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Friday, 27 April 2007

Love alcohol, Hate the State

I suppose our parents first started us on a little wine well-watered at the dinner table when we reached about 9 or 10 years of age. So started a life-long love affair with C2H5OH, or rather a love affair with the substances in which C2H5OH is disguised. A love affair, I hasten to add, that has never fallen into the blind infatuation of addiction. As with all love affairs, as the years pass I find consummation less frequently. Indeed, there are now days on end during a busy work-week when I forget to take a drink at all.

The dining-room cabinet holds ranks of bottles of curious shape and hue, some of them unopened for a decade. Derived from chocolate, melons, worms, cacti, potatoes, plums and God knows what - all sharing that miracle of fermentation and distillation that, as Heaven's especial gift to Man, allows us to make a drink out of any conceivable variety of organic material on the planet. When the NASA probe announced that microbes had been found on Mars, I must admit the thought idly flicked through my mind "I wonder what sort of liqueur they'd make?".

When I think back on all the good things in my life - all those brief little scenarios of joy and pleasure, the warm laughter of friends, the passion of lovers, the sudden stunning realisations that you are gazing at a scene of true beauty, the closeness of companions who have shared past danger - always in the scene somewhere is alcohol. The old French vintner who declared "A day without wine is like a day without Sunshine" had it spot on.

So you will understand why the news this morning that an organisation calling itself Alcohol Concern, no doubt comprised of characters formed from the rancid grey scum that rises from the bubbling cauldron of joyless interference in other people's lives, declares that parents who allow under 15s to taste life's nectar should be jailed, I am less than enthusiastic. The French would snort, the Spanish giggle and the Italians shrug. Even the Germans would blow a little Teutonic toot through pursed lips.

And now another thought has flicked through my mind. If the meddling witch from Alcohol Concern who spoke on R4's 'Today' earlier was mashed, fermented and distilled, aged in an oak cask with wormwood and scorpion tails, and bottled, what would the taste be? Bitter, no doubt. A hidden spiteful sting, perhaps not unpleasant if well diluted. A few drops then, in a Paris goblet, well swilled round to coat the glass, before half a gill of good Plymouth Gin is added. That would be perfect.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Terrorism leak update

Iain Dale carries This terrific story on the leak - an excellent piece of ferreting. I've also had time to re-read DAC Peter Clark's speech carefully - it's HERE and worth reading in full. I must admit I hadn't quite realised the inter-connectedness between separate investigations; as DAC Clark says;
But if the public are sceptical about intelligence, what other sources of information do they have? There are more than 100 people awaiting trial in terrorism cases in the UK. That should, one would think, be the source of a wealth of information, cleansed through the integrity of the criminal justice system, publicly tested through the process of cross-examination, and validated or otherwise by the verdict of the jury. Well, so far terrorist trials have not been as informative as we might wish, for a number of reasons. First, it is taking anything up to two years, and in some cases more, for cases to reach the courts. During that time little can be said about what the investigation has uncovered. Then there is the issue of evidence that emerges in one case potentially prejudicing jurors in another. Because of the fact that terrorist cells and networks are inevitably linked, this has meant that over the past five years I can hardly remember a time when there were not Court Orders in place restricting what could be published about terrorist cases. It was three years before we could tell the public what we found in the Finsbury Park Mosque. For well over a year the public did not know that Kamel Bourgass had been convicted of murdering DC Stephen Oake. And there are other examples - but as if to illustrate my point, I can't tell you about them.
He comes across as a careful, thoughtful copper who is happiest working away from the public gaze. The very real anger he is feeling over the Birmingham leaks comes across powerfully in his speech;
What I am talking about is the deliberate leaking of highly sensitive operational intelligence, often classified, and the unauthorised release of which can be a criminal offence. I make no allegations about the source of leaks or about individual cases. What is clear is that there are a number, a small number I am sure, of misguided individuals who betray confidences. Perhaps they look to curry favour with certain journalists, or to squeeze out some short term presentational advantage - I do not know what motivates them. The people who do this either do not know or do not care what damage they do. If they do know, then they are beneath contempt. If they do not know, then let me tell them. They compromise investigations. They reveal sources of life saving intelligence. In the worst cases they put lives at risk. I wonder if they simply do not care.
I am more convinced than ever that the leaker(s) in this particular case must be caught and brought to trial.

However, I am not at all confident that the journalists who received the illegal leaks will co-operate. There also seems to be an agreement to play down the story on the BBC and in the press. It's at times like these that those such as Iain and Guido are worth a price above rubies.
Terrorism leak: Charges must be brought

The facts are these. The night before a sensitive series of police anti-terrorist raids in Birmingham, a London-based source told a number of media outlets that significant raids and arrests would take place in Birmingham. The leaker wilfully compromised the effectiveness of the operation.

Secondly, within a few hours of the arrests the media were told that the plot had been to kidnap and behead a British soldier. The leaker wilfully compromised the ability of the police to effectively question the suspects.

It would appear that the source of these leaks was either the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office, Downing Street or MI5, from either a civil servant, police officer, politician or political advisor, assistant or PR employee.

The leak is a clear breach of s.39(2)(a) of the Terrorism Act 2000 and carries a prison sentence of 5 years. The Act states:
39. - (1) Subsection (2) applies where a person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a constable is conducting or proposes to conduct a terrorist investigation

(2) The person commits an offence if he-
(a) discloses to another anything which is likely to prejudice the investigation,
There must be a full inquiry to find who leaked this information. They must be brought to trial.
The Hallmark of a civilised nation

A universal postal service is the hallmark of a civilised nation. Royal Mail can trace its origins back to 1516, when Henry VIII appointed a Master of the Posts. UK postage stamps remain unique, being the only stamps anywhere in the world not to bear a country name. The sight of our post boxes and network of small Post Offices are a daily affirmation of our national identity.

Of course no-one wants to go back on the 1981 decision to split-off British Telecom. Our pre-privatisation telephone service was abysmal. However, I really think we missed a trick by not endowing Royal Mail with some proportion of the licence fees from telecoms networks - the coppernet as well as airspace. Why shouldn't mobile phone users, for instance, directly subsidise something so intrinsic to our national well-being rather than paying the same licence fees to the Treasury which squanders them on welfare payments?

There are few British institutions that truly deserve national funding and which the private sector can't provide. Our armed forces are amongst them. So is our postal service.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

It woz The Sun wot got it wrong

Despite the Sun's belief to the contrary, the government has yet to make an announcement on the Navy's two new carriers. In 2003 Hoon announced the alliance of firms that would build the UK's new carriers; since then, the project has been mired in prevarication and dissimulation. Suspicions now are that Brown is postponing any announcement until the 2007 CSR - and that one of the vessels could be cancelled.

Now I've no idea whether we need carriers more than frigates or patrol boats, but what I am sure of is that we're spending £20bn a year on defence but £80bn a year on non-pension welfare payments; as with Gibbon's Rome, this portends a nation in decline. And Brown's old-fashioned redistributive welfare socialism doesn't give a shit about Britain or national security.

Getting rid of this scurrilous, treasonous cabal of corrupt and bankrupt ministers is becoming more urgent than ever.
If David Maclean has a shred of honour he will withdraw his Bill

It is utterly iniquitous that Maclean, with the connivance and manipulation of Labour ministers, should bring his failed Bill back to the Commons this Friday. If this man has shred of honour in his soul, he will bite the bullet and withdraw it.
Labour's legacy - an Augean mountain of corruption

Ten years in power, and the newspapers will doubtless reflect over the next week on Blair's manifest failures; on crime, on health, on public services, on poverty, on defence, on foreign relations. Bloggers will mourn the greatest erosion of personal freedoms ever seen in this nation. Ordinary citizens are angry that Blair has failed to secure our borders, angry at his Chancellor's fiscal incompetence, angry at a great river of government lies, angry that our nation under Blair has become Europe's bitch and Bush's poodle. Every new announcement of Blair's failure provokes ever less ire and ever more weary resignation; we are suffering from failure fatigue.

But the most corrosive, the most corrupt, the most cynically opportunist crimes of the Blair years are the undermining of the basic and fundamental bedrock of fairness and equality in patronage. He is now so mired in the filth of sleaze he simply doesn't care any more; not even the pretence of fairness or political impartiality.

It is wholly wrong of course that over 60,000 appointed quangocrats rather than elected representatives run our national institutions. However, there is an explicit expectation that these appointments should be made on the basis of merit, not party affiliation. Blair has spent ten years locking into place those who, if they are not Labour members, subscribe to the Labour lunacy of Big State individualism and central control.

Chief officers of police must demonstrate political sympathy rather than policing skills. Lottery board members must exhibit socialist philistinism. Health board members must be committed to state intervention in people's lives. The Chairman of the BBC must proceed from a basis of belief in Big Government Good, Small Government Bad. In addition to all the unelected bodies in existence before 1997, Labour has set up over a hundred more; energy, food, sport, GM foods, education, disability, equality, housing, skills .... and these have been packed with hand-picked appointees ideologically committed to the bankrupt Blair agenda.

Even if Scotland gives the SNP a majority, Blair will still be there in the scores of unelected bodies; 790 Blair quango appointees in Scotland run budgets of some £9.6bn annually.

Small wonder then that when Labour's blatent gerrymandering in ensuring that 85% of investment in new hospitals has gone to Labour constituencies is revealed few are surprised. It is called in the US 'Pork Barrel Politics' - and it was just one of the things we used to pride ourselves on being free from.

Cameron must resist at all costs the temptation, if he wins power, to merely substitute Blair appointees with Cameron ones. We must clear out this Augean stable of filth and corruption in its entirety; bring back to the local ballot box control of our institutions, restore public appointments on the basis of merit and not on the basis of ideological whoredom, and truly shatter this most corrosive of Blair's failures.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

And always keep a hold of Nurse ....

A boy who climbed into a crocodile pen, poked the saurian beasts with a stick and fired a catapault at them was eventually eaten, the Times reports. Belloc had it right, I think:

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo--
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know--or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so--
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when--Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted 'Hi!'

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
'Ponto!' he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
'Ponto!' he cried, with angry Frown,
'Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!'
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:--
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, 'Well--it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!'
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.
Man convicted after trying to steal yacht piece by piece

The story in the Times tells of a 35 year old man working at Sunseeker who tried to steal all the bits to make up a luxury yacht. He was on a loser from the start. Unlike the Ford workers who built their own Cortinas from parts smuggled out of the plant, there are no breakers yards where stuff like chassis and body panels can be bought. Unless you've got the hull, engines and propulsion machinery to start with, you haven't got a hope.

I have to say quite honestly I don't like these big planing boats. They all look like TK Max trainers. The hulls are as thin as eggshell. And they blat about drinking fuel like a Chieftan tank. Old Raedwald may be built like a panzer, but she takes less than 4l an hour to push her about at a stately 7kts. And guests can keep their boots on.

Rubbish proposals stink

There is, rightly, huge citizen discontent here over proposals to switch rubbish collection from weekly to fortnightly arrangements. Weekly collection was established by law in 1875 for very sound reasons of disease prevention. For many people - a third of the homes in my London borough are occupied by single people - rubbish collection, street sweeping, road lighting and parks are the only council services they actually receive any benefit from.

The pressure is coming from DEFRA, and is justified on cost grounds. This is a crock of ... rubbish. I've just looked at my borough 'Best Value' figures (they should be on every council website). The annual cost of rubbish collection - 52 times - is about £40 per household. Each household produces around 400kg of rubbish a year, which costs around a further £16 to dispose of. So the total cost of collecting and disposing of rubbish from Chez Raedwald is about £56 a year.

In addition to say £1,000 in Council tax each household pays, the council gets about £4,000 per household direct from government. So rubbish collection and disposal costs about £56 out of £5,000 budget per household - a tad over 1%.

I expect they need the rest of the money to pay for lesbian drug and alcohol outreach workers and suchlike.

Monday, 23 April 2007

You couldn't make it up - how a 419 scammer won the day

Mr Benye, an enterprising Nigerian bloke living in south London, made £989,813.75 from 419 advance fee frauds. He was convicted of fraud in July 2004 and sentenced to 3 years and six months imprisonment. The money was not recovered. A confiscation order was made for £141,751.26 - in lieu of which, Mr Benye would serve a further 2 years in prison. He signed over assets to that value, and scarpered. He is currently believed to be living in the West Indies.

Part of the assets he signed over was £119,000 equity in a Right-to-Buy council property, a flat at 43 Valentine Court, Perry Vale, London SE23.

The flat was bought in the name of his 'wife', a lady called Mrs Benye. She signed a declaration that gave her a 60% discount. No-one thought to check whether Mrs Benye was an illegal immigrant; in fact she is. In 2004 she was removed from the UK by the Immigration authorities. She stayed in Lagos, in Nigeria 'for about 10 days' before coming back to the UK. Presumably on a false passport.

Mrs Benye told the court a pack of lies about where she had got the money to buy the council flat (as stated by the judge). She describes her occupation as "part-time cleaner, businesswoman and housewife". All the evidence pointed to the funds having come from Mr Benye's 419 fraud activities.

The CPS tried to claim the flat that Mr Benye had signed over. The court was unable to grant their request. Mrs Benye, so far as we know, continues to enjoy life in Perry Vale.

The full case is Here on Bailii.

Who says crime doesn't pay?
What planet are they from? - Part 43

The British Medical Association (BMA) has made proposals to the Department for Health to ban packs of ten ciggies in an effort to cut teenage smoking.

Even I know that the major reason for purchase of tens in the UK is for rolling hash spliffies. Ten Marlborough Lights and two packs of Rizla Orange IS the weekend for many young people. Sigh.

English Parliament - let's get on with it.

I regret enormously what now seems to be the almost inevitable dissolution of the Union. A victim of several external factors - a European policy of regionalism, Blair's incompetence, the centralism of the main parties - it also seems certain that demographic changes in Northern Ireland will mean that a plebiscite there in 20 or 30 years will see the province rejoined to Eire.

The inequity of the present arrangements is unsustainable. The justice and right of an English Parliament is unarguable. Let's get on with it, and do it without malice or rancour; let's do it fairly and responsibly. Let's start to rebuild our nation.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England
Happy St George's Day!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Gold Stars for a handful of MPs

Norman Baker MP and Simon Hughes MP have earned their pay this week in talking out Conservative MP David Maclean's Bill to exempt MPs and peers from the Freedom of Information Act. Of 646 members of the Commons, just eight were willing to oppose this pernicious bill. Stand up and receive a round of applause :-

Baker, Norman
Hughes, Simon
Howarth, David
Brown, Lyn
Creagh, Mary
Linton, Martin
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Winnick, Mr. David

Telegraph uncovers putrid obscenity of Labour sleaze

Documents published in today's Telegraph reveal for the first time how Labour's leaders were prepared to crawl on their bellies through the ordure of the gutter to pimp for the cash to keep them in power.

The second page of this noisome epistle states:
Major donors expect to be invited to No 10, if this cannot take place then income levels may be affected
No mention of 'suitable persons', no caveats about 'the dignity of the Prime Minister's official residence' - like a street prostitute caring only for the thickness of a punter's wallet and oblivious to the pustular sores that may be contracted from the encounter. It goes on say:
In addition it should be recognised that some donors were initially brought on board by being asked to play a role in the business strategy - thus flattering their desire to offer policy advice. Once they were involved it was possible to suggest other ways they could help the party.
How many Labour donors will this morning be feeling like dupes? How many will remember the encouraging smiles and nods as they proffered advice, and have believed until today that Labour was actually interested in what they had to say, rather than relaxing their suspicions before rifling their wallets?
Blair: A record of nothing but failure

Blair's self-delusion seems to have reached certifiable proportions as he continues to lay out policies for what he believes to be his 'legacy'. I am reminded of the final hours of Hitler in his Berlin bunker, as he disposed his affairs; his looted pictures to go to the Adolf Hitler Gallery in Linz, so-and-so to be new Reich Finance Minister, mad enough to imagine that the victors would do anything but boot his memory into the sewer of history. So with Blair.

He has managed to hijack an entire political party to achieve his selfish and narcissistic ambitions, and has left it bankrupt, rudderless and bereft of the ideology it once stood for. The Labour party is nothing but a husk, and as the English local elections of 3rd May remove it from local councils across the country, it is increasingly obscene that anyone should still seek to keep it alive with state funding. Blair has killed the Labour party.

Meacher writes that Blair is 'obsessed with money' and sought friends only amongst the rich and powerful. He accuses his leader of leaving the country after ten years more socially unequal than at any time since the 1930s.

Blair's other obsession, with control and micro-management, have given us a state apparatus more intrusive, more deadly and more hated than at any time in our history. The hideous cabal of Whitehall mandarins and Labour apparatchiks have made our nation a place under enemy occupation, complete with repressive security apparatus, 'protective' detention, the trashing of habeus corpus and the attempted dismantling of jury trials. Before long, shouted demands of 'Ausweis!' will greet us as we attempt to move around the city, or board trains.

Blair's final act, to conclude an illegal treaty, without the consent of Parliament or People, will leave the nation without control over law, foreign affairs or sovereignty. But this heinous betrayal will only be the encore to his first great treason - the break up of the Union.

I believe if Blair had truly devolved power in 1997 down to the local level across the nation, the sort of 'Big Bang' localism that would have reinvigourated democracy, shrunk the State, directly linked local taxes with local benefits and threw out the 60,000 or so appointed quangocrats that Whitehall prefers over elected representatives, we would not now be talking about Scottish independence. The Union would, I am convinced, have remained intact.

And that is the final, unforgiveable failure. That Blair's own vanity and lust for place and power have driven him to destroy a Union that has lasted for 300 years, that has defended our island nation from the hand of war, that has been a beacon to the world of hope, freedom and democracy.

May he rot in Hell.