The blogosphere is rife with news of the ID card proposal passing its second reading.
Most of the information I have read about this scheme comes from blogs, especially the indefatigable TalkPolitics. Sir, I salute you.
I have added my tuppence worth of thoughts over at Tom Watson's blog. You could do the same. Thanks to the excellent bloggers4labour for highlighting it.
One thing I forgot to add on my comments to Tom Watson MP. I have a wobbling mistrust of what this government might use such a powerful database of information for. But I am more worried about the fact that once this database is up and running, it is there for good. Do we just keep our fingers crossed and hope that governments of the future do not misuse it? 1984, here we come.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The blogosphere is rife with news of the ID card proposal passing its second reading.
I'm getting more and more wound up about this Live8 thing.
First, I didn't try to get any tickets for it because if I had won any I couldn't really afford at the moment to travel to the concert and keep myself in food and water for the day. Which makes the fact that a load of millionaires are going to be up on stage talking about poverty personally galling. I'm also not sure of the concerts reasons for existence and didn't want to support something I wasn't sure should be encouraged.
Then there's the fact that Mugabwe is going mental and the people of his country are suffering in unprecedented terms even for them, but a lot of column inches and news air-time is currently being given over the bloody concerts, which seems to me a bit sick.
Thirdly there's the fact that Geldoff is hawking around his book and TV series about Africa, and that makes it a bit clearer as to why he has organised all this. Obviously the Africa book/TV thing has been being developed and ready to come out for a while. So when Geldoff gets to realise about the whole G8 thing, well, after all the work he's put into the book/TV thing he doesn't want to miss out on anything about Africa, so he thinks for a bit and decides to do the only thing that he can do. Hence the concerts with all his mates in it. Muscling in on the act, I think it's called.
Fourth is the knowledge that so many, so so many, of the thousands of people who are going to go to the concerts or to the live screenings, won't give a fig about Africa, or poverty, or anything but themselves. What percentage of these people even bother with something as simple as Fair Trade goods?
Fifth, is the idea that we are patronising a whole continent.
And finally, is the thought that this is going to be a massive event and am I being a bit of a prig in being so mean about it? And I love U2 and Coldplay; I can’t afford to see them in concert. Do I NOT watch them on telly in some futile gesture of protest? I resent being given such a dilemma.
Posted by Helen at 1:52 pm
A lot of rumpus from road safety people about the AA's decision to include in their new road atlases the sites of speed cameras.
The AA claim they are doing this so that drivers can be aware of black spots and "stay safe on the roads."
Patently rubbish. How safe is it to keep looking down at a map as you drive along checking for speed camera sites?
Good Lord. Some people just don't think things through do they?
Posted by Helen at 12:38 pm
Friday, June 24, 2005
Heard on the radio today that the DVLA don't have to rely on eagle-eyed traffic wardens and police stop checks to get us for an out-of-date tax discs anymore. No, now they've got a fancy computer that knows when you haven't bought a new one and will automatically issue a fine.
Yes, they can get computer systems to work when they're taking money off us can't they? Bastards.
Posted by Helen at 6:16 pm
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Henman's out. Good. Always found him a disturbingly empty individual and then he said something about how he thought big game hunting was fine as long as the animals were not endangered. That's how they become endangered you prick. It's not all right to kill lions and tigers you wanker.
It's too hot to do anything. It's 10.33 pm and feel like I'm melting. Lap top hot on legs
Posted by Helen at 6:39 pm
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Just how does a Lawyer at the top of his profession get to be so very bad at blagging? I've never seen somebody so uncomfortable, and when someone resorts to using the term "at the end of the day" (at least twice!) then you know you've got them wriggling on a hook.
I could have done a better job. There are actually answers to the questions he was being asked.
Posted by Helen at 3:27 pm
Professor Sir Roy Meadows is up before the GMC today.
This whole mess has both appalled and scared the hell out of me.
For a justice system that is supposed to work on the premise that it is better for a guilty person to go free than for an innocent person to be convicted, it seemed to find it very easy to convict Angela Canning, Sally Clarke, and Trupti Patel and a possible 25 other women of murdering their babies without any real evidence.
And why? Because one man stood up in court with cobbled together statistics (1 in a 73 million chance that 2 babies could die of cot death in one family - wrong!) and his own theory developed without research or science, which resulted in the popular dictum: "unless proven otherwise, one cot death is a tragic, two is suspicious, three is murder."
Since when was it guilty until proven innocent in this country? And Meadows was a pediatrician not a statistician - what the hell were the courts doing allowing him to spout off home-made statistics? Statistics which so alarmed the President of the Royal Statistical Society he wrote an open letter of complaint to the Lord Chancellor. And why did nobody stop to bloody ask that if we don't know why cot death occurs, which we don't, then how can we possibly say that multiple deaths is an indication of murder?
Canning's case is particularly chilling. She was prosecuted for no more than "suspicious behaviour" and for the fact that she lost three babies. There was never any physical evidence. Just a mother who didn't deal with her grief in the 'right way' and an outrageously flawed theory.
All those poor, poor parents, losing their babies, dealing with their grief, and being condemned as murderers. All those siblings taken away and put into care. All those families shattered.
And Meadows' influence of course does not end with cot death. He was behind the Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy hypothesis which has resulted in many a conviction since he published the theory in 1977. And remember hearing about all those parents down the years convicted of harming their child by giving them salt as a punishment? Such as Angela and Ian Gay? Yep, got his fingerprints all over those cases too.
And how much harder now for pediatrician and the relevant authorities to intervene when real abuse has taken place?
So much damage.
Just how did this man get to be so powerful? How did the courts allow him to be so rampant? Why did defence team after defence team not discredit the 'science'? There is a saying "give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep until noon" - did Meadows achieve all of this purely by riding the wave of a reputation that nobody even thought to question? Jesus Christ. Shame on our so called system of justice.
And shame on Sir Roy Meadows. This man and his ego being put before the GMC doesn't seem enough. It isn't enough.
Posted by Helen at 12:10 pm
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Friday, June 17, 2005
Some thoughts on Works Minister, Margaret Hodge's comments about ex-Rover workers finding employment in the new Tesco Extra in Walsgrave:
1) Who cares what some London Minister has to say about anything in the Midlands?
2) What's wrong with ex-Rover workers getting a job in Tesco? It's no worse than anyone else having to work there.
3) What Hodge actually said, in a response to a question as to whether Rover workers should get jobs in Tesco, was:
"Well, they will work all over the place - and there's a new brownfield development site in the West Midlands as well. I'm saying that some of the jobs are in Tesco, and they will meet the needs of some of the unemployed and people looking for work in the district."
4) What's' wrong with that?
Posted by Helen at 9:12 am
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
... the international science community tells us today after monitoring diets in one of the world's largest and most definitive studies of its kind.
Here's something you might not know - humans are the only primates for whom meat is such a major part of their diet. Most primates are almost entirely herbivorous, continuing the diet of grasses, leaves, nuts, berries, fruits and roots they have eaten for millennia. Humans only started hunting animals for food about one-and-a-half million years ago (very little in evolutionary terms) and until recently meat was just a supplementary part of our diets because it was too difficult to get or too expensive to buy.
Then last century the global market combined with modern farming methods and made meat cheap. And off we went, abandoning a diet that had served us for 18 million years, happily stuffing ourselves with burgers and bacon butties. It is no wonder we are making ourselves ill.
But it gets worse.
Let's talk environmental destruction. The number of farmed animals in the world has quadrupled in the last 50 years putting a massive strain on the environment. Whole swathes of our earth is having to be given over to grow enough crops to feed the vast number of animals that we now eat. These crops require immense quantities of water, pesticides and fertilisers. We are draining the fertility of the land and losing the vital top soil. In short, in our quest to consume such colossal amounts of meat, we are exhausting the world's life support system upon which our very survival depends.
And as for the animals. We pretend that we don't know that they suffer pain and fear. We ignore even their most base requirements such as a need for space or natural light. We disregard the total dependence these creatures have upon us for the quality of their existence. And we do all this in the name of profit-making because somewhere along the line we have accepted that we can trade in our compassion as long as someone is making money.
Stop being a part of this. Click on my link to Viva!; there you will find all you need to know about changing your diet to a healthy vegetarian one. The moment you stop eating meat you have committed a political act that will help change the world for the better.
And that's no small thing, is it?
Posted by Helen at 12:45 pm
Monday, June 13, 2005
I'm not sure about these dawn until dusk plans for schools announced today.
I don't have kids, but I was one once, and I'm not sure how happy I would have been to start school at 8am and not finish until 6pm. Actually, I can take a fair guess because I didn't very much like doing those hours when I got paid for it.
This is part of Blair's "real choice for real parents" (as opposed to those pesky pretend choices for pretend parents) that he talked about in November last year, a lot of which I think is to be applauded. Top of my Well Done! list would be the paternity leave entitlement and the legislation on flexible working hours. It's about time that childcare issues were put high up on the political agenda and trust this government to be the one to do it.
But this particular plan veers off into territory I think we should be moving away from not rattling towards. Do we really want to remove the last excuse that people have not to have to work all hours? As an employee how easy would it be to argue that you need flexible hours to pick your kids up from school when everyone else in your department has them in this wrap-around schooling?
Today Ruth Kelly is offering this plan up to help "hardworking families", but it feels to me more like a morsel of choice thrown to the capitalist machine. Most of us have to sell our labour to live, but what many of us don't seem to realise is that we don't have to become slaves to whatever capitalist institution we subscribe to. There is no law, moral or otherwise, that says you are only a worthwhile human being if you work long hours. Similarly, there are other definitions of success that go beyond driving a newish car, wearing expensive clothes, and buying brand name goods.
Should we be "supporting" families to work so hard? Can't we work towards a culture that stops people feeling they must do so instead?
But, obviously, that is not something that Tony "anyone of working age who can work should work" Blair is want to do. Let us not forget that "New" Labour needs to be seen as a friend of business and what business wants a workforce that sees through their sly little tricks to make us feel guilty about wanting a home life? None of them - businesses want employees who buy into the "cult of the workplace", people who are "passionate" and "committed" to the company. That way it can over work, under pay and generally exploit them whilst raking in massive profits for major share-holders and fat-cats.
But always remember that we don't live in an age or country of scarcity. People don't die of want anymore in this country. Who's trying to make you think that you will? Forget about that plasma TV screen or re-fitting the kitchen or living in that particular postcode. Don't let consumerism imprison you. Down size. See how rich you feel when you have more free time to do what you want to do. Go home. Spend some time with your partner, or your cats, or your blog. And remember, you can still be a good employee even if at 3.30pm you want to be standing at the school gates, and don't ever let anyone tell you any different.
Posted by Helen at 11:13 am
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
I thought that this was bad enough (can't get this link to work, please see "Talk Politics" under political links, post called "if ever there was proof" about use of ID cards in cars). A worrying use for biometric ID cards that makes you wonder what other uses the powers-that-be will come up with for them (or already have in the pipeline).
But then I read this - workers being electronically tagged in the quest for efficiency. New technology means that warehouse staff can be fitted with small computers that beam in instructions directly to the worker wherever they may be. What's wrong with that, I hear you ask, that sounds OK doesn't it? Well, yes it does, but that's not the only way that this tagging helps with efficiency. The electronic tagger is little more than a slave driver, knowing the shortest, bestest, fastest way any job can be done and tracking the worker wherever they may be and whatever they are doing.
True, this might drive up efficiency. If you know that you are being monitored on how often you go to the loo, how long it takes you to walk from one place to the other, and the exact amount of minutes you spend on break, you're going to play it by the book aren't you?
Well, if they are such a good idea I expect that management will be wearing them then will they? The General Managers, the Directors, the CEOs of these companies? They'll have computers strapped to their wrists telling them what meeting they have and when, how long they have for lunch, how long they can have to take a piss?
And what about the use of this technology in other professions? How about tagging Judges, MPs, teachers? Just to make sure that they are doing everything they should exactly when they should?
But that won't happen, and the reason that won't happen is because it is only deemed acceptable to do this type of thing to working-class people in working-class jobs. Because monitoring every movement of every second of a human being is demeaning, dehumanising, and demoralising. And we couldn't be subjecting the middle-classes and high earners to that could we?
The idea that every single second of your time in a workplace belongs entirely to a company, that you stop being an individual and become a mere resource to be drained of every singly last drop of productivity, is as disgusting as it is frightening and I cannot believe that in the 21st century we are still reducing our workforces to such a soulless lumpen quantity.
Freedom is not a privilege it is a right. Our spirits need freedom in the same way that our bodies need oxygen. Ask a women in Saudi Arabia about not being able to go anywhere without a chaperone, ask a prisoner in Strangeways about not being able to come and go when they choose, ask a journalist in Zimbabwe about not being able to write what they wish, and you will know how essential freedom is to our emotional well being.
As a species we cannot stand to be watched, monitored and censored. I'm not sure why that is, but we can't. We stomach street surveillance and CCTV because we understand that it helps keep us safe and that there is a certain freedom in safety. But to be monitored elsewhere, for other reasons, is intolerable.
For all that we wander around this planet bumping into each other and interacting, we remain always on some level separate entities and throughout the day we need our little moments of escape from the running noise of life to remain human and sane. Electronic tagging denies us that. And if we let them, ID cards will too.
Posted by Helen at 5:10 pm
Saturday, June 04, 2005
I’m in my house held captive by crazed gunmen. The place has been trashed. I’m half-starved. My treasured items have been looted and sold.
But, I have some hope. I’ve been communicating through the bathroom window with a few people over the way, and I’m sure they’ll get the police to come and arrest the gunmen and stop my treasures being stolen.
One day one of these people manages to slip me a note:
We don’t think that enough people know what is happening to you, so we’ve decided to highlight your plight by having a massive party. We’ll think of you whilst we’re having a great time.
Oh, and we know you’re hungry, so we’re trying to get everyone to give your crazed gunmen shit loads of cash. We’re sure he’ll spend this on food and stuff for you.
Hope this is OK?"
I look out of the window at the people going off to their party. They’re all wearing white wristbands, laughing, feeling good about themselves. I think the world is a crazy place.
In work this morning a couple of people said how they wouldn't mind going to the concert, 'Madonna's gonna be there and everything.' Then another woman said how her boyfriend was texting to try and get the free tickets so that he could sell them on e-bay.
Good to know that people are entering into the spirit of things.
Posted by Helen at 7:48 am
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Well, there you go then.
I know nothing about European politics, but I know rebellion when I see it. And isn't it fabulous? I'm sure I could be castigated for such flippancy and that this means that the sky is going to fall on our heads or something, but oh let's just enjoy it for a bit. ANARCHY!
Anyway, I think it opens up a whole new way for Europe to work. Instead of people in suits having lots of important meetings in imposing buildings deciding what should happen, let's just put everything out to vote. Imagine the wonderful chaos. Let the people decide whether a tomato is a fruit, how many hours we should work a week, and who should be a member of the UN security council. It's only Europe, it doesn't really matter.
We could do it Big Brother style. A big house in Brussels stacked with representatives from every country in Europe, and 24 hour live coverage, and us all text voting on the policies they discuss. And so they kept it interesting and entertaining we could also vote for punishments for the boring ones - make Germany sit a bath of slurry, or Belgium eat rotten fishheads, that sort of thing. That would keep them on their toes. And from all the money raised we could put towards urban regeneration projections or holidays for orphaned kids or something.
In any case, that's got to make more sense than a load of people sitting around deciding what is going to happen, then putting it out to vote to expecting us all to agree, and then being mightily shocked when we don't. My gran had a saying - if you don't like the answer, don't ask the question.
Posted by Helen at 5:41 pm