Sunday, 28 February 2010

Diana Watch

I'm sorry, have I fallen asleep and woken up in the 1980's? (Although Homeopaths think it’s the 1880’s and Prince Charles, the 1780’s). Am I in Life on Mars? (or whatever the 80’s sequel was called)

 Monday night/Tuesday morning a car bomb exploded in Newry, Northern Ireland. Fortunately no one was hurt despite the fact that it went off whilst the area was being cleared.
 There has been a recent upsurge in terrorist attacks in that country with the murder of soldiers and several bombings.
 Will we now be having a War on Terror in Northern Ireland? Will those with a slight Irish accent face a tougher time going through Airport security? Will we have unofficial racial profiling? Will our right wing press slowly turn against a once valued section of society?

 Argentina is getting stroppy about us having sovereignty of the Falkland Islands again. Why could this possibly be? I mean, nothing against our only remaining colony but it mostly rock with some sheep and penguins on, that is about 2 mile from the coast of South America. Really, we have no good reason to be there. A regional conference has supported Argentina claim to the Islands. Let’s not make too much of a fuss over this pointless little place any longer.
 What’s that? There’s some oil there? It ours! All ours! Keep your hands of it! Send a task force I say! Gordon, there’s an election coming, this is something for the country to rally behind! (PS It worked for Thatcher)

Whilst we are talking about Mr Brown, “Is Gordon a bully?” seems to be the question of the week. This is based on a single source allegation from Andrew Rawnsley’s (officially the world’s most Tory looking Man) new book.


 Then some woman from an almost non-existent charity weighed in by suggesting that some employees of No10 had phone her helpline and was interviewed on Channel 4 news (I think the news programme won)

 To be honest I don’t know whether or not he is a bully and nor do you. We will probably never know and I don’t think that it was anymore more than a distraction.
 Is someone who has a tough job (Prime Minister is quite hard I’m lead to believe) not allowed to get a bit stressed sometimes because that is what is going to happen? And surely there is some context missing here. If your boss shouts out you at your advertising agency then that might be bullying but if your boss is trying to single-handedly save your countries banking system and you ask him if he wants a biscuit with his tea and he snaps at you? Maybe less so.
 One of the many quotes floating around the internet was “If someone thinks they are being bulled then they are being bullied”, ummm, well sort of, ummm, well actually, no, not all the time. Someone I know complained that she was being bullied because when she went into one of the offices that she didn’t normally go into they stopped talking. She felt that they were blocking her out of their conversation. They weren’t. As she only went in there to ask for things they stopped talking to allow her to talk, not bullying even though she felt she was being bullied.

 I have mentioned before that news coverage, whether in papers or on television, has decided to remove context from its reporting so that we can all be more shocked/scared/offended by a story because we don’t know what has gone on before.
  A fine example of this happened on BBC Breakfast this week. “British Gas made profits of 58% whilst millions face high winter fuel bills”. Well sort of. British Gas is the only provider currently cutting its prices. The price of gas in Britain is 33% lower than the European average and electricity prices are 13% lower than the average but this was ignored on BBC Breakfast. Also, the average use of gas is down 7%, but the major fact that is being ignored is that the Gas Providers agreed a price for the gas you are using today 2 years ago so that is the price you are paying and not the current wholesale price. I'm not defending the pricing system or the profits; I'm just adding the missing context.

 We have some very, very stupid people in this country, I give you herb peddler Michael McIntyre who was on the Radio4 programme “You on Yours” on Tuesday afternoon, but these people really are not trying hard enough. America has, perhaps, the most stupid people in the world. This is not some silly generalisation about that country but I come to you with some proper examples.

 Example 1,

 State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas. This week he has said this, “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,"
 That’s right; he is saying that having a disabled child is a punishment form God for having an abortion. Nice bloke.
 He was amongst a very small group of people who were handing a petition to stop state money going to help pay for terminations. One of the other signatories on this attempt at limiting the freedoms of the women of Virginia was one Pat Robertson. You remember him, “Haiti made a pact with the Devil, true story” bloke. What a great bunch of people they are. Really loving Christian types. “He is a God of love and forgiveness. Oh, except for you. Oh and you and you and you and you and you and you. Basically he’s my God and if you don’t do exactly what I tell you he will punish you.”

 Example 2,

 Ladies and Gentlemen I give you……… The Entire state of Utah! Well it’s State legislator anyway. Hey have managed to pass a bill that makes miscarriage illegal. In fact (not Martyn’s law there) they have defined it as "criminal homicide." No really, they have. I know I’ve linked to a blog but I’ve checked all the links and it’s true. Fuck people, what is wrong with you?
 They’ve not made abortion illegal (defined as “carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician.") but miscarrying if "intentional, knowing or reckless act of the woman". So if you have a drink whilst pregnant and then later miscarry, possible criminal homicide charges. I believe Utah is thinking of bring back witch trials.

The Award for Completely Wasting Your Life (The Carbon In You Could Have Made Something Useful Like Oil or a Pencil.)

This goes to Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and an MEP. He gets this award not just because of the pointlessness of his Political Party but also for his piss-poor insult of new President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy.
 He described Mr van Rompuy as having "the charisma of a damp rag". Hello kettle, this is pot, you’re black. He also called Belgium as a "non-country".
 The man (van Rompuy) has been elected for months, he has had loads of time to prepare, and this was the best insult that he could come up with.
Mr Farage, a renowned twat, then confirmed his own ignorance by uttering what he, no doubt, thought was a very clever line "Who are you? I'd never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you," Again pot, kettle, black.
 Some Belgians are not that impressed with Mr Farage and have made him a little poster. It contains a rude word and, more offensive than that, a picture of the twat in question, so click here if you want to see.
 If you ever think poorly of the EU think on this, we send them UKIP and BNP members and they send us lovely food and wine. If I was organising a party I would not invite England. We are the national equivalent of someone who comes to the party, eats all the food, drinks all the drink, insults your house and then leaves, and no one is really sure who invited them.

The Award For Really? Has A Woman Not Won That Yet? Are You Sure?

 Congratulations to Kathryn Bigalow who has won the Best Director Bafta for the Hurt Locker. It's 2010 and she is the first woman to win this ward. The event has been taking place since its birth in 1947. Has a woman not made a decent film in all that time? I find that very hard to believe.
 No woman has won a best Director Oscar either. Are we making any progress here?

The Award For Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day,

The Daily Express is right about so very little that it is worth pointing out when they have reported something correctly,


If they are talking about Express readers then yes, they may have a point.

Laughing at another’s misfortune is bad. That is unless that person is Bono. Here is a video of Bono falling of stage.

 Oh come on that’s funny.

Haiku time,

Gordon may bully,
So we are all shocked and,
Ramsey gets a show.

Stories that haven’t made it,

The Daily Mail describes a picture that Peaches Geldof posts of herself on Twitter as “indecent” and then prints the picture. So is that the Daily Mail printing an indecent picture then?

Most expensive comic ever. A copy of a 1938 Action One comic has sold for a Dr Evil pleasing $1 million. The comic is significant (if a comic can be) because it is the first outing for someone called Superman.

Ed Balls is a pussy and has backed down over reforms to the sex education that young people get in faith schools. They were to be told to all teach the same as non-faith schools, i.e. how to use contraception etc, but he changed his mind and has said that they can teach within in the tenets of their faith. So, for instance, Catholic schools can say, “this is a condom but it is evil and you will go to hell if you use it.” Helpful.
 He did smackdown the BBC Breakfast presenters though over the bullying thing though and that was funny.

Hope your week is successful and fruitful.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

They Remind Me of Something

These glasses are being sold to little girls in my local Monsoon. Aren’t they nice?


Although they do remind me of something. What is it? No, wait I can get this….. oh yes, I remember now,


Oh that’s an image you want your children’s clothes associated with.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Save 6Music

There is a report on the front of the Times today that claims that they have seen a leaked report from the BBC about the future of the, ummm, BBC.
The report is going to say, when it is released properly, that the BBC has grown to big and must shrink back. Well maybe, it did buy the Lonely Planet guides for no good reason, but the rumoured cuts seemed aimed at some slightly strange targets.

It has been suggested that the excellent BBC website (the first website I look at everyday) will be cut back by half and that the BBC's Asian Network will take a hit. There is also some slightly odd thinking in the paper, suggesting that the BBC should close it's Switch and Blast! services (whatever they are) which are aimed at teenagers so not to compete with E4 and ITV but they will leave BBC3 alone. You know BBC3, the channel whose stated demographic is 16-35. Hmmmm.

Anyway the thing that has riled me (and Twitter) the most is the suggestion that BBC 6Music should be closed. Noooooooooooooo! It's my favourite radio station, well maybe joint favourite with Radio4, but anyway, Noooooooooooooo!

No reason seems to be given in the article as to why 6Music should go but the decision (if it has been made) seems to be based on making it easier for commercial rivals, after all the BBC isn't supposed to compete directly with them. Fair enough I suppose, the BBC does have a bit of an advantage, but I don't think that that is a relevant argument here.

Commercial radio, by it's very nature, has to appeal to either a quite limited demographic or the widest possible (My local commercial broadcaster has gone for people who neither like music or coherent and interesting talking), where as 6Music appeals to quite a wide range of music lovers. This morning they played The Pixies followed by Naughty by Nature. How many advert funded efforts can say that? And how many radio stations (and I'm including the rest of the world here) have ever used the phrase “And now something from SquarePusher” as Stuart Maconie did last Sunday? I would imagine that it is quite a small number.

I'm not doing special pleading here because I like the station but I am pointing out the the argument is floored. I am not aware of a single other radio station that would bring you such a wide range of interesting people presenting programmes as 6Music has. Look at Sundays for instance. Huey Morgan (Fun Lovin' Criminals), Jarvis Cocker (in his first showed he read out a short story and played a Sir John Betjeman poem, is that happening on XFM?), Stuart Maconie (player of Square Pusher) and Guy Garvey (Elbow).

There is clearly some other reason for picking on the Asian Network and 6Music. The fact that the leak was to the Times (owned by Rupert Murdoch, hater of the BBC) is also significant.

This is a tacit admission on behalf of Mark Thompson, the Director-General, that he thinks the Tories will win the General Election and he wants to get the first move in. The report was even written by the former head of the Conservative policy unit, John Tate, who co-wrote the party’s 2005 manifesto with David Cameron but is now director of policy and strategy at the BBC.

He is trying to save the BBC from too much Tory interference when they come to power. He is saying, yes I understand the things that you think are wrong with the BBC, see I'm changing them, please leave us alone. 6Music has become a sacrificial lamb on an alter to David Cameron, so that Mark Thompson may continue in his job. Hmmmmm.

I read one criticism of the Save 6 Music campaign (by the way, you can write to the BBC trust by clicking on here) is that we were all suggesting other things to be cut like sport, celebrity programs and BBC3. There is a reason for that, these things do compete with commercial broadcasters but 6Music doesn't.

Please don't let this happen, I like music and want to listen to it without having cheap double glazing advertised at me.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Diana Watch

OK, I think I have to be honest with you. I will not be voting for the Conservative Party at the next General Election. I know that this may come as a surprise to absolutely none of you but I thought that we should clear it up.
 I spend a lot of time on here having a go at Tories and their rubbishness and almost as much time defending the Government. This will stop, the government defending bit anyway (unless they are being unfairly maligned or misrepresented because that is not fair.)
 I feel that, for reasons of fairness, that I should also tell you that I am a member of a Political party and it is neither of the two mentioned above. Yes, my dear readers, I am a member of UKIP. Ha, bet you spluttered what ever drink happened to be in your mouth just then. Bet it’s running down your chin and dripping on to your keyboard right now! Ha. Of course I’m not, I’m a member of the Lib-Dems (oh and as of this week the RSPB).
 You’re not really that surprised are you? I thought I should mention it because as we, in Britain, build up to the Election this blog may get a little more partisan. To be honest it will get a little more partisan but I’m trying to give it a veneer of balance and fairness.
 I won’t be uncritical of my party though just because I am a member, if they do something twatish I will say, but possible not with as much vitriol as I would if it were a Tory issue.
 For instance, there seems to be a plot afoot to remove Evan Harris as the parties’ spokesperson on Science, you can read about at Jon Treadway’s blog here.
 Brilliant, Evan Harris is great. He’s funny and well informed. We need more people like him not fewer. So he pissed off a few on the old woolly side of the party. Fuck ‘em. They are one of the reasons the party has an image problem. People think that we are all just a bunch of Tofu eating, sandal wearing hippies. Are we going to try and get rid of Vince Cable as well because he annoys some bankers?
 Anyway, confession over (now I know how Tiger Woods must have felt. Seriously, talk about taking yourself too seriously. You play golf for a living, calm down. Who cares into what or whom you have inserted your penis. Can you still play golf well? If so then carry on, if not stop, you are worth over $1billion) and now back to Tory Bashing, it’s like whack-a-mole but much, much more fun.

 20 economists have written to last Sunday's Times to say that the Government's handling of the economic recovery is wrong. Are we surprised by this? No, of course we aren't. I would imagine that they were asked to write to the paper by either the paper or the Tories. I can imagine that it isn't that hard to find 20 economists that disagree with the Government. After all it's only 20. and as any economist will tell you that, when compared to say 60million, 20 is a very small number.
 History also tells us that economist know nothing. We've had a recession after all but that’s not all. In 1981 364 economists wrote to Geoffrey Howe to tell him that he was wrong to raise taxes by £4bn. In the letter, Mervyn King (now Governor of the Bank of England), and the Labour peer, Maurice Peston (Robert Peston's Dad) said that Howe's policy had "no basis in economic theory or supporting evidence", and that Britain's "social and political stability" was at risk if the government did not change course.
 The Tories made much of Sunday's letter but they should be a little careful. Hubris people, hubris. After the 1981 letter was written by loads of people who where supposed to know their stuff, exactly the opposite of what they said would happen happened. The Economy started to grow.

 Friday bought another letter from some more economists. Really, shouldn’t they be doing some adding up or something, they seem to have far to much time to write letters. Oh and letters? Who writes letters these days? What is this, the early 20th Century? This is why we are in so much trouble, they’ll be advising us to invest in the East India Company or Dutch Tulip bulbs soon.
 Anyway, this time 60 of them have written an open letter supporting the Government’s plan to delay spending cuts for a little bit.
 Now I only have A-level Maths and I don't have a degree in Economics but I'm pretty sure that 60 is bigger than 20, about 3 times as much I reckon. So that will be lots more economists say the Government is right and not the Tories. To quote a football chant “Sit down, shut up. Sit down, shut up.”

 Whilst we are talking about Tories and numbers lets have a quick award,

 The Award for Shooting Yourself in the Foot and Showing That You Have No Idea What Is Going On,

 The Tories put out a document as part of their “Broken Britain” smear campaign against not-middle-class-people that claimed that more than half of girls in deprived areas, by the age of 18, were pregnent. The exact number that they used was 54%. If that is true then that is terrible, maybe these Tory types have a point. Of course they don't. The figure was false. The true figure is 5.4%. Was it just a typo? Did they just miss out a decimal point? Well if they did, they did it 3 times in the document so that seems unlikely. Did no one proof read it and question the figures? (I know I can't really criticize others proof reading but hey, I'm not trying to get elected, yet.) 
 You could just brush this off (as I'm sure the Tories will) as just a mistake but what it does show is that the Conservative Party have no idea what is actually going on in Britain. No one who read the document before it was published thought to ask, “Is this very high number correct?” They all assumed that this is what their country folk were like. Are these the people you want making social policy for us all? Well of course you lot don't, you read this but please tell your friends, relatives and complete strangers, the Tories have no idea about other people.

Would you let this woman run your child’s school?


For those who don’t know, this is Goldie Hawn, she is an actress who likes Buddhism. This is qualification enough to run schools under Tory plans announced last Sunday. Parents, charities and companies are to be encouraged to take over failing schools.
 Is that not privatisation? You remember privatisation, trains, power generation, home care, all those things that work really, really well. Oh now wait, I forgot, profit is put ahead of service. That’s how your children should be educated, by the lowest bidder. What could possibly go wrong?
 Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove, told the Sunday Times that there would be proper inspections of the school and did say that creationism would not be taught even if a church charity took over a school. Can we hold you to that Mr Gove because that is quite a bold claim?
 He also used a very odd phrase when discussing who would be allowed to run the schools. He said that an independent body would be set up to vet all those who applied and “to make sure that extremist organisations, or people who have a dark agenda, are prevented from doing so.". A dark agenda? He does realise the Harry Potter is fiction right?

 The Award for Reasonably Incompetent Secret Service of the Week,

 This must go to Mossad, the Israeli secret service. OK, so state sponsored terrorism isn’t funny but the way this hit was carries out does smack of a Carry On film.
 Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader, was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai. It has been assumed by most people, quite reasonably given Mossad’s history, (have you seen the film Munich?) that they carried out the assassination.
 I realize that none of the above is funny but the following is, a bit. They used stolen identities to travel on. The identities of real people. They traveled on passports with these people’s names on them. People who would very quickly be able to prove that they were nowhere near Dubai when Interpol, who seem to have issued an international arrest warrant for these obviously innocent people, come a calling.
 As far as I am aware, and most of my knowledge does come from the BBC television program Spooks, spy types use a false identity or legend. By using real people and then killing someone, they have managed to get themselves an awful lot of attention, usually the opposite of what spies try and do.
 The Israeli Ambassador was called to the Foreign Office and was asked to explain why they did this, to which his reply, after shifting awkwardly in his seat, was. “Ummmm, we didn’t.”
 The problem is we can do nothing. A government spokesman, I forget who now (this is why I would never be able to uncover something like the Watergate cover up, “ummm, someone broke into somewhere and junk.”) said that “We will make the strongest representations to the Israeli Government”. Well what does that mean? When pressed he was unable to answer because they can do nothing.
 Your ID can be stolen by a foreign Secret Service and there is nothing you, or anyone else, can do about it. International law is meaningless if it is unenforceable.

The Award That Will Mean Nothing To You Because You've Just Won An Olympic Medal,

We won a gold! Oh yes, Ladies and Gentlemen (ok, those reading this in Canada and the US are quite use to this) Great Britain has won a gold medal! Amy Williams has been victorious in the Skeleton bob and has become the first Britain to win a solo Gold in 30 years. (If you click here you can see some video on the BBC website.)
 Lets not mention the US and Canada making sour-grapes type complaints about her aerodynamic helmet because they were rejected, and Great Britain won a medal. Oh yes.

Stories that haven't made it this week,

 The pointless but funny story of the week. The BNP has voted to change it's constitution to allow non-white people to join after the threat of legal action from the Equalities commission.
 Is this going to make them less racist? Nope.

We live in a country of unpleasant people (despite the survey a couple of weeks ago that said that we are all more liberal), although why has the BBC focused on woman's attitudes?

 Haikus of the Week,

 We now know what killed
 King Tutankhamen, fear not,
 He is still dead though.
 A Golfer says sorry
To his wife and family,
Gillette are relieved.

In the coming week news,

Simon Singh's appeal against the BCA comes up on Tuesday. For those of you who don't know what the case is about then may I recommend that you read here or here, for more info on Libel reform, try here.
 May I advise you to read the Jack of Kent blog later in the week to find out what happened.

 Good news, I've come to the end. Have a lovely week.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Bad Atheist?

So am I a bad atheist? I only ask because I feel I may have let the side down a little. It's not that I have suddenly converted to Catholicism (although the protection it offers for sex crimes is tempting) but I did sing some hymns at a funeral. Whilst I didn't pray or anything silly but I did sing songs about Jesus.
I was standing near another atheist who didn't sing at all, he stood for the hymns but didn't sing. Is he a better non-believer than me?

Don't get me wrong, it was a funeral for family member so we were going to go along with what ever way they wanted in order say goodbye to their husband/father but I was taken aback by the religiosity of the service. They had fantastic walk in music for instance, Dueling Banjos anyone? Does it matter that I joined in? I think what I'm trying to ask is, would Dawkins sing?

I don't think it undermined my position. There is a time and a place for militancy and it's not at a family funeral. I wasn't going to walk out or heckle the vicar but I did feel a bit awkward. I know it arrogant and self centred but I was interested in other peoples opinions.

What was surprising was how anti-Semitic the hymn “Lord of the Dance” is. Verse 3 specifically. The words are as following

“I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame,
The holy people said it was a shame;
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
And they left me there on a cross to die. “

Well that will be "the Jews killed our Lord" then.

After keeping my head down at the funeral we moved on to the wake. It was held in a local Conservative club.
There are 2 pictures of the Queen and 1 of comedy racist Prince Phillip over the bar and a picture of Margaret Thatcher by the kitchens.
I joked that the sandwiches would only be served on white bread. It was a joke, that's all. Nothing to be taken seriously. All the sandwiches were served on white bread. Beyond parody really.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Diana Watch

Unbelievable, he stole my idea. Well there was a little passing credit to me but mostly, he stole idea!

This week I have invented (is that the right word?) a new law of Physics/journalism. We shall, from now on, refer it as Martyn's Law ( I thought about Norris' Law but there are too many S’s at the end.) The law states that, in right wing newspapers, the actual number of facts contained within a columnists polemic IS inversely proportioned to the number of times they use the phrase "in fact" or "the fact is" i.e. the more they use those phrases, the less facts are actually in their piece.

The great thing about the internet is if you think something might be so you can have a quick look at the odd website (always use more than one) and you'll find out if you are correct of not. I believe that it is called fact checking. If, for instance, I thought that Richard Littlejohn was a bit of a Xenophobic, slightly racist misogynist, who thinks that it’s ok to torture terrorism suspects then all I would have to do was to click on to the Daily Mail's website and have a look at his awful, awful column and there it would be in black and white. My facts would have been checked.

It does seem, however, that this is a little bit too much effort for Mr. Littlejohn (or which ever poor sap writes the column for him) and he does get rather a lot of things wrong.

For instance, he routinely calls the National Black Police Association a racist organization. When the BNP were told that they had to amend their constitution because it was illegal as it said no blacks, no dogs, no Irish, he retorted with “But the NBPA don't let in white people, it says Black in their title, they are as racist as the BNP”. Examples here and here. It is a repeated mantra of his awful diatribe but is it true? Has he bothered to check their website? Well if he has he has ignored what he found. On the front page it says this “The NBPA is open to all in policing on application and there is no bar to membership based on colour”. Well that’s sorted that out then.

What he is doing is lying to his readers because he knows that this is what they want to hear and none of them can be bothered to check out whether it is true or not.

He is not the only journalist to do this, Rod Liddle does it a lot and Jan Moir will write anything for money, as she did this week.

She wrote an article which went on about how much she hated “poncey food” but she was found out in the Guardian by Jay Rayner. You see, she used to work as the Restaurant critic for the Daily Telegraph (the first mention for them today) but left/was fired over the subject of pay. She hated poncey food so much that she set up her own website that continues, to this day, giving glowing reviews to places that serve poncey food.

She wrote what she was paid too, not what she really thinks.

My favorite bit from Mr Rayners article was this, "Moir's is the authentic voice of backward-looking, navel-gazing, circle-the-wagons, middle England. It is the worst kind of petty, snivelling, bloated, myopic rantery. She clearly understands her market perfectly." I my get that on a T-shirt or maybe a tattoo.

RIP Alexander McQueen.

How did the papers deal with his death? Did they treat it like they did Britney Murphy or Steven Gately? Did they speculate on to what might have killed him? Did they make stuff up? Did Sky News send it helicopter to film his body being taken from his home to the mortuary? The answers to those questions are a no, no and yes.

Most papers where reasonably respectful but couldn't help themselves in mentioning the fact that he was gay but they all managed to behave a little better than the Mail did following the death of heiress Casey Johnson, heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune. The headline was "Lesbian socialite Casey Johnson lay dead for three days in flat after taking suspected drug overdose" What has her sexuality got to do with anything? And, to be fair to Mail readers (not a phrase I use often) they asked that to in the comments section.

This article was genius Mail writing as it later said, "Friends believe Miss Johnson's death is similar to that of Hollywood star Brittany Murphy, who died shortly before Christmas at the age of 32.”

Oh nice work, link it to someone else’s death that you thought was suspicious.

They then continued “More than a dozen prescription drugs were found at the home the Clueless actress shared with her British screenwriter husband, Simon Monjack."

The article goes on and on about drug taking and prescription pills but then says "A Los Angeles police spokesman said there were no signs of foul play and that Miss Johnson had died of natural causes."

For the record , Britney Murphey died of Pneumonia and Casey Johnson from Diabetic ketoacidosis.

There seems to be a new, distasteful trend in British newspapers. It is the unpleasant and unnecessary article that criticizes the person who has just died. The Mail is usually the paper that gets in there first, I refer you to the stories mentioned above, but with the death of Alexender McQueen they backed off and it was left to the Telegraph (there’s your second mention) who got Toby Young to write an article questioning his genius.

I don't mind the article questioning this, although hipster jeans that were barely covering many ladies bottom a few years ago, that was McQueens idea (oh and he worked as an apprentice in Savile Row before going to St Martins, so he knew about tailoring. He knew about cutting fabric and sewing, he had talent), but Mr McQueen seems to have killed himself following the death of his mother. His death was announced on Thursday, her funeral was on Friday, the day that this tasteless piece of self-promotion was published.

I can not argue that McQueen was or wasn't a genius in the fashion world, I don't know enough about it, but those that do say he was and that is good enough for me. I wouldn't dream of having a go at someone from an area of culture that I don't understand in order to make myself look big and clever. Toby Young, however, is an arse. He has written a book about what an incredible arse he is, it's called "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People". He went to America, behaved like an arse and no one liked him. He then tried to make it into knowingly, self aware, ironic book about how funny it was that no one liked him. No. Knowingly being an arse makes you an even bigger arse. Oh and he likes Rod Liddle, known Racist and misogynist.

Winter Olympics are here!

Firstly, my condolences to the family and team mates of Nodar Kumaritashvili who was killed yesterday whilst training for the Luge.

I know that there are problems with the Olympic movement, it's more about money than sport etc, but I love the winter Olympics for a number of reasons. One of these is that Great Britain (with a few exceptions) is pretty poor at all of the sports and therefore I can just enjoy them as sports. No national pride is at stake. I also love to see (in a non-patronizing way) countries that have no snow taking part. Watching highlights of the opening ceremony bought a lump to my throat, although that might have been cancer, not to self, make Dr’s appointment for lump in throat.

I also like most sports carried out on ice and snow because it’s slippery and therefore hilarity is only seconds away. They could fall over at any moment!

I can’t ski or skate so I am impressed with anyone else who can. I have quite a poor sense of balance so, to be honest, walking is a little bit hard. I’m also not brave enough for many of the sports. A quick look at the schedule will show you good list of life-shortening activities. Ski jumping, planks strapped to the feet of Northern European men who ski off cliffs. Ice Hockey, men with no teeth and anger management issues (my personal favourite). Skeleton Bob, (team GB’s only medal last time out by the way) headfirst down a bobsleigh run on a tin tray. It’s very, very dangerous and, therefore, very entertaining.

I think I have said this before but this sort of multi-sport event makes me love digital television. Who doesn’t get excited by the phrase “press your red button for more snowboarding”?

The only thing I don’t like is the ice skating. It is clever and skillful but it is mind numbingly boring. The only thing that is funny about it is the stony faces of the scary look eastern European woman who have trained the skaters as they don’t get their marks that they quite obviously should do.

This does lead to a few issues in our house as it is Significant Others favourite event. I’m told that spandex clad, sequin enriched men skating around on one foot is much more exciting than Snowboard Cross or Bobsleigh Heats. It isn’t.

So, some awards then,

The Award for Being Pointlessly Offended by Something of No Consequence,

It’s another blow to Britain's beleaguered manufacturing industry as some badges that are going to be sold at the olympic games in London are going to be made in China.

Well, it’s really important if you work for the Daily Express. So important that it is worth putting on the front page.


Badges? Really? You have to be trying really hard to be offended if badges are the things that get you. And, like their story earlier in the week about Salt shortages (in the article it pointed out later that there was 6000 tonnes of salt in Kent, so not running out then), it was a bit of a misrepresentation of the situation.

The company who won the contract have set up a British arm of their company, so jobs there, and, as one of the commenters pointed out (and he should know as he runs one of the distribution company), there are jobs for people who work in importing and distribution. And really, how many jobs are there in a badge making factory? It's not like they are hand crafted by highly trained badge artisans working only by candle light, long into the night.

The Express wheeled out it’s usual suspects of people to be offended, a Tory MP and someone from The Tax Payers Alliance (one of their members got offended when I put on Twitter how much I hated them.) and tried to bury the statement from a spokesperson for London 2012 which included the line “In all 98 per cent of Olympic contracts, totaling around £5billion have gone to UK-based firms.” That’s quite a lot isn’t it?

The Award For I Didn’t Know That Someone Was Credited With Inventing It,

This goes to Walter Frederick Morrison who has died this week at the rather excellent age of 90. It seems that he invented (or is at least credited with inventing) the Frisbee.

I have discovered many interesting things reading the article on the BBC website such as, there is such a thing as a Frisbee historian (he’s called Phil Kennedy if you are interested) and there is an official Frisbee website. Oh and it used to be called the Pluto Platter before it was called the Frisbee.

Don’t say that you never learn anything reading this, if that comes up on your pub quiz how happy will you be that you lent me 5 minutes of your time.

After I complained that I rambled on a bit in this blog (today being noooo exception) Significant Other suggested that I try and do it in Haiku. I may try this one day but a quick Google search has shot down my idea of Haiku news, a blog with news stories all in that ancient Japanese poetry style. Several already exist. I will leave you with these (they nearly work),

Muslim Man treated badly,
Secret Service not involved, much,
Littlejohn says ok.

Toyota cars go,
Some too fast, most seem to stop,
But many others don’t.

I hope you have/had a nice Valentines Day unless you are single and then I agree with you, it's all just a cynical marketing tool. Have a good week.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

President Schwarzenegger Anyone?

Sarah Palin has said, as a criticism of President Obama, that the US “we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law, standing at the lectern”. We don't need clever people just someone to sit there and point.
Why don't Republicans like people who can think? Oh and then, at some Tea Baggers event, she mocked the Presidents use of auto-cue. This is fine as long as you are not looking at notes you have written on your hand.
It must be nice for Satirists when you jokes turn out to be a little closer to the bone than you thought,

I know that I am only one person and that my opinion is not that important but I would quite like the leader of my country to be the smartest person in the room. The sort of person that can understand complicated arguments and make difficult decisions based on all the available facts not someone who thinks that looking good on camera is the only quality you need to be a great leader.
Please can we put a stop to this now. I am calling for mandatory IQ tests for all politicians. If it's not over 120 then you can't come and play. I know it seems harsh and patronising but think about it, would you let your stupid friend run the country just because they looked quite pretty? No, of course you wouldn't, oh and if you can't think of a stupid friend then you are your friends stupid friend.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Diana Watch

Today’s opening question is, how many of you met a Minister of State this week? Come on be honest, did you? No, of course you didn’t. I, however, met Andy Burnham, Minister for Health, my ultimate boss. He seemed like quite a nice bloke. Slightly ill-fitting suit though.
 I did ask on twitter if anyone had any questions for him and I received a few suggestions, most of which were appropriate, one was less so. Unfortunately my bosses where quite keen to stop me asking any questions but I did manage to get one in about the proposals to axe GP practices boundaries so that you can register anywhere you like. It’s an ok plan but there are issues i.e. home visits for patients who are really far away form the surgery and, if patient is registered with 2 practises and one prescribes a really expensive drug that the other one doesn’t use, who is going to pay for that drug. He is, at least, now aware of these problems.
 Other questioned were on such topics as NHS Homeopathy (what performance indicator and monitoring arrangements there are for the 4 NHS Homeopathic hospitals) and what will he do to improve dissemination of evidence to healthcare workers and the public? That last one was from Ben Goldacre, he had 2 others as well. Does he type as fast as he speaks because if he does that would be a sight to behold?
 I was impressed by the amount of sucking up my bosses did to the Health Secretary and the local MP who also tagged along.

As this is Diana Watch I feel that it is important to point out that she was on the cover of the Sunday Times last week but I missed it, sorry.
 There was, however, a much funnier story that was sort of about her at all this week.
The Daily Express had found that there is a Twitter account called @dianainheaven, this is an amusing feed that pretends to be from the dearly departed Princess Diana, and it says that people are outraged. Well it says admirers of PD (can we call her that?) are outraged but really they mean them.  
 They have also managed to find someone from something called Diana Appreciation Society. Alan Berry, co-founder of (and I assume half the membership of) DAS, said “It’s sick that some people can pretend to be Diana. What respect is that showing?” He also called for Twitter to ban the page.
 They also found it necessary to point out twice in the article that the account was fake and wasn't really PD. As if Daily Express readers, of all people, would be in any doubt that she is dead.
 After reading the article @dianainheaven simply said “Sick? Cheeky Cunts

Prof Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University is to publish a study into violence against children with particular emphasis on deaths. He looked at children from birth to 14. He has come up with some interesting findings. Despite what you may hear and read in the press your children have never been safer.
 This will, of course, come as a crushing disappointment for Chris “it’s like the Wire round here” Grayling, Shadow home secretary, who has been accused for misleading people with has pretty poor use of the statistics regarding crime figures.
 He has sent out some numbers to Tory activists saying that crime figures have risen under Labour. Unfortunately for him he has forgotten to point out that the way the numbers are calculated changed in 2002 and, as Sir Michael Scholar, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, the pre-2002 and post-2002 are not directly comparable. Well what he actually said in note attached to a letter sent to Mr Grayling "a comparison, without qualification, of police-recorded statistics between the late 1990s and 2008/09 as likely to mislead the public”.
 In the letter it’s self he said "I do not wish to become involved in political controversy, but I must take issue with what you said yesterday about violent crime statistics, which seems to me likely to damage public trust in official statistics."
 Seriously, if you are getting smacked down by a statistician you are in serious trouble.
 That was not the full extent of Conservative voter scaring this week, oh no. Liam Fox, Tory Defence fool, managed to get fear-mongering, Xenophobia and Jesus into his response to the Governments green paper into Defence review. Here are a few selected highlights, (this is a link to the Conservative Party homepage, I wouldn’t recommend it),
 “That our nation’s security should be compromised by Labour’s historic economic incompetence is truly a national tragedy.”(fear-mongering), and “We also agree that France and the United States are likely to be our main strategic partners. For us there are two tests: do they invest in defence? And do they fight?  Sadly too few European allies pass both these tests.” (Euro-Sceptic Xenophobia) and my personal favourite, “And despite all the good words in this Green Paper today, the future defence budget will have to be conducted against the backdrop of Government debt of 799 billion pounds. That is the equivalent of borrowing 1.1 million pounds every day since the birth of Christ.” That is an odd reference point unless that was a call to the elderly Christian usual Tory voters. Taking into account all the old Conservative touchstones mentions, do you think that he was appealing to their base?

How about a few awards to lighten the mood?

The Award for, Again, Proving the Tories Wrong,

Dear David Cameron, if Britain is so broken, if it is the home of an uncaring people, of thugs and yobs, of divorce and broken homes, then why, we when we saw people who we didn't know, suffering in ways that we couldn't possibly understand, then why have we given £70 million to the Haiti appeal so far?

The Award for the Most Horrifying Pictures of the Week,

This goes to an article on MSN about Miley Cryus’ sister Noah starting her own range of  kiddies “lingerie” (to be honest it is probably only children’s underwear and it’s a PR thing ) but the photos that accompany the article are truly awful.
 I feel that the link needs a disclaimer. Whilst the photos are not child porn, I really don’t think that they are suitable for work. Or any other situation for that matter. Click here at you own risk. Scroll up to see as this link takes you to the comments section.

So my week has been pretty good. I met 2 MP’s, neither of whom turned out to be arses (despite what you might have read in the papers) and I had a bit included on the Pod Delusion (A podcast about interesting things.) Because I have finally worked out how to embed MP3’s on the blog (and a few people have said some nice things about it) here is my bit,

or you can listen to the whole thing if you just look to the left of the screen…… No, up a bit, there that’s it, the whole episode is embedded there.

 My advice to you this week is, if you haven’t already (and I can’t imagine you haven’t), you must watch Charlie Brookers Newswipe on BBC4. It is, by far, the funniest show on the television at the moment. It says all the things that you think about News coverage in our lovely country but it says them in a really funny way. Here is British television news deconstructed in 2 minutes, enjoy.

 Some of the things I haven’t had time to talk about this week are,

Obama says that he doesn’t “want to make decisions based on getting re-elected” and does things that are “the right things to do.” I still think he may be a great man.

Pope criticises the Equality act. Does that mean we can criticise him back, the intolerant, sexist, AIDs spreading, paedophile protecting, superstition promoting, Nazi?
 He says the homosexuality is against “Natural Law”. What is natural law? Does he mean that it is unnatural because that is an odd path to go down? Nature is pretty weird.
  Most parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside caterpillars and the Lava eat their way out? Mallard Ducks exhibit behaviour the researchers call “rape flight”. Male lions kill any cubs that they think are not their own. Is this the “Natural Law” that the Pope is referring?

10 Americans arrested for trying to kidnap 33 Haitian children, although it may be a little bit more complicated than it first looked. Still taking children without official permission with possible lying to parents, I think that qualifies you for “Cunt” status.

If you are on Twitter, or even if you aren’t, please check out Soichi Noguchi. He is currently in the International Space Station and is taking pictures of our beautiful plant and posting them on his feed. It is truly fantastic.

BAE Systems admits a lesser charge of bribery and corruption so that is can get bigger and better charges dropped.

Ok, I think I have to except that the Sunday Blog will ramble on a little, hope that’s ok with you lot.
 Hope you all have a lovely week.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Is Cancer cooler than Dementia?

Should you have to get a serious illness may I recommend cancer? You get all the advantages. You get special parking spaces closer to the hospital (well at my local one anyway), you get all the sympathy you can deal with, you have quite a good chance of having it successfully treated (depending on which type you of cancer you have, obviously) and you will get 80% of the research funding pot. May I compliment those of you who work for cancer charities for you have done an excellent job; you have the disease with the best PR.

The national obsession with cancer has always worried and intrigued me a little. How has one life threatening condition become so prevalent (research money wise) over all the others?

A report out today, from the Alzheimer's Research Trust, has attempted to shine a light on the disparity in research funding and has come up with some startling numbers.

The number of people suffering from Dementia is 821,884, which is 15% higher than had previously been estimated, and it costs the UK £23bn annually.

Whilst it is slightly dehumanising to describe the impact of a disease purely in financial terms some of the numbers are so staggering that, in this case, it is useful. Every dementia patient costs the economy £27,647 each year. This is a lot of money but how does that compare to a cancer patient? Well it’s nearly five times more than a cancer patient, and eight times more than those with heart disease. The costs mostly come not from direct NHS interventions but from unpaid carers and by long-term institutional care.

The funding of research, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. With both Charity and Government money it comes to nearly £600m a year for cancer research. This is 12 times that of dementia, which only gets some £50m. Heart disease received three times as much. Only stroke research received less.

But there are so many more people with cancer and likely to get cancer I hear you say. This is true and I accept your point so let’s look at figures for spend per patient. For each person with cancer £295 is spent on research. For each person with Dementia it is £61.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not, in anyway, trying to take away anything from people suffering from cancer, my father-in-law died from it last year and he received excellent hospice care, and that is sort of my point. Would he have got equally good end of life care if he had been suffering from a longer term but equally fatal disease such as dementia? I don’t know.

I made a flippant comment in the first paragraph that cancer has better PR and, therefore, better funding and I don’t really want that to be true but after years of awareness raising the Government made it a priority and we got a Cancer Tsar (no, I don’t know what that is either). More awareness raising by Heart disease charities and we have a new NHS frameworks to deal with it. Good work all round if you ask me but it does mean that other things miss out.

I also understand that the high levels of funding have resulted in massive steps forward in the care and treatment that people with heart disease and cancer receive which now gives them much greater chances of survival. This is great but maybe it is now time to look at other things. With a constantly ageing population it is expected that 1million people will have dementia/Alzheimer's by 2025.

Hopefully a survey like this and the excellent press coverage that it is getting will help raise some awareness, and maybe money, about this issue as well.