John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Thursday, August 31, 2006
  Blair loses it completely
We already have a situation whereby social services are inclined to intervene when parents shout at their children. Blair fails to recognise that state intervention in child rearing has a track record of resulting in problems and should only be used in extremis.
 
  Its the puddles
The link is to a Birmingham Post story about Gas. I have also prepared now a draft submission to the OFT about the gas market. That has gone out to consultation to the IESP.

What will happen this winter will, of course, depend primarily on the weather. A second factor that I don't have full understanding about as yet is the small puddles (not really puddles, but not pools) of gas that it is said the smaller companies have been developing.

That will affect how much comes in from the North Sea.

The issue of heirarchy of supply (whether we use storage before importing) will affect prices and whether or not it will be likely that we will see an emergency. The new pipelines may just about cope with depletion and the Excelerate LNG project could make quite a difference.
 
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
  Consultation on Gas Market Dysfunction

Having considered the fact that the price per therm of gas for January 2007 (80 NBP) is something like twice the global LNG price for the same date (37p) and almost twice that of the European Oil link gas (43p) it strikes me that the UK gas market has anti-competitive elements within it

I am considering asking the Director of Fair Trading to commence a Chapter II investigation into anti-competitive behaviour in the UK gas market in particular.

Chapter ii (1998 Act) relates as follows:
Abuse of a dominant position
The Chapter II prohibition and Article 82 of the EC Treaty prohibit the abuse by one or more businesses of a dominant position in a market.
Chapter II and Article 82 give examples of specific types of conduct that are particularly likely to be considered as an abuse where the business is in a of a dominant position. These include:
imposing unfair purchase or selling prices;
limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of consumers;
applying different trading conditions to equivalent transactions, thereby placing certain parties at a competitive disadvantage; and
attaching unrelated supplementary conditions to contracts.

The mechanisms used which imply limiting production .. to the prejudice of consumers both on a pipeline import basis, but also on the use of IoG seem to me to infer a Chapter II contravention is occuring. There is a more complex question as to who is responsible for this contravention, but it seems prima facie that

a) Production (import) is limited and
b) That is to the prejudice of consumers.

I am approaching a number of market participants prior to making such a reference to find out their views beforehand.

 
Sunday, August 27, 2006
  Family Court Stories
There is some interest in the media (link to Observer story) about the Family Courts.

I am particularly interested in the aspects relating to Public Law (which is where Social Services come in).

The argument is put forward that the secrecy is there to protect the children.

Why, then, when it has been proven that everything claimed to justify a child being taken into care is false and the case was dismissed with the costs awarded against a local authority does the case remain secret?

There are situations where children (that are over 12 ie Gillick competent) and parents want to talk to the media about what has been done to them by Social Services Departments, but they are not allowed to.

What is so very wrong that a child is not allowed to talk about the way that child was treated by the system?

The problem with much of Labour's legislation is it assumes that people who have authority will not abuse that authority.

Exactly how many cases involve an abuse of authority is not clear. The MPs group dealing with Munchausen's by Proxy (now renamed FII) is trying to find out.

The system (in this case the DFES) collects statistics in a way that makes it impossible to know the answer.

The problem with the system is that there is a need for a system to deal with situations where children are being maltreated by their parents.

There are, however, hundreds and probably thousands and maybe tens of thousands of cases where the system instead is maltreating both children and parents.
 
Saturday, August 26, 2006
  Adoptable Commodities
At first when I was told by people that they thought that Social Services were driven by a desire to increase adoption, hence they would take more children into care to get them adopted, I did not believe this.

Having spent a bit more time on the issue, having noted that when Downs Syndrome children are born Social Services disappear, having noted the use of the phrase "adoptable commodity" by social workers to describe children, having noted the flimsy basis upon which children are taken into care, it now seems quite clear that children are taken into care in order to get them adopted. That is not to say that children are not taken into care to protect them, but some are taken into care purely to have them adopted.

I already have the evidence of child protection procedures being used to force children into dangerous medical research. I am working to find out the numbers that died or were brain damaged as a result.

I think progress is being made on opening up the system to scrutiny. However, given that children are advertised for adoption on websites it is clear that the secrecy in the system is there not to protect the children, but to protect the professionals.
 
  Judicial Review - Answer the question - documents on web
I have put the main documents on the web. Be very careful if you wish to download the government's responses as they are massive files because they have been scanned in. (See the link).
 
  Dangermouse
My eldest daughter pointed out that Dangermouse was dated by the evil supercomputer saying "kneel before my 500 Megabytes". When I was a lad ... we had the SDK 85 which was programmed in machine code and had a memory counted in K.
 
Friday, August 25, 2006
  Where did this one come from?
The government have been saying that the new law about Booster seats will reduce child casualties by 2,000.

The link is to "Child Car Seats". That gives deaths in 2004 of passengers at 24. The number seriously injured is 371. About 7,000 are "slightly injured".

Now we are told that all children under 135 cm (my children are generally quite large) need to have booster seats.

Anyone, whatever seat they are in, even if they are wearing a seatbelt, is likely to be deemed "slightly injured" in a crash.

I really cannot believe the figures we are being told. Furthermore I did not spot this law going through. I would think as an MP who reads the main issues that I should have spotted it. I wonder which loophole it crept through.

To me it just shows me how dishonest a lot of public lobbying is. Clearly the claims of the Department of Transport are complete rubbish. However, they get away with it.

Obligatory declaration of interest: My 10 month old baby daugher uses a car seat and will do for some time, my 13 and 16 year old children are both over 5 foot 10. With a bit of luck they will not have to sit in booster seats. My 6 year old is not small, but may have to have one of these booster seats. No-one has actually given a good reason for one. I accept that wearing a seat belt is a good idea. That should be the priority rather than booster seats.

This is a BBC link where the DfT talk nonsense
 
  Home Made Bombs
I suppose the Extradition laws would not allow John Reid the power to extradite the 118 (mainly) US (mainly) youths who have put videos of their Home Made Bombs on the youtube site - even if he wanted to.

Click on the link above to get a list of the videos of making a home made bomb currently stored on YouTube.

What are the political points:
a) That the extradition laws remain unbalanced
b) That people wishing to make bombs out of fertiliser (cf the IRA) [or other generally available materials] can do so. It is not possible to completely eradicate all potential sources of explosive material (eg Sugar)
c) Security and peace require a reduction in the desire for conflict to a greater extent than a reduction in the ability to progress a conflict.

Hence the government should stop going around winding up the whole world (apart from the US and Israeli governments).

The government sort of recognise this by saying they are fighting for "hearts and minds". Well hearts and minds are an issue of persuasion. You do not persuade someone by shooting their family. That is called cooercion.
 
  Planning and Gardens
One of the difficulties in terms of planning is that planning decisions are "quasi-judicial". This means that it is possible to appeal planning decisions made by local councillors if they are out of line with planning guidance set nationally.

The nationally set guidance tends to be quite inflexible and one aspect is Planning Policy Guidance 3 which relates to what is and what is not a brownfield site.

The issue of increasing housing intensity by building on gardens is exactly the issue that causes these difficulties. From time to time it may be worth building on a garden, but PPG3 forces local authorities to agree such plans when they are not sensible. Gardens are almost invariably green, but are considered to be brownfield.

I support the general principles of sustainability and re-use of brownfield sites; but I we know that the provisions of Planning Policy Guidance 3 (PPG3), as at present worded, are forcing Local Panning Authorities (LPA) to allow piecemeal redevelopment of homes with large grounds.

Hence I call upon the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government urgently to amend PPG3 to give LPA discretion (in the light of local conditions) as to whether to regard dwellings and their curtilages as brownfield sites, until such time as the wording and effect of PPG3 in this matter is thoroughly reviewed and appropriate revisions are made.
 
Thursday, August 24, 2006
  I vote for Pluto to be a planet
That may mean we end up with 12 planets rather than 8, but Pluto does deserve to be described as a planet even though it wanders in and out of Neptune's orbit.
 
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
  South Wales Police Investigation into Southall's experiments on children welcomed - appeal for parents to come forward
Campaigning MP, John Hemming, has welcomed South Wales Police's launch of an investigation into experiments performed by Professor David Southall of North Staffordshire Hospital on children. He has called for other parents whose children were treated directly or indirectly by Professor Southall who may have concerns, to write to him at the House of Commons so he can pass information to the appropriate police.

"Professor Southall", said Mr Hemming, "wrote in 1985 that he would not ask for consent from parents before he put their children into some of his experiments. In the published material on the BMJ website it is quite clear that his experiments caused harm to some of the children involved in the experiments."

"The experiments based upon protocol 85.02 involved firstly stopping babies from breathing in when at “Functional Residual Capacity” (when they have breathed out) for 10 seconds on 10 different occasions. This was done with a face mask. It was done in both of two sleep states. The babies were subjected to 1.5% CO2 for 5 minutes in each sleep state. (normal CO2 level in air is 0.04%). Then they were given a 5 minute rest. Then the babies were subjected to 15% oxygen for 5 minutes. Normal atmospheric Oxygen is just under 21%. After this they were given 4% CO2 and the time was measured until they woke up or changed state."

"These experiments performed mainly on babies were not for the benefit of the babies, but to find out what effect it had. We have not been able to find any published results as to what happened to all of the children in Professor Southall's experiments and what overall impact the experimentation had on the babies and young children involved."

"Professor Southall has kept secret files known as Special Case files. These included medical records. This information needs to be transferred into the patients' medical records so that all the diagnoses are kept in one place and is available to benefit the patients."

"There are a large number of questions relating to the experiments of Professor Southall that need to be answered. However, I welcome South Wales Police in launching their investigation as part of the process of finding out the truth of what happened."

"I am callling for parents whose children were treated on by professor Southall and suffered harm or were experimented on without the informed consent of their parents to write to me at John Hemming MP, House of Commons, London SW1 0AA so I can pass the information to the appropriate police forces."

Notes
Published Material on BMJ website that shows harm to babies from experiments
http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/317/7159/675
(see Nicholas Pace's letter)
 
Monday, August 21, 2006
  John Hemming Website
I was always thinking I should start to write a new Website. There has been a Yardley LibDems site for some time. The problem I have with this site is that it is inside my company's intranet. That means I have first to get into my company's network and then into the server. That makes keeping it up to date much harder than just using FTP to upload files.

When I first started setting up websites (eg Birmingham City Council was the first UK Council to have a website because I did it for free on my own servers) my own office used to have weaker security. However, I spend little time on my commercial premises within the intranet and also the security is now tighter.

I, therefore, have started to use a bog standard web service with FTP update. That will allow me to develop an informative website. For constituents I can update it with the current position of developments such as The Swan, the Wagon and Horses etc.

The blog will remain as it is relatively boring, but concentrating mainly on national and international political issues. I am not trying to entertain with my internet activities, but moreso to inform people. (And to some extent to have a mechanism for people to challenge me).

I am also intending to develop with other people a Litigants in Person Advice Service. That will allow me to use the website to keep basic information about using the legal processes.

I have, therefore, taken John.Hemming.Name out of my offices and simply directed the DNS records at an external server. For the moment there is very little on the site, but I will respond to comments on the blog by putting information on the site.
 
Saturday, August 19, 2006
  British Gas more expensive than French Gas
Strictly it is "Gaz de France", but the most recent round of price increases put the price of British Gas consumption for 20,400 kWh of gas per year at £704 whereas Gaz de France costs £694.

Using the British Gas Standard Tariff of 5.21p per kWh up to 4572 kWh and 2.94 over that. GDF's tariff for this is 4.38 Euros per kWh plus 125.21 standing charge. An exchange rate of 0.68025 Euros per pound

The calculation is:
5.21*4572=23820.12
2.94*15828=46534.32
23820.12+46534.32 pence = 703.54 pounds

4.38*20400=89352
893.52+125.21=1018.73
1018.73*0.68025=693.99

The point about this is that France imports about 95% of its gas. We still produce more than half of the gas we use.

There have been problems in the commercial market for some time. These problems have now come through into the domestic market.
 
Friday, August 18, 2006
  NHS may close 10 major hospitals BBC
The government are clearly Maoist believing in continual revolution.

What we have is the symptom of the financial problems in the NHS. It means that it will not be seen as a mechanism for improving services (and unless I review each item in detail I would not be able to comment on the merits), but instead a panic response to a financial crisis.

Too many changes at once.

I had a letter today from some government health minister that denies that they intend subcontracting decisionmaking from PCTs. Why, then, did they remove those words from the tender document before submitting it to OJEC?

Yes I have a copy of the tender document with tracked amendments.
 
  A few photos
knifecrimepetition
Collecting signatures at the Wheatsheaf, Sheldon for the Knife Crime Petition
refilltank
Putting sustainable fuel in the tank
refuelling
Getting the fuel from Wednesbury
relaunchsheldon
Relaunching Sheldon Community Centre and opening the Fun Day.

I am setting up a facility for people to refuel relatively easy using pure rapeseed oil and paying the 27p duty to Mr Brown. There are no planning issue, but the Health and Safety Executive have some controls. The flashpoint for vegetable oil is about 220C so we really don't have to worry about explosions (petrol for example is -40C)

An extract from my last email from the HSE:
Flashpoint is one of the main properties used to determine the fire and
explosion hazard of a material. The flashpoint is defined as the
temperature to which a liquid must be heated before it will produce a
mixture of vapour in air which can be ignited. Lower flashpoint liquids,
particularly those with flashpoints at or below ambient temperature, need
particular care when being handled.

As examples,

The flashpoint of petrol is - 40°C
The flashpoint of methanol is 11°C
The flashpoint of diesel is at least 55°C

The flashpoint of vegetable oil will depend on the original source
material, but for rape-seed oil it is quoted as 220°C.

The flashpoint of bio-diesel again depends on the source material. It is
significantly higher than conventional diesel, and flashpoints may be
between 125 and 150°C. In use bio-diesel is usually blended with
conventional diesel, a typical ratio being 20% bio-diesel / 80%
conventional diesel. The flashpoint of this fuel will be close to that of
conventional diesel material, ie roughly 55°C.

Storage of bio-diesel and its blends does not give rise to additional areas
of concern, (in comparison to diesel), and the guidance set out in HSG176
for higher flashpoint liquids can be applied.
 
  Your choice: Tyranny or HomeStart
I have linked to Homestart. This is a charitable organisation that supports families. In some ways they fit in where the extended families have been split up via motorways. I opened a funday for my local Homestart this morning.

They are a very effective way of supporting families in such a way that does not result in children being at risk.

Massively more money goes into Social Services Child Protection than into HomeStart. Homestart locally costs less than one foster place. The current system gives a large amount of power to Social Services. The reason they have that power is that they operate in secret. Power does tend to corrupt.

The Orkney saga was one of a number of instances of this. To be fair to Social Services there is a tendency in the media to assume that intervention is always positive. Hence they get damned if they do and damned if they don't. The reality, however, is that many so called investigations are not proper objective investigations. I have seen reports written by senior and experience social workers that are complete drivel.

There are two key changes that are needed to child protection. One is to open up the Family Court procedures to scrutiny and ensure that there is "equality of arms" throughout the quasi-judicial procedures that abound in this arena.

The second is to move the enforcement aspects of Child Protection out of the Social Services Departments into a separate agency. I would have the police run this, but am open to other suggestions. Substantially more money needs to go to organisations such as HomeStart. That, however, is far better than the form of tyrannical regime run by many Social Services Departments at the moment.

The fact is that this system (and I am unsure about the idea of the massive database as well) does not serve children well. It is a juggernaut that appears to be out of control.
 
  Le PC français appelle à la formation d'une commission internationale pour enquêter sur les massacres israéliens au Liban
PC in this instance refers to the French Communist Party. It remains, however, that it is worth having a proper international investigation into what happened both by the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and also the Hezbollah bombing of Israel.

We cannot just sweep under the carpet what has happened.

I find it interesting how a few persistent people can ensure that issues are addressed. I am working with a group at the moment who have been concerned about a particular process for 10-15 years. It looks as if progress is being made at the moment, but only really as a result of the persistence of a few.
 
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
  Now there is such a thing as a free lunch
Having scrapped the "free lunch" for volunteers on benefits earlier this year the government has now reinstated it.

The government issued "guidance" earlier this year which said that volunteers who were paid the cost of lunch by the organisation they were volunteering for would have a consequent cut in benefits.

"The change will mean that in future, meals will be treated as an expense that volunteers can claim back. Previously, they were expected to meet the cost of meals out of their benefits."

This is an interesting example of something where the government thought the rules were one thing and everyone (all the voluntary organisations and volunteers) were doing something else.

It is not unique.

Note the parliamentary question asked in relation to this on Monday's blog entry.
 
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
  Unions concerned about lack of debate in Parliament
From the link:

Profound changes are taking place in the NHS with no debate in Parliament and without full and proper consultation with major stakeholders such as staff and their representative organisations, community and user groups. These profound changes have significant consequences for the future of the NHS and the patient experience.

The OJEC tender is very significant. I have tried to get this debated in parliament, but without any success so far.

In essence the OJEC tender allows anything paid for by a PCT to be done by a private sector organisation. That basically involves about 90% of the spend of the NHS.
 
Monday, August 14, 2006
  Written Parliamentary Answers: from 25th July 2006
Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what estimate has been made of the number of local NHS organisations which will bulk subscribe to the Drugs and Therapeutic Bulletin following the ending of the NHS-wide subscription;

(2) what guidance she plans to issue to NHS managers responsible for deciding whether to purchase a bulk subscription to the Drugs and Therapeutic Bulletin for their local NHS organisation.(John Hemming)

A:The Department has made no such estimate and has no plans to issue guidance to the national health service. I understand that Which? Limited, the publishers of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin are examining a range of possible future subscription arrangements. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)

Volunteering
Q:To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the contribution to the UK economy of those on benefits who volunteer. (John Hemming)

A:No such research has been undertaken. However, the Government recognises the potential impact of volunteering on helping benefit claimants return to work, and has taken a numberof steps to facilitate volunteering. The Russell Commission looked at the experiences of young volunteers in receipt of benefits, and put forward a number of recommendations, as well as publishing the Guide to Volunteering on Benefits. (Dawn Primarolo, Paymaster General, HM Treasury)

Volunteers
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if the Government will change the benefits rules to allow volunteers on benefits to be paid the cost of lunch. (John Hemming)

A:When considering entitlement to means-tested benefits all income should be taken into account. To not do so would set an inappropriate precedent and represent unequal treatment within the income rules. If an organisation provides a lunch to a volunteer, benefit entitlement is not affected. However, we are aware of and listening to the concerns that have been raised. The Department is looking at this issue as part of a wider examination of the way the benefit system works. (James Plaskitt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

Obesity
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health which primary care trusts are not providing medical treatment to patients with a body mass index in excess of 30; and if she will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:The Department does not collect this information. (Caroline Flint, Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health)

Mental Health
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many initial hospital orders have been made under section 37 of the Mental Health Act for each category of mental disorder in each of the last five years; and how many of the initial orders were renewed under section 20 for each category of mental disorder in each year. (John Hemming)

A:This information is not available in the requested format.

Some information is available in relation to inpatients who were formally detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983, between 1994-95 and 2004-05, from the detained patients bulletin at

www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/inpatientdetmha94to05/mhbulletin/file.

Some information is also available about guardianship under the Mental Health Act 1983 from the guardianship bulletin at:

www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/icpublication.2006-01-04.5354930463/04117869.pdf.file.

(Rosie Winterton, Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health)

Mental Health
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information health trusts routinely provide to the police on people in the community who are mentally ill and have a history of violent behaviour.
(John Hemming)

A:Information is not passed routinely from health trusts to the police. When individuals are considered a risk to others, they become subject to the provisions of multi-agency public protection panels set up by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.

(Rosie Winterton, Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health)

Contract Notice 2006/05 114-121806
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) which organisations her Department consulted on the contract notice 2006-05 114-121806;

(2) why the contract notice 2006-05 114-121806 published in the Official Journal of the European Union was withdrawn; and whether she intends to submit a revised contract notice.
(John Hemming)

A:The advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) was withdrawn and a revised advertisement submitted on 13 July to make it clear that clinical provision was explicitly excluded from the scope of the procurement. In other words, that we were advertising for a range of management functions to support primary care trusts (PCTs) commissioning role. We have used the opportunity of the reissue of the advertisement to emphasise that even if PCTs choose to use such services they remain accountable to the public for the resources spent on health care in their locality.

The procurement framework will allow successful companies to offer a range of commissioning skills and services to PCTs who can chose whether or not to use the services offered. This is part of a range of measures to support PCTs and practices in developing effective commissioning as described in "Health reform in England: update and commissioning framework". PCTs are and will remain public, statutory bodies responsible for using their growing budgets to commission the best possible services for local people. They can never outsource this responsibility, or ask others to make these decisions for them.

We did not consult with external organisations prior to issuing the OJEU because one of the main purposes of such an advertisement is to elicit responses from interested organisations. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)
 
Friday, August 11, 2006
  Reducing babies oxygen intake
This is an interesting study where 34 babies were given reduced oxygen for an average of 6.9 hours by only giving them 15% oxygen in the air they breathe rather than the normal 20%.

In 4 infants exposure to hypoxic conditions was ended early because of prolonged and severe falls in oxygen saturation.

Now this is what is called a "non-theraputic" intervention. That is something is done to the babies which is not to improve their health. That something is to reduce the amount of oxygen they breathe.

This sounds a very odd thing for anyone to agree to for their 3 month old child.

In particular (see above italics) it caused material problems for about 10% of the babies.
 
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
  Recall Parliament
I am a supporter of the Recall of Parliament although I have not been contacted in relation to the linked story about MPs calling for Parliament to be recalled.

There is an interesting technical point that the House of Commons can only be recalled at the request of government ministers. On the other hand the government's permission is not required for the recall of the House of Lords.

Jack Straw could ask for the recall of parliament.

A challenge, of course, would be to see how many MPs we could get to go to the House of Commons and effectively recall parliament by simply turning up. I am up for that. However, I am one of the few still in the UK. Furthermore I think it is, however, fundamentally wrong that the recall of the legislature is dependent upon the will of the executive. This is a constitutional nonsense.

Dragging Tony Blair back from holiday in Barbados is not going to be that easy, however.

It remains that one of the last debates made it quite clear that the UK Government's position was aligned with that of the Israeli government and that they did not want a ceasefire without the return of the captured soldiers.

It still does not look like any UN resolution will actually produce the goods on the ground. Yes if the Lebanese Army could move into Southern Lebanon and the Israelis withdraw that would probably get sufficient support from Arabs so that it is not seen as the Israelis winning. That might deliver some effort on stopping the missiles flying.

I am not sure that the Israelis (US/UK) could accept that, however.

Russia seems to be playing a waiting game. With France's strong links to Syria it is not surprising that they are playing a key role.
 
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
  Suicide Bombers and Conflict
The link is to a Guardian article which talks about research into the background of 462 suicide bombers who have launched attacks in recent years.

It remains, however, that this identified that the bombers themselves were mainly Muslim, but in fact from all religions.

Suicide Bombing contains two main concepts that concern those on the other end of the attacks. The first is that it is an attack that is harder to protect against which is generally aimed at non-combatants. The second is that it involves the attacker consciously deciding to attack in such a way as the attacker him or herself dies.

Kamikaze is the Japanese word for "Suicide" and got into English as a result of the Suicide Air Pilots who flew planes into ships during the second world war.

The big mistake made by the western governments is to fail to look at why people become suicide bombers. It is not because governments are not "tough" on terrorism or terrorists. It is in fact that governments are too tough on innocent people. This has a tendency to wind people up and create divisions. This is what turns people into suicide bombers.

Firm action is needed to deal with actual terror plots. However, if the government went round shooting more and more innocent Brazilians you would find quite quickly a development of a Brazilian type of asymmetric attack of some form.

This is why proportion is crucial in dealing with conflicts. Disproportionate responses increase conflict rather than reducing it.
 
Saturday, August 05, 2006
  Children and Families Campaigning Summary Report
Family Court Secrecy
Many people will know of the difficulties that have historically been caused by secrecy in the Family Courts. There have been three recent changes that are of significance in this area.

The Family Proceedings (Amendment No 4) Rules 2005
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051976.htm

This change to the rules relating to the family courts make it much easier for parties to obtain advice and discuss the proceedings with advisers. This means that parties can now talk to "A lay advisor or MacKenzie friend" to obtain advice about the proceedings when they are live. This has to be in confidence, but it does make it possible to discuss matters with campaign groups before it is too late. Those details cannot be publicised, however,

Simon Clayton's hearing into secrecy
http://www.simonclayton.org.uk/
Simon Clayton set a landmark Court of Appeal ruling that ended the automatic ban on identifying children involved in family court cases after proceedings has ended. The blanket of silence that prevented public discussion of decisions to take children from their families was lifted.

Consultation on opening up proceedings in family courts
http://www.dca.gov.uk/consult/courttransparencey1106/cp1106.htm
This is an important consultation into a more widespread opening up of access to Family Court Cases. The consultation remains open. An area where concern remains is mechanisms to prevent continual perjury in Family Courts.

Conflicts of Interest in Family Proceedings
One area which has gone relatively quiet is that of the conflict of interest in Child Protection Departments also being responsible for provision of support. This conflict of interest causes many of the difficulties that lie within child protection. A House of Commons motion will be laid down later this year to argue for this change to be introduced. Any comments would be welcome.

Casework Support
http://www.fassit.co.uk/
FASSIT amongst others are working to bring balance back into Child Protection proceedings by acting to assist families in ensuring that Social Workers follow legal proceedings. Certain test cases are being monitored by FASSIT and myself to ensure that children are not maltreated by Social Services removing them unlawfully from their families.

Munchausens Syndrome by Proxy Review (FII)
A group of MPs chaired by Dr Richard Taylor MP is reviewing the guidelines used for referring children to Social Services Departments. They are paricularly interested in any cases of wrongful references. If people have details could those details be emailed to Oliver Cyriax (see email address below)
mail@cyriax.freeserve.co.uk
Children and Families Comprehensive Spending Review
The government is reviewing expenditure in each budget heading. People may wish to argue that money spent in assisting families in looking after their children would be more cost effective than expensive residential and foster care.

Joint HM Treasury and Department for Education and Skills Children and Young People's Review: terms of reference (DfES/HMT)http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/3DE/13/cyp_statement050706.pdf
 
Friday, August 04, 2006
  Middle East Temperature rising
The ill judged approach relating to Lebanon seems to be heating up the temperature in the Middle East. Rockets have landed in Syria (probably in error), there has been a march of potential suicide bombers in Baghdad. The Lebanese media are calling for unity against the Israelis.

In Iraq it is the Sadr supporters that are particularly vocal, but even the Iraqi government has made its views known.

The Sunni governments, however, are still relatively moderate in their comments.

There is an interesting difference between recalling the House of Commons and recalling the House of Lords to consider the UK approach to all of this. To recall the House of Commons requires action from the government to call for it. Recalling the House of Lords can be done by the Lord Speaker in consultation with the government - it does not require effective permission from the government.

In many ways, however, the debate a couple of weeks ago covered the key issue - the government confirmed that they did not want an unconditional ceasefire.

Syria has made it clear that they do not support a force to disarm Hizbollah. I am not sure that the Lebanese population would support this at the moment. That would cause any peacekeeping force a problem.

I presume John Prescott's thumbs have been taped up so he cannot press the nuclear Button whilst his boss goes on holiday. I wonder, however, if could actually do a worse job relating to Foreign Affairs than Tony Blair. Tony Blair's record: Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon ... what next.
 
Thursday, August 03, 2006
  Stephen Hawking and Human Extinction
The link is to a Yahoo Answers questions asked about 4 weeks ago by Stephen Hawking about how humanity could survive the next 100 years.

Oddly enough I was phoned up by a newspaper today asking for a comment about this. Frankly humanity may end up short of energy, have to cope with climate change and a sort of global squabble could develop over a mixture of resource issues and the Middle East. However, I do not think it is possible for humanity to kill itself off completely.
 
  Today's headlines from Syria (original in French - translated to English)
Italy says Syria should have the Golan Heights back
Parliamentary Association of Islamic States to meet 13th 14th August
Syrian Students in Romania protest with sit-in (somewhere in Romania)
Turkish Foreign Minister criticises US - quelle surprise
Hizbollah (Lebanese Resistance) destroy two vehicles and a bulldozer

There are quite a few reports there. It will be interesting to see if and when these hit the media in English.
 
  Syria wants "excreting efforts" in Lebanon
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – Syria and Spain emphasized on Thursday the necessity of excreting efforts to realize a cease-fire in Lebanon. (see link for original press release)

This is perhaps a good example of the difficulties of communication. I have tried to find out what they mean by "excreting efforts". My Arabic is very bad and it takes me ages to read any text let alone try to translate it. I can cope with reading some Urdu (which is a very similar script), but only by recognising words such as "Birmingham". I think "making" is probably right from the contextual analysis.

Syria is very important from the viewpoint of the situation in Lebanon. If the dispute were to spread anywhere it would spread to Syria first.

Syria is still run by the Socialist Arab Renaissance Party (aka Ba'th party that used to run Iraq as Saddam Hussain inc.) Many of the Arab tribes that are influential in Syria spread into Iraq. There is a teeny weeny bit of Badinani territory (a type of Kurd) in Northern Syria. However, the government have a strong Alawite influence which is closer to Shi'a than Sunni.

The real tension, therefore, lies between the developing civil strife in Iraq and that in Lebanon. They work in different directions, however. The main strife in Iraq is between three main ethnic factions who of which are Sunni and one Shi'a. The Sunni Kurds, however, basically want Kurdistan on their own (with one government for the Badinani and one for the Sorani). That causes problems in Turkey, of course, and to some extent in Iran. The Fayli Kurds a Shi'a Kurd group have substantially been the victims of genocide.

Syria has had a tendency towards good links with Iran. Whether there would be any direct involvement of Syria in the current conflict, however, is not clear. If it continues over a longer period then that is more likely.

When I get a bit of time I shall read more of the SANA website. It appears to be a government agency and it appears that the French version is materially different to the English Version.

Edit: The French version is more up to date. There are releases dated today referring to the Lebanese Resistance (one presumes they mean Hizbollah).
 
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
  Logic and Terrorism
One of Blair's abilities that really does not help is his ability to argue contradictory cases in the same speech. The point about contradiction is that if you argue a contradictory case then you could be arguing anything.

The syllogism goes as follows if P and not P are both true. P or Q is inherently true. Not P implies Q is true. In other words the whole system of logical argument collapses and anything can be proven.

There is a simplistic reductio ad absurdam case dealing with Blair's speech of yesterday (linked) which unusually I watched thinking it might indicate something further about his position.

He argued that the battle against extremism was "not just about security or military tactics, it is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for."

The demonstration of the values is simple in the deaths of children through the conflict and particularly at Qana. You cannot isolate out one element from another.

The more complex argument requires quite a few more paragraphs.

Blair's basic error is to see some complex ideology behind the conflicts in the world. The main thing behind the pattern of global conflicts is actually human nature and in particular the behavioural patterns of human beings in groups. It is important to recognise that in any conflict these patterns of behaviour exist on both sides of the conflict (or even more sides when that happens such as in Bosnia).

Let us consider the group known in Arabic as Hizbut Allah Jihadi. This group has been responsible for human rights abuses, are dominated by a single leader who wishes to establish a religious state based upon his theological analysis and it has been responsible for a number of massacres. This might sound like an Islamic group, but that is only because the name of the group has been translated into Arabic. The name in English is the Lords Resistance Army and their theology is based on Christianity. There is also Hizbut Allah (Hizbollah) a translation into Arabic of "God's Army" which is a Christian Terrorist group based in Myanmar that fights Buddhism.

The fact is that people who are fighting like to feel that they have a solid justification for their acts. If they feel like fighting they will look for a cause. Generally people are happier if they feel that God is on their side. Hence they are likely to argue that case. What we need to look for is why conflicts develop and how to reduce conflict rather than be surprised that religion is used as a justification.

Blair is right to see that much of the world remains Feudal. A segmented society where the main pattern of loyalty is to the tribe or the clan rather than the class is the form of society that predominates nations which are not considered part of "the Western world". The Western World to a great extent had a class based society in which the main pattern of loyalty was to the class. In particular the loyalties within the trades union movement to the Labour Movement are strong bonds which have faded over the years, but still remain important. A key element of a class based society is that people can change class whereas they cannot change their parents.

The word "feud" comes from feudal because such persisting conflicts come from disputes between families or clans. It is important to note that generally in a segmented society religion follows the clan. All of the members of a clan are likely to be of the same religion and if they change religion then all are likely to change their religious allegiance at once. This was the case with Christianity in the British Isles in the periods from 900-1200 where frequently allegiance to then Catholicism was developed from the feudal leaders and spread to the clan members.

Disputes between clans, therefore, can quite readily end up also as religious disputes. The battles in the Ukraine between the Greek Catholics and Russian Orthodox are both ethnic (Ukrainian and Russian) and religious. The big battle over the government was, therefore, more feudal than ideological.

One challenge that Blair and his colleagues are not up to is understanding that within segmented cultures there are many different patterns of behaviour that would rankle in the pseudo-rational western devolved class based society. It is far more important in such societies to avoid causing offence. This can mean that people don't bluntly tell the whole truth to everyone - they are normally more subtle. Whereas being blunt and truthful and sticking by your word is an important part of the western culture it is more important to be polite in segmented cultures. This causes quite a communication problem as regardless of the language people speak people misunderstand the subtleties of communication.

Human nature has a drive towards group loyalties. People support football teams. They also tend to support their own country in a conflict beit sporting or military. Emotionally they celebrate victoris and viscerally they feel the pain of defeats.

It is this pattern of group loyalty that leads towards people developing hatreds. People whose family members died in attacks such as 7/7 can develop a desire to seek revenge. That is a natural process that happens in similar situations. The more remote the victims are the less of the demand for revenge, but if people identify with the victims there is a tendency to want to see revenge. This happens with politicians as well as people who are not elected to govern. There is a tendency to divide people into "them" and "us".

Normally in any situation the number of people directly affected by any incident will be relatively small. It does, however, become possible to widen the conflict and bring more people in. The mishandling of the Easter Uprising by the British in Dublin in 1916 was a good example of how to widen a conflict. With the unjust and disproportionate acts of the British Government they turned far more people against the UK and made Independence a demand rather than Home Rule.

Interational Humanitarian Law (the Geneva Conventions etc) have been developed to avoid the events that cause anger that lasts generations. There is a form of acceptance that soldiers will die in wars. There is less of acceptance that large numbers of children should die in wars. Collective punishments have, therefore, been excluded from "civilized" conflict.

Fedual conflicts historically involved attacks from one clan on another. This involved things such as collective punishment and kidnappings. Such uncivilized conflicts, however, tend to last generations. The reason for that is that those people who survive have a greater demand often for revenge than peace. That is what leads to suicide attacks.

When Blair claims to want to be "showing them what our values at their best stand for." he should be remembering that actions speak louder than words. In endorsing the continuing conflict in Lebanon he is implicitly endorsing atrocities such as that at Qana.

He is demonstrating through his failure to support a ceasefire that his values allow for the murdering of children by irresponsible use of force. The longer this conflict goes on for and the more atrocities that occur the wider the ripples of anger will spread throughout world opinion. He and Bush have managed to unite Shi'a and Sunni in anger and with a desire for revenge.

His language indicates his desire to divide the world into two groups: "them and us". George Bush has already said that people are already with them or against them. It is always possible to change direction. However, the problem is that the government don't recognise that their direction is wrong. In their personal emotional desires for revenge against terrorists they are losing the objectivity that is needed for effective political leadership.

It took centuries for people to learn the lessons of the outcome of uncivilized conflict. It has taken less than a generation for those lessons to be forgotten.
 
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
  New Terrorist Threat Levels
The old system of threat levels with various colours including Black Special was not exactly straightforward. However, we now have a new system of identifying a threat level.

These new categories are:
LowAn attack is unlikely
ModerateAn attack is possible, but not likely
SubstantialAn attack is a strong possibility
SevereAn attack is highly likely
CriticalAn attack is expected imminently


The current UK Threat level is Severe

We have now had about 5 years of the "war on terror". During that period the combined actions of the UK and US governments have been to create additional global hatreds such that now the situation is far worse than it was.

Dealing with actions in an asymmetric conflict is quite different to that in a symmetric conflict. Whereas there is a good argument that you need to be tough in dealing with law breaking where it is about self-interest. It is quite clear that, unless the underlying issues are dealt with, situations that result in terrorist attacks will continue to do so.

Furthermore if disproportionate acts are taken to deal with such conflict we actually end up with greater conflict and more acts of terror than otherwise.

That is why International Humanitarian Law has been developed over the years. If states follow those rules then it is possible to resolve conflicts without waiting for generations. The actions today of Bush and Blair will generate hatreds that will last for generations.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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