Saturday, 25 February 2006


Here's a great idea.
I supply the image. Readers write the blog!
Should be interesting?

Yet more about clever dogs. Getting to be a dog day?

This book has sold well. I'm not surprised at that; yellow Labradors are not as clever as the black ones but that is still well clever. I am surprised at the way the author goes on about what the dog taught him about enjoying life and making the best of what went on around him.


I think I've asked the question "Where are the Arabs I used to know?" somewhere in this blog of mine. By that, I meant the gentle and kindly Muslims who could sit and discuss religious matters with even the most brutal and licentous soldiery without taking or giving offence. They were not doing this as if they were some form of Islamic 'Uncle Tom' but because that is how they saw their belief directing their lives.
I think I've found two. They are, I'm afraid having to do it against a backdrop of 'those cartoons' but the points they make are very valid. Please have a read - I'm sure it will pay dividends in understanding a complex matter.

Good dog!

Old pointy nose is no trouble about this sort of thing but, as we live in a flat, this would have been neat for her to know.
She would be mortified at the indignity of learning it now though!

Friday, 24 February 2006

Take the boy out of the country

Whilst I'm really quite happy here (despite occasional doubts about some of the denizens), there are times when I miss the Great Wen that is London. Things like this, for example,
It's a rule that the days I take off work have to be bloody horrible, and today's just horrible, isn't it? It won't even have the decency to snow. It'll be alright once it gets dark since cold, wet nights are always more bearable than dismal, damp days in my book. Sod it, I'm pulling the curtains.

Out and about last night, trying to find a decent pub to watch the football in and winding up in an odd place next to Scotland Yard, where a Russian bloke got laughed at for wondering why a pub full of English people wasn't solidly behind Chelsea. He's got a lot to learn...

Got there by District Line, travelling on one of those recently done-up trains. Is it me, or do they not look quiet right? That dull colour scheme's common on the continent, but on the usually-colourful Tube? A bit strange. Especially because the old trains had that proper London Transport moquette on the seats which also used to appear on the buses.

And one day, our grandchildren will sit up in wonder at the thought that once upon a time, we used to get buses and trains which didn't talk to us all the time. Almost all the Tube does it now. ("The train is for North Greenwich.") The new trains do it. ("We shall shortly be arriving at... Westcombe Park.") Some buses do it, especially the ever-irritating "please stand well clear of doors" - route 422, I'm looking at you. (Or, for nostalgia freaks: "Welcome to Millennium Transit route M1. The next stop is at the Dome," followed by a spiel about how good the bus was, and how it wouldn't be ripped to shreds in six years' time after being converted into a crap route to Bexleyheath.) The trams in Croydon have them, and just when I was thinking the Docklands Light Railway was a refuge from them, its new trains have them too.

Obviously, there's a good reason for them to be there, but do they all seem that bit more intrusive than the ones you hear in other cities? A chime and a few words is all you hear on other metros, and even in Sheffield the trams have a cosmopolitan coolness about their announcements.

But here it's a full orchestra of beeps and clumsy announcements which suggest someone's been a bit tight with the budget. "Change here for Docklands Light Railway and City Airport bus link." Not at Canning Town any more, love. And the Central Line voice was telling you to change at Bank for "Network SouthEast" long after it ceased to exist, and long after the Tube had taken over the Waterloo & City Line.

And it's going to spread... soon, there'll be more voices on the buses too, telling you where the bus is going and what's coming up next. "Welcome to night bus N1. This bus is for Thamesmead. The next stop is at the Strand. Please do not be sick on the person next to you. Have a good journey."

Nohari - The Result!!


(known to self and others)

intolerant, cynical, callous

Blind Spot

(known only to others)

insecure, irrational, dispassionate


(known only to self)

withdrawn, impatient, insensitive


(known to nobody)

incompetent, inflexible, timid, cowardly, violent, aloof, glum, stupid, simple, irresponsible, vulgar, lethargic, hostile, selfish, unhappy, unhelpful, needy, unimaginative, inane, brash, cruel, ignorant, distant, childish, boastful, blasé, imperceptive, chaotic, weak, embarrassed, loud, vacuous, panicky, unethical, self-satisfied, passive, smug, rash, overdramatic, dull, predictable, inattentive, unreliable, cold, foolish, humourless

Dominant Traits

100% of people agree that BigFatJohn is intolerant
100% of people think that BigFatJohn is insecure
100% of people agree that BigFatJohn is cynical
100% of people think that BigFatJohn is irrational
100% of people think that BigFatJohn is dispassionate
100% of people agree that BigFatJohn is callous

All Percentages

incompetent (0%) intolerant (100%) inflexible (0%) timid (0%) cowardly (0%) violent (0%) aloof (0%) glum (0%) stupid (0%) simple (0%) insecure (100%) irresponsible (0%) vulgar (0%) lethargic (0%) withdrawn (0%) hostile (0%) selfish (0%) unhappy (0%) unhelpful (0%) cynical (100%) needy (0%) unimaginative (0%) inane (0%) brash (0%) cruel (0%) ignorant (0%) irrational (100%) distant (0%) childish (0%) boastful (0%) blasé (0%) imperceptive (0%) chaotic (0%) impatient (0%) weak (0%) embarrassed (0%) loud (0%) vacuous (0%) panicky (0%) unethical (0%) insensitive (0%) self-satisfied (0%) passive (0%) smug (0%) rash (0%) dispassionate (100%) overdramatic (0%) dull (0%) predictable (0%) callous (100%) inattentive (0%) unreliable (0%) cold (0%) foolish (0%) humourless (0%)

Created by the Nohari Window on 24.2.2006, using data from 1 respondents.
You can make your own Nohari Window, or view BigFatJohn's full data.


...other news items: ecologists have concluded a study into the woodland defecation habits of ursus actos and the Pope has appeared on television discussing his Catholic faith....

Don’t really know what has made me post that. I just seem to find it funny. Sorry about that.

Blair knows his history

This refers to yesterday's blog but was sent to me by an e-mailer. I normally refrain from going back to history that I do not know well and I have some prejudices from the 1940s anyway but this shows what can happen. Very few of the voters really have much idea of manifesto matters and few have the interest to dissect forthcoming legislation. My correspondent saw a possible link, I can see it if I squint a bit. Make up your own minds eh?
The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany's parliament (the Reichstag) on March 23, 1933. It was the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means. The Act enabled Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag.
The formal name of the Enabling Act was Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich ("Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich").

Though the Act had formally given legislative powers to the government as a whole, these powers were for all intents and purposes exercised by Hitler himself; as Joseph Goebbels wrote shortly after the passage of the Enabling Act:

The authority of the Führer has now been wholly established. Votes are no longer taken. The Führer decides. All this is going much faster than we had dared to hope.

Formal cabinet meetings were rare during the whole Third Reich and non-existent during World War II.

It is indicative of the care that Hitler took to give his dictatorship an appearance of legality that the Enabling Act was formally extended twice by the Reichstag (by then a puppet of Hitler) beyond its original 1937 expiration date.

The passage of the Enabling Act reduced the Reichstag to a mere stage for Hitler's speeches. The opposition parties were suppressed or banned, and eventually even the parties making up Hitler's coalition yielded to government pressure and dissolved themselves. On July 14, 1933 the government decreed a law eliminating political parties other than the Nazi Party. By this, Hitler had fulfilled what he had promised in earlier campaign speeches: "I set for myself one aim ... to sweep these thirty parties out of Germany!"

Thursday, 23 February 2006


Debate it as much as you will, but there is a new vitality surrounding blogging. Even the blogs of the depressed and fanatic throw up new words and phrases or give new meaning to familiar old concepts. So much so that there is now a new service that seeks to amplify and explain some of these new forms. Good say I. The idea of a blog is to communicate and anything that assists in that is to be welcomed.


I had chosen yesterday as the winner in the sweep to forecast when this announcement was made


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the United States and Israel on Thursday for the destruction of a Shiite shrine's golden dome in Iraq, saying it was the work of "defeated Zionists and occupiers."

Speaking to a crowd of thousands on a tour of southwestern Iran, the president referred to the destruction of the Askariya mosque dome in Samarra on Wednesday, which the Iraqi government has blamed on insurgents.

"They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice," Ahmadinejad said, referring to the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq.

"These passive activities are the acts of a group of defeated Zionists and occupiers who intended to hit our emotions," he said in a speech that was broadcast on state television. Addressing the United States, he added: "You have to know that such an act will not save you from the anger of Muslim nations."

The bombing set off a string of sectarian attacks in Iraq. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques and at least 19 people were killed.

Abolish Parliament Act

Yes, I know it is scaremongering. Yes, I know it won't come to pass. Tes, I know I'm reading it wrong.

However - just go and look at what this says.

Think of all the Freedom to Irritate The Government laws we have - this could be used to destroy them in one fell swoop.

From Letters to the Times.

Sir, Clause one of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (Comment, Feb 15) provides that: “A Minister of the Crown may by order make provision for either or both of the following purposes — a) reforming legislation; b) implementing recommendations of any one or more of the United Kingdom Law Commissions, with or without changes.”

This has been presented as a simple measure “streamlining” the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, by which, to help industry, the Government can reduce red tape by amending the Acts of Parliament that wove it. But it goes much further: if passed, the Government could rewrite almost any Act and, in some cases, enact new laws that at present only Parliament can make.

The Bill subjects this drastic power to limits, but these are few and weak. If enacted as it stands, we believe the Bill would make it possible for the Government, by delegated legislation, to do (inter alia) the following:

· create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred, punishable with two years’ imprisonment;

· curtail or abolish jury trial;

· permit the Home Secretary to place citizens under house arrest;

· allow the Prime Minister to sack judges;

· rewrite the law on nationality and immigration;

· “reform” Magna Carta (or what remains of it).

It would, in short, create a major shift of power within the state, which in other countries would require an amendment to the constitution; and one in which the winner would be the executive, and the loser Parliament.

David Howarth, MP for Cambridge, made this point at the Second Reading of the Bill last week. We hope that other MPs, on all sides of the House, will recognise the dangers of what is being proposed before it is too late.

Law Faculty,
University of Cambridge

Think of all the burdensome regulation the bill would allow ministers to get rid of:

Magna Carta (1297), c. 29: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold, or liberties, or free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed, nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either justice or right."

Habeas Corpus Act 1679, s. 1: "Whensoever any person or persons shall bring any habeas corpus directed unto any sheriffe or sheriffes gaoler minister or other person whatsoever for any person in his or their custody and the said writt shall be served upon the said officer or left at the gaole or prison with any of the under officers underkeepers or deputy of the said officers or keepers that the said officer or officers his or their under officers under-keepers or deputyes shall within three dayes after the service thereof as aforesaid...make returne of such writt or bring or cause to be brought the body of the partie soe committed or restrained unto or before the lord chauncelior or lord keeper of the great seale of England for the time being or the judges or barons of the said court from whence the said writt shall issue or unto and before such other person and persons before whome the said writt is made returnable according to the command thereof, and shall likewise then certifie the true causes of his detainer or imprisonment ..."

Parliament Act 1911, s. 7: "Five years shall be substituted for seven years as the time fixed for the maximum duration of Parliament under the Septennial Act 1715."

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, s. 58(1): "A person arrested and held in custody in a police station or other premises shall be entitled, if he so requests, to consult a solicitor privately at any time."

Devil on earth

I have been proud to live in Scotland, I have felt welcome and think I regard the Scots as a race with whom I can live at peace. There is always one though that starts off a faint tremor - are there more out there like him?
It was only a few days back I was discussing with a friend whether some people were just so evil and wicked that they should be put to death just as soon as there was the slightest justification. Hopefully, someone in the prison community where he will be held might just share this opinion. I rest my case.

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Oh well - nice idea anyway

This is extracted from a UN report on what the Arab world needs to do.
No need to study it too hard - just look at the section I have emboldened. That is the end of that idea then.

Area's literacy, life expectancy up; income, productivity lag

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Arab countries trail much of the world in economic growth and need to make changes in political and social institutions, but gains have been made in areas such as education and health, according to a U.N.-commissioned study.
Called the Arab Human Development Report 2002 and released Tuesday, the study compiled data over the last year and a half for the U.N. Development Program. It details achievement and stagnation in 22 Arab countries since the 1970s.
"The report was written by Arabs for Arabs," said Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, the U.N. Development Program's assistant administrator and director of the regional bureau for Arab states.
"It's intended to provide an accurate diagnosis of the problems facing the region in order to help find solutions."
Hunaidi said the report concludes that Arab countries "need to embark on rebuilding their societies" on the basis of:
"Full respect for human rights and human freedoms as the cornerstones of good governance, leading to human development";
"The complete empowerment of Arab women, taking advantage of all opportunities to build their capabilities and to enable them to exercise those capabilities to the full";
"The consolidation of knowledge acquisition and its effective utilization. As a key driver of progress, knowledge must be brought to bear efficiently and productively in all aspects of society, with the goal of enhancing human well-being across the region."
The study lists several positive developments.
Life expectancy in the Arab world has increased by 15 years, literacy for adults has doubled, women's literacy has tripled, and mortality rates of children under 5 have dropped by two-thirds, the study said.
The study said the "incidence of dire poverty" is lower than in any region in the developing world.
"Daily caloric intake and access to safe water are higher," said Mark Malloch Brown, the U.N. agency administrator, in a foreword.
"Overall, it shows that Arab states have made substantial progress in human development over the past three decades," Brown said.
The study said the Arab world needs improvements in economic, social and political institutions. It calls for the promotion of good governance by providing more opportunities and freedom and by liberating women and others in need.
"It underlines how far the Arab states still need to go in order to join the global information society and economy as full partners and to tackle the human and economic scourge of joblessness, which afflicts Arab countries as a group more seriously than any other developing region," Brown said.
"And it clearly outlines the challenges for Arab states in terms of strengthening personal freedoms and boosting broad-based citizen participation in political and economic affairs."

Monday, 20 February 2006

Just a bit of balance

This is not pretty but maybe puts some recent events into a real-world perspective. In the first incident, it is clear that the police are acting under instructions.

Unreasonable ranting - beware!

I apologise right now if what follows seems a rag bag of disorganised and disconnected thoughts. For some while, I have had these bugs in my head, or maybe, bats in my belfry and they flit about in a state of some confusion. Going back to the days when it was thought that blood-letting was thought beneficial for one’s fevered health, I’m going to open my mind and let them all free.

So, prepare the tin-foil hats. Switch off the bigot alarm. Suspend belief. Sit back and try to enjoy – or at least, understand. Agreement is not mandatory. Space for comments is provided.

Sharia Law. What’s that all about then? It seems that a survey has established that 40% of Muslims living in this country wish to have areas where Sharia law is paramount. That 40% includes radicals alongside what are termed as moderates. This is a dangerous team. The radicals can shelter behind the moderates secure in the knowledge that the British government will be keen to be seen as having an understanding of foreign cultures. In other words – they will agree to it. Quite a few of our esteemed politicians have problems with our own law in simple areas such as money handling, walking at night in grassed areas, employment of pretty young men and general honesty and it would be reasonable to say that they have not a single fragment of any idea as to what Sharia law may be.

The word Sharia means "the path to a watering hole". It denotes an Islamic way of life that is more than a system of criminal justice. Sharia is a religious code for living, in the same way that the Bible offers a moral system for Christians.

It is adopted by most Muslims to a greater or lesser degree as a matter of personal conscience, but it can also be formally instituted as law by certain states and enforced by the courts. Many Islamic countries have adopted elements of Sharia law, governing areas such as inheritance, banking and contract law.

What does Sharia decree?

Sharia offers a code for living governing all elements of life, from prayers to fasting to donations to the poor. It decrees that men and women should dress modestly, which in some countries is interpreted as women taking the veil and the sexes being segregated.

"Sharia governs the lives of people in ways which are not governed by the law," says Lynn Welchman, director of the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law. "Over 50 countries are members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, and you can expect there will be some form of compliance with sharia - either in people's personal lives or enforced through the courts by the state. A lot of states in the Middle East are taking more elements of sharia into their state laws."

What are Hadd offences?

Within Sharia law, there is a specific set of offences known as the Hadd offences. These are crimes punished by specific penalties, such as stoning, lashes or the severing of a hand. The penalties for Hadd offences are not universally adopted as law in Islamic countries.

Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, claim to live under pure sharia law and enforce the penalties for Hadd offences. In others, such as Pakistan, the penalties have not been enforced. The majority of Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, have not adopted Hadd offences as part of their state laws.

Hadd offences carry specific penalties, set by the Koran and by the prophet Mohammed. These include unlawful sexual intercourse (outside marriage); false accusation of unlawful intercourse; the drinking of alcohol; theft; and highway robbery. Sexual offences carry a penalty of stoning to death or flogging while theft is punished with cutting off a hand.

"This is a system of criminal law which has become a potent symbol of Islamisicing the law," says Dr Welchman. "But there is the question of whether it's actually applied in the countries which have adopted it. There is supposed to be a very high burden of proof, but that clearly often doesn't happen in practice."

Many Islamic countries will have adultery and the drinking of alcohol defined as criminal offences in law, but they are not defined as Hadd offences because they do not carry the Hadd penalty. They are often punishable by a prison term instead.

So, all that seems pretty radical eh? Offences punishable by stoning to death? Amputation of hands – blimey, that makes an ASBO look a bit tame eh? Flogging? Given the current difficulties we have on the interface of the government and the judiciary, even more tumultuous times are ahead.

We might say that Sharia can be adopted within the confines of British law. That would not work as the radicals looked over their parapet and started claiming discrimination. The same argument would be used were we to seek to limit Sharia to certain areas of the country. How would it be adopted as legal – what government review would there be. Who would enforce it – our police or some other body?

That is (more than) enough about Sharia law I reckon. I do not need to know the full clinical description and effects of Lassa Fever to know that I do not want it. So be it with this damned law.

Right to protest. We are still feeling the rumbles of the cartoon capers. Whilst my personal opinion is that this has been a good thing in that it exposes the true nature of our Islamic neighbours in this country, we have opened another thread of disillusion with our police in that they did not act in a more positive manner. We know they can deploy some 17 officers to deal with a small woman reciting the names of soldiers killed in the Iraq war so wonder why clearly illegal banners were displayed. The fact that they were illegal has been confirmed by the police statements that they will seek to identify those who carried them and then seek due process. If the banners incited violence at that time then action should have been taken there and then. Delayed action would only have been justified if the banners said words to the effect “Cut the heads off blasphemers next week end” or were otherwise conditional. Failure to deal with everyone who carried a banner or the failure to convict those prosecuted will strengthen the sense of justification amongst all the demonstrators. Any Padre Blair bleating about law and order procedures having been tightened mean nothing against the background of inaction already shown.

The Police. Having a bad time of it at the moment. In addition to concern at their crowd control procedures we have the ongoing saga of dead Brazilians. This just gets worse day by day. There was the allegation of interference by Commissioner Blair. That seems pretty sure to have happened although we still seem to lack the knowledge as to whether it was laudable in terms of allowing his investigations or to be deprecated if it was meant to protect inefficiency and dishonesty. Much trust was placed in the impartiality and efficiency of an IPCC inquiry but we now hear that the prosecuting authority have questioned much of what they have done and are asking for a rework. Apart from the public disquiet, the delay and uncertainty must be nagging away at police officers of all levels and not just those authorised to carry firearms or required to actually use such weapons in deployment as special units such as SO19 and 18.

This disquiet in the ranks may be exhibiting itself in the question of universal arming of all police officers. The death of one woman officer and the serious wounding of another caused by armed criminals has brought this old chestnut back into debate. It seems that a survey of police officers established that they did not favour being tooled up. Could some of this reluctance be due to concern at what might happen to an officer who used his weapon with effect in circumstances that were later disputed? One might feel that if their duty is to protect the law-abiding citizen, they have a responsibility to be properly equipped to give that protection. If I am in the line of fire of some hopped-up Jamaican yardy I would like something a bit more effective than a 19 year old girl shouting “Keep back – he’s got a gun”. That same female would be much improved in my valuation were she in possession of one of Mr Glock’s products. Maybe the risks of me ‘getting into such a situation are extremely rare’, ‘this country is not America’, ‘police deaths are still very low’ are all trotted out by the police but I am afraid I see them as excuses against positive action rather than valid reasons. There is no need for an officer to draw his weapon until he has made up his mind it is justified but I want him to be able to use a firearm immediately he decides to do so and not have to wait until the heavy mob can be summoned. Surely, it cannot be long before the general publics’ sympathy for dead police officers changes to ‘serve them right – they should have agreed to carry their own protection’

Police? That brings me to those who see themselves as the World Police Force. The Americans. Their approach to terrorists of ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ is coming under more and more pressure. Understandable. However, my suspicious mind sees another agenda here apart from nice cuddly human rights concerns. If the extremists can engineer the closure – or, indeed, any significant changes – they will have won a major victory. No one else will take on the responsibility of looking for, interrogating, forming charges against and then holding in custody any terrorist of whatever sort or background. The sort of warfare that is being waged in the Middle East does not lend itself to the use of witnesses, closed circuit TV, forensic examination in the investigation of crime. Being in possession of firearms is no guide as to terrorist intent in areas where it is a mark of manhood to carry a deadly weapon. Detailed and exhaustive intelligence is needed to sort out the matrix of terror. These same complications preclude trial.

So, while I tend to abhor what they are doing, I do support the idea that someone has to do it and am unable to suggest any alternative. I hear the cry of those with anguish in their heart at the way we are treating our fellow human beings. “What if just one man is innocent and held unjustly?” My universal mantra swings into action – “Shit happens” Of all the injustice, pain, cruelty and downright evil that stalks this world, what the Americans are doing is of little significance. They are willing to accept the consequences of what they are doing – here and, doubtless, in their idea of the hereafter. Thank goodness for that say I.

There, that is about all of my bugs released. I have concerns about bird flu; of course it will hit us and the government will make a cluster-fuck of whatever they decide to do. As for the buffoons who form our present government, they will go their merry way with scarcely a real, down to earth, thought as to what they might do for us – the peons. We have a leader of the Opposition whose fulfilment of the duty of an Opposition – to oppose the government –is ignored in favour of skulking off to change shitty napkins’