This should catch on

Imagine a world where silly civil servants were banned from using the following phrases:

  • There’s no money
  • What am I supposed to do?
  • I’m not dealing with this
  • We’re having lunch
  • The working day is over
  • Somebody else has the documents
  • I think I was off sick at the time

Does that sound appealing? Does it sound like something that could be a good thing? If so, plz to be moving to the Russian town of Megion, where the mayor has banned them.

On the other hand, civil servants – much like politicians – need to fill up their days with stock phrases like these. Because if they didn’t, they’d be out, doing their actual jobs and thereby shitting on all of us that little bit more…

So, Mr Mayor, I admire the theory behind your new ban, but I can’t help but think that the law of unintended consequences will come along and bite your citizens on the arse. Hard.


In all honesty, I know of civil servants who would be mute during office hours if they couldn’t use the phrases above; their entire working life seems to be nothing but the making of excuses for their not doing their job. In fact, it’s not them that to blame; it’s the job, which no rational person would ever have created, but which now needs to be filled. And the person who fills it has to deal with the nonsensical nature of the job while eeking it out for the final couple of years to enable them to retire…

What she said

I mentioned the other day that there is at least one person out there who writes what I’d like to write, but much, much better.

It would appear that there are at least two such persons.

Following the recent news that shitloads of people are leaving the UK, I had a few thoughts as to what I would write about this non-news news. I could have mentioned the obvious one: the weather in this land is not the best. And then I would probably have gotten on my soapbox and waxed lyrical about the ever growing state; the expanding role of nanny; the increase in taxation; the all-seeing electronic eyes that are now at epidemic levels.

In short, it would have been a messy full length rant, of the sort that appears on these pages at least once a fortnight.

I’m glad I didn’t write that, because someone else did it much better. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Misty. Go on, have a read. Have a learn. If I could write, that’s what I would have written. Except for the bit about the NHS (because I’ve a whole different set of bitches about that particular organisation), or the rail (because I’ve no experience, NIR being what it is) or the food thing because I haven’t noticed.

So apart from a few minor differences, that’s what I’d like to have written.

Note to self: learn how to write properly.

Notice to an un-named Jerseyman

You know how it is; some underling makes a silly slip and before you know it an entire organisation is tripping over itself, unsure of whether to back up their staff or make a sensible decision.

Which is what I think happened in this case:

A man spotted wearing a T-shirt bearing an “offensive” slogan in a city centre has been warned he risks an £80 fine if he is caught again.

Forklift driver David Pratt was told by street wardens in Peterborough he could cause offence or incite violence.

The slogan on the garment read: “Don’t piss me off! I am running out of places to hide the bodies.”

“In what was an amicable conversation, the street warden advised the gentleman concerned that his T-shirt could cause offence and if he was to wear it again he could run the risk of being issued an £80 on-the-spot fine from the police.”

In other words, a petty minded street warden took offence, and nobody within the entirety of Peterborough City Council has had the balls to stop the bureaucratic ball rolling towards its inevitable fucked up conclusion.

Off on a tangent for a moment: I find it highly unlikely that threatening someone with a fine unless they change their clothes counts as an ‘amicable conversation’ in any jurisdiction. Don’t think it’s going unnoticed, City Council types.

The precedent that could be set by this is damn scary; no more You don’t have to be mad to work here signs; no more Trespassers will be shot signs; no more bumper stickers; and an entirely new wardrobe for a certain fella from the Channel Isles who specialises in sloganised t-shirts.

In other words, massive infringement of freedom of speech. All because some little twit decided he didn’t like the joke…

And you wonder why people worry about the direction this land is taking… Even Mary Whitehouse wasn’t that picky fer cryin’ out loud.

So much for that grace period

When the smoking ban was announced, and plans for it made, it was emphasised that it wouldn’t be a criminal offence to smoke, per se. It wouldn’t be something, really, for the police to get involved with; it would be dealt with more by council staff.

And more than that, there would be a nice period where politeness would be the order of the day.

I didn’t believe either then, and I don’t now. Especially when you see stories like this:

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has been “spoken to” by police for smoking on a train.

Police said a man was advised of the no smoking policy on the Paddington to Plymouth train on Friday morning.

They were told he was smoking on board and “refusing to stop”, believing it was fine to smoke out of the window.

Mr Kennedy, you stand accused of wilful refusal to stop smoking. Ten years.

Now, if this is what they do to one of the most recognisable politicians in the land, what do you think they’ll be doing to normal folk? Do you think they’re likely to go easier on them, or harder, knowing that it won’t be on the BBC that same afternoon?

Answers on a postcard please to:

CLEARLY THEY’LL BE NASTIER
FREEPOST 1984

Nice place to visit, shame about the laws…

Those crazy Americans. Sure, they may have the most money, and the bestest military, and a whack more freedom than most, and a lot of other cool things. But they also have some of the stupidest laws I’ve ever heard of.

For a start, there’s the bonkers tendency to prohibition, with people going to jail for a couple of years for giving some teenagers a drink, in her own house, under careful supervision. Not to mention the way that there are whole counties where it is illegal to sell drink at all.

And then they go and make laws about what trousers should be like. Yes, in a small town in Louisiana is about to make it illegal to wear low-riding trousers. Meaning that ‘not wearing a belt’ could land you in jail.

Bonkers. Behaviour like that is why democracy isn’t really that good a system of government. Just better than all the others that have been tried.

More unbridled goodness

Number 187 on the list of “Things I’m not a huge fan of” is the ‘right to roam’. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a bracing country walk and I’ve no not much of a problem with public rights of way and that sort of thing. But why, exactly, should a land owner have no say in whether the public can walk over the vast majority of their land? Why should the assumption be that land is free to roam upon unless the land owner has a damn good reason for it not to be*? And why is it that any time anyone does succeed in closing of some of their land, they’re vilified for it?

Ramblers Association Scotland director Dave Morris said the ruling undermined the intentions of the legislation.

Good.

He said: “We think the sheriff has not really understood the land reform legislation and we are particularly unhappy that he’s apparently not taken much account of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Double good.

“This gives a green light to landowners to go around the countryside erecting fences without planning permission.

Fan-fecking-tastic.

“This is a very serious adverse judgement and may in fact undermine all of the intentions of the land reform legislation.”

And let there be much rejoicing, for such reform legislation could quite happily be done without, thankyouverymuch.


* – ‘course, to my mind every land owner has such a reason: because it’s his and he says so.

And the penny drops

One of the more annoying phrases in modern usage is “if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear”, with its well know permutation “the innocent have nothing to fear”.

This vexes me, and is one of those lovely phrases that sets me off.

© http://www.feebleminds-gifs.com/ I assume

Why would this vex me do? I mean, it’s not like I have anything to hide1, so what do I have to fear?

Obviously, I have nothing to fear. Except for the way in which we, if we are accused of several types of offences, are now guilty until proven innocent. That is what we have to fear. That we now have to jump through hoops to prove we are who we say we are. That people have to prove they’re not a paedophile2 before they can help after school. That car owners have to prove that they weren’t involved in whatever a cloned car was doing3. That we are all photographed a hundred times a day to prove that we’re not misbehaving.

It’s not the innocent who have nothing to fear; nor is it those with nothing to hide. It’s only those who lack the imagination to see where the road we’re on leads to.


1 – Motoring offences being discounted for most purposes.

2 – Of course, such checks can only show that you’ve not been caught, which is next to meaningless in the greater scheme of things.

3 – ‘tamper proof number plates’? That’ll be the day; I can’t think of a single tamper-proof device that hasn’t been cracked within weeks, and those were developed by better and brighter folk than HM Government…

I told you

Over the last several years, I’ve been saying that, since the nannies have now won the fight against the evils of cigarette smoke, they’d be turning their attention towards drink. First off, there’d be voluntary warning labels; then there’d be mandatory warning labels.

Check, check.

Then there be specific advise against certain groups using alcohol in anything more than tiny amounts, which would then change to at all.

Er, check.

So, what do you think will be next? Tax hikes, obviously, because that’s what Gordon loves and understands… But I also think there’ll be more high profile propaganda, more tax money spent on educating us evil alcohol drinkers that we’re oh-so-very-wrong. Another study or three pointing out the effects that alcohol has on those who aren’t drinking alcohol (’tis only a shame that there’s no such thing as passive drinking to grab attention). Then there’ll happen to be a few high profile cases where people sue brewers, publicans and the like because little johnny was overcome by the evil advertising and thought it was sensible to drink a slab of Stella and then try juggling knives. So advertising drink will suddenly be banned…

By which point, of course, the trails with smoking diverge. Because it’s not practical to grow your own tobacco, really. But home brewing, on the other hand…

(and thank god for it, sez I. But then I would. Now where’d I leave that beer…)

Hang on, why is that protected

As I recall, the point of the Freedom of Information Act was to see what decisions government has taken, how they reached those decisions, and what effects those decisions have had. Which, despite my earlier misgivings about the whole thing, have turned out to be mighty useful.

In fact, it’s possible that it’s a little too successful. So much so that neutering is being considered.

Minister Alistair Darling wants tighter restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC has learned.

The Trade Secretary is concerned that it does not sufficiently protect advice from officials to ministers.

Er, is the whole point of the thing to ensure that such advice isn’t just hidden behind closed doors for ever? So that people can see what’s happening? So that we have a tiny amount of hope that “Yes, Minister” was a comedy, not a documentary?

Clearly this is not in the best interests of either the ruling party, or the loyal opposition, since lots of both are busy exempting themselves from the more burdensome aspects (you know, the ones about freedom of information).

Which leads nicely onto a lovely piece of NuSpeak:

“We don’t want to restrict [the Act], we want to make it better.”

But better for whom, my dear sir. Better for the 60,775,592 of us who are not MPs, or for the 646 that are? Because I suspect that it’s the latter, and that doesn’t work out very well, percentage wise…

Screw you, hippy

Does the day end in y, do you think?

Oh, it does. That must mean another farking stupid idea coming from Whitehall then.

Wait for it, wait for it…

Yup, here it is.

People who fail to recycle household rubbish could have to pay more than those who do, under plans to cut waste.

Environment Secretary David Miliband wants English councils to be able to bring in charges – and to give cash “rewards” for those who recycle.

Now, how do you think this would be funded and enforced? My guess is that the funding comes from setting unattainable targets and making nearly everyone pay more, but I’m a cynical sort. And the only way that this sort of thing could be enforced would be by tagging each and every bin in the land.

Bad ideas all round, really. Clearly, government is not content to keep a track of us, of where we drive, of what we buy, of who we choose to associate with, of who we phone, of what internet sites we visit, of what services we use, etc, etc, they’re now really keen on seeing how much we throw out and what sort of rubbish it is.

What’s next, meters on the sewage system? “Mr Hillan, you contributed more than the state-mandated level of crap this week, pay up!” Hang on, I didn’t say that, I don’t want to go giving anyone any ideas…

As you may have assumed, I’m not keen on the state being able to easily tag everything I do. Which is why I suspect that I may find this post quite useful in the not-too-distant future…

Oops, dey dun it again

Not content with already being the most trusted public figures, the judges of the country are busy doing their damnest to get things done right with MiniJu.

See, for some reason, they’re concerned that putting the judge, jury and executioner all in the same department may not be the wisest course of action, especially when recent governments (back as far as I can remember) have so little regard for the judge/jury bit and are much more fond of the executioner bit. Because, y’see, careful deliberation of the facts and consideration of due process do not sound good to either the mob or the press, whereas the clunk of a prison door is always comforting. So judges are worried, and with reason, that funding and attention will be shifted from their area and into the punishment side of things.

Oh, and they’re also a tad concerned about the constitutional foundation upon which the system is based. But this government doesn’t have a long history of caring too much about such things, so that won’t get anywhere near as much attention…

Anyway: well done to the aged, out of touch folk in silly wigs. For having the balls to stand up and say: “Sorry, but this is silly and I’ll be having no part of it. Go back and do it properly, please”.

It’s really a breath of fresh air. Albeit tinged with l’eau de old folk

What I was trying to say

What I was trying to say here has been said better by Chris:

“But smoking is bad. I just don’t like it. I don’t want people smoking near me”; was his final argument (actually his first, final, and only argument).

He just didn’t get it. He didn’t understand why the government shouldn’t step in and force a private property owner to do whatever HE personally wanted them to do. He thought it was entirely reasonable that his preferences should be made into law, and should infringe on the rights of the property owner. As far as he was concerned, because he didn’t want people smoking around him while he ate, then no-one should ever be allowed to smoke in a restaurant.

As we were about to be seated I turned and made one final statement: “Sir, d’you know what the most dangerous words in the English language are? ‘There oughta be a law'”

Amen to that. Saying ‘There oughta be a law’ oughta be followed by the judicious application of the cluebat.

For those unfamiliar with the term, here is what I mean:

from http://llbbl.com/data/RPG-motivational/target164.html

Of course, to keep the health and safety bods happy, when applying The Clue to those of a younger disposition, corks should be placed over the spikes. So you can’t accuse me of being cruel…

Again, definitions of which I was unaware

I’m just after looking up the definition of a word, and I must say that the result confused me. For your reference, here is what I found:

dan·ger·ous
adj.

1. Involving or filled with danger; perilous.
2. Being able or likely to do harm.

1 Involving possible risk, loss, or injury: adventurous, chancy, hazardous, jeopardous, parlous, perilous, risky, treacherous, unsafe, venturesome, venturous. Slang hairy. See safety/danger.
2 Causing or marked by danger or pain, for example: grave, grievous, serious, severe.

The results of checking this definition meshed fairly well with my understanding of the word. But the confusion arose because of the use of the world by a representative of HM Government, in relation to the fucking stupid unrepentantly statist suffocatingly nannying smoking ban, which stipulates that all churches (listed or not) must have big-ass no smoking signs at all entrances. Which’ll do wonders for the 1604 decor, obviously, and is now reason 8,103 why I dislike said ban.

Some meddlesome churchmen are pointing out that, what with listed churches being allowed to forgo such things as bright green emergency exit signs (for perfectly logical reasons), they should also be allowed to dispense with the no smoking signs. Given that churches are not, on the whole, renowned for tobacco smoke. Mystic smoke, and perhaps the occasional smoke/mirror trickery, yet, but not tobacco smoke.

Cue the inappropriate deployment of the word ‘dangerous':

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “I accept, without reservation, that there is a long tradition not to smoke in churches but, as I am sure people will appreciate, to have provided an exemption would have created a dangerous precedent.”

Now, off the top of my head, I can think of a few things that would count as dangerous precedents:

  • Allowing Germany to annex the Sudetenland, and setting the tone for Austria & Poland to follow.
  • Helping Saddam Hussein stay in power.
  • Caving in to terrorists and hostage takers.

Things that don’t, in my humble opinion, count as dangerous precedents:

  • Not putting up bloody stupid signs forbidding an activity in a place where nobody would think of carrying out that activity, at the cost of making a centuries old building look like shit.
  • Dragging out some people and beating them severely with the aforementioned signage, while repeating ‘Fuck you and your nanny state’.

Wrong thinking

Gah. Despite my careful argument against, more people are saying that the way to curb underage drinking is to make it harder for people to legally drink.

Brilliant idea. Never mind that it would be trying to use a sledgehammer to crack nuts, because it wouldn’t work anyway, so it would be using a sledgehammer to crack unrelated nuts.

And it gets even worse:

Alternatively, he [arseface in chief columnist Jasper Gerard] proposes getting 18-year-olds to carry smart cards which record how much they have drunk each night and making it an offence to serve more alcohol to anyone under-21 who had already consumed more than three units.

What the freedom-fucking fuck? Make it illegal, and electronically enforceable, for an adult to enjoy more than one fucking pint of beer? The original idea was bad, but this is many, many times worse. This is right up there is ‘communism’ on the list of bad ideas…

And don’t go thinking that this is from a lunatic left fringe group. Actually, it is from a lunatic left fringe group, the problem is that they’re a lunatic left fringe group that generally floats ideas that the government want to see floating. So this is something that I can see actually being tried.

But how would such a smart card be enforced? I can only think of one proposal that would fit. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the tendering for the ID card included “running tally of drink drunk”.

File that as reason 287 why ID cards would be a bad thing.

Continue reading

Of course it’s a good idea

Nigh on every vision of the future that could be described as Orwellian or dystopian features disembodied voices holding sway over the populace. From the telescreens in 1984, to the loudspeakers in V for Vendetta, to the annoying little sweary-fine-boxes in Demolition Man, they are almost universally shown to be a sign that the state has absolute power over the individual without having much in the way of restraint on that power.

Which is why I’m not either surprised or in favour of these fucking things:

“Talking” CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be installed in 20 areas across England.

They are already used in Middlesbrough where anyone seen misbehaving can be told via a loudspeaker, controlled by control centre staff, to stop.

But wait! It gets even better:

The home secretary said competitions were being held at schools in many of the areas for children to become the voice of the cameras.

Kids! You can be Big Brother! You can be the one telling off your friends and enemies for trivial non-offences! You can be the little toe of the foot that is in the boot, stamping on the human race!

“Get ‘em while they’re young” is still obviously the name of the game.

On a more curious note, the Home Office says that these devices are to be used to cut down on anti-social activity. But what would you call sitting in a dark room, silently spying on strangers, and then shouting instructions at them? Because it seems pretty damn anti-social to me…

Expect mass firings

Holy dawg-gonne shit, batman, there’s been a recent case of police forces deploying common sense. As policy, not as individual officers acting sensibly.

Three police forces in England are choosing not to issue fines to drivers who break new laws on child car seats.

A spokesman said: “Operation staff have taken a conscious decision to avoid fining the public for what is considered a minor infringement.

“We want people to concentrate on the more weighty things. It is about dangerous people, drink-drivers and drug-drivers. In general, patrol people have just been giving advice and it has been pretty well received.”

Ladies and gentlemen: a massive about bloody time, well done goes out to the forces of North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire on this issue. A moderately sized dose goes to Greater Manchester Police. A big you’re being tosspots goes to all other forces, who aren’t letting the fact that it’s a stupid, unnecessary and needlessly meddling law get in the way of issuing detections.

Of course, in this modern and wonderful world, common sense in the public sector is a big no-no, so I expect that the Home Office will be putting considerable pressure on the three forces mentioned. Can’t have people being offered advice when they should be getting prosecuted, the whole system would collapse…

Another dark, dark day

Today marks the day that Gordon Brown puts into place another one of his money grabbing policies, that would is wlarge enough to cause a nuisance, but not to do what they’re supposedly there for.

This makes (by my count) 14,256 such policies in the last ten years. A hell of a lot of pin pricks, I’m sure you’d agree.

So, a return flight to London now costs me another £10. Not a huge amount; not enough to make it unfeasable to make the trip. And that is what Brown is counting on; there is no way that £10 will change the worth of a flight to the people on it, it won’t make a flight from Glasgow to London suddenly more expensive than the train. In other words, he’s just gotten himself a steady flow of cash, without any ecological benefit.

Oh, and he’s delusional, too.

The Treasury hoped the airlines would foot the bill for the rise, describing it as a tax on airlines for the number of passengers they carry – not a tax on passengers.

It’s quite clearly not a tax on the airline, and anyone who expected Michael O’Leary to spend a penny more than he needs to is barking mad.

Bit like yon bastid Brown, then.

You won’t hear me say this too often

Well done, you daft, crusty, misled hippy.

I don’t agree with the reason for your fight, but by God I agree with the fight itself.

Anti-war protester Brian Haw has won his latest legal battle to maintain his demonstration in Parliament Square.

Police claimed Mr Haw, 57, from Redditch, Worcestershire, posed a threat as terrorists could hide bombs under his many banners and placards.

Basically, the man is the main reason for the hideous law that the government brought in a while back, banning unapproved protests within a certain area, namely the seat of government. Because it’s just so damned inconvenient for politicians to sit, discussing which of our liberties they’re removing today, while some soap-dodger sits quietly with a couple of placards calling them the twats that they are.

But, as is generally the case, the law was rushed through, un-thought out, and is so full of loopholes that Minnie Driver could get her grin through it without much effort. First there was the realisation that the law couldn’t be made retroactive, so Mr Haw’s protest was exempt from the law put in place to ban it. Then you get the plainly ridiculous claim that his stall will be used to hide a terrorist device, when anyone with half a brain could see a dozen more effective ways of hitting the place than planting a backpack behind some cardboard.

The score now stands at: Stupid Statists 0 : 2 Brian Haw

You know, if only he’d picked an issue like civil liberties to make his civil liberties related stand about, then it would be the perfect protest. Missed opportunities.

I smell a bad idea in the making

Ah, another day. Surely that means another wonderful infringement of civil liberties by the government.

Well, lookee. Sure, it’s a couple of days old, but there’s been enough in the interval for this to count as “today’s folly”.

Violent offender orders, to be given out without a criminal conviction, would impose stronger penalties on people who carry out violent acts if it was at all predictable that they could carry out acts of violence.

Personally, I think that this is all a bit backwards; people can anticipate violence from people who seem more likely to be violent. It’s all those sneaky sods, who don’t look like they’d hurt a fly, that you want to be wary of, but hey, I don’t write the law…

Examples that are given which would be grounds for a VOO are “cognitive deficiencies”, “entrenched pro-criminal or antisocial attitudes”, or “a history of substance abuse or mental health issues”. So the hard of thinking are going to be in line for more jail time if they are violent than a cold, sane, smart bastard who knew full well the consequences of their actions. How is that, in any way, sensible?

And how long before mouthing off on teh interweb about the violence they’d like to befall government ministers becomes grounds for a VOO? Because, y’know, that would be an issue close to my heart. Obviously.

Anyway, how long before it all goes the way of ASBOs and becomes a badge of honour thing? Personally, I say it’ll be weeks, rather than months. And then of course there is the matter of figure fudging; this will add enormously to the detection rates and conviction figures, while doing nothing to actually prevent or deter crime.

Perfect Home Office scheme, really. No good will come of it; new forms will be produced, and more people will become criminals in the eyes of the law without being convicted by a jury of their peers.

Brilliant.

No, not like Big Brother at all

I believe you. No, really, I do.

Plans to make it easier for government departments to share information on people are not a move towards a “Big Brother” state, a minister has said.

Mr Hutton, you’re absolutely right. Moves like this are not moving towards a Big Brother state, they’re moving beyond a Big Brother state. Big Brother would love to have instant, automated access to everything about everyone, but the technology just didn’t exist when young Eric wrote the book.

There is no good reason for links like these to be set up, at all. None. Unless your aim is to increase the control of the state and the reliance of the people upon it. Neither of which are good aims. But what can you expect from a government that seriously considers this to be good PR…