It’s Nothing Personal

I am not mourning the death of Michael Jackson. It’s nothing personal. And by that, I mean that’s the reason I’m not mourning. I didn’t know Mr Jackson. I don’t even know anyone who did know him.

It’s like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The world wailed and cried. I was sorry that she had left two young sons without a mother. Likewise, I am sorry that Michael Jackson’s young children will be without their father. I am also sorry for the thousands each day throughout the world who become orphans and feel the same loss as Prince, Paris, and Blanket (otherwise known by their real names: Michael, Paris, and Prince). But grief and mourning are based upon a personal loss.

He was a significant contributor to popular culture, though I can’t say that’s necessarily a particularly laudable thing, either. I don’t know that we are better off for the moonwalk, the crotch grab, or faux militaria and the single glove. Like I said, it’s nothing personal.

I am also sad for the thousands of people who appear to be beside themselves at his death. They seem lost for meaning or purpose and shocked that he is no longer “with us”. Why it should be remarkable that a 50-year-old man who constantly abused his body with surgery and drugs has died, I don’t know.  It speaks volumes about state of world.  Those volumes make up a very sad story (again, about the world, not about Jackson).

When it comes to people I know, with whom I have a relationship as family, friend, or even acquaintance, when they mourn, I mourn, for I participate in a small way in their loss. This is why as Orthodox Christians we have panikhida services in our parishes. We share each others’ love and temporary loss in hope of the Resurrection of the Dead and the life of the world to come. We light our own candle for a loved one now beyond the veil, but we light our candles from each other and they shine together. Together we sing, “Memory eternal!”

The wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson cheapens death itself. It shares something with the constant images of violence and death that are the substantance of so many films and video games. We no longer see it as our common end, a pointer to our own mortality. It is a spectator sport.

Let Michael Jackson’s family and friends grieve and mourn his loss. He has secured his place in history. Let it be for us to remember that as he has become, so shall we all one day be, awaiting the Final Judgement.

Hysterical Hatred of Heterosexual Christians

I happened upon the San Francisco Chronicle by clicking on a story from a newsfeed service. I was quickly reminded that religious hatred is not confined to Europe. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read anything so openly vitriolic and down-right nasty over here. Mark Morford – I was tempted to call him Mark Moron, but I didn’t want to stoop to his level of ad hominem – is commenting on what he calls “strange, alarmist, deeply homophobic ads” produced by the National Organization for Marriage that are running on television stations in five states. But don’t worry, he assures us, the gay marriage agenda is still on the move.

God, by the way, is a redneck. The logic is flawless. Rednecks like God. God went and set up marriage as a procreative relationship between a man and a woman. Ergo, God is a redneck. What’s more these rednecks are desperate. That is the only reason they would be producing such ads. They know the march of gay love is spreading across the land and these “terrified citizens with souls the size of marbles” can’t stop it. Now here’s my favourite bit:

Distraught Christians say we cannot possibly disobey the mangled, misinterpreted Bible when it comes to hetero marriage because, well, that’s how we’ve done it for centuries and it’s been such a tremendous success, with almost no unhappiness, divorce, abuse, oppression, depression, suicide, hypocrisy, or general misery that it’s obvious we shouldn’t mess with it.

That’s right. Christians are responsible for all the bad stuff that’s happened and continues to exist because for centuries they’ve mangled the Bible and gone all hetero. All we need to do is all love it up gay-style and the world will be a better place. Isn’t it obvious? What’s worse, they use bad actors. (Perhaps this is because all the good actors are either gay or pushing the gay rights agenda.)

Morford claims the ads are “clutching at straws, scraping bottom, leaning on the most absurd, least tenable arguments imaginable”, so he doesn’t provide a link to the legal background behind each statement in the ads. But then I’m sure he thinks it more than justified that a doctor was successfully sued for referring a same-sex couple to a different physician for artificial insemination, or that a New Jersey church lost its tax exemption because they wouldn’t allow their property to be used for civil union ceremonies, or that Massachusetts requires young elementrary school pupils be actively indoctrinated with idea that marriage and gay pseudo-marriage is the same. Yep, absurd untenable arguments that come from the redneck, heartland states of California, New Jersey, and Taxachusetts.

Morford can only compare these ads to two things. The first are hysterical ads being produced by oil companies promoting “rabid oil fetishism and addiction”. Since he doesn’t provide a link, I can’t comment on these ads and their fetishism. The only other comparison Morford has to those radically heterosexual ads  is the “hysterics of Fox News’ fringe nutball militia”, by which he means the “nauseating and preposterous” Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, and Michael Savage.

For Morford, those who oppose gay marriage, produce oil, or dare to be conservative and on television are all hysterical. Seems to me the one leaning on absurd, entenable arguments and raving with hysteria is Mark Morford.

Fancy Words

The state of the English language in England is now so poor that local councils have started banning Latin phrases and abbreviations. Staff are not allowed to use them in written or verbal communication. As reported in The Sunday Telegraph:

Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas, meaning beauty and health, has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use.

This includes bona fide, eg (exempli gratia), prima facie, ad lib or ad libitum, etc or et cetera, ie or id est, inter alia, NB or nota bene, per, per se, pro rata, quid pro quo, vis-a-vis, vice versa and even via.

Sadly, I can understand that they might have to contact some people who might not be unfamiliar with quid pro quo, but e.g., i.e., and etc.? Will motorists in Bournemouth not understand that they are being diverted via St Paul’s Road? Or that the speed limit is 30 miles per hour? With so many council jobs not full-time, how will they explain that the salary quoted in newspaper ads is pro rata?

Such fancy words and abbreviations are now considered elitist.

The Price of Profanity

While Americans are focused on the run-up to the General Election, Brits are in a frenzy over a late night prank on BBC Radio 2. Now you might think that put in perspective, the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross scandal is insignificant. Perhaps it is. But in and of itself, it is quite significant.

There are a significant number of people who think it is much ado about nothing. They argue that only two people complained when the broadcast went out and that it was only the national media outlets that have churned up the froth. Listeners to the more youth-oriented Radio 1 appear to be mostly in support of Brand and Ross. It says a lot about Radio 1 listeners that they have found the abusive and obscene phone calls to 78-year-old Andrew Sachs amusing.

For those blissfully unaware, Brand and Ross placed four telephone calls to the actor whose most famous role was as Manuel on Fawlty Towers. Using the crudest language, they describe how Brand had slept with Sach’s granddaughter. They also joked that Sachs might kill himself. That’s the bit that made the pre-recorded broadcast. Senior producers who signed off on it, actually cut fouteen lines of the dialogue. Sensitive readers might not want to click here for a transcript of what was said.

To draw an American analogy, it was basically like a Howard Stern routine with all of the obscenity explicit rather than implied. The other difference is that it was funded by license payers – in other words, everyone who owns a television. Television viewer pay for all of BBC Radio, with our forced £139.50 per year charged by the government (or fines of up to £1000 for failure to pay, and roaming enforcement vans with electronic spying equipment to catch offenders). If you had to pay $240 a year for other people to listen to Howard Stern say things for which he would be fined by the FCC, you might have something to say as well.

Jonathan Ross is the highest paid performer at the BBC, getting £6 million per year for crude and juvenile humour. When over 2,000 job cuts were announced at BBC News soon after he sealed his £18 million three-year deal, Ross openy boasted that he was worth more than 1,000 journalists. Russell Brand was on a mere £200,000 for an act that is entirey based on graphic details of his sexual exploits and proclivities.

Those who support Ross and Brand believe that entertainment, and particularly language, should have no boundaries – that there is nothing actually indecent. Well, you can’t say anything about Muslims, but other than that, everything is fair game. (And the whole Muslim thing is driven by fear rather than decency.)  Worse than that, it is a philosophy that anything that gets a laugh is acceptable regardless of who is hurts or offends.

Will the resignation of Russell Brand and the £1 million discipline of Jonathan Ross change the face of entertainment? No. Willing the BBC become a more decent place? Perhaps for a time, while everyone holds their breath waiting for the furore to settle. Sadly, I think that the values that underpin the glorfication of profanity are well entrenched, particularly amongst the young, and this creates a vicious cycle. The media panders to the profane and the profane become evermore acceptable, creating a greater appetite for it in entertainment.

The Pride of Britain

This is a disgusting country. After dealing with really nasty teenagers today, I came home to read this story about an incident in Derby. Rather than relay it to you, I’ll copy the first bit of the story:

A suicidal teenager was taunted until he jumped from the top of a city-centre car park by a crowd of baying shoppers who had gathered in the street below.

In a shocking indictment of modern Britain, youths passing in the shopping street yelled at Shaun Dykes to kill himself over the course of three hours.

At least one bystander allegedly taunted the 17-year-old by shouting: ‘How far can you bounce?’

The A-level student eventually plunged 60ft to his death from the multi-storey car park after police negotiators tried in vain to talk him down.

Then, in a final sickening act, some of those responsible for the abuse outside the Westfield shopping centre in Derby apparently clamoured to take pictures of the teenager’s body from behind the police cordon using their camera phones.

Yesterday, police branded the mob’s behaviour a ‘shocking reflection on society’ as they joined community leaders and concerned onlookers who were at the scene of Saturday’s tragedy in condemning the crowd’s behaviour.

Crime and Crime Prevention

Today’s pustules on the butt of society are Adrian Hutchinson and Keith Buckley.

They got 26- and 28-year tariffs with their life sentences for the murder of a 62-year-old man who refused to hand over his mobile phone during their fifth robbery of the evening in Oldham town centre. As reported in the Daily Mail,

After Mr Smith refused their request for a cigarette, Buckley punched him in the face before the pair dragged him to a darkened yard, threatened him with a knife and demanded his property.

The 62-year-old had only bought the phone a week earlier and refused to give it up, but was put in a headlock and hit and kicked repeatedly, causing fractures of the skull, cheek, jaw and larynx.

Taking his phone – which was later sold for just £20 – the pair left Mr Smith dying where he lay, and his body was not found until 17 days later.

Hutchinson and Buckley aren’t teenagers – they are 25 and 22 – but their prior convictions go back before that. Hutchinson was first convicted at 11and before he was 16 he had nine convictions for arson, assault, and burglary, but never received any time behind bars. It was 29 further convictions later that he was finally jailed in 2004. He got four years for burglary, robbery and assault.

But never fear, the Government is here with a new solution for the growing crime problem. It now wants to hold schools responsible for curbing crime, as well as teen pregnancy and all other lifestyle issues. How well they meet 18 new targets for improving and policing pupils’ lifestyles and well-being will be included in their Ofstead (school inspection) reports.

Surely once schools are encumbered with even more non-teaching responsibility, the next generation of Hutchinsons and Buckleys will be redeemed. Our hope is the the expansion of bureaucracy and the micro-management of everyone’s lives.

The Evil Continues

Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris were sentenced today for the murder of Sophie Lancaster. With their so-called life sentences Herbert got a 16-year tariff and Harris got 18 years.

Ryan and Brendan got much less than what they deserved, but that penalty isn’t available in this country. As I mentioned to one of Ryan’s supporters, who left a comment here today, the judge said, “This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it. At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself.”

The sentencing of these thugs should not lull us into thinking that Britain is a safer place. Without even leaving the Northwest of England, the Daily Mail today has the case of Julie Pickford. She was asked a boy to stop throwing popcorn at other passengers on a tram. “Without warning, one girl stood up and punched her in the face and then a mob of up to 30 teenagers joined in, punching her and stamping on her. . . With blood streaming from her injuries and £50 stolen from her handbag, she was thrown off the tram at the next stop in Sale, Greater Manchester.”

Be Kind, Not Condescending

If you have gathered nothing in your youth,
How can you find anything in your old age?
Judgment is like the beauty in gray hair,
And in elders it is to know counsel.

Wisdom of Sirach 25:3-4

This is just a meta-blog. Go read “The day I became my grandmother: Our writer dons a mask to find out what it’s like to be 90 in modern Britain” by Tanya Gold from today’s Daily Mail. It will take you a few minutes. Spend them.

Council-sponsored Muslim-only No-go Area

And they said there were no no-go areas.

In January, when Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali suggested in The Sunday Telegraph that some areas had become no-go zones for non-Muslims, he was excoriated on all sides. His fellow Anglican bishops distanced themselves from him. From Muslims he received death threats.

Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington has Muslim-only swimming on Sunday mornings. Actually, it is Muslim males-only swimming. I don’t have any problem with separate sessions for men. After all, leisure pools have long had some of their facilities set apart at times for women. And as long as there is equal access, I got no problem with that.

But Clissold Leisure Centre owned by Hackney Borough Council in north London doesn’t have a Christians-only swimming session.

So have Muslims created this no-go area? No. The Muslims don’t mind swimming with Christians. It’s the leisure centre employees who have done it. After David Toube and his son we refused admission, even by a manager, they went back several days later to speak to another leisure centre employee, who confirmed the Muslims-only policy.

Since this hit the news, the leisure centre’s tune has changed. Seems they don’t want to openly discriminate in the face of media exposure. The sessions may still be for Muslim men, but they now say that staff cannot ask about someone’s religion or refuse them entry if they don’t appear to be Muslim.

Heston’s Challenge

I’ve heard it rumoured now that Charlton Heston has passed away, Al Gore has decided to accept his challenge to come over and take the rifle from his cold dead hands.

I also have to give a H/T to Matt for the link to speech Heston gave at Harvard in 1999. It really is worth reading or hearing.

Family Matters

The most senior family court judge in southwest England has diagnosed the cause of the almost every evil in society today. Sir Paul Coleridge blames pretty much everything on the breakdown of the family, which he labels a cancer.

Though he is certainly an expert on these matters, this is not something that requires such a specialist to diagnose. But even though he is stating the obvious, it is something that the Government, with it’s family unfriendly policies, is ignoring. It is not just no-fault divorce. Mr Justice Coleridge includes the “meltdown” of the parent/child relations as well.

So you combine no-fault divorce with all-fault discipline (given the restrictions imposed by the law, compounded with the tendency to assume any discipline exceeds those restrictions) and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster is certainly what we have in this country. Disaster is what we see every day in schools – with a combination of kids who can’t draw their family tree and as they are shifted throughout the week from one parent to another, or sometimes a relative, or a former partner of a parent, with no consistent structure in their life.

If that’s what it’s like in relatively sedate rural areas, think about what other educators face each day in the more urban environments. Several years ago I taught in a city of about 70,000. I was talking to a head of year who was sending out congratulatory letters to parents of children who were performing above expectations in at least five subjects and also letters to parents of children for whom significant concerns had been raised in at least five subjects. As he was looking through the envelopes, he noticed that all of the former were sent to “Mr and Mrs” and all of the latter were sent to single parents or adults of two difference surnames.

This echoes Sir Paul’s statement, “I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.

It Could Be Much Worse

I may complain about the general unruliness with which I deal on a day-to-day basis. In my subject, even dealing with pint-sized atheists hour after hour and their same little arguments (though honestly, most of the time that is a very generous term) can be wearying.

A survey by one of the teaching unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, as reported in The Times, notes:

Most teachers said that pupil behaviour had worsened in the last two years and many said that low-level disruption – such as pupils talking, not paying attention and refusing requests to turn off mobile phones – was now the norm in classrooms.

I would say that this is true even where I am. However, there is much to said for teaching in the hinterlands.  Not only have we not had a teacher assault this year, I don’t think there is any pupil in the school who would dare such a thing.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Torquay today, Ms Bousted [ATL general secretary] said that one in ten teachers had received physical injuries in the classroom.

Twelve per cent said that they had needed to visit a doctor and eight per cent had taken leave from teaching as a result of pupils’ aggression.

Three per cent of teachers said that they had been involved in incidents involving knives, two thirds had been punched, nearly a half kicked and a third had been threatened.

The Government has a unique approach to dealing with a norm of classes full of unruly children. Schools minister Jim Knight said that classes of up to 70 pupils are perfectly acceptable. All you need are a couple of teaching assistants.

Surprise Litigation

The crazy litigation bug has migrated to this country from the US. From the Daily Telegraph:

A home owner is being threatened with legal action after a woman claimed she trapped her hand in his letterbox while delivering unwanted junk mail. Joy Goodman, a cake decorator, is seeking damages for personal injury and loss of earnings, claiming the top of her right index finger was severed when she delivered the mail. She claims she needs compensation because she is now unable to carry out her intricate job.

But the home owner vowed to fight the case. Paul O’Brien, 44, a self-employed engineer from Leeds, said: “When I received a solicitor’s letter I thought someone was having a laugh. I actually told them they had sent it early. April Fool’s Day is still six weeks away.

“I just cannot believe someone who came on to my property uninvited, to put junk mail through my door that I didn’t want, can now sue me because they hurt themselves.”

Mrs Goodman declined to comment, saying only: “It is in the hands of my solicitors.”

A law expert said that householders had limited duties of care to people who went on to their property such as delivery people or postmen.

These duties of care include not having such things as bare electricity cables sticking out, but were not likely to extend to a letterbox providing it was a standard model.

Absence of Conscience

It wish this would happen to a Government minister, rather an a Tory frontbench spokesman. Then something might happen, if it isn’t just completely too late. From the Daily Telegraph:

An MP was stoned by a gang of youths after challenging their behaviour.

Tobias Ellwood spotted the group of 10 teenagers climbing into an elderly woman’s garden and using it as a lavatory.

When he stopped his car and confronted them they responded by hurling missiles at him and delivered a torrent of abuse.

Mr Ellwood, 40, a 6ft 3in ex-soldier, said he was deliberately polite as he asked the youths to leave the garden.

But when he threatened to call the police, four or five of the gang started hurling stones, some of which hit him and his car.

He called the police and officers searched the area but the youths had fled.

The Tory MP, who is shadow minister for tourism, had been driving past a housing estate in his Bournemouth constituency at midnight when he saw the youths getting off a bus.

They were aged between 15 and 17 and had been drinking. The most aggressive person in the group was a girl, he said. “They had no understanding of right and wrong,” he added.

“They couldn’t comprehend why a member of the public should challenge them. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Despite his experience Mr Ellwood said: “I would urge people to confront youths who act in this anti-social way.”

Backfire

With all of the legislation and regulation New Labour has brought upon us, it is awfully good to see that one of their key legislative achievments is in tatters. With the help of a few well-intentioned members of the Opposition, the Government was able to pass the ban on foxhunting in 2004. It took them several attempts and they finally had to invoke the Parliament Act (for only the fourth time since 1949) which allows a bill to become law despite being voted down in the House of Lords.

So what a joy it is to see that the effect of the ban as been to increase the interest in foxhunting. The number of anti-hunting protesters continues to dwindle. The League Against Cruel Sports has seen its membership decline from 18,000 to between 5,000 and 10,000. Their spokesman wouldn’t be any more specific, according to the Sunday Telegraph. They are having to sell up their offices and find cheaper accommodation. At the same time the number of hunt participants has risen to 68,000.

The anti-hunt campaigners have always been a minority. It is only because the urbanisation of the UK has made a Labour Government, comprised principally of townies, able to trample on the historic rights of the countryside. The hunters have put up the often violent attacks by protesters. (It’s amazing how animal rights people have such little regard for humans.) When the Government trampled on then, they uncharacteristically put up a fight. Most of the time Brits follow sheepishly when the Government tells them what to do.

Staying Active in Old Age

Sure, most crime is perpetrated by the young. It’s good to see they don’t have a total monopoly. Seniors need something to keep them active. From The Daily Telegraph:

Police are hunting an elderly lady who tried to hold up a Post Office in an attempted armed robbery.

The pensioner, described as a “little old lady” aged between 65 and 70 years old, pulled out a knife, threatened the cashier and demanded money in the shop in Northenden, Manchester.

But she shuffled off empty handed when staff activated the store’s alarm.

The suspect is described as being white and about 5ft 2inches tall.

She was of medium build, had dark hair and was wearing a purple jacket.

Cloning Without Consent

In all their excitement to legalise cloning, the Government seem to have overlooked one small thing. People may not want to be cloned. Never mind.

Ministers want to amend their Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to remove the need for express consent before cloning tissue.

This will first apply to tissue that has been donated for research. It is then a small step to applying it to any tissue. Since the Government wants DNA samples of the entire population so that everyone is a suspect in every crime, there will be no reason why they can’t use it for cloning. Eventually, they will be able to search through the population and find whatever characteristics they want to recreate. Somebody could have a real doppelganger and never know it.

Everyone Must Pay

I feel very bad for Mrs A. She was raped 19 years ago by a despicable man, Iorworth Hoare. He went to prison and she only got £5,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.  The six-year statute of limitations for pursuing a civil claim for damages passed.

Then, as if just to prove the Jesus’ words that the Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,”Hoare won £7 million on the lottery. Mrs A saw a chance to cash in. I don’t blame her – she has a moral edge on most of those who attempt to tap lottery winners. She was wronged by him in a most terrible way. But that doesn’t mean he should have to pay.

Statutes of limitations are there for a reason. Iorworth Hoare has paid for his crime with the irreplaceable commodity of his time. Whether you agree that his sentence was sufficient, it was passed by a lawfully appointed judge of competent jurisdiction. If any other claim is not brought in a timely manner, he has the right to move on with his life.

There is also a public policy reason the contrary decision by the House of Lords is bad. Delivered in a social and political climate that sex crimes are not the same as any other crimes, it opens the floodgates for more litigation against any  possible or potential defendant at any time during the life of the plaintiff. The law lords specifically included child sex abuse claims with adult rape claims. One of the victorious co-plaintiffs in appeal is someone who was abused in 1977.  His solicitor estimated that there could be as many as 6,000 cases already underway, waiting for this favourable ruling.

This is going to have an massive impact on the public purse. Every local authority is going to be hit by claims from any former child who suffered any sort of abuse while in social care. Not only that, but they will also be hit by suits from people who start to “remember” that they were abused, even though the putative abusers may be long dead, because there is always a legal successor to any government entity and it is funded by the taxpayer. Talk about hitting the lottery.

Harry Potter and Immigration

Over at Mere Comments, I was reading Steve Hutchens interesting view of the Harry Potter books and how they are analogous to the Gospel – something I can’t comment on as I haven’t read them – so I scrolled through the comments to see what others thought of this.

What struck me was not the debate of whether CS Lewis’ Narnia or JRR Tolkien’s LOTR is the gold standard of Christian fiction. Rather it was that even in this context people can get really pissy about illegal immigration – and with only a thin veil, immigration generally. Now I’ve written about this before, and even though it is a hot button issue, I get remarkably low traffic on such posts and no comments. Perhaps this is because my regular readers (dwindling number that you seem to be) completely disagree with me, but can’t be bothered to say so – or maybe I’ve made too many readers angry and they’ve vowed never to return.

If you can’t be bothered to scroll through it all, there is a particularly funny sparring exchange that went like this:

  • At the same time, I don’t recall freedom to migrate being written into the Ten Commandments,
  • It’s more than a little ironic, given the context for the delivery of the Commandments. 🙂
  • But, in fact, they weren’t migrating to a foreign country–they were leaving a foreign country to go HOME. For the Exodus analogy to hold, the illegals in the U.S. would have to be enslaved and prevented from LEAVING. Now, if some Mexican prophet were to emerge from the Barrio, go to Washington, pound on the White House door, and demand of President Bush, “Let my people go!”, I would think that the President would say, “Sure thing, compadre. Can we order up some busses and trains to help y’all out?” Certainly beats having the Potomac run red with blood (it’s bad enough in its normal state), or for a plague of locusts to descend on the land (we just got rid of the seventeen year cicadas), or for the first born to be taken (but I know the secret for getting out of that one). Don’t let it be said we can’t learn from the mistakes of the Egyptians.

It is strange that no one thinks of the original settlement of America by immigrants as a problem. I suppose the argument is that the Injuns didn’t have a complex legal system with a refined idea of private (or even public) property law. Therefore it was fair game to take it all and push them into reservations or kill them in the process. Right of conquest and all of that.

I think the last commenter is inaccurate in his depiction of the Mexican prophet. If he were to get anywhere near the door of the White House without being shot, he would be captured, hog tied, and shipped to Guantanimo Bay faster than you can say, “Hasta la vista, Baby!”

Paid to Misbehave

Figures released from the Department for Work and Pensions have revealed more of the nature of the Welfare State. As reported in The Times:

120,000 adults aged 18 to 34 have been on incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance for five years or more.

A further 130,000 have been on the benefit for at least two years.

An analysis of the figures for May 2007 shows that more than a third of the 289,150 adults aged 25 to 34 have been on benefits for more than five years . . .

A spokesman for the DWP said that 300,000 of the 504,000 young people claiming sickness benefit last May had mental and behavioural disorders.

Yes, they are claiming sickness benefit because they can’t behave. With the sort of young people that are leaving schools now, we can only expect these numbers to increase. Kids will have even less motivation to buckle down and do their work – they can be as disruptive as they want to be – even get thrown out when school governors can resist the pressure of the Government to keep them in the classroom – and they will still get an income from the State.

Negative Numeracy

My brother-in-law came across a news story from November in the Manchester Evening News demonstrating just how poor math skills are in this country. The story is just too good not to post in full, though I’ve highlighted a few things in bold:

A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot – because players couldn’t understand it.

The Cool Cash game – launched on Monday – was taken out of shops yesterday after some players failed to grasp whether or not they had won.

To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.

But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.

Tina Farrell, from Levenshulme, called Camelot after failing to win with several cards.

The 23-year-old, who said she had left school without a maths GCSE, said: “On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Taste of British Culture

I have long said that Britain is a much more violent place than the US.

Over here, people think that every one in America has a gun and everyone shots someone else with a gun, so it must be like movies about the Wild West. In fact, many American do have guns, most don’t shoot anyone, and most gun crime is done by people who aren’t allowed to have guns in the first place.

Of course no one is allowed to have most guns here. When a a primary school headteacher was jailed for four years for possessing a large number of guns, the judge said, “You had no intention of misusing them nor at any time did you attempt to do so. But you know that the intention of the legislation is to prevent weapons being in circulation.”

Over here, everyone has fists and opposable thumbs to grab objects, so we have stories like the savage beating of Terry Malone by a worthless yob named David Sanderson. In Malone’s words:

Sanderson was banging on the door and then he urinated through the letter box. Eventually after it had been quiet for about half an hour and there was no sign of him outside we let some of the ladies leave.

But as one of them walked across the road Sanderson reappeared and hit her across the face. As we got her back inside her brother who was in the pub went after Sanderson – so I followed.

As the Daily Mail notes: “Police said the attack was so savage every bone was broken in Mr Malone’s face. His lips had to be stitched back together, he lost 12 teeth and he is expected to lose half the sight in his left eye.”

The article was in the newspaper because Sanderson was just sentenced to a minimum six years. That would be half of the average life sentence here.

In the same paper is the story of Ron Sharples who was beaten to death in the early hours of yesterday when he went out to find the family dog which had been scared off by fireworks. He found the dog, but a gang of at least four youths found him before he could get home. So much for a Happy New Year.

Even the weekly local paper has scattering of small stories about unsolved incidents or people who have been to court for violence in each issue. Thanks to 24-hour drinking introducced by the Labour Government, it is only going to continue to get worse.

Innumeracy and Reality

British 15-year-olds are now 22nd in the world in math skills. This is officially below the international average. With 190ish countries in the world, I’m not sure how this is below average, but it is. Regardless of where the average is, it represents a sharp decline over the last six years.

This surprises some people. Those people are not in education.

A study just released has shown that pupils in the UK are making no progress in maths between the ages of 11 and 14 (what to Americans would be the middle school years), and if anything are slipping backwards. Because grades must be maintained, the exams are made easier. When the exams can’t be made easy enough, the grade bands are lowered. A couple of years ago, one of the exam boards only required 16% on the Maths GCSE exam for a C grade.

It’s much more important to give the appearance of educational success than to actually achieve it. After all, once the Year 11s have gotten their results, what do schools care? The educational establishment have manipulated the figures to make themselves look good. Good GCSE results bring in more Year 7s who then bring in their allottment of government cash, which keeps school going and teaching jobs safe.

That most pupils leave school functionally innumerate is really not their problem. They don’t have to worry about how former pupils don’t understand the basic maths necessary to manage their lives. Tory MP and London mayoral candidate Boris Johnson has written about how innumeracy is pushing the economy off a cliff. He refers to a friend who provides shared equity mortgages for some of the most disadvantaged people in Britain:

And yet he has been amazed at the deals they are willing to accept from less scrupulous lenders, and the risks they are willing to run with their lives. It’s not that they are stupid, he says. “It’s that they just haven’t been educated to understand the maths. They don’t see what an 11 per cent interest rate can do. They say, ‘Never mind the rate, just give me the mortgage.’ It’s ignorance.”

The consequences of this ignorance can be profound for the individual debtor, and for the rest of the economy.

Nobody worries about consequences anymore, especially not 15-year-olds. After all, they face no substantive consequences for their behaviour in school. They are indoctrinated to face no consequences for their pursuits of pleasure. Why should they face any consequences for their use of money? It is far too removed from their sensibilities to think about how their actions result in consequences for others, including society as a whole.

Christianophobia

After Mark Pritchard, MP, said British Christian traditions are being threaten by “Christianophobia”, someone with the Daily Telegraph posted the question on their website: “How should we tackle ‘Christianophobia’?”

The comments have poured in. Most of them have been vitriolic against Christianity. It was all an eye-opener for one trans-Atlantic reader:

As an American, I enjoy reading the European view of things and this is where I come to see it. We are so very different. I think that for the first time I am worried about the future of England. I had no idea that there was so much loathing for Christ.

Welcome to my world.