Jury Service in Scotland

Edinburgh Sheriff Court called me up for jury service. This is an important responsibility, but because you are not allowed to discuss the trial as a juror there’s no information out on the internets about what happens and no guidance about how you should come to a decision. I turned up and was surprised to find the viewing seats were full. Scotland has a (large) jury of 15 but the pool they are picked from on the day was about 50, I didn’t work out why there needs to be a large pool to pick from since we are already picked from the electoral register at random. We shuffled in and I was surprised we were amongst the accused, the claimant and both their families. Fiscal and lawyer and clerk muttered in hushed tones to each other in turn and wandered in and out the room. We were dismissed and told to come back later. We came back for more of the same and were dismissed again.

After some lunch we reconvened and were told he had decided to plead guilty to some of the accusations and the crown had accepted the plea and this was the reason for the delays. The Procurator Fiscal read out to the judge who the accused was, a gent who lived with a woman and acted as father to her children over about 15 years. She read out his various sexual abuse acts in technical detail to the Sheriff all of which was very uncomfortable to sit through. A woman stormed out shouting “burn in hell”. The claimant ran out in tears. The accused had originally said he didn’t remember any of the incidents and suffered from blackouts after drinking. To some of the questions he had given no response. If he had continued to insist on his innocence and I don’t know what the correct way to make a decision would have been. The circumstances seemed to point to guilt but how could I say which of the particular incidents with no evidence and no witnesses except the claimant did or didn’t happen without letting prejudices (fat skinhead paedophile) get in the way?

The Sheriff called for reports from social services for guidance in sentencing, she said he may get a prison sentence for these serious crimes. I wonder if the claimant will find justice to be served and I wonder if the accused will get help for his problem, I suspect neither is possible. Justice is hard to get right and I’m a bit relieved not to have had to make such a decision without any guidance.

Nice to be popular (unless you’re Yvette Bettley)

It’s nice to be popular, my blog’s traffic has increased from about 150 readers yesterday to 100 times that today. Amongst the people looking to my blog for gossip on poor old Yvette Bettley the polis woman who is illegally a member of the BNP are someone at the Scottish Parliament (they got in first) followed by someone at gsi.gov.uk (could be any government department). First press on her case was from Trinity Mirror Group with the Torygraph later in the day (who have now published the article talking about “helpful bloggers” but sadly also making the defaming comment that Quakers are typical BNP members, grr).

People have also been searching for other names on the list, including the pagan chap and the witch. I wonder if any of them are vanity searches of people checking how far their new reputation has spread.

There’s a real danger of these poor innocent racists being harrassed unfairly, so I’ve gone out of my way to ensure that the local ones won’t be.


They are still people!

Wikileaks gets BNP member list

The excellent Wikileaks got hold of a list of BNP members. Is there a racist in your street? Now you can know.

The well informed Lancaster Unity blog has some (occationally over optimistic sounding) coverage.

Out of about 12000 records, a depressing 56 members in the EH area, including a chap called Roderick E. Riddell living in Maxwell Street not far from me. No relation fortunately.

An A.R. Williams from Devizes is listed as “Hobbies: amateur radio & ‘church-crawling’. Quaker attender”. Creepy. I e-mailed his meeting suggesting they have a chat to him about the equality testimony.

There’s a polis woman Yvette Bettley listed as “Discretion required re. employment concerns” (Police are banned from BNP membership), the same comment is by a couple of others.

More comedy is Rod Chapman from Dereham listed as “Window cleaner. Former pig farmer. Pagan prison chaplain. Hobbies: growing mistletoe, rune making (wood).” I wonder how one gets to be a Pagan prison chaplain, hopefully the prison will kick him out. Jason Cotterill-Attaway from Nottingham is listed as “Interested in disabiity rights and setting up a British Pagan group” and there I was thinking pagans would be all happy and inclusive. Paul Shaddick “describes himself as a witch: potential embarrassment if active”.

Matthew Jenkins of Ilminster was apparantly “embarrassed by revelations in Private Eye re. councillors”, I wonder what that was.

While it’s fun to look for the interesting characters on this list, most of them will be “skinhead oiks” (I know, I lived over the road from them for some time) Hopefully this leak will stop some of these racists paying their membership next year.

Update: this blog post has been pleasingly popular, thanks Google. Wikileaks got a bit overloaded so you can find the list here or from this torrent. More fun is a map of BNP members near me.

My previous posts on the BNP Tipton: vote against racism, Racism at Westmorland Teebay, BNP out of Princes End, Tipton, Sandwell and Facist Pub Burned Down.

Hilary Benn in Leith

Went to see Hilary Benn in Leith last night. It’s always great to see politicians, especially senior ones like him, come and meet the public in ways which aren’t primarily for press coverage. The turnout was maybe 100 people which I think was disappointingly small. It was a question and answer session about the environment. He started with a short introduction to the issue, and he’s obviously a good speaker as you would expect from a top politician, almost too good and sometimes spoke so loud and strictly I felt a bit uncomfortable in my seat.

The answers were a bit disappointing though. He started off badly when someone asked about the environmental legacy of the Polaris nuclear weapons submarines which are still at Rosyth and he replying about the tactical justification for a new nuclear submarine system rather than about the environmental nuclear issue it leaves behind. Other questions were answered more directly. Ones which stood out include should we count energy use per person or per country (per person means that a country can’t just move dirty industries abroad), he said no. How can the government reconcile building new airport runways with not destroying the planet? He said people want to fly, that’s fine but then less carbon needs to be emitted elsewhere. What about plans to build new coal power stations? Carbon capture may save us all there.

He was optimistic about the future and told us all to not be so pessimistic. You could easily consider that to be apathy on his part, or more likely the everyday needs of governments to not do things to annoy their voters like tax air travel to the extent that it would make a difference. The other problem to getting stuff like that done is keeping the UK competitive against other countries who’s voters are equally short term minded. I can see why these guys get voted in, but I’m far from convinced it is going to save the world in time.

Facist Pub Burned Down

Walking along the road in Glorious Tipton the other day I smelled smoke. Seems the fascist Lagoon pub was no more.

This newspaper article gives a nice overview of the area. Arson, squatters, stupid Tory councillor, fascist councillor, fascist pub, machete attacks. I wonder who the “they” is who Beatrice Owen says is dumping derelict houses on her ward. I try not to be snobby, but it’s just so hard.

Things I Like

Some of the little pleasures in life I like:

Digital radio. Especially Chill Radio, BBC 7 and BBC World Service.

Amazon Marketplace, helps you get rid of stuff you’ve used and much less hassle than ebay’s time limited method, also cheap things to buy.

A slice of ginger in a glass of water. Very refreshing.

Freshly made home cooked hummus. Nothing nicer.

Cycling to places you wouldn’t otherwise go. Cramond Island and Roslin Glen are a couple of nice examples.

Innocent Smoothies on a hot day.

Wheetos. Top breakfast cereal.

Yann Tiersen and Martyn Bennett, my favourite musicians.

A game of squash. Playing with bouncy balls for grown ups.

Sandman comic books by Neil Gaiman.

Elections

Utterly bemused by London voting for Boris. Crazyness.

In Glorious Tipton the normally Labour/BNP fight was lost to a Tory.

I can’t work out why people think David Cameron’s party will do anything better than Gordon Brown’s.

Scouts Drop Promise and Law

Edinburgh Scouts have merged with the surrounding areas to create the all new South East Scotland Scouts. Queue new website complete with Content Management System cleverness. Unfortunately my suggestion to release the site content under a creative commons licence was rejected with “that is not appropriate”. Back when I was a Cub I promised “To help other people” and we tried to follow the law of “Think of others before themselves”, it is sad to see that this has been dropped.

New 4 Star Canoe-Kayak Leadership

A good number of children will have got their one or two star awards during a summer holiday. I did many years ago. It has always been on my list of things to do before I die to learn some canoe coaching skills. Recently the 4 star award has been overhauled to include leadership for trips, not the same as coaching but just as useful, so I signed up to a course from getafix.com. Here’s my notes as a reminder to myself and incase anyone else finds them useful.

Introduction

  • Ask people for their experience
  • Do a kit check, look for airbags, buoyancy aids which won’t come off when swimming, ensure people have spare hat and top
  • Say that if anyone has medical problems they should let you know (less embarracing than asking for them to tell whole group)
  • Show boat manual handling (pick up to vertical from front then put on shoulder, all without bending back). Also you can slide plastic boats quite safely.
  • Do a warm up (can be done on the water just as well if flat)
  • Agree on signals: all go, one at a time, break out into eddy, stay still, get out
  • Show how to swim safely: on back, feet first

Drip feed the above rather than all at once.

When they first get on the water and on the first rapid, watch how everyone paddles and assess their ability.

Notes on leading down a rapid:

  • Lead down a group from the front, ensure to keep line of sight, always be looking over your shoulder to keep an eye on everyone, typically follow at two boat lengths
  • If you can’t see the full rapid go ahead to first eddy so you can, keeping line of sight with group who stay above. Call them down one at a time or all together as appropriate.
  • Watch out for trees, rocks, shallow areas and other hazards people could get pinned on, lead from the back when most likely problem is canoes getting stuck.
  • Always be mindful of position of most usefulness for when something goes wrong.
  • Eddy hop when you can’t see the full rapid, go to next eddy and call people down one at a time. If can’t fit everyone in the eddy have a chain of eddys and pass message up chain, this needs to be practiced first.
  • Go to the outside of corners so you can see around them sooner
  • Keep a headcount
  • CLAP: Communication, Line of Sight, Avoidance (better than cure), Position of more usefulness

Equipment

  • First Aid Kit: bandages, triangular bandage (large, canvas), sterilised water, tea lights, painkillers (asprin for heart attacks), inhailer, dressings, eye pads, scissors, micropore tape, electrical tape, duct tape, steri strips
  • Group shelter
  • Spare split paddles
  • Spare clothes, jacket, leggings, hats
  • Hot flasked drink
  • Knife
  • Throw bag
  • Sling with snap on carabina
  • Mobile phone
  • Spanner, bolts
  • Torch

Dry bag(s) for much of the above. First aid kit in sealed container.

Organise shuttle runs and don’t forget your car key.

No Pancakes Month

In honour of supermarkets renaming Shrove Tuesday to Pancake Day, I’m renaming Lent to No Pancake Month.

I had mine with Green and Blacks chocolate spread.

BNP out of Princes End, Tipton, Sandwell

The former BNP success story of Tipton has failed to regain their seat they lost due to the previous moronic BNP councillor not bothering to turn up to meetings. Labour won, and the BNP previously only 20 votes behind were beaten by the Conservatives. I knew the class of the area would improve after I moved in.

Shakespear

Saw some Shakespear recently. Jean-Luc Piccard (or Patrick Stewart) played Macbeth and somehow made it much more interesting than it was at school (apologies to Harry Quinn).

Then we saw The Winters Tale which isn’t performed often in Scotland according to the programme. There’s probably a good reason, only Shakespear can get away with an ending along the lines of “oh The Queen hasn’t been dead for 20 years, she’s just been sleeping”.

Finally A Midsummer Nights Dream by The Footsbarn Travelling Theatre which was the best of the three and had masks (it was part of the Stourbridge Mask Festival, amazing things happen in Englandshire). You have to be quite devoted to acting to buy a field in France and set up a travelling theatre company. Even the children weren’t too fidgety, which is impressive for a Shakespear play without an interval.

Racism at Westmorland Teebay

Having successfully got Labour elected (you won’t hear me say that much) in place of the BNP in Tipton, I was disgusted to see Westmorland’s Tebay motorway services, which I’d always thought to be quite classy, selling the BNP newsletter in their shop. Sent them a grumpy feedback form.

Digital Media

The lengthy named UKTV Gold 2 digital channel has decided that if they are going to have a stupid name they may as well have one that isn’t so long and renamed to Dave. I feel this reflects the meaningfulness of most digital TV channels.

Meanwhile digital radio is great and I look forward to Channel 4’s new multiplex (well, not the station from Closer magazine obviously, or anything with 24 hour big brother coverage). Chill radio is my favourite for ambient background music, although it does lack the handy “ban” button that last.fm sports when it gets too musack.

The BBC meanwhile is not doing its public service duty to support open platforms and access to programming by using proprietary software for its iPlayer. You can’t even control what the iPlayer is doing, and it’ll happily eat up all your bandwidth given a chance. They did put out a press release saying Linux and MacOS users will get a Flash based player, I’ve tried it and it works well if you don’t mind the window being about 600 pixels across. I think I’ll stick to UK Nova.

Tipton: Vote Against Racism

Tipton has a problem with racism. Racism is not acceptable and as a resident of Tipton you should work to get rid of it. Racist and fascist graffiti is common around Tipton, if you see it you should remove it. But here is something simpler you can do:

There is an election in Sandwell on May 3rd. Last year Labour lost three seats and the xenophobic BNP party won 3 seats. See the BBC results page for Sandwell 2006 election. Use your vote on May 3rd for a party which is not racist. You have until April 18th to register to vote, see aboutmyvote for details.

Sandwell is a key area for the BNP in this years elections. With only 1/3rd of voters taking part in the elections last year it is easy to defeat them by simply using your vote and urging your friends and neighbours to use theirs.

Don’t accept racism in Tipton. Vote on May 3rd.

Not acceptable (and not just because of the spelling) Much nicer

Joining a Political Party

I joined the SNP today. I don’t agree with all their policies, but I do agree with more of them than any other party and I’ll be voting for them in May. It doesn’t cost much either, a pound a month at a minimum. The political system is important to support and there are falling numbers of members of most parties, leaving them dependent on large donations from businessmen including the Evil Brian Souter. Somebody has to support the parties, so seems to me like every citizens duty to do so.

Empire by Niall Ferguson

I read the book Empire by Niall Ferguson, an interesting history of the British Empire, an Empire that covered a quarter of the world’s land by the end of the first world war. What’s interesting about the British Empire is that much of it was started and run by commercial entities and only later did government formally take over.

It started in the Caribbean with English sailors taking islands away from the Spanish. These were largely profitable and government soon took over the running. In the East there was dispute with the Dutch who were trading in India and the East Indies (Indonesia, Malasia etc), but that was solved when the Dutch king William taking over the English throne and splitting the east up with England getting India and the Dutch getting the East Indies. The Indian colony was run by a privately owned company, the East India Company, who slowly took over the whole sub-continent, from modern day Pakistan to Burma.

North America was fought over against the French in the Seven Years War. France losing the war allowed Britain to become the dominant world power for the next two centuries. One obvious problem being the revolution in the US which started when the British lowered taxes on imports and all the local smugglers got annoyed that they couldn’t compete any more. France helped the US in their fight for independence mostly to get back at Britiain. As with a lot of wars the politics is not as simple as is often made out and many British supported independence for the US and many US residents supported British rule. When the rebels one the war most Loyalists went to Canada, which helps explain why Canada stayed part of the Empire for so long. Losing the US wasn’t considered much of a problem since it was an inhospitable place already populated with natives and wasn’t generating any revenue (unlike the Caribean islands which were invaluable for growing sugar).

While the US was unprofitable, Australia had even more harsh terrain and was up to 8 months sailing away, so it was populated with convicts who worked as slaves for a period for the relatively few free landowners. Far more slaves however were taken to the Caribbean and the US from Western Africa, about three million in total. But somewhere in the 18th century the political mood about slavery changes and the slave trade is banned. Not only is it banned between British colonies, but the British Navy is also sent to stop the trade of Africans to Brazil and later of Easten Africans to Arabia and Persia.

David Livingstone was a church missionary who went to Africa to convert them all to Christianity. He only ever converted one person, who reverted after a month because he preferred polygamy, so Livingstone turned into an explorer and was the first white person to cross central Africa. He convinced the government to fund the founding of a colony in Eastern Africa which failed horribly when the ship couldn’t sail up the Zambizi because of some waterfalls Livingstone had failed to chart correctly. As usual though private enterprise succeeded where government had failed, and the main difference was a horrific new machine gun called the Maxim Gun, a small number of which could kill a whole tribe of Zulu warriors before a battle had begun. South Africa was colonised to mine for gold and diamonds and the monopolistic De Beers company funded much of the murderous expansion north into Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Eventually the British had colonised a solid path of continent from South Africa to Egypt.

Egypt had been squabbled over with France for ages but was sorted out with the Entente Cordiale. With Egypt, British interests moved into the Middle East, much of which was occupied by the Turkish Ottoman Emptire. During the first world war the Germans trained and encouraged the Turks to fight the British. Much of the British army in the area was made up of forces from the Colonies: India, East Africa, Egypt and ANZACS (Australia and New Zealand), many of whom were promptly killed. When Germany and Turkey were defeated British took over their empires, gaining British a number of colonies in the Middle East: Palestine, Jordan, Transjordan (Syria) and Mesopotamia (Iraq), and Western Africa.

Between the world wars the world was understandably poor, and people questioned the need for an Empire that seemed to benefit a few wealthy businessmen but not the country as a whole. After the second world war the national debt was worse and the costs of socialist government such as the NHS high, and most of the empire was wound up in a couple of decades. For all the brutality in taking over lands and turning them into countries, once the British were in power they were a largely benign government. The dismantling of the empire was in many countries a disaster that created wars and dictators. In many places the empire did a good job of spreading representative government, and it was certainly better than any of the alternatives during the middle of the twentieth century (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Russia, Imperialist Japan). It also spread the English language and free trade, all largely beneficial.

This book missed out a number of colonies which would have been interesting to learn about, from Hong Kong to Cyprus and especially Mesopotamia, but is otherwise an excellent introduction to an important part of world history we often forget about.

One Palestine, Completed

I finished reading One Palestine Complete, the history of Palestine during the British Mandate. Predictably enough the violence between the Jews and the Arabs gets worse, with Arabs doing their small scale terrorist thing and Jews setting up people’s malitias armed and trained with a blind eye turned by the British. Although the Zionists had licence to immigrate as many Jews as they wanted they took relitavely low numbers to keep the economy running smoothly. When fascism took hold in Europe they knew they could not take all the Jews being persecuted and prioritised only fit, male, educated people. They were happy at the number of suitable candidates fascism supplied them, Ben-Gurion (later first Prime Minister of Israel) said “We want Hitler to be destroyed but as long as he exists we are interested in exploiting that for the good of Palestine”. People with mental disabilities were not allowed to immigrate, and a fund was set up to return those who had become mentally ill. Eventually the British realised they weren’t going to solve the problems of Palestine and it was costing a lot of money, so they packed up and left. The UN vote for partition caused a worldwide diplomatic campaign with bribery on a huge scale, the Jewish Agency set aside a million dollars for it. On Nover 29 1947 they voted to split Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. The Arabs were against the plan, being in the majority they would be happy with one democratic state. The Zionists accepted but everyone knew it was an unworkable plan with a long contorted border that would still leave a majority of Arabs in the proposed boundary. Towards the end of the mandate the Zionist malitias (Haganah, Palmach, Etzel and Lechi) invaded several Arab cities and areas including Tiberias, Safed, Haifa and Jaffa. The Arabs were unorganised and leaderless and deserted the invaded cities. The British handed over control to the Jewish Agency and the UN, completing the task set out in the Balfour declaration and UN mandate to advance the Jewish state, while ignoring the needs of those already living there.

I also read The Lord of the Flies, which was good but probably better read as a 10-13 year old. And I got Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind, for Christmas, a lightweight and fun introduction to memory techniques, hypnotism, mind reading (obviously not literally, but reading the clues in peoples speech and body movements) and NLP (a very good pyramid scheme).

One Palestine, Complete

I’m reading a book called “One Palestine, Complete” about the British invation and rule of Palestine during the first world war up to the second. Palestine was the last country to be invaded for the British Empire with the dual purpose of attacking the German allied Turkish Ottoman empire who ruled it at the time and promising it to the Zionists. Please the Zionists, the British government thought, and Jews would help keep the US fighting the war and stop the Russians from making peace with Germany. The invasion went smoothly with a train line built from Egypt to bring supplies and the Turks politely leaving Jerusalem without destroying its valuable history.

The Paris Peace Conference was a year long meeting to create the new face of the world after the first world war, new nations were created and old ones re-created. A mandate was a new spin on colonialism for the 20th century and Palestine ended up as a British Mandate, ruled by a civil administration and self-financing. The British run government created a stable judiciary, built roads and ensured the post was reliable. They tended to see the Arabs as primitive natives to whom they could bring some civilisation, but were also happy for them to keep their local customs.

Of course the trouble with promising the land to one people is that there was a large population already there. The Colonial Office had a general policy of allowing Jewish immigration in the hope that after a couple of generations the Jewish population would outnumber the Arab and the stated aim of a Jewish homeland would be possible. When a Jewish Englishman is appointed the high commissioner the Arabs get understandably upset and riots break out in the streets.

I’m only about half way through this fascinating book. I wonder what happens in the end.