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When was the last time anyone fought a bear?

A fascinating article by the Beeb comparing Baden-Powell’s Scouting advice to modern advice, which is made even more amusing by the comments which wonderfully suggest that old-school Scouting adventures made “real men”. Apparently, teaching kids to jump into icy lakes to retrieve lost loved-ones instead of calling the emergency services, or indeed teaching juniors to fight bears, would solve all societal ills including, but by no means limited to, shootings, stabbings, anti-social behaviour, and the existence of David Beckham. It’s clearly a delusion of my Guardianista liberal-mindedness that the latter isn’t the greatest threat to society of modern times.

Next week: Sending kids down coal mines “separated the men from the boys, and killed off the weak, useless, criminal scroungers who are the scourge of today’s society”.

Thank goodness the modern Scouting Movement isn’t run by these people.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Music for Funerals

I’ve just posted on a popular perennial topic over at Gazette Communities: Music for Funerals. It’s hardly new stuff, but it is reworked… a bit. I’m taking a summer break from posting over there, but there will still be updates on here… occasionally.

This post was filed under: Notes, Writing Elsewhere.

36 Grays Lane

I know I claim not to do this sort of thing, but just wanted to point you in the direction of this website, which is essentially campaigning for the creation of accommodation for families of those receiving long-term treatment in military hospitals.

It seems a worthy cause – I have slight misgivings about supporting the specifics of a planning application in an area I’ve never so much as visited, and was mildly insulted at the insistence that prefab housing equals “builder’s huts” which could not provide a “supportive environment” – I’m sure the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of British kids who grew up in such accommodation for a good four or five decades post-war (and those who still do) would disagree.

But while I might quibble about their tone, I do see their point, and their aim seems pretty worthwhile and unobjectionable.

It seems worth your time and energy to support – as of course are similar civilian schemes like this.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

More Videos

This post was filed under: Notes, Site Updates, Video.

Police lose OAP in 8mph chase

This post was filed under: Notes.

The day the internet crashed

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/webdown.flv” title=”Courtesy of The Onion” picture=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/webdown.GIF” ratio=”4:3″ /]

This post was filed under: Video.

Returning Politics to the People

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Notes, Politics, Writing Elsewhere.

Ignore the media: Labour Party NOT cleared

Rubbish from other sourcesYesterday, you may have seen in the mainstream media that the Labour Party has been cleared of wrongdoing in the Cash for Honours affair. It’s just not true.

The CPS didn’t clear the Labour Party. They didn’t even come close. This is just lazy reporting of something close to the truth that’s easier to understand, but fundamentally wrong. Allow me to explain.

Let’s revisit the two bare, startling, facts of the case:

  1. Every single person who has ever given the Labour Party over £1,000,000 has received a knighthood or peerage.
  2. Three-quarters of those giving over £50,000 in the last six years have received an honour.

It is therefore undeniable that there is a connection between party funding and peerages. The case hinged on whether the peerages were ‘sold’ as according to the letter of the law – it’s perfectly legal to grant honours as a recognition of a large donation, but not in return for a large donation, which is a quite a subtle difference.

From my perspective (and that of more intelligent people), the fact that such a huge proportion of big donors received honours clearly demonstrates that an ‘incentive’ scheme was there – donate over £1m, and you’ll get a knighthood or peerage – which would mean that the awards were in return for donations, expected by the donors, and hence criminal.

The important thing to note is this: The CPS absolutely did not say that crimes hadn’t been committed. They are not clearing the Labour Party of selling peerages. To me, as I’ve explained, it’s quite clear that peerages were sold. If you read the full text of the CPS decision (I’ve uploaded it here), they are quite clear:

Today’s decision indicates unequivocally that there is insufficient evidence to support proceedings against any individual

The fact is that a series of crimes may very well have been committed here. The CPS just doesn’t have enough evidence to pin it on one particular person. To draw from this that no criminal acts took place is as absurd as saying that Nicole Simpson wasn’t murdered because OJ was cleared.

Whether or not there’s enough evidence to convict, someone – OJ or otherwise – murdered Nicole. Just because no one individual can be prosecuted for an offence does not indicate that a crime didn’t take place – and the CPS aren’t trying to argue that it does. The Labour Party has certainly not been cleared of selling peerages.

For what it’s worth, I actually think that the investigation has served it’s purpose as it is. Had prosecutions followed, they would have been those of scapegoats and lackeys, rather than the key players in the story. But the investigation will demand reform of the honours system, which is badly needed, and so perhaps some good will come out of it in the end.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

Embarrassment about mental health costs lives

This post was filed under: Notes, Writing Elsewhere.

MTAS designer rehired after £1.9m failure

Alan Johnson

MTAS was the utter failure of a computer system which was designed to match doctors to jobs but instead merely spewed out personal data onto unprotected parts of the internet leading to criminal proceedings and an unprecedented crisis in the training of junior doctors. It was hardly the government’s finest hour, and we’re still on course for crisis on 1st August as a huge number of doctors will be unemployed.

Earlier this week, it was stealthily revealed by the Department of Health that this now defunct system cost £1.9 million. That’s the same as over 70,000 GP consultations, which I think many people may consider a better use of the money. That cost is merely for the system itself – the upset it has caused through it’s failure and the contemptible lack of contingency planning is estimated by some to run into billions of pounds.

Taxpayers’ money well spent.

The private company whose designed the MTAS computer system, using some of that £1.9m, is Methods Consulting. Just to remind you, MTAS spewed personal data onto unprotected websites, and failed to perform its basic function of matching doctors to jobs.

Guess who’s now helping to design the computer service for the National Care Records Service, a program for storing highly sensitive medical records on a national network? Methods Consulting.

Yes, the company behind the biggest data security failure ever in the NHS is now being trusted with your medical records. And, of course, with a huge amount of taxpayers’ money.

Is there any private company on Earth that would give the job of helping design a highly sensitive computer system to a company that failed to secure a previous system with so much as a basic password? It just seems an utterly moronic decision.

This company has committed one of the biggest failings of NHS data security in its history. There is no question in my mind that they should be removed from the National Care Records Service programme immediately. And why are we paying a company so much money for a system that simply didn’t work?

These are things which Alan Johnson needs to tackle now if he’s to have any chance of regaining the trust and restoring the morale of doctors in this country. I have little faith, but I sincerely hope he can restore it.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment.

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