Saturday, 30 June 2007

Woman unwilling to remove hijab in UK court

A Moslem woman who appeared in Magistrates court yesterday, charged with Criminal Damage, in Manchester wearing a hijab was unwilling to remove it.

Zoobia Hussain, 32, of Crumpsall, Manchester was unwilling to remove the hijab, so the Magistrate, Ian Murray, a Taxi Driver, walked out. He now understandably faces an inquiry.

It seems perfectly reasonable to insist that a defendant in court appear without a face covering. There is something deeply counter to the whole concept of British justice for the defendant to conceal themselves from the court in such a way. Quite frankly it is difficult to conceive of an instance where it would be reasonable for a defendant to do so.

Never-the-less Mr Murray went about the matter the wrong way. He should have first asked that she remove it, considered dealing with the matter by way of contempt of court, or at least adjourned the case. Now he has managed to make himself look foolish and unreasonable when his actual objection was perfectly reasonable.

Miss Hawkins, Zoobia Hussain’s legal representative, said yesterday the Defendant, ”remains shocked and distressed. She suffered hurt feelings and felt intimidated and deeply embarrassed by the treatment she received at court.”

Yes – By coincidence she also stands a pretty good chance of getting off now as well one suspects.

Apparently: "She is angry that, as a result of the ensuing publicity, she has now had to explain to her children what happened."

Well people who end up in court charged with criminal damage sometimes have to do that, don’t they - covering or no covering, especially if they get publicity, or get sent down.

If she didn’t want publicity a reasonable person might draw the conclusion she would have been wise not to court it ;-) by turning up in the hijab, or an even more effective strategy - avoid being charged with criminal damage in the first place...

Friday, 29 June 2007

It would seem you do not have the right to remain silent

You know you always thought that you couldn’t be forced to incriminate yourself under English law – Well maybe you used to be right, but not any more... 'Cos that was then and this is now - Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Two anti speed camera campaigners, Idris Francis and Gerard O'Halloran, argued that the centuries-old right to silence should allow drivers to refuse to confirm to police who was at the wheel, as they would be being forced incriminating themselves.

They trustingly took their case to the European Court for Human Rights...

Unfortunately for them - and more worryingly, the rest of us - Judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg voted by 15-2 to reject their case.

The court said: "The court did not accept the applicants' argument that the right to remain silent and the right not to incriminate oneself were absolute rights,"

Mr Francis said "In my view it is a perverse decision" "I am shocked and amazed."

"The fight for freedom goes on. We can't allow the tyrants, who are taking away our rights, to succeed. They have to be stopped."

Now if, as the court says, they are not rights in this case - will it be any different for other offences?

So maybe the pair should now sue the government under the Trade Descriptions Act. The police and Criminal Evidence Act lays down the following modern interpretation of the ‘right to silence’ also known as the "caution":

"You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention now something you later rely on in court, Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

This is obviously now complete rubbish. It should read something more like:

”You do not have the right to silence and failing to disclose anything we want to know could result in your receiving a harsher sentence - if we can manage to find a jail cell for you.”

Probably wouldn’t work though, the court would probably argue it was naive to the point of idiocy to believe anything a politician promised you.

Now for the moment we shan’t even start to look at the erosion of the principal of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ lurking in the law relating to UK road tax brought in by Nu-Lab…

Government 'barking up wrong tree' with speed cameras

Sometimes the UK Government are so full of sh ‘it’ it just makes you want to weep! (Though this response will be by no means limited to just the UK government)

Paul Smith, of the Safe Speed Road Safety Campaign in the UK, started an e-petition to scrap so-called ‘road safety cameras’ - speed cameras or stealth taxation machines, to the average motorist.

It attracted over 28,000 signatures.

Nu-Labs response? Well basically they are not interested. You can read it all for yourself here.

They spin it like this say (pause for low-key dramatic music) ,“The facts are stark. If a child pedestrian is hit at 30mph they stand an 80% chance of surviving. But if they are hit at 40mph they stand an 80% chance of dying. That is why the Government is committed to achieving appropriate vehicle speeds on the roads as part of its integrated road safety strategy. “

OhKaaay… So how come so many of these ‘tax boxes’ are tucked in places that are difficult to spot on multi carriage 'A' roads and Motorways, where the speed limit is not 30 and where no one would be crossing and there would be no ‘if you hit me at 40’ little girls, or anyone else walking. They look, to the objective observer, rather more as if they have been placed to net as much money as possible.

Another point they are anxious to make is that: ”Safety cameras provide a valuable and cost-effective method of preventing, detecting and enforcing speed and traffic light offences. Very cost effective indeed - more like a massively profitable money spinning scheme! They net the state more than one billion pounds a year. They need to make up the loss of income on tobacco sales from somewhere.

Note the way they gratuitously lump the entirely different traffic light cameras in there because most people don’t have a quarrel with them - so you would have to be a bad irresponsible person who should be ashamed of themselves to object to them and they are ‘safety cameras’ too.

They go on: "Their use is based on solid evidence. All reliable research from around the world clearly demonstrates that cameras reduce speeds and save lives."

Not according to the governments own figures they don’t . Statistics released by the Department for Transport covering 2006 have led to serious questions about just how effective speed cameras’ really are, especially when figures for deaths were separated from serious injury.

Figures released yesterday show a 20 per cent increase in the number of children killed on the UK’s roads. These figures are based on police stats, which have generally dropped. If you look at hospital data it suggests road accident figures may be worse.

Paul Smith is suggesting that the Government have not been sophisticated enough in how they measured and interpreted the data. He believes they have actually been measuring improvement in vehicle safety, believing it to be because of the speed cameras - and lets face it they have a billion reasons to want it to be true.

He said: "The underlying story of the new road casualty figures is that we have received part of the benefit of improved car technology,"

He pointed out we should be seeing a more dramatic casualty reduction, in a different pattern - if the Government’s policies were actually based on accurate theory and really working as advertised.

"Road safety policy appears to have made matters worse because the only gains are in car occupant deaths.

"The problem is pedestrian, child and motorcyclist deaths are up. If the Government's policy was really working all these figures should have been coming down."

All this is being driven by yet another one of the Government's interminable ‘targets’, that end up distorting everything around them. In this case a pledge to reduce the number killed and seriously injured on the roads to 60% of the 1994 to 98 average by 2010.

French Kissing Cyber bullying in the USA

It seems teachers in the UK are not the only ones being cyber ‘bullied’.

While teenagers still think that most bullying happens offline, one third of online teenagers in the US have reportedly been cyber-bullied, according to the Pew Internet Project .

The most common complaint from teens, was about private information being shared, rather than direct threats.

One has to question exactly what they are counting as bullying. Is it the perception, or do they have a list and does it actually include things that most people would not even consider bullying?

Though it may not necessarily be the case here, I have seen some surveys where the criteria were dubious, to say the least, effectively designed to maximise the response.

According to this report, girls were more likely to be bullied than boys. Girls tend to network more, so that makes sense. People who share their identities online were apparently the most vulnerable.

Some 32% of teenagers questioned had experienced one, or more, of the following:

  • Receiving an aggressive email, IM or text message.
  • Having a rumour spread about them online or having.
  • Having a private e-mail, instant message, or text messaging forwarded, or posted where others could see it.
  • Having an embarrassing photograph posted online without permission.

The last two are a bit ambiguous. The more sensitive, the more likely to experience bullying if it is intended, or not.

This from a 16 year old girl certainly fits the bill:
"There's this boy in my anatomy class who everybody hates and some girl started up this I Hate [Name] MySpace thing. So everybody in school goes on it to say bad things about this boy."

I guess the one who started that - and the ones that joined in - never heard of Columbine High School, or Virginia Tech...

According to Secret service investigators, many of the shooters in those situations had feelings of alienation, or persecution, that eventually drove them to violence.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Petition calls for Referendum on EU Constitutional Treaty

There is Petition calling for a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty.

RJ Mansfield has set up an e-petition calling for a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty.

The wording is short and simple:
”We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to guarantee that the British people will be permitted a binding referendum on any and all attempts to resurrect the EU "constitution" (and any or all of its content) regardless of nomenclature.”

This so-called treaty is clearly and widely known to contain at least 90% of the rejected EU Constitution. It was obviously devised by Chancellor Merkel, to circumvent the constitution’s rejection by French and Dutch voters.

One wonders what those French and Dutch voters make of this betrayal of their democratically expressed will - By their own politicians.

New Labour promised there would be a referendum on the treaty. In 2004 Tony Blair said: “Let the people have the final say”. I seem to recall Labour even made a referendum on the Constitution a manifesto promise in the 2005 general election.

It is disingenuous of them (and rather insults the intelligence of us all) to try to claim that this treaty does not need a referendum – and appears to demonstrate a certain ambivalence towards the democratic process.

The Irish are to have a referendum on the treaty and make no bones about the fact that it is effectively a reworded constitution.

Much of this so-called ‘treaty’ has already been rejected. It has no legitimate mandate as things stand and is so far reaching it needs a specific endorsement from the electorate.

Let Gordon Brown know that he can’t just hope the matter will blow over, If you don’t want to be completely disenfranchised in the matter then please sign the petition.

Teacher's say mobile phones are weapons

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), a UK teaching union, is calling for mobile phones to be classified as ‘potentially offensive weapons.’

Chris Keates, their general secretary said that pupils were using them to bully their teachers and they should be banned from school premises on those grounds.

She had evidence of over 100 teachers being bullied by phone, email, or online and is worried that sites such as Ratemyteacher and Bebo which, provide a vehicle for false allegations and abuse by pupils which can damage teachers' self esteem and careers.

Stating: "These sites are fed by pupils' misuse of mobile phones. The time has come for mobiles in schools to be placed in the category of a potentially offensive weapon and action taken to prevent their use by pupils while on school premises.”.

I don’t imagine anyone reasonable would take issue with preventing their “use by pupils while on school premises”. Use of phones in class would not appear, at first sight, to be exactly conducive to learning.

However given the fact that the government is cracking down on cyber bullies and has given teachers the power to confiscate mobile phones, also one presumes individual schools could and should make use of the phones in class against the rules any way - why are the NASUWT raising the matter in this way?.

One also wonders what practical use this would all be anyway. How would it stop bullying outside of school hours? A site can probably be more easily be accessed from home than school?

As for ‘offensive weapons’. UK law already classifies anything that is used as an offensive weapon as an offensive weapon. Though in this case the phones are not actually really being used as a weapon in the normal sense at all, but then there is also the offence of ’Harassment’ that would be applicable.

Still, one can understand teachers might be reluctant to use the law to handle what they may see as a matter of discipline and one has some sympathy for the NASUWT. They always opposed the abolition of corporal discipline in schools.

From recollection, whatever your ‘moral’ stance on the subject, this was a teacher’s only actually effective means of control in their arsenal. Just knowing it was there was enough 99% of the time. Now pupils know teachers have no real sanctions, from their point of view.

Unfortunately for the NASUWT, after vigorous and vocal campaigning against corporal discipline by the ‘Fluffy Bunny Squad’ - particularly the teachers' pressure group STOPP (Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment), abetted by the National Council for Civil Liberties and around half of NUT (National Union of Teachers) branches, a ban was imposed in all UK state schools in 1986, it was extended to private schools in 1998.

A survey, carried out by FDS International for The Times Educational Supplement has found that a significant majority of parents believe pupil behaviour had declined since then and over half were in favour of the return of corporal discipline in schools.

It is worth noting, that the argument against corporal discipline, was largely along the lines that; if you treat children violently (and opponents classified corporal discipline as violent), it will produce a violent society.

Interestingly, though corporal discipline has not really been used in schools since 1987, violence and discipline problems appear to have become much worse since then and to a greater problem now than ever.

One has to wonder how still apocalyptically worse it might have become, had the cane not been banned…

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Taliban use kids as weapons and camoflage

The Taliban are reportedly using children, as weapons and camouflage - How low can they go?

Apparently a Taliban video surfaced in April capturing terrorists instructing a boy of about 12, as he beheaded a person, with a large knife.

Taliban fighters are also reported as increasingly adopting the strategies of the insurgents in Iraq, who are known to use children to disguise vehicle-bombs.

Now it seems despicable Taliban 'militants' have attempted to dupe a six year old Afghan boy, Juma Gul, into becoming an unwitting suicide bomber. They made him put on a bomb vest telling him it would spray out flowers if he pressed a button.

They instructed him when he saw American soldiers to: "throw your body at them".

Juma said: "When they first put the vest on my body I didn't know what to think, but then I felt the bomb” “After I figured out it was a bomb, I went to the Afghan soldiers for help."

He asked them: ”Hey, can you help me? Somebody gave me this jacket and I don't know what's inside but maybe something bad'. Afghan police state the vest was destroyed after removal.

No matter what your views on the conflict, this foul strategy, clearly intentionally, puts allied soldiers throughout the region in a terrible position.

It is specifically designed to make matters so very much worse in a truly evil way.

Keep this in mind next time your hear of a civilian shot at a road block, or during a patrol, because it may well be one of the considerations that influenced their decision to shoot, in the few moments they had to make their minds up.

Teen Drinking Falls

Recently the “protect us all from ourselves” brigade and health fascists have done their best to ensure teenage drinking becomes a cause of major concern.

Earlier this year, the partially State Funded (via UK Department of Health) UK charity Alcohol Concern was calling for parents who taught their children how to handle alcohol moderately at home to be prosecuted.

A subsequent study confirmed the common sense view, finding that those who drank with parental supervision were in fact less likely to engage in binge drinking.

Now it seems that fewer underage teenagers are drinking regularly – due, at least in part, according to a Trading Standards survey, to more effective enforcement of the perfectly adequate existing sales regulations.

The survey found that nearly half of those who said they drank alcohol did so at home under parental supervision, or at family functions.

So it seems we may not, after all, need a plethora of new poorly drafted and ill conceived legislation making specific offences of, say - anyone under the age of three to purchase Polish Lager on a Wednesday after 4 pm with a personal cheque signed in green ink, whilst wearing red socks and carrying a copy of A Tale of Two Cities. Then there would be the offence of Aggravated purchase before 4 pm on Wednesdays…

The survey indicated the proportion of those aged between14 and 17 buying alcohol dropped by 12% to 28%. Those who said they drank regularly (that is at least once a week) fell from by 6% to 44% and those who never drink alcohol at all has risen by 5% in the last two years to 17%

Director of the Centre for Public Health, Professor Mark Bellis, said: "It is very positive that we have seen such a dramatic drop in kids buying their own alcohol.”

Unfortunately over 7% polled said they had been in a car (presumably actually being driven, as opposed to having subsequently regretted sex in the back seats) with a young person who had been drinking, and around 6% said they had regretted having sex while drunk. Given the age range involved 14 - 17 the majority of those polled should not be driving, drunk or sober.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

‘One In Ten’ (Shades of UB40)

According to figures released by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 10%, or one in ten, of the UK population are now non-native. It seems that levels of immigration, higher than anything experienced before, are significantly altering the make-up of the population.

Still this increase is at least partly offset by people born in the UK leaving - so that should stop it becoming too crowded then ;-)

It seems ministers are now actually concerned that there is a "critical risk" that mass immigration will fracture society. A spokesman said:
"A points-based system from 2008 will help us selectively admit skilled workers where it is in the clear interests of the economy.''

In some respects it might be argued that society is already ‘fractured’, arguably, significantly due to government policy over integration vs. ‘multiculturalism’ over years.

One wonders why the US seems to be more sucessful in this respect.

When you have the situation in the UK where some elements of society are apparently happy enough to indiscriminately murder bus and tube passengers - and they do not attract absolute universal unconditional and unequivocal condemnation, you have got to wonder…

Local Tax in UK rises twice as fast as earnings

The average UK local, or council, tax bill has effectively doubled in the past decade, rising twice as fast as income.

A report by the Halifax Building Society reveals the tax has risen from an average of around £560 to £1,100.

The tax has risen three times higher than the rate of inflation, double the increase in average earnings. In Fact it is now 91% higher than when Tony Blair first took office, while average earnings have only increased by 51%

The Local Government Association (LGA), that represents councils in England and Wales, has dismissed the report, saying it was a rehash of old information.

Well yes… Some of it, by necessity, must be around 10 years old, or the information would not be there to make the comparison, something the LGA no doubt devoutly wishes were the case.

It certainly warrants being repeated again and again so the local electorate can keep it in the forefront of their minds during local elections. Again something the LGA would be keen to avoid.

The Halifax’s chief economist, Martin Ellis, said that they were just: “highlighting the point that there's been a big, big, increase and certainly much sharper than the increase in either prices, or average earnings”

Anna Pearson, of Help The Aged pointed out that: ”When you compare council tax rises with the meagre rise in the basic state pension, you can see why pensioners are having to deprive themselves of basic necessities to get by.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Irish allowed Referendum on EU Constitutional Treaty

As we all now know, following anti democratic pressure to ignore his electorate and avoid a referendum, from the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, Tony Blair the outgoing UK Premier has signed the German Chancellor’s new European constitutional‘treaty’.

It seems though, that other nation’s leaders have a greater commitment to the democratic process. Ireland's constitutional arrangements actually make it difficult not to call a referendum on the treaty. Hence Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern is to call a referendum on the ‘treaty’.

An Irish Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that although some constitutional elements had gone, 90 per cent of what was there was still there.

Denmark has also been looking at whether, or not, it has to hold a referendum.

Last night, the UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, pointed out: "As each day goes by, more and more of the Government's case on the EU treaty falls to pieces.”

"It is now getting clearer and clearer that this is basically the constitution by another name. Large amounts of power have been transferred to Brussels and the Government has failed to safeguard Britain's interests.”

"People in Britain will want to know, when Irish voters will decide for themselves on this crucial treaty, why Gordon Brown thinks British people do not have the right to have their say, even though he promised they would."

It would seem, when it comes to democracy, some nations are more equal than others.

Is that a Licenced Sporran you'r wearing laddie?

You couldn’t make it up - The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said there are now new rules to bring Scotland into line with existing European regulations, designed to protect vulnerable species.

They require anyone who owns any part of a protected animal to obtain a licence the penalty is a maximum fine of £5,000 and/or six months in prison.

It seems that Kilt wearers would be liable to prosecution under the regulations, if they were in possession of an unlicensed sporran.

Best place to keep the licence would presumably be your sporran as they would presumably be most likely to be asked to produce it when actually wearing it.

"Is that a licence in your sporran, or are you just glad to see me?" ;-) Hat tip to Mae West.

The legislation applies to animals killed after 1994.

So how could you prove how old your sporran was - and more to the point, exactly how much will the licence cost…

Sunday, 24 June 2007

The Princes of Europe decide how their subjects will be governed

Blair's final betrayal of the UK electorate - and the democratic process - The new EU constitution is backing away from free trade and moving further towards a Super State. All very thinly disguised as a so-called ‘treaty’. He has signed up to it with absolutely no mandate and is arguing one is not needed.

The only question is will it just be The outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s betrayal, or will Gordon Browne make it his and Nu-Lab’s betrayal as well?

Will Gordon Browne have the stomach to hold a referendum. Not, one suspects, without a bit of fuss from the electorate - and they are so dispirited and disengaged with the political process it is questionable if they have the necessary will to bother to register their disapproval.

Cock-a-hoop Pro-European groups and other EU leaders crowed that the Treaty was the derailed Constitution in all but name.

The shadow UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, pointed out:

"Not all the details are clear, or finalised, but we now know the basis of the new EU Treaty and it is clear that large parts of the EU Constitution are repackaged, but back.

"Blair and Brown have signed up to major shifts of power from Britain to the EU and major changes in the way the EU works.

"The EU would now be able to sign treaties in its own right and, despite any 'opt-ins', the European Commission and Court of Justice would now have new powers over criminal law. The EU Treaty would also set up a new EU president and diplomatic service.

"These are just some of the fundamental changes that were in the constitution and are now set to be in this new treaty.

"Given their manifesto commitment to a referendum on the EU Constitution, the Government have absolutely no democratic mandate to introduce these major changes without letting the British people have the final decision in a referendum,"

Now if those aren’t the trappings of a Super State you have to wonder what are?
This is another absolutely glaring example of just how ambivalent to the democratic process the EU actually is.

This ‘treaty’ also gives the EU the right to amend it later, effectively as it suits them. A nice set of sliding goalposts.

Much of this so-called ‘treaty’ has already been rejected. It has no legitimate mandate and is so far reaching it needs a specific endorsement from the electorate. Without such an endorsement it should never expect any acceptance or support from the people of the UK.

The European political elite behaves as if they were Kings and Princes of Europe, entitled to make treaties on their own recognisance. Tony Blair appears to share this view. How dare they? We are not their subjects, they are our servants, elected to represent our views and guard our rights.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

BMA planning on demanding yet more controls on alcohol

The health fascists at the British Medical Association are planning on demanding a national ban on drinking in the street should be introduced at their annual next Tuesday.

They say it’s to combat Britain’s so-called ‘drinking culture’.

Given that councils can impose local ones where required it would seem to be completely superfluous.

It would stop you having a glass of wine outside. Depending on if ‘street’ was actually in public then it would spoil quite a few adult pick nicks.

Dr Christopher Spencer Jones, the chairman of the BMA's public health committee, said of alcohol yesterday that it is a “mind-altering drug” he went on:

"It can lead people to drive dangerously, have sex without a condom leading to unwanted pregnancies and make someone punch somebody and land them in court.”

No! ~ Alcohol doesn’t make anyone punch anyone. It’s people like Dr Spencer-Jones that give people who have had a drink the excuse, ‘permission’ if you like, to punch someone. It wasn’t me it was the demon drink. Pathetic cop out.

Also I am sure the good Dr is probably unaware that it is already an offence to drink drive, probably especially if you are having sex without a condom at the time ;-) An offence to drive with a fairly small amount of alcohol in their system. Alcohol doesn’t ‘lead’ them to it, they do it entirely of their own accord.

People are responsible for their actions, unless they are mentally ill, including the action of getting drunk, drink driving, or beating someone up.

Adults should be free to drink alcohol and should accept responsibility for their actions, weather or not they have been drinking. They should also be ready to face the consequences of their actions. That's what being an Adult is about, taking reponsibility for yourself.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Yanks overtaking, French wine

Ahead of the Vinexpo wine fair, in Bordeaux, France, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is coming under pressure from vintners to do more for their wine industry, as the Gallic taste for vin ordinaire withers on the vine.

It seems America is now set to overtake France as the world's number one wine drinking nation. Figures show that French national consumption has fallen so low that the Americans are set to overtake them by 2010.

Finally! Perhaps a slightly more rational reason for the French to dislike the Americans so.

There is a ray of hope for the French producers in that their export market seems to be improving somewhat. One wonders if this is more in the top end of the market.

Much of the problems the French market has had in competing with New World wines in the last decade or so is that, whilst their good wine is often very good, their lack of consistency and reliability in the quality of the medium priced end of the market, causes customers to shy away from their products, in favour of the much more consistent quality of the New World wines.

One sometimes suspects Gallic complacency has been their undoing - and possibly an underlying sense that foreigners are not sophisticated enough to tell when they are being sold plonk.

BBC Pushes Anthropocentric Global Warming Theory

The self admittedly politically biased BBC is pushing the anthropocentric global warming theory again, with the built in assumption that it is a done deal. Even cold weather in the summer seems to be “evidence”.

Louise Batchelor of BBC Scotland said:

“only a handful of scientists now doubt that we're seeing a long-term trend and that humans are responsible for Earth's increased atmospheric temperatures.”

It is questionable if a string of cold years could shake the faith of this new religion's adherents now.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

No taxation without representation

Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's Nationalist education minister, is planning to spend Taxes raised from England on Scottish school children.

How? Because taxes raised in the UK go in a common pot and are then divided out unevenly in favour of Scotland.

The Scottish parliament can spend their own money on what they like - and if that goes to reduce infant class sizes, or student grants, then fine.

But did they ever hear of the phrase “No taxation without representation”?

Blair Gibbs, of the Taxpayers' Alliance pointed out:

"Sooner or later the Government is going to have to explain why it is OK for SNP ministers in Holyrood to make pledges on public spending with money raised from English taxpayers.

"Voters north of the border are within their rights to want more local control but fairness means not asking someone else to pay for it. English taxpayers once again see the SNP avoiding the logic of their own independence objective. You can't go your own way if you don't pay your own way."

Joel Barnet, who created the formula, is calling for it to be scrapped, as it comes under intense and increasing political scrutiny because the disparity between public spending in Scotland and England is now more than £1,500 per head. This is threatens to create a public backlash in England.

A YouGov opinion poll indicated 70% of English voters now believe Scotland is being "subsidised" by the rest of the UK and things should be balanced. By contrast, 74% of Scots want to keep the money rolling in just as it is. Why would you be surprised?

Defenders of the current system (the 74%?) say cutting Scotland's share of funds from central government could severely damage the country because there public spending forms a much larger part of the economy than in the rest of the UK – well it would form a larger part wouldn’t it, because they can afford it having an extra "subsidy of more than £11 billion a year.

The disparity is funding artificially inflated levels of Scottish public spending, among the highest in Europe.

On top of that there is also the minor matter of Scottish MPs being able to vote in Parliament on purely English matters - that will not impact on their own electorate.

In this respect they are effectively unelected and unaccountable by and to, those they govern - This is not democracy.

A Critique of a Critique

This Examination of Kevin Carson's Contract Feudalism by Paul Marks is worth a read and makes some telling points.

EC President against UK referendum

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is now urging the UK not to hold a referendum the constitution /treaty h is trying to push through at this week's EU summit.

Speaking to BBC, he said:

"Sometimes I hear people saying that for Parliament to approve it would be by the back door.

Is that the respect some people show their Parliament, maybe the greatest Parliament in the world? I don't consider Parliament the back door”

We are talking about Tony Blair approving it not Parliament. If it is done without a referendum it is certainly by the ‘back door’, the British have not had to opportunity to express an opinion and the EU has very little impact on what party they voted for as there is not much difference.

And do we really respect Parliament? I suspect most of us could count the politicians in parliament we actually respect on the thumbs of two hands - So that would be no then.

He went on:

"Britain is the country that exported Parliamentary democracy to the world. Do the British people consider Parliament the backdoor?

"Do the British people who killed their king to protect the rights of Parliament consider it the back door? “

Is it the backdoor? Absolutely - and Jose, it was a civil war. It was a Puritan Parliament killed the King. Plenty were fighting for him, just less organised, less well equipped. What has that got to do with it anyway?

He went on to say leaders had to stand up to the sort of "ugly nationalism" that traded on "imaginary threats" such as the idea that the EU was becoming a super state.

Here he is again branding the desire to actually have a say in the matter as ‘ugly nationalism’ this time and urging the political elite to stand up against the democratic process and resist it.

No. The idea of the EU becoming a super state is completely ridiculous, how could we imagine it for a moment?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

EU President 'leans' on Poland and the UK

Barroso is at it again, still trying to strong arm through his (or rather the German Chancellor's), bogus constitution with anti democratic ‘meaningful comments’.

Maybe he would have more luck with one that looked more like this - then again. No, with the EU political elite, probably not.

In Brussels Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, has warned EU members not to block progress towards the EU treaty comprising much of the previously rejected 2005 EU constitution. He warned:

"It is not in the interest of any member state to be in a position that is seen as hardliner,"

“The environment for a deal is clearly there. Please avoid appearing as blocking. This is not intelligent, this is not in your interest.”

“Defend your positions, but don't come with these red lines and vetoes."

by “any member state” he of course means Poland and the UK.

Now why would it be “not in (the UK’s or Poland's) interests” to defend their interests? That really does not make sense.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Knighthood for UK author stirs hatred & controversy

The UK author Salman Rushdie has been awarded a knighthood by the Government.

Rushdie has been under threat of death from a fatwa issued in Iran since 1989 when he wrote a book called ’Satanic Verses’. The book would have had very little exposure if it were not for the Moslem threats - and certainly gets far more than I suspect it deserves as a result.

On hearing of the award Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Mohammad Ejaz ul-Haq said:

“If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified,”

Everyone’s a critic - I guess he must be a ‘moderate’

He later tried to weasel it by trying to claim he actually meant the honour meant a risk of suicide attacks because Muslims believed Sir Salman had insulted Islam.

Iranian conservatives criticised Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday over the conferring of the honour, presumably having no real idea how the system works - and that the Queen doesn’t just pick the conferees personally.

Iran’s First Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar addressing Iran's parliament said to great applause:

"The action by the British Queen in knighting Salman Rushdie, the apostate, is an unwise one.

The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th Century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important."

So, if bestowing titles isn’t still deemed important, then why is he bothering to comment? It is obviously is important to him.

I wonder if he ever read the book – Nah! Nor most of the flag burners and assorted rent-a-crowd either.

These Ranters need to understand that the knighthood has very little to do with trying to annoy fanatical religious types. I doubt it even entered into the equation.

It comes from a small insulated little world, as a natural progression of Rushdie being an acclaimed “arty type”, who has been (despite the fatwa) around for a while and not (to mix metaphors) blotted his arty lefty liberal credentials. It was his turn dummies! No conspiracy, no complicated global Zionist Military/Industrial complex, fiendish and cunning plan to diss Islam.

…Just - his - turn. Smell that coffee folks!

Report says BBC operates in "left-leaning comfort zone"

It’s official, a report titled ‘From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel’, criticised the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for an innate Left/Liberal bias. Warning that this angered viewers and risked stifling originality.

The BBC's former political editor, Andrew Marr, revealed during a seminar in 2006 that the staffing of BBC ‘almost certainly’ did not accurately reflect the profile of the country in terms of race, or sexual preference and that it predominantly employed younger people.

A survey of viewers found that while the corporation was still generally seen as impartial, the majority of those surveyed outside of South-East England felt they were under-represented and there was a suggestion that it was felt news reports were sometimes censored in the interests of political correctness.

The BBC is funded by the 'Television Licence' a compulsory tax on each household's television ownership in the UK.

Monday, 18 June 2007

English Smoking ban an excuse to ban cigarette breaks

A report is warning, that many employers, may be planning to use the July 1 smoking ban in England, as an excuse to crack down on workers taking cigarette breaks.

It was warned that such a move could spark disputes and/or result in desperate employees being forced to secretly smoke in the workplace.

The report, by law advisors Consult GEE, surveyed employers - apparently over a 3rd are planning to use July’s ban on smoking in public places as an excuse to ban cigarette breaks.

Stuart Chamberlain of Consult GEE warned:

"Employees will struggle to fight any bans on their smoking breaks because they are not entitled to them. It could be that they try to claim a breach of the Working Time Regulations, which grants staff working for a minimum of six hours a day 20 minutes break. However, it will prove difficult for an employee to succeed in the employment tribunal with such a claim."

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) felt that banning smoke breaks could be regarded as "excessive".

It would seem draconian for an employer to attempt to stop an employee having a smoke in the breaks they are actually entitled to.

Also one has to wonder what the likely resulting impact on customer relations would be when employees become less relaxed when dealing with any customer – let alone a difficult one.

Air Travel is Green 'Scapegoat'

The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) has presented a report to the UK Government, warning that air transport is ‘being used as a scapegoat’ for anthropomorphic global warming.

They say "half truths and untruths" (very diplomatic - misdirection and lies to the rest of us) are making air passengers feel guilty when they have no need to.

BALPA says air travel accounts for no more than 3% of the world’s human generated carbon dioxide emissions.

Some environmentalists are claiming that this will increase significantly because of a greater number of flights, but BALPA disagree with this estimating a possible rise of up to 6% by 2050. They also pointed out that the latest jets were more carbon efficient than high-speed trains over long distances.

Plane manufacturers like Boeing are working on more fuel efficient airliners all the time it makes good financial sense.

BALPA Chairman Mervyn Granshaw said:
"Our report clearly shows that technological advances now being researched will cut aircraft emissions still further,"

"It would be inappropriate and premature to restrict air transport at this time. “

"The damage that would be done not only to our industry but to tourism and to the economies of developing nations would be enormous."
and he pointed out, air travel had become, "an easy target".

Weather you accept the theory of Anthropocentric global warming, or not, it must be clear to even the most ardent infra-green that, on the basis of saving costs alone, it makes good business sense to increase the fuel efficiency of passenger jets as much as possible.

If you are really that concerned about UK carbon emissions, then you need to look first at power stations, over the last 6 years, carbon emissions from coal fired power stations have increased by 6%, to reach 178m tonnes.

There is the effectively zero carbon, nuclear power option available right now. The French are on this route. This idea is even backed by James Lovelock the British environmental scientist who postulated the Gaia Theory. He says:
"There is no alternative but nuclear fission until fusion energy and sensible forms of renewable energy arrive as a truly long-term provider. Nuclear energy is free of emissions and independent of imports from what will be a disturbed world."

With a concerted push it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to be producing most of the UK’s electricity by nuclear power within 15 years.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Tories pressing the self destruct button again?

One could be forgiven for wondering what on earth the Conservative leadership are playing at. Recently they seem to have scored two spectacular own goals, that they never needed to go anywhere near in the first place.

The row over selective education and now the fuss over ‘free’ museum entry.

Is it incompetence, or do they have some deep-seated fear of actual power?

Shadow Culture Secretary, Hugo Swire, baffled Westminster - and many senior Tories over plans he announced, to scrap free admission to many of Britain's most famous museums and art galleries. Forcing the Conservatives into a virtually immediate and embarrassing U-turn.

For those who don’t know the museums are effectively funded by the taxpayer, so it is reasonable that taxpayers should enjoy the benefit without further cost. Since entrance fees were scrapped in 2001 there has been an 83% increase in visitors.

Once chance, twice coincidence - but three times is enemy action…

Now they are busily playing down the idea that Dave the Chameleon might be the ’heir to Blier’ that they had appeared to be promoting, though why they would want to have tarred him with that particular brush in the first place is not clear.

In a joint appearance in Yorkshire this weekend, David Davis and William Hague tried to put paid to the idea that David Cameron was positioning himself as the "heir to Blair" - An idea that had been backed strongly in public recently by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, apparently also privately by Cameron himself.

It's like watching a three stooges movie!

Why can’t anyone stand on a platform of reducing the size, scope and powers of the state? A platform that reigns back in the health fascists and busy bodies?

Friday, 15 June 2007

The road to Hell…

A 45 year old Banker, who held a senior position in a savings bank, in Tauberfranken, Germany, has been sentenced to two years and ten months in prison - For diverting 2.1 million euros (about $2.79 million USD).

It seems he did it with the best intentions though. He wanted to be able to grant loans to poor clients who could not qualify for them...

So, over a period of around 5 years, he diverted money from the accounts of rich clients, to finance the loans (isn't that basically what a bank does anyway?).

Unfortunately he failed to keep reliable records, loosing track of where he had got the money - and who he had loaned it to.

He did manage to put a big chunk of it back where it came from, so that the actual loss to the Sparkasse Tauberfranken Bank finally only totted up to around 640,000 euros. When he couldn’t repair the financial hole he had dug any further he turned himself in to the police. Apparently he never took a cent of the money for himself.

The German media are hailing him as a modern day Robin Hood.

Maybe he should have kept better records. One has to have some sympathy for him, but then the shock of finding all the savings gone from one's account might temper one's sympathy a little…

Done officially it’s known as Micro Finance. Figures have repayments running in the high nineties percentage wise. Perhaps he should have put the idea in the company ‘suggestions box’ - He might have ended up with an award, instead of doing time…

Poor, Poor, Robin (Hat Tip to Robert Hoffman) After all - It is Friday ;-)

Government proposals to cut drink drive limit

The UK Government could be cut the drink drive limit.

The UK ‘Roads Minister’ Stephen Ladyman, said the Department for Transport would be producing proposals for a consultation later in the year on reducing the drink drive limit, after Ministers have come under increasing pressure from the British Medical Association and road safety groups.

The limit is likely to be reduced from 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood down to 50 milligrams.

Apparently several police forces have ‘voiced alarm' that the "do not drink and drive" message was not reaching young motorists.

The Department for Transport’s figures show that there were 1,050 17 to 19 year olds involved in drink drive accidents in 2005, compared to 810 a decade ago. That’s a difference of 240 accidents in a year. What was the spread of severity? How many involved injury? What level of damage. How are they measuring these figs now compared to a decade ago.

The figures and portentious pronouncements all sound laudable and plausible, on the surface - if you are really thinking about what you are planning to do this week end instead of actually paying attention.

For a moment lets pretend we can believe Government Statistics and that the way they measure them and what they measure hasn’t changed several times over the period to render them unreliable.

Do they mention how much over the limit these 17 to 19 year olds were? Because if they were not somewhere between 50 and 80 milligrams then lowering the limit wouldn’t make a jot of difference would it?

Do these figures include passengers? If so were there actually more accidents, or just more car sharing... No surely they wouldn't have included passengers.

If they were over the limit of 80 then they would also have been well over a 50 limit and if they were not swayed by the penalties, risk of being caught - and dangers - of driving whilst impaired, then they were just not convinced and would be no more likely to heed a 50 limit than the 80.

It would probably be far more effective to actually increase their likelihood of being caught over the 80 limit.

Now the British Medical Association involvement - exactly how are they experts on road safety? When you think about it they are no more qualified to pronounce on this particular matter than my postman. Just because they may be qualified to practice medicine it doesn’t make them expert plumbers or trapeze artists - No they are just pushing their anti alcohol agenda again.

How many agendas are operating here?

Consider - Just how low can the limit go before, practically speaking, you will not be able to have a modest drink in the evening if you want to be able to pass a breath test whilst driving to work the following morning? Is it a sneaky way of forcing a reduction in general alcohol consumption tailored to, or below, their recommended number of units?

Also could this recent Government enthusiasm for looking at a 50 limit have anything to do with the fact that in the EU the UK, Ireland and Luxembourg are now alone in retaining the 80mg limit?

From what I understand all the others (except Sweden at 20) have reduced their limit to 50mg, are they looking to standardise legislation?

Shareholders torpedo Yahoo's anti censorship policy

Yahoo, amongst others, have been getting stick recently for cosying up to governments such as China, who are big on net censorship.

Presumably feeling a little sensitive to criticisms of their policies by human rights groups, Yahoo proposed to adopt a policy that opposed censorship and to set up a human rights committee, to review it’s policies in various locales.

Complete sites - including news media - are eliminated from Yahoo and Google in China. Also Yahoo has been criticized for turning over political dissidents' e-mails that were then used as evidence against them.

Sad to say the proposals were very heavily defeated by Yahoo shareholders.

At Yahoo’s AGM the human rights committee idea was rejected by a huge 96%.

More disturbing 85% are apparently advocates of censorship. Or at least ambivalent towards it when it comes to an increased dividend. It’s enough to make you start to wonder just how many shares in Yahoo the Chinese communist party actually holds ;-)

Personally I would really like to see them rethink their apparently pro censorship stance.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Dr calls for more Nanny Statism.

Dr Matt Capehorn, who runs an obesity clinic at Rotherham in the UK, is planning to demand that allowing children to become obese be designated as an act of neglect, at the British Medical Association’s annual meeting this month. He wants social services to be able to take action against the parents.

Speaking to the BBC he said: "My colleagues and I were concerned because we noticed a discrepancy in the way society, the medical profession and the courts treat an obese child compared with a malnourished child. There is outrage if a child is skin and bone but it only happens in extreme cases with obese children."

Quite right too! Allowing a child to eat too much may be stupid, it may be weak, but it is not deliberate neglect. You might as well blame parents for neglecting anorexic children.

Kids love to eat unhealthy fattening stuff. It’s often quite a trick to keep them off of it and out playing, without having to worry about Crack SS (Social Services) units kicking your door in.

Certainly, in some extreme cases, it might amount to neglect - but it is a dangerous and worryingly authoritarian step Dr Capehorn is pushing for. Maybe he would like to turn the local authority’s anti smoking ‘police’ against evil parents buying their children a burger in the High Street, once they are up to speed…

Vatican puts horse's head in amnesty's bed

Here is a complicated one. The Vatican is being seriously authoritarian. It is leaning heavily on Amnesty international where it hurts. It has suspended all financial aid to them and is ordering all Roman Catholics to stop donating to it as well.

Why? Over Amnesty’s position on abortion.

Amnesty's Deputy Secretary General, Kate Gilmore, told Reuters that Amnesty does not take any particular position over whether abortion is right, or wrong and it was not trying to push abortion as a universal right - but it did defend its position in support of allowing abortion, when a woman’s health is in danger, or her rights have been violated, particularly where rape, or incest, was involved.

"We are saying broadly that to criminalise women's management of their sexual reproductive right is the wrong answer"

Cardinal Renato Martino, said abortion was "murder", "And to justify it selectively, in the event of rape, that is to define an innocent child in the belly of its mother as an enemy, as 'something one can destroy',"

The Vatican’s cash is the Vatican’s cash. They can do with it what they will. Explaining their position to their flock and asking them to back them is ok, but they should not be using their authority to bend them to their will.

Certainly a woman owns her own body and has a right to determine what she does with it, including conceiving, no matter what the Roman Catholic Church says about contraception.

Sperm and unfertilised eggs are just that and no more. Even if every single act of sex led to a conception it would still be the case that only a tiny fraction of a percent of eggs and sperm would ever result in a human being.

Also many fertilised eggs never make it to term, through entirely natural causes they ‘self ‘abort for various reasons.

Now the position you take on abortion rather depends on, at what point you view a foetus as a human being, with the right to life and self determination.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Barroso effectively urges Blair not to give in to democracy!

José Manuel Barroso the president of the European Commission addressing an audience of national and euro-parliamentarians yesterday, concerning the thinly disguised re-vamp of the EU constitution, said he hoped the Prime Minister "will have the courage" to scrap more national vetoes and to sign up to an EU bill of rights despite public hostility.

''You know about the UK, and the respect I have for your country,"
"We have to stand up in front of our national public opinions, not give up to some of the populisms we have in our member states."

“Populisms” presumably being his pejorative ‘code’ for the democratic process.

Excuse me!! We are trying to pretend we still live in a democracy here you know!

The soon-to-be Ex UK Premier was elected on a manifesto promising to put the now rejected contents of the EU constitution to a referendum in the UK.

“Let the people have the final say”, he said.

He is supposed to be representing that position, not conniving to betray his electorate. Is this the price of becoming a commissioner?
If this isn’t clear evidence of a chilling indifference to the democratic process on the part of the EU elite, then what is?

William Hague UK MP said on the matter: "Tony Blair shouldn't be standing up to British public opinion; he should be standing up for it: the Prime Minister's job is to stand up for Britain in Europe, not stand up for Europe in Britain."

Most European citizens would probably, on balance, prefer a democratically governed EU.

Worryingly it increasingly seems as if the European political elite are not so much concerned how a European super state might be governed, only that it exists in some form - and they are in charge.

To preserve appearances they would probably be happy enough with a tame domestic electorate, to rubber stamp their decrees, but as they have discovered, the European electorate is still feral and as like to savage an unwary hand as anything.

It might be more honest to proclaim it the new Holy Roman Empire - and all hail to King Barroso the first!

At least we could have a glittering aristocracy and the pageantry that goes with it to keep our minds off of unnecessary, inconvenient, plain out of date, frills - like democracy. Maybe better to give the job to one of the British Princes, they really are Royal and at least the UK might be less inclined to make a fuss then. The Commissioners could all be Lords, or Barons...

Too much translation, bad for the nation - Says Ruth Kelly

The UK ‘Communities’ Secretary Ruth Kelly told the BBC's Politics Show that:

”I do think translation has been used too frequently and sometimes without thought added to the consequences.”

"So, for example, it's quite possible for someone to come here from Pakistan and elsewhere in the world and to find that materials are routinely translated into their mother tongue and therefore not have the incentive to learn English."

She pointed out that the evidence was that if someone did not begin to learn English within their first six months in the UK, they were never likely to learn it.

Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, predictably disagreed.

"If you do not provide that material for them to be aware of what's happening in the society or issues of particular help, they will remain sort of isolated.

"They will not really get the benefit, nor will they be able to contribute in a positive way".

The immediate thought that occurs is “No they probably won’t - but will they ever anyway? Not if they never bother to make any effort to acquire the language of the country they live in they won’t”

A BBC study showed that over £100,000,000 of public money was spent on translation services in the UK 2006. Apparently, in one instance, refuse collection guidelines – were translated into 15 languages - and one-to-one smoking sessions incurred costs because translation was provided.

Now I can understand that we may be obliged to provide translation, in certain Languages, in certain circumstances:

There is the Welsh Language Act 1993.

The UK is part of the EC. The business of the EC is generally conducted in English, French and German.

The full list of official EU Languages is: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.

In criminal cases the UK is obliged in the interests natural justice to provide translation into any language, also under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I fail to see why the UK should be routinely providing translations for other languages, in other circumstances. Someone who can’t be bothered to learn the language is surely demonstrating a negative, or at best, zero commitment to their adopted country. If people can’t be bothered to help themselves in the most elementary way why should the State be obliged to take up the shortfall?

Why on earth waste public money providing translations for one-to-one smoking sessions for instance?

People who go to any country to reside there on a long term basis are stupid, or lazy, if they fail to make some effort to acquire the language. Even Tourists would be well served to learn a few basics such as; “please”, “thank you”, “how much?”, etc. It is a matter of sensible self interest if nothing else.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Tessa Jowell still backs Olympic Logo

Tessa Jowell, the UK Culture Secretary, is still doggedly backing the controversial ‘Lisa Simpson’ Olympic logo for the 2012 games to the hilt. Endorsing it as: "terrific", "adaptable" and usable in a "variety of different contexts”

When asked if it was worth its £400K price tag she replied: "I think it was, yes." , though she did admit the logo caused a storm when it was unveiled last week she said:

"One thing you can say for this logo is that it has got people talking. It has got people talking about the Olympics, it has got people talking about what they like and what they don't like”

Ken Livingstone suggested that the furore over it was over the top. "It is a logo. It is not the meaning of life, or a secret code that will identify the bloodline of Mary Magdalene. It is a logo that will grow on you."

We’ll know it has really on the way out if Tony Blair announces it has his full support. ;-)

Joking aside – it will have plenty of mileage in it yet, from what I understand, the prime minister-in-waiting’s Wife got her career start at the ad agency who came up with it, Wolff Olins, also Michael Wolff d-reamed up Nu-Lab’s red rose logo.

Blier launches an attack on the UK media

During a speech to Reuters Tony Blair has attacked the UK media, saying the modern media now hunted "in a pack" and that it was: "a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits".

Maybe if politicians didn’t twist the truth, pick good days to bury bad news and to all intents and purposes lie then they would not get called on it.

Now on the European constitution he said not long ago: “Let the people have the final say.". Yet he is now trying to sneak it in disguised as a ‘treaty’. Most of us don’t chop the truth so finely. Most of us would say he is going back on his word.

He went on to complain that non-traditional media outlets (I think he means us, bloggers) were making matters worse, not better:

"It used to be thought - and I include myself in this - that help was on the horizon.
"New forms of communication would provide new outlets to by-pass the increasingly shrill tenor of the traditional media.
"In fact, the new forms can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five."

He does mean bloggers doesn’t he? Maybe we need to be regulated for the public good…

Monday, 11 June 2007

None so blind as those who think they already know...

Today the BBC trumpets “Wealth gap in learning by three”

Baaad selfish rich people! Taking all the education for themselves.

This is in relation to a report based on various studies by The Institute of Education research in the UK.

Children were given 'school readiness' tests and they apparently showed that by the age of three, children from ‘disadvantaged’ homes are up to a year behind in their learning than those from more privileged backgrounds.

Graduates' children were seen to be 12 months ahead of those of the least well educated in tests on their grasp of letters, numbers, colours and shapes.

One of the studies found large differences between children living in families above and below the poverty line.

Professor Heather Joshi stated the poorest children were 10 months behind their wealthier peers in tests of their grasp of shapes, numbers, letters and colours known as "school readiness" tests. She also stated in another study, girls were educationally three months ahead of boys on average.

So are girls on average more ‘advantaged’ than boys? Unlikely.

Take graduates. They are a group pre selected for their ability to – well – graduate.

If intelligence were in any respect even partly inherited then children of graduates would on average start of with a genetically loaded deck of cards.

Then add to that the likelihood of graduates being highly likely to try to ensure their children got a good start and that they would be likely to be exposing them to a more varied and comprehensive vocabulary. It is hardly surprising that their children would on average perform better that average.

Consider people living below the so-called poverty line. Whilst there are many reasons for someone to be in such circumstances it is not unreasonable to suppose, that people living below the poverty line, are on average, less likely to be highly educated. To some extent the reverse of what applied to graduates applies to them.

Now Consider children living below the poverty line. A significant number of those children live in single parent families. This means that there is only one parent who is quite probably likely to have less time to devote to preparing the child ‘educationally’.

So in fact being disadvantaged is by no means the whole story. Native intelligence and a stimulating environment provided by motivated engaged parents are probably responsible for the differences observed.

Advantage, or wealth, is more a by-product than a cause, more an indication of the previous generation’s drive, commitment, intelligence and educational attainment.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Constitution II - Just when you thought it was safe...

This is how they sell you down the river - Tony Blair secretly agreed the blueprint for an updated version of the failed European Union constitution, devised by the German Chancellor, Angelea Merkel, to circumvent the constitution’s rejection by French and Dutch voters. They are calling it a ‘treaty’ in the hope the dimmer citizens don’t cotton on.

Margaret Beckett, the UK Foreign Secretary, attempted to claim that "nothing you could really call negotiations" had actually taken place as MPs, from all parties protested, pointing out that the new ‘treaty’ was largely comprised of measures contained in the rejected EU constitution vetoed by the French and Dutch referenda in 2005.

This is the same Tony Blier who promised, presumably with his fingers crossed behind his back, in 2004, that there would be a referendum in Britain on the original EU constitution. “Let the people have the final say.", he trumpeted when backed into a corner, after months of trying to avoid one, the government insisting that no public vote was necessary.

Clearly he has changed his mind back again, as later this month, just before stepping down, a man bereft of a mandate, his political remit effectively bankrupt, he is planning(while he can still get away with it) to sign Britain up to a treaty, designed to increase the EU's power and to enact, by the back door, many of the proposals originally planned for the constitution.

Presumably this is to be more of his tainted ‘Legacy’. It is enough to make you despair of the whole political process.

What will the French and Dutch voters make of this betrayal of the democratic process? This cynical negation of their democratically expressed will.

Do the British electorate care enough to resist being disenfranchised?

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Mill on Liberty


There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually, or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do, or forbear, because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.

These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise.

To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others.

In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Mill lays down a simple principle to govern the use of coercion (coercion here covering both legal penalty and pressure of public opinion). We may only coerce others in self-defence - either to defend ourselves, or to defend others from harm.

This rules out paternalistic interventions to save people from themselves, and idealistic interventions to make people behave in some 'better' way.

Politicians take note!

Friday, 8 June 2007

Are voters really pig ignorant?

Just saw a fluff piece on TV. A UK farming organisation (The Linking Environment And Farming organisation) has done a survey. It seems many British people have no idea where a lot of what they eat comes from. Many didn’t know that produce such as bacon, porridge, bread and beer comes from farms.

It seems some 22% of the adults questioned didn’t know that bacon and sausages come from pigs on farms and some 47% of people didn’t know porridge's main ingredient comes from farms.

What is horrifying is that these people can vote. The horrifying part is that they will decide how to cast their vote without basic information that should make a difference on how they vote in relation to issues that impact, on say, farming for instance.

How can someone, so lacking in basic facts about life, have any chance of making a reasonably informed decision? What other basic, but vital, information don't they know?

Making decisions based on partial information and inadequate knowledge would give a massive boost to the law of unintended consequences. Under the wrong circumstances it could actually be dangerous. How can people sleepwalk through life like this?

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Health Minister denies NHS anti smoker 'witch hunt'

Plans to get smokers to quit before being given surgery are not a form of "health fascism", argued Health Minister Lord Hunt, after he was urged to step in and overrule plans by local NHS trusts, which peers feel look like part of an anti-smoking "witch-hunt".

Yesterday, Conservative Lord Naseby raised the matter of an NHS primary Care Trust wanting smokers to give up, before having surgery, as managers felt it might improve recovery time. He pointed out that it was one example, of several similar proposals, for smokers, as well as those which targeted obese people.

He observed "there are all sorts of activities which, if stopped, would save the NHS money and ensure that people got better treatment."

Independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart pointed out that smokers paid much more in additional taxation than non smokers when they bought tobacco products and were "entitled to at least the same treatment as others".

He demanded to know by what right the "twenty five percent of adults who smoke - and the millions who are technically obese - all of them have paid their taxes and national insurance - are to be denied certain NHS surgery".

Lord Tebbit enquired how Lord Hunt would feel if similar rules were being applied to people, for instance whose sexual habits, "make them vulnerable to particularly unpleasant sexually transmitted diseases".

Lord Hunt avoided the question, blustering that it was "quite ridiculous" and in any case "This is a completely different issue"

Lord Stoddart asked Lord Hunt to use the NHS Acts to overrule the "discriminatory action". Adding, "There is an impression that there is a witch-hunt against smokers in particular.".

Lord Hunt argued that it was a clinical judgement, in the patients' interests and did not amount to a ban on smokers. He indicated that it had not been drawn up by the government but by Doctors and in any case it had not yet been approved.

He went on that it could mean fewer heart and lung complications, faster wound healing, faster bone fusion and shorter stays in hospital and said "This is not health fascism, it's not about discrimination against smokers, this is about what's best in the interest of the patient in terms of clinical judgement, and that is how it should remain."

No wonder the Government would like to emasculate the House of Lords, a difficult lot who tend to say “Now hang on a minute…” at inconvenient moments.

Now, since the subject of ‘health fascism’ came, up an observer might think that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….

As for the “it hasn’t been approved yet” argument! Yet is the operative word and they were trying to ensure the proposals never were. We can be sure they will come up again – and again – and again…

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Blogpower: Nominations... Thanks

Critical Faculty Dojo has been nominated in the following categories - Thanks people, it is really appreciated.

Blogpower: Best Britblog or Column

Blogpower: Best Political Blog or Column

Blogpower: Best Blog Name

I don't know if CFD will make the final cut for voting in any of them, but if it does please don't forget to actually vote.

Even if it dosn't, please still vote for any other blogs there you think deserve it.

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EU saves us from deadly barometer threat!!

Headline: The heroic EU has saved the grateful citizens of Europe, yet again from another deadly curse of our times.

The fearsome Mercury Barometer will terrorise us no more! Thanks to The EU’s environment committee, including two British Labour MEPs, Linda McAvan and Glenis Wilmott.

After the bruising battle the Miss McAvan, a Yorkshire MEP, bluntly stated there is "clear evidence" that mercury in barometers was "highly dangerous".

A sinister conspiracy of traditional British barometer makers and restorers, backed by Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, have finally been outflanked and foiled by this stalwart paragon of democracy and are now facing the closure they so richly deserve. They almost got away at the last moment, but the redoubtable, the steely eyed Lord Rooker UK minister for sustainable farming and food, managed to prevent that.

As we all know these merchants of death are single headedly responsible for the terrible swathe of death and destruction wrought by mercury barometers over the last three centuries or more. Not to mention the acres – oops! Square kilometres think I got away with that one - of land left uninhabitable.

I don't see anyone trying to ban Compact Flourescent Light bulbs. No they are promoting them as environmentally friendly! I expect McAven & Willmott will probably tell you so too.

Now compact fluorescent bulbs contain an average of 5 milligrams of mercury each, not a huge amount you might think. All CFLs will eventually need to be disposed of though - and you know they will end up in the trash and get broken.

Well some 200 million light bulbs a year are sold in the UK alone - replace them all with compact flourecent bulbs and you could end up with a Metric Ton of mercury being dumped in the UK every year.

Contrast that with the odd broken mercury barometer!

So in the great scheme of things – would it really have hurt for them to have granted an exemption?

iTune tracks contain details of who bought them.

Do you have an iPod?

Have you bought any tracks from iTunes since May 30th 2007?

Apparently tracks bought on iTunes since May 30th, whether free of DRM or not, have the full name and account information , including e-mail address, of who those bought them, imbedded within the file.

It is probably done as an anti-piracy measure to help track down anyone putting downloads on file-sharing sites.

Now if you should share a file, or have it stolen along with your iPod, the question you need to ask yourselves is:
”Do I feel lucky?”

How long before a utility program is produced which can strip out that information – and how safe will your ‘identity’ be then?

Amnesty's concerns over freedom on the net

Amnesty International are raising concerns about net censorship ahead of a conference they are organising on the subject.

Amnesty are highlighting that the internet, "could change beyond all recognition" unless action is taken against the erosion of online freedom . Getting into a computing (main) frame ;-) of mind they warn that the "virus of internet repression" has now spread to dozens of governments.

Amnesty also attack companies such as Google - particularly their presence in China, Microsoft and Yahoo of all being complicit in censorship.

Tim Hancock the campaign director said:

"The Chinese model of an internet that allows economic growth but not free speech, or privacy, is growing in popularity. From a handful of countries five years ago, to dozens of governments today, who block sites and arrest bloggers".

"Unless we act on this issue, the internet could change beyond all recognition in the years to come. More and more governments are realising the utility of controlling what people see online and major internet companies, in an attempt to expand their markets, are colluding in these attempts,"

Amnesty point out it’s not just filtering, increasingly it was seeing ‘politically motivated’ closures of websites and internet cafes, also threats and imprisonments. In February, Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, a young Egyptian blogger, was imprisoned for four years for insulting Islam and defaming the President of Egypt.

Amnesty's is re launching their website to highlight freedom on the net

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

UK Government targets drinkers in their own homes

UK Ministers have decided they want to change English drinking culture

Ministers want to change the English ‘drinking culture’ and the willingness to accept ‘drunkenness’ and ‘anti-social behaviour’ as a normal part of life. They have a new strategy and are planning more social engineering…

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker stated: "It is unacceptable for people to use alcohol and urinate in the street, vomit and carry on.

All sounds reasonably ok so far, from a mildly authoritarian, curtain twitching perspective, you might think.

The strategy apparently includes plans for ‘alcoholics’ (presumably, sooner, or later, anyone arrested for being drunk) to be sent for compulsory counselling after being arrested.

Frank Soodeen of Alcohol Concern enthusiastically referred to the strategy as a "big step forward", but said still more money was needed. He went on:"We are incredibly excited. It looks far more, ambitious and far-reaching, than it’s predecessor.".

The Government is primly claiming there are 7.1m "hazardous and harmful" drinkers in England, costing the health economy £1.3bn. So they are looking for justification then. All those virtual criminals wasting ‘health economy’ money! Jail is too good for them!

But Health minister Caroline Flint doesn’t just have her sights on antisocial drinkers. Oh no!

This time they are also planning to target older people who they consider to drink ‘too much’, in their own homes. She glossed on: "There are people, adults, who on a very regular basis are probably drinking twice the amount that is recommended."

Who recommends? The Government. How much is too much? Well the Government tell you that, although the evidence had not changed they recently changed the advice for pregnant women.

Hang on! Let’s stop for a moment and go over all that more carefully.

The government forces you to be part of a decrepit, mismanaged, ‘health service’, that swallows millions extra - without any obvious improvement.

There is no choice, no opt out. It effectively uses force, or the threat of force, to make you pay significant amounts of cash into it weather you want to or not. No choice.

They then use the possibility that you may use this ‘service’ to justify intruding into what you do in your own home, in private, to make sure you are not damaging your health. Drink related this time. They are well on the way with smoking, how long before eating too much gets worked in there?

Is it still your health? Is it still your body? Not entirely if they want control over it.

And you don’t even get to make your own informed choice as to what ‘too much’ might be in any given circumstances. Not you. No they decide that for you.

Could you see the French putting up with that?

Patriotic Nu-Lab Ministers

Two UK ministers Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne are pushing for a national day to promote a stronger sense of British identity - They say it could become a new bank holiday.

Prime-minister-in-waiting (elect is not really appropriate) Gordon Brown has himself previously floated the idea of day to promote the nation's identity.

What is truly incredible is that these same politicians and their fellow travellers have been vigorously suppressing (here, here, here, here) any shred of British Identity, or pride for decades, largely in the name of multiculturalism, anti imperialism and political correctness. Whilst at the same time they have been busily promoting regional identities. Well they have been reasonably successful.

Never obviously concerned about the UK as nation, it has now dawned on Nu-Lab that this may not necessarily have been entirely good for them.

Their former strongholds in Scotland and Wales are now not nearly so Nu-Lab friendly, as voters have abandoned them wholesale for Nationalist Parties.

Then there are multiple terrorist plots by disaffected second generation immigrants, who obviously feel so little sense of common identity, or even humanity, with their fellow compatriots that they are apparently quite happy to indiscriminately murder, as many as possible, as spectacularly as possible.

Much of England prefers the Liberals, or the Conservatives and are now conscious of the fact that significant numbers of the Nu-Lab government is Scottish based and get to stuff legislation down their throats that will never trouble Scottish voters.

Nu-Lab are in real danger of literally rendering themselves a permanently unelectable rump, as a result of the law of unintended consequences.

This might go some way towards explaining their newfound enthusiasm for being British and developing a strong sense of British identity.

Olympic class... Rubbish

Yet another example of staggering Government incompetence – The new Olympic Logo has been unveiled. Apparently it took a year to design and cost a mere £400,000 (around $800,000 bucks).

2012 London Olympic Logo

Quite frankly it is rubbish, but what is really irritating is that a lot of money was spent on it. Money better spent on something else.

They could have got something better more-or-less for free, if they had organised a schools competition with the prise as VIP tickets.

No they have to spend a fortune and end up with something else that sounds ok ‘on paper’ (in the pub after a few drinks mre like) but is as usual not fit for purpose. They will hang onto it like grim death because people won’t get sufficiently worked up about it to complain loudly for long enough, unlike something like H.I.P.s

Monday, 4 June 2007

A gift for Dave the Chameleon?

Here is something that ought to play to Dave the Chameleon’s showdown with those in his party that advocate selective education. Will he be able to restrain his new News of the World "Alastair Campbell", or will we be seeing veiled accusations of racism trotted out against advocates of selection?

A report produced by a campaign group, the Runnymede Trust, suggests increased school choice does little to enhance the opportunities of black pupils saying: black ethnic minority parents find it difficult to exercise choice, this can lead to further segregation and that many found the complexities in applying to selective schools off-putting.

They say that because many parents find it difficult to exercise choice, they downgrade their options before selecting schools.

The campaign group also say that people with English as a second language tended to choose the school closest to them – except in the case when it came to those selecting single sex schools, there it was not a problem.

Parents trying to get their children into schools in local authority areas with a high number of schools that control their own admissions, found the process especially difficult, the report said.

Choice policies could also lead to young people from different ethnic groups being kept apart, the report argued.

It seems to be from the direction of the report that the problem isn’t so much with selective education, as some parents (and probably not just those with English as a second language) unwillingness to use it as it is meant to be. You can lead a horse to water…

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Rostock & two smoking barrels

Anti Globalisation Stormtroopers clashed with German police in the city of Rostock protesting against next week's G8 summit of leading industrial nations in Heiligendamm, about 16 miles away.

A spokesperson for police described it as a "massive assault".

The BBC reported that it only involved a small portion of the estimated 30,000 people who had joined the rally, failing to follow the logic that if only 5% of the crowd had been involved that would still be 1,500 violent protestors, even half that would be pretty massive if they were bearing down on you armed with lumps of wood and rocks, as they were.

The BBC is interested if you have attended the protest and breathlessly ask for your feedback and pictures.

One gets the impression they would have been there themselves if only they could have got their hand on some designer rocks…

Friday, 1 June 2007

Ayatollah O'Brian

It looks as if Scotland may have it’s very own McAyatollah.

Cardinal Keith O’Brian an ardent Scottish secessionist has now effectively threatened Catholic politicians who do not take an anti abortion stance with virtual excommunication .

He went on TV yesterday, emotively proclaiming all abortion to be murder, referring to it as the “slaughter of the innocents” and "an evil trade". Saying: "We are killing - in our country (Scotland) - the equivalent of a classroom of kids every single day. Can you imagine that? Two Dunblane massacres a day in our country going on and on - and when's it going to stop?"

He denied actually wanting to excommunicate pro-choice Catholic politicians, but did the next best thing warning: "They must consider their own consciences - and whether or not they can approach the altar to receive Holy Communion.".

One possible reason for his support for political secession may relate to the possibility of acquiring much greater power in the smaller political pond – divided they fall, so to speak.

Free speech is one thing and he is perfectly entitled to that – but this is clearly using his position to deliberately heavily pressure susceptible politicians into voting the way he wants, rather than for what they may think for the best.

He would probably be one of the first to complain if, say, the Queen, were to do something similar in relation to supporting the act of union, despite her being personally involved with it.