Friday, 28 September 2007

Mirror, smoke signal, manoeuvre

So, the onslaught against smokers continues. They can't smoke at work, or in company cars. They can't light up in the pub, or, in some areas, take their pint outside with them if they nip out for a cig. In fact, smoking in any enclosed or semi-enclosed public space is a nono. And now, in the latest round of nanny-state interference with their freedom, they are likely to be prevented from smoking while they drive their own cars.

The latest edition of the Highway Code says that drivers shouldn't be distracted by passengers, by loud music, by reading a map, or using a mobile phone or by smoking. Presumably written by anti-smoking melophobic homing hermits, the new Code is 42 pages longer than the old one, and has 29 new rules.

Of course it is. Have you ever met a pen pusher who, given the chance to revamp a document, will make it SHORTER? No, neither have I. Bureaucrats thrive on dreaming up rules and regulations, and then trying to impose them on everyone else. They are incapable of even considering the possibility that they, and the rules they concoct, are a waste of valuable space that might be more profitably filled with, for example, nothing at all.

Sadly, dispensing with their "services" doesn't seem to be an option in 21st Century Britain, where first Nanny Tony and now Nanny Gordon think they know what's best for all of us. The way things are going, we'll be putting up with the dour, tooth-sucking Nanny G for a long time to come. And even if by some fluke of electoral perversity he's replaced by Nanny Dave, I can't see how things will improve much - or, for the smoker, at all.

The smoker-bashing attitude that seems to be at the heart of public policy is nothing less than government sponsored persecution of approximately 25% of the British population. If prohibitive laws were made, and enforced, on the basis of the colour of someone's skin, their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation there would be outrage, and quite rightly so.

Why, then, should smokers have to tolerate such heavy handed meddling with their fundamental right to self determination? In short, they shouldn't. This and other nonsense has gone way too far, and I, for one, have had enough. I want my country back - you know, the Britain that had common sense and didn't want or need thousands of do-gooding pen pushers telling us how we must (not even should, but MUST) run our lives.

Since that's not likely to happen, I'm off to Amazon - The Beginners' Guide to Declaring A Republic sounds just what I need...

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Asda Price Abuse

According to the headline of this Talking Retail article, "Asda gets tough on parking abuse."

Which, apparently, means the store is proposing to whack a £60 fine on folks who park in disabled or child parking bays - assuming the offending parker is not actually disabled or dragging their brood with them, I guess.

Naturally, I appreciate the need for disabled parking bays, but I see no need whatsoever for those pesky "mother and child" spaces. They're a nuisance, and an insult to those folks who don't happen to have produced a field full of screaming kids, or who have the good sense not to drag their wailing progeny around the supermarket with them.

Mother and child bays are inevitably situated close the store, meaning that other, equally legitimate paying customers are forced to park further away, often on the far side of the car park's busy entry / exit route. Why should some customers receive such preferential treatment, simply because they have had an incremental effect on the nation's population? They haven't done anything special, and, in many cases, the rest of us wish they hadn't done anything at all!

It strikes me that, if anyone other than disabled customers are to be given special attention, that benefit should go to the elderly. Just because they're not officially "disabled", it doesn't mean they necessarily find it easy to fight their way on foot through a busy car park, in the pouring rain, laden with shopping.

Aging is a natural process that cannot be avoided, and should be given due consideration. Parenthood is not. If parents can't manage their kids without imposing on the rest of society, they shouldn't have them.

Asda really, really needs to rethink this ridiculous, pandering policy. One supermarket is as good as another, particularly to customers with cars, and I know from personal experience that a LOT of people already resent mother and child bays. It may be that, to many of them, this will be a good incentive to shop elsewhere.

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

More Mottos

Gordon Brown wants to create a national motto for the Britain. I have no idea what has prompted him to think of this foolishness, but, a few days ago, I posted a few suggestions of my own.

Today, I see the BBC has published a list of 1000 suggested mottos. It's interesting to note that, although a few appear to be serious suggestions (there's always one, isn't there?), the vast majority amount to incisive comments on the society in which we are forced to live.

A few of my faves:

Smile! You're on CCTV
God Help Us
The United Kingdom - Are we bovvered?
Please don't rob me
Shamed be the person who smokes
Great Britain: Open 9 to 5, weekdays
Not my job, squire
Last one out please switch off the lights
Not waving but drowning
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and I will give them council houses and money
This sceptic isle
Your call is important to us
Sod it, that'll do
Welcome to GB - the ecofascist captial of the world
Come to Britain, if not to live, just to pick up a free kidney transplant on the NHS
All aboard now! Standing room only!

Obviously, I'm not alone in thinking that the country's falling apart. I'd be willing to bet that none of these comment - or any of the hundreds like them - make it into the motto shortlist, though.

I can't even bring myself to believe that Gordon Brown and his cronies will take them as a serious cross section of how the public see life - that would be too much like admitting, even to themselves, that they've spent the last 10 years making a total mess. And that would never do, would it?

Billy Seggars.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Election Fever

I see the media is gearing up for a traditional bout of election fever, having totally failed to notice that nobody really cares.

According to the Daily Mail, Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the Labour Party to prepare for a second decade of Labour rule, and speculation is rife over when, or if, Gordon Brown might call an election. Also according to the Daily Mail, senior Tories think they're going to lose, and senior aides are telling GB that now's the time.

Of course it is, and if he hasn't figured that out for himself by now he should change his name to Gormless.

It's really very simple - the Tories are in complete disarray. They finally found their own Blair-alike cardboard cutout leader in Crazy Cameron, just as the public were heaving a huge sigh of relief to see the real Tone thrust, kicking and screaming, from Downing St. He's gone, hopefully for good, and we don't want to replace him with an even lighter-weight Tory facsimile, thank you very much.

As for the Liberal Democrats, well, they're Lib Dems, the natural also-rans of the British political field. They pose no realistic threat to Brown or Cameron, and even the Monster Raving Loonies must be feeling quietly confident in the face of Lib Dem opposition. Nothing more need be said of them, save to predict with absolute confidence that, come election night (whenever that may be), they will be seen on VERY light night / early morning TV interviews uttering such immortal phrases as "This has been a really good night for us!" It's just one of those election traditions - happens every time.

So why should Brown hurtle to the polls now, rather than spin things out and gain a little more time in Downing St? After all, he waited long enough to get there, and had to practically evict his predecessor by force. Shouldn't he settle in a bit?

No. Not if he wants to win, any way. Firstly, Brown's time as PM has been beset by problems. Since he finally lost patience and booted Blair out, barely a week has gone by without some catastrophe or other hitting the country. Terrorist attacks, tragically mis-managed floods, a stock market collapse, Foot and Mouth Disease (twice), the Northern Rock fiasco, Blue Tongue Disease...

The more superstitious members of society could well be forgiven for thinking that Brown is jinxed! Naturally, I don't fall into that category, but it's hard to deny that things have been going pretty badly wrong for him - how many times has the COBRA committee been convened since he took office? So far, he's managed to field most of these problems reasonably well (beginners luck, no doubt), but it's only a matter of time before he fumbles one.

And then there's the small matters of the European Treaty / Constitution-in-all-but-name, ransacked pensions and all the other problems from Blair's time that he keeps pretending he knows nothing about.

When you look at it objectively, he's no better than Blair, and may be a whole lot worse. The more he delays an election, the more time the electorate will have to work that out. Worse, the Tory party is already doubting the wisdom of Crazy Cameron's leadership. Given a few months, that doubt could well crystallise into a leadership challenge (please, please let it crystallise!!).

If they can get their act together enough to elect a new, dynamic leader who doesn't just THINK he's in touch with popular opinion, but actually DOES have a handle on it, Brown will be in real trouble. His honeymoon period will be well and truly over by then, while the Tory new boy (or girl) will have the benefit of the doubt - particularly if they make pleasing noises.

And, just to add to Brown's woes, Cherie Blair is writing her memoirs. No doubt she'll be be more than happy to take a swipe at the man who put her hubby out of a job, and who knows what little details she may let slip? If that were to coincide with the aforesaid new Tory leader, Brown would be toast.

I imagine that GB has worked all this - and more - out for himself already. His senior advisers certainly have. So there really isn't very much to debate about, is there? If he wants to be sure of winning the next election (and what PM wouldn't?), that election needs to be very, very soon - before Christmas, I would think.

SO GET ON WITH IT! Call the damned election and let's let the whole tedious business rumble on to its foregone conclusion. We can dust off Peter Snow and whatever high-tech replacement for the swingometer he's going to play with this time round, we can all nod off over the inevitably red-tinted results, and then we can all get back to watching New Labour systematically destroy the British way of life.

Billy Seggars.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Mottoly Fool

Does Britain need a national motto? I wouldn't have thought so. It seems like a tacky, tasteless thing to introduce, but our oh-so-patriotic Prime Minister from north of the border thinks otherwise.

Apparently, it should be a "statement of values" summing up what it means to be a British citizen, and will be "proudly" displayed on every public building and maybe on British passports, too.

Like all of Gordon Brown's rhetoric, it seems like a load of bull to me, and the fact that Crazy Cameron backs the notion just about writes it off as a waste of time, space, effort and money.

According to the Daily Mail, "Insiders said the motto will be chosen by a "citizens' summit" of 1,000 people for it to be "truly representative" of Britishness rather than be imposed by ministers or dreamt up by a team of highly-paid consultants."

Representative of Britishness, eh? Just like our elected government is representative of the wishes of the electorate? Given that Mr Blair came to power on the strength of a couple of landslide election victories, only to be ousted by Brown, it seems reasonable to assume that this government's actions in office might be representative of the British way of life. So let's see what slogans their (presumably overwhelmingly popular) policies might give us:

New licencing laws lead to binge drinking:
Mine's a pint
Make it a double
I'm not so think as you drunk I am

Don't mention the war!
Weapons of misdirection
Follow my leader

Casinos and gambling laws:
You bet!

The economy and finance:
Between a Rock and a hard place

Surveillance culture:
We know where you live
Smile! You're on candid camera

I'm sure there are many, many more that sum up life in Britain under Blair and Brown, so I might update that list from time to time.

Billy Seggars.

Snail Mail

"Researchers have found that three of Britain's rarest snails cannot move quickly enough to adapt to changes in their wetland habitat," according to this article in the Daily Mail.

It seems that, being a bit tardy, "the shining ram's horn, the little whirlpool ram's horn and the largemouthed valve snail, each smaller than a little fingernail, are sliding towards extinction in the UK. "

Gosh. Really? Fancy that! The article goes on to record for posterity how Professor Steve Ormerod, a researcher at Cardiff University, looked for the three species in four areas of marshland in the South East and examined 100 drainage ditches in the process.

What a cracking way to spend a weekend, grubbing about in drainage ditches looking for snails! And, now that the good Professor has performed this invaluable public service, does anyone actually give a damn whether the wretched snails are, might be or will become extinct?

I certainly don't. My only interest in snails is keeping the slimy little devils out of the flower beds, and if mass snail extinction could be arranged I, for one, would be very pleased to hear about it.

Besides, there's nothing very unusual about species facing extinction because their environment is changing - that's the whole thrust of Darwin's evolutionary theories; circumstances change, and species adapt to them or die out.

Yet, apparently, the study "strengthens fears about the survival of the snails, already considered threatened." What tosh! There is no need to "fear" the demise of a few molluscs so rare that hardly anybody will ever have seen one anyway. These boffins should be taking the opportunity to observe evolution in action and trying to learn a little more about the way the world works instead of wringing their hands in fluffy-edged environmentalist grief.

Change is inevitable. In fact, it's a fundamental concept, built right in to the heart of life on Earth. Without change, the evolutionary process would be superfluous. And without that, humans (and those pesky snails) would never have evolved in the first place.

It strikes me that the whole conservationist approach is fundamentally flawed. Why try to preserve something that is failing, when failure and extinction are as important to evolution as success and proliferation? It's nonsense, and amounts to just the kind of meddling in natural processes that the green brigade so deplore in other circumstances.

Of course, the Greater Bearded Tree Hugger doesn't see it that way, but that's ok. Soon enough, he (and, in some cases, she) will be as extinct as the species they now mourn, out-competed by common sense and basic science. Somehow, I can't imagine many folks mourning their passing.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Bear Essentials

Paddington Bear eats marmalade sandwiches, and always will - and that's official. Well, that's a relief. I must admit I was getting a little worried, what with the Great Bear appearing in TV commercials eating Marmite butties.

Of course, such a turncoat attitude would never do, and I am relieved to see Michael Bond, Paddington's creator, stepping in to reassure the public. "I have to report that although Paddington found the sandwiches interesting, bears are creatures of habit," he wrote in a letter to the Times.

In these days of ever-changing loyalties, infinitely flexible politicians with no idea what they stand for and millions of lunatic campaign groups baying for whatever they feel is important today (anti-smoking, pro-smoking, environ-mental-ists - you name it, there are factions for and against it), icons such as Paddington Bear are an essential anchor to a saner world.

Attempts to change them in any way must be resisted. Sure, Paddington can try Marmite, but it must never, ever replace his marmalade. If you change the butty, you change the bear, and that would be a sacrilege too hideous to contemplate.

The world may be descending into a period of insanity from which it may never recover, but Paddington Bear is forever!

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 14 September 2007

True Blue Goes Brown

Yesterday, iconic former Conservative Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher returned to Downing St as the guest of current PM Gordon Brown. Wearing suspiciously Labour-like red, rather than her more traditional Tory blue, yet. That, in itself, is enough to make me wonder about the world's sanity.

Of course, only a few days ago, Gordon Brown claimed he was a "conviction politician" like Lady Thatcher - a slightly odd and rather late conversion, given that he spent most of his years as a young MP desperately trying to discredit her.

Still, Mr Brown's sudden enthusiasm for his old enemy is hardly surprising. Nobody could ever claim that Tony Blair was a "conviction politician", unless they were referring to the criminal way in which he attempted to run the country, and much the same must be said of Crazy Dave Cameron. Spin and publicity, smoke and mirrors are something both Tone and Dave have in common, while poor John Major never really had much chance to make his mark.

So, if Brown is looking to absorb some credibility from the political company he keeps, hanging out with Mrs T is probably his best bet. Yes, it's cynical and manipulative - a perfect example of the spin he's supposed to be avoiding - but it probably seemed like a good way to distance himself from his lightweight predecessor.

Naturally, it hasn't worked. Maggie Thatcher has more political savvy than all of the current MPs put together, and she must know perfectly well what the effect of her visit will be.

Firstly, it embarrasses Crazy Dave by reminding him - and the electorate - what a real Tory leader should be, and shining a spotlight on the long list of half-baked policy ideas and PR disasters that he's been associated with lately. Traditional Tory voters will look at him, look at Baroness Thatcher, scratch their heads and go Hmmmmm. Quite a few of them will wonder whether Crazy Dave is in the wrong job, and before long he may not be.

Secondly, it reminds the Labour faithful exactly how much they hated Mrs T when she was in power. Would a true Labour leader really want to identify with her? Hell no! And look at the way Gordon's changed his tune, from being a Thatcher-hater to a Thatcher-praiser - might he not prove to be similarly flexible on other cherished Labour ideals? And she's wearing red! Is she now supporting Labour? If so, is that a party that the old-school Labour voters want anything to do with? Thus, unrest in the Labour ranks is stimulated.

One really has to admire the way Baroness Thatcher thinks - if handled correctly (and it probably won't be because current politicians are all far too inept), the fallout could lead to disarray and infighting in the Labour party, just as Crazy Dave is toppled and replaced by someone who actually knows what they're supposed to be doing - William Hague, for instance. A beleaguered Brown wouldn't stand a snowball's against someone like Hague in any forthcoming election, particularly if Europe is to be a key point.

All this, just by popping back to the office for a cup of tea and a cosy chat with her successors. Impressive!

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Blind Man's Rebuff

I like this story in the Daily Mail. It seems that a 17-year-old mugger attacked a blind man outside a railway station in Giessen, Germany, with a view to stealing his cigarettes.

Unfortunately, having threatened his victim, and punched him in the face, he discovered that all was not as it appeared. In fact, the blind man was Michael Esser, a former world champion in judo for blind people.

Esser flipped the villain over, put him in a stranglehold and detained him until police arrived. Good for him!

Just as well he didn't try that here, though, or he'd probably have been arrested and charged with assault while the mugger sought counselling and damages for the distress he'd suffered.

Billy Seggars.

Mine's a Pint - Brussels Backs Down on Imperial Measures

There hasn't been very much worth commenting on in the media lately, with all the interesting stories being drowned out by the interminable McCann saga.

Take this piece from the Times, for example: Pints, pounds and ounces are here to stay as Brussels relents. If they weren't driving themselves to distraction with breathless speculation as to whether the McCanns did, or did not, do away with their kid, and if they did, how, that spectacular Brussels climbdown would have been a front page headline on several of the major dailies.

As it is, a story that's been ongoing for years, and has seen one guy, Metric Martyr Steve Thoburn, jailed for daring to sell fruit and veg in Imperial measures, is reduced to a minor mention. Poor Mr Thoburn died a convicted criminal because of this crazy scheme, and I think its humiliating withdrawal deserves a little more prominence.

Besides, there's more to this than just metric vs Imperial measures. Pressure is building for a referendum on the appalling new EU Treaty that appears to be the discredited EU Constitution in all but name, and there's a pretty good chance that, if put to the vote, the public would, quite rightly, reject the damn thing.

It doesn't take a genius to realise that, in any forthcoming referendum, the emotive issue of Brussels meddling with all aspects of our everyday lives - such as pints, pounds and ounces - will come up and be used in support of a "No" vote. It also doesn't take a genius to realise that it's probably better for Brussels to accept a little humiliation by withdrawing the metric requirement in the interest of disarming critics of the Treaty.

Unfortunately, it's not working. Think about it - if we didn't like Brussels meddling in our measurements, to the extent that they feared it would cause the Treaty to be rejected, how much less will we like the new meddling proposed by the Treaty? Clearly, Brussels thinks the Treaty is more important than Imperial measures, and therefore we can conclude that it will give them more benefits (read power and influence).

So, although the recent retreat over measurements is an important victory for the British way of life, it is by no means an absolute victory. It seems to me that the EU Treaty is going to give far too much power to Brussels, and I can't think of any good reason for us to go along with that. In fact, I can't see any overwhelmingly good reason to stay in the European Union at all. We don't need them, they cost us a lot of money and they want to tell us how we should behave in our own land.

Perhaps it's time to withdraw - while we still can.

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Madeleine McCann Suspects

I haven't really been all that interested in the Madeleine McCann case, not least because I quickly got bored of the attendant media circus. Also, as a result of observing that media circus, I've wondered whether the parents may have had something to do with the child's disappearance from the start. Something about their actions just didn't ring true.

So the announcement that they are both now formal suspects doesn't surprise me in the least. Rather, it's a question of "about time." But life's an ironic business; while I was nodding in semi-smug satisfaction, I started to wonder.

It seems, as far as I can gather from this BBC report, that the police are basing their suspicions on blood stains found in a car hired by the McCanns some 25 days after the child vanished. It has apparently been suggested that they used the car to dispose of Madeleine's body, having first concealed it somewhere in the meantime.

At first glance that seems reasonable, and it may even BE reasonable. But it does, at the very least, raise some questions. Could they really have lugged a body around in the full glare of the media publicity that was ongoing at the time? Maybe, but if they were cool enough to do that, wouldn't they also be cool enough to make sure they didn't leave any traces in the car?

Isn't it at least possible that someone else got those traces into the car? If so, who? An accomplice, perhaps. But also, perhaps, someone else entirely. Maybe the real killer, if, in fact, the poor kid is dead? Or maybe someone connected with the investigation (who might also be the real killer?), taking the opportunity hurry the "investigation" along?

I don't know, but, even from the perspective of someone who's had doubts about the McCanns from the start, this "evidence" doesn't seem to be nearly as clear cut as it first appears. It raises far more questions than it answers, some of which suggest that the McCanns might be in the clear.

Personally, I'll take some convincing, but the possibility exists and cannot be discounted. Those blood stains did not get there on their own. If the McCann's didn't put them there, someone else did.

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Scientology On Trial?

Following a 10-year investigation, the Brussels arm of the Church of Scientology is to face criminal charges, the Associated Press press reported a few days ago.

Belgian prosecutor, Jean-Claude Van Espen's inquiry concluded that, "Scientology's Brussels-based Europe office and its Belgian missions conducted unlawful practices in medicine, violated privacy laws and used illegal business contracts," according to Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman at the Federal Prosecutors Office.

The investigation, which followed numerous complains of intimidation and extortion from ex-members, culminated in the prosecutor recommending that the Church of Scientology should stand trial for fraud and be labeled a criminal organisation.

Such allegations against the Church of Scientology are not new, however. In the UK, documents recently disclosed by the National Archive show that, in the 1960s and 1970s, the British government had grave concerns about the church, according to the BBC. A 1977 report produced by the then Department of Health and Social Security for Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, described the church as a "considerable evil".

At the time, the Church of Scientology had gained a reputation for targeting critics, as well as mistreating and exploiting members. The report alleged that the church created family discord and broke up marriages, and mentioned the case of a six-year-old who was declared a "suppressive" because she would not leave her mother.

According to the report, members had been instructed to carry out "noisy investigations" on any critics and any person classified as an "enemy" was considered "fair game" by the church. The document said such a person may be "deprived of his property by any means, be tricked or sued or lied to or destroyed".

These tactics are frequently associated with the Church of Scientology. Indeed, it's founder, science fiction author L. Rob. Hubbard, is reported to have formalised its "Attack the Attacker" policy in the late 1960s. He described it as a four stage process:

"1) Spot who is attacking us.
2) Start investigating them promptly for felonies or worse using own professionals, not outside agencies.
3) Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
4) Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.

Don't ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way. You can get "reasonable about it" and lose. Sure we break no laws. Sure we have nothing to hide. BUT attackers are simply an anti-Scientology propaganda agency so far as we are concerned. They have proven they want no facts and will only lie no matter what they discover. So BANISH all ideas that any fair hearing is intended and start our attack with their first breath. Never wait. Never talk about us - only them. Use their blood, sex, crime to get headlines. Don't use us. I speak from 15 years of experience in this. There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime. All we had to do was look for it and murder would come out. -- Attacks on Scientology, "Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter," 25 February 1966"

Such individuals and groups are treated as "fair game", a term which has a specific meaning within the Church of Scientology. In 1965, Hubbard, formulated the "Fair Game Law", in which problematic Suppressive persons could be considered "Fair game" for retaliation:

"A Suppressive Person or Group becomes fair game. By FAIR GAME is meant, may not be further protected by the codes and disciplines or the rights of a Scientologist."

Suppressive Persons, or SPs, is a term often used by the Church of Scientology to describe its enemies, and, although Hubbard expressed some concern about abuse of the term, he also made it clear that entire groups could be declared suppressive. Under this broader definition, suppressiveness included more than just publicly opposing Scientology; it also included any group supporting activities to which Hubbard was strongly opposed, especially psychiatry.

Negative associations between Scientology and the science of psychiatry are also well documented. The 1977 British Government report noted allegations that the Church of Scientology took in young English people with a history of mental illness, accepted fees of £450 or £550 from them, and then, when they suffered breakdowns, classified them as troublemakers and cast them out onto the streets.

Indeed, this position is so closely associated with Scientology that an article published yesterday by CBS News summed up Scientology in these terms: "The basic theological tenets of the Church of Scientology are well known: a fanatical hatred for psychiatry coupled with a creation myth that involves an evil alien ruler named Xenu and his sundry galactic allies."

Naturally, representatives of the Church of Scientology strenuously deny any wrongdoing, either in Brussels, the UK or anywhere else. Of the current allegations in Belgium, the church said, "For the last 10 years, the prosecutor has been using the media, trying to damage the reputation of the Church of Scientology and not being able to put a case in court."

It may be some time before the case gets to court this time, too, as the church intends to challenge the prosecutor's allegations when an Administrative court decides whether or not to press charges. In the interim, it will be interesting to see whether Van Espen becomes known as a Supressive Person, and finds himself Fair Game in another high scoring round of Attack the Attacker - I suspect he will!

Billy Seggars

Monday, 3 September 2007

Internet Cops

According to an article in the Telegraph a few days ago, "Cartoon police officers are to appear in "pop-up" warnings on the internet every half hour to warn Chinese users that they must steer clear of unapproved websites."

It seems that the pop-ups will also link to a website where Chinese surfers can report "unhealthy" websites - i.e. websites which fall foul of China's draconian censorship laws and have the nerve to challenge or discuss the political climate in China.

Of course, that's in China, where the powers that be, and intend to keep on being, get really ratty if they feel challenged. But I can't help thinking that such a system might have its uses here in the UK, too.

As I've mentioned before, the General Medical Council is of the view that it can pursue Dr Rita Pal for the outrageous crime of linking a page on her blog to publicly available documents, already published on another website.

Perhaps the GMC might consider pop-up ads along the lines of the Chinese model. Cartoon images of Sir Graeme Catto could be made to pop up every half hour, warning medical bloggers that they must not, under any circumstances, link to anything, anywhere on the web. And as for criticising highly dubious "campaigners" who, without a shred of medical or legal training, feel at liberty to make baseless complaints about hard working medical professionals - that would be absolutely forbidden!

The pop-ups could be linked directly to a new website, co-owned by members of the MAMA board and the GMC, under the name, allowing anyone who even suspected a doctor of exercising their freedom of expression to make an instant complaint. Then, while the GMC set about trashing the doctor's career, munchkins from the MAMA board could post obscene comments to the doctor's blog (see the comments on this post to Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry blog for examples of MAMA-member behaviour - lesbian breast feeling, indeed!).

After all, that's pretty much what goes on now, but without the overt cartoons.

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Maternity Maggots

"Maggots fall into maternity ward" screamed the BBC headline. "Ewww," I thought, and, of course, had to read the article.

I was expecting reports of a scene from a horror movie, or, at least, something even more unpleasant than I would normally expect to find in the NHS. Rotting cadavers under the ceiling tiles, perhaps, stuffed out of sight to meet some target or other.

But, alas, the story turns out to be rather more mundane. It seems that a seagull met an untimely end on the roof of Scarborough Hospital's maternity unit, and nature took its inevitable course. A few maggots found their way through the tiles into the ceiling fittings, and dropped through into the unit, although they were considerate enough to do so well away from patients and babies.

Despite the disappointing lack of Gothic horror in this article, it does present some interesting features, notably the hospital's frantic efforts to soothe the media's ruffled feathers (presumably, the seagull was well past the stage where any soothing was required). Definitely, according to Medical Director Dr Ian Holland, this incident had nothing to do with cuts in maintenance budgets, or the hospital's massive debts.

And you know what? Despite my deeply ingrained cynicism, I believe him. It's very hard to imagine specially trained anti-deceased-seagull operatives swarming all over hospital roofs in a relentless quest for lifeless Laridae, even in the most prosperous of times.

On the other hand, Dr Holland's representation of a professional team swinging into action to deal with this situation with all the efficiency of a well oiled machine strikes me as faintly ridiculous. He said, "As soon as we became aware of this, we took immediate action, bringing in specialist equipment to remove the dead bird from the tiles and cleaning out the roof cavity."

Specialist equipment?? IS there any specialist equipment designed to assist in the removal of dead seagulls? If so, I bet it's sold to a very small niche market of specialist customers with very peculiar needs. Nor can I successfully picture emergency claxons sounding, lights flashing and a bunch of dudes clad in white contamination suits legging it towards the maternity unit, utility belts bristling with seagull extraction devices.

Rather, this being the NHS, I can visualise a scruffy, unshaven guy in a boilersuit, cigg drooping from the edge of his mouth, slowly advocating with ladder, brush and shovel to combat this dreadful threat. And, if they're really pushing the boat out, a swift wipe around with a mucky rag afterwards.

Still, as Dr Holland rightly points out, "It's been an example of how everyone in the NHS has to cope with whatever situation arises, and everyone has done a marvellous job to take such an unexpected incident in their stride."

Well done, lads and lasses. And now, back to base for a well earned cuppa while you await the next bird-based threat to the NHS. Dead parrots, anyone?

Billy Seggars.