Cyclists – obey the law and die…!

Women are more at risk of dying in cycle accidents, it seems, because they are more likely to obey the law and stop at traffic lights than the typical male ‘warrior of the road’ [see article in The Times: Women cyclists ‘risk death’ by obeying traffic lights].

After endless close shaves or nerve grinding moments, every cyclist eventually comes to feel risk instinctively. (One of the obvious consequences of the recent expansion of cycling in London is the large number of new cyclists who haven’t yet developed this instinct, and are apparently oblivious to hair-raising situations!). But I can believe the report about jumping lights being safer – one of the risky moments is pulling away from traffic lights when other traffic or pedestrians can make quite unpredictable moves and it is easy not to be seen. From now on, I resolve to carefully disobey traffic lights where this will reduce risk – it’s a health and safety matter, or even a matter of survival. But what do we know of the risks…? Continue reading “Cyclists – obey the law and die…!”

Atrocity exhibitionists…

There’s much to inspire disgust in the Virginia Tech massacre – obviously the hideous acts and resulting toll of dead, injured, terrified, bereaved and traumatised but also the excess of righteous hindsight about what should have been done and the gun lobby arguing for guns on campus and that armed self defence would have prevented the tragedy [see New York Times]. But there is more to be disgusted about… Continue reading “Atrocity exhibitionists…”

Cannabis – sorry about the apology

The Independent on Sunday reached a new peak of absurdity last weekend when it blazed over its front page: Cannabis – an apology and reversed its 1997 campaign for legalisation of the dope, apologising to its readers for leading them astray. The Indy frets that:

Record numbers of teenagers are requiring drug treatment as a result of smoking skunk, the highly potent cannabis strain that is 25 times stronger than resin sold a decade ago. More than 22,000 people were treated last year for cannabis addiction – and almost half of those affected were under 18.

It feels like a modern day Reefer Madness (view classic 1937 film) with ‘skunk‘ playing the role of the evil marijuana. One struggles to know where to start with dismantling this rubbish! But lets try… Continue reading “Cannabis – sorry about the apology”

Second oldest profession in the world – arms dealing

I fear it was a terrible move to axe the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into the Al Yamamah (“the dove”) arms deal between UK and Saudi Arabia.

All parties have been stressing (implausibly) that the decision was not economic – supposedly 50,000 arms-related jobs at stake. For example, see SFO’s terse statement.  It’s obviously a mess and much worse is surely to come: Continue reading “Second oldest profession in the world – arms dealing”

Accessories to accessory crime

There are many annoying things about the mobile phone companies – roaming charges, poor coverage, high charges etc etc. But one of the most annoying things has been their tacit collusion in mobile phone crime.

The motive for collusion is clear – when a mobile is stolen, it is replaced with a new phone and a new user (the person taking the stolen phone) has access to the means to make calls. Muggings rose rapidly with the rise of the mobile, but fell only when there was effort to make it more difficult – both by policing initiatives in 2002 and by enabling the barring of stolen phones from 2002.

But it still seems to be going on… Continue reading “Accessories to accessory crime”

Natwest 3 – pour encourager les autres

Am I alone in feeling little sympathy for these guys?
Fact: there was a massive fraud at Enron
Fact: a lot of ordinary people were fleeced and hurt
Fact: many financial institutions facilitated the fraud
Fact: the FBI has a plausible case (see indictment & complaint)

There is something nauseating about the media campaign to protect them. If they stride the globe profiting from international capital markets and transactions, they can hardly go all Little-England when it comes to accountablity. That you might end up in a US maximum security prison, sends good signal to actual and potential white collar criminals.

Pleasing reversal of the week

The Home Office finally put a stop to its plans for police force mergers (The Times). The mixture of big-gesture, tidying-up and map-redrawing instincts that were driving this (with the flimsiest evidence base as a cover) were thwarted the moment value-for-money became a consideration. The ambition for reform has been steadily watered down from the bullish imposition ‘strategic forces’ (see Home Office statement 11 Nov 2005) to agreeing just to voluntary mergers, then abandoning even that. The whole reversal can be charted on what is surely a soon-to-be-removed Home Office page.

But why be against force mergers? Continue reading “Pleasing reversal of the week”

What’s the opposite of "human rights with common sense"

What is the opposite of ‘common sense’? ‘Stupid’ could be right. Or ‘arbitrary’. But one opposite might also be ‘principled’… meaning that you stick to deeply-held principles, even if they give you discomfort in specific cases. Conservative leader David Cameron called for “human rights with common sense” as he promised to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights (BBC or original speech). He can probably have a Bill of Rights (which the Human Rights Act already is) or the appearance of common sense – but not both.

The whole problem with common sense is that it implies a very elastic view of what is right… Continue reading “What’s the opposite of "human rights with common sense"”

Home Office or giant squid?

After weeks of pain over prisoners let out, illegal aliens let in, and criminals let off, the perpetually distressed Home Office reacts to its plight like a giant squid, discharging vast quantities of a dark inky substance into its surroundings – that is vicious newspaper copy about the nation’s most hated species… see left. The Home Office (press release) has expelled 60 paedophiles from probation hostels located near schools (presumably to somewhere where children cannot be reached?) and promised to consider ‘Sarah’s law’, which would give public access to the address details of convicted and released sex offenders – responding to a campaign by the News of the World.

The possible negative consequences include: Continue reading “Home Office or giant squid?”

The Times – it used to be a decent paper

Letter from me in The Times… The paper had an absurd front page saying “Support for Met Chief crumbles” because the police minister, Tony McNulty, refused to say the position of the Commissioner of the Met police, Sir Ian Blair, is safe in advance of publication of the inquiry into the mistaken identity and shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. But the opposite would be much worse – guaranteeing his job would be a signal that ministers intend to ignore the report. Deciding that his position is already doomed is no better – because it would be based on leaks and spin. Whatever The Times is up to – it’s annoying!