Blog Archives

Then they came for the drinkers… redux

How long have I been banging on about this? Bloody long enough, I reckon, and other blogger have been at it far longer. Smokers? Pah. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’re still very much in the firing line, very much the modern untermenschen. But the battleground has shifted and the current main target, whether they know it or not, are the drinkers, and quite a big gun has just been fired right at them. Less than three months ago I blogged about the tell tale signs that this gun was being loaded and remarked on how it was a gun that had been shot at smokers several times. Well, now it’s gone bang and it only remains to be seen how much damage it does. En bloc – my bold.

State and territory ministers have signed off on the introduction of mandatory pregnancy warning labels on alcohol.

Ministers responsible for food regulation met in Melbourne today to consider their response to former federal health minister Neal Blewett’s review of food labelling.

Dr Blewett’s most controversial recommendation, that a “traffic light” system be introduced to help consumers make healthier food choices, has been rejected.

The traffic light system of colour coding would tell a consumer, at a glance, if the food had high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

Instead, ministers have agreed that public health, consumer and industry groups be consulted in the development of an alternative front-of-pack labelling system, which is to be considered in June and hoped to be in place by the end of next year.

They also want to give industry two years before making pregnancy warning labels on alcohol mandatory.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is drafting a standard for nutrition and health-related claims and ministers also agreed to the development of a national nutrition policy.

The federal government has come under fire from public health and consumer groups for opting not to pursue the traffic light system, but the food manufacturing industry has welcomed the move.

Does this sound at all familiar? It certainly should, and it will to smokers. Anyone want to bet that it’ll stop there and will not progress towards huge pictures of diseased livers covering two thirds of the label of whatever’s your preferred tipple? Any takers? No? Yeah, thought not.

Don’t get smug about this being more Australian nannying. It is, but I think it’s as much to do with Australian politicians having less on their plates than their counterparts in some parts of the world, especially Europe and the US, and so more time to listen to the whining of the nannies, moralists, control freaks and wowsers. Wherever you are, this is coming to a label near you soon.

And I can’t help but feel that if more people had stuck up for the smokers it wouldn’t be happening at all.

Advertisements

The attitude alone should be worth an extra couple of years – UPDATED

Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard, presumably accepting imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences: you will go to prison for five years.

From the titles of Porridge

Of course that was from both fiction and another time. These days an habitual criminal can look forward to having to write a letter, and even though that’s likely to be a tortuous exercise with many products of the British educamakayshun system at least one burglar has treated it with the contempt it deserves and not even taken the trouble to disguise his equal contempt for his victims.

Now on one or two levels he’s actually doing everyone a favour. You can’t argue with the advice of a professional thieving little bastard as far as things like curtains and open windows go, and since we can expect his attitude towards this so called punishment – apparently described as the most rigorous form of non-custodial sentence for young criminals, which I guess means there’s no help with the spelling and punctuation – to be shared by many who do take the trouble to hide it and go away smirking to themselves this guy’s open display of contempt tells us what a pointless waste of fucking time it is for someone like him. It’s probably not intentional but in effect his twisted form of honesty is a kind of public service, so he probably deserves some kind of thank you.

I’d suggest a few years bed, board and possible buggery in HMP Slade.

UPDATE – Same with more serious crimes if the Ambush Predator’s latest post is any indication.

“Mr Hussini was punched by two of them, who then held him back while the defendant leant forward and stabbed him in the stomach.”

Yes, you heard that right – they held him while this little savage stabbed him in the stomach.Is that not attempted murder?

The boy handed himself in to police the following day and pleaded guilty in court to wounding with intent and possessing an offensive weapon.

Sentencing the youngster to a two-year detention and training order, Judge Hamilton said: “But for the fact that there was a surgeon living nearby, the man you stabbed would have died.”

A two-year detention and training order. For stabbing someone in the stomach…

This country is doomed.

This Private Frasier-itis I’ve come down with seems to be catching, but perhaps we’re being unfair. I suppose it’s not attempted murder if someone is only slightly stabbed. /sarc

Oranges are not the only fruit death kill weapons

I know people on supermarket checkouts haven’t been hired to think, just to swipe barcodes over lasers for hours at a time, and I do realise that must be pretty mind numbing but surely something’s badly wrong when staff lack the initiative to question anything the till tells them. F’instance:

A chef was stunned to find she was almost banned from buying two limes from a supermarket – because they could be classed as a weapon.

Can I just repeat that the woman is a chef. Have you seen the knife collection the average chef has?

They keep the bloody sharp too, and since they’re for professional use I’d bet they can carry them around without getting arrested so much.

Marisa Zoccolan, 31, popped into the new Asda supermarket close to her home in Wallsend, North Tyneside, to pick up some groceries, including the citrus fruits.
But when she tried to pay for them at the self-service checkout, the message ‘amount exceeded, authorisation required’ flashed up.
An assistant then came over and told her that more than one lime was deemed a weapon – because the citric acid could be squirted in someone’s eye.

Would that be the same stuff Asda sell in convenient quarter litre bottles for less than 50p?

Marisa, a self-employed caterer said: ‘I thought they were taking the pip, but the assistant told me the same applied to lemons.”

Nope, I think you’ll find that lemons are a special case, and Asda sells the ammo for those too.

Or is it just plastic ones with ‘Jif’ written down the side?

Thankfully for Ms Zoccalan, who lives with partner Jacqui Nicholson, 37, and dog Doobie, the assistant allowed Marisa to eventually buy both of the fruits.
‘Yes, they vetted me and let me buy them.”

Oh, God. Not “They thought about it for about half a second and realised that since the whole bloody thing was patently ridiculous the best thing to do was apologise and get a supervisor to come and override the till.” No, they fucking vetted her. What this involves we’re not told, but I’m guessing Marisa Zoccolan told them she was a chef and that limes were not weapons but ingredients – it not being all that hard to find recipes that include the instruction “take the juice of two limes” – and they then asked her for something that showed she was indeed qualified to handle such lethal objects and safely make interesting desserts out of them. If it was anything even vaguely like that then that’s barely any better than refusing point blank to let her buy the limes and sticking with the retarded belief that a small green citrus was significantly more dangerous than a zillion other things kicking around the average home or office.

And in a way it’s a shame they’re not really a practical weapon because I know the perfect place to become the world’s first citrus supervillain. I’d have got away with it if it hadn’t been for those Asda kids.

The Big Orange in Berri, SA. Photo by Bilby.

Tip of the Akubra to Nanny Knows Best.

There oughtta be a law against it

Oh yes, a law. God forbid that we should sit down and think an important decision through rationally. That would never do, so having done something remarkably silly that we now regret we should demand that the state protect us from ourselves. That’s partly so that nobody else makes the same mistake, but when it’s something really exceptional that very, very few other people are inclined to do in the first place I can’t help but wonder if people demanding a law actually want it to stop themselves. In case they try to do it again.

Susan Tollefsen became a mother after receiving IVF treatment at 57 from a Russian clinic in 2008, where she conceived daughter Freya.
Many criticised her decision, saying she was too old to become a parent.

Not me. Personally I wouldn’t, but if someone’s decided to ignore nature’s subtle hints I’m inclined to trust that they’ve thought it through. All the way through. Of course I would be aware that that trust might be misplaced, but with nothing to contradict it I’d still give them the benefit of the doubt.

At the time, Mrs Tollefsen defended her choice and pointed out that her partner Nick Mayer was 11 years her junior – and would therefore be around to care for their daughter Freya during all of her childhood.

So she had thought it all the way thr… oh.

However, she says the couple have now split and concedes her critics were right as she encounters the difficulties of bringing up a three-year-old child alone at the age of 61.

Right, so apart from the ‘what if my partner’s not around’ point she thought it through.

“Every Saturday he wanted to go and watch them, either home or away, and some weekdays. I felt as if he didn’t want his life to change at all after Freya came along, even though mine had changed completely.”

Okay, okay, she didn’t really think it through far enough at all, and if he thought it wasn’t going to change his life much then I’d say he didn’t think it… ooooh, footie. In fairness to both of them it strikes me that this isn’t unique to people their age getting IVF – sadly there are plenty of children who were conceived naturally but whose conception was ill conceived, and whose parents love their offspring, sorta kinda, but miss the days they didn’t have this small person depending on them so much. Tough shit, folks. If you want your life to stay the same as it is now the obvious thing to do is not fucking change it.

“I never imagined it would work out this way,’ Mrs Tollefsen said. “I’ve never regretted having Freya but I’ve had to pay a heavy price for my dream of being a mother. In fact, it’s cost me my relationship. You think you’re madly in love with someone and you just don’t realise what they’re going to be like after you’ve had children.”

/ looks skyward with hands in pockets and begins to whistle

So now she’s decided as wonderful and precious as her daughter is to her it really wasn’t such a smart move after all, and that means – you guessed it – she wants there to be a law to stop the infinitesimally small number of people who want to become a new parent in their late 50s from doing the same thing.

Mrs Tollefsen, who is deaf in one ear and having a knee replaced, also agrees that, with hindsight, there should be an age limit of 50 for IVF treatment for women in this country.

Except she’s still not thinking things through properly, is she? Hello, Susan? You went … Susan? Susan? Hello? Sorry, wrong ear. Hello, Susan, you went to Russia to get your IVF, remember? And if there’d been an age limit of 50 at the time, and remembering that the NHS won’t provide IVF to anyone 40 or over and even private clinics tend to balk at treating women over 50, exactly how would that have stopped you from doing what you did? Exactly how would bringing in such a law now prevent any other woman whose desire for a child has eclipsed everything else, including rational thought and taste and decency…

“Sperm! Sperm! Sperm! Sperm! Lovely sperm, wonderful sperm!” *

… from doing the same thing? Unless you want this law to ban women over 50 from getting on a plane as well you simply can’t prevent doing the same thing. Your own story is a cautionary tale and should put a few people off, but unless we want the already far too powerful nanny state to grow yet more powerful we must accept people ignoring advice and making short sighted decisions as being facts of life.

* Apologies to Monty Python for ruining one of their most famous skits.

Fantasy drugs policy

On this blog I’ve occasionally quoted from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books since it’s always been less a fantasy series and more a series of parodies, often of parts of the world we actually live in, and there are often bits here and there which align pretty neatly with libertarian positions. I’ve no idea if Terry Pratchett would describe himself as a libertarian but some of his characters certainly are, at least on some issues, and they tend to be the protagonists or people on the same side as the protagonists. So when Mrs Exile bought me the latest one I wasn’t surprised to find in the first few pages almost exactly the kind of drugs policy I’d support for real, implemented by Lord Vetinari, probably the most libertarian tyrant ever, real or imagined.

… Incidentally, sir, we have received a missive from Diamond King of Trolls, thanking us for our firm stance on the drugs issue. Well done, sir.’
‘Hardly a concession,’ Vetinari observed, waving it away. ‘You know my position, Drumknott. I have no particular objection to people taking substances that make them feel better or more contented, or, for that matter, see little dancing purple fairies – or even their god if it comes to that. It’s their brain, after all, and society can have no claim on it, providing they’re not operating heavy machinery at the time. However, to sell drugs to trolls that actually make their heads explode is simply murder, the capital crime.’

Snuff, Terry Pratchett

Seems fair enough to me. What you choose to put into your body should be entirely up to you, though of course you would still responsible for your actions when you’re under the influence of whatever it is you’ve taken, but selling you something that’s certain to kill you on the spot is not on. In reality nobody making a quid either illegally or legally from recreational drugs – and as usual I include alcohol and tobacco, and I suppose possibly caffeine as well – has any interest in killing customers since dead people have a tendency to stop buying the produce. Some of these things are dangerous and may kill some users eventually, though often that’s as much a result of the adulteration that’s commonplace with illegal drugs as a result of the drug itself, but if any drug was both rapidly and universally lethal it would have no market. People want to get high, but very few want to get high so badly they’ll take something from which they will definitely never come down. In fact the only time I’ve heard of a drug being deliberately made toxic it was on the orders of a government who did have a particular objection to people taking a substance that made them feel better and more contented, and, for that matter, see little dancing purple fairies fall over more often.

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
[…]
Rigorous enforcement had managed to slow the smuggling of alcohol from Canada and other countries. But crime syndicates responded by stealing massive quantities of industrial alcohol—used in paints and solvents, fuels and medical supplies—and redistilling it to make it potable.
Well, sort of. Industrial alcohol is basically grain alcohol with some unpleasant chemicals mixed in to render it undrinkable. The U.S. government started requiring this “denaturing” process in 1906 for manufacturers who wanted to avoid the taxes levied on potable spirits. The U.S. Treasury Department, charged with overseeing alcohol enforcement, estimated that by the mid-1920s, some 60 million gallons of industrial alcohol were stolen annually to supply the country’s drinkers. In response, in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge’s government decided to turn to chemistry as an enforcement tool. Some 70 denaturing formulas existed by the 1920s. Most simply added poisonous methyl alcohol into the mix. Others used bitter-tasting compounds that were less lethal, designed to make the alcohol taste so awful that it became undrinkable.
To sell the stolen industrial alcohol, the liquor syndicates employed chemists to “renature” the products, returning them to a drinkable state. The bootleggers paid their chemists a lot more than the government did, and they excelled at their job. Stolen and redistilled alcohol became the primary source of liquor in the country. So federal officials ordered manufacturers to make their products far more deadly.
By mid-1927, the new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons—kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone. The Treasury Department also demanded more methyl alcohol be added—up to 10 percent of total product. It was the last that proved most deadly.
The results were immediate, starting with that horrific holiday body count in the closing days of 1926. Public health officials responded with shock. “The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol,” New York City medical examiner Charles Norris said at a hastily organized press conference. “[Y]et it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible.”

Even now one foreseeable side effect of so many recreational drugs being illegal that they will end up being both more expensive and less safe through being adulterated with Christ knows what, and another is that people will turn to alternative drugs when their preferred choice is either too expensive or too hard to find. Because of this desire of certain people to make everyone else live to their standards rather than live as each chooses* we have almost the polar opposite of Vetinari’s stance on the drug’s issue – the belief is that user’s brains are not their own and society does have a claim on them, and official policy has had the inevitable effect of making drugs more dangerous, sometimes deliberately.

Why does sanity have to come from the pen of a man who writes about trolls and dwarves and magic, and, sadly, who is also suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s? And what does that say about the people who really are responsible for drugs policy?

* As a libertarian I have no desire to force other people to be libertarians as well. I’ll try to persuade them it’s a good idea but if they want to be neo-puritans Tories or socialists dumbly obedient to the state or whatever then that’s up to them. That’s their drug of choice and if they can do it without harming me I have no objection, just as I have no objection to people smoking, drinking or getting stoned around me if I’m not affected by it. The annoying reality is that neo-puritans and statists of all stripes have done me far more harm than drug users have, and much of the little harm I’ve suffered that was probably drug related (losses from a car break in and higher insurance, if you must know) may not have happened if drugs policies hadn’t made the damn things cost more than they need to.

Happiness is firearms safety

Click for linky

I don’t care how glad you are the bastard’s dead, get your fucking finger off that trigger, you daft bellend. Fundamental rule of firearm safety: you always always always treat it as if it’s loaded even if you’ve personally taken the magazine out and worked the action. Now and then guns thought to be unloaded turn out to have a round in the chamber after all, and I can tell you from personal experience that hearing the rattle of bolts going back and forth followed by a lot of clicks and one loud bang tightens one’s sphincter a little even when it’s on a range and you know that all the business ends are pointed in a safe direction. I quote from a post last year in which a very pretty girl is licking a pistol in a very suggestive way with her finger on the trigger and the muzzle right underneath the tip of her nose:

For those who’ve never who’ve never shot the basic safety rules are fairly common sense and run along the following lines:

  • Unless visibly made safe a gun should always treated as if it is loaded and ready to fire.
  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Be aware both of the target and what is around it.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the guard until you are ready to fire.
  • You’ll look better with your nose where it is than you will if you blow it off your face and on to the fucking ceiling.

I think an extra one might have snuck in there.

Click for embiggerfication and guide to what is a safe direction

Oh, Jeez, there’s another picture here, and if anything it’s even worse as he has a finger over the muzzle.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! Don’t fucking do that. Just don’t.



S(t)ea(l) Fever

Originally posted at The Orphanage and with apologies to John Masefield.

I must go down to the shops again,
To the shops on Kensington High,
And all I want is some Xboxes
And a streetlight to loot ‘em by,
And some iPhones and some ciggies
And the owners’ fists shaking,
And a laptop and a plasma TV,
And some windows breaking.

I must go down to the shops again,
For the call of the looting crowd
Is a wild call and a clear call,
If technically not allowed.
And all we ask is for cops to stand
Around as the bricks are flying,
And as the stock of the local shops walks out
Amidst their owners’ crying.

I must go down to the shops again,
With the other smiling chavs,
To Curry’s and the Apple Store
To see what we can have;
And all I ask is a bit of a larf
With a cackling fellow looter,
As we ‘elp ourselves to someone’s stuff
‘Cause they ain’t allowed a shooter.

The (inevitable) riot posts #5 – A call for arms – UPDATED

Click for links:

Two thoughts occur, first of which is good on those who’ve woken up to the reality that the police simply cannot protect everyone in this kind of situation. They just can’t. The Met has about 33,000 officers, and with Specials and PCSOs it’s pushed up to about 42,000 or so, plus whatever can be spared from other forces.* Sounds like a lot but of course they can’t just stop all other areas of policing or expect officers to go without sleep of food, and if neighbouring forces have serious problems of their own there may be little help available – and of course several now do. They’d be doing well to have 25,000 cops on London’s streets and probably even that’s a stretch. And since London has somewhere between 8 million and 14 million people depending on where you choose to stop counting you don’t need the rioting, looting, scumbag proportion of its society to be even a significant minority for the police to be outnumbered. One percent of ten million outnumbers even optimistic police numbers 4 to 1, and that’s before you consider the sheer size of the area that needs to be protected.

Of course the police are equipped and trained and so on, and most importantly are backed up by the state’s monopoly on force, so they will eventually get the upper hand and restore order. But that’s not much comfort if your home or your business or whatever building or bit of ground that’s precious to you and your local community has been wrecked, burned and pillaged by marauding hordes of ferals. The choice then is a simple one: hope like hell the police happen to be around if trouble happens in your neighbourhood or at least come quickly enough to stop it, or to take responsibility for that protection yourself with whatever tools you have and whatever makeshift barriers and weapons you can devise. The police won’t like it and have already ordered some to get back in their homes and leave it to them – instructions that I sincerely hope have been ignored pending restoration of the police’s ability to protect innocent citizens. And clearly it’s not without its risks as those few deaths of people trying to protect what’s theirs show. But just living or running a business in the wrong part of the wrong town is a risk in itself at the moment, so it’s hardly surprising that a number of people have decided to grab whatever they have that swings well and looks like a looter would steer clear of, and take up stations.**

And the second thought that occurs? It’d be a damn sight easier for people to protect themselves and their property if ownership of the best tools for doing so – firearms – wasn’t banned for all of Britain’s persistently law-abiding non-offenders, and there might have been less looting if the pricks with the bricks thought there was a fair chance there’d be someone with a loaded gun behind the glass ready to defend the place.

UPDATE – as a follow up to one of the footnotes below, from The Daily Mail article linked above (my bold):

Amarjit Singh Klair from nearby Hounslow, who helped rally the men, said: ‘We are working along side the police, they’re doing what they can but they are stretched.
Why shouldn’t we defend our homes, businesses and places of worship? This is our area. There’s lots of talk about it kicking off here. But we’re ready for them.’
Hooded youths could be seen scouting the area but appear to be have frightened off. Only a handful of police could be seen patrolling the area.
The Sikh community were running a military style operation to protect themselves after almost 100 rioters tried to attack the heart of the area early on Tuesday.
With few police around, elders at London’s largest Sikh temple in Havelock Road resorted to telephoning male worshippers for help.
Last night groups of Sikh men stood guard at different parts of the town, keeping in touch via their mobiles.
One man in his 20s said: ‘They caught us off guard last night but we still managed to get people together to protect the area. We saw them putting on their balaclavas preparing to jump out of three cars but we charged at them and managed to chase them off.’

Props to the Sikhs – I’ve always liked the ones I’ve met, and as a group they seem to know when to stop fucking around and start relying on themselves.

* I haven’t counted the City of London police as they have less than a thousand to add and if trouble spread to their patch I could imagine they might to borrow manpower from the Met.
** It’s also not surprising, or not to me anyway, that the among the first to do so were Sikhs defending their temple. They’re not daft and not shy of taking responsibility for their own defence.

The (inevitable) riot posts #4

In case you haven’t seen Spiked! it really is worth popping over there to read Brendan O’Neill’s take on the riots. He suggests that it’s not so much a race thing, and since although there are loads of black faces in the images of rioting and looting coming out of Britain there’s not exactly a shortage of white faces either he’s probably got a point. Nor, he says, is it about working class anger at the cuts or high youth unemployment or a general protest against capitalism.

These observers are right that there is a political context to the riots. They are right to argue that while the police shooting of young black man Mark Duggan may ostensibly have been the trigger for the street violence, there is a broader context to the disturbances. But they are wrong about what the political context is. Painting these riots as some kind of action replay of historic political streetfights against capitalist bosses or racist cops might allow armchair radicals to get their intellectual rocks off, as they lift their noses from dusty tomes about the Levellers or the Suffragettes and fantasise that a political upheaval of equal worth is now occurring outside their windows. But such shameless projection misses what is new and peculiar and deeply worrying about these riots. The political context is not the cuts agenda or racist policing – it is the welfare state, which, it is now clear, has nurtured a new generation that has absolutely no sense of community spirit or social solidarity.

What we have on the streets of London and elsewhere are welfare-state mobs. The youth who are ‘rising up’ – actually they are simply shattering their own communities – represent a generation that has been more suckled by the state than any generation before it. They live in those urban territories where the sharp-elbowed intrusion of the welfare state over the past 30 years has pushed aside older ideals of self-reliance and community spirit. The march of the welfare state into every aspect of less well-off urban people’s existences, from their financial wellbeing to their childrearing habits and even into their emotional lives, with the rise of therapeutic welfarism designed to ensure that the poor remain ‘mentally fit’, has helped to undermine such things as individual resourcefulness and social bonding. The anti-social youthful rioters look to me like the end product of such an anti-social system of state intervention.
[…]
It is entertaining to watch the political contortionism of those commentators who claim that the riots are an uprising against the evils of capitalism, as they struggle to explain why the targets thus far have been Foot Locker sports shops, electrical goods shops, takeaway joints and bus-stops, and why the only ‘gains’ made by the rioters have been to get a new pair of trainers or an Apple laptop. In past episodes of rioting, for example during the Brixton race riots of 1981, looting and the destruction of local infrastructure were largely incidental to the broader expression of political anger, byproducts of the main show, which was a clash between a community and the forces of the state. But in these new riots, smashing stuff up is all there is. It is childish nihilism.
[…]
But it’s more than childish destructiveness motivating the rioters. At a more fundamental level, these are youngsters who are uniquely alienated from the communities they grew up in. Nurtured in large part by the welfare state, financially, physically and educationally, socialised more by the agents of welfarism than by their own neighbours or community representatives, these youth have little moral or emotional attachment to the areas they grew up in. Their rioting reveals, not that Britain is in a time warp back to 1981 or 1985 when there were politically motivated, anti-racist riots against the police, but rather that the tentacle-like spread of the welfare state into every area of people’s lives has utterly zapped old social bonds, the relationship of sharing and solidarity that once existed in working-class communities. In communities that are made dependent upon the state, people are less inclined to depend on each other or on their own social wherewithal. We have a saying in Britain for people who undermine their own living quarters – we call it ‘shitting on your own doorstep’. And this rioting suggests that the welfare state has given rise to a generation perfectly happy to do that.

This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a riotous expression of carelessness for one’s own community. And as a left-winger, I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a profoundly negative impact on working people’s lives.

Do go and read the rest. I don’t think I’ve linked to Spiked! before but I do have a lot of time for O’Neill’s writing, even if he is a self-confessed left winger. Maybe it’s because I’m not particularly right-wing myself so much as anti-state and so have more in common with an anti-state left winger than a statist right-winger. Hell, I used to think I was left-wing until a left wing government took over and I realised I hated them too. Or maybe O’Neill is just a clearer thinker than the usual CiF/LabourLost mob.

Whatever it is I think he’s got a damn good point. Let’s not hide from the fact that there have been a lot of black people involved in the looting, but let’s not ignore the fact that an even bigger common denominator seems to be age. A couple of generations of people for whom life is about getting something for nothing and increasingly about getting everything for nothing. Black, white, Asian, blue skinned many-armed Thengulb’idians from the planet Urgh if there were any, whoever has been deemed by the Righteous to be even remotely disadvantaged has been spoiled by state largesse. That there are so many black faces (and so few blue ones with tentacles over the eyes) I’d guess just means that the money hoses have been soaking them more than other groups, probably because of this culture of guilt over past injustices that the Righteous tell us we should feel these days.

That we’ve spoiled if not wholly ruined so many people, and many of them black, by dumbing down education and fostering a culture of welfarism and dependence is not exactly just either probably escapes them.

The (inevitable) riot posts #1

I was gearing up to talk about the kind of person who doesn’t have a chip on their shoulder so much as a whole freezer’s worth of oven ready potato based food and as a result spends half their lives revved up into a state of outraged victimhood, but over on the other side of the Pacific Uncle Bill has already covered it and if you haven’t already been over for a read I recommend it. I was also going to talk about what a lousy excuse for a riot this is, even if it should eventually turn out that the police are once again rather less deserving of the respect than some of us were brought up to have for them, and how the destruction and violent looting of other people’s property is utterly inexcusable and shows what a bunch of weapons grade shits people can be, but there’s so much shiticity taking place on such a scale that I’m not sure where to begin or whether I’ve even got the energy to finish if I start.

Instead I’m going to make this a fairly short post about how just occasionally someone does something that restores my faith in human nature. Someone like the woman in this video.

She’s working hard to make her business work and then you lot wanna go and burn it up.
For what? Just to say that you’re warring… ?

Thoroughly deserving of the ‘Lost in admiration’ tag, and worth keeping in mind because I’m sure it won’t be long before the my misanthropy levels are back to normal and I’m back to thinking twats, pricks, cunts, bastards and scumbags are the norm.

On the subject of which, what with the poverty, disease, low life expectancy, corruption, possible human rights abuses and its low-tech economy I reckon Cameroon has got enough trouble on its plate without abuse from some London wanker with a aerosol tin of paint whose life is almost certainly unbelievably cushy by comparison.

Although possibly not when
it comes to literacy

Islamophobiaphobia

I’m not sure if that’s the right word to describe a fear of Islamophobia and I’m not even sure that Islamophobiaphobia is a real thing, even allowing for some of the stuff on Comment is Free. But even if it’s not a phobia I’m fairly sure that it’s a bit of a worry for some Muslims that the actions of some of their co-believers have created where a nervous flyer who also happens to be a Muslim can’t say ‘Thank Allah we’ve landed’ without everyone else on the plane simultaneously shitting themselves, not least because several of those actions have involved planes and the creation of a whole generation of nervous flyers of all creeds.

So on the whole I think it’s probably a good thing for everybody when the sane, moderate Muslims, the kind that in fact are the only kind* I’ve ever dealt with professionally, come out and say something like this:

“Muslims can be whingers and they tend to blame everyone but themselves for the way people view them.”

No, that’s not a hypothetical wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-someone-stood-up-and-said-it, they’re the words of man called Diaa Mohamed and you probably don’t need too many guesses about what his religion is. Nor are they the words of some culturally Muslim secular type criticising a faith they don’t really hold – apparently Diaa Mohamed professes to be a devout Muslim and is the co-founder of mypeace.com.au, a website he hopes will tell people of other faiths more about his.** He doesn’t stop at saying that Muslims can be whingers either.

“A lot of Muslims point the finger at the media for giving them a bad reputation but it’s nobody’s fault but our own,” … Diaa Mohamed said. “Muslims haven’t done the job when it comes to being out there and showing who they are and what their values are.
“A lot of the things we see on television are acts by extremists and radical Muslims.
“That is not who we are.”

Good on the guy for speaking up. It reminds me of the Muslims who pitched up to an Islam4UK do back in 2009, but to protest against them (as well as take the piss out of them) rather than with them. Here’s a reminder:

So in fact there are reasonable and moderate Muslims who are prepared to stand up and speak – that’s the good news. Now here’s the not so good. When I blogged it at the time the title of the post was “More Please”, and I wrote that more Western Muslims rejecting violence and publicly embracing liberty, free speech and live and let live would improve their image and reduce Islamophobia more effectively than, well, anything. And yet nearly 2 years on and I can’t recall seeing any other articles about British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the group behind that protest, and this is the first I’m writing of any other Muslims doing anything similar.

So where are the rest?

I very much doubt a billion and a half Muslims all read this blog and there’s no reason why they should take any notice of me anyway, but I’d have thought that the same thing would have occurred to more of them. Not so much Joe Average Muslim, like the guys (and girls) I used to deal with in West London ten years or so ago who hardly anyone gave a second thought about until September 2001 because they just rocked up and did a 9 to 5 like everyone else apart from working through every lunch hour when it was Ramadan. I was thinking more along the lines of Muslims who can command some media time and encourage others to be more vocal.

So we have a group in Sydney, the BMSD and, er… the only other group I’ve ever come across is Minaret of Freedom, which came up when out of curiosity I put ‘Muslim libertarians’ into Google to see what it would find.*** I’m not likely ever to come to believe what they believe (in fact over at the Orphanage I’ve been explaining that I have a profound lack of belief for anything much) but to me they seem to be reasonable and sane people who are no scarier to me than Christians.

Most Christians

That Diaa Mohamed is in the news for saying Muslims have got to accept that they’ve not been helping their cause suggests that it’s probably not the media’s fault for ignoring them, though of course outrage sells papers so Muslims saying or doing something outrageous is a better story than Muslims singing the Coca-Cola song. But even the media are going to get bored with running the same kind of story over and over again and will go with something different just for novelty value. Moderate Muslims, those that can get on TV, can make something of this if they want. Perhaps they feel they shouldn’t have to or don’t have the time, but if they ever want Muslim communities – and sticking to communities mightn’t be the best idea either – to get back to fairly normal terms with their adopted countries I’d say they want to give it a try. The alternative is to let the ones preaching death, destruction and violent proselytisation to continue to have it nearly all their own way.

* Always in work environments, where for some reason I’ve never met the other kind – maybe they’re too busy photocopying leaflets or making placards for marches or something.
** I only had a quick look at the home page and a couple of random links but my first impressions is that Islam4UK it ain’t. There was a link about becoming a Muslim, and let’s be honest I’d be surprised if there wasn’t – it’s not like Christians, especially the evangelicals, don’t proselytise – but other than that it all seemed pretty non-threatening.
*** Haven’t really looked at that either so although their banner professes free market ideals I don’t know if they are libertarian as such.

Stony Stratford Saturday

A brief post to wish those going with Dick Puddlecote to Stony Stratford today a very enjoyable and successful day proving that smokers and non-smokers can get on together just fine, and hopefully getting the chance to raise the point in front of the media that the ban-happy, nannying control freaks are already targeting drink and food that they disapprove of and that non-smokers who think they’ll never be in the firing line should think hard about how sure they are about that. But keep your own cameras on – Cllr Bartlett sounds crazy enough to empty a load of ashtrays all over the streets the minute you all go just so he can blame it on you.

Sorry, but I did not order the late night snack or the earthquake

I’ve not had to argue hotel bills too often in my life. I avoid the ridiculous phone call rates by using my mobile, I won’t use the internet for much the same reason unless it’s included, I steer clear of the minibar and its stupidly overpriced contents, where possible I pay as I go for food and drinks, and it should go without saying that there’s no way I’m going to watch their ruinously expensive porn channels. That way when I’ve checked out I’ve not had to do much more than make sure the number of days I’m being billed for is right and that the room service bill is for what I ordered and nothing more. On one or two occasions I’ve had to argue that I didn’t get a paper or a club sandwich that they thought I’d had but generally I’ve been able to glance at hotel bills, pay and leave. Simple as.

I’ve never been stayed in an hotel when it got hit by an earthquake either, but it would never have occurred to me that that would be a reason not to pay even for things I did have.

A guest trapped in Christchurch’s earthquake-hit Hotel Grand Chancellor for nearly four hours feels “kicked in the guts” after being billed $NZ300 ($A232) (£155, US$247, €173, blahblahblah I’m not doing it in Harry Potter money, I’m just not – AE) for his stay.

Well, if the earthquake had prevented him from staying there then fair dos, but as we’ll soon see that’s not exactly how it was.

A New Zealand man and his wife, who declined to be named, were trapped on the central Christchurch hotel’s 22nd floor and escaped hours later by braving collapsed staircases, smashing down doors and crawling on to the roof of an adjacent car park.
[…]
He received a $NZ300 bill from the hotel for his two-night stay, including an $NZ18 parking fee for a car that took more than two months to recover.
[…]
When the February 22 quake struck, the couple were watching a movie for which they were billed $NZ15.20, in their 25th-floor room.

Okay, so since they were in their room watching a movie and their car was parked downstairs I think it’s safe to say that they’d checked in. In fact they were very checked in.

The couple have been unable to get an insurance payment for the $NZ15,000 worth of luggage stuck in the hotel because their insurer says the belongings could still be recovered.
They had so much luggage because they were about to move to Australia.

Now it might be a bit shitty of their insurer to deny a claim for possessions that are stuck in a damaged building to which there is no public access and which has been scheduled for demolition, but that’s not the hotel’s fault. And if all that stuff is still in there then I think it’s safe to say that the couple were in the hotel and using its services – parking, TV entertainment (hopefully not some Roland Emmerich disaster porn – that’d be unreasonably cruel of life) and accommodation – at the time.

So what’s the problem with being billed for it? The earthquake trapped their possessions and their car, and presumably they didn’t see the end of the flick, but it didn’t erase time and undo their use of the hotel facilities. It was desperately bad luck compounded by an unsympathetic insurance company (is there another kind?) but the hotel company was unlucky too – they have a large and unusable building sitting there and the expense of demolition and reconstruction to look forward to, and their insurers are probably no more cuddly than that of the unnamed couple. The earthquake wasn’t the hotel’s fault and about the only thing you can criticise them for is the time it’s taken to send out the bill. Even then…

[Grand Chancellor Australia and New Zealand group manager Frank Delli Cicchi] said many guests who checked into the hotel just before the quake had received their bills in the past few days because the company had only recently gained access to the accounts, which were trapped in another quake-damaged building in the city.

So they weren’t actually able to send out bills until recently. I’m finding it harder and harder to understand why it is that the hotel shouldn’t get paid for the services it provided up to the point the quake hit. Look, if I ordered a pizza and set it down on the table before something happened that meant we had to abandon it and get out of the house, can I ring up the pizza company and expect my thirty bucks back? Of course not – they’ve provided what I asked for and whatever happens after that isn’t their problem. Anything they do do is out of the goodness of their hearts and not because I have any kind of right to expect it. So how can this be different?

Even more confusingly the hotel group has caved in and waived some of the bills, including that of the anonymous couple, but not all of them. Whether they are billing guests or not now depends not on whether the guests used the hotel’s services but on whether they were inside or outside when the earthquake happened.

[Delli Cicchi said he] did not know how many trapped guest had been sent bills. Guests who were not in the hotel when the quake struck were still expected to pay their bills, he said.
“They legitimately incurred costs.”

And how did people who were in the hotel somehow not legitimately incur costs? How does whether a guest pops out for a stroll around Christchurch or kicks back and watches a film in their room alter whether they’d legitimately incurred costs? Do I have to lick a special kind of toad to make sense of this or something?

And above all, why are those who’ve been let off having to pay for goods and services they did in fact receive and consume still complaining?

After contacting New Zealand’s The Press, the man received a phone call from a Grand Chancellor accountant who said the bill would be waived.
The man said he was still upset.
“I would never send something like that.”

I can’t think why not. If I’d done some work for someone and was about to send him an invoice when I heard that a tree had fallen on his car written it off I’d be sympathetic to the poor guy. I’d probably phone him first and talk to him about it, maybe see if he needed a little flexibility on my part. But if he told me that he thought I shouldn’t get paid at all I’d say I hope his chooks turn into emus and kick his dunny down as well.* I’d feel for the guy and I’d try to help out if I could in his time of misfortune, but whatever had happened, even if he’d been in the car and narrowly escaped unharmed, it wouldn’t undo the work I’d done. Even if he’d been killed shouldn’t somebody still settle up with me? Estates still pay outstanding bills, after all.

Is it heartless of me to think that victims of bad luck and even quite serious natural disaster should still settle any debts they owe? And if not does it make a difference whether the bill comes from a small business or an international company with a dozen or so large and luxurious hotels?

* An Australian curse I came across not long ago. You’ve got to love what Aussies do with the language.

Quote of the Day

Is from Michael Pascoe, who is described as “one of Australia’s most respected finance commentators”, although back in January I called him names for saying the Queensland floods provided an economic stimulus and thus giving a good example of the broken window fallacy at work. And while I’m not sure about some of what he says about events in Greece here I can’t argue with this:

… we tend to only do as much as we need to do. If governments are so hopelessly inept and short-sighted as to generously pay people for not working, many people will not work.

And of course Greece is not the only place where that point is becoming increasingly relevant, eh?

Dying for the toilet

Or almost dying, anyway. Meet Michelle Egglestone of Ballarat, a town in regional Victoria an hour or so west of Melbourne. Going for a quick number one could have killed her and in fact did inflict some pretty horrific injuries. Readers of a squeamish disposition may want to look away now for the next paragraph.

Documents filed in the Supreme Court show she sustained pelvis and lower abdominal injuries, along with ”penetrative injuries to the rectum, vagina and bladder necessitating surgical treatment involving laparotomy, repair of the bladder, repair of the vault of the vagina and colostomy”.

In case you’re wondering about the ‘documents filed in the Supreme Court’ bit there the answer is yes, she is suing someone. And you may also be thinking that with those sort of injuries you’d want to sue someone too and are wondering what the hell happened to the toilet she was using. Did it explode? Was there a medieval torture device left in the bowl and the lights had gone out, or what?

Good question, and inadequate lighting does get a mention. But funnily enough toilets do not.

“The plaintiff sustained injury at the premises whilst she was urinating from the verandah which was inadequately lit,” the writ says.

Ah, not a toilet then. That’s right, this is not going to be pretty in any sense. Hum the Casualty theme tune if you like.

[Ms Egglestone] was impaled on a star picket after falling off a veranda while drunk and urinating over the side [and] is now suing the property owner.
[…]Ms Egglestone [is seeking damages, loss of earnings and] claims she also has post-operative scarring, depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and nightmares because of the incident.
She believes that Mr Furness, as owner and occupier of the house, was negligent in failing to ensure the veranda had adequate balustrading and complied with the building codes.
The statement of claim says he also had a duty of care to ensure the star pickets below the verandah had protective capping.
Mr Furness also failed to exercise due skill and care in the maintenance of the premises and should have provided adequate warning about it.

Riiiight. So to recap, she gets blitzed and needs a piss, and chooses to relieve herself from a dimly lit verandah without a decent rail and above a picket fence instead of going inside to the toilet. All of which is of course not even remotely her fault, but the fault of her then boyfriend for having a verandah on which she could perch herself backwards while shooting for distance and dark enough for her not to worry about being seen. If it had a chest high railing and was lit up like the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a night game would she have just pissed on the floor instead? Or would she have, oh, I don’t know, maybe used a fucking toilet? Does Mr Furness really have to shoulder the blame for not mentioning that it wasn’t such a good idea for her to drop her drawers and pee from there and wouldn’t she rather use his nice toilet which had a seat and a light and everything? Isn’t Egglestone going to have Mother Nature going to be named as co-defendant for failing to properly equip her crotch for this kind of thing?

And now a word from our sponsors: Ladies, do YOU want to write your name in the snow? Do YOU ever need to pee
over a picket fence? Wish that you too could look where you’re ‘going’? Want a 10″ golden dick? Then you need a SHENIS!

Surely this is McDonald’s coffee all over again. Come on, the guy should not really have needed to put up lights, safety rails and warning signs to let any wasted girl who happened to be caught short in the immediate vicinity know that it’s not the ideal place to have a Jimmy Riddle. Even drunk it ought to be fairly easy to work out that there are better places to go, and anyone who can’t work that out when drunk should probably not get drunk in the first place. The only alternative left to believe is that she had no choice. But this is an industrialised nation in the 21st century and as such is practically a certainty that somewhere in the house was a room set aside and especially equipped to have met her need, though of course in Australia there are very occasionally valid reasons for not using it.

Click to embiggen, but wait ’til I leave first

But that’s really pretty rare, and even if the dunny was already occupied by fucking Shelob was there really no alternative to drunkenly hovering your arse from a precarious place that, if things didn’t go well, might end up with you falling on railings which you’d just pissed all over? Because if there wasn’t, Mish, I can’t help feeling that you bear pretty much all of the responsibility. At 35 you should be old enough to know when you’re drinking enough to make bad decisions and be incapable of judging what’s safe, and who decided to put all that alcohol down your neck? Because if it wasn’t anyone else then that too was your decision and your responsibility. In other words giving yourself an accidental vagina shish-kebab came about as a consequence of your decision to urinate from a verandah instead of a toilet seat, which in turn was probably a result of your decision to get shitfaced enough not to realise what a bad idea that was.

Drink and be merry by all means, but take responsibility for your own actions and choices.