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11th September 2013: The world's gone mad and I'm the only one who knows
13th August 2013: Black is white. Fact. End of.
11th August 2013: Electric cars, not as green as they're painted?
18th June 2013: Wrinklies unite, you have nothing to lose but your walking frames!
17th May 2013: Some actual FACTS about climate change (for a change) from actual scientists ...
10th May 2013: An article about that poison gas, carbon dioxide, and other scientific facts (not) ...
10th May 2013: We need to see past the sex and look at the crimes: is justice being served?
8th May 2013: So, who would you trust to treat your haemorrhoids, Theresa May?
8th May 2013: Why should citizens in the 21st Century fear the law so much?
30th April 2013: What the GOS says today, the rest of the world realises tomorrow ...
30th April 2013: You couldn't make it up, could you? Luckily you don't need to ...
29th April 2013: a vote for NONE OF THE ABOVE, because THE ABOVE are crap ...
28th April 2013: what goes around, comes around?
19th April 2013: everyone's a victim these days ...
10th April 2013: Thatcher is dead; long live Thatcher!
8th April 2013: Poor people are such a nuisance. Just give them loads of money and they'll go away ...
26th March 2013: Censorship is alive and well and coming for you ...
25th March 2013: Just do your job properly, is that too much to ask?
25th March 2013: So, what do you think caused your heterosexuality?
20th March 2013: Feminists - puritans, hypocrites or just plain stupid?
18th March 2013: How Nazi Germany paved the way for modern governance?
13th March 2013: Time we all grew up and lived in the real world ...
12th March 2013: Hindenburg crash mystery solved? - don't you believe it!
6th March 2013: Is this the real GOS?
5th March 2013: All that's wrong with taxes
25th February 2013: The self-seeking MP who is trying to bring Britain down ...
24th February 2013: Why can't newspapers just tell the truth?
22nd February 2013: Trial by jury - a radical proposal
13th February 2013: A little verse for two very old people ...
6th February 2013: It's not us after all, it's worms
6th February 2013: Now here's a powerful argument FOR gay marriage ...
4th February 2013: There's no such thing as equality because we're not all the same ...
28th January 2013: Global Warming isn't over - IT'S HIDING!
25th January 2013: Global Warmers: mad, bad and dangerous to know ...
25th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
19th January 2013: We STILL haven't got our heads straight about gays ...
16th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
11th January 2013: What it's like being English ...
7th January 2013: Bleat, bleat, if it saves the life of just one child ...
7th January 2013: How best to put it? 'Up yours, Argentina'?
7th January 2013: Chucking even more of other people's money around ...
6th January 2013: Chucking other people's money around ...
30th December 2012: The BBC is just crap, basically ...
30th December 2012: We mourn the passing of a genuine Grumpy Old Sod ...
30th December 2012: How an official body sets out to ruin Christmas ...
16th December 2012: Why should we pardon Alan Turing when he did nothing wrong?
15th December 2012: When will social workers face up to their REAL responsibility?
15th December 2012: Unfair trading by a firm in Bognor Regis ...
14th December 2012: Now the company that sells your data is pretending to act as watchdog ...
7th December 2012: There's a war between cars and bikes, apparently, and  most of us never noticed!
26th November 2012: The bottom line - social workers are just plain stupid ...
20th November 2012: So, David Eyke was right all along, then?
15th November 2012: MPs don't mind dishing it out, but when it's them in the firing line ...
14th November 2012: The BBC has a policy, it seems, about which truths it wants to tell ...
12th November 2012: Big Brother, coming to a school near you ...
9th November 2012: Yet another celebrity who thinks, like Jimmy Saville, that he can behave just as he likes because he's famous ...
5th November 2012: Whose roads are they, anyway? After all, we paid for them ...
7th May 2012: How politicians could end droughts at a stroke if they chose ...
6th May 2012: The BBC, still determined to keep us in a fog of ignorance ...
2nd May 2012: A sense of proportion lacking?
24th April 2012: Told you so, told you so, told you so ...
15th April 2012: Aah, sweet ickle polar bears in danger, aah ...
15th April 2012: An open letter to Anglian Water ...
30th March 2012: Now they want to cure us if we don't believe their lies ...
28th February 2012: Just how useful is a degree? Not very.
27th February 2012: ... so many ways to die ...
15th February 2012: DO go to Jamaica because you definitely WON'T get murdered with a machete. Ms Fox says so ...
31st January 2012: We don't make anything any more
27th January 2012: There's always a word for it, they say, and if there isn't we'll invent one
26th January 2012: Literary criticism on GOS? How posh!
12th December 2011: Plain speaking by a scientist about the global warming fraud
9th December 2011: Who trusts scientists? Apart from the BBC, of course?
7th December 2011: All in all, not a good week for British justice ...
9th November 2011: Well what d'you know, the law really IS a bit of an ass ...


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Few issues in the last year or so have provoked so much public ridicule and outrage as the government's plans to vet everyone who has any contact with children. One in four adults in Britain will have to be screened by the Independent Safeguarding Authority when it goes live next month, before they are allowed to work in any job involving access to children. It could even cover those who do no more than give neighbours' or friends' children lifts to sports or club events, and millions of Britons will be placed on a new database so some civil servant can leave their details on a train.
The ISA will become the world's largest vetting and checking system when it starts work next month, checking the backgrounds of an estimated 11.3million adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Anyone whose work brings them into contact with children will have to undergo checks costing £64, including all teachers, doctors, nurses dentists, pharmacists, prison officers, and school governors and dinner ladies.
Most controversially, parents who give lifts to friends' children to attend a football match or Cubs' evening will have to be vetted in all cases where the arrangements are made through the club or organisation.
Parents will also need official clearance before giving up their free time to visit their child's school occasionally to help youngsters learn to read. Adults breaching the rules could face a £5,000 fine, as can clubs which make use of unvetted volunteers - enough to put many small groups out of business.
So great is the anger that a recent article on the subject in the Daily Mail drew a record 1012 reader comments, a truly astonishing number considering the short time articles remain on the paper's website. It was quite a task to sift through paragraph after paragraph of bewildered anger in the hope of finding any correspondents who could see any point to the new rules at all. Most responses voiced, over and over, the knowledge that the effect of this ridiculous plan will be to damage beyond repair the breadth and variety of activities and opportunities available to children.
Already many voluntary groups like model flying clubs and railway societies are closing down their youth sections because no one wants to run them. The Scouts and Guides are chronically short of adult leaders. Very soon it will only be government and local authorities that are trusted to run any activities for young people at all, and that, of course, is the intention because the government believes that we are a nation of paedophiles now.
By far the best article we have seen on the subject was by A.N.Wilson, who summed it up far better than we could have done ...

You are a pervert and a danger to children - unless you can prove otherwise. If you disagree, pay a fine of £5,000. That is the message that could potentially be given out by a newly-formed government quango to a staggering 11.3 million people in this country. The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which comes into being next month, sets out to be the biggest vetting and clearing system in the world. In order to 'protect' your children, it will insist on vetting everyone who comes into possible contact with them.
If you help with the local football team, or the Guides; if you help out with lifts, driving other people's children to sporting events; if you help to host visits by foreign schoolchildren, you will become a criminal unless you consent to the ISA vetting you. 
From time to time, I visit schools to help give English classes, or to talk about books or history. I do it because I like children, and I miss my years as a teacher. (Very sinister! I can hear the ISA inspector saying to herself.) These school visits of mine will now become illegal unless I allow myself to be investigated by the ISA and can provide them with the necessary documentation.
Is this England or the Soviet Union? Best-selling author Philip Pullman - himself once a legendarily good teacher at an Oxford comprehensive - has said that he will stop giving readings at schools, in protest against the new scheme.
The Liberal Democrat spokesperson Chris Huhne said: 'We are in danger of creating a world in which we think every adult who approaches children means to do them harm.The creation of the world's biggest checking system is a disproportionate response to the problem it is trying to solve.'
Everyone in this country knows there have been some extraordinarily distressing cases where those who were in contact with children abused a position of trust. It is hard to forget the Soham murders in 2002, when a school caretaker, Ian Huntley, murdered two girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. The school had employed him without discovering that he had been investigated in the past by the police for sexual offences.
This was a deplorable state of affairs, but the gargantuan new system that will vet one in four adults - including grannies, vicars, aged aunts and youth workers - from next month would almost certainly have done nothing to save Holly and Jessica. The fact is that Ian Huntley was known to the police; he was known to be a danger to children. It was due to a lamentable communication breakdown, rather than the absence of any vetting procedure, that this information was not passed on to the school where he applied as a caretaker.
In many ways, it is disgraceful and dishonest for the Government to use the intensely emotive Soham case to persuade us of its good intentions when introducing its insidiously intrusive and, I would argue, utterly counter-productive vetting system.
In any case, Huntley met his victims not because he was a school caretaker, but because his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, was a teaching assistant at the school. The girls had stopped by her house to see her and, because she was out, Huntley invited them in.
It was clearly wrong that, because of staggering police incompetence, the authorities in Soham who appointed him to the job of school caretaker did not know of his past. But, equally, it would be wrong, indeed disastrous, if it was assumed that every school caretaker, or classroom assistant or dinner lady had applied for their job only because they had some sinister, ulterior motive.
As a historian, I have studied British childhoods in many eras. I have contemplated the appalling cruelty inflicted on working-class children in the early generations of the industrial revolution when they were forced down the mines, and made to work literally killing hours in factories. I have read accounts of the pioneering work of the social reformer Josephine Butler, who was responsible for the age of consent being introduced in Victorian England and who exposed the scandals of Victorian child prostitution.
But despite all this horror, I would honestly say that - in some respects, and for most British children - there has never been a time in this country when it was less enjoyable to be a child.
This ISA recommendation is not something we can view in total isolation. It is really symptomatic of the way the busybody governing class - the People Who Know Best - thinks about all of us, and especially about our children. They think the State, rather than parents, should be the arbiter of how children are brought up. They are quite undeterred by the facts of the case - namely, that when the State, through its social workers, is in a position of responsibility towards individual children, it gets things disastrously wrong.
They ignore the statistics - that a huge number of children from State-run care homes go on to be social misfits and criminals, a far higher proportion, incidentally, than in the old days when children came from the privately-run Barnardos homes. They overlook such situations as the murder of Baby Peter in Haringey, North London, or the systematic torture of ten-year-old Victoria Climbie, also in Haringey, which took place under Big Brother's very nose.
Instead, they go on believing that Nanny knows best. And they have the temerity to suggest that any of us who have volunteered to referee a football match, or to drive some French exchange children to a swimming pool, or have offered to help with a school adventure trip only did so because we have an interest in molesting or harming our children and their friends.
Parents, meanwhile, are encouraged by Big Brother to turn themselves into vigilantes who see every day in a child's life as one full of threats and dangers.
We are in a world where health and safety maniacs have banned the playing of conkers in schools, and where children grow obese because their anxious mothers won't let them waddle to the bus stop, let alone get on a bicycle.
What I mean by saying that this is the worst era in history to be a child might sound paradoxical. Do not today's children in the wealthy West have more material benefits than any previous generation? Do they not have round-the-clock programmes on telly to satisfy their needs? Do they not have countless computer games?
Corporal punishment has been abolished, and, far from sending children down the mines, most parents nowadays are the slaves of their children - not even asking them to do such nominal tasks as making their own beds or washing up their own cereal bowls after breakfast. How can I see this generation of kids as underprivileged?
I did not say they were underprivileged. I meant they are the least to be envied because, in today's world, where they are cocooned and mollycoddled from all risk and where they are now being encouraged to treat all adults as potentially dangerous, they have so little real freedom.
This new ISA legislation will limit their freedom yet more, and it will only increase their sense of fear. For the Government is behaving as if the great, decent, child-loving majority of adults was somehow contriving to make the lives of our children more dangerous. They are furthermore introducing the outrageous implication into public life that unless 11 million adults can prove the contrary, it will be assumed they are unfit to be in a child's presence.
Let us state the obvious - since it clearly is not obvious to the Government or to the interfering minds who dreamed up the ISA. Children grow up. The whole aim of good parenting, good teaching and good child care is to enable children to grow up. They will never be able to do this if they are not exposed to some element of risk. If you are still afraid of letting your children catch the bus to school when they are in their teens, then you have denied them an essential growing skill. The same would be true if you did not let your children into the water to learn to swim because you were afraid of their drowning.
Yes, responsible adults must keep an eye out, to make sure that children will not come to avoidable harm. But you will stunt their growth, almost literally, if you mollycoddle them and if you teach them that every adult is a potential paedophile and every challenge is a potential threat.
If this ISA with its crass intrusiveness comes into being, and if it takes on the powers which the Nanny State appears to be offering to it, then we know what will happen. Many of the best things on offer to our children in Britain today will cease to be usual and will become rarities. We have already said that Philip Pullman has withdrawn from readings at schools round the country. Very many of us who enjoy making visits to schools or to public libraries will think again if it means facing a £5,000 fine for overlooking some pettifogging bit of government interference.
Volunteers at sports clubs, unselfish adults who drive children to matches and hang around in the drizzle watching dud netball, will feel less inclined to be unselfish, if the choice is to be criminalised. Closer to the everyday lives of children, the dinner ladies, the janitors, the groundsmen, the classroom assistants - often the very people who provide our children with that valuable thing, adult friendship at school - will look for other jobs. It means we shall have a lower standard of applicant. And given the Government's record of gross inefficiency in keeping computer records, and the social services' deplorable history in relation to child care, we shall probably end up having more, not less, crime against children.
Meanwhile, the intrusive, arrogant Government has delivered a punch in the face to all decent families, and to all the perfectly innocent teachers, Brown Owls, referees and school matrons in this country.
It is a vital principle of law that the accused is innocent until proved guilty. We should remind the ISA that, so far, we, the great majority of these 11 million people, have not yet been accused of anything, and we do not see why we should provide it with 'evidence' of our worthiness to fill the back of our car with a lot of other people's kids, half of them with colds.
Our children deserve to be more free, not less; and that means free from fear, free from the suggestion that every sports practice is a potential rape, every Sunday school a potential kidnapping. But equally, the long-suffering and good-humoured adults who are doing their best for children deserve better than this.
For a start, we deserve a little bit of thanks. What we certainly do not deserve is the grossly insulting, interfering assumption by those in authority that we are not to be trusted. In a healthy society it is we, the people, who decide whether or not a government is to be trusted - and not the other way around.


Matthew Parris was almost as eloquent and equally to the point ...

Only two sane responses are possible to the Government’s new vetting and barring scheme for adults who volunteer to come into contact with children. One is rage, and the other despair. I incline to despair. But permit me a moment’s rage before I do.
You will be familiar with the scheme in question, administered by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, and setting up a list of adults permitted to help children. For no particular reason the plan has hit the news this week. In fact the enabling legislation (the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act) became law in 2006. The vetting scheme itself starts to “roll out” from next month, and will eventually cover more than 11 million people, though if public anger continues to grow then Gordon Brown will probably panic and — unable to make up his mind one way or the other — either suspend the plan pending further consultation, or try to counterbalance the ISA with an ISHVISAA: Independent Safeguarding of Harmless Volunteers from the Independent Safeguarding Authority Authority.
The whole initiative is an ideal candidate for investigation by the RRAC (Risk and Responsibility Advisory Council), the nanny to nanny the nannies that Mr Brown set up a couple of years ago to act (it was fatuously claimed) as a counterweight to the Health and Safety Executive and other horrors of the meddling State.
When an authority fails too dismally in modern Britain, another authority is established to keep it up to scratch. When an authority succeeds too aggressively, another authority is established to keep it in check. When too many of these new supervisory authorities begin treading on each other’s toes, a new umbrella authority is set up to co-ordinate their activities.
. . . so, yes, despair. Despair that arrangements that bring children into contact with grown-ups who’ve volunteered help will force those adults, on pain of prosecution, to undergo vetting and be placed on an approved list. As Philip Pullman (the children’s author who used to give talks at schools) has said, the whole idea is “corrosive to healthy social interaction”.
The other day a friend concerned about her daughter’s progress with reading asked me if we could make an arrangement for me to visit regularly and read with her. It strikes me that were I to do so, I might have to register; and that if my friend paid my taxi fare I might count as being remunerated, and have to pay £64 for my licence. In no circumstances could I see myself complying with any of this. No sane adult with any shred of self-respect would.
“Independent” Safeguarding Authority indeed! Independent of whom? Paedophile networks? One would hope so. Rather like the Independent Electoral Commission in Afghanistan (its boss appointed by President Karzai), “independent” seems to have become the adjective of choice for politicians anxious to slap a patina of objectivity on to their latest acronym.
I’ve racked my brains for sinister vested interests from which the ISA might be independent: certainly not the Home Office, which appoints its chairman. What’s the betting that when the authority stumbles, as all authorities do, and ministers seek shelter from the media storm by appointing an inquiry, it will be called the Independent Inquiry into the Independent Safeguarding Authority?
The ISA scheme and its enabling legislation were a response to the Soham murders. Those murders would almost certainly never have happened were it not for the incompetence of the police, social services and education authorities. The result is that in consequence of the failure of three state authorities, a fourth state authority has been set up.
The new authority will add quite significantly to the burdens of administrative compliance placed on citizens who have not sought the help or advice of the authorities but wish only to get on with their everyday and personal lives. They will now require some kind of permission to do so.
This consequence will spawn two consequences of its own. First, it will add (I would guess very substantially) to the numbers of people who think of themselves as law-abiding but who opt in this case to operate outside the law. It expands the grey zone where it’s acceptable, or at least unremarkable, to take no notice of the rules. An informal dimension to popular culture, beneath the radar of the State, develops: a process of respectable subversion that reached absurd proportions in Soviet Russia.
Second, it will add (if marginally) to the size of the public sector; to the cost to all of us of these bodies; and to the burden of unproductive extra work on the shoulders of those volunteers who do choose to play by the rules and submit themselves to vetting.
So there’s a subterranean triple whammy going on. The State’s reach is widening, its cost is mounting, but its grip is loosening. So much of the legislation that has disfigured recent years — the ineffectual ASBOs, the faith-hate and gay-hate laws, legislation to make child poverty “illegal”, the naming and shaming, and the itch to fiddle around with procedure and structure and uniforms and names — has been touted as “sending out a message”. Government by illustration. The gap with real lives grows.


The GOS says: This story is vaguely relevant ...
I am a voracious (and rapid) reader, sometimes getting through as many as a dozen books a week. Recently, having momentarily run out of reading material and lacking the time to pop down to the second-hand book shop, I pulled off the shelf a book I was given as a child and read many times with great enjoyment, "A Swarm in May" by William Mayne. It is a vivid and completely convincing story about a boy in a cathedral choir school, beautifully written, full of unusual and compelling imagery, the work of a writer who plainly remembers clearly what it was like to be a small boy, how small boys think and talk, and the things that interest them.
Enjoying it just as much in my second childhood as I did in my first, I decided to find some more books by this wonderful author. Here I hit a snag, and a quick internet search revealed why.
Several years ago William Mayne, now an old man, was convicted and imprisoned for child abuse which occurred during the 1970s. Reading the internet reports of the trial there seems little doubt that he was a genuine and predatory paedophile, luring young girls to his house with books and rides in his car and "jolly romps" which quickly turned less jolly. He seems to have shown little remorse and there's no suggestion in the reports that his conviction was anything but just.
So, no argument there. But what has this done to his books?
A search on Amazon revealed that a very few of his books, including the popular "Earthfast" trilogy of fantasy novels, can be had second-hand for ridiculous prices (£0.01 for the book and £2.75 postage!). Presumably they are remainders. Others fetch equally absurd prices second-hand, in one or two cases over £100 each. The websites of his former publishers OUP, Penguin, Hodder and Hamish Hamilton, turn up a blank. Waterstones do list quite a few of his works but the majority of them are marked "unavailable".
Plainly William Mayne is too hot for these people to handle, which leaves me genuinely puzzled. He was hailed in his time as the greatest writer for children of the 20th Century. Certainly the books I have been able to get hold of bear this out. I've read many thousands of books in my time (even published a couple myself), so I reckon I know a good one when I read it. And Mayne was a brilliant, an unusual, an outstanding talent.
There doesn't seem any question that he was also a very flawed, indeed a very bad man - but why does this mean that generations of readers are to be denied the opportunity to read his books? The books are not the man. Indeed, there's nothing to suggest that any hint of his perversion strayed into any of his writing. These are not in any way dangerous or sinister books - quite the reverse. Does our society not have the intelligence, the ability to read a book and make a judgement about its contents before condemning it?
And where does this kind of censorship stop? Beethoven was a total bastard by all accounts, but that hasn't stopped us listening to his music. William Golding has been in the news recently because he revealed that in his youth he tried to rape a girlfriend, but we can still buy copies of "Lord of the Flies".
Eric Gill, one of the most respected artists of the 20th Century whose statue "Prospero and Ariel" adorns the BBC's Broadcasting House and "Creation of Adam" the lobby of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, regularly had sex with two of his daughters, his sisters, the maid and even the family dog. These encounters he recorded in his diary. The computer on which I am typing this came with five of Gill's typefaces ready installed.
Henry Williamson, author of "Tarka the Otter" and "Salar the Salmon" was a bit of a shirker during the First World War, a disgusting Nazi sympathiser in the 1930s, and treated the women in his life callously and with cruelty, if his autobiographical cycle "Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight" is anything to go by. Why hasn't he been banned?
See why I'm puzzled? The book is not the man. Nor is the music, or the typeface. Why is that so hard to understand?
"If I read a good book, I am not the less gratified because there may have been something amiss with the author" - Anthony Trollope

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