August 2008

Free and fair elections?

Archived Stop Press article

Saakashvili and palSaakashvili and pal
Did you know that President Saakashvilli had a landslide victory in his 2003 election with 95 per cent support?

In 2008 he narrowly won a second election yet the victory announcement was was highly unusual and made it appear that more than half of ballots had been counted in just one hour. As the announcement was made, the commission’s election website showed that votes in fewer than half the electoral precincts had been counted. Mikheil Saakashvili won 52.8 per cent of the vote in provisional results announced by the head of Georgia’s election commission, just above the 50 per cent threshold required for an outright victory in the first round. Not everyone was best pleased. See here.

Victoria Climbié's sorry legacy -

and 11 million children lose their civil liberties

Victoria ClimbiéVictoria Climbié

In January 2001 Marie-Therese Kouao and Carl John Manning were convicted of the torture and murder of Victoria Climbié'. This was a cause célèbre. The Laming Inquiry exposed the usual shambolic catalogue of errors, carelessness and mismanagement as is usual in such cases. The only people spared from criticism were Victoria's parents. Lord Laming stated that:

I wish to pay a warm tribute to Victoria's parents, Francis and Berthe Climbié. They were present for the whole of Phase One of this Inquiry. Their love for Victoria was clear, as were their hopes that she would receive a better education in Europe. In the face of the most disturbing evidence about the treatment of their daughter, they displayed both courage and dignity...... Victoria's parents' reasons for allowing her to travel to Europe with Kouao fall outside the Terms of Reference of this Inquiry. It is not a matter I will be dealing with, except to observe that I have seen evidence which shows that entrusting children to relatives living in Europe who can offer financial and educational opportunities unavailable in the Ivory Coast is not uncommon in Victoria's parents' society.

Well it should have been.

The things people say

The wettest silly season on record?

Me and my big mouth Me and my big mouth
This summer has has been, so far, one of the wettest in my memory. Likewise this silly season has been one of the silliest, hence the title of this post. I can only assume that since the reduction of our Parliament via the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution from something important to a mere district office of the EU our elected representatives, shorn of real responsibility, can say what they like. And it seems they do just that. I've already noted this from Michael Meacher see HERE and Denis MacShane see HERE.

But why should these two have all the fun? Other MPs are now taking a turn. First up is Nick Raynsford MP for Greenwich, he is spooked like many of his kind by the collapse in Nulabour's poll ratings. In an article in the New Statesman, see HERE, he tries to find some cheer, you have to admire this as it is bound to be hard work. A great deal of what he writes goes wide of the mark, it has no relevance at all to the here and now.

We are building better prisons

to contain women who have had illicit sexual relations

abused prisonersabused prisoners

The Independent tells us that the two most common 'crimes' committed by women and girls are: escaping from home and illegal sexual relations. The first carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, the second 20. These are two of the most common accusations facing female prisoners in Afghanistan.

Two-thirds of the women in Lashkar Gah's medieval-looking jail have been convicted of illegal sexual relations, but most are simply rape victims – mirroring the situation nationwide. The system does not distinguish between those who have been attacked and those who have chosen to run off with a man. A female shura, or consultative council, was established in Helmand province last week to try to combat the injustice of treating an abused woman as a criminal, and not a victim.

Big brother at school

Archived Stop Press article

sod culture
sod privacy
sod culture sod privacy

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), conducted a snapshot survey of 249 primary and secondary schools. See here. They found that 85% had CCTV in their school. 7% said there were cameras in their classrooms and 15% said they had more than 20 cameras in their school. 10% said they had cameras in their school's toilets. (I hope they this footage doesn't get lost.)

At the same time Dr Susie Anderson of the British Dental Association says:"It really is a desperate situation when we have got parts of the country where the average 5 year old has lost three teeth." She sees the impact on children as " potentially devastating" unless changes to the NHS dental contract are made.

Has this government got its priorities in a twist?

Catchall laws

Archived Stop Press article

justice?justice?

The British legal system used to have a have a high reputation. The latest proposal is saddening. The Times tells us that 'sensitive' inquests that are deemed a risk to national security by the Government would be held in secret in future under proposed powers to come before the House of Lords this autumn.
Not satisfied with secret family courts where children can be removed from families who have not been charged with a crime we now will have secret inquests for those deaths that might prove embarrassing to government. This would include deaths such as David Kelly and certain military casualties

The provisions come under a clause in the Counter-Terrorism Bill. We now have legal creep whereby a law, ostensibly to protect us from terrorism, is so broad and vague that it can be used for almost any purpose that the government wishes.

Lucky for some

Every dog has its day

Cameron and friend Cameron and friend
Today Glenrothes seeped into our world. For, following the death of the sitting Labour MP, John MacDougall, the Glenrothes' constituency will have a by-election anytime in the near future. But where is Glenrothes? Well look for the county of Fife on the map, Glenrothes is roughly in the middle. Also, when is 'anytime in the near future?' Well that is the part of the problem, for the the real question is which side of the Labour Party Conference to hold the by-election? So another trip-wire is already strung out for both poor old Gordon Brown and the Labour Party. If the party does badly need he fall too?

Pure Denis

*Please feel sorry for these men

MacShane MacShane
Now that our MPs have signed away our rights via the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution they have very little to do as Westminster is subservient to Brussels: alas few of our MPs seem to have grasped this. No longer needed to run our affairs they use the free time to demonstrate their grasp of world events, or not as the case may be. So Denis MacShane has written in the Telegraph on the subject of Georgia and it is pure Denis, see HERE. MacShane sets off with a reference to events of 40 years ago -

Czechoslovakia was once described by a Conservative prime minister as "a faraway country of which we know nothing".

Note how the Prime Minister does not have a name and wonder how candid today's PM would be if asked a searching question about Georgia. For MacShane is confusing his readers with his quotes and may himself be confused. The quote about the faraway country was by Neville Chamberlain in 1938 (and is misquoted) and 40 years ago, 1968, Alexander Dubček was the leader of Czechoslovakia when the Russian tanks rolled across the border to end the period known as the Prague Spring.

Reporting some of the facts

Don't blame the elephant

and moneyand money

The Daily Mail tells us that 'shock, horror' that Regional Development Agencies are very expensive. It reports:

The TaxPayers' Alliance called for the nine RDAs to be abolished and their funding to be used to encourage new businesses and jobs through a 4p cut in the small business rate of corporation tax.

RDAs were set up by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in 1999 as part of his drive to create regional assemblies in England.

While Mr Prescott's hopes of elected regional governments foundered because of public hostility, the nine agencies have remained.

Spies in the sky looking at YOU

Yet more loss of civil liberties

French UAVFrench UAV
Both the
Independent
and the Daily Mail write about the proposal to employ drones to further impinge on our privacy and civil liberties. They imply that this is a cross party decision by the House of Commons Defence committee. However, that committee comprises 8 labour, 4 Tory and 2 Lib Dems so is not exactly unbiassed. We never think of these things unaided, naturally there is an EU. The European Union’s joint defence ministry has signed an agreement with a consortium of European defence contractors to develop a strategy for integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into European airspace by 2015.See here

Deutsche Welle tells us that in February:

[i]The European Commission agreed to a plan to collect fingerprints and photographs from foreigners entering the EU, part of an effort to fortify the bloc's borders. The plan, which was presented on Wednesday, Feb. 13, could see EU funds used to develop surveillance equipment like cameras, sensors and pilot-less drones.