October1 2001

Blind justice?

Old Grumpy was interested in Sunday night's File on 4, which dealt with the subject of racism in the police service.
The programme focused on allegedly groundless disciplinary actions against members of the Black Policeman's Association.
One case that struck me was that of Leroy Logan, a black superintendent in the Metropolitan Police.
According to a File on 4, the force had launched a lengthy disciplinary probe into an £80 claim for hotel expenses submitted by Superintendent Logan.
The reason for this investigation was that the Met had already paid the hotel bill, direct.
This bears a striking resemblance to a case reported on this web site (see August 20) except that that involved two such claims totalling £580 and, er, there has been no police investigation, yet.

Stranger than fiction

In his book " The Universal Nature of Science '' the distinguished embryologist Lewis Wolpert argues that science is counter- intuitive and an affront to common sense.
I suspect Professor Wolpert is right because there would be little point in education if everything could be discovered through the application of common sense.
For instance, I am writing this at the kitchen table, a large piece of furniture that requires two people to lift it.
But, in reality, this very solid object is 99.999999 per cent empty space.
I read recently that all solid bits (atomic nuclei) in Snowdon would fit into an eggcup.
Amazingly, the contents of the eggcup would have the same mass as Snowdon - a miniature black hole.
Commonsense could never tell you that, any more than it would lead you to discover that an electron can transfer from position A to position B without passing through the intervening space.
No amount of common sense would lead to the conclusion that it is possible to beam electromagnetic waves through the ether into your living room allowing you to watch Manchester United live on TV.
I offer this example in support of my counter-intuitive theory that technological advance and progress is not the same thing.

Who rules?

Last week the Western Telegraph carried the headline " Village schools face closure ''.
" Two more village schools face closure in the continuing '' rationalisation '' of small schools in Pembrokeshire " the opening paragraph read.
" Closure of primary schools in Moylegrove and Dinas is recommended by education chief Gerson Davies in a report to be discussed by councillors tomorrow (Thursday) ", the article continues.
These two paragraphs say everything has to be said about democracy in Pembrokeshire.
A couple of months ago Councillor Roy Folland, one of the more cocksure members of the ruling Independent Political (sic) Group, told a council meeting that, as his party at 39 of the 60 seats, it decided what got done.
This claim to complete dominance, prompted Councillor Phil Llewellyn (then a Tory but now the Independent's latest recruit) to refer to Councillor Folland as Attila the Hun.
So nobody can claim that Councillor Llewellyn was unaware of what sort of people he was getting involved with when he switched sides.
But I digress.
As the ruling Independents decide what gets done, one must assume the decision close in the small rural schools is in line with Independent party policy.
I am offering a £10 note to the first person to send me a copy of an Independent candidate's election address where this policy is mentioned.
I am not expecting to pay out because the Independents don't have any policies.
The closure of small schools is the policy of the director of education, Gerson Davies, and the council chamber is the rubber stamping ground where the Independents use their vast majority to apply the gloss of democratic respectability to whatever Mr Davies and his colleagues in the Chief Officer's Management Board (COMB) put in front of them.

Lay off Uncle Sam

Old Grumpy has been amazed at the outpourings of anti-American feeling over the past three weeks.
I can understand why the European left might hold a grudge against the Yanks for destroying their vision of world revolution by facing down the USSR and luring China into the capitalist world trading system, leaving North Korea and Cuba as the only remaining socialist utopias.
These appeasers are constantly telling us that the fanatics who attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were striking a blow against America's anti-Muslim foreign policy. (Code for: it serves them right).
Considering that the three major deployments of American forces over the past dozen years have been to liberate (Muslim) Kuwait and to halt ethnic cleansing of Muslims by Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo, this seems rather strange.
And, as one columnist put it this week, it is hard to see the connection between American foreign policy and the massacre of hundreds of innocent civilians by fundamentalist fanatics in Algeria.


Hard times

In an attempt to keep together the fragile coalition that is the Labour Party in wartime, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are in Brighton this week, paying homage at the socialist shrine of public spending.
Being something of a pessimist, I believe this is whistling in the dark.
The world economy was already in trouble prior to 11 September, and now things are ten times worse.
The modern economy is a wondrous thing, underpinned, not so much by the production of coal, steel, and wheat, but by "consumer confidence."
Critics scoff that growth in a modern economy depends on our willingness to take in each other's washing, which is true.
But when times get hard, the first reaction is to attend to our own laundry, by, for instance, taking our holidays locally rather than jetting off to Tenerife, or having a family celebration at home, rather than in a restaurant.
Of course, economies don't collapse completely as a result of consumer caution, but as any businessman will tell you, the loss of 10% of turnover can lead to 100% fall in profits.
And it is profits that are taxed.
Already there are reports that the flow of cash into the Chancellor's coffers from company taxes is slowing.
In addition, unemployment is likely to rise, draining the Exchequer of even more revenue.
Then there is the cost of fighting "the war."
The past 20 years, give or take the odd hiccup, have seen an unprecedented surge in world economic growth.
If that process should suffer a reverse, as I believe it will, then we will all have to relearn the hard lessons of the 1960s and 70s - that expenditure on public services depends on the generation of wealth by the real economy, rather than the goodwill and generosity of governments.
If the Archangel Gabriel took over the government of Somalia, he wouldn't be able to provide the people with the same level of health care that we enjoy.
At least, not until he had sorted out the economy.

Coming soon

I am just off to Pembroke Dock to have a nose around in the County Coucil's books. Log on next week for a full report.


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