Sunday, March 26, 2006

Place your pin

Despite being a bit posting-light of late (ok, I've been a bit tardy), I've filched a map thingy off Triffid Boy in the event that any of our readers would like to make their mark. Just scroll down and click on the icon that says place your pin.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

With friends like these

Richard Norton-Taylor's article on the British army's "deep fury" at Donald Rumsfeld's decision to disband the Iraqi army after the invasion, evolves into a predictable but accurate rant on the current state of US/UK "special relationship".

What is Washington doing in return for all Blair's help? Bush has blocked a billion-dollar deal with Rolls-Royce to build engines for the proposed joint strike fighter - which Britain wants for its two new aircraft carriers - despite repeated lobbying from Blair. The US still refuses to share advanced military technology with us. It is refusing to let British agencies question terrorist suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged September 11 mastermind; it won't even say where they are being held.

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports Britain is 'likely base for son of Star Wars'.

British officials were startled by the disclosure, insisting that, as far as they were concerned, nothing had changed since Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, told parliament in 2004 that a decision to base interceptors in Britain would be "open to scrutiny and debate in the normal way".

"No one asked us the question [whether Britain was now ready to be a formal candidate]," a British Embassy spokesman said.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Keeping it in the family

A gangmaster has been found guilty of causing the deaths of the 21 drowned Morecambe bay cocklers.

'Lin Liang Ren, originally from China... He and his Chinese girlfriend and cousin were also convicted at Preston Crown Court of helping cockle pickers to break immigration laws.

A father and son from Merseyside were cleared of the immigration charge.

During the trial the court heard that 29-year-old Lin Liang Ren was behind a huge operation in which illegal immigrants scoured the beaches for cockles.'

It is applaudable that someone has been prosecuted for this, after all its not often that such negligence is established and it is of course unfortunate that earlier warnings (before the tragedy) were not heeded. Clearly it is a relief to us all that the evil (& originally Chinese natch) gangmaster has been convicted and of course its good that the names of the innocent have been cleared...

Talking of which...

'David Anthony Eden Snr, 62, from Irby, Merseyside, and David Anthony Eden Jnr, 35, from Prenton, Merseyside, were found not guilty of the facilitation offences.

After the verdicts were read out, judge Mr Justice Henriques QC said he would sentence the three defendants on Tuesday.

All three Chinese could ultimately face deportation, he added.

The Edens were accused of running a company which bought cockles harvested by the cocklers.
Prosecutors alleged they had therefore indirectly employed the cocklers who died, but the jury rejected the claims and cleared the men of trading with the Chinese cockle gangs.'

So that's clear then: they weren't employing them and they didn't run a cockle company...

'The judge refused applications from the Edens for costs after hearing that Mr Eden Snr lied to police about the importance of cockling to his business.'

I can't possibly add anything else.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


This morning the lady in my newsagent presented me with a thought-provoking question (it probably wasn't her intention but shoot me...)

'What did that man mean' she asked me.

'Huh' I asked, raising my head from perusing the great and the good of the alleged centre-left displayed across the days papers under headlines such as The rich list

'He said he liked to patronise local shops - what did he mean?'

I had to do a bit of a doubletake here as a menacing post-modern irony trap appeared to gape before me in the light of the fact that I'd never considered the shop-owners english to be any less comprehensive than my own for all that (or perhaps because) her accent betokened a possible trip to the UK from Uganda some years back and an origin in the sub-continent.

'The word patronise, what does it mean when he uses it in that way?' she clarified (emphasising that my concerns over the potential for minor ironic debacle were, while theoretically well-founded, yet completely un-founded in this instance)

'It means use, like regularly I suppose, like you patronise your local pub or restaurant' I improvised 'It's got two different meanings - that one and the one that now means condescend to' I was late, but this was intriguing, she seemed to get me and I would have liked to kick it about a bit more, she could already see the funny side particularly given the slight pomposity of the previous customer's delivery... 'It comes from being a patron of, buying something from someone...' I concluded.

And my morning had completed one full circle already.

I walked towards the tube thinking that I wished I had time today to research when the term to 'patronise' became linked to condescension - my instinct is that the answer lies in the rise of the middle class in the nineteenth century.

In the sense that this was the point at which the dominant language became the property of a new self-made merchant and manufacturing class for whom the notion of patronage was an archaism. A term redolent of a time when the only means of advancement for their forefathers were at the whim of a member of the aristocracy.

This in a sense is why Tony Blair's notion of Victorian charity is rather different from that of the Victorians. Your Victorian wants everyone to know what he gives and indeed for those who recieve that charity to understand from whence it came.

Tony likes a little less clarity over what we are getting for his money.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Joined Up Government

Remember 'Joined-Up Government'

Well there's a quick question I was thinking about as I listened (yes I know) to woman's hour (but it IS worth listening to this report) on Forced marriages ...

Jasvinder Sanghera, Director of Asian women's group Karmen Nirvana, was on but especially worth listening to was Shazia Kayoom, victim of a forced marriage.

Lisa Bandari, Head of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Forced Marriages Unit was also on the programme discussing (sensibly) the pros and cons of criminalising the families responsible (ie would it make people forced by their families into marriages more or less likely to come forward if they were criminalising their families, against the need to make it clear that this is criminal in order to discourage it happening... etc)

One aspect much-commented on was the need to comunicate with children in school about the fact that they could not and should not be forced into such unions ...then it hit me:

This must be why the government is promoting more faith schools

Go Tony! .. AS in GO, Tony.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Apparently Chester Cathedral has cast out the "heretical" Unitarian Church and banned its ministers and members from holding their annual service - the high point of their General Assembly - there.

The decision by the Dean and Chapter, which consists of laity as well as clergy, has caused dismay among Unitarians. One said: "In the entrance to Chester Cathedral there are signs saying 'welcome' in 26 languages. A Unitarian could be forgiven for doubting their sincerity."

I don't know about you, but I'd never heard of the Unitarian Church which, according to the Times, was founded in the 17th century, has no creed and rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.

Which all sounded pretty sensible to me, so I thought I'd find out more. I ended up at Hampstead Unitarians who say their religion is a spiritual journey and each one of us is an explorer. Reason is our map and conscience is our compass.

Our Chapel seeks to provide a loving community in which to explore, question and celebrate the meaning and value of life, without creed or dogma.

Apparently all sorts attend their services, including athiests and humanists! More to the point, these harmless heretics helpfully include on their website a Beliefomatic test to find out if you share their beliefs.

It's quite good fun even, I suspect, for "those of no faith". Anyway my top ten was:

Neo-Pagan (100%)
Reform Judaism (92%)
Sikhism (85%)
Unitarian (80%)
Liberal Quakers (80%)
New Age (80%)
Scientology (73%)
Mahayana Buddhism (70%)
New Thought (69%)
Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (65%)

So, I'm a total witch (or a wizard) which will come as no surprise to some. I found it quite a relief that at the bottom of my league table came Jehovah's Witness at 14 per cent, though slightly disconcerting to discover I'm more of a Scientologist than C of E!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Who's Choice is it Anyway?

On Tuesday George Bush said that Iraqis have to choose "chaos or unity".

He may just as well have said that workers at the World Trade Center have to choose between remaining 1,000 feet in the air or hitting the ground very fast.