Thursday, 29 October 2009

Email Trouble

So I forgot to tell you about a slightly odd and surprising E-mail exchange that I had last week. The E-mail pinging was between me and my MP, Oliver Letwin.
It all started, as so much does now, with Twitter. There was a tweet from someone asking us to send a letter to our MP before the last Wednesday’s debate in Parliament on libel law. There was a link to a prepared letter and then a website that directed you to your MP's E-mail address. So I did what they asked. Our libel laws are a little bit lax and do need some sorting out, so I cut and pasted the following letter,

Dear Mr Letwin,

Tomorrow there is a debate in parliament on the subject of libel reform.

English libel laws are being used to stifle scientific debate in the UK, to the point where many scientists are not bothering to make their opinions heard. Those that do criticise others are being heavily punished for doing so.

Medical doctor and journalist Ben Goldacre was recently involved in a libel battle following his criticism of a vitamin salesman who claimed that anti-retroviral drugs were ineffective in treating AIDS and offered his vitamins as an alternative. Despite the fact that Goldacre won, they still came out of it £150,000 poorer. The science author Simon Singh is going through a similar situation right now.

In 1961, the German paediatrician Widukind Lenz criticised the drug Thalidomide. By this time, at least 10,000 children had been born with birth defects. If he, and all other scientists since, had refused to make their criticism known for fear of legal action, the deformities may still be continuing today.

If we put a stop to criticism, we not only put an end to our ability to know which of our current treatments are effective and safe, but we also make it impossible to evaluate the treatments of the future.

We must do everything we can to reform our uniquely repressive English libel system.

The future health of everyone in this country and the world depends on it.

Martyn Norris

A little hyperbole laden maybe but it makes the point and so I sent it and thought no more about it.
So you can imagine my surprise when I opened my inbox ( not a uferism) to see a reply. “I'm sure it's just an automatic response thing” I thought to myself as I clicked on it. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It may have been an underling that wrote the reply but it contained this line,

I am more than willing to do some research of my own to remedy this lack of knowledge -- but I think I ought to start by meeting you, so that you can brief me first on what I need to be looking for.

By meeting with me? Oh no no no no. That wasn't supposed to happen. I'm an armchair grumpy. More than happy to fire of an e-mail or sign an on-line petition but meet my MP! About something that I know next to nothing! What to do, what to do?
There was only one sensible and rational thing to do. Treat it as I treat all my problems, ignore it. Which I did. For about a day and a half. Then I decided that I was being rude. So I replied, thanking him for the swiftness of his reply and the slowness of mine (I didn't mention that I was ignoring his reply) but admitting that I knew little about the subject but was aware of those high profile cases. I also used the line “By "public interest" I mean in a scientific way and not the Max Mosley way.” which I was quite proud of.
He, again, replied promptly (show off), saying,

“Clearly, there is a delicate balance to be struck between protecting individuals against highly destructive and unfair allegations and, on the other hand, permitting wide and open public debate about matters of genuine public interest including scientific issues of general importance.
I shall discuss all this with my colleagues in our Justice team and commission some work on the question of whether current or proposed laws are threatening to choke off important scientific debate.”

I have to admit that I am very happy with the service that I have received for my MP. It's a shame that he is a Tory but maybe the taxpayer’s money spent to repair a pipe under his tennis court wasn't a waste of time after all. Although I am intrigued by the Tory Justice Team. Please be wearing capes, please be wearing capes.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Diana Watch

I do hope that you all remembered that the clocks went back last night (this is only relevant for UK readers).
A quick award,

The Award for Having To Work On The Night That The Clocks Go Back,

This goes to my Brother who had to work last night. Oh and everyone else who had to work to but you didn't fill my phone's inbox with rant filled texts for most of yesterday.
A couple of years ago I worked the night the clocks went back and I can assure you that it is the single most depressing incident in my life.
Working at night is bad enough but just when you think you are making progress at getting through it, at 2am it suddenly becomes 1am again and you have to go struggle on for another hour. That and the fact that we didn't get paid for that extra hour. My Brother did get paid for it though so don't feel too sorry for him.

There is a story from last week that I forgot to put in. It seems the the Brass Eye special on the media's coverage of Paedophilia was, in fact, a documentary and not a biting satire.

I think that it was this program that lead to my most favourite Daily Mail headline ever “Ban This Sick Filth”. Anyway, on with the story.
Parents in the US are downloading maps that show them were registered sex offenders live so that their children can avoid these houses when they go Trick or Treating at Halloween (for a scared of anything non-Christian, atheists are evil and will eat your babies country, they really do go in for this Pagan festival in a big way), or at least were they used to live.
Umm, there are a number of things here. The first and perhaps must important one is that the maps only show registered sex offenders. So all over those who are not registered or have yet to be caught are not on these maps. There is also the point that the data is spectacularly out of date. People do move house you know. Can you imagine how you would feel if your house wrongly came up on one of these maps?
The other thing that fails to get mentioned in the hysteria (I don't think that that is to strong a word) is that for those unfortunate enough to be attacked, which is a very small percentage, most of the perpetrators will be people that the children know.
You wouldn’t know from the Media coverage of the subject but “Stranger Danger” isn't a very big danger at all, “Parent Danger” is a much bigger problem but you can't really do CRB checks on all people who want to or have children so it is not discussed.
If, however, you do and try and protect children with, say, a scheme that gets people who regularly have unsupervised contact with children, say by driving them to football practise or any other organised club, then it is nanny state-ism. There is no logical debate in this country.
If we did have sensible debate and used best practise and empirical studies to decide the best course of action rather than debating from our own entrenched ideological positions then we would have children's formal education starting at 6. But why would a Government listen to the most comprehensive review of Primary Education for 40 years when it ignores all the other reviews that it doesn't like the results of, even if it was a review that they started.

Oooh, and then there was “naked” body scanners at airports. They have been trialled for a while all over the world with no real problems but the idea has now been dropped because of fears about child porn. I'm not really sure what the problems are but the Daily Mail is and that's what is important. Again we have the mentality that if you see a naked child you are a paedophile no matter what the circumstances and context are.

I forgot to mention that there was 1 Princess Diana front page this week and yes, it was on the front of the Daily Express, how did you guess?

The Catholic Church seems to be offering place to C of E clergy who sort of want to convert because they don't want to serve under woman Bishops and because they don't like the Anglican Church's “liberal” views on homosexuality.
I have talked before about the church's sexist employment policy before but I will make the point again.
Can you imagine if a company said “we will only employ woman up to this lowly level”? Can you imagine the fuss that would be made if they decided their employment policy was based on societal attitudes from 2000 years ago? “Well Jesus only choose man for his disciples” is their argument, well true, but they also stoned people to death and nailed your “Saviour” to some 2x4 and left him their to die. Just interested to see which bits of the culture you are keen on. And the “liberal” on gays thing. Is the Anglican Communion liberal on Gay issues? That really depends upon where you’re starting from doesn't it. If you are of the view that they should all be killed (or Jan Moir) then not wanting them all to be killed is quite Liberal. However, if you are a nice person then the Anglicans can hardly be described as even close to liberal.
Remember, they are allowed to say and do what they want. To offend as many people as they like but woe betide you if you think you have the right to do the same. To argue against them. Point out flaws in their logic. They claim that you are being intolerant or just plain mean.

Your favourite institutions are under threat. The BBC and the Royal Mail.
The Tories are threatening to rip the heart out of the lovely BBC. I don't understand what their problem is. I understand why the Daily Mail hates it. It is a commercial rival and more people like it then them. They don't like the fact the BBC is pretty impartial and has a tendency to be reasonable even handed. It isn't judgemental. It isn't mean and unpleasant to people it doesn't like. In fact it is all the things that the Daily Mail isn't. But what do the Tories have against it? It's good to them.
Just a quick mention of Nick Griffin on Question Time. Yes he should have been on there and Bonnie Greer was fantastic. Jack Straw was rubbish though. I would have liked them to have given the ghastly man (Nick Griffin not Jack Straw) a little more rope with which to hung himself. Metaphorically obviously.
The BBC, however, was less than fantastic. They should have just got him on, done the programme and got him off. No more, no less. They have decided though to go on and on about it which does have him publicity rather than just being on the programme that just made him look like a fool. The KKK are “almost totally non-violent”, for instance.
What has been amusing has been the response of the printed media which has gone into over drive in pointing out how horrid Nick Griffin is whilst, at the same time, printing stories that seem to completely agree with everything that he says. I was going to put some links here too show you what I mean but a nice man has already done a blog about it, so click here to see it.
Me thinks they protest to much.
Oh and those who do protest against him, will you please behave yourself. I’m looking at you UAF. Stand there with your placards and shut up. Don't break into the BBC building. Don't hassle his car. He just gets the chance to play the victim again, which he does very well. The same goes to those who sent rude and offensive Emails to Jan Moir; don't do it. You undermine our argument. We need our behaviour to be beyond reproach so not to give them any ammunition.
We also need to fight their ill-informed argument with facts and logic.
Immigration, for instance, is vital for our economy. A survey released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week said that the population of this country will rise to 70 million in about 24 years time. This was wonderful news for the right wing press who were all over that bit of the study.
They do seem to have missed out some other demographic changes that were pointed out by this study.
The number of people over 90, for instance is set to quadruple. Who’s going to pay for all those years of pension and increased NHS costs? That will have to be yours, mine and migrant workers taxes then.
They then argue that we are all turning Muslim. Well there are 2.4 million of them. And how many of us are there? Well about 58.6 million of who aren't Muslim. I think we can take them if it comes to it. There also seems to be 46.2 million who describe themselves as Christians. Again, I think you have them out numbered.
“But they get all the council houses.” No they don't. We have covered this before so here is a paragraph from a Blog that I wrote in June,

“When the BNP were elected to a local council in on a ticket that was very similar to to Gordon Brown's rhetoric, a study was carried out to find out what percentage of council homes had gone to local people. Of the 12069 homes that have been allocated by the council, 12068 went to long term local residents. 99.9% of council housing went to local people and not immigrants. Proper engagement with people on issues raised by the BNP proved that the BNP are liars. This is how Gordon Brown should deal with them, not shift towards their position because it is easier. If you spend time with people, dealing with their problems in a sensible and grown up way, arguing your point, showing were they are wrong and they will come round to your way of thinking. Oh and build some more council houses as we haven't really built any for 30 years.”

Ok so that is that covered then. Racist are idiots.

Let’s move on to that other cherished institution the Royal Mail. You should love your Postman and support him or her in her strike.
I'll run through the reason quickly as I have gone on a bit this week. The things that you don't like about Royal Mail are not the workers fault.
Branches closing, that will be management. The loss of the second post, management's fault. Your post turning up really late, again, that will be a management decision that leads to that. The post office made £300million last year. Invest that in modernisation and not reducing jobs and pay.
And the Tory plan to privatise the poor thing. That is a very bad idea indeed. Yes, for ideological reasons but also because you won't get a better service.
Can you think of an 80's Privatisation that has resulted in a better service? Electricity? Gas? Trains? Have you got a better service? Of course you haven't. They strip it bare and run it as cheaply as possible in order to make the most amount money for themselves and the shareholders, not for you and me.

OK, that will do for this week. No awards this week because I have mostly been angry for the last 6 days. I was suppose to be seeing Morrissey tomorrow evening but now it doesn't look like that will be happening does it?
I'll leave you with a clip from “The Thick Of It”. The new series started last night but here is a clip from an earlier series.

Have a good week,

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Diana Watch

It was my birthday yesterday. I'm not the biggest fan of birthdays but this one was a bit worse than usual. I was 35. That is half of my 3 score and 10 which is my biblically mandated limit and as we know, the bible is fact and isn't made up in anyway.
If that wasn't depressing enough, the annual review of my life was actually worse than the year before. I think this may be the first year that this has happened. Last year, Married, House, Full-time employment. This year, Married, House, Barely what you'd call a job. Bugger. Really do need to sort that out.
I did, however, have quite a nice birthday. I had to work in the morning which may be the first time I have ever worked on my birthday but in the evening we did go to a Modern Dance thing. Now, as you know, I am not the biggest fan of modern dance but Significant Other wanted to go and I'm a reasonably nice bloke so off we went. The premise wasn't too good either. A dance version of One Flew Other The Cuckoos Nest.
It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I took my seat for the performance but it didn’t last long. The opening number was fantastic. The dancers had masks on the front and back of their heads and the lighting was such that it was hard to tell which way their bodies were facing. The effect was slightly unsettling as the shapes that they were making looked distinctly odd and inhuman.
There was some slightly dodgy acting near the beginning of the piece but luckily they dropped that and concentrated on the Street Dance. It was fantastic. It was by a dance company called Bounce.

Oh god, please make it go away. The expenses “Scandal” was really, really dull but “Scandal 2, The Revenge” (which is sort of a prequel.) is really, really, really, really dull. The amount of money is so small and it's all a bit pathetic.
I know that no one really feels sorry for our MP's but it does seem a little unfair of Sir Thomas Legg to change the rules retrospectively and to try and enforce a number that is completely arbitrary. How would you like it if the tax man wrote to you and told you that they had thrown a dart at a board and that was new amount that you had to pay. For the last 5 years.
And I say again. This is being used by the right-wing press to deflect us from the story that they have trouble covering. The Banks. OK, they are covering the bonus bits but they are ignoring the bailout.
The amount of money spent to support the banks last year would pay the MP's expenses for 4000 years. Yes that's right. 4000 years (no hyperlink for this, sorry. It was on the Radio4 program the Now Show. Yes, it's a comedy program but I think this fact is true.) Puts a little bit of perspective on it, doesn't it?

So are recessions all bad? Well that depends on whether you've lost your job or not I suppose.
There are one or two things that are better though.
The World's carbon emissions might fall by up to 3% due to reduced travel (cars and planes) and reduced production of the general crap that we buy.
There is also a study that shows that life expectancy actually rises during a downturn. Several reasons have been put forward for this including when the economy is expanding we get more stressed and we drink and smoke to excess. We know what this does for us.
There is something that may damage your health though. Army recruitment is up. The army think that one of the reasons is a “surge in Patriotism”. It's more likely to be their other reason though. Lots of people don't have jobs and the army will give them one.

Have you ever thought that newspapers might be a little less than truthful? That, maybe, they just don't check their facts quite as often as they should? That sometimes they just make stuff up, especially about celebrities because they can't be bothered to sue? Well this week there have been two stories that would confirm your suspicion.
Lily Allen won an undisclosed amount of money from The Sun this week after she sued them for Liable. They ran a story with the headline “Ranting Lily” in which, they said, she made unpleasant statements about Cheryl and Ashley Cole and the Beckhams. They said that she had made these statements in an interview with a French magazine called “So Foot”. Their problem stems from the fact that she has never been interview by this or for this football magazine so she didn't say those things. Oh well. It's not like she's going to bother to sue...... Oh she is, bugger.
A documentary film maker has been sending various made up celebrity stories to see if they will publish them without checking to see if they are true, and guess what? It turns out that they will. Which is nice of them.
My favourite story that they planted was about Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud. They claimed to be the wife of someone who was moving house for Sarah and said that she had books on quantum physics and a telescope. The Sun ran a story headlined “Sarah's a real boffin”. They claimed that she was “a secret stargazer” who had “mind boggling books about astronomy and quantum physics.” The article also had a quote in it that the film maker denies came from them.

It has been a good week for Twitter.
On Friday there was a really nasty article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail about Steven Gately. I'm not going to discuss that here because I think all that needs to be said has been said but if you haven't read it click here and to read Charlie Brooker's brilliant response, click here.
Some on Twitter said that this was a freedom of speech issue and it showed that there are limits to this. This is, of course, absolute rubbish. She has the right to say whatever nastiness she wants, maybe after his funeral would have been a little nicer, but I also have the right to criticise her. That is the way it works.
The unpleasant and homophobic nature of the article caused outrage across the internet and especially on Twitter because of the speed at which messages and links can be posted. None of this taking hours to write a blog rubbish, just a quick “have you seen this?” and a link and outrage is your uncle. That and links to the quite rubbish Press Complaints Committee pointing out which parts of their code that she broke. The problem is that the Editor of the Mail, Paul Dacre, is on the PCC Committee that decides on what their code is and the editor of the Mail on Sunday, Peter Wright, is also on the PCC. Conflict of interest anyone?

At the beginning of the week we had a very strange and complicated story that I think I will cover very badly but it's important so let's give it a go.
The Guardian reported that it had been blocked by an injunction from reporting something. They gave enough clues that some clever people were able to look back through Hansard to work out who had asked the question and what the question was. Links to the Guardian articles started to appear on Twitter, shortly followed by links to blogs that were publishing the full text of the question, these included Wikileaks and JackofKent.
So by lunch time of that day we all knew, despite the legal injunction, what the question was and what and whom it was about. It was asked by Labour MP Paul Farrelly and was about a report into the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast by an oil company called Trafigura.
By 2pm the legal company Carter-Ruck had dropped its injunction when it became clear that it wasn't working but they were still suppressing the report its self. Or so they thought. It was already on Wikileaks and the BBC had seen the report a while ago and where being sued by Trafigura following a Newsnight article.
Carter-Ruck were using something called a super-injunction which prevents media reporting something and even stops them reporting that they aren't allowed to report something. They have grown up from injunctions that stop people reporting on Family Court activities.
There point is very simple according to Mark Stephens, a partner at law firm Finer Stephens Innocent. "As the libel and privacy capital of the world, people are coming here [to London] to bully the media and NGOs into not reporting on their nefarious activities," he said.
The UK Parliament is protected by something called Parliamentary Privilege which means an MP can't be sued for saying things or asking things in the chamber and you can also report them freely without fear of legal action. So they should be able to ask what they want.
The action has, of course, back-fired on the oil company Trafigura because in their clumsy attempt to hide something that was already on public record, they have shone a really rather bright light on it instead. This has brought them all sorts of attention that they weren't getting before despite being responsible for the dumping of toxic waste in a poor country that didn't have the means to deal with the waste safely. And why? Because it was cheap. Endangering the lives of poor brown people is ok because it won't cost that much. In fact in an out of court settlement it will cost you about £1000 per person. All for cheap oil.
The free speech of our press (that the right wing press are super keen on that by the way so that they can print nasty things, see Jan Moir) can be suppressed by one Oil company and its legal monkey can stop us hearing about what's being asked in Parliament. Oh, I think we need to sort that out.

Some awards for the week,

The Award for Best Birthday Presents of the Week,

This has to go to Significant Other who got me a couple of Charlie Parr CDs and a lovely little Ukulele, which it turns out, is quite hard to play.

The Award for the Most Incredible Sporting Achievement of the Week,

Chrissie Wellington, whose British, well from Norfolk I think, has won the World Iron Man Championship for the third time.
I wasn't sure what the “Ironman” involved so I looked it up. I believe the expression that left my lips was “fuck me!”. An Ironman event consists of a 2.4 mile swim, then they do a 112 mile bike ride and then they top it of nicely with a quick marathon. See, my swearing is a little more exceptable now, isn't it.
Jenson I know how to loose a championship Button also competed in this Ironman. He described her time of 8hrs and 54 minutes as “a little bit scary”. She beat her nearest competitor by 20 minutes.

The Award for Most Unfortunate Goal to have Scored Against You of the Week,

It is very simple. This is from yesterdays Liverpool vs Sunderland game.

See the ball hit the balloon and fly past the goalkeeper. That has got to hurt.

Have a lovely week all. A bit of work this week but hoping to get to see “Up” at some point.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Come to your Appointments

So, since the “Great huff” that lead to me leaving my job and pretending that part-time new job is fine (“Yes, I don’t mind working ever Saturday” through gritted teeth), I have been doing some work at my local hospital’s Diabetes Centre helping in the clinics.
Yesterday there were 12 people on the clinic list. 4 of them didn’t turn up. That’s a 1/3. 33%. What is wrong with these people? It really isn’t that hard to phone us and tell us that you can’t make it. Other people could have had that appointment; there is a waiting list you know.
At the other clinics I have done, the same thing has happened. At least 10% don’t turn up.
Now, if it just happened at this clinic it would be ok. Well, when I say “ok” what I mean is quite annoying and a little bit costly. The thing is it happens in every clinic, in every hospital and in every GP’s surgery every day of the week (that they are open, obviously). It costs the NHS a rather large amount of money every year. In fact it costs them about £600 million per year.
You don’t have to come to your appointment, things happen; we understand that but please phone us to tell us. We’d like to know so that we can give that appointment to someone else. It is a remarkably selfish thing to do so stop it. Oh and as you didn’t turn up my afternoon was quite dull. Help to make my work life less dull, turn up for your appointments. Some sort of T-shirt slogan there I think.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Diana Watch

So let me get this straight, did the Nobel Committee give Barack Obama the peace prize for what he wants to do? I want to bring World peace and invent a cure for cancer but no one gives me a prize for that. The closing date for entries (yes even the Nobel Prize has a closing date) is sometime in February, which was about a fortnight after President Obama took office. I'm sure that he is a great man and will achieve great things but come on, a Nobel Peace Prize for 2 weeks work?
The problem is that people, I'm looking at you Fox News and most Republicans, will see this as a reason to bash him. They will see it as proof that he is giving away American power and influence. That he is buddying up (I believe that is the American phrase) to leaders and Countries that are not America. That others from outside of the US have some influence over their President, (some see the prize as the rest of the world saying “well done, carry on like that. We (the rest of the world) like what you are doing”) who they are going to criticise what ever he does. If he bought JFK back from the dead and sat down to dinner with God it would be called a political gimmick.

Ah, political gimmick. A phrase that should haunt Chris “It's like The Wire round here” Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, to his political grave (see, I'm fair minded, not actual death, just swift political death).
This week, when told that Ex-head of the British Army Sir Richard Danet was joining a political party as an advisor he, for some odd reason given Sir Richard's constant hectoring of Gordon Brown, though that it was the Labour party and said that he hoped it wasn't a “political gimmick”.
The fun thing was that he was, in fact, joining the Conservatives. This was, of course, not a political gimmick or stunt but a very welcome and important appointment.
Later that day he went on to announce another poorly thought through, headline grabbing, short term policy. His “brilliant plan”, increase tax on cheap, high strength alcohol such as beer and cider. You'll note, not spirits.
These plans just won't work though. They don't tackle the problem of why people drink but nobody wants to tackle this problem because it is hard and complicated. It won't be sorted out with just a tax increase or a “crack down on anti-social behaviour”. If he had done some proper research rather than just reaching for his copy of “Tory Knee-jerk Reactions” he wound have found that this sort of scheme was tried in Australia and it didn't work. Spirits sales went up by 50%. Young people got drunk on them instead.

Before I leave the Nobel's completely, let's big up Chinese born British scientist Charles Kao who has won Nobel prize for physics for perfecting Fibre optic cables. He is sharing the prize with 2 others who invented the chip/sensor at the centre of the digital camera that converts light into digital data.

Many companies stand for nothing except making money and we should have no time for them but Apple have done something a little bit interesting. I would like to say that I read this in the Washington Post but I didn't, someone posted a link on Twitter.
Apple have left the US Chamber of Commerce because of it's position on climate change. IE Apple think it's a bad thing and something should be done and the Chamber of Commerce don't.
Now this may not seem like that much but Apple is a massive company and has a lot of money and, therefore, influence and it is standing up for what it believes in and taking it's money with it. This will leave an Apple shaped hole in the finances of the Chambers of Commerce and may make them think about their position a little more carefully.
Another company that has been thinking about it's position is Waitrose, a UK supermarket, which has this week pulled it's advertising from Fox News and related companies after it's customers complained about them using these channels. Their complaints were, of course, about Glenn Beck and Waitrose giving his programme and channel money.
Does anyone not know about Glenn Beck? My God he is horrid. He cries. That's his thing. On air. About pretty much anything. Let's have a look at that shall we,

awful isn't it.
It is not just this that normal people have a problem with; there is also his easily bought opinion. Before he took his current job on Fox he did a series of “bits” on how bad the US health system is. He had an operation and didn't find the whole thing much fun,

However, now that he is on Fox and taking the Murdoch dollar he is perfectly willing to completely switch his position saying that it is the best health care system in the World.

Ok ,vested interests and all that, lying to keep your job is one thing and at least it took about 18 months (and a new employer) to change his mind but he can change his mind much more quickly than that.

President Obama is a racist, I'm not saying he's a racist, he's a racist. All in about 3 minutes. Nice work.
Then gaze upon this incredible amount of squirming when he was asked about it and what he meant by “white culture”.

His show has lost an awful lot of advertising since his “Obama is a Racist” outburst.

Because of the, usual, high levels of cynicism that goes on here I would like to do an “and finally” style story.
I'm not a sentimental person, although I do have a square vase that I won't get rid of despite the fact that it is cracked because it was given to me by a friend, but this warmed my heart. Ed Miliband, Climate Change Secretary, was on a Russian radio phone in show to talk about well umm, climate change. One of the callers claimed to be a Miliband as well. They had a little chat and it turned out that she was, indeed related, albeit distantly, to him.
So what else could he do? After the phone in show he went round to see her. They shared a cup of tea and some photographs. She showed very little interest in what he does for a living.

The Award for Surprising Statistic of the Week,

Paris may be my favourite place in the World. We had our honeymoon there. I wanted to move there and still do. An apartment in Montmartre would be my dream. Close to my favourite restaurant in all the world. The art, the food, the architecture, it is fantastic. Heck, I also love the French. The way they dress. Their disdain for the rest of the world's culture.
So why on earth can you know get a big Mac at the Louvre?
This is a perplexing question but I learnt something this week. Despite the mutual antagonism on both sides of the Atlantic, France seems to have the most McDonald's outside of the US.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! It can't be true! Tell me it's not true! Oh well may have move to Italy. I could write about Silvio Berlusconi every week then, at least he's funny, unlike Gordon Brown. Although it is possible that Berlusconi is beyond satire. Surely he's a cartoon character.

The Award for Hypocrite of the Week,

This goes to one of the directors of the Tax Payers Alliance, Mr Alexander Heath , who, it turns out, pays no tax in this country.
For those who don't know the “Tax Payers Alliance” ( I put them in inverted commas because they claim to represent tax payers but these nasty little Right-Wing reactionary rent-a-quotes certainly don't represent me.) they pop up to criticise any Government spending plans or are always “shocked” when some wastage is found in Central or Local Government.
If you don't pay tax you can't complain about OUR taxes are spent, simple as that. In the way, if you don't vote, you can't complain about the Government, which was a favourite of my Grandma.

The Award for Least Surprising Thing of the Week,

Really GMTV, what did you expect to happen?
A GMTV presenter say “fuck” live on air. Twice. Well it was more like “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”, followed by, when the cord snapped tight and pulled him skyward again, “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”. This is what happens if you let a man, who has never done it before, bungee jump live on air.
To be honest, having now seen the footage and not just relying on the Daily Mail's website, he only really said “ffffffffffuuuuu” twice but they still apologised for it. There were, of course, calls from the puritanical press for the reporter to be sacked. Oh do please stop it. A mistake was made and an apology was given, no one died, please leave it at that.

The jump is about 4 minutes in.

The Award for Amusing Quote of the Week,

106 year old woman is to be moved from her nursing home to another one. The Council want to close hers because it doesn't come up to standard. Her family went to the high court to try and stop this but failed. After the hearing her son made a statement and said that he was worried that “she would die before her time”. She's 106, “her time” was sometime last century.

Ok, I’m off now, have a good week my friends.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Diana Watch

As you know I hate the Daily Mail but I have, sort of, left them alone for a week or two but not this week.
They have spent the week trying to tell us all how to live our lives and what we can and cannot look at, which is interesting from a paper that complains about the nanny state.
The week started with the unfortunate death of a young girl. She was 14 and had recently had the vaccine against HPV which can go on to course cervical cancer, you know the jab, the one that The Mail is against here but campaigns for in Ireland.
The paper decided, as did most others to be honest, that it was the vaccine that killed her. They had no evidence at all that this was true but that didn't stop them calling for the end of the vaccinations and running polls on the website.
On Tuesday they were still reporting it as if the vaccine had definitely killed her, still no post mortem. In fact on Google news there are 1,592 stories about her death.
On Wednesday the official post mortem was released and it was found that the death of the previously healthy girl had been caused by a massive tumour in her chest that could have killed her at any time. The recent vaccination was merely an unfortunate coincidence. The Mail's website barely mentioned it. 363 articles about the post mortem on Google news. They then published this article, which is a classic having your cake and eating it bit of writing.
“Natalie's death forced experts to stress that the cervical cancer jab is safe. The Mail supports that.” they say but they then go on, “But we also believe that the parents who claim it terribly damaged their daughters have a right to speak.” They then go on to make all sorts of accusations in a very carefully written article which makes it clear that it is not them saying these things but they are up holding the free speech rights of their readers. Isn't that good of them? They are fighting for our rights, well only the ones that they think are useful to them, not your right to protest or anything like that. They actually seem to be against that unless it is their readers protesting.
And just when we were all excepting that the jab was safe, 1.4 million doses delivered with not much to report, they publish this today. They have published no evidence at all; it is just scaremongering of the highest order.

Then they tried to tell me what I could see in an art museum.
A picture of Brooke Shields has been removed from an exhibition at the Tate Modern. In this picture she is naked and made up. She was 10 when the picture was taken with the permission of her mother.
The picture has been seen in many countries around the world with no problems at all. It has even been exhibited in America with few complaints but the Mail didn't like it. Oh no. A picture of a naked child is now always pornography to them. They were so upset by the image that they found it necessary to publish a picture of a topless 14 year old Brooke Shields that was ok for some reason.
Ok, so the picture might not have been your thing but that doesn't mean that you can tell me what I can see. I have to decide for myself what is and isn't offensive to me.
I also think that you project on to art what you want to see. I will see a 10 year old girl but it seems that those at the Mail see a sexual image, strange.

And then we have classic Daily Mail misogyny. The Mail's hatred of woman is sometimes hard to pin down but they made it very easy for me this week so I thank them.
Yet another study has shown that if you live a healthy and fit life you reduce you risk of getting cancer. Not really a new or radical finding but it is added to the pile on sensible advice for a long and healthy life. The paper in question specifically mentioned breast cancer as a disease that is most effected by lifestyle choices. They also defined within the study what they meant by moderate to vigorous exercise. They included things such as running, swimming and housework. Can you guess what the headline was in the working woman hating Mail? “Daily dose of housework could cut risk of breast cancer” Nice. Pick out only the bits that tell woman their place in the Mail-centric world.
Oh and while we are at it I give you “Can snuggling up to your pet give you MRSA?”

So let us now move to hypocrisy.
David Miliband made a speech at the Labour Party Conference in which he mentioned the new right wing voting grouping in the European Parliament (admit it, that is the sexiest sentence you have ever read.) and pointed out that some of the people that the Tories have aligned themselves with are less than pleasant when it comes to such issues as race and homosexuality. He then used a quote from Edmund Burke, “What do they say? All you need for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent”. It was said originally in reference to those who didn't speak out against the Nazis in the 30's. This was seized upon as comparing the Tories and their “friends” to the Nazis, which is kind of reasonable in a number of these cases, and many in the Tory party and at The Mail (they are very sensitive on matters of National Socialism, what with their support for the black shirts and everything) called for an apology and a retraction of the statement because they didn't like being compared to the murders of Gypsies, Gays, the disabled and Jews. However, in his article on Thursday it was perfectly OK for Richard Littlejohn to call North Wales Traffic Police “North Wales Traffic Taliban”. You know the Taliban, they're those nice blokes who stone woman to death and kill our soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Sun has switched its support from Labour to the Conservative party. Really? They were still supporting The Labour Party? Are you sure? Well now that the Conservatives look let they are going to win the next election (sigh) they have switched their support. Well, they have in England. It seems that in Scotland, were Labour are well ahead of the Tories, they are still undecided. Glad to see that their decision was based on firmly held political beliefs than.

Whilst we are talking about the Tories just one more thing. David “call me Dave” Cameron is going to announce plans to “Get Britain Working”. One of the things that he is going to say is that there should be a deregulation of business to encourage them to employ more people.
Whoa there Dave, wasn't it the lack of regulation in the banking sector that got us to this situation in the first place? And what sort of things are you going to deregulate? Health and safety? The minimum wage? We want specifics.

let's end this bit with some fun news. The BNP are nearly broke! Come on, that is the best news you've heard in a long time. As the not so real @RealnickGriffin said on Twitter a couple of days ago “The BNP freephone number is 08000086191. Every call costs us money so don't abuse it by, say, leaving it off the hook from a payphone.”

How about some awards?

The Award for Surprise Moan of the Week,

On the 30th of September those of us who have Freeview had to retune our boxes so that new channels could be added and the whole thing could be tidied up a bit.
Following the retune lots of people have complained that they have lost channel 5, ITV 3 and 4. I have seen all of these channels and you would have thought that people would be damn grateful not to able to see this repeat-laden crap.

The Award Least Interesting Survey of the Week,

As usual there are quite a number of candidates for this small but perfectly formed trophy but the winner is a survey into the swinging and who is most likely to do it.
It turns out that, rather than bear bellied blokes and bored housewives, it is mid 20's, well educated people. Upsettingly that is another demographic I fall outside of.
They have names as well. Paul and Catherine are the names of these people most likely to enjoy wife swapping. So if you have a dinner invite from your friends Catherine and Paul this evening I would recommend taking a small pack of condoms with you, you never know what might happen.

The Award for not getting an Award of the Week,

This goes to JK Rowling. According to Matt Latimer, a former Bush speech writer (that's President Bush, not the talking, burning one in Bible, she was up for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is given for “individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours” (how this includes writing some books about a boy wizard is beyond me but it's their medal), but someone within the Administration “objected” giving her the award because the books encourage Witchcraft.
Oh dear. Do we have to go through this again? IT'S FICTION! IT'S JUST A STORY!
There was also a list of the books on the Guardian website that have had the most attempts to get them banned.
The reasons are the usual sort of things, a bit gay, a bit anti-religious, that sort of thing. It's just pathetic really. You ban things and you make them more interesting. Children (and me) will want to read them more.
Just reading about something doesn't make me want to do it. I read books with religious characters and I don't, now, believe in God. I've read books with murders, gun-running and drug smuggling and I don't do any of those things Hell, I've even read the Daily Mail and it didn't turn me into an unpleasant twat.
What they seemed to scared of is that people (children) might read something and then think about it. Consider an opinion and then come to their own decision and we really can't have that can we?

I’m working quite a lot this week, which is nice. Hope you have a lovely week.