Saturday, July 26, 2008

Doomed !

"There was something of stolid resignation about them all, as if they walked half in another world between lines of nameless guards to a certain and familiar doom."

Thus H.P. Lovecraft on the Gardner family in "The Colour Out Of Space" - but not a bad description for the Parliamentary Labour Party either. How long ago it seems that they were itching to get rid of Tony Blair - yet it was less than two years ago that he bowed out with yet another magnificent conference speech.

I was listening to the 9 am R5 phone-in yesterday morning, when they asked the question 'What's your message for Gordon Brown ?'. By 9.45 they were pleading for a GB supporter to ring in, having had nothing but negative comments. The first GB supporter turned up at 10.15 - and even he wasn't exactly ecstatic.

Not that they were by any means Cameronians. I heard "he'll probably be just as bad" more than once. It's the old disconnection, alienation, decoupling - call it what you will, but I've been going on about it since 2003. British culture has been hollowed out, tribal loyalties are fast vanishing, and interesting times will soon be upon us.

The scales seem to have fallen from Poll Pot's eyes :

" ... it was an autopilot compilation of the dullest parts of every speech he has made, mantra after clunking mantra, pacing up and down to the same old tropes. With oil and food prices rising by the day, his party in ruins, his future in jeopardy and the country about to fall to the Tories, out came the same old figures: a hundred new airports in China, a million new cars in India, globalisation, environmental technology, the manufacture of iPods. In time of economic meltdown, his boast that world-beating "Britain can be the best in the global economy" sounds not aspirational but delusional."

I can't help feeling she's being a little inconsistent. Our claims to global excellence have been a pile of nagombi for 20 years, and as for the same old figures - well how does Polly open ?

Unemployed claimants have been halved; hundreds more have left incapacity benefit to take jobs; of 11 new schools, five are rated "excellent"; apprenticeships have soared, and tax credits make a vast difference to people's lives.
In other words Polly's same-old same-old, rather than Gordon's. As usual, the comments are where the real meat is. But she sees the PLP as everyone else does :

"never underestimate the weak will to live of this limp party. Spinelessness vies with nihilistic despair, mindless managerialism competes with fear of a total implosion. Jousting for position, none may want to follow another's lead ... so, agonising and indecisive, the party may stagger on for 22 months to its inevitable perdition"
I'm reminded a little of the decision the Tories had to take on May 10 1940. Chamberlain was already mortally wounded by the Norway debate (in more ways than one - he died of cancer within a year - my mother said that he died of a broken heart. I've often wondered if my mother developing terminal cancer within six months of being mugged wasn't the same thing) when the Germans invaded Holland, Belgium and France. As Churchill wrote :

At about ten o’clock Sir Kingsley Wood came to see me, having just been with the Prime Minister. He told me that Mr Chamberlain was inclined to feel that the great battle which had broken upon us made it necessary for him to remain at his post. Kingsley Wood had told him that, on the contrary, the new crisis made it all the more necessary to have a National Government, which alone could confront it, and he added that Mr Chamberlain had accepted this view.
It's obvious that the Labour Party's best hope is for GB to quit. Where is their Kingsley Wood ?

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Greatest Population Explosion In Human History

I blogged a while back on the amazing population increases in the third/developing world over the last sixty years.

Certainly several of the traditional horsemen, war, famine and plague (HIV/AIDS) have been galloping around Africa for the last few decades - but the population keeps on keeping on. Look at the Congo, basket case of basket cases - yet with a six-fold population increase in 60 years.

As William Rubinstein put it :

These levels of increase are, of course, simply staggering. They are greater, both in absolute numbers and almost certainly in percentage terms, than anything known before in a relatively short period in human history. They have occurred despite losses in wars and civil wars, such as have occurred in India -Pakistan, the Congo, Ethiopia, and Iran-Iraq, among other places, despite totalitarian mass murders as in Communist China, despite immigration abroad, and despite losses through AIDS and other illnesses. In just over sixty years, Brazil's population has increased by 318 per cent; Colombia's by 352 per cent, and Ethiopia's by 503 per cent - and so on, with, in general, the most impoverished of these nations showing the most unbelievable increases.

The causes of these vast increases are obvious enough: Western medicine, applied to the eradication of communicable diseases and epidemics and to a decrease in infant mortality ...

Kevin Myers isn't too pleased about it all - and that's putting it mildly ...

Africa, with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.

Meanwhile, Africa's peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million: The equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.

So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country?

How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them? Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity. But that is not good enough.

Hmmm. I wonder if he was inspired by stories like this :

Scottish singer Sandi Thom has helped Oxfam erect an 11,000-litre water tank in Glasgow to highlight the growing humanitarian crisis in East Africa.
Ah, yes. Fight drought in Africa with water tanks in Glasgow. You know it makes sense - if it's all about us. I think what's bothering Mr Myers is that we chuck aid and technology at Africa - with the amazing population results seen above - while the recipients of our aid carry on 'as you were'. Here's Mr Myers' follow-up piece :

I am not innocent in all this. The people of Ireland remained in ignorance of the reality of Africa because of cowardly journalists like me. When I went to Ethiopia just over 20 years ago, I saw many things I never reported -- such as the menacing effect of gangs of young men with Kalashnikovs everywhere, while women did all the work. In the very middle of starvation and death, men spent their time drinking the local hooch in the boonabate shebeens. Alongside the boonabates were shanty-brothels, to which drinkers would casually repair, to briefly relieve themselves in the scarred orifice of some wretched prostitute (whom God preserve and protect). I saw all this and did not report it, nor the anger of the Irish aid workers at the sexual incontinence and fecklessness of Ethiopian men. Why? Because I wanted to write much-acclaimed, tear-jerkingly purple prose about wide-eyed, fly-infested children -- not cold, unpopular and even "racist" accusations about African male culpability.

Hmm. Certainly the Dark Continent doesn't seem appreciably lighter these days. Quite apart from some of the major unpleasantnesses, there are still plenty of stories like this little item, on the killing of albinos for their allegedly magical body parts, from Tanzania, one of the greatest of aid recipients in the days when Julius Nyere was every liberal's pin-up.

Yet the wide-eyed children of 1984-86, who were saved by western medicines and foodstuffs, helped begin the greatest population explosion in human history, which will bring Ethiopia's population to 170 million by 2050. By that time, Nigeria's population will be 340 million, (up from just 19 million in 1930). The same is true over much of Africa. Thus we are heading towards a demographic holocaust, with a potential premature loss of life far exceeding that of all the wars of the 20th Century.

This terrible truth cannot be ignored.
But back in Ireland, there are sanctimonious ginger-groups, which yearn to prevent discussion, and even to imprison those of us who try, however imperfectly, to expose the truth about Africa.
Sanctimonious ginger-groups ?

Hundreds of bishops from across the world have marched in London to demand urgent action on global poverty. The Archbishop of Canterbury led the walk from Parliament to Lambeth Palace. Dr Rowan Williams called on governments to fulfil their promises on aid and development or see the world's poor suffer disease, starvation and death.
Otherwise known as "hundreds of bishops from across the world have marched in London to demand that somebody else take urgent action on global poverty". Hasn't the Church of England got any money left ? "Sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven".

It does look as if we've spent the last 60 years handing out fish while neglecting to teach the art of fishing - and the recommendation of the bishops is for more of the same. Maybe teaching a continent isn't the same as teaching a man. Maybe it can't be done. In which case we're apparently supposed to carry on sending the "food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules".

Self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed. It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.

Lordy. Malthus, thou should'st be living at this hour. But he has a point, albeit brutally expressed. The population of Africa is soaring. In two generations it's gone from millions of poverty-stricken people to billions of poverty-stricken people. Where does it stop ?

If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what? I know. Let them all come here. Yes, that's an idea.

And by strange chance ... another news item so small that you hardly notice it. 30,000 Ugandan and Kenyan Asians in the 1970s, 90,000-odd German Jews over a five year period in the 1930s were major news items - and these were some of the most educated, intelligent and industrious people in the countries of their birth. They were also minorities in the country of their birth. I'm not sure any of the above neccessarily applies to the following :

About 39,000 asylum seekers in a backlog of 400,000 applicants have been allowed to remain in Britain by the Home Office ... The top four nationalities among asylum seekers were Somalian, Pakistani, Iraqi and Afghan.

Have a nice day. Our Government (of both political complexions), having wound down the nuclear industry over the last 20 or more years, is proposing to sell our remaining nuclear expertise to a French state-owned company (which continued to build reactors over that period), thus placing a strategic British energy interest in the hands of Paris. This kind of decision is so depressing, so destructive, that it's tempting to give way to despair - and rejoice at the total kicking Nulab were given in Glasgow, even while realising that it brings the breakup of Britain closer.

UPDATE - you have to ask - why didn't the UK carry on having eight or nine kids each after Victorian times ? Anyone who researches their family history will have noted the number of children in the nineteenth century - and the number of child deaths. I guess that when Western medicine developed from Victorian times onwards, its development accompanied a process of declining birthrates and a culture of fewer children. In Africa it's been parachuted in - literally in some cases - to cultures which haven't undergone those changes and show no signs of doing so.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Look At The Clock !

I told you my darling was a precocious reader. For the last five or six years she's had bedtime stories read to her, and we've pretty much done the 'classic' children's classics - Magic Faraway Tree, A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, Wind in the Willows, Little Wooden Horse, Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, Treasure Island (twice), Lewis Carroll, Moonfleet, King Arthur's Knights, Robin Hood, Arabian Nights, Oliver Twist... she liked poetry too - the Nancy Bell and Ancient Mariner sparked an interest in the old ballads - particularly those with unhappy endings. Patrick Spens, Long Lankin, the Inchcape Rock - she can't get enough of that sort of stuff.

I wasn't sure about throwing a few of the Ingoldsby Legends at her - the rhymes, while the most inventive I know, are sometimes complex, the Reverend Barham likes to digress, and all the poems are full of allusions to the popular culture of the (early Victorian) day. I'm sure there's room for a copiously footnoted edition explaining all his allusions.

The Ingoldsby Legends - a collection of poems, legends, and ghost stories supposedly written by Squire Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, were tremendously popular in their day (Churchill and Hardy, among others, quote them in their own work) but are now out of print. A pity as I've never read anyone else who can rhyme like he can - puts Ogden Nash in the shade.

She loved the shorter ones - like the Ingoldsby Penance, and surely a contender for the three best rhyming lines in English, Look at the Clock !



'Look at the Clock!' quoth Winifred Pryce,
As she open'd the door to her husband's knock,
Then paus'd to give him a piece of advice,
'You nasty Varmint, look at the Clock!
Is this the way, you
Wretch, every day you
Treat her who vow'd to love and obey you?
Out all night!
Me in a fright;
Staggering home as it's just getting light!
You intoxified brute! you insensible block!
Look at the Clock!-- Do!-- Look at the Clock!'

Winifred Pryce was tidy and clean,
Her gown was a flower'd one, her petticoat green,
Her buckles were bright as her milking cans,
And her hat was a beaver, and made like a man's;
Her little red eyes were deep set in their socket-holes,
Her gown-tail was turn'd up, and tuck'd through the pocket-holes:
A face like a ferret
Betoken'd her spirit:
To conclude, Mrs. Pryce was not over young,
Had very short legs, and a very long tongue.

Now David Pryce
Had one darling vice;
Remarkably partial to anything nice,
Nought that was good to him came amiss,
Whether to eat, or to drink, or to kiss!
Especially ale --
If it was not too stale
I really believe he'd have emptied a pail;
Not that in Wales
They talk of their Ales;
To pronounce the word they make use of might trouble you,
Being spelt with a C, two Rs, and a W.

That particular day,
As I've heard people say,
Mr. David Pryce had been soaking his clay,
And amusing himself with his pipe and cheroots,
The whole afternoon at the Goat in Boots,
With a couple more soakers,
Thoroughbred smokers,
Both, like himself, prime singers and jokers;
And, long after day had drawn to a close,
And the rest of the world was wrapp'd in repose,
They were roaring out 'Shenkin!' and 'Ar hydd y nos;'
While David himself, to a Sassenach tune,
Sang, 'We've drunk down the Sun, boys! let's drink down the Moon!'
What have we with day to do?
Mrs. Winifred Pryce, 'twas made for you!'--
At length, when they couldn't well drink any more,
Old 'Goat-in-Boots' show'd them the door;
And then came that knock,
And the sensible shock
David felt when his wife cried, 'Look at the Clock!'

For the hands stood as crooked as crooked might be,
The long at the Twelve, and the short at the Three!

This self-same Clock had long been a bone
Of contention between this Darby and Joan;
And often among their pother and rout,
When this otherwise amiable couple fell out,
Pryce would drop a cool hint,
With an ominous squint
At its case, of an 'Uncle' of his, who'd a 'Spout.'
That horrid word 'Spout'
No sooner came out,
Than Winifred Pryce would turn her about,
And with scorn on her lip,
And a hand on each hip,
'Spout' herself till her nose grew red at the tip.
'You thundering villain,
I know you'd be killing
Your wife,-- ay, a dozen of wives,-- for a shilling!
You may do what you please,
You may sell my chemise,
(Mrs. P. was too well-bred to mention her smock,)
But I never will part with my Grandmother's Clock!'

Mrs. Pryce's tongue ran long and ran fast;
But patience is apt to wear out at last,
And David Pryce in temper was quick,
So he stretch'd out his hand, and caught hold of a stick;
Perhaps in its use he might mean to be lenient,
But walking just then wasn't very convenient,
So he threw it, instead,
Direct at her head.
It knock'd off her hat;
Down she fell flat;
Her case, perhaps, was not much mended by that:
But, whatever it was,-- whether rage and pain
Produced apoplexy, or burst a vein,
Or her tumble induced a concussion of brain,
I can't say for certain,-- but this I can,
When, sober'd by fright, to assist her he ran,
Mrs. Winifred Pryce was as dead as Queen Anne!

The fearful catastrophe
Named in my last strophe
As adding to grim Death's exploits such a vast trophy,
Soon made a great noise; and the shocking fatality
Ran over, like wild-fire, the whole Principality.
And then came Mr. Ap Thomas, the Coroner,
With his jury to sit, some dozen or more, on her.
Mr. Pryce to commence
His 'ingenious defence,'
Made a 'powerful appeal' to the jury's 'good sense,'
'The world he must defy
Ever to justify
Any presumption of 'Malice Prepense;'
The unlucky lick
From the end of his stick
He 'deplored,' he was 'apt to be rather too quick;'
But, really, her prating
Was so aggravating:
Some trifling correction was just what he meant; all
The rest, he assured them, was 'quite accidental!'

Then he called Mr. Jones,
Who deposed to her tones,
And her gestures, and hints about 'breaking his bones.'
While Mr. Ap Morgan, and Mr. Ap Rhys
Declared the Deceased
Had styled him 'a Beast,'
And swore they had witness'd, with grief and surprise,
The allusions she made to his limbs and his eyes.
The jury, in fine, having sat on the body
The whole day, discussing the case, and gin-toddy,
Return'd about half-past eleven at night
The following verdict, 'We find, Sarve her right!'

Mr. Pryce, Mrs. Winifred Pryce being dead,
Felt lonely, and moped; and one evening he said
He would marry Miss Davis at once in her stead.

Not far from his dwelling,
From the vale proudly swelling,
Rose a mountain; it's name you'll excuse me from telling,
For the vowels made use of in Welsh are so few
That the A and the E, the I, O, and the U,
Have really but little or nothing to do;
And the duty, of course, falls the heavier by far
On the L, and the H, and the N, and the R.
Its first syllable, 'Pen,'
Is pronounceable;-- then
Come two L Ls, and two H Hs, two F Fs, and an N;
About half a score Rs, and some Ws follow,
Beating all my best efforts at euphony hollow:
But we shan't have to mention it often, so when
We do, with your leave, we'll curtail it to 'Pen.'

Well,-- the moon shone bright
Upon 'Pen' that night,
When Pryce, being quit of his fuss and his fright,
Was scaling its side
With that sort of stride
A man puts out when walking in search of a bride,
Mounting higher and higher,
He began to perspire,
Till, finding his legs were beginning to tire,
And feeling opprest
By a pain in his chest,
He paused, and turn'd round to take breath, and to rest;
A walk all up hill is apt, we know,
To make one, however robust, puff and blow,
So he stopp'd, and look'd down on the valley below.

O'er fell, and o'er fen,
Over mountain and glen,
All bright in the moonshine, his eye roved, and then
All the Patriot rose in his soul, and he thought
Of Wales, and her glories, and all he'd been taught
Of her Heroes of old,
So brave and so bold,--
Of her Bards with long beards, and harps mounted in gold;
Of King Edward the First,
Of memory accurst;
And the scandalous manner in which he behaved,
Killing Poets by dozens,
With their uncles and cousins,
Of whom not one in fifty had ever been shaved.
Of the Court Ball, at which by a lucky mishap,
Owen Tudor fell into Queen Katherine's lap;
And how Mr. Tudor
Successfully woo'd her
Till the Dowager put on a new wedding ring,
And so made him Father-in-law to the King.

He thought upon Arthur, and Merlin of yore,
On Gryffth ap Conan, and Owen Glendour;
On Pendragon, and Heaven knows how many more.
He thought of all this, as he gazed, in a trice,
And on all things, in short, but the late Mrs. Pryce;
When a lumbering noise from behind made him start,
And sent the blood back in full tide to his heart,
Which went pit-a-pat
As he cried out, 'What's that?'--
That very queer sound?
Does it come from the ground?
Or the air,-- from above or below, or around?
It is not like Talking,
It is not like Walking,
It's not like the clattering of pot or of pan,
Or the tramp of a horse,-- or the tread of a man,--
Or the hum of a crowd,-- or the shouting of boys,--
It's really a deuced odd sort of a noise!
Not unlike a Cart's,-- but that can't be; for when
Could 'all the King's horses and all the King's men,'
With Old Nick for a waggoner, drive one up 'Pen?'

Pryce, usually brimful of valour when drunk,
Now experienced what schoolboys denominate 'funk.'
In vain he look'd back
On the whole of the track
He had traversed; a thick cloud, uncommonly black,
At this moment obscured the broad disc of the moon,
And did not seem likely to pass away soon;
While clearer and clearer,
'Twas plain to the hearer,
Be the noise what it might, it drew nearer and nearer,
And sounded, as Pryce to this moment declares,
Very much 'like a Coffin a-walking up stairs.'

Mr. Pryce had begun
To 'make up' for a run,
As in such a companion he saw no great fun,
When a single bright ray
Shone out on the way
He had pass'd, and he saw, with no little dismay,
Coming after him, bounding o'er crag and o'er rock,
The deceased Mrs. Winifred's 'Grandmother's Clock!!'
'Twas so!-- it had certainly moved from its place,
And come, lumbering on thus, to hold him in chase;
'Twas the very same Head, and the very same Case,
And nothing was alter'd at all -- but the Face!
In that he perceived, with no little surprise,
The two little winder-holes turn'd into eyes
Blazing with ire,
Like two coals of fire;
And the 'Name of the Maker' was changed to a Lip,
And the Hands to a Nose with a very red tip.
No!-- he could not mistake it,--' twas She to the life!
The identical Face of his poor defunct Wife!

One glance was enough,
Completely 'Quant. suff.'
As the doctors write down when they send you their 'stuff,'--
Like a Weather-cock whirl'd by a vehement puff,
David turn'd himself round;
Ten feet of ground
He clear'd, in his start, at the very first bound!

I've seen people run at West-End Fair for cheeses,
I've seen Ladies run at Bow Fair for chemises,
At Greenwich Fair twenty men run for a hat,
And one from a Bailiff much faster than that;
At foot-ball I've seen lads run after the bladder,
I've seen Irish Bricklayers run up a ladder,
I've seen little boys run away from a cane,
And I've seen (that is, read of) good running in Spain;
But I never did read
Of, or witness, such speed
As David exerted that evening.-- Indeed
All I ever have heard of boys, women, or men,
Falls far short of Pryce, as he ran over 'Pen!'

He reaches its brow,--
He has past it, and now
Having once gain'd the summit, and managed to cross it, he
Rolls down the side with uncommon velocity;
But, run as he will,
Or roll down the hill,
That bugbear behind him is after him still!
And close at his heels, not at all to his liking,
The terrible Clock keeps on ticking and striking,
Till, exhausted and sore,
He can't run any more,
But falls as he reaches Miss Davis's door,
And screams when they rush out, alarm'd at his knock,
'Oh! Look at the Clock!-- Do!-- Look at the Clock!!'

Miss Davis look'd up, Miss Davis look'd down,
She saw nothing there to alarm her;-- a frown
Came o'er her white forehead,
She said, 'It was horrid
A man should come knocking at that time of night,
And give her Mamma and herself such a fright;
To squall and to bawl
About nothing at all,
She begg'd 'he'd not think of repeating his call,
His late wife's disaster
By no means had past her,'
She'd 'have him to know she was meat for his Master!'
Then, regardless alike of his love and his woes,
She turn'd on her heel and she turned up her nose.

Poor David in vain
Implored to remain,
He 'dared not,' he said, 'cross the mountain again.'
Why the fair was obdurate
None knows,-- to be sure, it
Was said she was setting her cap at the Curate;--
Be that as it may, it is certain the sole hole
Pryce could find to creep into that night was the Coal-hole!

In that shady retreat,
With nothing to eat,
And with very bruised limbs, and with very sore feet,
All night close he kept;
I can't say he slept;
But he sigh'd, and he sobb'd, and he groan'd, and he wept,
Lamenting his sins
And his two broken shins,
Bewailing his fate with contortions and grins,
And her he once thought a complete Rara Avis,
Consigning to Satan,-- viz. cruel Miss Davis!

Mr. David has since had a 'serious call,'
He never drinks ale, wine, or spirits, at all,
And they say he is going to Exeter Hall
To make a grand speech,
And to preach, and to teach
People that 'they can't brew their malt-liquor too small!'
That an ancient Welsh Poet, one Pyndar ap Tudor,
Was right in proclaiming 'Ariston men Udor!'
Which means 'The pure Element
Is for the belly meant!'
And that Gin's but a Snare of Old Nick the deluder!

And 'still on each evening when pleasure fills up,'
At the old Goat-in-Boots, with Metheglin, each cup,
Mr Pryce, if he's there,
Will get into 'the Chair,'

And make all his quondam associates stare
By calling aloud to the landlady's daughter,
'Patty! bring a cigar, and a glass of Spring Water!'
The dial he constantly watches; and when
The long hand's at the 'XII,' and the short at the 'X,'
He gets on his legs,
Drains his glass to the dregs,
Takes his hat and great-coat off their several pegs,
With his President's hammer bestows his last knock,
And says solemnly,--'Gentlemen!
'Look at the Clock!!!'

Darling, What's In It For Me ?


Invalidity Benefit

Another day, another 'Labour gets tough on' announcement. While Chick Yog is horrified, Poll Pot expresses the eternal truth - that it's necessary to horrify the Yogs of this world in order to appeal to the poor dumb voters :

They were headlines to die for, everything that James Purnell had planned. "Labour blitz on dole scroungers" said the Sun, with "Get clean or lose your benefits, junkies told" from the Daily Mail.
I think I've read those headlines every few years for the last 30 years - no matter who's in power. I've got no problems with attempting to attack - probably the operative word - those for whom the benefit lifestyle is a comfortable alternative to work. What's going to be the usual shambles is the implementation.

Just pretend that some miracle occurred and numbers of smackheads and alkies, say, had their benefits removed. Let's say they turn to crime to fund their lifestyle - I know it's a far-fetched idea, but bear with me. Where are the 'extra' prison places for these people ? Because if the policy was actually implemented they'd certainly be needed.

You'd need some, too, for the able-bodied claimants - the modern equivalent of the Elizabethan 'sturdy beggar'. There are plenty of chaps 'on the sick' who do a bit of work here, a bit there - and there are a fair few places where the informal economy of cash work touches the informal economy of crime. Not all of these guys are going to buckle down to stacking shelves either.

If there's any effect, it'll be on the "honest disabled". Putting the job of getting claimants back to work into private hands, with a bounty for success, means that the private agencies will go for the low-hanging fruit - harassing some poor honest-but-fragile soul who they might just be able to bully back into an (unsuitable ?) job while avoiding the confident, confrontational criminal type or professional bludger up the road.

As usual, Poll Pot's comments are better than her actual piece :

The part of this plan which should strike fear into the hearts of any left-leaning person is the outsourcing of this to private companies. The private sector is excellent at making a profit, and only good at looking after people if this coincides with making money. People on incapacity benefit are the most vulnerable in society. It is those people with chronic persistent pain, mental illness and severe physical/learning disabilities.

Many of these needs are complex in nature. One physical condition may have led to another, they may suffer from depression as a result of chronic pain, their condition may deteriorate under stress or be exacerbated by work environments. Many conditions are cyclical in nature, one day or for three months someone may be relatively okay - the next day or the next year they may be terrible. On a good day you might pass an assessment but that does not make you employable to any private sector company. They want full-time or full commitment, not to come in just when you feel okay.

So what will happen? Well, the people who are faking it (and considering you get £60 a week and the stigma of being labelled disabled I think it will be considerably less than the tabloids may wish us to think) will just change their lies accordingly to pass the new assessment, whilst those genuinely ill will be bullied into unsuitable positions by private sector companies motivated by the bottom line.

While we'd disagree about the numbers of bludgers and their vulnerability, he has a point. And not just one for any left-leaning person, but for anyone who believes in fairness.

Monday, July 21, 2008


You'd have to pay good money to see performance art like this in some countries - here it's free and on the front lawn :

An armed police response unit was called to deal with an incident in the city after reports of a knife and gun being brandished. Police were called after a car was driven through a hedge during a disturbance in Hartwell Way, Ravensthorpe, Peterborough. A car, which is believed to have been carrying the two men, ploughed through a hedge and collided with the home in Hartwell Way, Ravensthorpe. A number of men are thought to have jumped out of the vehicle prior to an altercation breaking out on the home's front lawn.

Three people were inside the property at the time, including a nine-month-old baby, but the occupants were unharmed. Homeowner Simon Hallowell was on a night shift when the incident happened at 1.20am, but today described the shocking scene that met a family member as he looked out of a window. He said: "My relative was woken by a bang and thought it was a burglary. He looked out of the window and saw two people having a stand-off, one holding a knife and the other a rifle-like object". Following the argument, the silver car made off with three or four people inside.

Insp Snow said that it was likely that there would be "extensive damage" to the car due to the collision. One man, who left the scene in the car, is described as black, and was wearing a white T-shirt and grey jogging bottoms. A second man, who fled on foot, is described as black, 6ft 1in and wore black clothing with a hood up.

In the Land of the Free you can still get a more traditional form of disturbance :

"A domestic disturbance turned into a headache for one Sherman man when police say his wife hit him in the face with a frying pan."
That's the way the girls are in Texas ... but back in the land of the community penalty ...

Police were called to reports of a disturbance at the address close to Silver Street railway station at about 2.30pm. Melvyn Bryan, of Peckham, south east London, was taken to hospital for treatment but died of his injuries.

Scallyland :

Ian Aitken, 46, received a fatal stab wound to his neck following an argument with the defendant Jason Moran, 23, in 2007 at the address they shared on Firbeck, Skelmersdale. Police were called to the scene at 11.45pm on Friday, December 7, by Moran reporting a disturbance at his home address.
Is this police oficer taking the mick ?

Senior investigating officer, Det Chief Insp Tim Leeson from Lancashire Constabulary said: "Knife crime causes massive grief and pain to both families and today's sentence demonstrates how seriously it is taken.

I think he must be - either that or he's got a good line in irony :

A Skelmersdale man has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to stabbing his flatmate to death after a disturbance at their home.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ahead of Their Time ?

Beethoven's 'Ode To Joy' (from his 9th symphony) is the official EU Anthem. But they aren't the first group of United Europe fanatics to fancy the tune. I'm sure it's just a coincidence :

(via Wat Tyler. The conductor is apparently Furtwangler - but who are the people in the audience that the camera lingers on ? UPDATE - according to the comments - some rubbish in there too - the performance is to celebrate Hitler's birthday, and one of the people in the audience is Stauffenberg)

Defence Solicitor of the Week - Dylan Bradshaw

An age ago I suggested that there'd be room for a blog specialising in the nagombi spun by defence solicitors - the sort of thing you see in your local paper each week. Swindon solicitor Rob Ross was my archetype.

I'm pretty impressed by Burnley solicitor Dylan Bradshaw :

Pennine magistrates heard hard-up dad Carl Anthony Little thought he would take advantage of the high price of fuel to make money and struck six times in a few days, helping himself to diesel worth £2,000. He was arrested after picking the fuel cap and trying to syphon diesel from a HGV in North Valley Road, Colne. He left the syphoning equipment, with his DNA on it, as he made off.

Mr Dylan Bradshaw (defending) said Little had been working until May, providing limited financial help to his ex-girlfriend and child, but was sacked. He had associates in the criminal fraternity and it was suggested one way of making money quickly was to steal diesel.

Mr Bradshaw wemt on: "I have advised him it was a rather idiotic idea as you can't make a living without any risks or repercussions."

The solicitor said one of the risks was possible physical injury at the hands of robust lorry drivers and another was getting arrested.

Mr Bradshaw said the court could rule out the possibility of custody. Little had committed the offences out of financial desperation combined with naivety and immaturity.

He added: "This was a temporary misguided period in his life. He thought he could make a few pounds by stealing other people"s diesel. Clearly that was not the case."

I see. A temporary misguided period in his life, eh ? An honest bloke who fell on hard times and was led into temptation ? After all, he's only 26.

Little, who has an extensive criminal record and was alrady on a community order, was given a three-month curfew, seven days a week, between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. He must also pay £65 costs.

So he got a slap on the wrist despite an extensive criminal record. The thing is, our justice system's in such a state, and you have to try so hard to be sent to jail, that one can't possibly tell if Mr Bradshaw did a good job for his client or not. For all I know that's a relatively harsh punishment these days.

"Just Not Academy"

"Language is really important and we have to make sure pupils realise that," said Kathy August, the head teacher. "You can get five A* to Cs in your exams but if you go to an interview and you can't shake hands, look someone in the eye and speak in the appropriate register, you are not going to get the job or place at university. It is hugely important. We have high expectations. It makes me angry when I see… pamphlets on drug education or anti-gang material. They are appalling. The way they are written suggests that if you are black and from a particular postcode you will only understand the message if it is presented in a certain informal way, in a "street" form. It enforces the stereotype and ends up glamorising what it is supposed to be preventing."

She said that the message had been drummed into pupils that street slang was "just not academy".

"You have to be consistent. We make it clear in our tone of voice and with short imperatives that we are not happy. So it's not 'excuse me, do you mind not doing that, it's not very nice'. We say 'Stop. We don't do that. Thank you.'"
Safe, blud. After thirty or forty disastrous years, a few people start to realise just how idiotic liberal educational idiocy is, and return to 'the old ways'. They'll be lining up the desks in rows next. Trouble is, before they turn to the despised educational culture of the past for a solution, the damage has to be at such catastrophic levels that even a liberal can't ignore it. 10% getting 5 A-C grades ! And raising that to 30% is a triumph !

But it'll never catch on. Too many people are convinced that being down with the kids is more important than actually teaching them anything. One comment I noted :

3. Posted by Jonathan on July 20, 2008 09:17 AM
I used to work for the Probation Service in London, an organisation that would be appalled at this measure being adopted by the headteacher of Manchester Academy. The PS believe that the use of 'street slang' is empowering to black people and helps provide a sense of identity.
Of curse it does provide a sense of identity - an exclusive, race-based one in opposition to what's left of the host culture. The Probation 'Service' are ensuring that there'll be plenty of future demand for probation officers.