Category Archives: Politics

Goodbye Gadaffi …

No more fashion lessons from this particular nutter me thinks .. mutters Cleopuss

It is with pleasure that we see the downfall of Colonel Gadaffi in Libya, although we would like to remind readers that in a historically divided country with a newly created power vacuum, the journey towards democracy could be a rocky one. We at Ant n Cleopuss webwurld wish the transitional council patience and tolerance, as they work through their differences towards a future where Libyans can determine their own destiny.

Bin Heaven …

The last picture from our recent visit to York, discovered at York hospital … A frog bin!

20110819-113443.jpg

Happy Friday Mr President …

It’s well known that President Obama is an avid reader of webwurld, and it seems he is encouraging the habit amongst his staff, as can be seen in this image of Barack and his Vice President Joe Biden enjoying the latest news from ant and cleopuss webwurld.

Congratulations on your good taste once again, Mr President 😉

20110819-112456.jpg

International reaction to PMs suggestions …

20110812-134832.jpg

There has been a sarcastic and quite frankly ridiculous reaction in some places to the PMs speech yesterday which mentioned, amongst many other things, an investigation into the role of BBM and other social media in co-ordinating violent crime in the recent riots. I have made my own views clear some days ago on the subject and am glad that the PM is listening to the electorate in our civilised country, who suggest that use of BBM amongst rioters is contributing to the scale of the problem we face. The perception in some quarters is that we are blaming social networking technologies for the riots, in reality this is a long way from the truth.

In fact David Cameron’s suggestion is to investigate the monitoring of such communication when used for criminal means. To those who believe this makes us a police state in the vein of Syria and Iran, I would ask if this not the role of the police and the responsibility of government in a civilised society? What is being suggested is simply an extension of the powers to monitor mobile communications in circumstances where they are being used for criminal purposes, in a similar way to such monitoring in India, Saudi Arabia and other nations. The difference between the UK and other countries is the use to which the information gained is put. I do not believe for one minute that this will be used to oppress people here.

There is also a lack of international understanding of what is happening in the UK riots. Young people, without the emotional intelligence to understand the consequences of their actions, are hearing about the opportunity to get something for nothing and loot shops, on the heels of organised crime. This magnifies the problem of inner city criminality tenfold and makes the job of our police force that much more difficult. In a war situation the first thing we do is disrupt enemy communications, why is this action any different if it has the support of the vast majority of people in a democratic country?

And Ii reply to the absurd implication that we british believe that removing social networks will solve the problem over night, I would point out the difference between dealing with short term disorder and at the same time recognising the longer term contributors to it. What is recognised here, and conveniently ignored in the analysis of many more remote from our situation, is that organised gangs have used the tools available to them to make their crime more difficult to police, both by being able to manage a gorilla type campaign in our inner cities and in encouraging teens to join them and confuse the issue still further.

It is suggested, in some less than intelligent circles, that to be truly safe from the riots we will need to ban Internet access altogether, along with email, telephones, and carrier pigeons. These implications are a ridiculous exaggeration designed to give certain writers and their readers a feeling of superiority, rather than an intelligent contribution to the discussion. Equally, to draw a parallel between what is happening in the UK and the wholesale banning of Internet access in countries like Egypt during their recent revolution, is irresponsible at best and remarkably stupid at worst. After all this action is being taken, and is supported by, a democratic electorate.

Instead there is an honest discussion currently in the UK about the underlying causes of the unrest recently, an understanding that social factors have contributed to it, and that sections of our society feel marginalised. I suggest these sections of society exist in most developed countries to one degree of another. There is also a recognition that our unarmed police force need to work differently to those in other countries where the most effective deterrent available is to shoot dead citizens who are involved in violent crime.

I would ask those who believe that the consideration of managing communication technologies in a civilised country is a removal of free speech to answer these questions:

If someone in our society owns a car and misuses this privilege by driving dangerously or killing someone with it, is it not acceptable to remove this privilege to protect others?

If criminals were frequenting a particular public house to plan and launch theft and violent crime, would not the police have a responsibility to monitor this communication?

If police work is about the monitoring of society and of identifying criminal actions, planning and communication, why, in an age where new technology gives these criminals different ways to organise themselves, is it not acceptable to extend these powers in a transparent way to deal with the new avenues available for criminality?

One solution espoused by those across the Atlantic would be to arm our police force, and provide a greater deterrent to this kind of crime. I recognise that this may negate the need for monitoring such communications as many of the people who rioted recently would not have risked it for fear of injury or death. This would perhaps calm the situation in the short term, but as has been proved countries such as the US, this also has the affect of criminals arming themselves as a direct result. This is not an arms race, and it is not sensible to escalate one in a civilised society. In the US this right to bear arms is instead a relic of the wild west when having a gun was necessary to protect your freedom in the absence of an effective police force. We have no such history and no such need of escalation here. I would much prefer a ‘nanny state’, who we elect freely to protect our freedom, and who occasionally have to balance the need for freedom against making difficult decisions to deal with the problems this sometimes causes.

The 1000s of gun deaths in the US every year, both through crime, policemen shooting suspects rather than questioning them, and through unfortunate domestic accidents, prove daily that this apparent solution has enormous and tragic side effects.

Some research may help us understand this in context:

“Homicide rates tend to be related to firearm ownership levels. Everything else being equal, a reduction in the percentage of households owning firearms should occasion a drop in the homicide rate” …. Evidence to the Cullen Inquiry 1996: Thomas Gabor, Professor of Criminology – University of Ottawa

Wikipedia reports that there were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000, quite apart from the fatalities caused by widespread gun availability.

In terms of gun ownership in the states .. “in 2004, 36.5% of Americans reported having a gun in their home and in 1997, 40% of Americans reported having a gun in their homes. At this time there were approximately 44 million gun owners in the United States” …”The number of American homes reporting have a gun in their homes is down from 46% as reported in 1989.” … This evidence suggests that many people in the US recognise that having a firearm at home is a liability rather than a protection of their own freedom, and gun ownership has consequently fallen as a result.

The final piece of evidence disproving this solution to our current difficulties, is the simple fact that, if this was really a better way for a society to operate then there would be no such problems in the USA. I believe evidence shows we in the UK live in a more peaceful country, even taking into account our recent troubles. I do not believe in following their model of a civilised society in this respect.

There is also a perception in some quarters that in our ‘nanny state’, CCTV is a threat to our freedom. On the contrary, CCTV is a better deterrent than arming our police force, as it does not result in unnecessary deaths due to misuse of the tool available. The evidence collected using it is not susceptible to witness intimidation, and it does not lose it’s accuracy over time, it simply shows the facts. It is nothing more than a completely impartial observer and I am glad we have as many cameras watching us as we do in our inner cities. Used properly they provide a really effective deterrent in a country where the police are not armed.

At present the evolving Internet is a wild west, where freedom is possible no matter what you want to achieve with it. Whether that be the sharing of child pornography, making of bombs, killing of innocent people or destroying of businesses for personal gain. Why do we not allow these activities in our civilised society? The answer is obvious. Is not what is being proposed simply an extension of this, and a possible solution which other counties may well need to consider in similar circumstances? Or are we going to pay a heavy price for our freedom of speech instead and have criminals take advantage of new technology freely, because we couldn’t possibly allow their freedom to be affected, no matter that they intend to cause harm with it? This would of course be madness, but it is the thrust of some rather I’ll informed arguments I have read in the last few days.

Is this action also justifiable in the context that we have something valuable to protect? .. the freedom of our citizens to open businesses, to employ local people, to pay taxes and better themselves through hard work without interference from criminals out for a quick buck?

Ultimately if the price of freedom of speech is to tolerate theft, burglary and violent crime, then I for one am not prepared to pay it, and if citizens of this country are found misusing technology for criminal means, then I support our right to remove it from them.

International Reaction to the Riots

20110811-092603.jpg

I have read some really interesting international reactions to the rioting in the UK today on the BBC website. Some quotes are below:

“…unfortunately, until they are shown that real consequences exist for their madness, the riots will continue to spread..” “…I do not believe this has anything to do with the economy. It’s about a misguided set of youths with the wrong set of values” …. Adiodun Gaffar, Lagos, Nigeria

“…let us not condemn British society or the police unnecessarily. This sort of mindless violence and looting has occurred time and again across different cities around the world” … Donald Uttanwalla, Mumbai, India

“… having lived in Manchester for 22 years, it was clear to me that there is a lazy, bored and malevolent class of society simply supported by the state, happily living a lifestyle of petty crime and occasional violence”….”they may lay the blame at the feet of the rich, but it’s the money of productive people that reaches their back pockets” …. Avi Haffner, Jerusalem, Israel

“… this is one of the many unfortunate outcomes of giving too much too easily and then trying to cut back” … Stephen Gray, Lima, Peru

“… I think that the British police and government have acted with great restraint with these looters. These looters should try the same thing in the US. Here shopkeepers in riots are armed and post signs saying ‘looters will be shot’.” … Frank Powell, Baltimore, USA

“… What we need really is to help each other. We need to help those involved in crimes and rioting” …”What I see them doing is like a nine year old child who doesn’t get what he wants, then starts to scream and cry and yell to their parents .. ” … Jami, Helsinki, Finland

Link to the original page here

Take Back Our Streets

20110810-125206.jpg

I am just out of a warm bath, after travelling to manchester this morning at 7am to help ordinary people and businesses clear up the mess from riots last night.

I arrived to find shops in piccadilly gardens with windows smashed and shattered in the street, metal shutters kicked in, barricades placed inside shops to try and stop illegal entry along with unfortunate evidence of illegal entry and vandalism nonetheless. To their absolute credit, the majority of staff working in shops in Piccadilly had arrived to work considerably early to clear up the mess and open as normal. Working people were travelling normally to work, and coffee was being provided free in the street from coffee shops who could not open up properly until glass had been swept from the inside of their shops.

I noticed Spar on Piccadilly Gardens opening up to find that their barricade had served it’s purpose, most of their stock was safe, although their glass doors and metal shutters had been smashed and glass, bottles, food and weapons had been hurled into the shop. I used the heavy duty bin bags I had bought from Asda early doors and our family broom to clear it up. The employees of the shop helped too, and in 30 minutes we had cleared, cleaned and mopped the shop ready for their door to be repaired. Next door the amusements had been entered and several machines vandalised, glass was everywhere and shutters were hanging limply, awaiting replacement or boarding up. There was much to do in several places along this row of shops and I got stuck in.

Evidence of teenage rioters was apparent everywhere, I swept and picked up broken bottles of spirits, beer bottles and cans, wine glasses, coat hangers discarded after the clothes they held were taken from local shops, cd and dvd cases, and endless fag ends and packets. I think it must be a prerequisite for rioters to be chain smokers; at least this means they may actually unwittingly be paying taxes on a more ordinary day, (and I guess also live less long than they otherwise might 😉

Some clothes, obviously not good enough for the thieves who stole them were lying around, shopping baskets lay next to packets of unopened M&S sandwiches, abandoned by the ‘shoppers’ who I guess realised they weren’t as hungry as they first thought when doing their own illegal supermarket sweep. If a teenage rioter realises today that they left behind a pair of new purple scull candy in ear headphones in their rush to smash up our beautiful city, they can by all means have them back. Although I may insist they admit where they stole them from so I can return them. As this is rather unlikely, I will keep them safe 😉

Walking down market street, miss selfridge, which had been set on fire was surrounded with people on their way to work, taking pictures of the damage and taking in the madness as they passed. At the Sasha hotel, buses of tourists were leaving hurriedly, an Australian couple wanted to know where the train station was, they seemed in an unsurprising hurry to leave. It feels so wrong that our friendly, vibrant city did not welcome these people and that they will return to their own homes with horrific stories of surviving the horrors of the night. Manchester has been so good to me over the years. It is shameful that our city is now represented internationally by teenage morons instead of the wonderful people who have made me feel so welcome since my arrival in the early 1990s.

Occasionally people would walk past with brooms, headed towards the meeting point arranged on Twitter at Piccadilly gardens, where city council employees were distributing brooms, litter pickers, gloves and rubbish bags. It is a credit to those who worked hard through the night that much of the damage and consequent mess created had by that stage been cleared by Bruntwood vans, and occasional volunteers. I am proud to count myself amongst them, Manchester has always been kind to me, it was my turn to repay this favour and I was happy to do so.

On returning a couple of shopping baskets to their rightful owners, via several shops whose shopping basket handles were annoyingly the wrong colour, I walked into M&S and triumphantly exclaimed ‘i believe these are yours’. The manager looked somewhat confused, in my home made council jacket I appeared to have some authority, until I turned around and he read what I had written on the back of it. I managed to help him realise that I was returning the baskets and asked him again to confirm that they belonged to his shop. I like it when i can surprise people with good news, he seemed a mixture of shocked and surprised, and thanked me a few moments later. M&S lost some stock too last night, I know this from the number of unopened rain soaked sandwich packets and coat hangers i picked up just off Piccadilly gardens.

I made a beeline for my favourite of shopping places in the city centre with dread. But I was pleased to find that Afflecks Palace, a haven for small creative businesses in our city, appeared to be unharmed, despite rumours to the contrary on twitter last night.

I haven’t taken pictures, I wasn’t there as a riot tourist (there were enough of those around, I wasn’t needed in that capacity), but to clean up and show that not everyone who lives in our city lacks responsibility. I did however snap a rioter left behind somehow (picture below) who was busy taunting my fellow broom wielders with his actions of the night before, just as he was dragged away by a police officer. I live in hope that the CCTV cameras which are all over our city, especially since the bombing of years ago, captured his misdeeds and that numerous prosecutions will be made over the next few days as police forensically examine who did what where. Without this it will be difficult to provide a long term deterrent to similar actions and may mean I don my fake council jacket more regularly than i would like.

I didnt want to hang around to flirt with tv cameras, there were enough people doing this. Including one young man the TV crew had picked from the crowd, they dressed him in a raincoat, gave him a broom and then asked him questions about what he was doing there. I don’t think I will ever see interviews with ‘chance encounter’ members of the public on TV in the same way again, but at least he had made the effort to be there. In any case i’m sure my nerve would have failed me in front of the cameras and a pretty interviewer (who seem more concerned with not getting her hair wet than reporting accurate truth). I would no doubt have said something stupid and then spent the rest of my life thinking that i should have added this, or not said that. So at 10am I boarded a 182 back home to Oldham, with heavy legs, backpain, blisters on my feet and a happy heart.

A nawty detour via McDonalds later I met what I believe to be a rioter from yesterday, he was superbly chavvy in appearance, suffering from a hangover (and a distinct lack of intelligence). He was in the queue as I sat and ate my prize of a double sausage and egg mcmuffin meal, trying to have a go at the manager for not being able to provide him with a double sausage bagel. For afficiandos of maccy d’s they only sell the single variety in bagels. He was shouting that it was stupid of them not to have told him that this was not possible. It appears that he was unable to understand the menu, even though it is helpfully mostly pictures. I remarked from my comfy chair that he “could buy two of them and stack them up, or make some other intelligent decision”. Upon realising that I was confident and not scared of him, he sat down and was mercifully quiet. I enjoyed my meal all the more for his silence.

The moral of this story? That the silent majority in our country have been silent too long, we need to make more noise – helpful, peaceful, responsible noise – and take back our streets.

20110810-012119.jpg

Saintly act caught on camera

Go go gadget arms