Please arrive at the station three hours prior to your train.

Awaiting the 0815 to Cannon Street, sometime next week.

Wow, just when you think you’ve heard all the stupid ideas there are to be heard, a new idea comes along that is so amazingly stupid you wonder why some lackwit didn’t think of it ages ago.

Well this one’s a doozie.

The Government wants to security scan at least a quarter of all train passengers for explosives, knives and guns to protect railways and the London Underground from terrorists.

Really? And who came up with this great idea? You can’t move for terrorists on trains. Yes, I know there have been a couple of incidents, one horrifically successful, but really, have we come to this? Why stop at trains? Why not the National Express, the water taxi from Embankment to Canary Wharf, or the car from my gaff to the shops?

The Home Office has published details of what it wants the scanners to detect and how they should work, and is asking for advice on the technology available.

“The main focus is on the detection of explosives and weapons on people and in bags,” the research brief states, suggesting that technologies including X-ray, magnetometry, vapour and trace methods, electromagnetic radiation and ultrasound could be used.

Right, so let’s take a train from a big commuter town, let’s say Ashford. We’ve normal speed trains into the central south of town and the fast trains running up to St. Pancras via Stratford. I can’t be arsed to go and check how many an hour pass through Ashford in peak time, but it must be at least two of each. How many people get on at Ashford? A lot, and it isn’t just there, there’s Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Dover, Folkestone, Canterbury, Margate. . .

And you want to screen a quarter of these people?

Oh, that’s not all, you might have an exploding leg. . .

The researchers also want to know whether wheelchairs, false limbs, crutches, pushchairs, and bikes could be scanned and whether so-called dirty bombs could be spotted.

Yes! Quick! SCAN ALL THE THINGS! Look, I’ve tried the ham and plastic cheese meltie from the charming ‘Disinterested School-leaver Cafe’ on the platforms at SouthEastern, I’m more concerned about the damage that will do to me than a dirty bomb.

“Ooooh, now come on, Wolfers,” I hear you say, “nasty people want to kill us, to take our freedoms.”

Here’s a thing to think about, we live under a government that has taken more of our freedoms than anyone or anything else, except for the government that came before it. All in the name of our safety. Do you feel safer?

Is standing around in a queue for an hour to get on a train going to make you feel safer, or will you find it just the slightest imposition?

Here comes the really delusional bit:

Crucially, the document insists the scanning must be done without holding anyone up.

“Any screening methodologies proposed must not delay the passengers any more than they are currently as they pass through the station,” it states.

Yeah, right. See how long that lasts as the 25% is upped to 37% and it becomes a regrettable and unavoidable delay, but really you should factor it in to your day, it is for your own safety, after all. And don’t you dare complain or crack a feeble joke, and for fuck’s sake, don’t tweet anything about it. If you do, that disinterested school leaver selling you your overheated, over-priced, under-flavoured savoury product will not be using those latex gloves to handle your food, they’ll be using them with lube.

And who will be paying for this? Well because of the unique way our rail system is run, the companies who pay the government for the right to run trains on our rails get most of that money back in the form of subsidies, and then they bend you over, and when you think you’re getting a body cavity search, they fuck you. Sans lube. Apparently that is free market economics, sounds like corporatism to me, but hey what do I know?

Anyway, you will be herded, treated with suspicion, delayed, inconvenienced, humiliated and be not one bit safer. Why? Because if you want to kill shit loads of people on a train, all you do is drive to some remote rural spot and put a bloody great big bomb on the track. And you will pay through the nose for this.

If you allow me to put my tin foil hat on for a moment, I might forecast a country where you will not be able to board a train or a plane without being bollock naked and sitting silently with your hands open and in clear view on your knees at all times, your car will be tracked. Until cars are abolished and you can only hire them like a Boris bike. And they’ll be electric with a 15 mile range, to stop you going too far, and you’ll be tracked every inch of the way.

They’ll probably outlaw shoes so you can’t walk anywhere.

I’ll make another forecast. We’ll swallow it, every last drop. Because we always do. Except you and me. And we’re the nutters.

Maybe they’re right.

I’m past caring.

Hackers? Amateur?

There’s an interesting piece over at the BBC today, it’s all about people grouping together to put satellites into space and perhaps doing their own moon landing.

It sounds cool and rather expensive. I’m sceptical as to whether it will come off any time soon or not, but the concept is a nice one.

What isn’t nice is the tone the good ol’ BBC takes, it betrays their almost total lack of capacity for independent thought and how they seek to manage their audience’s reactions to story.

Let’s see what they’ve written through the . . . hmmm. . . round window. . .

Computer hackers plan to take the internet beyond the reach of censors by putting their own communication satellites into orbit.

Oh, they’re hackers, are they? Must be, because only hackers would seek to sidestep censorship wouldn’t they? It is only those who are doing wrong who fear censorship, it is only those with something to hide who would welcome a comms system that is not state run or regulated.

Longer term they hope to help put an amateur astronaut on the moon.

Oh, amateur, eh? Now I for one think that a private enterprise astronaut is as cool as can be, but are we supposed to believe that if they do this, the astronaut will be unpaid? Use of the term is such a wilful ignorance of the spirit behind this type of endeavour. The message is that only the state can be relied on to do this sort of thing.

It’s interesting because it is space exploration that has bucked the trend in the field of human endeavour, being almost entirely state sponsored. The first properly functioning steamboat, Palmipède was built in France, privately, in 1774. In 1804 Trevithick gave the first steam locomotive railway that would be recognisable today its debut in Merthyr (Stephenson’s Rocket didn’t come along until 1829) and the first passenger line, the ‘Crab and Winkle line’ running between Canterbury and Whitstable opened in 1830. All of them private enterprises.

In 1785, Jean-Pierre Blanchard was the first to fly across the channel in his dirigible, and by attaching a propeller to one of his craft became a pioneer of powered flight. State assistance? Nil. In 1903 the Wright brothers may or may not have been the first to use a powered aeroplane, it almost doesn’t matter if they were the first or not, like their contemporaries they had no state assistance.

As for the automobile, well Cugnot sort of got there first in 1769. Trevithick (again) developed a steam powered road locomotive in 1801 and another Frenchman, Niepce constructed what is considered to be the first internal combustion engine. In 1885 we saw the arrival of Benz’s motorwagen, the first thing that could reasonably be looked at and be recognisable as a car. Not one penny of public money involved.

So why is it so ridiculous to suggest that a private enterprise put a man on the moon? From where I’m looking it’s the evidence of history that makes the BBC looks foolish for being so glibly dismissive. As for satellites, well, there’s a similar pattern with the development of the telegraph, computer, telephone, cinema, radio, television and internet, all of which have been developed independently. The State cannot do this stuff, it does not encourage innovation, it can only appropriate. Indeed when a big idea, like a code breaking computer or a jet engine, lands in their lap they don’t see its worth until it is demonstrated with the aid of diagrams, field trips and words of one syllable.

The BBC is a perfect example of what happens when the State appropriates a really cool idea. The sooner they lose all their public funding, the better.

Epilogue

I often think it would be a cool story to document the tribulations of a fictional group of independent colonists who head off to set up home on the Moon (it’s probably already been done, but I’m not a big Sci-Fi literature buff, perhaps one of you dear readers can provide an example or two). I find myself wondering how long it would take for one government or organisation such as the UN or EU to claim Dominion over them even though they were off-world. Colonisation is probably more likely to happen than not and surely the idea of a group of latter day Pilgrim Fathers saying ‘sod this, we’re off’ isn’t too far fetched? It’ll be fascinating to watch the powers that be argue that their jurisdiction extends to celestial bodies beyond our own when it happens.

I must be a bit odd.

I’m surprised the BBC hasn’t stopped broadcasting in mourning over Cameron’s gentle ‘no’ to the EU. I’m sure I’ve heard the strains of sombre music in the background during the Beeb’s coverage of the story. And they’ve been keen to tell us just how disastrous this whole episode is.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s disastrous at all, but then I must be a bit odd. You see, I don’t want to live under an organisation that doesn’t have its accounts signed off. I don’t want to live under an organisation that hamstrings its own anti-fraud unit and persecutes those who highlight corruption within the organisation. I don’t want to live under an organisation that says to its members ‘this is what we’re going to do, are you in or are you in?’ and then effectively says that they’ll worry about all the legal and democratic stuff, if they really have to, at some unspecified date in the future. Down that road lies the sort of place where a knock comes at the door at 3am with an invitation to attend re-education camps.

In an attempt to scare us, the BBC lists a load of quotes that actually only serve to hearten and re-assure me:

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, head of the Germany’s FDP group, part of the European Liberals, goes as far as to say it was “a mistake to let the British into the EU”.

Not quite, it was a mistake for us to apply to join it in the first place. If only we’d taken the hint from De Gaulle at the time.

Britain must now renegotiate its relationship with the EU, he said. “Either they [the British] do it on their own initiative, or the EU refounds itself – without Great Britain. Switzerland is a model towards which Britain can turn itself.”

Now you’re talking! This is the very model of what we should be. I’ve heard someone on the news talking about Britain needing to aspire to being more than a peripheral player like Switzerland is. He’s missing the point, I don’t want us to be in charge of anything, that point in our history has passed, what I want is for us to be free, happy, prosperous and respected. No more, it isn’t our job to tell people what to do. It would seem the Germans and French have yet to come to terms with this.

Meanwhile Daniel Cohen-Bendit, joint leader of the Greens in the European Parliament has labelled Mr Cameron “a weakling”.

No, you see, where I’m from, standing up to a greedy arrogant bully is a desirable personality trait. It takes strength to go against what everyone else is doing. To use that logic would mean we were weak to stand alone in Europe in 1941.

German Christian Democrat MEP Elmar Brok, foreign policy spokesman for the centre-right in the European parliament, echoed his sentiment: “If you’re not ready to abide by the rules, you’d do better to keep your mouth shut.”

No, we’d do better to walk away if we’re not ready to abide by the rules. You go and play your little game, I don’t care.

Yvan Duvant, writing to the BBC from Olargues, in France, says that as the UK is slowing down the move towards EU integration, it should leave the union altogether: “What’s the point of keeping this country in the EU? The British people should put pressure on their government to quit. Maybe the British would do better without the EU. Europe will definitely do better without the UK.”

Fair enough. Kick us out then, I’d be delighted. If you’re happy, and we’re happy then where’s the beef? Let’s go our separate ways, shall we? No hard feelings and all that. I hope you’re right about being better off without us, but I have my doubts. Still, it’s your decision as to what you do, not mine.

In Italy, too, some are angered by Britain’s failure to play ball. “There is an obstacle to Europe and it must be overcome. It’s not Germany,” Massimo Riva tells Repubblica TV. “Right now, the main obstacle is Britain.

“And this dirty game that the British are playing – wanting to stay with one foot in and one foot out of Europe – risks collapsing the entire system. London must be either in, or out. But they simply cannot sabotage everything.”

Then, once again, kick us out. Please.

The country’s main financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, calls the move a “British bluff” which leaves the country isolated.

“The British manoeuvre [means] that London now finds itself outside, on the margins of Europe. The first European Council session in Brussels, which should have solidified and perhaps even resolved the euro crisis produced instead, after 11 hours of tense and at times dramatic talks, a deep division between member states.”

Isolated? Hardly, there’s the UN Security Council, NATO and most importantly, the Commonwealth. There’s no isolation here, indeed in an increasingly global village, we’re placed with good relationships in all sort of interesting and exciting places, it is being mired in this snooty little retirement close that is holding us back. We can be on the margins of Europe, but at the centre of the world. You look through your net curtains like an old pensioner, tutting at the youngsters on their bikes with their mobile phones and I-pods, we’ll go out and do interesting things.

Seeing things from a different perspective, Luca Gaballo, writing in the RaiNews24 blog L’Europa Errante, calls this Cameron’s “Waterloo moment”.

“All of continental Europe goes forward, leaving Britain behind – towards a common fiscal policy, rules that will govern finance, work and business. Cameron finds himself alone.”

Yes, we stood alone on one or two memorable moments before now. From a British perspective, a Waterloo moment is the moment you stand up to an arrogant, short-arsed French tyrant and give him a damn good thrashing. I’m sure Cameron will be delighted he’s being compared to the Iron Duke, although I’m not sure if he deserves it yet.

Le Figaro calls it Mr Cameron’s “dangerous game” and writes that Britain has merely honoured its reputation as a dissident nation, never intending to play along.

Yes, that’s us. Standing up for what we believe in, rather than operating as a puppet government, herding people into cattle trucks. Guilty as charged.

“No sooner did David Cameron cross the entrance to the council, on the occasion of the 8 December summit, than the sky over the negotiations darkened. He had one aim: to protect British interests.”

Guilty as charged. And? I’m sorry, is there something wrong in a leader protecting the interests of the people who put him there? If so, then we’ve been doing this wrong for, ooooh, well, longer than about pretty much every other country in the world. We’ve a bit more experience than you, don’t worry, you’ll catch up soon enough. Enjoy your bloody and violent revolution when the awful truth dawns. We’ll be playing cricket and drinking Pimms in our garden.

Seemingly keen to avoid further damaging relations between the French and English, Le Monde reminds its readers of all the things they love about the UK, which, it writes, are “impossible to number”.

“From the concept of habeas corpus to the BBC, to Elizabethan poetry to John Le Carre, from rock to the invention of the Sixties, from London springtime concerts to Wimbledon, via Liverpool FC. So many things do we hold dear from across the Channel… But Germany, France and the majority of the other EU member states were right, at daybreak on Friday 9 December, to say No to London.”

And I love, errrm, well, I think Renoir is kinda cool, Zidane was good, although as many French pointed out before the ’98 World Cup, he wasn’t, along with his other African team mates, really French. I do like a baguette, and Voltaire had some interesting things to say. London was right to say No to the EU.

Although many in the UK might disagree, Le Monde continues: “Brits are not part of this euro crisis. And they have no responsibility for the failure of its institutions to resolve this sovereign debt crisis.”

Well, we are part of it unfortunately, although thankfully not as big a part of it as you lot are. But if you think that it is our institutions that are responsible for the current €uro pickle. . . well, tell you what, cut us loose, I’m sure that’ll solve your problems overnight.

Just to prove they’re not biased, here comes the BBC balance. Don’t blink, you’ll miss it.

Carmel Magri, writing to the BBC from Malta, agrees and congratulates Mr Cameron on “doing the right thing for all European people, not like our puppet Maltese prime minister. Britain doesn’t need Europe like it did in other centuries”.

No, I’m not scared by this in the slightest. Bring. It. On.

 

Sign up!

But only if you support the aim, unlike ASH, I’m not about to browbeat anyone.

Via Dick Puddlecote comes news of a new e-petition, created by Anthony Worral-Thompson (of all people) to request Parliament to review the effects of the smoking ban and to consider allowing publicans to have a separate, ventilated smoking space in their pubs should they so wish to have one.

You’ll notice there’s no demands for enforced areas or enforced smoking.

Do toddle over and sign up if you agree with the sentiment.

A sad reflection.

After the first couple of ‘songs’ in Eurovision last night those two twits representing Ireland came on and I decided to head down to the pub.

There I met a young man in his twenties who worked for an NGO. A pleasant enough chap, I was interested to hear what his job consisted of. Having given fairly sketchy details he told me that the organisation he really wanted to work for was the EU. When I asked why (and I managed to ask politely and without rolling my eyes) I was informed that it was because it was a wonderful organisation. It transpired that a good deal of funding for his NGO came from our money that is filtered through Brussels and that the EU was one his NGO’s ‘partner agencies’.

So what, I asked, was the EU’s greatest achievement? That was answered immediately, peace in western Europe since the second world war.

What about NATO? Surely the fact that most western European nations were members of that, and it pre-dated the ECM/EEC/EC/EU may have had a bigger part to play than the EU? That and the fact that no country could afford a war anyway? No, it was only the EU.

What about the fact that the organisation has failed to have its accounts signed off for umpteen years and does all it can to keep its own anti-corruption watchdog (OLAF) muzzled? Oh, no, they don’t do that. It’s all open and transparent. Besides, the accounts are nothing to worry about, it’s all very complicated, too complicated for an auditor. Nothing to concern us, the people at the top know what they are doing, they’ll make sure it is ok.

What about the court case involving Bernard Connolly, who has been told that it is illegal for him, or anyone else, to make any criticism of the EU, its institutions and its officers? I was making that bit up, apparently. Nothing like that would and could happen, it was a media smear campaign by racist right wingers. No, that didn’t happen at all, I must have been mistaken.

Hmmmm, ok. What about the brow beating of the Irish over the constitution/Lisbon treaty? What was that then?

I explained how they just went back to the Irish and pretty much said, vote yes or else. Once again, I was mistaken. No such thing happened.

I explained the concept of a ‘post-democratic’ age, and what that meant to me. The response to this put the tin lid on it. The people of Europe don’t know what is best for them and leading by the people who do know what is best. How can democracy be held to have worked when governments keep changing? It is obvious people keep choosing the wrong ones, because if they didn’t, the governments wouldn’t change, would they?

I may have called him a bad name as I walked off.

This is a British man in his twenties, completely indoctrinated and incapable of individual thought.

Perhaps it is time to colonise Mars?

Obrigado, Portugal.

It would seem that the economically functioning part of the Eurozone (and no doubt those EU members with the common sense to have stayed out of the Euro as well) will have to put their hands in their pockets to support the economically destitute part again.

According to the BBC, the Portuguese parliament has voted down the budget of spending cuts and tax rises which the Prime Minister was kinda banking on. As a result he’s resigned and there will likely be an election to follow.

I’m delighted, OK, it may cost us a few more million, but to be honest, we’re so in hock at the moment, it doesn’t really matter. But this will cause more discontent in Germany. They grumbled over Greece, there was even the stamping of feet over Ireland, who knows what reaction this will bring forth, as a bail-out is pretty much a certainty.

Empires tend to evolve into existence, and with a couple of exceptions, tend to fade away. Like all quick build projects, the EU was made of concrete, it is cracked and the water is seeping in. As soon as that happens the fate of the building is sealed. Portugal is another squall.

Portugal can be bailed out, it won’t empty the coffers completely, but what it will do is increase the burden further. Portugal is in this mess because they’ve had the same problems as Greece and Ireland, but here’s the important bit – not as bad. But as people ran from Greece to Ireland in panic over their government bonds, they’ve also run in panic from Ireland to Portugal. As soon as everyone breathes a sigh of relief over their Portuguese bonds, they’ll go running to the next worst place, Spain. If Spain goes under, then all bets are off, there’s no halfway practical way that Spain can be bailed out, there just isn’t the money. The financial institutions will complain loudly enough, but what happens when the people on the street find their taxes put up to bail out a foreign power?

Van Remploy and Barroso can go on about nation states not existing as much as they like, but they’ll find out how many people reject that notion when the industrialised workers of the Rhineland find their savings being raided again to bail out a load of Portuguese and Spanish fishermen.

We owe the Portuguese parliament a debt of thanks, because the only way we’re going to get out of the EU anytime soon is via financial collapse, there’s not a hope of us being given a referendum.

Of course, the irony is that the Portuguese have rejected it because the idea of the something for nothing, big brothers and sisters picking up the bill culture winking out of existence is just too horrible to consider. They honestly think that by rejecting the budget they’re ensuring the continuation of the life they’ve become accustomed to over the last 21 years. They’re not. The other irony is, that by rejecting the budget, they are ensuring their indebtedness to the machine. Had they passed it, following an extended period of discomfort they’d have probably come out the other side.

However, their actions may, just, provide our salvation.

Welcome to freedom, now do what we say or else.

Oh dear.

But then what did we expect?

Egypt’s ruling military council says it will not tolerate any more strikes which disrupt the country’s economy.

Well done, you got the old bastard out, we’re in charge now. You do what we say.

State television carried a statement in which the military said strikers would be “confronted”.

How? OK, if they congregate in big groups around the place, they make it easy for them. What if they just, you know, stayed at home? What are the army going to do? Kick down tens of thousands of doors and drag people down the office? Even then, you can lead a horse to water. . .

All of a sudden, I’m looking at the army’s six month claim in Egypt with a jaundiced eye. Will they surrender power? Undoubtedly, as long as the people look like they’re going to elect the guy that the army want in the big chair. If they don’t, I can forsee some national emergency, or some accused interference from foreign powers, which would mean that any election would be flawed, unsafe, unfair, best not risked, national security and all that.

Perhaps the people of the middle east are waking up to the fact that they are not owned, they are not serfs or chattels. Perhaps the people of the middle east are starting to realise that freedom comes from within first. That first word is no. You don’t have to demonstrate for your freedom, you just quietly take it. No song and dance, no elaborate displays of venom or anger, take the Gandhi route, just sit there and do nothing.

Just as we are seeing in Bahrain and Libya, the King, or the head honcho, can send the army in, but if there’s no-one to shoot at, then what are they going to do? To remain in power, a dictator needs money, he needs money to pay his soldiers, his secret and uniformed police, the western governments and companies for the bullets he wants to fire at his population. The only way he can get that money is by taxing. If the population just stay at home, his tax well will dry up quick enough.

‘Ahh, but they have huge reserves of gas and oil.’ I hear you say. ‘The big guy will just take the cash straight out of that.’ Yes. But who is going to get it out of the ground? Him? Who will move the western experts to their place of work? Stock their supermarkets? Make sure their air-con is working?

Going out onto the street is a good photo-op, but you know what? The big guy knows you’re angry, he just doesn’t care. You are his property, it is your job to do what he tells you.

Old Holborn writes about this today. The State is not superior to the population, it is the population. And when those entrusted with, or those who have taken responsibility for the running of the State act against that State’s best interests, those being the interests or desires of the population, there can be but one outcome.

No doubt the religious nutters will try to capitalise, but once again as OH points out, 21st century technology, satellite TV and the mobile phone have made millions in the middle east aware that there are alternative civilisations on the planet, where the leaders are not the mightiest tribe, the elders, the most armed. I think they’ll find the ground isn’t very fertile. The old Eastern Bloc Europeans may have been quick to swap one crushing authoritarian regime for another, but I don’t think the Arabs will be so keen to make the same mistake, they’ve seen what’s happened in the EU, in Palestine, how things have gone since the hated Shah was kicked out in Iran.

The lands of Islam used to be the centre of learning, science, art, music, mathematics, astronomy and commerce. They are due a renaissance.

How long is it before we look at the middle east with envy, rather than despair and fear? In the race for freedom they have exploded out of the blocks, whilst we are still in the locker room, fretting over the colour and make of spikes we should be wearing.

The bread is stale and the circus is crap.

The coverage of events in Bahrain by the BBC and Sky is peppered with an almost tangible sense of incredulity and stats to back this sense up.

According to the CIA world factbook, none of the population are below the poverty line, it is, according to Sky the most liberal regime in the gulf. The population have nice houses, access to the internet, schools, healthcare, jobs and a shiny new F1 race track.

Life in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya is not pleasant, so it is entirely understandable that the populations have risen, are rising, or look like they will rise, up against the regimes there. But Bahrain? Why?

Sky have been at pains to point out all day that the majority of the 1.2 million population are Shi’ite, yet the ruling royal family are Sunni. That must be it. It’s the middle east, it must all be down to religion, it always is there, it’ll be some nutjob with a turban and a raggedy arsed beard shouting a lot.

Well, no.

Despite everything the Bahrainis have, there’s one thing they’re missing. Freedom. The same thing that is missing all over north Africa and the Gulf. The rest is just dressing, when you have no power, no say over your life, no chance to influence or change your society, then all the nice air conditioned houses and imported German cars don’t matter. Sure, they’ll delay the inevitable, but it is inevitable. There comes a point when the population will take no more, they will hit back.

How to deal with it?

Well, in Tunisia the authorities thought about it for a while then decided it wasn’t worth the effort. In Egypt the army made it perfectly clear whose side they were on and did a good job of doing nothing whilst saying ‘don’t make me come down there.’ In both countries it remains to be seen if the population will get what they want.

In Bahrain the authorities (that is the King, the only authority) have made it perfectly clear that the population can go take a running jump. Shooting at people who are angry only makes them angrier. Shooting at people where the group constitutes women and children will make people absolutely furious. It all depends on which comes first, is it the angry mob saying ‘sod this, I’m tired of being shot at’, or is it the troops who suddenly realise the people stood in front of them are their mate, brother, sister, father, mother, niece, nephew, grandmother, grandfather and suddenly decide they don’t fancy shooting any more, at least not in the direction they’ve been told to. In a small country like Bahrain, I’m betting the latter comes first. I’ve always thought the best way to disarm an army in a civil dispute is to march a line of old women up to the troops carrying placards that say ‘I’m your Grandmother and I want you to stop this nonsense right now.’

What will be interesting will be the American’s response to this. They have a large amount of floating hardware anchored off the coast, they’ve certainly sold the arms to Bahrain that are now being trained on the population, they (and we) get oil from Bahrain. The King is a good mate to Uncle Sam, but how far will that friendship stretch? When will the concerned noises turn into ‘Oh, come on now.’ What happens when/if the American public realises that their weapons are fired at people who live under an effective absolute monarchy? What happens if the flow of oil is disrupted? Will America look at the King with such fondness then, especially as the regime seems to go against everything the American constitution stands for? The only difference between Bahrain and Iran is that Bahrain wouldn’t drop a shed load of missiles on America given half the chance. It’s a big difference, but can a President with a certain public facade to keep up be seen to be supporting the total extermination of free speech, freedom of assembly and shooting of innocent citizens in the street?

Yes, they may have the nice TV, the big sporting events, a comfy bed in a nice house, but all the time you have no say, no freedom, it isn’t worth anything. The EU would do well to look at Bahrain over the next few days and take note. It could happen here, very easily, one of our cousins in this brave new world have recent experience and people have longer memories than dictators think.

Now that’s what I call freedom.

It all started so well, didn’t it? They day the coagulation took over we were told HIPS were gone, the ID cards were a thing of the past (incidentally, the cards ceased to be a legal document last month, and the associated database was destroyed this week) and then. . . well, it all went a little quiet, didn’t it?

But boy, have they come back with a bang? CRB checks on people who work with, volunteer with, look at, know someone who has, or accidentally stumbles over TV programming aimed at children have been relaxed. I think the penny has dropped somewhere that it’ll only show you to be a nonce, if you’ve been convicted of being a nonce.

However, in a week when we’ve seen the overthrow of a dictator in Egypt, and the mother of parliaments sitting down in a session where almost three hundred of our representatives discussed the primacy of a sovereign parliament over that of an unelected, non-legislative body and cried ‘how did we come to be here?’, (I’ll give you a clue, you grinned like clueless morons whilst you handed it over without so much as a second thought), we have seen perhaps the most groundshaking development in liberties this country has seen for a long, long time.

Hold on to your hats, guys and girls:

Night time weddings will be able to take place in future under plans outlined by the government.

Brilliant! Because I had been worried about the intrusion of CCTV into all of our lives, the installation of ANPR cameras on the main roads in and out of most towns in the UK, the retention of DNA by a paranoid and controlling state, but all that has been swept away, because now, when I go and ask the State’s permission, in the form of a licence, to place my relationship on a register, so they can keep a record of who I am sleeping with, just in case the union is blessed, so they don’t miss out on the tax eighteen years later, I can now have that relationship registered, at a time that is convenient to me! Break out the bunting!

The changes allowing marriages to take place 24 hours a day in England and Wales are part of the Protection Of Freedoms Bill. They will also apply to civil partnerships.

Even the gayers are included! There’s going to be a hell of a party down my way.

However, there will be no prospect of spur of the moment marriages at Las Vegas-style chapels where in the past some couples have wed after a night of heavy drinking – at least 15 days advance notice will still be required.

Yes, you still need to give the state a fortnight to get its shit together, because like all good nannies, it has to be allowed to tell you to go away and think about it for a good while. You could have been together for fifteen years, but you still can’t just turn up and do it. That would be unthinkable. Plus you still can’t get married outside. Well, you can, but you have to be undercover when the vows are made because . . . errrm, well, you see. . . look, you just have to, OK? It’s your wedding, and thus nothing to do with you at all, you can only do it in a style which we find acceptable, OK?

The Church of England says a relaxation in the times of church weddings would require a change to Canon Law from the General Synod, which meets twice a year. And the Catholic Church has reportedly said it would not conduct late night ceremonies.

The private sky pixie clubs will still be telling you what you should be doing though.

This is freedom?

Good grief.

The One That Says It’s None Of Their Business. . .

News today that Pristina is waiting for a judgement by the International Court of Justice on the independence of Kosovo.

A short and no-depth history lesson. Yugoslavia was one of the Versailles states, drawn up in 1918 at the conclusion of the First World War. It was an interesting idea as they managed to lump in the Croats and Serbs, who had a history of beating the shit out of each other for generations, and the Christians and the Muslims who had a history of beating the shit out of each other for generations into one easily combustible package. That it took another 70 years to really kick off was something of a miracle.

It was always a bit of testy area when it was part of the Ottoman Empire, as evidenced by the assasination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand. What a bloody mess.

Fast-Forward a hundred or so years and the benefits of the old Empire, and the federal state are still being reaped. Especially in the UK where the word Kosovan is almost a by-word for the sort of person who arrives in Dover in the back of an HGV (although I understand these days it’s normally Eritreans, Iraqis, Iranians, Sudanese and Vietnamese).

Following years and years of repression, persecution and general nastiness, the vast majority of ethnic Albanian Kosovan Muslims decided they’d had quite enough of Serbia, thank you very much, and on 17th February 2008 they declared independence.

It could have gone quite badly, one can only think back to the reactions of Serbia when Croatia and Bosnia did the same. Thankfully, it all went Slovene smoothly. Probably something to do with the shit load of UN troops camping out in the area. Serbia no doubt remembered the big bangs echoing around Belgrade when the missiles came raining down earlier on in the story.

Serbia aren’t happy about this. For some reason, and I’m a bit hazy on the socio-political history bit here, they seem to view the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as being Serbia and some other bits all doing what Serbia say. I’m not sure that’s how a Federal model works. I thought the whole point of a Federal model was that it gave all constituent parts an equal say in the running of the place, a washing-up rota and stuff. Perhaps I’m wrong.

Kosovo is a country that was never out of the news and became a by-word for the very worst of Europe. Having struck out on its own and we haven’t heard a peep since. It’s like Estonia, things must be going fairly well in Estonia, because we never hear anything about it.

You’d have thought that everyone would have been very pleased with this state of affairs, it has allowed us all to focus on the job of making things go bang in an entertaining fashion elsewhere. It’s like trying to sit in the garden reading your book when the burglar alarm goes off on the house down the road. It’ll cause you to tut and is just a little bit more than a minor irritation, not enough for you to do something about it, but when the noise stops, it’s lovely.

So now we have this bizarre situation, where the people of Kosovo who have been quietly getting on with life and not hurting anyone (indeed quite the reverse, the recent exchange of land with Macedonia is a model of how two sensible countries should act) now have to wait and see if some other people will be nice enough to give them permission to have their own country.

Well, what bloody business is it of theirs? Who the hell are the ICJ to say ‘Yes, we’ll allow you to be a country.’ or ‘No, sorry, we think you should do what the Serbs tell you, off you go now.’? Why the hell do these people have a say over the wishes of the people that actually live in this place?

Wherefore self determination?

Of course it should be pointed out that ICJ is not binding. Well, what does that mean? According to the Groan:

The judgment from the ICJ in The Hague – to be issued at 2pm – is not legally binding, but is likely to have profound consequences for Kosovo and other de facto states and territories that might secede in the future.

So it’s not binding, but we know what that means, don’t we? It’s not binding, as long as you abide by the ruling. The moment you tell them to sod off, you can bet the big guns will be wheeled out.

Unfortunately for Kosovo, the largest organisation active in the country is EULEX, the European Union Rule of Law Mission. They already use the Euro, they’re already caught in the trap. They’ll swap one top heavy centralised disinterested government for another. If Kosovo gets the green light, you can bet the EU will be there like a shot whispering in their ear like Grima Wormtongue.

I wish Kosovo well, but fear their new independence will be shortlived as they become addicted to the heroin of ‘EU’ cash and the attendent machinery that goes with it.

The bottom line, as I see it, is this. The will of the electorate is sovereign. If the people of Kosovo, Kurdistan or Cornwall want independence, then fine. Two conditions; don’t go picking fights, don’t expect me to fund it. You want to stand on your own two feet? Then go ahead and do it, you’ll get a handshake and wishes of best luck from me.

UPDATE

The ICJ has ruled in favour of Kosovo. Serbia significantly unchuffed. I don’t understand why, keeping a part of a country in against its will can only result in serious trouble.

Whilst I’m pleased to see that the will of the population is not illegal, I still don’t see what bloody business it is of theirs.