Saturday, 30 January 2010

Homeopathy: Money For Old Water

@Brumplum reminded me that today was the day of protest against homeopathic products being sold as medicine and being used on the NHS. See for more on the protests.

Whilst homeopathy has always been controversial and the subject of debate, it has recently become much more a topic of discussion following the lawsuit against Simon Singh by the British Chiropractic Society which has galvanised the sceptical community in this country and brought "alternative medicine" under much higher scrutiny.

Studies time and again have found homeopathy to have no greater effect than a placebo. It's time we seriously considered the morality of not challenging the sale and promotion of these sort of "therapies" in our shops and in our hospitals.

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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Britain's "Broken Society" Myth

Things such as the current buzz phrase "Britain's Broken Society" drive me potty. Broken suggests that at some point there was a prior working society and that our current society is not working.

Occasional stories, such as the current media child torture porn frenzy over events in Edlington, are served up to show how dysfunctional we all are.

Of course this is all poppy cock. I'm not saying things aren't bad now, but I am saying they are much better than they once were. The fact child abuse stories are now being shown more often does not mean they are happening more often. It means 1) they are being covered up by authorities less, 2) found out more often, and 3) reported more often by the media for both worthy and unworthy reasons. Do these people really think that how we treated children was better in the past (based, of course, on what we consider a "good" upbringing now)? Have they no concept of history? Do they think things like this didn't happen in the '50s? Of course they did! They just weren't reported, weren't detected or, worse, were covered up just as the Catholic Church still likes to cover up it's abuse cases.

And then Victorian Britain. Do I really need to discuss Victorian Britain?

Of course the Broken Society moniker is used to refer to other facets of our culture. Such as alcoholism. Ever heard of Gin Lane? Britain has always had a love/hate/death relationship with alcohol. It's not a new thing. It's been a part of our society for a very long time. So it's hardly something that's suddenly come about and can be fixed quickly! I wish journalists and politicians would read more history!!

Crime? Try living through the Blitz when burglary and the black market reach heights unknown previously (and subsequently). Crime is a constant, going up and down but never disappearing.

I have no problem with politicians and the media suggesting there are ways to improve our country and our culture. I support progressive ideas. But what we are seeing with this "broken society" rubbish being spouted by just about everyone is not progressive suggestions for improvements but a faux nostalgia for a time in the past that doesn't exist. These are conservative ideas of control and imposing the nanny state upon us all rather than solutions to problems arising from the human condition.

Here's a quote from David Cameron:

“I don’t think it’s right every time one of these events takes place to say that it is just some isolated incident of evil that we should look away from and forget about.
“Are we going to do that every time there is a Jamie Bulger or a Baby Peter or a Ben Kinsella or a Garry Newlove or what has happened in Doncaster? We shouldn’t, we should ask what has gone wrong with our society and what we’re going to do about it.”

Note it's not what we can do to stop this from happening again. It's what has "gone wrong" and what are we going to do about it. As if this sort of thing never happened in the past (hi Mary Bell!). Looking back, rather than looking forward. It might seem to be such a minor thing, but really it's not. We can learn from history and move forward. But we cannot hope to replicate a history that never existed. David Cameron has no solutions. Given he is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister, this should worry us all.

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Sunday, 17 January 2010

Immigration Isn't The Problem

With the Tories wanting to impose artificial limits on immigration, a move that seems completely insane if put up against their belief in free enterprise and support for the business community, it comes as some relief to see Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats offering some sanity in the immigration debate.

The Liberal Democrats are considering a plan to channel immigration to certain areas of the country.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told BBC One's Andrew Marr show the South East of England was facing pressure on resources due to its rising population.

He said other countries had shown it was "relatively easy" to target immigration at areas with proven labour shortages and away from crowded ones.

But he rejected Conservative calls for an annual cap on immigration.

"David Cameron wants to enter into a Dutch auction now, entering into implausible caps that can't work, that don't work, that we know round the world doesn't work.

"It might work in his focus groups but it is not actually going to produce the cohesive Britain that I want to see," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"What has gone wrong in the immigration debate is that we have now had decades of tough talk and administrative incompetence from both Conservative and Labour governments."
Now this sounds like a fairly sensible plan and when combined with the rest of the Lib Dems immigration and asylum policies (including some tougher measures such as reintroducing exit checks) it seems to me that they are ignoring some of the latent racism in this country and going instead for sensible, industry friendly but also community friendly policies.

Which is much better than some of the proposals from some of the other "third" parties out their such as UKIP (who came second at the 2009 European Elections), who propose that the Government should be allowed to decide what one wears in public.

The burka and other face-covering veils worn by Muslim women should be banned, the UK Independence Party says.

Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who leads UKIP's 13 MEPs in Brussels, told the BBC's Politics Show they were a symbol of an "increasingly divided Britain".

He also said they "oppressed" women and were a potential security threat.

Let me make something clear: I hate burkas. I dislike the idea of someone sexualising men to the point where they must hide their body as they fear even letting a man look at them. I find it quite insulting. But I'm sure some people find my sexuality uncomfortable and dislike the fact I go places with my boyfriend. I don't expect them to tell me I can't go somewhere because I make them uncomfortable and thus I don't expect anyone to tell someone they can't cover themselves in fabric (for that is, when you really think about it, all they are doing) in public because others don't like it. What someone wears and what someone believes are not the problem. We are hardly going to solve the problems of isolated communities in our country by upsetting and insulting the beliefs of some of those communities! So perhaps we can stop this idea of letting the Government have the power to say "You can't wear that" (given they already abuse every other power we ever let them take) and instead focus on bringing isolated communities closer to the rest of society through dialogue and education.

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

If The Banks Are "Too Big To Fail" It's Time To Make Them Smaller!

When the banks were bailed out we were informed that the reason was that they were too big to fail. Now that the bailout has occurred and the banks have shown little/no remorse for failing so spectacularly as businesses and having threatened our money, why hasn't anyone moved to break them up? Surely their continued existence as economic behemoths is a risk to our economy and to our individual well beings?

Of course, the indomitable Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats has come forward to call for some Government action:

"This is yet more proof that Labour's badly designed bonus tax is having no effect on bonus payouts" said Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, commenting on evidence given to the Treasury Select Committee today by the Chief Executives of RBS and Lloyds.

"Bankers tell us that their bonuses are a reward for their skills and ingenuity.

"At the moment, this seems to involve borrowing taxpayers' money at half a percent from the Bank of England and then lending it back to us at eight, 10 or even 20 percent.

"It's hard to find the skill in that and even harder to see how bankers feel that they have a right to collect bonuses for it.

"This is yet more proof that Labour's badly designed bonus tax is having no effect on bonus payouts.

"The best way to deal with bonuses and achieve a fair deal for the taxpayer, who guarantee these institutions, is to split the banks up. Before this is done an additional 10% levy on their profits should be introduced.

"This is a much more effective solution than a one-off windfall tax and recognises the debt that the banks owe to the taxpayer."

But perhaps there is a more direct and effective way of doing this; is it time we moved our money?

Bill Maher suggests so in a Huffington Post article (via rickydee1955). Which has gotten me thinking... perhaps it is time we started putting our money into local banks and credit unions. Not only will this help split up the banks and hopefully create a proper economy (i.e. where some businesses DO fail) but it will also benefit local people and give the customer more say in the workings of the business that is looking after their money.

Break the banks, join a credit union!

Further Reading

The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What it Means - Vince Cable (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden - Bill Maher (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Jurassic Park: Reborn

Hold on to your hats people! It's yet more drip-drip news of Jurassic Park IV...

Last year Joe Johnston stated yet again there might still be hope of a new Jurassic Park movie. Well we've heard this before (way back in 2005!) so I just dismissed it as just more hot air. But now Joe Johnston has told BoxOffice a bit more about his plans, more firmly confirmed it is happening (sure...) and given us some hope it might actually not suck (I'm not saying the others films sucked, I'm a huge JP fan!).

The internet is freaking out that there might be a Jurassic Park IV.

Wow, when did that happen?

November—you mentioned to Ain't It Cool that there might be a good script.

Did I tell him? Was it me?

You said that there was no way to get people back on the island for a fourth time and have it make sense, but that 2001 was the last installment and we're due.

Well, there is going to be a Jurassic Park IV. And it's going to be unlike anything you've seen. It breaks away from the first three—it's essentially the beginning of the second Jurassic Park trilogy. It's going to be done in a completely different way. That's pretty much all I can tell you.

A second trilogy?

If you think of the first three as a trilogy, number four would be the beginning of a second trilogy.

That's big. So not to lock you in, but there's a possibility there might be a total of six films?

Well, you never know. If they keep working—and if audiences keep going to them—there's no reason why there wouldn't be. We just want to make them justified in their own right. We don't want to make sequel after sequel just because there's a market for it. We want to tell different, interesting stories. You don't want to just sell hamburger.

I think a new trilogy, a new start, would be an excellent idea as the previous trilogy has truly screwed writers by making it nearly impossible to find a sensible way to create a plot involving dinosaurs!

I await with interest news that this project has been cancelled and my hopes dashed once more!

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

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Pat Robertson: The Godawful Quote Machine

He can literally throw them out, without even a grimace. His comments on Haiti's earthquake (i.e. they sold themselves to the Devil to free themselves from the French hence why they are suffering so much) are just the tip of the iceberg. Video and article here.

When will someone politely explain to him that there are two options on his mouth functions: OPEN and CLOSED? And that CLOSED is everyone's much preferred one?

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Nick Clegg Comes Out For Human Rights In Britain

I've already said Nick Clegg was the only one of the three main party leaders to support gay marriage, but today he has gone further and has become the first major party leader in history to proclaim his support for full rights for GLBT people in this country. Of course it's not a surprise but it is worth reminding ourselves that Tory and Labour party leaders do NOT support gay marriage nor are they willing to go as far as Nick Clegg is and finally make us equal citizens by removal the small and petty things that single us out, such as the Blood Doner ban.

The Independent states these among his proposals:

* Force all schools – including faith schools – to implement anti-homophobia bullying policies and teach that homosexuality is "normal and harmless".

* Change the law to allow gay men and women the same marital rights as straight couples, including the symbolic right to use the word "marriage" rather than civil partnerships.

* Reverse the ban on gay men being allowed to give blood.

* Guarantee any refugees genuinely fleeing a country because of persecution over their sexual orientation asylum in the UK.

* Review Uganda's membership of the Commonwealth if its government was to bring in the death penalty for practicing gays.

Now what will be interesting is whether this might move the Tory or Labour position as it opens up another much needed avenue of attack for the Lib Dems. In the case of the Tories their homophobic policies of the past leave them very vulnerable to accusations of prejudice, and David Cameron's complete lack of ideology means it's quite possible he'll happily declare himself for gay rights just to appeal to as many people as possible. Time will tell.

Well done Mr Clegg!

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

Monday, 11 January 2010

Tear Down These Walls

Last year we had the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. We, here in the west, engaged in a round of back slapping and moral grandstanding as we bemoaned the futility and sheer brutality of a regime that would install a wall to keep it's population from leaving (to places it didn't want them going anyway). People were shot, drowned and blown up in their efforts to escape and those who were caught were sent to prison for their "crimes". As many as 200 people lost their lives in the 20+ years of the walls existence.

All very disturbing, disgusting and completely unjustifiable. But we have dark secrets too. Our supposedly free societies engage in something not too dissimilar and cause a great deal more death and suffering. But we don't want to keep anyone in our countries. No... we want to keep people in their own countries. Whilst the aim might be slightly different... the outcome is the same.

Israel is to construct a barrier on it's southern border with Egypt. This is not a defensive barrier. Egypt and Israel's relations are actually pretty good. This is purely an anti-immigration barrier. Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, said "This is a strategic decision to secure Israel's Jewish and democratic character". For which read: we don't want any of those foreign sorts around here. Refugee's will, he claims, still be able to claim asylum but I suspect they will be turned around at the border crossings and told to claim asylum in that famously welcoming country, Egypt. But this is hardly Israel's worst wall. The "Security Fence" on the West Bank was designed to defend Israel from attack. This is understandable. What is less understandable is that this involved it only following 15% of the internationally recognised border between Israel proper and the occupied territories. I.e. it grabs land from the very people it's meant to be stopping from attacking Israel. That is sure to bring them round. Despite it being declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, construction is now nearly complete.

Far worse than this is the USA's wall on it's border with Mexico. Rather than attempt to help it's neighbour deal with it's crime and poverty issues, it decided to spend billions building walls at the easiest crossing points. This forced those seeking a better life in the country built upon immigration to move outwards into the deserts where thousands have lost their lives. Thousands. Of course nobody cares. They are breaking the law, attempting to illegally immigrate. Why have sympathy for them, those criminals?

That I believe is what a lot of people in the German Democratic Republic thought about their own "law breakers" who attempted to flee for a better life in the west. Why have sympathy for them, those traitors?

And the list goes on... walls in Morocco one stopping people getting into the EU, the other "defending" Morocco from people in Western Sahara (a country Morocco claims is part of their own territory!). Walls in Belfast, Cyprus, Korea. Etc.

I think it's time we started taking stock of our own civilisation. Can we justify criticising the former DDR, when we continue it's policies just in reverse? Who needs informers when you have a CCTV camera on every corner? Who needs political prisoners when you have enemy combatants? Who needs a Berlin Wall when you can have one of your very own?!

We must change our ways. And soon.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Their Last Chance Of Survival Is Our Last Chance Of Redemption

In our post Cold War world it is often difficult to imagine ways of life outside our own Western capitalist structure. Whilst many will point to cultural differences the world over, it is hard to find any modern nation which does not conform to our way of life to a greater or lesser extent (North Korea, I'll admit is one of the aberrations).

But there are still a few places on this planet whose exposure to our lifestyles is limited or, in some cases, non-existent. They still continue the traditions of their    (and our!) ancestors in tribal societies. You may think you've seen them on television, those plume feathered covered aborigines of various countries. But they are often tourist/television friendly versions of their uncontacted and isolated cousins.

Uncontacted tribe photographed on Brazil-Peru border

Our culture has destroyed, over the last few hundreds years, thousands of such societies through "missionary" work, spreading our diseases, and through plain and simple slaughter. And it is this slaughter that is still ongoing.

In the Americas, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea commercial interests on both corporate and individual not only threaten the places these tribes live but also their very lives as loggers, miners and farmers massacre tribes with near impunity.

We in the Western world have blood on our hands. We began this process many years ago and it's time we stood up and said "No more". It is time we accepted that, whilst it is too idealistic, and perhaps morally suspect, to isolate these tribal societies clinically and completely, we have a duty to protect them from others and allow them the freedom to choose whether they wish to participate in the modern world or live by their own ways. We owe it to them and we owe it to our collective conscience.

I'm planning on sending out some letters this coming week to various countries, as suggested by Survival International. Take a look at their website and see what you could do to help these people.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow Balls

In case you hadn't noticed, the UK has been experiencing a bit of a cold snap for the last few weeks. Snow, icy roads, Antarctic temperatures. It's enough to make you think it was the middle of winter! Well... it is!

I've got no problem with the wall to wall news coverage, "What can you tell us?" "It's snowing" "Thanks Mike, we'll come back to you in 5 minutes for an update", but I do have a problem with everybody regurgitating the same old rubbish line which can be found in various forms:

A few flakes of snow and the country goes to pot
No other country has problems dealing with snow.
Schools never used to shut down in my day.


Let's face a few facts here:

1) the country has not gone to pot. Yesterday 86% of timetabled trains were running. Most people made it to work. The end of the world did not arrive
2) Other countries don't have a problem with dealing with snow because their inhabitants are MORE INTELLIGENT. It's not because of Government/council preparedness (though that is great). People clear the snow from their local paths. People don't drive during blizzards. People don't go for walks down country lanes, wearing high heels, during blizzards. That sort of thing. People claim to be snowed into their homes. Unless there are 10ft snow drifts I highly doubt that! It's more the case they just don't know how to cope, what to wear and where to go.
3) Schools didn't close down in the past because people LIVED NEAR THEIR CHILDREN'S SCHOOLS. They didn't lie about where they lived to get into some far distant decent school's catchment area. They didn't force their children to go on 40 miles round trips on buses to school. Hence schools didn't need to close. Although I remember even in the 80s schools closing for snow days so me thinks selective memory is taking effect.

The MET Office releases a severe weather warning stating "Take Action". What did people do? Went for drives, commuted etc. Then they all moan when they get trapped in their cars by the snow!! What did they think was going to happen???

*sigh* The snow is great, all is well in the United Kingdom except for the usual quota of moany bastards who seem to think just about any situation is 1) a disaster and 2) the Government's fault and nothing to do with their own obvious failings.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Monday, 4 January 2010

A Pets Wishlist

If money and space weren't such an issue...

A Maine Coon

The largest breed of domestic cat, and one of the most intelligent, these cats cover my love of cats and my love of dogs all in one! What I wouldn't give to have one!

An American Bull Frog

I once owned an American Bull Frog before it became illegal to import them (although it's not illegal to breed or own them might I add! Sadly this message didn't reach the shops where it's impossible to get one now) and would love to again. Mine never made it to adulthood but even as a tadpole these things are immense! Gotta love them!

A Mantis Shrimp

What a fascinating animal. Affection it's not, unless drawing blood is your idea of affection, but damn gorgeous and exciting. These creatures are not mantis' nor are they shrimp but are members of a fascinating family of their own. I WANTS!


My mate used to have a pet chicken called Belinda and she was great. I think a chicken is that perfect mix between pet and livestock... beautiful and interesting whilst also productive. With more space... I'd upgrade to ostriches. Evil. But sort of cool.


Lots of them... from here... :p

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Future Things

Things to look forward to this year.

The General Election

Unless there is a serious upset at the next election and the Liberal Democrats win, I'm not going to be very happy with the result (especially when that result will almost certainly bring forth a new Conservative Government). But I still enjoy elections, and will be volunteering my time back home in Folkestone and Hythe to campaign for whoever is going to be standing for the Lib Dems (unless, of course, I find them to be unsuitable as a candidate. I tend to prefer the candidates personal politics over party politics. It's a shame Peter Carroll, of the Gurkha campaign fame is not standing in Shepway this year). And of course we have election night coverage to enjoy. Happy times!


Predators is due to come out in July. After the horror unleashed in Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem (horror on the cinema goers eyes rather than cinematic horror) I shouldn't be looking forward to a new sequel to Predator (seems they are going to ignore Predator 2, which is sad). But I am! I have such an affection for the original movie that I cannot bring myself not to get excited over a new sequel! In other retro movie news there are probably more high profile remakes this year than any year in history. Which is unsurprising given each year forward gives us ever more original movies screaming out (both creatively and financially in different amounts) for a remake. Plus Toy Story 3 is out (inner child is delighted!)

Doctor Who

This year we have a new Doctor, a new companion, Daleks in WWII, the Weeping Angels, Silurians and Sea Devils, and no doubt some surprises too. I cannot wait!

The Last Space Shuttle Flight

I'm not looking forward to this as much so thinking it is a remarkable milestone in man's exploration of space. It's the end of an era. Let's hope it ushers in a new and even more fruitful one.

What are you looking forward to, outside of your personal hopes and dreams, this year?

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist