The Plastic Hippo

November 14, 2012

Batman

Filed under: Birmingham,Law,Politics,Walsall,Wolverhampton — theplastichippo @ 12:44 pm

It is difficult to know which particular imbecilic idea concocted by the liars and fraudsters currently destroying the nation is the most ridiculous. Setting aside the malicious intent of most of what passes as “policy” from the corrupt coalition, the election of Police and Crime Commissioners is possibly the daftest.

This Thursday the nation is likely to stay away in droves as polling stations open to elect an individual who will be tasked with holding the local constabulary accountable. Delayed from May 2012 due to the farcical passage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act through the House of Lords, the rush to replace local police authorities is necessary to accelerate the privatisation of the Old Bill. The government regards the current system of “unelected and invisible police authorities” as a barrier to further cuts in operational police officers, front desk closures and the possibility of profit for private companies such as the woeful G4S. Here in the West Midlands, the majority of the 14 members of the current police authority are local councillors and the others are magistrates and former civil servants with expertise in education and health. We might wish to ask; who are the candidates that are campaigning to replace the unelected and the invisible? Anyone got any clues?

In the absence of any information, it seems that only those in procession of a computer and connection to the internet thingy are allowed to know who will be working on their behalf to deliver effective policing. Here is a test. Do you know how many candidates are standing? Do you know their names? Are you aware of what the successful PCC intends to do? If you have answered all three questions correctly, then congratulations Mr, Mrs or Ms Police and Crime Commissioner. If, however, you find yourself minus a Scooby Doo, this humble blog is here to help.

There are seven candidates in the West Midlands of which four represent political parties and three are independent. They are:

Matt Bennett
Matt Bennet, the Conservative Party candidate, is “standing up for the law abiding majority” and will “make sure crime goes down”. He will introduce “zero tolerance policing” and hold a public meeting at least once a fortnight.

Bill Etheridge
Bill Etheridge, the UKIP candidate is “for the victim, not the criminal” and will utilise his business experience in balancing the books, buying equipment and not outsourcing to the private sector. He will introduce “zero tolerance zones”

Cath Hannon
Cath Hannon, with 30 years experience as a West Midlands police officer, is an Independent candidate who will not “take orders from political parties” and promises “no nonsense, no jargon, no spin”. She will “put people first instead of bureaucracy”.

Bob Jones
Bob Jones, the Labour Party candidate is a former chair of the West Midlands Police Authority and a Wolverhampton councillor. He will protect policing from cuts, retain PCSO`s and “oppose the privatisation of core policing services”.

Ayoub Khan
Ayoub Khan, a barrister and Birmingham councillor is the Liberal Democrat candidate. He wishes to be a “responsible champion of public opinion” and “will leave no stone unturned to search for savings”. He will accept only half the £100K salary.

Mike Rumble
Mike Rumble is another independent candidate and a former police officer. He will “immediately halt police redundancies” and “cancel current proposals to contract out parts of the police service to private security companies”.

Derek Webley
Derek Webley is the third independent candidate and is a former member of the West Midlands Police Authority. He has no political agenda and promises “open and transparent leadership”. The West Midlands, he says, is his “priority” and not Westminster.

So, there you go. All the background you need to make an informed choice brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood hippo simply doing his job in fighting crime and upholding democracy. There is an opportunity to learn more about the magnificent seven and read their election statements here.
After the excitement across the Atlantic, it might be worth reflecting on the wise words of the recently departed and acerbically correct Gore Vidal. He said: “Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” It is estimated that the PCC elections will cost in excess of £70million and that is before we take into account the salaries of the 41 newly appointed commissioners in England and Wales. Interestingly, the two remaining authorities, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police will not be electing commissioners. In the City, the Court of Common Council regulate the plod and the Mayor of London keeps a beady eye on the Met. This system is clearly working given the complete absence of criminality in the square mile and the impeccable reputation of the Met.

Gore Vidal also said: “Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so”. This twist on Plato`s idea of the Philosopher King is rather relevant in terms of commissioner candidates being aligned to political parties. Policing, like health and education, is far too important to come under the scrutiny of tribal politicians. Imagine, if you will, a northern mill town with a Labour council and a Labour MP gripped by a child abuse scandal which evidently displayed a failure of political leadership and responsibility. One might wonder how credible any investigation by a Labour commissioner might be. Suspend your disbelief further by conjuring up a scenario where a Conservative council and a Conservative MP in a leafy Home Counties shire are in need of a good looking at. Would a Conservative commissioner with similar tastes in whiskey, aprons and funny handshakes as the Chief Constable really be equipped to shed light on any dark wrongdoings? We can safely dismiss the Liberal Democrats and UKIP because the meteorite that is approaching both those parties is much larger than the one that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Add to this possibly the worst Home Secretary since dinosaurs ruled the earth and we may witness the Bow Street Runners running for survival. Honest coppers are being laid off and the bent ones are being pensioned off as the ghosts of Hillsborough and North Wales care homes hover over central police stations. The scale of political incompetence and woeful police leadership is best summed up by the tale of the two Abu`s, Mr Hamza and Mr Qatada and their more than 1,001 nights without charges being brought. Factor in the rise and rise of a certain Tom Winsor, a lawyer who did so terribly well as a rail regulator that he was asked to undertake a review of the terms and conditions of police officers and police staff. After producing his Taser and containing the suspects, he was rewarded with a new apron and the job of HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Thursday will be interesting not just for the parliamentary by elections in Cardiff South and Penarth, Manchester Central and, of course, lovely Corby but also the prospect of a local council by election in Bloxwich West. We can also look forward to the use of the supplementary vote system in the PCC election. There will be a first choice and a second choice so any voters bothered to brave the cold will not just need a blindfold and a pin to cast their vote but a second pin to prolong the agony. “Holy confusion, Batman. I sense the work of the dastardly Riddler.”

Democracy is precious and should never be taken lightly. However, the turn out on Thursday is likely to be truly awful and we will sleepwalk into a system guaranteed to fail and thereby give justification to ending policing as we know it. The same dismantling is taking place in health and education and social care and just about anything else this crooked government touches. It is, though, important to turn up and vote in these PCC elections even if you do not want a commissioner. If the number of spoilt ballot papers marked “none of the above” exceeds the tally of the final winner, then a small victory will have been won against those determined to subjugate us.

As a public service, this humble blog has trawled all the names of candidates standing in all 41 PCC elections. It is with great sadness that none of them has the surname Gordon much less the first name Flash and although it might be tempting to approach the election in the same way that people pick a horse in the Grand National because it has a nice name, Commissioner Rumble has a DC Comic ring to it but is no basis for law enforcement. The Bat cave has relocated to the Cayman Islands for tax purposes and the red telephone hotline has been diverted to a call centre in Mumbai. The Bat sign projected onto a cloud will be ignored because Batman and Robin have left Gotham City.

If only we had some police officers to manage the crisis.

November 11, 2012

Little red holes

Filed under: History,Literature,Society — theplastichippo @ 8:26 pm

Two minutes of silence once a year is not too much to ask for. One day of remembrance allows us to conveniently forget the stupidity, futility and madness of war for the other three hundred and sixty four. You can remove your poppies now; you have shown everyone how much you care.

A world that is prepared to sacrifice an entire generation in the name of King or Kaiser and country in a war to end wars needs reminding that humanity is more precious than the profit of colonial empires. We might remember them at the going down of the sun but 120 seconds of silence on a cold November morning will not stop it happening again and again and again. Our parents and grandparents stood against and defeated fascism yet we, enjoying freedoms that millions died for, allow hatred, bigotry and evil to again permeate into society and shrug it off by wearing a poppy and not speaking for two minutes. It remains astonishing that those who gave so much are still reliant on charity rather than a home fit for heroes.

After another generation left its entrails and brains scattered across Normandy, the western desert, Burma and so many other places miles from mill towns and city streets and quiet villages, governments still order young men and women to die for the rest of us for what politicians secure in a place of safety call freedom. Those of us on the flight path to BHX might look up to see a C-17 Globemaster loaded with more broken bodies inbound for Selly Oak Hospital and wonder exactly where Afghanistan is. For all the stench-filled horror of war, there is nothing more disgusting than seeing a British Prime Minister scuttling back to lay a wreath after whoring himself around the Middle East attempting to flog fighter aircraft to dictators who are happy to flog women. But it`s okay, Cameron was wearing a poppy as he closed the deal on deadly and indiscriminate weaponry. Hypocrite doesn`t get anywhere near in describing this parasite.

Danny Martin, now a teacher and poet, is a former soldier who completed two tours of duty in Iraq. So, on a day when Sassoon and Wilfred Owen are recited, we can add this:

Lessons

Do away with medals
Poppies and remembrance parades
Those boys were brave, we know
But look where it got them

Reduced to line after perfect line
Of white stones
Immobile, but glorious, exciting
To kids who haven`t yet learned
That bullets don`t make little red holes

They rip and smash and gouge
And drag the world`s dirt behind them
Remember lads, you won`t get laid
No matter how good your war stories

If you`re dead
So melt down the medals
Fuel the fire with paper poppies, war books and Arnie films
Stop playing the pipes, stop banging the drums
And stop writing fucking poems about it.

Danny Martin

You can read more poetry by Danny Martin at warpoetry.co.uk.
If anyone is qualified to lay a wreath to commemorate the fallen, then it is Danny Martin. David Cameron brings shame to the cenotaph.

November 10, 2012

The BBC – an apology

Filed under: Fiction — theplastichippo @ 2:05 am

“The BBC wishes to offer a profound and unreserved apology for inadvertently not naming an individual who was not involved in some things that never happened. The corporation deeply regrets this oversight and wishes to assure any member of the public that did not do anything that this will never happen again.

In not naming the individual for legal reasons, the BBC takes full responsibility for the distress, ill-health, sleepless nights and broken heart of the unnamed victim who remains entirely innocent of things that we now realise did not take place. Our news and current affairs department prides itself on quality and accurate journalism yet on this occasion the expected high standards of excellence were not met. Consequently, our flagship current affairs programme will no longer feature in the schedule and we will no longer undertake any investigative reporting of things that obviously did not happen involving unnamed individuals who by accident of birth are powerful and rich.

The BBC admits that culpability for any crimes that have been committed by unnamed rich and powerful individuals rests entirely with the BBC and we will rigorously pursue the malicious named individuals who appeared on camera not naming innocent people who were not named in respect of criminal offences. It is clear that not naming people who did not engage in unlawful activity is not in the public interest and will cease. Senior management and the BBC Trust now agree with the government that child abusers are gay, it all took place a long time ago and it is time to draw a line and move on.

To replace the clearly unpopular flagship current affairs programme, we have already commissioned a number of documentary series including: Thatcher – the golden years, Gary Glitters greatest hits, Kinnock – what a prat, Sir Jimmy Savile – cultural icon and Bernstein and Woodward – overrated or just liars? We are sure that these wholesome programmes will be an improvement on shoddy journalism.

Once again, the BBC wishes to offer a profound and unreserved apology for getting too close and wishes to reassure the rich and powerful that we will keep our noses out of their business. Thank you.”

Dr David Kelly
Director General

November 8, 2012

Breakfast in America

Filed under: Media,Politics,Walsall,World — theplastichippo @ 9:00 pm

It was a long night. The tortilla chips and salsa had been consumed by the time Indiana called and the pretzels had all but gone when New Mexico declared. When California returned 55 to the Electoral College, the Budweiser had run dry and it was time to break out the Jim Beam stashed on top of the kitchen cabinet reserved for special occasions or emergencies.

The BBC seems to really enjoy covering elections and tend to throw extraordinary amounts of resources at them. One can only assume that it was more economical for the BBC to charter an Airbus A380 to convey the correspondents, camera crews, producers, runners, Huw Edwards and David Dimbleby to the swing battleground states and a virtual studio hovering at about 200 feet in front of the White House than it would be to have taken the feed direct from CNN. US elections are, of course, very different from elections here in dear old Blighty, but the very best of television journalists still had to endure reporting from a bar in Miami as robustly as reporting an election count in a drafty town hall in Walsall at three o`clock in the morning.

Jeremy Vine was employed as a 21st century Peter Snow and was expected to wave his arms about and pretend to be excited by some rather arcane and dubious statistics. Instead of using a basic swingometre, this chap seemed to be trapped in some green screen projection of an infinite and gargantuan Fermat equation that, as last theorems go, was utterly futile. One saving the corporation did make was to engage the Washington based BBC World News America anchor and presumably only had to pay her cab fare. The charming Katty Kay compensated for having a stupid name by combining the looks of Claudia Schiffer with the intellect of Simone de Beauvoir. But, then again, that could be the Budweiser talking.

The BBC`s coverage was obsessed with discussion and statistics regarding the ethnicity and the gender of voting Americans. US elections are, of course, very different from elections here in dear old Blighty, but can you ever imagine Dimbleby asking a pundit: “what do you make of the surge in support for Miliband from the Romanian vote in Walsall and the solid support of farmer`s wives in Staffordshire for Cameron?” After more meaningless statistics regarding Albanian support for Clegg and UKIP making gains in Handsworth, would Jeremy Vine jump up and down and display another bogus graph?

All the chatter about the changing demographics of African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, college educated single women, under 25`s, Evangelical Christians, Baptists, retired women, Roman Catholics, Jews, Hindus, gun toting rednecks, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, over 55`s, Jews, Mormons, Methodists and even atheists is complete nonsense. The people who voted, or decided not to vote, are Americans. The Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock to escape religious persecution intending to form a society based on freedom and equality. By the 1930`s, Cole Porter in Anything Goes suggests that Plymouth Rock might land on the Pilgrim Fathers.

During the election coverage, pundits from both sides of the Atlantic made constant reference to the principles of democracy and equality but made no comment on the brutal oppression of indigenous people, the violent War of Independence or the need for a civil war to end slavery but did not end racial segregation or deep-seated bigotry. The far right in America seem to have forgotten that they are all derived from immigrant stock and that Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant were Republicans. Romney lost the election because he had to move to the right to appease the lunatic fringe at a bone-headed tea party and then lurch back to the centre in the hope of attracting support from Americans with more than one brain cell. Spending millions on TV ads that told lies didn`t help, nor did his dismissal of 47 per cent of the nation. When his buddies started talking of the will of God, abortion and rape, potential votes were dumped over the side of a ship moored in Boston harbour.

As election night unfolded and with Ohio and Florida deadlocked, it seemed that recounts and legal challenges would be inevitable and no final result likely for at least 24 hours if not weeks longer. Jim Beam was about to be returned unopened to the top of the kitchen cupboard and bed taken when the enchanting Katty Kay reported an email claiming that Jeb Bush had called the Romney camp to inform them that the Florida vote was lost. It was time for some sippin` whiskey. Shortly, tweets from the networks suggested that Ohio might be Democrat and then the sippin` became a gulp. Before any public statement or any confirmation from the networks, a retweet arrived at this computer from the President of the United States. The POTUS was thanking his people for his victory. By the time considerably more than two fingers of red eye had been poured, Ohio called Democrat. The glass was raised, not in celebration but with a huge sigh of relief.

Romney was at least gracious in defeat but many of his supporters were not. The venting of anger ranged from the irrational to the sub-human with first amongst equals being a certain Donald Trump. His outbursts on Twitter were extraordinary claiming that the result was un-democratic and “a disgusting injustice”. He called for a revolution and urged Republicans to march on the White House complaining that the world was laughing at America. Mr Trump has good reason to be angry at the result after paying so much money to buy himself a president. One hopes he kept the receipt.

It would be too easy to suggest that the world is actually laughing at Donald Trump but he and his bonkers patriots need to be taken seriously. Perhaps Obama`s greatest achievement in his first four years as president was not getting shot, something John F Kennedy did not quite manage, and with the crazies now angry, Obama needs to be very careful. In the south, the relationship between the descendents of slave owners and the descendents of slaves in hardly likely to be a bed of roses and the antipathy between poor white people and poor Hispanic people is exploited by the right to divide America. Every few years, wealthy southern states like Texas threaten to cede from the Union and go it alone because they don`t like the president or the Senate or the House of Representatives. None of this is ever taken seriously but after Obama`s re-election there may be elements of Confederates who will wish to see the south rise again. With a God given right to bear arms and carrying enough fire power to inflict mass loss of life in shopping malls and high schools, there are plenty air heads about to overload. Remember that prior to 9/11 the worst terrorist atrocity committed on American soil occurred during the term of a Democrat president. The Oklahoma City bombers were white supremacists who hated their own government.

Bored with waiting for Florida to declare or for Romney to concede, Jim Beam was finally returned to gather dust. After a few hours sleep, breakfast in America was lunchtime in England. Lacking the wherewithal to cook ham, eggs over easy, hash browns and grits, lunch was a bowl of tomato soup. The BBC can now swing its mighty news operation to cover next week`s riveting election of Police and Crime Commissioners. US elections are, of course, very different from elections here in dear old Blighty but one can only hope that the corporation has not blown its budget and can afford the air fare to fly Katty Kay from Washington to cover the momentous event.

Should she find herself out in the cold in front of Walsall Town Hall, there is a bottle of something nice on top of the kitchen cupboard.

November 6, 2012

Riders on the storm

Filed under: History,Politics,World — theplastichippo @ 3:16 am

Image via NASA and ABC News
Image via NASA and ABC News

There are many weird things happening in the USA at the moment. Perhaps the weirdest could be the decision by the Republican Party to nominate Mitt Romney as commander-in-chief or the fact that with polling stations about to open, according to pollsters, the actual result is too close to call. President Romney? What? Weird scenes inside the goldmine, man.

Obama swept into the White House in 2008 on a tide of hope and optimism following eight years of buffoonery courtesy of George Dubya Bush. A month after Obama`s inauguration, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed which committed federal budgets to counter the recession caused by irresponsible greed and unregulated banks during the second Bush administration. The financial stimulus to infrastructure, education, health care, welfare and increased fairness in the tax burden has resulted in economic growth and a fall in unemployment. Within days of his inauguration, Obama instructed the military to plan a staged withdrawal from Iraq.

Eleven years earlier, in 1997, Tony Blair swept into Downing Street on a tide of hope and optimism following 18 years of privatisation, ideological greed and arrogant sleaze under Thatcher and Major. In its first term, Blair`s government introduced devolution, the Human Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Good Friday Agreement and the minimum wage. Sadly, Blair and now Obama realised that there is more to winning an election than keeping promises and that they were required to tread carefully so as not to incur the displeasure of the rich and powerful. The faceless, nameless and usually wealthy, white, male vested interests are governed solely by individual gain and not democracy. They are happy to see walking, talking manikins rather than credible statesmen and, whatever God they follow forbid, stateswomen.

Both Blair and Obama proved to be disappointments. Teflon Tony blew his credibility with double talk and a couple of illegal wars and is now a ridiculous figure. Obama is happy to continue with illegal drone strikes in non war zones that kill civilians in the hope of taking out some crazy war lord who might be attending a tribal wedding. The USA is one of only three countries not to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the others being Somalia and the newly formed South Sudan. The African rogue states wish to continue forcing children into armed militias as combatants and the US, under pressure from “Christian” fundamentalists, would prefer to be allowed to commit the state sanctioned execution of children found guilty of certain crimes.

There is still a long way to go but a quick look at the alternative is truly chilling. Some Americans seeing the bills going up at Walmart, Denny`s Diner and the gas station might want to think again before chanting “anyone but Obama”. The Republican Party, or Grand Old Party as they like to call themselves, has selected Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan for VP. Both men seem to have been sprayed with a mixture of fake tan and polypropylene and are both very adept at making money, not for the common wealth, but for themselves and their wealthy, anonymous backers. Natural heirs to Nixon, Reagan, Bush Senior and Junior, these GOP moronic manikins could be the public face of global economic manipulation and could have their fingers on the nuke buttons and, in terms of criticism, civil disobedience and economic advantage, the control of deadly drones.

There are some Americans, mostly Republican, who claim that the 2012 election is an internal matter and is not the business of the rest of the world or independent election monitors. As in Florida in 2000, there are already rumours of some rather dodgy practices preventing early voting and as the US is the single largest economy on the planet and the most heavily armed nation, the man with the nuclear codes is definitely our business especially if there is even a sniff of electoral fraud. With the polls in the US unable to predict a clear winner given the margin of error and political bias of the polling organisations, the BBC conducted a poll of the rest of the world. It makes for interesting reading:

Image via Huffington Post and BBC
Image via Huffington Post and BBC

Perceived wisdom suggests that public opinion shifted against George Dubya following his poor response to Hurricane Katrina wiping out approval of his macho stance after 9/11. Obama could not have bought public opinion approval without the arrival of Super storm Sandy. With Atlantic City and Lower Manhattan under water and power out along the eastern seaboard, the President was able to be, well, presidential. The American public have hopefully noted that Romney`s “aid rallies” only sent “aid” to swing battleground states and not the Democrat states suffering the aftermath of Sandy. Voters have also hopefully noted that senior Romney associates have described the storm as “God`s punishment” for Obama`s position on same sex marriage and abortion. Another senior Romney associate has asserted that it is impossible for a victim of rape to become pregnant and that if she does become pregnant, then that is “God`s will”, presumably as a punishment for her sins. The next 36 hours will tell the rest of us if the American people are going to tolerate and accept this ignorant and bigoted garbage which will make the planet a much more dangerous place to inhabit.

When Obama was elected in 2008, a friend copied me in on an e-mail she had sent to another friend who lived across the pond. It simply said: “Welcome back America. We missed you”. We can only hope that Wednesday does not see an e-mail hitting the in box waving goodbye again to the land of the free.

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