Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We have blog-off

We have blog-off Tuesday 1st August 21.00 (a bit late with this posting sorry Dave) all I need is words now.

I am now the proud owner of a newborn blog. This isn't special in itself, as I believe a community the size of Western Europe has already beaten me to this activity, and has written on topics as obscure and bizarre as sparrow porn, reusable bullets and Ron Atkinson's next career move.

For anyone who is unaware, 'blog' is short for 'web log', deriving from the latest fashion where you take the last letter of the first word, and combine it with the first three letters of the next word to create the abbreviation. Hopefully, expressions like 'wrist watch' can be spared the same treatment.

But there is a special kind of powerful thrill of being able to write whatever and add whatever to the www. I doubt I will be more useful or entertaining than anyone else, but I will wait and see.
I frankly haven't a clue what I will write about right now.

As I sit here at my PC, on this hot evening, my sole inspiration is the sound of some local youths laughing hysterically on the street outside.

They are not riding their bikes, or playing Top Trumps - indeed, I believe they're filling the fuel tank of an abandoned moped with fizzy pop. That is playtime in AL9, and it sounds like a hoot.

I blame the absence of the World Cup. Were this sporting spectacle still on, they would be safely indoors, watching a festival of violence, cheating, thespian exceesses, big hair and step-overs.

If I see the same lads tomorrow, I might encourage them to start a blog themselves.

Not for the last time, I am running out of things to say, and will sign off for the evening. It's nice to be here.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Smoking litter

cigarette being smoked - image courtesy of freefotoWe have all, probably, become accustomed to seeing some smokers drop litter on the street when they stub out their cigarettes, but now a man has been taken to task for flicking ash from his car.

A step too far? If it stops other smokers littering - perhaps not?

Driver fuming over cigarette fine

A £75 fine has been given to a Dorset man for "dripping his cigarette" out of a car window.

Alan Joyce of Lower Parkstone, Poole, has said by "dripping" Poole Council must mean flicking his cigarette ash.

The retired 68-year-old said: "I am really annoyed - to me that is not worth being branded a litter bug."

Councillor Don Collier, who said he was unable to comment on individual cases, said: "The people of Poole won't tolerate littering."

Mr Joyce, a former carpenter, was served a fixed penalty notice which states he must pay the fine within 14 days or face court action.

It states that on 25 July a council officer had reason to believe Mr Joyce was "dripping his cigarette" from his car while driving along Sandbanks Road, Poole.

State of Fear

Are you frightened? Do you live in fear of your life? Do you see pseudo-nihilist fanatics hiding in every city, waiting and planning for the chance to deal death on an unimaginable scale? Do you see a war between civilizations? Is there an arch of extremism waiting to plunge the world into anarchy? Does an axis of evil control a global conspiracy of terror?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s hardly surprising. After all we have two sides who agree only that you should be in a constant state of fear. Frightened people don’t react in a rational way, but they can be manipulated and they can be trusted not to stop and think about what is going on. Frightened people want reassurance and are willing to overlook a government’s failings in other areas, so long as they promise to keep them safe.

If you’ve read this far, you may think that I’m going continue by claiming that 9/11, 7th July, Madrid, Bali and the Beslan school where government inspired conspiracies and Al Qaeda doesn’t exist. Well they happened, just as we told, with all the horrific lose of life we saw. And Al Qaeda does exits, only not exactly as many people believe. Al Qaeda is not a many armed octopus sitting on top of and controlling a global terror network. Al Qaeda is one of many terror organizations. It became famous mostly because Bill Clinton wanted something other than his sexual indescressions to make the news for a change. After that, lazy media labeled every Islamic terrorist group and terrorist attack as Al Qaeda or an affiliate and numerous terrorist groups who want you to believe that there is a powerful global network of terror, claimed allegiance to Al Qaeda. Thus a myth was born: The myth of the War on Terror.

Sadly terrorists do exist. They strike daily in Iraq and bring a terrible death toll. They fire rockets in Israel, kidnap children in Uganda, run the drugs trade in Colombia, fight the Russians in ChechnyaSri Lanka. But none of these wars has anything to do with a global War on Terror. These wars are local wars of liberation, insurgency or terror, which have almost nothing to do with Al Qaeda or a wider struggle. Even in Iraq the vast majority of the violence is by home grown terrorists killing along sectarian lines. and stage attacks in Sri Lanka.

What we see today is a series of bloody Wars of Terror, which pose no danger to our nation or way of life in themselves. They do pose a limited danger to our lives by creating home grown terrorists who, enraged by the suffering of innocents abroad seek to inflict the same horrors upon innocents at home. This is lunacy I don’t in any way seek to justify, and I very much don’t underestimate the suffering of the victims of last year’s terrible day in London, but these fanatics pose no more danger to us as a country than the IRA did for thirty years.

The biggest danger to our way of live comes from a sensationalist media and a reactionary government feeding off each other in a cycle of hyperbole. A few weeks ago the papers had lurid headlines about a suicide vest in Forrest Gate. We now know this to be nonsense. Before that we had The Sun running a sting operation to trap terrorists, which centered around Red Mercury (a non-existent substance) and was rightly thrown our of court. We’ve the papers printing pages of details on the famous rycin plot, but as we now know, no rycin was found and no plot existed.

And now we have the Airliner Plot, for which we get ever more graphic details on how the terrorists planned to create and use liquid explosives onboard ten planes, using common household products and bring about the deaths of three thousand people. Well the terrorists and the plot may have been real (some would argue that there was a real plot to kidnap Euan Blair) and the chemicals, being house hold chemicals, probably did existed, but the odds of success were so small as to be effectively zero (read Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible? ) but that doesn't stop the media from trying to give you nightmares.

The government is happy for this hyperbole to continue. Actually they’re keen for it to continue, because as long as we perceive a threat to our lives, a threat they are dealing with, they know we will be willing to trust them. And they know that a threat to an airplane will keep the incredible facts about PFI, the NHS IT system fiasco, the coming cutbacks and a hundred other failings off the front page and out of the public eye.

This hyperbole and government subterfuge is creating the real threat to our way of life. More and more draconian laws are being introduced. After 9/11 detention prior to charge went from seven days to fourteen days. After 7th July, despite the police never needing more than fourteen days, it increased to twenty eight days and now there are hints that there will be a new attempt to increase it again to ninety days. The government has the power to put anyone under house arrest, indefinitely, with no right of appeal and without telling them what the charge or the evidence is. When the House of Lords tried to make the level of proof required be balance of probabilities the government forced through the weaker level of reasonable grounds. This means that you can be detained indefinitely even if the evidence indicates that you are probably innocent. After heckeling Jack Straw, Walter Wolfgang was detained by police under The Prevention of Terrorism Act. And he wasn’t alone, 600 people were detained under anti terrorism legislation prior to the conference and all were released without charge.

There are terrorists in this country and they will make attempts to kill innocent civilians. Should they succeed, the loss will be on an unimaginable scale to the victims, but the loss will not threaten our way of life or the values we should hold dear. Smoking kills 1,600 people every week in this country, 3,000 dies on our roads each and every year and eight thousand die from an alcohol related causes. Terrorists will not kill on this scale, but we don’t enact sweeping legislation and give the police draconian powers to halt these deaths; Deaths that wreck lives as effectively as any bomb. We haven’t even banned the biggest killer of all, smoking, believing it to be a matter of choice. Instead we have limited where people are allowed to smoke.

If the terrorists get very very lucky they may mange to kill several hundred people, which is about as many as are murdered every year by criminals in the UK. And this is how the terrorists (those that exist) should be treated: As criminals. None of the draconian terrorism laws are required to apprehend criminals and we do not need our freedoms curtailed to apprehend them. The laws that exist are able to deal with the real threat and the panic, which causes planes to be diverted by the presence of a bottle of liquid, needs to stop.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

'Instant Justice'

According to the Guardian, police are pressing ministers for radical new powers to dispense 'instant justice', including the immediate exclusion of "yobs" from town centres at night, and bans on street gang members associating with each other.

The Guardian claims that senior officers say the powers would be the "modern equivalent of a clip round the ear from the local bobby" and would ensure the introduction of neighbourhood policing across England and Wales has "bite" and meets public expectations.
It's claimed the measures would include...
  • Powers for police officers to tackle "town centre yobs" by immediately excluding an offender from the town centre at night "for an appropriate period" when they are issued with an informal warning or a fixed-penalty fine.
  • Powers to tackle disorder by giving the neighbourhood constable, who understands the local context, the right to issue a three-month ban on gangs who cause repeat disorder on estates from associating with each other in public or frequenting a particular location. The ban could include a requirement to clear up local damage. Breaching the order would lead to an immediate court appearance with a possible fine, parenting order or Asbo.
  • Powers to tackle "the yob driver": those repeatedly stopped in an unregistered car with no insurance, no driving licence or MOT, could face immediate seizure of the car which would be crushed. An instant interim driving ban would be imposed pending a court appearance.
  • Tackling knife crime by enabling "reasonable suspicion" for stop and search to be based on previous convictions.
BBC News Online is also reporting this story.

Note: The use of the word 'yob' is a direct quote from the newspaper. Also, free subscription usually required to access the Guardian online.

Monday, August 14, 2006

First silverware sorted

As Liverpool lifted the Community Shield at the Millennium Stadium after stuffing Chelski 2-1, the beaten blues commiserate.

Lampard: Come on JT, get a grip, stop crying, it's only a game and the gaffer, Maureen, has given us loads of excuses.

Terry: I know, but it's still hard being a losing captain.

Lampard: Yea, and just think, you'll get to do it twice as much now.

Too old at 50?

The TUC says many over 50s have been dumped out of work and on the employment scrap heap, scraping by on benefits or small work pensions.

It's calling on firms to 'stop discriminating' and to retrain and recruit older staff, saying that the size of the potential workforce aged between 50 and 69 will rise by 17% over the next decade.

But can over 50s be retrained or are younger workers a better bet?

The CBI's Director of human resources policy, Susan Anderson, is quoted by the BBC as saying...

"Evidence suggests that older people do find it hard to find a job and this is mainly because they have lower skills levels, particularly in regard to the literacy and numeracy requirements of the modern workplace.

"However employers are very aware of the benefits and advantages which older people offer, especially their attitude to work and their customer service skills, so where possible they will do all they can to hire and retain them."

So, according to Susan Anderson, older people have lower skill levels - not much encouragment there then.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hand luggage ban

The BBC says police have disrupted a major terrorist polot to blow up planes in mid-flight.

As a result, security is being increased at all UK airports.

According to the BBC, it means that passengers on all flights will not be allowed to take any hand luggage on to any flights in the UK.

Only the barest essentials - including passports and wallets - will be allowed to be carried on board in transparent plastic bags.

Click here for more.