Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Handy to Know

An Islamic court in Nigeria has banned a civil rights group from holding an internet debate about amputation as a form of punishment.
In accordance with the Qur'an and several hadith, someone found guilty of theft may be punished by the amputation of hands or feet, depending on the number of times it was committed and depending on the item of theft.
The Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria started a Twitter feed; blog and Facebook debate so "Nigerians could air their opinions on Sharia law as a whole".
The ban was initially sought by the Association of Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria, a pro-Sharia group based in the northern city of Kaduna, on the basis those forums and internet sites would mock the Sharia system.
Seemingly, a few years back some guy got his hand chopped off for stealing a cow. Fair enough. Could have been worse. Could have been a bull.
What’s there to mock?
As I always say
“When in Rome, wear a toga.”
“When in Kaduna, keep your hands in your pockets.”
If that’s allowed that is.
It would be handy to know.

Some Thugs Are More Equal Than Others

Two teenagers have now been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with the death of 64-year-old David Askew who collapsed and died in the garden of his Greater Manchester home after being harassed.
A post-mortem examination has failed to establish the cause of Mr Askew's death and further tests will be carried out, police said.
How different this response to the that of the ongoing cover-up in London, involving some of their own.

This Thursday will mark a year since the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson after a police assault at the G20 protests. Not surprisingly, no charges have been brought against any police officer. Despite 300 official complaints about the policing of the protests on 1 April, backed-up by any amount of video and photographic evidence, no officer has faced serious disciplinary proceedings.
The state-sponsored thugs who took to the streets that day, removed their identification numbers, assaulted peaceful protesters and bystanders alike, and then repeatedly lied through their teeth about what had happened. They did so in the knowledge that, if history is anything to go by, they could do so with immunity.

Only a week before last year’s demo, the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, published a damning report on the policing of protest. And although, Police chiefs insisted that they took the report seriously, the Met deployed those very tactics a week later.
They will say the same later this week when the Association of Chief Police Officers publish a draft manual for policing protests. But any assurance that the days of assaulting protesters are over should be taken with a pinch of CS gas.

The problem for the ‘Thugs in Uniform’ is that once they’ve kicked the shit out of someone they have to try justify it. And it’s worrying the lengths that they’ll go to.
In a recent case, at Isleworth Crown Court, Plod was again caught out. This time the protester in the dock, Jake Smith, was charged with violent disorder at a protest outside the Israeli embassy. Plod said that Smith had thrown a stick at him and produced video footage as evidence to support this. Smith however, found some material on YouTube that told a different story. ‘Plod the Punisher’ stuck to his guns though, denying that he had any more footage of the incident. But, you’ll be surprised to hear, two days before the case was to be heard, he had to admit that he did have a further seven and a half hours of video that he had inexplicably been unaware of. Unfortunately for Plod, this showed that Smith was innocent.Seemingly a big boy did it and ran away.
It is surely reasonable to ask how the video evidence that the police planned to introduce to the court showed that Smith was guilty.
Would it be unreasonable to suggest that, once they beat the fuck out of Smith, they did a bit of selective editing to put him “in the frame” as they say in the wonderful world of ‘cut and paste’.
Still, they’re not all like this.

When a Nottinghamshire police officer caused two deaths in June, the police immediately reported themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and launched their own investigation.
Officers paid due tribute by saluting the flowers left outside police headquarters. There was no attempted cover-up. No cynical manipulation of the press. No lies about the victims or their families. The officer responsible was charged. He was convicted over the deaths.
The conviction was for neglect, when two police dogs died after being left in the back of a cop car, forgotten by the chump in charge of them.
A head plod told the baying hacks from the media: "We will certainly take any lessons we can get from this process and make sure we put them in place so this sort of thing never happens again. It has caused immense sadness and immense shock." Poor wee souls.
For the sake of the police pooches we can only hope that they do.
As for the rest of us?
The Met have never bothered their arse to apologise to Mr Tomlinson's family.
Don’t hold your breath.

Samovar Here for the Beer

I was watching one of those ‘Worlds Wildest Cops in Cars Fighting Road Wars with Cameras’ police reality shows the other night. It was a British one. You can tell because the car chases don’t involve 40 police cars. And compared to some of the mayhem we see from the States, they are generally more sedate affairs. Although, in recent years they’ve been fair perked up by eastern European lorry drivers, tired and emotional after a long journey from the 1930s.
Anyway, there was one segment of this particular episode that was quite illuminating.
A couple of down and outs are shuffling along the street. One is carrying an old bag with copper piping in it.
Sensing that the crime of the century may have just been committed, the police car pulls up and the bold ‘boys in blue’ jump out.
After ascertaining that the couple, for indeed they were a man and woman, had got the few bits of scrap from a skip there was no crime. They were on their way to sell it and buy some cider. This pair were particularly down on the sartorial stakes and out when it came to personal hygiene. There was no way that they were going in the back of polis car. And so they were sent on their way to their shiny apple oblivion.
But here’s the thing. When they were asked where they came from, the reply was Russia.
Now I can see why there are Russian businessmen here. They have tons of money.
I can see why Russian gangsters are here. They have tons of money.
But, Russian tramps!

Now, I’m not advocating that the police should have huckled them and phoned immigration. It’s not as though they were screwing the Social for thousands or jumping the queue to get a Daily Mail (that might be house – I’ll have to check.) But how on earth did they get here? I wouldn’t like to think to think that they were coming over here and taking jobs from our alkies. Has Britain become a soft touch for foreign connoisseurs of super lager?
On the other hand, is there some sort of Alky exchange scheme between us and the Russians that I don’t know about?
If there is then I’m all for it.
Cultural exchange of any kind can only be good.
It would be nice to think that while this pair was imbibing in the fruits of Somerset, a couple our winos were in Moscow sampling the delights of Château Tattie, while asking passers by if they can spare a thousand Roubles for  чашка чая.

Blairian Visitations

So it looks as though the election’s over before it’s started.
Taking some time off from the ‘Tony Blair Faith Foundation’ and his mission to globalise religion, St Anthony of Blair has appeared to the faithful to give his blessing to Gordon Britain’s continued mission to take us forward into the new dark ages.
Any party that can get the backing of someone who sold honours for cash, determined policy based on donations, took the country into an illegal war, lied to Parliament and was eventually pressured into resigning by his own party - just has to be on to a winner.

"I don't think people can believe that he was actually amongst us." said one believer at the Trimdon Labour Club in County Durham. If I ever go there, remind me that “here be loonies.”

In his best bible-belt drawl, he spoke to the politically insane about "The way we are coming through the crisis ... We are not out of the woods yet; but we are on the path out.”
What do you mean “we”?
This is the guy with the messiah complex who, when signing the White House guest book, put his home address as ‘Jerusalem’.
We should of course be happy that, in between dodging taxes and talking to himself in the Holy Land, that he has taken the time to back old Cyclops Stalin. A sure-fire vote winner.
So, another round of draconian laws and blow-jobs for bankers then.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Good As You, Sir!

Speaking at a US Senate hearing on allowing gay people to serve openly in the US military, former Supreme Allied Commander, US General John Sheehan, has claimed that Dutch forces failed at Srebrenica because of poor morale over openly gay soldiers.
He said Dutch leaders had told him that the presence of gay soldiers had contributed to the Bosnian massacre.
Dutch officials have, not surprisingly, rejected Sheehan’s claims as rubbish and told him to ram them where no soldier has boldly gone before.
He will certainly get the support of Neo-Christian Right "Family Value" politicians.
He might though, want to follow the example of an earlier military mental-man, a certain Field Marshal Heinrich Himmler who, in the 1930's, created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion (here’s me thinking they were mutually exclusive but, there you go.)
And just to gee things along a bit they might consider some night getting hold of some long knives and . . .

Personally, I’m all for Gays in the military. Why should they get to stay at home discussing  cushions and curtains while the rest of us are dodging bullets and spending long, lonely nights in foxholes?

Fifa Copyright the World, the Universe and Everything

A South African budget airline has pulled its tongue-in-cheek advert after Fifa complained that it infringed its trademark during the 2010 World Cup.'s ad described the firm as the "Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What". It also contained pictures of stadiums, vuvuzelas and national flags.

A statement from football's august world governing body said, "For the record, FIFA did not tell Kulula that they could not use soccer balls, or the word 'South Africa', or the Cape Town stadium, or the national flag or vuvuzelas,"
It was the combination of these elements which were banned, the statement said.

Good to see that they have their priorities right and aren’t wasting time sorting out:
The cheats in the game, like Thierry Henry
The increasing amount of overpaid Nancy-boy players who seem to have every nerve end in their body somehow attached to their face
The incompetent match officials who will spectacularly make an arse of it during the forthcoming competition
Sepp Blatter

Just for the record:

Her's the name

'South Africa'

And here’s a picture of

A Soccer Ball

and Cape Town Stadium

and The National Flag of South Africa

and People with Vuvuzelas

Bring it on Fifa.

Cock of the North

'Man Assaulted Officer With Penis' the headline read.

But alas the image of plod being pummelled by a massive pecker was cruelly crushed. 
The story was about a drunken Lithuanian in Aberdeen who tried to strike a WPC on the head with his penis when she was called out to a disturbance at his flat. 
She did get of the way in time.

Cuairt Criochnachaidh Cupa CIS

In many areas of the Highlands, such as here in Lochaber, radio listeners depend on FM as the AM programme is so bad as to be non-existent. As it is there are two FM frequencies that Radio Scotland broadcasts on. One carries the mainstream programming in English, while the other opts out for the most part to broadcast programmes in Gaelic from Radio Nan Gaidheal
A good idea on the face of it.

But it wouldn’t be BBC Scotland if they didn’t get it wrong.
Here’s the latest example.

The CIS Cup Final between St Mirren (from Paisley) and Rangers (from Glasgow) was covered live, in Gaelic, on the Gaelic FM frequency. The other FM frequency broadcast the usual mainstream programming.
So if you live in Lochaber, where there’s no AM reception and you don’t speak Gaelic, then you could forget turning to the radio to follow the match. And you would have been far from being alone.
For although Lochaber has a high percentage of people who speak Gaelic within it’s population, the vast majority do not.

Still you could watch it on BBC 1 Scotland. Here though, even with the all-singing, all-dancing digital format, you couldn’t get the commentary in Gaelic.
It’s not as though the folks in the Lochaber don’t have digital telly. The place is fair infested with satellite dishes.

For the BBC it’s matter of geography not culture. Two things that they consistently show they know nothing about. Knowledge-based decisions and less jumping through politically correct hoops every time Adolf McTeuchter shouts would go some way to providing the service that they are supposed to.  

Sinn Die

A former Sinn Fein councillor has been ordered to pay Celtic Football Club £48,056 over hundreds of unpaid match tickets and season books dating back to 2008. The club raised a civil action against Martin McManus after he failed to pay for tickets.
Quite right too.
It's only fair that “Money for the Cause” works both ways.

From Riches to Rags

It was once described as “a licence to print money.” Now ITV/STV can’t even make a regional news programme because it’s too expensive.

The Scottish News Consortium which is made up of DC Thomson, the Herald and Times Group, Johnston Press and Tinopolis (part owned by private equity company Vitruvian Partners), has been chosen as the preferred bidder for the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) to produce regional news for STV – Shite Television for those who’ve never seen it.
SNC’s newspaper titles include Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman, The Herald, Sunday Herald, The Evening Times, The Sunday Post, The Beano and The Dandy

Along with television SNC are being tasked with delivering local news content across the web, mobile, and other new platforms.  

The independent (sic) selection panel led by Richard Hooper seems to have got all excited about how television, local newspapers, the internet and local radio could work together in new and interesting ways. Those new and interesting ways may well be the delivery of all your news from newspaper groups with a common political agenda who have seen the sales of their rags plummet over the last few years. Not because of the internet. Rather because, they are tired and poor imitations of what good journalism is.
In the case of The Sunday Post - name one hard scoop it has ever broke (‘Oor Wullie Gets a New Bucket’ aside.)

Mr Hooper is also taken by the “strong proposals for regional, local and hyperlocal/community news.” We can now expect the ‘Central Belt’ to be renamed ‘Hyperlocal’ any day now.

The fear is that these pilots, once started, won’t be easily reversed, as they test new ways of providing news, and pump in an initial subsidy from the BBC licence fee, worth £40m over two years.
I doubt that they can ever graduate from public subsidy to become self-financing and there’s little doubt that SNC hope that the subsidy will be continued after two years.

Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, (a guy with a Degree in German, who use to be a reporter and a less than successful Minister for Health,) is sure that it is a good idea.
Listen if this was a good idea they would role it out in London and the Home Counties.  

The Conservatives are opposed in principle to using public money to subsidise the regional news on Channel 3 and have said they will examine whether the scheme can be scrapped if they win the forthcoming General Election. It’s not a reason to vote for them but, if enough of the rest of you do . . .

Here’s the thing – I don’t want any of my licence money going to fund any sort of programme on the piss-poor commercial STV. I’ve seen the news on STV. Fuck knows where they spend the money! They have an obligation to provide regional news; if they can’t honour that obligation then they should fuck off and let others run the company.
End of story.

Well, probably not . . .

Porky Telling Plod Gets 'Out of Jail' Card

I’ve heard some excuses in my time for not sending bent coppers to jail.
This time it was because it would cost too much to protect him from other prisoners.
Jeff McDermid, 42, admitted inducing a confession, attempting to get a sheriff to accept false evidence and providing false evidence to Northern Constabulary's professional standard and conduct unit.
At Inverness Sheriff Court, Sheriff Ian Abercrombie sentenced him to 240-hours community service as an alternative to jail.
The sheriff said McDermid had brought the reputation of Northern Constabulary into disrepute.
Likewise the sheriff - as far as the criminal justice system is concerned.

They're Having a Lava

The Dettol Advert says:

“Some bacteria are almost indestructible. They can even survive in lava. So think how easily the bacteria in your kitchen can survive.”

Bacteria that survives in lava?
Bollocks! I hear you cry.
And despite some confusion on the matter – you’d be right.

Now you might have heard that ‘Bacteria’ have been found close to molten lava and deep sea vents, where they utilize the heat.

The extremophile known as Archaebacteria are the oldest organisms living on the earth. They are unicellular prokaryocytes and belong to the kingdom, Archae. They were first discovered in 1977 and classified as bacteria. But, although they appear like bacteria when observed under the microscope, Archaebacteria are quite different from bacteria and eukaryotic organisms.
Archae survive in environments such as volcanic sea vents releasing sulphide-rich gases, hot springs or boiling mud around volcanoes at temperatures up to about 113C.
However, the temperature of lava is generally between 700°C-1,200°C

So bollocks and weasel words all round.

Two things to bear in mind:

Millions of years of evolution would suggest that Archaebacteria are unlikely to be living on your general kitchen surfaces.

All forms of archaebacteria are non-pathogenic.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Get Them In (Again)

Leading whisky supplier Whyte & Mackay is re-appearing before MSPs following concern over the case it made against plans for minimum drink pricing. And Tesco will be joining them.

Whyte & Mackay’s chief executive John Beard told Holyrood's health committee it would have to cut 300 jobs if the SNP government move was implemented.
But when these figures were thought a bit dodgy, the company later had to admit this scenario was based on a UK-wide introduction of minimum pricing.

Meanwhile, Tesco corporate affairs manager Tony McElroy will also be asked to clarify his comments to the committee, where he expressed reservation about the policy. Fair enough but, evidence given by senior Tesco director David North, to a House of Commons select committee stated that the company was in favour of minimum pricing.

Postal Quality (sic) Testing Rigged

So, the postal watchdog is considering taking action against Royal Mail after finding their so-called quality tests had been rigged.

Postcomm, got a tip-off, and found that, in some areas, the addresses involved in testing deliveries had been passed on to staff. Staff had also learned to recognise test mail by looking for the microchip used to identify test mail which could be felt through the covering. This allowed them to search for the relevant items and they were able to prioritise them to ensure they arrived on time.

It gets worse

In a statement, a Royal Mail apologist said:
"Following investigations by Royal Mail and Postcomm into allegations concerning quality of service measurement, primarily in local mail operations in the Motherwell area - announced last year - both Royal Mail and Postcomm found that there has been no material impact whatsoever on Royal Mail's Quality of Service figures."

So there you have it.
Even when they cheat it makes no difference to the service. So what’s the point of the quality testing?

Fine By Me

Imagine you entered the ‘Dragon’s Den’ television programme with a proposal that depended on a seemingly endless supply of people willing to break the law on an improbable scale as the basis of your money making scheme, you just might just get laughed off the show.

You surely couldn’t find such people.
Well – You could.
They are known as motorists. And they simply won’t stop breaking the law when it comes to the speed limit.

A camera on the M6 near Carlisle, installed along with cones, barriers and signs as part of a system to protect workers carrying out repairs, is expected to net £168,000 from fines issued up to last week.
In total, 5,569 motorists were caught breaking the 50mph limit. But because of limited resources, only those driving faster than 60mph - about 2,800 people - will be prosecuted.

Claire Armstrong, co-founder of the Pressure group Safe Speed- which campaigns against the use of speed cameras – had a different, if predictable, take on it saying,
"We're pretty disgusted. It's obviously got nothing to do with road safety.”
But in this case however, we’re talking about the safety of motorway workers. And you would like to think that driver might consider this. But they don’t. They drive up each other’s arses like myopic sheep.

She added, "You don't measure safe driving in miles per hour"
But driving through a half a mile of roadworks at 70mph rather than 50mph saves you all of ten seconds. Not even enough time to make a call on your mobile.

She also claimed that, "The fact it's raising so much revenue will add to the police/public divide and continue to make people believe it's just about making money."
But it’s the law! You have the choice whether to break it or not.

Using the dodgy ploy of analogy, Safe Speed poses the following on their website:

“Would you use a hammer to fix a clock?”
“Would you use a speed camera to improve road safety?”
“Neither would we. They are both the wrong tool for the job”.

On the other hand:

Would you use a hammer to fix a clock?
Depends on the size of the clock e.g. the Great Clock of Westminster.
Would you use a speed camera to improve road safety?
Maybe not. But I might use it to penalise drivers who break the law and raise a few quid at the same time.
So might we. They may in these circumstances be the right tools for the job

If organisations such as Safe Speed can produce scientific evidence to support their case – then the Government should listen. But if drivers continue to get caught speeding there will be little incentive for cash-strapped councils to remove the cameras.

What would Walter Arnold make of it all? Walter, of East Peckham in Kent, was the first person to be convicted of speeding in the UK. On January 28, 1896 he was fined for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thus exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h). He was fined 1 shilling plus costs.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Animal Crackers

 Switzerland referendum on providing lawyers for animals” read the headline. 
“Great news” I thought, “They’re bringing back animal trials. I‘ll watch that.”

Alas this was not the case. It was something more sensible. Which is a shame because; there was once a fine tradition of animal trials, especially in Western jurisprudential history.

Dogs, pigs, cows, moles, mice, rats, snakes, birds, snails, worms, grasshoppers, caterpillars, termites, various types of beetles and flies, and other unspecified insects and “vermin” have all ended up before the beak on charges ranging from murder to obscenity. Conducted with full ceremony of evidence heard on both sides, witnesses called and in some cases legal aid and a lawyer being appointed at the tax-payer's expense to conduct the defence

Although allegedly practiced in enlightened ancient Greece, the oldest surviving confirmation of the secular prosecution of an animal in Western Europe was in 1266 with the trial and execution of an infanticidal pig in Fontenay-aux-Roses in France.

Historically, pigs feature prominently in the dock.

In 1386, in Falaise, also in France, one was tried and executed for causing a child’s death as the result of mangling the child’s face and arms. The court further sentenced the pig to have her head and upper limbs maimed before being dressed in clothes and hung, by the town's official hangman, in the public square. The village commemorated the execution with a fresco painted on a wall in the south transept of the local Church of the Holy Trinity.

   The Infanticidal Falaise Pig

In 1457, in Savigny-sur-Etang (France again), a sow and her six piglets were imprisoned and tried for the murder of a five-year-old boy. The sow was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged by her hind legs to a gallows tree. Her offspring though, were pardoned, owing in part to their youth and the bad example set by their mother.

Seemingly the porkers didn’t do themselves any favours in court either. 

An animal that remained quiet and respectful during proceedings would, receive a certain measure of consideration for it’s demeanour. On the other hand, pigs were notoriously disrespectful. Grunting, squealing and trying to poke their noses through the bars of the prisoner’s box didn’t go down well with the bench. Disorderly conduct of this kind often told against them when it came to sentencing.

Feral animals would also fall foul of the courts. In their case it was usually the ecclesiastical version that sorted them out.

In 1519, the commune of Stelvio (Italy) prosecuted a group of local moles who, in their burrowing, had damaged some crops. The moles were given 14 days to evacuate the fields.
In such cases, if animals failed to leave, they were likely to be anathemised. The animals, thus excommunicated, were considered damned. And if a Holy ASBO didn’t teach them, I don’t know what would.

When the persecution of people (that you didn’t like) for witchcraft became the new Rock ‘n’ Roll in Western Europe, animals were tried by a secular court on charges of supernatural behaviour. A cock was burned at the stake for laying an egg that, if hatched, would yield a basilisk. An egg most useful in witchcraft no doubt. 
And lest we forget the Colonies – in Salem, Massachusetts (surprise, surprise), one dog was hanged after she was “strangely afflicted,” and another was killed after she was accused of afflicting others, who apparently fell into fits the moment she looked at them.

In Switzerland itself, in 1906, a father and son team along with their dog were convicted of robbery and murder. The court sentenced the two men to life in prison. The dog however, was considered to be the chief culprit without whose complicity the crime could not have been committed. It was sentenced to death.

Animal Trials.

Those were the days.

Minimum Truth on Minimum Pricing

In the saga of the SNP’s policy for the minimum pricing of alcohol in Scotland, it was only a matter of time before the distillers converted the fear of a drop in profits into the threat of job losses.

John Beard, chief executive of Glasgow-based Whyte & Mackay has told Holyrood's health committee that minimum pricing would lead to significant job losses across their distilleries, bottling plant and distribution centres.
"We anticipate that our bottling plant in Grangemouth, which employs 200 people, would close," said Mr Beard.
"Our production levels would also be affected so there would be a knock-on effect at our distilleries - our best estimate is that another 100 jobs would be at risk."
This was followed by a threat to ministers, that if Whyte & Mackay were to lose that many jobs, and lose that significant profit, there would be no way that they could continue working with government to fund and promote responsible drinking initiatives. Something I hope they threaten the Chancellor with the next time hikes up the price at the budget.

Is that much supermarket whiskey drunk in Scotland that minimum pricing would close a bottling plant and cost 300 jobs?

Of course not.

It would appear though, that even though minimum pricing is being advanced by the Scottish Government for Scotland only, Whyte and Mackay’s assertion regarding job losses is based upon an assessment of what might happen if minimum pricing was introduced across the UK.
Still, better we know this after the committee hearing than be left thinking than the distillers had been deliberately trying to mislead Parliament and the people of Scotland. Not to mention unnecessarily suggesting to many in it’s workforce that they would lose their jobs.

Another argument made against minimum pricing was that it will affect people on fixed incomes (Nu-Labour Speak for the poor.) These people, not surprisingly, are the most likely to buy cheaper alcohol. So why not just call them “out target market” and be done with it?

What really discriminates against the less well off when it comes to buying alcohol is Excise Duty, and in particular, the VAT which is levied on the cost price (including the excise duty!).
Both force the producer or seller to recover the tax by raising the price paid by the buyer. But, as the amount of excise duty remains the same (acting in fact like a minimum price) it’s interesting to see just what this means for the tax on cheaper ‘own brand’ whiskey.

On a standard size and strength bottle (70cl and 40%abv) with a retail price of £10 there is £6.34 excise duty plus £1.49 VAT totalling £7.83 which is 78% of the retail price.

On the same bottle with a retail price of £30 the excise duty remains the same at £6.34 but, the VAT is now £4.47 giving a total of £10.81. This though is only 36% of the retail price.

But if you can afford to splash out a £100 for a bottle you’ll only be getting stung for just 21% tax.

So there you have it - the more you can afford to pay for your whisky the less tax you pay as a percentage of the cost.

Cheap booze my arse.