Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Prisoners and Clothing

The petition is entitled allow all prisoners there basic human right to wear underware that has not been worn by anyone befor and the explanatory notes say
"At the present time what is happening those that don't have the money to buy their own underwear, they have to wear prison issue. and What happens is this underwear has to go in the same wash as the sheets and blankets. So when they get them back they don't know who has been wearing them befor i feel this an infringment of there basic human rights and thing need to be changed"
I feel that I really shouldn't feel that someone who can't write correct English should be ignored. However, it's hard to take a petitioner who writes like this entirely seriously - which is, I feel sure, very wrong of me.

So what about the content of the petition? I suspect that in most senses it's not all that much more insane than many of the ones I pass by for insufficient madness. Having said which, it is moderately clearly mad. According to that great reliable resource Wikipedia,
Where it has been adopted, legislation commonly contains:
  • security rights that protect people against crimes such as murder, massacre, torture and rape;
  • liberty rights that protect freedoms in areas such as belief and religion, association, assembling and movement;
  • political rights that protect the liberty to participate in politics by expressing themselves, protesting, participating in a republic;
  • due process rights that protect against abuses of the legal system such as imprisonment without trial, secret trials and excessive punishments;
  • equality rights that guarantee equal citizenship, equality before the law and nondiscrimination;
  • welfare rights (also known as economic rights) that require the provision of education and protections against severe poverty and starvation;
  • group rights that provide protection for groups against ethnic genocide and for the ownership by countries of their national territories and resources.

Nowhere in there do I see anything about personal underwear rights.

I grant you the thought of wearing someone else's pants is a bit icky. A while ago while I was having trouble sourcing the kind of pyjamas I like wearing I tried Ebay, but found myself unable to cope with the idea of second-hand pyjamas, though I'll happily wear second-hand trousers, shirts, etc., etc.. (Should you be wondering, and of course I'm sure you're all dying of curiosity, I was of course able to search Ebay for "new" products only and thereby locate what I sought.) A strange objection, I thought at the time. So - I don't like the thought of these poor prisoners in each other's pants. But, um - on the scale of things, I don't see that it's really terribly important. I can't help feeling there are bigger and more important things to worry about.

And I really, really, really don't think this is a basic human right ...

Children and the Internet

The petition is entitled Introduce emergency legislation to protect children in online chat rooms and the explanatory notes say
"Every day children are going on line and entering chat rooms. This can be harmles but we should all be aware that people are often not who they appear to be. I appeal to the Prime Minister to introduce emergency legislation so that all people logging into any chat room must produce proof of age/address etc. Although not foolproof, I believe this would be a step in the right direction. Also, the maximum penalty for online 'grooming' should be increased dramatically."

Two things, Mrs Woman. One: this is completely and utterly technologically infeasible. And two: protect your own sodding kids!

One network I inhabit is small enough that we can prevent under-sixteens from joining us: if they appear, we ban them. We're not ... child-friendly, necessarily. But for most online fora, this simply isn't practical. Nor yet is there any way at all for most technologies to restrict people's joining by proving who they are and where they live - and why the hell should they have to?

Parents (and guardians) need to take responsibility for the children they're responsible for. If you don't understand the technology well enough to install NetNanny software and the like, then don't let the kids have access to it at all unless you're in the room. Don't make it everyone else's problem, when it's your problem.

Of course, I can't quite see what good it would do to know exactly how old everyone was, and where they lived. I suppose that would make it easier to track them down after grooming and nastiness had occurred, but surely prevention by responsible parents is better than such a post-dated cure?

(I really, really, really need a "Nanny State" category. Only I hate the phrase "Nanny State" and can't think of a better nice snappy tag thing. Ideas welcome ...)

M27 Traffic Lights

The petition is entitled Remove the traffic lights at the exit of the m27 onto the m271 and there are no explanatory notes.

As a consequence of the latter, I am left once again crying whyyyyyyyy?

I have even gone so far as to look at Wikipedia, which tells me that the M27/M271 junction is J3 of the M27, and further, that congestion occurs both ways on the M27 between J3 and J4. It seems possible, therefore, that this is why they want the traffic lights removed (there are currently 14 signatures). But who knows?

This petition has at least made me start to laugh again after the last one got me all cross.

Child Benefits Again

The petition is entitled stop all tax credits and child benefit and make parents behave responsibly from the outset and the explanatory notes say
"Having children is entirely optional so there is no reason why anyone should choose to have a baby they are unable to support.

We ask the government to stop paying benefits and tax credits to parents and making all the responsible people who choose not to have children support all those who have them regardless of thier own ability to support the child.

Many of this countries problems would go away if people were more responsible about thier children (anti-social behaviour to name but one). So we ask you to make the parents think before producing babies they know they cannot afford.

If they are so irresponsible to have children when they cannot afford them, then why should the rest of us pay them to keep on doing it."
Yet another petitioner unable to think and unable to search. I covered this precise concept in Restricting Child Benefits. I suppose the petitioner could argue that she isn't duplicating that other petition, because after all she wants no one to get benefits, rather than allowing benefits for up to two children - but really, they're saying the same thing, and neither petitioner has used their brains in the least.

People like this make me cross.

Health Records

The petition is entitled create a national clearing house for patient data in the NHS and the explanatory notes say
"The NHS data system is a shambles. One hospital cannot see any records from say a GP or a hospital at the moment & if they can get them it's pure luck.

The airline industry has SITA, which connects together the disparate systems of all airlines & airports in the world, translating data into a known format to the recipient.

We petition the PM to impliment a similar system to this for the NHS & abandon any dramatic redesign & rollout of new systems to GPs, Hospitals etc. This will cost much less (if not botched) & work much better"

It would appear that the petitioner has not heard about the NHS "Spine" project. I have, and what I've heard I don't like. I've requested that my records not be included, and written to the health minister and my MP accordingly.

Other people have explained better than I could the whys and wherefores of objecting to this project: The Big Opt Out looks like a splendid explanation.

I have every sympathy with people with unusual problems needing to be able to communicate these to different medics. Medic-Alert bracelets are an excellent solution for some people; others may wish to have, perhaps, letters from their GP to carry with them when away from their usual carers. Other individual solutions are possible, without invading all of our privacy for the sake of nominal convenience for a few.

Two further points: one, the petitioner himself identifies that this might only work "if not botched". Since the government's track record on IT projects being unbotched is so very ... splendid ... I am loath to trust them with any more. And two - a personal anecdote from a practice nurse. Some mini-version of this was wheeled out and staff were requested to test it. An enormous proportion of the searches were on "David Beckham". Mmmmm, trust-worthiness! Respect for privacy! Yummy!!

(I have tagged this as "ID Card" relevant, because of my mental connection between these different projects to database-ise us all.)

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Recent news about a possibly-EU-wide regulation about the use of energy efficient light bulbs has generated some consternation among our diligent but search-incapable petitioners.

The first thing I did upon noticing so was to look for actual news reports on what the actual regulations were or were going to be. This proved remarkably difficult; oblique references on the BBC site were singularly uninformative.

I can, in fact, find only two articles online on the subject: one from the Independent and one from the Scotsman. Both articles agree that a group of EU leaders had "called" for the phasing out of incandescent bulbs in favour of energy-saving bulbs - though there is not description of the official nature of this "call". A BBC Magazine article mentions "plans" to phase them out "by 2011", but again, does not describe the legislation thus involved.

All the same, this apparent absence of officialness has not stopped our petitioners.

We have a range of petitions demanding that the plans be stopped:

Now to be fair to these petitioners, they are asking for marginally different things for marginally different reasons. Ish.

Then we have two counter-petitiono, entitled Ban the sale of non-efficient light bulbs in the UK and entitled Ban non-energy efficient light bulbs, plus a related one, entitled Ban the sale of light fitting which cannot accept low energy light bulbs which would have, in the long term, much the same effect.

And finally we have two more government-specific ones on a related topic: entitled legislate for local authorities and housing associations to provide at least one energy efficient lightbulb to its tenents and entitled Make ALL councils change street light bulbs to energy efficient ones, so that they are also doing their bit for the environment, without charging us extra for the privilege!

I'm by no means convinced of the rights and wrongs of the case. On the one hand, energy efficient bulbs are good, and for general lighting I wouldn't use anything else. On the other hand there are more specific usages - I have a very nice angle-poise-style light which is quite recent and won't take CFL bulbs; it would be a shame to have to throw that out in a couple of years, and wouldn't be terribly energy-efficient, or environmentally friendly, either! My mother says, too, that with her not-great eyesight for close work CFLs just don't output good light for needlework and so on, yet. They may do in the future, great strides are being made, and indeed there are possibilities for LED bulbs in that way as well, I think - but they're not quite up to scratch yet and little old (and middle-aged) ladies all over Europe are going to be put out by this, by the look of things.

But mostly I'm pissed off by people's inability to search, dammit!

Fund-raising for the NHS

The petition is entitled hold a fundraising night for the NHS and the explanatory notes say
"We raise alot of money for places abroad when WE need money to help us. I think we should have a night like the comic relief night to help the NHS which is in desperate need of money."

This is a very noble, at-first-glance-sensible plan. I admire the innovativeness. (Is that a word? My spell-checker thinks so ...)

The Official Red Nose Day website tells me that the 2007 Red Nose Day raised a whopping "£40,236,142 million" - but unfortunately, I think that's a lie. I think they've accidentally added an extra "million" there - the Wikipedia page about it only references £40,236,142, and that's in line with previous years' results, too.

So a very nice £40 million raised.

The Budget 2006 (warning, PDF file) says that in 2007-2008, annual spending on the NHS should be about £92 billion.

So the amount raised by Comic Relief is less than one-twenty-fifth of one percent - is four percent of one percent - of the cost of the NHS ...

So even leaving aside all the political implications of fund-raising for the NHS this way (it's rather contrary to how the NHS is supposed to be funded, after all - but at the same time, it's not new. For years I got my Christmas cards from the cancer unit that treated my grandmother, to help their fund-raising) unfortunately, it's hopelessly impractical.

I remember a quote, and I cannot think where from, that says something like: "Oh, for a beautiful day in the future when hospitals and schools can buy all the medicine and books they need, and the RAF and Army have to have bake-sales to buy guns". Of course, given the recent reports about ill-equipped soldiers in the gulf, we seem to have got the less-good bit of that without the good bit ...