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Toilet inspection ..? Gravity is Good: the laws of gravity are re-instated
April 2001

The benchmark of competent government was once “can this lot manage a whelk stall ..?” Well, I was going to try and get techno and suggest “can this lot change the batteries in a torch..?” but I think I lower the tone in the usual manner, and so the theme of this piece is “can this lot be relied upon to flush your toilet?”

What happens when you allow politicians to get involved with making presumptions about science that lead to specious law making? Lavatory cisterns that cannot flush adequately, that's what. This arises from the same stream of witlessness and misplaced prioritisation that also leads to the continuing cockup of telecom deployment and the persistence of 3rd world telephony practises.

We’ve seen government make a hash of genetically modified foods; the mad cow mishandling was exemplary – leading to a slump in farming, the mishandling by Oftel of BT’s monopoly has resulted in the worst of every world, with BT reduced to a shambling hulk as the rest of the world picks off the vital national telecoms infrastructure. Where are the votes? Internet babies and foxes, apparently.

Now, although Mad Cow disease is a big deal if you get it, the numbers involved are (mercifully) minor compared to the numbers who die from more mundane and less newsworthy causes. But there are Big Issues out there that affect us all, and the most insidious one of all is the matter of personal identity management.

Do you want to own your own data? Would you prefer that Tony & Co. did, after all, they can’t even manage criminal records reliably, as reported last December:

“Elizabeth France, the Data Protection Registrar, has warned Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, that a large number of new certificates to be issued by the Criminal Records Bureau could contain false information.”

And there was also is talk of letting judges know of a defendant’s prior record before any verdict is delivered.

How about having your identity in the hands of the European Commission..? I thought so. Or maybe you would like your identity to be managed for you by one of the agencies that so frequently gets it wrong. Although real numbers are hard to come by, it is estimated that 40% of such records contain incorrect information! Even your trusted and loved scribe was once gonged at Comet for failing to appear on their reference database because he happens to live as a postcode that “doesn’t exist”.

Now, consider the prospect of genetic databases. Wouldn’t life insurance companies love to get them..? Wouldn’t sociologists and social engineers like to look out for the “labour tendency” or the “nazi” gene ..? They couldn’t possibly restrain themselves.

So what’s he on about this month about toilets for ..? I'll tell you what. The more observant amongst you will have noticed that many toilets ain't what they used to be. Without wishing to be indelicate, the new statutory limit of 6 litre capacity flushing is not enough for many occasions. Here’s the news:

"The flush volume of the WC is reduced from 7.5 litres maximum to 6 litres maximum for all new WC suites. This change, which becomes mandatory on 1st January 2001, brings further water conservation measures to the bathroom industry and will be welcomed by both industry and consumers."

(More on this at http://www.builders-surplus.co.uk/info/water_regs.asp for those so disposed).

"Mandatory"... "must" ..? Oh dear, here we go again. Toilet inspectors ahoy, maybe our metric banana inspectors can double up on their days off?

Pause and look out the window; the chances are that if there is not a tidemark half way up the glass, you are on the second floor of your home, watching the rabbit hutch float off down the lane. The fact is that the government in its infinite wisdom listened to the knee jerk alarmists a few years ago, when we had enjoyed 3 dry summers in a row, and decided that we would all run out of water and die of thirst unless we immediately introduced legislation to curtail the evil of toilet flushing.

Water conservation? The fact is that the laws of averages applies throughout science and nature. These cycles do not always conveniently fit into the lifetime of politician or a single parliament. The really amusing thing now that the country is under water, is that we need our cisterns to be capable of storing more water, since the reservoirs are all bursting. We could have a “distributed water network” - the wet equivalent of the internet, and use it as a buffer for the ineptitude of governments and water companies. That a large number of 6 litre flushings are now being “doubled up” to 12 where once a traditional 7.5 litre “pull” would have done the job is of no consequence: someone somewhere is proud of their contribution to saving humanity from a resource crisis.

I’m sure I will receive the usual “green ink” letters from readers who are outraged that I choose to criticise our tireless civil servants once again for their attention to out better interests. But I can take it; and the waste basket on my desktop has no such problem flushing away the waste matter – although I am quite willing to believe that it would be possible to persuade a politician to propose a bill in parliament demanding the ecologically conscious disposal of data on hard disks (hmmm, April beckons… anyone up for it..?)

So next time you are confounded by a floater that simply will not flush away with 6 litres, can I leave you with the thought that you might as well blame Tony Blair. Indeed, the unwanted object bobbing about is perhaps the perfect "aide memoire" and allegory for the government and all its focus group correctness: tackling the pointless issues, yet leaving the "big jobs" entirely untouched.

Like those unwanted number twos, the crucial matter of genetic databases just will not go away. Deal with it, don’t just put the lid down.


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