Friday, 25 July 2008

I speak your weight

We complain about the current day news readers. Simpering females. Bully boy males.

However, when compared to some we have had in the past, our present-day crop seem faultless.

I spy with my little eye

So, if all this snooping is going on, why do we not read/hear of all the goods recovered, money found and returned to rightful owners?

Could it be that those using the information gained in this manner are so poorly trained and supervised they cannot tell the difference between a garage door and a revolving door?

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And it still does not worry me. Except the cost of the Dead Eye Dicks. 


'Spying' requests exceed 500,000

More than 500,000 official "spying" requests for private communications data such as telephone records were made last year, a report says.

Police, security services and other public bodies made requests for billing details and other information.

Interception of Communications Commissioner Sir Paul Kennedy said 1,707 of these had been from councils.

A separate report criticises local authorities for using powers to target minor offences such as fly-tipping.

Itemised bills

Figures show public bodies made 519,260 requests to "communications providers" such as phone and internet firms for information in 2007.

Under available powers, they can see details such as itemised phone bills and website records. But they are not allowed to monitor conversations.

The total number of requests for last year - amounting to more than 1,400 a day - compared with an average of fewer than 350,000 a year in the previous two years.

In his report, Sir Paul said he believed "local authorities could make much more use of communications data as a powerful tool to investigate crime".


But a separate report, by Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Christopher Rose, criticises the techniques employed by local authorities to deal with minor offences such as fly-tipping or avoiding council tax.

He said some councils had a "tendency to expose lack of understanding of the legislation" and displayed a "serious misunderstanding of the concept of proportionality".

Some authorising officers were inexperienced and suffered "poor oversight", he added.

He called on town halls to invest in properly trained intelligence officers who could operate covertly.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "The commissioners' reports offer valuable oversight and provide reassurance that these powers are being used appropriately.

"These powers can make a real difference in delivering safer communities and protecting the public - whether enabling us to gain that vital intelligence that will prevent a terrorist attack, working to tackle antisocial behaviour or ensuring that rogue traders do not defraud the public."

Urban survival guide

There used to be a load of sites giving advice on what one should do if lifted by the police. Generally prepared by students active when violent demonstrations were the norm. These guides were of variable quality and publishing and distribution was ignored. One might say it was a measure of our democracy that these were not censored. 

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This is a reasonable document and gives good guidance

Thursday, 24 July 2008

New traffic law

Causing Death by Driving Definitive Guideline

The Sentencing Guidelines Council has published a definitive sentence guideline on to be used in matters of causing death by driving:

Judges and magistrates are given a clear message that driving offences that result in death are serious offences and should receive appropriate sentences in a definitive guideline.

Lengthy custodial sentences are recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines Council for cases involving prolonged, persistent and deliberate bad driving or where drivers are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

The use of mobile phones is also treated robustly with the Council advising that if an offender was distracted by a hand-held mobile phone when the offence was committed the offence will be treated as particularly serious.

The Guidelines state that reading or composing text messages over a period of time whilst at the wheel will be likely to result in an offence being in the higher level of seriousness and offenders should serve up to seven years in prison.

Clear advice on driving bans is also given. Magistrates and judges are reminded that disqualifications are effective from the day that they are imposed and will only be of practical effect if they extend beyond the period that will be served in prison.

The definitive guideline covers four offences: causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing death by careless driving and causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers. The latter two offences were introduced by the Road Safety Act 2006 and will come into force on a date to be announced.

For the first three offences, judges and magistrates are advised they will need to assess how bad the driving was and the degree of danger that it created in deciding the level of seriousness. Other issues " largely related to the offenders behaviour " are treated as aggravating factors.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council recommends that prolonged, persistent and deliberate bad driving and consumption of substantial amounts of drugs or alcohol should put offenders into the most serious category of causing death by dangerous driving and be given jail terms of at least seven years.

A combination of these features of dangerous driving " particularly if accompanied by aggravating factors, failing to stop or a very bad driving record - should attract sentences towards the maximum of 14 years.

In dealing with cases of causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs the guideline provides for longer sentences as the degree of intoxication increases, so that sentence levels equate to those for causing death by dangerous driving.

The Council recommends that where death follows careless driving, a custodial sentence of up to 3 years is likely, with higher sentences where there is a combination of aggravating factors. However, where the driving involved momentary inattention? and there were no aggravating factors, an offender should be given a community sentence, which could include a curfew requirement.

Where death results from an offence involving driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured, the maximum sentence possible is two years. The level of seriousness will be based on why the offender should not have been on the road, with driving while disqualified being the most serious when the starting point is set at 12 months imprisonment.

In all cases fines are not likely to be appropriate and where non-custodial sentences are considered appropriate, a community order should be used.

Chairman of the Council Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers said: Sentencing in cases where death results from the misuse of a car on the road are among the most difficult for judges and magistrates.

The harm is the greatest anyone can inflict - the death of a victim - but the level of culpability can range from a flagrant disregard of the safety of other road users to a terrible moment of inattention. This guideline is designed to support sentencers in making the very difficult decisions that face them in these cases.

Fellow Council member Chief Constable Peter Neyroud added: This guideline complements a whole raft of changes in the way death on the road is dealt with from police investigation to prosecution and finally to sentencing.

The new offence of causing death by careless driving recognises the enormous level of harm caused by the offence. This has been welcomed by those representing the families and friends of victims.

The impact of the guideline we have drawn up is that there will be more custodial sentences and community sentences where in the past offenders would almost certainly have received a fine for the same driving behaviour.

This guideline applies to the sentencing of offenders convicted and who are sentenced on or after 4 August 2008 of any of the offences of:

  • causing death by dangerous driving
  • causing death by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • causing death by careless driving
  • causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers

To see further information on this news item follow this link.

Zimbabweewee - pissed upon?

We should all welcome the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare.
This is the first sign of progress in Zimbabwe in eight years of unrelenting political, economic and humanitarian turmoil, and represents hope for that country's future. While this is an important and welcome development, it is however crucial that we do not lose track of the fact that this alone does not automatically put Zimbabwe on the road to recovery.
The signing of this agreement should not be seen to excuse or condone the fact that Robert Mugabe's regime has stolen 4 elections in the last eight years; that it has enforced the systematic and violent repression of its own people, leading to the displacement of at least 200 000 Zimbabweans; and that it has destroyed the Zimbabwean economy, which is currently is teetering on the brink of total collapse on the back of inflation which is running at an unfathomable rate of 2.2 million percent.
As bitter experience has shown, a commitment from Robert Mugabe to take steps to resolve the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe must be treated very carefully; he has a history of breaking agreements and undertakings, and has in the past shown complete disdain for democratic norms and procedures.
For the sake of the people of Zimbabwe and the region as a whole,it can only be hoped that yesterday's transaction will translate into genuine change in Zimbabwe. Attention must now begin so that the hopes of the people of Zimbabwe will be respected and upheld. No one should be under any illusions about just how difficult this process will be, or about the level of vigilance that will be required in order to ensure that Mugabe does not once again frustrate the hope - however small - that this process will lead to real change for the better.
That is the world view of the agreement. Our problem now will be to identify what is a genuine area of change. Plans that will translate into action. The boy Milliband will be faced with giving support to Tsvangirai but ensuring that Mugabe does not hi-jack things and thus attain changes and support that he would never have achieved had he remained isolated. How do we support 50% of a leadership but still control the other 50%?

Obama's Berlin Rally

Nice to see a Berlin rally with a very charismatic speaker where there are no flaming torches and military bands.

They used to do them so well.

A bike, a bike. My Kingdom etc. etc.

Suppose it had to happen really when it is so often in the news. Dear Dave (Tory leader bloke) has had his pedal cycle stolen. Seems he nipped into some fashionable retailer to get the salad bits. On his return with the sun dried and a selection of organics, his trusty steed was gone.
Had he secured it will be asked? Well, sort of. Chain and padlock - best that considerable money could buy, were deployed. He used a bollard. His education in the ways of the great unwashed did not include any lecture or demonstration of just how bike and chain can be lifted to separate goodies from security. We do not know just how hard he would like to hug a hoodie at that exact moment.
Theories as to the identity of the offender are varied. His chauffeur pished at having to motor along behind him? Press minder hoping to keep him out of one way streets and red traffic light signals. The theorising has not included the Opposition. Maybe Gordon wanting to ride about at night to check how many of his subjects recognised him? Little bit of low key electioneering in Glasgow?
Other hotties will intervene before we get the next PMQ after the break or the theft might have been the subject of some cut and thrust banter. We will never know if he loses any part of his no claim bonus or just what the John Lewis price is for a push bike, PM, for use of, suitable.

Country-wide searches are being carried out.

My name is John. I am a racist.

When only just out of my teens, I was in Malaya. This was in the early 1950s. It was still a colonial sort of place. The white man's word was law and all that. I enjoyed a status far above my value. I think that even if I had realised this was wrong, the subject people would not understand any missionary zeal. They accepted status quo. In time, I married and was allocated a house amah (a woman servant) who looked after the housekeeping in our quarter. Later, we recruited a baby amah to be responsible for the day to day care of my infant daughter. We paid them extra so live in so both were available 24/7. As a further example of colonial ways; the house amah was a Chinese woman of about 60 and had been a servant since she was around 12. She it was who explained to my wife - aged 24 - that she should keep the pantry locked and only open it to supervise the withdrawal of stuff needed for housekeeping and meal preparation. Servant born and bred. I cannot think of any relationship in over three years with the indigenous people on a social footing. The rubber planters and tin tappers ran an even more rigorous form of White Man's Word. Ah Chun who found himself dismissed in one end of Malaya would find his cards marked all the way in the other direction.

As a few years passed and I had seen the Union flag lowered a few times in midnight Independence ceremonies, things changed. Skin colour no longer decided who was the Boss. In some places, the change was very noticeable. In Libya around the start of the '60s quite aggressively so. My wife and children were subjected to rude shouts, obscene gestures and indecent exposure. I was shouted at and stoned when walking my dog. This conduct did nothing to cause me to think of making any change in the way I regarded people other than my own race and background. There was little incentive to change; social interaction was still very limited.

In the military family, there was no prejudice. We had soldiers from all backgrounds, countries and pigmentation. These differences did not record. What might pass as insults most dire amongst civilians were traded all the time as brutal and licentious humour. I was free to joke about Abdulrahman keeping his brain in his y-fronts to protect it from the sun. He saw nothing in debating the dubious sexual proficiency of a white soldier. Occasionally, when drink had been taken, things might get a bit edgy but the groups policed themselves.

When I left the service in '74, multiculturalism and racial awareness were stirring. Words like nig*er, co*n, wo* etc. had already gone - even in our private conversations. Thinking about it, I realised I was very definitely a racist. And had been for a long time. I tried to reform but failed and was faced with some way of dealing with this. I had this problem along with adjusting to being a civilian where things all seemed to so much more serious and significant.

I had spent three days in Capetown when on a troopship going the long way round after Nasser blocked the Suez Canal. Not much time for a learning process except that as the ship's policeman I had had to negotiate the release from civil custody of two soldiers who thought that apartheid did not apply to black prostitutes. The punishment of whites under racial discrimination laws caused me to appreciate why they had been introduced. In 1974, I realised that what worked keeping blacks and coloured away from whites could help keep me away from those where confrontation would cause problems for us both. I thought of it as Reverse Apartheid.

I have been able to debate this with three people from diverse origins. Initially, it met with scorn or fierce disapproval but we all persevered and I felt it was a valid way to deal with my problem. It has been extended to include those - irrespective of colour or race - whom I might really upset or insult if I put my mind to it. I try and apply the Reverse Apartheid rule here; I will comment or remark but only in jest. If I am setting out deliberately to confront, I try to make this clear. It does not always work though. So, whilst I might make the suggestion that someone should phone home because their village is looking for it's idiot, this is meant in fun.  Please bear with me. For your part, say what you wish. Choose any word order from back ducks off water.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Glueless Gordon

This is photograph of the moment that a climate protester glued himself to Brown using superglue he had smuggled into 10 Downing Street. Either crap glue or environment protected Teflon Tony's replacement as the couple were disconnected after about 25 seconds or so.

Been nicer if someone had come in with a bucket of water and thrown it over the two as used for copulating dogs!

Wiki or knol?

Google have announced a alternative to Wiki.  They are calling it Knol. Just as I have no idea where 'Wiki' came from. I know not why Knol.

I think I prefer the layout of Knol. In this they have had the advantage of being able to see where Wiki stands and falls.

For what my wishes are worth, I hope it does well and takes off.

A deserved medal from George

A marine working in Afghanistan hears the click as the detonator fires in a hand grenade he has dislodged from a booby trap. He has about 3 seconds to do something. Running is not an option; it would not get him out for killing circle and colleagues would also get injured.

So, what to do? What he does do is thrown himself backwards so that his back-pack covers the grenade. It is all there is between the pain of a big bang and his soft skin and brittle spine. Someone up there was watching over him - maybe St. Peter was a marine.

I am uncertain whether military service attracts this sort of quick-thinking and brave individual or whether it is their training that makes them heroes.

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Take that man's name - he is a hero!!

Devil is in the detail

We expect a great deal from our Police. They already had considerable power to get into our lives; maybe at a time when all we want to do is roll up into a ball and dream of the womb. The anti-terror laws have given them greater influence.

There are times when it seems very easy to blame police officers.  Generally, any fault lies in the policies they have or the way these are administered by senior officers and supervisors. My guest blog is not a blog as such but illustrates what can develop from a seemingly straight forward course of action. A copper doing what we would want him to do I suppose.

There is another shadow over the events described. More and more, police are having to resolve confrontations by using firearms. Far greater potential for any error or excess of zeal leading to funerals. It seems that almost any shooting of recent months gets into the public domain with an impression that there was a police cock-up. 

Events like the traffic incident highlight that police can make mistakes. The average civilian will draw the conclusion that if they cannot get the easy things correct, what chance the really serious parts of their duty will be done by the book? And, can we be sure the book is properly written and read?

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It is not easy being a policeman

Every picture tells a story

These are photographs of victims of fatal knife attacks. There are rules and laws that prohibit me making any comment after viewing the main information from these images.

This gravestone Not Licensed For Dancing

This from John Hurst - a Grauniad columnist.

Simon Jenkins does not know what he is talking about in his eulogy of Thatcherism.

Among the issues that he and other approvers of the "Thatcher Revolution" seem oblivious of is the debasing of our comparatively decent pre-existing culture in politics, business and the public services. There is also the historically grave danger of taking Thatcher at her own valuation – "tough but tender", "insensitive and hard-hearted at times" but ultimately "liberating and enriching", and so on.

In the 1980s I was a senior manager at the headquarters of a (then) publicly-owned industry, British Rail, reporting to a director appointed by a Thatcherite cabinet minister. I observed and experienced deeply destructive and even pathological "leadership styles" quite openly and deliberately practised on the grounds that "empowerment of staff is stupid" and that only "disempowerment will deliver" – funk would breed compliance.

Such aphorisms as: "It doesn't matter what is true or fair, what matters is who has the power", "I don't give a shit about people's welfare or their families", and "You'd better not care if you know what's good for you". Such admonitions as: "You must learn to tell lies and destroy people if they get in the way", "Community responsibility is shit" (that word again!), "We can't afford safety", "You must break promises", "You must be prepared to breach confidentiality if business success requires it", "You must pretend to espouse good employment practice, such as having women in senior positions, but not actually do so", "You must pretend to communicate with staff but not actually do so"!

A general atmosphere of cynicism, mendacity, ruthlessness and crude assumptions regarding human motivation (certainly not borne out by research in contemporary depth psychology), which one was required to rejoice in, such as the exclusive efficacy of fear and avarice as motivators, polluted the culture. This inexorably led to the carnage of Clapham Junction, Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar. It also led to the diminishing of any chance of the true aetiology of these avoidable disasters (avoidable since the equipment defects were already known of but not spoken of because of pressure from the corporate "minister of truth") or of any chance of anybody taking responsibility. "Keeping the lid on" became mandatory.

Coming to work became a miserable experience, surrounded as one was by crude self-seeking, a lack of concern for the general good, chronic fear, no solidarity, inclusiveness or fellowship and a cackling contempt for the weak.Any challenge to the notion that this was how to build business success led to obliteration, in what became a species of totalitarianism – the undeclared decree of Thatcher, as her more humane and public-spirited cabinet colleagues discovered to their serious discomfiture – many having supported her at first.

All this occurred under Jenkins' nose, since he was a board member for at least part of the time – though my attempts to speak to him about my concerns were rebuffed.

Well, if the mere Gordon Brown suggestion of a State Funeral for Lady Thatcher fetches up this much bile, it has been a good thing. My opinion - gained from a very similar background as the man Hurst is very different. We had just had the working week of this manufacturing company dictated by a mad coal-miner. Unions were running riot. Employers were seeing their rights to run their company circumscribed by those who wanted everything - not just something - for nothing. What she did was create a climate where a reversal could begin. I have no recollection of her advocating any of the things he complains of.

And, tell me, why did Hurst stay in a position that caused him all this pain and anguish. When did he say, to the despots who made him such a nasty person, "up with this I shall not put"? There was no Nurnberg defence of being made to do it.
Those who try and make things work in the Middle East have a hard lesson to swallow.
In the face of this sort of thing, even "The Great Northern Ireland Peacemaker" has little chance. Maybe he needs to recruit Leo?
Newspaper reports tucked away below the fish and chip prices reveal that when horse riders are looking for a good show-jumping mount, they check the amount by which a horse can tuck-up the front legs.

"Just like some people can do the splits and others can't, so some horses are very flexible and can bring their back legs up much higher than others.

"Conversely, the front leg was not thought to be genetically linked and is very trainable. This means most horses can be trained to develop a good 'forelimb tuck'. What this research has shown is that the trainer is as important as the horse," she said.

The horses used in the study, which was presented at the Sixth International Conference on Equine Locomotion in Cabourg, were all aged between three and five years old and had sold for between 5,000 euro (£3,969) and 60,000 euro (£47,633)"

Research? That means they spent good money and time checking something. Am I the only one to remember when a famous trainer and rider was castigated for training his mounts by getting them to jump a bar to which hedgehog skins had been nailed?

Don't know much about training horses but what I know about training dogs is that it is really very simple if one reinforces natural actions and instincts.

Israeli Government can see through Bullshit

Why bother with the monkey when you’ve got a direct line to the organ grinder?’
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New legacy looks as if it will be one of cutting and running?

Corporative corruption.

This comes from the Grauniad. Not my paper of choice but I dip in now and again when some big shark cruises close to my interest. I was looking for their - and their correspondents' - take on the murderer with the Grock The Clown hairdo and unspeakable name. I came across this - no point in linking as it comes from their signed-in subscriber area.

This is penned by a Tory MEP politician so just make sure you have a modicum of salt nearby. 

"In the current climate, MPs can do nothing right. So it is perhaps inevitable that there should be complaints about the fact that they are rising today for an eleven-week recess.
I wish critics would make their minds up. If MPs are as hopeless as their detractors keep claiming, surely it's in the national interest that they be kept away from Westminster.

I mean this quite seriously. I am hugely attracted to the idea that sessions should be kept short to discourage unnecessary legislation. It happens in Switzerland and in several US states. For a long time, Texas operated an ingenious system where its state congressmen could sit for longer if they chose, but could not claim their modest attendance allowances after 60 days. The European Parliament has also risen. But, unlike virtually every national assembly, it'll be back before August is out. Why? For the allowances of course!"

Going deeper, I found this by the same columnist. Dog does eat dog it seems. Maybe if there is a journalistic bone they are after?

"Especially popular at this time of year are the Euro-MPs who represent the Riviera, Tuscany or the Spanish littoral. You see, if you can get another MEP to invite you somewhere on "official" parliamentary business, you can bill the European Parliament (at least up to a limit of €3,600 a year). So widespread is this practice that simply mentioning that you're going somewhere is taken as a coded pitch for an invitation. 

I happened to tell a French colleague that I was going to be in his home region in August. "Splendid," he said, "just let me know the dates and I'll sort you out with a letter." No, no, I said: I mean, I'm going there on holiday. "Oui, tout à fait. I'll get one of my mayors to invite you."

Business will resume with debates on the wickedness of commerce.

Ill met by moonlight

Maybe this explains why the burglary rate in America is so much lower per thousand that it is here in UK.

Not a lot of need to call for police assistance seems to be the answer?

I'm free

Well, I've been free for almost 24 hours and no sign of pursuit from the Aged Ladies Club.  I've been playing my Leonard Cohen tracks - he normally winds them up quite a bit. His attitude to love is deprecated it seems.

Well, that is how it was in the '60s when sex precautions solely consisted of not telling her your right name.

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What really concerns me is how did this guy get inside my head - he knows exactly what I think and feel on this topic. See if it works for you.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The wanderer returns

After much trial and experiment with rival blogging machines, I am back here. Much of the charm of the application lies in those who use it. Many programming frustrations, slow running of servers and changes can be borne if the quality of the material is good enough. Conversely, rubbish posts will annoy regardless of the machine that drives things. I have just walked away from a good site because of the quality of the members. To summarise, it was like working with few posters who were frightened of any intrusion of the real world into their Victorian salon lest it disturb the covering on the table legs. Any small announcement - "my cat has just had six kittens" - would draw traffic of congratulations one might expect had a mouse given birth to an elephant. 'Ohhs' and 'aahs' would be scattered like church precinct confetti. Smileys were there in scores together with what - to me - must be the most inane set of letters on the surface of this earth - lol. Nothing more - just bloody lol. What sort of comment is that? I tried - I really did. Making a comment in jest about a member so as to drawn them out failed when they called for explanations or debated the joke as if it were a serious contribution. Loss of sense of humour on Hanoverian proportions.

So, here I am safe in the arms of Blogger. No one reads what I write. No one comments on anything. Safe as houses.

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As I see my return as a significant occasion, I have selected a guest blogger of standing. Fred Reed. Not afraid to stick his neck out as we see today