Saturday, October 31, 2009

Drugs are Drugs are Drugs...

I'm not going to discuss the resignation of Professor Nutt or government policy. But drugs- including alcohol – have a devastating effect on families. Alcohol is governed by licensing laws with consequences, which could include loss of livelihood if contravened. Drugs however are illegal and therefore unlicensed. It seems that licensing the use of and distribution of illegal drugs might be the way to go. It surely must be worth a trial period. Remove the indirect dangers such as thuggish distributers who work outside the law, impure drugs whose 'fillers' (the substances various levels of distribution 'cut' the product with to increase profits) which are often more dangerous than the drug. Remove the 'street cred' value and restrict the usage to adults and we might clean up the drug scene, improve society in general and reduce crime.

The problem with this approach is it won't work. Minors will find ways to access drugs. Adults will supply them. There will still be an illegal trade to avoid the excise duty any government will surely apply.

It is my opinion that the only answer is zero tolerance. Prosecute whether in possession of a gram or a kilogram. Change the law so that possession is not the only criterion by which a user/supplier can be prosecuted. Chemical testing to establish contact with drugs should be used. Make the consequences severe.

I understand the argument that prohibition doesn't work and often quoted is the US Volstead Act (prohibition). But this did not work for two reasons. First, it was an attempt to prohibit the use of an already legal and socially accepted intoxicant. Second, the Act only prohibited the distribution of alcohol. It did not prohibit the use or sale of alcohol.

I also advocate the removal of classification of drugs. A gram of heroin or a pound of cannabis should be treated equally under the law. Sentencing should be adjusted according to mitigating circumstances, not that this is bad because it's heroin or not so bad because it's cannabis.

It is certain current legislation is not working. Equally, educating on the dangers of drugs alone is inadequate. Telling people a drug is dangerous creates an atmosphere of disbelief when drug users can be seen to suffer few ill effects from their habit in the short term.

Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. The only certainty is that something must be done.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anti-Slavery Laws and Single Parents

Liberty and Anti-Slavery International are asking for laws to protect workers, particularly migrant workers from exploitation- effectively slavery. Interesting that one of their suggestions is 'a second offence of forced labour, [punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.]'

Isn't that what the Government has just imposed on single parents of young children?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

UK to Block Web Access in Effort to Control Piracy

The UK is to introduce laws forcing ISP's to cut off internet access to illegal file sharers. This will be a last resort after warning letters and a first stage of reducing internet speeds.

Here's what I say. For years the big players in music and film have charged excessively for music and video. CD's doubled the price of an album, even though they were cheaper to produce. DVD's are much cheaper to produce than video tapes yet the cost is similar, if not more. They have trouble getting the providers of illegal content, so focus the laws on the users. And now the technology is available for the ordinary user to bypass the artificially high prices, they are crying it ain't fair.

Sell your content at a realistic price that actually reflects production costs and most of us will be happy to pay. You don't like being ripped off. Neither do we.

Now, apart from the moral and legal implications, there are the technical facts. It is already easy to encrypt downloads. There are already networks that give anonymity.
So how do they propose enforcing the law? If your data is encrypted, you must be downloading illegally? If you download large files you must be doing something illegal?

Well no, this cannot be the criteria for deciding guilt. Many legitimate programs are now hundreds of megabytes. Cloud computing means people back up huge amounts of data to the web. Online gaming eats at bandwidth. And many homes have multiple computers (We have four and my son plays online games on his Xbox for many hours a week.) It seems we are being given the technology but governments are intervening to restrict its (legal) use.

And besides, if I get a letter from my ISP, before there is any penalty I can switch ISP and wait my first letter from them.

This has not been thought through. Whatever technology is used to try to catch file sharers, a way round it will soon be found. Just look at how quickly video encryption was cracked. And as I already said if the criteria are to be large downloads or encrypted data, then they lose the moral high ground. The innocent will be presumed guilty. Especially in a household of four where only one illegally downloads, yet all have their internet access cut.

The only fair way is a change in social attitudes away from glorifying huge profits at the expense of the consumer to reasonable profits and reasonable prices that by their nature discourage theft. Why would I want to wait two or more hours to download a film at the risk of prosecution if I can go down the video store and buy it for £5, and be watching it in 20 minutes or less?

Which introduces another, often ignored point. Piracy actually encourages sales rather than reducing them. Because many people who download music and video from illegal sites often go on to buy the original content. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but they do actually want to own the original in its nice packaging and on a CD or DVD that will not deteriorate over time. But they do not want to risk £10 or £20 on an original they might not enjoy. Back to price again! So they download an album and if they like it, they buy it.

Story Here

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Careers Advice for Seven-Year-Olds

The government now wants to give careers advice and introduce university to 7 year olds.

What a ridiculous idea. Children need to be allowed to be children. Better focus on discipline and teaching children to be able to read, write and do basic mathematics before moving to high school. That is the place to introduce them to careers advice and the aspiration of university.

But if we look closely, this is just another 'seen to be doing something' scheme by the government which I believe will do little for children, education or employment.

Indeed, I suggest it may have the opposite effect, that of reducing aspirations because children feel pressurised and 'switch off'.

Considering, also that there just is not and probably never again will be such a thing as full employment, we are setting up young children to fail, the effects of which could be devastating both at a personal and socio-economic level.

And what do we tell the children who we convince university is the career path for them, those this idea is focused toward from deprived backgrounds, when they find they cannot afford to go to university?

Once again I see a proposal that on the face of it appears to be advantageous to the disadvantaged, but the result will be the opposite. The education and aspirations of those people will be reduced, leaving an underclass that can more easily be controlled.

I suggest to the government another way, if better education and greater aspiration is the aim. First, we invest in real jobs that produce goods people want. Pay a decent wage and allow employees the right to negotiate better conditions. Then we will find more children in families where the mother can afford to stay at home to raise children. We will have a generation of children growing up in a working household and will see that as the norm, rather than benefits and low esteem.

And you never know, contrary to popular belief that high wages cause inflation and cripple the economy, all this extra money to spend and being spent might actually stimulate and strengthen the economy, truly bringing prosperity to all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Invasion Alert!

This government has been one of the most intrusive, legislative and paranoid in the history of Britain. Emails and phone calls monitored, credit and debit card transactions logged, CCTV in every town and city and now they want to try to discover who you might be sleeping with. Yes, the 2011 census will want to know about overnight visitors.

I cannot think of any realistic assumptions one could deduce from having this information. What possible relevance can a mate staying over have? Or a girlfriend who missed the last bus? Or you daughters school friend, a casual pick-up or a regular Saturday night visitor?

What are we going to hear? That there is a massive trend toward homosexuality because many males had male friends stay overnight? Or that benefits cuts can be justified because you have had an unemployed friend stay one night, so why not all week?

And even if a plausible case for having this information was made, how will they know we are telling the truth? It might be possible with a family member, but can they know that a friend stayed if you say they did not? It throws the whole census into disrepute, making the figures and assumptions there from meaningless.

It can only be assumed this is dataveillance for its own sake or for some nefarious government purpose.

And I thought 1984 was 25 years ago.

Monday, October 26, 2009

David Miliband calms to have no EU Job Ambitions

"I am not a candidate for that. I am not available," he said, adding that he was "committed" to his current job.

That just convinces me he wants the job. He is, after all a politician and when such a plain statement is made, with no ambiguity one has to assume the opposite.

He goes on to say that Tony Blair is the best man to be the first EU president. Here, I agree with him. If he does the same job as EU president as he did as British Prime Minister, he'll split the EU, seeing it a multi-tier state ruined and bankrupt. Then the British can get back to governing Britain.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Human Rights Act v British Bill of Rights

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions says the Human Rights Act (HRA) works. He says it is not biased in favour of the criminal.

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve's plans to abolish the HRA and replace it with the British Bill of Rights (BBR).

Well, firstly Mr. Starmer should know that any law that is perceived by the public to be biased or otherwise not in the public interest is by definition an unfair law. It doesn't matter if the law is fair in practice. The perception of bias is enough to warrant a re-assessment of the law.

Repealing and introducing a new, fairer law that gives and is perceived to give a balance in favour of the victim rather than the criminal is the right thing to do. I personally, and suspect most ordinary people aren't greatly interested if a criminal's rights are infringed. Criminals should not expect the same protection under the law, save that they receive a fair trial.

I am more than a little worried, however that the idea is a Tory one. It does make me wonder just what are they up to? It would be fairly easy to introduce draconian legislation we all agree with concerning criminals but that also criminalises the innocent.

Like the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. You might just get it!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Call to end middle class benefits

I have to say I totally agree. While I am not sure I am in agreement with where the cut-off point should be, I do think benefits should be targeted at the most needy. I don't believe a millionaire should be able to claim child benefit. I don't believe a rich pensioner should get a heating allowance purely on the basis they are old.

The problem I have with this suggestion is that the money saved will not benefit the genuinely needy. I think the money saved will be used to reduce borrowing so the government looks good or will be used for tax breaks for the wealthy.

Even if these two scenarios do not arise and the money is used to help the needy, I think we will find the hangers-on, who already give genuine claimants a bad name, who already know how to play the system will get the money. The genuinely needy will get the blame.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nick Griffin on Question Time

Well, I watched Question Time and I was not persuaded by Nick Griffin to don a bed sheet and terrorise anybody thinking or looking different to me. Neither was I persuaded that he or his party were legitimate or honest. But I was dismayed that the impression I got was of David Dimbleby and his panel using the forum to specifically attack Nick Griffin- not his policies or beliefs but the man himself. I have to reluctantly admit to a certain amount of sympathy for the man. And I have to also admit I thought he stood up rather well, considering his opinion is generally abhorrent to most right thinking people.

You might think this attack on his person reasonable. I do not. Trying to destroy the man will only win him sympathy. Destroying his beliefs will render him and his cause impotent.

Truancy at Record Level

According to this report, truancy is at record levels. Not really surprising when I know of at least three local children who have not attended school since they were 14 and are not in any other educational program as they are regularly seen walking the streets. Nothing, it seems is being done.

This despite the report 'Truancy jailing every two weeks' because it certainly is not happening round here. Or if it is happening, it isn't having any effect.

When I see three girls from the same street leave education at 13/14 because they are pregnant, I have to wonder at the society our de-regulation and liberalism is creating. And of those three, only one prosecution. Then it was only the father, despite him being invited to stay in the family home by the parents.

We should bring back the 'wagman' who instilled fear in children and parents alike when I was at school. With today's digital connectivity an unauthorized absence report from each school could be sent to the LEA or a local communication point who can then send Mr. 'Wagman' to the house to question the parents and assess whether the child is legitimately off school or 'wagging it', with or without the parents consent. Appropriate action should then be taken.

Or is this, together with student loans, tuition fees etc. another part of the educational 'dumbing down' plan to keep us in our place?

Let's face it. If we don't enforce the law and educate the children, they won't grow up to be a thorn in the government's side.

That could be New Labours election cry. 'You'll never miss what you never had. And if you had it, you shouldn't have.'

Target pavement cyclists, say MPs


There is a lot of legalese and moral talk here:

Of course it is illegal for cyclists to ride on the road. It puts pedestrians in danger. Some, I know ride on pavements because they are afraid to ride on roads because of the volume of traffic and speeding and inconsiderate motorists.

I do it very occasionally myself. When one considers that round here, the council's idea of cycle paths is a white line drawn down the middle of the pavement, it is not too surprising that cyclists stay on the pavement or assume pavement cycling is o.k. When one considers that pedestrians rarely accommodate cyclists by keeping to the pedestrian side of these paths one can see a cyclist's frustration at being targeted as anti-social.

On the rare instances I do ride on the pavement, I go slowly, slow down to walking pace when passing a pedestrian from either direction and resume road riding as soon as practical. I also ensure my bike is roadworthy- another legal requirement rarely enforced.

I think I have a solution to this. Reintroduce the cycling proficiency test. Make it a requirement for cyclists to ride a bike. Charge a small fee, which could be waived should genuine hardship be shown. And then enforce the laws we already have and prosecute those that refuse to obey them.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nick Griffin on Question Time?

Nick griffin, leader of the BNP has been asked to appear on Question Time. A lot of people are upset and some intend to protest.

There are two schools of thought here. One, that the protesters, both verbal and those who will travel to the studio are giving the BNP the oxygen of publicity.

The other, that a man with very similar views achieved power democratically in 1930's Germany because people did nothing.

I'm not sure, myself. The British people can be somewhat naive when it comes to politics. But surely, that is the essence of democracy. An assumption that the electorate have the intelligence to decide their own future and government.

We could have an Uncle Joe (Stalin) telling us we don't know what's best, but he does.

We could have an anarchistic system of devolved government so that each town or collection of towns decides for itself.

Neither sounds too bad- as long as we pick the right Uncle Joe or the right neighbours to collude with.

But then we are back to democracy, because we want the right to kick out the leaders if we don't like the way they lead.

So I think I have to say, let's see Nick Griffin on Question Time. Let's see how he answers questions about economics, education, benefits, unemployment and Britain's place in the world. I am quite sure when he reduces each answer to immigration and the inferiority of some races, we will see him for what he is.

I think, though we might see him squirming, unable to answer and uncomfortable with the truth.

But if we prevent him from appearing there will be many people who will see it as martyrdom.

Acer Aspire 6930z

In March I bought an Acer Aspire 6930z laptop for £399.

It's a pretty robust machine and has some good features. It's pretty powerful with an Intel T3400 2.1 gig processor and 3 gig of ram.

After a couple of months, the touchpad stopped working- the pad and the left and right click buttons. I was sure this was hardware related, but went through the usual procedures such as update the driver, system restore, back to factory defaults etc.

Contacted Ebuyer and they didn't try to run through lots of fixes, but immediately arranged a return. They confirmed the fault was a hardware failure and said a new laptop had been shipped, which I received within a week of returning the faulty machine.

What a fantastic service! Can't fault them. I have shopped with Ebuyer for a number of years, never had an issue before and when I did, got a fantastic service.

Then, a couple of months later, the touchpad failed again. Contacted Ebuyer who said I needed to send it back to Acer because they had no replacements and if they attempted a repair it would void my Acer warranty.

Now I know under UK law I could have insisted they deal with the issue since my contract was with them and not with Acer. But Ebuyer have never let me down and I didn't want to get all legal and bolshie with them. So I contacted Acer. A return was arranged for Monday. My laptop was beck today. In fact, about half an hour ago. I haven't unpacked it yet, but assume that it is repaired. (I'll soon let you know if it isn't!) Once again, can't fault the service. I was a little worried since I had read horror stories on the 'net where Acer had held laptops for months, were unable to locate them etc.etc. So I thought let's show the other side- the stories that are rarely reported, where the service is excellent.

Just a couple of issues I have- so let's hope somebody from Acer reads this.

First, the helpdesk seems to have been outsourced to India or some similar country. I had some difficulty understanding them and making myself understood. This of course meant the cost of calling them will be greater than calling a UK helpdesk who would not have needed to repeat, nor me repeat to them almost every statement and comment.

Also, the fact that this is twice the touchpad has failed. It suggests that the touchpad may be poorly designed. Which means it will be an ongoing issue, beyond the warranty. I do hope not!

Bereaved Treated Badly by Banks


It appears that bereaved partners, wives and husbands are having difficulty gaining access to funds when their spouse dies, even if they if there is a will in place. The banks, who one would think have had enough bad press, are holding back payments, claiming it is training its staff.

Well, do they put staff in charge of investment without proper training? How many staff are allowed to deal billions on the money market without proper training? So why is it that staff dealing with customers or their deceased family is in need of training? I'll hazard a guess. The longer they can hold on to your money, the more they can make from your hardship and distress.

The banks have learned nothing. Their sole aim is to make money. Any customer benefits derived from that aim are purely coincidental.

And don't forget, it is virtually impossible to do anything financial today without using a bank. From benefits payments to buying a house, a bank is involved somewhere.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BNP to consider non-white members

According to this BBC report the BNP are to consider non-white members. As I read it, the law says they must.

There is a very interesting video on the page I suggest you watch in which BNP spokesman Chris Roberts appears to be very uncomfortable discussing the issue.

The rights and wrongs I do not intend to discuss. Immigration is a problem, I don't believe the UK has got it right but do not adhere to the view a person should be discriminated against purely on the basis of his or her colour, any more than on their age, weight or political affiliations.

I would suggest, however the Mr. Roberts and Mr. Griffin have the courage of their convictions, state their case clearly and if it is opposed to current legislation be strong enough to take the consequences. The discomfort shown by Mr. Roberts serves only to support my contention that whatever they believe, they will present themselves in a manner designed to persuade the electorate differently. Well, they are politicians (sort of) after all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finland makes broadband a legal right

Finland makes broadband a legal right for its citizens. Uruguay gives a laptop to every primary school pupil with plans to extend the provision to older schoolchildren next year. What are we doing in Britain? Arguing over whether formal education should start at five or at six years old.

I have theory about education in Britain. That there is a state conspiracy to see its people less well educated to better suit them to the totalitarian state the major parties seem to be inching toward.

While more and more of us go on to college or university, the quality of education seems to be falling. At the same time, the cost of higher education is being put beyond the reach of ordinary people. And this is done by the people who got where they are through free higher education paid for by the taxes of our parents and grandparents.

There have only been two major and successful revolutions in the UK. In 1215 when the Barons forced King John to sign Magna Carta and the English civil war. This is because the rulers, be they king or commoner, elected or appointed have known not to push too hard. Because the British people are essentially loyal, forgiving and accommodating. But the two instances stated show we will not be pushed too hard or too far.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Man 31 Give 3 Year Old Cigarette

While the reported facts of this case are themselves appalling there is no suggestion of the relationship of the 31 year old man to the 3 year old or the 14 year old.

I would like to know what a 31 year old man is doing in the company of young girls, apparently encouraging inappropriate behaviour. One has to wonder where this encouragement might lead.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Manufacturer Gone

LDV's machinery is to be stripped out and sent to China. So along with the loss of skills that made us manufacturing capital of the world, we are also losing, piece by piece the means of production.

If you're an engineer, I suggest you re-train. Because even if the will was there, the means to resume British industry is not.

And don't suppose the money men will invest heavily in manufacturing when they can sit back and make just as much, if not more merely by shuffling money and goods around on a computer screen.

Underage Drinking

I have just read - - how the problem of underage drinking and thus related problems are being dealt with. It is successful the article appears to claim, because of the numbers involved. Well, when we are talking thousands of underage drinkers, amazingly from 10 to 17 years of age being effectively 'told off' one must suppose it's not working.

As with many aspects of criminal and anti-social behaviour there are solutions already prescribed by law to deal with such incidents. It is illegal to sell alcohol to minors. Use the existing law. Remove the licences of those that refuse to comply- do it once, be warned, do it twice be prosecuted. No excuses.

Now, hand on heart, and somewhat familiar with the intricacies and contradictions of British law, I am unsure whether it is actually illegal for a minor to drink. I suspect the crime is in the sale, not in the drinking. This to me is ridiculous. If minors wish to pretend to be adults by partaking in adult behaviour, let the law suppose them to be adults. I agree there should be some leeway, aid them in correcting their behaviour but we need consequences in the event their behaviour cannot be modified by helpful intervention.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Watchdog to get tough on Health Service

I am heartily fed up of this government, and its predecessor introducing quangos, watchdogs, monitors and other sundry employment agencies for their pals. While they remain above investigation, or as the recent expenses scandal shows, above consequences they pass laws, introduce working practices and force unnecessary, inadequate and untrained managers onto services that by definition cannot be run on monetary disciplines. Then blame the services, not the restrictions introduced by the managers for failing to meet the targets imposed on them.

The Postal Strike

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson told the BBC the union's decision to strike "amounts to a death wish".

Well, Lord Mandelson, if the postal workers were on just a half of an MP's salary maybe they wouldn't want to strike. Maybe if they felt their jobs were secure they wouldn't want to strike.

It is an argument as old, if not older, than the industrial revolution. What's the point of striking if your jobs are already at risk? Of course, the reverse argument is rarely considered by the right-wing media or the rich factory owner or MP's that might consider their roots and the roots of their party. (Are you listening New Labour?) The argument that we have little to lose, yet much to gain.