The dual life of Justin Ross Harris

In July 2012 a video showing a man locked inside a car as temperatures rose to deadly levels went viral. In just thirty minutes, the temperature rose from 95°F to 117°F, and you can see from the video below the incredible discomfort that a healthy, fit adult finds himself in.

Dr Ernie Ward, a North Carolina veterinarian, made the video to highlight the dangers of leaving pets locked in hot cars. As Ward says, it’s a lousy way to die, and Ward relates a story in which he observed a dog locked in a car outside his own clinic starting to suffer from the heat. The well-meaning owner had popped into the clinic for two minutes to pick something up, but two stretched into ten, and then into fifteen. It’s a lousy but all too easily preventable way to die.

On average, 37 children a year die the same way in the United States every year. Most are left purposely, in the same way as the dog above, by well meaning but busy parents who underestimate the time they’ll be away and the incredible speed with which temperatures can rise to fatal levels. But sometimes, they’re left by an entirely different means.

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Bank account bans; aka, frantically digging for a story where there is none

I’m a big fan of podcasts. I have been since I first discovered them, probably because I’m just a geek for radio generally. I like all sorts of podcasts, whether they’re factual, like the BBC’s excellent ‘Witness’ series, or fictional, like ‘The Truth’; humorous ones such as ‘Football Weekly’, or topical ones like ‘The Political Party’; and ones that simply transcend pigeonholing, refusing to obey either the laws of causality or the rules of cricket. There is only of of those, of course: ‘Welcome to Night Vale’.

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Systems thinking and sexual grooming; or, “be careful what you wish for”

“The force’s priorities at that time were mainly crimes including robbery, burglary and car crime due to mandatory targets set by the Home Office.” [1]

“The assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester police, Dawn Copley, acknowledged “mistakes were made and victims let down”. She laid some of the blame at the force’s focus in 2008–10 on targeting such crimes as burglary.” [2]

“In the early days of family planning in India, program goals were defined in terms of the number of IUDs implanted. So doctors, in their eagerness to meet their targets, put loops into women without patient approval.” [3]

The first quotation pertains to the systematic sexual grooming and abuse committed against young women in South Yorkshire, particularly Rotherham, dating primarily from 2007-2010. The second quotation relates to a similar set of crimes committed in Rochdale around the same time. The third quotation is from a 2008 book that stems from the thinking of Ludwig von Bertalanffy in the 1940s, and all three quotes are examples of the same thing. The thing is called ‘systems thinking’ and the  clue is in the  ‘targets’/’goals’ language.

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General elections and general bias

I was going to write a well-reasoned article. It was going to be analytical and hard-hitting, flawless in its logic and merciless in its execution.

But then my dishwasher broke and 6 weeks after paying £180 there’s still a useless lump of metal in my kitchen. There’s also a lump of useless metal in the extension too, looking suspiciously like a thing that was a working boiler not that long ago. And hey! On the drive! There’s another lump of useless metal in the shape of a 1986 Corsa that failed its MOT.

I’ve been angry all day (I’ve been angry since 1970) but my mood was not improved by the news about the TV debates. I am, I guess, a socialist. A Fabian socialist, which is to say that I stopped believing in immediate global revolution and started to understand the virtue of a gradualist, reformist approach. I believe that society is only as strong as its weakest link, and I believe that society is best served by helping those at the bottom climb up rather than hoping that those at the top will allow some of their wealth to trickle down (how many altruistic millionaires do you know?).

I don’t really have a lot of faith in Labour at the moment, but I’ve written about that before. We don’t have a whole lot happening to shake up the left hand side of the political spectrum, and I’ve written about that too. The Conservatives have the knuckle-dragging elements on their side of things – UKIP, the EDL, the BNP – I can’t tell which is which – but at least they’re shaking things up for those amongst the populace who are elderly white landowners who have never heard of YouTube.

I was angry about the format of the debates, and I was angry about the medium for the debates. Other people have written more eloquently about it, so instead you can have my stream of consciousness ranting.

Oh, wait, that one wasn’t part of the rant. It’s part of a different rant. If you want to know what nothingness tastes like, what the space inside Joey Essex’s head is like, try M&S porridge.

Here’s where it starts. I’m not a fan of Ukip, I’m sure it shows, I don’t appear to be the only one.


What the Left needs is its own Ukip… without all the baggage

For a single-issue party based consisting of mostly lunatic fringe members, Ukip have done very well for themselves over the last few months. In particular, they’ve established themselves as the protest vote for people who aren’t really that bothered about politics but “just want to see something done”. I’m not sure that Ukip or their voters know exactly what they want – and if you think I’m wrong about that, then please feel free to show me Ukip’s manifesto. I’m not really sure how you can even support a party that has no manifesto, and is considering buying policies in – as was reported by the Guardian on April 27.

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Local elections: early predictions

I’m writing this on Monday evening, a few hours after Ed Miliband’s disastrous performance on Radio 4 this lunchtime. With the other party leaders due to follow suit this week, Miliband has set the bar so low that only an A4 piece of paper could slip below it. If Nick Griffin read out a selection of Keith Lemon’s best material while slathering himself with goose fat, it would still be called more of a victory than Miliband’s lamentable performance today.

For me the big worry is how that affects the local elections on Thursday. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to be voting for the local candidate, just as everyone knows that actual they’re delivering a half-time report on the parties and their leaders.

So, I’m making a prediction as to what I think will happen on Thursday. I reckon that we’ll see a modest victory for Labour, something that will let the Reds crow about having a good night whilst the Blues can say that the public are getting behind their policies and shows the gap closing on Labour. Ukip will make large relative gains, mostly on Conservative and LibDem ground. The Yellows, I predict, will be the night’s big losers.

Join me on Friday as I explain how I got all my predictions so utterly wrong.