported ordination of women did, driving conservative Anglicans into the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Posted by david at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

June 19, 2003

Discarding Superfluous Babies

Britain’s first designer baby has been born. The Jamie Whitaker was genetically engineered to be an exact genetic match to harvest stem cells for treating his older brother Charlie. The procedure had to be done in the US, because it was banned in the UK on ethical grounds. That something in the UK is banned on ethical grounds has to be a tip off that it is pretty bad.

This form of genetic engineering does not require manipulating genes. It’s really pretty simple. It is just a matter of creating a bunch of babies and then killing off all but the one deemed to be the best match. Eight of Jamie and Charlie’s siblings were killed.

What really struck me was what their father said on TV. He responded to criticism of the procedure by saying that no one should judge whether it is right or wrong unless they have been in his situation. How often have I heard this? It is situational ethics made to tug the heartstrings. It’s saying that when the going gets tough, the truth gets going.

I have no problem with donating the stem cells from one child the help a sibling. It doesn’t not justify killing, though.

Sweet Politically Correct Home

From my parents today, we received the video of Sweet Home Alabama starring Reece Witherspoon. Holford and Holford give it two thumbs up. The film portrays the redneck Southerners in a humorous and at least somewhat positive light, particularly when compared to New York City.

It was more than predictable that the soundtrack would include the eponymous Lynyrd Skynyrd hit. It is featured at least twice, including the segue from the last scene to the closing titles, performed by Jewel. Both times it is edited to avoid any political incorrectness. They got by with the second verse, since it would have been difficult to have played any significant part of the song without it. It would take someone with a bit of music history knowledge to understand the criticism of Neil Young.

The third verse is a different story. I suppose no one wanted to catch the sort of flack Trent Lott did when he said something nice about Strom Thurmond. Better not sound favourable toward George Wallace:

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

In its place, Jewel threw in a bridge about everybody getting along. Seems like a subtle move to undermine the actual theme of the song. Of course, since Jewel was born in Utah, raised in Alaska, and settled in California, she really couldn’t understand the song anyhow. But after all, all they really wanted was the chorus to fit in with the film.

Posted by david at 09:54 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2003

The Bad and the Mad

Well, I thought Aidie was a handful. At least he hasn’t be disqualified from driving, like a 10-year-old who has committed driving offences on three separate occasions. He received his first driving ban last year. Last month he took the car again, but only got out into the road as he reversed into another car. This month he was at it again.

He isn’t even eligible for a driver’s license for another eight years, yet he has already been convicted of driving while disqualified, as well as aggravated vehicle taking and driving without insurance.

Joyriding isn’t the only evidence of his problems. He also admitted stealing a bicycle and possessing equipment for theft.

More Anti-social Behaviour

If he doesn’t change his ways he could end up like the man who smashed over forty store windows in the centre of Cardiff. He did an estimated £75,000 worth of damage to 23 businesses using a shovel. He was dressed only in his underpants.

He is being held by police while a bed is being found in a psychiatric hospital.

Speaking of crazy people in Cardiff...

What is the Welsh Assembly doing with all it’s power? Recently it ordered the Powys County Council to prosecute Dot Humphreys. Why? She has refused to remove a collection of garden gnomes outside her café five miles north of Machynlleth. The gnomes have been there for five years. Somehow the Assembly decided that the gnomes were a distraction to motorists and a hazard to pedestrians, even though there has never been an accident in the area.

The prosecution was brought and the magistrates decided in favour of Mrs Humphreys. They even went out and looked at the gnomes themselves. The Welsh Assembly wasn’t happy. They decided to appeal against the decision. Now, £27,000 of taxpayers’ money later, they have realised that their appeal didn’t stand a chance and have withdrawn it.

I’m not so sure that Cardiff is ready to be a centre of political power. My opinion hasn’t stopped them from spending millions and millions of pounds on a new Assembly building. Estimates of the actual cost vary. The official estimate is £47 million, but thanks to the Millennium Dome, we know how accurate Labour is when it comes to guessing the costs of building projects. The official estimate started at £12 million, and the finance minister admits that she doesn’t know what the final costs will be. The Conservative Leader of the Assembly estimates it at £100. This may be, in fact, a conservative estimate.

This is a building that was supposed to be complete in the spring of 2001. It was later put back to this year, and now the official guess is that it will open in the autumn of 2005.

Posted by david at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2003

Many thanks to Fr Pat

Many thanks to Fr Pat Reardon for bringing my attention to two great pieces on Hillary and her book. These are definitely worth clicking over and having a look. On is from Ann Coulter and the other from Matt Labash.

Being on this side of the Atlantic, sometimes I miss out on important milestones, even though I try to keep up with the American media. I have only now learned of David Brinkley's passing. Both George Will and Cal Thomas have produced very fine eulogies.

Back on this side of the Atlantic, the quote of the day comes from BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr, after explaining on the Ten O'Clock News that cabinet reshuffles are supposed to be finely choreographed, likened the present situation to "Swan Lake performed by elephants".

Posted by david at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2003

More on the Ridiculous Reshuffle

I missed blogging yesterday because after spending the day with Mrs Holford manning her stall at the Craft Fair in Abergavenny, and after she spent much of the evening looking for patterns online, I finally had a chance to write and the modem died. Late this afternoon (after Liturgy and the mid-year parish meeting) I got another from PC World and finally got it to work. I can’t use it with Windows XP, so I’m still limping along on my old hard drive and 98.

Holford Country Creations has gotten off to a slow start. That’s Mrs Holford’s new enterprise. She’s producing quilted wall hangings, embroidered pillows, smelly hot pads and coasters, and similar items with a handcrafted Americana look. Abergavenny was her first outing and it was plagued with extremely good weather, which kept people out of the Market Hall and out of town generally. Several of the veteran hucksters of this monthly event noted that it was the quietest day they had seen.

It’s time for reassessing which products will work best and at what prices. She is very good at this sort of stuff and the whole project has a lot of potential. Look for her website, hopefully sooner than later.

Descending into Chaos

Tony Blair’s reshuffle of his Government continues to be farce. He’s created a new post of Children’s Minister. He’s appointed the MP for Barking, which is appropriate because she barking mad. She’s the loony lefty who used to be leader of the Islington council, one of the local government boroughs of North London.

While Margaret Hodge was leader, Islington had quite a record when it comes to children. Newspaper reports indicate that at least 26 children were sexually abused while in the care of the council. “As far as services for children are concerned, we failed. I accept responsibility.” That’s what she said at the time.

Why did they fail? They were too busy focusing on other very vital issues. And official inquiry noted that the children’s department of Islington council was “paralysed by equal opportunity and race issues”. These including a ban on singing “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in nursery schools because of its racist overtones. And as the Shadow Education Secretary (the person in the Opposition who has responsibility for following Government policy in that department) said, “We can only hope her views have matured since she launched a booklet discussing a ban on skipping ropes, musical chairs and GCSE grades below C.”

The only good thing about this appointment is that she is no longer universities minister. Universities have accepted lower and lower and lower achievement at the secondary level as a prerequisite for admission. As a result, they are producing a worse and worse product out the other end.

Great Scot!

You know things are crazy when the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) wants to distance itself from the annual commemoration of the Battle of Bannockburn. The SNP Transport spokesman thinks it’s time to move on and get past the victory over the English 689 years ago next Tuesday.

I think that the Scots no longer have a need to celebrate that victory over the English when Tony Blair has handed them an even greater one, without even the need for bloodshed. The Scots have taken over English government.

The head of the English judiciary and legal system is Charlie Falconer, the new Lord Chancellor. He appoints all the judges in England and Wales – not Scotland, which has a completely separate judicial and legal system. In charge of health care in England is John Reid, yet Scottish health policy is controlled from Edinburgh with its own health minister. The same goes for Transport, where Alistair Darling is responsible for dealing with all the problems public and private means of getting from place to place. But only south of the border. Scottish Transport is the responsibility of a minister in the Scottish Executive. And where does Edinburgh get its lump sum of English money to spend as it chooses? From the man who holds the purse strings for all the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. A Scot, of course.

With all this, who needs to celebrate Bannockburn?

Posted by david at 10:16 PM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2003

Meandering as Promised

As promised, today there is a new Mental Meandering.

Yesterday's constitutional changes were confused by more changes today. The Government dismantles everything - read all about it.

Posted by david at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2003


Some extraordinary statistics were released by the Parliamentary Health Select Committee.

There has been an alarming rise in sexually transmitted diseases in the UK. One in ten sexual active young women in England is infected with Chlamydia. 42% of them are under the age of 20. Many of these women won’t have to worry about going on the pill, getting abortions, or helping to replenish the ever-decreasing European population. Chlamydia often causes infertility.

The rates of syphilis have gone up by 500% in the last six years. Gonorrhoea rates have doubles over the same period. Figures for 2002 will show 6,600 new cases of AIDS diagnosed, which is the biggest single increase ever. Of the cases reported in 2001, 56% were acquired through heterosexual sex.

And who is to blame? According to one Liberal Democrat member of the committee, “People are dying through ignorance and the Government must take a large part of the blame.” So it is the Government’s fault. It appears to me that most of these instances as caused by sin. Yes, innocent people get venereal disease, but they usually get it because the person they got it from got it from some place they shouldn’t have been.

The only blame the Government has in the promotion of “safe sex”. The Government has been putting out the message that sex is great, everyone should get as much as they can from wherever they can, so have a good time, but put a raincoat on your willy. Sexually transmitted diseases are by their very nature behaviourally contracted.

Everyone one and every institution may be saying that your behaviour is your own business and you are free to do as you please. Governments may legalise sin and promote it, but they can’t prevent its consequences.

Posted by david at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2003

Don't You Believe It

Hillary Clinton says she has no intentions of running for the presidency in 2008. I believe that as much as I believe Bill didn’t not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. 2008 is a long way off and in the collective Alzheimer’s of the American public, what’s she’s said today will have been long forgotten when the run-up to that campaign starts.

Right now Hillary is primarily concerned with selling a few more books, especially since no one believes the bits concerning what she knew about the scandals surrounding her husband. Even the papers here, known for their sycophantic love for Slick Willie as much as for their loathing of Curious George, don’t put any credence to Hillary’s story.

But this takes the cake: she and Bill were so close to Tony and Cherie Blair because they share the same faith. In a 1997 visit to the Prime Minister’s country home, she says they talked about “the connection between a religious faith and public service. Both of us rooted our political beliefs in our faith, which moulded our social actions”. Now admittedly she doesn’t actually come out and say that faith is Christianity.

The Blairs do actually seem to adhere to the Christian faith, except for a propensity for political prevarication. Tony is even tries to sneak up and receive the Body and Blood at Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic cathedral in London). Even the Pope had to tell him off. Strange though that he wants to receive Catholic communion, but appoints someone like Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by david at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2003

Not a Tooth in His Head

Soon Scottish Gaelic will be spoken with a funny accent. This is because soon the Gaels will have no teeth. According to a report in The Sunday Times, more than 14,000 people in the north of Scotland have been waiting more than 2 ½ years to see a dentist.

Scotland already has the worst dental health in all of Europe. Only 61% of children in the Highlands are registered with a dentist, which is far more than adults, of whom on 34% are on the books. Because dentist are usually the first to spot illnesses of the mouth and throat, the rate of oral cancer in Scotland is 22% higher than in England.

My Two Dads

Everyone knew it was going to happen sometime under this Government. Plans will be put forward by the Government this month to give gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples. This will extend to tax provisions, property, and pensions. They would be the legal next of kin, including the right to make decisions regarding medical treatment and funeral arrangements. They could apply for alimony if the relationship breaks down. They would have the same immigration rights. All they have to do is have a new form of civil ceremony. In other words, a gay marriage.

This is not an example of the Government going it alone. They are just following the EU’s equal treatment directive. Being a part of Europe, this is just part of the package.

Get Them While They’re Young

The Southeast Sheffield Education Action Zone is doing its part in preparing youngsters for the possibilities of gay marriage. They are teaching 10-year-olds how to put on condoms. “I do the demo and then I tell them about the drop-in clinics available to them from the age of 11 where they can get supplies and advice,” said Charlotte Hall, who runs the programme in primary schools in Sheffield.

Other classes in the programme include lessons which ask children to “consider how different people might express their sexuality”. They have teacher-led discussions on sadomasochism, a “naughty bits bingo” game and classroom role plays of “a married man who was ‘done’ for cottaging”. (You may remember what cottaging is from Thursday’s blog.)

Posted by david at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2003

Britain’s Greatest Embarrassment

That’s the only way to describe him. First he insisted that everyone stop using their cars and start using public transportation and then got in one of his two Jaguars to drive 250 yards to a meeting. It was so his wife’s hair wouldn’t get blown by the wind. Then he punched a heckler on the campaign trail. That’s right, he was out electioneering and socked someone in the face.

Last night his latest his response to reporters as he went into a meeting was to show them the “V” sign. No, not the V-for-Victory sign. We aren’t talking about Winston Churchill here. It was the “V” with the fingers facing the other direction. For American readers this is used to send a stronger message when just the middle finger isn’t enough.

Is this some sort of uneducated thug? Well, yes, but he is also the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

His Real Name is Brian

Marilyn Manson was on Jonathan Ross tonight and I learn that he is not a Satanist. Instead, noting that he’s girlfriend prefers to wear a particular fabric, he is an admitted satin-ist. It reminded me of something that I read recently on Karl Thiene’s blog.

Charlotte Church was also on with Mr Woss, and it was just more confirmation that South Wales is a valuable source of good looking women.

Posted by david at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2003

Lyrical Sleight of Hand

I was listening to Paul Simon this morning and it finally struck me that even though he says there are fifty ways to leave your lover, he only supports his thesis with three. I’m sure your initial reaction is that I’ve miscounted and that there are five mentioned. But think about it. He encourages Jack to get out the back, Gus to hop on the bus, and Lee to drop off the key.

Stan making a new plan isn’t actually an act of leaving a lover, though the plan could involve one of the three or perhaps one of the forty-seven which remain unknown. Encouraging Roy not to be coy is less of a move toward leaving a lover than even Stan’s new plan. In fact, the suggesting that Roy need not be coy appears to be an encouragement by the speaker to listen to the various lover-leaving ways being proposed.

Thus we are left we just three ways to leave a lover. Not that I am encouraging having lovers outside of marriage or leaving those lovers within the marital bond. However, for those with lovers outside of marriage, any of these three methods seems indicative of repentance. I can’t speak for the other forty-seven, obviously.

Just One Way to Leave the Cabinet

In the best news I’ve heard in ages, Derry Irvine is to be shuffled out of the Cabinet. Lord Irvine of Lairg has been Lord Chancellor since Labour came to power in 1997. Some of you will remember him as the subject of one of my Meanderings comparing his moral character to that of US Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Lord Irvine got the top job in the judicial system because he gave Tony Blair his first job as a barrister and introduced Tony to another up and coming barrister named Cherie Booth. But even Tony can only take so much of Derry’s complete self-absorption and the student is ready to be loosed from his teacher.

Trading Cronies

The bad news is that the front runner to take over as either Lord Chancellor or head of a newly-created Ministry of Justice (since Labour has no qualms about washing away perfectly good institutions just because they are rooted in time immemorial) is Charlie Falconer, Tony old college flatmate. Lord Falconer was made a peer of the realm because Tony was determined to have him in a ministerial post. He would have stood for election to the House of Commons in a safe Labour seat, but the selection board refused to let him stand because he sends his children to private school.

Those on this side of the Pond will remember Charlie as the Millennium Dome minister, who over saw the pumping of additional hundreds of millions of pounds into the giant white elephant that the Government eventual had to give away. It seems Charlie has done a good job working with Home Secretary David Blunkett to rework the criminal justice system.

I don’t know whether it Charlie’s or David’s idea to propose changes in the law so that cottaging (committing homosexual acts in public toilets) will be legal and sunbathing in your back garden behind a privacy fence will be illegal. This is the way that the criminal justice system is being reformed in this country.

Posted by david at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2003

The Dangers of Pollution to Gender

Okay this ones almost enough to make me an environmentalist.

Pollution emptying into the Firth of Forth has turned 20 percent of the shrimps into hermaphrodites. In an amazing parallel with the human society around them, the results of samples showed that shrimps were maturing later and producing fewer eggs.

The leader of the research team said, “I believe there is a relationship between pollution and the number of intersex shrimps. But I don’t know the mechanism involved. There is a parasite which alters a male amphipod’s gender so the amphipods have either been indirectly affected by the polluted area’s increased number of parasites, or directly from the wide variety of industrial chemicals which act like hormones.”

Not surprisingly the pollution of sin around us is creating gender-bending changes as well. The only salvation from the polluted water in which we are drowning is the Church. As St Cyprian famously said, “If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church.”

For more one sin and sexuality, Huw Raphael at Doxos has posted some insightful thoughts.

Born of a Pretty Special Sheila

So says the The Aussie Bible (Well, bits of it anyway!) about Jesus. It will be published Down Under in August. It is a translation into Australian vernacular, though I don’t know if the was from the original Greek. I have my doubts as this is the story of the Good Samaritan:

"A bunch of bushrangers attacked him, stole his dough, and left him as good as dead. A big wig from the Temple happened to pass by, took one look at the bloke, crossed the road, and hurried off. Another official who was on the road that day did the same.

"Then a really ordinary bloke (a grubby old street sweeper you wouldn't look twice at) passed by and felt really sorry for him. So he used his first-aid kit to patch him up, and then put him on his old nag, took him to the nearest pub and took care of him."

But I don’t know the academic qualification of the translator, journalist and Christian radio presenter Kel Richards. Though it has the support of the Australian Bible Society, I am a bit worried about it, since it also has the blessing of the Anglican Church. And we know what the Anglican Church has been blessing lately…

Posted by david at 09:34 PM | Comments (0)