28 11 2008

I don’t know which bit of news has annoyed me more today, the sentencing of the seven members of the gang who killed Gerry Tobin, or the interrogation and arrest of Damian Green for revealing information about various immigration blunders by the Government. At this stage I wish to add that I am not in the best of moods, and so am unwilling to be sympathetic or indeed impartial.


My problem with the first story is this. All seven members of the biking gang were sentenced for killing Tobin. The judge admitted that he did not know exactly who pulled the trigger. In horse racing this is called “hedging your bets”. Obviously the murder was appaling, as is the back story to it. But at the end of the day, the judge has sentenced six people for killing someone when they didn’t do it. I would be willing to bet that in say, five years, at least two of them have appealed this sentence on the grounds that they didn’t shoot Tobin, thereby giving the name of the guilty man. I thought it was the job of the police/ detectives et al to work this stuff out? I know it might be hard, but surely that’s their job? As it is, they have come to court unsure of the real killer, and so the judge has had to “hedge his bets” and sentence them all.

This though trifles in comparison to the Damian Green story. Arrested by counter-terrorism officers, interrogated for nine hours, whilst having his home and office raided; it sounds like something more fitting in Stalinist Russia than 2008 Britain. And all because he brought some information which painted the government in a bad light into the public domain? Really? I agree with good ol’ Dave Cameron here, the public have a right to know this sort of information. It has been indicated that immigration policies were proving poorly handled, and Green merely brought this to our attention. Ok, it makes the government look bad, but that’s the oppositions role in this thing called democracy. They are there to seize upon mistakes of the party in power in order to bring about change. There has been something seriously flawed in governmental operations, but instead of worrying about that, arresting the guy who brought this to light was the choice made. Whilst the government, and now the police force too, are insisting that the Labour party had nothing to do with this there is likely to be an element of doubt (although conspiracy theorists are already relating it to the departure of Sir Ian Blair) as in my mind the whole incident paints both Labour and the Metropolitan Police Force in bad light.

Reading through some comments about this on Nick Robinson’s blog, there is one very interesting comment made. The writer DistantTraveller asks three questions:

I think we are entitled to ask if Sir Ian Blair and Jaquie Smith knew about this in advance?

If not, why not?

If so, how do they justify it?

Either way, this is not looking good for the two groups. It is interesting how this could maybe work positively for the Tories following, what, on the surface, looks like a bad revelation.


New Link…

25 11 2008

Normally I don’t blog about adding a new link, but this is my way of self publicising my new blog. Whereas The Cowfield will still be my vehicle for venting my views about the news, The Written Word will be a more sedate place that looks at all things literature (and poetry). It will hopefully become a forum for discussion on a range of different works with contributions from people who aren’t me. Having only just gone live, The Written Word is rather light on content at the moment, but check back soon when I hope to have a few more posts up there and hope to have invited people to contribute.

Ed: If you would like to contribute, leave me a message. You will have to be a member of WordPress first, so set up an account, and tell me the email you used to sign up with.

Fire the Taser…

24 11 2008

Whilst on my way to work today, I was listening to an interesting discussion on the new Taser related idea spring forth from the mouth of Jacqui. The discussion (on Radio 2 – meaning I’m becoming more like my parents) highlighted well both sides of the argument and raised some interesting questions.

Having listened to the discussion, I came away thinking I was probably more in favour of the idea than against it. For me, the argument hinged on the asp vs taser aspect. For those who don’t know, the asp is basically an extendable truncheon designed to beat down the criminal. This, in itself, has the potential to cause a great deal of damage to the criminal, depending on where it strikes. Being hit by a metal pole cannot be comfortable for the victim. In addition to this the policeman has to be within range to make his strike, meaning that he is potentially at risk from a swinging knife, or bottle, or something similar. One slip and the police officer could be facing huge problems.

On the other hand, the taser removes this problem of proximity, as the officer can afford to be much further away and still strike his opponent well enough to render the criminal immobile. I can fully understand why the police would, based solely upon this, think that the taser is a good idea. Taser’s are cleaner, quicker and leave less lasting impact upon the criminal.

There is though, one small problem, they will kill people with dodgy hearts. Maybe even some without. Tasers have the potential to do something that the asp does not (unless used incorrectly). They could be fired at someone without knowing that they have a bad heart, and leave them dead. This then, gives the criminal the advantage, “I have a bad heart” would be a common excuse, and would buy the criminal time as the officer works out whether the criminal is telling the truth. It would only take one mistake for the police force to come under intense media scrutiny, inevitably costing the one unlucky officer his or her job. Tasers carry a risk.

The counter argument to this is that the fault would lie at the feet of the criminals in the first place. The police attempt to always defuse a situation with words primarily. Only when the situation has got out of hand are more forceful methods employed. If the criminal has got to this stage, then, so the argument goes, they get what is coming to them. If they know they have a dodgy heart, perhaps it wouldn’t be worthwhile pushing the officer too far. I think I agree with this line of thinking. There is a need to remember that criminals are just that. They have done something wrong, and must have done something very wrong for force to be considered an option. Tasers are a significant step down from guns, can we imagine where the country would be if Jean Charles De Menezes had been tasered rather than shot? Tasers are a much more preferable option to killing someone, I’m sure most would agree. Yes, they carry a risk, but what method of force doesn’t? Sometimes force is required to stop someone, tasers, with the capacity to incapacitate someone, are, I think, a real option in the world of crime fighting, and one which should be used.

Out for a Duck…

23 11 2008

Whilst listening to Five Live on the way home from work today, I became increasingly frustrated as we received updates from the fourth one-day international between India and England. This match is an important one for England as they need to win it to stay in the series. Due to various weather problems, the match had been reduced to 22 overs each. No problem thus far.

India, batting first, had had their innings disrupted due to the poor Indian weather. They posted 166-4 off their allocated overs. This therefore set England a target of 167 to win. This was a distinctly makable target for England, who, at the time of writing are on 131-3 after 16 overs. This means they would need 30 odd runs off six overs. This would be fine, except that the crazy Duckworth-Lewis rule means that England are actually chasing 198. This means that they need a much more demanding 60 odd runs from the same amount of overs

The Duckworth-Lewis is one of the most contentious rules in sport. Designed to create a result in the event of inclement weather, it’s authority has never really been questioned. No-one really gets how it works, and no-one really questions the targets that are set. I feel that it is about time that this rule is looked at. The sport means a lot to a lot of people, not least the players and coaching staff who potentially have their jobs on the line (there are various calls from some sections of the media for various players heads following a series of poor performances). If England lose this game they lose the series. The Duckworth-Lewis rule has made it very likely that England will either draw or lose the match, it is virtually impossible for England to win. It is time that this rule was looked at in some detail by those in the power within cricket.

“So Your Doctor’s a Racist?”

20 11 2008

The title of my self-help pamphlet (coming soon in some doctor’s surgeries) aimed at those who feel disturbed at the list of BNP members in Britain now doing the rounds on the internet. Having not seen the list, I am unwilling to speculate about the build-up of the members of the party in various communities.

There are, however, those who have seen the list, and are more than a little concerned that a trusted member of their community is actually siding with the increasingly abhorrent BNP. Be it a doctor, fireman, policeman, plumber, builder or anybody else, the list’s circulation has suddenly put most people on alert. For those who are attacked by the BNP, this is all the more worrying.

As a white male, I can say that it wouldn’t bother me what the political alliegences were, say, of a doctor who was treating me, as long as he got the job done (as these people who are members have been doing for some time). But my limitations are in my ethnicity. I am proudly British, but not to the levels of the BNP. I am obviously not the person who has something to fear in the BNP’s rhetoric (which is different to having something to fear from the BNP’s aims). There are plenty of people who do have a lot to be wary of. The BNP is still a racist party, it still has dubious morals based around fancy rhetoric aimed at disguising the true ideals. It still is growing and recruiting members. It has a hollow message that appears to be striking a chord with the population somewhere. More scary, I would suggest, than those already on the list, would be the likelihood of more people adding themselves to it.

As a neat after-thought, I was in the centre of Birmingham on Monday, wandering through the German market. There were unusually high numbers of police for a Monday morning, but all became apparent as I rounded the corner to see roughly 50 BNP members holding a protest at something. There were at least the same amount of police as protesters. I was wondering why the police were there, was it to calm the protesters, or protect them? I can only speculate…

Also, I’ve been thinking more recently about Germany, and not just because of the football. It seems, to my mind, that Britain currently has some of the same attributes as Weimar Germany in the 1920s. Economic troubles? Check. Small, but growing nationalist party? Check. Resentment over a war? Check.

There is obviously a long way to go before anything like Nazism and Hitler could happen in this country, but the conditions are interestingly falling into place…and, as I’ve said before, history is cyclical…

A Moment of Reflection…

11 11 2008

Having spent much of this afternoon in the University’s Special Collections, I thought I would relay two of my findings which seem to have particular poignancy on this day.

They are both poems written by W.M. Letts in 1917.

The Deserter

There was a man, – don’t mind his name,
Whom Fear had dogged by night and day
He could not face the German guns
And so he turned and ran away.
Just that – he turned and ran away,
But who can judge him, you or I?
God makes a man of flesh and blood
Who yearns to live and not to die.
And this man when he feared to die,
Was scared as any frightened child,
His knees were shaking under him,
His breath came fast, his eyes were wild.
I’ve seen a hare with eyes as wild,
With throbbing heart and sobbing breath.
But oh! it shames one’s soul to see
A man in abject fear of death.
But fear had gripped him, so had death;
His number had gone up that day,
They might not heed his frightened eyes,
They shot him when the dawn was grey.
Blindfolded when the dawn was grey,
He stood there a place apart,
The shots rang out and down he fell,
An English bulelt in his heart.
An English bullet in his heart!
But here’s the irony of life, –
His mother thinks he fought and fell
A hero, foremost in the strife.
So she goes proudly; to the strife
Her best, her hero son she gave.
O well for her she does not know
He lies in a deserters grave.


John Delaney of the Rifles has been shot
A man we never knew
Does it cloud the day for you
That he lies among the dead
Moving, hearing, heeding not?

Read the rest of this entry »

Checkered Warnings…

5 11 2008

If you’ve had one eye on the news this week you will have seen how Lewis Hamilton won the F1 drivers championship in dramatic fashion in the last corners of the Brazillian Grand Prix. It was the first time a black person had won the championship.

Also, in America there was the small matter of an election. If you check many people’s facebook statuses you are likely to find out the outcome. Yup, that’s right Barack Obama fairly comprehensively beat John McCain to become the 44th President of the US of A. This election was different to Hamilton’s win, there was no dramatic comeback, no nail-biting moments as the Obama camp had pretty much controlled the race to the White House from start to finish. In all the analysis of the election victory, it is shown that Obama and his team got themselves ahead in the polls, and stayed there.

In the subsequent media overload Obama has captured the imagination of the world, nevermind America. The leftists have gushingly (and rather sickeningly) rushed to pronounce the saviour of world liberty. The right-wing in Britain have pointed to a new era of politician taking the helm.

All that is done and dusted now though. Here is where the real work begins. All the election work was good, but now Obama will be made by how he acts in relation to a few key matters, namely the economy, the war in Iraq, and global warming. These three have been discussed in varying amounts in the campaign, but, as they say, talk is cheap. There can be no illusions, this is the peak for Obama. It is all downhill from here. Now he is the public sweetheart, the apple of the eye of Americans, Brits, and Kenyans, apparently. Now he is on a high where the media love him. This cannot, and will not last. Once the media get their teeth into someone they can be painted however the media wants. Bush, for example, is still a buffoon, someone who cannot speak, write and is about as intelligent as a monkey. Yet he was clever enough to get himself elected now wasn’t he?

My point is that the media will soon fall out of love with Obama, unless he comes good on his promises. Even then situations may dictate that he may have to become the ‘bad guy’, or the ‘fall guy’. The old adage still stands true, what goes up must indeed come down. Obama is at the top now. The world are rejoicing at such a momentous occasion, as indeed this is. We should not get carried away though, and pretend that America has completely changed, there are still pockets of people (McCain voters) who are suspect of Obama due to skin colour. This is the legacy of history, and it will not be easily altered.

Whilst listening to the radio on the way to work I heard an interesting text message read out. It ran “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk so Barack Obama could run so our children can fly.” This though I feel adequately reveals the problems still to be overcome. Running to flying was a hell of a leap. Many are still maintaining that he won because of his skin colour rather than his politics. I think this, to some extent perhaps rings true. Only time will tell how he will be judged. At the moment he can do no wrong. Some day soon he will have to do so by some.