Bloody local newspapers

I’ve long been a fan of dogs, and I’ve long been a non-fan of stupid laws. Which means that I have fairly strong feelings towards the Dangerous Dogs Act, which is both a bad/stupid law in an of itself, and bad because of the way it treats dogs and their owners.

But worse that said stupid law is the way that people try and tell you that it’s bad because it’s not stupid enough. Like my local free newspaper, the Lewisham & Catford edition of the News Shopper. Which is currently running a really annoying campaign called SHOP A DOG.

News Shopper is running a series of features on dangerous dogs and we need YOUR help to get the law changed to make our parks and neighbourhoods safer for everyone.

SHOP A DOG is News Shopper’s new campaign to bring justice to the victims of dog attacks and help prevent further maulings across south-east London and north Kent.

According to NHS statistics, at least 163 people have been injured by dogs in the News Shopper area in the last two years, leaving some victims with horrific wounds while many irresponsible dog owners have got off scott free.


Don’t get me wrong; being attacked by a dog cannot be a good thing. But pressing for new laws is not the answer; the last dangerous dog around here was dealt with entirely legally: it ended up being shot repeatedly with a shotgun. If the law allows the police to shoot dogs that they have contained within a house in a residential street, I suspect that the law is probably tough enough.

But the News Shopper doesn’t end with wanting a harsher law, they want the following:

- Increase the sentence for owning a banned dog – in line with carrying a knife.

– Extend the law to include dog attacks on private land – therefore protecting workers such as postmen and carers.

– Increase the prison sentences for owners convicted of allowing their dog to attack humans.

– Force all Staffordshire Bull Terriers to wear a muzzle in public.

– Simplify the court process so that banned dogs can be destroyed immediately.

Shall I deal with those one by one?

  1. Part the first, the rules for carrying knives are ridiculous, so calling for other laws to match them marks you out as a bit of a fool. Part the second, the definition of a banned dog is so lax as to require a dog suspected of being banned to be investigated by experts, which can’t be done on the spot. So, twice foolish. Plus, dog racism. Me no likee.
  2. You can fuck off with extending the [bad] law to cover my dog on my premises. As a responsible dog owner, I take responsibility for my dog, but extending the law would require me to keep my dog muzzled in my own damn house.
  3. Increasing the prison sentence for allowing a dog to attack a human? Again, fuck off – if it’s serious and intentional, then the laws are plenty harsh and go all the way up to murder.
  4. I don’t like people who get down on Staffies. Considering how popular they are (they make up probably a third of the dogs I see on my morning walk), five attacks by them over three years in an area with a population of over a million is not justification for a new law. Especially when the damn News Shopper article says that 163 people have been injured by dogs in the last two years in the same area; that’s not exactly a massive percentage caused by SBTs, is it?
  5. Simplify the court process to allow all banned dogs to be destroyed immediately. Awesome. You have some instant test to prove that a dog is of a banned breed? You have a way of bringing the dog back to life if a mistake is made? Or are you going to compensate the owner in a sensible way? If the News Shopper is confused, might I refer them to the (still in force) Clause 29 of the Magna Carta.

In short, I think that each and every aim of their campaign is either stupid, abhorrent, or both. So I condemn their paper to being used for bedding for my beloved pooch. Which is not, by law, a Staffie, so she’ll be fine.

Fuck you, News Shopper.

Nonsense upon nonsense

If the government is fully convinced of the evils of smoking, then why aren’t they banning the production, sale and consumption of tobacco? Because either (a) they’re not convinced or (b) they can’t afford to live without the tax revenue.

All the rest of it, the ban on advertising, the warnings, the massively funded “stop smoking” programmes and the new ban on showing the product1 is just nonsense. People know the risks and if they choose to smoke then it’s their own damn choice. Stop with all the rest of the shite and let people get on with it.

1 – Because hiding it from view and making retailers use plain packaging eradicated the porn industry nicely, didn’t it?

The fight back begins

There was, buried in the past decade and a half of stupidity, a half decent idea. The idea of a controlled parking zone was, to begin with, a seemingly good way to stop people being unable to use their own streets to park in because other people were using it as a base for commuting.

Of course, like every rare good idea that government has had, it became fucked up. Instead of being used to control parking in small, troubled areas, huge swathes of towns are being declared as special zones. Often for no good reason, and with no actual consultation. For example, round the corner from our flat (which has been in a CPZ for a long time) they’ve extended another zone to meet this one. Meaning that there isn’t actually a street in about 300 yards that you can park in without a permit. Oh, and when they brought it in, they had the signs up and the road markings changed long before the period of supposed consultation ended. So the council were really open minded about it. Honest.

A little further away, and even further from anywhere that has a parking problem, the same council are at it again. But someone seems to have noticed.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this one…

And here’s where it all goes terribly wrong

Diplock trials made for a fair whack of dodgy justice over here over the years. They also spread a fair bit beyond their initial propose of dealing only with the worst terrorist offences, and they definitely lasted beyond their initial “emergency” concept, or the “temporary” status that they were given for the quarter century that they were (officially) about for.

In short, they were not really a good thing.

None the less, the rest of the UK as led by NuLabour decided that they were a good thing, that they should be spread nationwide, and that they should be occasionally used for things that had nothing to do with terrorism.

Lo and behold, it hath been begun.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a criminal trial can take place at Crown Court without a jury for the first time in England and Wales.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, made legal history by agreeing to allow the trial to be heard by a judge alone.

It’s all coached in terms of protecting the poor jurors and ensuring justice. And you never know, in this single case that may make sense. But for all the other cases that will follow this precedent, will that hold? I’ll wager not. And lots of people will be denied the right not to be taken, imprisoned or deseized without first facing a jury of his peers.

Mark yesterday on your calendar folks; it’s the day another ancient freedom disappeared.

Useless bastard

At a time when the country’s finances are in the worst shape ever, how exactly does Alistair Darling think that this budget is going to go down?

As it happens, and since you asked, I think it’ll go down like a lead balloon. I think that a lot of people, sick of handing over half their salary for the government to piss it away, are going to decide that handing over more than half will just take their money and do the decent thing: move to a country that doesn’t screw things up quite as much.

There they’ll be able to drink without having extortionate tax on it; they’ll be able to drive cars without paying fourteen billion percent tax on it; and they’ll be able to take home more than half of their salary.

And then they’ll stop paying the tax that Gordon and Alistair need so dearly, to cope with the rather stupid and obvious bribes that they handed out today. And then we’ll all be that little bit more screwed, won’t we?

I’d like a few legal issues cleared up

Chez (who used to blog but then got very lazy about it) alerted me to this little gizmo.


A German art project could help the British avoid the oppressive proliferation of surveillance cameras in their country. The I-R.A.S.C is simple, consisting of a circle of infra-red LEDs mounted on a headband. The infra red is invisible to The Man, but will cause CCTV cameras to flare out over the face of the wearer, obscuring his identity and making this the digital equivalent of a hooded sweatshirt.

This is not a production unit, but given that you’d only need a hat, a battery and a few LEDs, you could easily knock one up in the garage.

Now, I’m not sure that it’d work on all cameras, but anything that could reduce the efficiency of the ever present eyes of Big Brother is to be welcomed. But that’s not my main idea for it.

My thinking is this: the most annoying speed camera these days are not the old fashioned GATSOs; they’re the farking average speed ones, and the ANPR cameras that could be turned into average speed ones with ease. And both those are digital based. Which I suspect would be more susceptible to this gadget than a film based camera would be. So: could this system be adopted to work on car number plates? And if so, would it be at all legal to do so?

Pros for it being legal: it’s not in any way obscuring your vehicles identity to any reasonable person (the emphasis being on person, instead of an automated system); it’s not in any way dangerous to other road users; it’s not established enough to be legislated for. Yet.

Cons: it would cost the exchequer money, and we know who much they like that…

Is there anyone out there with half a legal brain? What do you think about it?

Yay! More cameras!

I have this crazy idea about the role of the police in modern society; my theory is that the primary job of the police is to stop crime before it happens. To deter crime, if you will, through the medium of being a bit respected and being visible.

What I really don’t think they should be doing is using yet more hidden cameras to catch people doing things that shouldn’t really be crimes. Especially when the cops are just using cameras being driven by wannabe vigilantes.

Cars with spy cameras have taken to the streets of Greater Manchester to catch drivers using mobile phones, eating or doing anything illegal at the wheel.

Cameras on the two Smart cars, brainchild of safety group DriveSafe, photograph potential offenders and pass these on to police.

Fantastic. Some random anti-freedom nutjobs are going to be driving round, and spotting things that the police don’t and passing those things on. Of course, to do this, they’ll be recording hundred of thousands of innocent people obeying all the laws. Which provides people with a nice little get out.

See, to run a private CCTV system, the data protection act says that you have to do a few things. You have to declare that video is being taken. You have to let people know who they have to talk to to about it. And you have to be able to provide people with a means to obtain a copy of their appearances on tape.

I really hope that there’s a good few people in Manchester who use their rights under the Data Protection Act to swamp this illegal data mining. And then, once DriveSafe has been shown to be in violation of said act, I hope they sue it to fuck and stop anyone trying anything like that again.

But that’s just me.

A fucking “proviso”? My Christ…

Here’s a not to those mutherfucking, useless, spineless, amoral twats in government: free speech is not a proviso. Nor is it a loophole, nor is it an inconvenience. It is not something to be worked around when specifying those about whom we can’t make jokes or those opinions that we may voice.

Free speech is an absolute right, one that has been sadly neglected by Westminster for many years. It is something that governments have to learn to live with, not something that we should learn to live without.

Also: I really wish that the government would stop fucking using one badly written law to amend their previous badly written law from the previous year. How about doing the job properly first time out, eh?

Note to HMRC

Tax evasion, the act of using illegal methods to minimise the tax you pay, is illegal.

Tax avoidance, the act of working within the law to minimise the tax you pay, is legal. In fact, it is not only legal, but both morally and fiscally responsible.

So why the flippedy fuck are HMRC “investigating” allegations of tax avoidance at Barclays? They’re investigating looking for evidence of people obeying the law?

Nice to see that they’re proving my point: government should be given the minimum money possible lest they waste it doing stupid things like this…

It’s been a sad day

And to continue with another song:

Duh-duh-dun-dun-dun, another one bites the dust.

Switzerland, the world’s largest offshore financial centre, has agreed to accept concessions on bank secrecy.

Andorra, Liechtenstein, Austria and Luxembourg have also just agreed to sign up to the OECD rules.

That’s a shame. The Swiss managed to keep their secrecy through the depression, a series of wars enveloping them and fifty years of relentless pressure by greedy tax departments* from all over the world. But now they’ve caved. As have other countries. And just this week Jersey signed a deal to be more ‘cooperative’ with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

So people with a (perfectly sensible) desire not to pay nearly fifty percent of everything they ear to a bunch of wasteful feckers are just going to have to kick in with proper criminal schemes. Oh well.

* – some redundancy here, do you think?

No, that law is just for
  • you
  • Amount of time that the state allows you to comply with rules when the rules change? As short a time as they can get away with.

    Amount of time that the state takes for itself when the rules change? No end of time. One example is the way that government aims to break the law ‘only’ 10% of the time. How far would I get if I aimed to comply with only 10% of the law on murder?

    Another wonderful example is in the police forces from across the UK continuing to fail to comply with the law on data retention. When being told that the data of innocent people couldn’t be held without reason, they said “nah, we’ll keep doing that until the government can find a way to make it legal for us to do so”.

    Again: if a private citizen used that as a defence, they would be rightly laughed out of court. When an agency of the state does it, it doesn’t even surprise us any more.

    Isn’t that all quite depressing?

    Well that’s just bloody typical

    Friday: the House of Lords sends out a clear message that the current government’s over reliance on massive databases and intrusions into citizen’s privacy is foolhardy and wrong.

    Sunday: the current government decides that it really should create a massive and intrusive database of everyone’s journeys.

    Note to the current government: you’re a bunch of feckless twunts and I despise you and everything you stand for.

    Note to the House of Lords: I don’t know why it is that you, an unelected and out of touch bunch of old people, are the only ones actually standing up for the traditional freedoms of the citizens of the United Kingdom, but I’d very much like you to keep on doing it…

    I feel completely reassured…

    What do you think of when you hear the words ‘anti-terrorist operation’ and ‘stop and search’?

    Are you reassured? Do you think that it’s all targeted and intelligence driven, out to halt specific threats in the course of securing democracy?

    Or do you think that it’s all a bunch of horseshit, and not a million miles away from Belfast back in the good old days of turnstiles and iron bars at every access point?

    If you subscribe to the first point of view, I wish you all the best. If it’s the latter, then you could do worse than read el Reg‘s take on it.

    Feeling unsafe in your life? Looking for reassurance? The Metropolitan Police Service can help you with a touchy-feely new innovation. It’s called stop and search.

    A new document hints at a shift of emphasis in the Met’s strategic vision for counter terrorism stop and search powers. It’s going to be a public relations tool.

    How’s this for a stat: of over thirty thousand supposedly terror related searches between 2003 abd 2007, less than eighty resulted in anyone being charged with a terrorist related offence. Given recent happenings in the courts, that’s probably less than forty being convicted of anything, and less than fifteen being convicted of any terror related charge. Oh, and less than a single device being found or plot being foiled.

    So, my question is this: is it worth creating records on thirty thousand innocent people to charge 79 with offences that they’re highly unlikely to be guilty of?

    Is it worth making thousands of people victims of state aggression in the name of reassuring the rest of us? Because here’s a little factoid that I think is interesting: if you grant that Red Ken was able to count, and that there are seven million Londoners, then 0.429% of Londoners were stopped and searched, as opposed to 0.248% of those stopped being eventually charged with a terror related offence.

    Personally, I’m not exactly thrilled with those odds…

    Patriotic shopping? My arse…

    Over the last twenty years or so, Her Majesty’s Government has seen fit to put more and more taxes on pretty much everything. The perfect example is petrol: fuel duty in the UK is right up there with the highest in the world.

    This is a pain, because it’s taxing something that’s essential and then frittering the money away on shit all (please refer to the handout from ‘Government Waste 101′). But that’s not my complaint here.

    While the UK fuel duty has been skyrocketing, the Irish has been rising by considerably less. The result of this is that fuel on the south side of the border has been a shitload less than that up here. The price differential has often been enough that it’s financially sensible to drive up to forty miles, fill up, and drive back again – you’d still end up saving money on a tank of petrol. On diesel it was even more pronounced.

    This cross border traffic was excellent. The road users benefited, because they got petrol cheaper. The Irish government was rewarded for having low taxes by having an increased tax base for it. Irish retailers benefited from that same increased customer base. Petrol retailers up north suffered as their government gave them the full length of the shaft, and the UK government suffered as crossborder sales (and fuel smuggling) reduced the amount they could lift from Norn Iron drivers.

    The UK government squealed like a stuck pig at the beginning of this, and the Irish government was quite happy with things. And I side with the Irish – both because I like low taxes and because it kept a little bit of money out of the hands of HMG (and therefore kept a little bit of money from being pissed away by HMG).

    Now, it would appear that the shoe is on the other foot.

    While the decline in the value of sterling is posing problems for UK tourists bound for Europe, it is providing an unexpected boon for Northern Ireland’s retailers.

    As the pound keeps falling, the traffic-jams keep growing with euro-shoppers coming to Northern Ireland for a Christmas bargain.

    What with the recent stupid rise of Irish VAT, and the strange drop in UKish VAT, this was to be expected. Yes, it’s added about an hour to the drive from Dublin to Belfast as the shoppers queue, but I think it’s a great thing: it shows governments that taxation isn’t something that will flow to them no matter how high they raise them.

    We live in a world where people, money and business are wonderfully mobile – if any particular government thinks that they will get away with squeezing their population too tightly, then they might find that a lump of that population takes their business elsewhere. And I say fair play to ‘em.

    Isn’t that just dandy…

    It’s an interesting indictment of the wonderful system that we have these days that the highest ranking head to fall after the human tragedy of Baby P didn’t fall after the council oversaw the death of a child. It didn’t fall after the scourging in the media. It didn’t fall after the silly Facebook groups and the protests.

    No, it fell twelve hours after it came out that Haringey lied to Ofsted.

    Ofsted’s head, Christine Gilbert, admitted at the weekend that Haringey had misled its inspectors by providing inaccurate data on its child protection services.

    She said that officials in Haringey were able to “hide behind” misleading data last year to earn a good rating from inspectors only weeks after Baby P’s death.

    Coincidence? Or a sign that the biggest crimes in the eyes of the state are the crimes against the accountants of the state? Not against people, but against numbers. Sure people are just the ultimate renewable resource; precious numbers and gold star ratings are much more important…

    There’s a surprise…

    When large parts of the UK populace is concerned about their data being shared across government departments, most of whom have no need to see it and even fewer of whom have any right to see it, what does Her Majesty’s Government do?

    Yes, you guessed it: they hold a review.

    And then they use that review to give themselves the power to ride roughshod over the few protections in place. Because, y’know, sometimes just popping everyone’s details onto a CD and throwing them in the post because a different department asked nicely isn’t sharing enough.

    Good job we don’t trust the government with any sensitive data, isn’t it? Oh wait, that would be a lie. Because we’re told many times that if we don’t share all with the government, then we’re liable to be punished. Nice.

    Not that I’m a tad annoyed. No, not I…

    Worrying titbits

    You know, I’m not surprised by the mistake in VAT strategy releases recently. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, things will change, and if ministers don’t make up their mind until twenty minutes before legislation hits the presses, how are civil servants supposed to keep up with that?

    On top of that, once an organisation gets as big and as responsibility-shy as the civil service, the number of mistakes that creep in will be immense. Mistakes happen everywhere, and you can’t ensure against them. You can make them less likely by spending time to double check things, and by disciplining the worst offenders, but that couldn’t happen in this case.

    But here’s the thing: this was a supporting document on a website – no real harm, except to the governing party and it’s not like I’m going to mourn that. But the same circumstances happen every time the government rush out legislation – so there are bound to be such mistakes in the laws of the land. And since this government has produced more legislation than ever before (especially in complicated financial matters), that’s a lot of scope for mistakes.

    Mistakes which result in confusion for the entire population, and likely other unimportant things like criminals getting off and innocent people being labelled as criminals.

    So once again, I’m not surprised by the actual news story. But I’m concerned by the trends which it illustrates.

    Here’s my thinking

    They say that a child will learn by observing what its elders do, not by what it is told to do.

    How then, do you think, are we to act in the face of ongoing discrimination by the political classes.

    They say that it’s totally unacceptable to discriminate. And then they go ahead and discriminate by barring certain occupations to those who hold a certain political belief.

    As Barry says:

    here’s my problem. The BNP is a legal political party. Anyone who wants to be a member can be, without fear of prosecution – never mind persecution. And that’s the way it should be in a democracy. Yes, you’d have to worry if your children’s teacher was on there, and we already know that the police are banned from being members for fear of accusations of racial discrimination. But what about soldiers, and prison officers, and social workers? Since when have they been disenfranchised?

    Yes, the BNP is a pretty abhorrent organisation. Yes, it believes things that are patently rubbish. Yes, if it gained power anywhere it would likely clamp down on freedoms across the board.

    However, it will not gain power anywhere where it is fought openly. It will not grow unless it is made out to be a victim. It will not gain influence when people can point out in logical terms the shortcomings in its views.

    It may, on the other hand, gain influence when it is victimised. It may grow if it can point out that a modern democracy will throw aside its lofty ideals when dealing with fucktards like the BNP. And if it cannot be discussed rationally between equals, then it may well gain power somewhere.

    By throwing aside the basic tenets of a free society (freedom of belief, freedom of association, freedom of political views), we are only making the fucktards look like we’re scared of them.

    Are we?

    Running with a theme

    So far this week, I’ve mused about police states, dictators, UK government over-reaching and UK government ineptitude.

    So, what to write about this morning, eh? I dunno, how about UK government censorship. That should do the trick…

    Britain’s security agencies and police would be given unprecedented and legally binding powers to ban the media from reporting matters of national security, under proposals being discussed in Whitehall.

    The Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary watchdog of the intelligence and security agencies which has a cross-party membership from both Houses, wants to press ministers to introduce legislation that would prevent news outlets from reporting stories deemed by the Government to be against the interests of national security.

    The committee also wants to censor reporting of police operations that are deemed to have implications for national security. The ISC is to recommend in its next report, out at the end of the year, that a commission be set up to look into its plans, according to senior Whitehall sources.

    Now, you might expect that I’d go off on a foul mouth rant about this. Legalised censorship, I might say, at the whim of a nameless, faceless bureaucrat; I might ask why justice would need to be done in secret; almost by definition justice carried out secretly is less just than that carried out in the open. Hell, I might even ponder the possibility of abuse by people wanting to cover up mistakes.

    However, I don’t think I’ll do that.

    Instead, I think I’ll mention the simple fact that all the above is happening now anyway; nameless and faceless bureaucrats are ‘asking’ newspapers and TV stations not to cover certain things, and those certain things aren’t covered. There’s no oversight, and there’s no accountability. There’s little in the way of consistency either; I suspect the application of a DA-notice is as dependent on who is manning a certain shift as it is on any official guidance.

    Given that, you might expect that I’d actually be for this proposed commission1. It could possibly tighten up the rules, and make the system less open to abuse.

    However, you’d be wrong on that front. If I had any faith at all that any change would could be for the better, then I might support it. But every law that this government has brought in to tighten up rules, lessen opportunities for abuse and all that, it’s actually made more loopholes, more generalisations, and more opportunities for abuse.

    So we’re being let down by the current system. But I fear that any new system would be much worse, and much harder to get rid of…

    1 – How very New Labour – when in doubt as to how something will be received by the public, instigate a commission to look into it. And the slip a law doing exactly what you wanted to do in the first place through parliament, if precedent is anything to go by…

    The old ways come back

    The other day, TLG was driving me to Stansted to drop me off for my flight, when we got stuck in a very sudden queue about a mile shy of the terminal. This was unexpected, but not unfamiliar; anyone who drive to Aldergrove before the ceasefires would have been familiar with the type of queue. It’s the one where there’s a group of heavily armed men with armoured cars at the head of it, doing nothing more than look scary and pretending to judge the occupants of the cars on anything more than race and haircut…

    Now, me being the sort of fella I am (i.e., prime demographic for a second look under the old system, somewhat too pale for such attention in this wonderful new world but still plenty paranoid), I flicked the switch in my head for such situations. Move ID to a place where reaching for it is entirely non-threatening, have a quick glance at the ticket to memorise the flight details, that sort of thing. Which must have amused TLG a little, but she’s a kind soul and didn’t laugh too much.


    As I say; I’m not entirely keen on these sorts of security theatre; even when they were permanent and relatively consistent they weren’t much use. When they’re random and arbitrary, they’re less than useless and plenty open to abuse.

    And not just wilful abuse; plain old fashioned abuse through ignorance is bad enough.

    A police officer has been transferred from duties at a Channel crossing after a disabled child and his parents were detained under the Terrorism Act.

    Julie Maynard, of Ware, Hertfordshire, was taking a day trip to Calais through the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone, Kent.

    The detective constable accused Ms Maynard and her husband Leslie Coombs of trafficking her son Joshua, 12.

    Kent Police apologised and described the incident as inappropriate, unprofessional and lacking in tact.

    I’m not sure which pisses me off more: that such things can happen, or that I’m fairly sure that they happen much more than is reported…

    Plus, I’m at a loss as to how people trafficking is anything to do with terrorism. Anyone care to explain that to me?