Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Pussy cat pussy cat …

In one of the more astonishing little stories of the silly season, we’ve been treated by several websites to video footage of a woman – apparently one Mary Bale, aka Cat Bin Woman stroking a domestic cat she was passing, before throwing it in a wheelie bin.

Well as every Daily Mail reader knows, this is the kind of behaviour up with which the British public will not put. Cat bin woman Mary Bale: Please forgive me, says bank worker | Mail Online . Just have a read of some of those indignant outraged comments :

(and remember that they’ve been ‘moderated in advance’ ! )

Clearly these people are in no mood for forgiveness –

You think you deserve to be forgiven?!?!=

Absolutley no forgiveness here lady. Despicable evil specimen

(all spelling errors are verbatim by the way – not mine !)

Remember though, this woman’s been subjected to death threats. Over the top ? Not necessarily …

Death threats over the top? If they were actually carried out, yes.

On the other hand, I would say that the fear this woman now (rightly) feels for her personal safety is more or less proportionate to the terror felt by her small, uncomprehending, innocent victim trapped in the wheelie bin.

And in case we’re in any doubt about just how low the Cat Bin Woman has sunk, and how swift and harsh society’s vengeance should be …

Let the public reaction to this case put the nation’s law enforcement authorities on notice that a weak response (such as that with which the public has become depressingly familiar in recent years) will not be tolerated. This behaviour warrants a custodial prison sentence. The public snivelling the woman has treated us to today certainly demonstrates that she has a classic criminal mindset.

And plenty more commentators agree :

Keep covering this monster!!! Make her life miserable like she made the cat’s life miserable.

Not even if hell froze over could i forgive you for what you have done to this animal.

But some of the outraged members of  the public are worried that the punishment might not fit the crime :

… this wicked,cruel woman …  deserves all the criticism she gets. No doubt in our present sick society she will end up with her own TV show or a judge on the X-Factor.

A judge on X factor ? – whoo ! – that’s going some – you’d have to be pretty evil to deserve a fate like that.

Lest we allow ourselves to diminish her wickedness though, another commentator reminds us –

some people are just instinctivly evil, and shes clearly one of them.

This disgusting woman represents all that is wrong with our society

And while we’re occupying the moral high ground let’s get another thing straight :

she is pretending to be a “good woman of god” wearing that dispicable karaoke compere style pearl sequin blouse

The mob is well and truly baying now …


Miss Bale, honestly..who are you to decide to mess with innocent lives?

and this time it’s personal …

No wonder she’s not married.

which clearly makes her even more worthy of eternal damnation. After all …

I don’t see what the police protection is about, she’s only a rather unpleasant spinster.

Yes this is Britain damn it ! We can’t be letting unpleasant spinsters do what the hell they like. Wait though, it’s not as though this unpleasant old spinster is really all that old …

I can’t believe this woman is only 45 years old !

Outrageous – not really an old witch at all (who’d obviously be quite entitled to put a cat in a bin), not someone who casts spells or puts plagues on people.

No that’s left to our commentator from Australia who sends her hex halfway round the world to dissenting Mail readers :

I’d like to wish a special pox upon every person who said ‘it’s just a cat’. It was part of somebody’s family and a little girl’s pet. That sort of remark just proves that the humanity has been totally sucked out of the human race.

All of which obviously demonstrates the Mail readers’ compassion for those living beings less fortunate than themselves, and if they are so vociferous in defence of a mere cat (not ‘just’ a cat – I don’t want a special pox !), then surely they will be even more compassionate about unfortunate human beings.

What about this man –Manchester railway staff ignored disabled man’s pleas for wheelchair ramp | Mail Online who was ignored (allegedly) by railway staff in Manchester as he sat helpless in his wheelchair, unable to board his train. Surely the Mail readers will give those guards a piece of their mind !

But wait – what’s this :

Looks like the thin edge of a compensation claim to me. Where were his family? why was he not accompanied by them knowing he would need assistance getting on and off public transport, had any effort been made to notify the station of his needs. A set up if ever I saw one.

A set up ? Ooh never thought of that. I  wonder, could the Cat in the Bin thing have been a set up as well – what with the video and everything – STOP -I won’t go there ! That poor animal doesn’t deserve such doubt. (And I don’t deserve a special pox) – Let’s see what else they had to say …

i do think there is more to this than the disabled man just being ignored. I find it disturbing that one of the first comments he makes is about the other driver being sacked. I find it amazing to believe that 3 men all working on the railways would put their jobs at risk just to cause him an inconvenience. We only have his side after he started recording and I am sorry but he came across to me as someone out to cause trouble

A trouble causer eh ? Of course –
Being disabled does not exclude you from being a prat.
Oh right. So he’s a trouble causer AND a prat – well I suppose it could be worse – he could be a foreigner  –

Maybe he should go back to Saudi Arabia or wherever he’s from

And the hits just keep on coming …
maybe he’s the kind of guy who loves causing trouble and stirring things up! He’s acting like a dork – no sympathy for him…

What a real nasty little man being in a wheelchair ..does not give him the right to be rude & offensive..he se out looking for trouble ..and will no doubt now be asking for compensation..

Oh right. Obviously I’ve picked a bad example – this man must be EVIL like the Cat Bin Woman – my bad !
Let’s try and find another one, one where something really bad’s happened to someone, like being put in a bin, or … I don’t know … stabbed to death or something.
Here’s one from year or so back. I’m sure they’ll demonstrate some positive humanitarian concern here :

Refugee stabbed to death during illegal immigrant gang battle in Paris | Mail Online

This tells the story of a young 18 year old Afghani refugee was stabbed to death near the Gare du Nord in Paris – and within a few hours someone else was found near the channel tunnel – imagine that – I mean there’s a railway line linking Paris and Calais – if this young man had wanted he could have gone there too. If he hadn’t been stabbed to death.

I’m not quite sure about the details of this one, as the story says they were illegal immigrants who were fighting, but since they hadn’t come to Britain yet I don’t know how they could have been illegal immigrants.  Anyway though, if it says it in the Mail – it must be true. Fact is, a very young man was murdered – 18 years old. Whatever the ins and outs of this, it’s a tragedy. As the French Police said “He was just a kid who clearly fell into the wrong company”

Surely the Mail readers were up in arms about this. Let’s have a look –

Well thats one less parasite we have to worry about. We doesnt this stupid Government stop all the benefits and hand outs. they will soon stop coming.

That’s the best rated comment – surely some mistake – this man’s from Afghanistan – the country where our troops are dying each day in order to make it safer for the people who live there, surely he’s our friend not a parasite.

A spokesman says ‘Tragically this man was stabbed….’. The real tragedy is ours, the people of Britain, seeing more and more scum like him

Well I don’t know anything about him, except he was only 18 and came all the way from Afghanistan to Paris only to die of stab wounds. Sounds like “real tragedy” to me.

Have we not got enough violence in this country without more dangerous people heading for the UK

Well there’s a fair bit of violence in the UK. Not many roadside bombs. Not many Improvised Explosive Devices, not many Rocket Propelled Grenades. Not many troop surges by thousands of foreign troops. This man was a refugee – maybe he was looking for somewhere with a little less violence.

Well I had thought the Mail readers might care about this but no –

I really don’t care, sorry. If your stupid enough to get into such a horrid trade, then I don’t care what happens to you

and the bottom line is :

Oh dear, what a shame…one less person to ruin this country…

Joking aside, I can’t defend anyone who puts cats in bins. It’s a stupid act which anyone with any knowledge of the United Kingdom would realise is guaranteed to deeply upset many millions of animal lovers – it’s what our country is like. It’s not a particularly evil act though.

Evil is more like murdering an 18 year old man with a knife. Or perhaps hearing of such an atrocity, and saying that the victim was merely a parasite – an animal. If only he was an animal –  perhaps Mail readers might have more respect for him.

People are entitled to be outraged and angered by a crime against a cat. I’d like to suggest though that they’re only entitled to, if they are just as angered by offences against human beings as well.

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Disability, idle banter, news | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Poll position

Seems that the latest opinion polls are the next big thing in the election campaign.

I’m not so sure if I’m honest, We’ve seen a lot of widely different ‘exit polls’ after the “Leaders debate” – seemingly working every permutation of who came in 1st, 2nd or 3rd using apparently the same data source (You ! , the public !), and polls which have been published incorrectly then retracted and “nationalised” based on local samples. And the Mail on Sunday now seem to using someone called  BPIX to do their polls – who ever they are.

It does make me wonder whether they’re going round getting lots of different polls done and just publishing the ones which make most impact. Certainly Sky News seemed to run about 4 different versions of their after debate poll on Thursday night, presumably because the real results didn’t say what they wanted.

Despite this though, I’m  not dismissive of them. If these were favouring Gordon Brown rather than Nick Clegg, I’d be tweeting from the rooftops with the rest of the Labour twibe. So let’s take them at face value – even if they aren’t necessarily all that reliable.

The most sensational of these polls seems to place the Lib Dems as front runners in first place, with Labour in 3rd. As various commentators have pointed out (and sorry for the lack of links tonight – I don’t have the time !) – this could lead to the bizarre situation where Labour ended up as the largest party in parliament, with the fewest number of actual votes; and perhaps the Lib Dems with the fewest seats, and the largest share of the votes.

Will this be the turning point where the Lib Dems finally come of electoral age and seize power ? Or will it be (as Iain Dale has said on his blog) – David Cameron’s Wobbly weekend ?

Well I’m not sure – but I will say this – These polls would certainly appear to have woken the public up, and all of the parties. Last year when we had the Euro elections, the polls looked bad for Labour – not much better for the Lib Dems, and we had a frustratingly predictable low turnout bad news election.

The political geeks (like me)  have done their best to liven things up since then – there’ve been better polls for Labour, and lots of games with posters and stuff. Still – until last week – none of it was really catching the wider public interest.

But now it is. Now we’ll see who can run an election campaign.

The polls don’t show what WILL happen. They show that anything CAN happen.

The turnout at the last election was 61.5 % – imagine if just half of the remaining 38.5% decided to vote this time round.

Anything really COULD happen.

So what I’m taking from these polls is this : It really is  #GameOn !

UPDATE : Just came across this blog on the Sky polling after the ‘Leadership Debate’ – it’s a beauty. Respect to Loveandgarbage ! : Leadership debate – pie in the Sky

April 17, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, news, politics, twitter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Richard Littlejohn winds me up again !

In the middle of an election you’d think I’d manage to pull away from my traditional annoyance with the Daily Mail.

However yesterday I was driving – which I don’t do all that often do this days, and managed to catch snippets of BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends programme  BBC iPlayer – Loose Ends: 10/04/2010 feature none other than Richard Littlejohn. I only tend to listen to the radio in the car, and even then tend to listen to more or less anything but Radio 4 – so this was a rare occurrence.

In a few short minutes I was almost ready to plough the car into a ditch and abandon it so I wouldn’t have to listen to him any more.

There we had a lovely back patting group of people chuckling away on air at what a jolly humorous chap Mr Littlejohn is, poking fun at those oh so ridiculous figures of authority and the wacky things they do.

We get a few examples of his art. First up is Littlejohn’s story of  the average zebra crossing costing £114,000. You couldn’t make it up !

Well you could, and Richard Littlejohn did – because the cost of pedestrian crossings according to Road Safety charity Brake Engineering – crossings, and also Sefton Council Pedestrian crossings is actually no more than around £45,000 – with a Zebra Crossing coming in at between £5,000 & £10,000. Littlejohn presumably thinks that it’s just a matter of getting a tin of white paint, and has obviously not factored in matters like what to do with the traffic whilst you’re installing it, how to make sure that no one gets electrocuted by having two 24 / 7 beacons flashing in all weathers, how to make sure that they last longer than five minutes and not get vandalised every two minutes, or any considerations of public consultations, council approval and planning considerations.  No because he doesn’t need to take responsibility for anything – just make a number up and get some cheap digs in.

He also tells the story of the “Diversity Agency” spending £100,000 to send Burka clad Muslim women on fishing trips to the country where they stand in rowing boats wearing safety goggles while they try and catch a few carp. Hilarious. Funny how I can’t find any other mention of it, funny how no source is given for this information or the costs involved. Strange that safety guidance for fishing makes no mention of wearing goggles National Trust | Activities | Fishing – Health & safety

In fact there’s precious little evidence of this story even on the Mail’s website – although I did find Littlejohn’s reference to this in – hey ! – 2006 ! (Not exactly recent then Richard ?) – and a reference to the agency (that’s the Environment Agency mind – not the Diversity Agency – which is an agency that doesn’t exist by the way) in a similar article by Keith Elliott Fishing Lines: A broader church on the riverbank – More Sports, Sport – The Independent in the Independent. And yes this was 4 years ago – but involved not £100,000 but £1,000,000 – well what’s three zero’s amongst right wing journalists ? My guess is £10,000 if it happened at all, which I very much doubt. Let’s not let the truth get in the way of an opportunity to laugh at the way Muslim women look though Richard ? (To be fair to Keith Elliott – he’s somewhat more of a specialist Fishing journalist, and may well have sourced his article from Littlejohn)

The Environment agency’s principal role by the way is flood defence – and has an annual budget of over a billion pounds per year. More than a third of this amount is raised through fees and levies – rather than direct from the treasury. Its relatively small operation in relation to fishing, and angling, is funded almost entirely by the revenue generated from fishing permits and licenses which bring in around £20 Million pounds per year – not from the general tax payer but from anglers themselves.

Richard Littlejohn probably realised that he wouldn’t get a massive amount of tolerance on the BBC for his usually homophobic, racist rubbish, so instead he fell back on his dislike of Health and Safety – citing the example of Reading Football club who place notices around the stadium during team warm ups stating “Beware of flying footballs” – Well this is of course absolutely true – and rather absurd one might have thought. I wonder whether Richard has ever been knocked unconscious by a flying football – as I have seen occur, and more to the point I wonder whether he’s ever been accused of negligence by someone who has been knocked unconscious, because he failed to make someone whom he had a duty of care towards, aware of a known danger for which he was responsible ? .

This may of course be exactly the absurdity he’s wanting to point out – but hardly negates the importance of Health and Safety as he suggests.

In fact I had reason to think about Health & Safety rules the very next day – having spent the night in a Hotel – part of a big international chain in central Birmingham, my full English Breakfast was interrupted by a fire alarm, interspersed with loudspeaker announcements indicating that everyone should evacuate the building immediately.

I tried to leave by the nearest signposted Fire Exit – but was turned back by staff who told us to use the front door (and carried on cooking), I spotted another Fire Exit far nearer than that one – and found that it was locked shut – and eventually made my way to the front door – but couldn’t get out because people were still coming IN through the door. Eventually a receptionist came out and told us all to come back in, which we did and were met by colleagues staying on floors 2 to 16 where the alarm hadn’t sounded at all.

You couldn’t make it up !

If only we had more people like Richard Littlejohn, to help us get rid of these pesky Fire Alarms. What a nuisance they are, spoiling my breakfast like that

Richard Littlejohn claimed on Radio Four, that if the powers that be started taking notice of what he said he’d be out of a job because he wouldn’t have any more material. This is of course not true – he would go on making it up – as he does now.

Finally, If you’re looking for an Election angle for this blog, ask yourself this : Why is a high profile, publicly funded, and supposedly politically neutral organisation like the BBC giving airtime to a controversial prejudiced commentator like Richard Littlejohn without checking the provenance of his claims – during an election campaign ?

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, idle banter, politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Things that bug me – Part 2

Well I said I’d make up for lost time.

My second blog of the night – My earlier one can be found here : Things that bug me ! – Part 1 « Northernheckler’s Blog

Next thing I’ve seen that really bugged me  in the last few days was this pitiful article on the front page of the Daily Mail :England’s poor cancer detection and bad diet mean Slovenian women live longer which reports on the publication on the Government’s Health Profile of England 2009

This is just so absolutely typical of the Mail’s – “everything is terrible, and it’s all the fault of  Labour/David Cameron/Foreigners/Communists/Women/Fat people/Insert-your-own-scapegoat-here” approach to journalism.

One barely needs to read beyond the headline to sense the antipathy towards women, towards Eastern europeans, towards the National Health service, and towards the Government.

Reading on, it gets worse –

First we’re told “Health Care is so poor” – and yet this paper supposedly supports the Conservative party, whose support for the NHS is far from certain, and who definitely want to cut radically funding to public services.

It’s even worse than Slovenia – Slovenia ? Why Slovenia ? Could it be that it’s because we have some Eastern Europeans in the country at the moment, and it’s way of belittling them ? (Poland are noticeably further down the list than both Slovenia and England, but where would be the fun in saying that British women live longer than Polish women ?)

We’re given a picture of a fat woman, always the butt of so many jokes, tucking into what looks like a chicken take away. Doubtless we’re expected to believe she’ll wash it down with half a bottle of vodka, before dying of liver disease. Not that journalists ever have dodgy diets or drink alcohol.

Though the Mail picks up on the report’s concerns about alcohol related sickness and death, the claim that “deaths from chronic liver disease among women” are “driven by the rise in binge drinking” – are not at all borne out by the report – which cautions,

The method for calculating units of alcohol from drinks consumed has been revised since previous editions of the Health Profile of England. These revisions have been made to more accurately reflect the strength of some alcoholic drinks, and the way that these can be consumed. This makes comparisons over time between levels of alcohol consumption or binge drinking difficult.

but does suggest that

The proportion of pupils (aged 11-15) who had ‘drunk alcohol in the last week’ has continued to decrease since 2001.

The Mail’s version of the report though doesn’t bother with the good news, and carries on to make such utterly daft statements as :

“there was better news for English men – their life expectancy of 77 years and eight months is among the best in Europe, behind only Sweden, Italy, Cyprus and France”

Of course that won’t be much consolation for their poor old fat alcoholic unmarried female partners, as they face the final 5 years or so of their life without their already deceased men friends – still, could have been worse – they could have had their teenage pregnancies to a Slovenian

As a matter of fact the report itself  makes very interesting reading. It does draw attention to some of the biggest threats to the health of our population, but it also points out some of the major improvements that have occurred – such as for instance :

  • life expectancy at its highest rate ever – with male life expectancy amongst the highest in Europe
  • sustained reductions in infant mortality rates
  • declining mortality rates in targeted causes – cancer, circulatory problems, and suicides
  • reductions in the numbers of people smoking
  • improvements in the quality of housing stock

All of this data kept according to international comparators, in the public domain, and very open about the problems as well as the triumphs.

So why not do it some justice Daily Mail ? You have good reporters, intelligent people who can write intelligent articles that are accessible to a wide audience. Instead, again, you decide stir up resentment, disappointment, disillusionment, and anger – based on what ? Based on a biased and partial reporting of a very thorough report.

I just wish the Daily Mail would wake up to its influence and take some responsibility for its actions.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | blogs, news, politics, women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry men dancing round the May Poll !

I’d imagine that many people were dismayed to see the accusations against global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs, namely that they had been effectively rigging the on line ballot on the Robin Hood Tax website which is campaigning for the introduction of a very small tax  on banking transactions, which because of the vast number of transactions would be negligible to the man in the street, but net many millions in revenue from the banks such as Goldman Sachs. Hence “Robin Hood”- taking from the rich to give to the poor.

Goldman Sachs stand accused of flooding the website’s on-line opinion poll with many thousands of “No” votes within the space of around 20 minutes.

Disgraceful !

Or is it ?

In trying to get a picture of who did this, why, and how I have to confess it conjures up for me images of workers for Goldman Sachs trying to while away an hour or so without doing any work. It has the hallmarks of the Springfield Nuclear Plant’s office chair hockey tournament (played of course to FTT rules – Friday Time Waste) (and yes I know it was a Thursday) – namely that they were engaging in a slightly naughty activity for not particular reason other than it was a bit of fun.

I have fond memories of a particular WSS activity on a football email list I belong to (WSS – that’s Work Shy Slacker to the rest of you) which aimed to find the 50 most ridiculous names in football by lunchtime – the search was over by around 9.40 AM with well over a hundred footballers suffering from challenging nomenclature being held up to ridicule.

Let’s not forget either the antics of many of us (me too) who regularly vote in Daily Mail on-line polls with whatever we feel is the answer that they least want us to put.

This one is a classic :

In true Daily Mail style it gives only one practically sensible answer – It is certainly not socially acceptable to go to Tesco’s in your Jim-Jams. On a more philosophical level though we could open up a whole debate about the nature of freedom – are we free to make decision which place us outside the expected range of societal tolerance.

In Daily Mail eyes of course that makes us part of the Loony Left and Broken Britain. So what do we all do (in fairly large numbers I’d guess) ? Well we vote “yes” – it is OK to walk down to Tesco’s in Pyjamas.

Just a bit of fun. Or you could call it a barefaced lie.

If any of this has any importance, I’d say it is this : In the age of internet communications it is very easy to knock up websites & blogs, which look at peoples opinions & measure them. We can all do this – big newspapers like the mail, international financiers, football fan groups, or individual bloggers like myself.

Maybe it’s incumbent on all of us to take the responsibility not to use this power flippantly – if an online vote is a bit of fun then we should say so – and not complain if pranksters hijack it for their own ends.

If on the other hand we’re intending to use for a serious scientific or political purpose, then we should say so too – and take steps to ensure the robustness of the voting mechanism – and that it’s not likely to be falsified.

Otherwise let’s not waste time with on-line polls.

In the meantime here’s one for you to try. See if you can decide which type of poll it is – “Just for fun” – or “Serious statistical survey” (Clue: I wouldn’t advise Ladbrokes to take any bets on the outcome)

February 14, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, news, politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bleeding Heart ? OK, I can live with that !

This article was similar to many I’ve seen in the Mail : Teenage Vietnamese immigrant is discovered hiding behind car dashboard at Dover

It tells the story of a young 16 year old Vietnamese girl found huddled into the tiny space behind the dashboard of a car, apparently attempting to enter the UK immediately. It’s a harrowing picture that accompanies the article, and clearly demonstrates, just how desperate some people are to come to the UK.

I was sickened by the Comments which accompanied the article – A short selection :

“No Benefits = No illegal immigration.

“If the authorties spent as much time and effort chasing illegal immigrants as they do on motorists , we wouldn`t have an immigration problem.”

“It would be nice to know what happened to these people `attempting` to get into our fair country.  Let me have a guess? They`re still here.”

“Until we pull out of the EU, scrap the Human Rights Act and take control over our borders this crisis will not stop.”

“There is no point spending the money for airport xray machines as it really can’t stop the determined crazy muslim terrorist who wants to get his virgins in heaven.”

” 1. Place in detention centre.

2. Deport on next available flight, at her Embassies expense! “

“Zero tolerance. Depot (sic) them all!”

“Too many bleeding hearts in this country.”

“No wonder they want to come here! So would i if i knew i could get money, a house, food, heating and clothing for FREE!  However, i have a British passport and UK birth certificate, i’ll just have to work for the above.”

( I’m not going to systematically debunk any of this – see Tabloid Watch articles for regular fisking of this kind of stuff eg. : Nobody benefits from ‘immigrants on benefit’ stories )

Suffice to say that this kind of hatred and vitriol dismays me. Why you may ask ?

Well maybe because I’m a White Anglo-Saxon of vaguely Protestant working class upbringing – My culture and values are supposedly exactly the ones which these bigots and xenophobes are so keen to protect.

And what are those WASP values ?

Well I was brought up to believe that if someone called at our family home, then we didn’t keep them waiting on the doorstep – we invited them into the warm.

If we had visitors, then we didn’t give them the chipped cups and glasses – we gave them the best china – and we made sure that they had something to eat and drink from it as well – if we didn’t have enough – well we just shared what we had.

If friends came round, and it was a mealtime, then they were invited to join us, and if we were similarly given hospitality at someone else’s house we were expected (by our own families) to return the favour.

It’s still how I live my life, despite moving from a council house in the Heavy Woollen district to the leafy home counties, and despite become part of the so called ‘middle classes’.

I find that my children’s friends tend to like coming to our house – because they’re treated with courtesy and respect, and hospitality. Which I guess means we spend a little more on food & drink, and I guess inconveniences us a little. You know what though, I like it – and I can afford it.

As a headteacher I’m not exactly poverty stricken of course, – but guess what – when my Dad was a factory worker, and my Mum was a part-time nursing auxiliary – we could afford it then too. Just a question of priorities.

And if you want to know what core British culture is about, then I’d say this – If my family came across a girl of only 16 years old (a little older than my 13 year old daughter and 16 year old son), wedged into a space in a car, clearly desperate and in distress,  what would we do ?

Well we’d make sure she was alright – we’d check that she wasn’t hurt – we’d make sure she could get herself cleaned up with a shower or a bath – we’d sort her out with some clean clothing; and offer her food and drink – and maybe somewhere to stay for a night or two.

Then, and only then, would we start to talk about the problems she faced in the future – and whether it would be a good idea to stay for longer, or whether we’d help her find her way to somewhere more appropriate.

So there you go – no pre-judgement – no fast track – just common decency and humanity.

Those are my values – they’re shared by lots of people – from lots of different cultural backgrounds. If that makes me a ‘bleeding heart’ liberal then I’m fine with that – I care about people, I want to live in a country that does too – not just it’s own people – but all people. Not just people who are like me – but all people.

Just in case any one was wondering.

February 7, 2010 Posted by | Family, news, racism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

We are the boys who will make you think again !

In a blogger’s life there sometimes comes a moment when no matter how much you want to blog, there just doesn’t seem to be anything that gets your goat enough to make you blog. So what does one do ? Well a good idea for me is to visit The Mail’s Online website – because I can usually guarantee that I’ll be fuming with indignation within seconds, & ready to Blog for Britain.

Today is no exception – I visited the site and quickly found this little piece Dad’s Army board game banned from eBay for ‘inciting racial hatred’ which set my BS Radar bleeping at full power.

It seems someone has decided to sell his Dad’s Army board game – which he’s had since the 70’s and has been asked to take it down because the picture displayed a swastika – symbol of the German war-time Nazi regime.

The article quotes the man himself talking about the e-mail he received (although not actually showing us it), and Jenny Thomas a spokesperson for eBay explaining that “eBay will remove listings that bear the marks of organisations that promote hatred and racial intolerance and we are strict and unapologetic in adhering to this policy.”

Can’t be much clearer than that.

eBay are of course a commercial concern – it’s up to them what they sell and what they don’t sell, and nothing to do with Governments or law enforcement agencies. Providing of course their activities are within the law.

Which of course brings us to the probable reason for their nervousness around swastikas : It’s illegal to display it in many of the countries that their website appears in.

(Sources below are from Wikipedia – I believe them to be largely accurate)

Most notably in Germany where :

“The German (and Austrian) postwar criminal code makes the public showing of the Hakenkreuz (the swastika) and other Nazi symbols illegal and punishable, except for scholarly reasons. It is even censored from the lithographs on boxes of model kits, and the decals that come in the box. Some modellers would prefer to stencil on the swastika, or perhaps buy separate decals if possible. It is also censored from the reprints of 1930s railway timetables published by the Reichsbahn. The eagle remains, but appears to be holding a solid black circle between its talons”

In Hungary, it is a criminal misdemeanour to publicly display “totalitarian symbols”, including the swastika.

In Poland public display of Nazi symbols, including the Nazi swastika, is a criminal offence punishable by up to eight years of imprisonment

And in Brazil, The use of the swastika or any Nazi symbol, their manufacture, distribution or broadcasting, with the intent to propagate Nazism is a crime. The penalty is a two to five years prison term and a fine.

So you can hardly blame eBay for being cautious.

They’re not however wholly unreasonable in their caution as Peter Oteng, chief executive of the Worcestershire Racial Equality Council said in The Mail’s article,

” a compromise could have been to advertise the board game without showing the swastika image”

– and sure enough if you search on eBay for the board game “Escape from Colditz” – it pops up straight away – and is clearly for sale – there is however no trace of a swastika in the image that accompanies the ad.

So eBay aren’t refusing to sell such items, they are merely asking sellers to avoid using swastikas in their pictures – because it can get them into trouble in some countries.

So it’s not a story really is it ? Not “news”  – the stuff that newspapers are supposed to carry. Just yet another attempt to paint a picture of “political correctness gone mad”

It’s a picture that does not represent reality or truth.

January 28, 2010 Posted by | blogs, idle banter, news | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Moderation Game

UPDATE : See this latest post on the Mail website : Is there no lower limit to the depravity of these odious people LEO McKINSTRY: Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die

Yesterday morning I was dismayed to be waking to the news that Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen, had been executed in China after being convicted of drug smuggling.

There will be plenty of reaction to that news – this blog is not primarily about his execution, but around the way in which comments on on-line articles and blogs can be manipulated to give false impressions of public opnion.

Before I come to that though I’d like to say that I was a little disappointed that people in the UK seemed to make such a big issue of Akmal’s bi-polar disorder. I’m sure it’s an issue the Chinese authorities should have discussed – but let’s be absolutely straight about this – it would be just as wrong that he was executed irrespective of his mental health.

In the UK we don’t execute people. We haven’t done for 45 years. Prior to that a capital sentence has effectively not been available for crimes other than murder, for almost 150 years.

So to execute someone for drug smuggling – a crime which would only attract a relatively modest prison sentence in the UK  – is absolutely outrageous. It’s barbaric in the extreme, and reflects very poorly on the nation of China – who still have a large number of capital offences, including the making out of false invoices to avoid the paying of tax Capital offences in the People’s Republic of China (something to think about if you’re one of the British musicians who routinely ‘smuggle’ expensive guitars back from the US).

As I say – outrageous and disgusting.

Let me back to those comments though …

I read an article on the Mail’s website : Akmal Shaikh: Vigil for death row Briton due to be executed in China at 2.30am on Monday 28th December, and clipped the web page.

However as I write, the link to the article, is no longer valid, but the links to the comments now link to this page : Gordon Brown leads furious outcry as China executes British drugs mule by lethal injection

The article has changed somewhat – now reflecting the fact that Akmal has now been executed by lethal injection (although the URL seems to indicate that this was by firing squad which the report clearly does not say).

The “death row Briton” is now “British drugs mule” which doesn’t sound quite so nice, and Gordon Brown’s protests to the Chinese appear to be the major focus of the new story, but all in all this is. to be fair, a very balanced article – as the original one was. It’s acknowledged for instance that there was “cross party outrage” about the execution – and Mr Shaik’s mental problems are presented as fact. There is extensive coverage of Mr Shaik’s family background, of the campaign by Reprieve to try to overturn his conviction, and lots of coverage on the barbaric execution practices of the Chinese government  – all done in a professional, and fairly objective way.

Then we get to the comments.

Well the first one I read on the revised story says :

“Sorry but he had it coming”.

Which is actually somewhat tame compared to some of the others :

“if he is a drug smuggler he deserves to be executed never mind thee.s mamby pambys (sic)”

“Gordon Brown urging China to give a reprieve makes me sick. That just about sums him up. Look after the interests of low life scum while the country is collapsing around his ears. Lets count the days until we get rid of this idiot.”

(I guess that reader missed the paragraph where David Cameron supported Gordon Brown’s intervention)

“Let him rot he deserves it !”

Let’s have a closer look though – the comment about “thee.s mamby pambys” was dated 26.12.2009 – that’s actually three days before this article was supposedly published, and two days before the article which I read – which does make one wonder which article the responder thought he or she was commenting on.

Most of the comments have very little sympathy for the executed man. Many of them have been “rated” up or down – with some of the most vehement comments getting 900 or so positive ratings, whilst the ones with the lowest are – yes you’ve guessed it – comments which question the wisdom of executing Akmal.

But let’s remember

“The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.”

So this must be genuine public opinion that’s so overwhelmingly in favour of turning back the laws on capital punishment to the mid 19th Century.

Well no, because the comments “have been moderated in advance”

This of course means that the Mail decides which comments go up, which don’t, and actually could well mean that it decides which scores are allowed on the rating system – though they don’t say that.

What makes me suspicious about this, is that when I checked the site on Monday, there were only 60 odd comments, despite the story having been there for many hours, and despite some of the comments being rated by 500+ viewers – which to me indicates a very heavy censoring of the likely number of comments which came in, and if they’ve been edited, it seems clear that they’ve been edited very heavily to favour the pro-execution comments. This I deduce from the cross party consensus in revulsion at the execution which the article itself reports – there simply MUST be far more people objecting to the execution than was presented then.

A few days later (today) we then find that the number of comments jumps dramatically to well over a thousand, but remember that usually the visitor can see just a selection of the “newest” comments – which are obviously moderated so that the selected few are shown; the “oldest” – which were obviously moderated in the same way; the “best rated” – which tends not to change much, the oldest nastiest comments tend to be the ones; and the “worst rated” – ie. The ones that show any glimmer of a dissenting voice.

This is steering the view presented of the comments coming in in a particular direction. Very wrong in my opinion. It’s manipulative and untruthful.

And of course the mail still claims that the comments don’t represent its own opinions.

If on-line news source have any integrity they should publish details alongside the comments they show – showing how many comments are received, how many were rejected, the reasons they were rejected for, and a permanent link to the article which the comments were originally submitted in response to. It’s not acceptable to publish a comment that was a response to one article, as if it were a response to a later revision – it is dishonest.

I will return to the issue of comments on this site again – there are some serious issues at stake – and though I have (again) picked on the Mail to illustrate one aspect of these problems, they are by no means restricted to that publication.

I’ll be doing some thinking in the meantime – I wish some of the comment moderators on various websites would do the same.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chaos Theory ?

Happened to glance at the front page of the Daily Mail earlier today and saw this headline : £11bn VAT rise shambles: Chaos reigns on High Street with just three days to go before sales tax goes back up

Obviously a little concerning as I was on my way to London to do some shopping with my son and his friends. My dictionary defines “Chaos” as “complete confusion or disorder” – so I wondered what I might find down Oxford Street.

Well surprisingly enough I found it busy, yet strangely orderly. There were queues in some shops, but no real confusion – in fact in Primark they had a man telling people which till to go to – which speeded things up a bit. And at the tills, they seemed to know what they were doing – accepting all the usual credit cards, and cash as well – which wasn’t confusing a bit. And I didn’t see any marauding mobs of disorderly people. All very orderly really.

So “chaos” did not reign on this particular high street, although I’ll await reports of random burning and looting from elsewhere in the country. It seems that retail companies think it’s an insane time to change the VAT back, and don’t know when they’ll actually change their prices.

Not sure why they don’t know really – because they have had 12 months warning of this, and despite the mail saying that this is will be an “£11 billion VAT shock” I can’t really imagine that anyone will be “shocked” – ( feeling of extreme surprise) about this. You’ve known about it for a whole year !

Actually hang on a bit – £11 billion ?  Oh right – that’s how much we “saved” this year – so a net gain for the public, and (assuming their figures are correct ) that extra £11 billion should pay off 13% of the existing national debt – you know the one that the Mail (and the Tories) are always harping on about – which again should bring it in to around 50% of GDP (compare to United States current 71%, Italy’s ~100%, and Japan’s 194%) (Source : UK National Debt) (My figures are assuming GDP remains constant – not necessarily true, but you’ll catch my drift I’m sure).

The article goes on to say that the reversal of the VAT will cost around half a billion pounds to retail companies to change their prices – this averaged over the two changes, one of which has already happened, and one of which will happen sooner or later irrespective of whether it’s implemented this week or in a month or in a year.

Whenever it was implemented it is a predictable expense which well managed companies have had a long time to plan for.

The VAT reduction is an issue which is really quite interesting. It’s not easy for a lay man like myself to tell whether it really has made any difference to the economy – certainly 2.5 pence in the pound reduction is not a cut that’s left me feeling like I suddenly have loads more spending power – but it does leave shops slightly more margin for making a profit – and may well have stimulated the economy – the Mail’s claim that we have a “bumper sales period” amounting to a “shopping bonanza” would seem to indicate that. And yet I know people working in the retail industry who were deeply frustrated by the costs of changing catalogues at the last minute last year.

So why can’t we have some analysis and objective discussion of these issues – which I’d be seriously interested in having a truly expert opinion on ?

I wish the Mail would do that, because as things stand this front page article is not news in any sense that I understand.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Holidays !

I couldn’t resist blogging on this latest bit of festive fun from our friends at the Daily Mail : ‘Season’s Greetings’ from David Cameron as Tories Christmas cards ‘pander to politically correct brigade’

Well I don’t know about you, but I thought ‘Seasons greetings’ was about as traditional as it got – can’t see why anyone could  object to that, mind you I can’t see why anyone should object to Happy Christmas either – I get a lot of cards with both on – and send a few too. Many of them to Muslims, Jews and Hindus – who don’t seem to mind (and who send them back as well).
But having been subjected to pressure from people over-sensitive that their cards could cause offence to some people (ie The Mail) – the Conservative party have bought in new stock that says Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (shown above).

Political Correctness gone mad I call it !!!

The new stock of cards is apparently sold out by the way.

I never cease to wonder at The Mail – if this is how they treat their friends it’s no wonder they’re so unfair to their enemies.

PS  – The one with the phone box is not offensive in any way – but it is seriously naff !


I nearly forgot – one of the trails for other articles on The Mail website was for this tasteful Christian story about Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe malfunction. Have a look : Sarah Jessica Parker suffers a wardrobe malfunction as flimsy dress is caught by the wind , and marvel at how in the space of a couple of webpage inches and a single click, The Mail can go from criticising their favourite right wing party for preferring generic winter scenes and pictures of robins to pictures of Jesus and the Three Kings. “, to clearly demonstrating their preference for pictures of outlined female breasts and genitalia to pictures of Mary, Joseph and the Inn Keeper.

December 18, 2009 Posted by | idle banter, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

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