Friday, September 02, 2005

Racism ? What's That ?

Try to imagine the BBC spin on this story had the crowd been white and the tourists black.

Four Years

For possessing an unlicensed gun. In a drawer at your mums house.

Or for shooting at your neighbours with a telescopic sighted, silenced rifle. And having a wee skunk farm. Powered by stolen electricity.

Curmudgeon Joy

On Poll Pot.

Ms Toynbee works on that fantastic assumption underlying the ideal of universal education, that everyone can be and wants to be and therefore should be educated. But what room does this leave for natural stupidity and wilful ignorance?

And on the subject of inequality, Dalrymple on health inequalites :

In the first place, it is assumed that relative figures are more important than absolute ones. The fact that the life expectancies of every social class had risen, and the infant mortality rates of every social class had fallen, was detectable only from the figures in the article, and not from anything in the text. In this context, it is always ratios that are considered important. The national average for infant mortality is approximately 5 per 1000 live births: that for the worst areas, 17 per cent higher, is therefore approximately 6 per thousand. The absolute difference is thus 1 per thousand live births.

Of course, the death of every individual child is lamentable; but since we are talking in terms of abstract categories and statistics, not in terms of newspaper sob stories, this difference hardly seems to me to be one requiring enormous social engineering, which always has great costs and unforeseen consequences.

It is interesting to note in the article that only certain disparities are deemed worthy of epidemiological notice and hence of efforts at social engineering. It is well-known, for example, though seldom publicised, that the mortality rates of illegitimate children are considerably higher than those of legitimate children; and since illegitimacy, even in these times of mass bastardy, is concentrated in the lower reaches of society, it might account for a considerable part of statistical disparity alluded to. But such a consideration would lead to very different kinds of social engineering from that envisaged by the British Medical Journal, and is therefore simply not mentioned.

Cobb ....

is from New Orleans but now lives in LA. Everyone has their own favourite blogs for news and opinion on the disaster. He's mine.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Criminal Justice

The Magistrate on the criminal :

The trickiest was another woman of about 40 whose heroin addiction has led her to have a 14 page criminal record, almost all of it for small scale theft and deception. She had been arrested while she was already on bail for two similar offences, and by the book she should have been remanded in custody, for the obvious fear of further offences. She has four children, and is five months pregnant, and that's what clinched it for me. I re-bailed her, avoiding the eye of our resident police officer who was bound to be thinking that I was a soft touch. Perhaps I am, but she is non-violent, does most harm to herself, and I just wasn't prepared to send a pregnant woman to Holloway with the weekend looming.

and on the victim :

And next time I hear someone say:- "He'll come out of prison one day - it's us that are serving a life sentence", I shall throw up.

Hmmm ...

I think it's best to be honest about this sort of thing. Just because you feel you've been female all your life doesn't mean other people will accept your feelings as objective truth. A sad story.

Back in ancient days we used to occasionally attend drag nights at the Vauxhall Tavern, then trundle up the road to the (now defunct - I think) Elephant and Castle pub at Vauxhall Bridge, whose clientele of dodgy deviants made the Tavern seem a staid, conservative sort of place.

There was a pretty girl there who danced to the jukebox a lot, with a spectacular body, shown off by short skirts and tight tops. Her shoulders were just a tad on the broad side, so it wasn't a total surprise when she revealed that a fair bit of surgery had been involved in her transformation. In the Ladies she'd show the girls the results of the surgery and describe the op in (somewhat too) graphic detail. By the way they'd grope her, I never got the impression that the chaps in the pub were too fussed by her previous existence. But some people would be. And if, like the deceased in the link above, you haven't had the op, honesty is definitely the best policy. And it helps if your honesty takes place before you enter what Shakespeare called (and rightly so) 'the very lists of love'. If only Tess had fessed up before the wedding night !

One million legal immigrants since 1997

Say Migrationwatch.

The BBC takes a more balanced view.

But Keith Best, of the Immigration Advisory Service, said the figures were "extremely mischievous" and it was not known whether the UK was a country of immigration or emigration.

And would Keith Best tell us a lie ?

A Home Office spokesman said the government "is committed to pursuing a balanced migration policy by ensuring that we tackle abuse of the system but selectively admit those migrant workers to the UK where it is in the interests of our economy".

Of course. We need immigrants to do the jobs we can't or won't do. They're good for the economy. They bring wealth to Britain.

Which makes it very odd that immigrant groups, according to TUC leader Brendan Barber, have higher rates of unemployment than the natives.

A recent TUC report showed that Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities were among the most deprived the country.
"Looking at unemployment, we have known for a long time that ethnic minority groups fare less well than their counterparts," he said.
"On housing, we have not been delivering for many years. If you add all that to the evidence on the extent of poverty in Britain, members of minority groups fare much, much worse than others."

I'm not sure how being unemployed is vital to the UK economy. But I'm sure someone can tell me.

Carlsberg - Probably ...

... the worst public relations in the world.

He IS The Twisted Firestarter !

BBC News :

Labour peer and MSP Mike Watson has pleaded guilty to deliberately starting a fire at an Edinburgh hotel last year.
Watson, 56, who represents Glasgow Cathcart, set fire to curtains at the Prestonfield Hotel in November 2004 after a political function.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday, a not guilty plea to a second fire-raising charge was accepted.

Sentence has been deferred for three weeks. Watson said he intended to resign from the Scottish Parliament.

Original reports here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On The Estate

(with apologies to RS Thomas)

There was Tim Puw. He was no good.
He 'never really had a chance in life',
He smoked some skunk weed when the baby cried
At late evening lost his temper
Broke the thigh of a three month child.

There was Paul Puw, and he was no good.
In the evening after the rowing
With his wife Debbie, he would sit in his chair,
And stare into the mangled parrot's cage,
Twisting the bird until its head detached.

There was Chris Puw, too. What shall I say?
I have seen him texting on a mobile
On and on, as though his wife
Would never again see her lover,
And all the hammers were bloodstained.

And lastly there was the girl:
Beauty under some spell of the beast.
Her four years were the lanterns
By which we read in life's dark book
The shrill sentence: God help us

The Limits Of Non-Violence

Fascinating Social Affairs Unit review by Christie Davies of the current National Portrait Gallery "World's Most Photographed" exhibition.

The reviewer looks at the photos of Kennedy, Hitler and Gandhi, but it's this aside which struck me.

When in 1938 leading Jews wrote to Gandhi for support he replied that they should challenge the Germans to shoot or imprison them rather than submit to "discriminatory treatment". Voluntary suffering would bring them "inner strength and joy" and if they were all massacred it would be a lasting victory for it would bring the Nazis to "an appreciation of human dignity". As for those who had escaped to Palestine, well they should "offer themselves to the Arabs to be shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without raising a little finger".

Gandhi had the good fortune to grow up and live in the British Empire, first in South Africa and then India, rather than in Germany or the then German Empire. On his visits to England he was able to address mill-workers, journalists, the great and the good of Britain.

The last time large numbers of people in England were massacred because of who they were rather than what they did was probably during the Saxon (and perhaps Danish) invasions, when the native population of what is now England was ethnically cleansed. Even William I's infamous Harrying of the North was based on a need to crush armed revolt.

Alas, while Hitler may or may not have had an appreciation of human dignity, he didn't consider the Jews to be human. And the fate of Jewish mothers and children is a fair guide to what would happen were the fate of Israel to rest with the Arab nation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

F@$% and McF@$% !

The stupid ******* in charge of Weavers School in Wellingborough may be getting a lot of stick for his decision to allow pupils to swear up to five times per lesson, but he has support North of the Border.

Those ******* ***** at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council are right behind the ***** head and his ****** ideas.

Eleanor Coner, the spokeswoman for the SPTC, said of the trial in England: "I think it's sensible and would be good to try. It's about time we stopped over-reacting to things. A lot of the problems in classrooms have been from teachers overreacting to things like swearing".

UPDATE - Shuggy is back from his long holidays, with tales from the front line and comments on the education disaster.

Shuggy is a decent sort with a bee in his tam o'shanter about faith schools. He writes "There is less social mobility in the UK than there was thirty tears ago. A large part of the problem is our school system that is run by people who think the school can't help being a repository for the prevailing culture, rather than being what it is: an institution capable of setting and maintaining its own norms and values."

This is all true (except I've never understood the difference between a norm and a convention) - but the faith school is the best at "setting and maintaining its own norms and values". If you take a look round a private school - say an old grammar like those in Gloucester or Worcester - you'll immediately be aware that the culture is not that of the street outside. In too many comprehensives street culture is in the playground and the classroom - to the detriment of the children's education.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Difficult Call

Police say it is too early to say whether a melee in Birmingham involving 30-40 people, which resulted in a man being shot to death, was gang-related.

30-40 people ? Gangs ? Tricky one, that.

War On Drugs - They Don't Really Mean It

Quite simply too many people in government, education, health service - everywhere - are compromised - because they do - or have done - drugs themselves. And even those who didn't inhale have a soft spot for their youthful heroes.

I thought this a while back, when Lou Reed was given a Special International Ivor Novello Award, and the Radio Four Today programme had a piece about him, majoring on the legendary grumpiness of Mr Reed. They interviewed the Cure's Robert Smith ( doesn't look like a man who takes drugs), who told endearing tales of this Victor Meldrew de nos jours. Who wrote this (the "Lou Reed Live" version is the best - great long guitar intro).

Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life
Because a mainer to my vein
Leads to a center in my head
And then I'm better off and dead
Because when the smack begins to flow
I really don't care anymore

If the great and the good really cared about stopping heroin abuse, Lou Reed would be an un-person, forced to sell his music over the Web, never seen on TV or heard on radio. (He'd have all the commercial clout of Jonathan King or Gary Glitter, whose fates show the difference between a crime society finds tolerable and one they find intolerable).

But they don't, despite the damage. It's 100% mouth, 0% trousers. We have a Director of Public Prosecutions with a conviction for sending drugs through the post. Liam and Noel ('chained to a mirror and a razor blade') Gallagher get invited to Downing Street parties.

But I haven't experienced such cognitive dissonance as yesterday's since I last thought of Will Self getting smacked up on John Major's jet during the 1992 election.

I listened in amazement to Test Match Special, as guest Hugh Cornwell of popular beat combo The Stranglers came into the commentary box, accompanied by theme music "Golden Brown", a song about the pleasant effects of poorly refined Far Eastern smoking heroin.

Mr Cornwell then got out an accoustic and played the song live, to polite applause from Blowers, Bill Frindall and the TMS team.

In a society which really wanted to stop drug abuse that song would at worst disqualify Hugh Cornwell from ever appearing on radio or television. At best, given repentance and rehabilitation, it would be something not to mention, like a twenty-five year old conviction for indecent exposure or child pornography. Instead we get a live version. It's as if Gary Glitter was the guest, they asked him about his favourite photographs, and he passed a few round to appreciative murmurs from the TMS team.

I don't know who the TMS producer is (ah - this chap). But someone needs to take him round the back of the changing rooms and have a quiet word with him.

Murder and Accident

Homicides are at something like five times the levels of post-war Britain, despite the enormous improvements in medical technology which save many who fifty years ago would have died.

But there are other deaths which may not have happened fifty years ago, but won't go on the homicide stats. Fifty years ago the lifebelts wouldn't have been stolen and the Barrett family might still be alive.

A man had to run 300 yards and climb over obstacles to get to a lifebelt to save a drowning family in Scarborough, an inquest heard.

It took passer-by Chris Bailey five minutes to reach a lifebelt because the nearest one had been stolen days before the North Bay tragedy.

By the time he got back to the slipway from where Kim Barrett, 33, and her two children Aimee, 13, and Luke, 11, were swept into the sea it was too late.

Nearly 50 are stolen from Scarborough each year.

I mentioned the other day the large number of shootings in South London which don't make the headlines.

This one did. It's interesting to contrast the BBC and Guardian editing of the story. For the Guardian the council is obviously the main problem in the area.

Guardian :

Vicky Idiegbe, from the Wood Dene Project Community Group, said: "We've been fighting the council to make changes for a long time ... the lights don't work, and everything is hidden behind trees.

"There is no police presence at all. It's got to the point now where at night I just lock myself in the flat and am too terrified to go out."


Vicky Idiegbe, from the Wood Dene Project Community Group, said: "Many of the flats are becoming derelict and are now being filled up by squatters and junkies, the lifts don't work and people are scared to walk around at night.

"It's got to the point now where at night I just lock myself in the flat and am too terrified to go out."

Guardian :

"The atmosphere had actually been really good until that point, with everyone just chilling out outside," said Stacey, 25, who did not want to give her surname.


Eyewitness Stacey, who preferred not to give her surname, said: "Now everyone on the estate is scared to go out. There are old people here who are terrified.

"Who knows if these people will come back - where will the bullets go next?

"To be honest, Saturday's shooting just isn't a surprise, there is so much trouble round here - there's been shootings, stabbings and rapes."