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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Working on a chain letter

Cycling along a couple of days ago, I was enjoying a traditional English rural scene. Picking my way round broken glass on the canal towpath, admiring the group of drunken tramps who inhabit the green behind the magistrate's court, I was watching an eclectic collection of rubbish floating by: plastic bags, empty lager cans and a couple of discarded soft drink bottles as normal, but also some bits of wood that looked like a part assembled piece of Ikea furniture and something unidentifiable thing with string trailing behind it. I suddenly wondered why in all the time I have been taking this route (more than a year) I had never seen chain-gangs of young offenders cleaning the mess up, which I thought I had been promised by get-tough no-nonsense pinnacle of probity Hazel Blears when she was a Home Office minister. It turns out that she'd just made it up, there was no such policy, disappointingly.

The move towards US-style chain gangs was suggested by a Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, who said it would improve confidence in the criminal justice system.

[From Community chain-gang plan 'a cheap gimmick' - Crime, UK - The Independent]

This may well have been the only sensible policy that she has ever proposed, but anyway it never happened. It turns out that our tough-on-crime Commissariat opted for more drastic action, requiring young offenders to carry out between 10 and 42 minutes of community service PER WEEK. No wonder our streets are safe again.

Under joint guidance from the Ministry of Justice, Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Youth Justice Board, young criminals may only have to do limited community work.

[From Teenage offenders could do just ten minutes community work a week - Telegraph]

Well, "limited" is one way to put it I suppose.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Green policy in tatters

Here at the beating heart of Digital Britain, testament to the Virtual Jerusalem under construction by New Labour's visionaries, privately-educated millionairesses and Peer-to-Peer networkers, I've been trying to be green and take the bus instead of driving to the station. Unfortunately, our 21st-century Woking buses don't take cards (contactless or otherwise) and so I have to chase around the house looking for cash in the morning. Today I couldn't find any cash anywhere until, by good fortune, I found two fivers and some loose coins at the bottom of a briefcase. When I got on the bus, the bus driver refused my fiver because it was "too tatty". They have high standards in Woking. Fortunately, he decided that my other tatty fiver met the new minimum standards and I was able to continue my journey. They've already put the fare up to £3.70, so pretty soon a fiver won't be enough anyway. It's not easy being green.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Token gestures

Waitrose are running a promotion that means that every time you buy something they give you a small green plastic token. On the way out of the store there are three large perspex containers with a slot in the top. Each container advertises a different local charity. You put your token into the container of your favoured charity. At the end of the month, Waitrose give money to the charities in proportion to wishes of the people and then changes to another three charities. The charities are supports groups for senile dementia, a drop-in centre for troubled teenagers, something for stroke victims, and so forth.

This being England, the animal charity always has about twice the tokens of any human-oriented charity, no matter what it is. At the moment, the animal charity is the local RSPCA centre, and it has more tokens than the other two put together. It makes you proud to come from a country which had a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals some years before it had a society for the prevention of cruelty to children. To be fair, children's work in mines was limited to a mere eight hours per day in 1833 -- only 11 years after the precursor to the RSPCA had been formed -- and it was only another decade before the subsequent Coal Mines Act of 1842 made it illegal for girls, boys under 10 and women to work in mines.

So, just to remind you of this critical measure: society for the prevention of cruelty to animals 1822, society for the prevention of cruelty to children 1884.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Modern dilemmas no.97

I got on the train and walked through to the "quiet" carriage, where there are blue signs clearly telling people not to use mobile phones. I sit down, open up may laptop and start reading through some stuff that I need to comment on (to do with mobile money transfer, since you ask). The woman opposite me takes out her mobile phone, places a call and starts talking loudly. Then she hangs up and calls someone else. I took her picture, continuing my fantasy about starting a web page called "inconsiderate sods on South West Trains".

But what was I to do? Some twitterers, unfamiliar with the mores and norms of Digital Britain, suggested that I ask her to be quiet. But around about one law-abiding middle-class person a week is beaten to death by yobs at the moment, so it's not worth the risk. Look at the news story from last week where a woman asked some teenagers to be quiet in the cinema and they followed her into a cafe and threw bleach in her face. I was in no mood to get stabbed by an enraged boyfriend, older brother or pimp, so I had to just sit and fume for the whole journey. Is my only reasonable course of action to either stop using trains or emigrate? That doesn't seem fair to me.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, August 02, 2009

News and not news

Settled down on the train after a long day in town and picked up a couple of discarded newspapers to leaf through, thought I'd catch up on the news. Let's see... Doctor kicked to death by muggers near Buckingham palace... Father beaten to death by yobs in own front garden... Members of feral underclass beat to death yet another of their own children (this only happens once a week on average, so I shouldn't exaggerate), the usual kind of thing in a city where you are now seven times more likely to be a crime victim in New York. These stories are hardly news any more.

When I was in Texas last, I remember seeing a story in a local paper about a man who had shot dead someone who trying to rob him. Rather than a prosecution under health & safety regulations, he got some sort of prize from a community association. Needless to say, my brother-in-law's family, who live in Dallas, do not live in fear of yobs beating them up in their front garden or making their lives hell in the town centre on a Friday. I used the think that the American solution -- of segregating the middle class from the underclass -- was primitive and unsustainable, but our alternative (providing generous welfare to the underclass as a kind of danegeld) doesn't seem to be working. I'm racking my brain for a third way.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]