Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Walking the boards

A bit of sillyness:
He sighed as he straightened his tie.Life for an actor used to be such a simple and rewarding experience. All he used to do was learn the lines, memorise the scenes and stage directions, then work through the script. After a short period of a few hours came the finale and the pretence was over. The actors returned to their normal personality and the audience left, hopefully satisfied with the entertainment.

This gig was so much harder. All the dialogue had to be improvised. Of course the writers and directors had sketched out multiple scenarios for each scene and he had spent months learning cues and potential responses and making sure he understood how the scene could always be steered to the correct outcome. Every scene had to be controlled and manipulated by the actors so that no matter what improvised route was taken through the scene the outcome always supported the main plot. In addition the important messages must always get through to the audience. What was worse was having no set end to the play, it continued indefinitely until the audience became bored and restive, merging the part into and taking over his real life.

But at least the pay and perks were excellent he thought, as he strolled out into the auditorium and joined the other world presidents and prime ministers for the summit.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Some random thoughts on human rights

A short while ago Sue had a piece at her place about the human rights act, a judge’s decision to avoid deportation of an illegal immigrant, which set me to looking at it. Like most people, and as Cameron wants us to believe, I simply assumed it was some sort of left wing authoritarian charter to enshrine the most absurd legacy of political correctness and daft behaviour that penalised the majority.

But actually it isn’t.  If anything it could go further, the right to public protest for example, and while I’m not sure about the absolute ban on the death penalty there is little in it that forces anyone to do anything they are unhappy about doing or that should stir up anyone’s ire.

For example: There is nothing there about having to supply illegal immigrants with multi million pound houses in London because of their right to family life. There is a simple requirement to respect and allow family life. I can’t argue with that, we should respect other peoples’ lives and families, and most of us naturally do so with no urging. But allowing or respecting it does not mean an obligation to create it, organise it and pay for it to happen in the most expensive borough of the country, or indeed in any particular country. There is a whole world of difference between respecting something and accepting full responsibility for it whatever the behaviour of the beneficiary. Almost everyone (politicians and the ultra rich excepted) is constrained by financial circumstances and work obligations as to how and where they can live.

There is nothing about votes for prisoners, justice and security are situations where some rights are suspended.

There is nothing about forcing people to have their religious views made subservient to other rights, for example a minister who opposes officiating at gay marriage. Just the opposite in fact, freedom of religious practice, its belief and practice is an expressly granted right and one right cannot be used to suppress another. On the face of it this makes UK anti-discrimination legislation to be in breach of EU justice law which upholds religious rights. One person refusing to carry out a particular activity does not prohibit the activity, as long as someone else will supply the service there is no blocking of rights.

It seems to me the entire system has been turned on its head by the interpretations handed down by the European Court of Justice and also by our own courts. The rights act should be providing positive rights and freedoms for people to prevent state control and oppression, but instead the freedoms have been turned inside out, to create personal restrictions and obligations which are then used against individuals to repress freedoms and install conformity. 

In which case there is no point in throwing it away and having a new one as Cameron keeps wittering on and on about, or keeping it sacrosanct as Clegg insists, or even reverting to Magna Carta, because any replacement would be useless if applied in an equally skewed manner. It’s all pointless hot air if the agenda of the Powers That Be will be applied regardless of the wording of any law, which will be twisted to fit their agenda.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I thought gun gestures were illegal nowadays

(Picture nicked from Richard North's

Water pistols are illegal?

A man is arrested for organising a water fight!

So maybe there is slight possibility he was using 'water fight' to mean riot as the plod suggest, did they ask him I wonder? Maybe it wasn't a very bright idea to try and organise an outdoor event near a riot zone, I can empathise with that. But I'm more inclined to think that Essex plod simply decided that anyone who organises anything over Blackberry messenger is a rioter.

I'm not happy about the system we now have but (at least for the moment) it is what it is, and it's the only system of behavior control we are allowed, hence we need the police to tackle crime, and I'm content for them to be as hard as they like on the real criminals who destroy property, security and our communities. But you certainly don't have to look very far to understand why the average member of the population holds the police in such low regard when they continue to apply laws and powers designed to fight serious crime to ordinary people.

"no tolerance" if applied as a process should be applied to all wrongdoers, which includes expenses fiddling MPs and (now) civil servants abusing taxpayer funded credit cards, and the police need powers to enable that. But if the police expect any level of co-operation and respect from the public they must learn to stop applying such powers against people doing ordinary and harmless, and even entertaining things. I realise almost anything can be an offensive weapon but a water pistol? What is the crime, aggravated watering of the grass with intent?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Will Cameron play mother?

Or will he play the lady in green?

The oldies are still the best!

for anyone who doesn't hear the connection in the lyrics. Little Sir Hugh goes out to play with his friends, gets overenthusiastic and kicks the ball into someone else's property. When he goes to retrieve it the Lady in Green, whose property it is, invites him in to get it then kills him for his carelessness, The winding sheet is to bury him in. For 'ball' read opinions.....

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A schizophrenic attitude to temptation

I’m keeping off the subject of riots as such but one thing that does bug me is double standards.

If you have something like a laptop stolen from the back seat of your car the first thing the police will do is blame you for leaving it there. Indeed in Warwick services, where I stopped a couple of days ago, there were large yellow police notices all round the car park telling patrons not to leave valuables in their vehicles. (How you are supposed to empty your car or van while you go to the loo if you are going on holiday or transporting goods is not explained). I have also seen police advice, in their friendly little newspapers that they send round to justify their council tax precept instead of actually policing the area, not to leave valuable ornaments visible in your house window in case it tempts thieves.  Chances are, if such items were stolen, as once was my wallet from a briefly unattended jacket pocket (in a private building), the police will give you a crime number together with a lecture on taking care of your valuables and you may even  have a battle with your insurance company to get compensation if they consider you were careless.

Yet oddly, if you have an unmanned building full of laptops and new TVs in the high street, put them in the window and light them up at night to make them more attractive and even advertise their presence on TV and in the press, completely different rules apply. Suddenly it’s not the fault of the owner leaving them in plain sight to tempt the criminal when they are stolen, it’s the fault of the sick society and the scum who can’t resist temptation and who break in to steal them.  

Understand that I’m not defending thieves or criminals in any way or form, it should be safe to leave anything anywhere. What I want to know is why the attitudes of the police and authorities are so completely different. If you are Mr. Joe Public who accidentally leaves a piece of second hand kit visible it’s partly your own fault if it's stolen, but if you are a large commercial organisation like Currys that openly flaunts and advertises the presence of a similar but brand new item it’s the criminal who is to blame. Is this because nowadays corporations more important and have more political clout than people, or just that individual victims are easier for the police to ignore and fob off as only having themselves to blame?

Perhaps if the police had taken the one-off crimes more seriously, and blamed and caught the criminals instead of blaming the victims, crimes would not have escalated into so many mass thefts as they just have?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Biased Polls

I have some limited experience of polling, and one of the most important features of any honest poll designed to seriously test opinion and obtain useful information is that it must never guide the respondent to a specific answer. The wording, categories, descriptions etc must always be kept neutral so the respondent gives a true answer without prompt, nudge or emotional knee-jerk reaction.

Of course this is what the MSM don’t do, they will blatantly write a scare story, usually couched in emotive terms, about some issue, then follow with a poll. For example the crime rate and someone being mugged, then asking if people want more policemen on the beat. Inevitably they get the desired answer because the poll was heavily loaded from the start to obtain that answer.  Any other aspects of the question are not mentioned in the article.

The same tactic is used by almost every lobby group and pressure group and of course politicians. Find one specific example of a practice that people won’t like, publicise that aspect, then ask a leading question about the activity. Anti-smoking, anti-alcohol, anti-salt and suchlike movements always work to this pattern.  Use something simplistic and irritating to people, load the language of the question with carefully biased wording. “Do you know how much scarce NHS resource is wasted on alcohol related injury? (note the words “scarce and  “wasted”, which are emotionally loaded). Then follow up with a poll whether the NHS should charge drunks YES/NO. You’ll probably get a “yes”.  I’m ignoring the deliberate lies and misleading statistical distortions often used. All it needs is some carefully loaded emotive reporting and a leading question.

There is a wonderful section in “Yes Minister” to illustrate the technique of using loaded questions to achieve an outcome but I can only find this version online, via someone else who notes distorted polls.

But there are other far more subtle ways that distort polls, Things that a true seeker after opinion works hard to avoid, and that is biasing results by removing an element of choice, or by having confusing choices or ill thought out questions.  Asking for a YES/NO answer when most people have a nuanced attitude is a simplistic example. Often the problem is swept under the carpet by having an ‘other’ option, but even then many people will try to fit themselves into the tick box options.

This leads me to the Total Politic poll of blogs and bloggers, which prompted my train of thought.  There is a free choice of blog entry vote but then you are asked to categorise them. Look at the categories.

Right wing        Left Wing         Libertarian        Non-aligned          Labour
Conservative    Lib Dem           Green                Group blog       Scottish
Welsh               Northern Irish   Councillor         MP                   Media

Are we meant to categorise as we interpret them or as the blogger describes them? No idea!

But more importantly notice how the choices control the responses. A blog may be libertarian but not authoritarian. It cannot be localised, there is no local category although local politics may be just as political. The blog can be Welsh, Scottish or from NI but can’t be recorded as English, are we not allowed to describe blogs that concentrate on English affairs?  Read any good English based UKIP, anarchist (or even marxist) blogs anyone? 

These restrictions suggest to me that Total Politics, while not defining the winning choice in any way, have a very preconceived set of ideas as to the appropriate contents and background of a political blog.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Rediscovering Country Pubs

I haven’t blogged much recently, mostly due to domestic stuff, then last week, being away for a much needed rest I began to have some ideas but the Internet connection broke, so I gave up and had a few days free of any major news or contact with the blogosphere. Being back online I simply don’t know where to start! There are so many important things happening, most of which make me both angry and worried because so many are lies, smokescreens and the surface activity of much deeper hidden agendas than the MSM can comprehend. So while our great leader is enjoying practicing his tennis with his specially flown over tennis coach in his £10,000 a week villa and while the markets burn, along with the streets of London, I’m going for escapism.

When the Mrs. and I travel anywhere it’s often in our camper van. Only a smallish thing, you wouldn’t want to live in it for any time, but absolutely ideal for weekends away, music festivals, an overnight stopover on a long trip and the like, without being much more unwieldy to drive or park or worse on fuel than a medium sized car we use it for most long pleasure or social journeys.  I would go as far as saying that the van is easily the most liberating thing we have ever bought. As I once pointed out to the driver of a Bugatti Veyron (yes really, we were behind one on the Eurotunnel shuttle) “Yes yours does go faster, but we can make tea in ours and it has a much better loo”.

The biggest problem here in the UK for touring is finding somewhere to informally and cheaply park up overnight, and partly for that reason we frequently go to France. In rural France you can park overnight free at almost any of the motorway aires (services), many have attractive and well cared for campervan and picnic areas. In addition almost every small market town has provision for overnight stopovers in a campervan.  Frequently a section of a town car park that can be used free overnight, often with a coin slot operated service facility that provides a water supply, an hour’s electricity and a waste drain point. Some towns offer an inexpensive but well set up ‘camping municipal’ site, and these too are welcoming for overnight stopovers, generally being open late so one can book in during the evening. Almost always these sites are at the edge of the town in easy walking distance of the centre. The French understand that visitors bring money! Arrive for the night, stroll into the town, eat in the bars and restaurants, stock up for the next day in the local shops, everyone gains from the deal. Many of the sites get very busy in season and travelers become regulars at their favourite ones. Even the private rural sites normally have a bar so you can arrive late and book in then have a meal or a beer.

Here in England however it’s a very different story. Would you honestly want to pay £8 or £10 to pull up overnight at a UK motorway services? Thought not. But camping and caravanning club sites prefer advance booking, like you to arrive in ‘office hours’, are relatively expensive and are usually in rural areas. There are smaller allied sites that take up to 5 vans which are cheaper but again most prefer advance booking and are often full with people staying longer periods. They don’t usually have a bar or restaurant nearby. Most ordinary options are geared up for people to stay and none provide what is needed for a brief overnight stop while travelling. This ideally needs the ability to arrive in the evening so that you can use the most of the daylight to travel (or sightsee). Somewhere to eat and relax until it’s time to sleep and somewhere level to park out of the way. It doesn’t need to have full camping service facilities as most vans can be self-contained for a couple of nights.

At last, after years of trying different options we have rediscovered rural pubs! They are open in the evening so you can arrive later, they have large car parks, they welcome customers, provide great value meals, and many are perfectly happy to allow you to sleep in your van overnight provided you spend money there.  Some are now getting organized and there is at least one register at There is a signup charge to fund the register (I am not connected with them, just a member). The standard arrangement is that you can park up free overnight provided you have at least a meal in the pub. The more organized ones often leave a side door open to the toilets, have water available, and if you park close enough to the building there is wi-fi. It’s 100% ideal for a one night stop. Arrive, have a super pub meal, enjoy some great beer, stagger back to the van to sleep it off and away in the morning, and all for little more than you would spend on an overnight site fee. We have found a super friendly place only just off the M20 very close to the Channel Tunnel, ideal for an early crossing the following morning, and last week discovered a lovely old pub (top picture) down a lane near Bewl Water just off the A21 that provided us with a smashing meal, wonderful views over the Sussex downs and some great draft Harvey’s as we broke our journey home.

For daytime stops when we are not in a hurry we tend to use the National Trust. If you are a member there are numerous country houses with glorious parklands where you can rest an hour or so, eat your sandwiches or get a meal at the café, have a look at some history, and drive on refreshed. So much nicer than using motorway services and if you can get to a nice country pub for the night a couple of days away or even a long journey feels like a real holiday.