Health Ministry of Truth

Combining theThe War against Terror with The War Against the National Health Service, the UK Home Secretary is about to propose that doctors be co-opted into the TWAT, by reporting on potential terrorists amongst their patients.

Doctors and other health professionals will be asked to identify people who are “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism” as part of the government’s redrawn counter-terrorism programme to be detailed on Tuesday. (from The Guardian)

In a departure from recent government style, it seems that, for once, the Lib-Dems aren’t even being used as a human shield for this particular mad idea. Theresa May is putting it forward herself.

Theresa May and her advisers didn’t grow up in Fairyland, so they may have had occasion to visit a doctor. In which case, they should have noticed that, although doctors ask patients some very personal questions indeed, they don’t normally ask about plans to carry out suicide bomb attacks.

Doctors are indeed often too busy to ask where we stand on the single transferable vote or the extension of the eurozone. How wonderfully relaxed must some surgeries be, if doctors can take the time to engage their patients on a wide range of political topics and rank their answers on an extremism scale?

Temporarily ignore the monstrousness of treating medical confidentiality as a disposable luxury. This plan doesn’t even make sense in pragmatic terms. Potential terrorists can avoid getting caught by it by the simple expedient of not discussing their views with doctors. Can this be beyond the wit of even the stupidest terrorist?

Do we really have an Oxford-educated Home Secretary who believes that a terrorist will walk into his local surgery and says “I’ve got a bit of a sore throat but I’m planning an explosive attack on a plane this week and I’d hate to miss it”?

@MinOvTroof twitfeed

TheMin: Changed my plans for this week to attend more XFactor negotiations.

@RoZEE, Nothing is more important for our children than bigging up the XFactor winner– I will fight hour by hour for it

TheMin: am officially an x factor convert.big up joe, big up simon, big up boyley…

@supremes: u are my fave US group. Could teach our brit judges a thing or 2 about fronting me bessie m8

TheMin: Just back from helping me bessie m8 Milly wiv his court case. Judges are dissing him but he’s staying strong. Big shout out to Milly.

TheMin: All the goss


Tories try to spoil the Wire

My Wire fan-status already took a knock when the Guardian started running a Wire-fan reading group and most of the posters seemed to be prats. But to find the Tories using the Wire, just to steal its perceived credibility for a soundbite, is making me gag.

The BBC website headline says

Parts of Britain ‘like The Wire’

I assumed that was a subject-verb-object construction, meaning “There are parts of Britain where people like the Wire.” Which is bound to be true but a bit of a strange news headline.

But it turned out they meant:

Parts of Britain (are) ‘like The Wire’

Even that is fair enough. After all, it’s a drama that’s deliberately meant to suspend disbelief through “realism” ffs. Bits of it feel “true” to me, “true” in terms of my experience of the world and of the ways people act. I don’t assume that makes it literally “true,” in a documentary sense. No one who’s ever watched a tv series before would assume it’s a literally “true” representation of life in Baltimore, let alone any UK city.

The Conservatives have compared parts of the UK to The Wire, a US television show which portrays inner-city drugs and violence.
In a speech, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling argued that the UK was suffering the same culture of gangs and street violence found in the US.
He said Labour had failed to ensure law and order was preserved in the poorest parts of the country. ..
Mr Grayling repeated his charge that poorer communities in the UK have been let down by Labour, saying: “The Wire has become a byword for urban deprivation and societal breakdown in modern America.”
He said: “When The Wire comes to Britain’s streets, it is the poor who suffer most. It is the poor who are the ones who have borne the brunt of the surge in violence under this government.

It’s pretty obvious at this point that Chris Grayling hasn’t really ever watched the Wire.

Because, if he had, he’d have noticed that the crimes aren’t just at street level.The economy, the political world and the media don’t exactly emerge unscathed.

Crocodile tears for the “poor” seem to be the Tories’ new election strategy. For instance, they claim that the poor are being let down.

Oh yes, “let down by rising crime” is the claim. I think that misinterpreting & manipulating crime figures is called “juking the stats” in the Wire. So you’d think that a Wire-o-phile like the shadow Tory Home secretary would have the grace to blush when he does it. (Seeing as all crime figures show falling rates)

OK, the Tories aren’t the BNP – which is also trying to corner the market in populist concern for the class-formerly-known-as-working (before the last Tory governments hammered it into the ground.) But they bear a pretty monstrous responsibility for the disaffection and poverty of so many neighbourhoods, where many people never found work since the 1980s. (Don’t make me repeat the list of Tory crimes against “no-such-thing-as-society”, because I will rant for hours.)

So it’s doubly sickening to see them both using the consequences of their own actions as a stick with which to beat the government and dragging the good name of the Wire into it.

Still, it’s all in the game, I suppose…..

Snakes and ladders

Inspired by the Rapture Index, this is an attempt to quantify the UK political news for the past week or so on an objective (:-)) scale. And to put it in a handy playable format.

  • MPs shown to be largely venal (3 square snake)
  • Labour Cabinet sets off self-destruct button: e.g. the previously unknown Purnell bids for political domination by saying Brown should be replaced; Flint tries to play a spurious feminist anti-Brown card (complaining he treated her as “decoration”. Comically this came after she posed in a ludicrous Observer fashion photoshoot, the subtext of which was “Look at me. I may be in the Cabinet, but I’m really HOT”; etc ) (3 square snake)
  • Jacqui Smith leaves Cabinet (merits a 2 square ladder by itself.)
  • Several repulsively self-promoting Blairite clowns leave the Cabinet, gamely deflecting the shame of their own discovered venality by blaming Brown for everything they can think of, from global financial meltdown to not being very nice, but mainly for being unpopular. (2 square ladder)
  • Relatively decent people in new Cabinet, eg, Glenys Kinnock. (Ignore the presence of Mandelson.) WTF didn’t Brown think of having a sensible cabinet at the start of his term? (2 square ladder)
  • Local elections: Labour trounced everywhere. Tories win pretty well everywhere, even taking Lib Dem councils, despite the LibDems having been relatively blameless in ExpensesGate. (10 square snake)
  • Euro elections: The repellent BNP gets two Euro Mps – one representing MY AREA, ffs. Grrr. The a-bit-less-repellent-but-still-sickening UKIP gets more votes than the Labour Party. (15 square snake)
  • BNP leader egged when he tries to hold press conferences. (2 square ladder. I know it’s childish and probably counterproductive to welcome it, but still… Whose heart is so dead it wouldn’t be cheered by the sight of Nick Griffin getting egged? Although a Bush-referential shoe would have been even more satisfying to the viewer, assuming it was the steel-toecapped Doc Martin, traditionally favoured by some of his supporters.)
  • House of Lords yet again does the decent thing – as they did when they refused to OK 42-day detention. (In your face, Jacqui Smith.) The Lords uphold appeals against control orders (trans. house arrests) that were based on secret, ie. unchallengeable, evidence. (1 square ladder.)
  • Whole new push for constitutional reform. Sadly the current suggestions generally involve measures like PR – which would probably give the demonic parties, like the BNP, even more influence – or reform of the House of Lords – which would make it into something more like a government rubber stamp rather than the current random collection of toffs, miscreants, retired judges, generous political donors and old party faithfuls, which is still independent enough to give bad bills a good kicking. (1 square snake.)

Sorry, I haven’t designed a board yet. There are too many snakes and not enough ladders. Feel free to try it yourself.

End of civilisation as we know it?

British politics seems to have gone into a weird meltdown, all because of a few expenses claims. Some MPs fiddle their expenses….. why am I less than surprised?

The TV news and most of the press are filled with people expressing their horror and claiming to have lost all faith in Parliament. How odd.

The Iraq war or evidence of collusion in torture didn’t have that effect, oddly. But a few dodgy expenses claims did?

It seems that the system was constructed so that MPs were more or less expected to claim for things (such as food and rent) that the rest of us have to treat as normal household expenses. This system was apparently created – in Thatcher’s time- so that MPs wages would appear becomingly modest to us sensitive taxpayers.

Mp’s wages aren’t exactly low – from the perspective of the average non-millionaire – but they aren’t paid enough to keep up two homes – one of which is in central London – and to run an office to deal with constituents. Hence, the expenses scam was deliberately set up to let them pay for things, whilst appearing to be taking home wages lower than those of judges or hospital consultants.

Obviously, some of them took the piss. In which case, the problem is mainly the failure of the system for scrutinising their claims. The House of Commons seems to have agreed en masse to scapegoat the Speaker – who had already upset Tory MPs by letting the police apply the same rules to them that they expect the police to apply to the rest of us. However, even the Speaker’s sword-falling hasn’t stemmed the Telegraph’s desire to pick through every Tesco’s receipt and claim for dry-rot-proofing it can get its hands on.

The result is a country that seems to have decided that a few fiddled expenses mean that our entire Parliamentary system is broken. The Guardian has been soliciting random famous-ish political-ish people’s wishlists, throwing up ideas ranging from PR to time-limited Parliaments, as if any random political commentator’s ideas are somehow relevant. It even gave David Cameron a platform to spout the Tory party’s nebulous reform ideas.

Marina Hyde called for lots more Independent MPs, then had to write another column explaining that she didn’t mean celebs, in the face of an unholy collection of celebs – Esther Rantzen, ffs – began scrambling to get elected. However, if we don’t have professional politicians, it seems most likely that D-list celebs would fill the void. No one in their right mind could see that as an improvement.

This is baffling. None of the reform suggestions seem to have anything to do with expenses-fiddling at all. If Parliament is broken, and constitutional change is urgent – why was noone calling for it before? The BBC reported this morning that more people voted for Britain’s Got Talent (or an x-factor or a big brother or something, the “got talent” name is obviously a lie) than vote in elections. And there were loads of people in Stoke willing to tell the BBC that they won’t ever vote again.

There is much media fretting about the BNP and other lunatic parties getting votes. I thought this was just a fear tactic. However, I have been told by people who live in likely-BNP-recruiting-territory estates that there seem to be significant numbers (i.e greater than zero) of BNP posters proudly showing in house windows. (I assume that these would counts as a bricking invitation in any reasonable court.)

It’s hard to imagine the waves of mass stupidity that give rise to that. For a start, it seems to be going on the principle that – if your MP is dishonest enough to have got the taxpayer to have paid the cost of a John Lewis lighting unit – you would automatically choose to have someone with a criminal record for committing GBH and inciting racial hatred as a clean alternative. Britain’s Got Morons by The Bucketload might be a more suitable tv show theme.

I have been as pissed off as anyone at the effrontery of some of the expenses claims. But I admit to having been quite pleased to see Jacqui Smith hoist on her own “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” petard. I’ve also enjoyed seeing people who’ve made much of their desire to stamp out benefit fraud being revealed as engaged in benefit frauds that amount to much more than a well-paid worker’s wage.

Did many people really think MPs were all more ethical than the average person, until the Telegraph printed their expense claims? Does someone getting something for nothing really rouse the public to such fury, when any number of seriously bad decisions didn’t bother anyone?

Fine to reform our voting systems, the composition of our parliament and so on. But it’s hard to believe that meaningful constitutional decisions can be taken during the current hysteria.

National treasures

Joanna Lumley has become a recognised “National Treasure”. Googling “Lumley” & “national treasure” brings 4,420 links, with everyone from the Guardian to the Daily Mail united on her treasuriness. She has been appearing in the news recently because of her campaigning work on behalf of the Gurkhas, which led to a Parliamentary defeat for the government.

(Some of the 28 Labour MPs who rebelled against the government over the Gurkha issue are also pretty national treasure-worthy, insofar as MPs can ever be: Dianne Abbott, Alan Simpson, Bob Marshall Andrews, Bob Wareing, etc. The LibDems brought about the vote but I hesitate to think of them in national treasury terms.)

Maybe England could sort out its financial mess by selling the (human-form) family silver. There must be celeb-deprived countries that would pay billions for our human National Treasures. Or we could lease them. At least they are real, which is a lot more than you can say for most of the world’s conceptual billions.

Which celebs are National Treasures? Obviously, asking tinternet is the way to find out. This is the National Treasure league table. It’s only based on the names that I’d remembered having been called national treasures in the media.

  • Attenborough, obviously. (20,500 googled links) They should probably keep him in the Tower of London or something
  • Tony Hart got 58,500 (Yes, I know he and Oliver Postgate died recently, but the treausre status seems able to live on for a time.)
  • Stephen Fry is a relatively new entrant to the lists but he put up a strong showing with 3,810 links
  • Terry Pratchett 2,400
  • Oliver Postgate managed a modest 732.
  • Grommit reached an even more modest 407

I am just thinking these are all pretty fair selections for the human National Treasury. Then, (Shock, Horror!) googling shows that I am channelling an old Daily Telegraph article.

Specialists from The Sunday Telegraph and the British Library have selected the nominees for each National Treasure award, which was no easy task.

Pause to wonder what qualifies anyone to be a National Treasure specialist. Longer gobsmacked pause at the Telegraph/British Library list overall winners. These include
Margaret Thatcher, Richard Branson and Cliff Richard. Cliff was the People’s Vote choice, as the Telegraph let even its non-specialist readers vote. Attenborough and Fry got in, though.

While looking at the Telegraph’s old list of treasure people, I noticed that yesterday’s Telegraph ran a “Who Would You Kick Out of Britain?” piece. It’s some sort of evil twin of the National Treasure awards – maybe a National Debt award, or something. I don’t know if it was chosen by proper specialists, though.

I am momentarily shocked to see it’s headed by a picture of Jacqui Smith. She does indeed seem a reasonable choice for deportation. Her every action as Home Secretary seems to have come as close as humanly possible to expressing shit in a ministerial decree format. Don’t tell me that I am agreeing with something in the Telegraph, ffs.

Phew, she’s not actually number one, though. That honour goes to “the cabinet” as a whole. Her picture’s just there as a representative member of the Cabinet. The rest of the list consists of Gordon Brown, plus some insignificant celebs. There are 150 comments on the article, at least half of which must surely have been generated by the twatotron.

Still, I reckon I can spend a good 24 hours thinking of who I’d like to kick out of the country. If I get to stick them in one of the UK’s immigration prison hell-holes first, so much the better. Watch this space.

Proof Of God – Christian Voice

Who would have thought Christian Voice would have cracked under the pressure of the No God bus campaigns in London? OK, most people I suppose. Still it is entertaining that they are riled by a simple poster to the extent they are demanding the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency to rule on the proof of God.

From the BBC:

An atheist campaign claiming “There’s probably no God” has been reported to the advertising regulator.
Posters with the slogan appear on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as on the London Underground.
But organisation Christian Voice has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority saying they break rules on substantiation and truthfulness.

Pardon me for a moment while I fall off the chair laughing.

They are saying that the claim there is probably no god is insubstantiated and / or not truthful. How on Thor’s hammer do they intend to convince the ASA of this one wonders…

But Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.
“But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

More laughter rings out around WhyDontYou Towers. Evidence for God exists in “personal experience” – surely this alone is a self defeating argument because if I do not have that experience the advertisement is accurate as stated. I do not have that personal experience, therefore (should the ASA be reading this) the banner is 100% correct. Thank you Christian Voice.

I assume Christian Voice have lodged similar complaints over any advertising that mentions non-Christian religions, so any posters for Mosques, Temples (etc) will have to come down. I would never suggest people be petty enough to go through Christian advertising with a fine tooth comb – each day on the way to work I see a huge poster telling me that I will die for my sins, where is the proof of that I wonder?

In a wonderful bit of understatement (and acting a lot more adult than Christian Voice…), Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said:

“I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God’s existence.”

Indeed, it will be interesting to see what their decision is…