Friday, September 17, 2010

Apple correctness in British prisons

The guy is nuts

Prisoners must be served perfectly-sized and shaped apples to prevent 'fruit riots' in Britain's jails, prisons minister Crispin Blunt has warned.

'It is worth remembering that discontent about the quality of food, changes to menus and failure to deliver what was previously promised have been known to be the catalyst for serious disturbances,' he said. 'An undersize apple handed out at the servery will create issues of order and control, so we use suppliers that are sensitive to that need and that use their sourcing ability to maintain consistency from their supply base.'

The Tory minister's bizarre warning in a Commons debate on prisons prompted ridicule from Labour and will trigger speculation about his future.

It will also anger farmers who have argued for years that undersized or misshapen fruit and vegetables are just as tasty and nutritious as those that are perfectly formed.

For generations-Britons enjoyed all shapes of fruit and vegetables. But they disappeared from the shelves once EU bureaucrats brought in minimum standards. Restrictions covering most fruit and vegetables have now been scrapped.

Labour MP Michael Dugher said: 'The government is preparing cuts to vital local services and jobs. You would think the minister would have more important things to worry about than the size of fruit for lags.'

Mr Blunt caused a storm in July when he revoked an order banning prisoners from having parties in jail. Last month he said he had left his wife of 20 years to 'come to terms with his homosexuality'.

Last night a senior Tory source said: 'Mr Blunt's career seems to be going pear-shaped.'

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: 'The minister was not suggesting oddly-shaped fruit causes riots in prisons. He was simply making the point incidents of disorder can sometimes be triggered by arguments about the quality and quantity of food provided. '


Riddled with the bone idle: Fire chief's devastating verdict on British public sector

The public services are riddled with ‘bone idle people’ who have damaged the productivity of the state sector, a leading fire chief has claimed. In a withering attack on the malaise gripping the public sector, Tony McGuirk has warned that unless bosses are prepared to sack lazy workers, they will never make the kind of savings necessary to put the economy back on course.

Mr McGuirk, chief fire officer of Merseyside, sparked outrage at the TUC conference yesterday by saying that he has been able to slash staff numbers by 40 per cent and actually provide a better service. He advised other public sector bosses to show ‘muscle, sack some people’. ‘We’ve got some bone idle people in the public sector. There, I said it – bone idle people.’

Mr McGuirk said he had slashed the number of firefighters from 1,550 to 850 during the past decade. ‘There is no need to close a fire station, we haven’t touched a single fire station. ‘Frontline is fire engines and fire stations, not firefighters. We provide a far better service with those 850 – more with less.’

He claimed that lazy workers had led to an ‘epidemic of sickness leave’ which had damaged productivity. ‘Here’s one of the things we did, get a grip on sickness. It is deficit reduction plans need not hurt public services epidemic in the public sector.’

Mr McGuirk spoke out at a seminar organised by the centre-right think tank Reform – a transcript of which was circulated at the TUC yesterday.

His claim that it is possible to maintain frontline services with fewer staff will boost the Government’s case that its Mr McGuirk said bosses should ‘manage performance, reward good performance, develop people with poor performance or ultimately sack them. ‘If they are not doing their job you have got to get rid of some people.’

The fire chief said that his cuts had led to personal abuse. ‘There were 2,000 people walking through Liverpool wearing shirts saying on the back “I hate McGuirk”,’ he said.

The Fire Brigades Union last night condemned his view. General Secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘It’s very easy for people who do not risk their lives fighting fires to sneer at people who do. ‘Mr McGuirk is among the highest paid fire chiefs in the country, getting more than £200,000 a year. He is massively overpaid. ‘For that money we could get six fully trained firefighters, which would be a much better use of scarce resources.’


Too Few Women In Tech? Stop Blaming The Men

Success in Silicon Valley, most would agree, is more merit driven than almost any other place in the world. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, what politics you support or what color you are. If your idea rocks and you can execute, you can change the world and/or get really, stinking rich.

For the most part I’ve sat on the sidelines over the years during the endless debates about how we need to do more to encourage more women to start companies. What I mean by “sat on the sidelines” is this – until today I haven’t really said what I felt. Now I’m going to.

Here’s why. Yet another article, this time in the Wall Street Journal, takes a shot at us and others for not doing enough to help women in tech. Says Rachel Sklar, a perennial TechCrunch critic:

“Part of changing the ratio is just changing awareness, so that the next time Techcrunch is planning a Techcrunch Disrupt, they won’t be able to not see the overwhelming maleness of it,” said Ms. Sklar, referring to the influential tech conference.

Yeah ok, whatever Rachel. Every damn time we have a conference we fret over how we can find women to fill speaking slots. We ask our friends and contacts for suggestions. We beg women to come and speak. Where do we end up? With about 10% of our speakers as women.

We won’t put women on stage just because they’re women – that’s not fair to the audience who’ve paid thousands of dollars each to be there. But we do spend an extraordinary amount of time finding those qualified women and asking them to speak.

And you know what? A lot of the time they say no. Because they are literally hounded to speak at every single tech event in the world because they are all trying so hard to find qualified women to speak at their conference.
What’s The Real Problem?

I could, like others (see all the links in that Fred Wilson post too), write pandering but meaningless posts agonizing over the problem and suggesting creative ways that we (men) could do more to help women. I could point out that the CEO of TechCrunch is a woman, as are two of our four senior editors (I’m one of the four). And how we seek out women focused events and startups and cover them to death.

But I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m going to tell it like it is. And what it is is this: statistically speaking women have a huge advantage as entrepreneurs, because the press is dying to write about them, and venture capitalists are dying to fund them. Just so no one will point the accusing finger of discrimination at them.

That WSJ article also criticizes Y Combinator for having just 14 female founders out of their 208 startups to date. But I know that Y Combinator wants – really, really wants – female founders and that there just aren’t very many of them. I know this because Y Combinator cofounder Jessica Livingston has told me how excited they are to get applications from women, and that they want to do everything they can to get more female applicants. What they probably won’t admit, but I suspect is true anyway, is that the rate of acceptance for female applicants is far higher than for male applicants.

The problem isn’t that Silicon Valley is keeping women down, or not doing enough to encourage female entrepreneurs. The opposite is true. No, the problem is that not enough women want to become entrepreneurs.

Why? I was asked that question as part of a New York Times interview earlier this year. I dodged it completely, and referred them to Cyan Banister, the founder of Zivity, instead:

Q. Do you anticipate that there will be more companies led by women at the TC50 and Disrupt this year?

A. Women are really tough. I have no idea why. We invited a team founded by a woman to Disrupt. But they canceled. There just aren’t a lot of female tech entrepreneurs out there relative to the number of men, I think. We celebrate the ones we find whenever we find them. There’s a chance we’ll write about what they’re doing, simply because they’re a fairly rare thing in our world. But it is really hard to find female entrepreneurs in tech, in my experience. I really think this is an industry-wide problem.

Q. How do the female tech entrepreneurs and investors in your community feel about this situation?

A. There’s a fascinating company, Zivity, it’s a venture-funded, adult photography community — yes, they put up pictures of naked women online — it was co-founded and is run by a woman, Cyan Banister. She wrote me in response to a post about women who are entrepreneurs, saying, basically, though these are not her exact words, women [stink] as entrepreneurs a lot of the time because they are nurturing and not risk-taking enough by nature. She also said when men roll the dice and take risks, that society doesn’t punish them at all, and it’s in their nature to take stupid risks.

I didn’t respond to that. I didn’t want to jump into that debate. And I guess I still don’t.

Is Cyan right? I don’t know, I’m from Mars, not Venus and I cannot speak intelligently about the nurturing and risk tolerance needs of women. But I will say this. The next time you women want to start pointing the finger at me when discussing the problem of too few women in tech, just stop. Look in the mirror. And realize this – there are women like Sklar who complain about how there are too few women in tech, and then there are women just who go out and start companies (like this one). Let’s have less of the former and more of the latter, please. And when you do start your company, we’ll cover it. Promise.


All Australians must observe Muslim clothing rules while visiting a public swimming pool?

It's only for one event so far but it sets a precedent

What's wrong with Muslims wearing their gear and everybody else dressing as they please? Answer: The "anti-discrimination" body behind this is so notoriously pro-Muslim that it is now ENFORCING discrimination against normally-dressed Australians

Families in Victoria are being ordered to cover up before attending a public event to avoid offending Muslims during next year's Ramadan. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has approved a ban on uncovered shoulders and thighs for a community event to be held at the Dandenong Oasis, a municipal pool.

"Participants aged 10 and over must ensure their bodies are covered from waist to knee and the entire torso extending to the upper arms," a request by Dandenong City Council and the YMCA states in an exemption application to the Equal Opportunities Act. "Participants must not wear transparent clothing." The request has been approved by VCAT and applies to a family event to be held at the pool next August.

"The applicant intends this to be an event where people of all races and religions and ages may attend, use the Centre's facilities and socialise together," VCAT notes. "The holy month of Ramadan has a particular focus on families and the applicant wishes to encourage families to attend and socialise together with others. "The minimum dress requirements are set having regard to the sensitivities of Muslims who wish to participate in the event."

The ban on skimpy clothes will apply between 6.15 and 8.15pm on August 21 next year, a time when the pool is closed to the public and normally used by a Muslim women's swimming group.

The ban was yesterday compared by the Human Rights Commissioner Helen Szoke to a ban on thongs in a pub. "Matters such as this are not easy to resolve and require a balance to be achieved between competing rights and obligations," she said. "Dress codes are not uncommon: eg singlets, jeans, thongs etc in pubs/hotels."

Sherene Hassan, vice-president of the Islamic Society of Victoria, said she didn't support the dress restrictions. "My preference would be that no dress code is stipulated," Ms Hassan said.

But Liberty Victoria said the ban was reasonable because the event was to be held out of hours. A spokeswoman for the City of Greater Dandenong said the ban would help Muslims feel part of the community. [Really? It sounds more like insulating them from it]



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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