Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Few Snowdrops From The Curate's Field

(photo by Ozier Muhammad for The New York Times)

A feel-good Obama story - while generally the Obamarama drives me nuts, and I hate the racism and inverse racism that gave him so many votes, you can still see why these guys, who I've blogged about before, would be chuffed.

Now in their 80s and 90s, most were frail and bundled up against the cold in wheelchairs. “All of the things that are wrong can get washed away,” Spann Wilson, 92, a Tuskegee Airman who flew P-51 fighters over North Africa and Europe, said as he listened to the Marine Band playing at the Capitol.

More Labour sleaze. No wonder the bankers aren't going on trial - the precedent would be too uncomfortable.

Baron Truscott of St James’s took a bite of his teacake before explaining to the two lobbyists in front of him just how much it would cost to hire a peer of the realm.

“Rates vary between £1,000 and £5,000 a day,” he said quietly, his voice almost drowned by the chatter in the House of the Lords dining room. It was a question, he agreed, of getting the right person rather than haggling over the money.

Truscott — a former Labour MEP who was a government minister until 18 months ago — made it clear he had exactly the right credentials.

In the course of their short tea-time conversation he agreed to help them amend a government bill that was harmful to their client, in return for cash. He said he had done similar work before. He said he had intervened on the Energy Bill — a piece of legislation he had been responsible for as a minister only months earlier. His fee was seemingly modest by peers’ standards, but probably not for most people outside the house. He charged £2,000 a day, which would have added up to £72,000 for the three-day-a-month one-year contract he later proposed ...

On Thursday, Lord Snape, a former Labour whip, also indicated he would be willing to help the reporters amend the bill for a fee of up to £24,000 a year. “Depending on who is on the Commons committee, if I had a chat I could see if I could get them to table an amendment in committee. It would be better if you could get a government person to do it, purely in political terms.”

He also offered to make representations to Healey. “I can approach him behind the scenes to say, ‘You know this is the purpose behind the amendment, look at it’.”

Lord Moonie, a former defence minister, also offered to assist in return for an annual fee of £30,000. Moonie said he would contact Healey and offered to identify people who could put down an amendment.

Moonie is a social friend of Gordon Brown and was ennobled in 2005. He gave up his parliamentary seat reportedly so that Brown could keep his in a boundary change.

The peer said the rules in the Lords were lax. “The thing with the Lords is that there’s virtually nothing they can do with you, unless you break the law . . . Even if you don’t declare, there’s nothing they can do but jump up and down.”

They're dirty dogs, aren't they ?

More anti-Christian activism - using taxpayer money as a weapon of culture war yet again :

A local authority has withdrawn the grant it gives to provide warden services at a care home because the residents have refused to answer "intrusive" questions about their sexuality. Pensioners living at the home in Brighton are supposed to be questioned regularly about their sexual orientation under the council's "fair access and diversity" policies. But the charity running the home has declined to do so, and nor will it use images of elderly homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in its leaflets. As a consequence, the council has accused the charity of "institutional discrimination" and withdrawn its £13,000 grant.

Did you know that the top police officers lobby group ACPO - the Association of Chief Police Officers - is a limited company ? A limited company that's totally state-funded ?

So is a company I'd never heard of, Solace - which is owned by council chief executives and has a subsidiary which acts as a paid consultancy to local authorities - for headhunting chief execs and setting their salary levels !

No wonder you see senior officers leave in disgrace after some scandal only to pop up somewhere else on a similar salary.

More instances of taxpayer money being used to fund lobby groups - who then lobby for the policies the paymaster wants. They really are a corrupt bunch, aren't they ? Democracy is being hollowed out from the inside.

Earlier this month the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, announced that the display of cigarettes and tobacco in shops would be banned in England and Wales from 2011. He added that people wanting to buy cigarettes from vending machines would in future have to show proof of age to obtain a token to activate the machine, and machines could be banned altogether in the future.
Mr Johnson boasted that the display ban was favoured by an "overwhelming majority" of 96,000 responses to a six-month public consultation on the subject. Yet only a handful of those 96,000 respondents came from individuals submitting their personal views. Almost 70,000 came from those collected by pressure groups entirely funded by the Department for Health. Among the groups submitting block responses were SmokeFree NorthWest, SmokeFree Liverpool and SmokeFree North East, which were all set up by the Government to lobby against the tobacco industry. The finding has prompted critics to accuse the Government of spending taxpayers' money on establishing groups designed merely to back the Government line on public health issues. Ministers have effectively been accused of "astroturfing" - cultivating a fake grassroots movement in order to make a position appear more popular than it really is. The Government also published responses to a consultation on alcohol consumption earlier this month, in advance of a Policing and Crime Bill currently passing through Parliament, which proposes giving the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, sweeping powers to control licensing in pubs and clubs. The consultation attracted 2,336 responses. Almost 2,000 of these came either from a survey by Alcohol Concern, a charity which last year was given almost £400,000 by the Department for Health and raised nothing through fundraising, or postcards distributed by the Department itself, which posed the question: "Fed up with alcohol problems where you live?" Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said the disclosures summed up Labour's "cavalier" approach to consulting the public. Mr Lansley said: "It will come as no surprise to us if the Department of Health has funded organisations that provide the responses to consultations that the Government is looking for".
The Devils Kitchen (parental advisory - toilet-mouthed posts) had a piece on the subject of these fake charities - and there's now a directory of fake charities to which you may add your own examples.

And finally .. that fine police blogger Nightjack is winding the blogging down for a while while he does his exams, leaving us with these thoughts on policing. Go read.

His back pages are well worth a browse too - he has a list of his most visited posts on the sidebar. I liked his take on the so-called "Children's Commissioner" Al Aynsley-Green (Laban's view here - note that Al has now reinvented himself as - cool or what ? He's another one of those tax-funded pressure groups at £3 million pa of our money) - he sees him as The Dad At The Disco.


Anonymous said...

This may be wrong but I suspect the snowdrop campaign played a similar role in the post-Dunblane gun ban.

The state got what it wanted and used the campaign of slightly suspect provenance to help things along.

Ariel Wilson said...

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