Monday, 22 February 2010

NHS Moving Towards Removing Homeopathy Funding?

With the announcement of a Parliamentary committee's review of homeopathy (decision: homeopathy doesn't work any better than a placebo), we are now moving towards the possibility that the NHS will stop spending £4 million a year on useless treatments (perhaps they might spend it on cleaners/nurses/doctors?).

This is good news, very good news. Now we need the NHS to consider it's funding of chaplains in hospitals who, personally, I think should be funded by churches if they wish to preach in our public buildings.

Soon the NHS might keep it's nose out of faith issues, alternative therapies and start concentrating on actually treating the sick.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Mercy Killing: A Touchy Subject

My political beliefs are a mixture of liberal (for American readers this means something quite different to what liberal means in America) and libertarian tenets and policies. So you'd think I'd be fully behind euthanasia and mercy killings and, logically, be supportive of Ray Gosling as he faces prosecution for the murder of a former partner.

Whilst I am sympathetic to the awful situation he faced, I cannot in good conscience support the concept of someone who not only acted independently to take the life of someone else but who announces it to the world at large later on.

My beliefs about individual liberty mean that, if someone leaves a living will stating that if a) or b) occurs then they should be allowed/helped to die, I must accept there is a place in our world for euthanasia. But I cannot accept that informal agreements between individuals that are not even written down should serve as an excuse to allow a mercy killing to pass unchallenged. If we turn a blind eye and allow such flimsy, unsubstantiated excuses to stand then our murder laws will become meaningless.

Euthanasia should be legal. I have MAJOR personal reservations about it's morality and it's affect upon medical staff, but my beliefs in your right to do what you want with your body far outweigh my own petty concerns. But there must be accepted, agreed standards for when and how this can happen and I believe Ray Gosling's case cannot ever meet any such FUTURE standards that as yet remain unagreed. He should be tried for murder, and his fate decided by a jury of his peers.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Taboo Political Questions

There are few political taboos; subjects so distasteful that politicians won't talk about them. But there are still some and Dan Carlin brings up a pretty good one on his most recent Common Sense podcast. Should there be some sort of test before people can vote?

In America this is doubly taboo. Not only is suggesting some people might not be informed enough to vote correctly a big electoral no-no, but America's racial history is marked by distasteful electoral worthiness tests designed specifically to keep African Americans out of the voting booths.

Whilst I still have severe reservations about the concept of stopping people voting, it is certainly an interesting thought experiment to imagine a world where only people who know who is standing and what they are standing for can vote. Give it a listen and see what you think.

Another taboo question involves education. Channel 4 has been airing a Dispatches advert for an upcoming programme which asks why so many children are leaving school without the skills they need. The advert openly states something like "They aren't stupid, so what is the reason?". Erm... well here's the taboo: what if at least some of them are just stupid?

If we are going to rank our children through exams and tests, surely some are going to come at the bottom and thus be considered, at least by "the system", as "stupid". That is surely something built into the system as it stands. Society is so quick to assume that it must be the education system that is wrong, when in fact we all know through our daily lives that people's intellects are all VERY different. This doesn't make them a bad person, but perhaps if the Government and society acknowledged this more often we might be able to help these people in a better, more effective, ways.

But that's the problem with our political system... no Government would ever get in if they had stated that some members of the electorate were stupid. It's a Catch 22.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Leave Sarah Palin's Notes Alone!

I'm no Sarah Palin fan. Alright... full disclosure... I think she is a loony right wing nut, who's popularism is a danger to democracy and a great danger to progressive values. After her speech to the Tea Party conference I started to see some criticism of the content of her speech on the US blogs I read. And then, suddenly, it all disappeared. It was replaced, instead, by criticism of her using crib notes on her hand and specifically made fun of her considering her attacks on Obama for using a teleprompter.

Well, let's be honest, her hypocrisy is hardly surprising given her personality and beliefs. Yet this is not what we should be focussing on. It's not the delivery method that's the problem, most people prepare for a speech in one way or another, it's the content and it is only by rational criticism of the content that she can be brought back down to Earth.

American liberals need to be the better half of the political debate and rise above petty attacks. It's time they destroyed the message, not the person.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Tories Are Not Gay Friendly

The Tories may be changing their public image, and they might be about to form the next Government, but let's be clear here; they are not friends of the GLBT movement.

Now that doesn't mean they are an enemy. But as Conservative's, I'm certain that they will happily maintain the status quo and our years of moving forward towards equal citizenship with heterosexuals will be stalled. I have no doubt they will not seek to reverse our status, but our current status as second class citizens cannot be tolerated.

David Cameron still utters such moronic statements as "the ideal adoption is finding a mum and a dad, but there will be occasions when gay couples make very good adoptive parents. So I support gay adoption.” Sorry Mr Cameron but who the Hell are you to decide the ideal family unit? Time and again the Tories come out against libertarian values (which I would have hoped they might espouse) and instead favour backward, regressive "family values" type beliefs which leave me feeling cold. Social engineering is not just a symptom of left wing politics, but of right wing one's too. We must fight against intrusion such as this into our private lives.

Worse is Cameron's refusal to apologise for his previous anti-GLBT voting record by denying he ever voted against human rights legislation! Can't people see David Cameron is simply a spin merchant, devoted to power rather than to progress? He is Tony Blair Mark II.

The Tories continue to defend their Polish allies.

“A few days before we met, the MPs of this “not homophobic” Law and Justice Party demanded a crackdown on what they called “positive paedophilia by some homosexual circles.” Their senior MP, Stanislaw Pieta, said: “I’m not saying every gay is a paedophile, but in Britain 43 per cent of paedophiles are gay and they only make up 1 per cent of the population.” Their leader, Lech Kaczynski, says “the human race would disappear if homosexuality was freely promoted.” There are hundreds of such statements from the party, all on video.”

The paedophilia stuff doesn't even warrant a response, but the suggestion the human race will disappear if homosexuality is freely promoted does need one.

1) Nobody is suggesting we promote homosexuality. It's not a "lifestyle choice". You CANNOT turn someone gay. It's not like religion or politics. Sexuality can change, but honestly folks if it could be forced to change don't you think we'd be bumming Brad Pitt by now???
2) By allowing GLBT people the same rights as everyone else will not suddenly cause the end of the world. If you are so scared that heterosexuality is so unappealing it wouldn't be able to survive exposure to gay marriage or some such policy, than really you need to take a long hard look at how you live your life.

It's this statement that shows to me not that the Tories should denounce their allies as bigots, but that they should denounce them as fools and idiots. As people not worthy of serious political interaction. They are stupid, and that surely must make you concerned about how a party aspiring to Government such as Cameron's Tories could come to think they'd be good bedfellows in the EU Parliament?

With the Liberal Democrats and the Greens (I'll admit) being the only parties to fully support equal rights for GLBT people, maybe it's time progressives made a choice NOT to vote in the Tories. Our future freedom's depend on it.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Pope, Equality And The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has made great strides in bringing equality to it's citizens. Whilst I might not agree with exactly how it's done sometimes (I'm big on ensuring legislation defends free speech), I still wholeheartedly support the reasons for equality legislation. This is quite simply about ensuring all citizens are equal before public institutions.

This has come despite the usual religious opposition to the liberation of women and the GLBT community. On the one hand they defend the laws protecting them against religious hatred and on the other they attack laws protecting those who wish to live their lives in a way they disapprove of. This sort of hypocrisy is to be expected. But the Pope, who expects us to fork out £20 million for his upcoming state visit, has crossed a line.

When your average citizen criticises our way of doing things, I see no problem. But when a head of state, who also happens to be the leader of the world's biggest religious organisation, whose predecessors have a history of control and manipulation of other nations, starts telling us what to do or when to do it then they should expect some consequences.

The Pope told the Catholic bishops of England and Wales gathered in Rome: "Your country is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society.

"Yet, as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.

"In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed."

My rights are not based on a "natural law". They are based on the laws formed by the Parliaments and Governments of this country, and in the European Union. What does the Pope want? A country where Catholics can be banned from jobs, from access to services? I think not. Yet he wants the right for Catholics, and others of faith, to be able to discriminate against those who do not share their beliefs (or even their EXACT beliefs)? Does he not see the slippery slope that would create? This cannot stand!

His crude homophobia and obvious dislike for democratic Government makes him unsuitable for an officially sanctioned state visit. Tell him, if he comes, he comes on his own terms (and pays for it too).

I shall be joining the National Secular Society's protests against his visit and I hope you will too.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist