Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Mosquito Madness

In my June 11 post, Puff of Hot Air, I commented on patio heaters, and how pubs were installing them by the thousand as an ingenious way for their customers to sidestep the new anti-smoking legislation.

Unfortunately, it emerged that patio heaters were (allegedly) really bad for the environment, and, in unwittingly causing so many of them to be installed, the Health Fascists had inflicted major collateral damage on the Holy Grail of reduced CO2 emissions so coveted by their fellow tub-thumpers, the Environmental Zealots. I predicted that this conflict of ideals would stimulate a dirty fight between these groups of obsessives, and it seems I was not mistaken.

Since then, the environmental hazards allegedly associated with patio heaters have been covered in various newspapers on several occasions - the Daily Mail's "Save the world - ban the patio heaters" is a typical example, but there have been many others along the same nauseating lines. The Energy Saving Trust, Friends of the Earth and other assorted tree hugging nitwits are whipping themselves up into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation, but, I suspect, nobody else is even remotely interested.

Which probably explains this highly entertaining article in the Metro, and a shorter piece along the same lines in The Publican. It seems that patio heaters attract mosquitoes. Which, in the UK at least, don't carry Malaria, and haven't since the 1800s. But they might do so again one day. So now you know.

Pathetic, isn't it? Having totally failed to raise a storm - or even a shower - of genuine public protest over the increasing use of patio heaters, the Environmental Zealots are now trying to instill fear of disease into the public, and fear of liability and prospective litigation into publicans.

Do they think we were born yesterday? Well, maybe. But it seems more likely to me that this is a tactic born of the desperate realisation that nobody gives a damn about their latest pet hate. Of course, that won't stop them from trying - they wouldn't be Environmental Zealots if the knowledge that everyone else thinks they're pillocks had any impact upon them.

Still, if a plague of mosquitoes does indeed descend upon the beleaguered British smoker, the smoking ban - that has already cost one man his life - is likely to become even more unpopular. How will the Health Fascists react? Watch this space... :-)

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Janet's Sexy Dressing Down

Here's an entertaining little story from the Daily Mail (big surprise there), The Sun (of course!) and Anorak.co.uk - apparently, devout Christians Nick and Janet Nelson have been running a fetish website featuring Janet Nelson posing in kinky raingear, wallowing in mud and, shock horror, TOPLESS.

Actually, the "website" in question is a Yahoo Group, but we wouldn't expect the Daily Mail to know the difference, would we? Still, the story goes that the 52-year-old Mrs Nelson, who's Yahoo Group was called "Janet's Sexy Dressing", said on her group, "I'm always looking for other ladies who enjoy this sort of thing and who would like to play with me."

The "sort of thing" in question seems to have involved see-through macs, wet T-shirts, stockings, rubber boots and mud - in other words, the sort of thing that The Sun used to be famous for. Her activities were exposed when a fellow parishioner found the Yahoo Group and pottered off, in true telltale fashion, to report it to the local vicar.

The Rev John Hunnisett, of St Mary's Church in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, called the couple in and, presumably, gave them a dressing down; certainly, they've been pitched off all the local church committees that they were part of, and made to close down their Yahoo Group.

What I can't understand is, WHY? As far as I can see, they've done no harm to anyone. So Mrs N likes to run around in a mac and stockings. SO WHAT? She's not showing any more flesh than is frequently on display on just about any beach you care to mention. In fact, the whole point of the site is fetish WEAR - i.e. dressing up for kicks. Not, as Anorak points out with more flair than I ever could, all that different from the Vicar running around in his dog collar.

No, the real scandal in this story is not the Nelsons, who seem committed to doing good works for the church, but the reaction of said church to their hobby. Nobody had any criticism of their work for the cur ch before they knew about this, did they? So clearly Mrs N's rainwear fetish hasn't had any impact upon her ability to do her job. What we have here is, quite simply, prejudice.

Everyone has their own, personal kinks - whatever works for them is cool, as long as it doesn't affect anyone else, and, in this, case, it obviously hasn't done so. Christianity is a very popular religion indeed - surely, nobody would claim that all of its followers, apart from the Nelsons, have no sexual interests beyond the missionary position? To berate the Nelsons for having an interest in fetish wear, and sharing that interest with like-minded, consenting adults is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Speaking of which, the mysteriously anonymous parishioner who went running to the vicar with their find has some explaining to do. I've done a quick Google search for "Janet Nelson", and the "Janet's Sexy Dressing" Yahoo Group was nowhere to be seen in the first 100 or so results. It therefore follows that this nameless snitch did not find the group by accidentally searching for Mrs Nelson.

The Group is quite well listed on websites that feature various fetishes, though. I wonder what particular fetish this person was searching for when they stumbled upon their neighbour's Yahoo Group? Hmm, no, "stumbled upon" is not the right word. The Group is quite clearly marked as containing adult material, is age restricted, and requires the user to sign in with a Yahoo username and password and then confirm that they want to view adult material before they can access the content.

Hardly accidental discovery, is it? I think it would be particularly entertaining if someone could track down this snooping, snitchy neighbour and publish their identity. It can't be that hard - they are a parishioner of St Mary's Curch, they have a Yahoo account and they're over 18. That must narrow it down a bit - maybe a little more Google research will turn something up...

In the meantime, my congratulations go to Mr and Mrs Nelson. I don't think they've done anything wrong, either legally or morally, and I applaud their honesty in publishing their interests to like-minded adults. Rainwear isn't my thing, but, from the pictures available in the media, it looks to have produced some good material that was surely very popular with the Group's members. Come on guys, bring the Group back, stick two fingers up to your miserable neighbours and let's do a link exchange.

Incidentally, I assume that all of the pictures of Mrs Nelson published in the media are the Nelson's intellectual property. I very much hope that the Nelsons gave consent for their use and syndication, and received an appropriate fee in the region of several hundred pounds for each pic - they deserve it.

As for the whinging neighbour and the prudish Vicar - get a life.

Billy Seggars.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Chip and Bin

Southport, in Sefton on Lancashire's Fylde coast, is a pretty, bustling, but unspoiled seaside town. It's a popular day-trip destination for folks from all over the North West, is famed for its Flower Show, and goes down particularly well with pensioners, who, understandably, prefer it's civilised charms to the more gaudy attractions of Blackpool. It is not, on the whole, a place synonymous with insurrection and civil unrest.

Yet, thanks to Sefton council, the foul stench of decay and the twin spectres of rebellion and Orwellian surveillance now - quite literally - stalk the streets of this sedate coastal resort. For Sefton is the latest community to suffer the dual evils of fortnightly refuse collections and bugged wheelie bins.

To add insult to injury, the locals have been issued with a set of imperious instructions on how, and when, they should put their wheelie bins out for collection, with the threat of a £100 fine to be imposed on those who dare to disobey. Can't you just hear 'Allo 'Allo's Colonel von Strohm, "You vill put ze bins out how I say, or I vill have you shot!"

So what, exactly, are the locals expected to do if they want to avoid this swinging penalty? According to the Southport Visiter:

  • Bins stuffed with rubbish leaving lids even slightly ajar will NOT be collected;
  • £100 fines for anyone who leaves their bin out on the wrong day for collection – or takes too long to take it in again;
  • Bin bags left out next to wheelie bins will not be taken away;
  • If bins are not on the kerbside with their handles pointing into the road, they will not be collected;
  • Anyone requesting a second wheelie bin will see inspectors visiting their home to sift through rubbish to see if they are recycling enough;

Did you ever read such a load of hectoring, poorly thought out cobblers? No, me neither. Take the second point - what constitutes "the wrong day"? Taking this literally, anyone who puts their wheelie bin out for collection before midnight on the day before collection - say, before they go to bed - is due a £100 fine. And what amounts to "taking too long to take it in again"? How long is too long? How long is a piece of string? And, significantly, how will Southport's evidently deranged council actually know?

And then there's the business of handles pointing out to the road. Have these people taken leave of their senses?!? Do they plan to employ some kind of drill Sergeants to make this happen? "AttennSHUN! Wheelieeee bin handles, GRASP! Wheelie bins, to the kerb, MARCH! Left, right, left, right.. keep up there, you pansy penioners.. left, right..! Wheelie bins, to the kerb, wait for it, WAIT FOR IT... RoooTATE!"

This is simply beyond my ability to mock - it's mindless. What, for example, happens if some passing child maliciously turns a bin to face away from the road? Or does the same to a whole street full of bins? Under the fortnightly collection, and the terms of this ludicrous order, that would mean that the unfortunate victims would have to wait another two weeks before the council deigned to remove one month's worth of garbage. Hardly in the interests of public health, I'd have thought.

As for the garbage grubbing pooper snoopers they intend to unleash on anyone with the temerity to request a second wheelie bin, well, that just takes the biscuit. Apart from anyone else, who in their right mind would apply for such a job?

Needless to say, the residents are not happy campers, as the Southport Watch website clearly shows, and I don't blame them. Sefton council has prepared a video about the "benefits" of the convoluted scheme. It's available here. Watch out for the old lady in the pink top cheerfully making use of the new "services" for propaganda purposes.

How many trips does she have to make to put out her rubbish? I make it three - one to push out the wheelie bin (which is almost as big as she is), one with the bottles and plastics box, and one for the new "food scraps" box. Now, I'm sure that's all fine and dandy on a reasonable day when she's surrounded by helpful public relations bods and a camera crew, but how good will it be in the depths of winter?

And then there's the business of the bug in the bins. Each new wheelie bin is fitted with a tiny radio frequency chip, which, the council says, will be used to identify the bin and return it if it gets lost. How thoughtful of them, but doesn't that seem like a lot of trouble to go to for a lost wheelie bin? And anyway, most lost wheelie bins don't go much further than another house on the same street, and the problem is easily resolved in the time-honoured manner of painting your house number on it.

No, I'm afraid I'm not convinced by this glib explanation. The real reason is for monitoring how much garbage is disposed of by each household, and the obvious reason for doing that is to make feasible some form of new refuse collection charge. Certainly, the council is very touchy about folks removing the chips from their bins, claiming it to be a criminal offence.

Perhaps it is, although it's difficult to see how. But it may not be necessary to physically remove the chips from the bins. The chips are simply RFID tags, and, as such, are designed to be read and, one assumes, programmed. How long will it be before some tech comes up with a way to scramble the information encoded onto the tag - or, worse, reprogram the tag to identify someone else's bin?

Not very long, I expect. And when that happens, the whole idea of charging will have to be abandoned as fundamentally flawed. In fact, so certain am I that this WILL happen, that I can see no point in councils going to all the trouble - and attracting such enormous, and justified, vilification - involved in rolling this scheme out.

Give it up, guys, you're not going to achieve your objectives, and you're starting to look very foolish indeed. Next time I visit Southport - if I ever again do - I'll bring along a nose peg or two so I don't have to smell the decaying garbage, or the stench of corrupt council officials who think they can put one over on the local residents.

Billy Seggars.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Smoking Gun

In a posting titled Beer, Fags and Scuffles, on the 22nd July 2007, I said:

"It was inevitable that smokers - sometimes in large numbers - would congregate outside busy pubs, and want to take their drinks with them. Such large gatherings of folks in various degrees of inebriation are equally inevitably going to be a potential source of trouble, from obstructed footpaths to drunken brawls and worse ... And when this happens (if it hasn't already), there will be trouble. The extent of the trouble is hard to predict, but if it happens in a time and place where feelings against this combination of laws are already running high, it could be quite significant indeed. This sort of confrontation can get out of hand very quickly, and someone will get hurt or killed - I am as certain of this as I am that day follows night."

Just hours after I wrote that terrible prediction, in the early hours of Monday morning, a former British heavyweight boxer was shot when he asked customers at a club to stop smoking. James Oyebola, who was shot in the head and leg in a courtyard at the back of Chateau 6 in Fulham Road, south-west London, was born in Nigeria, won 18 of his 23 fights, and was a bronze medallist at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

On Thursday of this week, doctors declared the 6ft 9in former WBC international heavyweight champion brain dead, and his life support machine will be switched off at midday today. Earlier this week, the British Boxing Board of Control's General secretary, Simon Block, said Mr Oyebola was "one of nature's gentlemen" and the shooting was a "cowardly and gutless attack".

Yes, it was, and the perpetrators must be caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law. No amount of opposition to an unfair, unreasonable and unworkable new law could ever justify the taking of an innocent man's life, over what appears to have been nothing more than a trivial altercation.

That said, it was inevitable that something like this was going to happen. If I could predict it, just be reading the newspapers and weighing the strength of feeling about the new law against the state of British society and basic human nature, why the hell didn't the Government and their advisers see this coming?

Of course, nobody could expect them to predict the precise circumstances surrounding any given event, but it was mind buggeringly obvious that this KIND of event could, and probably would happen. How many stabbings, shootings and other acts of senseless violence have been reported in the media over the last few months? So many that I've lost count!

We live in a world where, to many people, life is cheap. Take an armed drunk, annoy them by ramming an already unpopular law down their throat at a time when they're already pretty disinhibited by alcohol, and the chances are extremely good that someone's going to get hurt - it's not rocket science!

None of which excuses the crime to any degree whatsoever. But, while the man who shot James Oyebola is indisputably guilty of murder, and, to my mind, should be executed for his crime, surely those who lobbied for, drafted and voted for the terms of the law that bans smoking in public places must also accept their share of the blame.

No reasonable person could have failed to realise that the likelihood of this kind of event occurring was so high as to make it a virtual certainty, and, in consequence, I cannot see how implementing the ban in its current form can have been anything less than gross negligence. Sure, I appreciate that governments can't be seen to give way to criminal acts, but equally, as Mr Brown keeps telling us, they have a duty to maintain public safety too.

If they know, or ought to know, that passing a particular law is likely to cause some people, under some circumstances, to act in a way that might result in injury or loss of life, and they pass it anyway, they might as well pull the trigger themselves.

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Browned Off

I'm not entirely certain that Gordon Brown has fully got to grips with his new job yet. Ever since he ousted his predecessor from Downing St., the Government he ostensibly leads has lurched from one crisis to another - terrorist attacks, floods and a major diplomatic spat with Russia spring to mind.

Naturally, each new catastrophe demands yet another media response from the Prime Minister, but, to my ears, he's starting to sound just a little repetitive. On the 30th June 2007, in a statement on the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow, he said, "The first duty of the government is the security and safety of all the British people."

On the Russian diplomatic crisis, Mr Brown said, on the 16th July 2007, "When a murder is committed on British soil, action has to be taken," while the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said, "The UK has a wider duty to ensure the safety of the large Russian community living in the UK."

And, in his first regular press briefing at Downing St. yesterday (23rd July 2007), Mr Brown said, "Our first priority is the safety and protection of our citizens," while addressing the current flood crisis in England.

Yes, thank you, Mr Brown, we've got the picture. You're a new political broom, determined sweep clean the Government's tarnished reputation and convey the appearance of being in touch with the needs of the electorate, in the hope of keeping your job at the next election. That's perfectly reasonable behaviour for a politician, but don't you think it might be time to have a quiet word with your script writer? You're starting to sound a bit like a parrot, and it might be worthwhile investing in a few more well-turned phrases of interested, protective concern.

While you're ordering a new batch of ready-made reassurances, you might like to remind your script writer that you're no longer Chancellor. In almost every recent TV appearance you have resorted to quoting budgets, percentage increases in spending and similar swathes of figures. That might have stood you in good stead as Chancellor, who is largely ignored by everyone other than bankers and captains of industry, but it won't wash as Prime Minister. For one thing, many of the younger members of the general public are products of a failing, Labour sponsored, education system and won't have a clue what you're talking about. For another, those of us who DO know what you're saying don't find them convincing - there are lies, damn lies and statistics, as the saying goes.

It might also be a good idea to curb the all-too-understandable desire to pass off persistent problems as a result of your predecessors' actions. Yes, I know, Tony Blair made a bit of hash of things, and now you've got to deal with that. I also know that you were a senior member of Mr Blair's Government for a very long time, and suggestions that you didn't know what was going on are just not viable.

Look at it this way; if, with your very obvious desire to become PM, you really didn't keep tabs on what was happening, you're obviously incompetent and unfit to hold your current office. If you DID know, and you now choose to deny that knowledge, you're no more honest than was your predecessor, and your much-vaunted enthusiasm for honesty and accountability in Government is busted from the outset.

But that's not the full extent of your buck-passing, is it? Blaming Mr Blair for your problems might be understandable, if somewhat disingenuous, but do you really think you can get away with blaming our ancestors? Asked if everything that could have been done to avoid the current flood chaos had, in fact, been done, Mr Brown praised the emergency services and then had the nerve to add, "It's pretty clear that some of the 19th Century structures we're dealing with - infrastructure and where they were sited - that is something we're going to have to review." He said there were many areas where they would have to "look for the future" at what had to be done - including where infrastructure was located, its drainage and flood defences.

Look to the future? By his own admission, successive Governments, in one of which he has played a major part for a long time, have had over 150 years to "review" this situation. Talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!

No, Mr Brown, your best hope of fooling folks into going along with your new regime until, at least, after the next election, is to steer well clear of the "it's not my fault, I'm trying to fix it" approach; it's not convincing and just makes you look like a fraud.

Billy Seggars.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Beer, Fags and Scuffles

I see the piecemeal persecution of smokers by Health Fascists continues unimpeded in the UK this weekend. As just about every smoker knows, the cretinous new smoking ban means we can't light up in enclosed public spaces, such as pubs.

Now, let's see. If a law abiding smoker can't light up over a drink in a pub, what do you think they're likely to do? a) Not smoke? b) Not visit the pub? c) Nip outside for a ciggy? Hint - the answer is c), as I would have thought even the most typically dim-witted lawmaker might have realised.

And, since the said smoker wants to light up over a drink, are they likely to a) Leave their drink in the pub, b) Knock it back before going outside, c) Take it with them? Again, the obvious answer is c) - the law abiding smoker will nip out for a cigg, taking their bevvy with them.

Unfortunately, it turns out that doing so may well make them law-breakers after all. Many parts of the country do not permit drinking on the streets, and, in general, I have to say that's not a bad idea in itself. But when these well-intentioned bylaws are used as a means of "catching out" smokers who are trying to keep within the new anti-smoking laws, that's something else altogether.

It was inevitable that smokers - sometimes in large numbers - would congregate outside busy pubs, and want to take their drinks with them. Such large gatherings of folks in various degrees of inebriation are equally inevitably going to be a potential source of trouble, from obstructed footpaths to drunken brawls and worse.

Did nobody in the Government consider this possibility? Apparently not, because, as the Sunday Express reports, various police forces are now faced with the task of stopping folks who have nipped out for a law-abiding ciggy from drinking on the street. Can't smoke inside, can't drink outside - they've got you coming and going, haven't they?

No doubt the Health Fascists are loving every minute of this revelation, but I suspect that their glee may be a little premature. Before long, smokers - most likely, smokers with a little Dutch courage inside them - are going to get into a situation where there are smoking-SS enforcement agents IN their pub and Plod OUTSIDE, just waiting to catch out an unwary smoker evicted from the snug with pint and cigg in hand.

And when this happens (if it hasn't already), there will be trouble. The extent of the trouble is hard to predict, but if it happens in a time and place where feelings against this combination of laws are already running high, it could be quite significant indeed. This sort of confrontation can get out of hand very quickly, and someone will get hurt or killed - I am as certain of this as I am that day follows night.

Will it be worth the hassle? No, of course not, and I absolutely don't advocate such a confrontation, but it IS going to happen. And when the dust settles, and various drinkers / smokers are facing a night in the cells, while their friends (and a few Dibbles too, I expect) are being stitched back together in the local hospital, or adorning a mortuary slab, will the Health Fascists accept their part of the blame for allowing this situation to develop? Will they finally understand that when you try to impose your views on people who do not share them, and do not want to share them, there will come a point when those views are violently rejected?

No, they will not. How could they? After all, they think they're taking away our freedom for our own good, and that couldn't possibly be wrong, could it? Well, yes, it can be, it IS, and it must be resisted if this is to remain a free country.

Naturally, resistance need not, and should not, be violent. Instead, some of the information and suggestions on the Freedom to Choose website might well be worth a look.

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Three Stooges

Long ago, in the far-off days of his slightly misspent youth, Seggars B. was not averse to imbibing the odd alcoholic beverage despite, perhaps, the sum total of his years falling slightly short of 18 - the age at which it is legal to purchase and consume alcohol in the UK.

My young and ill-advised former self found that, upon entering a suitable establishment, a confident stride to the bar followed by eye contact with the publican and enunciation of the mantra, "Pint of bitter, please," was most effective in obtaining his ill-gotten gains. On no account was it advisable to shuffle around looking suspicious, or apprehensive.

Acting as though he had every right to be where he was, doing what he was doing, was the key, and was known to be the key amongst all of his similarly juvenile colleagues. Should any sharp-witted barkeeper utter the dreaded challenge, "Are you over 18?" the appropriate response was a clear, confident, "Yes."

This never, ever, failed, and, indeed, the only time Seggars junior was refused a pint in any watering hole was, gallingly, AFTER he was over 18.

Now fast forward some 20 years to a scene witnessed by the current Seggars this very evening. Returning to Seggars HQ after a trying expedition, I spied an off licence and determined to pop in for some soothing refreshments. Entering the premises immediately ahead of me was a peculiar trio of individuals, consisting of one older guy, perhaps in his late 40s or early 50s, and two youths - one male, his spotty visage regrettably visible beneath his slightly pushed back hoody, and the other a tall, thin blond female dressed to kill.

The young male seemed quiet and withdrawn as he fiddled with the toggles on his hoody, while the female was more of a clothes horse than a person. She seemed fascinated by her reflection in the shop's plate glass security screens, and lurched from one pseudo-model pose to another without seeming to pass through any intermediate positions.

Gradually, I became aware that their older colleague was attempting to purchase alcoholic refreshments, both for himself and the youngsters, and was having some difficulty in doing so. It seems that the young ladies behind the counter were not convinced that his associates were of legal age, and, after a moment's thought, I privately agreed with them. "16," I thought to myself, "at most."

Frustrated, but doing a good impression of aggrieved disbelief, the elder statesman swung around like a barrister in court and pointed to his young friends: "Is any of yous under 18?" Managing to focus their attention slightly, the two youths looked blankly at each other, then at him, and nodded - "Yeah," they said proudly.

Thwarted, their buddy put his head in his hands, and soon thereafter departed the premises laden down with his own beer and two bottles of coke. What is the world coming to? I don't know which is worse - someone who should know better trying to buy bucket loads of alcohol for under age drinkers, or the said drinkers being too stupid to help him out with the right answers.

The older guy is getting on a bit, and in a few years will be too incapable to do any significant harm. But the youths, the hoody and the bimbo and millions more just like them, are this country's future - soon they will be legally entitled to vote, sit on juries and generally get on with the business of living. I, for one, find this a terrifying prospect.

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Homer Simpson in Cocky Pagan Protest

Homer Simpson is a particular hero of mine - I can identify with the tubby, yellow dude's constantly thwarted desire for a quiet life. Unfortunately, it seems that a stunt designed to promote the new Simpsons movie might have got him in a spot of bother with a bunch of Pagans - all together now... "DOH!"

A huge cartoon image of Homer, painted next to the famous Cerne Abbas giant - a chalk outline of a enormous, sexually aroused man carved into a Dorset hillside - has infuriated local Pagans, who view the Cocky One as a fertility symbol. They have vowed to do some "rain magic" to wash the equally enormous, donut wielding Homer Simpson from the hillside.

Rain magic, eh? Far be it form me to pour cold water on such a notion, but it might be worth their while to check the weather forecast for Dorset before they go to too much trouble. According to the BBC, it's going to pour down in that neck of the woods on Friday and Saturday.

It looks to me as though the giant Homer Simpson, which is made of bio-degradable, water-based paint, and will wash away in the first serious downpour, has a very limited future. See? No need to resort to hocus pocus. After all, this is England in the middle of July - anyone with any common sense whatsoever knows that it's bound to bucket down. Then again, we are talking about folks who plan to do some magic - perhaps common sense is too much to ask for.

Unless, of course, they've already done their thing and the weekend forecast is the result. Hmmm, if so, I can think of a few African countries that could really do with their services. Volunteers, anyone?

Billy Seggars.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Talking Rubbish

Politicians are not known for being over-endowed with common sense, and this story about the Commons local government planning committee shows why.

After considerable thought - after which, I assume, they will have needed a long lie down in a darkened room - the committee has concluded that "fortnightly rubbish collections may not work in every area and there is no proof they increase recycling."

Gosh, that's an eye-opener, isn't it? If anyone is still sufficiently deluded as to think that fortnightly collection is practical, I strongly suggest that they pay a visit to Salford, in Manchester. There, refuse collection has been erratic for a few weeks while the local bin men indulge in a little industrial inaction - i.e. the lazy buggers keep going on strike and missing collections.

The result is entirely as one might imagine - heaps of uncollected, festering garbage stacked up on street corners while stinking wheelie bins obstruct pavements. Why are they left on pavements, where they pose a risk to pedestrians and public health alike? Because residents have no idea when the bin guys might get off their ass and come to collect the garbage, and, even when they're "working", these guys absolutely will not retrieve a wheelie bin from its owner's property.

No, that would be far too much like the W word, wouldn't it? Residents must place their wheelie bin at the edge of their property - note, that means outside their property, not inside the boundary - if they want their bins to be emptied. Bins left on the "inside" of an open gate, for example, are ignored. Long gone are the pre-wheelie bin days, when bin men used to go up the drive to each house, carry the dustbin (and any extra bags) to the cart on their shoulder, empty it and bring it back.

Now, those guys knew the meaning of work, and were a credit to themselves and their city. Whereas, the current bunch of lazy good-for-nothings think they're hard done by if they have to push a wheelie bin more than six feet or so to the cart, and then stand back to watch as it is automatically picked up, emptied and brought back to Earth. Do they then return the emptied bin to the edge of the resident's property whence they found it? Do they hell, they're left at the edge of the road. And these professional skivers are striking, yet!

Still, at least they have ably demonstrated the sheer folly of fortnightly bin collections. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have told the powers that be that this is an idea in the same league as inflatable dart boards, but that's nothing new, is it? As I said at the top of this post, common sense is conspicuous by its absence in the corridors of power.

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Sabeel Ahmed Charged

Liverpool's Dr Sabeel Ahmed has been charged with having information that could have prevented an act of terrorism. He will appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Monday, in connection with the failed car bomb attacks in Glasgow and London.

Needless to say, despite being arrested on 30 June 2007, under Section 38(B) of the Terrorism Act 2000 on the basis that he had information which he "knew or believed may be of material assistance in preventing the commission by another of an act of terrorism", his name remains on the General Medical Council's medical register.

WHY? This situation is getting ridiculous. Do we really have to monitor the registrations of each and every one of the doctors who are suspected of terrorism, constantly pointing out that the GMC has still not done it's job, until that job is done?

Well, apparently, yes we do. Exactly what is the point in having a watchdog like the GMC if the public constantly needs to bark for itself until the job is done? None, so far as I can see. Isn't it time to abolish this pointless talking shop and pass its responsibilities on to the courts, at least as far as handling alleged misconduct is concerned?

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Bilal Abdulla Suspended

Well now, here's a thing - over a week after being charged with Conspiracy to Cause Explosions, and two weeks after the botched car bomb attack on Glasgow Airport in which he was arrested, the General Medical Council has finally gotten around to suspending Dr Bilal Abdulla from the medical register.

And about time, too! This pedestrian attitude towards public confidence in the medical profession just isn't good enough. The GMC needs to stop polishing their chairs with their backsides, and get some bloody work done.

Perhaps, while they're trying to remember what work actually is, they could answer a very simple question: Dr Mohamed Haneef, the Indian doctor arrested at Brisbane Airport on July 2 in an inquiry connected with the London and Glasgow car bombs, has just been charged with "providing support to a terrorist organisation" in Aus.

Despite having allegedly worked in the UK's NHS, his name does not appear in the online medical register. Why is this? Presumably he must have been on the register at some point - if not, why not? - so when, and why, was it removed?

I know the GMC pop in to read my ramblings occasionally, so maybe one of them will post a comment to lets us know. But, somehow, I doubt it.

Billy Seggars.

Smoked Out

According to a report from the BBC, air quality in pubs and clubs seems to have improved enormously since the ludicrous smoking ban was imposed a couple of weeks ago.

The report features Ross Nichol and Karen Beesley, a young couple who took over Bristol's Cornubia pub last autumn. Apparently, they've had concerns about their exposure to passive smoking in the boozer they run for quite some time, and are delighted to find the air quality has improved enormously.

Well, bully for them. The BBC report has all the hallmarks of a feel-good piece to reinforce the benefits of the ban, and I can't help wondering whether it's origins might have more to do with Health Fascism than investigative journalism.

Of course, I'm not in the least bit surprised that air quality in the pub - and probably in all pubs - has improved, and I'm not questioning Aunty's findings. I am, however, just a tad puzzled by Nichol and Beesley's choice of career.

If they dislike passive smoking so much, what the hell are they doing running a pub - surely, one of the smokiest environments in the country until this fatuous ban came into effect? And, for that matter, why didn't they impose their own smoking ban in their pub long ago, instead of waiting for the law to do their dirty work for them?

Smokers choose to smoke, barkeepers choose to work in pubs - they both know the risks, and neither one has any right to complain about the consequences of their own choices. As for the BBC, perhaps, instead of putting a positive spin on a draconian new law, they should concentrate on making documentary trailers that don't insult the Queen.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A&E Webcam

Lincoln County Hospital's Accident and Emergency department has inched its way into the 21st century by setting up a web cam in its waiting area.

Not, you might think, the most gripping subject for a webcam. After all, folks in A&E waiting areas don't tend to do very much. Far from it, they sit around for hours, gnashing their teeth and grumbling about how long they've been there.

At first I thought the entertainment value might be in watching the staff dream up ever more baroque excuses for why, after waiting for 6 hours, little Johnny STILL hasn't been extricated from the chamber pot that's inexplicably stuck on his head. Or, perhaps, in watching doctors and nurses play, erm, doctors and nurses on quiet shifts.

Sadly, the truth is nowhere near as interesting, though it is every bit as strange. Apparently, prospective patients frequently telephone this A&E department before visiting, to get an idea of the current waiting time. Now, thanks to this wonder of the information age, they can hop on the web and see for themselves. Isn't technology marvellous?

Well, yes, of course it is. But I can't help wondering how many patients, having managed to mutilate themselves in the interests of DIY, for instance, will be in any state to surf the web. On the other hand, I am astounded to read that people bother to call the A&E department in advance, too. Of course, I understand their reluctance to visit a busy A&E department, knowing full well that they'll be there for hours - I've opted to handle minor injuries myself rather than endure the tedium of A&E on several occasions.

No, it's the concept of calling ahead that I don't understand. Unless you live pretty much next door to the hospital, it seems like an utterly pointless exercise; just because the department isn't busy when you speak to them, it doesn't follow that, by the time you've made your way there, that will still be the case.

The whole point of A&E is ACCIDENT and EMERGENCY - these things, by definition, are random, unpredictable and subject to constant change. The staff have no more idea of how busy they'll be in half an hour than you or I would have, and pestering them like that seems both pointless and thoughtless - they have enough to do without answering dumb questions.

That, I suppose, is the purpose of the new webcam, though I have to wonder how people will find out about it without calling the department first. Still, it's an interesting approach to a problem that wouldn't exist in the first place if people were a little more considerate, and I suppose congratulations for lateral thinking are in order.

Unfortunately, good as this idea may be, I suspect it might backfire a little on the Trust. There is a certain type of person who takes pleasure in viewing webcams from around the world, whether they feature some immensely beautiful natural spectacle or a street corner in a dismal village that nobody's ever heard of. These people are far more numerous than one might reasonably expect, and they WILL find their way to the A&E cam.

And what will they find when they get there? Probably that waiting times in A&E departments in Lincoln are depressingly long. I've been watching the cam for the past 30 minutes or so as I've been writing this post, and I've noticed that at least one guy (bald, in a white T shirt, though the cam is deliberately blurred so I can't make out his features) hasn't budged from his chair in all that time.

Unless they have a pressing reason to notice, such as being the poor bugger stuck there for hours, most people don't pay much attention to waiting times. But, when said waiting times - or at least the waiting areas - become the subject of international curiosity for 1000s of webcam watchers, it will be difficult for Trusts, and the Department of Health, to conceal the truth.

I very much doubt it was Lincoln County Hospital's intention to draw unwelcome attention to the unacceptably long waiting times in A&E, but, with this innovative solution to useless telephone queries, that is exactly what they have done and they should be applauded for it.

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Knighthood nonsense

News travels slowly in the back of beyond, it seems. It is now almost a month since Sir Salman Rushdie was awaded his knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours on June 16, 2007.

Yet, only today has Osama Bin Laden's sidekick, Ayman al-Zawahiri, apparently announced that this is an insult to Islam. In a recorded message, the English translation of which puts me in mind of a petulant child stamping its foot, al-Zawahiri hints at reprisals for the perceived insult, speaking of a specific response and referring to the recent failed car bombs in London and Glasgow.

If his references to those incidents is supposed to be a threat, I'm afraid that, like those who made the car bombs, al-Zawahiri has failed miserably. Don't get me wrong here - I'm not particularly in favour of Rushdie's knighthood. I don't think he deserved it, and, in my opinion, granting such an honour in the full knowledge that it would cause Bin Laden and his cronies to throw their toys out of their collective pram yet again was not a smart move.

That said, it's been done now, no matter how daft a move it may have been, and that's an end to it. Under no circumstances should any attention whatsoever be paid to a bunch of weirdly bearded malcontents having a tantrum in a cave somewhere in the back of beyond - they can posture and bully and rant all they like, but they must never be allowed to have any influence on domestic or foreign policy here in the UK.

Nor should the British government be making softly-softly statements like this one from the Foreign Office: "The government has already made clear that Rushdie's honour was not intended as an insult to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad." Quite clearly, it matters not one jot what the government's intention may have been; the only people likely to give a damn are already busy pretending to take offence and whipping up similar feelings in their soft-minded, cloth-headed sympathisers.

Rather, all departments of the British government need to make it very clear to anyone and everyone that the only folks to whom they are answerable are the British electorate - outlaws in outlying regions of nowhere very much need not apply. Unless and until Bin Liner and al-Zaweirdo are to be found living in a parliamentary constituency in the UK, with their names and addresses clearly present on the electoral roll, their views are of no consequence and should be treated as such.

Billy Seggars.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Polar Bare

They say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, and they might well be right. I've no idea what they say about guys who insist on taking a swim in freezing water, wearing only trunks, goggles and a bathing cap, but, whatever it is, I suspect that endurance swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh will have heard many times.

The the City lawyer, and apparent masochist, who, in May, plunged into a freezing Norwegian fjord, is at it again. Despite claims that he'd reached his limit in his last, record-setting escapade, he now intends to swim for 1km in water temperatures as low as -1.8c.

Pugh, who is the only person to have completed a long distance swim in all of the world's five oceans, apparently wants to draw attention to global warming with his latest outing.

WHY? It's not as though it's any big secret, is it? The media is so full of the subject that I, for one, am sick to death of hearing about it. Of course, Mr Pugh is welcome to paddle away in any ocean where it's legal for him to do so, but does he really think his antics will make any significant difference?

Maybe he does. Personally, I doubt it. Nonetheless, he should be allowed to do as he wishes. But, before he takes the plunge, someone should take him aside for a quiet word and remind him that, in the 21st Century, we have boats, aircraft and all manner of other fancy transportation; there really is no need to swim, particularly not in icy waters, and anyone who doesn't realise that is probably not going to be seen as a credible environmental campaigner.

Naturally, I don't expect this revelation to deter Mr Pugh from his attempt, and, believe it or not, I wish him good luck, and all the joy that swimming practically starkers at the North Pole can bring - strange folks have been doing daft things in odd places for centuries, and I very much doubt they're about to stop now.

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Fair Cops?

According to Saturday's Daily Mail, "up to eight people believed to have links with extremists including al Qaida are reported to be working for British police forces. "

Well, that's perhaps no big surprise. After all, if we let alleged terrorists work as doctors, where they have power over our very lives, why shouldn't they work as mere enforcers of law and order? There isn't very much of it around to enforce these days, anyway.

And yes, for the hard of thinking, the previous paragraph constitutes sarcasm, brought on by sheer, mind buggering disbelief that we could be so stupid as to allow this to happen. But it gets better. Having identified these Bolshie Bobbies, it turns out that we can't actually sack them from the police forces that employ them because the forces don't "have the legal power to do so."

If you listen carefully, you can probably hear muffled thuds as various world leaders drop dead of exhaustion, having laughed themselves into extinction while reading this story. What other country in the world would allow terrorist sympathisers to work in their police forces? That's not to say that the police forces in other countries aren't similarly compromised, but, having discovered the infiltrators, how many would allow them to keep their jobs, rather than, say, allowing them to fall down the steps on the way to the cells?

Even here, a convicted terrorist working as a traffic warden was instantly suspended by NCP Services when his background came to light. Exactly how Mustapha Boutarfa, who was jailed for his involvement in a 1995 bomb attack on the Paris Metro, came to be back in the UK and working as a traffic warden remains unclear, but at least he's not doing it any more.

Unfortunately, this kind of common sense isn't allowed to apply to the police force, much as I am sure they would like it to. Ah well, at least they can't be accused of lacking cultural diversity, and I'm sure that, as and when the identified extremist sympathisers get around to helping the extremists with whom they sympathise to blow us all to hell, their victims will die happy in that knowledge.

In the meantime, I can't help wondering how many more official bodies, in greater or lesser positions of authority, might have their own fifth columns of extremist sympathisers. The General Medical Council, who STILL haven't moved to suspend Bilal Abdulla or most of the other suspected terrorist doctors, strikes me as one distinct possibility, although the GMC's behaviour is routinely so bizarre and capricious that it's hard to tell one way or the other - are they bad, or just barking mad?

No doubt there are many other candidates, but I think the point is made - if the Daily Mail's story is even partially correct, the UK and its lawmakers have finally, once and for all, lost the plot.

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Bilal Abdulla Charged

Dr Bilal Abdulla, one of the two men arrested at Glasgow Airport after last Saturday's botched car bomb attack, has been charged with Conspiracy to Cause Explosions. Well, there's a surprise, since he was nicked at the scene pretty much as he hopped out of the Cherokee used in the attack.

Even so, this unsurprising development seems to have caught the General Medical Council on the hop yet again. The accused doctor remains on the GMC's medical register, despite being accused of a crime so serious that a conviction could lead to him serving a life sentence.

Naturally, I don't expect the guy to be treating any patients in the foreseeable future (though I'm still concerned that there doesn't seem to be any ongoing audit of patients he's ALREADY treated), but there is the matter of public confidence in the medical profession to consider.

Do we really need to prod the GMC every step of the way, until they do their job? This guy, and his fellow suspects, must be suspended from the register RIGHT NOW.

Billy Seggars.

Syringe Benefit

I see from the logs that the General Medical Council took a few minutes out of their busy schedule to visit these humble pages earlier today. Welcome along guys!

And, in celebration of your esteemed interest, I have good news for you! Until today, the GMC was obviously out of its depth in addressing the issue of doctors who are also suspected terrorists. Spotting the potential terrorists before they become UK doctors, and swatting the UK doctors when they become potential terrorists is obviously far beyond your capabilities, and it seemed as though your involvement in this whole sorry affair was going to be as that of a chocolate teapot.

But take heart! Today, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail report that the suspected terrorists used syringes, possibly liberated from the NHS, as part of the detonators in their bombs. What joy the GMC must now be feeling - here, at last, is a part of the investigation that they can really sink their teeth into.

Forget car bombs, nails, propane and mobile phones - all that stuff is for folks who can handle it. But theft of NHS property, to wit, syringes, must surely be a striking off offence. Go to it guys, and enjoy your opportunity for relevance - it may not come your way again.

Billy Seggars.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Degree of Uncertainty

Professor Ahmed Ali, who taught suspected car bomber Dr Bilal Abdullah at the University of Baghdad until 2004, has made some startling revelations in today's Telegraph.

Of course, there's nothing particularly startling about suggestions that the suspected terrorist was a hard line radical even in his student days, although it does raise questions about his suitability for a post in the NHS.

No, by far the most alarming of Professor Ali's comments are that the University passed Bilal Abdullah with good grades because it was "the only way to get him out [of the University]," and they feared reprisals if they didn't.

Well, thanks a bunch, Prof. The grades with which you ushered this belligerent little herbert off your premises, no doubt with a great sigh of relief, were the very same grades that smoothed his path to a post at a Glasgow hospital. What is the point of Gordon Brown making belated but comforting noises about background checks for overseas doctors when we cannot even trust their university to award them degrees that reflect their ability?

And, if Bilal Abdullah's qualifications are, indeed, bogus, what guarantee do we have that this is an isolated incident? The answer to both questions has to be: none, as far as I can see.

It would be foolish to assume that Bilal Abdullah and the other arrested suspects are the only proto-terrorists to infiltrate the NHS, and, if Professor Ali is to be believed, even more foolish to assume that we can weed out the rest through intensive background checks.

So what can be done to ensure the safety of British citizens in their own country? I am very much afraid that some very difficult and unpleasant decisions will soon be thrust upon Mr Brown's somewhat battered government. One will be whether the UK wishes to continue importing overseas doctors, and another will be whether we wish to continue using the services of those already here.

Under any other circumstances, I would find such a concept to be absolutely unacceptable, as creed and colour are irrelevant to me. Nevertheless, as Professor Ali's comments show, it may no longer be possible to be tell the good guys from the bad guys with any degree of certainty. As a result, it may become necessary, with considerable regret, to give this option some thought. Such is the true legacy of terrorism - when the fires have been extinguished and the wreckage cleared, suspicion and doubt remain.

Be that as it may, we certainly have the wherewithal to implement such a decision, since the UK has 1000s of junior doctors who are currently unemployed. The big questions are whether it is necessary in the interests of public safety, and, if it is, whether Gordon Brown has the bottle to do it.

Right now, I wouldn't fancy his job at all.

Billy Seggars.

Mohammed Asha Suspended

As a quick update to my previous post, the General Medical Council's online register now shows Dr Mohammed Jamil Abdelqader Asha as being suspended.

Very good, one down, pity it took them so long. Now, what about the others? All of the others who were on the register as of their names being disclosed are still there.

Not really good enough, is it? Come on guys, get your finger out and at least try to do your jobs for once.

Billy Seggars.

Dr Asha Suspended?

It has come to my attention, via various sources, that munchkins from the General Medical Council are scampering around the web, looking for sites that talk about the suspected terrorist, Dr Asha, and the status of his GMC registration.

Specifiaclly, they are looking for sites that talk about Dr Asha being suspended from the medical register. Intriguingly, a swift search on Dr Asha's name at the GMC's online register provides the following result:

"Sorry, but we can't find a record that matches your search.

This does not necessarily mean the doctor you are looking for is not registered: there may simply be a problem with the name, or the GMC reference number, or the doctor's details may have been temporarily excluded while we update them.

Please check the name and number carefully, and try once more. "

Well, I've tried several more times, with the same result. Of course, that's not conclusive, and may only be temporary, but it is very interesting. Could it be that the dinosaurs at GMC HQ have finally realised that they have a job to do here?

Perhaps, but if so, why does a search for Dr Asha's fellow suspect, Dr Bilal Abdulla, still provide his medical registration details?

Time will tell, but at least the GMC seems to be aware that people are asking questions about their conduct in this affair. About time too!

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Knocker Door Run

The ingenuity of the criminal mind never ceases to amaze me. For example, Lincolnshire Police are looking into the theft of £100 worth of Daniel Axel bras from a store on Eastgate in Louth.

Nothing too surprising about that, you might think, except that the theft happened at around 01:50 on Tuesday morning, and was apparently accomplished by using some kind of tool to snag the bras from a display rack near the shop door, and slip them out through the letter box. No doubt police would like to be kept abreast of developments.

Distressingly bad puns aside, it's a shame the perpetrators can't find a better use for their obvious intelligence than filching frillies in the dead of night, because a mind like that could go far. As it is, it's unlikely to go much further than the local slammer - definitely, for them, the booby prize.

Billy Seggars.

No Smoke Without Fire

How many times have we heard the fire service preach about the importance of fitting smoke alarms? And, of course, they're right - the things save lives, even if they do tend to go off every time you pop a slice of bread in the toaster.

Even so, there is something perversely entertaining about reports of a fire station - which was not fitted with a smoke alarm - being destroyed by fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt or killed in the blaze, which decimated Arundel Fire Station last October, but the cost of the damage ran to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

More disturbingly, the fire was discovered by an ambulance technician who was using the building on her rest break. Imagine what could have happened had she nodded off, instead of watching TV, and so been unaware that the building had caught fire.

It's not really on, is it? Lives put at risk, and tons of expensive equipment converted into crispy fried scrap - no doubt to be replaced at public expense - for want of a £5 smoke alarm. Do these people not read their own promotional material? Well, apparently, they do, because West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has since installed smoke alarms in its buildings.

Nothing like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, is there? I wonder if they've done it to save lives, save money or save face? Either way, it's a good idea. So good, in fact, that I may even be tempted to put the battery back in my smoke alarm - after I've made some toast.

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Gutless Medical Council

It is now around 24 hours since, in this post, I questioned the General Medical Council's apparent inertia concerning the growing list of doctors accused of terrorist activity in the UK. As the BBC reports, all of the suspects in custody have links to the NHS, and the vast majority of them are doctors, including Khalid Ahmed, Sabeel Ahmed, Mohammed Haneef, Mohammed Asha and Bilal Abdullah.

Yet the GMC, the body charged with governing the conduct of doctors and protecting the public, has made no move to reassure the public. In fact, the press release and news updates section of the GMC's website doesn't even mention the situation, let alone offer any information or advice for the public.

The GMC derives its power from the Medical Act, but it's day to day operations are driven by secondary legislation, specifically, Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 2608, The General Medical Council (Fitness to Practise) Rules Order of Council 2004, otherwise known as the Fitness to Practise Rules 2004.

I would say that, under the circumstances, an "allegation" as mentioned in the Rules, has been made against the detained doctors, at least to the extent that the GMC must take an interest in their alleged activities. It also seems to me that Rule 6, Referral to the Interim Orders Panel, might have some relevance to this case, and that it is entirely within the GMC's power to temporarily suspend them from the medical register until the position becomes clearer.

Why, then, has the GMC not done so? Or, indeed, made any comment whatsoever on the single most important news story in the UK today? Surely, al-Quaeda's chilling, "Those who cure you will kill you" warning, reported in the Times, should be enough to convince even the overwhelmingly obtuse GMC that nothing less than public confidence in the medical profession is at stake.

Paralysis in the face of such a disturbing threat is simply not good enough; leadership, decisive action and reassurance are required to restore public confidence in the medical profession. Sadly, the GMC has, to date, failed to provide any such thing, thereby demonstrating its absolute detachment from the public it is supposed to protect, and its utter irrelevance to modern society.

Come on, guys, admit it - the GMC justifies its existence by chasing down minor misdemeanors, and anything more significant is entirely beyond your capabilities. You haven't got a clue how to handle this situation, and your routine fallback position of turning the allegation back upon the complainant isn't going to help you this time, is it?

Unfortunately, much as I welcome this definitive demonstration of the GMC's incompetence, it does nothing whatsoever to alleviate the public's entirely legitimate concerns regarding the safety and trustworthiness of "those who cure them". Shame.

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Climate of Suspicion

It seems that Joe Public is, perhaps, not quite so green as he's cabbage looking, to use a local expression.

An Ipsos Mori poll of 2,032 adults - interviewed between 14 and 20 June - found 56% believed scientists were still questioning climate change, and discovered there was a feeling the problem was exaggerated to make money.

No, kidding? I wonder why that should be? Could it, perhaps, have something to do with a whole range of so-called green products pouring on to the market at prices substantially higher than their allegedly less environmentally friendly alternatives? Or the realisation that "climate change" is a great racket to be in if you happen to be a boffin looking for research funding?

Face it, every man and his dog is trying to find an ecofriendly angle these days, because that's where the hype is, and where there's hype there's money to be made. Speaking of the survey, Sir David Read, vice president of the Royal Society, said, "People should not be misled by those that exploit the complexity of the issue, seeking to distort the science and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of climate change."

The trouble is, it's scientists who say that, and their results cannot be entirely trusted. Think about it. If you were a scientist, and had trousered a hefty research budget to investigate climate change, would you report back to your sponsor that all was well and there was no need to panic (assuming that was the case, of course!), or would you stress the complexity of the issues under consideration, and indicate that further research would be helpful, thereby making sure that your funding was renewed for the foreseeable future?

Of course, far from seeking to extend their budget, the boffins might be absolutely right - only they know for sure, and therein lies the problem. Certainly, the public remains unconvinced that the situation is as desperate as scientists would have us believe, feeling that, "terrorism, graffiti, crime and dog mess were all of more concern than climate change."

I can't say I blame them, either. I, for one, am not sold on the idea that climate change is related, in whole or in part, to the actions of mankind. Naturally, I accept that pumping tons of pollutants into the atmosphere is unlikely to do it any good, but, equally, I'm not sure it's had, or is going to have, the dire consequences I keep hearing and reading about. Indeed, if anything, I find the constant media coverage to be something of a turn-off; I hear the irritating phrase "carbon neutral" yet again, and just stop listening.

Besides, I'm more inclined to associate the observed changes with natural cycles of warming and cooling than with human activity, and, if that is the case, no amount of environmentally friendly products are going to do us any good. We'd be far better off devising ways to cope with inevitable change than in mucking around with carbon footprints, recycling and similar nonsense.

Unfortunately, sensible though it may be, that approach doesn't have quite the same hype value, and so folks like David Cammeron will continue to nail windmills to their houses in their forlorn quest for votes - why be practical when you can be Prime Minister instead?

Billy Seggars.

Doc Down Under

As a followup to my last post, Mr Philip Ruddock, the Australian attorney general has confirmed that a doctor who worked as a medical registrar at Brisbane's Gold Coast Hospital has been detained in connection with the failed terrorist bombings in London and Glasgow.

The doctor, who was apparently not at Australian citizen, was stopped at Brisbane airport, according to reports from the BBC, and is said to have been in posession of a one-way ticket out of the country.

It's good to see that international coordination isn't the sole province of terrorist organisations, at any rate, although the concept of a shadowy global network of death-dispensing doctors is going to take some getting used to.

To date, doctors have generally been seen as a force for good, although, in my opinion, too many of them are altogether too smug by half, and a few are downright incompetent. But very rarely are they seen to be actually malicious towards their patients (towards other doctors, particularly those who are a little controversial, is another matter entirely).

That view may, of necessity, be about to change, and the outlook isn't at all good for doctors and patients alike.

Billy Seggars.

Deadly Doctors

I see that arrests continue in connection with the recent, humiliatingly botched, attempts at terrorism in London and Glasgow. Good - just because the perpetrators were appallingly incompetent doesn't mean they should be allowed to run around loose while they refine their skills.

Amongst those arrested are Dr Mohammed Asha (arrested on the M6) and Dr Bilal Abdulla, who was one of the men detained at Glasgow Airport. It is believed that Dr Bilal Abdulla worked as a locum doctor at Glasgow's Royal Alexandra Hospital, where his colleague, the driver of the Cherokee used in the attack, is undergoing treatment. Both Dr Asha and Dr Abdulla were trained and qualified overseas - Dr Asha in Jordan, and Dr Abdulla in Baghdad - before coming to work in the UK.

Controlled explosions have been carried out at the hospital, and the BBC reports that a further two individuals were detained at the hospital's residential block on Sunday. Whether these individuals were also doctors remains to be seen, but the Daily Mail reports that a man arrested in Liverpool in connection with the investigation is an Indian doctor who works at Halton Hospital in Cheshire.

In such a fast moving investigation, this is, of course, old news. But I am very, very concerned that, although there is much public dismay over the participation of apparently trusted medical men in such an atrocity, very few people are (publicly, at least) asking anything other than the most obvious questions about these revelations.

Firstly, how the hell did these guys ever get into such positions of trust? The medical profession is regulated by the General Medical Council, whose statutory duty it is to ensure that doctors are fit to work in the UK. As anyone who has ever had any dealings with the GMC will surely know, it is a large, lumbering, incompetent organisation with very little clue about how to perform its duties and an incredibly high opinion of itself.

Even for them, however, it is a bad day when not one, but, potentially, five doctors, who cannot work in the UK without the GMC's approval, are arrested on suspicion of terrorism. And if up to five terrorists have been at large in the NHS, treating patients, prescribing drugs and doing goodness knows what else, it is not unreasonable to wonder how many more of them there might be.

Worse, several days after the arrest of the first of these doctors, all of their names remain on the medical register, and, as such, they are legally entitled to practise medicine in the UK. While this may appear to be a minor technicality, a large part of the GMC's remit is to protect and reassure the public; how can the public possibly have any confidence in the GMC's ability to do that unless and until these doctors' registrations are suspended pending investigation? To do so is entirely within the GMC's authority, and its failure to carry out this basic precaution is yet another example of its culpable incompetence.

Clearly, as this fiasco must surely once and for all demonstrate, the GMC is not fit for its purpose and must be abolished without delay. In the meantime, I believe that Mr Finlay Scott, the GMC's Chief Executive, Professor Sir Graeme Catto, the GMC's President and Mr Paul Philip, the GMC's Director of Standards and Fitness to Practise must now tender their resignations without further delay.

Secondly, now that these doctors have, seemingly, shown their true colours, what is being done to reassure their former patients? I have seen no news coverage of NHS Trusts writing to patients, or offering advice to those who may have been treated by alleged terrorists, although it may be that this has been missed in the general hurly burly of a fast developing story.

Further, in view of their apparent intention to cause death and destruction on a very large scale, has anyone bothered to check the doctors' clinical records? How many, if any, of their former patients have died under their care, and in what circumstances? As was found in the case of Harold Shipman, a doctor is in a particularly good position to hasten the demise of their patients, and such behaviour would not be inconsistent with attempts to blow up night clubs and airports. Surely, a full audit of their clinical activities must now be carried out as a matter of urgency, with the results, whatever they may be, being made publicly available.

Thirdly, what steps are being taken to ensure that no more terrorist doctors remain in the NHS, whether or not they are directly associated with those already under arrest? It does not take any great leap of logic to realise that doctors who are also terrorists would be a particularly valuable resource to those who would bring devastation to our towns and cities.

Taking the worst case scenario, in a large-scale terrorist attack, there would almost certainly be many casualties, who would be taken to local hospitals for treatment. It would be terrible to think that those who survived the initial attack may then fall victim to a rogue doctor working in the Accident and Emergency department, who tried to complete the work that his co-conspirators had started.

Such a scenario is almost too awful to contemplate, and yet, in light of recent developments, someone, somewhere needs to give these eventualities some very serious thought. Public safety is of paramount importance, and must be given the highest priority, no matter how much inconvenience it may cause to the thousands of perfectly legitimate doctors working within the NHS.

Gordon Brown, who must be finding his current, grimly serious, visage to be a tremendous relief from the rictus grin he has had in place for weeks, is right on that point, at least: the public must be protected, and if it causes a little inconvenience so be it - Britain will not bow to threats, no matter where they come from, or what form they take.

Billy Seggars.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Good God!

Apparently, the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, thinks the recent spot of bad weather that has large parts of the UK paddling is an act of God. This wacky story made the front page of the Sunday Telegraph today, perhaps because it fits in so well with the reports of terrorist activities that are otherwise filling the front pages. After all, one form of religious extremism is pretty much like another.

According to the Batty Bish and friends (he's not the only senior man of the cloth to express these views), "In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want."

Yep, that's a sign, sure enough. Not, I hasten to add, of impending divine retribution - if that were on the cards, surely all umbrella and inflatable boat manufacturers would have been turned into pillars of salt by now - but of how seriously round the bend this guy really is.

Certainly, the British government has delusions of divinity, but their error lies not in saying that people can do as they (the people) wish, but in insisting that people do as they (the government) decree. The nanny state rules with a rod of iron, and the only thing to be thankful for is that the Batty Bish isn't running the show.

You will, I think, have deduced by now that I am not a religious kind of guy. To my mind, religion constitutes an irrational belief in something that, by definition, cannot be proven to exist, and is therefore irrelevant. I prefer a rational system of thought, logic and deduction to blind faith. However, unlike the Batty Bish, I do not have any problem with silly people doing silly things in oddly shaped buildings at ludicrous times of day, whatever faith they happen to be.

It is the very permissiveness that the Bish decries that prevents me from suggesting that he, and all the others like him, should be instantly banged up in a rubber room for both their own safety and the good of mankind in general. Of course, this attitude may turn out to be a mistake - how many wars and conflicts are driven, at least in the beginning, by religious differences? Is that not the fundamental excuse for a couple of nut jobs smashing a Cherokee into a perfectly servicable airport?

But, for the moment, we live in a country that is still, just about, free, and I respect the rights of the Batty Bish, and everyone else, to express his views. Naturally, that doesn't extend to the terrorists amongst us, who, in my opinion, forefit their right to hold any views whatsoever, and, indeed, to possess a head in which any prospective views may be contained, the minute they decide to become terrorists.

I cannot imagine, however, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other senior figures in the Church of England - or, indeed, any other serious religion, are feeling quite so well disposed towards Dafty Dow. Certainly, these ludicrous comments - which may, of course, have been misreported by the press - have attracted some attention to the Church. But it's hardly the right kind of attention, is it?

I would be delighted to see the institution wound up, its proponents forced to get a proper job and a new age of enlightened, rational logic take its place. But other, less rational, people would not, and if they are to get their way in this era of rapidly dwindling congregations, it is essential to get more bums on pews if the Church is going to have any kind of future whatsoever. How many rational people are going to be inspired to visit a church where that kind of lunacy is part of the sermon?

Very few, I should think. Nor can I can imagine anyone other than the badly deranged taking the Batty Bish seriously, and the merely mildly unhinged, who visit churches for a pleasant sing-song and a little moral pep-talk, are not going to stick around for long if this sort of nonsense is forced upon them.

The Batty Bish has probably done more to unwittingly hammer a fistful of nails into his beloved religion's coffin than any atheist ever could, or would wish to. I wonder if he will suffer any form of divine retribution for the damage he has inflicted upon the Church?

And now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to invest in a boat, some wellies and a lightning conductor.

Billy Seggars.