Saturday, March 01, 2008

Earth Angel

The original classic doo-wop.

Taken pretty straight by Death Cab For Cutie, whoever they may be. The guy (Ben Gibbard) can sing.

Murdered horribly by Blink 182. I wouldn't click 'play' if I were you, but at least it's short.

50 cent takes a 'crack' at it - probably le mot juste.

And back to the High School roots once more. Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, LA. Lead vocal Alex Lee cranks up the teen angst in fine style.

(BTW, I hadn't realised how big doo-wop was with Chicanos - Latino immigrants to the US. Type in 'rola' or 'cruisin oldie' into Youtube to uncover a cornucopia of forgotten doo-wop. As featured in this movie - Boulevard Nights.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Wroughton Verdicts - Trial 1

Seven Asian teenagers have been convicted of brutally battering a schoolboy to the brink of death with a claw hammer, it can be revealed today. Henry Webster, 16, from Wiltshire, was left fighting for life after being repeatedly hit with the DIY tool in scenes compared to a Quentin Tarantino film.

Four teenagers - 18-year-old Wasif Khan, 19-year-old Amjad Qazi and two boys aged 15 and 16 who cannot be named - were found guilty of carrying out the attack by a jury on February 14. Nazrul Amin, 19, and two other youngsters aged 15 and 16 admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm before proceedings began at Bristol Crown Court.

The convictions can be made public today after Judge Carol Hagen agreed to lift reporting restrictions she had implemented when the jury returned its verdict.

Henry, who attended Ridgeway School in Wroughton, Wiltshire, suffered three skull fractures during the violence. One caused him a brain injury and required surgery.

A jury of five women and seven men had been told how a gang of Asian males, from Swindon, travelled to Wroughton for the fight after being summoned by a friend in a sequence of phone calls and text messages. The court had been told how the fight "blew out of nothing" after Henry ran into a group of Asian boys in a corridor at his school. After a brief argument, he was asked to meet one of the 15-year-old defendants at the school tennis courts later that day.

Describing the incident that unfolded on the tennis courts that day in January last year, James Patrick, prosecuting, said: "For those there, it made a sickening sight, the sort of which you would expect to see in a Quentin Tarantino film - certainly not at a school in a village in Wiltshire." The jury was told how Henry, a 6ft 2in rugby player with bright red hair, was targeted because he "stood out". A message recorded from a phone call between a witness and one of the suspects, on the day of the fight, said: "There's a big fat ginger kid who wants a fight at the school."

The Asian group arrived at the school and were heard screaming near the tennis courts, the court heard. Mr Patrick added: "It was to be a fair fight, a one-on-one - or so Henry thought. But he had not reckoned on the fact it was not to be one-on-one. As he came into the playground he was attacked by a group. He was knocked to the ground, he was kicked, punched and repeatedly hit over the head with a hammer."

In a video interview filmed six days after the attack, Henry told police that the group had ambushed him. He said: "I heard screams, then I was punched in the back of my head. I was curled up on the floor but they repeatedly kept hitting me. Then I felt the hammer hit the back of my head." He added: "I know it was a hammer because if it was a punch, your vision does not change. As I got hit, my vision turned to stars - it all separated, what I could see, because it was so powerful."

Witnesses to the assault saw his attackers run off, punching the air and shouting: "We've done it." After the attack, teachers were alerted and ambulances arrived at the scene within minutes. Henry stayed conscious throughout the ordeal. He told the court he was still suffering from the life-threatening injuries sustained in the attack. Henry said: "The hammer had gone through my head, through my skull and into the fluid in my brain. I have been told I will never recover because the brain cells will not reform."

Khan and Qazi, the two eldest defendants, blamed each other for the attack during more than four weeks' evidence. Khan had claimed that he was under pressure from his local Asian community not to name the teenager responsible. Referring to the two teenagers who pleaded guilty before the trial, Mr Patrick said they had kicked Henry as he lay on the ground. Khan was remanded in custody. The other three were granted bail pending sentence.

Hmmm. Bail pending sentence. Somehow I don't think we're looking at double-figure sentences here.

Henry's mum is not too chuffed with the school. From the comments on the local papers at the time of the attack it appeared there had been trouble from the gang calling itself "Asian Invasion" for some time.

After the restrictions were lifted, Henry's mother Liz Webster, made a statement on behalf of the family on the steps of Bristol Crown Court. Joined by partner Roger Durnford and Det Sgt Mark Wilkinson, she said Ridgeway School should have been a safe, secure environment.

She said: "This attack was not an isolated incident, it was a culmination of events. This hideous crime which has touched and affected so many young lives was wholly avoidable. That school has at no time made any efforts to assist us and my son's life and future prospects have been devastated. No parent should have to endure the heartache of their child being subjected to such horrifying violence while at school - in what should be an entirely safe and secure environment. And no child should have to experience any of the utter terror and pain my son suffered on what should have been an ordinary day in the protective surroundings of school."

Ms Webster paid tribute to her son for his "amazing strength". She said: "On January 11 last year a gang strutted into the Ridgeway School and almost killed my 15-year-old son by repeatedly striking his head with a hammer. The events of that day propelled us into a terrifying and traumatic world and our lives have now been changed forever. It has been an incredibly challenging year especially for our wonderful son, Henry, who has inspired us all with his amazing strength and courage. Since his birth, Henry has always been a very sweet-natured, sensitive, kind, generous, thoughtful boy - a real gentle giant."

Ms Webster thanked the police, witnesses and psychiatric staff who have helped them through the ordeal. She said: "We have to take this opportunity to convey our thanks to those who have extended their help and support, in particular all the witnesses and their families - who have also become victims of this horrific incident. The police, Det Sgt Wilkinson and his team, have been a wealth of support and professionalism. The ambulance service who acted so promptly and, of course, the medical team at Frenchay Hospital to whom Henry ultimately owes his life. Last but not least, we'd like to mention Professor Gordon Turnbull, psychiatrist. We could not have survived this dreadful ordeal without Gordon's intervention. He has been our family's salvation."

Det Sgt Wilkinson said: "I would like to reassure the community that this was an extremely rare crime and that Swindon is a very safe place in which to live, work and visit."

Steve Colledge, headteacher at Ridgeway School, a self-governing foundation establishment, was not available for comment.

There's a surprise. There's a separate trial of his other assailants continuing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whose Side Is Matt Drudge On ?

Alongside his Prince Harry story, Drudge had proudly highlighted the verdict from the veteran Left-winger Jon Snow of Channel 4 News: "I never thought I'd find myself saying thank God for Drudge."

It's rarely I'm tempted to emulate Mr. E or the Devil, but that cretin Drudge ... the SAS ought to take him on a 'fact-finding mission' to Helmand - and leave him there.

I Forgot About This

When the Jelly-Bellied Flag-Flapper took up his office, lefty Labour think-tank Progress ("diverse and inclusive" - as you can see) thought it would be a good wheeze to ask the online community to lay out their suggestions for Gordon's first 100 days.

I'm pleased to see that my contribution's still there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wind Turbines Gone Wild

Aarhus in Denmark, via the Telegraph blog. Apparently the brakes failed. I'd not considered it, but it's pretty obvious that something that size would break up under free rotation in a strong wind.

Time To Change Internet Providers

More than ten million customers of the UK's three largest ISPs will have their browsing habits sold to a company with roots in the murky world of spyware.

The deal has sparked fears over privacy, but today Phorm, the firm behind the new advertising system, strongly rejected such concerns.

BT, Virgin Media, and Carphone Warehouse have agreed to feed data on their subscribers' web activities to Phorm. Data will be fed into the Open Internet Exchange, Phorm's advertising network, where advertisers will pay to target interest groups. Frequent visits to the BBC's Top Gear site might result in being served up more car ads, for example.

Phorm is run by Kent Ertegrul, a serial entrepreneur whose past ventures include selling joyrides on Russian fighter jets. Previously, his most notable foray online was as the founder of PeopleOnPage, an ad network that operated earlier in the decade and which was blacklisted as spyware by the likes of Symantec and F-Secure.

Security firm F-Secure describes PeopleOnPage's software here.

It says: "The spyware collects a user's browsing habits and system information and sends it back to the ContextPlus servers. Targeted pop-up advertisements are displayed while browsing the web.

"Each installation is given a unique ID, which is sent to the ContextPlus server to request a pop-up advertisement." ContextPlus was the rootkit that PeopleOnPage used to harvest data and hide its presence.

The similarities between this business model and that which will be kicked off by Phorm in the coming months are striking.

Earthquake Blogging

Over at Unenlightened Commentary, Ross was blogging the quake at just gone one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Techie Traumas

I was up til two last night, tweaking a small Microsoft Access application I was prototyping to show to some end-users this morning for their feedback.

<"techie twaddle">I'd built an initial screen with a subform linked to a big union query - 11 unions in fact - which would give the user a snapshot of the project status with all the key statistics on it. Worked perfectly on my Access 2000 setup. But when you open the beast in Access 2002 as used at the client site, something dreadful happens to the query and you show the users a nice blank subform. The query itself seems to be totally trashed and you can't open it in design mode any more. Bad news, because you've lost all your SQL. The fix seems to be to write another (non-union) query which uses the union query as a view, and link the form to the non-union query. You have to rewrite all the SQL first, of course. <"/techie twaddle">

Fired it up, it was bust, a ten o'clock meeting, and I would be demonstrating (to three people who'd driven 80 miles to see it) a broken application that I wouldn't have time to find a fix for before they arrived.

Initial feedback was that it would be nice if the screen wasn't blank.

There were other screens which did work, and while the visitors were checking out the screenprints and writing their comments and suggestions, I was frantically finding a fix - which happily materialised in time for me to show them a kosher front-end.

Not the most stress-free walkthrough I've ever done. I'm somewhat tired. Need a drink.

Or three.

UPDATE - A bad day for me at the office is like yesterday's. A bad day for Susan, a nurse, is working for an hour in the back of an ambulance on someone who's arrested - and not being able to bring them back. Or visiting and talking with a thirtysomething mother of three young children, whose cancer has just been diagnosed as terminal. I need to remind myself of that occasionally. Working in IT isn't exactly Helmand province !

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Few Snowdrops By The Curate's Brook

"No political party can govern if they upset the Asian vote"

Britain, which is seeking to overhaul its immigration policy, cannot afford to upset the Asian community because of its increasing electoral clout, says the chairperson of the Indo-British Friendship Society. "No political party can govern if they upset the Asian vote," India-born Rami Ranger, who also heads the Sun Group of Industries, told IANS.

Ranger, who visited India earlier this month as part of a delegation accompanying British Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, was commenting on the controversial set of proposals that could mark the most comprehensive revision of British immigration rules in 45 years.

"We can elect 40 to 50 members of parliament from several inner cities... They cannot afford to go wrong," said Ranger, 60, who migrated to Britain in 1971 and today steers a business empire that exports products and services to 40 countries.

That does tend to presume a two-party system. See my piece on the Tory Choice.

The New Wave of British Jihad gets an unlikely recruit - one Malcolm Hodges, who was a bit miffed when he failed his accountancy exams :

"In November 2006 he sent identical letters to dozens of mosques around the UK claiming that he was a follower of Osama bin Laden, the court heard. He told them: "Brothers, you are right to kill the infidels but you are making a mistake to try to attack planes and other targets."

Hodges said the "infidels" were expecting such places to be attacked and they should turn their attentions elsewhere. Instead they should focus their "jihad" on four organisations connected to "the corrupt and Western society which are abhorrent to true believers, which the infidels, in their arrogance, will not expect to be attacked".

These were The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants.

He wrote: "Brothers, striking at these targets will be striking at the infidels where it hurts most and each of these targets was formed and is led by the Queen of England. These targets are also full of swine and apes as they are crammed full of Jews, so striking against these targets is a strike against Israel and will take us closer to wiping Israel from the map."

Most murders in London last year were committed by foreigners :

Most murders in London this year were committed by foreigners, according to Scotland Yard figures obtained by The Times.

Of 47 killings between April and September where the nationality of the accused is known, 26 of the suspects — 55 per cent — are not Britons. In 19 cases the killer is believed to be British. In a further 23 cases the nationality of the killer has not been determined. At least 23 of the victims were foreign, including Somali, Brazilian, Irish and Vietnamese citizens. The killings over the six months are under investigation by Scotland Yard’s Homicide Command and are subject to change as more cases are solved. But the raw data represents a stark illustration of the problems facing forces nationwide as communities change rapidly because of large-scale immigration.

The accused in the London sample hail from all corners of the world: Peru, China, Albania, Romania, Lithuania, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"we liberal baby-boomers"

David Goodhart examines the entrails of Jacqui Smith's citizenship proposals.

Last week's green paper on immigration and citizenship used a rhetoric that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, talked about 'earned citizenship' and restricting certain welfare benefits to those who have achieved full citizenship, after at least six years 'on probation'. This is the same government that has overseen the biggest-ever migration into Britain and has been more positive about minority rights, multiculturalism and an 'open Britain' than any in our history. Grasping this apparent conflict requires an understanding of the learning curve of the liberal, baby-boom generation.

While Mr Goodhart's analysis of what my university generation believed is spot-on, the key word here is 'rhetoric'. I think the changes are driven by their private polls and focus groups rather than anything else.

Interesting paradox. I think we're still (just about) at the stage where the problem is 'us' - i.e. the white liberals in power. It's their idiotic, guilt-driven responses to the various challenges to the just-existing, despised Brit culture which is the problem. They still have the power to do something about that, but one day they won't and power will either be fragmented or have passed elsewhere.

And that's exactly the way the white liberals in power think about 'us' - us being the refuseniks, the unbelievers in the Great Society, the racist lumpen Little Englanders harking back to a golden age that never existed. WE are the problem as far as they're concerned (I'm using the Royal 'we' here - as the son of a Welshwoman and an immigrant who spoke with a strong foreign accent til the day he died my status is obscure). If only those idiots weren't around what a paradise this land would be !

But they are - although millions have left. And large numbers of them were once natural, almost tribal Labour supporters whose identification is loosening fast. Ms Smith's initiative is aimed squarely at them. After all, large numbers of them are just poor souls who believe what they read in the Daily Mail. It's a problem of perception. They need - what's the word ? reassurance.

And if words are what's needed, we couldn't have a better government to provide them.

"Affordable Family Formation"

Steve Sailer on house affordability, family values and voting patterns. In the UK it's always Mr and Mrs Average who get squeezed on the kids front. The wealthy and the tax-funded underclass can have as many as they like, but a couple on average wages pretty much have to keep two incomes coming in to pay the mortgage. And it is the devil's own job raising kids in any quantity when you're both working full time, quite apart from the question of whether a mother who spends more waking hours at work than with her children can be said to be 'raising' them at all.

Neither Jane Austen nor Benjamin Franklin, however, would have found the question of what drives the Red-Blue divide so baffling. Unlike today’s intellectuals, they both thought intensely about the web linking wealth, property, marriage, and children. They would not have been surprised that a state’s voting proclivities are now dominated by the relative presence or absence of affordable family formation.

First-time readers of Pride and Prejudice frequently remark that Austen’s romance novels are, by American standards, not terribly romantic. She possessed a hard-headed understanding of how in traditional English society, wedlock was a luxury that some would never be able to afford, an assumption that often shocks us in our more sentimental 21st century ...

... GOP “family values” resound more in states where people can more afford to have families. In parts of the country where “Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life.” And where it is economical to buy a house with a yard in a neighborhood with a decent public
(i.e. state - LT) school, you will generally find more conservatives. It’s a stereotype that marriage, mortgage, and kids make people more conservative, but, like most stereotypes, it’s reasonably true. You’ll find fewer Republicans in places where family formation is expensive. Where fewer people can form families, Republican candidates making speeches about family values just sound irrelevant or irritating.

The arrow of causality points in both directions. Some family-oriented people move to more affordable states in order to marry and have children, while people uninterested in marriage and children move in the opposite direction to enjoy adult lifestyles. This population swapping just makes the electorate more divided by geography rather than tipping the national balance toward one party.

Still, for the many Americans whose innate inclinations fall somewhere in the middle, the cost of forming a family in their current state affects how likely they are to start down the path toward married-with-children conservatism and therefore, cumulatively, which party will eventually prevail nationally.

Imagine a young couple considering marriage who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. He makes $60,000 and she makes $40,000 annually. If he could find a job that pays $50,000 in northern Texas, where costs are only half as high, she could stay home and raise the children. But if they can’t bear to leave California, with its inspiring scenery and lovely weather, she will have to keep working. And if she has to work, are children really such a good idea? And if they aren’t going to have children, why get married at all? And if they aren’t married, are they going to appreciate the nagging of socially conservative politicians?

Read the whole thing. UK house prices are such that there's nowhere any more where Joe Average can find "a house with a yard in a neighborhood with a decent state school".