Monday, June 29, 2009

boy scout wankers

In the Tom Bell Hut at the Scouting movement's buildings at Hebden Hey in West Yorkshire, there is a carving of the scout fleur-de-lys logo. The artist has signed it 'Donald Potter 1932'.

Carving of Scout logo

The explanatory plaque at its base has been moved to a somewhat ill-fitting place in the centre, in order to make way for a more recent explanatory one. The explanation on the latter reads

This carving was hung in the rover den of the 2nd (Heath Grammar School) Halifax Scout Hut for 50 years, until the group closed in 1984, when it was presented to this hostel along with the assets of the Group.

That original plaque reveals something altogether more saucy;

was presented to
in grateful memory of the Mother & Aunt of the donor

plaque as described

Oh come on, stop smirking. That's just our modern smutty minds corrupting innocent and noble sentiment, right?

I mean, 'intensely sympathetic to young men and boys' doesn't necessarily mean any carnal activity to alleviate any other urges, does it?

Don't be so sure.

This section was deleted by the publishers from the original edition of Lord Baden-Powell's Scouting For Boys in 1908, but was reinstated in the 2004 reprint

You all know what it is to have at times a pleasant feeling in your private parts, and there comes an inclination to work it up with your hand or otherwise.

Well, lots of fellows, from not knowing any better, please themselves in this way until it often becomes a sort of habit with them which they cannot get out of.

The practice is called self abuse and the result is that the boy after time becomes weak and nervous and shy.

He gets headaches and probably palpitation of the heart, and if he still carries it on too far he very often goes out of his mind and becomes an idiot.

A very large number of the lunatics on our asylums have made themselves ill by indulging in this vice although at one time they were sensible cheery boys like you.

The use of your private parts is not to play with when you are a boy but to enable you to get children when you are grown-up and married.

But if you misuse them while young, you will not be able to use them when you are a man.

Remember too that several awful diseases come from indulgence - one especially that rots away the inside of men's mouths, their noses and eyes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

watching them watching us

My new article about the intimidation of people who expose police wrongdoing seems rather timely.

The Guardian have just released footage showing how members of FITwatch (who monitor police filming of protests) were singled out, assaulted and then arrested at the Kingsnorth climate camp. They were remanded in prison for four days. Then - surprise - all charges were dropped.

Watch the Guardian film and judge for yourself.

Monday, June 22, 2009

nothing to see

The footage of police fatally assaulting Ian Tomlinson and assaulting people en masse at the G20 has prompted a lot of concern about police attitudes. But the first thing the police did when the Tomlinson footage went online was visit the publisher's offices and demand it be taken down.

Two documentary films showing police repression have been met with similar - far stronger - attempts to stop them being seen. In doing that, the police make clear that if justice challenges their authority then they regard it as an enemy.

I've just published a new article on U-Know about those films and the police campaigns against them, called Nothing To See.

Friday, June 19, 2009

government to bury coal

When there was a cabinet reshuffle that put Geoff 'Buff' Hoon in Transport and Ed Miliband in Climate Change and Energy, a friend said this meant the Heathrow third runway would go ahead (Hoon is the government's flak magnet), but that Kingsnorth would be scrapped (Miliband really means it, within the limits of the roles he has).

I thought this was a bit simplistic and cartoony, yet it appears to be bang on.

Having already said that there will be no new coal plants operating without full-scale carbon capture from 2025, Miliband plans to go one further.

Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, is proposing to extend his plans to force companies to fit carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) onto new coal plants – as revealed by the Guardian – to cover a dozen existing coal plants.

The consultation published by his Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) conceded that if this happened "we could expect them to close".

As the climate doesn't differentiate between emissions from new coal plants and those from old ones, making emissions restrictions apply to all coal stations is entirely sensible. However, the cost of retro-fitting will be huge and many plants - especially those a long way from anywhere that can store CO2 - would close down.

They really would shut them rather than cough up. Already a bunch of coal stations are to close in 2015, not because they're clapped out but because new regulations on sulphur emissions come into force then and it's too expensive to retro-fit the gear to comply.

The new announcement from Miliband, if it goes through (and it's still an if) would probably mean the closure of Drax and others.

Also, the government has decided to delay the decision on who gets to run the pilot plant with CCS for another 18 months. As they still want it to be up and running by 2014 there almost certainly wouldn't be time to built a new plant, it would have to be a bolt-on to an old station.

Not only would that mean we get practical experience in retro-fitting and make it more viable, it also means no Kingsnorth.

Miliband told the Guardian that the short space of time for E.ON to build a new plant was "one of the factors" which would influence the decision but declined to comment further.

Paul Golby, E.ON's chief executive, has admitted the firm would not build Kingsnorth if it did not win the competition.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

no cameras please, we're police officers

Police have long believed that any activity they don't like should be treated as illegal. It doesn't have to be confrontational or rowdy, just not to their liking.

Recent changes in the law about taking photos of police have muddied the waters a bit, so let's be clear about what the law is. The Association of Chief Police Officers makes clear that taking photographs in public is not illegal.

Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Their powers are strictly regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order. This applies equally to members of the media seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places

Ah, but you can 'suspect terrorist intent' of someone taking a photo of a police car churning up the grass in your local park.

Whilst the police are deploying ever more officers to photograph and film people doing nothing illegal in order to be stored on databases of ne'er-do-wells, they are also increasing their aversion to lenses being pointed at them.

At the G20 protests on April 1st police ordered press photographers to clear the area under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. This gives police the powers to limit public assemblies that

may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community

They were essentially saying that the photographers were not observers but were part of the demonstration. They knew it was bollocks, but nobody wants to be arrested and it got the lenses out of the way whilst officers used dogs on the crowd.

It didn't begin at the G20. Resenting the increasing harassment they're subjected to, last year photographers petitioned the Prime Minister. Responding to it in January, 10 Downing Street sought not to reassure but assert the need to restrict unofficial people bearing witness.

the law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else in a public place. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations, inflame an already tense situation, or raise security considerations.

Later that month, a photographer at the demonstration against the BBC's decision not to broadcast an appeal for Gaza was confronted by a member of the Forward Intelligence Team

The police officer said “let me have a look at that picture.” I said, “No”. The police officer then said, “You’re not allowed to take photos of police officers”. I then said, “Don’t be ridiculous of course I can take pictures of police officers”. The police officer then tried to take my camera from me.

After a bit of time I think the police officer realised he was in the wrong trying to forcibly take my equipment from me. He then got very close to me, way into my personal space, and said again “you shouldn’t have taken that photo you were intimidating me”. I think that if Marc [Vallee] had not been there taking these photos the situation could have ended very differently.

The copper needn't have waited too long. Less than three weeks later the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 came into force. Amongst other things, it extended the laws against gathering information on the armed forces to include the police. This measure was tagged on at the end of the debate on the House of Commons so nobody could argue.

Under section 76, it is now an offence to obtain information about a police officer ‘which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’, punishable by up to ten years in jail.

A Liberal Democrat peer proposed an amendment to change the wording from 'likely to be useful' to 'with the intention that it is useful'. They withdrew it after being told that the Explanatory Notes to the new law say the new offence will only be committed where the information in question is

such as to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to assist in the preparation or commission of an act of terrorism, and must be of a kind that was likely to provide practical assistant to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

That provides for some relief, until you realise what constitutes terrorism. The definition is to do (or threaten to do) certain kinds of action

designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public... for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

What kinds of action? As well as the stuff we’d think of such as serious violence against people, we have

serious damage to property

Serious damage to property for a political cause? This easily covers the more spectacular bits of direct action even if they could not harm anyone. The definition is so broad that the Terrorism Act has been invoked to search people attending the Climate Camp at Heathrow and protesters outside – oh rich irony – DSEi, Europe’s largest arms fair.

It’s easy to see how someone taking pictures of police could be assisting someone doing that sort of thing. It looks like FITwatch are squarely in the frame.

The new law can be readily applied to a photograph taken by someone on a demonstration that includes an identifiable police building or vehicle, and arguably any officer. Certainly, it’s enough for them to cite it to arrest someone to clear them out of the way even if charges aren’t brought.

As George Monbiot notes

No Act has been passed over the last 20 years with the aim of preventing anti-social behaviour, disorderly conduct, trespass, harrassment and terrorism which has not also been deployed to criminalise a peaceful public engagement in politics.

No officer can seriously have thought anyone at Heathrow was a terrorist. They were just using the powers as an extension of the I Don't Like Your Face Act to deal with people that higher powers had decided should be obstructed and intimidated.

As they've proven at every opportunity, adding to the arsenal of available powers can only add to the confidence and range of harassment.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

do have a cow

Margaret Thatcher milk snatcher breaks her arm. David Blunkett has his ribs broken by a cow.

In a week when Nick Griffin had eggs thrown at him, it's certainly an escalation for someone to chuck a cow at Blunkett. But the Griffin thing's not part of the true pattern. I'm seeing a cows/politicians/broken bones commonality here.

These things come in threes, so what's next? I think it'll be Peter Mandelson trampled to death by rabid buffalo. Hopefully.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

guinness is indifferent for you

advert reading 'Guinness is good for you'

Last yuletide I did a piece about second-day drinking tactics, saying

grasp the fact that you’re not going to eat properly any time soon, so it’s essential to have something that feels like nutriment. To this end, neck a pint of stout.

People will tell you that women on labour wards used to be given stout after childbirth to replace lost iron. The fact is that it’d take gallons of the stuff to get your RDA, but that’s not the point. To you in your mentally pliable state – and, in all likelihood, to those women – it feels true, and that's what counts.

But hang on a minute. I'm basing my assertion that it'd take gallons on what a mate (admittedly a seasoned Irish lifetime career drinker) told me once in the pub. To paraphrase Jermaine Jackson, let's get rigorous. Time to do a bit of number crunching.

How much iron do you need?

The government says

adult men need 8.7mg of iron a day. For women the figure is 14.8mg

A 2003 government report into toxicity (around 100mg of iron can be lethal apparently) says

Estimated average daily iron requirements in the UK are 8.7 and 6.7 mg for males aged 11-18 and 19+ years, respectively. For women in the 11-50 years age group the estimated average daily iron requirement is 11.4 mg, whilst that for postmenopausal (50+ years) women is 6.7 mg.

The American government's page breaks it down into age groups, but it basically says adult men need 8mg a day, pre-menopausal women need 18mg.

A little variation there, then, but we get the general idea. Now we move on to the source.

How much iron is there in stout?

An Irish health insurance company says there is 0.3mg in a pint of Guinness. That's about the same as a bite of wholemeal toast or a solitary dried fig.

A pregnancy nutrition site confirms the figure (well, near enough at 0.28mg a pint), saying there is

0.05mg of iron in 100mls of stout, compared with 0.9mg in 100mls of red wine

Of course, you don't drink equal volume of stout and wine. We need to compare by units of alcohol or drink for drink. But even then, red wine's the clear winner.

By the iron figures they give it works out as:

Stout - 0.28mg/pint or 0.12mg/unit
Red wine - 1.58mg/glass (175ml), or 0.75mg/unit

So whichever way you cut it, red wine provides substantially more iron than stout - 18 times as much per millilitre, or more than six times as much per unit of alcohol. No surprise, then, that red wine is the only booze to make it on to the UK government's dietary iron for dummies page.

How much do you need for your daily iron?

If there's 0.28mg in a pint and if we play with the present government iron numbers (8.7mg for men and 14.8mg for women), to get your recommended daily allowance of iron you'd need to drink:

Men - 31 pints of stout a day
Pre-menopausal women - 53 pints of stout a day

If you slurp the other stuff its;

Men - 967 ml of red wine a day
Pre-menopausal women - 1645 ml of red wine a day

There's another consideration that's been the room-contained pachyderm here, though.

How much iron can alcohol safely provide?

The (unrealistic to expect even if they are actually right about what's good for us) recommended maximum alcohol consumption is 3-4 units of alcohol per day for men and 2-3 for women.

Stout can safely provide a maximum of:
5.5% of a man's iron
2.4% of a woman's iron

Red wine can safely provide a maximum of:
34.5% of a man's iron
15.2% of a woman's iron

African print advert reading 'Guinness gives you POWER'

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

euro elections: epilogue

Newly released footage reveals how the British public figured out who to vote for.

(I fear I may never blog in another format ever again).

Friday, June 05, 2009


Last week, when it still seemed like Nick Griffin was going to go to a do at Buckingham Palace, the excellent Five Chinese Crackers posted a funny little animation of Griffin and the queen.

It finished with the words 'if you can type, you can make movies.'.

It's a real tin-claim/actual-effect match. I haven't looked at any instructions or anything, and it's quick and easy to make these weird lego-people animations.

Whilst I'm sure it'll have great purpose in satire and whatnot, my first impulse was to make it sweary. Let's make computer voice software say the words of Ice-T's Straight Up Nigga and be responded to by a woman saying all manner of filth.

Then, let's recontextualise the Theme From Shaft.

It's really easy, it's free, no catches as far as I can see. Apart from the fact that's it's probably going to be the biggest distraction time-hoover ever invented.

Have a go.



Having encouraged friends to have a go, I've been sent a link to this masterwork

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

euro elections 4: tweedledum and tweedledee

After the BNP, two anti-BNP, Green, and the UKIP leaflets, limping through the door at the last minute come the leaflets from Labour and Conservatives. Didn't get one from the LibDems, unless you count their Focus faux-newsletter.


The Conservatives explain that they've been fighting for our economy. At least, that's the heading.

Part of the Conservative leaflet about their action on the economy

They give us two sentences saying the economy's bad. That's not actually Conservative action. Then a third saying they've 'opposed job-destroying EU laws'.

In case you're hard of reading, in the next section they tell us they've 'opposed job-destroying EU laws', like the Working Time Directive and the Agency Workers Directive.

The Working Time Directive means you must get
  • a maximum working week of 48 working hours
  • a 20 minute break after working six hours
  • 4 weeks paid leave a year
  • one day off out of seven

The Agency Workers Directive means that after 12 weeks in a job, you must get the same rights as other employees.

Fucking hell I wish I'd had those rules ten years ago when I worked in a call centre doing anything up to 70 hours a week with no overtime, no paid breaks, no leave entitlement. The Conservatives would like people to still be being treated like that. Indeed, they're trumpeting their pride in it as a policy.

What else could we expect from the party who want to see the unemployed doing drudgery - moat cleaning or whatever - for less than £2 an hour. (It should be noted that Labour favour the same thing).

But the conservatives are further out. David Cameron has also spoken out against the Equality Bill which, as Johann Hari notes,

requires companies to calculate the gap between what women are paid and what men are paid in their organisation, and publish it. Some companies have squealed that their gap will be large, because their managers are overwhelmingly male, and their cleaners are overwhelmingly women. Well, yes...

David Cameron has come out against pay audits, and tried to scupper the Equality Bill entirely. He wants a company to have to publish its pay gap only in the very rare cases where a woman has fought a sex discrimination case and won. So instead of every company doing it, virtually none will. The message to every woman in Britain is clear: David Cameron doesn't want you to know if you're being ripped off at work.

Cameron doesn't favour equality or fairness, he favours the maintenance of the present power structure (you can take the boy out of Eton...). Certainly, it's the polar opposite of their election slogan Vote For Change.

What else have the Conservatives done in Europe? Well, as these election leaflets are necessarily concise and with five years of political activity to summarise there's only room for the big issues and actions that keep us secure and protect our very lives.

Part of the Conservative leaflet about their action on EU laws

Two sentences about buying your fruit and veg in imperial measures, one about supporting measures that everyone else supported. Oh bravo.

Still, at least they mention Europe properly, which is more than the Labour leaflet. Mind you, that's not necessarily their fault. With all the questions and media attention being about domestic politics, a leaflet that did actually talk about European Parliamentary business, that even mentioned that the parties in your country are not how it works in that parliament, would fail to connect and would even draw flak for dodging what the election is 'really' about.


Whilst the headings might claim 'Real Help for Yorkshire and Humber', it's nothing to do with the constituency or even European Parliament business.

Then there is a small section on how they have 'delivered for Yorkshire and the Humber'.

Section of Labour leaflet about their incumbent MEPs

Four points.

A first vague one about providing jobs.
The second one, rather like the Conservative leaflet, details supporting Eurostuff, including stuff that everyone supported.
Thirdly, their MEPs are MEPs. Wow, what a great reason to vote for them.
Fourthly, their MEPs actually live in Yorkshire. Big whoop.

Five years since the last European election and this is all you can claim?

Inside the leaflet they take four areas and set out their achievements that the Conservatives opposed. Protecting workers, immigration, climate change (wherein 'clean coal' is a good thing) and tilting the tax and benefits system to favour working families.

Having made the general case against voting Conservative quite well and at length, they have a little pop at the LibDems. Rather like the repetition in the Conservative leaflet, the two sections about the LibDems are the same point repeated, even using the same phrases.

Section of Labour leaflet about Lib Dems

'They are soft on crime'. The two bits of evidence are their wish to

end the use of imprisonment as a punishment for possession for own use of illegal drugs of any class.

Oh jeez, let's go over this again. If anyone has a large amount of drugs on them - even if there's no other evidence - they tend to get prosecuted for intent to supply. Being prosecuted solely for possession means it's just small personal amounts.

When someone's in court and there's no evidence of them having done any harm to anyone else - and often not even themselves - how can anyone say with a straight face that it would improve their life to go to prison? That it is a proportionate and just thing for the community to do, that it is the best way for the state to spend thousands of pounds?

What else would the LibDems do to let baby eating demons feast on your innards? They would

remove the possibility of a custodial sentence for juveniles convicted of breaching an ASBO.

Again, see this crime in context.

Most anti-social behaviour is already against the law. If you intimidate someone, vandalise something, it's a crime. ASBOs are there to make something that's not illegal a crime just for you. Don't go near this playground, don't play football in the street, don't be outdoors with more than three people.

This is not stopping imprisonment for smashing something or hurting anyone, only for things that could be preparatory to that sort of crime. Incarcerating children for that, putting them in an institution with proper young criminals, is a good thing according to Labour.

If those two entirely sensible policies are the worst they can find to say about the LibDems then I can see why the LibDems didn't need to put their own leaflet through the door.

Monday, June 01, 2009

euro elections 3: ukip

Not to be outdone by the BNP's election leaflets using a Spitfire in flight, UKIP's publicity material has a big picture of Churchill.

UKIP European election leaflet featuring Winston Churchill

UKIP, despite the past racist activism of their members, do try to draw the line between themselves and actual racism. They are, they say, just there to stop national power being ceded to Europe. And who says that better than Winston Churchill, a man who spoke so eloquently of a cure for Europe's ills which

would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is to-day.

What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom.

We must build a kind of United States of Europe.

Ah. But surely we've gone too far now. I mean, all that Human Rights Act claptrap. Churchill would never have saddled us with that. Which rotter signed us into that European Convention on Human Rights then?

(It was the bloke who was prime minister in the early 50s. Big cigar, you know the one.)

On the back of the UKIP leaflet they declare that

UKIP candidates are real people, not career politicians

And, as if to fit with the wackiness of a party that lists Patrick Moore and Joan Collins among its figureheads, they tell us about their candidates backgrounds.

list of UKIP candidates for Yorkshire

Now I'm not saying there's anything intrinsically wrong with being a licensed hypnotherapist or former England under-21 international chess player who got a degree in mathematics at 19, but why are these things listed as qualifications for office?

Surely they want to demonstrate either political acumen and nouse, or else to show they're 'of the people'. Yet given just two or three points to make about themselves the Ukippers gallop towards the stranger end of their biographies.

Still, when your party has figureheads like Patrick Moore and Roy Wood glaring down, the relative scale of eccentricity must be hard to gauge.

Stare at them for thirty seconds and tell me you don't feel really weird.

Roy Wood in his hirsute seventies glory, and the sternly monocled Patrick Moore

UKIP Euro-candidate David Campbell-Bannerman cites Patrick Moore's knowledge as an astronomer (or 'astrologer' as he calls it) to lend credibility to his belief that climate change is not caused by humans. He adds that the polar ice caps may be melting on earth, but they're also melting on Venus. The only problem is that, being a lot closer to the sun, it is hundreds of degrees too hot for there to ever be any ice caps on Venus.

Coming from a party who think Sarah Palin should be the next president of the USA we can't be too surprised. But, as with Palin last year, candidates who are prepared to take a contrarian stance on the most urgent problem facing humanity and are only able to defend it with made-up stuff that can be disproven with a seven year old's scientific knowledge don't inspire confidence.

Dammit though, if I'm going to condemn future generations to the impacts of catastrophic climate change, I want it to be from a position of British profligacy rather than have our carbon be subsumed into some Euro-emissions.

If I'm going to be fucked over by a greedy capitalist elite it's vital that the puppets they install to ease their path round here are born in the same country as me. I'm voting UKIP.