Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Ladies, your nads are mad Nad's

Well, if not your gonads then at least your reproductive tract, or so the self-righteously silly bitch seems to think. I was going to rant about it but Mummy Long Legs already has and The Daily Mash have covered the bit that really bothers me, that anyone else gets a say over someone else's body parts, more entertainingly that I could have.
After realising the nation's wombs were being used wrongly, Dorries wants abortions to be available only to women who can complete a series of physical and mental challenges, equivalent to competing simultaneously in Mastermind and Total Wipeout.


She added: "It is now time for me to fulfill my destiny as gatekeeper at the uterus of every woman in Britain, shooing away gynaecologists like a vagina-based Cerberus in lipstick and fuck-me shoes."
Vagina based Cerberus in lipstick

Rubbish ideas

A week ago I posted here on the subject of unintended but not unforeseeable consequences, and how the decision in South Australia to ban supermarkets from giving or selling polythene carrier bags to their customers, many of which would go on to line small bins around the house or be put in pockets to pick up dog muck, inevitably and predictably led to an increase in sales of bin liners which take up more landfill volume than the thin supermarket bags that were banned. As daft as the South Australian government was doing this it's been trumped by a British council which has come up with an even dafter idea.
Doorstep rubbish collections have been scrapped in Britain for the first time since they were introduced more than 130 years ago.
Rossendale council in Lancashire has stopped the service for hundreds of residents in rural areas who now have to drive or carry their rubbish down narrow country lanes to "collection points" up to a mile away from their homes.
The new system, introduced this month, means that large piles of rubbish bags left at roadsides overnight for early morning collections will be attacked by foxes, badgers and other animals, leaving refuse strewn over the road, residents say.
There are also concerns that the waste poses a health and safety risk, especially to children and the elderly, and will deter tourists from an area popular with walkers and horse-riders.
Now I'm sure that Rossendale council didn't intend for wild animals to rip the bags open and spread rubbish all over the collection point, but perhaps it's something they should have expected in a rural area. I'm sure they don't intend for fly tipping to increase either, but I'd be surprised if people don't soon learn when and where the rubbish piles up and go and dispose of their own at someone else's expense by dumping it on the same pile.
A council spokesman said: "We have to make £2.6m of cuts over four years and we calculate that the change will save £92,000.
Is that all? Is that in total or per annum? And is it before or after you include the costs of cleaning up the collection points every week and dealing with rubbish left there by non-residents who've fly tipped their own in the night? You did think about that, right? Because if it's before new costs and over the same four year period it might not save anything at all.

Still, let's assume it's net and p.a., that makes it just under 15% of the necessary saving and leaves a very long way to go. Can we ask how much the people who thought of this idea and those who approved it are paid, including benefits and employer's NI etc? More or less than £92,000 a year between them? Is it anywhere near 650 grand a year, or £2.6 million over four years? Just out of interest.

Still, at least we can expect a typically fair minded council not to carry on charging residents for a doorstep collection they no longer get, just as the more than 50% of council tax payers whose rubbish is collected fortnightly saw their bills redu... oh, who am I kidding?
Residents losing the doorstep service will not receive a council tax rebate.
You saw that coming about 400 words ago, didn't you?

Response to James

In the comments on the last post about the Beeb's getting Indians and Libyans mixed up James Higham wrote:
Bit like the Beeb's reportage of WTC7 coming down before it did. ;-)
Nope, not a bit like that. Exactly like it. The difference is that I don't assign any more significance to either event than plain fuckuperation on the part of a news service desperate to keep up with or ahead of its rivals and the mug in front of the camera not having the knowledge needed to recognise that what was on the autocue wasn't correct, and as a result reporting something wrong. This happens enough that inevitably wrong reporting will sometimes become right later. The person who put the Indian flag waving "Live from Tripoli" vid on YouTube also believes there's something sinister in it if the "Media Lies" title is any guide, but why would they tell such a stupid and transparent lie? It's just a mistake, nothing more sinister than that. And if it's possible for two experienced journos with uni educations - one of whom supposedly studied Middle East politics for a year - to not recognise that the people on the screen looked a bit sub-continental rather than North African Arabic and are waving the wrong flag then it's entirely possible for another one to say a building's come down without realising that live feed shows it still standing. Would they necessarily know which is Building 7? Probably not, so if someone sticks a piece of paper under their nose saying that Building 7 has fallen down and get it out quick before ITV and Sky they'd see no reason not to go on the air and announce it. That in such a rapidly changing situation and the urgency to cover it in full Chinese Whispers can easily change "this might happen" to "it's likely to happen" to "it's going to happen" to "it'll probably have happened by the time the next news report goes out" to "it has actually happened", even though it hasn't yet, will rarely occur to anyone in time and wouldn't stop them if it did. Report it before the opposition do, retract and correct later if we need to - that's what they'll be thinking.

Of course, this is supposition on my part and journos responsible for reporting daily news might really be as zealous at fact checking as the best investigative types and all the crap that's flung at them from various bits of the blogosphere and elsewhere for slack and lazy journalism is completely undeserved. And maybe Harry Truman stole the 1948 US presidential election.

Because this headline wouldn't have been someone trying to scoop everyone else and just getting it wrong, would it?

Nope, sorry, James, but Hanlon's Razor still wins out for me.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Brishit Broadcasting Corporation

Via Max Farquar, BBC's Breakfast News showing a more slender grasp on the finer points of geography than you'd expect from a service which
...maintains 44 foreign news bureaux and has correspondents in almost all of the world's 240 countries.

I don't know if showing "Live Tripoli" over film of Indian flags being waved by people who are presumably Indians really is a media lie or just appalling incompetence on the part of someone behind the scenes and a presenter being to busy winging it to notice the fuckuperation, though Channel 9 here have been taking heat for faking live helicopter feeds (if lying about where the helicopter was consists of faking it and as if I really give a shit if they were in a helicopter to begin with - you've got a studio with a man who knows what's going on, so why the fuck can't he just tell me?) so I suppose it's at least possible. But then it'd be pretty stupid to think nobody at all, even in dumbed down Britain, would notice. I'm inclined to believe that the BBC is probably just that shit these days that they simply didn't know the difference.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

On the subject of smoking...

... I noticed just now while putting up a picture gadget to promote the the Wozza-Thompson e-petition to review the smoking ban that the number of signatures has roughly quadrupled in the day and a half or so since I added mine. Good start, and let's all liberty loving types, whether we're non-smokers or smokers, do what we can to keep that ball rolling. As I explained the other day, if you don't smoke but you drink then you're next, if you're a bit on the tubby side then you're right after the drinkers, and if you're neither you have a little bit of breathing space but you'd be very foolish indeed to believe that you're not on the list for something. Those jackboots of intolerance are marching towards you too, and if you can't hear them yet I assure you that you will eventually.

'Courageous', but not in the way that they mean

The plain fag packets law has crept a little closer.
Australia's parliament has passed two bills moving the nation closer to becoming the first to introduce plain cigarette packaging in a move Health Minister Nicola Roxon Thursday called "courageous".
Well, Nics, if by 'courageous' you're referring to the benefit the illegal tobacco trade will reap because those who counterfeit packaging will have an easier time while those who've always supplied their baccy in plain packaging, all of whom will be hoping to increase their profits and none of whom will pay a cent in tax, then yes, it's very brave indeed. You might go so far as to say it shows enormous balls.

But somehow I don't think she does mean that at all, which makes it less about having balls and more about talking balls.
The plans, which are being closely watched by other countries considering similar policies, have enraged the tobacco giants, who say there is no evidence plain packaging will reduce smoking rates.
They are also concerned it would reduce their profits and see counterfeit products flood the market.
But Roxon said they would have to live with it.
As will you, Nics, as will you. And not only Nicola Roxon but all the rest of us non-smokers too. You see, the tobacco industry currently puts several billion dollars into the Treasury in tobacco taxes. Now I know that the anti-smoking lobbyist drones claim that smoking kills 15,000 a year and cost $31 billion - one was wheeled out to do so for the linked article - but this is a claim that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. If tobacco costs really were greater than tax revenue by a factor of five or more it's simply inconceivable that the government are not banning smoking outright, and if they believe it then the decision to piss about with plain packaging is financially moronic. I very much doubt they're quite that stupid, so I suspect it's far more likely they're trying to have their cake and eat it because they don't actually believe the $31 billion figure themselves. And they shouldn't, as Christopher Snowdon of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist explains (my emphasis).
Let's first consider that there are believed to be 15,000 smoking related deaths in Australia every year. If the "medical burden" is $31 billion a year, this means that each person receives over $2,000,000 of treatment. This sounds just a little bit implausible and should have seemed so to the journalist as she typed it out.

And of course it turns out that is not the medical burden. The study that came up that figure accepted—totally contrary to what the hapless hack said—that tobacco taxes exceed the cost to the taxpayerof treating smoking-related diseases:
"Tobacco tax revenue in 2004/05 exceeded tobacco-attributable costs borne by the public sector by over $3.5 billion. Of this surplus $2.7 billion accrued to the Commonwealth and around $800 million to state governments." (p. 72)
This same study did indeed come up with a figure of $31 billion, but it did so by including 'costs' that no reasonable person would consider to be costs. Lost productivity both at work and at home gave them an extra $8 billion (p. 64). Aside from the obvious problem of coming up with a suitable cash equivalent for domestic work, all lost productivity figures are questionable because they rely on an assumption that an individual is capable of a set amount of work in a lifetime and that he/she has a duty to fulfill that quota, otherwise they are somehow costing other people money. It's as if someone dies and you have to go round and clean their house for the next ten years. It's a nonsense.

Still more dubious is the remaining $19.5 billion which is made up of 'intangible' costs (p. 65). This relies on the entirely arbitrary valuation of a life at $2 million, or a loss of one year's living of $53,267. This kind of psychological evaluation is practically meaningless and has no place in economics. You might as well say that the value of life is priceless and, therefore, the costs of smoking (or alcohol, or drugs) is infinite.
So the aim of this policy, like most so-called anti-smoking policies the world over, is to keep the Strength Through Joy mob happy by bullying the smokers while at the same time not doing anything that risks too much of the government's tax revenue take. Let's not kid ourselves here, if a $4 billion fall in tax revenue is newsworthy and had the finance minister in front of the cameras to talk about it, losing the baccy tax surplus, which is on the order, would give the government headaches.

Worse, the whole $7 bn or so per year would be lost while the costs wouldn't go actually away. They wouldn't go away immediately because if what they claim about the health effects is true even if everyone stopped there'd be people getting smoke related illnesses for years later, and in reality they wouldn't go away at all for precisely the same reason we still have to pay for the health effects of pot, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, crystal meth, etc. - because people who really want to smoke will be doing it off the grid with tobacco they either buy illegally or produce themselves. Look, cannabis is banned and Aussies are supposedly among the highest users of pot in the world (no pun intended, that's really how it was put) so the health system has all of the costs while the trade provides not a single cent of tax revenue.

As I said earlier, the government may be stupid but it isn't quite that stupid, and so I'm sure it has no desire at all for the same thing to happen with tobacco. However, I think the current Aussie government is in danger of inadvertently pushing things that way anyway by policies that blur the difference between regulated and quality controlled tobacco and the illegal, untaxed, unregulated competition. Ironically I think that might not be bad news for Australia's smokers since I believe more will be encouraged to smoke the much cheaper illegal products - I emphasise that I'm not advocating it, just predicting that it will happen.

That's not courageous but stupid, handing over more control of yet another desirable product to criminals, just as was once done with alcohol in the US and as is the case with all the illegal recreational drugs that people still want to use today and which have never had any trouble keeping existing customers or finding new ones. Not the intent, to be sure, but the fact that Nicola Roxon didn't refute this but instead said the tobacco companies will have to live with it means they are aware of the possibility. And yes, I do believe that governments can be that stupid.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Best qualified?

Er, not made up from riot control officers of The Metropolitan Police, I hope?

Your chance to have your say

And since this is to join Anthony Worral-Thompson in petitioning the government to scrap the smoking ban it is of course also a golden opportunity to be ignored and dismissed by your government, but that doesn't mean it's not worth having your say anyway. Eventually they'll have to justify why they're continuing to ignore it, and hopefully the useful idiots who currently support this kind of thing will wake up and smell the coffee (assuming it isn't banned or restricted by then). Even if you're not a smoker and don't like the smell of smoke - which I'd understand, being myself now a non-smoker who doesn't like the smell either - I'd still encourage you to sign it for three very compelling reasons:
  1. If you drink then you're next.
  2. If you don't drink but weigh more than the healthists say you should then you're right after the drinkers.
  3. If you're not a drinker or a salad dodger then you're after both, but don't kid yourself for a minute that you're not on the list.
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemöller
So please think very carefully before deciding that it's a smokers' thing and it doesn't apply to you.
I guarantee that at least one other non-smoker will be signing it.

Click for the petition

Tip of the Akubra to Dick Puddlecote.

P.S. And thanks to MrAngry61 in the comments for letting me know I'd stuffed the link up. Hopefully anyone else went via the dismembered jewel thief's place, but if not it's fixed now.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

I'm warning you, Blogger...

... you asked me for my phone number when I logged in just now. Again. Look, if I wanted you to have it I'd have given it to you the first time you asked. I see no reason why you need to know it. I know why you say you do but I've managed perfectly well without it for three years.

Look, my personal privacy will not be enhanced by adding to my email address, which is meaningless and disposable, a number which appears on my business cards, which relates to a phone which is almost always on my person and, thanks to modern paranoia, is recorded somewhere in the Australian government.* I know you think it will but no, really, it won't. Instead it'll mean one of my contact numbers, which is in the public domain but which as far as I know has never been put on the internet (not by me, anyway), will be 'out there' and connected with my blog for no real reason other than that some clown at Google thinks it's a good idea for everyone.

Some people, yes, perhaps, but not everyone. Number of times I've failed to sign in, not counting times when the whole service is down - one, when you suspended me for three days over someone complaining about the free publicity I'd given their TV show by putting 80 seconds of it, with no attempt made to disguise the TV channel's DOG, on YouTube. Effect of this - nothing at all since I have backup accounts to access my blog. Number of times I've been unable to sign in because I couldn't remember the passwords for any of the accounts - zero. Number of times someone has signed in pretending to be me having guessed one of those passwords - zero. My inclination to give you my phone number - rather less than zero unless Larry Page gives me his first.

So pack it in or I'm off.

* It is not possible to buy a SIM card or something with a SIM in it here without showing identity. This is because the government, in a peculiarly British way of thinking, noticed that criminals and terrorists use mobile phones and similar devices and decided that therefore all users would be treated as potential criminals and terrorists and all sales would have to be registered, and then later realised that the criminals and terrorists would probably use fake names and decided that therefore it needed identity to be shown when registering. That nearly everyone is not a criminal or terrorist and that therefore these checks are almost always an intrusive and meaningless waste of time appears not to have been considered.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

It's a funny one, the Law of Unintended Consequences. It's one of those laws that is beyond any possibility of repeal, but it's one that most governments, if they ever stop their furious production of arse gravy for long enough to think about things for a few minutes, must wish they could do away with quietly because they keep falling foul of it. These days the poor, stupid things seem to be particularly prone to unintended consequences when trying to give themselves a veneer of greenishness, and so it is with the latest example from this part of the world.

A couple of years ago, in a move reminiscent of the current drive for Australia to lead the world by introducing mandatory plain tobacco packaging to make it easier for counterfeiters and chop-chop dealers to compete with the legal tobacco industry, South Australia led the nation in banning plastic carrier bags. This would, it was claimed, reduce waste sent to landfill - though quite why that's a problem in a state of more than a million square kilometres and only 1.6 million people, three-quarters of whom live in Adelaide, I'm not quite sure. Nobody likes to see plastic bags littering the place, but SA is not short of room to bury shit is what I'm saying here. Now I know that you can probably emit some carbon dioxide down any street of any city in the developed world and be sure of warming at least half a dozen green zealots by a fraction of a degree, all of whom will tell you that plastic bags in landfill won't decompose for about eleventy squillion years, and hyperbole aside they're probably right. So far better to ban the nasty things and force everyone to buy those reusable ones, right?

Wrong, as any member of any household that used to reuse their carrier bags could have told them. We do use the reusable bags but we tend to make sure we get a few carriers on shopping trips for use in small pedal bins and for clearing up after pets, and since many SA pet stores will surely sell bags for that it's not like the bags are completely banned in SA. It's just that the supermarkets aren't allowed to give them out, or even sell them, for you to take your groceries home in. And since South Australians also used them for more than that the ban has had an effect that you probably needed to be in government to have been unable to foresee.
BIN liner sales in SA have doubled since free plastic shopping bags were banned more than two years ago.
And most bin bags are made of thicker plastic than traditional bags, which means they take longer to break down in the environment.
But... but... surely there must be some mistake because, as the article mentions, none other than the head of Zero Waste SA (a state government quango by the looks of it) said at the time that there wouldn't be a significant increase in bin bag sales. Exactly what he thought South Australians would be lining their bins with I don't know, but clearly it wasn't expected to be bin liners. So this must be coming as a bit of a shock.
Woolworths (one of Australia's big two supermarket chains - AE) says SA sales of plastic kitchen-tidy bags of a similar size, capacity and shape to single-use plastic shopping bags, are now double the national average.
At Coles (the other big supermarket chain - AE), sales of kitchen tidy bags increased 40 per cent in the year following the ban in May 2009.
Bin bag manufacturer Glad reported a 52.5 per cent jump in kitchen-tidy bag sales in the first year of the ban, compared with a 5.5 per cent increase nationally.
In SA, 48 million Glad bin bags were bought in 2008, rising to more than 73 million in 2009 and 84 million last year.
The figures have raised concerns about whether the plastic bag ban has been effective in reducing waste sent to landfill.
And it gets worse, since both paper and reusable bags are heavier, meaning emissions if you believe in warble gloaming, and costs if you don't, are higher per bag you transport since you'll get far fewer of them on the lorry. This is going to be at least partly cancelled out if a lot if people do reuse them but it turns out that there's more bad news on that score - they have to be reused a hell of a lot before they make up for the extra energy used in their production.*
HDPE bags are, for each use, almost 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton hold-alls favoured by environmentalists, and have less than one third of the Co2 emissions than paper bags which are given out by retailers such as Primark.
The findings suggest that, in order to balance out the tiny impact of each lightweight plastic bag, consumers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year, or use paper bags at least thrice rather than sticking them in the bin or recycling.
Most paper bags are used only once and one study assumed cotton bags were used only 51 times before being discarded, making them – according to this new report – worse than single-use plastic bags.
And ironically this means that I, as a warble gloaming sceptic, can use the allegedly eco-friendly bags with a clear conscience, while the eco-sustainability types should be marching on the South Australian parliament house to demand the evil polythene ones back. Clearly then, the policy makes no sense at all, and it's really a bit of luck that the South Australians have found out about these unintended, though not unforeseeable, consequences in time for other states and territories to avoid the same trap.
The Northern Territory and ACT are now introducing their own bans.

* Tip of the Akubra to

Monday, 22 August 2011

End of Gaddafi?

Click for link

We've been somewhere near here once already, of course. Remember those rumours that he'd already done a runner to Venezuela where he was doing the mad authoritarian dictator equivalent of kipping on Hugo Chavez's sofa? Still, it's hard to argue that he's not in a bit of trouble what with rebels being able to take at least parts of Tripoli without much of a fight. Makes me think that even after twenty-five years this old Robin Williams routine is still appropriate.

The only thing that bothers me is that as with the other 'Arab Spring' uprisings the important question is what happens next. The old Tunisian and Egyptian regimes fell just over six months ago, and while neither has become the theocracy that some feared might fill a power vacuum it doesn't seem like it's become what ordinary people, fed up with oppression, were likely hoping for. At least not yet. They're probably an improvement but I think we're still at a wait-and-see stage, and equally I don't think Gadaffi going, either into exile or into the next world, will be any great loss but let's see who or what replaces him before we join in the cheering.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Via Dick Puddlecote's link tank, wise words by magician, libertarian and Bullshit! co-host Penn Jillette.
It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

People try to argue that government isn't really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes. (This is only a thought experiment -- suggesting on that someone not pay his or her taxes is probably a federal offense, and I'm a nut, but I'm not crazy.). When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force -- literally, not figuratively.
I've said similar things myself, but I don't think I've ever put it so concisely. I think that's going on the sidebar with the other good stuff. Do go read the rest, and have a trawl through the dismembered jewel thief's link tank too. There's often a few gems in there.

The latest pit stop on the road of neo-puritanism

When I was a kid, and I'm not getting all Monty Python Yorkshireman here, we used to go to pubs as a family now and then. There was one about a ten minute walk up the road which had a nice beer garden with a few swings in it, a largish lounge bar and a smaller saloon bar and a sign on the door which said words to the effect of no kids. In fact there was a little flexibility there because kids were allowed through the lounge bar to go to the toilets and the landlord knew that his license said that children under a certain age (can't remember exactly what it was) were allowed inside providing they were with a parent and a certain distance away from the actual bar itself (can't remember how far either), which meant that families could use the tables in the lounge bar that were by the windows but the saloon bar was off limits because it simply wasn't large enough to keep the kids far enough away.* And all this worked: Dad got a beer or three, Mum got a white wine or three, we got soft drinks full of additives which didn't send us into a hyperactive destruction binge and crisps full of salt which unaccountably failed to kill us. We didn't know they were supposed to back then.

So that's how pubs worked, and I repeat, this did work. Pubs were basically there to sell and serve intoxicants and various allowances, practical and legal, were made so that some could accommodate families with younger children. So when I read that in the name of healthism and of course thinking about the chiiiiildren this has been turned upon its head my flabber is well and truly ghasted.
... when friends Ali Ineson and Emma Rutherford popped into a central London pub to buy their children soft drinks and themselves an alcoholic drink, they were shocked to find their order refused.
Although happy to sell the soft drinks, the barman would not allow them to have a white wine spritzer and a vodka and Coke because it would be "inappropriate" for them to drink in front of their children.
Seriously, what the hell was the barman thinking? That one thing would lead to another and they'd start feeding the kids grog under the table? Because there's a solution if that happens - you tell them to drink up and leave. Was he thinking that the women were alkies and seeing them getting plastered would encourage the kids to drink too? Because if so he'd have to have been ignoring the high probability that such children would have seen one or both parents passed out in front of the TV with an empty bottle of Vino Collapso on the coffee table more than once before, and a lunchtime spritzer in the pub isn't going to make any difference to them.

Or was he thinking that they were his kids? Not literally his kids, but kind of his in that he shared some kind of collective responsibility for them and their upbringing. Worryingly, not to mention creepily, it sounds like it.
Mrs Ineson [...] said: "I was totally shocked and asked the barman to reiterate.
"He said he wasn't going to serve us because it would not be 'appropriate'."
Back in those not far off days I mentioned earlier it would not be 'appropriate' for a barman or landlord to concern himself with what's appropriate for other people's children if the parents are clearly perfectly sober and the kids seem healthy and normal. Certainly nobody thought to tell my parents not to drink in front of their kids, and for the record my brother is probably a low to average drinker, my sister drinks quite sparingly and I'm teetotal by choice. Getting all concerned for the kids is a bit premature when the adults haven't actually had a bloody drink yet, and since I've never heard of anyone ever being refused alcohol or being told by a publican not to drink it in front of their children, coupled with the fact that alcohol consumption in the UK has been falling for some years, I'd say that it is not and never has been a problem anyway. However, what is a problem is the ever increasing influence of the nanny state, its propaganda department, and their constant drip-drip-drip messages that any vice, no matter how socially acceptable and how harmless in moderation, is a dangerous and corrupting influence on impressionable minds.

The irony is that that line of thinking is a dangerous, corrupting influence, and sadly the impressionable minds are those of people who should be old enough to know better. The state is mother. The state is father. And if it's not possible to parent your kids directly it's as happy to have its brainwashed drones - supermarket staff who refuse to sell alcohol to adults, and now it seems bar staff as well - do it by proxy. If that doesn't bother you then you'll probably be okay with the Britannia pub in London, a short walk from HMS Belfast and the Monument, refusing you alcohol for the sake of any children you may have with you. Otherwise you know what to do.
The two friends, who run a Wimbledon-based company MRA PR, said they sat outside the pub and left as soon as their children had finished their drinks.
Or even go find another pub right away. One that remembers it's a pub and hasn't started thinking of itself as a creche.
The Britannia is run by Stonegate Pub Company, which operates 560 pubs and bars across the country, including the Yates's and Slug and Lettuce chains.
A company spokesman said: "Our policy is to welcome families into our pubs during the day, providing there are no licensing conditions preventing us from doing so.
"We are therefore now going to investigate this complaint and we would request that the responsible adults concerned contact us directly in order that we can ascertain the facts of the situation."
Investigate away, buddy, but claiming the pub refused to serve alcohol because of the presence of children seems a very strange thing to make up and, as the links to stories about supermarkets doing similar things show, isn't exactly unprecedented. And people wonder why the pub trade is dying. It was always about being somewhere to go where you could enjoy yourself, and the enjoyment is being sucked out of it. You can't smoke in the pub, you can't buy booze as cheaply as you can for home consumption, and now it seems that if you have a child with you it might not be possible to buy booze at all. So what's the point in going in at all? For a lecture on health and parenting? You can get that for free pre-paid by your taxes from many doctors or social workers, so why would any sane person want to pay through the nose to be on the receiving end from what was once part of something called the hospitality industry? If you had no choice perhaps, but Leg-iron and others who've given up on pubs in favour of Smoky-Drinky places show very clearly that there is a choice.

The pub trade is dying, and if it's about to switch sides to become the pawns of the Strength Through Joy neo-puritans I'd say it's better off dead.

* I may have some details wrong but it was more than twenty years ago and it's not like I was committing them to memory with the intention of blogging about it in later life.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Oh God…

... no, please, no.

Click for link
Here we all were worrying, albeit only very occasionally, about the zombie apocalypse and none of us had any idea it would include TV shows that had died and been buried as decently as possible. Most depressing of all is that 5.1 million people had nothing better to do than watch it, though it's possible that some of the stricter churches might think this is actually good news as it strongly suggests that masturbation has gone out of fashion. And who are the slebs these 5.1 million people settling down to watch on this three month freakathon? So I’ve been to the CBB site and half inched the publicity thumbnails without reading the bios, and oh dear. Either I'm getting middle aged or the barrel bottom has been scraped all the way through the wood and out the other side.

list_size_pamelabach Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff – no idea, but I recognise half her surname.
list_size_sallybercowSally Bercow - Mum I’d Like To Shut The Fuck Up, Please.
list_size_amychildsAmy Childs – like Pamela Bach-Hasslehoff, no idea. But more so.
list_size_paddydohertyPaddy Doherty – nope, no idea who he is either.
list_size_jedwardJedward – gestalt talent show also ran with annoying bog-brush hairdos.
list_size_kerrykatonaKerry Katona – incomprehensible Scouse tabloid darling and Iceland ad queen.
list_size_lucienlaviscountLucien Laviscount – no idea but with that name I’m assuming porn star.
list_size_darrenlyonsDarryn Lyons – again, no idea.
list_size_tarareidTara Reid – er… nope, sorry.
list_size_bobbysabelBobby Sabel – no idea either.

So that’s precisely three people I’d actually heard of, or four if you count the gestalt creature Jedward as two, and of those three Jedward is the only one whose celebrity, if that’s even the right word, seems anywhere near deserved. Sally Bercow is famous only for being the wife of a the Squeaker of of the House of Commons, and the only reason a lot of people know him is because of the knives that were out for his predecessor over the parliamentary expenses scandal. Seriously, hands up who’d heard of Sally Bercow say three years ago when Gorbals Mick was Speaker and her hubby was just another Tory backbencher? Anyone? No? As for Kerry Katona, I know the tabloids always seem to be talking about her and she’s been seen now and then on British TVs going ‘Dat’s whoi mams go tah Iceland’, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure what she did that made her well known enough to be chosen to front ad campaigns for the Britain’s 9th most popular supermarket chain.

So, one mostly famous for being famous, one mostly famous for being married to someone who got a job most people normally don’t give a shit about at a time when for a brief period a lot of people did temporarily give a shit, seven people who I have absolutely no clue about at all, and the gestalt creature with stupid hair which did moderately well in some talent contest or other despite the massive handicap of having the gestalt creature attached to its roots. Could there be anyone in the country who genuinely knew of each and every one of them three months ago? I wouldn’t put money on it.
So, a note to Channel Five: the word ‘celebrity’, guys, please just buy a fucking dictionary and look it up. And a note to the five million people who watched: be honest, masturbation probably would have been a more productive use of your time, wouldn’t it?

P.S. Mrs Exile thinks Kerry Katona was in some girl band or other. This rang a bell and eventually we realised that she was in Atomised Kit-e-kat. We are both deeply ashamed that it turns out that we knew this, though Mrs Exile claimed mitigation because she doesn't know who Sally Bercow or the Jedward being is.

We're all going to die, yet again

I was going to write something about the latest example of greenie toad licking / pushing the warble gloaming bandwagon along to keep those grant cheques coming, this NASA paper paper co-authored by a NASA affiliate about how Earth might be destroyed by aliens as a punishment for our warble gloaming sins (blogged at WUWT and the Real World Libertarian) and enthusiastically printed by The Grauniad. But aside from having little to say that's not already been said, in particular the point brought up by WUWT that this was a "fun paper by a few friends" that nonetheless ended up passing peer review to be published in the journal of the fucking IAA, I think The Daily Mash have done it far better than I could have.
MORK from Ork will blast your face off unless you reduce your average fuel consumption to 62 miles per gallon, scientists have warned.

Experts said intelligent extra-terrestrials will detect increases in the Earth's CO2 emissions and wipe us out because studies into 14 different species of intelligent extra-terrestrials have all confirmed that is exactly how they behave.


Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: "We now need to have a debate about whether angry alien genocide research is more terrifying than one of those book covers that has huge waves crashing against the middle of Big Ben.

"And it has surely got to be more effective than some fucking documentary called 'The Last Gnu' or 'Cry Me a Desert'."

He added: "My initial research confirms it is now imperative that we pinpoint a likely planet from whence our murderers will emanate and then publish painstakingly accurate drawings of what their flying saucers will definitely look like.

"We should also give them a name. I suggest 'the Monbions'."
The Monbions! Priceless. I imagine their flying saucers will somehow look like an archaeologist in nuclear explosion propelled fridge jumping over a shark. While you're trying to work out how anything could possibly look like that why not go and read the rest?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Doors, baby buggies and squirrels

I was reminded of this by something The Grim Reaper wrote earlier.

Now, anyone know where I can stock up a sacrificial mole pit?

S(t)ea(l) Fever

Originally posted at The Orphanage and with apologies to John Masefield.

I must go down to the shops again,
To the shops on Kensington High,
And all I want is some Xboxes
And a streetlight to loot ‘em by,
And some iPhones and some ciggies
And the owners’ fists shaking,
And a laptop and a plasma TV,
And some windows breaking.

I must go down to the shops again,
For the call of the looting crowd
Is a wild call and a clear call,
If technically not allowed.
And all we ask is for cops to stand
Around as the bricks are flying,
And as the stock of the local shops walks out
Amidst their owners’ crying.

I must go down to the shops again,
With the other smiling chavs,
To Curry’s and the Apple Store
To see what we can have;
And all I ask is a bit of a larf
With a cackling fellow looter,
As we ‘elp ourselves to someone’s stuff
‘Cause they ain’t allowed a shooter.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Welcome to The Asylum

In So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, the late Douglas Adams introduced us to a minor character by the name of John Watson or, as he preferred to be called, Wonko the Sane. Those who've read it will probably recall Wonko's unusual house and the reason for it being that way, but for those who don't know the story this is how the book put it.
His house was certainly peculiar, and since this was the first thing that Fenchurch and Arthur had encountered it would help to know what it was like. It was like this:

It was inside out.

Actually inside out, to the extent that they had had to park on the carpet.

All along what one would normally call the outer wall, which was decorated in a tasteful interior-deisgned pink, were bookshelves, also a couple of those odd three-legged tables with semicircular tops which stand in such a way as to suggest that someone just dropped the wall straight through them, and pictures which were clearly designed to soothe.

Where it got really odd was the roof.

It folded back on itself like something that M. C. Escher, had he been given to hard nights on the town, which it is no part of this narrative's purpose to suggest was the case, though it is sometimes hard, looking at his pictures, particularly the one with all the awkward steps, not to wonder, might have dreamed up after having been on one, for the little chandeliers which should have been hanging inside were on the outside pointing up.


The sign above the front door read "Come Outside," and so, nervously, they had.

Inside, of course, was where the Outside was. Rough brickwork, nicely done pointing, gutters in good repair, a garden path, a couple of small trees, some rooms leading off.

And the inner walls stretched down, folded curiously, and opened at the end as if, by and optical illusion which would have had M. C. Escher frowning and wondering how it was done, to enclose the Pacific Ocean itself.


"Your wife," said Arthur, looking around, "mentioned some toothpicks." He said it with a hunted look, as if he was worried that she might suddenly leap out from behind a door and mention them again.

Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and sounded like one he had used a lot before and was happy with.

"Ah yes," he said, "that's to do with the day I finally realized that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum to put it in, poor thing, and hoped it would get better."

This was the point at which Arthur began to feel a little nervous again.

"Here," said Wonko the Sane, "we are outside the Asylum." He pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing, and the gutters. "Go through that door" -- he pointed at the first door through which they had originally entered -- "and you go into the Asylum. I've tried to decorate it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there's very little one can do. I never go in there myself. If I ever am tempted, which these days I rarely am, I simply look at the sign written over the door and I shy away."

"That one?" said Fenchurch, pointing, rather puzzled, at a blue plaque with some instructions written on it.

"Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do."

The sign read:

"Hold stick near center of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion."

"It seemed to me," said Wonko the Sane, "that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane."
And it's Wonko the Sane and his house that immediately spring to mind when I read, via Watts Up With That, that fat people are the latest cause of warble gloaming ...
Researchers at the Robert Gordon University have completed a study that addresses the link between climate change and obesity.
The academics suggest that global weight loss would result in a drop in the production of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO(2)).
The study was carried out by a trio of researchers within the university's Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology (CORE). It suggests that if every obese and overweight person in the world lost 10 kilograms (or 1.58 stone), the resulting drop in greenhouse emissions would be the equivalent of 0.2% of the CO(2) emitted globally in 2007 (49.560Mt).
... and via this PR that watching TV is as bad for you as smoking.
Every hour spent watching television shortens your life by a little over 20 minutes – on a par with smoking a cigarette, Australian researchers claim.
And the worst couch potatoes – watching more than six hours of TV a day – can expect to die almost five years earlier than people who watch no TV at all, researchers calculated.
Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (online), the Brisbane-led group say Australia’s love of TV poses a significant threat to the health of the population.
Click for linky, and also to increase your risk of developing a need for lithium carbonate
We've known for some time that Niemöller's warning is as relevant today as it ever was, that as victories are won over the smokers and drinkers the rest of us would come in for our turn, and that the salad dodgers would be among the first. And now I think the next couple of phases are becoming clear. Your weight isn't just your problem anymore and it's not just for your own good that the swivel-eyed are exhorting you to lose weight. No, it's also essential to help stop warble gloaming. Yes, folks, we have identified passive obesity, and since we're also going to be told that TV is as bad as smoking - no qualification, no consideration to the obvious differences between, say, an hour's telly time after a hard afternoon's slob and an hour's telly time after a daily 10km cycle followed by a warm down and a shower - we can expect passive TV watching to be only around the corner. Christ's sake! I'd intended to sit down with Mrs Exile this evening and watch Sons of Anarchy together over some delicious take-away food from Urban Burger* just up the road in Balaclava.** Actually I still do intend to, but I'm wondering how much longer we'll be allowed to get away with it if we're going to be told it's bad for us and accused of raping polar bears to death with our wanton secondary televisioning.

Wonko the Sane was very nearly correct: the world, or at least quite a lot of people who have a disproportionate say in its running, is completely mad. Where Wonko was wrong is the nature of the insanity. It's not the harmless*** and almost genteel lunacy of Adams' H2G2 universe, but a vicious psychosis that increasingly seems determined to stamp out anything it does not approve of - freedom, mostly - and isn't at all reticent in coming up with all kinds of reasons why having your liberty reduced and removed is A Good Thing. Why you must be nudged into it if you don't want to and punished if you refuse is rarely far behind.

And so I find Wonko the Sane's take on house design increasingly appealing. So appealing, in fact, that I might have applied for planning permission if it wasn't for the problem that there isn't the faintest hope of the inmates of The Asylum granting it. But I've also spotted a critical flaw in the design. Remember that door that Wonko pointed out to Arthur and Fenchurch, the door they had just opened and walked through minutes before to come in from The Asylum?

I reckon it needs a big fucking lock on it.

* Which incidentally serves delicious burgers and chips, and preempts the possibility of food packaging legislation in the future by putting them in plain brown paper bags. I'm absolutely not making that up, and even if it is just coincidental I wouldn't bet against it one day coming in handy for them.

** Yes, I'm still in Melbourne, not the Crimea, and no, I have no idea why a landlocked local suburb is called Balaclava. After the battle, I think, but why exactly and why that battle I can't imagine.

*** Okay, mostly harmless.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

You can't win, you know

BEFORE tucking into your morning muesli be warned, you may be about to eat more fat than there is in a McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder, Choice says.

The consumer organisation tested 159 types of muesli and discovered that the popular breakfast meal isn't necessarily a healthy choice.

"Whilst much of the fat content in muesli is the 'good' unsaturated type, coming from oats, seeds and nuts, the high fat varieties can still pack a high number of kilojoules," Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said in a statement today.
Fuck it, then. I might as well have something artery-clogging that I actually fucking enjoy eating, is that what you're telling me?

Just fuck off and leave us alone.

Monday, 15 August 2011

I'm a Total attention whore

Since it's the Total Politics Blog Awards time again I thought I'd whore myself for votes for the very first time. I wouldn't normally bother but because of this info from the Snowolf I'm again thinking very seriously of moving over to Wordpress, where I've been running a parallel blog behind closed ('til now - that'll probably change soon) doors, and I thought it'd be nice if I got some kind of gong-lette for this place before/if I retired it. If you don't want to chuck a vote my way please consider doing so instead for the rather more deserving Orphans of Liberty, not because I write there too but because James Higham and Longrider have put a decent group blog together with some very readable bloggers contributing to it, and James notes that Total Politics allows group blogs to be voted for in the blogs section.

Vote early, vote often.  ;-)

Another sensationalist headline brought to you by...

... The Mainly Fail.

And I love the way the caption, assuming we can't see for ourselves what's in the picture, spells out that an armed officer is holding his gun right over the actual head of a waittaminute...

Perhaps the article needs a subheading, something like "Well, obviously not the precise moment it's pointed at his head unless teenagers literally have their heads up their arses these days, but if any guns were actually pointed at heads rather than just chests or torsos or whatever than it was probably a moment quite near then". Because I'm sure The Mail wouldn't be beating the story up or have a grasp of anatomy so poor that they'd think that gun was aimed at the kid's head.

Tip of the Akubra to the Ambush Predator.


From The Salt Lake Tribune, via the Von Mises blog.

Of course it doesn't reflect the reality that in the case of corporate bailouts governments were complicit - they could have said no but they didn't - and while you could argue a certain amount of complicity on the part of a succession of British governments including the current one at least the looters aren't being asked how many of the taxpayers' TVs they would like to be given. On the other hand, if it's true there are people on benefits who have the big TVs and games consoles and all the other toys that a lot of taxpayers can't afford.....

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ooooh, there's a surprise

Last month I wrote that there seemed to be a bizarre game of international keeping up with the Joneses going on in that every nation with a significant News Corp presence seemed determined to be able to say "Yes, yes, those evil Murdoch hacks have, er, hacked our phones too". 9/11? Yes, they must have done it then, surely. If they did for the London bombings four years later then they're bound to have done it for the much bigger 9/11, right? Cue investigations carried out by people who almost certainly have something better to do despite the phone hacking not being known outside the UK and not actually being hacking at all and, to me at least, not all that likely to begin with.
... in the immediate aftermath there was a lot of confusion and some estimates of the number of dead were as high as ten thousand, more than five times what it turned out to be (correction: 10,000 is not five times 3,000 - my mental arithmetic was clearly not all that flash when I originally wrote this - AE). Nobody knew who was missing, who was dead and who was lucky enough not to have been anywhere near the place after all, and in all that confusion and not really knowing it seems like use of the NotW style not-hacking voicemails would have been much trickier than the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. I might be wrong but I can't help thinking that the identities of the dead in an incident that killed so many more people... well, where would you even start? Supposedly someone from the NotW tried to bribe a cop or an ex-cop for phone records, but that seems a little odd. If it happened in 2001 or maybe 02, which is when it would have been newsworthy, then how come it's only now that we're hearing about it?
On the other hand if this is supposed to have taken place more recently then you have to wonder about the sanity of the NotW still playing the same games when they'd already been caught once and were under the spotlight. You'd also have to wonder at how slow a news day it must have been to go on that kind of fishing expedition perhaps five or six years on and, if they were going to do the not-hack of voicemails again, whether there'd even be anything there after all that time. Obviously the idea is out there now and of course it needs to be looked into but if I was a betting man I'd put a few dollars on it being all smoke and no substance.
And I'd be feeling confident about those dollars coming back with company having seen this Wall Street Journal headline in The Australian yesterday.
Click for linky
INVESTIGATORS haven't found hard evidence so far in probing whether News Corporation's UK-based journalists might have hacked the phones of 9/11 victims, but US authorities have expanded their query to see whether they can establish a broader pattern of more recent misconduct at the company's US operations, say people familiar with the matter.

British police investigating the sweeping phone-hacking scandal at the company's now-closed News of the World tabloid have told the Federal Bureau of Investigation there are no names or telephone numbers of September 11 victims among the evidence they have gathered to date, according to people familiar with the case.

London's Metropolitan Police Service, known as Scotland Yard, has examined voluminous phone records of what could be thousands of potential phone-hacking victims, but those records don't suggest 9/11 victims were among the targets of the hacking, according to the people familiar with the case. A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to comment.

The New York Police Department also has told the FBI it has no indication such attempted violations occurred, and the FBI's own crime-victims assistance office has said the same. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to meet later this month with some September 11 families, to discuss their concerns about the issue.
So they've looked, and for the time being will continue to do so, but there's not a shred of evidence that any not-hacking went on in relation to 9/11. This should not come as a surprise, not because we have any reason to think that the people covering that story must have been saintly types who would never stoop to but because it would have been extremely difficult while it was still worth doing and no longer worth doing by the time it became a lot easier. Now I realise that both the WSJ and The Aussie are owned by News Corp itself and that they may be a little biased in favour of reports that don't drag their parent company further down the swannie, but news is a competitive industry and the same holds true, though in reverse, for their opposition. Despite The Age running a couple of related stories yesterday Fairfax Media doesn't seem to have covered it yet, and nor has the Graun/Indie/Obs. Why should they be in a rush to see their rival off the hook a femtosecond sooner than absolutely necessary? As for the grubbier end of the market, and again turning to the WSJ/Aussie piece for lack of anything else, let's not forget where the 9/11 hacking thing came from.
The allegation stemmed from an article in the UK's Daily Mirror, based on unnamed sources, that reported News Corp journalists tried to hack the phones of 9/11 victims. It was among the most serious allegations made in the high-profile scandal that hit News Corp's UK operations involving widespread phone hacking that targeted celebrities, politicians and a murder victim.
I'm not saying they made it up because for all I know those unnamed sources were real and otherwise reliable. I'm not even saying that this unnamed source wasn't telling the truth that he'd been approached by NotW journos offering to pay for access to the phone records of 9/11 victims, though as I said last month it seems a little surprising that this has taken almost ten years to come out when the phone not-hacking scandal has been simmering away for the best part of the last five. I am saying that The Mirror's article - in which they use a photo of Murdoch arriving in London wearing a Fedora and describe it variously as a 'cowboy style' and a Panama - was mainly a rehash of what was already known with a dash of shit stirring about 9/11 mixed in. Nothing solid, no names, no actual facts beyond 'he alleges' and 'he said', and for damned sure nothing at all about why it's taken ten years for this to come out despite phone not-hacking first coming to light in 2005, how odd that appears and what might be a reasonable explanation for it. Nada. And fair enough because if the Mirror was paying me to write I'd be tempted to help kick the competition while they're down.*

But of course investigations will continue, and the while the original one about 9/11 looks like it will be the dead end I thought it seems the powers that be aren't content to let it lie there.
Now, US authorities are trying to determine whether they can find a broad pattern of misdeeds at News Corp that continued into 2006 or more recently, according to the people familiar with the matter. If they find evidence of such conduct, which could include rewarding executives accused of wrongdoing, for example, that would open the door to pursuing matters beyond the five-year time frame [of the statute of limitations].
As I said last month, if a government constitutionally bound to protect press freedom wanted to be able to bring the media more under its own control it needs a bloody good dose of public outrage and preferably a few people jailed for breaking the law, since breaking existing laws is the favourite pretext of most governments for making up some new ones. I'd hope that the Americans' reverence for their Bill of Rights combined with the fact that the area of main outrage, the allegations about 9/11, appears to be a dud will prevent things going that far, but here in Oz and in the UK the governments have greater power to muzzle the press. In their desire to give their News Corp competition the shoeing the bastards so thoroughly deserve the other media groups seem to be forgetting this.

I hope it doesn't come back to bite them, because if it does it'll bite everybody.

* Nobody pays me, which is why I'm not fussy who I kick.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

I don't like to think of myself as a vindictive man, but...

We'll probably never know if the woman guiding him let him walk into the post on purpose or even steered him in the right direction, and if she did I doubt she'll ever admit. But on the off chance she did and reads this I'd just like to say this: nice one.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Alexis Bailey, 31, a worker at a primary school, admitted being part of a mob that tried to loot an electrical shop in Croydon. Bailey, who earns £1,000 a month at Stockwell Primary School, south London, left court with a newspaper over his face. A headline about “copycat cretins” covering his eyes, he walked into a lamp-post.

Police, Camera, Industrial Action

A few months ago I had a short comment conversation with Lex Feranda, The Thinking Policeman, about the British police and industrial action.
Angry Exile said...
How far are you barred from taking industrial action? I mean we all know you're not allowed to strike (and I'd agree that having no right to withdraw your labour is unreasonable and immoral, although you did all sign up to it when you joined). But surely you can take other forms of action. For example, can you refuse to work overtime? I can't see how anything can prevent a work to rule, although it sounds like you lot are tied down by so many rules already that people might not notice...

Lex Ferenda said...
The police in this country are legally barred from taking ANY industrial action and to encourage or incite another to do so is a criminal offence, so you cannot even suggest it.

If you are required to work overtime you have to. If you are required to work on a day off, you have to. To refuse would amount to gross misconduct and possible dismissal.
You don't often get me expressing sympathy for the police, but that simply sucks balls. Yes, I know they signed up for it but Christ, if any other employer in any other line of work imposed conditions that allowed them to discipline people for wanting to have their days off or actually go home at the end of the shift instead of working overtime... well, I was going to say there'd be demands to have laws made against it, but of course there already are. Not for the poor rozzers though.

As a libertarian I feel that everyone should be free to withhold their labour in a dispute, which is basically all the 'right to strike' is.* So of course I think this restriction on British police is immoral and, because I bet some of the compulsory overtime is unpaid, is distinguished from slavery mainly by the fact they do get a base salary and they are allowed to quit (admittedly quite a big distinction, but you get the picture). Whether the ban on any kind of industrial action is, as a practical matter, a good thing for the rest of the public has always had me sitting on the fence. When the thin blue line is all that protects citizens then not letting them take industrial action is understandable, but as I hinted at in the last post I'm far from convinced the thin blue line is far too thin when the chips are down anyway. On top of that in recent years politicians have had that thin blue line turn on citizens in one way and another, criminalising people for technical offences and victimless crimes. And of course one that gets up the noses of Mr and Mrs Middle England on a fairly regular basis is being done for motoring offences, especially speeding, because it's pretty obvious that there's a vast gulf between being a few km/h over the limit and driving like a weapons grade knob. But the pollies like clear up rates and the police can get easy results with speed traps. Just as an example, does anyone want to bet that when the dust settles in the areas of those UK forces that have had riots there will have been more looters arrested than speeding tickets issued for the same period? Or do we think the automated cameras and civilian operated camera vans will have pinged far more for speeding, virtually none of whom will have crashed as a result, than the police will eventually charge with walking down the road with a looted flatscreen TV.

So keep that in mind when I show you what can happen where police are able to take industrial action.
VICTORIA'S water police have plonked a boat between oncoming traffic and a speed camera operator as officers upped the ante in a pay dispute.
The police and the state government are locked in a stalemate over the police union's claim for a 4.5 per cent increase. The government is offering 2.5 per cent.
Leading Senior Constable Matthew Blythe, of Williamstown police, said the water police parked their boat in front of a speed camera to do checks, the first ones conducted inland at a busy intersection.

''Currently, we've got protected actions in place, and one of those actions is to pull up and do a welfare check.''
This, he said, would let the public know that there was a speed camera there.
''Now, the speed cameras are designed to reduce traffic speed, so us being there still has that effect.
''Potentially, if the motoring public see a police vehicle - this time it will be a police boat with its lights on and a police vehicle towing it - logically, if you see any emergency vehicle with its lights activated, it would slow you down.
''So, in theory, people will slow down and not get booked.''
Water police may repeat the procedure in Werribee and Geelong.
Makes me think there's something to be said for letting the cops take industrial action after all, especially as for many police it's very much a vocational line of work and I highly doubt they wouldn't still show for real emergencies.

* Of course the freedom to withhold one's labour does not necessarily mean an automatic right to keep the job.

The (inevitable) riot posts #5 - A call for arms - UPDATED

Click for links:

Two thoughts occur, first of which is good on those who've woken up to the reality that the police simply cannot protect everyone in this kind of situation. They just can't. The Met has about 33,000 officers, and with Specials and PCSOs it's pushed up to about 42,000 or so, plus whatever can be spared from other forces.* Sounds like a lot but of course they can't just stop all other areas of policing or expect officers to go without sleep of food, and if neighbouring forces have serious problems of their own there may be little help available - and of course several now do. They'd be doing well to have 25,000 cops on London's streets and probably even that's a stretch. And since London has somewhere between 8 million and 14 million people depending on where you choose to stop counting you don't need the rioting, looting, scumbag proportion of its society to be even a significant minority for the police to be outnumbered. One percent of ten million outnumbers even optimistic police numbers 4 to 1, and that's before you consider the sheer size of the area that needs to be protected.

Of course the police are equipped and trained and so on, and most importantly are backed up by the state's monopoly on force, so they will eventually get the upper hand and restore order. But that's not much comfort if your home or your business or whatever building or bit of ground that's precious to you and your local community has been wrecked, burned and pillaged by marauding hordes of ferals. The choice then is a simple one: hope like hell the police happen to be around if trouble happens in your neighbourhood or at least come quickly enough to stop it, or to take responsibility for that protection yourself with whatever tools you have and whatever makeshift barriers and weapons you can devise. The police won't like it and have already ordered some to get back in their homes and leave it to them - instructions that I sincerely hope have been ignored pending restoration of the police's ability to protect innocent citizens. And clearly it's not without its risks as those few deaths of people trying to protect what's theirs show. But just living or running a business in the wrong part of the wrong town is a risk in itself at the moment, so it's hardly surprising that a number of people have decided to grab whatever they have that swings well and looks like a looter would steer clear of, and take up stations.**

And the second thought that occurs? It'd be a damn sight easier for people to protect themselves and their property if ownership of the best tools for doing so - firearms - wasn't banned for all of Britain's persistently law-abiding non-offenders, and there might have been less looting if the pricks with the bricks thought there was a fair chance there'd be someone with a loaded gun behind the glass ready to defend the place.

UPDATE - as a follow up to one of the footnotes below, from The Daily Mail article linked above (my bold):
Amarjit Singh Klair from nearby Hounslow, who helped rally the men, said: ‘We are working along side the police, they’re doing what they can but they are stretched.
Why shouldn’t we defend our homes, businesses and places of worship? This is our area. There’s lots of talk about it kicking off here. But we’re ready for them.’
Hooded youths could be seen scouting the area but appear to be have frightened off. Only a handful of police could be seen patrolling the area.
The Sikh community were running a military style operation to protect themselves after almost 100 rioters tried to attack the heart of the area early on Tuesday.
With few police around, elders at London’s largest Sikh temple in Havelock Road resorted to telephoning male worshippers for help.
Last night groups of Sikh men stood guard at different parts of the town, keeping in touch via their mobiles.
One man in his 20s said: ‘They caught us off guard last night but we still managed to get people together to protect the area. We saw them putting on their balaclavas preparing to jump out of three cars but we charged at them and managed to chase them off.’
Props to the Sikhs - I've always liked the ones I've met, and as a group they seem to know when to stop fucking around and start relying on themselves.

* I haven't counted the City of London police as they have less than a thousand to add and if trouble spread to their patch I could imagine they might to borrow manpower from the Met.
** It's also not surprising, or not to me anyway, that the among the first to do so were Sikhs defending their temple. They're not daft and not shy of taking responsibility for their own defence.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The (inevitable) riot posts #4

In case you haven't seen Spiked! it really is worth popping over there to read Brendan O'Neill's take on the riots. He suggests that it's not so much a race thing, and since although there are loads of black faces in the images of rioting and looting coming out of Britain there's not exactly a shortage of white faces either he's probably got a point. Nor, he says, is it about working class anger at the cuts or high youth unemployment or a general protest against capitalism.
These observers are right that there is a political context to the riots. They are right to argue that while the police shooting of young black man Mark Duggan may ostensibly have been the trigger for the street violence, there is a broader context to the disturbances. But they are wrong about what the political context is. Painting these riots as some kind of action replay of historic political streetfights against capitalist bosses or racist cops might allow armchair radicals to get their intellectual rocks off, as they lift their noses from dusty tomes about the Levellers or the Suffragettes and fantasise that a political upheaval of equal worth is now occurring outside their windows. But such shameless projection misses what is new and peculiar and deeply worrying about these riots. The political context is not the cuts agenda or racist policing – it is the welfare state, which, it is now clear, has nurtured a new generation that has absolutely no sense of community spirit or social solidarity.

What we have on the streets of London and elsewhere are welfare-state mobs. The youth who are ‘rising up’ – actually they are simply shattering their own communities – represent a generation that has been more suckled by the state than any generation before it. They live in those urban territories where the sharp-elbowed intrusion of the welfare state over the past 30 years has pushed aside older ideals of self-reliance and community spirit. The march of the welfare state into every aspect of less well-off urban people’s existences, from their financial wellbeing to their childrearing habits and even into their emotional lives, with the rise of therapeutic welfarism designed to ensure that the poor remain ‘mentally fit’, has helped to undermine such things as individual resourcefulness and social bonding. The anti-social youthful rioters look to me like the end product of such an anti-social system of state intervention.
It is entertaining to watch the political contortionism of those commentators who claim that the riots are an uprising against the evils of capitalism, as they struggle to explain why the targets thus far have been Foot Locker sports shops, electrical goods shops, takeaway joints and bus-stops, and why the only ‘gains’ made by the rioters have been to get a new pair of trainers or an Apple laptop. In past episodes of rioting, for example during the Brixton race riots of 1981, looting and the destruction of local infrastructure were largely incidental to the broader expression of political anger, byproducts of the main show, which was a clash between a community and the forces of the state. But in these new riots, smashing stuff up is all there is. It is childish nihilism.
But it’s more than childish destructiveness motivating the rioters. At a more fundamental level, these are youngsters who are uniquely alienated from the communities they grew up in. Nurtured in large part by the welfare state, financially, physically and educationally, socialised more by the agents of welfarism than by their own neighbours or community representatives, these youth have little moral or emotional attachment to the areas they grew up in. Their rioting reveals, not that Britain is in a time warp back to 1981 or 1985 when there were politically motivated, anti-racist riots against the police, but rather that the tentacle-like spread of the welfare state into every area of people’s lives has utterly zapped old social bonds, the relationship of sharing and solidarity that once existed in working-class communities. In communities that are made dependent upon the state, people are less inclined to depend on each other or on their own social wherewithal. We have a saying in Britain for people who undermine their own living quarters – we call it ‘shitting on your own doorstep’. And this rioting suggests that the welfare state has given rise to a generation perfectly happy to do that.

This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a riotous expression of carelessness for one’s own community. And as a left-winger, I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a profoundly negative impact on working people’s lives.
Do go and read the rest. I don't think I've linked to Spiked! before but I do have a lot of time for O'Neill's writing, even if he is a self-confessed left winger. Maybe it's because I'm not particularly right-wing myself so much as anti-state and so have more in common with an anti-state left winger than a statist right-winger. Hell, I used to think I was left-wing until a left wing government took over and I realised I hated them too. Or maybe O'Neill is just a clearer thinker than the usual CiF/LabourLost mob.

Whatever it is I think he's got a damn good point. Let's not hide from the fact that there have been a lot of black people involved in the looting, but let's not ignore the fact that an even bigger common denominator seems to be age. A couple of generations of people for whom life is about getting something for nothing and increasingly about getting everything for nothing. Black, white, Asian, blue skinned many-armed Thengulb'idians from the planet Urgh if there were any, whoever has been deemed by the Righteous to be even remotely disadvantaged has been spoiled by state largesse. That there are so many black faces (and so few blue ones with tentacles over the eyes) I'd guess just means that the money hoses have been soaking them more than other groups, probably because of this culture of guilt over past injustices that the Righteous tell us we should feel these days.

That we've spoiled if not wholly ruined so many people, and many of them black, by dumbing down education and fostering a culture of welfarism and dependence is not exactly just either probably escapes them.
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