Archive for August 2011

Mobile manners

Debrett’s, that guide to everything you need to know about the upper strata of society and how to behave properly, has, it seems, finally gotten around to tackling the problem of mobile phone etiquette – or the lack there of.

Most people have, I’m sure, wanted at some point to remove a mobile from someone whose behaviour whilst using it is rude or obnoxious and place it forcibly about their person where the sun doesn’t shine. Personally my pet hate is those who use them in the quiet carriage on trains – and I would quite happily string anyone who does so up by their toes. :)

  • Think about what your ringtone says about you: head-banging rocker, fashion-conscious teenager, gamer, sci-fi nerd, smooth seducer, tv addict, ‘invisible’ (default)… Can you live with it?
  • If you’re embarrassed by your ringtone in certain situations (trains, office, when you’re visiting your mother) it’s almost certainly the wrong choice. Try again.
  • Monitor the volume of your ringtone; if it blares out and heads turn it’s too loud.
  • Remember there’s always vibrate. It may surprise your companions when you lurch – seemingly unprompted – to answer an invisible, silent phone, but at least they’ll be spared the ringtone.
  • Ensure that your mobile phone conversation is not disturbing other people. Intimate conversations are never appropriate in front of others – try and respect your own, and other people’s, privacy.
  • Don’t use foul language, have full-blooded rows, or talk about money, sex or bodily functions in front of witnesses.
  • Don’t use your phone in ‘quiet zones’ on trains. Even if you’re not in a designated zone, be aware that your voice will distract a peaceful carriage of newspaper-reading commuters. If the line is bad and conversations inaudible, explain that there’s a problem and hang up.
  • Your mobile phone is not a megaphone, so don’t shout…
  • If you lose reception, live with it. Refrain from shouting into a dead device, and ring the other person back as soon as you regain it, even if it’s only to say goodbye.
  • People in the flesh deserve more attention than a gadget, so wherever possible turn off your phone in social situations.
  • Don’t put your phone on the dining table, or glance at it longingly mid-conversation.
  • Don’t carry on mobile phone calls while transacting other business – in banks, shops, on buses and so on. It is insulting not to give people who are serving you your full attention.
  • Don’t make calls to people from inappropriate venues; a call from a bathroom is deeply off-putting.
  • Switch off your phone, or turn it on to vibrate, when you are going into meetings, theatres, cinemas and so on.
  • Bluetooth headsets are fine in the car (in fact they’re safe and legal).
  • If you are awaiting an important call when meeting someone socially, explain at the outset that you will have to take the call, and apologise in advance. Otherwise, excuse yourself and withdraw somewhere private to make or receive calls. Do not have a mobile phone conversation in front of your friends. It is the height of bad manners…

Quite frankly that list is just simple common sense and general courtesy. That it needs to be spelt out, does depressing, sum up much of what seems to be wrong with people.

‘Jackboot’ Jacqui rides again

Before I get into this post I must apologise to those amongst my readers of a sensitive disposition who, on discovering that our unlamented former Home Secretary Jacqui ‘Jackboot’ Smith is still alive and kicking, may have been put off, or indeed lost, their breakfast. Believe me when I say I’m as surprised as anyone to discover that no-one has yet driven a stake through what may pass for her heart.

Jacqui has, it appears, spent all of her golden goodbye she got when the people of Redditch finally kicked her from the taxpayer teat in May 2010 and has had to find another way to earn some money.

She now, together with her husband, the self-pleasurer Richard Timney, runs Boost Associates (google it if you really, really want to) – a consultancy firm which aims to use the connections Ms. Smith acquired during her previous un-gainful employment to assist those with enough wonga to pay for her services.

Along with the frankly obvious offerings which it seems that all political consultancy firms seek to provide, e.g.

  • training and consultancy on the policy and political environment
  • advice to help you get your message across and your voice heard
  • specialist support with fundraising
  • lectures, speeches and event presenting

she will be offering confidential one-to-one mentoring “to people making tough decisions in business and public life. Helping them improve their confidence, performance and results.”

It is not known whether these sessions include advice on how to avoid your claim for you husband’s pornography viewing appearing on your expenses form or how to obtain over £116,000 from the taxpayer simply by living under your sister’s roof

Smoking ban petition

We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms.

So reads the Review the Smoking Ban petition on the government’s e-petitions website.

I am no fan of the smoking ban, considering it to be a very bad piece of legislation designed solely to appease the anti-smoking lobby and grossly un-libertarian. I would therefore like to see the thing overturned but accept that to go from where we are now to where we were 5 years ago is sadly not going to happen given the puritanical bent that seems to run through the political and lobbying classes we currently have.

Given that, what this petition is calling for is probably a good first step, asking, as it does, for them to evaluate the fallout of their actions. Ok, we all know that governments like to look at the evidence and then do what they were going to do anyway but if it is out there, says what many suspect it does about the effect of the ban on the pub trade and has the government stamp on it then it’ll (hopefully) be harder for the anti’s to dismiss it.

On that basis I have signed it and I urge anyone who supports civil liberties, regardless of whether or not you smoke, to do likewise.

The riots: a mob made by the welfare state?

For those who are interested I will, subject to Murphy’s Law, be at the following ASI event:

The riots: a mob made by the welfare state?

Speaker: Brendan O’Neill – Spiked Online

Date: 6th September 2011
Time 6pm to 8.30pm
Location: St. Stephen’s Club, 34 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9AB

RSVP via Facebook

There will no doubt be drinking afterwards…

Not tonight dear, I’m supporting the team

The idea that those who are competing in international sporting competitions which define the pinnacle of their vocation should abstain from sex before matches is not new. However asking your supporters to do so is.

It comes as no surprise therefore to learn that supposedly tongue in cheek adverts, fronted by former skipper Sean Fitzpatrick and commissioned by sponsor Telecom Corp., which suggested such a thing have gone down like the proverbial lead balloon amongst All Blacks supporters.

The campaign, which was to offer fans who joined up a black rubber ring to wear on their finger, has now been ditched following a storm of negative feedback.

New Zealand online news site, stuff.co.nz, quotes some less than complimentary fans:

Wrote Chad Preece: “Go ABs. Goodbye Telecom. Might I suggest that your marketing department stops hanging out with their counterparts at Nike and Adidas.”

Bob Smith opined: “Maybe Telecom used the same dorks that designed their amazing logo to come up with this campaign.”

Brent Allan: “Well you got your publicity, but a fair amount would be disapproving. Telecom, you are an embarrassment to the country!!”

And Ahmad Rini wrote: “I’m getting mixed messages from the All Blacks sponsors. First Adidas told us to go f*** ourselves. Now we are being told not to?

As well as an anonymous worker at the company:

“I too am disgusted at this ridiculous ad, already in my call centre some staff have had to field calls from angry customers who want to disconnect all services”.

“Makes me want to work elsewhere, everyone is so embarrassed about it.”

It seems that, for Telecom, there is perhaps such a thing so bad publicity given the passionate nature of NZ rugby supporters.

Note: The All Blacks have not laid their hands upon the Webb Ellis cup, named after the boy who allegedly picked up the ball and ran, since the inaugural tournament in NZ and Australia back in 1987 and their return home from subsequent tournaments empty handed has not been met with stoical disappointment in all quarters. Not winning this one, on home territory, would probably not go down too well with the more foolish element.

Fight!

In the light of last week’s stupidities in London, Essex Police Foarce took great delight earlier this week informing the public what they are doing to stop such silliness breaking out in the county.

Sadly for them, much mockery was directed their way when it turned out that their preventative actions included such gems as this:

A 20-year-old man from Colchester who allegedly sent messages from a Blackberry encouraging people to join in a water fight has been charged with encouraging or assisting in the commission of an indictable only offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007. He has been conditionally bailed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on September 1.

Indeed, so mocked were they on twitter that they issued this follow-up:

Re water fight comments – police believe there may be more involved in light of recent disorder

Which rather sounds like someone went ‘Oh heck, this isn’t playing well. Better come up with something to make it sound more ominous.’

The Telegraph reports a spokesman as saying:

A spokesman for Essex Police indicated the BlackBerry Messenger network was under surveillance by police, saying: “I’m sure we are making efforts to monitor such correspondence, wherever they are,” he said.

He said the plans for a ‘water fight’ may have been a cover for rioting. “In the light of recent events, we would have to be careful that [the planned water fight] is not all that it seems,” he said.

As I doubt that Essex Police have the manpower to monitor everything on BBM, I’m going to assume that the ‘monitoring’ is, at best, someone flagging up key words and phrases and then asking RiM to match telephone numbers to names.

It will be interesting to see what happens come September 1st. Will the Police back this up with evidence, drop it or have the Magistrate laugh them out of court?

Buried? Overlooked? Missed?

Over the last week or so the news agenda in this country has been, unsurprisingly, dominated by two items: the renewed volatility in the global financial markets, and the rioting and looting in London and several other major cities.

What then, I wonder, has gone un- (or under-) reported by our MSM in the last five days? What bad news has, to quote Jo Moore, been buried or otherwise simply over looked either due to bad timing or deliberate action?

Readers are invited to use the comments to enlighten both myself and others as to what may have been buried, overlooked or missed.

Troubled waters ahead for the EHRC?

Overlooked on Monday in favour of other, more gripping, items (for which its target is probably very grateful) was the release of a report by the think tank Cvitas ‘Small Corroding Words’ which recommended that

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) contributes very little to meaningful equality in Britain today and should be abolished.

According to the press release (and I’m afraid that in the absence of spending £7 for the full document, the press release is all I have) the report, by Jon Gower Davies (a former Head of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Newcastle and for 20 years a Labour Councillor on Newcastle City Council)

… demonstrates how impractical the EHRC’s goal of equality is, wishing that life outcomes be entirely divorced from health limitations, cultural practices and lifestyles. Examining the philosophy of Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC, Davies argues:

[Trevor] Phillips conceives of humans as existing independently of their birth, their race, their gender, their age, their religion, their belief or their physical competence – his ‘list’, above: and on such human beings, so conceived, he is able to confer Rights no matter where they live or how or when they were created or what they have done or do.

Naturally this didn’t sit well with members of the EHRC with the chief executive of the organisation saying:

“There are many reasons why people experience different levels of prosperity, health and happiness,” he said. “But in some cases this can be because of discrimination and unfairness.”

Hardly the most passionate of defences me thinks and indeed perhaps one admitting that they are reduced to focusing on the trivial? Or is it that, with the NAO making waves about their financial propriety, they are too busy putting out the existing fires to worry about a new one? Especially one that’ll go unnoticed by most.

The unseen costs of the London riots

The civil unrest of the last four nights has left a lot of people, businesses and insurance companies counting the cost in lives, earnings and property as the mess left by the crowds of stupid people intent on destroying or looting property is dealt with.

But those are just the initial costs, the up-front visible ones that catch the eye immediately.

There are others.

For the areas affected by the violence the local communities face the prospect of inward investment from the private sector drying up, the prices of houses in the area falling further and insurance costs rising sharply. And all of that is without wondering what further local services will be cut in order to repair damage to public property.

For the UK, a country for whom tourism is an industry, according to Visit Britain, worth approximately £115bn a year and responsible for about 2.6m jobs, the disturbances such as we have seen will no doubt result in a dip of some description as some potential visitors to stay away. Indeed various governments have already issued travel advice for anyone thinking for travelling to the UK in the very near future.

All these costs however pale into insignificance when one realises the damage caused to the famous British sense of irony by this particular statement:

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast urged the British government to order the police to stop their violent confrontation with the people, IRNA reported in the early hours of Tuesday.

Mehmanparast asked the British government to start dialogue with the protesters and to listen to their demands in order to calm the situation down.

The Iranian official also asked independent human rights organizations to investigate the killing in order to protect the civil rights and civil liberties.

Ladies and gentleman I give you the Iranian foreign ministry, the winners of the award for the most ironic statement of 2011.

An unfortunate juxtaposition

Twitter Trends in the UK, afternoon of 4th August 2011

Shane Warne, Australian leg-spin bowler and one of the greatest bowlers of all time. A man whose name put the fear of God into every English batting line up for over a dozen years. A man whose test record against England stands at 36 matches, 1792.5 overs, 488 maidens, 4535 runs, 195 wickets at an average of 23.25, and whose Herculean efforts in the 2005 Ashes series where he took 40 of the 93 English wickets to fall in the 5 Tests almost single handedly denied them a first win against the Australians in 18 years.

Many a fan of English cricket may well have occasionally wished him ill as he once again ran through the ever crumbly middle order of the English cricket team in the 1990’s and early 2000’s but I like to think that none of them would have sandwiched him, as twitter did yesterday afternoon, between the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment.

The internet can, at times, be a very cruel place.